Page images

needy. He shall save the souls of the needy. He shall redeem their souls from deceit and violence, and precious shall their blood be in his sight."* "The lion shall eat straw like the ox," the ferocious leonine tempers of the sons of violence shall, in those times, be either changed, or held in controul and check, like the malignity of Satan himself; "they shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain. The art of war shall not be practised nor learnt any more, to the destruction of millions of the human species, and the devastation of the bounty and riches of God's providence for his creatures: but the heroes of that

[ocr errors]

day "shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning books; and preeminence will only be sought by carrying the arts of peace, and the valuable lessons of divine and natural wisdom, to the utmost possible perfection. Thus "the depth of the riches of the manifold wisdom and goodness of God," in both his works of creation, and the operations of his grace, will be unfolded

*Psalm lxxii. 13.

to open view, to the increase of glory and praise to God, and of happiness and blessings to man, far exceeding our present apprehensions of the yet undiscovered capabilities of


These are changes which the present natural condition and constitution of all sublunary things seem to forbid almost entirely, the most sanguine hope to expect, as being (according to our ideas) scarcely within the scale of possibility. But as our Saviour said to his astonished disciples, "with men this is (indeed) impossible," it cannot consist with the state. of degeneracy and corruption in which human nature yet lies buried: "but with God all things are possible.”* Great changes, we

*Few parts of prophetic revelation have occasioned so great a discordance of opinion, as the doctrine of the MILLENNIUM, founded chiefly on Dan. ii. 44; vii 27; Isai Ix. 10, to the end, and other prophecies; of which St John gives the united sense in Rev. xx. 2, &c. and according to his prophetic history of the last times, has placed it in the order of time in which it will happen; that is, after the fall of Antichrist, the reconciliation of the jews, and the general conversion of all nations.

The gross and absurd ideas of the ancient MILLENARIANS have never been able so far to discredit the doctrine itself, but

know, are first to take place, in the moral and political opinions of mankind, and in the general external circumstances of the world; so

every reli. "Wherever the influence of

that the belief of it hath still obtained possession of gious and good mind in all ages. the church of Rome hath extended, (says Bishop Newton,) she hath endeavoured by all means to discredit this doctrine; and indeed not without sufficient reason, this kingdom of Christ being founded on the ruins of the kingdom of Antichrist."But with the reformation it revived, together with the other doctrines of the primitive church.

ARCHBISHOP USHER dates the commencement of the thousand years from the time of Christ, and GROTIUS from the time of CONSTANTINE, but both erroneously beyond all question, as the whole structure of the Apocalypse, the analogy of prophecy, and the state of the world in both the proposed times, abundantly prove. Besides, that such an opinion gives too much countenance to the error of HYMENEUS, (2 Tim. ii. 17, 18,) and might shake the faith of some, and make the belief of the second or general resurrection seem precarious.

Bishop Newton and some others incline to the literal sense of St John's words, and an actual resurrection of the departed saints: but others with more reason and consistency with the general tenor of the scriptures, the figurative stile of prophecy, and particularly of this book, (in wnich there does not seem any thing capable of a literal construction,) consider the first resurrection as wholly figurative; as the resurrection of the two witnesses must certainly be, and as the resurrection and prophetic ministry of Elias before the appearance of the Messiah was, (Mal, iv. 5;

very considerable indeed, and of such mighty importance to the peace, and virtue, and happiness of mankind, that the alteration of things

Mark ix. 12, 13; xv. 36; Luke i. 17,) though that prophecy was firmly expected to be literally fulfilled. Thus the scripture frequently speaks of the regenerate state of man figuratively, as a resurrection to new life, (Rom. vi. 23; Ephes. v. 24; Col. ii. 13; iii. 1, &c.) and the conversion of the jews, when all Israel shall be saved, is particularly so described as a resurrection, by St Paul, (Rom, xi. 15,) and by Ezekiel (chap. xxxvii.) under the type of the resurrection of the dry bones, not to mention many other passages of the prophets.

The opinion I have hazarded was formed from the scripture alone, and I have since had the satisfaction to find most or all of my ideas of the MILLENARY STATE corroborated by the (generally) judicious Dr Whitby, whose treatise on the MILLENNIUM I had not before consulted. He assigns many cogent reasons against a literal resurrection, and in proof that a figurative one is only meant, and refers the whole doctrine of the millennium to the jewish people, and their restoration, which coincides with my idea of their penitential acknowledgment of their crucified Saviour, and happy re-settlement in the Holy Land, the resurrection of the witnesses, &c. in Sections iii. iv. &c.

Of this SECOND EXODUS Mr Mead says,-" It may be fit to conceive magnificently of so great a work of God towards a people for whom he hath formerly shewed so many wonders; especially this being the greatest work of mercy and wonder that ever he did for them, far beyond the bringing them forth of Egypt, and leading them in the wilderness."


at this period is prefigured by the mystical resurrection of the dead saints, to live on earth again, and reign with Christ through the whole course of the MILLENNIUM. doubtless they will only so live again (before the general resurrection) by a prior and figurative one, consisting in the happy imitation of their bright examples of virtue and holiness, which wise and good men, in numerous instances, will then exhibit to the admiring world.


If the fiery trial which is to precede Christ thus coming in his kingdom, should have the effect of "a refiner's fire, and purge and purify the sons of men" that may survive the multiplied horrors of that day of judgment, this may introduce an alteration in things, the nature and extent of which our ideas, taken from things past or present, can give us no adequate conception of. "Blessed and holy (says St John) is he that hath part in the first resurrection," (which seems to imply that it is a moral resurrection to newness of life, to

« PreviousContinue »