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I Do not mean this volume for a controversial
It touches, no doubt, upon controverted points, and to that extent must partake of this character. But I have striven to avoid the attitude of disputation as much as possible, and to treat with respect the judgment of brethren in Christ who differ from me.
I have read most of the works written against the system here maintained. They are very few in number. What may be the reason of this, I do not undertake to say. I have not referred to any of them by name, nor quoted their language ; but I have endeavoured to state fairly the substance of their arguments.
In reading these, I have been struck with the peculiar method of reasoning which they adopt. Their object is rather to disprove our hypothesis than to prove their own. They take for granted that if millenarianism be overthrown, then their system must come in its place as a matter of course, without any further proof. They do not build up nor fortify their own system so much as they try to overturn that of their opponents. Hence their theory does not stand upon direct positive proof from Scripture in its favour, but upon the supposed absence of proof for the opposite. Assuming that millenarianism is in its very nature impossible, and therefore not capable of being proved, they endeavour to turn the edge of millenarian expositions, and to show that a different sense is possible. But surely this is not all that is needed. Millenarianism may have no foundation in Scripture ; but still anti-millenarianism may be equally baseless. What I desire of our opposing brethren is, that they would produce the direct positive texts on which they ground their theory.
All the length they have advanced as yet, is, that our system is false, and that theirs may be true.
It remains that they prove from Scripture that theirs must be true. They have not done this. But surely, both logically and theologically, their reasoning is at fault till they
Besides, in reference to most of the disputed passages, the ground which they take up appears to me very narrow and insecure. Our position is, that the texts in question must be interpreted in a certain way, and do not admit of another
in this. But such, at least, is our position. What, then, is the counter position ? Only that they may be interpreted differently. Now, these passages are the hinges of the whole question. They can have but one meaning, -either that which we propose, or that which our opponents would substitute. If, then, we maintain that the principles of sound interpretation compel us to adopt the literal view, why do our brethren not take up the opposite position, and say that these same principles compel them to adopt another sense ? Why do they stop short of this ? Why do they merely say that they do not feel constrained to adopt our meaning, and that the passages may admit of another ? Why do they not oppose their “must be” to our must be ?"
If their theory be thoroughly invulnerable, and ours as thoroughly feeble, why do they not assume a more decided attitude, and a more positive method of interpretation ?
Let me illustrate my meaning by reference to a passage which I have taken up at length in the seventh chapter. I mean 2 Thess. ii. 8. of the most conclusive that has been adduced in the discussion ; not only because it is clear and pointed in itself, but because it occurs in a plain epistle and not in any book of figure or symbol. Its testimony to a pre-millennial Advent appears to me irre
It is one
sistible. Our position respecting it is, that if there be certainty in language, consistency in statement, and coherence in argument, the expression, BRIGHTNESS OF HIS COMING," must refer to the literal Advent. How, then, is this met ? Not by showing that it cannot do so, or by proving that it does not imply this ; but simply by trying to show that the words may mean something else. This surely is a very feeble and indirect
way of meeting our statements. Nor do I think it the fair method, either logically or scripturally. Respecting such an important passage, something more decided and direct ought to be produced. It should at least be shown that our interpretation is wrong, and not simply that another is possible. For what is this but an admission that the natural sense of the passage is on our side, and only the non-natural on the other ? And if the natural and probable sense be ours, and only the non-natural and possible be theirs, can we hesitate in deciding which of the two is according to the mind of the Spirit ?
The general line of argument adopted by antimillenarians appears to me both unsound and unsafe. They argue that millenarianism is in itself so carnal, so absurd, so inconsistent with other doctrines, that it cannot be believed. Hence