The doctrine of the Kingdom, as held by the early church, was finally almost exterminated under the teaching and power of the Papacy.
PROPOSITION 77. The doctrine of the Kingdom, as held by the early church, was finally almost exterminated under the teaching and power of the Papacy.
This is so plain a historical fact that it needs no special evidence to sustain it. Roman Catholic writers, ecclesiastical historians, and others, have repeatedly recorded the statement, and no denial of it has ever appeared.[*]
Note. Rome, once Chiliastic, became intensely Anti-Chiliastic. Renan, in the Second Lec. of the Four recently delivered in London (at the request of Dean Stanley) on early Church History, declares that the church at Rome was of Jewish-Christian foundation, directly sprung from the church at Jerusalem, and strongly attached to Millenarianism. The reasons for the change have been already presented in detail. The writer on “Revelation” in M’Clintock & Strong’s Cyclop. (and who cannot be charged with Chiliastic sympathies) thus candidly says: “Immediately after the triumph of Constantine, the Christians, emancipated from oppression and persecution, and dominant and prosperous in their turn, began to lose their vivid expectation of our Lord’s speedy Advent, and their spiritual conception of His Kingdom, and to look upon the temporal supremacy of Christianity as a fulfilment of the promised reign of Christ on earth. The Roman Empire, become Christian, was regarded no longer as the object of prophetic denunciation, but as the scene of a Millennial development,” with which comp. Prof. Bush’s “Mill.” If there is any propriety and force in the position of the Romish Church, and in the reasoning of Bellarmine, Bossuet, Möhler, and others, that tradition should be authoritative with Scripture in deciding doctrine, then surely the traditions of the first centuries ought to have made, by their overwhelming weight, the Romish Church Chiliastic. But in this case ambition, pride, conscious power, the possession of honors and wealth, etc., override tradition, as they often have done Scripture (comp. Obs. 4). Chillingworth’s reasoning on this remains, and ever will remain, unanswerable.
Obs. 1. The Papacy has been ever hostile to our doctrine, owing to the Chiliastic opposition to its pretensions, its provisions looking to futurity, its hierarchical endowments, corruptions, and bold assumptions of being the promised Kingdom. The early Millenarians, without exception, regarded the Roman Empire and the rising Papacy with distrust because of their belief that the Antichrist would in some way or form be identified with one or the other. Before the union of Church and State, the Empire was the object of suspicion; after the union, while the belief was still continued respecting Rome, men began to surmise, as the hierarchical tendencies were more and more developed in the increasing power of the Bishops of Rome, that those Bishops themselves were paving the way for the Roman Antichrist. This opinion was strengthened by the conduct of some of the Popes, so that they were plainly designated either as Antichrists or forerunners of the Antichrist. This view, of course, would be offensive to the heads of the Romish Church, and naturally resulted in their decrying Chiliasm and condemning it as derogatory to the honor of the church. Pride, dignity, ambition, power, could not tolerate a view which, necessarily brought with it, expressed, or even implied, reproach.[*]
Note. Various writers have expressed this as follows: Bh. Newton (On Proph., Dis. 25) remarks: “Wherever the influence and authority of the church of Rome have extended, she hath endeavored by all means to discredit this doctrine; and, indeed, not without sufficient reason, this Kingdom of Christ being founded on the ruins of the Kingdom of Antichrist.” Dr. Burnett (Theory of the Earth, vol. 2, p. 193), after showing how the Romish church discountenanced the doctrine, and that he never met with a Popish doctor who regarded it with favor, concludes: “The Millennium being properly a reward and triumph for those who come out of persecution, such as have lived always in pomp and prosperity can pretend to no share in it or benefit by it. This has made the church of Rome have always an ill eye upon this doctrine, because it seemed to have an ill eye upon her. And as she grew in splendor and greatness, she eclipsed and obscured it more and more, so that it would have been lost out of the world as an obsolete error, if it had not been revived by some of the Reformation.” Cox (A Millenarian’s Answer, p. 43) says: “The grand chasm in the history (of Chiliasm) seems to be those awful centuries of Rome’s supremacy, when almost every truth was hidden. Indeed, some of the parasites of Constantine, like Ahab’s Zedekiah, did not scruple to say that the 21st and 22d chapters of Revelation were fulfilled in his time. Thus did Satan mimic the Kingdom God had promised, and, as one has well observed, constitute the Pope his Melchisedec, his high priest to rule over the nations.” Brooks (El. Proph. Interp., p. 51) writes: “When the Christian Bishop of Rome came, in progress of time, to be elevated to the high rank which he attained under the papacy, the inconvenience of explaining Rome to be the capital city of the Antichrist and the ‘Babylon’ and ‘Harlot’ of the Apocalypse, was more sensibly felt than ever; because it could not be asserted without giving occasion for the very obvious conclusion, that the Bishop of Rome would some day apostatize, together with the church in general over which he was the head. Accordingly, from the time of Justinian, efforts were both openly and clandestinely made to get rid of the doctrine altogether, by removing or corrupting the evidence in its favor, or by affixing to it the stigma of heresy.” Seiss (Last Times, p. 246–7) declares: “It is a sad fact, however, that from the fourth century until the sixteenth, this doctrine gradually lost its hold upon the minds and hearts of professed Christians, and went down into almost absolute neglect. But with it went down the great doctrine of justification by faith, and nearly everything that is distinguishing in gospel religion. It fell only as Popery arose; and it is only as it rises again that Popery shall shrink and quail. So long as men think they see and hear Christ in the Pope and believe that they are worshipping and honoring Christ by serving and obeying hierarchies regarded as jure divino, we need never expect them to believe that Christ will ever reign here in person. The two ideas are fundamentally antagonistic. If Christ is Himself to reign here in universal empire, He has not given that Empire into the hands of a vicar; and if He has made the Pope the supreme Lord of the world, it is settled that He will never reign here otherwise than by the Pope. Either proposition confutes the other. The two cannot live together. And this puts into our hands the key to the true explanation how the church has come to lose sight of the primitive and apostolic faith upon this subject.”
Obs. 2. In the very nature of the case, the Chiliastic Kingdom of the Abrahamic-Davidic covenant as taught by the Fathers, the hope in the constantly expected Advent of Jesus to establish such a Kingdom, the anticipated struggle with an Antichrist in ecclesiastical-political power, the view entertained respecting the church as a struggling, tried body awaiting deliverance and triumph alone through the personal Advent of the Messiah—these prevented aspiring prelates and the ambitious learned from indorsing it. It was an easy matter, by adopting the Origenistic interpretation of several senses, to reject the covenanted restored Davidic throne and Kingdom under a personal Messiah, and to substitute in its place an existing Kingdom under the rule of appointed hierarchs, and claim that in and through them Christ was already reigning in His promised Kingdom. This caricature of the Messiah’s Kingdom was varnished over by the most laudatory and fulsome language (even applying to it the predictions alone applicable to the mighty Theocratic King) which self-interest and vainglory could suggest. Very soon, too, these declarations were summed up and declared to be “the voice of the church;” the later Fathers superseding those who previously entertained Chiliastic doctrine, now so detractive and humiliating to Popish presumption.[*]
Note. It is noticeable that Romanism pronounces only such “Doctores Ecclesiĉ” who have no decided leaning to Millenarianism, leaving Chiliasts like Papias, etc., simply “Scriptores Ecclesiastici” (Ueberweg’s His. Philos., vol. 1, p. 275). Those who spiritualized the faith of the Primitive Church were in the highest odor of sanctity. Dr. Pise, in the Introd. (p. 7–8) to Rutter’s (Rom. Cath.) Life of Jesus Christ, exalts the ancient Fathers as in unity with Roman Catholicism (without, however, intimating how the more ancient in many points disagree, as abundantly shown by Barrow, Chillingworth, Cumming, etc.), and then, by way of contrast, points out how Luther, Calvin, Melanchthon, Peter Martyr, Beza, Dudith, etc., depreciate them (without noticing that they mainly objected against the later who departed the most from the Primitive doctrine, and that they received them when in accord with the Scriptures). It is those very “doctores” that the Reformers found had departed the farthest from the “old paths,” so that e.g. taking Jerome, Luther (Table Talk, “Of the books of the Fathers,” ch. 135) remarks: “Jerome should not be numbered among the teachers of the Church.” This reminds us that this Father, so eulogized by some of our opponents because of his one sided Anti-Chiliasm, is thus presented in “The Old and New,” Sep., 1871, Art. “Jerome,” which after acknowledging his merits in several respects, sums up the “Jerome of quarrelsome memory” as follows: “As supporter of the claims of the rising Papacy, as satirist of marriage and of the holiest laws of nature, as compiler of monkish legends and defender of monkish practices, as defamer of the earliest Christian Protestantism, and apologist for the martyr worship and paganized ceremonies of the Roman Church, Jerome must be classed with those who have hindered the progress of the race in morals and religion,” etc.
Obs. 3. When a church arrogates to itself the great honor of showing forth within its borders the predicted millennial glory (as e.g. Eusebius and others, dating its inauguration from Constantine, or Augustine and others, dating the same from the First Advent of Christ); when it enforces the belief by a wholesale appropriation of prophecy without the least regard to its connection, covenant basis, prospective attitude, relation to the Jewish nation, union with the Sec. Advent, etc.; when it hedges this around by a confessional barrier, and calls for all its membership to receive it as the truth—then, especially when it has the ecclesiastical and civil power under its control to compel obedience, it is not strange that the doctrine, so hostile to these arrogant assumptions as ours, should be hated and depressed.[*]
Note. The Hierarchy could not, as a matter of mere consistency, receive the notion of a Kingdom (viz.: that of the reign of the Messiah in the covenanted Theocratic-Davidic) which protested against and condemned its substitution. Hence Shimeall (Eschatology, p. 49) correctly observes: “Then, too, the Popes, in after ages, discountenanced Millenarianism, inasmuch as it militated against their anti christian usurpation and dogma, that the Millennium commenced with Romish domination in the church.” Dr. West (His. Pre-Mill. Doc.) says: “By union of church and state, and perversion of victory, the foundation was laid in the Empire for a carnal and a Satanic caricature of the Millennial Kingdom of Christ on earth before the time—a Millennium sunk in the gross materialism and idolatry of a mediĉval, political, and military Christianity. By union of Church and State the martyr doctrine itself was martyred, no council resisting, and vanished from view with the departing glory and last remnant of a suffering, but pure apostolic church.” How the union of Church and State, introducing an antagonism of view utterly irreconcilable with Chiliasm, facilitated the overthrow of Millenarianism, is also briefly noticed by Hagenbach, His. of Doc., vol. 1, sec. 139. Dr. Fisher, Art. “Mill.” M’Clintock & Strong’s Cyclop., although a Post-Mill., most candidly says: “It (the Mill. doctrine) was still common, however, in the time of Jerome, who himself was one of its opponents. But gradually the tenet which had so widely prevailed became obnoxious and proscribed. One great reason of this remarkable change of sentiment is to be found in the altered condition and prospects of the Church.” The latter, he remarks, led to the idea of bringing the world into subjection to the Church. It is the just view of many that Constantine’s conversion and the results were not productive of good. In addition to writers quoted, see Stanley’s Life of Arnold, vol. 1, p. 52, Mackinnon’s His. of Civ., vol. 1, p. 77, etc.
Obs. 4. (Works, Dis. 5)—of whom Prof. Bush declares, “Certainly there are few persons more competent to pronounce on the fact”—makes a strong argument against the Church of Rome, in its refusing to accept of our doctrine when professing to receive by tradition the pure doctrines of the primitive and apostolic age. He conclusively proves the generality of the doctrine entertained; that for some time it was uncontradicted; that all the Fathers, East and West, held it; that they professed not only to teach it “as doctors but as witnesses;” that it was esteemed as an “apostolic tradition” received by persons in personal communication with apostles and elders; that it was regarded as the faith of orthodox believers; and then, in the light of all this accumulated evidence, argues that, in this matter at least, the Roman Church “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.” Bowers (His. Popes), in his life of Damasus, takes the same ground, for, after describing the Millenarian doctrine and its extent, he remarks: “And yet such a doctrine is now rank heresy in the Church of Rome. But, by declaring it such, have they not overset their own system, which places tradition upon a level with the canonical books of the Scripture? Can they allege a more ancient tradition, one more universally received, or equally countenanced by Scripture, in favor of the many traditional articles of faith which they have obtruded upon the world? Papias declares he received the above-mentioned doctrine of those who had learned it immediately of the apostles. If such a tradition be rejected as false, what other has a right to be admitted as true?”[*]
Note. Judge Jones (Essays on the Com. of the Kingdom, Ess. 5), after declaring “that the system of Popery, morally speaking, could not have been established, except upon the virtual or practical denial of this very doctrine,” remarks: “Hence it is that while most Romanists have treated the doctrine as a heresy, others feeling their traditions must fail, if Papias, Irenĉus, Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Lactantius, and their contemporaries, should be denounced as heretics, endeavor to escape the dilemma, by making a distinction between what these fathers have said in the name of the church, and have delivered as the doctrine of the church, and what they choose to consider their personal opinions and conjectures. Some of them trace the doctrine to certain passages in the Apocalypse, which they suppose these fathers misinterpreted; while others affirm that they borrowed it from Plato. The answer given by Chillingworth to this mode of getting over the difficulty is conclusive.” It may be here observed (what Jones, Cox, and many others have noticed) that it is not only the church of Rome that is, in view of its organization, ambitious projects, etc., hostile to our doctrine, but this applies to all those religious bodies having “a High-Church” tendency, and making much of “tradition” (as e.g. Episcopalian High Churchism, Mercersburg Theology, Puseyistic party, ultra Symbolical Lutheranism, etc.), which tells us, with insidious and subtle reasoning, that the Bible is to be interpreted by the past faith of the Church, and yet which, with all its professed churchliness, obstinately and utterly discards this once generally received faith of the church. The same is true, in sadness we write it, of all churches that are highly prospered in extension, wealth, and influence (excepting alone individual members, who have faithfully entered their protest), to whom our doctrine is unwelcome for reasons already sufficiently assigned. Ruling in an existing Kingdom, it does not suit the spirit and aims of a multitude to receive a doctrine which necessarily is humbling and derogatory to their pretensions and predictions of the future.
Obs. 5. It may then be briefly stated as a self-evident fact, that the entire spirit and aim of the Papacy is antagonistic to the early church view, being based on coveted ecclesiastical and secular power, on extended jurisdiction lodged in the hands of a Primate. When episcopal palaces with their palatial endowments were erected under the fostering care of the Emperors; when the rulers of the church enjoyed the rich vestments, emoluments, and honor of office; when magnificent churches, with altars and walls adorned and enriched by the costly gifts of its devotees, were built all over the Empire; when ambitious men, under the cloak of an established Messianic Kingdom, formed the idea of a universal government; when men addicted to pleasures tasted the enjoyments afforded by rich revenues and the servile honor paid to them by the multitude; when a system was founded which decided that the reign of the saints had already begun—that the Bishop of Rome ruled on earth in Christ’s place; that the deliverance from the curse would only be effected in the third heaven; that in the church, as a Kingdom, there was “an aristocracy” to which unhesitating obedience must be rendered; that the prophetical announcements respecting Messiah’s Kingdom were fulfilling in Romish predominance, splendor, and wealth; that the rewarding and elevation of saints was not dependent upon the Sec. Advent, but upon the power lodged in the existing Kingdom, etc., etc.—then it was that Chiliasm, so distasteful and obnoxious to these claims and doctrines, fell beneath the powerful and world-pervading influence exerted against it.[*]
Note. Judge Jones (Essays on Com. of Kingdom) observes: “Ungodly men, allured by ambition, and who desired nothing less than the coming of Christ, got influence in the church, and they constructed a system, every part of which speaks in language not to be misunderstood, ‘My Lord delayeth his coming.’ ” See also in the same connection his remarks, how this is found, more or less, in Protestant churches. It is a sad truth, that our most bitter enemies are those who are fostered by endowments looking to a perpetuity of present agencies, etc. It is but just to add, that while Jones is correct in specifying “ungodly men,” yet it is also true that many sincere and pious hearts were drawn, by fallacious reasoning and the trust that they were aiding the truth and Christ’s glory, in receiving and extending this opposition to Primitive doctrine, position, and usage. For we must not forget that aside from selfishness and personal interest seriously affecting our doctrine, mysticism, in all its forms, with its higher inner light and lowering of written revelation before spiritual contemplation, has ever disastrously—in Romanism and Protestantism—manifested its scorn at Chiliasm, owing to the influence of its devotees. A glance at church history is decisive, for such men as Hilary, Maximus, Bernard, John Scotus Erigena, Hildegard, Francis, Eckhart, Tassler, Thomas à Kempis, Molinos, and even such as Fénelon, Pascal, Madame Guyon, Law, and a multitude of others, could not possibly accept our doctrine, seeing that their fundamental principles and their method of interpreting Scripture were utterly opposed to it. Thus a variety of powerful influences (comp. preceding Prop.) were at work, hand in hand.
Obs. 6. The institution of monkery exerted a powerful influence in causing the rapid decline of our doctrine. They formed, owing to their privileges, numbers, sanctity, etc., the most effective allies in upholding Papal claims and doctrines, and, of course, in decrying, with the populace, all antagonistic utterances. From the fourth century down, they greatly moulded or impressed the sentiments and views of the church, and, therefore, the student, in estimating the causes leading to a suppression of Chiliasm, must not forget to estimate the leverage exerted by monkery.[*]
Note. It is unnecessary to discuss monkery, as Mosheim, Neander, etc., have presented their vast influence in building up the Papacy, etc. Yet it is noticeable that the earlier favorers of monasticism, like Jerome, while rejecting our doctrine, were still unwilling to brand it as a heresy; this spirit of toleration, with increasing bigotry and ignorance, finally ceased.
Obs. 7. The authority of Councils in the interest of hierarchical tendencies materially aided in obscuring the doctrine of the Kingdom. Indirectly, by exalting and confining the kingship of Christ to His Divine nature, and correspondingly lowering the human, forgetting that the covenanted kingship is given to “the Son of Man” who is of the Davidic lineage. This resulted mainly from the Arian and other controversies respecting the natures of Christ, when one extreme led to its opposite. Directly, by indorsing the polity of the church and state, the ambitious projects aiming at universal power, and the supposed Kingdom as exhibited under the leadership of one Bishop. The decisions of Councils were finally elevated to an equality with the Scriptures, and thus aided in crushing the doctrine.[*]
Note. What these Councils were (i.e. of what fallible persons composed, what indications of weakness, passion, bitterness, etc.) has been ably and satisfactorily shown by various writers (Mosheim, Neander, Killen, Stanley, Justin, etc., too clearly teach us that the majorities were only too often composed of bigoted, fanatical, and domineering prelates, whose only desire was to compel all men to believe in all things just as they did, to exalt their church by any means, even to the anathematizing of all who would not submit). After the Council of Nice, none gave utterance to anything in sympathy with Chiliasm. In the first General Council of Nice (A.D. 325), being nearly related in time to the preceding Chiliastic Fathers, we have the following: in addition to the definition of the faith and the canons, the Council set forth certain forms of ecclesiastical doctrine. Gelasius Cysicenus (His. Act. Con. Nic.) has recorded the latter, and among them is the one on the last clause (viz.: “I look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come”) of the Nicene Creed. It reads: “the world was made inferior because of foreknowledge; for God foreknew that man would sin. Therefore we expect new heavens and a new earth according to the Holy Scriptures; the Epiphany and Kingdom of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ then appearing. And as Dan. says (ch. 7:18) the saints of the most High shall take the Kingdom. And there shall be a pure and holy land, the land of the living and not of the dead: which David, foreseeing with the eye of faith, exclaims, I believe to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living—the land of the meek and humble. Blessed, saith Christ (Matt. 5:5) are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. And the prophet saith (Isa. 26:6), The feet of the meek and humble shall tread upon it.” This is quoted by numerous writers, such as Mede, Burnet, Brooks, Seiss, Cox, Hartley, Shimeall, Investigator of Proph., etc. Brooks remarks that Dupin, the Romish historian, calls this into question, while others of the same church contend for its correctness. If it is to be received as genuine (as many contend, seeing that it is to the Romish interest to detract from it), it would appear that many, at least, of the three hundred bishops composing the Council were Millenarian—for this statement is purely Chiliastic—and that the influence and teachings of Lactantius (who was then an old man and died about that time) and others were not forgotten. Let us add: that the extract is still valuable in indicating how anciently such expressions in the Creed which simply expressed a belief in the resurrection of the dead, were understood, viz.: not necessarily to imply a simultaneous resurrection of all at one and the same time. This again shows, as we shall argue hereafter, that the leading creeds, as the Apostles’ and Niceno-Constantinopolitan, as well as the brief formulas of Irenĉus and Tertullian (comp. note to Murdoch’s Mosheim His., vol. 1, p. 81, Harper’s Ed.), were in direct sympathy with Chiliasm (over against Shedd’s, Sanborn’s, and others’ statements to the contrary), seeing that Millenarians cordially embraced the same, and even thus tersely expressed a great truth without entering into details respecting the order of the resurrection. Besides this: while giving this as proof that (aside from Lactantius and others) at this period Millenarian doctrine was not yet extinct, yet, we confess, that we are not great admirers of a Council called and presided over by such a man as Constantine, and in which were men (comp. Dunn, Stanley, Killen, etc.) who evinced by their conduct that they were passionate and frail. Our doctrine is not based on Councils; and we do not quote the latter to give it any authority, but only as a historical fact bearing on the continuance of its extent, at a time when abuses came trooping in and the doctrines heretofore held were beginning to fade before the incoming Hierarch. Uhlhorn (Conflict of Chris. with Heathenism, p. 352) shows that after the Church introduced hierarchical tendencies and dreams of conquest, then “the hope of the speedy Advent, which shone so brightly in the early days, has now become dimmed,” and while “the earlier period had no thought of any victory but that which Christ was to bring at His Coming,” the church now entertained hopes of victory over the Empire and the world. This was largely aided by Councils, aided and supported by imperial patronage and power.
Obs. 8. Theology, under the constant surveillance of a church jealous of its delegated kingly authority, in its more systematic arrangements, was entirely controlled so as to favor the substituted Kingdom. We find, therefore, in all such works, running down through the scholastic age to the Reformation, a set apologetic defence of the Romish notions of the Kingdom. Starting with the idea—often taken for granted as a settled premise or inferred by far-fetched inferences—that the Romish Church is the predicted Kingdom of the Messiah, everything is made to bend to that theory. The utterances of later Fathers, the decrees of Councils, and the self-interested statements of Popes and Prelates, are appealed to with unbounded confidence, just as if, in so fundamental a matter, the fallible utterances of man were equal, if not superior, to Scripture itself;—and as many of these thus quoted had been canonized by the church they favored, their saintship corroborated, in the eyes of many, the claims and doctrines indorsed. To oppose such a swollen stream, guarded by thousands upon thousands of devoted adherents, was simply to risk reputation and life.[*]
Note. We reproduce the language of a valued friend. Dr. Seiss, Last Times, p 290, says: “I have proven to you that such (Chiliastic) were substantially the hopes of the church before Christ came as the child of Mary; that Jesus and his inspired apostles spoke of these hopes as deeply founded in the purposes and promises of God; that they were entertained, preached, and gloried in by those who received their instructions from apostolic lips, and by the Luthers, and Arndts, and Paleys, and Baxters, and Wesleys, and Halls, and Edwardses, and Chalmerses of the first three hundred years of the Christian Church; that no Christian ever disputed them previous to the time of Origen; and that they are now held and proclaimed by hundreds and thousands among the purest, the most eloquent, the most learned, and the most useful of the children of God on the face of the earth. How the church came to lose sight of these hopes, I have also indicated. It was Popery that obscured them and cast them into darkness. First came Origen’s fanciful method of interpreting the Scriptures, casting uncertainty upon the clearest statements, and introducing a way of exposition which all men unite in lamenting and condemning. Then came the desire to render the Christian faith palatable to a Roman Emperor, and then to the papal usurper, leading to a repudiation of a part of the Bible, and the mutilation and interpolation of the writings of the fathers. And thus, as the joint work of Origen’s vagaries and the sycophantic spirit and corrupt principles of some who came after him, a disposition was made of these great anticipations from which every good man should recoil with horror. It was a stroke of Satan to cheat the Bride of Jesus out of her sublimest dowry. To this day the church is more or less under the, influence of that deception. Nor can we do duty to ourselves or to the truth of God, and yet patiently acquiesce in a decision brought about in a way so unchristian and unwarrantable. Nay, I feel confident, that when once we have fairly examined this whole matter the pure Millenarian doctrine will be held and preached as one of the most glorious articles of our most holy faith.” So Dr. Willis Lord (The Blessed Hope, p. 79) remarks: “In the Apostolic and Primitive Church it is certain that for more than three centuries the Sec. Coming of Christ was expected to take place before the Millennium, and that the bliss and glory of that period would flow from His presence and reign. Especially was this so while Paganism still held the seat of power, and the church was despised and persecuted. Most keenly did she then feel the sorrows of widowhood, and long for the return of her absent Lord. That return would bring the day of her redemption and joy. When, however, Constantine mounted the throne, and the church with him, her spirit and her faith changed. Favor with men, and increasing flatteries, honors, wealth, and power, made the world seem less barren, and more attractive. Gradually, but surely, the blessed hope gave way to the power of present possession and enjoyment; the once desolate widow became elated, proud, and self-sufficient; and she said in her heart, ‘I sit as a queen, and shall have no sorrow.’ For many generations, it would have been the dread of the visible church to have the Lord to come.”
Obs. 9. The historical fact that Millenarianism was thus crushed is far from being dishonorable to us. Indeed, we rather glory in the occurrence, as indirect proof of the truthfulness of our position, seeing that as a defection from the truth was predicted by the apostles to take place, that very form of doctrine departed from—provided once generally held, and contained (even in the literal sense) in the Word—it must be regarded as approaching the nearest to sound doctrine. The warnings specially given respecting this doctrine in its leading feature of the Sec. Advent, etc., unmistakably indicate a foreseen denial of its characteristics. Hence, we have corroborating evidence in its favor, when we hear the Roman Catholic Baronius telling us: “The figments of the Millenaries being rejected everywhere, and denied by the learned with hisses and laughter, and being also put under the ban, were entirely extirpated.”[*]
Note. The reader will observe that if our doctrine had always remained the generally received doctrine of the church it would not meet the requirements of prediction respecting the lack of faith in Christ’s coming, the attitude of professed servants who say that He delayeth His coming, the abounding of unbelief and apostasy, etc. This same Baronius says (Bowers, His. Popes, vol. 1, p. 97) that Damasus condemned the Millenarians in the Council of Rome, A.D. 378. But Bowers shows that he is wrong, since after that Council “many eminent men in the church held it, and Sulpicius Severus among the rest, without being deemed heretics on that score.” Mede, Brooks, etc., evidently (saying that Damasus condemned the Millenarians, and Mede, Works, p. 664, also says that Damasus suppressed the works of Victorinus and Sulpicius) took this either from Baronius, or from Lorinus, the Jesuit (Lorinus in his Com. on Acts 1:6, refers to “the heresy of Chiliasm, which Pope Damasus had condemned in Apollinaris”), and both Baronius and Lorinus were misled by the condemnation of Apollinaris, who with views that the Pope reprobated, also entertained Chiliasm in some of its features. After looking over all the testimony available on the subject, it is our decided opinion that the suppression of the doctrine was later than the time of Damasus, and that Bower is correct in his opinion. In confirmation of this, it is only necessary to say that Apollinaris was not condemned as a Chiliast but for other alleged error, and that Jerome (with whom Damasus was intimate, and who upheld and praised Damasus) himself—opposed to Chiliasm—dares not condemn it as heresy (saying that “many Christians and martyrs had affirmed the things (Chiliasm) which he denied; and that a great multitude of Christians agreed in them in his own day, so that though he could not follow them, he could not condemn them”), which he certainly would have done, or intimated, had the Bishop, his personal friend, decreed it. Suppose, on the other hand, that Baronius is correct, that we admit his statement (“the heresy, however, loquacious before, was silenced then, and since that time has hardly been heard of”), and that Damasus, with the aid of the Council, suppressed Millenarianism. It certainly cannot be flattering to the prevailing view, that this was done by a Pope with the character of Damasus, and by a clergy which sustained the reputation given to them at that time.* It must, indeed, be particularly gratifying to some of our opponents that the charge of “heresy” preferred against us comes from such a source, so that e.g. Dr. Hamilton declares: “Yet this doctrine of the Chiliasts was condemned by the church—since that time all are accounted heretics that maintained it.” In our reading, this charge has been found repeated again and again by respectable writers, but none of them dare to tell us by what class of men this was done, for such an exposure would blunt the edge of their weapon and make it recoil upon themselves. The fact is, that Millenarians esteem it an honor that their doctrine was first suppressed by prelates possessing the character, etc., that history accords to them. The truth is, that while our doctrine was obnoxious to, and detested by, the Bishops, and many of the leading clergy, through partisanship, yet it was not so early authoritatively condemned, seeing that such a condemnation would involve a disastrous controversy respecting the regular perpetuation of the church. The Bishops and Prelates were too shrewd to do this, seeing, as they did, that this would involve so many of the Fathers that it would be difficult and hazardous, yea, impossible, to trace the true church unless through “heretics.” Hence the cautious policy was adopted, not to condemn it in any regular decree, but in establishing as the faith of the church its opposite, and making all submit to the latter as the truth. What must we think, however, of the spirit animating Prof. Briggs (N. Y. Evangelist, 1879), who, with evident relish, approvingly quotes Baronius’ declarations, and eulogizes the Popish doctors, and even praises the long “dark ages” of triumphant Popery, pronouncing them “the heroic ages,” and then wallows in the old slander of associating Chiliasm with fanatics, outside of “the historic church.” The scholarly certainly cannot be influenced by it.
Obs. 10. Baronius and others have asserted that for a long time the doctrine was “entirely extirpated.” This is not strictly correct. It certainly was brought into such disfavor by a ruling Romish Church that during “the dark ages,” down to the Reformation, it was scarcely known. Still we have intimations, plain and decided, that it was held by individuals (as e.g. Jerome mentions in his day, what Lorinus, the Jesuit, says of Tully Crispold, quoted by Brooks, El. Proph. Interp., p. 60; comp. Bernard, etc., quoted by Seiss, p. 26, in A Question in Eschatology, etc.), and, at least, in some of its features, by the Vaudois or Waldenses, Albigenses, Lollard, or Wickliffites, and the Bohemian Protestants (comp. the extracts, some of which will hereafter be given, presented in Elliott’s Horœ Apoc., Taylor’s Voice of the Church, etc.). This testimony could, undoubtedly, be extended, if we only had the opinions of many who fell under Romish condemnation, and of whom it is said that they were detested and rooted out on account of opposition to Romish doctrines. But even if all such intimations were lacking, it would only indicate how wide-reaching the apostasy had grown, how fearfully prediction on the subject was verified, and how important it was for the old truth to be revived.[*]
Note. Prof. Briggs (N. Y. Evangelist, 1879) exults in the fact that “the great churches of Rome, Alexandria, and Asia Minor condemned the heresy,” and that “the consolidation of Christian faith in creed and liturgy, effectually excluded Chiliasm more and more from the church, until it was banished for many centuries.” Admit the crushing of our doctrine, and then ask by whom was it done, and how it was accomplished, and the historical answer certainly cannot be flattering to our opponents. The period of time, the many centuries, when it lay depressed, is sufficiently delineated by Romish and Protestant writers to set aside the extravagant eulogies bestowed upon them by Prof. B. in order to sustain his bitter anti-chiliastic prejudices. But it does seem strange for a Protestant, and a professed scholar, to so far forget himself, that, in order to make a doctrine odious, he will exalt those who have been the most unrelenting persecutors of the forerunners of principles and a liberty in which the Protestant Church to-day rejoices; and to correspondingly degrade, as unworthy of the least attention, men who advocated those principles and that liberty, because they held to “Chiliastic notions.” Those who opposed the encroachments of the Papacy and resisted its abuses, are to be derided, because they said (D’Aubigné’s His. Ref., vol. 3, p. 415) in their helplessness: “Let us lift up our heads, looking to the Lord, who will come and will not tarry.” Individual members of the Romish Church, as well as protesting communities outside of it, who denounced hierarchical tendencies, resisted usurpations, and expressed a belief in a speedy Advent to remove existing evils and introduce a Sabbatism, are to be judged only as estimated by their cruel enemies, because they expressed sentiments too much allied with the Chiliastic. Why not go a step farther, and include the Reformers themselves, who also expressed such views, utterly antagonistic—as we shall show—to modern, Whitbyan theories of the Millennium?
Under the preceding Propositions reference has been made to this continuation, and Jerome’s statements respecting many holding it in his day. Later on the traces are rarer, until they cease, unless we regard those testimonies that Döllinger has given in Prophecies of the Middle Ages, as favoring Chiliasm in some of their aspects. We pass them by for this reason: although opposed to the Romish, general, view of the Millennium, yet there is such an admixture of error that they cannot properly be regarded as Chiliastic. Let us e.g. take one of the most noted, the Prophecies of Joachim, and the Evangelium œternum of the Fratricelli, and these were widely removed from the Primitive Chiliasm, losing sight entirely of the specific covenanted Theocratic Kingdom of the Messiah, which was the idea of the early Church. A brief mention of the scheme entertained, is sufficient to demonstrate this fact. These held that we have had a dynasty of the Father extending from Adam to the First Advent; then followed a dynasty of Jesus Christ, lasting 1000 years or more from that Advent; this last, in which they lived, was to be succeeded by the dynasty of the Holy Spirit (golden age), which was indefinite or limited, at the pleasure of the believer. A number of views, hostile to the prevailing Augustinian, may, for aught we know, have arisen from the remains of Chiliastic belief still existing here and there. Some of the former advocates of the Papal doctrine renounced it for Chiliastic views, as Le Père Lambert (a French Roman Catholic, whose “Expositions,” favoring a Pre-Mill. Advent, restoration of the Jews, and reign of Christ, was translated into German by Von Mayer), Lacunza (Ben-Ezra, a Spanish Jew, whose work, “The Com. of Messiah in Glory and Majesty,” was translated by Edward Irving), John Baptist Pagini (a Roman Cath. Priest, in his work, “The End of the World, or the Sec. Com. of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ). The fact is that some Romanists could not drift so far away from the old landmarks, but what they would revive sentiments and the idea of the Millenaries, more accordant with Chiliastic antecedents than the Popish notion, but these feeble utterances were crushed under the weight of Church authority. Here and there we have intimations of the continued existence of the doctrine even down to the 16th century. Thus e.g. Appleton’s Cyclop., Art. Moise Amyrant, a French Calvinist theologian, born 1596, who “acting in concert with Richelieu, aimed at a reconciliation between the Protestant and the Catholic Church,” wrote a work, “Against the Millenarists.” Although knowing nothing of the contents of the work, its title implies that a growing class must have existed, or it would not have been issued. One thing is certain that no union could be effected between Protestants being Millenarians and Romanists.
Obs. 11. Various writers in tracing our doctrine have, through inadvertency or misapprehension of our belief, made the unscholarly mistake of attributing a revival of our faith to the extended belief in the Advent of Jesus to judgment about the year A.D. 1000 and succeeding dates, and, with evident relish, endeavor to make our system accountable for the calamitous results (so graphically described by Mosheim). But this belief arose from the Romish view, and not from Millenarianism. The proof is self-evident, and the least knowledge of the facts will make it apparent to every one. The Augustinian theory, so generally adopted by the Popish doctors, commenced the Millennium with the First Advent of Christ, and consequently, in agreement with this view, when the one thousand years, dated from the First Advent, expired, Popery, driven to a conclusion by its own adopted Millennial theory, looked for the Coming to Judgment, and, with its doctrine of the end of the world, etc., for a general destruction of all sublunary things. Now this was the opposite of Millenarian views, which made the Millennium future, to be introduced by a resurrection, and to be followed by a glorious restoration of all things. The misapplication of the Millenary (making it Pre-Advent) and of the Sec. Advent (making it Post-Millennial) is purely Romish error, and, in view of the extent in which it was held and the miseries that it entailed, is decisive proof how largely Millenarianism had been obliterated.[*]
Note. This mistake has been incorporated in several cyclopĉdias (as Appleton’s, Brit., etc.) and also Millerism which lacks the purely Chiliastic features of a future Millennium, the doctrine of the Kingdom, etc. (although the parties sprung from Millerism have in most cases, as the majority of Sec. Adventists, returned to a more pure Chiliastic doctrine). Writers against our belief introduce this Romish observation derived from Augustinian teaching, most offensively against us, never regarding in the least the numerous replies made by us in explanation. In illustration: one of the most unfair and uncharitable performances is Prof. Sanborn’s Essay on Millenarians (Bib. Sac., July, 1855), in which among other mistakes we are charged with the extravagances of the middle ages (when our doctrine was really buried under a cloud of darkness) introduced by Post-Millennialists, and with the errors of men who were Anti-Millenarians. Strange that learned men, when our doctrine is so accessible and history is so plain in describing our views and that of others, cannot discriminate between our Pre-Millennial position and that occupied by Post-Millennial and Anti-Millennial advocates. We sometimes are almost led to suspect that the oversight is intentional, but, in charity, trust that it results through simple misapprehension. As one (Brookes) has well expressed it: “the fanatical crowds that were so alarmed were not Pre-Millennialists, but Post-Millennialists.” Hence it is unjust to burden us with the vagaries that belong, as all history attests, to our opponents. As this accusation is constantly repeated, we append several testimonies, which present the truth in the matter. Hagenbach, His. of Doc., vol. 1, sec. 202, quoting Lücke, etc., shows that the Augustinian view adopted to avoid Millenarianism as formerly entertained, was the cause of the expectation and commotion. Dr. Fisher, Art. “Mill.,” M’Clintock & Strong’s Cyclop., justly traces this expectation of Advent to Augustine’s views, saying: “As the year of our Lord 1000 approached, it was a natural corollary that the judgment and end of the world would then occur.” This is true, because the Mill. was then supposed to end, and the Popish ideas of judgment and its results were then to be realized. Compare Faber’s Inquiry into History and Theol. of the Anc. Vallenses and Albigenses, p. 389, etc., Guizot’s Civ. in Europe, p. 95, and the Arts. in Herzog and other cyclops.