« PreviousContinue »
We are now returned again to the times of Irenæus, whose single testimony appeared to have such deserved influence in settling the question before us *. But the retrospect, which we have been able to take of the writers who preceded him, has added great weight to the evidence. For testimonies have been drawn abundantly from every generation of writers, through the first century after the Apocalypse was published. They have been produced from almost all parts of the Christian world: from Asia, where it made its first appearance; from Syria ; from Italy; from Gaul; and from the Churches of Africa, where it seems to have had an universal reception, and a more than ordinary ciroulation.
I now present the reader with a sketch, drawn after the manner of Priestley's Biographical Chart, and those of Playfair's Chronology; by which he may see, in one view, the writers whose testimonies we have hitherto collected. He will hereby be enabled to estimate the force of that numerous, unbroken, concurring chain of evidence, which we have laid before him. Besides those writers already reviewed, he will see also, in the chart, the names of Hippolitus and Origen,
* In a passage of Michaelis, ch. xxvi. sect. 8. on the Epistle of Saint James, we collect the naines of the ancient authors, whose testimony he esteems most decisive to the books of the New Testament. These are Irenæus, Tertullian, Clement of Alex. andria, and Origen; by all of whom we shall find the Apocalypse fully received as the writing of St. John.
who belong more strictly to the next century; because in that century they chiefly wrote and flourished. But they lived also in this century. They are important evidences in favour of the Apocalypse. They carry on the testimony by a strong and regular concatenation to the middle of the third century after Christ; after which time, we can expect little or no accession of external evidence, concerning any inspired book.
The testimonies of Hippolitus, and of Origen, will be exhibited in a succeeding chapter.
DURING ITS FIRST CENTURY; THE RE-
Having reviewed the external evidence in favour of the Apocalypse, during the first century after its publication, it will be useful to pause, before we produce subsequent witnesses, and to afford opportunity of examining any testimonies of the same period, by which its authenticity and divine inspiration have been denied. The examination of this evidence will soon be dispatched. For, wonderful as it may appear, there is not one writer of the pure Primitive Church, no Father, no Ecclesiastical Author, who, during this period, seems to have questioned its authenticity. Yet there was ground then for the same objections, which afterwards induced some persons to reject it in the third and fourth centuries. The Fathers, before the times of Caius and of Dionysius, could discover that the Apocalypse was obscure ; that it was to them no revelation ; that the Greek of it appeared different
from that of Saint John's Gospel ; but, notwith: standing these circumstances, which they were well qualified to appreciate, they received it with pious acquiescence as divine Scripture, communicated by the beloved Apostle; and they delivered it as such to the succeeding century.
Now, to what can we attribute this conduct, but to the powerful operation of that external evidence by which it was then supported ? The writers of the first part of this century had the opportunity of hearing from apostolical men, from “ those who had seen the face of John," as Irenæus expresses it, to what author they ascribed the Apocalypse. In the latter part of the century, the tradition was still warm, depending upon the living testimony of those who had seen apostolical men; and an inquisitive author could satisfy himself, from the narration of others, upon what grounds of external evidence the book had been so universally received. It had been produced publicly into the world. It was to be found, not in the archives of one insignificant Church, but of the seven flourishing Churches of Asia; “ This thing was not done in a corner.” From the mode of its publication, it challenged observation, and defied detection. suppose, that as none of the early Fathers objected to the evidence, all were satisfied. They received and transmitted to others thosc prophecies, which they themselves could not understand. Under these circumstances, we may be more
And we may
surprised that so many of the ancient Fathers have quoted from the Apocalypse, than that some (and they are but few) have passed it over in silence.
But although none of the orthoclor writers of the Church scem to have questioned the authenticity of the Apocalypse, during the first century of its appearance, we have evidence that certain heretics rejected it. Of this number was Marcion * But we know also that this daring Gnostic rejected or mutilated other books of sacred Scripture, which he could not otherwise render subservient to bis wicked purposes t.
The rejection of the Apocalypse by Marcion is favourable to its pretensions. It is a proof that the book was in existence, and reccived by the Church, in those early times in which he flourished I; and that the doctrines contained in it, were such as opposed his impious tenets.
The Apocalypse was rejected also by a sect, who obtained the name of Alogi ; but they rejected also the Gospel of Saint John; and for the same reasons; which, with these rash people, were not founded on any esceptions to the external evidence of these divine books, but principally on their dislike to the word Logos, whichi,
* Tertullian. adv. Marcion. lib. iv. cap. 5.
+ Irenæus adv. Hlær. Tertullian. adv. Marcion, Epiphanius Ilzer. 42. Origen cont. Celsun, lib. ii. c. 97. I Marcion carne to Rome in the year 127, only 30 years
after the Publication of the Apocalypse. Cave, Hist. Lit,