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THE following Discourse was delivered by Mr. ORTON at the close of his Exposi. tion of the historical part of the Old Testament. Several of his friends whom the Editor has consulted, think it should be printed with the Exposition, and that it will be a very useful and acceptable addition to the work : but as the third volume will probably be larger than this, he has ventured to give it to the public in this place, hoping the remaining part of the historical books may be read with more advantage in families, after a serious and attentive perusal of it. KIDDERMINSTER, Jan, 1, 1789.
USEFULNESS OF THE HISTORICAL PART OF THE
ROMANS XV. 4.
Whatsoever things were written aforetime, were written for our
learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures. might have hope. AVING proceeded thus far in the work of expounding to
you the historical part of the Old Testament, I think it may be peculiarly seasonable and necessary, to lay before you a few thoughts on the usefulness of that history. To introduce what I have to say upon this subject, I have chosen an important and useful remark of St. Paul. Having exhorted the christians to whom he wroté, to bear with one another's infirmities, to consult each other's edification, and always to sacrifice their own inclination and humour, and oftentimes their own secular interest, to the good of others ; he enforces the exhortation, by observing, that even Christ pleased not himself, but submitted to many instances of great self-denial for the good of mankind : and this he illustrates by a quotation from Psalm 1xix. 9. where it is said, " The reproaches of them that reproached thee, are fallen upon me. That is, “I have so great a zeal for thine honour, that I have been much affected and disturbed with the reproaches that have been cast upon thee, and the dishonours that have been offered to thy name, worship, and laws.” It might be objected to this quotation, that it referred immediately to David, and was his language. In answer to this, the apostle lays down as a general and important rule in the text, that whatsoever things quere written aforetime, were written for our learning : that we may naturally and justly accommodate what was said to good men under a former dispensation to our own circumstances, or the circumstances of the christian church, where there is a just and natural resemblance ; and that those things were recorded for our benefit, that we might cultivate the tempers which are there approved, and derive many useful lessons for the conduct of our lives : and particularly, that we through patience, which the examples of saints in the Old Testament strongly recommend, and that consolation, which arises from a view of their supports and deliverances, might have hope in God, and particularly the hope of eternal life. I shall consider the words only in this view, as a general assertion of the usefulness of the old Testament, and
particularly of the historical part of it ; which, as the apostle ob serves in another place, was written for our admonition. And it will appear very useful, and worthy of our careful perusal and diligent study, if we consider, that it is a faithful and agreeable record of ancient events ; that it tends to explain and illustrate many other parts of the holy scriptures; and that it conveys to us many important and profitable instructions. I will consider each of these distinctly ; and then add some reflections upon the subject, chiefly of a practical tendency.
1. The historical part of the Old Testament contains a faith, ful and entertaining record of ancient events.
History in general has always been allowed to be very useful, and capable of being improved to many excellent purposes. We may discover many useful truths, and learn many important branches of duty, by the reasonings of our own minds, and the contemplation of those objects with which we are surrounded, But for the knowledge of past events we are beholden to the rey port and record of others ; the proper use of which is, to promote our improvement in goodness, and fit us for services to mankind. It is ta teach us by example, and to prepare us for making wise remarks, and manifesting a becoming conduct ; and, by knowing the things that have been, to be better judges of the things that are.
Şome who have taken great pains to sink the credit of the sa. cred history, have acknowledged, that history is philosophy, teaching us, by example, how to conduct ourselves in all the stations of private and public life. Nay, they have carried the matter so far as to say, that it is of all means the most proper to traio us up to public and private virtue. But if this should not be allowed, (as I think it cannot) yet every one that is able to read, and reflect on what he reads, is able to make a good use of his tory. It affords a kind of map of the country through which we are passengers ; and by it we may learn in many instances to guide ourselves, and choose the direct road to happiness.
The history of ancient times, and of the first ages of the world, is peculiarly agrecable. We have a natural curiosity to know the state and circumstances of the earliest ages, the origin of mankind, the establishment of kingdoms and nations, and the revolutions and changes of those which have been the most remarkable and extensive. This knowledge of antiquity is very useful; and learned men are glad 10 make up the defects of history by ancient medals, monuments, &c.
Now the histories of the Old Testament are very valuable, as they are the most ancirat histories. There are no heathen writers of greater antiquity, than one or two who were cotemporaries with Eera and Nehemiah, the last of the Old Testament his torians ; and they could not write, with any great degree of certaunty, of events much before their awn time. The histories we are now considering hare this further ani peculiar advantage