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degree interpret it according to the letter. Many of the ancient fathers, from carrying this to its full extent, brought discredit, not only on themselves, but on the book of Revelation itself. The too literal expounding of passages has, says Dr. Jortin, 'produced strange and precarious notions amongst ancient and modern Christians concerning the millennium: thus it has been supposed, that Christ shall come and reign personally upon earth a thousand years, that the old Christian martyrs shall rise again to reign with him, that the Jews shall have a temple rebuilt, and a temple-service renewed1.'
As a proof, however, that rational ideas on the nature of the millennium have long been entertained, I transcribe a short extract from Mr. Stephens, as printed nearly 140 years since. 'For the nature of this kingdom, we desire that we may not be mistaken. We do not plead for a personal reign, nor a literal resurrection of the martyrs, nor a confluence of all sensual delights, as many have done. That which we principally stand for, is, the universal subjection of the nations to the laws of the Gospel, and the rest of the church from such persecutions as have been in all antichristian times3.'
As a day usually stands for a year in the Apocalypse, and three years and a half for 1260: I think it an opinion not entirely destitute of plausibility, that the Thousand Years, spoken of by St. John, are prophetic years, and denote a petiod of 360,000 common years. This was thought probable by Hartley4, and is the opinion of Priestley*. It is not, I am aware, unencumbered with difficulties; and is exposed to a very formidable objection, drawn from a consideration ot the size of the globe and the probable progress of population. That mankind will subsist in this world only ten centuries, after the commencement of the millenniary period,
2 Rem. onEccl. Hist. Vol. II. p. 424.
3 A Calcul. of the Numb. &c. p. 91.
4 On Man, Vol. H. p. 400.
5 See his Institutes, Vol. II. p. 41".
I do, however, conceive to be a notion as irrational and unfounded, as it is gloomy and dispiriting.
To the reality of a millennium a crowd of passages bear testimony. Of these a few shall be alleged.
Daniel, having declared in the 35th v. of the iid ch. that all the oppressive governments of the world shall be broken to pieces, says in the close of the same verse, that the stone, which was cut out without hands, became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth, 'that is,' says Dr. Lancaster, 'the kingdom of the Messiah, having destroyed the four . monarchies, became an universal monarchy6.' What a lofty idea do these symbols suggest to us of the final spread of Christianity7! That, which at first was so narrow in its extent, as justly to be likened to a small stone, will at length be worthy of being compared to a mighty mountain. This prophetic vision, says Mr. Mede, 'points out 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 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, &c), which is the state of his king
6 With the dictates of reason this perfectly agrees. 'As the gospel was plainlyfittedfor the use of all mankind, so nothing can seem more reasonable and fit, than that sometime or other it should be make known to all.' Christianity the Perfect, of all Bel. by Tho. Jeffery, p. 98.
7 However the doctrine of the millennium may be understood, 'it is clear,' says Mr, Cray, 'that the prophetic declarations promise the universal establishment of Christianity, in purity and truth, to be preceded by the fall of that antichristian power, of which the character is described as so repugnant and hostile to the spirit of the church.' Gray's Discourses, 1793, p. 315.
dom which hereafter shall be'.' But the subject, which Mr. Mede was handling, he felt to be a very delicate one, and but ill calculated to gratify the ruling powers. In a letter to Mr. Hayne, wht} differed with him on the prophecy of Daniel, he accordingly says, 'I am unwilling to put all in writing, which I would utter in a private and personal discourse V
To the Jews, says bp. Chandler, we might on these points appeal. 'Ask them, what is meant by the stone, and they answer as one man, the Messias. Go to the image, that the stone smote on the toes, and they are as unanimous in saying, it is the Roman empire, which must be, therefore, still in being, according to their sentiments10.'
The bishop, to authenticate this statement, cites as witnesses, a crowd of the most celebrated rabbins. To these conclusions the words of Daniel do, indeed, irresistibly lead. In his explication of this vision to Nebuchadnezzar, he says, in v. 44 and 45, that the symbolic stone broke in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; and that the kingdom, which the God of heaven set up, shall never be destroyed. The restricted sense of the word never will be more conveniently noted in a future page.
After observing, that 'the present kingdoms of Europe are unquestionably represented by the feet and toes of the great image,' Dr. Priestley says, 'From Daniel's interpretation of this vision it may be clearly inferred, that the forms of government, ecclesiastical and civil, which now subsist in Europe, must be dissolved; but that something very different from them, and greatly superior to them, more favorable to the virtue and happiness of mankind, will take place in their stead. That this is the meaning of the prophecy can hardly be doubted by any person, who shall give the least attention to it".'
8 P. 909. 9 P. 915.
10 pef. of Christianity, p. 100.
11 Institutes, &c Vol. II. p. 426.
But another prophetic vision of the same import, and yet more clear, is recorded in ch. vii. After predicting, in v. 11 and 12, the destruction of the papal power and the oppressive monarchies of the world, Daniel immediately adds in v. 13 and 14, I saw in the night-visions, and, behold, one like 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. 'The time, in which this kingdom is given,' says Dr. Sykes,'is expressly mentioned to be after the death of the beast, or after the expiration of the fourth kingdom. And here it is observable, that the kingdom of the Son of man is not spoken of as a kingdom, in this prophecy, till the judgment was set, i. e. not till that glorious state of it, when the stone should actually become a mountain11.'
There has before been occasion to introduce extracts from Daubuz and from bp, Newton, wherein they remark, that it is the custom of the prophets first to describe an event in the language of symbols, and afterwards to represent it in plain and ordinary words. Thus, in the passage just cited, the first clause is clothed in the emblematic language of the feast; but the second is expressed literally, and is explanatory of the meaning of the former. Dr. More accordingly observes in his prophetic alphabet, that 'riding upon the clouds signifies—success against our enemies and enlargement of power.' In confirmation of this, I give the words of Achmet, as appealed to by Dr. More, and quoted by Dr. Lancaster: this ancient writer says, that according to the usage of the Persians and Egyptians, 'a king's riding upon the clouds is interpreted of foreign nations serving him, of his ruling over them, and of his being exceedingly prosperous and successful13.' Indeed bp. Newton says, on Mat. xxiv, 30, that 'in the ancient prophets God is frequently described as coming in the clouds, upon any remarkable in
12 Upon the Truth of Chr. p. 18. What Mede observes, p. 933, is in exact agreement with this quotation from Dr. Sykes.
13 Achmetis Oneirocritica, 164,
terposition and manifestation of his power; and the same description is here applied to Christ14.' To the same purpose speaks Vitringa. '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 favor, severity, and power'5.'
That a cloud is a symbol, denoting success, was before remarked16. When therefore it is said in Daniel, that one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, the prediction appears evidently to carry with it this import, that, at the period spoken of, the religion of Jesus will obtain a signal triumph over all its enemies, and will have a glorious prevalence. Agreeably to this, Daubuz and Lancaster conceive, that when Christ said in Mat. xxiv. 30, they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory; he superadded these words, power and great glory, as explanatory of the symbol which Daniel had employed; and it is after he had been discussing at length the established meaning of heaven in prophetic language, that the former of these writers says, in this prediction of our Saviour, it is plain, that heaven is synonimous to powers and glory17. And I must not omit to observe,
14 Vol. II. p. 283. In Isaiah, xix. 1. it is said, behold, the Lordrideth upon a sizift cloud, and shall come into Egypt.
15 In Apoc. I. 7. See this observation also made and illustrated by Brenius (De Regno Eccl. Glor. cap. 5). I likewise add the statement of bp. Newcome. 'I think,' says this worthy prelate and able scriptural critic, • any signal interposition in behalf of his church, or in the destruction of his enemies, may be metaphorically called a coining, or aparousia, of Christ.' Observations on our Lord's Conduct as a Divine Instructor, p. 256.
16 See authorities for this in vol. I. p. 120.
17 P. 161. See this observed by Waple on Rev. ch. i. v. 7. 'Clouds of heaven, in the scripture-phrase, seem/ says Dr. More in his prophetic alphabet, 'to signify power and great glory.' See also Taylor's Thoughts on the Grand Apostacy, p. 179, where he observes, that 'the earning of Christ in the kingdom of God does by no means intimate any kind of local motion or change of place: but merely the arrival at power and glory.—Thus we say in English, that the king came to his thrpne, that a man came to his sstate, kc. without the least idea of local motion.'