Page images
PDF
EPUB

ages.” On the contrary, the Homily for Rogation-Week thus speaks ;-"We see what vanity the school-doctrine is mixed with, for that in this word they sought not the will of God; but rather “the will of reason, the trade of custom, the path of the Fathers, the practice of the Church !

II. But our next topic of objection to Mr. Close's tract is this : That the whole of his appeal to Antiquity is founded on a most unaccountable blunder. He would fain put the Millennarians out of court at once, by such broad assertions as these, “ Opposed to “ this is the general view of the Church, which has been held in all ages by the Church as a church.” (p. 13.) “ We are met " by a variety of interpretations, hostile, as we humbly believe, to " the faith of the Catholic or universal Church in all ages."

e whole of bor. He would fainn

as these, “ OPP held in

(p. 10.)

Now Mr. Close is a man of reading; and surely must have read Chillingworth's well-known argument on this very topic. Strange, however, that he should have forgotten such a piece of reasoning, from so famous a writer; being one, too, which wholly annihilates his own statement.

Chillingworth's argument (at the end of his Conference with Mr. Lewgar) runs thus : The Church of Rome, or the Church in general, cannot be infallible :--for she held in the ages next the Apostles, the doctrine of the Millennarians to be true and catholic;-whereas she now holds it to be a heresy. Therefore, either she was in error, then: or else, she is in error, now.

We will quote a few passages :

“ The doctrine of the Millennaries was, ' That before the world's “ end Christ should reign upon earth for a thousand years, and “ that the saints should live under him in all holiness and happi“ ness.' That this doctrine is by the present Roman Church held "false and heretical, I think no man will deny.

“That the same doctrine was, by the Church of the next age after “ the apostles, held true and catholic, I prove by these two reasons.

“ The first reason, Whatsoever doctrine is believed and taught “ by the most eminent fathers of any age of the Church, and by “ none of their contemporaries opposed or condemned, that is to be “ esteemed the catholic doctrine of the Church of those times.

“ But the doctrine of the Millennaries was believed and taught “ by the eminent fathers of the age next after the apostles, and by “ none of that age opposed or condemned.

“ Therefore it was the catholic doctrine of the Church of those 16 times.”

“ That the doctrine which was believed and taught by Papias, “ bishop of Hieropolis, the disciple of the apostles' disciples (ac

e nextos was of thol that and more

“cording to Eusebius), who lived in the times of the apostles; " -- by Justin Martyr, Doctor of the Church and Martyr : by “ Melito bishop of Sardis, who had the gift of prophecy, wit" ness Tertullian, and whom Bellarmine acknowledges a saint: by “ St. Irenæus, bishop of Lyons and martyr; and was not opposed “ or condemned by any one doctor of the Church of those times :“ That doctrine was believed and taught by the most eminent fa“thers of that age next to the apostles, and opposed by none."

“ Seeing therefore it is certain, even to the confession of the " adversaries, that Papias, Justin Martyr, Melito, and Irenæus, “ the most considerable and eminent men of their age, did believe “ and teach this doctrine : and seeing it has been proved as evi“ dently as a thing of this nature can be, that none of their con" temporaries opposed or condemned it;-it remains according to “ Cardinal Perron's first rule,—that this is to be esteemed the doc• trine of the Church of that age.

“ My second reason I form thus. Whatsoever doctrine is “ taught by the fathers of any age, not as doctors but as witnesses “ of the traditions of the Church (that is, not as their own opinion, “ but as the doctrine of the Church of their times), that is undoubt" edly to be so esteemed; especially if none contradicted them in “it. But the fathers above cited teach this doctrine, not as their own private opinion, but as the Christian tradition, and as the “ doctrine of the Church, neither did any contradict them in it. Ergo, it is undoubtedly to be so esteemed.

“ The major of this syllogism, is Cardinal Perron's second rule “and way of finding out the doctrine of the ancient Church in “ any age : and if it be not a sure rule, farewell the use of all “ antiquity.”

Such is Chillingworth’s argument, not meant, be it observed, to establish the doctrine of the Millennium, but merely to prove, that the phrase " the faith of the universal Church in all ages,”which Mr. Close is so fond of using,—is no better than nonsense.

But the case does not rest upon Chillingworth's testimony. Most other Church historians of note give the same evidence. Dupin, for instance, was no millennarian, yet he thus writes :

Of Justin Martyr :-“ He believed, according to the opinion of the most part of the primitive Christians, that the just, after “ the resurrection, shall remain for a thousand years in the city of “ Jerusalem." (Cent. ï. p. 54.)

Of Origen, who first opposed what had been the general opinion, he says, that “be admits of two resurrections ;” but “ rejects the opinion of the millennaries,”—“ believing that all men, even the

· Chillingworth's Addit. Discourses, fo. pp. 36, 37.

most holy, shall pass through the fire.” Thus we see, that as the primitive doctrine began to be opposed by such philosophizing Christians as Origen, the errors of Romanism were sure to creep in.

of the doctrine of the Church in the primitive times, Dupin says, “ The Fathers of the first three centuries ” almost universally believed that Jesus Christ was to reign a thousand years “ upon earth; but they never asserted that opinion as a matter of “ faith.” (vol. i. p. 180.)

Dupin's testimony, therefore, substantially agrees with that of Chillingworth.

Mosheim's account of the matter is as follows :

“That the Saviour is to reign a thousand years among men “ before the end of the world, had been believed by many :”

“ In this century (iiid) the millennarian doctrine fell into dis“ repute, through the influence especially of Origen, who opposed it because it contravened some of his opinions.(vol. i. 254.)

To whieh Mr. Soames, the recent editor, adds this note :

“ The first open opposer that we meet with, was Caius, a “ teacher in the Church of Rome, towards the end of the second “ century. He denied that the Apocalypse was written by St. “ John, and ascribed it rather to Cerinthus."

So that we find “the first open opposer" appearing a century after the days of the apostles, and beginning by denying the genuineness of the Apocalypse : while the second, Origen, is a writer of known heterodoxy, who condemns the doctrine, because it contravenes his own heresy of a purgatorial fire. And these are the earliest and chief opponents of the millennarian scheme !

But perhaps the most complete and faithful view of the whole matter, is that given by Dr. Todd, in his recent volume. Utterly rejecting, as we do, his system of interpretation, we may yet admit Dr. T. to be a competent witness to a plain historic fact. He says, in that volume :

“There exists, however, very distinct and unquestionable evi“ dence, that at the beginning of the third century, a change “ began in the popular interpretations of the Apocalypse; and that “ opinions, which had been commonly derived from it, and which “had been adopted as the undoubted testimony of the Scripture, “ by Irenæus, by Tertullian, by Justin Martyr, were then for the first time questioned, and ultimately ceased to hold the place “ which once they had occupied in the tradition and teaching of " the Church.” (p. 13.)

To this brief statement, Dr. Todd adds the following important note:

in the the

[ocr errors]

“ It is admitted (See Mosheim De rebus Christ. ante Const., cen. iii. s. 38, p. 721, 722), that the earliest Christian writers adopted the literal interpretation of the twentieth chapter of the Apocalypse, on which the doctrine of the personal reign of Christ on earth, for a thousand years, before the day of judgment, has been founded. We may, therefore, infer that the general character of the ancient interpretation of the Apocalypse was the literal sense; and so indeed St. Jerome expressly tells us, Præf. ad lib. xviii. in Isaiam. The change, therefore, which took place in the opinions of the majority of Christian doctors, as to the doctrine of the Millennium, must be taken as necessarily implying a correspondent change in their interpretation of the Apocalypse. The earliest writer, whose works are now extant, by whom the ancient opinions were openly impugned, was Origen, at the beginning of the third century: and his censure of the advocates of the Millennium is, that they were disciples of the letter, led only by that signification of words which was apparent on the surface, and refusing the labour of a deeper understanding (De Princ. ii. 11, 2): all which confirms what has been said, that the ancient exposition of the Apocalypse was essentially literal. In the middle of the same century (A.D. 247), Dionysius of Alexandria, a disciple of Origen, wrote against Nepos a book of which Eusebius has preserved the substance ; for the work itself is unfortunately lost. He did not venture, he tells us, to reject the Apocalypse, as some had done; but he admitted that he did not understand it, and hinted that some hidden sense should be looked for in its words.

Still, however, the ancient doctrine prevailed for a century later. In the fourth century we find it embraced (not in the way of a peculiar opinion, but in language which implies that it was then the received doctrine of the Church) by Lactantius, by St. Martin of Tours, and by St. Sulpitius Severus. In the fifth century, St. Jerome and St. Augustine tell us that there were many, nay a majority, of orthodox Christians who looked for a literal Millennium. St. Augustine himself once held the doctrine, as he tells us, De Civit. Dei, lib. xx. c. 7; and there is one of his sermons (259 in the Benedictine edition), still extant, in which he has distinctly put forward the ancient opinion of the reign of Christ on earth with his saints : ‘Regnabit enim Dominus in terra cum sanctis suis, sicut dicunt Scripturæ, et habebit hic ecclesiam, quo nullus malus intrabit, separatam atque purgatam ab omni contagione nequitiæ.” We may therefore fairly infer that the ancient literal interpretation of the Apocalypse, which led to the expectation of a Millen. nium, began to be questioned in the third century: but that it continued in the tradition of the Church till the beginning of the fifth century, when it appears to have been merged as a Scriptural truth, in the superior charms of the figurative interpretations. In later ages, when various views of purgatory became prevalent in popular teaching, no place was left for the reign of Christ on earth with his saints, preparatory to their admission into the glory of the Father : and hence it is that the doctrine of the Millennium is generally regarded as heretical by divines of the modern Church of Rome."-(pp. 13–15.)

What is it, then, that Mr. Close has done? He has chosen, first, to suppress or pass over, the recorded general opinion of the first three centuries :-He then takes up the opinion which, by a palpable change, began to prevail in the fourth and fifth centuries; and uniting this with the Romish decisions of the middle ages, he makes up what he chooses to call, “ the Catholic doctrine which “ has been held by the Church from the beginning." Now, on this ground, we should be glad to know how he is to meet the Romish controversialist, who maintains the virtue of relics, prayers

to the saints, and the worship of the Virgin. For all these stand on precisely the same ground. All of them were denied in the first three centuries, and adopted in the fourth and fifth. And so was the scheme of interpretation, which rejects or gets rid of the plain meaning of the twentieth chapter of the Apocalypse !

So that, in point of fact, the millennarians have, lst. the plainest and most literal meaning of Revel. xx.; and 2nd. the general belief of the first three centuries :-while their opponents prefer a paraphrase or spiritualizing interpretation of the apostle's words, supported by the judgment of the Church, from the fourth century downwards. And thus it appears, that the fate of the gospel itself, and of the millennarian scheme, have been nearly identical. Both can be traced from the apostles' days, down to the rise of Romanism in the days of Sylvester. Both are suppressed and declared to be heresy, from the fourth century till the sixteenth. And, with the Reformation, both revive. We say not that they are necessarily or indissolubly connected ;-in fact, we know that they are not so. But at least their fate has been nearly identical.

III. The last objection we must tender, is, to the mode in which Mr. Close has conducted the argument from Scripture.

It was open to him to treat the subject in either of two ways :1. Dogmatically ; by the exhibition of positive truth : or, 2. Controversially; by the assailment of a specific error.

Now, if he proposed to treat the question in the first of these ways, namely, by setting forth the whole truth, as revealed in God's word, his chief duty was, sedulously to embrace in his view, all that God had spoken. To select such passages only as agreed with a preconceived system, and to omit from the argument an important portion of Scripture which could not be made to fall in with that system, was a mode of treating the question quite illegitimate and indefensible.

Now Mr. Close's subject was, “ The Second Advent of Christ.”

He was bound, therefore, in fully expounding the truth of Scripture on this subject, to bring before his hearers and readers every important statement concerning it, which he found in God's word. And, up to a certain point, he does this. He cites the xxvth of Matthew ; the vth of John (28, 29); the 2 Cor. v. 10; and the 2d of Peter, iii ;-besides various other illustrative passages. But he forgets to add, that of Christ's second coming, we have a later, more detailed, and more complete account, in the xixth and xxth of St. John's Revelation. To leave this out of his statement, is to make his whole view, either wilfully or neglectfully imperfect.

As far as concerned the Gospels and Acts, we willingly admit that the general tenor of the Divine Revelation seemed to be, that 1846.

50

« PreviousContinue »