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years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison. And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they went out on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them. And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.”
“The doctrine of the Millennium” is confessedly a subject of deep interest to the Church. At the present crisis, when the study of prophecy is so general, it would argue a criminal apathy, on the part of any of Christ's disciples, to overlook the due investigation of a theme which involves, to an almost equal extent, the destinies both of the friends and enemies of Messiah.
If a Millennium has been predicted, it is the duty of all devout believers in the word of God to make themselves acquainted with its revealed character; that on the one hand they may not be ignorant of what the Divine Spirit hath condescended to teach, and, on the other, that they may not affect to be wise above that which is written. On such a subject as this the extremes of indifference and presumption are alike to be dreaded. We are neither to shrink from the labour of legitimate research, nor are we to yield to the spirit of daring and unsanctified theory. Examples of both states of mind are not wanting in the age in which we live; and it were easy to shew that while they are offensive to the Author of revealed truth, they are at the same time injurious to the best interests of men.
For my own part I am conscious of no bias, on the subject of a Millennium, contrary to the plain and obvious dictates of God's word. Where it conducts me I am willing to follow, regardless of all authority merely human, and anxious mainly that I may be preserved from attributing sentiments to the infallible Spirit, which belong only to short-sighted and imperfect men. I bless God I am under the influence of no school of prophetic interpretation. I have sat at the feet of no master, ancient or modern. I am pledged to none of the theories which now claim the public suffrage; and I desire only to lay before this enlightened and respectable auditory the words of truth and soberness.
Should it appear strange that I have fixed on a text apparently so obscure and difficult, and selected too from a book in which the language of symbols generally prevails, my apology is simply this, that in no other portion of sacred writ could I discover the doctrine of a Millennium in its most literal forms. In multitudes of other passages a happy era is predicted, in which “ peace, and righteousness, and joy in the Holy Ghost" shall universally prevail; but in no text but this do I find any mention made of a period of spiritual prosperity limited by the duration of a thousand years. Other reasons, which it is unnecessary to enumerate, have induced me to prefer this text. Suffice it to observe, that it opens a wide field of interesting inquiry, and furnishes an opportunity of investigating the truth or falsehood of the leading theories which obtain on the subject of Christ's millennial reign.
Could I treat this subject without reference to existing controversies I should exceedingly rejoice; for controversy is an element from which I would at all times willingly escape. But there are interests which ought to be dearer to us than our mere personal feelings; and it is obvious that when truth is stated and vindicated, prevailing error ought also to be exposed. For this line of procedure we have the express sanction of inspired men, who, in bearing testimony to “ the truth as it is in Jesus," never failed to rebuke the spirit of false doctrine, and to withstand every effort, by whomsoever made, which might tend, in any measure, to obscure the light or sanctity of the glorious gospel. It is not our province, however, to call down fire from heaven upon any of the abettors of error; on the contrary, we are bound to love their persons, and to adopt such measures as may be best fitted “to recover them out of the snare of the devil;" ever remembering that “the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.”
Having made these preliminary observations, I now hasten to the consideration of an event, which, under different aspects, is contemplated with interest and with joyful expectation by the whole Church of Christ.
In attempting to handle this subject, I shall,
1. Advert to the general nature and reasonableness of a Millennium.
II. Examine the principal theories which have been entertained in reference to it. And,
III. Unfold, as far as I am able, the mind of the Spirit upon this most sublime and interesting theme. At the low
Willisto - I shall, * I. Advert to the general nature and reasonableness of a Millennium.
It can scarcely be necessary to remark that the term Millennium is compounded of two Latin words which signify a thousand years. I shall not, at this stage of the discourse, institute an inquiry into the origin of the use of this term. It may have been suggested by the express reference of the text, or it may have been derived from the writings of the Jews. Be this as it may, it has now been employed, for many centuries, to denote, with various modifications, an era in the Church's future history on earth of pre-eminent bliss and sanctity. Now whether this era may be supposed to extend throughout the period of a thousand years, or to embrace a much longer duration, I think it must readily be conceded that the expectation of such a golden age is by no means extravagant or anomalous; nor in any way inconsistent with our loftiest and purest conceptions of the Divine government. On the contrary, when we reflect on the history of those ages which have transpired; when we think of the hitherto fearful triumph of the devil and his angels; when we endeavour to estimate the boundless resources of the Christian faith; and, above all, when we open our hearts to the full and grateful impression of the Divine Benevolence, we cannot but regard the future arrival of a day of millennial glory as an anticipation invested with the highest measure of probability.
If it be admitted that Christianity is the offspring of Heaven; that it is the only remedy for that moral distemper which sin has brought upon the race of man; that it is fitted to become the religion of every clime, and of every people; that it bears along with it a character of universal adaptation ; that it finds a response in the wishes and necessities of every bosom; that what it achieves for a single human being, it can effect for a world,-if all this be admitted, then is it a direct species of scepticism to doubt that it shall at last be hailed as the angel of God's mercy to all the dwellers upon earth.
Nor is there any thing in the past history of Christianity, when fairly weighed, to damp the prospect of a vision so transcendently bright. If the territory which this divine religion occupies is looked upon as small, when compared with the now lengthened period in which it has been exerting its benign influence, let it be remembered that in most of the divine operations there has been a character of gradual development; and that in proportion to the magnitude of the object to be achieved, has been the care on the part of the Divine Being to prepare his Church for the