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answer may be given. How can you expect a long series of prophecies, extending from the apostolical age to the grand consummation of all things, to be otherwise than obscure? It is the nature of such prophecy to give but an imperfect light,' even in the case of prophecies fulfilled; because the language is symbolical, which, though governed by certain rules attainable by the judicious among the learned, is nevertheless very liable to misconstruction in rash and unskilful hands. But prophecies unfulfilled, are necessarily involved in deeper darkness, because the event to be compared with the prophecy is wanting; and until this arrives in the lapse of time, it is designedly obscure : “ For God gave such predictions, not to gratify men's curiosity, by enabling them to foreknow things; but that after they were fulfilled, they might be interpreted by the event, and his own providence, not that of the interpreter, be then manifested thereby to the world.”3
This same objection of obscurity, will operate as forcibly against many other prophecies of the Old and New Testament: those which appertain to the latter days. The book of Daniel, which has our Lord's seal to it, must be rejected with the Apocalypse, if it be a sufficient objection that it is yet in many places obscure.
The Jewish Sanhedrim doubted at one time whether they should not reject the book of Ezekiel from the canon of Scripture; and one principal argument for the measure was, the obscurity of the book. (Calmet's Dissert. vol. ii. p. 369.) Sir I. Newton argues otherwise concerning the obscurity of the Apocalypse. He says, “ It is a part of this prophecy, that it should not be understood before the last age of the world; and therefore it makes for the credit of the prophecy, that it is not yet understood.” (Ch. i. p. 251.)
1 1 Pet. i. 10, 11, 12; 2 Pet. i. 19.
2 See this explained in Bp. Louth’s Prelections, p. 69, 70; and in Bp. Hurd's Sermons on Prophecy.
• Sir Isaac Newton on Daniel and the Apocalypse, 4to. p. 251.
There can be no doubt now, with those who have studied the best commentators, that a very great portion of the apocalyptic prophecies have been proved true, by their corresponding events in history. Additional light is slowly, but clearly coming forth. And the prophecies now obscured in the depths of time, will to future generations become "a shining light;" and when rendered clear by their respective completions, they will form all together an impregnable bulwark against infidelity and impiety.
In the mean time, we may console ourselves for the ignorance which yet remains, by observing, that difficulties are found in the abstruser parts of every kind of speculative knowledge. Every study has its dark recesses, hitherto impenetrable by human wit or industry. These prophecies are among the deeper speculations of divine knowledge. And are we to wonder, that man meets with difficulties here? man, whose bold, prying insolence is checked in the paths of every art and science, by the incomprehensible greatness and sublimity of the works of God!
Having taken this short, but comprehensive view of the evidence, both external and internal, by which the claims of the Apocalypse to a divine origin are supported or denied, we may, it is trusted, fairly conclude, that it is in every respect entitled to the place which it holds in our canon of Holy Scripture.
II. We may now proceed to the second and last subject of our proposed inquiry- Whether the Apocalypse, having thus appeared to be a book of divine inspiration, will appear also to have been written by John, the Apostle and Evangelist ?
We have already seen it expressly declared to be such by unexceptionable witnesses, who lived in, or near to, the times when it was first received by the seven Churches; who had ample means of information; and were interested to know from whom the Churches had received it. Such were Justin Martyr, Irenæus the disciple of Polycarp, Tertullian, Origen, and others who preceded them. This external evidence appeared of such preponderating weight to the candid and judicious Lardner, (who entertained no prejudice in favour of the Apocalypse, which he appears to have very little studied or understood,) as to have drawn from him this conclusion, twice repeated : “ It may be questioned, whether the exceptions founded on the difference of style, and such like things, or any other criticisms whatever, can be sufficient to create a doubt concerning the author of this book, which was owned for a writing of John, the Apostle and Evangelist, before the times of Dionysius and Caius, and, so far as we know, before the most early of those who disputed its genuineness.”:
These exceptions and criticisms arose in the third century, and are detailed in the writings of Dionysius of Alexandria, and by him placed in so strong a light, that little has been added to them by subsequent critics. Lardner has reduced them to five heads, under which we may now present them before the reader, with some short account of the answers made to them, and some additional observations.
1. “ The Evangelist John has not named himself in
1 Supplement, vol. ii.
372. 2 Cred. Gosp. Hist. vol. iv. p. 733. Supplement, vol. iii. p. 364.
his Gospel, nor his Catholic Epistle ; but the writer of the Revelation nameth himself more than once.”
If St. John had named himself as author of his Gospel, he would have done what no other evangelist before him had done. But he has done what amounts to nearly the same thing, and which we do not find in the other Gospels; he has plainly disclosed, by various circumlocutions, that he, beloved disciple,” was the writer of it. It has been as well known, and acknowledged as his production, through all the Christian era, as if he had stamped it with his name.
In his two short Epistles he has not named himself John. But he has used an appellation which, in a letter to a private individual, would equally ascertain the writer. He calls himself the elder, the elder of the Christian Church, the aged survivor of all his apostolic brethren.
But what shall we say to the omission of his name in the book called his first Epistle? Michaelis himself shall assist us to clear up this difficulty. By very just and probable arguments he contends, that it is “ a treatise rather than Epistle,” not having the name of the writer in the beginning, nor the usual salutations at the end. In a composition of this form, the name of the writer was not necessary; but in the Apocalypse, which is written in the epistolary form — not to any individual — but to the seven Churches in Asia, and which he was commanded to write, and to address to them, he could not omit to prefix his name. The objection therefore, under this first head, cannot be maintained.
2. The second is, that “though the writer of the Revelation calls himself John, he has not shown that he is the apostle of that name.”
1 John xxi. 20, &c.; xix, 26.; xii. 23, &c. 2 On the 1st. Epist. of St. John, vol. iv. ch. xxx. sect. ii. p. 400. 3 Rev. i. 11.
In answer to this, it will be sufficient to show, that such an addition to the name of John was, under the circumstances of the case, totally unnecessary He wrote to the seven Churches, and from Patmos, in which island he says, that he “ is suffering tribulation for the word of God, and the testimony of Jesus Christ." All the Churches knew that he was then suffering banishment in that island, and they knew the cause of it as assigned by him. An epistle, containing the history of a heavenly vision, seen by John in the island of Patmos, needed no other addition. What John would take upon himself to write John alone, without epithet or explanation, but John the apostle, and president over all the Churches ? A person less known might have described himself by the addition of his father's name, as was the custom of the ancients. A bishop or presbyter might have signified his office or station in the Church. A fabricator of a revelation, intended to pass under the authority of our apostle, would probably have added to his name “ an apostle of Jesus Christ,” or by some circumlocution, like those of the Gospel, expressed it. The circumstances under which St. John wrote required no such designation. And the simplicity of his address is a confirmation, to be added to the multitude of prevailing evidence, which supports the authenticity of his work.
1 St. Paul, in the opening of his Epistles, has used generally, not always, the term apostle. With him it was more necessary than with St. John, who was a leading member of the twelve. St. Paul's right to this title was not so publicly established, and was doubted by some, which induces him to say (1 Cor. ix. 1.) “ Am not I an apostle ?" &c. But St. John's apostolic authority was undoubted, and peculiarly so by those to whom he addressed his Apocalypse. To his name John he therefore adds an humbler description, more