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The nation of Israel acted inconsistently with their peculiar advantages, as the chosen people of God; and their crimes are assigned in Scripture, as the reason of their numerous calamities. Indeed they were neither chosen for their merit, nor on their own account exclusively; but from the wise and holy love and mercy of God, and for the purposes of his own glory, in the benefit of other ages and nations, especially in introducing the gospel and kingdom of his beloved Son. The wickedness of this favoured people, in direct opposition to the requirements of their law, decisively proves the depravity of human nature: and he, who impartially compares the history of Israel with that of other nations, will find that they were not more wicked, nor indeed so wicked by far, as many have been and are at this day. But the crimes of idelators are concealed or excused; while those of God's worshippers are painted in the most horrid colours that ingenuity and eloquence can furnish, and aggravated by many palpable misrepresentations!
Mr. P. asserts that * the genealogy from Adam to 'Saul takes up the first nine chapters of Chronicles:' when in fact the descendants of David to four generations after Zerubbabel are found in the third chapter; and the succession of the high priests till the captivity in the sixth chapter, besides other matters of the same kind! This would be unworthy of notice, did it not shew that the author is not so competent to his undertaking, as many readers may suppose him. He considers the book of Chronicles as a repetition of the books of Kings: and others speak of them in the
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same manner. But an attentive examination of them must convince any man, that this is erroneous: for the second book of Chronicles contains the history of Judah only, and of the kings that succeeded David till the captivity; and it gives a more copious and methodical account of them than is found in the books of Kings. The latter, from the division of the nation into two kingdoms, resemble an history of France and England carried on together, with continual transitions from one to the other. The former is like the history of England apart, in which the affairs of France are only mentioned, when connected with those of England.
What then shall we think of a man, who charges two historians with being impostors and liars, because they do not exactly relate the same events? Had they written the history of the same kingdom, they might surely have had the liberty to select, according to their different views, the peculiar facts which they would record: for no historian can record everything that happens. But their histories relate to distinct subjects, and the writer of Chronicles had nothing immediately to do with the affairs of Israel. He who undertakes to write the annals of England, is not bound to relate the extraordinary measures and edicts of the French convention: and should some authorin future times on this ground assert, that ‘ the his‘torians of England and France did not believe one ‘another, they knew each other too well:" the observation would not greatiy recommend his candour and penetration.
The history of Jeroboam and his altar belonged to the affairs of Israel: but had the historian of Judah deemed it false, he would probably have contradicted it. The extraordinary prophecy, however, connected with it, which Josiah above three hundred years after, exactly accomplished in the view of the whole nation, sufficiently authenticates the narrative, in the judgment of all sober men. The actions of Elijah and Elisha also belonged to the history of Israel; for neither of them resided or prophesied in Judah. The writer of Chronicles, however, would not have declined recording the translation of Elijah, or the miracles of Elisha, had they fallen within his plan, lest he should be accused of lying and romancing: for he relates facts equally marvellous; such as the slaughter of Sennacherib's army by an angel, and the retrogarde motion of the shadow on the dial of Ahaz, at Hezeki;ill's request.
Some difficulty occurs in reconciling the dates given in different places, of the time when Jehoram son of Jehoshaphat began to reign: but similar difficulties occur in many other ancient histories. Perhaps Jehoram was admitted to a share in the rcgai autliority before lie succeeded to the kingdom at his father's death; as Solomon had been before him: or perhaps some trivial error in a numeral letter has taken place, by the inadvertency of transcribers.
The historians could not properly speak of the several prophets who lived in the times of which they wrote, further than they had some concern in publick affairs. But in general they mention the prophets with neculiar respect; and uniformly ascribe the calamities of Judah and Israel to the conduct of the rulers and people in despising and persecuting them, and in hearkening to the false prophets who contradicted them.— Mr. P. says, * the name of Jonah is mentioned on ac* count of the restoration of a track of land by Jero'boam.'* The passage referred to is this: "Jeroboam ," the son of Joash, restored the coast of Israel,—ac"cording to the word of the Lord God of Israel, "which he spake by the hand of his servant Jonah, "the son of Amittai, the prophet which was of Gath"hepher."f—This is surely a very honourable mention of Jonah as a servant of the Lord, and a prophet whose predictions had been signally accomplished: whereas an inattentive reader would have supposed from Mr. P.'s account, that Jonah had only been named as concurring in some civil transaction.
Upon the whole, as far as the historians and prophets are .capable of honouring each other, they certainly do it.—And did not brevity forbid, it would be easy to prove, from the prophecies contained in these books, and evidently accomplished, and from the New Testament; that they not only contain authentick history, taken from the records of Judah and Israel; but were written under the superintending inspiration of the Holy Spirit; for they certainly were contained in those Scriptures, which our Lord declared " must be "fulfilled," "and could not be broken;" and of which
Paul declares that they all " were given by inspiration "of God."*
EZRA AND NEHEMIAH.
Probably Ezra himself compiled the books of Chronicles, or the greatest part of them, from the publick records of the nation, and other books to which he appeals as his authority: and if he chose to begin the history of the Jews, subsequent to the captivity, with the same words that closed his preceding narrative, it might most reasonably be ascribed to a scrupulous regard to accuracy.
Mr. P. speaks of Ezra and Nehemiah, as if they returned together with the first Jews jirom Babylon; and he says that 'the book of Ezra was written im'mediately after, or about five hundred and thirty-six 'before Christ, and Nehemiah was another of the re'turned persons, who wrote an account of the same * affair.' But in fact Ezra did not return till nearly eighty years after the decree of Cyrus, according to the ablest chronologers: and it is evident by his own account^ that the temple, after many delays was completed some time before he arrived at Jerusalem.— Nehemiah returned thirteen years afterwards; he continues his narrative from the conclusion of Ezra's history, and relates none of the same events. So ill informed is this writer, as to the contents of that volume he undertakes to invalidate!—The difference between
* 2 Tim. iii. 16.