« PreviousContinue »
Gentile Church who still abide in life; and preserving the mourning Jewish Church, as Goshen was preserved in the plagues of Egypt: and when the promised land shall have been cleared of all intruders, and they themselves, by suffering, perfected for the habitation of it, he shall lead them into it with a mighty and outstretched arm; and sit upon the throne of David, judging and seeking judgment, and hasting righteousness; and send forth the law from Zion, and the word of the law from Jerusalem ; and rule among the nations, and be the prince of universal peace; using in this judgment and government of the earth, his risen saints, who shall be his ministers to execute whatever his pleasure is. And thus, Satan being cast out, and the prince of light, and the heavenly Jerusalem, the dwelling-place of his elect Church being present, the Jerusalem on earth, with the house of Jacob, and all the nations shall enjoy that fulness of peace and joy, that millennial reign of righteousness, for which we all hope and pray, and diligently labour."*
Now in venturing to animadvert upon these views of a Millennium, I beg leave most solemnly to affirm, that if I were satisfied they had any foundation in the word of God, their mystery, or even apparent incongruousness, should have no influence whatever in deterring me from their immediate and cordial belief. If however, they are found, upon inquiry, to originate in a view of the divine testimony altogether mistaken and erroneous, it will then be perfectly lawful to show how they oppose the dictates of sound reason, how, in any respect, they contradict themselves, and how they reduce their advocates to such shifts and necessities as truth can never demand.
* Irving's “ Preliminary Discourse” to a Translation of BenEzra, p. 6.
Let me observe, moreover, that we ought not to be diverted from the calm and unprejudiced examination of the scriptural doctrine of a Millennium, by any of the oracular denunciations of a School which has lately arisen in this country. “ Let him beware," observes a defender (and one of the most modest of that school) of Christ's personal reign, when speaking of an able writer on the other side, “lest in denying the plain literal meaning of the promises of the Lord's second coming, he should be chargeable with exalting his own carnal reason above the oracles of the living God."* Let this author remember that there is as much danger of his carnal reason getting the mastery of him as there is in the case of any of his Christian opponents : and let him recollect, moreover, that the temptations to carnal reason seem to be quite as strong in the one case as in the other. Indeed it is obvious that serious consequences depend upon any theory that may be entertained respecting a Millennium. If the advocates of a personal reign are mistaken, they are abetting a most corrupting heresy; and if
* Mr. Cunningham's “Summary View," &c. p. 27.
those who contend only for a spiritual reign be mistaken, they are frittering down the divine testimony, and hoping for a renovation by such means as shall never effect it. Let such considerations as these induce mutual self-diffidence and humility, and, above all, entire submission to the revealed will of heaven.
Shall the coming of Christ, then, in personal majesty and splendour, precede or follow after the thousand years of Messiah's reign on earth ? Shall the two great divisions of the dead be raised and judged at one and the same time, or shall a thousand years intervene between the two events? Shall the reign of Messiah, during the Millennium, be personal or spiritual ?
First, Shall the coming of Christ, in personal majesty and splendour, precede, or follow after, the thousand years of Messiah's reign upon earth?
I venture, with diffidence, to express my humble belief, that it will not be till after the Millennium that Christ, in gloried humanity, shall visit this earth. The reasons of my belief I shall readily adduce:
i. We only read of two personal visits of Christ to our world; the one for the purpose of expiating human transgression, in a state of humiliation; and the other, in a state of glory, for the salvation of his Church. “Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many, and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time, without sin, unto salvation."* Now
it appears to me, that the term salvation, as here employed, can include nothing short of the perfect beatification of the redeemed, an event which even the Millennium itself, however glorious, can by no means realize ; for it is admitted that death will not then be vanquished, and that the full triumph of Christ and the Church can only take place when the wicked shall have been judged, and when death and hell are cast into the lake of fire. I conclude, therefore, that Christ's second appearing will be associated with the full, not the partial, salvation of his whole Church, and that therefore it can never precede any condition of the Church on earth, however prosperous or magnificent.
ii. The judgment of the world in righteousness is an event the standing evidence of which, till it shall actually take place, is the resurrection of Christ from the dead; “ Because he hath appointed a day in the which he will judge the world in righteousness, by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead."* Till the very hour, then, in which “ the judgment shall be set, and the books shall be opened,” the fact of Christ's resurrection shall be to all men the great assurance of their approaching doom. Hence I venture to conclude, that when Christ's resurrection shall cease to be the appropriate sign of his approach to our world, the judgment of all men will then instantly commence.
* Acts xvii, 31.
iii. When“ the Lord shall come,” we are informed that “ he will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the heart ;" * but how shall this be realized if, after his coming, more than a sand years shall transpire ere the millions of impenitent men who lie in their graves shall be raised to life, and shall pass under the scrutiny of his infallible tribunal? I conclude, therefore, that Christ will not visit our earth in person, till he comes to reveal the secrets of all hearts, and to settle the destinies both of the righteous and the wicked.
iv. At the time of Christ's coming it is expressly stated that he shall punish all his enemies with everlasting destruction, at the very moment he is glorified in his saints, and admired in all them that believe. “Seeing," says the apostle, in writing to the persecuted Thessalonians, “ it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; and to you who are troubled, rest with us; when the Lord Jesus Christ shall be revealed from heaven, with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe.” Who that is not under the