« PreviousContinue »
18, 19. Indeed, it is the suggestion, we think, of Sir Isaac Newton, that when St. Peter said, “ We have also a more sure word of prophecy, whereunto ye do well that ye take heed as unto a light that shineth in a dark place," he had respect to the Apocalypse. No objection can be taken to the prophetic character of the Apocalypse from its metaphorical or mystical style ; for many, we might perhaps say all, the sacred prophecies partake more or less of that style. Ancient prophecy declared that “ the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head;" that Jesús was king in Zion; that Jerusalem should break forth on the right hand and on the left; that Zion should arise and shine; that a new heavens and new earth should be created ; that the God of heaven should set up a kingdom, and this kingdom should be given to the Son of man; that fierce beasts should arise, and trouble the nations, and tear and stamp them in pieces, &c.; and who can fail to see that this is the style of the Apocalypse ? Moreover, there is a vast concatenation of metaphors in the Apocalypse, not referred to above, which we find scattered through the prophecies of the Old Testament. There is nothing, therefore, in the style of the Apocalypse, which forbids the belief that it is, what its author asserted it to be, - a prophecy.
6. The next fact worthy of attention is, that it was evidently written for the benefit of the churches. Whatever view we take of it in other respects, we must acknowledge, that it constantly aimed at the highest spiritual welfare of the churches which were addressed. Nothing could have been more to the advantage of those churches than to have received heartily, and carried out faithfully, the exhortations of the revelator, whoever he was. Again and again he impressed the subject of their duty upon them; he told them of their faults, in a kind and affectionate manner; he warned them of their dangers; he was evidently their friend, and what is more, the friend of God. He did not seek to please them, so much as to benefit them. An impostor
seeks his own advantage; the revelator sought the advantage of others. For himself he sought nothing but peace of conscience and joy in the Holy Ghost. He threw his whole soul, and all his powers of body and of mind, into the work of benefiting the churches. He must have been a good man.
7. This is further confirmed by comparing his instructions with those given by the rest of the apostles. Is there any opposition in their nature or design? Keep in mind the fact, that at the time the Apocalypse was written the churches were in the midst of a grievous persecution; and then ask, if the advice given by its author does not accord with the advice given by Jesus, and all his apostles, and all the New Testament writers, to Christians in like circumstances ? This might be shown at length, if necessary, by a comparison of particular parts of the Apocalypse with other portions of the New Testament; but we have not room for such a process. We merely hint at a fact, which we are confident will strike the reader with force, and which he can verify at his pleasure.
What presumption are we to make then from these facts? The author of the Apocalypse, whoever the individual may have been, was certainly a Hebrew Christian, well versed in the Scriptures of the Old Testament, and especially their tropes and metaphors; he claimed to have written a prophecy agreeing in many essential respects with the prophecy of our Lord in regard to the destruction of Jerusalem; and it is certain that he aimed at the welfare of the churches he addressed, urging them to stability and faithfulness in the midst of their trials, and assuring them of such rewards as agreed strictly with the nature of Christ's kingdom, and the instructions of acknowledged divine persons on these matters. What then is the presumption ? The work was one of very early date. It is supposed by Sir Isaac Newton, that it was known to Peter and to Paul, both of whom, he thought, from the similarity of their language, made quotations from it. It was
probably known to Polycarp, who was in part contemporary with the apostles, and was constituted bishop of Smyrna by the apostle John. What then is the presumption? In the absence of all evidence to the contrary, it is fair to conclude that the Apocalypse was written by one of the apostles.
INTERNAL PROOFS THAT IT WAS WRITTEN BY THE APOSTLE JOHN.
These proofs are to be principally derived from a comparison of the Apocalypse with the undisputed writings of John, viz., his Gospel and Epistles. But there is one fact to be borne in mind, and which it may be well to state here, viz., that nearly a generation passed away after the writing of the Apocalypse, and previously to the writing of the Gospel and the Epistles. The Apocalypse was one of the earliest written of the New Testament books, while the Gospel and Epistles of John were written the latest of all. Forty years, or nearly so, probably transpired after the writing of the Apocalypse, before the Gospel was written ; and it is altogether probable that John wrote the Epistles also in his extreme old age. We are not to expect, therefore, the vigor in the Gospel and Epistles which we find in the Apocalypse. In the one there may be evidence of transporting excitement, rising into the romantic and the visionary; in the other we may find that the ardor of the meridian of life has calmed down, in extreme old
into the affectionate, contemplative, and artless. The Christian world has hitherto, for the most part, formed its opinion of John solely from his Gospel and his Epistles. Failing to make due allowance for the fact that he wrote these in exceeding old age, many have concluded that John never had any other element in his character than that of affectionateness and mildness. And supposing, also, that the Apocalypse was written as late as the reign of Domitian, or about A. D. 96, they have found it difficult to believe that it was written by the same hand that wrote the Gospel and Epistles. But if the Apocalypse were written forty years, or nearly so,
before the Gospel, then we have a different basis on which to build our calculations. In the meridian of his life, there was, if we mistake not, vigor and fire in John. If such were not the case, we cannot imagine why Jesus, when he called his twelve apostles, and ordained them, distinguished James and John with the title Boanerges, or the Sons of Thunder ; Mark iii. 17. Where in the Gospel or Epistles shall we look for the thunder? It is true that, in one instance, the tendency of John's mind to hyperbole seems to have broken out in the last sentence that we have any account he ever wrote ; we mean at the very conclusion of his Gospel, where he tells us that if all the things which Jesus did had been written, the world itself, he supposed, could not contain the books, - the last ember of the fire that burned so brilliantly in the Apocalypse. But in general the Gospel and Epistles are didactic, tender, persuasive. No one would conclude from them that their author was well described as a son of thunder. But our impression is, that in his early days, John had a character of great vigor. He was the son of a fisherman, and accustomed to the habits of a hard life; Matt. iv. 21. He was moved powerfully by the appeal of Jesus, when he called him at first, and immediately left the ship and followed him. His companion, for the most part, in his early labors as an apostle, was Peter ; see Luke xxii. 8; Acts iii. 1, 11, and viii. 14; and they were both remarkable for their boldness, John as well as Peter, after they gained knowledge of the resurrection of their Master; Acts iv. 13, 29, 31. Such are the facts which the New Testament furnishes of the life and character of John. Now, suppose we were called on to sustain these views of John's character from his writings only, should we find sufficient in the Gospel and Epistles for that purpose? Would there not be something wanting? But if we suppose that John was the author of the Apocalypse, and that he wrote that book in the meridian of his days, and forty years, or nearly so, before he wrote the Gospel, then are not the
means supplied by his writings for concluding that he was, in the prime and meridian of his life, what his Lord described him to be a son of thunder ? Let the above considerations have the weight they justly deserve, and no more.
We will now pass on to show, that there are sufficient points of resemblance between the Apocalypse and the undisputed writings of John to justify the conclusion that all were written by the same person.
There are a class of evidences to this fact, which we shall intentionally exclude from this place; not because they are not strong and conclusive in themselves, (for they are truly so,) but because, in the first place, we are not competent to present them; and, secondly, because they would not be so readily understood by the larger part of our readers : we mean the points of resemblance between the diction and phraseology of the Apocalypse and the Gospel and Epistles, in the language in which they were originally written. True, we have been told, what we have no doubt is correct, that there is quite a difference between the original Greek of the Apocalypse and that of John's other writings; that the former is inelegant and full of barbarisms, while the latter is much more pure and classical. But notwithstanding this fact, (and we allow it to its full extent,) there are still points of resemblance in the phraseology, which seem to render it quite certain that the Apocalypse was written by the same hand that wrote the Gospel and Epistles. So far as the Greek is concerned, however, we must be content to lose the advantage which the comparison would give us. We take the common English version; and under the disadvantages of a translation, in which many points of resemblance cannot be preserved which are seen in the original, we propose to show that there is sufficient evidence to justify the conclusion that John was the author of the Apocalypse. We shall divide the instances of resemblance which we shall quote under the two heads of Diction and Metaphors. 1st. Diction. All Christendom knows that John uses the phrase