Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

difficult to give a satisfactory reason therefore, why we may not previously derive some knowledge of circumstances which will attend the second advent; seeing that they are spoken of in Scripture, apparently as free from any figurative structure as the passages already quoted. If the apostles erred, we have at least the benefit of their example: which is undoubtedly recorded, -not to lead us to conclude, that we must inevitably mistake likewise; but that we may profit by their errors and avoid them. There is another series of prophecies, relating to God's dealings with the Jews, which are applicable to the question before us; and which would lead to the conclusion, that one eminent use of fulfilled prophecy is, to argue from it as certain and literal an accomplishment of unfulfilled: provided, as we are throughout assuming, that the evident structure of it be not allegorical or emblematical. How remarkably, for example, has wrath fallen upon the Jews, without one jot or tittle having failed! They are sifted among the nations; they are become a by-word, a hiss, a proverb, a reproach; they abide without a prince, an altar, a sacrifice; not to mention other peculiar sufferings which they endured of old time. Now Joshua lays it down as a rule, that as not one thing had failed of all the good things which the Lord had spoken concerning them; but all had come to pass: so therefore would the Lord bring upon them all the evil things.' Seeing then that the evil has now been brought to pass, and not one thing has failed of that; by what rule, (it may be asked,) upon what consistent principle, can any man venture to say, that the promises of that good, now again to succeed, is only a figure; and that we are not justified in expecting a literal fulfilment?e

I do not deny that there are difficulties attending the exposition of prophecy; and that, if this be true in regard to the events predicted, it is more extensively the case with regard to times and dates. As respects the day, or even the year of an event, I am quite persuaded, that God has purposely obscured it. But our Lord would not therefore have us indif. ferent and careless, either to the event or the period of its fulfilment; but, on the very ground that we know not the hour, He commands us to watch. And though the day cannot be known, something of the signs of its approach may be ascertained, with sufficient correctness for us to be assured that the time of our redemption draweth nigh.” St. Paul assumes of the Thessalonians, that they had so much of acquaintance with "the times and the seasons," as to supersede the necessity of • Compare Josh. xxiii. 14, 15, and Jer, xxxii. 42–44.

Matt, xxiv. 36-42.

e

[ocr errors]

writing to them on that subject;& insomuch, that, though the day of the Lord would come upon the world as a thief in the night, it would not overtake them in like manner. The Scriptures teach us that there are prophecies, which were not intended to be known by the christians of former ages, which nevertheless will be known by that generation for whom they are written; of which Psalm cii. 18; Daniel xii. 4 and 9; and i Peter i. 10–12 are remarkable instances. Let us bear in remembrance therefore, that it is declared to be one of the special offices of the Holy Spirit, “to guide us into all truth, and to show us things to come;">h and that the prophets, who prophesied of the sufferings and glory of Christ, did themselves rinquire and search diligently concerning it-searching,” even when the words were scarce uttered by them, what, OR WHAT MANNER OF TIME the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify. On the other hand there were men who neglected the prophets, and were rebuked by our Saviour because they knew not the signs of the times; and the burden of his lamentation over Jerusalem was, that they knew not the time of their visitation.k

II. The second objection I shall notice is, that the doctrines of modern millennarians are a novelty,—that they were not entertained by the early christians, nor inserted by the orthodox Church in any creed or confession of faith.

Now in regard to the christians of the two first centuries, there is not a solitary instance of any of them contradicting the doctrine: all of those, whose works are extant, (unless they be some small fragments to be found in other authors,) explicitly teach it.* And it should also be observed, that the doctrine does not rest upon the judgment or discernment of those men, but upon their veracity; for some of them profess to have received these things directly from the apostles. Justyn Martyr lived before John the apostle died; and Irenæus was the hearer of Poly carp, the disciple of John. This Irenæus, in his second book against heresies, clearly maintains the doctrine; and the reason of his noticing the subject in his work on heresies was, that none denied the doctrine but heretics, who altogether denied the resurrection, and held that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was not the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. But I have less need to insist upon this point, because the chief of the modern opponents of these views has himself

I refer for ample quotations on this subject to The Resurrection Revealed, by Dr. Homes, first published in 1654, and now reprinted by the Editor of the Investigator.

1 Thess. v. 1-4. h John xvi. 13. il Peter i. 10, 11. Matt. xvi. 3. Luke xix. 44.

admitted, though indirectly, that all the fathers of the two first centuries maintained them.

In the third century Nepos wrote a book against the Allegorical Expositors, or those who explained the promises relating to the Millennium figuratively. For Origen had now introduced that vicious system of spiritualizing the Scriptures, by which he drew over many to his views, who were perhaps disgusted at the preposterous things which some carnal men had added to this doctrine.† Dionysius, a disciple of Origen, perceiving that the views of Nepos overthrew the principle of his master's expositions, endeavoured to refute them; in doing which he was led openly to deny the canonical authority of the Apocalypse, because the testimony of that book stood in his way! Mosheim in his History of the Church admits, "that long before this controversy, an opinion had prevailed, that Christ was to come and reign a thousand years among men, before the entire and final dissolution of this world;''—that this opinion “had hitherto” (i. e. up to the middle of the third century) “met with no opposition;''-and that now “its credit began to decline principally through the influence and authority of Origen, who opposed it with the greatest warmth, because it was incompatible with some of his favourite sentiments." Vol. I. p. 284.

One might conclude, from the remainder of Mosheim's account, that Dionysius was completely successful in overthrowing this doctrine;but we have unquestionable proof that the Millennarians still formed the greater part of the Church till the latter end of the fourth century. For in the year 325 sat. the Nicene council, attended by all the bishops in Christendom, and drew up the form which is now used in the communion service of the established church, called the Nicene creed. The last clause of this creed is as follows: “I look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come;" which the council thus expounds: “The world was made in-'

* See Dr. Hamilton's work against the Millennarians, page 308. The Doctor says, that the principles of Millennarianism were opposed and rejected by almost every Father of the church with the exception of Barnabas, Clement, Papias, Justyn Martyr, Irenæus, Nepos, Apollinarius, Lactantius, and Tertullian!—That is, with the exception of all the Fathers whom he knows of before Origen, and some who were contemporary and subsequent to Origen!

+ For proof that eminent christian writers always held the system of interpretation adopted by Origen to be most pernicious, see Luther, Annotationes in Deuteronomium, cap. 1. fo. 55; Mosheim, Ch. Hist. cent. iii. pt. ii. sect. 5, 6; Milner Ch. Hist. Vol. I. 469.

The terms "learned and judicious” applied to the publications of Dionysius on this subject in the English translation of his History, are not in the original Latin, but are foisted in, (as many other things are most unwarrantably,) by the Translator.

i Eusebii Hist. lib. vii. cap. 24.

p.

[ocr errors]

ferior (utzpotepes) because of foreknowledge: for God foreknew that man would sin. Therefore we expect new heavens and a new earth according to the holy Scriptures; the Epiphany and Kingdom of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ then appearing. And as Daniel says (chap. vii. 18) the saints of the Most High shall take the kingdom. And there shall be a pure and holy land, the land of the living and not of the dead: which David foreseeing with the eye of faith, exclaims, I believe to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living —the land of the meek and humble. Blessed, saith Christ, (Matt. v. 5,) are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. And the prophet saith, (Isa. xxvi. 6,) The feet of the meek and humble shall tread upon it.” Later even than this period Jerome (who was no friend to the doctrine, but the contrary) admits, "that many christians and martyrs had affirmed the things which he denied; and that a great multitude of christians agreed in them in his own day: so that though he did not follow them, he could not condemn them."

The conversion of Constantine, and the protection which he gave to christianity, appears to have tended the most to render this doctrine unpopular. Rome had been considered by christians as the seat of antichrist and destined to destruction. Lactantius, who lived in the time of Constantine, in his Book on the Divine Institutes, says,—"The Roman authority, by which now the world is governed, (my soul dreads to speak it—but it will speak it, because it shall come to pass,) shall be taken from the earth, and the empire shall return into Asia, and again the East shall rule and the West obey."m This opinion was now therefore by timid and temporizing persons suppressed, or explained away after Origen's manner. Eusebius, (who also questions the Apocalypse,) proceeds so far as to make Rome the New Jerusalem, because Constantine turned the temples into christian churches." And the popes in after ages discountenanced the doctrine, as militating against their usurpation and dogma, that the Millennium commenced with Romish domination in the Church.

Thus the doctrine was thrown into the back-ground until the time of the Reformation, when it was again revived; but owing to the fanatical turbulence of the Anabaptists on the continent, and the fifth-monarchy men in this country, it again fell so much into disrepute, that many timidly kept it out of view, until succeeding generations lost sight of it. In the meanwhile however the doctrine was by no means generally denied:

* See the forms of the Ecclesiastical Doctrines in the Hist. Act. Con. Nic. Gelasii Cyziceni.

- Book vii. c. 15. Eccl. Hist. Vol. III. p. 24.

many eminent men were raised up from time to time who advocated these truths in the established church; and the dissenters still continued to hold it so generally, that at last to broach these opinions exposed a man to the imputation of being a dissenter.

And to show that these opinions were entertained by chief persons in the Church, and generally taught at the time of the Reformation, I shall finally bring forward two extracts from the CATECHISM drawn up by the prelates in the time of Edward VI. and authorized by that king in the last year of his reign.

"Q. How is that petition, Thy kingdom come, to be understood?"

Ans. We ask that his kingdom may come, for that as yet we see not all things subject to Christ: we see not yet how the stone is cut out of the mountain without human help, which breaks into pieces and reduceth to nothing the image described by Daniel: or how the only rock, which is Christ, doth possess and obtain the empire of the whole world given him of the Father. As yet Antichrist is not slain; whence it is that we desire and pray, that at length it may come to pass and be fulfilled; and that Christ alone may reign with his saints according to the divine promises; and that he may live and have dominion in the world, according to the decrees of the holy Gospel, and not according to the traditions and laws of men and the wills of the tyrants of the world."

“Q. God grant that his kingdom may come most speedily, &c.

“Q. The sacred Scripture calls the end of the world the consummation and perfection of the mystery of Christ, and the renovation of all things: for thus the Apostle Peter speaks in his 2nd Epistle chap. iii.-We expect new heavens and a new earth according to God's promise, wherein dwelleth righteousness.' And it seems agreeable to reason, that the corruption, mutability, and sin, to which the whole world is subject, should at least cease. Now by what means or ways of circumstances, those things shall be brought to pass, I desire to know of thee?

"Ans. I will declare as well as I can, the same Apostle attesting. The heavens in the manner of a stormy tempest shall pass away, and the elements estuating shall be dissolved, and the earth and the works therein shall be burnt. As if the Apostle should say, the world, like as we see in the refining of gold, shall be wholly purged with fire, and shall be brought

*

20th May, 1553.

« ZurückWeiter »