« PreviousContinue »
The “Chronicle” of the learned Lightfoot has been made the basis of the following arrangement. Of all the writers of the day in which he lived, this celebrated divine is supposed to have been the most deeply versed in the knowledge of the Scriptures. It was his custom for many years to note down, as opportunity presented, in the course of his talmudical and other studies, the order and time of the several passages of Scripture as they came under his consideration. By pursuing this method, he gradually formed that invaluable Chronicle, which his biographer and the editor of his works has placed before all his other publications, as the most useful and important. The title of this celebrated tract is, “ A “ Chronicle of the times, and the order of the texts of the “ Old Testament, wherein the Books, Chapters, Psalms, “ Stories, Prophecies, &c. are reduced into their proper “ order, and taken up in their proper places, in which the “ natural method and genuine series of the Chronology re
quireth them to be taken in. With reason given of dis“ locations where they come. And many remarkable notes “ and observations given all along for the better understand“ ing of the text; the difficulties of the Chronicle declared; “ the differences occurring in the relating of stories recon
ciled; and exceeding many scruples and obscurities in the « Old Testament explained.” Lightfoot was so eminent that Bishop Walton consulted him both on the Polyglott Bible, and the Samaritan Pentateuch, Dr. Castel on his Heptaglott Lexicon, and Pole on his Synopsis Criticorum.
Buxtorf, Dr. Outram, Thorndike and Morinus, with other distinguished men, openly expressed how much they admired, and venerated him. The most learned foreigners came to England to visit him. In the assembly of divines at Westminster, he was the most distinguished for his learning and ability; opposing the more violent measures, and frequently by his arguments changing the sentiments of the majority. His work was published at the time when the nation was unfortunately engaged in the bitter contests between the King and his Parliament. We are not possessed of sufficient means of accurately ascertaining the reception this invaluable Chronicle met with from the public; but if we may judge from the complaints of his biographers Dr. Bright, and Mr. Strype, the author of the “ Annals,” it does not appear to have obtained much celebrity, nor to have attracted the attention it so well deserved.
This supposition is still further corroborated by the singular omission of the work, in the list mentioned by Torshel in his rare and valuable pamphlet. This divine was chaplain to king Charles the First, and tutor to the royal children. In the year before the death of his royal master, he published a tract (which was afterwards reprinted in the Phoenix) entitled “ A design about disposing the Bible into an har
mony; or an Essay concerning the transposing the order “ of books and chapters of the Holy Scriptures, for the “ reducing of all into a continued history--The benefits,
difficulties, and the helps.” The tract was addressed to the right honourable the lords and commons assembled in Parliament; intimating to them the propriety and necessity of taking the subject on which it treats into consideration, that under their gracious auspices and influence " it may “ grow to full maturity.” Torshel's object indeed was to induce the two Houses to appoint a committee to execute his plans. Had Lightfoot and Torshel united their efforts in this cause, it is not improbable that the sanction of the legislature at that period might have been obtained, and a
most accurate and valuable arrangement been made by the learned men, who, at that time, abounded in England. “ Let the state,” says Torshel,“ only please to make it their “ care, after the example of some kings and republics, that “ have done such like works of general use, for the advance “ of learning and divine knowledge, and they will find some “ men very learned of their own order, besides many in the
profession of divinity, and others of private quality, that u will contribute much assistance to it." And in another part—“ If the state may please to look upon it with favour “ and encouragement, somewhat may be done to the great « service of the Churches of Christ,” &c. &c. The state, however, paid no attention to the petition, and the design of barmonizing the Bible has not hitherto been put into execution.
Dr. Hales, the learned and laborious author of the Analysis of Sacred Chronology, is the last writer by whom this design of Torshel has been brought before the public. After enumerating a variety of works, which have been submitted at different times to the world, to assist the reader of Scripture in his attempts to understand the Sacred Volume, Dr. Hales observes, “ We have still to search in vain for a compe“ tent history of the Bible; a history which shall be plain “ and clear, even to the unlearned, and yet concise, correct, " and critical; competent Ist. to arrange all the scattered “ events of Scripture in a regular and lucid chronological, “ and geographical order; 2nd. to trace the connection “ between the Old and New Testaments throughout, so as " to render the whole one uniform and consistent narrative; “ 3rd. to expound the mysteries, doctrines, and precepts of
both, intelligibly, rationally, and faithfully; without add
ing to, or diminishing from the word of God; and without “ undue respect to persons, parties, or sects; 4th. to unfold " and interpret the whole grand and comprehensive scheme, “ of the prophetic argument from Genesis to Revelations, “ all admirably linked, and closely connected together, sub
“ sisting in the divine mind, before the foundation of the “ world ; and gradually revealed to mankind at sundry “ times, and divers modes, and degrees, during the Patri" archal, Mosaical, and Christian dispensations, as they
were able to bear it; 5th. to solve real difficulties, and “ reconcile apparent dissonances, resulting from the obscu
rity of the original text, or from inaccurate translations; “ 6th. to silence sceptics and heretics, infidels and scoffers,
by exposing the weakness and inconclusiveness of their “ objections and cavils ; 7th. to defend the institutions of “ the primitive Church against schismatics and levellers, “ and in fine, 8th. to copy as closely as possible the brevity “ and conciseness, yet simplicity and plainness of the Gospel " style.” Such a history of the Bible is altogether a desideratum in the annals of sacred literature.
“ Such a plan was partly proposed," (Dr. Hales proceeds to observe,)“ many years ago, after" (more properly during) “ the grand rebellion, by Samuel Torshel, a preceptor of the
royal family of Charles the First, who addressed the Lords u and Commons assembled in Parliament on this great and “ important national concern.”
He proposed “ to dispose the Bible into a method and " harmony, by transposing the order of the books and chap“ ters, inserting the sacred oracles according to the times " they were delivered in, and the Psalms in their places, and
the occasions which they were framed to suit, in such a manner that by the mere force of series and connection, the « historical and prophetical parts may reciprocally explain " and authenticate each other."
The miscellaneous form of the Sacred Books has been often considered by pious and learned men as one principal cause of those difficulties which have given rise to so many commentaries. The great majority of the readers of Scripture are either unable, or unwilling, to undergo the delightful labour of arranging the scattered events in their unbroken and historical order. Much error has arisen from this neglect.