« הקודםהמשך »
vented as useful allegory. The imagery of this book is borrowed from Scripture, but in a servile style of imitation, which indicates no sight or communication of any original vision. There is nothing which makes “ our hearts burn within us," as we read.
The preceptive and doctrinal parts of this book are simple and moral, and were therefore used in the ancient Church to initiate youth into religion *. But although such an use of the book could not fail to spread a prejudice in its favour, it does not appear to have been received by the ancients as a divine work; at least it was so received by very fewt.
The second book of apocryphal Esdras, though preserved by our Church among those which may be read “ for instruction, but not to esta“blish doctrine .," is convicted nevertheless of evident forgery. The author has assumed a name and age to which he had no title, and his prophecies which appear fulfilled, were evidently written after the events foretold. He has otherwise a superior dignity to Hermas, and imitates more successfully the sacred prophets. He has made great use of the prophecies of the
Euseb, H. E. lib. iii. c. 3. + See Leland's Cred. Gosp. art. Hermas, and also vol. viii. 98. xii. 158, where he speaks with much inforination and learned inquiry, concerning the apocryphal books of the New Testament. | Articles of Religion, art. vi.
Apocalypse *. But a particular comparison of the passages in each writer would involve us in too long a disquisition. I mention these books, that the reader may compare them at his leisure.
By the preceding observations we may appear fully to have answered the objection to the Apocalypse, which first proceeded from the Alogi, and was afterwards taken up by some of the Church, that not Saint John, or any A postle, but that Cerinthus, or some false fabricator, was the author of the workt. I
pass on to the consideration of an objection against the Apocalypse, which is also connected with its internal evidence; preferred against it in very early times, and often repeated even to this day, the obscurity of the book. This was the grand stumbling block with the ancient Fathers; and it continues to be such with Michaelis, who frequently repeats it I.
To this general charge of obscurity, a general answer may be given. How can you expect a series of prophecies, extending from the apostolical age to the consummation of all things, to be otherwise than obscure? It is the nature of such prophecy to give but an imperfect lights,
* See Mr. Gray's learned and judicious account of this book. Gray's Key to the Old Testament.
+ Michaelis has shewn, froin internal evidence, that Cerinthus could not be its author, p. 469.
* P. 459, 502, 503, 511.
even in the case of prophecies fulfilled; because the language in which they are delivered is symbolical, which, though governed by certain rules", and therefore attainable by the judicious among the learned, is nevertheless very liable to misconstruction, in rash and unskilful lands. But propliecies, yet unfulfilled, are necessarily involved in deeper darkness, because the event is wanting to compare with the prediction, which of itself 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 provi“ dence, not that of the interpreter, be then “ manifested thereby to the worldt.”
This same objection of obscurity will operate as forcibly against many of the prophecies of the Old and of the New Testament; as against those of the Apocalypse ; particularly the predictions which appertain to the latter days *.
* See this explained in Bishop Lowth's Prelections, p. 69, 70, and in Bishop Hurd's Sermons on Prophecy. + Sir Isaac Newton on Daniel, &c. p. 251.
The Jewish Sanhedrim doubted at one tiine whether tley should not reject the book of Ezekiel from their Canon of Scripture; and one principal argument of this debate was the extreme obscurity of the book. Calmet's Dissert. vol. ii. p. 269. Sir Isaac Newton argues otherwise concerning the Apocalypse ; he argues from internal evidence, that “it is a part of this pro" phecy, that it should not be understood before the last age of
The book of Daniel, which has our Saviour's seal to it*, must be rejected with the Apocalypse, if it be a sufficient objection to it, that it is yet in many places obscure.
But with respect to the Apocalypse, Michaelis has helped us to some specious arguments, whereby to shew that the difficulties of the book have not yet been fairly encountered ; that the men, who have attempted to explain it, have not been possessed of the necessary requisites t. To those who entertain this opinion, that “the prophecies of the Apocalypse have " not been satisfactorily interpreted,” this might be a sufficient answer; for by such persons a hope may be yet entertained that, as the failure in expounding the Apocalypse is to be accounted for, by the want of proper qualifications in the expounders, this defect may in time be obviated. But the greater part of learned Christians who have applied themselves to the study of the Apocalypse, are not of this opinion. They are persuaded that a part of these prophecies have received their completion. But if that were not the case, if no such conviction were obtained ; surely they would not be justified in rejecting a book so authenticated as
“ the world ; and, therefore it makes for the credit of the pro
phecy that it is not yet understood." Sir I. Newton on Prophecy, ch. i. p. 251.
* Matt. xxiv, 15. 4. P. 505-511,
divine, divine, merely because they do not yet understand it. If such had been the rash proceedings of the Primitive Fathers of the Church, we should not at this time have possessed the book. But it has pleased divine Providence to preserve it to us, and, if we cannot yet understand it, it is our duty to deliver it to the studies of posterity.
We cannot know what ages of Christianity are yet to come; in what manner the predictions of the book may yet be fulfilled; nor what portion of the Divine Spirit, or of human knowledge, may be yet granted to explain it. The prophecies, now dark, may, to future generations, become “ a shining light,” and the apocalyptical predictions, rendered clear by their completion, serve as an impregnable bulwark of Christian faith, during the later ages of the militant Church. Difficulties are found in the abstruser parts of every kind of speculative knowledge. Every study has its dark recesses, not hitherto penetrable by human wit or industry. These apocalyptical prophecies are among the deeper speculations in the study of divinity. And are we to be surprised, that man meets with difficulties here; man whose bold, prying insolence is checked in the paths of every science, by the incomprehensible greatness of the works of God!
We may, therefore, conclude, that no just cause has been assigned to induce us to reject