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Yet I shall pursue the subject, because it has been pursued further by Michaelis. It is, at least, curious, to know the sentiments of later writers on the external evidence; though the same accuracy in examining them may not be required.
GREGORY of Neocæsarea, surnamed Thaumaturgus, not mentioned by Michaelis, is supposed to have referred, in his Panegyrical Oration, to Rev. iii. 7. if not to Isa. xxii. 22. The observation is Lardner'st, who remarks also that Gregory, having been the pupil of Origen, and much attached to that great man, probably rereived the same Canon of Scripture.
DIONYSIUS, of Alexandria, was another pupil of Origen, and, like Gregory, a man of emi. nence. He received the Apocalypse as a divine prophecy, which he represents to be dark indeed and ænigmatical, and above his comprehension, yet certainly divine ; and he says he could not dare to think otherwise of it, since many of the brethren held it in the highest esteem. He appeals to it, likewise, as containing a divine prophecy, which he believes to have
* Dr. Less, in his History of Religion, closes his evidence with Origen, and Mr. Marsh observes, that further testimony is unnecessary. See Introd. vol. i. p. 361. + Cred. Gosp. Hist. art. Greg. of N. C. Euseb. H. E. lib. vii. c. 25.
been fulfilled during his own times, in the character and conduct of the persecuting Em. peror Valerian *. At the same time, it was the opinion of Dionysius, that the Apocalypse, though of divine origin, was not written by the Apostle John, but by some other John, an holy and inspired man. But where are the grounds of this opinion ? Are they historical ? Does, he allege in their support any external evidence ? any tradition of the Church ? No. He gives his opinion as a conjecture forined upon the internal evidence of the book, on certain peculiarities of style and manner, which appeared to him discordant from those of Saint John in his Gospel and Epistles.
These arguments of Dionysius will be considered, when we examine the internal evidence, by which the authority of the book is supported or invalidated. It is our present business to report only the external evidence of Dionysius. And the amount of this is, that the Apocalypse was generally received, in his time, as a sacred prophecy, and by such men as he revered, and wished not to oppose ; that some persons had rejected it, and ascribed it to Cerinthus ; that he himself believed it to be a book of sacred authority, doubting, at the same time, whether it were properly referred to the Apostle John.
It is the opinion of Michaelis, (and Lardner has afforded some occasion for it) that, al* Euseb. H. E. lib. vii. c. 10. ..
though though Dionysius professed in such strong terms his reception of the Apocalypse, as a divine book of Prophecy, yet he did not believe it such in his heart. Dionysius has certainly affirmed such to be his belief in plain and positive terms; and his practice was agreeable to his professions. For we have seen that he proceeded so far, as to explain a prediction of the Apocalypse as actually fulfilled. Now, if proofs were wanting of the sincerity and plain Christian honesty of Dionysius's character, this particular fact, that he appealed to the Apocalypse, as containing a prophecy which he believed to be fulfilled, would place beyond all doubt, that he believed that book to be inspired. But Dionysius was confessedly a man of an open, artless probity; and Lardner celebrates him as such, adding, in his account of him, that he had at the same time (which is a usual accompaniment of such a character) an honest and excessive warmth. But the conduct which Michaelis attributes to him on this occasion, is that of a sly, captious hypocrite. Certainly, neither the general character, nor conduct of Dionysius, nor the facts which have now appeared before us, can in any degree warrant such a conclusion*.
• Michaelis has defended his opinion, by arguments which appear to me unequal to the defence of it. He says, that Dio. nysias bas assigned reasons for his not venturing to reject the A pocalypse, which are wholly devoid of importance. They did not appear such to Dionysius, nor will they, I think, to the
This Father of the Church appears to me to have thought, that he was doing no injury to
generality of Christian readers. 1. “He did not reject it, be« cause many of the brethren held it in the highest esteem." Now, surely, this is a reason which must be allowed to have considerable weight on the mind of a modest and sensible man. The pupils of Irenæus, of Tertullian, of Hippolytus, and of Origen, were still living. They had been taught by their masa ters, and by the general tradition of the Church, to consider the Apocalypse as a book of divine authority : and they resisted the new-fashioned votions, derived froin the Alogi or Caius, who ascribed it to Cerinthus, Box otuóns, zealously. Dionysius was modest, and had a due deference to the opinions of such inen, and he censures obliquely those who, in' his time as in ours, delighted to run counter to the received opinions of the Church.
2. The other reason, which Dionysius assigns for not rejecting the Apocalypse, and which our author deems also weak and unimportant, is in answer to those who rejected it, because it was difficult to be understood. But Dionysius answers, that, “ He, for his part, does not reject what he does not understand > " that, not being able to understand the Apocalypse, he sup“ poseş it to contain a sublimer sense than his faculties can “ reach; and to become, therefore, the object of his faith, “ rather than of his understanding; and that his wonder and " admiration are in proportion to his ignorance." Now, this argument, which may be accounted weak, and (from such a man as Dionysius) insulting, supposing him not to believe the divine inspiration of the book, will be found to carry with it a considerable force and efficacy, if we suppose him to believe it. Try it, by an application of it to other difficult parts of Scripture, to the unfulfilled Prophecies of Isaiah, Ezekiel, or Daniel. Shall we reject these, and deny their divine inspiration, because we do not understand then ? Far otherwise. They have been delivered to us by our Christian ancestors, as of sacred authority: they are strongly supported by external evidence, We must
the Apocalypse, by assigning to it another author, instead of St. John, to “some holy and “ heavenly inspired man.” So far, at least, he might fairly think, that he was defending the book, by taking away the foundation of those objections to it, which arose from the dissimilarity of its style from that of St. John's. And -perhaps he might reason, that as the Apocalypse is not evangelical history, it may not necessarily require the evidence of an eye-witness of our Lord's life; that as it is not a book revealing doctrines and rules of conduct, it may not be necessarily confined to the pen of an Apostle ; but that some other holy martyr, some apostolical man (for the time of its date implied so much) might, like Daniel, or other Prophets of the Old Testament, be selected by the Spirit, to convey these visions to the Church. I do not
wait the time of their completion with pious awe and patience. We may not be able to understand them; we may wonder, but we cannot reject. Would the Jews, who lived before our Saviour's time, have been justified in rejecting the dark and ænigmatical, and, to appearance, contradictory prophecies, which represented him as a triumphal king and conqueror, despised and rejected of men, &c. merely because they did not understand them? This argument of Dionysius is not, therefore, “wholly devoid of importance." It was that which influenced all the Fathers of the Church ; who, although they understood not the Apocalypse, received it on its external evidence with pious veneration, and delivered it to succeeding times. And it is our duty to follow their example, modestly and diligently to interpret what we can, and to deliver the remainder to be fulfilled and interpreted in future ages.