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I give only a transient view of these objects, though so very important, in this place, because I have already treated them with some extent elsewhere.
But another object of infinitely greater 4. The obimportance, claims our attention. For serving, es
pecially, the although profane history treats only of connection nations who had imbibed all the chimeras of cred and pro,
fane history a superstitious worship, and abandoned themselves to all the irregularities of which human nature, after the fall of the first man, became capable; it nevertheless proclaims universally the greatness of the Almighty, his power, his justice, and, above all, the admirable wisdom with which his providence governs the universe.
If the inherent conviction of this last truth raised, according to Cicero's observation, the Romans above all other nations; we may, in like manner, affirm, that nothing gives history a greater superiority to many other branches of literature, than to see in a manner imprinted, in almost every page of it, the precious footsteps and shining proofs of this great truth, viz. that God disposes all events as supreme lord and sove, reign; that he alone determines the fate of kings and the duration of empires; and that he, for reasons inscrutable to all but himself, transfers the government of kingdoms from one nation to another,
We discover this important truth in He presided going back to the most remote antiquity, sion of men
after the and the origin of profane history; I mean, to flood.
• Vol. III. and IV. Of the method of teaching and studying the Belles Lettres, &c.
• Pietate ac religione, atque hac una sapientia quod deorum im. mortalium numine omnia regi gubernarique perspeximus, omnes gentes nationesque superavimus, Orat. de Arusp. resp. n. 19.
the dispersion of the posterity of Noah into the several countries of the earth where they settled. Liberty, chance, views of interest, a love for certain countries, and such like motives, were, in outward appearance, the only 'causes of the different choice which men made in these various migrations. But the scriptures inform us, that, amidst the trouble and confusion that followed the sudden change in the language of Noah's descendants, God presided invisibly over all their councils and deliberations; that nothing was transacted but by the Almighty's appointment; and that he only guidede and settled all mankind, agreeably to the dictates of his mercy and justice: d« The Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of the earth.”
It is true indeed that God, even in those early ages, had a peculiar regard for that people, whom he was one day to consider as his own. He pointed out the country which they were to inherit; he caused it to be possessed by another laborious nation, who applied themselves to cultivate and adorn it; and to improve, by all possible methods, the future inheritance of the Israelites. He then fixed, in that country, the like number of families, as were to be settled in it, when the sons of Israel should, at the appointed time, take possession of it; and did not suffer any of the nations, which were not subject to the curse pronounced by Noah against Canaan, to enter an inheritance that was
• The ancients themselves, according to Pindar, (Olymp. od. vii.) had retained some idea, that the dispersion of men was not the effect of chance, but that they had been settled in different countries by the appointment of Providence. o Gen. xi. 8, 9.
fixed the fate
to be given up entirely to the Israelites. Quando dividebat Altissimus gentes, quando separabat filios Adam, constituit terminos populorum juxta numerum filiorum Israel. But this peculiar regard of God to his future people, does not interfere with that which he had for the rest of the nations of the earth, as is evi. dent from the many passages of scripture, which teach us, that the entire succession of ages is present to him; that nothing is transacted in the whole universe, but by his appointment; and that he directs the several events of it from age to age. Tu es Deus conspector seculorum. A seculo usque in seculum respicis.
We must therefore consider, as an in- God only has disputable principle, and as the basis and
of all empires, foundation to the study of profane history, spect to his that the providence of the Almighty has, own people, from all eternity, appointed the establish- of his Son. ment, duration, and destruction of kingdoms and empires, as well in regard to the general plan of the whole universe, known only to God, who constitutes the order and wonderful harmony of its several parts; as particularly with respect to the people of Israel, and still more with regard to the Messiah, and the establishment of the church, which is his great work, the end and design of all his other works, and ever present to his sight: 8 Notum à seculo est Domino opus suum.
God has vouchsafed to discover to us, in holy scripture, a part of the relation of the several nations of the
• When the Most High divided the nations, and separated the sons of Adam, he assigned the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel (whom he had in view.) This is one of the interpretations (which appears very natural) that is given to this passage. Eccles. xxxix. 19. xxxij. 25.
& Acts xv. 18,
carth to his own people; and the little so discovered, diffuses great light over the history of those nations, of whom we shall have but a very imperfect idea, unless we have recourse to the inspired writers. They alone display, and bring to light, the secret thoughts of princes, their incoherent projects, their foolish pride, their impious and cruel ambition. They reveal the true causes and hidden springs of victories and overthrows; of the grandeur and declension of nations; the rise and ruin of states; and teach us what judgment the Almighty forms both of princes and empires, and consequently, what idea we ourselves ought to entertain of them.
Powerful Not to mention Egypt, that served at kings appointed to punish first as the cradle (if I may be allowed the or protect Is
expression) to the holy nation; which afterwards was a kind of severe prison, and a ficry furnaceh to it; and at last, the scene of the most astonishing miracles that God ever wrought in favour of Israel. Not to mention, I say, Egypt, the mighty empires of Nineveh and Babylon furnish a thousand proofs of the truth here advanced.
Their most powerful monarchs, Tiglath Pileser, Shalmaneser, Sennacherib, Nebuchadnezzar, and many more, were, in God's hand, as so many instruments, which he employed to punish the transgressions of his people. i“He lifted up an ensign to the nations from far, and hissed unto them from the end of the
b I will bring you out from under the bondage of the Egyptians, and I will rid you out of their bondage, out of the iron furnace, even out of Egypt. Exod. vi. 6. Deut. iv. 20. i Isa. v. 26, 30. x. 28, 34. xiii. 4, 5.
carth, to come and receive his orders.” He himself put the sword into their hands, and appointed their marches daily. He breathed courage and ardour into their soldiers; made their armies indefatigable in labour, and invincible in battle; and spread terror and consternation wherever they directed their steps.
As their conquests were so rapid, this ought to have given them some glimpse of the invisible hand which conducted them. But, says one of these kings in the name of the rest, 1“ By the strength of my hand I have done it, and by my wisdom ; for I am prudent: And I have removed the bounds of the people, and have robbed their treasures, and I have put down the inhabitants like a valiant man. And
hand hath found as a nest the riches of the people: And as one gathereth eggs that are left, have I gathered all the earth, and there was none that moved the wing, or opened the mouth, or peeped.
But this monarch, so august and wise in his own eye, how did he appear in that of the Almighty? Only as a subaltern, a servant sent by his master: m« The rod of his anger, and the staff in his hand.” God's design was to chastise, not to extirpate his children. But Sennacherib n« had it in his heart to destroy and cut off all nations.” What then will be the issue of this kind of contest between the designs of God, and those of this prince ?. At the time that he fancied himself already possessed of Jerusalem, the Lord, with a single blast, disperses all his proud hopes; destroys, in one night, an hundred and fourscore
k Sennacherib, Isa. x. 13, 14.
m Isa. X. 5.
# Isa. 27.
• Isa. X. 12