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relation to the present question, is capable of ample illustration. First, it may be asked, by what principles of interpretation, reasonable or unreasonable, consistent or inconsistent-by what quality of criticism have these conclusions been evolved ? or, secondly, the method of reductio ad absurdum may be tried upon the theory, by deducing those consequences from it which are inconsistent with the admitted principles of its advocates ; or, thirdly, the system may be compared with the spirit and tendency of the gospel—with what is called the genius of Christianity. In our opinion, the application of any one of these tests to the Millennial theory will explode it, whether we compare it with the Bible, or with itself, or with the general principles of Christianity.
In arguing with a modern Millenarian, we are liable to constant perplexity from being at issue with him on the very first principles of interpretation, and on the application of his professed principles. To any one who does not come to the study of the Bible strongly predisposed towards a theory, it would appear a glaring absurdity to take what certainly seems the most highly figurative language as the literal expressions of the ultimate form and destiny of the kingdom of Christ; and to construct such a theory as that of the millennium from a single symbolical passage in the most symbolical book in the Bible. You feel this preliminary question forced upon you :By what test can it be ascertained when the word of God speaks in poetry, and when in plain prose? When, and where, are you to say, this is a scenical representation of a spiritual truth, or the metaphorical expression of a spiritual fact; and this is an abstract statement, purely literal, to be received as an exact, unadorned account of Christian doctrine? Is it all literal ? and if not, by what rule can you discriminate the literal from the figurative? Are there any rules? or is every individual at liberty to choose out of the visions, prophecies, and dramatic representations of Scripture, that portion which it may snit his system to render literally? A very old, and it would seem : trustworthy, answer to this question is, that we must not construct doctrine out of prophecy– Theologia prophetica non est argumentativa. The reason of such a rule is obvious. Prophecy, in order that it may not bring about its own fulfilment, that it may awaken only general expectations, and when fulfilled may become an evidence of its divine origin, whether general or particular, whether literal or figurative, must be on the whole an obscure, and but imperfect, description of what is predicted, till the fulfilment shall throw light upon its hitherto dim expressions. But this rule has been reversed by the disciples of the school we are opposing, who are all in common inspired by a
typophobia. The canon they have relied on most one most necessary to them—is, that whatever interpretation of a prophecy is possible, is probable; a maxim by the help of which it would be easy to extract marvellous absurdities from the word of God.
It would certainly seem probable, that in giving a revelation of his will the Almighty would convey the most important parts of it in language that could be rightly interpreted by at least the greater part of those who read it; and with such repetitions as we find in the case of truths confessedly the most important. The doctrine of the atonement, for instance, is exhibited in the centre of a thousand lights, all converging towards it as into a focus ; prophecy, literal and figurative; type, symbol, and parable; direct and simple statement, iterated and reiterated; and in the Epistles, the doctrine is reasoned out with much energy, both of ideas and of language. Now, it is not according to the analogy of inspiration that a dogma so important as the reign of Christ, with his risen saints, for a thousand years, should be abandoned to the support of a single passage, and that passage occurring in the midst of visions that at least have the appearance of being symbolical. Before we take such an account to be the literal winding up of the Christian dispensation, we must have the same truth glancing upon us from other pages and other books of the New Testament; we must have it in the preaching of the Apostles and in the Epistles. But here,' says an accredited author of the Millennial school, in the book of Revelation, is the seat of the doctrine.'
We have often tried, with the help of Millenarian writers, to form some intelligible and fixed conception of the manner in which the reign of the saints with Christ on earth can be a * judgment' on their behalf, but without success. The ideas that arise on the attempt seem so incompatible. On the one hand, we have to think of a grand spiritual monarchy, at the head of which Christ himself sits as the supreme sovereign, arrayed in spiritual glory: his glorified saints, but principally the Jews (although the literal interpretation of the passage in the Apocalypse gives this glory to the martyrs only), are with him as co-assessors, holding a subordinate authority. So far we are presented with spiritual ideas only, of the same class as are awakened when we try to form a conception of heaven and its blessedness. But now the mind has to abandon this purely spiritual region, and try to connect with it, as part and parcel of the same, the idea of a material and local throne, and local seats of authority; a material temple for worship, with sacrifices as helps to the devotion of glorified creatures; a material city, which is to be adorned for the habitation of spiritual natures by the presents and the glory of earthly kings; that is to say, the senses are to be gratified, and the taste for outward pomp is to be pampered ; and yet this is part of the
judgment' given to creatures who are supposed to have been purified from the last taint of flesh and sense, and to be ennobled with an incorruptible and immortal nature. We are obliged to give up this attempt to mingle carnal and spiritual, earthly and heavenly things, in despair.
Another part of the judgment' given to the glorified saints, and which presents equal difficulties, is the universal spread of the gospel during the millennial period. How is this diffusion to be accomplished ? By the instrumentality now employed being rendered more powerful and effectual ? By persuasioni
, by the activity and intercessions of the Church, by the ministry of the doctrine of the Cross ? No, not mainly ; but chiefly by the personal manifestation of Christ, by judgments on antichristian nations, by the revival of miracles, by extraordinary effusions of the Spirit. The glorified saints are also to be employed on behalf of saints on earth, in the character of ministering angels. Let the reader try to work out these ideas, and he will complete a scheme as incompatible with Christianity aná the Bible as any production of fiction can well be. The appearance of Christ in the clouds will be the means of converting those rebellious against all previous means. His appearance in spiritual glory to Saul may be urged as an argument in favour of this view, but the example really overthrows it. There were other and moral means used to effect the conversion of Saul. The sight of Christ produced blindness, terror, and stupefaction, but the words of Christ, though few, were tender and subduing, and directed him to the further use of instruction at Damascus. But men could not be converted in this manner by the personal appearing of Christ. There are no saints in the flesh remaining, for they are all transformed ; none to whom the wonder-stricken Sauls could be sent for instruction and training; -and how all their wonder and terror are to have a moral direction given to them; how a new heart is to spring out of a terrible vision; how faith can be invited into existence by what seems calculated to inspire only awe--all these difficulties are ignored and unsolved. Similar objections may be urged against judgments on anti-christian nations as agents for the conversion of the world. What influence have earthquakes, plagues, famines, and fires, in changing the currents of a man's affections? In what manner do they overcome his cherished aversion to God, root out his enmity to the Cross, and implant aspirations after a sanctified and obedient nature? And the revival of what miracles will be competent to bring the truth into effectual
contact with the heart? No miracle short of that which, abandoning the ordinary method of teaching, shall accomplish some wonderful psychological change in the nature of man. But would that be changing men into Christians? Millenarian writers must surely mean some miraculous agency of the Spirit of this kind when they speak of his extraordinary effusions in those times; for they refer but slightly to the usual instruments by which the Spirit now works, while they frequently refer to the supernatural and the miraculous as the instruments of conversion. After surveying all the extraordinary machinery for human conversion during the millennium, the question is forced upon one, Why should Heaven prepare such a battery to break down an opposition to the truth, which will be infinitely weaker than that now offered to its claims ? Satan and his agencies will be bound during that time, and yet the renovation of human nature will stand more in need than ever of supernatural help!
But does not the whole of this part of the theory disclose the low views which these writers have been accustomed to take of the Christian system? We have been used to consider that the means ordained by the wisdom of God for the present conversion of man are admirably adapted to his nature. They are beautifully delicate as an appeal from infinite power to helpless creatures in wide contrast with the rude compulsion implied in the extensive use of miracles and judgments. It is a condescension touching our deepest sensibilities when the Lawgiver tenderly reasons with the law-breaker, and accompanies his expostulations with a secret influence on the will, the conscience, and the reason, which, though not for one moment interfering with his freedom or with his spontaneous movement towards God, exercises, nevertheless, an influence, without which he would have remained as before, indifferent and hardened to all the words of Judge and Redeemer. If love and free obedience are to be drawn forth by the gospel, such means as these seem exquisitely adapted to their end. Notwithstanding verbal denials, the Millenarian repudiates the efficacy of these means. They are not material and palpable enough to win his confidence. They do not rudely compel obedience, but plead for it; and they plead for it with an authority so subdued and softened by love and mercy, as to seem tardy and circuitous in the route they take to reach the salvation of the species. A millennium of obedience can only be brought about, therefore, by the prodigies attending the advent, by some resistless influence of the Spirit, and by judgments upon the wicked. But • truth, and love, and obedience are spiritual things, and can be established in the world only by spiritual means. The Millenarian spirit is arrogant, and impatient, and coarse-arrogant, in intruding on the functions of the Supreme, abolishing the spirit of Christianity, and substituting a refined Mohammedanism ; impatient, with the rate at which the Redeemer moves onward in the redemption of the world, and therefore would have him come and inaugurate his universal reign by terrible signs and wonders; and coarse, in undervaluing the existing moral and spiritual means of bringing men into the obedience of the faith.
If there is one point on which the Millenarians are more unanimous than another, it is that the proper kingdom of Christ has never yet been established, and never will be till he shall come a second time to set it up on the earth. We know not a more revolting doctrine amongst all the deformed Christianity of that system. Not the least astonishing part of the matter is, that men educated in the Christian faith, and claiming to be enlightened by the Christian revelation, should be found in this age attempting to revive the very notion, the same in all essential respects, as that entertained by the Jews of old, and by the unbelieving Jews now, respecting the nature of the kingdom of Christ. My kingdom is not of this world '-'the kingdom of God is within you'—'the kingdom of God cometh not with observation'-were the reiterated announcements of Christ as to the spiritual nature of his kingdom. But these were the statements that convinced the Jews that he was an impostor; for him to declare that his kingdom was not from hence,' falsified, in their estimation, his claim to the Messiahship; for they believed that his kingdom was temporal, and therefore they crucified him as a malefactor, determined to wait for a Messiah whose kingdom should be of this world. They fell into this grand mistake through an interpretation of the prophecies congenial to their carnal ambition. The same mistake has been committed by the writers of the school we are opposing, though the same temptations and excuses do not exist in their case, except that it is common to human nature in every stage of its development to prefer the sensible to the spiritual and invisible. Millenarianism, then, is a revival of Judaism—the principal difference being, that the creed of the latter is that Christ is yet to come, and to set up a visible authority by which he will more than recover the lost splendours of the crown of Israel ; while the creed of the former is, that Christ has come, but not to establish his proper kingdom--that he will come a second time to do that very thing which he repeatedly disavowed when he dwelt among us.
Besides the vicious treatment of the prophecies already referred to, an additional cause of this delusion is found in a