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Solomon: So true it is that the Christans had not yet determin'd which Books of Scripture were Canonical.
In his Exhortation to the Mar. tyr, after having taken notice of the mysterious Number seven ; the seven Days of the Creation; the seven thousand Years the World was to endure; the seven Spirits which are before God ; the seven Lamps of the Tabernacle; the seven Candlesticks of the Revelations; the seven Pillars of Wisdom; the feven Children of the barren Woman; the seven Women who were all married to one Man; and all this to expatiate on the seven Brothers mentioned in the Maccabees: He adds, that St. Paul has mentioned the number seven, as more excellent than any other; and for that Reason had writ only to seven Churches. Possibly St. Cyprian had found something to this Effect in some apocryphal Piece of this Apostle's, or by a particular Revelation ; for he frequently was favour'd, as he himself observes *, with Visions and Dreams in the Night, all which he us'd to relate the next Day to his Church, as so many admonitions from Heaven: And when these nocturnal Visions fail'd him, it was his practice to send for little Children, who being raised to extasy, instructed him in the Truth. Such were the Fruits of his too frequent perusal of Tertullian's Writings ; and as he had nor strengthened his Mind with folid Principles, he blindly imbib'd all the extravagant chimæras which are found in almost every page of that Father's Writings.
Such are the Fathers of the first Class, who may be consider'd as the Guardians of the Body of Tradition in favour of the Revelations. I
Epift. ad Presby. 16. Ed. Felli.
believe I have not omitted so much as one, from Justin to the middle of the third Century. Exactness was so much the more requisite here, as it is impossible for those who come later to produce Credentials of equal Authority with those who liv'd nearer the Age of St. John. Among these, some of them, as the Reader must have observ'd, quote the Revelations, but never once mention the Author's Name ; others, without informing us whether it was written by John the Apostle, or John the Priest: In a word, the major part, who are Justin Martyr, Ireneus, Tetulian, Origen and Hyppolitus, quote it as a Work of St. John the Apostle. But before we proceed farther, it may be proper to examine their Cotemporaries. We have already seen the Hereticks divided into Factions, and we shall now find the fame divisions among such as stood up for the defence of the 'Truth.
And to go fo far back into Antiquity as before the Age of Justin ; in the first place, we don't find the least mention of the Revelations in the seven Epistles of St. Ignatius, whereof three are address'd to the Churches of Ephesus, Philadelphia, and Smyrna, the fame to which St. John writes in his Revelations. Ignatius speaks of the Ephesians with peculiar distinctions, because of their having been taught by St. Paul : But why does he not pay them a compliment upon St. John's residing so long among them ; upon the particular care he had taken of them ; the Writings he had entrusted to them; and the Revelations which he had written at their request, in order to put, as we are told, the last hand to the Canon of the New Testament. All this must needs be fresh in every one's Memory, since Ignatius writ his Epistles in the 107th of Christ. This
filence is here pretty remarkable, especially as he was one of St. John's Disciples ; insomuch that it would almost raise fome suspicion with regard to the truth of these Circumstances, were they related by an Author whose sincerity was lefs suspected.
Papias, tho’almoft Cotemporary with St. John, does not yet make any mention of the Revelations. Eufebius enumerating such Books of the New Testament as Papias allowed to be Genuine, says nothing of the Revelations : And when this Historian takes notice in another place, of those who gave Testimony to the Revelations, we don't find he says a word of Papias, notwithstanding he had read his Writings; tho'he even tells us that Papias taught the Millennium therein, and that it had no other Foundation than an unwritten Tradition * 'Tis pretty extraordinary that a Millenarian should not quote the Revelations, in a Treatise wherein he endeavours to establish his Opinion. But to come to such Particulars as are more express :
Several Authors who lived before the Age of Denis of Alexandria, as he himself affures us in a copious Fragment which † Eufebius has transmitted to Pofterity, wrote Critiques on the Revelations; and these Authors must necessarily have been very ancient, since he quotes St. Denis himself who had perus’d them, and quotes several Passages from their Writings writ so early as the middle of the last Century: These not only entirely rejected the Book of Revelations, but even refuted every individual Chapter of it, and affirmed that the whole was a mere Rhapsody, wherein neither
* Eufeb. Ecclef. Hit. Lib. III. Cap. xxxix.
Sense or Reason could be found. Secondly, they affirmed that the Title of it was spurious, and that it was not written by St. John, or any other Apostle ; but added, That it was drawn up bag Cerinthus, who had ascrib'd it to the abovementioned Apostle, purely to give the greater santtion to his Chimeras, and insinuate bis Opinion with regard to the Millennium. Lastly, their Scruples were grounded on the nature of Revelation it self, which ought to be clear and intelligible, since it was exhibited merely upon that account; whence they concluded, that it was imposible for a Revelation, Madowed with fo thick a cloud of darkness and obscurity, to be genuine, and to bave been dictated by the Spirit of God.
'Tis plain that these ancient Authors, whose Writings are loft, descended to Particulars; and that their whole Criticism might be reduced to two Heads; the one drawn from Reason and the Nature of the Things themselves; the other, which were more foreign, related to Facts and Authorities. We need not much regret the loss of the former, since that may be fully compensated by the aid of that universal Reason, which is of all Countries and of all Ages. Every one has an opportunity of reading the Revelations, and of forming a judgment of the Work from the Work it felf; and of examining whether it be so obfcure, fo inexplicable, fo destitute of Sense and Reason, as the above-mentioned Writers affirm it to be. But as to the Facts which they knew to be genuine, had these come to our notice, they indeed would have been of greater service at this time, as they would remove the uncertainty into which the want of ancient Monuments must necessarily plunge us. This branch of their Cri
ticism, the object of which was to prove, that Cerint hus, and not St. John, was Author of the Revelations, wouli attone, in some measure, for the filence of Historians, with regard to the Revelations, from the Age of St. John to that of Fuftin, who first mentions that Book. Pomibly too, we then should have met with satisfactory Answers to our own Queries, from their Arguments, nay, from the very Objections they themselves started. But this would not have been the only instance of Truth's defending her self with those very Weapons which were taken up in order to foil her ; for she even strengthens herself with Arguments drawn from Writings of the Emperor Julian himself, and draws the greatest advantage from his strongest Objections.
To these Divines, who were all Greeks, we must add one of the Latins, an Author in great vogue about Ann. Dom. 200: The Person I mean is * Caills the Priest, the Oracle of the Church of Rome, and the Shield with which it opposed the Hereticks of that Age. This Author, in a Controversy which he had with the Millenarians, has the following words: When Cerinthus quotes certain Revelations as written by a great Apostle, he publishes no other than a set of Prodigies purely of his own invention, notwithstanding bis pretending they were revealid to him by Angels : He affirms, that after the Resurrection 7efus Christ will reign a thousand Tears upon Earth; that Mankind will enjoy sensual Pleasures in rusalem : and spend a thousand Years in nuptial Festivals, &c. There is no room to doubt, but that by these Revelations which were supposed to have boafted a great Apostle for their Author,
** Apud Eufeb. Hift. Ecclef. Lib. III. cap. xxxviii.