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Impenitent reader! will you participate in the glory and triumph of that scene? or shall you perish in the overthrow of the ungodly ? Fearful and horrible shall be the doom of the wicked. Devils and damned spirits, as hell pours forth her millions to be judged, may think to storm the citadel of heaven, and compass the camp of the servants of the Most High, led on by the madness of desperation ; but it will prove like the last gleam of hope that flares in the socket for an instant, and then is quenched in the blackness of darkness for ever! Methinks I see them, as they fall before God and the Lamb, repulsed and driven by the fierce blast of Almighty vengeance.
They upon the verge
OUR object in this chapter is to unfold the traditionary history of what has been called Millenarian doctrine. The term Millenarian is sometimes used as a term of contempt; but is, nevertheless, admitted by those who adopt the literal system of prophetical interpretation, to be an appropriate designation, in contradistinction from the spiritualists, who, in their turn, are denominated Anti-millenarian. It is intended by it to denote those who believe that the prophets of the Old and New Testament predict the personal visible coming of Jesus Christ with his saints before the Milenium, to raise their dead bodies, to destroy the anti-Christian nations, and to establish his glorious kingdom or dominion over all the earth, in which, by the ministry of his saints raised from the dead, and quickened at his coming, He will reign for 1,000 years and judge the world. The term Antimillenarian denotes those, who affirm that the coming of Christ to judgment will not take place till after 1,000 years' great prosperity in religion, during which He may be said spiritually, that is 'allegorically, to be present and to reign with his saints on the earth.
It is a matter of some interest to inquire what were the views on this subject, entertained by the successors of the prophets and the early Fathers of the Christian church-those who lived nearest the days of the prophets and apostles, and who may be, therefore, presumed to have derived by tradition their views relative to the meaning of the prophecies concerning the coming and kingdom of Jesus Christ. Were they Millenarians or Anti-millenarians ? Did they expect the personal visible coming of Christ, before or after the Millenium ? The views they entertained on this subject will enable us to decide, whether they understood the prophets and apostles to predict a literal or metaphorical coming of Christ; and also, what principles of interpretation they adopted in relation to the prophecies.
It is certainly a reasonable presumption, that those who lived nearest the apostles, would be most likely to understand the general import of their teaching and charges and exhortations about the coming of Christ, and practically to adopt their principles of interpretation.
We cordially subscribe to the remarks of Mr. Faber, on the subject of historical testimony, in reference to the doctrine of election, although he has failed to apply them to the important themes of prophecy on which he has so largely written. “In revealed religion, by the very nature and necessity of things, as Tertullian well teaches us : Whatever is first is true, whatever is later is adulterate. If a doctrine totally unknown to the primitive church, which received her theology immediately from the hands of the apostles, and which continued long to receive it from the hands of the disciples of the apostles, springs up in a subsequent age, let that age be the fifth century or let it be the tenth century, or let it be the sixteenth century, such doctrine stands, on its very front, impressed with the brand of mere human invention. Hence, in the language of Tertullian, it is adulterate : and hence, with whatever plausibility it may be fetched out of a particular interpretation of Scripture, and with whatever practical piety on the part of its advocates, it may be attended, we cannot evidentially admit it to be part and parcel of the divine revelation of Christianity."* We claim no greater respect than this for traditionary testimony as to the doctrine of Christ's coming and kingdom. The views entertained by the early fathers, expressed their understanding of the Scriptures on this subject, and is valuable historical testimony as to their principles of interpretation. This cannot well be denied by the spiritualist; for we find that the principles of allegorical interpretation, which originated in the schools of philosophy and religion, and which, though originated in the second century, were first brought out and applied by Origen in the exposition of the Sacred Scriptures, have actually been respected for centuries, and even now serve to shape the views of a large portion of the church of God. The question then is, shall tradition, starting with Clement of Alexandria and Theophilus, and systematized by Origen, who lived three centuries later, or tradition starting with the apostles, or the prophets before them, be most regarded ?
We are free to say, that much greater deference is due to the traditions starting with the apostles, or respected by them, and found embodied in the views, opinions and comments of the early fathers of the Christian church, than to those of later origin; and that for the following reasons :
1. The apostle Paul states expressly, that there were traditions in his day on this very subject, which he had taught the Thessalonian Christians, and which he exhorted them to maintain. « Stand fast and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by
• Faber's Primitive Doctrine of Election, pp. 158, 159.
our epistle.” He commended also the Corinthians for this thing, and exhort d Timothy to " hold fast the form of sound words which he had beard of him.”I We shall have occasion presently to see how tenacious primitive Christians were on this very matter; and although afterwards, the disposition to adhere to apostolic traditions, became the means of gross corruptions, which the church of Rome, by the council of Trent and the decretals of popes, imposed on popular credulity, when piety had greatly deteriorated; yet, in the primitive church, this respect for traditionary information operated so beneficially, as to prevent schismatic divisions, and to render specific creeds, which have since become the badges of sect, unnecessary.
2. There was a greater lenity and simplicity of faith, too, during that period, and much less of the subtleties, speculations, and refinements of philosophy than afterwards. Christianity was the religion of the heart and of the life, and remained more pure, more elementary, more influential, more efficacious, during the trials and persecutions of plain, humble, unlettered early Christians and martyrs, than when Platonic philosophers, subsequently converted, and dwelling at ease, began to incorporate their mysticism and metaphysics, with its precious and efficacious truths. “Because it is of the very essence of truth in religion,” observes Isaac Taylor, the author of Ancient Christianity, "to blend itself with a certain series of events, and to mix itself with history; example more than precept, biography more than abstract doctrine, are made to convey to us in the Scriptures the various elements of piety. Truth in religion is something that
• 2 Thess. 2. 15.
t 1 Cor. 11. 2.
1 2 Tim. 1. 13.