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OF THE METHOD PURSUED IN THIS INQUIRI.
In the following pages I propose to review the evidence which has been adduced, for the authenticity and divine inspiration of the Apocalypse ; to add thereto some collections of my own; and occasionally to remark on those observations of Michaelis*, which tend to invalidate it.
This evidence divides itself into external and internal. The external is, that which is derived from credible witnesses, from the early writers and fathers of the church. The internal is, that which results from a perusal of the book.
Michaelis appears to me an unfair reporter of the external evidence for the Apocalypse. He
* In the last chapter of his Introduction of the New Testament, to the pages of which, as published by Mr. Marsh, the figures at the bottom of these pages will be found to refer.
seems to have approached it with prejudice ; a prejudice occasioned by the opinion which he had previously formed concerning its internal evidence. For, it appears from passages of his chapter on the Apocalypse, that he considered the prophecies of this book, as still remaining dark and unexplained. He professes that he does not understand them; he declares himself dissatisfied with the attempts of other writers to shew their meaning and completion; and he esteems the contradictions of these interpreters to be more unfavourable to the pretensions of the Apocalypse, than even those ancient testimonies, that external evidence, to which he attributes no preponderance in its favour. Now, as they who appear to themselves to have discovered, in the completion of the Apocalyptic prophecies, certain proof of its dirine origin, (for a series of prophecy, punctually fulfilled, must be divine,) will be disposed to examine the external evidence with a prepossession in its favour; so he, who, by examining the internal evidence, has formed an opinion unfavourable to its pretensions, will enter upon the examination of its external evidence with that kind of prejudice, which is visible in the writings of this learned divine.
But, in our examination of the external evidence, we ought, so far as human infirmity may permit, to be free from any partiality; and to lay aside, for a season, our previous conceptions of
the weight of its internal evidence. The two species of evidence, external and internal, should be kept apart; they should not be suffered to incorporate or interfere; each should be considered at first with reference to itself only. After which separate examination, they may usefully and properly be brought together, and be allowed their due influence upon each other.
Such appears the proper method of proceeding in this inquiry, so as to lead to a fair and just conclusion. This method has not been usually pursued. The writers, who have presented us with the two kinds of evidence, have not kept them apart. When they treat, for instance, of the external evidence adduced by Dionysius of Alexandria; when they state how far it appears, from his writings, that he considered the Apocalypse as an inspired book, delivered down to his time as such by the early Fathers of the Church; they moreover produce, and under the same head, the criticisms of this writer on the style and manner of the book; which consideration belongs to the subject of internal evidence.
In the following pages, it will be my endeavour to keep these two species of evidence apart, until they have been separately considered, and may safely be suffered to unite. This method, so far as it can be followed, will tend to prevent the operation of prejudice, and to facilitate the production of truth.
I shall proceed, first, to the consideration of the external evidence.
CHAP. CHAP. II.
OF THE TIME WHEN THE APOCALYPSE AP
PEARS TO HAVE BEEN WRITTEN AND PUB-
The external evidence, for the authenticity and divine inspiration of the Apocalypse, is to be collected from the testinuonies of those ancient writers, who, living at a period near to its publication, appear, by their quotations or allusions, to have received it as a book of sacred Scripture. This was the test by which the primitive church was accustomed to determine the claims of all writings pretending to divine authority. All such writings were rejected, as appeared not to have been received by the orthodox Christians of the preceding ages*.
But to enable as to judge of the force of this evidence, as affecting any particular book, it is necessary to ascertain the time when the book was written. For if it shall appear to have been written and published in the early period of the apostolic age, we may expect to find testimonies concerning it, from apostles, or from
* Euseb. Hist. Eccl. lib. ii. . 3.
apostolical apostolical men *. If, on the contrary, it can be proved to have been published only in the Jatter times of that age, we shall not be intitled to expect this earlier notice of it.
Before, therefore, we proceed to examine the
is mentioned, it will be useful to ascertain the time in which it was published. For if it were not published before the year 96 or 97 (as some critics have pronounced) little or no notice could be taken of it by the writers of the first century; and, in such case, a writer in the second century, especially in the former part of it, becomes an evidence of great importance ; which importance would be much diminished, by the supposition, that the book had been written in the earliest part of the apostolic age, that is, almost a whole century before the time of that author.
This previous inquiry is the more necessary, since, according to Michaelis, no less than six different opinions have been advanced, concerning the time when the Apocalypse was written; only one of which can be true.
In examining these opinions, I shall endea
* Apostolical men, in the acceptation of the Fathers, were those who had been personally instructed by apostles ; and the apostolic age is that, which extends from before the middle of the first century, when the apostles began to write, to the close of that century, when St. John, the last surviving apostle, died. -Irenæus et Clem. Alexand. apud Euseb. H. E. lib. ii. c.23.