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THE chief design of compiling this Work was to assist those who are religiously dis posed, although unlearned, to read the holy Scriptures with understanding, pleasure, and profit. For which purpose the Author hath endeavoured, by a plain familiar method and style, to be the reader's guide in his searching of the Scriptures, (seeing, as it hath been long ago observed*, " there is depth enough therein to exercise the wise, and plainness enough to instruct the weak; it being like unto a river, having its shallows and depths, where the lamb may wade, as well as the elephant swim,") particularly by giving an account of some matters which seemed necessary to be considered.
In the first place, such as the four Ancient Monarchies, and the scene of those transactions mentioned in the Old and New Testaments, viz. the Land of Canaan, and the City of Jerusalem; and also by an inquiry
* Greg. Mag. Epist. ad Leandr. c. iv. apud Forbesii instruct. Inst. Hist. Theol. 1. iii. c. 30. §. 4.
into the nature of Revelation and Inspiration in general; the grounds on which we believe the holy Bible to be the Word of God; the reasons why the Scriptures ought to be read by the common people, and the manner how they should read them.
Secondly, follows an account of the Titles and Divisions of the Bible; with some general rules for the understanding thereof; together with a concise view of the history of the Jews, and the state of the Church, from the beginning to the final destruction of Jerusalem.
And for the reader's better understanding of every part of the Bible, there are prefixed some general remarks on the Pentateuch, and the Prophets in the Old Testament; as also on the Gospels, the Acts, and the Epistles, in the New; and throughout the reader is shewn the design and chief scope of each book.
Further, because our Saviour hath pronounced him to be the happy person not only who may know these things, but who shall do them, such practical observations are annexed, as tend to promote religion and prevent mistakes. There is also an addition of the chief periods of the Jewish history, after the return from the Babylonian captivity (where the Old Testament ends) to the time of Christ, and thence to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans; together with a brief account of that dreadful judgment, and of the state of the city afterwards.
As to the Chronology of the Old Testament, Archbishop Usher's Annals have been followed; and for the New Testament, Mr. Archdeacon Echard's Tables in his Ecclesiastical History. From whence there is a Chronological Table drawn up in such a method as will fully answer the design proposed, of instructing the unlearned, for whose further help the distance of time is set down between every observable occurrence, from the beginning to the destruction of Jerusalem.
The remarks interspersed were made by the author in reading over the primitive writers of the Church, and of ancient and latter commentators, and a few of the Jewish Rabbies, (particularly the most judicious of them, Maimonides, according to Buxtorf's translation, with others, as they are cited by Hottinger and Dr. Lightfoot,) as also the works of modern divines who have defended revealed religion.
Our literary notes contain no other quotations than what are absolutely necessary either to confirm, or more fully to illustrate, what they refer to, in case these papers should chance to fall into the hands of some person more conversant in books than those are for whom they are chiefly designed; particularly any of the younger students in divinity, who may greatly improve by the remarks of others, and who are desired to excuse a few repetitions, which may be of use to common readers, and the explanations of
some useful terms, which could not well be omitted, and without which they would not be intelligible to the vulgar.
The subject, indeed, is the most noble, and worthy the pursuit of the utmost skill and diligence. And the Author humbly hopes he shall not any where be found guilty of misguiding the reader by a wrong interpretation of God's holy Word. What he comforts himself with is, that as his office him frequently to conclude our holy Liturgy in public with granting us in this world knowledge of thy truth, and in the world to come life everlasting; so he can hope for the benefit of the same petition as used on this occasion in private; and that a sincere desire as well as honest endeavour of assisting his brethren to search the Scriptures with delight and profit, may in some measure excuse the defects either of learning or judgment, both with God and man.
Whatever difficulties we may meet with, most certainly great are our encouragements to a constant, diligent perusal of the holy Bible, above all other books whatsoever: thereby we converse with God himself, and his Son Jesus Christ; with the ancient Patriarchs, Prophets, and Apostles: we improve in the most excellent divine knowledge, such as will forward our admission into heaven, and accompany us* thither: that true wisdom which is from above, and will
* Discamus in terris, quarum nobis scientia perseveret in cœlo. Hieronym. Epist. ad Paulinum.
make us wise unto salvation, procure for us riches which fade not away, with that glory, honour, and pleasure, which earthly pomps, possessions, and enjoyments, (all the most ample rewards of other studies,) are not so much as faint resemblances or shadows of, and which shall never be diminished nor taken from us.
Where any part of holy Scripture is explained in general, or according to such doctrine or practice of which some readers may not have the same opinion with the Author, he hopes it will appear, that if there be not enough said to convince, there is nothing that can justly offend, any unprejudiced searcher after truth. What relates to the Jewish history, after their return from the Babylonian captivity, is extracted from the Maccabees and Josephus; of which it may not be improper to give such readers, who may be unacquainted therewith, a short account.
Of the two first books of Maccabees, the first hath been most esteemed, as being the more accurate history, though written by an uncertain author, and after the spirit of prophecy ceased in the church of the Jews; and therefore was not received into their canon, nor owned as such by Christ and his Apostles: nor did the primitive Christians receive these apocryphal books as strictly canonical; however, they allowed them to be read in churches, as containing divers matters which tend to edification, and (what is most to our