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The Lord hath his way in the Whirlwind, and in the
Storm, and the Clouds are the dust of his Feet.--Nah. i. 3.
Printed for G. Sawbridge, in Little Britain, and Sold by
E. Nutt, near Stationer's Hall. MDCCIV.
PREACHING of sermons is speaking to a few of mankind: printing of books is talking to the whole world. The parson prescribes himself, and addresses to the particular auditory with the appelation of My brethren ; but he that prints a book, ought to preface it with a Noverint Universi, Know all men by these presents. The proper
inference drawn from this remarkable observation, is, that though he that preaches from the pulpit ought to be careful of his words, that nothing pass from him but with an especial sanction of truth; yet he that prints and publishes to all the world, has a tenfold obligation.
The sermon is a sound of words spoken to the ear, and prepared only for present meditation, and extends no farther than the strength of memory can convey it; a book printed is a record, remaining in every man's possession, always ready to renew its acquaintance with his memory, and always ready to be produced as an authority or voucher to any reports he makes out of it, and conveys its contents for ages to come, to the eternity of mortal time, when the author is forgotten in his grave.
If a sérmon be ill grounded, if the preacher imposes upon us, he trespasses on a few; but if a book printed obtrudes a falsehood, if a man tells a lie in print, he abuses mankind, and imposes upon the whole world, he causes our children to tell lies after us, and their children after them, to the end of the world. This observation I thought good to make by way
preface, to let the world know, that when I go about a work in which I must tell a great many stories, which may in their own nature seem incredible, and in which I must expect a great part of mankind will question the sincerity of the relator; I did not do it without a particular sense upon me of the proper duty of an historian, and the abundant duty laid on him to be very wary what he conveys to posterity.
I cannot be so ignorant of my own intentions, as not to know, that in many cases I shall act the divine, and draw necessary practical inferences from the extraordinary remarkables of this book, ånd some digressions which I hope may not be altogether useless in this case.
And while I pretend to a thing so solemn, I cannot but premise I should stand convicted of a double imposture, to forge a story, and then preach repentance to the reader from a crime greater than that I would have him repent of: en. deavouring by a lie to correct the reader's vices, and sin against truth to bring the reader off from sinning against
Upon this score, though the undertaking be very difficult amongst such an infinite variety of circumstances, to keep exactly within the bounds of truth; yet I have this positive assurance with me, that in all the subsequent relation, if the least mistake happen, it shall not be mine.
If I judge right, 'tis the duty of an historian to set every thing in its own light, and to convey matter of fact upon its legitimate authority, and no other : I mean thus (for I would be as explicit as I can), that where a story is vouched to him with
sufficient authority, he ought to give the world the special testimonial of its proper voucher, or else he is not just to the story: and where it comes without such sufficient authority, he ought to say so; otherwise he is not just to himself. In the first case he injures the history, by leaving it doubtful where it might be confirmed past all manner of question ; in the last he injures his own reputation, by taking upon himself the risk, in case it proves a mistake, of having the world charge him with a forgery.
And indeed, I cannot but own it is just, that if I tell a story in print for a truth which proves otherwise, unless I, at the same time, give proper caution to the reader, by owning the uncertainty of my knowledge in the matter of fact, it is I impose upon the world ; my relator is innocent, and the lie is my own.
I make all these preliminary observations, partly to inform the reader, that I have not undertaken this work without the serious consideration of what I owe to truth, and to posterity; nor without a sense of the extraordinary variety and novelty of the relation.
I am sensible, that the want of this caution is the foundation of that great misfortune we have in matters of ancient history; in which the impudence, the ribaldry, the empty flourishes, the little regard to truth, and the fondness of telling a strange story, has dwindled a great many valuable pieces of ancient history into mere romance.
How are the lives of some of our most famous men, nay, the actions of whole ages, drowned in fable? Not that there wanted pen-men to write, but that their writings were continually mixed with such rhodomontades of the authors that posterity rejected them as fabulous.
From hence it comes to pass that matters of fact are handed