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the literal thousand years so frequently and so emphatically expressed, they may probably be considered as viewing the subject erroneously. But if it should be considered that the duration of the millennium should be some years more or less than the thousand expressed in the prophecy, the prediction would not be falsified. The introduction of this epoch may be gradual, so that it may be difficult, when it arrives, to fix upon the exact year of its commencement. Its termination may also be gradual; and, therefore, the precise year of its ending may be equally difficult to ascertain as its beginning. It may, however, be remarked, that if the term be at all indefinite, we may with confidence assert that the honour and goodness of God have determined that this prophetic period shall continue so long as will conduce most to his own glory and to the advantage of mankind. Perhaps, therefore, it may be presumed that the millennium will not be less than a thousand years, but that it may be more. The gracious Author of all good often gives more than he promises, but never less. In contemplating, however, the duration of the millennium, the safest and wisest way will be to keep near the literal period specified in the prophecy, admitting the possibility that there may, in some small measure and degree, be a variation from the exact term of years limited by the prediction. I confess, that the term of years literally explained, subject to the adınission that there may be a gradual commencement and a gradual termination of the period, appears to be the most probable hypothesis in my own view ; because it is evidently most consistent with the usual exposition of prophetic numbers.
What abundant reason has the Christian philanthropist to rejoice in the triumphs and glories of the Messiah's reign during the millennium! If this period should continue no longer than the time expressly specified in the prediction ; yet, in this thousand years, immensely greater numbers may be saved than may have been lost in the preceding six thousand. Though our Saviour, in the days of his flesh, denominated his followers " a little flock,” yet he had no design that we should infer this would always be the case. That little leaven with which his church commenced was to leaven the whole lump; and the stone cut out of the mountain without hands, is itself to become a great mountain and fill the whole earth; and although, in times past, broad has been the way which leadeth to destruction, and many there have been which have gone in thereat, yet it shall be far different during the millennial reign of Christ, when “ all shall know the Lord “ from the least to the greatest.” During this blessed period, the population of the earth will be increased vastly beyond our present suppositions or conceptions. When universal peace shall prevail ; when the nations of the world shall employ their time in useful labour; when they shall “ beat their “ swords into plough-shares, and their spears into “ pruning-hooks ;" when wars, pestilences, famines, and all those other desolating judgments which the sins of mankind have from age to age brought down upon the earth, shall have been removed; when luxury, intemperance, and extravagance are banished from the inhabitants of the world; when God shall bless the earth with the utmost abundance and increase: when these and many other blessed events shall unite and concur together, the population of the earth which we inhabit may be ten, twenty, thirty, forty, or even fifty times more than it is at this time. If the present population of the earth be, as has been computed, about a thousand million of souls; and if, as has likewise been computed, a generation of men continue thirty years; or, in other words, if the life of men on an average do not exceed thirty years; then it is evident that upwards of thirty-three millions of human beings die every year, which is at the rate of more than sixty for every. minute of our time. The Christian, therefore, may rejoice in the contemplation, that during the whole period of the millennium many thousands of souls will every day be transported to eternal glory and bliss, that the number of the saved will immensely exceed that of the lost, and that, in this respect, as well as in every other, the Lord Jesus will have a most glorious pre-eminence. — Come, Lord Jesus, take to thyself thy great power, and reign.
Section III. The Nature of the Millennium. Objections to the
Chap. xx. 4–6. Let us now proceed to make some inquiries respecting the nature of the millennium.-In reference to this subject, I shall neither amuse nor disgust my readers with those wild, absurd, ridiculous, extravagant, and licentious theories, which some in different ages of Christianity, following the impulse of imagination, speculation, and carnal passions, have advanced ; and by which they have on various occasions brought the doctrine itself, in the view of many, into disrepute and disgrace. Some have ima. gined that the felicity of the saints, during the millennium, would consist in gross, sensual, and corrupting delights: thus they have turned this holy and glorious era into a Mahomedan paradise. Others, by their wild reveries and practical atrocities, have rendered the doctrine odious, by making it subservient to rebellions, insurrections, and other abominations. But let this be a sufficient notice of the abuses of the doctrine. The opinions of all the wise,
and holy, and learned, in every age, may be reduced to two :-namely, that which supposes the prophecy to be literal, and, consequently, that the reign of Christ will be personal; and that which considers the prediction to be figurative, and that hence the millennial reign of the Redeemer will not be personal, but spiritual. I shall consider these two views of the millennium, and state the reasons why, in my opinion, the latter must be the true one.
Many have supposed, among which are a great proportion of the early fathers of the Church, that the prophecy is literal; and, therefore, that during this period Christ will personally reign upon the earth. They consider that the pious dead will be raised and live with Christ upon the earth for a thousand years previously to the general judgment; when the wicked shall be raised, and the final destinies of men shall be fixed in heaven or hell. This is an opinion that has been sanctioned by many great names among the ancients, as well as by men of eminence since the Reformation, and even down to modern times. Modesty and caution, therefore, are requisite in opposing sentiments that have been embraced by so many persons of piety and learning in the Christian church; and I consider it to be highly indecorous to view their opinion with that contempt with which it has been looked on by some modern writers. If they were in error, let their error be refuted by fair argument. The men were too wise, and holy, and learned, to be sneered on with contempt.
Villa In speaking more particularly on the nature of the millennium, I shall state the objections that are made to the literal exposition of the words by which a personal reign of Christ is supposed; and then proceed to illustrate that view of the subject in which the prophecy is considered as figurative, and the reign of Christ spiritual. This is now, for the most part, viewed as the true hypothesis, and is re
ceived as such by the generality of commentators of the present age.
In the first place, it is objected to the literal interpretation, that the resurrection of the body is no where represented in Scripture by the reviving or living again of the soul. It is unaccountable, therefore, that the souls of the persons raised should be exclusively mentioned, if the literal resurrection of their bodies were intended.
Again, the doctrine of a personal reign represents Christ as coming to dwell on the earth a thousand years previously to the last judgment. But does not this hypothesis stand in direct opposition to the plain and explicit declarations of the word of God? Do not the Scriptures expressly assert that the second advent of Christ is for the express purpose of judging the world *? Let the Scriptures noted in the margin be carefully read, and they will be sufficient to demolish the hypothesis which implies that Christ will reign personally upon the earth during this predicted epoch.
Farther, if Christ's reign be personal, if the resurrection be literal, and the bodies of departed saints be raised; what will be the state of the inhabitants of the world during this period? The conflagration of the earth must take place, before the millennium, or after it, at the general resurrection. If before, and the saints are reigning with Christ upon earth in a state of immortality, how can it be said that Satan shall again be let loose and exercise his power in the world before the general judgment? But if the conflagration of the earth do not take place, as it certainly will not, till after the millennium; then what will become of the inhabitants of the world at its commencement? Will none live upon the world but the risen saints? Or will the righteous be changed? If so, what will become of the wicked ?