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evidence is abundant, --surprisingly so, considering the mysterious nature of the book. At no time does it depend on any single testimony; many writers testify together; and they are nearly all the great names of ecclesiastical antiquity. To their evidence, no contradictory testimony, of an external kind, was opposed. No one alleged against the Apocalypse such arguments as these : " It is not preserved in the archives of the seven Asiatic Churches :-the oldest persons in those cities have no knowledge of its having been sent thither:no one ever saw it during the life of John :-it was introduced in such and such a year, but it was contradicted as soon as it appeared.”
With the witnesses exhibited in the chart, we may fairly conclude our abstracted view of the external evidence for the authenticity of the Apocalypse. By some writers, it has not been thought necessary to pursue it farther, even in relation to the whole canon of the New Testament. Dr. Less, in his History of Religion, has closed his evidence with Origen; and the learned translator of Michaelis's Introduction, observes upon it, that “ further testimony is unnecessary.". In the Dissertation, I thought
2 it proper to proceed further in obviating the arguments of Michaelis, wherever they had a tendency to shake the orthodox opinion concerning the divine
1 These arguments are candidly and judiciously suggested by Michaelis, and he allows considerable weight to the non-appearance of such, (p. 484.) ; but, in a note subjoined, he endeavours to invalidate them. The reader, who may wish to see what he has advanced, and the answer to it, is referred to the Dissertation,
2 Introduction, vol. i. p. 361. Notes by Dr. Marsh, now Lord Bishop of Peterborough, and Margaret Professor of Divinity at Cambridge.
origin of the Apocalypse : and my progress may be seen in that work, I will now take leave of this division of the subject with stating; that Sir Isaac Newton has truly asserted, that “no other book of the New Testament is so strongly attested, or commented upon, as this.”
II. OF THE INTERNAL EVIDENCE.
We now proceed to the internal evidence; in the examination of which, we no longer rely on the ancient external witnesses, we search the work itself; we try its interior marks and character; and determine, by the judgment thence arising, whether it be of divine authority. The inquiry will be twofold. 1st. Whether from the internal form and character of the Apocalypse, it appears to be a book of divine inspiration. 2dly. Whether, appearing to be such, it appears also to have been written by the Apostle John.
1. If all, or indeed most Christians, were agreed upon the same interpretation of the Apocalyptic prophecies, this question might be settled by a short and summary proceeding. It would be only necessary to ask, --have these prophecies been fulfilled ? for if it be answered in the affirmative, the consequence immediately follows; the prophet was inspired, and his book is divine.
This criterion, in some future period, when the Apocalyptic prophecies have been more successfully expounded may produce the evidence desired. But
1 The whole of the seventh chapter in that work may be read to advantage by those who may wish to see the opinions of writers in the times subsequent. Those reported by Eusebius deserve a particular attention.
2 Sir J. Newton, on Daniel and the Apocalypse, part ii. c. 1.
at present, it cannot be applied so as to command general conviction. We must argue from other points, in which a more general agreement is to be obtained ; at the same time it may be observed, that every student of the Apocalypse, who, by a careful examination of many of its prophecies, and a comparison of them with historical events, is convinced that they have been fulfilled, has this important evidence in his own breast. We may proceed therefore to questions of more ready solution, comparing the internal structure of the Apocalypse, the pictures and images it exhibits, the doctrines it holds forth, the language and expressions it uses, with those contained in other writings, acknowledged to be of divine authority.
Michaelis has allowed, that the internal structure of the Apocalypse is “noble and sublime;" that “the imitation of the ancient prophets is, for the most part, more beautiful and magnificent than the original; more short, more abounding in picturesque beauties.” 1 Whilst I agree with him generally in this decision, I would point out that such a superiority is seldom, if ever, to be seen in an imitation ; nor can it be accounted for in this case, from the superior art or ability of the writer; for in him there is plainly no aim at eloquence: he drew simply, nay with rude lines, from the heavenly objects before him. They were frequently the same objects from which other sacred prophets had taken their pictures, but they were presented before the writer of the Apocalypse in a grander attitude and appearance, by his divine conductor. For although
, a close comparison of the Apocalypse with other sacred Scriptures, will show a perfect agreement in the presentation of the same original ideas and ob
1 P. 533, 534.
jects of imagery, yet there will be found that variation which is to be expected, that concordia discors, which we see in the production of artists, copying from the same object, but under different lights and positions. This may be illustrated by comparing together the seraphin of Isaiah, the cherubim of Ezekiel, and the living creatures of the Apocalypse. (See Rev. iv. 6, 7, 8.)
Michaelis speaks in high terms of the beautifully sublime 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 he brings to confirm this notion, goes directly to contradict and refute it. “ The Apocalypse,” says he,“ is beautiful and sublime, &c. not only in the original, but in every, even the worst translation of it.”'I
But beauty, which consists in language only, is known to vanish with the language in which it was written, and in translation is very seldom preserved. But there is another kind of beauty and of sublimity, which even a bad translation may in some measure convey; and excellence in writing, which can stand this trial, is found to consist not in language, but in ideas and imagery. These, in the Apocalypse, are so simple, so grand, so truly sublime, that 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; and there is no book that will lose less by being translated. and simple sublimity, 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 Christians of that time were not likely, not able to produce. For there has been observed to be a very unequal gradation and descent, in point of pure simple eloquence and unsullied doctrine, from the apostles to the fathers of the Church. And this circumstance has been used to show, 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 applies to the origin of the Apocalypse, and with more force and effect. “Whence,
But this pure
2 P. 533; and again, ch. iv. sect. 3. p. 112.
we may ask, almost in the words of Scripture, " whence 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 with some 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 solely, he endeavoured to adorn his work with the imposing charms of human eloquence and cultivated language; and he appealed to the perfection of his compositions for a proof of their divine original. Such an appeal would have little served his cause in a critical and enlightened age, which would have required far other internal proofs of divinity, than those which result from elegant diction. The learned of such an age would reject a prophet
1 By Le Clerc, and by Jortin. Eccl. Hist. 2 Mark vi. 2.