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It will be observed, that three parts of the original plan yet remain to be executed,* Whether the execution of the whole will be attempted depends, in some measure, on the reception which shall be given to this First Part. The author is particularly desirous of completing the fourth and last division; viz. that which relates to the Literature, Science, Revolutions, and principal Events of the Christian Church during the last age; and even if he should be compelled to abandon the two intermediate divisions, he cherishes the hope of being able, if his life should be spared, to lay something before the public on this favourite subject.
The reader is particularly requested not to overlook the Additional Notes. They will be found to supply some of the deficiencies, and to correct some of the errors with which the body of the work abounds. About an eighth or tenth part of these notes are derived from the remarks of friends. It was at first intended to make a particular acknowledgment to every individual who had furnished any thing of this kind; but, for cogent reasons, a general acknowledgment wa£ afterwards thought preferable,
The oldest historian in the world, and the only one in whose information and faithfulness we can place unlimited confidence, tells us, that, in the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, he said-—Let there be lights in the ^firmament of the heaven, to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and for years. Without recurring to the regular motions of these celestial orbs, time would pass unnoticed and unmeasured. Its flight, in itself, is not an object of sense; we neither see nor hear it. But by observing the diurnal revolutions of the heavenly bodies, we acquire the conception of days; by dividing these days, we form hours and mirtutes; and, by multiplying them, we gain the ideas of months, years, and ages. Like all the rest of the works and ways of God, these means of marking the progress of time, and ascertaining its portions, are adapted to promote both physical and moral advantage. To the phU losopher they furnish inestimable rules and principles of calculation; to the man of business they present measures and stimulants to industry; and, above all, to the christian they offer continual memorials of the end of life, and unceasing excitements to moral dispatch.
Hence the close of one year, and the commencement of another, are generally marked by mutual congratulations, by a peculiar train of reflections, by new plans and undertakings, and by characteristic changes in domestic, social, and political affairs. It is a period which interests the feelings, and constitutes a prominent point in the life of almost every man.
But, on reaching the termination of an active and eventful Century, and entering upon a new one, the emotions of the reflecting mind are still more strong, and the impressions made more various and interesting. This is a transition which few individuals at present on earth have before witnessed, and which few now living will ever again behold. At such a period it is natural, and it is useful, to pause; to review the extensive scene; to estimate what has been done; to inquire whether we have grown wiser and better, or the reverse; and to derive those lessons of wisdom from the whole, which rational beings ought ever to draw from experience.—While the student of chronology is disputing about the time when the old century terminated, and the new one began;" and while
a It would be neither convenient nor seasonable to attempt, in this place, a discussion of the question, when the nineteenth century commenced. The author takes for granted, that it commenced on the first day of January, 1801. In this opinion he is supported by the decision of many of those who are best qualified to judge on the subject. De Lalande, the great French aftronomer, tells us that the same question was discussed with great warmth at the close of the seventeenth century, and that many pamphlets were written with a view to settle it, of several of which he is possessed. He decides, without hesitation, that the century commenced on the day above-mentioned.—'See Dc Lalande s History of Astronomy for 1799.