« PreviousContinue »
Such is the rise of the eleventh government, first as an ecclesiastical power, next as a kingly, by the fall before it of a part of the ten kingdoms, and its subsistence through a long series of ages in that form, in intimate relations with the others, and the exertion over them of momentous influences.
And finally, such is the concession by the others to that eleventh kingdom of an ecclesiastical rule over them closely resembling in the rights it usurped, and the power it exerted, the impious assumptions, and tyrannic sway of the rulers themselves of those kingdoms. Nothing of that nature had before been seen in the history of the world. Nothing in the nature of men, or the laws of divine providence, could at the promulgation of the Apocalypse have suggested it to one contemplating the future, as probable or possible.
In the novelty then and singularity of these agents and events, the almost infinite multitude and complication of persons, causes, circumstances, influences, acts and results that enter into the series, and the consideration that at innumerable steps in the train, the absence, or variation of a single agent, such for example as a Charlemagne, a Gregory VII., an Innocent III., a Leo X., a Charles V., a Pius V., a Sixtus V., would have changed the whole result, we have a demonstration immense and overwhelming, of a knowledge to which the human intellect is wholly inadequate, and proof that it is the work of the Omniscient Spirit.
X. There are several things in the Apocalypse which it is incredible would have been introduced, had it been the contrivance of an uninspired person.
Such is the representation of a sharp two-edged sword proceeding from the mouth of the Saviour, in the first and in the nineteenth chapter. Eichhorn accordingly, who treated the work as the mere invention of the apostle to adorn and aggrandize some of the events that marked the early progress especially of Christianity, regarded this as an egregious violation of good
Such is the scene in the fifth chapter, in which the apostle exhibits a mighty angel as crying with a loud voice, who is worthy to open the book of God's purposes, and loose the seals thereof; and when no creature appeared to open it, represents himself as overwhelmed with disappointment and grief, under the apprehension that it must forever remain sealed. No one would deliberately contrive a scene, exhibiting himself as falling in that manner into the error of imagining that creatures can unfold the
boundless purposes of God to the church, and weeping under the mistake.
Who, following the suggestions of his unassisted judgment or fancy, would have introduced the silence of half an hour as the first consequence of opening the seventh seal? Its significance and propriety, are at least very far from being obvious, if one may judge from the perplexity it has given interpreters.
Of a like nature are the voices of the seven thunders, and the prohibition to write their prophecy. What imaginable motive could have prompted the introduction of such an incident, had the scene of which it is a part been, not truly symbolic of agents and actions, but the mere work of the writer's fancy? It has been generally thought to contribute nothing to the progress of the revelation, but rather merely to baffle excited curiosity, and embarrass the reader with a feeling of disappointment.
It is incredible also that the author, had he written the work without inspiration, and for the mere purpose of displaying his genius, would have represented himself as falling down to worship the interpreting angel. It were gratuitously to exhibit himself as betrayed into a species of that creature-homage which he represents as the characteristic of apostates, and debarring from the kingdom of the Redeemer.
XI. All the doctrines and sentiments of the Apocalypse are accordant with the other scriptures, and exhibit that elevation and grandeur which are peculiar to inspired writings.
Such eminently are the views which it displays of the majesty of God, his omnipotence, his omniscience, the sanctity of his rights, the inflexibleness of his justice, the subordination to him of the universe, the sacrifice and exaltation of Christ, the wonderfulness of his love, the aims of his providence, the nature and beauty of his designs, the characteristics of his redeemed people, the relations of his work to the intelligent universe, the grandeur of the results that are to mark its everlasting progress. It presents no inconsistency with the other parts of the sacred word. It sinks in no instance below the dignity of the subject of which it treats. It soars above every other work of inspiration, exhibits in each stroke effulgent proofs of its divine origin, and is worthy the all-perfect wisdom and benignity of the Deity. To suppose a work fraught in an unexampled degree with these lofty characters, can be the contrivance of mere art and fraud, were solecistical and monstrous in the extreme :-It were to ascribe to depravity the display of infinite rectitude, and the most majestic wisdom to weakness and folly.
XII. To these considerations, its immeasurable elevation above the uninspired writings of the period in which it appeared and the following ages, may be added as a further proof that it cannot have sprung from the unassisted powers of man.
Of all the ancient religious writings that have descended to us, there are none perhaps that exhibit a more deplorable contrast to the Apocalypse, than those which are usually ascribed to the apostolic fathers, with the exception of the letters of Clemens and Polycarp generally supposed to be genuine, which with little force of thought or elevation of views, have still the merit of simplicity and consistency with the gospel. After a large subtraction from the others of the errors and weaknesses with which they are marked, as the work, in the letters of Ignatius at least, of interpolators and forgers, not a trace appears in the remainder, of the truth, the largeness, the dignity, the harmony of thought that distinguish the Apocalypse. So far from it, they are among the weakest of human compositions, vague, confused, illogical, inflated, absurd, and often false and impious, the productions manifestly of feeble, vain, and ignorant minds, most unjust to religion and discreditable to the church.
II. RECEPTION OF THE APOCALYPSE BY THE CHURCH.
THE proofs of its inspiration thus graven on its whole structure, are corroborated by its reception in the church. It is expressly ascribed by the earliest ecclesiastical authors whose writings are of authority, to the apostle John, and said to have been acknowledged as his by others whose works have not come down to our age. Thus Papias who was a cotemporary and hearer of the apostle, is represented by Eusebius as having held, agreeably to chapter xx. 4. 5, that Christ is to reign on the earth a thousand years after the resurrection of the dead; and by Andrew bishop of Cæsarea Cappadocia of the fifth century, to have given his testimony to its inspiration. Justin, who suffered martyrdom in the year 163 or 164, and wrote his dialogue with Trypho according to Pagi in 139,3 received it as the work of John.1 Irenæus, whose birth is generally referred to the first quarter of the second century, and who lived to its close, exhibits the apostle John as its author, and represents it as revealed no long pe
1 Eusebii Eccl. Hist. lib. iii. cap. 39.
2 Michaelis' Introd. N. Test. chap. 33.
Crit. in Baron, A. D. 148, No. 5.
⚫ Dial. cum Tryph. cap 81. Eusebii Eccl. Hist. lib. iv. c. 18.
riod before, but almost in his own age, toward the end of the reign of Domitian,' which terminated September 18th, in the year 95 or 96. Melito, bishop of Sardis in Lydia, who lived about the year 170, wrote a comment on it. It was quoted by Theophilus, bishop of Antioch, of the same period; and also by the churches of Vienne and Lyons in the year 177 in their epistle to the churches of Asia and Phrygia. It was recognised conspicuously by Clemens of Alexandria, and Tertullian who flourished at the close of the second century; and though questioned, or rejected by some few persons of the following age, on the ground of its style and predictions, not from a want of external testimony, it has ever since been held by the church as a part of the sacred canon.
III. THE APOCALYPSE NOT A POEM.
EICHHORN regarded the Apocalypse as a poetic drama. It has no characteristic, however, that entitles it to be considered a poem. It is wholly without the rhythm and modulation which are the distinguishing elements of poetry. A composition can no more be a poem without measure and harmony, than a succession of sounds can be a tune, without bearing any musical relation to each other.
The exaltation of inanimate and inferior things into the rank of intelligences by personification, ascribing to them faculties, dispositions and agencies, as men, angels or demons, is a conspicuous characteristic of poetry. But the symbolizations of the Apocalypse are the converse of that figure. Instead of personifying faculties, elements, or other natural objects, it exhibits orders and successions of men, nations, and rulers, by unintelligent existences, as brutes, monsters, the earth, the sea, the air, mountains; and the agencies of such combinations of men, by those of storms, falling stars, earthquakes, and volcanoes. There are no two species of composition, therefore, more unlike. To call this symbolic representation a poem, is as incorrect as it were to apply that denomination to the hieroglyphs of an Egyptian obelisk, or to regard the pictorial illustrations of the scenery, actors and actions of a poem, as the poem itself.
1 Eusebii Eccl. Hist. lib. v. c. 8.
Pagi refers his death to the year 96. Dr. Jarvis, Introd. Hist. Church, p. 322 to 95. 3 Eusebii Eccl. Hist. lib. iv. c. 26.
Eusebii Eccl. Hist. lib. iv. c. 24.
Eusebii Eccl. Hist. lib. v. c. 1.
Stromat. lib. vi. p. 667. Pædagog, lib. ii. c. 12, p. 207.
Adver. Marcionem, lib. iii. c. 14. Lib. iv. c. 5. De Præscrip. Hæret. c. 33.
The Apocalypse is almost wholly without the embellishments that are characteristic of poetry. There is no instance in it of personification. It has not in the symbolic parts a single metaphor, except in the titles of the Redeemer. It has but few comparisons, and those of the simplest kinds, as of the voice of the Son of God to a trumpet and the sound of many waters, his eyes to a flame of fire, his countenance to the sun, his hair to wool and snow, his feet to fine brass, the faintness with which the spectacle struck the apostle to death, and others of the like nature, chiefly in the letters to the churches, and in the fourth, ninth, and tenth chapters.
The Apocalypse is a description in prose of symbolic agents, actions and effects, exhibited in vision to the eye of the apostle, and the recital of voices he heard; and is no more entitled therefore to be denominated a poem, than a description in prose, or a pictorial representation is, of the figures on a triumphal arch, or the actors, actions and scenes of the Iliad or Paradise Lost.
The fancy of Mr. Stuart that the Apocalypse is an epopee, a still greater error than that of Eichhorn, as it overlooks the representative character of its actors and actions. In a drama one set of persons acts in the place of another. But nothing of that nature is known in the epopee, which is historical simply, and is either related by the poet, or represented as recited by actors and spectators of the scenes which it describes. It never personates one set of agents by another even of the same species; and still more emphatically, never like the Apocalypse, exhibits agents of one class by those of another. There is no species of poetry to which the Apocalypse bears a less resemblance than the epopee.
These attempts to dignify it by appropriating to it titles of human works with which it has no affinity, are extremely misjudged. So far from illustrating or exalting, they obscure and degrade it; and instead of indicating superior intelligence and taste in their authors, bespeak an inacquaintance with the nature of poetry as well as of symbolization. They are fraught also with a denial of the miraculousness of the visions, and thence of their title to be regarded as the work of inspiration. Mr. Stuart as well as Eichhorn, treats the symbols, which he perpetually confounds with personifications, metaphors and similes, as the contrivance of the writer, and designed chiefly to give pleasure to the passions and fancies of his readers. But that is directly to contradict the apostle, and assume that he was guilty of a misrepresentation in the pretence that the symbols were exhibited to him in vision. No asseveration could be more false and deceptive, than that he be