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is at present much canvassed-that of Prophecy and the Millennium ?
I perfectly agree with those who expect a flourishing and triumphant state of the church. The doctrine of the Millennium, in the moderate, sober-minded, and, I will venture to add, orthodox view of it, is to my mind a subject of the most pleasing reflection, and joyful anticipation. I hail with delight the bright and happy prospects held forth in the writings of the Prophets, for the consolation of the believing mind. "But oh! my spirit faints beneath the
Although I can by no means subscribe to the personal reign of Christ, I believe that, in a sense fully answerable to the various predictions upon the subject, the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdoms of our God, and of his Christ; and that, in the time appointed, the "sarne Jesus" shall so come in like manner as he was seen go into heaven. I state explicitly my belief on these points, because, in the writings of modern Millennarians, those who cannot adopt their interpretation are frequently charged with a kind of infidelity with reference to the millennial reign of righteousness, the second advent of Christ, the resurrection of the just, and other important scriptural declarations.
For the chiliasm of Mede I feel the utmost respect. Who otherwise than admire the moderation and modesty with which that great and learned man supported his views of this difficult subject? A perusal of the following extract from his writings may well put to the blush a host of modern commentators on prophecy. "What the quality of this reign should be, which is so singularly differenced
from the reign of Christ hitherto, is neither easy nor safe to determine, farther than that it should be the reign of our Saviour's victory over his enemies; wherein, Satan being bound up from deceiving the nations any more, till the time of this reign be fulfilled, the church should consequently enjoy a most blessed peace and happy security......But here, if any where, the known shipwrecks of those who have been too venturous, should make us most wary and careful, that we admit nothing into our imaginations which may cross or impeach any catholic tenet of the Christian faith." But some modern commentators go far greater lengths than either Mede or Justin Martyr, Burnet, Newton, or Horsley, and speak in a tone of confi. dence, not to say extravagance, totally different from that of these eminent men.
My objections, however, to the modern system of Millennarianism are not founded so much on any of its peculiar features, as on the particular mode of Scripture interpretation which it introduces. This I conceive to be of a nature calculated to unsettle the belief, and to perplex the minds, of Christians on many tenets of the catholic faith, and imperceptibly to turn them aside from the simplicity that is in Christ. The coming of Christ at the commencement of the Millennium, to set up a visible kingdom, and to reign personally with his people upon earth, certainly supersedes his coming in the last day in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead. The first resurrection of the saints and martyrs at the beginning of the thousand years, cannot by any device be made to consist with the simultaneous resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust, at the final coming of Christ to judgment. If Christ, in his kingly character, has not yet been set upon his holy hill of Sion, according to the prediction in the Second Psalm; and if the setting up of his kingdom upon
earth be yet future; then the very foundation of Christ's spiritual reign and kingdom is shaken, as to the doctrine of it, and the whole fabric totters. If all that has hitherto been applied to the heavenly state, is to be applied, as Millennarians assume, to the millennial dispensation on earth, what becomes of the strict eternity of future rewards and punishments? I do not charge modern Millennarians with the denial of these doctrines; although, if I mistake not, there are many of them who have laid themselves open to the charge; but I affirm, of the systematic mode of interpretation which they adopt, that it tends to supersede and overthrow them.
To give an exposition of my own views would be to write a volume: however, I beg permission to offer a few observations. The xx th chap. of the Revelations is confessedly the bulwark of modern Millennarians. Now I object entirely to their interpretation of this passage, and believe it to militate against every rule of sound criticism. "I saw the souls and they (the souls) lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years." Upon what rational principle can this be interpreted to mean a literal resurrection? The opposite opinion, however, of those who assume that it denotes a purely spiritual resurrection from the death of sin to a life of righteousness, making the passage in sense parallel with John v. 25, is open to just and obvious objections. The former hypothesis proves too much, the latter too little. The words can by no means be made to signify a literal resurrection of the bodies and souls of all the saints; and it is equally evident that they must imply more than the mere renovation of the soul (Eph. ii. 1, 2), which has been common to saints in all ages of the church. Here I conceive most commentators have failed to exhibit the mind of the Holy Spirit in this passage. Though I have searched every writer upon it, to whom I could get access for CHRIST. OBSERV. No. 327.
several years past, I have never met with a satisfactory exposition of it. If I might presume to hazard an opinion on so difficult a subject, I should say it must mean a political resurrection. I do not quite like the term; but it comes nearest to the idea I wish to convey, and is the best one I can find to express my meaning, though I confess it expresses it only imperfectly. If what I am about to suggest should serve to throw any light on the passage, or induce those who are competent and have leisure, fully and dispassionately to investigate it, I shall indeed rejoice, and my end will be accomplished. The importance of clearing up this point will at least be admitted by all who have felt the difficulty attending it. The observation of Mede is very remarkable. He says (p. 750), "Thus I yet admit the first resurrection to be corporeal as well as the second; though I confess I have much striven against it; and if the text would admit another sense less free of paradox, I had rather listen unto it: but I find it not." Bishop Newton uses very similar language in his Dissertation on the xx th chapter of Revelations. Now to me it appears, that the passage does admit of a different interpretation; and though I can at present only offer a very rough outline of my sentiments respecting it, yet the substance of the present paper is the result of long consideration and investigation.
The advocates of the literal sense reason thus: If the second resurrection be literal, the first must be so likewise. This seems plausible. But they take for granted, what I cannot admit, that the first resurrection is so called with relation to the resurrection before the great white Throne. (v. 11.) The reader will observe that this is assumed in the last quotation from Mede. But it ought to be carefully considered, and borne in mind, that the first resurrection takes place at the commencement of the Millennium; the Y
second at the end of it," when the thousand years are ended." (Compare verses 5 and 7.) Whereas the general and literal resurrection, which has been almost universally miscalled the second, bears, in fact, no relation to either of them in the manner supposed; but is one of its own kind, distinct from the two resurrections which are represented to precede it.
With regard to the nature of the first resurrection, I conceive it may be inferred from a coincident event; namely, the binding of Satan. The vision of the first resurrection instantly succeeds to that of the restraint laid upon his influence in the earth. When the prince of darkness ceases to be the god of this world, his subjects cease to reign; they become politically dead. The triumph of the wicked will cease when the wicked one himself shall be dethroned and bound. The nature of the second resurrection will be illustrated by very attentively considering, first, the time when it is to take place; namely, at the end of the Millennium, "when the thousand years are ended;" then (neither sooner nor later, but at that particular time,) "Satan shall be loosed out of his prison." Secondly, the two co-incident events at the end of the Millennium; namely, the loosing of Satan, and the re-appearance of the wicked upon the earth. These also explain each other.
Thus the first resurrection is a resurrection of the saints; the second a resurrection of the wicked: these, which are to be understood in a mystical and political sense, take place, the former of them at the beginning, the latter, strictly at the end of the Millennium. The general resurrection, the only literal one mentioned here, does not take place at the end of the thousand years, but after the last general apostasy, which occupies the interval between the close of the Millennium and the second advent.
Admitting, therefore, my proposed principle of interpretation to be
correct, the following, according to my view, would be a general summary of the contents of the chapter. It opens with a description of the binding of Satan, who is designated by the several names of the Dragon, the Old Serpent, and the Devil. If, then, it be so melancholy to reflect on the influence exercised over the minds of men by this great adversary of souls, whom St. Paul calls the prince and god of this world, and declares that he still worketh in the children of disobedience (Eph. ii. 2), how cheering is it to be assured that the time is at hand, when his influence shall be restrained, and his kingdom overthrown! The impediments being thus removed, the universal triumphs of the Gospel shall succeed; ungodliness shall be dislodged from its strong holds, and cast down from its high places; and the religion of Jesus Christ, in all its primitive simplicity, in all its Divine loveliness, and in the plenitude of its power, shall ascend the throne; "the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and exalted above the hills." The kingdom, dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High; so that they shall live and reign with Christ upon the earth: and in this manner, I conceive, not personally, shall Christ reign for a thousand years, or a great length of time; for by Him, in the fullest sense, shall kings then reign, and princes decree justice. This, in the symbolical language of the Apocalypse, is called the first resurrection. In the present state of the world, the church is politically dead (Col. iii. 3): but when the power of Satan shall be restrained, and the Spirit poured out on all flesh (Joel ii. 28), and when, consequently, the Jews as a body, are converted to Chris. tianity, and the fulness of the Gentiles is gathered in; when Popery shall be overthrown, Mohammedanism shall vanish, and idolatry shall cease to exist,-it shall be to the
church "as life from the dead."
(Rom. xi. 15.)
Yet this earth is not designed to be the perpetual resting place of the church: for, even after the Millennium, there will be a lamentable defection from Christian principles and holy practice; Satan will be again loosed for a little season, and, previously to his final overthrow, will make one more desperate struggle to crush the cause of godliness, and to re-establish his dominion in the world. This apostacy, however, will be short, and immediately precedes the Saviour's second advent, the general resurrection of the dead, the final judgment, the execution of Divine wrath on the devil, his angels, and impenitent sinners, and the 'translation of the whole church of the redeemed to heavenly and eternal glory.
Such is the prophetical order of events as described in this chapter; wherein we may observe, that the second advent of Christ cannot be supposed to take place either at the commencement of the Millennium, or immediately at the close of it, but subsequently to the final apostacy. According to this view, the second advent will synchronize with the general resurrection of the dead; and both these events are to be contemplated as immediately preparatory to the final judgment of quick and dead, before the great white Throne. (Rev. xx. 12.)
A strong recommendation of this order of events is its well-known agreement with the statements which will be found in the creeds and formularies of our own church, and with the commonly-received views of the universal church in all ages. "We believe that Thou shalt come to be our Judge." "At whose coming all men shall rise again with their mortal bodies, and shall give account of their own works." "Christ sitteth at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty, from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead."
I. E. I.
THE ACTIVE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF
Tothe Editorofthe Christian Observer.
IT is maintained by some divines, that it is inconsistent with Scripture, with Church-of-England orthodoxy, and a mere Calvinian figment, to speak of what is sometimes called the active righteousness of Christ, his fulfilment of the law we had broken; in contradistinction to his passive righteousness, his "obedience unto death" as our sacrifice. I might quote many passages of Scripture to shew that both these points are there laid down: but as the objector alludes to the tenets of the Established Church, and urges that no expression is to be found in her formularies which recognizes such a doctrine, I beg leave to ask how he would construe the following passage in the collect for the Circumcision : Circumcision: "Almighty God, who madest thy blessed Son to be circumcised and obedient unto the law for man." Whether by the term Law is here meant the ceremonial or the moral law, the doctrine I am contending for is equally admitted in this expression. Your correspondents will perhaps point out other passages from our formularies bearing upon the question.
ON THE PHRASE-THE CHARACTER OF GOD.
Tothe Editorofthe Christian Observer.
YOUR correspondent Z. objects to the use of the phrase, "the character of God," as not being scriptural; and as an "unseemly approach to irreverent familiarity."
To the first objection, I reply, that convenience may sanction the use of expressions which, though not the express words of Scripture, are not unscriptural. Quakers dis
approve of the term "Trinity ;" but it serves to express perspicuously in one word what could not be otherwise conveyed without a long paraphrase. Technical terms, when once explained and understood, become symbols of a whole train of ideas, which they recal to the mind in the most simple and concise form. When a theologian speaks of "the character of God," he means to recal to the mind of the hearer all that the Scriptures relate respecting that great and incomprehensible Being: and the hearer, in the rapid glance of thought, does so, according to his knowledge of what Scripture teaches, and his power of collecting at one view the scattered notices of his justice, his mercy, his truth, his providence, his grace; in short, all that refers to his Divine essence and influences.
With regard to the second objection of irreverent familiarity, this depends not upon the use of the phrase," the character of God," but upon the manner in which the writer or speaker descants upon that character. It is not thought disrespectful for a loyal speaker or writer to dwell upon the just or amiable "character" of his sovereign, with a view to hold it up to public admiration. Disrespect could only arise if he alluded to that character in order to disparage it. And thus it is, though at an infinite distance,in speaking of God. We can never speak fully, or altogether rightly; but if we speak humbly and scripturally, there will be no want of reverence in our descanting upon his love, his equity, his promises; in a word, his all-perfect "character." F. R. M.
ON SCRIPTURAL GEOLOGY.
Tothe Editorofthe Christian Observer.
HAVING just read over the articles on Geology in your late Numbers, I am desirous of drawing the attention of your readers to the real point in discussion. The question between Mr. Bugg and his opponents is this, Whether the inferences which modern geologists have deduced from their observation of the earth and its contents, are adverse to the testimony of Scripture: for I pass by, as of subordinate importance, the discussion of their philosophical accuracy, and of Mr. Bugg's counter theory. If God has declared in any authentic shape, that the account which is given by geologists of the earth and its origin is erroneous, it is erroneous; and all reasonings and appearances which lead them to these conclusions must be fallacious.
But then, the testimony of God should be plain and palpable, before it ought to be quoted in such
is not intended to instruct us in The history of the Bible science; and all its statements must be understood as relating to our species and its destinies, unless they can be clearly proved to have a farther reference and wider application.
It appears therefore to me a matter of some importance, to determine what the Scriptures have plainly decided, and what they have left open to inquiry, that unfounded appeals may not be made to an infallible authority, and thus human investigations fettered and limited without occasion.
pose to examine those passages in Accordingly, in this paper, I prothe first chapter of Genesis, which seem to have any bearing on the theories of geologists; not with a view to determine their meaning,