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honour and distinction. The celebrated Dr. Moore, who displayed great insight into the meaning of the Apocalypse, observes, “ that the idea of the personal reign of Christ upon earth, and of his holy martyrs, is a very rash, and groundless, and unsafe conceit.”* Dr. Burnet, who theorised considerably on certain changes to be effected in the phænomena of our globe, at the time of the Millennium, thus expresses himself: “ That Christ should leave the righthand of his father to come and pass a thousand years here below, living upon earth in a heavenly body; this, I confess, is a thing I never could digest." op
To these I may add the unhesitating declaration of one often quoted by the advocates of literal interpretation, I mean the very learned and ingenious Joseph Mede. “ I dare not,” says that eminent man, when speaking of the reign of Christ and his saints, “ I dare not so much as imagine that it should be a visible converse upon earth.” But we do not make mention of these distinguished writers as ultimate authorities; we “ call no man master on earth.” “ To the law and to the testimony” we would ever make our submissive appeal; referring only to men in answer to the opinions of men, and thereby shielding ourselves from the charge of a contumacious or ignorant rejection of the word of God.
* Myst. of Godliness, p. 181. † Theory of the Earth, Book IV. ch. iv. I Mede's Clav. Apoca. p. 741.
I proceed, therefore,
III. To unfold, as far as I am able, the mind of the Spirit upon this most sublime and interesting theme.
According to the view of the Millennium presented in the text, the great Spirit of Darkness will be restrained, for a thousand years, from deceiving the nations, by the mighty agency of him who holds in his hands the keys of the bottomless pit. The highly energetic phraseology, in which the binding and the imprisonment of Satan, by Messiah, are here described, abundantly establishes two points : 1, The immense influence of that apostate spirit in perpetuating moral evil, in all its forms, in the world ; and, 2,
The entire restraint under which he will be placed in that blissful era for which the Church waits in prayerful expectation. After the thousand years have expired, the great Tempter of mankind will be permitted to escape from his prison, for a short time, again to deceive the nations; but this temporary triumph will but render his ultimate defeat more signal, when, with the unhappy multitudes he has deceived, he shall be “ cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, there to be tormented, day and night, for ever and
In the mystic vision of millennial glory, beheld by the Apostle John, he saw “ thrones, and they sat upon them ;" by which, in all probability, we may understand those special dignities to which “ the armies of heaven," or glorified saints, spoken of in chap. xix. 14, will be raised at the commencement of the great millennial day. It has always appeared to me, that the period of Christ's triumph on earth will be marked in the heavenly world by some special demonstrations of his mediatorial supremacy as the King of saints. And who will affirm that, at that bright era, there shall be no reservation of superadded bliss and glory to those spirits of light, who, in the successive periods of the Church's conflict, stood faithful to the interests of the great Captain of salvation? Of this approaching state of the Church, our blessed Lord speaks in terms of encouragement to his disciples. “Verily I say unto you, that ye who have followed me in the regeneration, when the Son of man shall sit on the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel."* To those exalted beings whom the Apostle beheld sitting on thrones, “judgment," it is said, “ was given." In a former part of the Apocalypse,t “ the souls' of the martyrs, who suffered under the persecutions of heathen Rome, are introduced in the attitude of prayer to God, that he would judge and avenge their blood on them that dwell on the earth. In reply to which prayer, it is promised that white robes shall be given unto them ; but that they are to wait for a short season, until their fellow-servants also, and their brethren, who shall suffer and die for the truth, shall be fulfilled ; that is, until the number
of the martyrdoms of papal Rome shall be entirely completed. At the commencement, then, of the millennial era, it shall be seen that judgment has been given by God on all the persecutions both of heathen and papal Rome, and that Divine vengeance has come upon them for the blood of the martyrs, who may be supposed preeminently to share the triumphs of a day, in which the Church on earth shall be protected, for a thousand years, from the approach of every blood-thirsty and persecuting foe.
The Apostle also beheld “the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands, and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years." From this solitary passage—this passage clothed in the deep mystery of prophetic enigma—it has been concluded by some, that the martyrs who were slain under heathen and papal powers shall experience a literal resurrection at the dawn of the Millennium, and shall share a personal reign with Christ for a thousand years. Now, were the language of this passage much more unequivocal, any wise man ought to hesitate before he founded a doctrine upon it, which has no express countenance elsewhere in the word of God, and which is beyond doubt clogged with difficulties and contradictions almost insurmountable. What sober-minded student of Scripture can bring himself to believe, that glorified spirits, who are now with Christ in heaven, enjoying all the raptures of the beatific vision,* shall again be brought back to sojourn on this earth, and to mingle with beings born in sin, and subject to mortality ? Where would be the accession thence accruing to the bliss of “just men made perfect ?" And where, in this dream of fancy, is there provision made for the honour of Him whose glorified human nature is the wonder, the ornament, and the bond of heaven?
But let us look a little narrowly at the words, and we shall find, that the language peculiar to a resurrection of bodies, is by no means here employed. It is a division of the same souls, which are elsewhere in this book represented beneath the altar, in the attitude of prayer, that are here said to live and reign with Christ a thousand years. It is evidently, therefore, a resurrection of minds and not of bodies, that is here spoken of; and it is equally evident that a resurrection of minds must be a metaphorical resurrection, as spiritual existence cannot pass under any literal deprivation of life. The souls of martyrs, then, that were seen by the Apostle, living and reigning with Christ a thousand years, must be regarded as a symbolical representation of that bright succession of holy and devoted men, animated with the spirit of martyrs, who shall rise up in the millennial period, and adorn and bless its successive epochs. It were easy to show that such metaphorical resurrections are often men
* Those who imagine, with Socinians, that the spirits of departed believers sleep in insensibility till the Millennium, may well dream of a future reign upon earth : any thing will surely be better than total unconsciousness.