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It is true, that in historical disquisitions we cannot expect mathematical certainty; much less can we obtain experimental knowledge : the nature of the evidence will not admit of such a proof. Yet there are not wanting proper data to proceed upon; matters of fact well stated, that are illustrated by other contingencies, especially such as have been never controverted. There is oftentimes, in respect to an historical transaction, such a connection and correspondence with other events ; so marvellous a coincidence of collateral circumstances, as produces an internal proof superior to the testimony of the writer, through whose hands we receive the account. So that we yield our assent, not merely on the credibility of the narrator: but from being certified in our belief, by an aggregate of circumstances, credible of themselves singly ; but of infinite force and influence, when they are brought collectively to a point, and operate together. From hence many truths may be deduced; such as we may fairly assent to; and of which we may be morally certain. And the evidence resulting in this case is as home and satisfactory, as any that is founded on mathematical knowledge; and the assent we yield to it is as determined and full. But it may be said, that, in very remote inquiries we cannot always obtain this satisfactory light : and, though no one can well hesitate to pronounce that there was once such a country as Chaldæa or Egypt:
set there are many circumstances relating to the origi'n and chronology of those kingdoms; many particulars that regard the history and situation of their cities, of which we cannot be so acurately informed. All this is true : and, where we cannot obtain the light we wish for, we must rest contented with what can be procured : and if there really be none, we should take care not to make use of a false light to bewilder ourselves, and to mislead others. This caution cannot be too religiously observed : that we do not impose upon our own judgment; and fancy that we see light, when there is none; and then endeavour to captivate the ignorant and unwary by illusions of our own raising. In short, let us not go merely on surmise; but have some grounds, whereon to found our conjectures. Let us not procecd blindly in a track, we are unacquainted with; and then support our reveries with wicked wit and illicit learning. How often do writers obtrude upon their readers a bare possibility for a probability, and make inferences in consequence of it? arguing from the silence of authors; from terms relative and comparative ; from a supposed convenience and expediency, which they frame in the luxuriancy of their fancy, but which no where else is to be found. Hlow often do they pitch upon a circumstance, the least to be depended on, to determine all the rest? where the first position is as doubtful as the second, or any which are inferred from it: so that every step they take, they recede farther and farther from
the truth. And, during the whole course of their inquiries, they are too apt to magnify and enhance on one hand, and to soften and extenuate on the other; according as the evidence suits, or is unfavourable to their purpose. Nor is this to be observed among people of low endowments only, and of a moderate degree of literature: many writers of exquisite talents and an ample share of learning, are misled by the like prejudices: by which means much embarrassment and perplexity has ensued; and an obscurity been cast on some interesting parts of history. This has been in great measure owing to their not having originally set out upon something well known and assured : by neglecting which they have misapplied much good learning, and given a sanction to a multiplicity of errors. For the bane of truth is ill-grounded conjecture; and the more ingeniously it is supported, the greater is the evil. These errors are particularly fatal in geographical inquiries; and generally very complicated. For every city and district being in the vicinity of some other, if one is, through the whim and capriciousness of a writer, misplaced ; all that have a connexion with it inust suffer a change in their situation; in order to keep up that relation and correspondence, which must necessarily subsist between them. As I would not have expressed myself with so much severity, if I had not good reason for what I alledge; I will, with the reader's leave, lay before him some instances of the unwarrantable assump.
tions that writers have made bold with, and a complication of mistakes in consequence of them.
As I purpose to make some inquiries into the antient history of Egypt; I will begin with this question, Where was the land of Goshen? The ingenious Lakemacher,' in order to investigate this point, looks out first for the place of residence of Pharaoh. This he presumes was Zoan : and Zoan, he says, was Tanis. He accordingly places it on the Pelusiac branch of the Nile, towards the bottom: and as Goshen is supposed to be near the residence of Pharaoh, it is placed to the east both of
'Jo. Gothofr. Lakemacheri Gr. et Orient. Ling. Prof. Ord. Obserrationes Philologicæ, 3 vol. Helmstadü. 1730. See Vol. 2d. p. 297. and the map at page 1. De situ Goscnitidis. p. 314. Ad cum verò indagandum ipse nobis Sacre literæ adminicula nonmullu subministrant. Sunt autem hæc tria ; I. Gosenitis in eâ Egypti parte fuit, quam qui ex Canaane advenirent primam intrabant. II. Vicina fuit Tani, sedi regiæ. III. Terra fuit pascuosa, pecoribusque alendis cum primis idonea-Compericmus utique sitam fuisse Gosenitidem in Egypti anterioribus, Canaanem inter sedemque regiam, ubi nomos erat Bubasticus et Arabicus, simul cum parte quadam Sethroïte: presertim cum addatur loco posteriori Josephum curru juncto obriam processisse parenti in Gosenitulem.- Nam tu', coming in lingua Arabica, cui haud dubiè coguata fuit Egyptiaca, loricam sonat et partem anteriorem, testis yuidem speciatim, sed et generat im cujuscunque rei. He places Tauis upon the river of Pelusium : and to the east of it the Ara. bin nome, the noine of Bubastus, and part of the Sethroïtic, between that river and Canaan. Here was the land of Goshen sie tuated according to him, in Arabia beyond the limits of Delta,
Tanis and the river, in Arabia, in a spot opposite to them. This allotment of Goshen necessarily determines the situation of many other places, that must be made to agree with it. For not only Rameses and Pithom, but the nome of Bubastus, with its city and appendages; and likewise that of Heliopolis must accord with this situation of Goshen : so that, if there be an error in the first principle, there will be found a sad series of mistakes, before we come to a conclusion. The chief points that he proceeds upon are these-" that “ Goshen was in the way to Egypt, at the entrance “ of it, as people came from Canaan : that it was
Bear to Tanis, and was a place of pastures: and
lastly, that the spot he attributes to Goshen had “ this excellency; and was particularly adapted to “ flocks and herds." I shall not enter into a detail of all his false reasoning: nor point out the passages in antient authors, that he has misapplied. Let it suffice, if I shew that he is fundamentally in the wrong; and has chosen a part of the world for the residence of the Israelites, that was never habitable. He was hurried on with a zeal for his hypothesis, and never in the least considered the natural history of the country he treats of: in which there was neither province nor city; for it was all a desert Pomponius Mela mentions that one part of Arabiu, which lay upon the Red Sea, was sufficiently fruitful: but from Egypt to the Red Sea (that is from