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In this enumeration of testimonies in support of the authenticity and canonical authority of the Apocalypse, we have omitted many important testimonies in its favour; that of Cyprian and of the Church of Rome in his time, besides that of many Latin authors who are mentioned by Lardner. It was received by Novatus and his followers, probably by the Manichees, by the Donatists, by the Arians, and it is found in the Alexandrian manuscript, which was probably not written later than the fifth century. It is unnecessary to pursue the subject of evidence any further. With such testimony, not only of the most eminent individuals in the Christian world, but of whole churches,—extending, as we have seen, from the close of the fourth century to the period of the publication of the Apocalypse,—to the general reception of this book, it is surprising that any persons should have ventured to assail its authenticity and general reception in the Church from the earliest period. If some persons, and even some portions of the early Christian Church, have entertained doubts on these subjects; the same scruples have been entertained with respect to other books of the New Testament. The Epistle to the Hebrews, the Epistle of St James, the second Epistle of St Peter, the second and third of St John, and the Epistle of St Jude, have, in this respect, shared the same fate with the book of Revelation. But few persons have ever ventured to reject these books on evidence so weak, as the scruples of individuals, and the ill-founded objections of particular bodies of Christians, in opposition to the great weight of testimony in their favour, which is derived from their reception by the most illustrious names and the most ancient and purest churches in the Christian world. Why then should we pursue a different method with the Apocalypse, which, from the mysterious character of the book alone, might lead many to neglect, and even, in some instances, to reject it? Or ought these circumstances to weigh against the great mass of testimony in its favour? Dr Whitby and other writers have omitted the Apocalypse in their commentaries on the New Testament.
6 See Lardner, Ib. p. 448, where he has given references to different parts
of his own works in support of these positions.
But would any one infer, from this circumstance, that they either doubted or denied its divine authority? Why then should we observe a different rule, in arguing against the divine authority of this book, from the circumstance of its omission by some of the early writers of the Christian Church?
1. But considerable weight has been laid upon some circumstances which are connected with the apparent rejection of the Apocalypse in the early ages of Christianity; and the first of these is the omission of this book in the old Syriac Version of the New Testament. This argument has been brought forward by Michaëlis; and Dean Woodhouse has attempted to shew that it is of no value, because Bishop Marsh has shewn that the Syriac Version was not made till a later period'. But if the Syriac Version was made, as Archbishop Laurence has given us good reason to believe, in the early part of the second century', we do not want any additional reason for the omission of the Apo
1 Marsh's Michaëlis, Vol. 11. Part II. p. 554, note. Woodhouse, Dissertation, p. 34.
2 See the question relative to the
antiquity of the Syriac Version discussed by him at length, in his Dissertation upon the Logos of St John, pp. 69-74, note.
calypse in the Syriac Version. And this appears to have been the opinion of Bishop Marsh himself at a later period; because, observing with respect to the omission of the second Epistle of St Peter, with the second and third of St John, and the Epistle of Jude, in the old Syriac Version, he says, that " the omission of them may probably be ascribed to the early age in which the Syrian Canon was formed. And if that Canon was formed before those Epistles were known to the Syrian Church, the omission of them cannot be construed into a rejection of them.” The same reasoning will apply to the Apocalypse: and we may observe that the omission of these books in the old Syriac Version, at the same time that it is accounted for by the early period at which the Syriac Version was made, in itself supplies a very powerful argument in support of the great antiquity of this version.
2. Another argument, upon which great stress has been laid, is the omission of the Apocalypse in the catalogue of the Council of Laodicea*. But Lardner is of opinion, that “it cannot be concluded from thence that this book was rejected by the bishops of that council. Their design seems to have been to mention by name those books only which should be publicly reads.” However, after all, the character of this council does not induce us to attribute any great weight to its decisions. It is described by Lardner as being “a particular council only, consisting of thirty or forty bishops of Lydia and the neighbouring countries ;” and Basnage observes, in his History of the Church, that “ Protestants and Catholics have equally disparaged this synod.” The date also of this Council, (though it is supposed by Lardner to have been held about A.D. 363',) is involved in great uncertainty; a circumstance which alone proves that little importance was attached to it in the earlier ages.
3 Bp Marsh's Lectures, Lect. xxv. p. 61. 4 This is urged by Mr Gibbon, Chap. xv. Sect. 2, note 67. 5 Lardner, Vol. 111. p. 448.
These are some of the principal arguments which have been urged against the early reception of the Apocalypse. We may see how little weight they are entitled to, when they are considered in opposition to the great mass of evidence in its support: and we are enabled to appreciate the dishonesty of Mr Gibbon, when, in speaking of the Apocalypse, he hazards such unfounded assertions as the following—that “it narrowly escaped the proscription of the Church;” and that “ the Greeks were subdued into the adoption of it by the authority of an impostor, who in the sixth century assumed the character of Dionysius the Areopagite?” The mention of calumnies, like these, is important in this point of view,—that it enables us to estimate the degree of weight which is due to the general assertions of Mr Gibbon and writers of his class, when they are connected with the subject of religion; assertions, however, which, though they are unsupported by evidence, from the confidence with which they are made, are often the means of leading unsuspecting persons into error. The evidence which has been produced, brief and imperfect as it necessarily is, is sufficient to contradict every insinuation which may be directed against the early reception and the authority of the Apocalypse; and to establish the truth of the assertions of two most eminent writers on this subject;—of Mr Mede, when he says, that “the Apocalypse hath more human (not to speak of divine) authority, than any other book of the New Testament besides, even from the time it was first delivered 3 ;” and of Sir Isaac Newton,that he “ does not find any other book of the New Testament so strongly attested, or commented upon so early, as this of the Apocalypseo.”
· Lardner, Vol. 11. pp. 414_416.
2 Gibbon, Vol. 1. Chap. xv. p. 563. Compare Woodhouse's Dissertation,
pp. 76, 77, with regard to a similar assertion of this writer.
With respect to the internal evidence for the authenticity of the Apocalypse,—although this more particularly belongs to a future stage of the inquiry,– it may be with confidence asserted, that the evidence which we derive both from a comparison of the great doctrines of the Apocalypse, as well as of the language of this book, with the other writings of St John, is such as to prove, in the most convincing manner, that they both proceeded from the same author. There is however one objection,-derived from the alledged discrepancy in sentiment, expression, and manner between the Apocalypse and the Gospel of St John,-which has been advanced, to prove, on the one hand, that the Apocalypse was not written by him, and, on the other, that it was written in early life, and many years before he wrote his Gospel. This last is the argument of Michaëlis, who grounds his opinion on the general observation, that “when there is this change in the style of an author, we naturally look for the bold, sublime, and perhaps incorrect style, in his youth, and the gentler and more finished manner in his
3 Mede, Works, p. 602.
the Apocalypse, Part 11. Chap. i. p.