The doctrine of the Kingdom, as preached by the apostles, was received by the early churches.
PROPOSITION 72. The doctrine of the Kingdom, as preached by the apostles, was received by the early churches.
This is not only reasonable, but shown to be a fact, from the apostles having no occasion during their entire ministry to censure any orthodox believers or churches for misapprehending, or holding to a false view of, the Kingdom. The decided and convincing impression is made by the apostolic writings that these first Christian churches were not ignorant of—but correctly understood—the important and cardinal subject of the Kingdom.[*]
Note. So decisive is this, that leading Apologists, like Neander, take refuge under the development theory, obtaining the true doctrine in the advancing and growing “consciousness of the Church.” Forced to admit our historical position, they endeavor—sacrificing the apostles and elders—to secure their own view of the Kingdom under the plea of an after-Churchly development. Those persons, especially, who desire to be esteemed so Churchly and so precise, in their orthodoxy, ought to give this subject a careful investigation in accordance with their professed principles,—but even when asked, their reply may be that of Jer. 6:16. We append one or two testimonies (comp. Props. 75, 76, and 77 for more) in reference to the prevailing belief. Ebrard (Herzog’s Real Ency., vol. 10, p. 579) says: “The apostolic tradition (so say Hase and others correctly) was so decided, that Chiliasm was the ruling belief in the first three centuries of the church.… The Commentary of Theophilus (Hagenbach’s silent witness) is lost, but the belief in Christ’s Coming to establish His Kingdom on earth in glory formed the essential object and anchor of their hope. They recognized the World-Power as one in the service of Satan, and they looked for no deliverance from it save by His Coming.” Semisch (Herzog’s R. Ency., vol. 1, p. 658) remarks: “Before the end of the first century, Chiliasm was the common belief in the Church that had been gathered from the heathen.” He then states, in detail, how all the writers on the subject down to Jerome were express Chiliasts, excepting Origen and his school. Our argument, if Scripturally founded, ought—as a logical result—to find the early Church in this identical doctrinal position. The prevailing Church belief [i.e., in 1884] is asserted by works having no sympathy with our views, as e.g. Appletons’ New. Amer. Cyclop., Chambers’s Cyclop., and many others. [Ed. note: Wikipedia as well!]
Obs. 1. Let the student candidly consult the faith of the early churches and see for himself what it was, viz.: that the intimations of Scripture, the statements of the Fathers, the concessions of Neander, Mosheim, and a host of others, and, in brief, all that we have on record of that period, conclusively proves that the doctrine held, both in Jewish and Gentile regions, was at first (during the First, Second, and greater part of the Third, Century,) that which we have defended. This feature, so noticeable in the Jews under the prophets, under Jesus, and under the Apostles, and thus continuously perpetuated, led Auberlen (Proph. Dan., p. 326) to pertinently remark, that Jesus, and the Prophets and Apostles, were “Chiliasts.” The early Church in its entire range was Chiliastic, and eagerly looked, longed, and prayed for the expected Kingdom still future. Enemies and friends, historians and theologians, frankly acknowledge this distinguishing characteristic of that period.[*]
Note. Thus e.g. Gibbon’s statements (Decl. and Fall Rom. Emp., ch. 15 [Progress of the Christian Religion: Part 4]), Carrodi’s His. of Chiliasm (pronounced even by Prof. Stuart as uncandid), Whitby’s Treat. on Mill. [Paraph. Comm. New Test., vol. 2, pp. 247-278], Bush’s Treat. on Mill., the Church Histories of Neander, Mosheim, Kurtz, etc., the Art. “Chiliasm” in Herzog’s Encyclop. (by Semisch), or Art. Millennium in Kitto’s Ency. [pp. 310, 311, 312, 313], Lardner’s Credibility, Rees’, Appletons’, and other Encyclopœdias, Chillingworth’s Argument drawn from the Doctrine of the Millenaries, against Papal Infallibility, Hagenbach’s His. of Doctrines, Greswell’s Exposition of the Parables, Bickersteth On Proph., Brooks’s El. Proph. Interp., Seiss’s Last Times, Shimeall’s Reply to Shedd, Taylor’s Voice of the Church, Brookes’s Maranatha, Ebaugh’s brief history in Rupp’s Orig. His. of Relig. Denominations [pp.3,4,5,6,7,8], works on the Apocalypse, and commentaries on the same, as Prof. Stuart’s, Spaulding, Winchester, etc., Millenarian writers, as Duffield, Begg, Bonar, Cunningham, Mede, Bh. Henshaw, etc. Thus presenting unbelievers, opposers, critics, historians, commentators, and believers, uniting in the same testimony. We here assert that no writer has yet been able to present the prevailing modern views as entertained by any writer of the Primitive church; no statement quoted, giving the writing, is to be found anywhere. Dr. Bonar (Proph. Landmarks, Pref. xv) has well said: “As to the history of our doctrines, the conclusions to which all inquiries upon this subject have come is, that during the three first centuries it prevailed universally, its only opponents being the Gnostics. This is now an ascertained historical fact, which we may well ask our opponents to account for, as it presupposes that Chiliasm was an article of the Apostolic Creed.” Chillingworth’s testimony (Works, vol. 3, pp. 409-422) is that it was “held true and Catholic,” [p. 409] “and by none of their contemporaries condemned,” [pp. 409-410] “being grounded upon evident Scripture,” [p. 414] etc. Hagenbach (His. of Doctrines, vol. 1, p. 215), after quoting Justin’s declaration that it was the general faith of all orthodox Christians, gives the following, in italics, from Giesler’s Ch. History, vol. 1 [pp. 156-157]: “In all the works of this period (the first two centuries) Millenarianism is so prominent, we cannot hesitate to consider it as universal in an age when such sensuous motives were certainly not unnecessary to animate men to suffer for Christianity.” We are only now concerned with the historical fact, Giesler’s explanation appended for its existence is not history, but his individual (mistaken) opinion. Bh. Russell (Discourse on the Mill., p. 84) says: “There is good ground for the assertion of Mede, Dodwell, Burnet, and writers on the same side, that down to the beginning of the fourth century the belief (in Christ’s return and personal reign on earth) was universal and undisputed.” Other testimonies will be quoted as we proceed.
Obs. 2. Men, who would gladly blot this evidence out of existence as being adverse to their notions of propriety and of the Kingdom, still candidly, impelled by the overwhelming testimony, admit the fact, that the Primitive Church, generally, if not universally, held our views.[*]
Note. Thus e.g. Bush (On Mill., p. 20, etc.) admits the prevalence of Chiliasm, “that during the first three centuries it was very extensively embraced” and then quotes approvingly Chillingworth, “that Chillingworth prefers it as a serious charge against the Church of Rome, which lays such lofty claims to the perpetuation within her own bosom of the pure, unadulterated doctrines of the apostolic and primitive ages, that in this matter, if in no other, she has grossly falsified the creed of antiquity, inasmuch as there is ample evidence that the doctrine of the Chiliasts was actually the Catholic faith of more than one century; and certainly there are few judges more competent to pronounce upon the fact.” While Prof. Bush acknowledges the extent of belief, he thinks that it was thus allowed to prevail because it produced at that time better results than “even a more correct construction of the sacred oracles” could effect;—thus agreeing with Gibbon in his estimate of its transient merits, making error for the time better adapted to secure the prosperity of the church than truth! On p. 26 he also remarks: “During the first ages of the church, when the style of Christianity was to believe, to love, and to suffer, this sentiment seems to have obtained a prevalence so general as to be properly entitled all but absolutely Catholic,” etc. He then refers to the gradual change wrought through Origen, Augustine, Jerome, etc., and the Constantinian era. Dr. Alger (Crit. His. Doc. Fut. Life, p. 319) fully believes that the Evangelists and early Christians understood Christ to teach a literal personal Sec. Advent, etc., but he doubts whether Jesus really meant to be thus understood. He endeavors to rid himself of the early views by spiritualizing, and a course of reasoning reflecting most deeply upon the ignorance of persons specially appointed to preach the truth. Pressense (The Early Years of Christianity, vol. 1, p. 46) says: “If there is full evidence that they (the apostles) declared the truth of Christ in all its essentials, the evidence seems to us no less clear that they still enveloped that truth in Jewish forms.” Which are we to credit, then: “the Jewish forms” or Pressense’s developed “germ” out of this “husk”? Who is to distinguish between “the kernel” and the alleged “rind”? What idea does this give us of apostolic intelligence? We only now say, so extended and plain is this testimony given by opponents, that some of the latter endeavor to conceal it from their readers, lest it should exert an influence in our favor. Some even (as Dr. Macdill in the “Instructor,” 1879) resort to the ruse of quoting the unfavorable opinions as to our doctrine given by various opponents;—just as if denunciation was argument and met the historical question. The nature of the doctrine, etc., will come up, as we proceed, and the denunciations be fully met. Of course, the intelligent reader will discriminate between the historical fact of the extension of our belief as given by opponents (as e.g. Neander, Mosheim, etc.), and their individually expressed opinions as to its Scripturalness, origin, etc. The one is history, the other is personal matter.
Obs. 3. The Primitive Church,—receiving this faith under the guidance of Apostles, and Elders consecrated by apostolic hands, giving us the names of Apostles and Elders as expressly teaching it, appealing more or less to Scripture and to their predecessors in the same belief,—cannot have its doctrine, so fundamental, in this matter set aside and superseded without placing it, and its instructors, in a very dubious and unenviable light.
Note 1. Thus Papias says: “If I met a br who had known the Apostles, I asked him carefully what they had said; what Andrew, Peter, Philip, Thomas, James, John, and Matthew had said. I thought I could gather more from a living testimony than from books.” [Frag. 1] Again he remarks (quoted by Brooks, El. Proph. Interp., p. 37): “That what he relates are the very words of the elders, Andrew, Peter, Thomas, James, John, Matthew, Aristio, and John the Presbyter, as related to him by those of whom he constantly made the inquiry,” and pledges himself to the “truth and fidelity of what he reports.” Papias is said (by Irenĉus [5:33:4]) to have been one of John’s hearers, and he was intimate with Polycarp. Is it credible that in so vital a matter as the Kingdom, when the gospel itself was “the gospel of the Kingdom,” the Fathers nearest to the apostles could have been mistaken? If so, what assurance have we that they not also misapprehended all other points? Justin Martyr also appeals to “a certain man among us, whose name was John, one of the Apostles of Christ.” The reader may consult lists of Millenarian Fathers given in Brooks’s El. Proph. Interp., Seiss’s Last Times, etc. They include—with the reasons given—Barnabas, Clement, Hermas, Ignatius, Polycarp, Papias, Justin Martyr, Tatian, Melito, Irenĉus, Clemens Alexandrinus, Tertullian, ranging from A.D. 70 to about A.D. 192. Such Fathers as Lactantius, Methodius, Epiphanius, Gregory of Nyssa, Paulinus, Victorinus, Apollinaris, and others, follow these. In reference to our use of Barnabas (for critics are divided, see e.g. Hagenbach’s His. of Doc., vol. 1, p. 64, and Arts. in Encyclops., respecting the author; although since the Greek has been discovered by Tischendorf, many indorse the work as that of Barnabas), it may be said, whatever its merit, etc., that it can be legitimately quoted as one of the earliest of Christian writings, and fully indicative of the views then held. More than this: no one can censure us for such a use, when (Hagenbach, His. of Doc., vol. 1, p. 84) Anti-Millenarians, as Clement and Origen, who did so much to obscure our doctrine, quoted the Epistle as “in equal esteem with the Scriptures.”
Note 2. Those who make light of this primitive faith cannot help feeling the sarcastic remarks of Gibbon (ch. 15, Decl. and Fall), or cannot avoid, logically, the conclusions of Desprez (John), and of a multitude of unbelievers. It is simply impossible to account for the belief without lowering the credibility and authority of the first teachers of the church, unless we accept of it as legitimate and the natural outgrowth of a correct teaching. The lowest form of attack in meeting our views is to stab these Fathers, charging them with unreliability, credulity, superstition, etc. This manner of procedure is as old as Eusebius and Jerome. Just as Eusebius e.g. makes out Papias illiterate and weak when referring to his Millenarian sentiments [3:39:12-13], and yet receives him (B. 3:32 [Comp. Brooks, El. Proph. Interp., p. 57]) as “eloquent and learned in the Scriptures” on other points, so e.g. Prof. Stuart (Com. Apoc.), in his estimate of the early Fathers, underrates them on Millenarian grounds—being in their theological views so vitally different from his own—and yet often quotes them, with evident relish and forgetfulness of his estimate, when they happen to be in agreement with himself. So with Channing (Remarks on Milton, Works, pp. 53-54), Le Clerc (Bib. 25:289), and others, who represent them as just emerging from darkness into light, and hence abounding in childish credulity, etc.
The chief point alleged as evidence of the weakness of Papias [Frag. 4] and Irenĉus [5:33:3] (and which brought forth the scoffing of Whitby [Paraph. Comm. New Test., vol. 2, p. 254], Middleton, Stuart, Macdill, and others) is the oft-quoted “grape story” (referring to the astounding fruitfulness of the vine, etc.). But let the reader consider that Papias’ writings being lost, and Irenĉus’ being in a translation (the Greek also lost), it is impossible to correct or substantiate the exact language originally used (comp. candid remarks of Brooks, El. Proph. Interp., p. 56, and Farrar’s—Life of Christ, vol. 1, p. 320, foot-note—allusion to and explanation of the same, as well as Greswell On the Parables, vol. 1, pp. 295, 296). It may be a hyperbole like that of John 21:25 in reference to the predicted productiveness of the earth during the Mill. era, to which others have added, under the impression of heightening the effect. It may be even error, for in the details—and as given from hearsay and reported as such, exaggeration may have found scope—the best of men may fall into mistake. But this does not invalidate the leading, fundamental doctrine; it really confirms it, seeing that, under the influence of such a doctrine and its related restitution to Paradisiacal fruitfulness, such statements are engrafted upon it.[a] [Ed. note: Source unknown according also to Whitby (Treat. Mill., p. 254). A 2nd Temple era, Jewish tradition manifest in 1 Enoch 10:19-20, utilized also in Messiah's teaching upon the kingdom (Irenĉus, 5:33:3; Comp. Acts 1:3). 2 Baruch 29:5, a Jewish pseudepigrapha composed in the late 1st c., derives from the same tradition. (Comp. Obs. 5)] Those who reject Papias and Irenĉus on the ground of exaggeration, ought then in consistency to reject Origen and many of the other side following, who have been guilty of far greater extravagances in doctrinal statements. Indeed, the writer feels that, while rejecting the story in its present form, or regarding it as hyperbolical, it requires far more credulity to receive some of the statements of the defamers of these Fathers (as e.g. Eusebius’ “New Jerusalem,” equivalent to Rome [Theophania, cli], Prof. Stuart’s “Neroic Theory,” Whitby's “New Hypothesis,” [Comp. Whitby, Paraph. Comm. New Test., vol. 2, p. 250] etc.) than to accept of these utterances attributed to them. To be witty at the expense of some advocate, or to find some believer extravagant in view, does not, by any means, disprove our doctrine.
Another disreputable mode of procedure to lower the Fathers in the estimation of others or to make them contradictory, is (1) to interpolate or omit, (2) to ascribe to them what they never said, (3) and to ascribe to them some heretical sentiments. In reference to the first, Brooks shows (El. Proph. Interp., p. 52, 53) that in printed copies of Justin the word “not” was omitted in the sentence which expressly asserts that those who are not following the pure doctrine—who are the unorthodox—reject the Chiliastic view. Popish influence, no doubt, appears in this omission (see another suppression mentioned, p. 54). Bh. Newton (vol. 2, p. 350) has shown that Dr. Middleton (Inquiry, p. 31) in quoting Justin Martyr has interpolated the phrase “in the enjoyment of all sensual pleasures,” which Justin never employed. Even (so Brooks, p. 57) the eulogy of Eusebius on Papias as a man “most eloquent and skilful in the Scriptures” is omitted in many copies, although found in the ancient. It would not answer to laud a Chiliast. (On the other hand, Brooks notices how an anti-Millenarian is praised by Dr. Maclaine in his translation of Mosheim’s Eccl. His., when he adds to Dionysius the words “learned and judicious” not found in the original.) It was not considered wrong to perpetrate (comp. Mosheim, vol. 1, p. 100, Middleton’s Inquiry, p. 158, Madan’s Thelyphthora, Pref., p. 12, etc.), for the truth’s sake, “pious frauds.” Beaven (Account of Irenĉus, p. 240) says: “As the opinions of Irenĉus on the Millennium are different from those which prevailed subsequently with almost universal consent in the Western Church, that portion of his Treatise is rarely found complete in our present MSS., the copyists not thinking it proper or worth their while to copy what was generally disapproved by the church.… The five last chapters of the fifth book are wanting in all but two MSS.” Fortunately, too, this work was recovered and published to the world by Erasmus, and not by a Protestant or Millenarian. Mede (Works, p. 748) charges Jerome with being an “unequal relator of the opinions of his adversaries,” and adds: “What credit he deserves in this instance may appear by some fragments of those authors still remaining, whom he charged with the opinion directly contrary to that which they expressly affirmed.” It is a matter of amazement that such a writer as Fairbairn, on the poor authority of Jerome, asserts (On Proph., p. 254) that the Fathers, without exception, “with one voice,” including of course the Millenarians, rejected the notion of a Jewish territorial restoration. Let the reader turn to the quotations that we freely give from e.g. Barnabas, Irenĉus, Justin, Tertullian, he will find an ample refutation of this statement. (The views of these Fathers respecting the fulfilment of the Davidic covenant and prophecy, the location of the Mill. age before the general judgment, etc., show the student how they understood this matter.) Some recent writers, without a particle of fairness and justice, repeat Jerome’s charge—a false representation as shown by Mede, Lardner, and many others—against us (aimed especially at Lactantius), “that the saints shall, in the Millennium, have a great enjoyment of carnal and corporeal pleasures” (comp. Brooks, p. 59, who gives Lactantius’ exact language, which distinguishes between the resurrected and glorified saints, and those persons who are spared—see Props. 152, 153, 154, etc.). To reiterate what is so utterly unfounded in fact, and which has so frequently been exposed as untrue, is evidence of enmity and a lack of desire for truth.[b]
But the lowest possible polemical trick is to endeavor to associate these Fathers with heresy, as Papias with ultra Judaism, Irenĉus and Justin with Cerinthism, Tertullian with extravagant Montanism, and Lactantius with Manichaeism. We are not concerned in defending those men; able pens have triumphantly shown that in no sense have they been guilty of heresy but were the opposers of heresy. The reader is referred to the candid statements of Neander, Mede, Lardner, Brooks, Taylor, Lee, Semisch, Greswell, Dodgson, Mosheim, and a host of others. As to Cerinthus, admitting that he held all that is alleged (although it has often been noticed that the Mill. theory as presented to us does not harmonize with his other views, see e.g. Art. Cerinthus, Ency. Brit., etc.), yet our opponents overlook the fact, that Cerinthus was strongly opposed and crushed by Millenarians. The assertion of the Ency. of Relig. Knowl., Art. Cerinthus, that “he is to be regarded as the first person who held the doctrine of a mundane Millennium,” is abundantly refuted by the testimony of the ablest writers, church historians, etc., who assert (what needs no confirmation, since our argument fully develops it) that the Jews held to it, and that it was perpetuated in the Jewish-Christian church. It is said by Waterland, Michaelis, and others, that the Apostle John wrote against Cerinthus (as asserted by Irenĉus and taken from Polycarp). Let this be as it may, John wrote at the time when he knew the doctrine of Cerinthus. Now, is it credible, if the doctrine of the Millennium is an error, that John in the Apoc. should employ the very ideas and language to perpetuate it, as seen in the church? Thus we see how, by such grave charges, men not only involve the early church in heresy, trace the church itself through heretical men, but make the apostles justly chargeable with its continuance. It is a sad fact, that if many of the Apostolic and Primitive Fathers were now living, they could not, with their views of covenant and prophecy, be received as preachers in thousands of pulpits. In reference to Cerinthus, the student will do well to consider the temperate language of Mosheim (Com. on the State of the Church, etc.) respecting his doctrine, attributing much that is said of him to prejudice and hatred. For it must ever be borne in mind that what we know of Cerinthus (as holding Chiliasm) comes from the bitter adversaries of Millenarianism, while the Chiliastic opposers of Cerinthus never mention his holding so grossly to a carnal Millennium. Lardner (Works, vol. 2, pp. 700, 701) also thinks that Cerinthus is misrepresented in some things, and this is the opinion of Bh. Bull, Mede, and many others. Mansel (Gnostic Heresies, p. 114) says: “both Mosheim and Neander consider the accounts of the sensual Chiliasm of Cerinthus to be misrepresentations.” The critical student can readily see why it is impossible to reconcile Chiliasm with his alleged views. Cerinthus, as all affirm, was a Gnostic, and his doctrine (as e.g. making Jesus in his humanity a transient vehicle or mere phantom,—which John opposed, although giving us Rev. 20:1–6) was utterly hostile to a Millenarian position. Hence Neander doubts the Chiliasm of Cerinthus as reported, simply because it would be antagonistic to his own system, and (Genl. Ch. His., vol. 1, pp. 399-400) after giving in detail his doctrine, adds: “It may be a question, indeed, whether he entertained such gross and sensual notions of this Millennial Sabbath as Caius and Dionysius imputed to him; for such views would hardly be in keeping with his system as a whole. He spoke indeed of a wedding-feast—an image then commonly employed to signify the blessed union of the Messiah with his saints; but on such an image any one who was both unfamiliar with the figurative language of the East, and interpreted his language under the bias of unfriendly feelings, might easily put a wrong construction. Dionysius indeed says that, in speaking of festivals and sacrifices, he was only seeking to veil his own gross and sensual notions. But what warrant had he for such an assertion? If Cerinthus had really taught such a grossly sensual Chiliasm, there would be in this something so repugnant to the whole spirit of Gnosticism, and so strongly tending to the Jewish point of view. as to make it necessary for us to rank him with the Judaists, rather than with the Gnostics.” As to Chiliasts, he says in relation e.g. to Justin (Genl. Ch. His., vol. 2, p. 423): “An antipathy to Gnosticism, and to the doctrines of Marcion, is strongly marked in both works; and with this feeling Chiliasm at that time readily sympathized.” In other places he alludes to early Chiliasts being hostile to Gnosticism in all its forms. This is the candid statement of one who is no sympathizer with our doctrine, over against the repeated false misrepresentations of opponents at the present day, who, with delight, repeat the old oft-refuted statements respecting Cerinthus, but are very careful not to refer to such critical statements of scholars.
[Note a. Comp. Dr. Neander’s statement (Genl. Ch. His., vol. 2, p. 405–6) respecting spurious works and interpolations, making it difficult to obtain the exact views held. Various writers hold that this grape story is “a burlesque on the term thousand, written by some opponent of the doctrine in corrupting the text of Papias,” and “doubtless much more of the ‘fanciful and sensuous’ has a similar origin, for Chillingworth says that ‘imputing to them that which they held not’ was one of the means of overbearing the Millenarian doctrine” (so e.g. Editor, Proph. Times, vol. 5, p. 194).]
[Note b. It is to be regretted that Books of Reference contain such unfounded charges, as e.g. Rees’ Cyclop. ['Millenarians' 1,2], which takes from Whitby [Paraph. Comm. New Test., vol. 2, pp. 256-257, 271, etc.] (following Jerome) the misstatement that the risen saints “propagate their species,” as the doctrine of the ancient Millenarians. Not a particle of proof, in the shape of a direct quotation from any of the Fathers, can be given to substantiate such an assertion. Surely, when this is lacking, simple honesty and justice demand the withdrawal of this mode of attack.]
Obs. 4. This generally admitted view of the Kingdom entertained by the early churches, is supposed by many, especially at the present day, to form a decided objection to Christianity. Infidels exultingly parade it, endeavoring to take advantage of it to show that the teachers and members were alike fallible and ignorant men,—hence untrustworthy. Christians endeavor to break its force by (1) denying its generality or asserting that but comparatively few held the belief  (2) by disconnecting the faith of the church from the teaching of the Apostles, and (3) by ascribing it to a Jewish or heretical origin. We, on the contrary, hold that, according to the truth, it was impossible for the first churches under the personal teaching and supervision of inspired men to have any other faith respecting the Kingdom than that which history ascribes to the first Christians. The belief of those churches is a logical result, legitimate outgrowth of previous teaching, and the only one that harmonizes with the most essential portion of God’s Word, viz.: the Covenants.
Note 1. Gibbon (Decl. and Fall Rom. Emp., ch. 15, p. 563), describing the Chiliastic view, and correctly noticing that “the ancient and popular doctrine of the Millennium was intimately connected with the Sec. Coming of Christ,” finally remarks: “The assurance of such a Millennium was carefully inculcated by a succession of fathers from Justin Martyr and Irenĉus, who conversed with the immediate disciples of the apostles, down to Lactantius, who was preceptor to the son of Constantine.” Our opponents in reply to Gibbon have very unfairly asserted that he was mistaken as to the extent in which it was held, when he adds: “Though it might not be universally received, it appears to have been the reigning sentiment of orthodox believers,” etc. This has been repeated before and since, and the authorities given, which, to say the least, are incontrovertible. The use made of it by Gibbon follows, that “The doctrine of Christ’s reign upon earth was at first treated as a profound allegory, was considered by degrees as a doubtful and useless opinion, and was at length rejected as the absurd invention of heresy and fanaticism.” Of course, the church and the truth suffer by such a comparison, for if the modern prevailing view is the correct one, then the Primitive Church was perpetuated by errorists and fanatics, or, if the Primitive Chiliastic position is one in accordance with the truth, then the modern rejection of it is a wide departure from the true landmarks. The student, unless he can show that Gibbon is mistaken (which none of his annotators have ventured to do), must in all candor consider this dilemma. The favorite tactics of many unbelievers is to contrast the modern prevailing view respecting the Messiah and His Kingdom with that of the apostolic and Primitive Church, point out the palpable discrepancies, and then deduce from it the conclusion, that the growing intelligence of the Church could not tolerate the Jewish doctrine which superstition and ignorance had perpetuated. Many works present this line of reasoning in order to disparage the founders of Christianity.
Note 2. Thus, to give an illustration out of a host: Lindsay (Art. Mill. in Ency. Brit. [1,2,3,4]), in stating the belief of the early churches, says, in opposition to overwhelming testimony to the contrary: “the opinion does not seem to have become general in the church,” and looking for proof in behalf of such a sweeping assertion, we are referred to Origen in these words: “Indeed, we are expressly informed by Origen that it was confined to ‘those of the simpler sort,’ and to such as, ‘refusing the labor of intelligence, followed the superficial mode of literal interpretation.’ ” [De Principiis 2:11:2] This is certainly uncandid, for we have here (1) nothing said of the extent of belief prevailing; (2) the testimony of an opponent, who in other places speaks well of Chiliasts; (3) the ebullition of feeling excited against opponents who would not receive Origen’s spiritualistic and allegorical method of interpretation; (4) the virtual indorsement of Origen’s system as “the labor of intelligence,” over against that of his opponents; (5) and the allowing, through this indirect impeachment of folly and ignorance, that the Apostolic and Primitive Fathers holding Chiliasm, were, in comparison with Origen and his class, “the simpler sort,” etc. (See for Origen, Prop. 76.) The only additional proof, also indirect, derived from Neander, is, that “the defensive attitude” assumed “by the advocates of the doctrine affords a strong presumption that it was not the doctrine of the church in general.” This is a mere begging of the question, seeing (1) that the generality is based on the fact that for a long period the church Fathers, as far as known, were express Millenarians; (2) that this is the direct testimony of Justin, and is implied in the expression of others (as e.g. Irenĉus conversing with others and gathering material from them, etc.); (3) that a difference of view among the orthodox believers is never hinted at as existing, as e.g. Irenĉus, the disciple of Polycarp, or Justin Martyr, in arguing and teaching enforce a unity of belief in the very manner of expression—as if the doctrine were general; (4) the upholding of the doctrine so prominently by the leading Apologists of Christianity (Justin) indicates its extent; (5) “the defensive attitude” is assumed, as Justin expressly asserts (not against orthodox), against “even those of that race of Christians who follow not godly and pure doctrine.” Every tyro in church history well knows that Gnosticism, and other tendencies, opposed to our doctrine, were already working in the church and outside in the first century, and this abundantly accounts for the argumentative and defensive style adopted. More than this: it is explained by the simple fact that they thus better repressed the objections that Jews might allege against Christianity (comp. Prop. 193). Other illustrations will be given under Prop. 75, and we simply reproduce a challenge often made and repeated by the Editor of the Prophetic Times (vol. 1, p. 71): “We challenge our opponents to produce the evidence of the entertainment of anti-Millenarian views by any orthodox and acknowledged Christian teacher for the first two hundred years of our era.” When this evidence is produced then Lindsay, Neander, and others may have something substantial to build upon; until it is produced we are slow to receive their statements. Hence such writers as Ueberweg (His. of Philosophy, vol. 1, p. 264, when referring to the early Patristic period) are most certainly incorrect, when they say: “There arose in Christianity, in opposition to the reality of the Kingdom of the world, the idea of a Kingdom of God founded on purity of heart. The expectation of the Messiah among the Jewish people was spiritualized,” etc. Now the incontestable facts of history make this idea of a Kingdom and this spiritualizing a later development—as we shall show—and Ueberweg and others take the liberty of transferring what belongs to a later period to an earlier one. Such works, of course, influence other minds to occupy a view unsupported by historical fact. A writer in the Princeton Review (Ap. 1851, p. 217), led on by his zeal against Millenarianism, remarks: “That the commission is to teach all nations without distinction that Christ is now King, that He occupies the throne of David, that the Kingdom is spiritual, that that Kingdom is the Church, that the agencies for preserving and enlarging it are purely moral and spiritual (except, of course, God’s providential control of all things), and that it is to spread over the whole earth, are truths which the Christian world has believed from the times of the apostles until now.” Indeed! we should like to have the history for all this, which thus loads the commission (see Prop. 175) with “truths” not contained in it. Such statements are not solely dictated by ignorance; other motives evidently prompt them, for we have a higher opinion of the historical knowledge of such opponents than to attribute the former to them.
Note 3. The critical student, desirous to secure truth, will notice the lack of candor in numerous Encyclopĉdias, Eccles. Histories, Dogmatics, etc., in tracing our doctrine. Thus e.g. reference as to its origin is made to a heretical source, the number of adherents are represented as insignificant as possible, etc., and not a single allusion is made to the doctrinal views of the apostles or disciples which they preached when sent out by Jesus, and which are admitted by all commentators and critics (in view of Acts 1:6. etc.) to have been intensely Jewish and in full accord with our doctrine. Let the mind, unbiassed, ponder Props. 43, 44, etc., and can a plausible reason be assigned why the views of disciples, under the personal instruction of Jesus, should be thus persistently ignored. Suppose even that they were in error, yet in a historical account of our doctrine, certainly such evidence ought not, in common justice, be omitted. But the uncandidness is manifested even to a greater extent. Killen (Ancient Church) professing to give (ch. 5, p. 445, etc.) “The Doctrine of the Church,” during the first three centuries, entirely ignores the existence of our doctrine, although he can enter into details respecting trivial affairs—a sad defect in impartial history, evincing prejudice in the historian, and, may we add, fear of the antiquity of our views. In another place and connection (p. 369) he can, however, complacently reproduce Eusebius’ disparaging remarks respecting Papias and Irenĉus in connection with an allusion to our doctrine, without the slightest reference to other places where these Fathers are eulogized. The design is apparent. Others imbibe and exhibit, alas! the same unfairness, not realizing that they thus weaken their own ground and strengthen our position. We give another illustration: A writer in the Princeton Review, July, 1856, p. 541, tells us that Waldegrave has shown that after the Second Advent all the saints shall be transplanted into the third heaven, and that the only Kingdom to be realized is one eternal in the heavens above, and then adds: “Such is the clear, tried, ancient Catholic holding of God’s people, in all ages, which is to be superseded by the sensuous imagery (Millenarianism) of an earthly Kingdom.” The palpable misstatement of the first clause of the sentence is only equalled by the sneer levelled at God’s own Purpose in the last one. Such wholesale affirmations can only delude the ignorant.
Note 4. Thus e.g. Milman in his notes on Gibbon can only say that (p. 561 and 563, footnotes) our doctrine is “purely Jewish” or “a fable of Jewish dotage.” But this is no answer to Gibbon; it leaves the matter as it was before, without the least attempt to explain how it comes that churches, East and West, were for so long a time intensely Jewish in their views of the Kingdom (comp. Props. 68, 69, 76, etc.). Had the apostles and their immediate successors no power, if in error, to check, or at least to protest against, such a tendency? On the other hand, if derived from heresy, it only makes matters worse, for then how is it possible to trace the pure orthodox Church. If our opponents had only one, or two, or more, of the very early Fathers to sustain their position, then, and only then, might they frame something like a logical argument favoring such a derivation. But such writers are not to be found in the first and second centuries, and even in the third they are few in number. So, again, Dr. Lindsay (Art. “Mill.” in Encyclop. Brit. [1,2,3,4]) admits and argues (although leaving out the Scriptural basis of the covenant) the Jewish origin of our doctrine; that it was held from “comparatively an early age,” etc.; and then, coming to the Christian Church, remarks: “From the Jews this notion of a personal reign of the Messiah with His saints on earth, was adopted by several in the early church, by whom the passage in the Apoc., above referred to, was confidently quoted in support of this opinion.” What shall we say (1) to the unfair method of making the impression by the word “several” as if but a few, very few, entertained our view, over against Justin’s direct assertion that all that were orthodox held to it; (2) and to the one-sidedness of the whole article, endeavoring to indicate that our doctrine was obtained from Jewish sources outside of the Scriptures, and from a rigid literal interpretation of one portion of the Apoc. Why, in all candor and justice, does he not allow, e.g. Barnabas or Irenĉus or Justin to give the covenant and the prophecies upon which they base their views? Is it right to ignore the express testimony of Scripture, which these and other worthies allege in behalf of their doctrinal position? (Comp., for Jewish belief before and at the First Advent, p. 240, etc., of Freedom and Fellowship in Religion.)
In reference to the charge of heresy (see Obs. 3, note 2), it may briefly be said that this originates from an unacquaintance with the history of our doctrine, from an overlooking of its Scriptural basis and the character of the men who have embraced it, from receiving the accusation from others without examination, or from pure malice and bigotry. Writers eminent for learning and ability, who are opposed to us, well knowing how extensively our views were held by men who lived and died for the church, are very guarded not to bring such a charge, seeing that if brought it is impossible to trace the church from the apostles saving through a “heretical” medium. In the early church Chiliasts were its preachers, defenders, and apologists. Indeed, we are indebted to many of our scholarly opponents (as e.g. Neander, Bush, etc.) for defending, ably, Millenarian Fathers against such a charge. And the defense is simple and just, seeing that these very Fathers were the men who opposed directly the heretical tendencies of the early age. Some Protestants might even learn a lesson of charity from Roman Catholics. While Romanism hates the doctrine and forbids its belief (because so antagonistic to its pretensions), yet some writers of this class are too wise to brand it as heresy. Although anxious for the sake of their church to make its numbers as few as possible, and its doctrines erroneous, yet Schlegel (Philos. His., Sec. 11), calling it an “error or rather illusion” “in the history of those early ages of the church,” adds: “Nor did its partisans constitute a sect, but it was merely the exaggerated opinion of some individuals in the bosom of the church, who were animated by no intentions hostile to Christianity.” He calls them “many virtuous and praiseworthy men.” It is a fact that even the first prominent opposer of Chiliasm, Origen (e.g. Neander, Ch. His., vol. 1, p. 551), speaks in language of toleration; the same is true of Jerome and others (comp. Prop. 76).
Obs. 5. Our doctrine has a Jewish origin, founded upon Jewish covenants, Jewish predictions, Jewish faith, and a Jewish Messiah (Prop. 68, 69, etc.). Many writers, whether intended as a reproach or as a historical fact, trace our doctrine to a Jewish source. This is correct, whether sarcastically or soberly presented. We have already quoted (Prop. 68), Shedd, Mosheim, Walch, Prof. Bush, Hodge, Milman, and Lindsay as attributing its rise to a Jewish faith. How could it be otherwise when, as we have shown and proven under previous Propositions, the Jews at the First Advent and the disciples sent forth to preach the Kingdom held precisely to our doctrines respecting the Kingdom and the reign of the saints; when, as Auberlen (Obs. 1) aptly said, all, including Jesus and the prophets, were Chiliasts. Chiliasm is not doctrinally fixed by the duration of the reign (Prop. 159), but is determined by the nature of the Messianic Kingdom.
Note 1. Out of the abundance of material, a number of additional references and quotations may prove acceptable to the reader. The Art. “Millennium” in M’Clintock and Strong’s Cyclop., referring to Josephus (Ant. 18:1:3; War 2:8:14), Daniel (Dan. 12:2), Barnabas, Book of Enoch, Test. of Twelve Patriarchs, Sibylline books, etc., says: “it was early adopted, especially by Jewish Christians,” and “it penetrated into the Gentile branch of the church and spread extensively.” Neander (Genl. Ch. History, vol. 2, p. 396, ascribes to a Jewish origin “the idea of a Millennial reign which the Messiah would set up on the earth,” and this is several times repeated (we give a quotation from him under the Prop. of Jewish objections). In his His. of Dogmas he informs us that Millenarianism was generally taught, giving all the eminent church Fathers of the period as supporting it (Barnabas, Irenĉus, Papias, Justin), and he endeavors to discriminate between a refined and a sensuous form in which it was taught, asserting “by many it was held spiritually, and clashed not with the Christian spirit” (but who those “many” were who thus held it purely, “spiritually,” he does not inform us, and we must conclude them imaginary persons, of whom we have no record whatever). He then traces the doctrine back to Judaism, “for among the Jews the representation was current that Messiah would reign a thousand years on earth,” and he tells us that this notion was derived from Ps. 90:4, the symbolical character of the six days of Creation, and the seventh being a Sabbath (comp. Prop. 143, for testimony corroborating Neander). So cumulative and irresistible is the proof that we leave an opponent to sum it up, and give the details as follows: The Princeton Review (Ap., 1850, p. 329), in a hostile notice of Rev. Imbrie’s sermon, “The Kingdom of God,” pronounces our view “the Jewish doctrine; and by Jewish we mean that actually held by the Jews. They taught, 1. That the Messiah was to appear and reign in person gloriously in Jerusalem. 2. That all the Jews were to be gathered in the Holy Land. 3. That the pious dead were to be raised to share the blessings of the Messiah’s reign. 4. That the Messiah and His people were to reign over all nations for a thousand years. 5. That at the end of that period Satan was to be loosed, and a great conflict ensue, after which were to come the general resurrection and final judgment. This theory was by many Christians, during the second and third centuries” (observe, he omits the first, as if none existed then, over against the positive testimony in our favor), “adopted bodily. The only difference was, that what the Jews expected to occur at the first coming, these Christians anticipated at the Second Advent of the Messiah.” We most cordially accept of this statement. Having already given extensive quotations respecting the Jewish views held (as in Prop. 20, etc.), we only need a few in addition. Ebrard (Gosp. His., p. 2, ch. 2), in opposing Bruno Bauer’s assertion that the Messianic idea originated with Jesus and was afterward elaborated, presents the “Data concerning the expectation of a Messiah,” refuting so gross a statement by giving historical facts. These show that the Jews “looked for the promised re-establishment of the Theocratic Kingdom,” which was “the Kingdom of the Messiah,” and that “there was a distinct expectation of a personal Messiah, a Davidic King, and a political Saviour.” M’Clintock and Strong’s Cyclop., Art. “Kingdom of God,” thus gives the Jewish view: “The Jews, at large, gave to these prophecies a temporal meaning, and expected a Messiah who should come in the clouds of heaven, and, as King of the Jewish nation, restore the ancient religion and worship, reform the corrupt morals of the people, make expiation for their sins, free them from the yoke of foreign dominion, and, at length, reign over the whole earth in peace and glory.” The student is directed to an interesting Art. by Rev. Schodde in The Lutheran Quarterly (July, 1879), entitled “The Messianic Idea in Pre-Christian Apocalyptic Literature” (and he refers to Drummond’s The Jewish Messiah, London, 1877; The Sibylline Books in Edinb. Review, July, 1877; Excursus, in Prof. Stuart’s Apoc., etc.). He declares that the Jewish Messianic idea prevalent at the First Advent was incorporated in the Pre-Mill. view, showing the similarity by various quotations. An extract may be in place. He mentions the “Psalterium Salamonis” or 18 Psalms, supposed to be written shortly before the First Advent, which laments the destruction of David’s Kingdom, looks for the Son of David, and a restoration under him of a Theocratic Kingdom, with spirituality and external glory. This work speaks of the Messiah as God’s “Anointed,” and prays that God would hasten in mercy to raise up and inaugurate the long expected Kingdom of His Anointed. One prayer is: “God hasten His mercy over Israel, and deliver us from the uncleanliness of the impious heathen. The Lord Himself is our King to all eternity.” They speak of this King being of the house of David, and fully recognize the Theocratic nature of the Kingdom. The “Assumptio Mosis,” of which only fragments remain, refers to the Messianic Kingdom, and to the inaugurator as being the Celestial One, the Most High God, the Eternal One, i.e. God Himself. The student may well consider the statement of Shedd (His. Ch. Doc., B.C., who received the merited strictures of Lillie, Shimeall, etc.), who speaks of our doctrine as “a later Jewish doctrine,” and then adds: “The disciples of Christ, being themselves Jews, were at first naturally infected with these views.” The simple historical fact, as noticed by Chillingworth and others, is this: that the nearer you come to the apostolic period, the more generally was it taught by the Fathers as held by the Jews and disciples. Jerome and others, consequently, in view of the agreement, call it “Judaizing;” and our most bitter opposers (as e.g. Knapp, Ch. Theol., p. 323) fully admit that the Jews as “a current opinion” held that “He (Christ) would be a temporal deliverer and a King of the Jews, and, indeed, a Universal Monarch, who would reign over all nations. Thus they interpreted Ps. 2:2, 6, 8; Jer. 23:5, 6; Zech. 9:4 seq.” (He might have given many Scriptural passages thus used.) “The apostles themselves held this opinion until after the resurrection of Christ, Matt. 20:20, 21; Luke 24:21; Acts 1:6.” Commentators find our view, as Jewish, in various other passages, as e.g. Luke 1:71, and 17:20 and 19:11. Acts 2:26, 30, etc. Indeed, there is not one but refers to our idea of the Messianic Kingdom as received by the Jews in the times of the First Advent.
Note 2. Chiliasm or Millenarianism (the former word derived from the Greek, and the latter from the Latin, expressive of a thousand years) is most generally used to denote the doctrine of the Pre-Mill. Advent of the Messiah, and His personal reign on earth, at least during the thousand years. Dr. Breckenridge (Pref. to Judge Jones’s Notes) has well observed that the word “Millenarian” has become extremely “vague,” as our opponents who hold to a future Millennium are also in a certain sense “Millenarians.” Originally, however, it was exclusively employed to designate our doctrine (and thus it is still retained by many writers), incorporating with it the definite notion (Rev. 20) of the one thousand years (which, however, in the estimation of leading Foreign and American advocates, does not limit the reign—see Prop. 159). As others also have adopted a Millennium, the following designations have been extensively received and used to distinguish with greater accuracy the various beliefs: “Pre-Millenarian,” one who holds to the Mill. age, introduced by the personal Advent and reign of the Messiah; “Post-Millenarian,” one who has the same age brought in without the Advent, placing the latter at its close; “Anti-Millenarian,” one who rejects the doctrine of such an era; “Past-Millenarian,” one who locates the Mill. age in the past, or extends it from the past to the present in the course of realization (these last, however, are more frequently designated as “Anti-Millenarian,” i.e. opposed to a future Millennium).
Obs. 6. The early church Theology on this doctrine—notwithstanding the sneers of Gibbon and his fellow unbelievers, notwithstanding the painfully apologetic language of Prof. Bush, Dr. Neander, and others—is not only reasonable, but the most reasonable, because of its vital connection with what preceded. Reuss (His. of Ch. Theol. in Ch., “On Salvation”) declares, that faith fastened on its “object the Lord Jesus Christ and His Messianic dignity, which necessarily included the assured realization of the promises touching the Kingdom;” and after repeatedly stating in his work that the early Theology was largely taken up with views respecting the Kingdom (for this naturally resulted from the views of the Christship or Messiahship of Jesus), he informs us, that the position of those who were the faithful was “obedience to God, which is to give us a title to the Kingdom, and faith in Jesus, who will soon come to establish it.” Faith and obedience inspired hope that the covenanted promises, pertaining to the Kingdom, would be verified through Christ at His coming again; any other position, in view of what preceded and surrounded them, would have been unnatural and opposed to the truth.[*]
Note. We will allow a Liberalist to state from his standpoint the Primitive belief. Thus e.g. Potter (Freedom and Fellowship in Religion, Essay 5, “Christianity and its Definitions”) says: “In that childlike age, among a childlike people, something more was needed than a bare proclamation of moral and spiritual truth, with whatever power of personal genius. And this need was supplied by the old Hebrew conception of the speedy coming of the Messianic Kingdom—a conception that appealed with all the vividness of a drama to the spiritual imagination, and hopes and fears of man. This idea is the one thread of unity that runs through all the varieties of writings in the New Test. from Matt. to Rev. It was this that gradually lifted Jesus Himself out of all human and historic proportions into the colossal magnitude in which He has been seen by Christendom for eighteen centuries. It was the belief, after His crucifixion, in His second Messianic Advent—an event which His followers looked for in their lifetime—that gave the immediate animating impulse to their cause, and attracted such numbers of people to confess Him as the expected Christ; for this Advent was to solve all life’s trials and perplexities; it was to bring redemption to the sinful, rest to the weary, wealth to the destitute, and comfort to the sorrowing. And around this simple, childish hope, which was yet full to bursting with the deep life of spiritual aspirations and yearnings, the first Christian Church was gathered—a sect of Judaism accepting Jesus as the Messiah, and looking for His Sec. Coming to complete and establish His Sovereignty.” Compare in same work Abbot’s “Genius of Christianity and Free Religion,” in which “the Messianic faith is the soul of the entire New Test., giving unity to the Gospels, Epistles, and Apoc., and making Christianity a vital organism;” “the Messianic idea is the great taproot of Christianity.” Martinean (Nat. Review, Ap., 1863) is approvingly quoted: “Whoever can read the New Test. with a fresh eye must be struck with the prominence everywhere of the Messianic idea. It seems to be the ideal framework of the whole—of history, parable, dialogue; of Pauline reasoning; of Apocalyptic visions.” Similar testimony to a large extent might be adduced, but this is sufficient to indicate how these men clearly apprehend the original and true meaning of the Messiahship as retained by the early church (which is incontrovertible), and from it deduce the fact (alas! sadly evident in the church) that the Messianic idea was changed. This is true, but not in the way that they account for it, either as a logical change by development (so Abbot), or as a requisite accommodation to Gentilism by Paul (so Frothingham), or as a childlike opinion adapted to a transition period (so Potter). Allowing any of these results as legitimate (taken too from Christian Apologists), undermines the New Test. record, the inspiration and authority of the apostles, and lowers the Primitive faith to a mere childish standard. Our reply to all this will be found under various Propositions.
Obs. 7. The apologetic replies of those who reject our doctrine, given to infidels, etc., to account for the Primitive faith, are unworthy of churches established under apostolic teaching and influence. Eaton (Perm. of Christ., p. 262) gracefully acknowledges the early church view, and rebukes Gibbon because he treats the early belief as a vulgar superstition, saying: “It does not seem to have occurred to this writer that the secret of the success of the Christianity may well have lain in the harmony of its doctrines with the religious needs of the time, the deliverance which it held forth from the impending ruin at the end of the world, by many deemed so near,” etc. Aside from the inaccuracy of “the end of the world” believed in (for the early Christians had no idea of the modern view of such an end, but looked for the end of the age or dispensation, to be followed by another more glorious under Christ—(compare Props. 140, 137, 141, 138, etc.)—the rebuke falls harmless unless we take higher ground than the mere “needs of the time.” Prof. Bush (On Mill., p. 51) accepts of Gibbon’s language that “for wise purposes, this error was permitted in the church,” and argues that such views of the Kingdom were undoubtedly for the best in the early history of the church. If this is so, well may infidelity sneer at and ridicule the establishment of the Christian church. With inspired men as its teachers; with apostles, supposed to know what the Kingdom is, its leaders; with elders to whom the church was entrusted for guidance; with the restrictions cast around error, the duty enjoined of holding the truth, the honor and faithfulness of God Himself connected with it—the church needs no such unworthy defence, making “error” essential to its establishment, success, and progress.[*]
Note. We have works written by able men, in which, in order to prevent the force of the evidence given in our behalf by the early church, under the heading of “Judĉo-Christianity,” they frankly admit how generally our doctrine was held—even by apostles—and argue that, in the case of all these, it was a necessary precedence for the future development of the truth; that as knowledge increased “the husk” was discarded, etc. Thus e.g. Reuss in his His. of Ch. Theol. of the Apostolic Age. This, stripped of its philosophical verbiage, simply means: (1) that these apostles and their immediate successors were in gross error, i.e. possessed the mere “husk;” (2) that error is a requisite preliminary to bring out the truth; (3) that error was a necessary—hence permitted—condition in that period of the church; (4) that the true source of our knowledge is not in the teachings of the apostles (as e.g. Petrine school), but in the progress of knowledge through “the consciousness of the church;” (5) that for the true doctrine of the Kingdom we are indebted, not to men specially commissioned to preach the Kingdom, but to uninspired men who afterward arose as teachers. Having already replied to this, these things are pointed out to indicate the inconsistent and irreligious shifts to which even good men are driven when denying the truthfulness of the early church view of the Kingdom. No one, therefore, need to be surprised that the Millenarianism of the Primitive Church winged the shaft hurled at it by the Antinomian Perfectionists in the Confession of their Faith (published in their organ, The Perfectionist, quoted by the Oberlin Review for May, 1874). In Art. 24 they say: “We believe that the history which the Bible contains of the church after Christ’s ascension, commonly called the Primitive Church, is a history rather of the latter-day glory of Judaism than of the commencement of Christianity.” Prejudice can scarcely exceed this in the minds of professed unbelievers. Alas! how all this recoils upon the truth itself, and paves the way for numerous extravagances.
Let us take one of the most candid and charitable of men, Dr. Neander, who honestly supposes a difficulty (where none exists), and in endeavoring to soften or remove it, makes us conscious of an incongruity. In his efforts to clear Chiliasm (Ch. His., vol. 1. p. 364, etc.) from Ebionitism (or else the church proper could only be traced through Ebionism) he adduces two reasons for the rise of the former: (1) a tolerance or reception of the letter in accordance with previous views; and (2) a sensuous element. This does not remove—it only increases—the difficulty. For how does it come that, under the direct auspices of the apostles themselves, this reception of “the letter” and of “a sensuous element” (as he is pleased to call it) occurs? If the early church were so generally under the influence of the letter, what churches had the Spirit? If the history of the church is, as he informs us, that in which the leaven works in its (i.e. churches) most impure state, then the succeeding stages ought progressively to rise in purity. But is this sustained by history? Do such explanations soften the charge of unbelievers that “error” extensively prevailed and was one of the means of success? To indicate how poorly prepared Neander was to vindicate his own hypothesis—to escape from the dilemma—unless to sacrifice to a fearful extent the integrity and authority of apostleship, it is only necessary to contrast two passages. Thus e.g. in First Planting of Chris., vol. 1, p. 362, he thus correctly represents James’s sentiments: “He considers the acknowledgment of the Messiahship of Jesus as essentially belonging to genuine Judaism, believers in Jesus as the only genuine Jews, Christianity as perfected Judaism,” etc. Now, to get rid of James’s connection, he deliberately gives him this Christian character: “We might infer (with Schneckenburger) that James wrote this Epistle at a time when Christianity had not thoroughly penetrated his spiritual life, during the earliest period of his Christian development; but it may be questioned whether we are justified in drawing such a conclusion, for no proof can be given that he enlarged his doctrinal views at a later period. It is possible that he remained confined in this form of imperfect doctrinal development, although his heart was penetrated by love to God and Jesus.” Any theory of the Kingdom which in its support must thus lower apostolic teaching is most certainly defective and dishonoring to the Word. It may, indeed, do no serious injury to a man like Neander (see his faith in dedication) with his development theory, but it is fraught with evil to thousands. Such men as Bauer, Parker, etc., only find the strongest possible confirmation to their unbelief in such a line of reasoning, which undermines Scriptural authority, and leaves the inspired teachers ignorant of a leading, fundamental doctrine, to the preaching of which they were specially called. All the Apologetics, noticed in a course of reading, simply amounts, in this direction, to the following: an “error” is admitted; various reasons are assigned, attributable to a transition state, for its permission; and, on the supposition that the prevailing modern view is the correct one, a change is allowed as the result of increased light. When Dr. Mosheim and others acknowledge a Jewish origin, and then suppose that Christian teachers received it because they hoped by it to make the Jews more willing to embrace Christianity, they are opposed by the testimony of the Fathers; and so with all other suppositions which degrade the intelligence or the integrity of the Fathers.
Obs. 8. The important historical position (comp. following Propositions) that our doctrine thus obtains, should, in the mind of the theological student, possess considerable weight. If this link were missing—if our opponents could point to this faith lacking in the churches established by the apostles—then an essential one (required as a logical sequence, a necessary result) would be missing in our connected chain. We confess to a feeling of satisfaction, of gratification, that it thus exists, abundantly attested to by our opponents. While unbelievers deride it as uncouth and misshapen, while even believers regard it as of foreign forging, an excrescence, we, on the other hand, esteem it as most desirable and precious. This early faith in the Kingdom, is evidence of consistent divine teaching, of apostolic supervision, of God’s determination to fulfil His oath-bound covenant, of the true Scriptural conception of the Messiah as covenanted, of the validity of adopting grace, and of our ultimately inheriting, at the Sec. Advent, “the sure mercies of David.”[*]
Note. In continuation of our illustrations drawn from a class of writers, who, in attempting to break the force of our historical position, more or less ignore the facts of history and allow themselves to build hypotheses upon unproven assertions, we select Dr. Knapp. In his Chris. Theol., sec. 154 [pp. 538, 539, 540, 541], he admits that the Jews understood that the Messiah would restore the Davidic throne and Kingdom, etc.; that in the early churches “many Christians” indulged the same hope, even in the days of the apostles; that in the sec. century the belief also extensively prevailed; that “Origen in the third century was the first who wrote in opposition to the doctrine,” etc. He then boldly asserts: “The apostles wholly abandoned the opinion after the ascension of Christ, and expected no other coming than that at the judgment of the world;” and again (Sec. 118): “The apostles never indulge in such expectations, but take every opportunity to contradict them.” To this, briefly, it may be replied: Knapp is not very candid in his statements respecting the extent to which our doctrine was held, so much so, that the American editor (who has no sympathy with us) refers to it. (2) Writers in abundance, such as Neander, etc. (who are no Millenarians), in direct opposition to Knapp, frankly acknowledge its generality, and that the apostles had not abandoned the idea (unless, as some, it be Paul), and appeal to the views held at Thessalonica, etc., as confirmatory of the same. (3) If the apostles “abandoned the opinion” and took “every opportunity to contradict them,” why do it not decidedly when the whole question was called up by the Thessalonians, or by the Council at Jerusalem? Why continue to adopt “Jewish forms, ideas, and language?” (4) Knapp has conceded that the apostles did not know the truth respecting the Kingdom until after the ascension, although they had been previously sent out to preach the Kingdom (hence, they preached error, etc.); why then did they not apologize for their preaching an erroneous Kingdom, and tell us, if Knapp is correct, how and when they were enlightened? (5) If this process of enlightenment began, why put it off until after the ascension, when previously the mysteries of the Kingdom were given to them, and after Christ’s death the Kingdom was the special topic of communication for forty days? (6) Why endeavor to make the impression that Millenarians do not link this coming of the Messiah with the Judgment (comp. Props. 132 and 133)? (7) And finally, if the apostles were so averse, as he alleges, to this idea of the Kingdom, how does he account for the strange fact, that under their personal supervision, and without a single recorded rebuke (they taking every opportunity to contradict it), the doctrine should nevertheless so extensively prevail that in the first, second, and third century no writer, no teacher appears, until, according to his own statement. Origen first opposes it? Surely, if Knapp’s statements are to be received, the exact reverse of all this ought to have happened, viz.: his (Knapp’s) notion ought to have prevailed, and Chiliasm brought in afterward as an attachment, etc. Indeed, in a multitude of works, especially designed for students of Theology, we find far more sweeping assertions than even this illustration affords; and, if we are to credit them, the apostles clearly taught the most modernized ideas respecting the Kingdom, but, unfortunately for their credibility, let them be examined, and not one gives an explicit, direct passage to support his theory—the proof alleged being either mere assertion or invariably and solely inferential. There are also numerous works which profess to describe what the faith of a Christian Church, modelled after one established by the apostles, should be. But a remarkable feature in nearly all such portraitures is the omission of the prevailing Millenarian faith, as not suited to a modern improved standpoint.
Obs. 9. This early church belief is to many a tender subject, one that they would gladly ignore, and hence it is either silently passed by, or kept as much as possible in the background, or else contemptuously dismissed. It is only the later attacks of unbelievers—as e.g. in the delineations of early Christianity by Strauss, Bauer, Renan, etc.—that has again prominently pressed the subject to our notice.[*]
Note. The power of prejudice, or the desire to soften history in behalf of supposed truth, is too palpably seen in this direction. Thus e.g. in some recent works (as in Killen’s Old Catholic Church) where “the doctrine of the great body of believers” is referred to, this doctrine, once so generally entertained, is utterly ignored as if it had never existed. In Dogmatics, in Ecclesiastical Histories, in Theologies, etc., it is briefly noticed (while great space can be given to Gnosticism. Donatism, etc.) and made as if it had no influence in the formation of the church—to fall into the background. Some, as if fearful of its recoil upon their own theory, seem to be afraid to give even a candid historical statement of its generality. Even Neander and Mosheim, with all their concessions and frank admissions, do not allow it that pervading prominence which it certainly possessed (according to their own admissions) in the early church to mould the character and lives of the first Christians. These and other writers, in discussing the First Centuries, fall back upon the views afterward engrafted, and without the slightest proof to sustain them, assume them to have prevailed from the very beginning. In doing this they necessarily involve themselves in contradictions, which we expose under various Propositions. Some writers, again, when forced to make the admissions, endeavor to weaken their force by, as we have noticed, charging the Fathers as ignorant and superstitious (but excellent men outside of the Millenarian doctrine). A thousand pens have detracted these early advocates by disparaging them by way of contrast with succeeding Fathers, telling us that the former are not worthy to be compared with an Origen, Augustine, Jerome, etc. (forgetting Matt. 11:25–30, and that later Fathers, with all their ability and learning, introduced far greater errors into the church). The candid, reflecting student will in all this notice (1) that the repressing, withholding, or softening down of facts has nothing whatever to do with the real truth of doctrine; (2) that the weakness, and even credulity, of men decides nothing respecting doctrine which finds its basis in the Scriptures; (3) that if the personal qualifications of men are to determine the truthfulness of Scriptural doctrine, then the fancy, extravagance, and imprudence, more or less associated with every doctrine of the Bible by men, would leave but little for our acceptance.
Obs. 10. In our investigation of so important a doctrine as that of the Kingdom, we should be guarded, seeing that the apostle tells us that “the mystery of iniquity” began to work in his day, and that it would ultimately burst forth with increased and growing power. The leaven then working would extend and manifest itself in perverted doctrine—doctrine antagonistic to that once proclaimed and believed. That form of doctrine of a later growth which supersedes and takes precedence of the earlier form, should undoubtedly be more subject to the suspicion of being a perversion than the primitive view. Taking this position, then the Alexandrian doctrine of the Kingdom, so hostile to the older form, is, to the say the least, open to grave suspicion, and ought not to be received without careful examination and decided proof in its behalf.
Obs. 11. Many persons are prejudiced against our doctrine and its reception by the early church, on the ground that its first Christian patrons were “Jews” or inclined to “Judaism.” This has already been answered, and reference is made to it in this place in order that the reader may notice this peculiarity perpetuated from the Apostles down through the Apostolic Fathers and their successors who were Chiliasts. While all these held that their doctrine was derived from Jewish Scriptures, Jewish Prophets, and a Jewish Covenant, corresponding with the faith of pious Jews, yet they at the same time resisted with all their ability the errors which had been engrafted on Judaism by Pharisaism, Sadduceeism, and Hellenism (as well as by Essenism and Samaritanism). Now many, influenced by the charge of “Judaism” and “Jewish,” confound this impure historical Judaism (which ought rather to be called after its parentage, Pharisaism, etc.) with pure Judaism, i.e., that Judaism which was not abrogated by the change of dispensation. They forget that Millenarians were the very first who opposed, on the one hand, the Jewish spirit of self-righteousness, and, on the other hand, the Jewish libertinism, as antagonistic to the religion of Jesus Christ. Herein consists the injustice of that spirit of criticism which refuses, persistently, to distinguish between these Primitive believers and their opposers, but classes them together. Dorner (Person of Christ, vol. 1, p. 409) is more discriminative and just when he derives Chiliasm from the Scriptures and in opposition to ritualistic Judaism says, “it may in part be more justly regarded as a polemic against Judaism on the part of Christianity.”[*]
Note. Even the poor thieves on the cross cannot escape the censure of some, being denounced as “Chiliastic enthusiasts,” just as if persons guilty of vice or crime could not also entertain proper views of truth. It is true that Lange (Com. p. 525) calls the one “a noble Chiliast;” and the reception and gracious promise given by Jesus to this Chiliast should put to shame the epithets, etc., that some believers are pleased to bestow upon us so liberally. We commend the learning and candor of Whitby (the leader of our opponents [See Ebaugh, p. 4]) in his account of the faith of the early Fathers (Treatise on Tradition, see it quoted in detail, Proph. Times, vol. 6, pp. 83–86), acknowledging its universality by naming the Fathers; its orthodoxy; its being professedly derived from Christ and the apostles; its embracing certain distinctive features which the named Fathers teach; its being founded on the sayings of the prophets, our Lord, and the apostles; its being not merely asserted as “a probable opinion, but as a thing which they were certainly assured of” (quoting Justin and Irenĉus as declaring “We know,” etc., and that it was “most manifestly” so “without controversy”); and then its being opposed to all kinds of heresy as evidenced by its writings, and against ultra Judaism as seen e.g. in Justin Martyr’s reply to Trypho. It is true that he employs this line of reasoning, in detail, against the tradition of Rome—just as Chillingworth—but it is none the less true, and none the less forcible against his own “new hypothesis.” We append this intended bitter but delectable morsel (quoted by the Luth. Observer, Dec. 27th, 1878) from the pen of Dr. Hall, of New York, which gives our doctrine a Jewish origin: “This (Pre-Mill.) alleged scheme of interpretation—if anything so loose, variable, and undefined can be called a ‘scheme’—is very old, older than the ‘Fifth-Monarchy’ idea, older than Chiliasm (!). It has its earliest exponent in the mother of Zebedee’s children (Matt. 20:20–23). She came to the Messiah, worshipping Him, and desired a certain thing of Him. ‘Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left, in thy Kingdom.’ She reflected the spirit of her countrymen, who adhered to Jesus at that time. Their hope was of a material, secular, powerful kingdom, theocratic withal—like Solomon’s—with themselves as its ‘nobility and gentry.’ Like many sincere and honest persons, she was, at that stage of her intellectual and spiritual life, unable to comprehend the true state of the case, and the Great Teacher did not enter into explanations. He taught as His hearers were ‘able to bear it.’ The study of His answer ought to be profitable to Pre-Millenarians. The question is obviously in the Jewish sense. But the answer is as obviously in quite a different sense.” We confess that we, as a Pre-Mill., have studied this answer with “profit,” for we find that the mother was a chiliast—of our faith—and that the Saviour confirmed her in her Chiliasm by not denying that such places were in store for some accounted worthy of them, but by affirming that they would be given by the Father at the proper time to the proper persons. We utterly fail to see Hall’s “obviously different sense,” seeing that Jesus left her re-established by His corroborative answer in her idea of the Messianic Kingdom. (Comp. Props. 154 and 156.) But while Chiliasm was thus in harmony with Jewish views, based on the covenants and prophecies, it was bitterly and unrelentingly hostile to mere Pharisaism, or the ritualistic Judaism. This is evidenced by the Chiliastic treatises written against the Jews. This is so plain, that Robertson (Ch. His., vol. 1, p. 116) says: “Christian Chiliasm showed no favor to the fleshly Israel, nor even to the holy city.” This e.g. is seen in their teaching the engrafting of Gentiles without circumcision, the continued punishment of the nation for the rejection of the Messiah, the existing times of the Gentiles, etc.
Obs. 12. The student, who is really desirous to see how extensively our doctrine was held, will consider these points of evidence adduced. (1) How universally the Jews held to our doctrine, e.g. Prop. 20; (2) How this was confirmed by the Prophecies, e.g. Props. 21, 33, 35, 51; (3) how this belief grew out of the covenants, e.g. Props. 46, 47, 48, 49, 52; (4) that the preaching of John re-established the faith in many, e.g. Props. 38, 39, 40; (5) that the preaching of the disciples was calculated to increase the belief, as e.g. Props. 43, 54, 55, etc.; (6) that no controversy was raised on the subject, e.g. Prop. 44; (7) that the preaching of Jesus confirmed the faith in His disciples and hearers, as e.g. Props. 42, 43, 44, 54, 55, 57, 58, etc.; (8) how the continued faith in the same was preserved and perpetuated by the postponement taught, e.g. Props. 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68; (9) that the death of Jesus did not remove the belief, Prop. 70; (10) how the preaching and language of the apostles was calculated to enforce the belief, e.g. Props. 71, 72, 73. (Thus far there is a connected chain, which indicates how generally our doctrine must have been entertained; but the proof is far from being exhausted. Candor requires the consideration of what follows. (11) That the doctrine was received through the apostles shown more clearly under Props. 73, in no controversy springing up concerning it; under Prop. 74 in the belief of a speedy Advent; under Prop. 75 in its perpetuation, and Prop. 76, gradual change.[*]
Note. Even this is only part of the proof, as much more will be found under succeeding Propositions, in quotations from the ancients and moderns, in doctrinal statements, etc. The reader will also notice that the concessions in favor of the extent of our view in the Primitive Church, are drawn chiefly, and in many instances exclusively, from able writers who are Anti-Chiliastic and unfriendly to our doctrine. The testimony is therefore the more impartial and deserving of attention. Our desire in all this is to elicit the truth, seeing that truth is useful—leading to other truth, avoiding bigotry, giving motives for action, forming character, commending us to God and man, and is eternal, while error is misleading and injurious. But may we not ask the reader to consider, why it is that so many men hate and detest our doctrine so cordially—heaping upon it the choicest of epithets expressive of its anti-Christian nature—when their own upon this subject is not once mentioned in the Primitive Church; when their own is not orthodox, but even falls under the general condemnation which embraces all views in antagonism. [i.e., Denial of the Abrahamic Covenant; Comp. Irenĉus, 5:32:2] Surely the historical superiority of our doctrine in being thus taught and defended in and by the Church should lead those great friends of “Orthodoxy,” who so readily raise the cry of “heresy,” etc., to be more modest in their tone and mild in their manner. We, therefore, repeat, quoting Stackhouse (Compl. Body of Divinity): “It cannot be denied, indeed, but that this doctrine (Chiliasm) has its antiquity, and was once the general opinion of all orthodox Christians.” We may, therefore, appropriately repeat, what Dorner (The Person of Christ, vol. 1, p. 415) declares: “The primitive Chiliasm represented a noble and precious principle, and we may fairly demand for it a juster treatment in the future.”
Obs. 13. We are abundantly authorized, by the amount of Scriptural and historical evidence adduced, to most earnestly protest against the continued uncandid and unscholarly attempts to fasten upon our doctrine an origin opposed to the plainest historical fact, and the numerous concessions of the most learned of our opponents.[*]
Note. Thus in religious newspapers, etc., it is again and again asserted that our doctrine is “heresy,” that it originated with Papias, or with Cerinthus, or “a grovelling Judaism” (one writer not content with ascribing one origin, in the course of his article gives all three, and denounces it as “heretical”). Books of reference take up these false statements, and publish them as historical facts. The favorite charge, in order to make our doctrine unpalatable, is, that it is derived from Cerinthus; so e.g. Gerhard (quoted with evident relish by Brown) says: “The first author of the Chiliastic doctrine in the Church of the New Test. seems to have been Cerinthus, the pestilent heretic.” (With this compare the remarks of Neander, etc., under Obs. 3, note 2.) We allow an opponent to our doctrine to testify as follows: Mosheim (His. Com. First Th. Cents., vol. 2, p. 245, etc.) says: “Among the ancients and the moderns, many have supposed that Cerinthus first propagated this error (the doctrine of a future reign of Christ on earth). Few, however, will readily agree with them, if they consider that this sentiment was embraced by many—e.g. Irenĉus, Tertullian, and others—who abhorred Cerinthus and accounted him a pest to Christianity. Nor do I think that Eusebius is to be trusted when he tells that the expectation of a Millennium flowed down to the subsequent doctors from Papias, a bishop of Jerusalem in the second century. For, as Papias was not the first excogitor of the opinion, but received it from others, as Eusebius himself concedes, it is clear that at least some Christians before Papias had embraced this opinion. And Irenĉus cites Papias, not as being the author of this opinion, but as bearing testimony to it.” [See also Mosheim, His. Com. First Th. Cents., vol. 1, pp. 342-343] Pressensé (quoted Prop. 74, Obs. 3, note) makes our doctrine to have originated in the Thessalonian church, which adopted “Judaistic elements.” Some few say that Chiliasm arose from the Apocryphal Apocalypses, but this is discarded by every critic of eminence, who make these to have originated just as the Apocryphal Gospels, viz.: perversions of previous existing doctrine, to accommodate the imaginary theory of the writers. Prof. Briggs refers to Papias, and then says of him: “Who can fail to give their assent to Schürer’s (the very highest authority on this subject) judgment, ‘The dreams of Papias respecting the Millennial Kingdom were derived from the Apocalypse of Baruch.’ ” In answer to the question, “Who can fail to give their assent?” the reader will observe our authorities derived from opponents, etc., as quoted, and contrast them with the bitterly prejudiced statement of a “heresy-hunter.” For to indicate the “animus” of Prof. Briggs’s series of articles (signed “Westminster” in N. Y. Evangelist, 1879), we have only to say that, not satisfied with this derivation of the doctrine, he gives us this choice historical information and application: “Those men of Corinth and Galatia, who claimed superior orthodoxy to the apostle Paul, are the historical progenitors of Cerinthus and Papias, and their followers in all ages, who propose, with the men of the late Conference” (that met in Dr. Tyng’s church in N. York and included eminent representatives of the various Protestant churches, and among them over forty able and devoted men of his own church, the Presbyterian) “to bring back the Church to what they claim to be ‘vital doctrine.’ ” (But this we must expect from a man who threatens his brethren in the ministry with eccles. trial and censure—as an argument (!). A writer in the N. Y. Evangelist, Dec., 1879, thinks that “trials of heresy may arise in our church (Presbyterian) over the doctrines of the Millenarians.” The Herald and Presbyter, quoting this, significantly remarks: “We doubt it. Heresy-hunters are not numerous among us, and they are chiefly of the old school. A good proportion of them, moreover, are Millenarians. In all probability we shall escape the danger.”)
Obs. 14. Let the careful reader answer the following question, and he will see how eminently consistent with fact is our doctrinal position. How could John, under Divine guidance, well knowing the Jewish views that were current (which our opponents fully admit as we have shown), pen down the portraiture of a Messianic reign (Rev. 20:1–6 and 11:15–18), which in its plain grammatical sense corresponds so accurately with the prevailing Jewish opinions, unless such a sense contains the truth? God would not, could not, take the dearest cherished Messianic hopes and parade them in such an expressed sense to deceive believers, when He intended a different sense to be placed upon the words. God does not undertake that which, if perpetrated by a man, we would unhesitatingly denounce as dishonest, disreputable, and cruel. (Compare Prop. 75, Obs. 5, and note.)