Page images


merely leading them to the simple understanding of those Scriptures which they already possessed, with a reproof to the backwardness of their faith : “O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the Prophets have spoken! Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses, and all the Prophets, he expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke xxiv. 25—27). And when the Holy Spirit was promised, it was not for the purpose of giving any new revelation, but, “He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance whatsoever I have said unto you" (John xiv. 26). “He shall testify of me" (John xv. 26). “He will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself, but whatsoever he shall hear that shall he speak : and he will shew you things to

He shall glorify me; for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you” (John xvi. 13, 14).

Thus we see that for the whole Jewish dispensation the Scriptures of the Old Testament were sufficient; and for the establishment of the Christian dispensation, nothing more was necessary than that those same Scriptures should be received as they were expounded by our Lord and his Apostles, under the teaching of the Holy Spirit. But as the Jewish dispensation was designed to expand into the Christian, which the prophecies of the

Old Testament announced and prepared for; so shall the Christian dispensation expand into the Millennial, or universal; of which the Apocalypse is more especially the announcement, and for which the whole New Testament is the preparation. But as, when the Jewish dispensation was drawing to its close, the people honoured God with their lips only, while their hearts were far from him, and their fear was taught by the precept of men; so analogy would lead us to expect, that at the close of the Christian dispensation the simple word of God would be less regarded than the traditions and interpretations of men: and the Scriptures clearly declare that such shall be the case ; that “men will not endure sound doctrine ... turn away from the truth, and be turned to fables” (2 Tim. iv. 3,4);"Giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils ” (1 Tim. iv. 1). In those times, which we think close at hand, men will not only be saying scornfully, “Where is the promise of his coming ? for since the fathers fell asleep all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation” (2 Pet. iii. 4); but they will even deny the authenticity of the Scriptures : while others will set up some monstrous and distorted semblance of the true doctrine of the coming kingdom of our Lord, like the figments of Cerinthus and the early heretics, to bring the truth into discredit. Nor are these imaginary and groundless apprehensions ; for among the Germans the authority of the Apocalypse has been questioned by many, and among ourselves symptoms of a doubting spirit have appeared. We therefore deem it good, once for all, to settle the authenticity of this most important portion of Scripture : and as many mistakes are abroad respecting the Millennium, we shall shew what were the Apostolic doctrines concerning the reign of Christ; then trace out some of the errors which weak or wicked men invented, by which the true doctrine was brought into disrepute, and, in common with every other Apostolic doctrine, suffered so many centuries of eclipse in the dark ages of the church.

The history of the Apocalypse is no where better given than in Mill's Prolegomena, p. xxvii., which we therefore translate : “ The Apocalypse of John, when it first appeared, was published not only in the Asiatic, but in the other neighbouring churches, and held to be divinely inspired, as I shall shew immediately. In the mean time, it is right to premise that the copies taken of this book were far fewer than those of the Evangelists, or of the Epistles of Paul, because it contained obscure and hidden senses; and perhaps was less frequently read publicly in the churches, if we may form a judgment concerning the first ages of the church from its practice in succeeding times. Nor was the Apocalypse united in the same volume with the Gospels, or with the Epistles, but kept separate, as a prophetical book, differing in argument from the rest : whence that ancient distinction of the books of the New Testament into 'the words of the Gospel, of the Apostles, and of the Apocalypse,' according to Origen (Comm. on Matthew, p. 220). Moreover, it is certain that this book of the Apocalypse obtained canonical authority in the Asiatic churches, to which its first chapters are addressed, not only while John lived and presided over them, but also in the ages immediately after his death. Accordingly, Papias, the disciple both of John the Apostle and of the other John, commonly called the Elder, acknowledged it for divine, as Andræas Cæsariensis witnesses (Proem to his Comm. on Apoc.): so also, beyond all doubt, did Polycarp his companion (Irenæus, v. 33), bishop of the church of Smyrna (to which the writer of the Apocalypse addressed the second of the seven epistles), although in his Epistle to the Philippians it be not cited, since no occasion for alleging it occurred in that very short writing. Certainly Irenæus, the

, disciple of Polycarp, a native of Asia, very often adduces it as of John, the disciple of our Lord, in proof of the doctrines of faith. Melito also, bishop of the church of Sardis (to whom the fifth epistle of the Apocalypse of John is said to have been addressed), illustrated it with an entire commentary (Euseb. Eccl. Hist. iv. 26). So that in the first ages there was not the slightest doubt concerning the authority of this book among


the Asiatic churches. Moreover, other Oriental churches, in like manner, received it as divinely inspired, and written by John the Apostle himself; especially in Palestine, Samaria, and Syria. For in Syvia, Theophilus of Antioch is reported by Eusebius (Eccl. Hist. iv. 24) to have taken his proofs from the Apocalypse, in his book against Hermogenes. In Samaria, Justin Martyr, in his Dialogue with Tryphon (which he wrote about the middle of the century succeeding the writing of the Apocalypse), cites it under the name of John, one of the Apostles of Christ, p. 240. In Palestine, Origen frequently ascribes this book to John (Exegeticis in Matt. et Joan. passim, libris vi. viii. contra Celsum ; Philocal. ii. 5; Lib. de Orat. p. 34); as does also his follower, Pamphilus (Apol. pro. Orig.) So in Lycia, Methodius, bishop of Patara, acknowledged the divine authority of this book (Lib. de Convivio decem Virginum). Egypt also, and Africa, acknowledged this same as a canonical book; received by tradition from the other churches. In Egypt, Clement of Alexandria attributes it more than once to John the Apostle (Pædag. ii. 12; Strom. vi. 867). In Africa, not only does Cyprian often allege it in his books to Quirinus (i. 20; ii. 1,3; iii.), and in his Sixty-third Epistle call it a divine Scripture; but also, before him, Tertullian had frequently praised it, as the prophetical book of the New Testament, and written by John himself, the Apostle and Evangelist (Prescr. adv. Hæret. xxxiii. 46; Lib. de Anima ix.; de Resur. Carnis lviii.; de Pudic. xix.) But, according as the Apocalypse was received in the Asiatic and African churches, so there were not wanting those who acknowledged it in Europe ; as Hippolytus, bishop of Portus Romanus, and Victorinus, of Petavia: of whom the first established the authority of this book in an express treatise ; while the last illustrated the entire book by a commentary. To whom, finally, we will add, though not in its proper place, Apollonius, a writer of the second century, who, in his treatise against Phrygas, made use of the authority of this book, as Eusebius records (Hist. Eccl. v. 18).

But although the Apocalypse, even from its first publication, was approved in the catholic church by the disciples of the Apostles and their immediate successors with marvellous unanimity, and held to be divine, as we have shewn above; yet in a short time there arose on the adverse side heretics, who impugned it-namely, Cedron, Marcion, and subsequently the Alogi. Yea, moreover, shortly after, in the beginning of the third century, there were some among the catholics themselves who rejected it from the canon of the New Testament: as Caius, a presbyter of the Church of Rome, in disputation with Proclus (Euseb. Hist. iii. 28), and some others ; ascribing it to Cerinthus the heretic; as is remarked by Dionysius of Alex

andria' (himself but little friendly to the authority of this book). But the cause why Dionysius brought the Apocalypse under the suspicion of novelty, and why the others even openly rejected it, was the doctrine of the millennial reign of Christ on this earth : which doctrine as Caius and Dionysius strenuously impugned, and were unable to overturn the arguments drawn from the Apocalypse, they endeavoured to weaken, or even entirely to subvert, the authority of the book itself. Nor is it surprising that they found some followers of their opinions, since the Roman and Alexandrian churches, in which they flourished, had obtained primacy among all others; the former in the West, the latter in the South. But it is very surprising, that in those very churches of Asia and Palestine where the Apocalypse was undoubtedly received in the first ages, they should afterwards in the fourth century question the canonical authority of the same. Insomuch that Eusebius, the historian of that age, enumerates it among the disputable writings (Eccl. Hist. iii, 24). Cyril of Jerusalem, also, in revising the canon, passes over the Apocalypse. Moreover, the whole council of Asiatic bishops assembled in the city of Laodicea itself (to which the seventh epistle of the Apocalypse was written), also excluded it from the canon. Nor does Gregory Nazianzen (Car. 33) enumerate it among the books of the New Testament. Lastly, Amphilochus (in Iambis ad Seleucum) says, that the Apocalypse is received by some, rejected by many.

“ And this dispute continued in many of the Eastern churches even in the time of Jerome, as appears from his Epistle to Dardanus, 129. Notwithstanding, in this same fourth century, Epiphanius rightly remarks, concerning the Apocalypse, that it was believed in by most persons, éven by those who are devout. Such were, after Dionysius, the author, whoever he be, Hierarchiæ cælestis, cap. 3: in Palestine, Eusebius (Chron. ad 14 Domitiani): in Syria, Ephræm. : in Cappadocia, Gregory Nyssenus, and Nazianzenus (Orat. 32: although, in Car. 33, he does not enumerate it among the genuine books of the New Testament): in Cyprus, Epiphanius : in Egypt, Athanasius (Fifth Oration against the Arians, and Synopsis of Scripture), and Didymus Macarius : in Africa, Victorinus : in Italy, Ambrose, Philaster, Rufinus, and Jerome (lib. i. cont. Jovin. 14; and more fully in his Epistle to Dardanus, 129, where he thus writes of the Apocalypse, and of the Epistle to the Hebrews : 'We receive them both as canonical and ecclesiastical, following not at all the custom of the present time, but the authority of the early writers, who for the most part are wronged in their testimonies concerning both books'): but also in France, Hilary of Poictiers used the authority of the Apocalypse ; in Spain, Pacianus and Prudcntius. Moreover, in

[ocr errors]



the fifth century, Salvianus, and Alcimus Avitus, among the French, cited this book : and in Italy, Innocent (in Epist. Decretali ad Exuperium) declares it to be manifestly canonical: as did also, after him, the Council of Carthage, in Africa ; where Augustine (Tract 36, in Joan.) expressly ascribes the Apocalypse to John the Apostle. Nor do we read that any of the Latin Fathers of this or the following century rejected the authority of this book : so that upon the Greeks alone must fall that censure of Sulpitius concerning the Apocalypse, “that by many it is either foolishly or impiously rejected. For, although Cyril held it to be canonical at Alexandria; Cassianus and Nilus, at Constantinople ; Andræas Cæsariensis, in Cappadocia; yet doubtless many others did not receive it. Certainly, we do not read this book enrolled in the canon by any "Oriental synod. Nor does the lxxxv th 'canon, which, as we have before stated, contained the other Apostolic writings, make any mention of the Apocalypse, in enumerating the books of the New Testament. Moreover, about the middle of the sixth century, Junilius, an African bishop, says, ' There are still doubts among the Eastern Christians concerning the Apocalypse of John. Of the following century I have nothing more to say, than that Maximus, on the passage above cited from Dionysius, remarks it as somewhat singular that he (Dionysius) should have marked with his approbation the Apocalypse of John.' In the eighth century, at length, John Damascene recognised it among the canonical writings of the New Testament, whose authority many afterwards followed. But yet we read of nothing done concerning this matter in any Oriental council: so that the Apocalypse of St. John obtained canonical authority among the Eastern Christians, rather by the tacit consent of the churches, than by any synodical decree.”

Thus far Mill; but he might have added to his list the names of those orthodox fathers who held the doctrine of a Millennium. Many of these, though deriving the doctrine from the Apocalypse, and holding it to be divinely inspired, and consequently written by John, because so often asserted in the book, have not formally recorded their belief concerning the author. Such were Lactantius, Nepos, the brethren of Lyons and Vienna, St. Barnabas, or whoever wrote the Epistle called his, and many more, whose writings have not come down to us, to whom allusion is made in the fourth Council of Toledo, held A. D. 633. This declares, in its sixteenth canon, that “the authority of many councils, and the synodical decrees of the holy Ronan Fathers, decide that the book of the Apocalypse is by John the Evangelist;" and prescribes that it shall be explained every year from Easter to Whitsuntide. It is also worthy of remark, that the Complutensian Polyglott, and Montanus's

« PreviousContinue »