the least probability that the seven churches of Asia, addressed by Christ in the Apocalypse, had even been organized as early as the reign of Claudius. Yet this opinion, so utterly devoid of evidence, was maintained by the learned Grotius, who has indeed given it all its consequence.

The common, and for a long period, uniform belief in the church, as to the date of the Apocalypse, assigns it to the close of the reign of Domitian, A. D. 95 or 96. A strenuous attempt has of late been made to prove that its origin is to be dated toward the close of the reign of Nero, A. D. 68. No other opinion is deserving of attention. In one or other of these dates lies the truth. Prof. Stuart concedes, that if the number of the witnesses were the only thing which should control our judgment in relation to the question proposed, we must, so far as external evidence is concerned, yield the palm to those who fix upon the time of Domitian." Yet he thinks that the value of the testimony is not equal to that which may be adduced in favor of its being written in the time of Nero. The “catena of external evidence starts with the testimony of Irenæus." His testimony, however, he sets aside as the mere opinion” of that father. Consequently, the first link being broken, the entire chain of patristic testimony as to its date, falls to the ground. There is a very summary way of getting rid of the external

evidence, to say the least; but let us examine whether it be merely “ the opinion” of Irenæus, or something demanding more respect.

I. The language of Irenæus does not intimate a mere opinion on his part, but asserts a fact. As an opinion, it would certainly be entitled to respect; certainly much more so than the opinions of those who had not half the opportunities he had, for forming a correct judgment. The following is the passage in full, as given by Eusebius' with his introductory remark. Professor Stuart has quoted but the last sentence of Irenæus.

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Γραφων γε τοι ο Ειρηναιος περι της ψηφό της κατα τον Αντιχριστον προσηγοριας φερομενης, εν τη Ιωαννα λεγομενη Αποκαλυψει, αυταις συλλαβαις εν πεμπτω των προς τας αιρέσεις ταυτα περι τα Ιωαννέ φησιν. δε εδει αναφανδον εν τω νυν καιρώ κηρυττεσθαι τα νομα τατο, δι' εκεινε αν ερρεθη τε και την Αποκαλυψιν έωρακοτος: ουδε γαρ προ πολλα χρονο έωραθη, αλλα σχεδον επι της ημετερας γενεας, προς το τελος της Δομιτιανε αρτης.

“ Irenæus truly writing concerning the calculation taken from the epithet of Antichrist, in the aforesaid Revelation of John, speaks concerning John, in the following manner, in his fifth book against the heresies. If, however, it was necessary openly at this time to proclaim this same name (i. e. Antichrist), it would have been spoken by him that had even seen the revelation ; for it was not long since seen, but almost in this our own generation, at the

1 Hist. Eccles., iii., 18.

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close of Domitian's reign.” If any language can assert a fact this does. There is nothing whatever here which intimates that it was a mere “opinion” he entertained on the subject. For,

II. Irenæus does not only assert it as a fact, that John saw the Revelation during the reign of Domitian, but states it as one about which there was no doubt-one admitted on all hands and requiring no proof. He speaks precisely as we should, in reference to a well known and undisputed fact. We say now as matter of fact, of the work of A. M'Leod, D.D., of New York, on the Apocalypse, that it was not long since written, but almost in this our own generation, during the war with Great Britain, near the close of the Presidency of James Madison. A learned critic, if an equal occasion served, might hereafter just as unceremoniously set aside this our direct testimony with regard to a matter of fact, as Professor Stuart has done that of Irenæus, by saying it is only our “ opinion!" This will not do. Its absurdity is too apparent.

III. Still further: Irenæus states the fact for the purpose of proving another, and a very different, thing, viz. the propriety of not designating by name the Antichrist. His argument is : “ It is unnecessary for us to proclaim Antichrist by name, for if it had been necessary, it would have been done by the author of the Apocalypse, who wrote that book so very near our own time, almost in our own generation, at the close of Domitian's reign.” Here, he assumes the date of its origin as a thing unquestioned, and founds his argument on it, which derives all its force from the circumstance of its being fact. Had it been the mere "opinion” of Irenæus there would have been no point, propriety, or force at all in his argument. This evidence of the allusive kind, is better proof as to the correctness of the date mentioned, than even the simple historical statement of Irenæus on the subject. A fact assumed in argument as one unquestioned, can never be correctly styled an “opinion.”

IV. So far from its being the mere "opinion” of Irenæus, it has been, from the very beginning, regarded and quoted as his testimony, or assertion, of a matter of historical verity. So Eusebius evidently understood it. He has, in three other and different places, quoted or referred to this passage of Irenæus, as testimony to matter of historical verity.' So Jerome and others have under. stood it. Even Professor Stuart himself is constrained to change his style in relation to it, and in one place to call it " testimony." “ The whole concatenation of witnesses in favor of this position,” says he," viz. that John saw the Revelation during the reign of Domitian, hangs upon the testimony of Irenæus." Both the language and the style of the passage entitle it to be so designated. He is still further constrained to admit, that this concatenation of witnesses goes to prove how widely the tradition mentioned by Irenæus had spread. Thus has he given three versions of it. It is at one time Irenæus's “testimony," at another his report of a “ tradition, and at a third his opinion.” A little more precision in a matter so grave as the impeachment of the credibility of an author, might certainly be expected; especially, inasmuch as the character and range of evidence will be materially affected by the question to be determined,—whether it is his own testimony, or his statement of a tradition, or his opinion.

1 Hist. Eecles. iii., 23, 20, and v., 8. 3 Com, i., p. 269.

It has already been seen, that there is nothing in the language, or style, or in the occasion and circumstances of its delivery, that proves it to have been a mere opinion,” which Irenæus had formed on grounds known only to himself, but which, by the weight of his authority, had gained respect and currency in antiquity. This is Prof. Stuart's “constructive exegesis” of Irenæus, but unfortunately without any attempt to justify it from an analysis of its style and language. The utmost that can be said of the course he has pursued towards this Father, is, that he has advocated a mere hypothesis for the purpose, more successfully, of impeaching his credibility. Common minds are apt to confound between the opinions and the testimony of a witness; but in a matter of so much importance as the impeachment of a whole.chain of witnesses, it is of consequence to discriminate.

We think it is impossible, on any fair pretext, to set aside, in this way the testimony of Irenæus. If it be not worthy of credit, let it be at once impeached. Should his testimony here be shown to have been his “ opinion” merely, on a subject as to which he had neither sufficient means of knowledge, nor capacity and opportunity for investigation, it will go far to invalidate it. But if this cannot be done, it must stand, and continue, as it has done for centuries, to command deserved respect and confidence.

Having, therefore, shown that the passage from Irenæus is not the expression of a mere “ opinion,” but testimony or reference to an admitted historical fact, we proceed to examine whether the considerations adduced by Prof. Stuart, evidently, though not avowedly, to impeach the credibility of Irenæus, do actually invalidate the evidence he has furnished, that John wrote the Apocalypse during the reign of Domitian. And here, as it is important we should know something about the character and reputation of the witness whose testimony is impeached, we may inquire into,

V. His general character as a man, a Christian, and a historian. 1. Dr. Murdock says of him, that “he was an ardent and sincere Christian, and a discreet and amiable man. He possessed considerable learning and influence, but his mind does not appear to have been one of the highest order.” Yet did he possess mind enough to command the respect of his contemporaries. Mosheim, speaking of the schism in relation to the observance of Easter,

1 Murdock's Mosheim, vol. i., p. 120, n. 5.

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says that “the progress of it was checked by Irenæus, bishop of Lyons, in letters wisely composed.” Eusebius has occasion to quote from him, or to refer to him as authority, frequently, and he does it always with respect and confidence.

There is nothing on record to impeach his credibility in point of veracity, or his competency in point of judgment, in relation to matters of current and admitted historical fact.

The only thing that tends to abate our respect for him is, that Eusebius, speaking of his treatise on the Ogdoad, or number eight, says that in that book he also shows that he was the first that received the original succession from the Apostles.” What Eusebius means

2 to teach that Irenæus precisely understood by this, we are at a loss to determine; for certain it is that the language of the former on this subject does not imply anything more than the regular chain of persons settled as bishops or pastors in particular churches, as at Jerusalem, Antioch, Rome, and elsewhere—not the high, exclusive pretensions to the only valid ordination made by prelatists. Irenæus may have been the first who collected historical information on the subject, and gave a list of the different pastors successively settled in the churches in Rome, Jerusalem, Antioch, Ephesus, and other places, from the days of the Apostles; which would only commend his diligence and care as a historian, and by no means impeach his credibility. Be this as it may, we cannot see ground sufficient to reject his testimony. His character, as a credible and competent witness, cannot be successfully impeached. Murdock does indeed say, that “ as an interpreter of Scripture, he was too fond of tracing analogies, and as a theologian, few of the moderns will account him entirely correct in principle, or perfectly conclusive in his reasonings. All this may be, and yet not affect in the least degree the credibility of his testimony as to the historical fact, that John wrote the Apocalypse during the reign of Domitian. For neither his allegorical interpretation of Scripture, nor his theological peculiarities, nor even his high-church predilections, if he had any, can be shown to have any bearing on the point under consideration, which possibly might influence his judgment as a historian. Eusebius says explicitly of him, that he may surely be regarded as worthy of all credit.” 4

Archdeacon Woodhouse bears the following testimony in relation to him. “ Irenæus was born, according to his own account (as his words have been generally understood), in the age immediately succeeding that in which the visions of the Apocalypse

The learned Dodwell has taken pains to show, that he was born in the year 97, the very year in which the Apocalypse will appear to have been published. But there is reason to suppose that he has fixed the birth of this father about ten years too 1 Murdock's Mosheim, vol. i., p. 136.

2 Eccles. Hist., 1. v., c. 20. 3 Murdock's Mosheim, vol. i., p. 136.

* Eccles. Hist., 1. iii., c. 23.

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were seen.


soon. He was a Greek by birth, as his name and language import, and probably an Asiatic Greek, for he was an auditor of Polycarp, who was bishop of Smyrna, one of the seven churches, and who had been the auditor of St. John the apostle. He was in his own character, the most learned, pious, prudent, and venerable prelate of the age in which he lived.

2. We remark, however, in the next place, that we have the most pointed and satisfactory testimony as to his qualifications, and opportunities for obtaining correct information on this very subject. Eusebius quotes from his epistle to Florinus, in which Irenæus speaks of the accuracy of his recollection of what occurred when he was yet a boy, appealing to Florinus's own knowledge of the same. “I remember,” says he, “the events of those times much better than those of more recent occurrence. As the studies of our youth, growing with our inind, unite with it so firmly, that I can tell also the very place where the blessed Polycarp was accustomed to sit and discourse ; and also his entrances, his walks, the complexion of his life, and the form of his body, and his conversations with the people, and his familiar intercourse with John, as he was accustomed to tell, as also his familiarity with those that had seen the Lord. How, also, he used to relate their discourses, and what things he had heard from them concerning the Lord.” 3

Polycarp was a contemporary of the apostle John, very probably ordained by him to bis office, and survived him many years, having suffered martyrdom A.D. 167, and lived a contemporary of Irenæus for half a century. The church of Lyons, of which Irenæus was pastor, was a daughter of that of Smyrna, among whom Polycarp Jived and suffered martyrdom. There were abundant opportunities, therefore, for Irenæus to obtain authentic information relative to John. That he sought it, and preserved it carefully, he has, in his epistle to Florinus, apprised us.

“ These things by the mercy of God," says he, referring to what he learned from Polycarp," and the opportunity then afforded me, I attentively heard, noting them down, not on paper, but in my heart; and these same facts I am always in the habit, by the grace of God, to recall faithfully to mind."5

To call the testimony of Irenæus, therefore, under such circumstances, an “opinion," is inadmissible.


He lived too near the days of John, and had access to the most authentic source of information, John's own familiar friend, to be dismissed so unceremoniously from the stand.

3. It does not appear that Irenæus was of a credulous turn of mind, so as to make him adopt hastily ill-founded and vague tradi- .


1 See Grabe's Proleg. ad'Irenæum.
2 Woodhouse's Diss. on the Div. Orig. of the Apoc., pp. 15, 16.
3 Euseb. Eccl. Hist., 1. v., c. 20.

* Milner's Eccl. Hist., vol. i., p. 260. 6 Euseb. Eccl. Hist. 1. v., c. 20.

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