Page images

he expect so clear an exposition from a prophecy, which respects chiefly future events, as from a Gospel which the ancients have described as written principally, with the view of setting forth the divine nature of Christ? But this divine nature is also set forth in the Apocalypse; and as clearly as the nature of the book, and as symbols, can express it. He is described as sitting on the throne of his Father's glory,“ in the midst” of that throne, far beyond the cherubim, far above all principalities and powers; and all the heavenly inhabitants are described as falling prostrate before him, as to their God *. And all this is exbibited in a book which denies worship to angels t. But lest symbols should not carry sufficient expression with them, words unequivocal are added. He is called (and no-where else in Scripture but in St. John's writings) “ the Word of God £;" which (notwithstanding all that our author has advanced to lower the meaning of the expression) can be understood only in the same sense as the same words of the Gospel, to which indeed it evidently refers. The primitive Christians understood it in this sense; and because it could be understood in no other, the Alogi rejected the Apocalypse for the same reason that they rejected the Gospel of St. John §. Our Lord is also described in the Apocalypse, as the “ Alpha " and Omega,” the first and the last; which

[ocr errors]

• Rev. iii. 21. v. 6. ad fin.

Ch. xix. 1S.

+ Ch. xxii. 8.
§ Epiphanius, Hær. 51.

expression, expression, notwithstanding any attempts to lower its signification, will be understood by orthodox Christians to mean that divine nature, which from “ the beginning was with God,” the original Creator and final Judge of the world.

With the same view of supporting his argument, Michaelis has represented the dignity of Christ as lessened in the Apocalypsc, because he happens to be mentioned after the Seven Spirits, which our author supposes to represent seven angels. But this cannot be thus interpreted; because the Seven Spirits stand before the throne, but Christ has his seat upon it, and in the midst of it. And, indeed, reasons may be assigned, why Christ is mentioned after the Seven Spirits. They are represented standing in presence of the throne, before he enters to take his seat. They compose a part of the heavenly scenery, and are so necessarily connected with the throne, and with Him that sate thereon, that the mention of the one brings the mention of the other. But our Lord was not seen till afterwards. And if he be mentioned last, it is only to dwell the longer upon his divine glories, which occupy four verses in this description; whereas the Seven Spirits are only named.

There is one passage in the Apocalypse, which, by having been literally and improperly interpreted, has given offence to pious Christians in all ages of the Church, as introducing doctrines inconsistent with the Gospel purity. This is the description contained in a part of the twentieth


sand years.

chapter, where the servants of Christ are secrt raised from the dead, to reign with him a thou

But this is no doctrine, it is a prophecy, delivered in a figurative style, and yet unfulfilled. Such a prophecy, no judicious person will attempt to explain otherwise than in very general terms: much less will he draw from it any doctrine, contradictory to, or inconsistent with, the known word of God. The prophecy, we trust, will, in its due time, be fulfilled, and thereby the truth of God will be gloriously manifested. In the mean time it must be received as the word of God, though we understand it not. The extravagant notions of the Chiliasts are, therefore, no just imputation on the Apocalypse; which must not be accused of containing unscriptural doctrines, in passages which cannot yet be understood. Other places of the Apocalypse, which are objected to by our author in his section on “ The Doctrine delivered in the Apocalypse," will be found to contain no doctrines, but figurative representations of future events, which he appears to have misconceived.

may, therefore, truly assert of the Apoca. lypse, that, fairly understood, it contains nothing which, either in point of doctrine, or in relation of events, past or to come, will be found to contradict any previous divine revelation. It accords with the divine counsels already revealed. It expands and reveals them more completely. We see the gradual flow of sacred prophecy (accord


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

ing to the true tenour of it, acknowledged by divines), first a fountain, then a rill, then, by the union of other divine streams, increasing in its course, till at length by the accession of the prophetical waters of the New Testament, and, above all, by the acquisition of the apocalyptical succours, it becomes a noble river, enriching and adorning the Christian land.

Michaelis speaks in high terms of the beautifully sublime, the affecting and animating manner in which the Apocalypse is written. But in what does this extraordinary grandeur and pathos consist? Not in the language, as he seems to imagine; for the evidence which he brings to confirm this notion, goes directly to refute and contradict it. “ The Apocalypse,” says he, “ is beautiful “ and sublime, &c. not only in the original, but “ in every, even the worst translation of it*." But is this the description of a beauty and sublimity arising from language? Will such stand the test of a bad translation ? far otherwise. Beauty which consists in language only, is seen to vanish with the language in which it was written, and in translation is very seldom preserved. But there is another kind of beauty, another kind of sublimity, which even a bad translation may convey: and excellence which stands this trial, is found to consist, not in language, but in ideas and imagery. These, in the Apocalypse, are so grand, so simple, so truly

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

* P. 533, and again ch, iv, sect. 3. p. 112.


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

sublime, that, even rudely represented in any language, they cannot fail to elevate, to alarm, or to delight. This prophetical book can boast, indeed, no beauty of diction, so far as respects mere language. The words and expressions are rude and in harmonious, and, on this account, there is no book that will lose less by being translated. But this pure and simple sublimity, which is independent of the dress of human art, and to be found perhaps only in the sacred Scriptures, whence was it derived to this book ? which, on this account, must be pronounced to be either an heavenly production, like the other divine writings; or, such an imitation, such a forgery, as the Christian authors of that time were not likely, were not able, to produce. For there has been observed to be a very unequal gradation and descent, in point of pure, simple eloquence, just sentiment, and unsullied doctrine, from the Apostles, to the Fathers of the Church. And this circumstance has been applied, as an argument, to shew, that the books of the New Testament are of superior origin, and could not be. fabricated by those Fathers, or in those times *. The same argument may be applied to the origin of the Apocalypse, and with more force and effect, since it appears to have been published in the very times of these first Fathers. “

Whence,” we may ask, almost in the words of Scripture, “ whence

By Le Clerc, and by Jortin, Eccl. Hist.

“ hath

« PreviousContinue »