THIS methodized and practical exposition of the Historical Books ventures abroad, with fear and trembling, in the same plain and homely dress with the former, on the Pentateuch: ornari res ipsa negat, contenta doceri—The subject requires no ornament, to have it apprehended is all. But I trust, through grace, it proceeds from the same honest design, that is, to promote the knowledge of the scripture, in order to the reforming of men's hearts and lives. If I may but be instrumental to make my readers wise and good, wiser and better, more watchful against sin, and more careful of their duty both to God and man, and, in order to that, more in love with the word and law of God, I have all I desire, all I aim at. May he that ministereth seed to the sower, multiply the seed sown, by increasing the fruits of righteousness, 2 Cor. 9. 10.
It is the history of the Jewish Church and Nation, from their first settlement in the promised land, after their four hundred and thirty years' bondage in Egypt, and their forty years' wandering in the wilderness, to their re-settlement there, after their seventy years' captivity in Babylon—from Joshua to Nehemiah. The five books of Moses were taken up more with their laws, institutes, and charters; but all these books are purely historical, and in that way of writing, a great deal of very valuable learning and wisdom has been conveyed from one generation to another.
The chronology of this history, and the ascertaining of the times when the several events contained in it, happened, would very much illustrate the history, and add to the brightness of it; it is therefore well worthy the search of the curious and ingenious, and they may find both pleasure and profit in perusing the labours of many learned men who have directed their studies that way. I confess I could willingly have entertained myself and reader, in this preface, with a calculation of the times through which this history passes: but I consider, that such a babe in knowledge as I am, could not pretend either to add to, or correct what has been done by so many great writers, much less to decide the controversies that have been agitated among them. I had indeed some thoughts of consulting my worthy and ever-honoured friend Mr. Tallents of Shrewsbury, the learned author of the View of Universal History, and to have begged some advice and assistance from him in methodizing the contents of this history; but in the very week in which I put my last hand to this part, it pleased God to put an end to his useful life, (and useful it was to the last,) and to call him to his rest in the eighty-ninth year of his age: so that purpose was broken off, that thought of my heart. But that elaborate performance of his, commonly called his Chronological Tables, gives great light to this, as indeed to all other parts of history. And Dr. Lightfoot's Chronology of the Old Testament, and Mr. Cradock's History of the Old Testament, methodized, may also be of great use to such readers as I write for.
As to the particular chronological difficulties which occur in the thread of this history, I have not been large upon them; because many times I could not satisfy myself; and how then could I satisfy my reader concerning them? I have not indeed met with any difficulties so great, but that solutions might be given of them, which are sufficient to silence the atheists and antiscripturists, and roll away from the sacred records all the reproach of contradiction and inconsistency with themselves; for to do that, it is enough to show that the difference may be accommodated either this way or that, when at the same time one cannot satisfy one's self which way is the right.
But it is well that these are things about which we may very safely and very comfortably be ignorant and unresolved. What concerns our salvation, is plain enough, and we need not perplex ourselves about the niceties of chronology, genealogy, or chorography. At least, my undertaking leads me not into those labyrinths. What is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness, is what I intend to observe; and I would endeavour to open what is dark and hard to be understood, only in order to that. Every author must be taken in his way of writing; the sacred penmen, as they have not left us formal systems, so they have not left us formal annals, but useful narratives of things proper for our direction in the way of duty, which some great judges of common writers have thought to be the most pleasant and profitable histories, and most likely to answer the end. The word of God, manifestis pascit, obscuris exercet, (Aug. in Joh. Tract. 45.) as one of the Ancients expresses it, that is, it has enough in it that is easy, to nourish the meanest to life eternal, yet enough that is difficult, to try the industry and humility of the greatest.
There are several things which should recommend this part of sacred writ to our diligent and constant search.
I. That it is history; and therefore entertaining and very pleasant, edifying, and very serviceable to the conduct of human life. It gratifies the inquisitive with the knowledge of that which the most intense speculation could not discover any other way. By a retirement into ourselves, and a serious contemplation of the objects we are surrounded with, close reasoning may advance many excellent truths without being beholden to any other. But for the knowledge of past events, we are entirely indebted