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The Scripture is too generally perused in detached passages and chapters only. It is but too frequently considered as a collection of unconnected narratives, promises, warnings, prophecies, and miscellaneous remarks of important and interesting subjects. Hence the most opposite doctrines have been taught, and the most inconsistent inferences drawn; and the Christian world, which ought to profess one faith, as it has but one Scripture, one Lord, and one Baptism, is divided into every possible gradation of opinion, each of which is defended by its advocates from detached and misapplied passages of Scripture.
The inspired writers, though living in so many different ages, writing upon various occasions, without communication with each other, of opposite talents, dispositions, circumstances, and education, confirm and support, throughout, one code and system, the general plan of which does not, in any one instance, appear to have been present to their minds when the various books of the Old Testament were penned. Uninspired authors, although educated on the same plan, of the same age and country, writing with the same object, of the same sect and party, and defending the same system of opinions, will frequently vary in their modes of expression, in their statements of arguments, in their ideas of the subject matter; and will be often found to contradict, either through inadvertence or through the defect of language, the positions of their own partisans: whereas, among the inspired writers, there is no contradiction, no opposition, no diversity of sentiment, in any of the difficult and important subjects upon which they treat. The various passages of the history of the world and Church, contained in their united labours, like the links of a chain, are so interwoven with each other, that they cannot be separated. The precepts, examples, and doctrines, they inculcate, are so varied, yet so blended, that they form one complete and perfect system of religious ethics.
Let not the pious Christian feel any conscientious scruples against altering the disposition of the sacred text as con
tained in our common Bibles; or suppose that this arrange'ment is intended to supersede the authorized version. The four Gospels, which are equally entitled to our veneration with the Old Testament, have been repeatedly arranged in their supposed historical order, in the form of diatessarons and harmonies; and no opposition has ever yet been made on the part of the English Church to the labours of its exemplary divines, who engaged in these useful works. "No "variation in the order of the sacred books, (Prideaux observes, Connection, Vol. ii. p. 477, 10th edit.) is of any "moment. For in what order soever the books are placed, they are still the word of God, and no change, in this "respect, can make any change in that divine authority "which is stamped upon them." And that this is a just view of the question is further evident from two very important facts. First: that although the Church of Christ has long ago fixed the number of the canonical books, neither the Jewish Church before the advent of Christ, nor the Christian Church since his advent, has pronounced the order of these books to be canonical: and, secondly: that though the Old Testament was edited nearly in its present form, so far as relates to the number only of the books, first by Ezra, and afterwards by the great Sanhedrim, yet the collocation of these books is different in the Hebrew, Syriac, Greek, and Latin versions. The position, therefore, of the books, could not have been regarded as a matter of essential importance, and it may be justly concluded that an attempt to arrange them in their chronological order ought not to be condemned as an infringement of the sacred canon. The three principal writers, who give any light on the subject of the order of the books of the sacred writings as left by Ezra, are Josephus, Origen, and Jerome.
Josephus gives no catalogue of the sacred books: he merely observes (contra Appion, lib. 1, c. 8,) that the Jews had twenty-two sacred books; five composed by Moses; thirteen of prophetic and historical writings; and four which
contain hymns to God, and precepts for the direction of the conduct of men. Here is a plain reference to the three great divisions, the Law, the Prophets, and the Hagiographa: but of the order in which these books were consecutively placed, we have no intimation. Origen, who made the Scriptures the study of his life, has made an arrangement of the books of the Old Testament very different from that in our Bibles: he preserves all the canonical books, but with respect to their order he appears to consider it as a matter of indifference. The Hebrews, he remarks, (Origen's Works, Benedictine Edition, vol. ii. p. 529,) have twentytwo books: 1. Genesis, 2. Exodus, 3. Leviticus, 4. Numbers, 5. Deuteronomy, 6. Joshua, 7. Judges and Ruth, 8. The first and second books of Kings, or Samuel, 9. Third and fourth of Kings, 10. The first and second of Chronicles, 11. Ezra, or Ezra and Nehemiah, 12. The book of Psalms, 13. Proverbs, 14. Ecclesiastes, 15. Canticles, 16. Isaiah, 17. Jeremiah, the Lamentations, and the Epistle, 18. Daniel, 19. Ezekiel, 20. Job, 21. Esther. By some strange mistake the twenty-second book, that of the minor prophets, has been omitted. Jerome, who translated and wrote a commentary on the Scriptures, and studied in Judea under the most learned Jews, may be supposed to have exhibited the arrangement which obtained in his time. His catalogue may be found in the Benedictine Edition, vol. i. p. 318. He divides the sacred books into the three usual classes, the Law, the Prophets, and the Hagiographa. In the first are contained 1. Genesis, 2. Exodus, 3. Leviticus, 4. Numbers, 5. Deuteronomy. In the second class 6. Joshua, 7. Judges and Ruth, 8. First and second of Samuel, 9. First and second of Kings, 10. Isaiah, 11. Jeremiah, 12. Ezekiel, 13. The twelve minor prophets, all in one book. The third class contains 14. Job, 15. The Psalms, in five books, 16. Proverbs, 17. Ecclesiastes, 18. Canticles, 19. Daniel, 20. First and second of Chronicles, 21. Ezra, divided into two books,
22. Esther. Thus twenty-two books are computed, Moses five, the Prophets eight, the Hagiographa nine.
The copies of the Vulgate differ from each other. In some MSS. of the Vulgate, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Canticles, are placed after Malachi. The catalogues of Origen and Jerome are most probably nearest to the Esdrine arrangement; yet as these vary from each other, and we have no means of ascertaining which is the most correct, we have reason to suppose either that the arrangement by Ezra is totally lost, or that in the different copies published in his time, and in that of the great Sanhedrim, the order of the books varied and as the precise order has in no Church been so far considered of moment as to be made canonical, it may justly be concluded, that no reasonable objection can be made to a connected arrangement of the Sacred Volume.
Almost every commentator has observed the miscellaneous disposition of the contents of the Old Testament; and has pointed out the historical place of many chapters, and passages. Since the time of Lightfoot, biblical literature has been so much the object of general attention, that it was necessary to consult the labours of many modern divines, as well as of those who immediately preceded them. The union of these authorities, it is hoped, will give additional sanction to the work. Where a difference of opinion has prevailed among these various writers, the arranger has been compelled to decide on the validity of opposing arguments; and at other times from a consideration of the internal evidence, the context, the circumstances, and the primary object of a passage, a psalm, or a prophecy, he has been induced to act upon his own judgment, which has occasionally led him to differ from those authorities, on which he has ever been inclined to place the most dependence.
One material alteration has been made in the manner in which Lightfoot has arranged his Chronicle. On his plan, the Old Testament would have been read as one unbroken
history, without any division into chapters, or any of those breaks, the omission of which is generally supposed to be the cause of great weariness to the reader. To obviate this difficulty, and to endeavour to make the Scripture narrative more attractive, and more easily remembered, the present arrangement is divided into periods, chapters, and sections. These several portions it was thought would render the work more useful and interesting to the unlearned reader, or to the reader who is not accustomed to devote much uninterrupted time to the perusal of books. By this means he will be enabled, without burthening his memory, to take up and lay down the Old Testament at his leisure, as he would any other history or narrative.
The First Period contains the history of the world and the church from the Creation to the Deluge: and includes the first nine chapters of Genesis. As the object of Moses in writing the Pentateuch was the preservation of the Israelites from the contagion of the surrounding idolatry, in the notes are pointed out the several reasons of many of those peculiar phrases, supposed to be directed against the prevailing superstitions of his day. The circumstances of this period are few, the narrative brief, and the traditions concerning it, scattered among the heathen, obscure and confused: little is related to enable us to judge of the manners and customs of the Antediluvians: yet sufficient is recorded to shew us that the world was the same then as at present; divided between the good and the evil, the sons of God and the sons of men ; that the latter so prevailed against the former, that the visible Church was reduced to the limits of a single family, and the world was destroyed that the Church might be preserved. The principal events related in this Period are the divine institution of sacrifice,-the origin of many of the arts and sciences, and a clear and consistent account of the awful destruction of the world by the Deluge, an event, which, though known by tradition among all nations, and commemorated by rites, customs, festivals, and emblems, was