Page images

two of them who, in every particular, agree. Whether this clashing of sentiment is the result of the dominion of fancy over the speculations of these divines, I will not undertake to determine; but this I will say, that, from the days of Papias downwards, they have shown no instinctive dread of the indulgence of fancy in the interpretation of the Word of God.

Lest I should be supposed to act partially in proceeding to examine my own account of the advocates for literal interpretation, I shall introduce three of their principal champions to speak for themselves.

The first is a clergyman of the Church of England, of considerable metaphysical powers, and to whom some of the most popular of the school referred to have expressed profound obligations. After detailing his views of the Millennium, he sums up his theory in the following passage: “The essence of this statement is, 1st. A literal, not a figurative, coming—a personal, not an energetical, manifestation of the great God and our Saviour in his day. We believe that he shall come as he hath never yet come, in a form of glory, the form of adorned manhood, so as to be seen and owned of men. Yet such seeing shall be transient to men in the flesh, abiding only to men in the spirit. 2dly, Such his coming shall be at the commencement, not the close, of his earthly reign: that new era of peace and righteousness which most Christians profess to be looking for. Yet he shall come while nations are dwelling upon the earth, in their

ancient form, and shall continue to maintain their existence in that form during a limited period. 3dly, His raising of the blessed dead, and his changing the bodies of the blessed living, shall be simultaneous with the annunciation of his approach, and, together with the vengeance then executed upon the unbelieving members of his visible Church, shall constitute a distinct integral part of his work of judging the world. Yet shall there be unraised and unjudged ones still; yet shall the earth have a judgment still to undergo; yet shall there be temples, and services, and an epoch to be waited for. 4thly, The restoration of the Jewish nation, as a whole, shall be subsequent to, and shall be effected in quick succession to the blessings and cursings of the instant of his coming. Yet shall that nation have received a partial restoration before, and individuals of the glorified fulness,' shall have been taken out of it; yet shall the joy of Canaan and of the Jew, be distinct from that of the spiritual Israel. 5thly, Christ's spiritual empire shall be co-extensive with the earth, with the world; yet its seat shall not be earth, though communicating with it; his saints shall reign as well as serve with him, but they shall not justle with the men of the flesh, and, though intermixing, when need be, individually, shall be visible only by special appointment and operation. 6thly, A second apostacy, a second conflict, a second resurrection, a second judgment, shall follow close upon the sun-set of the millennial day; yet even these events shall not finish the transactions of earth, which shall survive

her conflagration, as she has survived her delugethough the last which God has seen good to reveal by the Bible, with a very brief intimation that there are others yet to come."*

Another writer of the Church of England, on the same side of this question, expresses himself in the following manner : “This kingdom of Christ, then, will be contemporaneous with what is commonly called the day of judgment,' or the day of the Lord;' a term descriptive, not of the ordinary period of twenty-four hours, but the day foretold, and appropriate to him with whom one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. At the dawn of this day, or rather period of time, the first resurrection, or the resurrection of the dead in Christ,' will take place. These will awake fashioned after the glorious body of Christ; while the saints at that time living on the earth will undergo a momentous change; a change, effected not through the ordinary medium of death, but of some rapid and spiritual process, which will at once assimilate them to the glorified dead, now restored to immortal life; and these saints, the dead thus revived, and the living thus changed, (and both glorified after the pattern of Christ,) these saints will ascend to meet their Lord, as he approaches toward the earth, in the mingled • glories of his Father, and of the angels. These saints, thus revived and changed, will form the ELECT CHURCH, and be presented as the glorious BRIDE to Christ, being now 'made perfect, without spot or wrinkle,

Vaughan's Sermons on “The Church's Expectation,” p. 15.

or any such thing.' Then will the joyful hour be arrived, when the marriage supper of the Lamb will be celebrated, because the Bride will make herself ready.' Then will the happy and redeemed Church, thus united to the Lord, prepare to reign with him upon the earth, and to share his millennial glory. On his approach the dreadful overthrow of impious and ungodly men will take place; at least throughout the range of that apostate Christendom, which so awfully shall have abused its noble privileges and slighted its gracious warnings. At this time the Jewish nation will be miraculously restored to their own land, and this long outcast people will again be honoured of God, and submit to the sway of the glorified Messiah their Prince. Satan will then be bound, and his influence over the earth be cast out during the millennial period; while the latter rains' of the Eternal Spirit, now no longer limited as on the day of Pentecost, but falling in gentle showers over the whole earth, the time of the world's conversion will be arrived, and the knowledge of the Lord will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea. Over the world thus reduced to obedience, though not yet rescued entirely from death, (the last enemy to be destroyed, the Saviour and his glorified saints will reign in glory. The SUBJECTS of this kingdom will be composed of restored Jews, the converted heathen, and the remnant converted and saved from the ungodly hosts who will have perished during the convulsions of the last plagues of the great judgment. During this peaceful dominion of Messiah, the earth will exhibit a new spectacle of justice, allegiance, and felicity. The curse will be greatly mitigated, and the malignant excitements of Satan unfelt. But towards the conclusion of this great day of God, impiety will once more prevail, and Satan be permitted again to deceive the nations ;' but a miraculous victory will finally subvert his power: the last judgment will take place; Satan and his rebellious associates will be cast into the lake of fire; death be destroyed; the curse already taken from the elect Church at the first resurrection, will now be removed entirely from the earth; and every foe being put down, the distinction betwixt Jew and Gentile destroyed, and the mediatorial sceptre no longer needed, the mediatorial kingdom of the Messiah will be delivered up to the Father ; God will be all in all, and the earth at length be transformed into a tranquil scene of happiness, an ever-enduring monument of praise to him who shall have achieved its rescue from the terrific doom of death."*

A third defender of Christ's personal reign, in speaking of the terrible conflict which shall usher in his glorious advent, thus expresses himself: “These judgments upon the Gentile nations and all the earth, he will finish by his own personal appearance in flaming fire, taking vengeance on those who know not God, and obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ; raising those who sleep in Jesus, and changing those of the

* Noel's “ Prospects of the Church of Christ,” p. 31.

« PreviousContinue »