Page images
PDF
EPUB

selves the trouble, so much as to aim at the good of society.

What is said in such general terms can never offend any that are not conscious they are applicable to themselves; so that it would be impertinent to take pains to caution my reader against mistaking me, by applying that to one age and country that has too generally belonged to all others, to be understood to be pointed in particular at our

Own.

But whatever is generally to be expected from men in power, and from those who are in a combination with them, yet there is no good man but will endeavour to feed and cherish these happy dispositions in all the ways he can.

And as this inquisitive turn has brought men to look more curiously into the scriptures, from seeing that they alone must be the standards of truths which are not difcoverable by the light of nature; and to judge of the books of the Old and New Testament more according to the rules of criticism, from a better taste that obtains; they will contribute all the help they can to assist others in reading them with greater advantage.

God had, no doubt, the wisest ends in ordering the historical parts of the New Testament to be written in the way they are. The truth of them, on which the truth of the whole is built, is better attested by the method in which they are composed, than they could possibly have been by a disposition, in which the order of time and place had been more carefully observed. But every body must allow, that a great deal of light may be cast on the historical as well as on the other parts of the New Testament, by putting them in that order. This has engaged many learned men to take great pains in forming harmonies, histories, and chronological accounts, by which that order might be given them, to the great advancement of Christian knowledge.

ment

When I reflected on this, and found the advantage that the gospels (or the history of Jefus) had received by that method of treating them ; I thought that, as the Acts (which may be considered as the history of the Holy Ghost) contained the chief account that we have in the New Testament of the method of propagating the Christian religion in the times of the apostles, it would be of great use to have that history carefully digested in the same manner. With this view I fet about it, as I had leisure. After I had made some

progress in it, I thought it would be necessary to begin the history of the apostles a little higher, and carry it up to the first time of

their

a 3

their being chosen by our Saviour; that so, putting all the places that relate to them together, I might see what observations they would afford me.

AFTER I had performed this task with all the care I could, from those parts of the Gospels which relate to that matter, and from the Acts of the Apostles, I perused what had been written by Dr. Cave, Monsieur le Clerc, Dr. Whitby, Bishop Lloyd, and others; but especially hy Archbishop Usher (who first threw great light on the sacred chronology), and Bishop Pearson in his Annales Paulini, who has settled the chronology of St. Paul with such learning and judgement, as has obliged me to follow him in most particulars where I had happened to differ from him, And though, on a careful review of the chronological order into which I had digested the Acts, I have generally preferred Bishop Pcarson to Bishop Lloyd (who had the advantage of writing after him) where they differ, yet in some points I continue to differ from the former. The reason of my differing from him will appear, in most of the instances of any moment, either in the Abstracts, or one of the two last Efsays. But the point wherein I differ the most widely from him (as well as from Bishop Lloyd, Dr. Whitby, Mr. Pyle, and most of our later commentators) is in the time I assign to St. Paul's writing his first epistle to Timothy. And as I had not room to give my reasons for differing from Bishop Peason in the Abstracts, nor any proper occasion to give them in either of the Efsays, I will do it in a Postscript, rather than break the thread of this preliminary difcourse. I will there likewise give my reasons for preferring Bishop Peason's chronology generally to Bishop Lloyd's, where they differ from each other.

I FOUND some hints which had slipped me, not only from Bishop Pearson, but from all the rest of these authors I consulted, except Dr. Cave, who I think has little that is not very common and obvious, except fome idle legendary stories, with which he abounds. What I met with from any of them I carefully inserted; and in some other instances I found reason from them also to alter what I had done: but, on perusing them, I did not think my own labour entirely loft ; neither they nor any other (as far as I know) falling in with my design. Archbishop Usher's Chronology is a work of a vast compass as well as learning. Bishop Pearson's only fetiles Paul's chronology from his being present at the stoning of Stephen, without regarding the history of the other apostles previous to that period. Monsieur le Clerc has mixed a 4

the

the history of the apostles with the other parts of ecclesiastical history: And Dr, Whitby, in the end of his Commentary (as many others have done), has given us a short abstract of the greater events of the whole history of our Saviour and his apostles, in the order of time, borrowed from a learned prelate (Bishop Lloyd), highly celebrated for this part of learning, as the Doctor tells uş in his Preface to his Commentary:

My design is different from each of these. For I have only endeavoured to give a short Abstract, in the order of time, of all the scripture-history of the apostles; and chiefly with regard to those parts of their history that may shew us what the apostolical work and office was, as distinguished from other ministers of the first Christian church; and what were the steps by which they were directed by Providence to spread the Christian religion in the world; in which, I think, the greatest wisdom, harmony, beauty, and proportion, will appear : such as will shew the new creation every way worthy of the Word and Wisdom by which God not only made the worlds, but introduced this new fystem of religion into ours. I have likewise endeavoured to represent it in a scheme, by which the history of the apostles may be more easily traced than in any I have yet seen,

« PreviousContinue »