Page images

“ hath this book these things ? What wisdom is " this which is given unto it *?"

In the word of God there is a grandeur and majesty independent of the accidents of language, consisting in the greatness and sublimity of the things revealed. Men of genius may catch some sparks of this heavenly fire, they may imitate it, and with considerable success. But no one is found so confident in this kind of strength, as to neglect, the arts of composition. Mahomet was a man of superior genius; in writing his pretended revelation, he borrowed much from the Sacred Scriptures; he attempted often, in imitation of them, to be simply sublime ; but he did not trust to this only; he endeavoured to adorn his work with all the imposing charms of human eloquence, and cultivated language ; and he appealed to the perfection of his compositions, as a proof of their divine original. Such an appeal would have little served his cause in a critical and enlightened age; which would expect far other internal proofs of divinity, than those which result from elegant diction. The learned of such an age would reject a prophet appealing to a proof which has never been admitted with respect to former revelations; a prophet, who both in doctrine, and in the relation of events, past and future, is seen to contradict, or add strange extravagant conceits to

Mark vi. 2.


the credible and well-attested revelations of former times *.

There is nothing of this kind in the Apocalypse. Compare it with forged prophecies : inany such have been written ; some calculated to deceive, others only to amuse. These works, if they amaze us, as appearing to have been fulfilled, are commonly found to have been written after the events foretold, and to have a retrospective date which does not belong to them t. But no one can shew that the Apocalypse contains prophecies, which were fulfilled before they were written.

We have accounts, in ecclesiastical history, of several apocalypses or revelations, besides this of Saint John ; of St. Peter, of St. Paul, of St. Thomas, of St. Stephen ... Will these bear any comparison with the Apocalypse of St. John ? Let our author speak of them; he knew perfectly all that remains of them, and was well acquainted with what the ancients have delivered concerning those that have perished.

“ The

* In the Koran, which admits the heavenly origin and divine mission of Jesus Christ, he is represented as returning to the earth, marrying, begetting children, and embracing the Mahometan doctrines; and this is said plainly and without figure or mystery; and the reasons are plain why it is so said.

+ Thus the Sibylline Oracles, the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, Virgil's Anchises in the Elysian Fields, Gray's Bard, &c.

# Euseb. H. E, iii, cap. 3. 25. vi. Ç. 14. Gelasius de lib. Apocryph, ,

“ spurious

“ spurious productions of those ages (of the first " and second century), which were sent into the $ world under the name of Apostles, are, for " the most part, very unhappy imitations, and “ discover evident marks that they were not “ written by the persons to whom they are as66 cribed *.

Fragments of these may be seen in the Codex Apocryph. of Fabricius ; in Grabe's Spicilegia ; and in Jones's Canon of the New Testament; and may be compared with the simple and scriptural dignity of our Apocalypse. The Fathers of the first centuries compared them at length, and rejected all, but this acknowledged work of Saint John. And this they guarded with so sedulous a care, as to preserve it, in the main, free from interpolations'; while the genuine productions of apostolical men, of Ignatius, Polycarp, &c. are known to have suffered from the contact of profane pens.

Two works of ecclesiastical writers of the first or second century, still preserved, and in some degree venerated, by our Church or its members, may be compared with the Apocalypse. They are the rivals which come nearest to it; they are proximi-longo intervallo. I mean the Visions of Hermas, and of the apocryphal Esdras. The former contains the relation of some dreams, which the writer may have possibly believed to be real inspiration, or may have in* Introduct. to N. T. vol. iv, ch, xxvii. sect. 1.

vented as useful allegory. The imagery of this book is borrowed from Scripture, but in a servile style of imitation, which indicates no sight or communication of any original vision. There is nothing which makes “ our hearts burn within

us,” as we read. The preceptive and ductrinal parts of this book are simple and moral, and were therefore used in the ancient Church to initiate youth into religion *. But although such an use of the book could not fail to spread a prejudice in its favour, it does not appear to have been received by the ancients as a divine work; at least it was so received by very fewt.

The second book of apocryphal Esdras, though preserved by our Church among those which may be read “ for instruction, but not to esta“blish doctrine i” is convicted nevertheless of evident forgery.

The author has assumed a pame and age to which he had no title, and his prophecies which appear fulfilled, were evidently written after the events foretold. He has otherwise a superior dignity to Hermas, and imitates more successfully the sacred prophets. He has made great use of the prophecies of the

Euseb, H. E. lib. iii. c. 3. + See Leland's Cred. Gosp. art. Hermas, and also vol. viii. 98. xii. 158, where he speaks with much information and learned inquiry, concerning the apocryphal books of the New Testament. | Articles of Religion, art, vi,


Apocalypse *. But a particular comparison of the passages in each writer would involve us in too long a disquisition. I mention these books, that the reader may compare them at his leisure.

By the preceding observations we may appear fully to have answered the objection to the Apocalypse, which first proceeded from the Alogi, and was afterwards taken up by some of the Church, that not Saint John, or any Apostle, but that Cerinthus, or some false fabricator, was the author of the workt.

I pass on to the consideration of an objection against the Apocalypse, which is also connected with its internal evidence; preferred against it in very early times, and often repeated even to this day, the obscurity of the book. This was the grand stumbling block with the ancient Fathers; and it continues to be such with Michaelis, who frequently repeats it...

To this general charge of obscurity, a general answer may be given. How can you expect a series of prophecies, extending from the apostolical age to the consummation of all things, to be otherwise than obscure ? It is the nature of such prophecy to give but an imperfect light ,

* See Mr. Gray's learned and judicious account of this book. Gray's Key to the Old Testament.

+ Michaelis has shewn, from internal evidence, that Cerinthus could not be its author, p. 409.

I P. 459, 502, 503, 511.
$o Pet. i. 19. 1 Pet. i. 10, 11, 12.


« PreviousContinue »