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been fulfilled during his own times, in the character and conduct of the persecuting Emperor Valerian *. At the same time, it was the opinion of Dionysius, that the Apocalypse, though of divine origin, was not written by the Apostle John, but by some other John, an holy and inspired man. But where are the grounds of this opinion ? Are they historical ? Does he allege in their support any external evidence ? any tradition of the Church? No.
He gives his opinion as a conjecture formed upon the internal evidence of the book, on certain peculiarities of style and manner, which appeared to him discordant from those of Saint John in his Gospel and Epistles.
These arguments of Dionysius will be considered, when we examine the internal evidence, by which the authority of the book is supported or invalidated. It is our present business to report only the external evidence of Dionysius. And the amount of this is, that the Apocalypse was generally received, in his time, as a sacred prophecy, and by such men as he revered, and wished not to oppose ; that some persons had rejected it, and ascribed it to Cerinthus ; that he himself believed it to be a book of sacred authority, doubting, at the same time, whether it were properly referred to the Apostle John.
It is the opinion of Michaelis, (and Lardner has afforded some occasion for it,) that, al* Euseb. H. E. lib, vii. c. 10,
though Dionysius professed in such strong terms bis reception of the Apocalypse, as a divine book of Prophecy, yet he did not believe it such in his heart. Dionysius has certainly affirmed such to be his belief in plain and positive terms ; and his practice was agreeable to his professions. For we have seen that he proceeded so far, as to explain a prediction of the Apocalypse as actually fulfilled. Now, if proofs were wanting of the sincerity and plain Christian honesty of Dionysius's character, this particular fact, that he appealed to the Apocalypse, as containing a prophecy which he believed to be fulfilled, would place beyond all doubt, that he believed that book to be inspired. But Dionysius was confessedly a man of an open, artless probity; and Lardner celebrates him as such, adding, in his account of him, that he had at the same time (which is a usual accompaniment of such a character) an honest and excessive warmth. But the conduct which Michaelis attributes to him on this occasion, is that of a sly, captious hypocrite. Certainly, neither the general character, nor conduct of Dionysius, nor the facts which have now appeared before us, can in any degree warrant such a conclusion*.
• Michaelis has defended his opinion, by arguments which appear to me unequal to the defence of it. He says, that Dion nysius has assigned reasons for his not venturing to reject the A pocalypse, which are wholly devoid of importance. They did not appear such to Dionysius, nor will they, I think, to the
Tiris Father of the Church appears to me to have thought, that he was doing no injury to
generality of Christian readers. 1. “ He did not reject it, be“ cause many of the brethren held it in the highest esteem." Now, surely, this is a reason which must be allowed to have considerable weight on the mind of a modest and sensible man. The pupils of Irenæus, of Tertullian, of Hippolytus, and of Origen, were still living. They had been taught by their masters, and by the general tradition of the Church, to consider the Apocalypse as a book of divind authority : and they resisted the new-fashioned notions, derived from the Aloyi or Caius, who ascribed it to Cerinthus, dum omuins, zealously. Dionysius was modest, and had a due deference to the opinions of such men, and he censures obliquely those who, in his time as in ours, delighted to run couuter to the received opinions of the Church..
2. The other reason, which Dionysius assigns for not rejecting the Apocalypse, and which our author deems also weak and unimportant, is in answer to those who rejected it, because it was difficult to be understood. But Dionysius answers, that, “ He, for his part, does not reject what he does not understand : “ that, not being able to understand the Apocalypse, he supri
poses it to contain a sublimer sense than his faculties can " reach; and to become, therefore, the object of his faith, “ rather than of his understanding ; and that his wonder and " admiration are in proportion to his ignorance.” Now, this argument, which may be accounted weak, and (from such a man as Dionysius) insulting, supposing him not to believe the divine inspiration of the book, will be found to carry with it a considerable force and efficacy, if we suppose hiin to believe it. Try it, by an application of it to other difficult parts of Scripture, to the unfulfilled Prophecies of Isaiah, Ezekiel, or Daniel. Shall we reject these, and deny their divine inspiration, because we do not understand them? Far otherwise. They have been delivered to us by our Christian ancestors, as of sacred authority : they are strongly supported by external evidence. We must
the Apocalypse, by assigning to it another author, instead of St. John, to “ some holy and “ heavenly inspired man.” So far, at least, he might fairly think, that he was defending the book, by taking away the foundation of those objections to it, which arose from the dissimilarity of its style from that of St. John's. And perhaps he might reason, that as the Apocalypse is not evangelical history, it may not necessarily require the evidence of an eye-witness of our Lord's life; that as it is not a book revealing doctrines and rules of conduct, it may not be necessarily confined to the pen of an Apostle ; but that some other holy martyr, some apostolical man (for the time of its date implied so much) might, like Daniel, or other Prophets of the Old Testament, be selected by the Spirit, to convey these visions to the Church. I do not
wait the time of their completion with pious awe and patience. We may not be able to understand them; we may wonder, but we cannot reject. Would the Jews, who lived before our Saviour's time, have been justified in rejecting the dark and ænigmatical, and, to appearance, contradictory prophecies, which represented him as a triumphal king and conqueror, despised and rejected of men, &c. merely because they did not understand them? This argument of Dionysius is not, therefore, “ wholly devoid of importance.” It was that which influenced all the Fathers of the Church; who, although they understood not the Apocalypse, received it on its external evidence with pious veneration, and delivered it to succeeding times. And it is our duty to follow their example, modestly and diligently to interpret what we can, and to deliver the re. mainder to be fulfilled and interpreted in future agos,
give this as a sound and authorized conclusion, but as such an one as may perhaps have satisfied the mind of Dionysius, who certainly found a great stumbling-block in the style and manner of the Apocalypse, and yet appears by his profession, and by his practice, to have received it as an inspired book.
I have extended my observations, I fear, to an unwarranted length, in this attempt to reconcile the opinions of Dionysius. But I was moved to it by a desire to do justice to a character which stands deservedly high in Ecclesiastical History; to exculpate an eminent Christian Father, from the charge of setting an ex• ample, under which the late Mr. Gibbon might have sheltered his artful, disingenuous, and insulting attack upon the Christian religion. I shall return to my subject; first remarking on the external evidence collected from Dionysius, that whatever notion may obtain concerning his private opinions, it is at least clear, from his testimony, that the Apocalypse was generally received in his time, and in high estimation with those Christians whom Dionysius himself revered.
“ After the age of Dionysius,” says our author *, “ the number of ecclesiastical writers, “ who quote the Apocalypse as a divine work, “ especially of the members of the Latin Church, begins to increase. But as they are of less
* P. 484.