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The refutation of them appeared to me important; and as I felt, that my long engagement in apocalyptic studies had in some degree prepared me for the undertaking, I turned my thoughts to the subject. I did not however hope to dispose of the question altogether, but only to afford a temporary check to the progress of these German opinions in this country, until the learned editor should resume his notes, and, as I confidently expected, set the matter to rest. Under these impressions I addressed a series of letters to Mr. Marsh, suggesting such arguments as had occurred to me, and expressing a hope that he would complete his notes and observations, and more especially that he would employ his superior talents and advantages on the misconceptions of his author, with respect to the Apocalypse.
These letters were published anonymously; but in a short time I was gratified by receiving, through my publisher, the following message addressed by Mr. Marsh to the unknown writer :-“ that he had l'ead the pamphlet with very great pleasure, and that in his opinion the author had performed his task so well, that it would be unnecessary for him to attempt any thing further.”
Thus encouraged, I determined to correct and enlarge what I had written, and in the form of a Dissertation, to prefix it to my commentary.
I will now proceed to offer to my readers an abstract of it; and should any of them be inclined to
my book, Mr. Marsh was pleased to send me a very obliging letter, which he concluded with these words :-“ The friendly and flattering invitation which you gave me in the first letter of your pamphlet, it is even unnecessary for me to accept, after what you yourself have done on the same subject.”
About the same time I was favoured by a letter from another professor of divinity at Cambridge, the late eminent Dr. Watson, Lord Bishop of Llandaff. Speaking in particular of the Disserta
see the arguments more largely developed, and to exercise his critical powers more fully on this question, he must be referred to the Dissertation.
The evidence to be examined divides itself into two parts, the external and the internal. The external is that which is derived from credible witnesses, from the early writers and fathers of the Church. The internal is that which results from a perusal of the book.
I. OF THE EXTERNAL EVIDENCE.
The evidence external, for the authenticity and divine inspiration of the Apocalypse, is to be collected from the testimonies of those ancient writers, who, living at a period at no great distance from the time of its publication, appear, by their affirmations, quotations, or allusions, to have received it as a book of sacred scripture. This was the test by which the primitive Church was accustomed to determine the claims of all writings pretending to divine authority. All such were rejected, which appeared not to have been received by the Orthodox Christians of the preceding ages.'
But to enable us to judge of the force of this evi
tion, he thus writes: 6. The testimonies of Justin and Irenæus I have for many years considered as very much to be relied on respecting the author of the Apocalypse, from their having lived so near the time in which it was written; and your work has not only confirmed me in my opinion, but probably laid the question at
The opinions of these superior judges are inserted in order to in cline the student to give a more decided attention to this part of the work; and thus to place himself upon his guard against any false notions, concerning the claims of the Apocalypse to a divine origin.
1 Eusebius, Hist. Eccles. Jib. iii. c. 3.
dence, as affecting any particular book of scripture, it is necessary to ascertain the time when that book was written. For if it shall appear to have been written and published in the early period of the apostolic age, we may expect testimonies concerning it, from apostles, or from apostolical men. If it can be shown on the contrary, that it was published in the very latest times of that age, it will be in vain to expect any earlier notice of it.
Various opinions have been advanced, concerning the time when the Apocalypse was published, chiefly by those writers who have been desirous to accommodate it to their interpretations of the prophecies, which they suppose to have been fulfilled in the first century. But that the Apocalypse was not published before the year 96 or 97, has been, from that time to the present, the almost universal opinion of the Christian Church. Michaelis admits it; and, with other German writers, who are desirous of establishing a contrary opinion, has endeavoured to press Irenæus into their service. If this attempt should fail them, they will be left without any resource; and therefore I shall state it at large, together with the answer to it, as it has appeared in the Dissertation.
Irenæus was born, according to his own account, (as his words have been generally understood,) in the age immediately succeeding that in which the visions of the Apocalypse were seen.
He was a 1 Apostolical men are those, who may be supposed to have received instruction personally from apostles. The apostolical age
is that, which extends from the middle of the first century, when the apostles began to write, to the close of that century, when St. John, the last surviving apostle, died. These
may be seen discussed by Michaelis in his last chapter, and considered again by the author in his Dissertation. The evi. dences in their behalf are so weak, that it seems unnecessary to report them in this abstract.
3 The learned Dodwell has taken pains to show that Irenæus was
Greek by birth, as his name and language import, and probably an Asiatic Greek, for he was an auditor of Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, one of the seven Churches, and who had been the auditor of St. John the apostle, whom Irenæus constantly affirms to be the writer of the Apocalypse. And accordingly, when Irenæus speaks upon such subjects as concern the external evidences of the Church, he appeals, in confirmation, to Polycarp and others, who, he says, had seen the apostle John. He appeals also to the Asiatic Churches, in which he appears to have been educated. When removed from Asia into Gaul, (where, upon the martyrdom of Pothinus, he became Bishop of Lyons, he kept up a correspondence with the brethren of the Asiatic Churches, from whom he would continue to receive the most genuine information concerning the Apocalypse. He was, in his own character, the most learned, pious, prudent, and venerable prelate of his age. He wrote largely in defence of the truth, and it has been a prevailing opinion in the Church, that he sealed his testimony with his blood.
Here then is a witness of the highest authority, whose evidence has been accordingly received by the writers succeeding to his time, and, with very few exceptions, by the universal Church. Nor, until these
born in the year 97, the very year in which it wiil appear
that the Apocalypse was published. But there is reason to suppose that he has fixed the birth of this Father about ten years too early.-Grabe’s Proleg. ad Irenæum.
i Iren. iii. 3. Euseb. H. E. iv. 14, 16. v. 19, 20. Iren. iv. 50. v. 26, 28, 30, 34, 35. Lardner's Supplement, p. 348, 378. Cave, Hist. Litt. art. Irenæus.
2 Iren. lib. iii. 3. v. 8. Euseb. H. E. lib. iv. 14. v. 20.
3 Michaelis, in another part of his work, considers the testimony of Irenæus, in relation to St. John's writings, of the highest authority. “ Irenæus,” says he, “ is not only the most ancient writer on this subject, but was a disciple of Polycarp, who was personally acquainted with St. John ; consequently Irenæus had the very best
days, has there been the least doubt of the import of his evidence; no one has seen occasion to interpret his words otherwise than according to the obvious and received meaning, “ that the visions of the Apocalypse were seen towards the end of Domitian's reign." But since a novel interpretation of these words has been attempted by the German critics, in order to make them subservient to their preconceived opinions, it will be necessary to produce them.
Irenæus, speaking of the mystical name (666) ascribed to Antichrist in the xiiith chapter of the Apocalypse, and of the difficulty of its interpretation, adds :-ει δε εδει αναφανδον εν τω νυν καιρω κηρυττεσ
, : θαι τούνομα τετο,
di εκεινε αν ερρεθη τ8 και την αποκαλυψιν εωρακατος. Ουδε γαρ προ πολλα κρονε εωραση, αλλα σκεδον
, επι της ημετερας γενεας, προς το τελος της Δομετιανε αρχης. Which may be thus literally translated :—“ But if it had been proper, that this name should be openly proclaimed in this present time, it would have been told even by him who saw the Apocalypse (or Revelation.) For it was not seen a long time ago, but almost in our own age, (or generation,) toward the end of Domitian's reign.
These words are plain and unequivocal; nor does it appear that any variety of interpretation of them arose during sixteen hundred years, in which they were read by the Christian Church. And, indeed, now the only doubt offered to our consideration by the perverse ingenuity of the German critics is, “ What is it that Irenæus affirms to have been seen in Domitian's reign? What does the word seen refer to? What is the nominative to the verb wpaon?” Now, I will venture to say, that no Greek scholar,
information on this subject.” Introd. vol. iii. c. 7. See also his learned translator's judicious remarks on the importance of Irenæus's testimony.