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can only affirm with certainty that it will be succeeded by the coming of the Son of Man to raise the dead; but “ of that day and hour knoweth no man; no, not the angels of heaven, but the Father only."*
Contemplating the Millennium, then, as a subject of prophecy, there are a few particulars which it will be interesting briefly to investigate ; and,
1. We may glance at its prophetic character.
In the book of Daniel we have a series of most magnificent representations of Christ's millennial kingdom. " I saw,” says the prophet, “ in the night visions, and, behold, one like to the Son of Man came with the clouds of heaven; and there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him.”+ That the coming of “ the Son of Man with clouds," does not, in this instance, denote an advent in personal majesty, but only a brighter display of his power and grace, has been successfully argued, with Millenarians, by almost all the distinguished writers on prophetic Scripture. “Riding upon the clouds,” observes Dr. More, in his Prophetic Alphabet, “ signifies success against our enemies and enlargement of power.” “ According to the usage of the Persians and Egyptians, a king's riding upon the clouds," observes an ancient writer, “ is interpreted of foreign nations serving him, of his ruling over them, and of his being exceedingly
* Matt. xxiv. 36.
+ Dan. vii. 13, 14,
prosperous and successful.” * Bishop Newton himself, who favoured not a little certain millenarian speculations, admits, that “in the ancient prophets, God is frequently described as coming in the clouds, upon any remarkable interposition and manifestation of his power.”+ And the celebrated Vitringa speaks to the same effect, when writing on the first chapter of the book of Revelations, “ Christ is said to come in the clouds of heaven in the style of Scripture, as often as he demonstrates his glory and majesty by the signal effects of his favour.”! Indeed Bishop Newcome has made this general and forcible observation, that “ any signal interposition in behalf of his Church, or in the destruction of his enemies, may be metaphorically called a coming, or a parousia of Christ.”$ Hence, when the prophet Isaiah predicts God's judgments upon the idolaters of Egypt, he employs the general image of the prophet Daniel. “ Behold, the Lord rideth upon a swift cloud, and shall come into Egypt.” Will any one affirm that either the Almighty was seen riding upon a cloud, or that he made any personal advent into Egypt? Let Millenarians be consistent with themselves, let them adopt an uniform rule of interpretation, and then will they at least escape some of their present absurdities.
If, however, it be admitted that the words of Daniel relate to Christ's millennial reign, which
* Achimetis Oneiroritica, p. 164. f Vol. II. p. 283.
In Apoc. I. 7. § Observations on our Lord's conduct as a Divine Instructor, p. 256.
I think cannot well be denied, it is unnecessary to shew that a personal advent cannot be intended, as such an advent will (upon the evidence already adduced) only take place at the resurrection of the just and the unjust.
To me it appears highly probable, that the second clause of the prophet's announcement explains the first. He“ saw in the visions of the night one like unto the Son of Man coming with the clouds of heaven:" this appears to be the prediction in its symbolic character ;—when the prophet adds, that there was given unto the Son of man“ dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages should serve him," we are to regard him as condescending upon the import of an oracle which otherwise might have remained enigmatical, and as asserting, in unambiguous terms, that a period will arrive in the history of Messiah's government, as ex alted to the right hand of power, when he shall triumph over all his enemies, and claim the whole earth as his empire. It is truly animating to mark the striking imagery by which the early and ultimate characters of Christ's kingdom are described by this prophet. “ Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and broke them to pieces. Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing-floors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image
became a great mountain, and filled the earth."* From this description it is obvious that the full establishment of Christ's kingdom in the earth will realize the destruction and utter overthrow of all evil and oppressive powers, whether civil or ecclesiastical; and that a state of society will then commence, in which the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.”+ As the great monarchies of antiquity melted away, one after another, in the furnace of Messiah's wrath; so shall all their existing representatives, in despotic power, in idolatrous worship, in blasphemous encroachment on the rights of conscience and the prerogatives of Deity, in like manner melt away; till no evil power shall occupy a single throne upon the face of the earth, till all ecclesiastical usurpation shall for ever cease, till “ the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom, under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High.”# Upon Daniel's prediction of “ the stone cut out without hands,” Mr. Mede makes the following pertinent observations. It “points out,” says that interpreter, “ two states of the kingdom of Christ. The first to be while those times of the kingdoms of the Gentiles yet lasted, typified by a stone hewn out of a mountain without hands, the monarchical statue yet standing upon his feet. The second not to be until the utter destruction
and dissipation of the image, when the stone having smote it upon the feet, should grow into a great mountain, which should fill the whole earth. The first may be called for distinction's sake, regnum lapidis, the kingdom of the stone; which is the state of Christ's kingdom which hath hitherto been: the other regnum montis, the kingdom of the mountain, (that is, of the stone grown into a mountain) which is the state of this kingdom which shall hereafter be."*
The characters drawn by Daniel of the millennial kingdom correspond to those supplied by the other prophets. No sooner has Isaiah traced the history of Messiah's sufferings, than he introduces him as “ seeing of the travail of his soul,” and as “dividing the spoil with the strong.”+ “ In his days,” says the monarch of Israel, “shall the righteous flourish, and abundance of peace, so long as the moon endureth. He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth. They that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before him; and his enemies shall lick the dust. The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring presents: the kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts. Yea, all kings shall fall down before him: all nations shall serve him. His name shall endure for ever: his name shall be continued as long as the sun : and men shall be blessed in him: all nations shall call him blessed.”I
* Clav. Apoc. p. 909.
+ Isaiah liji. 11, 12. Psalm lxxii. 7-11, 17.