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dating from the third century, have been preserved; and not one of these intimates that the Apocalypse was not read publicly in the Church as Canonical Scripture.
Indeed, some of these Expositions prove that the Apocalypse was publicly read in the Church; for example, one, which is found in the editions of St. Augustine's Works *, consists of a series of Homilies, nineteen in number, on the whole Book of Revelation; and each of these Homilies shows that the chapter or chapters of the Apocalypse, of which that Homily is an exposition, had just been read to the people in the Church, before the Homily was preached.
Besides, in a decree, of undoubted genuineness, and of the same age as the Council of Laodicea—that is, in a decree of the Third Council of Carthage, which met in the year 397,-it is declared that certain books, known by the name of Canonical Scripture, were then publicly read in the Church; and one of these is the Apocalypse +.
It is also distinctly affirmed by St. Jerome I, that in his age (the fourth century) the Apocalypse was read in Churches. He means the Western Church.
Further, when in lapse of time, some Western Churches began to neglect the Apocalypse, and not to read it publicly, a decree was passed in the Fourth Council of Toledo, in Spain, A. D. 633 , to this effect, that if a Presbyter did not read the Apocalypse at a specified season of the year, viz., between Easter and Whitsunday, publicly, in the Church, he should be liable to excommunication.
Still more, and above all, the voice of the Holy Spirit
* Pp. 3106—3159 of the Appendix to the third volume, ed. Paris. 1837. See above, Appendix A. No. ii.
| Bruns. Concil. p. 133. Compare S. Aug. De doct. Christ. ii. 13.
I In Ps. 149. Legimus in Apocalypsi Joannis, quæ in Ecclesiis legitur et recipitur.
Ś Concil. Toletan. IV. c. 17. A.D. 633. Quia plurimi sunt qui Apocalypseos auctoritatem non recipiunt, eamque in Ecclesiâ Dei prædicare contemnunt, si quis eam non receperit, aut a Pascha usque ad Pentecosten missarum tempore in Ecclesiâ non prædicaverit, excommunicationis sententiam habebit.
Himself speaks to us in the Apocalypse, and says, Blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book (Rev. xxii. 7); and again, Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein (Rev. i. 3).
Let it also be remembered, that the Apocalyptic Epistles are addressed to the Angels of the Churches.
The Angels of the Churches, it is well known, correspond to certain officers * of the Jewish Synagogues, whose special duty it was to read the Scriptures publicly to the people in those assemblies. And by addressing the Angels of the Churches, the Holy Spirit declared that the Apocalypse was to be read publicly in the Church. When all these things are considered, it may be reason
, ably supposed, that, whenever a fit occasion should arise for the revision of our Calendar of daily Lessons by the lawful Ecclesiastical authority, measures would be adopted, and provision made, for the restoration of the APOCALYPSE to its ancient place among Canonical Scriptures, in the public assemblies of our Church.
It has indeed been urged by some, that the contents of this book are so mysterious, that it is very questionable whether they would be commonly understood, and whether they would minister to general edification: and, in support of this opinion, it has been alleged, that great difference of opinion exists among Expositors of the Apocalypse, and that this Divine book has often been employed for the diffusion of strange extravagances and fanatical rhapsodies.
But, on the other side, we must place the express injunctions and promises of the Holy Spirit: Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches.
These words are clear; and although they apply, doubt* The 1937 mW. See particularly Lightfoot on Rev. iii., and on Matt. iv. 23, and Schoettgen, Horæ Hebr. p.
less, to private reading of the Apocalypse, and enjoin that; yet they must be extended to public reading also.
The Apocalypse, we must remember, was sent by St. John, at Christ's command, to Churches; that is, to large bodies of Christians assembling in public places: these congregations were commanded to read it: a blessing was promised to those who did read and hear it; and the command and blessing, conveyed to them as Churches, is no less applicable to the Church at large, and to every Church in particular.
It may justly be feared, that we ourselves have lost, and do lose, blessings, which we should enjoy, if this command were obeyed.
With regard also to the discrepancies of opinion prevalent among Interpreters of the Apocalypse, and to the fantastic notions which some have deduced from it, it may be reasonably affirmed, that these evils are mainly due to this very fact, that the Apocalypse is not read in the Church. If it had been so read, it would have been made familiar to the ears and minds of the faithful: and by natural consequence, a traditional body of Church Exposition of the Apocalypse would have been maintained among us; and individuals would not have been left to make their own private interpretations of the Apocalypse as may seem to them best. The true remedy for these evils is to be found in the public reading of the Apocalypse.
The daily reading of Holy Scripture in the public assemblies of the Church has preserved Scripture as well as authenticated and promulgated it. And continuity of public reading is, and ever will be, the best security for unity and sobriety of Scripture Exposition.
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