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ing to the true tenour of it, acknowledged by divines), first a fountain, then a rill, then, by the union of other divine streams, increasing in its course, till at length by the accession of the prophetical waters of the New Testament, and, above all, by the acquisition of the apocalyptical succours, it becomes a noble river, enriching and adorning the Christian land.
Michaelis speaks in high terms of the beautifully sublime, the affecting and animating manner in which the Apocalypse is written. But in what does this extraordinary grandeur and pathos consist? Not in the language, as he seems to imagine; for the evidence which he brings to confirm this notion, goes directly to refute and contradict. it. “ The Apocalypse,” says he, “ is beautiful “ and sublime, &c. not only in the original, but “ in every, even the worst translation of it*.” But is this the description of a beauty and sublimity arising from language? Will such stand the test of a bad translation ? far otherwise. Beauty which consists in language only, is seen to vanish with the language in which it was written, and in translation is very seldom preserved. But there is another kind of beauty, another kind of sublimity, which even a bad translation may convey: and excellence which stands this trial, is found to consist, not in language, but in ideas and imagery. These, in the Apocalypse, are so grand, so simple, so truly * P. 533, and again ch. iv. sect. 3. p. 112.
sublime, that, even rudely represented in any language, they cannot fail to elevate, to alarm, or to delight. This prophetical book can boast, indeed, no beauty of diction, so far as respects mere language. The words and expressions are rude and in harmonious, and, on this account, there is no book that will lose less by being translated. But this pure and simple sublimity, which is independent of the dress of human art, and to be found perhaps only in the sacred Scriptures, whence was it derived to this book ? which, on this account, must be pronounced to be either an heavenly production, like the other divine writings; or, such an imitation, such a forgery, as the Christian authors of that time were not likely, were not able, to produce. For there has been observed to be a very unequal gradation and descent, in point of pure, simple eloquence, just sentiment, and unsullied doctrine, from the Apostles, to the Fathers of the Church. And this circumstance has been applied, as an argument, to shew, that the books of the New Testament are of superior origin, and could not be fabricated by those Fathers, or in those times * The same argument may be applied to the origin of the Apocalypse, and with more force and effect, since it appears to have been published in the very times of these first Fathers. “ Whence," we may ask, almost in the words of Scripture, “ whence
* By Le Clerc, and by Jortin, Eccl. Hist.
“ hath this book these things ? What wisdom is " this which is given unto it * ?".
In the word of God there is a grandeur and majesty independent of the accidents of language, consisting in the greatness and sublimity of the things revealed. Men of genius may catch some sparks of this heavenly fire, they may imitate it, and with considerable success. But no one is found so confident in this kind of strength, as to neglect the arts of composition. Mahomet was a man of superior genius; in writing his pretended revelation, he borrowed much from the Sacred Scriptures; he attempted often, in imitation of them, to be simply sublime ; but he did not trust to this only; he endeavoured to adorn his work with all the imposing charms of hunian eloquence, and cultivated language; and he appealed to the perfection of his compositions, as a proof of their divine original. Such an appeal would have little served his cause in a critical and enlightened age; which would expect far other internal proofs of divinity, than those which result from elegant diction. The learned of such an age would reject a prophet appealing to a proof which has never been adınitted with respect to former revelations; a prophet, who both in doctrine, and in the relation of events, past and future, is seen to contradict, or add strange extravagant conceits to
* Mark vi. 2.
the credible and well-attested revelations of former times *.
There is nothing of this kind in the Apocaİypse. Compare it with forged prophecies : inany such have been written ; some calculated to deceive, others only to amuse. These works, if they amaze us, as appearing to have been fulfilled, are commonly found to have been written after the events foretold, and to have a retrospective date which does not belong to them t. But no one can shew that the Apocalypse contains prophecies, which were fulfilled before they were written.
We have accounts, in ecclesiastical history, of several apocalypses or revelations, besides this of Saint John ; of St. Peter, of St. Paul, of St. Thomas, of St. Stephen I Will these bear any comparison with the Apocalypse of St. John? Let our author speak of them; he knew perfectly all that remains of them, and was well acquainted with what the ancients have delivered concerning those that have perished. “ The
. In the Koran, which adınits the heavenly origin and divine inission of Jesus Christ, he is represented as returning to the earth, marrying, begetting children, and embracing the Mahometan doctrines'; and this is said plainly and without figure or mystery; and the reasons are plain why it is so said.
+ Thus the Sibylline Oracles, the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, Virgil's Anchises in the Elysian Fields, Gray's Bard, &c.
| Euseb. H. E. iii, cap. 3. 23. vi. c. 14. Gelasius de lib. Apocryph.
“ spurious productions of those ages (of the first “ and second century), which were sent into the “ world under the name of Apostles, are, for “ the most part, very unhappy imitations, and “ discover evident marks that they were not “ written by the persons to whom they are as“ cribed*
Fragments of these may be seen in the Codex Apocryph. of Fabricius; in Grabe's Spicilegia ; and in Jones's Canon of the New Testament; and may be compared with the simple and scriptural dignity of our Apocalypse. The Fathers of the first centuries compared them at length, and rejected all, but this acknowledged work of Saint John. And this they guarded with so sedulous a care, as to preserve it, in the main, free from interpolations; while the genuine productions of apostolical men, of Iguatius, Polycarp, &c. are known to have suffered from the contact of profane pens.
Two works of ecclesiastical writers of the first or second century, still preserved, and in some degree venerated, by our Church or its members, may be compared with the Apocalypse. They are the rivals which come nearest to it; they are proximi—longo intervallo. I mean the Visions of Hermas, and of the apocryphal Esdras. The former contains the relation of some dreains, which the writer may have possibly believed to be real inspiration, or may have in
* Introduct, to N. T. vol. iv. ch. xxvii, sect. I.