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as they supposed, at once by the spiritual genius of Christianity, and by a fair and rational interpretation of its letter. Their influence, it cannot be doubted, contributed powerfully to weaken the hold which millennarianism had upon the minds of their contemporaries, and to pave the way for its general abandonment. Add to this, that the more favored and felicitous condition of the church under Constantine and his successors for one or two centuries, tended naturally to wean the thoughts of the pious from the anticipation of future to the meditation of present blessedness, in which it is not unlikely that some beheld an actual fulfilment of the promised rest, peace, and joy of the world's expected Sabbatism. During the invasions of the northern nations and the deluge of disasters which then flowed in upon the empire, speculation was overborne, and the minds of Christians were absorbed by the commotions of the times and the evils endured by them or impending over them. Little attention therefore was paid to the themes of the Apocalypse, and the conceptions they had formed of prophetic scripture, if they had formed any, became confused and obscure; they waited for light, but darkness continued to surround them.
Through the dreary tract of the ages of darkness scarcely a vestige of millennarian sentiments is to be traced, but the dormancy of the doctrine was interrupted by the rousing events, the moral earthquake of the Reformation. The Anabaptists in Germany, and, some time after, the Fifth Monarchy men in England carried their notions to the extreme of infatuation, and created a destructive ferment around them.
At length the ebullition of enthusiasm subsided, and the fiery zeal of mistaken men died away. Since that time -till within a very few years the millennarian cause has excited little interest and occasioned little disturbance. The writings of Mede in the seventeenth century revived indeed in a measure the ancient doctrine, and individual writers have at one time and another between that time and the present sent forth their speculations, advocating substantially the same views. Within the period, however, of five or six years, the subject has acquired anew a considerable degree of prominence, and given rise, particularly in England, to an animated controversy, which is yet dividing the ranks of biblists and theologians. The letter-men and the allegorists of the three first centuries are revived in the literalists and the spiritualists of the present day.
The sentiments of those in modern times who may be ranked under these two heads may be gathered with sufficient distinctness from the ensuing series of extracts from their principal writers.
1. Those who hold to the personal reign of Christ on earth during the thousand years.
Of this class the venerable Joseph Mede, born 1586, died 1638, one of the profoundest Biblical scholars of the English church, of whom it was said that in the explication of the mysterious passages of scripture, he discerned the day before others had opened their eyes,' may be considered in modern times the father. He was distinguished for the diffidence, modesty, and caution with which he broached his opinions on these recondite subjects. As to the character of the expected millennial kingdom of Christ, the following is his unpresuming language:
“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, further than that it should be the reign of our Savior's victory over his enemies, wherein Satan being bound up from deceiving the nations any more, till the time of his reign be fulfilled, the Church should consequently enjoy a most blissful peace and happy security from the heretical apostacies and calamitous sufferings of former times; 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, as also to beware of gross and carnal conceits of Epicurean happiness, misbeseeming the spiritual purity of saints. If we conceit any delights, let them be spiritual. The presence of Christ in this kingdom will no doubt be glorious and evident, yet I dare not so much as imagine (which some ancients seem to have thought) that it should be a visible converse on earth. Yet we grant, he will appear and be visibly revealed from heaven; especially for the calling and gathering of his ancient people, for whom in the days of old he did so many wonders.”—Mede's Works, Book iii. Rem. ch. xii. p. 603.
The subsequent testimony of the excellent Joseph Caryll, author of a Commentary on Job, is prefixed to a work published by Nathaniel Holmes, D.D. during the period of the English Commonwealth :
“That all the saints shall reign with Christ a thousand
years on earth, in a wonderful, both spiritual and visible, glorious manner before the time of the ultimate and general resurrection, is a position which, though not a few have hesitated about and some opposed, yet has gained ground in the hearts and judgments of very many both brave and godly men, who have left us divers essays and discourses upon this subject. And having perused the learned and laborious travails of this author, I conceive that the church of God hath not hitherto seen this great point so clearly stated, so largely discussed, so strongly confirmed, not only by the testimony of ancient and modern writers of all sorts, but by the Holy Scriptures throughout, as it is presented in this book. Wherein also divers other considerable points are collaterally handled, all tending to set forth the catastrophe and result of all the troubles and hopes of such as fear God, as the preface to their eternal bliss. And whereas some have been and still are apt to abuse this doctrine by making it an occasion to the flesh, and of heating themselves in the expectation of a carnal liberty and a worldly glory, I find that this author hath cautiously forelaid and prevented all such abuses, by showing the exceeding spiritualness and holiness of this state, to which as none but the truly holy shall attain, or having attained it, they shall walk in the height of holiness. And therefore I judge this book very useful for the saints and worthy of the public view.”—Congreg. Magaz. New Series, vol. v. p. 39.
Approaching nearer to our own times, Dr. Gill stands forth conspicuously among his contemporaries as a distinguished advocate of millennarianism.
“ There will be a personal and glorious appearance of the Son of God, the Lord himself shall descend' (1 Thess. 4. 16.) not by his Spirit or the communication of his grace, or by his gracious presence as before; but in person he will descend from the third heaven, where he is in our nature, into the air where he will be visible; every eye shall see him when he cometh with clouds, or in the clouds of heaven, which will be his chariot; he will descend on earth at the proper time; and his feet shall stand upon the Mount of Olives; on that spot of ground from whence he ascended to heaven. Job seems to have this descent of his in view when he says, · He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth ;' which seems to respect not so much his first coming as his second, since it is connected with the resurrection of the dead. There will be (also) a resurrection of the bodies of the saints; the dead in Christ, who died in union with him, believers in him, and partakers of his grace shall rise first: they will have the dominion over the wicked in the morning of the resurrection, who will not rise until the end of that day; there will be a thousand years distance between the resurrection of the one and that of the other; hence the resurrection of the just as that is named in distinction from that of the unjust, is called the first resurrection, Rev. 20. 5, 6."
After mentioning the change of living saints, their being caught up to meet the Lord in the air, and the conflagration of the material heavens and earth, he proceeds :-... Then there will succeed new heavens and a new earth, which God has promised, and which the Apostle