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And such was the case for a thousand * from that time. But, alas! after their expiration, amid the many extravagances which marred the beauty, and crippled the power, and damaged the success, of the Reformation of Religion in certain parts of Europe, in the sixteenth century, the doctrine of the Millennium was revived t. It soon bore its fruits. It showed itself not only in religious fanaticism, but also in civil licentiousness. Some who held it in that age, and in the next century, affirmed that the era of a fifth Monarchy had now dawned on the world ; that all other governments must be overthrown to make way for the reign of
Ecclesiæ sensus (says Cornelius a Lapide ad Apoc. xx.) Millenariorum sententiam reprobant ; unde jam evanuisse videtur. Cf. Baron. Annal. ad An. 303, n. 127. Je ne scay point (says Tillemont, Hist. Eccl. art. Papias, ii. p. 140) qu'on trouve qu'il y ait eu des Millénaires depuis S. Jerome et S. Augustin, de sorte que si quelques uns en ont conservé les sentiments, cela n'a fait aucun éclat considérable. And our great English divine, Dr. Isaac Barrow (Sermon xxviii. vol. v. p. 27, ed. Oxf. 1818) classes the doctrine of the Millennium among
“ notions not certain or not true, in which they who entertained them followed some conceits once passable among divers, but not built on any sure foundation, and which were anciently in great vogue, but are now discarded.” So also Hammond ad Rev. xx. 7. “Though
were otherwise minded, yet was this doctrine of the Chiliasts condemned by the Church, and since that time all are accounted heretics who maintained it."
† By Nathanaël Ælianus, David Georgius, and others. See Jansenii Conc. Evang. c. 123. Gerhardi Loci Communes, xxxii. $ 74, tom. ix. p. 329, ed. Genev. 1639.
the Elect; and that they themselves were the Saints, the glories of whose Millennial reign were predicted in such glowing colours by St. John in the Apocalypse.
The confusions which they produced in our own Church and Nation are well known to you. Let me pass from them to remind you, that no sooner was the Millennium again preached from the Apocalypse, than the Apocalypse again declined in repute. Some great men of that age fell into the error of Caius. Instead of correcting the error of those who misinterpreted the Apocalypse, they visited their offence on the Book which they had misinterpreted; and rejected it, instead of refuting them.
Thanks be to God, such was not the spirit of the Church of England. She rejected the human misinterpretation, and retained the divine Book. By acknowledging, as she does, the authority of the Creeds, she condemns the doctrine of the Millennium. That doctrine is irreconcileable with the assertion, that when Christ cometh again, He will come to judge all men ; that He shall come from the place where He now sitteth, at the right hand of the Father, to judge both the quick and dead; that is, to judge those who are alive on the earth, and those who are in their graves ; and that “ His kingdom,”—the kingdom which will then be gloriously established,—shall not be merely for a thousand years, but “shall have no end ;” and that, to cite the words of the Church in the Athanasian Creed, at His“ coming, all men” (not the Saints only, but) “all men, shall rise again with their bodies, and shall give an account of their own works; and that they that have done good shall go” (not into the Millennial mansions of an earthly Jerusalem, but) “into life everlasting ; and they that have done evil into everlasting fire."
This is the CATHOLIC Faith. It is not the doctrine of the Millennium *.
Nor was this all.
In the year 1530, the Millenarian doctrines were censured by the most eminent among the continental Reformers, Melanchthon, Luther, and others, in the Augsburgh Confession. “Christ,” say they in that public Formulary of Faith, “ will come to judgment, and will raise all men, both bad and good ; and we condemn those who are now propagating the Judaistic opinion, that, before the General Resurrection of the Dead, the Saints will reign on earth t.”
Still more; The Church of England reprobated the
* The language of Andreas, Bishop of Cappadocia, in the sixth century, concerning the doctrine of the Millennium, is very emphatic. Bibl. Patrum Max. Tom. v. pag. 627. Primam ex mortuis Resurrectionem solis sanctis propriam futuram dixerunt; quo nimirum in hâc crassâ et caliginosâ terrâ in quâ illustria fortitudinis et patientiæ specimina ediderant Mille annis gloriâ et honore potiantur; post hoc autem tempus elapsum universalem omnium, hoc est non justorum tantum, verum etiam peccatorum, Resurrectionem fore. Sed ECCLESIA neutrum horum recipit: ότι ουδέν τούτων ή Εκκλησία δεδεκται περιττόν έστι kai Néyelv, says Arethas, p. 816.
† Confess. August. Pars i. Art. xvii.p. 14, ed. Hase. Lips. 1837.
doctrine of a Millennium, in a special* Article, in the reign of King Edward VI., in the year 1552. “They (she says) that go about to revive the fable of hereticks, called Millenarii, be repugnant to Holy Scripture, and cast themselves headlong into a Jewish dotage.” She condemns it also in her Fourth Article, where she says that “Christ ascended into heaven, and there sitteth, until He return to judge all men, at the last day.”
And further : This doctrine is at variance with the Public Prayers of the Church of England.
It is irreconcileable with the language of the Collect for the first Sunday in the season of Advent, in which she prays, “ that at the last day, when Christ shall come again in His glorious Majesty to judge the quick and dead, we may rise to the life immortal." It is irreconcileable with the prayer in the Order for the Burial of the Dead, that Christ would “shortly accomplish the number of His elect, and hasten His kingdom; that we, with all those that are departed in the true faith of God's holy name, may have our perfect consummation and bliss in body and soul” in His eternal and everlasting glory.
Such, then, is the judgment of the Church of England concerning the Millennium.
It is unnecessary to remind you that she entitles the Apocalypse, “The Revelation of St. John the Divine.”
* See it in Cardwell's Synodalia, i. p. 17, and p. 33.
Thus she rejects the Millennium, and receives the Apocalypse.
We should have been very unmindful of our duty, if we had not entered on this subject with feelings of reverent devotion for the Divine Word, and with an earnest desire of confirming your faith in its integrity and inspiration, and of increasing your gratitude to God for enduing our own Church with and wisdom, and so enabling her to be a faithful witness and keeper of Holy Writ.
What a high dignity is this! What a glorious privilege! Yes; and believing with her that the Word of Almighty God is yea and amen *, so that it cannot be inconsistent with itself; and that, like its Divine Author, it has no variableness or shadow of turning t; and that, in her words, “the doctrine of the Millennium is repugnant to Holy Scripture ;” and that if it could be proved from the Apocalypse, the Apocalypse would not be Scripture; and knowing, as we do, from the history of the Church, that wherever this doctrine has been imputed to the Apocalypse, the Church has been in peril of losing the Apocalypse ; and seeing with sorrow that this doctrine has been revived in this our day, and is now propagated with industrious zeal, therefore we would say, with affectionate and respectful earnestness, to all who suppose that they find the Millennium in the Apocalypse,–Be on your guard. Beware lest you lose the Apocalypse. Take
2 Cor. i. 20.
James i. 17.