« הקודםהמשך »
nity. It proclaims itself as the Revelation of Jesus Christ*. Hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches; Such is the conclusion of each of the seven letters to the seven Churches. Blessed is he who readeth and keepeth the words of this prophecy t. I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book ; and if any man shall take away the words out of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of Life t.
Such is the solemn language of the Apocalypse concerning itself.
Are not these words from Heaven?
Again. Not only does the Author thus lay claim to inspiration, but he professes to exercise a gift peculiar to Almighty God. He predicts the future. He lays open a long avenue of events, rising up one after another in clear perspective through the interval of time, extending from that Lord's day in which he was in the Spirit upon the shores of the isle of Patmos even to the Day of Doom. He opens the gates of Heaven; he displays the Throne of the Most High; he places us amid the angelic hierarchy, and bids us listen to seraphic melodies ; he sounds the trumpets of God's judgments, and pours out the vials of His wrath on a guilty world; he calls us to
* Rev. i. 1.
† Rev. i. 3. xxii. 7. | Rev. xxii. 18.
witness the destruction of the seven-hilled Babylon; he unseals the bottomless pit; he discloses the dark abyss; he shows us the awful scenes of the general Resurrection and of the Day of Judgment: in a word, he reveals the future, till Time is lost in Eternity.
What, therefore, must we now say? One of two alternatives: either the author of the Apocalypse is divinely inspired, or else, with reverence be it said, he is guilty of profanely usurping the name and attributes of God.
Let us now advance still further.
If we survey the opening chapters of the Apocalypse, we find that they consist of epistolary addresses, directed to the seven angels of seven churches in seven celebrated cities in that region of the world, which, in the language of the New Testament, is called Asia. This Asia, you will bear in mind, is not the vast tract of Asia according to the modern acceptation of the word, but it is, in Roman language, Proconsular Asia, or Lydia *. It was a province of not more than one hundred miles square, watered on the north by the river Caycus, on the south by the Mæander, and bounded on the east by the Phrygian hills, and on the west by the Mediterranean sea. We take for granted,—what no
* See Archbishop Ussher's Treatise “On the Original of Bishops and Metropolitans," Oxford, 1641, p. 53–96. The whole of this essay is very pertinent to the Apocalypse.
here present will call in question, that the angels of these seven Asiatic Churches are their several chief pastors, the messengers of the Lord of Hosts *; that is, as Christian antiquity witnesseth, their respective Bishops †.
The language addressed by the author of the Apocalypse to these Angels or Bishops is very remarkable. He speaks to them with the voice of authority; he treats them as his own inferiors; and he regards them as responsible to himself. He rebukes them sharply, for the failings of their Churches in doctrine or in discipline.
Be it further observed, that these letters were addressed to the Angels of the Churches in order that they might be read openly in those Churches t.
Thus these rebukes were public. It is also worthy of remark, that, in his original * Mal. ii. 7. Hag. i. 13. † Bede, Explan. Apocalyps. in cap. i.
Septem stelle angeli sunt septem ecclesiarum.] Id est, rectores ecclesiarum. Sacerdos enim, ut Malachias ait, angelus Domini exercituum est. - So Aquinas, cap. i. Septem stellas, septem Episcopos Ecclesiarum, per quos intelligantur universi prælati qui sunt electi. Cap. i. p. 35, Angelos dicit Episcopos propter eminentiam vitæ
quam debet habere prælatus. — See also Abp. Ussher, l. c.
See Lightfoot in Rev.üi. The phrase " Angel of the Church" is equivalent, he observes, to 7738 nobe “the Minister of the Synagogue," who took care for the public reading of the Law and the Prophets ; and these Epistles are sent accordingly to the Ministers in the several Churches, to be read openly in the congregation.
Greek, the epithets, (such as dead, hot, cold, poor, rich, blind, naked *, and the like,) which the writer uses to characterize the qualities and condition of these several Churches, agree in gender not with the feminine word Church, as might have been expected, but with the masculine word Angel. They are all masculine; not one feminine. So that the address to the Churches is personal to their several Angels. The author lays on each Angel the failings of his particular Church, and thereby (we may remark in passing) he gives a most solemn view of Episcopal Responsibility.
Observe now more closely how he speaks of the seven Churches thus personified by their Chief Pastors. He remonstrates with Ephesus for having left its first love. The Angel of Pergamos is reproved for conniving at the doctrine of Balaam. Thyatira is censured for suffering a Jezebel to teach. Sardis has a name to live, but is dead. Laodicea is neither hot nor cold. For all these faults and corruptions the Angels of the respective Churches are held accountable, and are reproved by the Writer of the Apocalypse.
Again; he gives them advice, as a father would to his children. He exhorts them to strengthen the things that remain: he promises them rewards for fidelity and perseverance. If they fall away, their candlestick shall be removed; but he that over
* In Chapters ij. and ji.
cometh shall eat of the fruit of the tree of life, and shall receive a crown of never-fading glory.
Who now, it may be asked, is he, that comes forth from Patmos to address this language of public reproof to the venerable Bishops of Asia? Who shall thus summon them before him, as if to a judicial tribunal ? Who pronounce such verdicts upon them? Can it be any ordinary man, who thus speaks and acts ? Can a Layman, can a Presbyter, can even a brother Bishop address such language as this to the chief pastors of the Asiatic Churches ? to men who have received their commission from the first followers of Christ, and have had the hands of Apostles laid on their heads? In those early days at least, when respect for constituted authority was regarded as a part of religion; and when they were severely censured, who intruded into the province of others*, and uttered rash judgments concerning their spiritual Guides; such language from an inferior, or even from an equal, to Christian Bishops, would have been impossible.
We are brought, therefore, to this conclusion: either the Author of the Apocalypse was some person who stood in a peculiar, and, we add, in the unique relation of an Ecclesiastical Superior to these Asiatic Angels; or else we must confess that, in employing such language as that in which he addressed them, he usurped the prerogative of an office which no faithful Christian would have dared to invade.
* αλλοτριοεπίσκοποι, 1 Ρet. iv. 15.