Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

ciples, upon 'which they depend. It opens the wideft profpe&t to the eyes of mankind in the spacious fields of literature, and is one of the moft pleasing and important objects of study, to which the mind can be directed..

To draw the line of proper distinction between authentic and fabulous history, is the first object of the discerning reader. Let him not burthen his memory with events that ought perhaps to pass for fables ; let him not fatigue his attention with the progress of empires, or the succession of kings, which are thrown back into the most remote ages. He will find that little dependence is to be placed upon the relations of those affairs in the Pagan world, which preceded the invention of letters, and were built upon mere oral tradition. Let him leave the dynasties of the Egyptian kings, the expeditions of Sefoftris, Bacchus, and Jason, and the exploits of Hercules and Theseus, for poets to embellish, or chronologists to arrange. The fabulous accounts of these heroes of antiquity may remind him of the fandy desarts, lofty mountains, and frozen oceans, which are laid down in the maps of the ancient geographers, to conceal their ignorance of remote countries. Let him hasten to firm ground, where he may fafely stand, and behold the striking events, and memorable actions, which the light of authentic record displays to his view. They alone are amply sufficient to enrich his memory, and to point out to him well attested examples of all that is magnanimous, as well as all that is vile;-of all that debates, and all that ennobles mankind.

[ocr errors]

Hiftory, considered with refpect to the nature of its subjects, may be divided into general and particular; and with respect to time, into ancient and modern. Ancient history commences with the creation of the world, and is by Boffuet, the learned author of an universal history, extended to the reign of Charlemagne, Emperor of Germany and France, in the year of our Lord 800. Modern history begin-. ning with that period reaches down to the present times. General history relates to nations and public affairs, and may be subdivided into sacred, ecclefiaftical, and profane. Biography, or the account of the lives of eminent persons, memoirs, and letters, constitute particular history. Geography and Chronology are important aids, and give order, regularity, and clearness to them all. Geography and Chronology are each derived from two Greek words. By the former is to be understood a description of the world as consisting of land and water; by the latter, the mode of computing time. There will form the subjects of a distinct chapter.

For information upon the subject of facred hiltory, the student must resort to the holy Bible, as the higheft authority, to the works of Josephus, and the Annals of Archbishop Usher, as they will furnish him with very useful illustrations.

The

· The affairs of the Christian Church, comprehending the lives, characters, and conduct of those who have maintained a pure and apoftolical faith, as well as of such lectarists as have deviated from it; are comprised in Ecclefiaftical history. It describes the nature of religious establishments, and displays the various opinions of Christians upon the most important of all subjects. This fubjet has exercised the diligence and displayed the learning of many eminent writers of various ages; but the reader of general history may find sufficient gratification for his curiosity in the works of Eusebius, and Mofheim.

From the people of the ancient world we first select the Jews, as the particular objects of our attention. They were favoured with the knowledge of the one true God. Their history carries us back to the most remote antiquity; and its importance is increased in the greatest degree by its connexion with the Christian Revelation.

The next branch of general history is that of Antient Greece. It presents a nation of heroes, philofophers, poets, orators, historians, and artists, who spoke the noblest language which ever graced the tongue of man, and who have been the guides and the instructors of all succeeding nations in arts, sciences, and philosophy. Greece was the source of light, that has irradiated a great portion of the globe.

The

· The Romans in the order of excellence, as well as of time, followed the Grecians : their military talents were displayed in a long succession of con

quests and triumphs in every part of the ancient · world. The monuments of their genius, which the ravages of time have spared, render them next to the Greeks the boast of history, and the glory of mankind.

The History of England, has the strongest claims to our attention. It abounds with such events and transactions, and displays such characters and actions, as it is our duty and our interest to study ; and we are attracted to a perufal of its eventful records by the ties of patriotism, and a congeniality of manners.

From Modern history in general we select those. parts which relate to the most important transactions and events, particularly adverting to those difcoveries and institutions, which distinguish it from ancient times, and have contributed essentially to the present state of opinions and manners. : '.

There are certain foreign nations, which, by the extent of their dominions, their civil polity, or their connexion with our own country, may excite our curiosity to learn their former state : but it will not answer any important purpose to dwell, for instance, upon the affairs of France under the Merovingian, or Carlovingian families; or upon the state of Germany before the reign of Charles V. Let

not

not the scholar waste too much time, which thay. be more profitably employed in other studies, in poring over the works of Thuanus, Mariana, and Froiffart; or the numerous volumes of the Universal Hiftory.

With respect indeed to foreign nations, the objects of his most useful attention are the actual power, the nature of their present governments, the state of civilization, fciences, and arts, their natural and artificial advantages, their population, produce, commerce, and relative importance in the scale of political greatness. This constitutes a branch of ftudy, which has been of late years much cultivated by the Germans, and is diftinguished by the name of Statistics. Travellers and statesmen must not claim this study as their own exclusive province, fince it will be found cxtremely useful to every English gentleman, and will qualify him to form a juft estimate of the relative condition, power, and importance of his own country.

· Biography is a branch of history, which is placed high in point of importance and moral utility. Biographers by their accurate researches fupply the deficiences of the historian. What the latter gives us only in outlines and sketches, the former present in more complete and highly finithed portraits. Their province does not merely extend to thote who have acted upon the great theatre of the world, as fovereigns, ftatefmen, and warriors; but to all who have improved human life

by

« ElőzőTovább »