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signifies, that when his Son shall come, and shall abolish the season of the wicked one (Antichrist), and shall change the sun and the moon and the stars, then he shall rest gloriously in that seventh day."*
The genuineness of this epistle is indeed disputed ; but as far as the present argument is concerned, it is immaterial who the real author was. There is sufficient testimony that it is the production of a very early period of the Christian church, and it contains undeniable evidence of the origin of those opinions which were in circulation respecting an expected reign of a thousand years, or a seventh millennium.
Justin Martyr, in the second century, declares the Millennium to be the Catholic doctrine of his time.
“ I, and as many as are orthodox Christians in all respects, do acknowledge that there shall be a resurrection of the flesh, and a residence of a thousand years in Jerusalem rebuilt, and adorned, and enlarged, as the prophets Ezekiel, and Isaiah, and others do unanimously attest.”+
But here Justin's proof, if proof it can be called, is exceedingly deficient ; for the prophets referred to say
* -Και εποίησεν ο θεός εν εξ ημέραις τα έργα των χειρών αυτου, και συνετέλεσεν εν τη ημέρα τη εβδόμη, και κατέπαυσεν εν αυτή, και ήγίασεν αυτήν. Προσέχετε, τέκνα, τί λέγει, το συνετέλεσεν εν εξ ημεραις τούτο λέγει, ότι συντελεί ο θεός κύριος εν εξακισχιλιόις έτεσι τα πάντα. Η γαρ ημέρα παρ' αυτω χίλια έτη, αυτος δε μαρτυρεί, λέγων, ιδού σήμερον ημέρα έσται ώς χίλια έτη. Ουκούν, τέκνα, εν εξ ημεραις, εν εξακισχιλιόις έτεσι, συντελεσθήσεται τα πάντα. Και κατέπαυσε τη ημέρα τη εβδομη τούτολέγει, όταν ελθων ο υιός αυτού, και καταργήσει τον καιρον ανόμου, και κρινεί τους ασεβείς, και αλλάξει τον ήλιον, και την σεληνην, και τους αστέρας, τότε καλώς κατεπαύσεται εν τη ημερα της εβδόμη.-S. Barn. Epist. c. 15,
Η 'Εγω δε, και εί τινές εισιν ορθογνώμονες κατα πάντα Χριστιανοι, και σαρκός ανάστασιν γενήσεσθαι επιστάμεθα, και χίλια έτη εν Ιεροσαλήμ οικοδομηθείση, και κοςμηθειση, και πλατυνθείση, (ως) οι προφή αι Ιεζεκιήλ, κα Ησαιας, και οι άλλοι ομολογούσιν.-Just. Mart. Dial. cum Tryph. p. 313,
nothing respecting the period of a thousand years, so that his expectation, as far as it relates to a limited term of years, clearly betrays its Jewish original.--He afterwards subjoins :- .
“A certain man among us, whose name was John, one of the apostles of Christ, in a revelation made to him, did prophesy that the faithful believers in Christ should live a thousand years in the New Jerusalem, and after these should be the general resurrection and judgment."*
In the order of time Irenæus is the next authority who is particularly entitled to attention.
“ In whatever number of days the world was created, in the same number of thousands of years it will come to an end. And therefore the Scripture says, that the heavens and the earth were completed and all their em. bellishments. And God finished on the sixth day the works which he made. And God ceased on the seventh day from all his works. This is a narration of the past, and a prophecy relative to the future ; for the day of the Lord is as a thousand years.”+
Cyprian speaks thus ;6. Thus in the divine arrangement of the world seven
* Ανήρ τις, “ω όνομα Ιωάννης, εις των αποστόλων του Χρισθού, εν αποκαλύψει γενόμενη αυτώ χίλια έτη ποιήσειν εν Ιερουσαλήμ τους το ημετερω Χριστώ πισ. τεύσαντας προεφήτευσε, και μετά ταύτα την καθολικήν και, συνελόνι φάναι, αιωνίαν δμοθομαδόν άμα πάντων ανάστασιν γενήσεσθαι και κρίσιν.--Ibid. p. 315.
ή "Οσαις ημέραις εγένετο ο κόσμος, τοσαύτοις χιλιοντασι συντελείται και δια τούτο' φησιν τη γραφή και συντελέσθησαν ο ουρανος και η γή, και πάς ο κοσμος αυτών και συνετέλεσεν ο θεός τη ημερα της τα έργα αυτού ά εποιησε, και κατέπαυσε ο Θεός εν τη ημερα τη ζ’ απο πάντων των εργων αυτού. Τούτο δ' εστι των προγεγονότων διήγησις, και των εσομένων προφετεια: η γαρ η μέρα Κυρίου ως χιλια έτη.-Ireneus Adυ. Hereses, L. 5. p. 444, 445.
days were at first employed, and in them seven thousand years were included."*
The next testimony is taken from Tertullian. “ After a thousand years, within which period the resurrection of the saints is included, who will rise sooner or later according to their services, then we being changed to angelic natures shall be transferred into a celestial kingdom.”+
The following is from Lactantius.
“ Since in six days the works of God were all completed, so through six ages, that is, through six thousand years, the world must remain in its present state. And again, since when his works were all perfected he rested on the seventh day and blessed it, so at the end of six thousand years all wickedness must be banished from the earth, and righteousness reign for a thousand years.”+
But although there was a signal agreement among the ancient fathers as to the period of the world to which the Apocalyptic millennium was to be assigned, there was a marked diversity of opinion as to the real character of the period itself. There were in fact in that age, as there are in modern times, two distinct classes of chiliasts, the literal and the spiritual, or, as they have been termed, the gross and the refined. By the one party, the anticipation was confidently cherished of the personal reign of Christ on earth, of the literal resurrection of the martyred saints, of the rebuilding of the temple and city of Jerusalem, of the reinhabitation of the land of Israel by its ancient occupants, and of the investiture of all the risen righteous with a kingly pre-eminence over the remnant nations of the globe. They held, moreover, that this halcyon era should be distinguished by an unprecedented fertility of the earth, which should teem with the utmost profusion of the treasures of its bosom, and accumulate without measure the elements of every sensual and corporeal delight. • The earth,' says Lactantius, shall disclose its exuberance, the labour of tillage shall be unnecessary to secure the most abundant harvests, the rocks of the mountains shall sweat with honey, wine shall run down in streams, and the rivers flow with milk."* In a word, their anticipated millennium, if we may judge from the letter of the strong language in which it is described, was but another name for an Epicurean heaven. Still it is but fair to adınit, that some allowance is perhaps to be made on the score of the highly figured and luxuriating style which they were led to employ in portraying the felicities of their expected kingdom. They possibly might have disclaimed the very gross and carnal interpretation which their opponents put upon their language, although after every abatement on this score, an ample residuum of wild extravagance remains to characterize their hypothesis. Papias, Justin Martyr, Irenæus, Tertullian, and Lactantius, are ranked among the leading abetters of this opinion. Bishop Bull, unwilling to give up these venerated names to the opprobrium of being numbered on the side of so foul a heresy, kindly endeavours to throw the veil of a lenient and charitable construction over the most repulsive features of their system. Speaking of an expression which Justin Martyr ascribes to Trypho, viz. • That it is given to him (Jesus Christ) to judge all men without exception, and that his kingdom is eternal,' he remarks ; " I think that this clause, 'Of whose kingdom there shall be no end,' was directed against the Cerinthians, who taught, that those magnificent things which are mentioned in the Scriptures concerning the kingdom of Christ, are to be understood of an earthly, carnal, and Epicurean reign, during a thousand years. There were, indeed, in the first age after the apostles, many even of the orthodox, among whom was Justin, whom I have a little before been praising, who expected a kingdom of Christ on earth for a thousand years. But their opinion, though perhaps erroneous, was as distant as possible from the Cerinthian heresy; for those orthodox Christians were very far from believing that the felicity of this kingdom consisted in meats and drinks and mar.
* Prima dispositione divina septem dies annorum septem millia continentes.--Cypr. De Exhort. Mart. c. 11.
t Post mille annos intra quam aetatem includitur sanctorum resurrectio pro meritis maturins vel tardius resurgentium; tunc demutati in atomo in angelicam substantiam transferemur in celeste regnum.-Tertull. Adv. Marcion, L. 3. c. 24.
I Quoniam sex diebus cuncta Dei opera perfecta sunt; per secula sex, id est, annorum sex millia manero in hoc statu mundum necesso est. Et rursus quoniam perfectis operibus requievit die septimo eumque benedixit ; necesse est ut in fine sexti millesimi anni malitia omnis abolatur e terra ct regnct per annos mille justitia.-Lactantius, L. 7. c. 14.
* Terra vero aperiet fæcunditatem suam, et uberrimas fruges sua spirito gencrabit : rupes montium melle sudabunt, per rivos vina dccurrent, et flumina lacte inundabunt.-Lactantius, L. 7. c. 24.