Page images
PDF
EPUB

ment, to all appearance utterly unfounded, which Caius had brought against it.

“But soon after the death of Origen, it was again brought into question, by a new endeavor to advance the doctrine of the Millennium on its authority. Nepos, a bishop in Egypt, published a very successful work in favor of that tenet, and adduced his proofs from the Apocalypse. The learned Dionysius of Alexandria (about A. D. 260) answered him, and took occasion to make some remarks concerning this book. Certain Christians, he observes, rejected it as the work of the heretic Cerinthus, who acknowledged no happiness except in carnal pleasures ;' but for himself, he durst not renounce it, since it was generally held in veneration. Its meaning, however, appeared to him undiscoverable, though he was persuaded it ought not to be interpreted in the gross literal sense.

Nor could he believe that it was written by John the apostle, on account of the dissimilarity of its genius, thoughts, and style, from those of the evangelist; but he was inclined to suppose its author to have been another John, a presbyter, who, according to Papias, lived in Asia cotemporary with the evangelist, and whom he was willing to acknowledge an inspired man. Such was the conjecture of Dionysius. For some time, however, it seems to have made little impression ; but the renown of his learning and talents, and his character as one of the principal bishops in Christendom, drew attention at length to his opinion, and gave it an influence which in the next century impaired the credit of the Apocalypse to a very sensible degree. Eusebius (about A. D. 330) hesitated whether to ascribe it to John the apostle, or to John the presbyter. Cyril of Jerusalem (about A. D. 350) seems not to have received it; and the Council of Laodicea (about A. D. 363) did not insert it in the catalogue of canonical books of Scripture. We need not trace its fortune further, but merely observe in general, that while it was rejected

1 Here Dionysius evidently alludes to Caius' rejection of the Apocalypse.

by some and doubted by others, especially among the Greeks, it was still received by far the larger part of the church. And from the tenor of the foregoing narrative, it will be seen at once that the hesitation which in a few instances arose with regard to its authenticity originated in polemical motives, and ought not therefore to impair in the least the historical evidence afforded by its general reception among the Christians previously to the year 200.” 1

From the above it will be perceived that the weight of the historical testimony preponderates greatly in favor of the apostolical origin of the Apocalypse. It seems quite impossible to account for the testimonies quoted from the above-named Christian fathers, without supposing that it is a divine book, and that it was written by the apostle John.

In giving the result of the historical testimony, Prof. Stuart says, “ If we include in this what the book says of the author, as has been done above, we find a series of testimony and tradition, occasionally called in question, or opposed by few indeed, and but for a little time, until we come down to the latter part of the fourth century. Of the second century, Papias, Justin Martyr, Melito of Sardis, Apollonius, Theophilus, Athenagoras, Clement of Alexandria, the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, Tertullian, Irenæus, are leading witnesses. In the third, Methodius, Hippolytus, the Epistle of the Romish Clergy to Cyprian in 250, Victorinus Petavionensis, Commodianus, Cyprian, Origen, Nepos, all testify in its favor. In the fourth century, Basil, Gregory Nazianzen, Gregory of Nyssa, Chrysostom, Epiphanius, Epherm Syrus, Athanasius, Didymus of Alexandria, Macarius, the Donatists, the Third Council at Carthage, Prudentius, Hilary, Ambrose, Philastrius, Ruffin, Jerome, Lactantius, Julius Firmicus Maternus, and Augustine, (if we may reckon him here,) all unite in their views in favor of the Apocalypse. Some of the eastern

3

1 Universalist Expositor, vol. iii., pp. 211–214.

bishops, as we have seen, did not include it among the books to be publicly read:"! The same writer says again, “I would not indeed say, with Sir Isaac Newton, that I do not find any other book of the New Testament which is so strongly established, or which was written so early, (remarks on Revelation ;) but I may say, with Wetstein, that the Apocalypse from the primitive age was well known and received.' There are a number of books admitted into the New Testament canon, in respect to which less positive and less general evidence can be produced in behalf of them, than in favor of the Apocalypse.

* Indeed, if the claim of the Apocalypse to be of apostolical origin and canonical be not admitted so far as traditionary history is concerned, one must abandon the admission of any

New Testament book on this ground.” 2

III. We pass now to a brief examination of the internal evidence which may be quoted to show that the Apocalypse is of divine authority, and was written by the apostle John.

There are certain considerations which are of a preliminary character, and to them we first invite the attention of the reader.

*

[ocr errors]

PRELIMINARY CONSIDERATIONS.

1. We suppose there can be no doubt that the author of the Apocalypse was a Hebrew. The whole book bears a Hebrew stamp. The style is Hebrew; its allusions, tropes, metaphors, are all Hebrew. It bears as strongly the evidence of being written by a Hebrew as any other book in all the Bible. There are books unquestionably written by Paul, which do not so infallibly bear the Hebrew stamp as this. We esteem it unquestionable, then, that its author was a Hebrew.

2. It is equally unquestionable that he was a Christian. He everywhere confesses his allegiance to the Son of God. He entitles the book “ The Revelation of Jesus Christ which God gave

1 Stuart on the Apocalypse, vol. i., p. 368.

2 Idem, p. 370.

unto him ;” and he confesses that be “ bare record of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.”. Rev. i. 1, 2. To the Lord Jesus is assigned a prominent place in all the representations of the book. It begins and ends by acknowledging the authority and grace of Christ. So much being certain, we remark that it is further evident,

3. That he had been a diligent student of the Old Testament Scriptures. He was very familiar with them. The truth of this statement shines forth from every page, and is one of the most prominent features of the whole work. How frequently are we called on, in the course of our examination of it, to recognize its relation to the Old Testament. It seems to have grown up out of the ancient Scripture, like a luxuriant branch from its parent root. The allusions of the Revelation are drawn from the earliest sacred history of the Jews; from the dress of the priests at the temple service; from the forms of Jewish worship; from the furniture and symbols of the temple ; from the divisions and characteristics of the twelve tribes; from the paschal lamb; from Mount Zion, &c., &c., &c. It is past all denial, that the writer of the Apocalypse was well versed in the Old Testament. How frequently he draws his metaphors from the prophets. It is a fact, which those forget who find fault with the Apocalypse on account of the exuberance of its metaphors, that the most of them are of prophetic origin. There are no two books in the Bible more nearly allied in their style than the book of Daniel and the Apocalypse. The former is the Apocalypse of the Old Testament. Compare the 20th chapter of Revelation with the 7th chapter of Daniel, and see how nearly the revelator in some parts imitates the prophet. Compare the 12th and 13th chapters with Daniel's account of the beast with seven horns, vii. 7, 8. No person can read the Apocalypse with any degree of attention, without being fully persuaded that its author had been deeply studious, not

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

only of the prophecy of Daniel, but of the Old Testament Scriptures at large.

4. He had not only been deeply studious of the Old Testament Scriptures, but he had also been learned in the school of Christ. Whoever he was, he had heard much, he knew much, and felt much of Christianity. He had sat at the feet of the Lord Jesus. How else could he have known, before the events transpired, the fall of Jerusalem ? (for we shall show in another place that the book was written before the destruction of that city.) He had heard the prophecy uttered by the Lord concerning that series of events. There are points of resemblance between certain parts of the Apocalypse and the prophecy referred to, as given by Matthew, Mark, and Luke, which cannot be mistaken. And if the Apocalypse was written previously to either of the gospels, (as we doubt not it was,) it becomes a nice question how the revelator learned his facts concerning the approaching destruction of Jerusalem except by divine communication? It would seem probable that he was one of the disciples mentioned in Matthew xxiv. 3, to whom Jesus delivered his notable prophecy on this great subject. See Rev. i. 7, and vi. 12—17, as instances of imagery borrowed from our Lord's description of the destruction of Jerusalem. It is very singular, if the author of the Apocalypse were a pretender, a cheat, and deceiver of mankind, that he should have followed so closely him whom we call distinctively way,

the truth, and the life.” 5. It is worthy of remark, that the Apocalypse claims to be a prophecy. It was such a prophecy, according to the author's confession, as he was empowered to make by “the Revelation of Jesus Christ.” If it was a true prophecy, it must be a divine book, for no true prophecy can be otherwise ; and if it was written before the destruction of Jerusalem, (as is shown in another place,) it certainly was a true prophecy. That the author of the Apocalypse considered his book a prophecy, see i. 3, xxii. 7, 10,

[ocr errors]

" the

« PreviousContinue »