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Though I have not the presumption, my Lord, to suppose that mine can be of much use to the professed scholar ; yet I am willing to flatter myself, it may be of some assistance to two classes of people — to the younger

students in divinity, as an introduction to the Scriptures — and to those, whose engagements in the world, or neceffary business, may prevent their making deeper researches.

Your Lordship knows how many years I have employed upon this work, and how long it hath lain by me; and yet, though I hope I have neither been deficient in reading, in thinking, nor in consulting my friends on the subject, I still bring it forward with apprehenfion. Nothing is more arduous than to comment on the Scriptures to publish our own interpretations of the word of God. places we must conjecture; and there will ever be a variety of opinions. I humbly, however, trust in God, that I have hazarded no conjecture, nor have given any explication of obfcure points, inconsistent with the general sense of


In many

Scripture, which is certainly our best guide in all dubious passages.

Your Lordship’s approbation of my work is one of the best grounds of my hope, that it may

in some measure answer the ends I propose. I am, my Lord, with the greatest respect,

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T the time of Jefus Christ's birth, the whole world

enjoyed profound peace. The sovereignty of Rome, under Augustus Cæsar, had united, and in a degree civi. lized, almost all the known nations of the earth * This, indeed, may be considered as one of those modes of preparation, which God had provided for the reception of the gospel. The several parts of the empire were not only rendered more accessible to it, but were better disposed to receive it. The age was more enlightened ; impostures were more easily detected; and the evidences of that reli. gion, which wished for the clearest light, were produced with greater force.

Among other nations, the Jews fell under the government of the Romans. They felt, like the rest of the conquered provinces, the avarice and exactions of pretors and publicans; but, on the whole, they were humanely treated. They were suffered to live under their own laws,

* This was Pliny's opinion. The Roman empire, he tells us, sparsa congregaret imperia, ritus molliret, &c. The Roman empire bad collected the different governments of the world into one • bad softened ibeir

favage rites--disseminated a general language to afif the intercourse of mankind - and, in foort, had reduced

world to a flate of bumanity. (Nat. Hift. b. iii. c.5.)-The conqueft of Europe by the Romans, says Dr. Lightfoot, was one of the means, in the Lord's providence, to barrow the world's ruggedness, and 19 fire it the better for the fowing of the gospel. VOL. I.

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with a few restrictions; and their religion was left invio. late. The highpriest exercised his office, and the Sanadrim, in a great degree, their power. It is true, indeed, the emperor sometimes interfered in the promotion of these rulers; yet still their functions went regularly on."

In the mean time, the nation became exceedingly corrupt. The Babylonith captivity, which had been the pu. nishment of their idolatry, had effectually rooted out that crime. But they had adopted others. The spirit of their religion was gone: and though the form of it remained, yet different rites, of Babylonish, Egyptian, Syriac, and Arabic origin, had, in some degree, polluted the purity of the Mofaic ritual. Their morals, too, were much infected. Roman luxuries and Roman vices had found their way into Judea, and had greatly corrupted the people at large; but chiefly in the vicinity of Herod, who was proud of adopting the licentious manners of his conquerors*.

The learning of the Jews, in our Saviour's time, confisted almost entirely in the glosses and interpretations of their rabbies upon the law. This licence in religion was in an earlier period unknown. The old Jewish seer or prophet, who was enabled to work miracles in proof of his divine commission, was the sole interpreter of scrip: ture,

He recorded all events, both civil and ecclefiaftical, He warned the disobedient of the judgments, of God; and reproved both kings and people. Under this high authority, all licentious opinions were restrained, and the Jewish church was unacquainted with schism.

After Malachi, who was the last prophet, and lived about four hundred years before Christ, the Jewish church by degrees divided into different sects. Of these, the most

See an account of the corrupt fate of Judea at this time, ia Lardo. Credib. p. I. b.i. ti


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