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hear; it reminds us of that trump of doom which shall shake earth’s foundations; and it opens a vista, not into a scene of millennial prosperity on earth, but of celestial glory in heaven.
Thirdly, Shall the reign of Christ, during the Millennium, be personal or spiritual ?
This is a momentous question; and I submit, that if the second advent of Christ, upon a fair induction of texts, is found to be connected with the resurrection and judgments of all men, with the separation of the righteous and the wicked, with the act of divine vengeance upon those “ who know not God, and obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ," then it must follow that the coming of Christ at the commencement of the Millennium will not be in personal glory, but in the richer bestowments of his spirit, --in the brighter displays of his providence-in the more stupendous manifestation of his perfections as a moral governor,--and in the fuller exhibition of that mediatorial dominion, to which, since he ascended up on high, he has been gloriously advanced. . These conclusions must be just and logical, unless it can be shown by the advocates of Christ's personal reign, that three distinct personal advents of Messiah are spoken of in the divine word.
2. The second theory of a Millennium, therefore, that I would mention, is that which, discarding all idea of a personal advent of Messiah, and of a personal reign upon earth, presents “ the latter day glory,” in the light of a more abundant display of the power of Christ, the
influence of his Spirit, and the healing virtues of his Gospel.
Although many plausible objections may be raised against this view of a Millennium, I am satisfied that the reason of the case, and that the voice of Scripture alike unite to confirm it. It may not be so brightly arrayed, indeed, in the trappings of fancy as other schemes which sue for the public suffrage; but the more it is examined, the nearer will it be found to approach “ the lively oracles,” — yea, the more directly will it be seen to proceed from them.
According to this theory of Christ's millennial reign, the Church may look forward, with confidence, to a lengthened period of spiritual prosperity and outward rest; when knowledge and virtue, and Christian institutions shall universally prevail; when false worship of every description shall be banished from the earth; when human governments shall exhibit the highest characters of political justice, and paternal administration ; when the ferocious passions of the human heart shall be exchanged for the mild and gentle graces of the Christian faith ; when “nation shall no more lift up sword against nation, and when they shall learn the art of war no more."*
In contending for this view of a Millennium, in opposition to the notion of a resurrection of the saints to reign with Christ a thousand years upon earth, I distinctly feel myself in stricter accordance with the true spirit of prophetic in
* Isaiah ii. 4.
terpretation; for who does not know that ninetenths of the prophetic scriptures are written in a style of language highly figurative? And who is not compelled to admit, that a system of literal interpretation, invariably adhered to, would, in many instances, prove fatal to the genuine explanation of the prophecies, and throw an air of wildness and improbability around them more fitted to subserve the cause of infidelity than of the Christian religion? If there be not, in multitudes of passages, a figurative meaning to which the student of prophecy may with safety resort, I know not how the faith of the most steadfast could remain firm and unmoved.* It so happens, however, by a monstrous inconsistency, that the advocates for literal interpretation change their ground as often as they find it convenient; so that the very writers who, (in one case at least) admit that nineteen chapters of the Apocalypse are all highly figurative and symbolic, start off, at once, in a new direction, and expound the three last chapters as if they were a
Those who contend for the uniform literal rendering of prophetic scripture are, in certain instances, driven to desperate shifts. As, for example, many of the modern students of prophecy explain the fourteenth chapter of Zechariah as supporting the doctrines of Christ's personal reign (v. 9); the literal return of the Jews to Palestine, and their settlement in their ancient inheritance. Now, if on this rule of interpreting the chapter they are right, why do they not honestly adhere to it, as Dr. Priestly did, in the exposition of all its parts, and thus proclaim their belief at once, that in the day of Christ's millennial reign the Jewish worship and sacrifices will be re-established ? There certainly can be no good reason for explaining one part of the chapter literally and another figuratively; and hence we learn that a few of the modern students do contend that the whole system of Jewish worship will be revived !!!
simple narration of facts as they shall actually transpire.“ The too literal expounding of prophetic scripture," observes Dr. Jortin,“ produced strange and precarious notions amongst ancient and modern Christians concerning the Millennium: thus it has been supposed that Christ shall come and reign personally on earth a thousand years; that the old Christian martyrs shall rise again to reign with him; that the Jews shall have a temple rebuilt, and a temple service renewed."* Instances might be referred to, among the earlier Millenarians, of an extravagance almost boundless in the use of figurative and symbolic language;t but I forbear, deeming it unwise to attempt to prejudice any system by a reference to the extravagances of certain individuals who may have adopted it. To use the
* Remarks on Ecclesiastical History, Vol. II. p. 424.
+ The account which Irenæus gives from Papias, and which that enthusiast pretended to have received from the lips of the Apostle John, will abundantly illustrate the rage of the early Millenarians to interpret the figurative language of the prophets literally. “ The days shall come, in which there shall be vines which shall severally have ten thousand branches, and every of these branches shall have ten thousand lesser branches, and every of these branches shall have ten thousand twigs, and every one of these twigs shall have ten thousand clusters of grapes, and in every one of these clusters shall be ten thousand grapes, and every one of these grapes, being pressed, shall give twenty-five metras of wine; and when one shall take hold of one of these sacred branches, another shall cry out, I am a better bunch, take me, and by me bless the Lord.”—Whitby's Essay on the Millennium, p. 683.
Indeed it is very clear that the early Millenarians were not only addicted to great extravagances in the interpretation of prophetic language; but that many of their opinions of a Millennium were greatly tinctured with a species of sensuality, bordering almost on the notion of a Mohammedan paradise.
language, then, of a writer of great piety and research, who flourished nearly two hundred years ago, “ we do not plead for a personal reign, nor a literal resurrection of the martyrs, nor a confluence of all sensual delights, as many have done. That which we principally stand for is, the universal subjection of the nations to the laws of the gospel, and the rest of the church from such persecutions as have been in all antichristian times.”*
Nor let any of the advocates of literal interpretation flatter themselves, that in holding an opposite theory they have made a monopoly of the more distinguished interpreters of prophetic scripture. On the contrary, let them remember, that the personal reign of Messiah, during the Millennium, is a doctrine tejected by almost every Biblical critic of eminence, from the age of the fathers downwards. To say nothing of Crellius,t of Vitringa, I of Brenius, $ of Dr. John Edwards,||of Peganius, I of Whitby,** of Jortin, fofo of Hurd,ff and many others; I cannot but call the attention of this auditory to the statement of two or three writers on prophecy, whose names have been justly raised to considerable
* Mr. Stephen's Calculation of the Number of the Beast, p. 9. + See Com. on Rom. xi. 23.
Com. on the Apocalypse, p. 848. § De Regno Christi. || Hist. of the various Dispensations of Religion, Vol. II. p. 654.
Com. on Apocalypse, p. 238. ** Essay on the Millennium, Ch. iv. ++ On Eccl. Hist. Vol. II. p. 424. 11 Vol. I. p. 123.