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of this world to Christ,” is to be consummated under what he calls the dispensation of the Spirit, or is to follow Christ's advent and the institution of another dispensation; and one of his objects in the article to which we invite the notice of our readers, is to confirm the views commonly entertained, that the nations are to be converted by the present system of means and anterior to Christ's coming, under the representation, on the one hand, that all the efforts of the church to make known the gospel to the heathen have their origin in that persuasion; and on the other, that those who regard Christ's advent as to precede the evangelization of the world are, and necessarily from that expectation, disinclined to missions, and endeavors generally to lead men to salvation, and disposed to treat obedience to the command to go into all the world and proclaim the glad tidings as no longer obligatory, or encouraged by the prospect of a blessing.
That the views entertained of the design and issue of the present dispensation, and the office which men are to fill in the conversion of the world, naturally exert on them an important influence, we shall not dispute. It is inevitable, and is exemplified on a vast scale in the history of the church. That that influence is favorable, or unfriendly to the discharge of their duty, very much in proportion as their views of God's designs, and the work which man is to perform in accomplishing them, are just or mistaken, we take to be equally indisputable. It is seen on every hand in the conduct alike of individuals, associations, and communities. If the belief in Christ's advent anterior to the evangelization of the nations, therefore, naturally and actually exerts the influence Mr. Steele asserts, it must be regarded, for aught that we see, as an indication that it is an error; and the question accordingly --what is the real and legitimate effect of the two views on the dispositions of those who entertain them to obey the commands of Christ-is important, and whatever may be the issue to which a candid inquisition leads, will not be evaded, but welcomed by the friends of truth. It is quite requisite, however, that those who institute it, and attempt to make the practical effects of the two systems a criterion of their accuracy or error, should understand what the systems themselves are, and the influences which they exert, and present a just statement of them. Otherwise, not only will the result be false in respect to those who are assailed, but it will on their own principles directly confute their assailants. The assumption on which Mr. S. proceeds—that the actions of men are the legitimate consequence of their belief, and of the same moral character,-is as applicable to him as to those whom he attacks, and may, if he is found to be essentially defective in any relation, be made the instrument of confuting his faith, and impeaching his principles as well as theirs. If he shows, for example, that he has not taken care to ascertain what it is that the Scriptures teach on the subject he treats, it will demonstrate that instead of placing a high estimate on the knowledge of God's will, he regards it as of little consideration; and that his zeal, accordingly, to communicate the gospel to the ignorant, of which he makes so ostentatious a profession, is a false one. If his views of what the Scriptures teach are seriously mistaken, it will show that his desire is not in fact to communicate the gospel, but only to impart to them his own erroneous notions. If he misrepresents those whom he attempts to convict of error, and assails them with groundless and calumniatory charges, it will prove that he does not recognise the obligations of truth, but holds that injustice and detraction may be legitimately used for the refutation of their views, and interception of their influence. And, unfortunately, Mr. Steele has erred in all these relations. He has neglected to make himself adequately acquainted with the subject which he attempts to discuss. He has fallen into great misapprehensions of the teachings of the Scriptures. He has most seriously misrepresented those whom he assails; and it is on this account especially that we ask attention to his essay. The injurious statements and charges on which he founds much of his argument are not peculiar to him. Similar misrepresentations have been publicly uttered by others. They have been directly addressed to us, and in terms of discourtesy and passion, not to say audacity and insolence, which we should expect from none but the coarsest and most unscrupulous; and indications appear of an extensive combination to propagate them. It is due, therefore, to the glory of Christ, against whose word and disciples they are, in fact, directed, that they should be pointed
out, and their authors induced to withdraw and retract them; or if they persist in asserting and propagating them, that the people of God may be furnished with the means of judging who it is that yields or refuses a consistent and conscientious obedience to his commands. We therefore propose to put the question to a fair and thorough trial in the presence of that Omniscient Being whose honor it intimately respects; whose truth does not need the aid of error for its support; who will not accept their endeavors who undertake to promote his cause by means which his word forbids; and who will ere long make known his judgment, and show who they are whose views of his purposes and will he approves.
We shall not, however, retort on Mr. S. his own argument. We shall not, because he has fallen into great errors, undertake to show either that he is a fanatic, or an enemy to the gospel. We shall simply point out his mistakes and fallacies, and refute his aspersions, and leave our readers to form their own judgment of his principles and motives. We transcribe
his first page :
“ What question can be of greater practical importance to the church of Jesus Christ, at a time when so many signs proclaim the day near at hand! Already the millenarian sees it at the door, and concentrates his plans and efforts upon those duties which harmonize with such expectation. He feels dissatisfied with the tardy and far reaching plans of benevolence, and earnestly demands that the church give up her dreams of evangelizing the world, and hasten to gather in the last gleanings of the vintage. In all the aggressive movements of the day, and the success which has crowned them, he sees no cheering indications. In his view the world is only waxing worse; the gospel is only a proclamation, and not the power of God for the world's salvation; and the good for which it was designed, is nearly accomplished ; and nothing great, nothing important touching Zion's prosperity, is to be anticipated, until the Redeemer shall come in person. On the contrary, a large portion of the church, adopting other views, and reading their duty in harmony with the expectation that, under the dispensation of the Spirit, the heathen are to be given to Christ for an inheritance, are laying plans and combining their energies to send the gospel to every creature, confident that the great harvest is yet to be gathered. In their view the cause is making progress, the signs betoken success, and the blessing of God upon their efforts is the seal of his approbation. They fancy that the systems of paganism are becoming decrepit, that the throne of Antichrist is tottering, and that the year of jubilee is near.
“ Views so widely dissimilar must exert widely dissimilar effects. How far the millenarian views, if generally adopted, would change the direction of the church experience has not yet taught us, but it seems manifest to us, that the effect would be dispiriting and disastrous in the extreme. The influence of opposing views may fairly be estimated from the past. No era in the history of the church is more clearly marked than that of modern missions, and the fact is well established, that the originators and most active promoters of them held the doctrine, that the world would be subjugated to Christ under the dispensation of the Spirit."-P. 657.
More unfortunate indications of extreme inacquaintance with his subject could scarcely be given by a controversialist, who treats ignorance and error as proofs of bad principles, than that which Mr. Steele exhibits in these paragraphs. He has not extended his researches so far even, it seems, as to learn the meaning of the term millenarian. He is unaware that it is not applicable at all to those who hold the views which he employs it to designate. He has no consciousness that he himself belongs to one of the classes whom it is commonly and appropriately used to denote. He employs it as the appellative of those who hold not only that the world is not to be generally evangelized anterior to Christ's advent, but that the gospel-dispensation and the work of redemption are to terminate at that epoch,-a sense which makes it synonymous with Millerite. That, however, not only is not its meaning, but, specifically, excludes every element that enters into its true signification. The term in its least specific sense means one who believes in a millennium, or thousand years of the saints' reign with Christ on earth, without consideration whether that reign is to be personal or figurative. In this use it is applicable to Mr. Steele himself, and those at large who suppose the millennium is to precede Christ's personal coming. In didactic and controversial works, generally, however, it is employed, in its more restricted signification, to denote those who hold that Christ's personal advent is to precede the millennium ; that the resurrection of the saints is literally to take place at that
epoch, and their reign with him to be personal ; that mankind are still to live in the natural body, and multiply; and the gospel-dispensation continue during the thousand years ; and, finally, that the Israelites are then to be restored and re-adopted as God's people, and together with the Gentiles be generally converted. It acquired this sense from the fact, that these several events are referred by the Scriptures to that period, and that they were embraced in the views of the millennium held by those of the Christian church, Justin Martyr, Irenæus, Tertullian, and others, to whom the term was first applied. It is not applicable at all, therefore, to those whom Mr. Steele employs it to denote, who hold, that “the good” for which the gospel “ was designed,” is nearly accomplished, and that the church should “hasten to gather in,” before Christ comes, “the last gleanings of the vintage.” It does not belong in any sense, for example, to the disciples of the late Mr. Miller, whom he perhaps meant to designate by it; as they specifically deny that the nations, generally, are ever to be converted, or the Israelites restored, and hold, that all, who at Christ's coming are unsanctified, are to be destroyed, the living saints universally glorified, and, consequently, that the multiplication and redemption of the race are then absolutely to terminate. The views of the Millerites, instead of concurring with those of the literal millenarians, resemble far more nearly those entertained by Mr. Steele himself and his coadjutors; for the belief is common to them, 1, that the Israelites are not to be restored ; 2, that the work of conversion is to terminate at Christ's advent; 3, that the gospel-dispensation is then to end ; 4, that the multiplication of the race is then to cease, and all who have come into existence enter on their final reward ; 5, and, consequently, that there is to be but one resurrection, and one judgment. The only difference between them respects the period of the advent, and the events that are to precede it ; -the disciples of Mr. Miller deeming it near, and that the nations are then, generally, to be, as they now are, in alienation from Christ;—the figurative millenarians, of whom Mr. S. is one, holding, that it is distant at least a thousand years, and is to be preceded by the evangelization of the nations. On the other hand the Millerites agree with the literal