Page images
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

"importance than the more ancient writers, and “I have little or nothing to remark on their " quotations, I shall content myself with barely mentioning their names, and referring to Lardner, by whom their quotations are collected *."

Little more, indeed, can be done; to the weight of evidence already produced, not much can now be added ; nor can it be deemed to diminish from it, if some writers of account in later times, influenced perhaps by the arguments advanced by Dionysius and by others, concerning the internal, have been backward to admit the external evidence for the Apocalypse.

This book was received, as of sacred authority, in the times of Dionysius, by Cyprian, and by the African Churches ; by the Presbyters and others of the Church of Rome, who corresponded with Cyprian; by divers Latin authors whose history is abstracted by Lardner; by the anonymous author of a work against the Novatians; by the Novatians themselves ; by Commodian ; by Victorinus, who wrote a commentary upon it; by the author of the poem against the Marcionites ; by Methodius, who also commented upon it; by the Manichæans; by the later Arnobius; by the Donatists; and by Lactantius.

All these evidences in favour of the Apocalypse are admitted by Michaelis, who expresses no doubt concerning any of them, excepting * See Lardner's Cred. Gosp. Hist. part ii. vol. ii. p. 777, &c.


[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

which may

the Manichæans, whose evidence, in another passage, he seems to allow * We now come to the testimony of EUSEBIUS,

deserve a more particular attention. To this valuable collector of Ecclesiastical History (which would otherwise have perished), we are indebted for many important testimonies of ancient authors in favour of the Apocalypse, which have already been produced. And by him we have been informed of all the objections which were made to it, by Caius and Dionysius, which seem to have had a considerable inAucnce upon the learned Christians of Euscbius's age, and to have occasioned some doubt among them, whether they should receive the Apocalypse into their catalogue of undoubted books of Holy Writ, or place it among those of less authority. Eusebius represents the matter as in debate, and not yet determined, at the time he wrote his Ecclesiastical History. He promises further information when the matter shall be settled by the testimony of the ancients; but it does not appear that he ever

gave it.

We inay be enabled to form some notion of the nature of this debate concerning the Apocalypse, by attending to what Eusebius has delivered upon the subject. He has distributed into four classes all the books pretending ta

# P. 521.

a place

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

a place in the sacred canon of the New Testa-
ment *.

1. The Omoroyeusvoi, Ayquemiaex701, books univer-
sally read, and admitted to be genuine.

2. Αντιλεγομενοι, Ομως Γνωριμοι Τοις Πολλοις, books objected to by some, yet acknowledged by the many, by the greater part of the Church.

3. Nolon, spurious, or apocryphal books, whose authenticity, or whose divine inspiration, was denied by the Church, but which might be usefully read, as containing pious thoughts, and no bad doctrine.

4. Books published by heretics, which no Father of the Church has deigned to support with his external evidence, and which have no support of internal evidence, being discordant froin the apostolical writings, both as to matter and manner.

Eusebius places the Apocalypse in the first, and also in the third class; but as it cannot belong to both, so, in placing it in each of these classes, he adds, & Qavein, “ if it should so seem

proper.” It was to stand in one of these classes, when the question concerning its pretensions should be determined. Hence may be inferred, that the question was then so far settled in the mind of Eusebius, that it must belong either to the first or third class, and by no means to the second or fourth. It was not then esteemed, with the books of the fourth class, a

[merged small][ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]

forgery of the heretics; it was not the work of Cerinthus. From this silly notion of it, first started by the Alogi, it was now fairly delivered. The quotations of the early Fathers, as well as internal evidence arising from the book, which is contradictory to the tenets of Cerinthus, and affords support to no heresy, had saved it from this class.

Nor it was it to be placed in the second class; with the Epistles of James, Jude, &c. books, which a considerable part of the Christian world had not received, though they were generally acknowledged to be of divine authority. This determination, excluding the Apocalypse from the second class, seems to import, that the Apocalypse, until the times of Eusebius, was almost universally received by the Church. The doubts concerning it had arisen only in the minds of a few learned critics, who, from an examination of the style and other internal marks, were induced to contend that it was not the work of Saint John. If it should be determined to be John's work, it was then to be referred to the same class with his Gospel and first Epistle. If it were found not to be written by that Apostle, it was yet allowed to be the work of some other pious apostolical John, and then, as it could not be placed in the first class, with the writings of the Apostles, it was to be consigned to the same class with the writings of apostolical men; with the Epistle of Barnabas,

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

with Hermas, and other books which the ancient Church considered as written by persons whose names they bear, and which were read by Christians, as we read the apocryphal books of the Old Testament, for the pious matter contained in them, but not considered as of divine authority.

It appears then, that, in the times of Eusebius, the Apocalypse had its place among the genuine, undoubted books of sacred Scripture. There he first places it; but as some learned or ingenious critics had produced arguments, which, if allowed by the Church, would degrade it from this exalted situation, he prepares for it likewise another place, in which it would stand, if these arguments should prevail. The place prepared for it shews that the attempt of its adversaries did not go so far as to denominate it a forgery, or an impious book, but the work of a pious and eminent Christian, if not of an Apostle *. Yet all the inquiries, set on foot by these doubters, seem not to have brought the matter to a conclusion. They who made objections to the style and manner of the Apocalypse, appear not to have succeeded in their attempt to degrad eit, by the production of any external and historical proofs. Eusebius produces only a conjecture, perhaps “ John the Presbyter was its author;" but what

* The attempt, in modern times, is to mark it as a forgery, .“ a spurious production, introduced probably into the world after " the death of St. John," p. 487 ; but how totally unsupported by external evidence !

« PreviousContinue »