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ANTIENT HISTORY OF EGYPT;
NATIONS THAT WERE CONNECTED WITH IT:
WHEREIN AN ACCOUNT IS GIVEN OF
THE SHEPHERD KINGS AND THE ISRAELITES:
AND THE PLACE WHERE THEY BOTH RESIDED IS
The whole calculated to rectify in some degree the Chronology and Geography of that Kingdom: and to clear up the Difficulties
with which they have hitherto been attended.
WE are informed in the Mosaic account of the sojournment of the Israelites in Egypt, that the place of their allotment was the land of Goshen. As Egypt was very spacious, and consisted of
many large prefectures, as well as subordinate districts, it has employed the wit of many eminent writers to determine to which of these this particular land is to be ascribed. Some have thought that it was situated in the fields of Zoan. But where are the fields of Zoan? Others, at the entrance into the country, of which it was a portion. In short, it
has been placed in Egypt; out of Egypt; upon the Red Sea; and upon the borders of Canaan; just as people's fancies have directed them. These, and many more, have been the opinions of writers upon this subject; who, being guided merely by caprice have advanced notions not only unsupported by any evidence, but often contradictory to the best accounts in history, and to the very authorities that they appeal to. The greatest part of what these authors advance consists of a dry investigation, which is carried on by a train of unwarrantable suppositions, not at all edifying or satisfactory, though enforced with a great deal of learning. In inquiries after mathematical truths, the process is very different. We advance upon some sure grounds, proceeding from one truth to another, till we arrive at the knowledge required. And we have been taught the same way of reasoning in the researches that we make in nature. Some data are first stated; some determined and undeniable principles laid down, which are examined and compared : and then, by fair inferences and necessary deductions we arrive at the truth. Hence have arisen those great improvements, that for this last century have been made in every branch of philosophy: much to the honour of our island; where this method of investigation was first recommended and introduced, and has been continually prosecuted with the greatest diligence and success; to the discouragement of all hypothesis and unwarrantable conjecture.
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:
yet there are many circumstances relating to the origin 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 proceed 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. How 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