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2. We may attempt to form some faint conceptions as to the date of Christ's millennial reign.
While the day and the hour in which the Son of man is to judge the world in righteousness, are studiously concealed from human view; on the other hand, the era of Christ's millennial triumph seems marked out by many incontrovertible signs. But here let us beware of confounding the dawn of the millennial day with its noontide glory. Ere Christ shall take to himself his great power, and reign triumphantly among all nations, we may anticipate many symptoms of his progress to universal empire. Such symptoms we now behold, but let us not confound them with the full manifestation of the mediatorial dominion of the Son of God. Amongst · Protestant, Antichristian, Heathen, and Mohammedan nations, there is a stupendous revolution yet to be effected ere the latter day 'glory shall break forth ;-a revolution, compared with which, all the changes that have hitherto affected human society shall dwindle and disappear. When the simple spiritual religion of the cross shall prove triumphant among all nations, and shall moreover be embraced by the long-benighted and outcast posterity of Abraham, then, and not till then, shall the vision of “the first resurrection” break forth, ---the wonder of earth, and the joy of heaven.
But though in many of the descriptions of the millennial kingdom of Messiah, we are led to contemplate antichrist in the dust, heathenism abolished, the false prophet silenced, and Jewish
unbelief, for ever abandoned, it may, nevertheless, be doubted by some, whether any clew has been furnished by which to determine, with any degree of certainty, the period at which these splendid and wished-for transformations shall take place. For my own part, I strongly incline to the opinion, that we are not without very important lights on this subject.
In the prophetic Scriptures there is a distinct recognition of a specific period during which Antichrist, or the spiritual Babylon, is to exist. Daniel informs us that that power which he describes as “speaking great words against the Most High, as wearing out the patience of the saints, and as thinking to change times and laws,"* shall only thus prevail, for “a time, and times, and the dividing of time;" that is, for three prophetic years and a half. Then it is that “the judgment shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and destroy it unto the end.” And in the Apocalypse, “ the holy city,” or the Church, is to be “ trodden under foot,” by "the Gentiles,” or antichristian and other associated powers, for the space of“ forty and two months.”+ The“ two witnesses ” are to“ prophesy a thousand two hundred and three-score days."I The mystic woman who brought forth that “man-child who was to rule all nations," was only to retire “into the wilderness," " for a time and times, and half a time," or, as elsewhere expressed in the same chapter, for “a thousand two hundred and threescore days.”
* Dan. vii. 25, 26.
† Rev. xi. 2.
Rev. xi. 3.
The most cursory reader of the prophetic parts of Scripture must have marked the perfect harmony of these numbers. Taking each prophetic day for a year, according to the rule of interpretation laid down in Numb. xiv. 34, and Ezek. iv. 4, we are warranted to conclude, that the sufferings of the Church, from her antichristian enemies, will be protracted through the lengthened period of twelve hundred and sixty years. Then, according to Daniel, “ the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High ;'* and then, according to the Apocalypse, shall there be “great voices in heaven, saying, the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ;"+ while the beast, and the false prophet, and Satan, who acted as the great deceiver of Antichristian, Mohammedan, and other nations, shall be cast into the lake that burneth with fire.
Now the great question is this, at what time are we to date the twelve hundred and sixty years? If we can with any degree of satisfaction, settle this problem, we have gone far to determine the commencement of the Millennium.
I cannot agree with those who fix the date of the prophetic numbers at the time of the downfall of the Roman empire, by the incursion of barbarous tribes upon its different provinces; for, according to this theory, the twelve hundred and sixty years have expired more than a century ago, and yet all the antichristian powers of the earth are still in a state of considerable vigour and prosperity. · Nor can I feel entire complacency in that theory which regards the elevation of Boniface, in 606, by Phocas, the Emperor of Constantinople, to the title of universal Bishop, as that event in ecclesiastical history which preeminently marks the commencement of the twelve hundred and sixty years. Irrespective of the fact, as Mr. Vaughan well observed last month, that Phocas and his successors had no power “ to confer even an ecclesiastical supremacy on the Bishop of Rome, with respect to any of the more important western kingdoms," it must never be forgotten that this hypothesis requires us to believe that, while the ten horns of the beast denote so many states strictly political, the eleventh denotes a state strictly ecclesiastical.* But as this date, even if correct, will not realize the commencement of the Millennium till 1866, a period of time yet far distant, I would venture to dispute its accuracy with becoming modesty. I cannot, however, forget that the kingdom of Christ, as described by himself, is compared to the growth of plants which is so slow as almost to be imperceptible; and I know not, for my own part, how to conceive it possible that in the short space of forty-six or forty-seven years, the mighty preparations which are now being made for ushering in the millennial reign of the Son of God will have been completed. I would not dare to limit the
* Dan. vii. 27.
+ Rev, xi. 15.
Holy One; but I would not presumptuously look for that which neither the distinct aspect of providential events, nor the history of the past, nor the plain instructions of the word would encourage me to expect..
Many learned persons have been disposed to date the prophetic number of the beast from the year 756, when Pepin, king of France, conferred on the Pope, in gratitude for the sanction which he had afforded to the schemes of his political ambition, the temporal dominion of the Italian states, thereby originating a power in the Roman Pontiff, till then unknown in the annals of the Christian Church. And it must be confessed that from this time forward “the man of sin” stood forth with awful prominence as the guilty head of an apostate and utterly antichristian community. Still I cannot but think, with the venerable Bogue,* that, thirty years before this date, the Pope deserved to be regarded as the head of the great antichristian usurpation ; inasmuch as he had about that period ventured to excommunicate the head of the empire, and had, in many other particulars, displayed that spiritual tyranny and impious usurpation, against which the wrath of Heaven has been so fearfully revealed.
If then we venture with great modesty to fix the prophetic number of the beast at or near the year 740, this will, with the addition of the 1260 years, place the opening at the Millennium,
* See his admirable " Discourses on the Millennium," Vol. ii. pp. 287--295.