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Rev. xx. 1-3.
And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled : and after that he must be loosed a little season.
THE APOCALYPSE, or BooK OF REVELATION, closes the Canon of the Old and New Testament *; and, in this respect, it demands special attention. The peculiarities, also, of its style, and the solemn im
* It is τελευταία της Χάριτος βίβλος, as it is called by S. Gregory Nyssen, tom. iii. p. 601, de Ephraëmo, Lampe Proleg. ad Joann. i. cap. 5, $ 13, p. 80. Ames Theolog. i. c. 34, $ 35. Canonem V. T. constituerunt Prophetæ et Christus ipse suo testimonio approbavit. Canonem N. T. obsignavit Apostolus Joannes divinâ auctoritate instructus Apoc. xxii. 18, 19.
Vetustiores Apocalypsin pro Sigillo universæ Scripturæ habuerunt. Anon. ap. Allatium de libris Eccles. Græcorum, p. 48. θεολογική δ' 'Αποκάλυψις πάλιν Σφραγίς πέφυκε τήσδε της πάσης βίβλου. .
port of its prophecies, require the most earnest reflection. And the circumstances of the eventful period in which, by God's Providence, our lot is cast, cannot fail to draw the mind of the devout and thoughtful Christian to serious meditations on the prophetical portions of Holy Scripture, especially the Apocalypse; and if there is any portion more than another of the Sacred Volume which ought to be approached with sober and reverential awe, it is assuredly this mysterious book. Hence, therefore, they whose office it is rightly to divide the word of truth *, are solemnly bound, as occasion offers, to provide such instruction for their hearers as may serve to guide them to a profitable study of the words of this prophecy t.
These considerations appear to me of so much weight, that, being now enabled and invited by the reverend and learned the Trustees of the Hulsean Lectureship to resume the former argument, commenced and pursued in the Lectures of last year, concerning the Canon of Holy Scripture, I propose to devote the time allotted me to the Apocalypse ; and to conclude the whole with a summary of what has been said in preceding discourses, concerning the Canon of the Old and NEW TESTAMENT.
May the Holy Spirit, Who spake by the Prophets, and descended in tongues of fire on the Apostles, and Who sheds His bright beams of light upon the
* 2 Tim. ï. 15.
† Rev. i. 3.
Church, so illumine our minds with His heavenly radiance, that we may have grace to perceive the truth, and power to declare the same!
The proof of the Inspiration of the Apocalypse is involved in the question of its right interpretation ; and upon the present occasion it will be my endeavour to show, by a remarkable example, that this divine book has been brought into discredit by a false interpretation, concerning a question of solemn importance; and that its honour has been vindicated, and its authority retrieved, and can only be maintained, by a true Exposition.
This, as will be seen, is a very interesting enquiry, and leads to the most instructive results both in doctrine and practice.
There is scarcely any book in the whole Bible whose genuineness and inspiration were more strongly attested on its first appearance than the Apocalypse. No doubts whatever seem to have been entertained on these points. This I propose to show more at length on another* occasion. Suffice it now to say, that Papias, Justin Martyr, Irenæus, Melito—that is, eminent teachers of the Church, in the next age to that in which it was written--proclaim that its writer was St. John, the beloved Disciple of Christ.
Such was then the voice of the Church.
And yet it is no less true, that in the third and fourth centuries of the Christian era many private
* See below, Lecture III.
persons, and even Churches, especially in Oriental Christendom, questioned its canonicity. For example *, St. Cyril, Bishop of Jerusalem, does not mention it in his catalogue of the Canonical books of the New Testament; nor does St. Gregory of Nazianzum. St. Amphilochius, Bishop of Iconium f, speaks of it as of doubtful authority f; and it does not appear in the Canon ascribed to the Council of Laodicea, in the fourth century.
Are not these things, it may be asked, somewhat strange? Can they be accounted for? If so, by what means? Can it be shown that these doubts, to which we have now referred, do not in any degree invalidate the proof, that the Apocalypse is the work of St. John and the Word of God?
In reply to these enquiries, let me first remind you that the Jews of our Saviour's time, misunderstanding the figurative language of ancient prophecy, imagined that the Messiah would be an earthly Potentate, and that he would rule in triumphant majesty in the city of Jerusalem for a period of a thousand years 8.
* Cateches. iv. xxxvi. p. 66, ed. Bened.
† The original words of these authorities will be found in the Appendix to “ Lectures on the Canon.”
It has been asserted, by some modern learned writers on the Apocalypse, that it is never quoted by St. Chrysostom. This is a mistake: there is an evident allusion to it in his first homily on St. Matthew ; and Suidas, in voce 'Iwávyns, says, éXETAL ο Χρυσόστομος της Αποκάλυψιν.
§ Lightfoot, i. p. 209, ed. 1684. Hottinger. Hist. Eccl. i. p. 152.
You will remember, also, that in the first and second centuries there were many false teachers who corrupted the Gospel by amalgamating it with Judaism. One of the most celebrated of these, Cerinthus, is characterized by the Ecclesiastical historian Eusebius as an Hæresiarch, and an enemy of Holy Scripture; and it is recorded, that such was St. John's abhorrence of his opinions, that he would not remain in his company, nor even abide with him under the same roof .
Cerinthus embraced the Jewish tenets concerning a temporal Messiah, who would reign gloriously for a thousand years in the earthly Jerusalem. According to these notions, Paradise was to be revived in
Incunabula Chiliasmi in Talmude sunt quærenda. Buxtorf. de Synag. Judaic. c. xxxvi. Xila črn numerus mysticus apud Judæos: “Messiæ dies sunt mille anni," say the Rabbis ; see the authorities cited by Mede, Works, book v. chap. iii. p. 892 ; by Wetstein, Nov. Test. ii. p. 836, in Apoc. xx. 2. Sex annorum millibus durabit hic mundus ; veniet Messias tempore matutino millenarii sexti. Dies septimus respondet millenario viimo quod totum Sabbatum est.
* Euseb. iii. 28. (quoting Caius), éxOpòs únápxwv rais γραφείς του θεού. . See Isidorus Orig. viii., and S. Augustin De Hæres. viii. p. 40, ed. Bened. Paris, 1837. Audiendi non sunt (says S. Jerome, in his recension of Victorinus in Apocalyps. Bibl. Patr. Max. iii. p. 421) qui mille annorum regnum terrenum confirmant, qui cum Cerintho hæretico sapiunt. See also Nicephor. H. E. iii. 14, concerning Cerinthus, the promoter of Chiliasm.
† Euseb. iii. 28.