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To the astonishment of men and angels the King of kings and Lord of lords passed by all the fashionable circles of the rich and great, (the wise, learned, noble,) and stooped to the humble walks of life, and there made choice of poor but pious fishermen to be his ambassadors to a perishing and sinful world. “You see your calling, brethren," observes St. Paul, “ that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble men are called (to the ministry) but God hath chosen the foolish things of this world, and things that are despised hath he chosen; yea, and things that are not, to bring to nought things that are, that no flesh might glory in his presence, 1 Cor. 1:7. Among these were Peter and John, ignorant and illiterate in the estimation of men, but wise and learned (in spiritual things) in the estimation of God. They were the real priests, with Upim and Thummim divinely taught, and inspired by the Spirit of God. These were the men "who turned the world upside down by their preaching," astonished it with their wisdom, zeal, power and eloquence; no wonder, then, that three thousand were converted in one day under one sermon of Peter's. And John's Book of Revelation has been the wonder of the church in all ages. It is so profound, learned, lofty, roajestic, sublime in spiritual things, that it has remained a mystery for ages, and yet it is a revealed book ! How true is that saying, “the natural man discerneth not the things that are spiritual, because spiritually discerned they are foolishness to him.” And some divines who could not comprehend the author, have, like the Pharisees of old, poured down a flood of contempt on him and his book. Some have said that it is so wrapped and involved in figures and allegories, is so wild and visionary, is so dark and obscure, that nothing clear or certain can be proved from it. And another divine, so called, hath not scrupled to assert that the book of Revelation either finds a man mad or makes him so. And a third highly commends commentators for not giving their opinion on it at all. But to avoid old wives' fables and needless conjectures and opinions respecting the author of this book and the time when it was written, I shall endeavor, by the help of God, to prove that it was not written in the reign of Domitian, but in that of Nero. That St. John's Gospel was written before this book, is sufficiently clear from the first and second chapters. It is not easy to determine the time when he was released from the island, but it is not improbable that it was when Nero was going to make a canal from Avernam to Ostia, for the purpose of which, he ordered all persons, every where, to be released and brought to Italy ; and that such as were convicted of the most heinous crimes should be only condemned to work therein. See Suetonius in Nero. And if St. John was brought to Italy at this time, in all probability he had an opportunity of seeing Nero, Vespasian, and Titus, personally. That he did not survive the destruction of Jerusalem, is very evident from chap. 10:10, 11, and 11:1, 13. See chap. 20:4.
When, where, and by whom was it written, are grave questions, and difficult to answer. Evidence, therefore, external, internal, circumstantial, and collateral, are the only sources by which we can solve these difficulties.
Erternal evidence may be deduced from either sacred or profane history, and also from other sources. The Gospel according to St. John, his Epistles and Book of Revelation, are the only works of his which have been handed down to us through the church ; their authenticity and inspiration have never as yet been discredited. Strabo’s Geography, (his map of the world is attached to this work,) written before Christ-Josephus' Antiquities of the Jews, written a few years after the destruction of Jerusalem— Tacitus and Suetonius' History of Rome-Homer's Illiad— Plato and Socrates' systems of Philosophyhave never been doubted; and yet there is far greater evidence of the authenticity and genuineness of John's Gospel and A pocalypse than that of any of the works alluded to.
How clearly, forcibly, energetically, does John point out the corruptions and backslidings of the Seven Churches of Asia. They certainly must have been revealed to him in Patmos, or he should never previously and when absent have discovered them.
The white horse and his rider, the red horse, the pale horse, the black horse and their riders; the symbolic beasts; the beast coming up out of the bottomless pit and declaring war against Christ and his church ; the murder of the two witnesses ; the beast's wound in battle and recovery; his false miracles; the 1260 days of the war; the battle of Harmageddon ; the fall of spiritual Babylon; the remarkable events which preceded its ruin; the city divided into three different factions, who fought desperately with each other; the great effusion of human blood; the large stones thrown into it by engines, &c.; the great red dragon; his persecution of the church; her flight into the wilderness; his edict, under the emblem of water ; his loss of the empire because of this persecution ; the first resurrection; the binding and loosing of Satan; the final destruction of Gog and Magog by fire from heaven ; are all predictions which either have been or shall be very soon fulfilled.
Justin the Martyr, in the year of our Lord 140, quotes largely from John's Book of Revelation.
Mileto, bishop of Sardis, wrote explanatory notes on it.
Theophilus, of Antioch, makes several quotations from it in his controversy with Hermogenes.
Clement, of Alexandria, refers to it frequently.
Epiphanius, still earlier, Tertullian, Origen, Andreas, and Arethas, all assert that it was written before the destruction of Jerusalem, and in the reign of Nero. Bishop Newton and many other eminent men are of the same opinion. When we come to treat on the internal evidence of it, we shall more fully establish this point.
It is couched in dark, mysterious, or symbolic language; but this was absolutely necessary, because of the hatred of both Jews and Gentiles to Christianity, and especially the rulers of both nations, who viewed it with a jealous and malignant eye. The fact is, it was sapping the very foundation of both systems, and becoming so popular that all nations were submitting to the mild and easy yoke of Jesus.
Judaism was now toitering and ready to fall, and Paganism giving way to Christianity in every quarter, and the kingdoms of this world becoming the kingdoms of our Lord and his Christ: Nero became exceedingly jealous of Christ and his kingdom, because making such vast inroads on the empire. This was the very cause of his persecution of the christians; he was afraid Christ should become his rival in the government, and he was determined to exterminate his followers. See Exod. 1:9, 10. This book, therefore, if it fell into the hands of either Jews or Gentiles might be interpreted as treasonable, and John not only lose his head, but another general persecution be raised against the church. This accounts for the metaphorical and ambiguous style of it.
Internal evidence. This is founded on reason and inspiration.
1. Then, if the remarkable events set forth in this Book are prophecies, of which there can be no doubt, (chap. 1:3; 22: 19,) and if they were literally fuilled, then John must have been a prophet as well as an apostie, and his Book be written by inspiration of God. See 1 Pet. 1:21. John is classed among the prophets by the angel; chap. 22: 9.
2. Were these remarkable predictions and events fuljitied in the reign of Domitian or that of Nero ? are questions of the utmost importance. We think we shall make this matter so plain and simple that there can be wo doubt as to when John wrote this book, and by whom he was banished into the isle of Patmos.
3. It certainly couid not iuve oven in the length of Durenciun, for not a single event set forth in the book tová piace during his reign, but they all tock place in the time of No.
4. Our Lord indicated to both Peter and jonn that they siouid live until he came to judge the Jews, and inen die martyrs for him there. John, 21:18, 22. His coming, here, could not surely refer to the day of judgment, but to his coming to destroy Jerusalem; an event predicted by the prophets, and called
day of the Lord” in the Scriptures. When that city was destroyed, then all the predictions of the prophets were literally fulfilled. Luke, 21:22.
5. Peter and John were then either seventy or seventy-five years of age ;
but if John lived to the reign of Domitian he must have been over one hundred, a thing improbable. Besides, the book itself shows clearly that it was the production of a man considerably younger in years ; the language, the ideas, the force and energy of it, all establish this fact.
6. Chapter 1:17; 11:8; 12:3, prove, beyond doubt, that Jerusalem was not destroyed when this book was written. Hence, “ Every eye shall see him," Jews and Gentiles; "and they also that pierced him," the priests and the Jewish people, beyond doubt. Luke, 23:13, 14, 18; Acts, 2:23, 36 ; also, 3:15; 4:27; 5: 29. " And all the tribes of the earth shall mourn." In the siege of Jerusalem, the tribes were all confounded and destroyed, or else carried captives into Egypt, and have never, as yet, been discovered.
7. Judah was to remain a distinct tribe until Shiloh came, and then all distinction was to cease forever. The literal was to be blended with the spiritual. Chap. 7:5.
8. It was in the time of general persecution and general commotion that St. John was banished into Patmos, and must have been the very time predicted by our Lord. Matt. 24:6–14. We assert that no such events as are described in this chapter took place in the time of Domitian, but were all literally fulfilled in the reign of Vero.
9. There was no general persecution of the Christians, as such, in the reigns of Vespasian, Titus, or Domitian. They detested the Jews, and some of them, because of their wealth, and through the avariciousness of Domitian, were falsely accused oj treason, and banished into foreign countries and their property seized by him. Some christian Jews improfessi (not in profession, but outwardly such,) were treated in the same way, as the emperor did not perceive the distinction, and therefore treated both alike. To commence at this late period a general persecution of the Christians, would be at the risk of losing his head and his crown. See Suetonius. Neither Tacitus nor Suetonius intimates such a thing as a persecution of the Christians in his time, but both mention that of Nero's, anıl animadverts severely on Nero for his barbarous and cruel conduct in this respect.
10. A mighty and powerful nation was to be subdued and utterly destroyed in the reign of either one or other; but such an event did not occur in the time of Domitian, but in the reign of Nero. Vespasian then destroyed the mighty and holy people, and caused them to be extinct, as a nation, for ever.
11. These great national calamities were then at hand, within reach or sight of the people. Chap. 1:3. They took place immediately after the release of John from the Isle of Patmos.
12. This national destruction was to be accompanied by the seven plagues of Egypt, as was predicted two thousand years before by Moses. Deut. 28: 60. These plagues came on the Jews alone, and on no other nation. Chapter 6:8, 9.
13. The battle of Harmageddon was fought in a province exactly 200 miles in length. Chap. 14:20. But no such battle was fought in Italy in the reign of Domitian, but it took place in the time of Nero.
14. Wars and rumors of wars, general and national calamities, accompanied the downfal of Jerusalem in Nero's time ; but no such calamities came upon the world in that of Domitian.
15. A vial, or heavy judgment, was to be poured out on the seat of the Pagan beast; and three kings at this time were to be subdued in contending for the crown. These were Galba, Otho, and Vitellius. Chapter 16: 10. There were no kings contending for the crown in Domitian's time.
16. Daniel's beast was then to succeed to the empire; and this is the very beast that was to destroy the mighty and holy people, and cause the daily sacrifice to cease for ever from Jerusalem.
17. Peace was restored in the East among the Parthians, in Nero's time, and not in that of Domitian. Chap. 16:12. This is represented by the waters of the Euphrates being dried up; or, may allude to the bridge which Nero had thrown across this river for his armies to pass over.
18. The symbolic locusts were let loose in the time of the beast with the seven heads and ten horns, and not in the reign of Domitian. Chap. 9: 3.
19. Gabriel came on a special mission, to announce that time should be no longer (than the 1260 days) with the Jews; but he did not in the reign of Domitian declare that time should be no longer with us Gentiles. Chapter 10:6, 19. For, after this,
20. The two witnesses had to prophesy; the woman to flee into the wilder· ness of Judea, because of persecution, and Babylon to fall, and then the king
doms of this world become the kingdoms of our Lord and his Christ; which proves beyond doubt that his mission was special, and not general.
21. A great earthquake caused the tenth part of Babylon to fall; but we have no account of any such event in Rome in the time of Domitian. Chapter 13: 11.
22. Domilian did not declare war against both Jews and Christians, for Jerusalem was destroyed thirty years previous, and another general persecution of the Christians would be a hazardous game with him, as Nero lost the throne by it; and it was still more dangerous in his time, as nearly the whole empire had now embraced Christianity. The palace, the senate, the forum, and a great part of the public offices were filled with Christians, because of their strict integrity and piety. See chap. 12:7.
23. His ministers or magistrates did not destroy the third part of the stars of heaven, (or Christ's ministers,) but Nero did. Chap. 12:4. And he lost the empire because of it; verses 9, 10.
24. Our Lord was crucified in Jerusalem and not in Rome; and in the