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MIL LENNIU M.
ANCIENT OPINIONS, JEWISH AND CHRISTIAN, ON THE SUB
JECT OF A MILLENNIUM..
Definition of the word Millennium-The doctrine of the Mil
lennium founded but upon a single express Passage of Scripture-Diversity of opinions as to the Time of its Commencement-Jewish Origin of the Millennarian Hypothesis
-Built upon an allegorical Exposition of the history of the Creation in six days followed by the Rest of the seventhConfirmed by Extracts-Estimate of the value of the Rabbinical Tradition-Early adopted by several of the Christian Fathers-Rejected by others-Controversy on the subject in the Primitive Church-Extracts from the writings of the Fathers—Probable Reasons of the early Prevalence of Mil. lennarian sentiments—Testimony of Gibbon.
THE etymological import of the word Millennium denotes, as is well known, the space of a thousand years. The term, considered by itself, does not point to any particular period of that extent, but may be applied indifferently to any one of the five millenniums which have elapsed since the creation, to the sixth now
verging towards its close, or to the seventh, which is yet to come. But long-established usage has given the word a restricted application, and where it occurs without specification it is universally understood to refer to the period mentioned by the prophet of Patmos, Rev. 20. 1-7. “And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, and cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season. And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them : and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands ; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection : on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years. And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison.”
This, it is to be observed, is the only express passage in the whole compass of the Scriptures, in which mention is made of the period of a thousand years in connexion with the prospective lot of the church: consequently that which is emphatically styled the doctrine of the Millennium rests wholly and entirely upon the interpretation given of this portion of the Apocalypse. This period, the reader is aware, is considered by the mass of modern commentators and divines to be yet future. The degree of its proximity to our own times is variously estimated according to the peculiar hypotheses of different expositors in regard to the plan and structure of the book, and their several arrangements of its chronological eras.* Mr. Faber, with a large class of readers, fixes its commencement to the year 1866 ; the school of Messrs. Irving, Drummond, Begg, and others, are in daily expectation of the glorious personal epiphany of our Lord and Saviour coming in the clouds of heaven to put an end, by desolating judgments, to the present degenerate order of things within the bounds of Christendom, and to usher in the full splendour of the Millennial reign. Others again, forming a very respectable class of expositors, defer the commencing epoch of the Millennium to the year 2000, or thereabouts, that the period may coincide with
* “ An Epoch is any fixed period of time from which a series of years may be regularly and successively computed. An Era is the series or succession of years actually so computed. Thus, for example, the period of the Birth of Christ constitutes the Christian Epocha; and the present year is the 1812th year of the Christian Era, or of the series of years computed from the Christian Epocha. It is the more necessary to observe this dis. tinction, because we frequently find the terms Era and Epoch confounded even by some of our most eminent writers.”— Penn's Christian Survey; Introd. Lond. 1812.
the seventh thousand years from the creation, constituting what may be termed the Great Sabbatism of the world. The following extracts from the writings of two distinguished advocates of this latter opinion may be considered as representing the sentiments of their class.
“ Without taking upon me to name the precise year of the commencement of Antichrist's reign, shall I suppose it will have ceased and the Millennium commence about the two thousandth year of the Christian era ? Should I say there appears a greater probability that the longed-for event will take place at that time than at the second period (1866) which has been mentioned, and the seventh thousand years of the world's existence prove a glorious sabbatic day of rest and peace and joy ?-perhaps it would disappoint the ardent hope of its earlier approach which some fondly entertain ; and I think I can perceive the disappointment expressed in your sorrowful looks. But if you view the subject with attention, there will be no cause either for disappointment or for grief, but infinitely much for gladness and rejoicing. You have not even the shadow of a reason for ceasing from your benevolent exertions in despondency, but the best and most forcible of reasons for proceeding in your endeavours to hasten on the glory of the latter days.Let it be granted that nearly two hundred years must yet revolve before the Millennium begin, immense is the mass of labor which must, during that whole space, without intermission, be employed to bring it into existence. Eighteen centuries have already elapsed since
the coming of the Savior into the world, but in the two that are yet to come, more remains to be done than in all the eighteen which are past. The religion of Jesus in its purity is not yet even professed by a twentieth part of the inhabitants of the earth. Judge then what a Herculean labor it must be, in the space of two hundred years, to convert the other nineteen parts to the faith of Christ. Were we to be told, that for a long course of time, four millions of souls were annually brought to the knowledge of the truth, what a wonderful as well as what a delightful event we should conceive it to be! But on an average for near two centuries to come, more than this number must be converted every year, before the whole world can be brought into subjection to the Redeemer." —Bogue's Disc. on the Mill. p. 608, 8vo. ed.
The Millennium must commence immediately upon the final overthrow of Papal Rome. But it was formerly shewn in its proper place that Papal Rome shall be completely overthrown in the end of the year of Christ 1999. The Millennium therefore, which both in the order of this prophecy and in the nature of the thing follows close upon the overthrow of Papal Rome, must commence in the beginning of the year of Christ 2000. On account of the prevalence of true religion and the total rest from wars in it, the Millennium is, as it were, the great sabbath of the whole earth.”—Johnston on the Rev. vol. ii. p. 319.
These extracts are of great importance, not only as acquainting us with the views of their authors relative