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And what is all other knowledge compared to this? This is life eternal, that they may know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” Men differ greatly in mental capacity and acquirements, modes of thinking, education, and opportunities of judging correctly, and it is not to be expected that any two persons should view the doings of Providence under precisely the same aspect, or at once agree in their opinion of the result of an event, or series of events; yet the more closely and constantly candid persons contemplate the transactions of mankind, the more unanimous will they become in judgment respecting their moral and religious influence. This induces the Author to hope, that views of certain events which at first glance some may regard mere fancy or conjecture, will, after more mature reflection, appear just, and adapted to excite Christians to admire the manifold wisdom, boundless power, and overflowing goodness of Jehovah, in his administration on earth.
Reference to one or two subjects may convey an idea of the difference between this and similar Works.
In the latter, for instance, the captivity of Israel occupies a conspicuous place in the narrative of the wars and victories of Nebuchadnezzar; but what some modern authors would denominate the religious philosophy of this portion of history, is almost, if not altogether, overlooked. Here we regard Nebuchadnezzar's conquest of the chosen people as the highest triumph of idolatry; and consequently infer that it was divinely proper for Jehovah to terminate his long-suffering towards the worshippers of idols, and display his superiority over them. This he did by giving the empire to the Persians, who utterly abhorred idols, the work of man's hands. The capture of Babylon, by Cyrus, overthrew the dominion of idols; nor did they ever again command the devout reverence and unreserved subjection of all ranks of society. Idols continued, indeed, to be worshipped by all, but many questioned their power, and not a few secretly treated them with contempt. And about the same period Divine truth received a
mighty impulse, which occasioned its more rapid and wide diffusion, through successive generations, till its triumphant reign in the age of our Lord and his Apostles. See Vol. I. Chap. IV., pages 81-91.
Again, in tracing the course of events, by which the Greeks ascended to universal empire, the apparent tendencies and influences of some of them merit more prominence in a work on the Connexion of Sacred and Profane History, than has hitherto been given them. Pious and benevolent minds must be refreshed when they perceive that the dissemination of divine truth kept pace with the language of Greece, in its astonishing progress in the kingdoms conquered by Alexander and his successors. This subject is adverted to in Vol. I. Chap. IX. pages 146, 164, 165, 173.; Chap. XIII. page 186. To contemplate the vanity of the utmost exertions of the mightiest mental and physical powers of men to attain an object opposed o the councils and predictions of Heaven, must have a salutary influence on all men, especially Christians. How strikingly was the weakness of man exhibited in the inefficacy of the schemes and labours of several of Alexander's princes to effect the unity of his empire, which Daniel foretold should be broken up! see Vol. I Chap. XI.
The Punic wars, and the final conquest of Carthage by Rome, fill many a page of history; but authors have not distinctly observed the Divine goodness and mercy to man discovered by giving the empire to the latter, rather than the former, although nothing seems more obvious, on a slight review of the character, position, and circumstances of these nations. How unexpected, and, in the eyes of the most eminent statesmen and warriors, how improbable, was the entire subjugation of Carthage by Rome, is shown in Vol. I. Chap. III. IV. That this great event was most important to the interests of civilization and true religion, will not be doubted by any who believe that the remarks to be found in Vol. II. pages 49—53, are founded in truth. The reign of Herod forms an important part of Jewish history; yet the Divine propriety of giving the Holy Land to that ungodly monarch has been generally overlooked; see Vol. II. Chap. IX. 187, 188.
The remarkable adaptation of the Fourth Empire for the introduction of the Fifth, is repeatedly noticed, especially in Vol. II. pages 183—186; Vol. III. pages 227–232.
The writer conceives it superfluous to adduce any more examples to indicate the plan of his work. He has written in the hope of inducing readers of history, especially the young, to investigate the designs of God in his administration, and to recognise his unsearchable perfections and absolute goodness in all things. How far he has succeeded in producing a proper instrument to attain the desired end, is for others to judge. Consciousness of a worthy motive is ample recompence for much labour, although the ultimate object should not be attained.