« PoprzedniaDalej »
THE Almighty, when about to accomplish events of high importance to his church, was frequently pleased to reveal his mind to his servants the Prophets; and the testimony of the Prophets is unanimous in foreshewing the final triumph of Christianity over all opposition. It is also observable, that whenever any prophecy has approached the period of its completion, it has not unfrequently pleased God to shed abroad a greater spirit of inquiry, which has excited expectation and ushered in the event with due solemnity. It is well known as an historical tradition, that fifty years before the coming of our Saviour, a learned Jew was enabled to calculate, from the predictions of Daniel, the time of his expected appearance. We need not wonder, therefore, if now, when so many signs conspire to encourage the hope of a wider diffusion and more general acceptance of Christianity, its friends should be unusually earnest in their inquiries respecting that approaching period, which, next to the period of the Incarnation itself, is likely to prove the most glorious in the annals of our Redemption.
At the same time, every sober inquirer should remember that wise remark of Newton, that prophecy was not given to make us prophets. The minute details and circumstantial particulars of an event, though foreknown and predetermined by the All-wise Disposer, will never be discovered by human sagacity, except so far as specifically mentioned in the plain letter of direct Revelation, till the event itself develops them. Indeed, even those particulars which are accurately traced for us by the pencil of Revelation, are often purposely so stated as to require the comment
ary of the event itself, to render them intelligible. This was the case with the original prediction concerning the Seed of the woman; with the apparently opposite prophecies, relating to Zedekiah; with many of those particular prophecies, respecting our Lord's advent and crucifixion, from which the event itself has so effectually removed all obscurity, as to impart to the prediction the appearance of a history: and this will doubtless continue to be the case with those unfulfilled prophecies, over which is drawn that veil of futurity which we vainly presume to penetrate.
But though "secret things belong unto the Lord our God, things that are" plainly "revealed belong unto us and to our children," They are written not only, “that the people who are to come may know the Lord," but that we also, "through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, may have hope." They are designed to encourage our faith, which might sometimes droop and decay if not sustained by some promise, assuring us that the now obscured splendour of religion shall hereafter shine forth in majesty, and the powers of darkness be unable to prevail against it.
Within these limits, Mr. Bogue confines his speculations. It is his object, by describing the holiness of the saints during the continuance of the Millennium to excite among his hearers a spirit of emulation, thus urging them not only to bas ten, if possible, the period by their prayers and their example, but to partake of its enjoyments beforehand, by imbibing its spirit.
"In the former ages of the world, the partakers of the fruits of redeeming love were comparatively few, for the mass would not receive them: at that period, on the contrary, transgressors will be few; for the blessings of redemption will be received and enjoyed by the generality of the human race. The earth will be then, we may suppose,
twenty times more populous than it is now; so that in the end, the namber of those who are saved shall greatly exceed
that of those who are condemned to misery-as much, some have said, as those who are good members of society do such as are confined in prisons, or those who enjoy the exercise of rea
go no farther than asserting the superior number of the blessed; and when you consider that those who live during the Millennium will be at least five times more numerous than the inhabit ants of all the preceding six thousand years of the world, and reflect that true religion will then be a general thing am I rash in drawing this conclusion, that heaven through eternal ages will
which await those who oppose its introduction, the abundant effusion of the Holy Spirit, which will precede and attend it, and the pro
son, such as are shut up in Bedlam. Igressive advancement, by which the Protestant churches may be expected to enter into its purity and glory. He lastly expatiates on the downfal of Popery, Infidelity, and Mahometanism, the conversion of the heathen, and the recal of the Jews; at the end of which/ discussion a single sermon on the "time of the commencement and the duration" of the Millennium brings him to his "concluding re
be fuller than hell, and the happy far exceed in number the miserable?"
From this short extract (we do not at present stop to consider on what evidence its statements rest) it will appear, that our author's notion of the Millennium is that of an im- proved state of the world, when those who are in power and those who are in subjection will be alike under the influence of Christian principles and motives. Filled with this view of his animating subject, he passes over those more perplexing and less important questions, respecting the order in which the several particulars which fill up the measure of millennian glory, will succeed each other, or by what exact instruments they will be accomplished; and devotes each of his twenty discourses on this subject, to the consideration of some one Christian grace or wonderful event, of which the united constellation will irradiate the Millennium. Thus he first examines the degree of knowledge which will then prevail throughout the world; next the eminent holiness, which will accompany that knowledge, the quietness, peaceableness, and mutual amity, that will adorn the universal church; then the external prosperity and universal peace and general happiness, that must result from these qualities; after which he details the moral means by which the Millennium will be introduced, the judgments of God, CHRIST, OBSERV. No. 203.
In remarking that Mr. Bogue passes over critical inquiries into the particulars of the Millennium, we do not mean to undervalue such critical inquiries, or to imply that the subject can be thoroughly investigated without them: we simply intend to observe, that Mr. Bogue has adopted the more proper course of preliminary examination, by endeavouring to shew generally what is meant in his opinion by the Millennium, before subordinate points are determined. We mean in this to follow his example, being rather intent on apprising our readers what views are entertained on the nature and character of the Millennium by others, than on establishing any of our own. In so doing, some passages of Scripture will necessarily come under consideration; and we may possibly be tempted to hazard a few remarks respecting their meaning; not, however, with a view of determining what remains yet unsettled, but simply with that of shewing what obstacles remain to be surmounted, and what light can be collected on this not uninteresting question.
The author finds it necessary to put the following interpretation upon a very remarkable passage in the twentieth chapter of the Revelations, verses 4, 5, 6.
"And I saw thrones, and they sat 5 D
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. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection. The glorious season of the triumphs of the church is here placed before our eyes; and the character of its members is described by a most expressive symbol. The souls of the martyrs are represented as again animating bodies on earth, and living again in these happy times. To explain its meaning is not difficult: the design is to mark the resemblance. That stedfast adherence to the truth, as it is in Jesus-that extraordinary
words of the text, thus commented on, are such as will satisfactorily establish the correctness of the commentary, which, if received, will be admitted rather from the difficulties attending any other interpretation, than from the evidence which the text itself furnishes in its favour. Mr. Bogue has the following remarks upon another more literal construction of it.
spirit of devotion-that unalterable attachment to Christ and his cause-that entire mortification to the world-that readiness to part with all for His sake, and to endure the most excruciating
torments, even unto death-will be the cominon attainment of the Christians of
that truly golden age. To make such
"How wise and pious men could ever suppose that the saints, whose souls are now in heaven, should, after the re surrection of the body from the grave, descend to live on earth again; and that Jesus Christ should quit the throne of his glory above, and descend and reign personally over them here below, in distinguished splendour, for a thousand years, may justly excite our astonishment, since it is in direct opposition to
the whole tenour of the doctrinal parts of the sacred volume. Such, however, have been the opinions of some great men. Happy will it be if we take warning from their aberrations; and from seeing them go so far astray, we are constantly on our guard against giving way to fancies, and exercise a holy caution and strict sobriety of judgment, in the interpretation of the sacred oracles, on this interesting but difficult subject." p. 17.
For our own part, this is one of the texts on which we think it difficult to comment, without overstepping the true modesty of interpretation. We are far from being convinced that it relates to the state of the church on earth. But we do not wish to reason upon it, and are satisfied with regarding it as a prediction of some signal instance of Divine favour, which the Almighty has in store for his people, and to which the Millennium itself will probably furnish the key by displaying the accomplishment.
Without dwelling, however, on any text which requires a mystic construction, there passages which clearly announce a bright period of the church, when it will no longer struggle with opposition, but will abound in peace, and be enriched by a co
pious effusion of the graces of the Holy Spirit. Our author thinks that the approach of that period will be gradual, and that the description of it will be as follows:
"There will be far more eminent measures of Divine knowledge; of holiness of heart and life; and of spiritual consolation and joy, in the souls of the disciples of Christ, than the world has yet seen and these will not be the attainments of a few Christians only, but of the general mass. This delight ful internal state of the Church will be accompanied with such a portion of external prosperity and peace, and abundance of all temporal blessings, as men never knew before. The boundaries of the kingdom of Christ will be extended from the rising to the going 'down of the sun; and Antichristianism, Deism, Mahometanism, Paganism, and `Judaism, shall all be destroyed, and 'give place to the Redeemer's throne. By the preaching of the Gospel, the 'reading of the Bible, and the zeal of Christians in every station; by the judgments of heaven on the children of men, for their iniquities; above all, by the mighty efficacy of the Holy Ghost, will the glory of the latter days be brought about. Religion will then be the grand business of mankind. The generality will be truly pious; and those who are not, will be inconsiderable in number, and most probably be anxious to conceal their real character; and their sentiments and practice will have no weight or influence on the public mind. The earnest desire which every pious soul must feel for the long continuance of this glory, will be gratified to hear, that the time mentioned in prophetic language, as the period of its duration, is a thousand years. Such I believe to be the doctrine of the Millennium." pp. 18, 19.
Our readers may, therefore, now be desirous to know the particulars in which our author exemplifies this description of Millennian blessedness; and we proceed to gratify them by a few short ex
"The knowledge of man, his original rectitude, his apostacy from God, and his mournful condition under a load of depravity, guilt, and wretchedness: the ⚫knowledge of Jesus Christ the Saviour
of sinners, his incarnation, obedience, and death, and his exaltation to glory, where he sits at the Father's right hand,
as Head over all things to his church, clothed with Almighty power, and boundless compassion: the knowledge of the method of reconciliation with God, through faith in the righteousness of the Redeemer, accompanied with the renewing of the Holy Ghost: the knowledge of the various duties and exercises of the Christian life,—of that high way of holiness, in which the redeemed of the Lord do walk: the knowledge of the world to come, of the resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment; of the blessedness of the righteous in heaven, and of the misery of the wicked in hell: these are the outlines of that system of divine knowledge, with which the world shall be enlightened in the latter days.
"That other branches of knowledge will then be disregarded, I am by no means disposed to believe. On the contrary, every kind of useful knowledge will be retained, and will be cultivated in proportion to its utility. What. ever really improves and adorns the human character (for mankind will be not only more religious, but more rational and intelligent than they are now); whatever tends to lessen or facilitate labour, and heighten or protract tem poral comfort; whatever serves to enlarge the faculties of the mind, and to aid its operations in every interesting and beneficial pursuit, will be held in due estimation, and carefully attained. That an immense accession of valuable knowledge in arts and sciences, will be made by them to the treasure we now possess, there is not a doubt; for they will be as able if not abler students,a greater number of minds will be engaged in the work,-and there will be more leisure to attend to the object of their investigation. But while a proper share of attention is given to these, the grand theme of study and pursuit, and what they will account infinitely superior to all the rest, is the knowledge mentioned in the text, and of which I shall treat in this discourse the knowledge of the Lord."" pp. 25-27,
"That folly, which makes persons strive through life to heap up immense wealth, that the next generation may have nothing to do, and live in imminent danger of sensuality, pride, and wretchedness, while they live in fulness of bread and in idleness- old Sodom's
ruin :—this folly will be then unknown; for some useful occupation will be followed by every individual, and be accounted necessary to the health of the body, the vigour of the mind, and the comfort of life." p. 128.
"To the commendation of the present age, it must be spoken, that the religious public ordinances of Christians are more frequent than they were in former years; and there is a body, though it may be sometimes small, of pious people, who regularly attend two or three weekly services, with zeal and with delight. But in the Millennium, it is highly probable that they will be still more frequent. Is it unlikely that they may be considered as the proper conclusion of every day; and that after the hours of moderate labour are ended, all will meet to hear a discourse on some divine subject, and to unite in prayer and praise! Such will then be the taste of Christians ;and it is a taste which will convey a high degree both of improvement and pleasure to their souls.
"Extraordinary seasons of public worship will most probably take place from time to time. Thrice in the year did the body of the people of Israel go up to Jerusalem, to join in what may be denominated the national worship: and, after spending some days in the delights of devotion and of friendship, they returned again to their habitations; and with what satisfaction of mind would they return!" pp. 204, 205.
The piety which dictated the preceding extracts, and the pleasing expectations which they hold out, will not be denied. Whether they are quite correct in their application to the condition of the world under the Millennium, is another question.
Mr. Bogue, it is plain, expects no miracles to bring about the change which he supposes will occur in the state of society, but anticipates merely an increased impulse given to causes already in operation; aided, indeed, by some severe judgments on the ungodly. The moral means, on which he reKies for the accomplishment of these ends, are missions to the heathen, the dissemination of the Scriptures, wad the support given to those hal
lowed works by public liberality and private devotion. These causes, under the blessing of the Almighty, he considers amply sufficient for the effect required.
"Are there not now," says he, “in the church of Christ, persons, both in public and private stations, eminent for devotedness to God, for sanctity of life,
for benevolence to men, and for active zeal to promote the Redeemer's cause over the face of the whole earth? They are, in an exalted degree, patterns of every thing good, and shine as lights in the world. Is there any difficulty in supposing this spirit of piety to become ge neral wherever Christianity is known? If one out of fifty now exhibits this lovely character, why may not fortynine out of fifty be brought to possess the same devout feeling, the same purity of conduct, the same ardent philan thropy? And what would be the re sult?-A society of holy beings habitually under the influence of religion-in their thoughts, their affections, their dispositions-in their words and in their actions-in their personal ca. pacity and in all the relations of life. Here then is the millennial sanctity, which may be justly called the crown of its glory.
"To the spiritual happiness of the latter days the same reasoning will apply. Are there not even now many Christians who experience unspeakable pleasure from the power of the princi ples of the Gospel on their hearts? The dread of the Divine wrath no longer distresses their souls—they are filled with joy and peace in believing. From an unshaken reliance on the Atonement and righteousness of Christ, they derive the persuasion that their sins are pardoned, and their persons accepted of God and, from the influence of the truth upon their souls, they are inspired with the hope of eternal blessedness in the world to come. They possess also a lively trust in the providence of God, as ordering every dispensation towards them in the most gracious manner. Nor must it be forgotten, that they, at the same time, maintain daily commu
nion with their Father in heaven in the ordinances of the Gospel. From the united operation of these principles their enjoyments are exceedingly great. We have but to suppose knowledge and holiness to be diffused through society,