« PreviousContinue »
A PARTICULAR history of the church of Christ, from the days of the apostles, to this time ; of the various changes through which it has past ; of the doctrines which have been talk it and maintained; of the discipline, worship, and manners, which have taken place ; of the grand apostasy in the church of Rome, and of the reformation, &c. might be properly subjoined to the foregoing system, were it not that this has been done by a number of writers already ; so that all who are disposed to acquaint themselves with ecclesiastical history, inay obtain this information by books already extant: Which, at the same time, serve to confirm the truth and divine original of christianity, by discovering, in how many instances the state of the church, and the events which have had a particular respect to it, have been foretold, and have taken place according to the predictions. This subject has been particularly illustrated by Mr. Lowman, in his “ Paraphrase and Notes on the Revelation of St. Jolin." And since, more largely, by Bishop Newton, in his “ Dissertation on the Prophecies, which have remarkably been fulfilled, and at this time are fulfilling in the world.”
A Treatise on the Millennium, however, and of the future state of the church of Christ, from this time to the end of the world, as it is predicted and described in divine revelation, is thought proper and important, not only as it has been more than once referred to in the preceding work : but as it appears not to be believed by many, and not to be well understood by more ; or at. tended to by most, as an important event, full of instruction, suited to support, comfort and encourage christians, in the prese ent dark appearance of things, respecting the interest of Christ, and his church ; and to animate them to faith, patience and perseverance in obedience to Christ ; pulti on the hope of salva. VOL. II.
tion for an helmet. And to excite them more earnestly to pray for the advancement and coming of the kingdom of Christ : Of which kingdom, as it is to take place in this world, or of chris. tianity itself, there cannot be so clear, full and pleasing an idea, if the scripture doctrine of the Millennium be kept out of view.
In the first three centuries after the apostles, the doctrine of the Millennium was believed and taught ; but so many unwerthy and absurd things were by some advanced concerning it, that it afterwards fell into discredit, and was opposed, or passed over in silence, by most, until the reformation from popery. And then a number of enthusiasts advanced so many unscriptural and ridiculous notions concerning it, and made such a bad improvement of it, that many, if not most of the orthodox, in opposing them, were led to disbelieve and oppose the doctrine in general ; or to say little or nothing in favour of the doctrine, in any sense or view of it.
But few of the most noted writers of the last century in Britain, or in other parts of the protestant world, have said any thing to establish or explain this doctrine : And they who have mentioned it, do appear, at least the most of them, not to have well understood it. In the present century, there has been more attention to it; and thescriptures which relate to it have been more carefully considered, and explained by a number of writers; and it has been set in a more rational, scriptural and important light, than before. Dr. Whitby has written a Treatise on the Millennium. And Mr. Robertson, and Mr. Lowman, have asserted and explained it, in some measure, in their exposition of the book of the revelation by the apostle John; especially the beginning of the twentieth chapter of that book. And the late President Edwards, attended much to this subject, and wrote upon it more than any other divine in this century. In the year 1747, he published a book, entitled “ An humble attempt to promote explicit agreement, and visible union of God's people, in extraordinary prayer for the revival of religion, and the advancement of Christ's kingdom on earth, pursuant to scripture promises and prophecies concerning the last time." In which he produces the evidence from scripture, that such a day is yet to come. And in a posthumous publication of his, entitled “ A history of the work of Redemption,” this subject is brought into view, and particularly considered. There is also extant, a sermon on the Millennium, by the late Dr. Bellamy. And other writers have occasionally mentioned it. And this subject appears to be brought more particularly into view in the public prayers and preaching, and in conversation, in this age, than in former times; and the doctrine of the Millennium is more generally believed, and better understood.
This is rather an encouragement to attempt farther to explain and illustrate this important, pleasing, useful subject, in which every christian is so much interested, than a reason why nothing. more should be said upon it. The subject is far from being exhausted ; and as the church advances nearer to the Millennial state, we have reason to think the predictions in divine revelation respecting it will be better understood ; and the minds of chris. tians will be more excited to great aitention to this subject, and strong desires to look into those things, and to earnest longings and prayers for the coming of the kingdom of Christ, as it will take place in that day. And all this is to be effected, by means and proper attempts and exertions. “ Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased."
The prophecies of events, which are yet to take place, cannot be so fully understood before these events come to pass, as they will be when they are fulfilled ; and there is great danger of making mistakes about them. And it is certain, that many have made mistakes, since they have made very different and oppo. site constructions of the same predictions ; and therefore all cannot be right. So far as the prophecies which respect the Millennium, of which there are many, can be understood, and the real meaning of them be made plain, by a careful and diligent attention to them, and comparing them with each other, men may go on safe ground, and be certain of their accomplishment. And whatever is a plain and undeniable consequence, from what is expressly predicted, is equally revealed in the prediction, as an event, or circumstance of an event, necessarily included in it. But every opinion respecting future events, which is matter of conjecture only, however probable it may be in the view of him who proposes it, ought to be entertained with modesty and diffidence.
The following Treatise on the Millennium is not designed so much to advance any new sentiments concerning it, which have never before been offered to the public, as to revive and repeat those which have been already suggested by some authors, which are thought to be very important, and ought to be understood, and kept constantly in the view of all, in order to their having a proper conception of the church of Christ in this world, and reading the scriptures to their best advantage, and greatest comfort : Though perhaps something will be advanced, respecting the events which, according to scripture, are to take place between the present time, and the introduction of the happy state of the church, which have not been before so particularly considered.
In which it is proved from Scripture, that the church of Christ is
to come to a state of prosperity in this world, which it has never yet enjoyed ; in which ii will continue at least a thousand years.
THE first revelation of a Redeemer, in the prediction spoken to the serpent, may be considered as implying the destruction of the kingdom of the devil in this world, by the wisdom and energy of Christ.
“ He shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel."* Satan has bruised the heel of Christ, in the sufferings and dishonour he has been instrumental of bringing upon him, and in the opposition he has made to the interest and church of Christ, in this world. And it is natural to suppose that Christ shall bruise bis head in this world, by destroying his interest and kingdom among men, and gaining a conquest over him, in the strug. gle and war which has taken place between the Redeemer and seducer of men. And by the Redeemer's bruising the head of the serpent, is signified that he will not destroy him by the mere exertion of his power, but that by his superior wisdom, he will confound and defeat Satan, in all bis subtilty and cunning, on which he depends so much, and by which he aims to disappoint Christ and defeat him in his designs. And by this he will make a glorious display of his wisdom, as well as of his power, while he discovers the craftiness of Satan to be foolishness, and disappoints him in his devices, carrying all the counsel of this cunning, froward enemy beadlong. If all this could not be gathered from this passage, considered by itself, yet that this is the real meaning, will perhaps appear from what has already taken place in accomplishing this prediction ; and from other prophecies re. specting this, some of which are to be brought into view in the sequel : without which the full meaning of this first promise could not be known.
In order to bruise the head of the serpent, in this sense, most effectually, and turn his boasted wisdom and cunning into foolishness, and entirely defeat him in this way, he must have opportunity and advantage to try his skill and power, and practise
. Gen. ïü. 15