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The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, vol. 4

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    II. Millennial Harbinger—Forum for Prophetic Discussion

    Pronounced and continuous emphasis on prophecy appears in Campbell’s forty-eight-page monthly, The Millennial Harbinger, issued from Bethany, Virginia, and starting in 1830. Widely read by the members of doubtless the fastest growing and most aggressive of the newly founded religious bodies that looked to Bible prophecy as a guiding star, it must be surveyed for its coverage of the prophecies.PFF4 258.3


    The Millennial Harbinger carried on the editorial masthead the text of Revelation 14:6, 7. It was further evidence of the increasingly common conviction, at this time, that this symbol of the flying angel of Revelation 14 represented a last-day message, designed to restore the everlasting gospel, which was now to be proclaimed in fullness to mankind everywhere. And various groups believed it embraced their own activities in particular.PFF4 258.4

    The Harbinger was “devoted to the destruction of Sectarianism, Infidelity, and Antichristian doctrine and practice,” with the object of “the development, and introduction of that political and religious order of society called THE MILLENNIUM.” This was believed to be “the consummation of that ultimate amelioration of society” proposed in the Bible. In its opening issue it begins to deal with the fulfillment of the prophecies leading to the millennium.PFF4 259.1

    Starting with the basic four empires—of Babylonia, Persia, Grecia, and Rome-contributor Walter Scott deals next with the present “remains” of the ten kingdoms of Europe and then the kingdom of the Lord Jesus, which “is here become a vast mountain, and fills the whole earth.” He describes the apostate papal church—Babylon, Mystery—arrayed in purple and scarlet, and “mounted upon her imperial beast,” with her golden cup in hand to intoxicate the nations; her offspring, the Inquisition; also French atheism, Daniel’s presumptuous king who “shall come to his end.” All these things, he says, “have passed in review to the Christian of the 19th century.” And another sign is the growth of the anti-sectarians in the United States. 29The Millennial Harbinger, January, 1830, pp. 34, 35.PFF4 259.2

    The August, 1830, issue began a series signed “Daniel,” entitled “Prophecies.” The anonymous writer enunciates the sound principle that “the Prophecies have never been well understood until near the times of their accomplishment, and seldom more than the prominent outlines until actually accomplished.” His outline declares that the Jews will return to their own land, be attacked by their foes, be converted in one day when the Lord Jesus will descend upon Mount Olivet. He adds that a great earthquake will shake the earth from pole to pole, destroying the cities of the nations and all the wicked. Then Christ will judge the Man of Sin, raise the dead saints, and usher in His millennial reign on earth. 30Ibid., August, 1830, p. 375.PFF4 259.3

    2. M’CORKLE ENDS 2300 YEARS IN 1847

    In the second volume the editor summarizes the impressive exposition of Samuel M. M’Corkle, the Disciple layman previously noted, 31See p. 237 of this volume. first published at Nashville. Many of his thoughts, Campbell says, are “very good.” After noting M’Corkle’s dating of Antichrist’s period, the editor approvingly summarizes:PFF4 260.1

    “Making the cleansing of the sanctuary 2300 days, or years, from the going forth of the decree to rebuild Jerusalem, and subtracting there from the 490 years determined or counted on the Jews, he makes the birth of the Messiah 453 years from the rebuilding of the city and temple; thus leaving 1847 years since the birth of the Messiah for the fulfillment of the 2300 years. This calculation makes the year 1847 the time of the commencement of the Millennium.” 32Alexander Campbell, “The Millennium” (a review of S. M. M’Corkle, “Though on the Millennium”), The Millennial Harbinger, April, 1831, p. 165. (Campbell had previously taken essentially the same position.)PFF4 260.2


    The 1260 years of the papal Antichrist’s reign, which M’Corkle begins in 587 (from Pelagius, bishop of Rome), are likewise believed to extend to 1847, when tremendous judgments will accompany the slaughter of this Man of Sin, whose downfall synchronizes with the second coming of Christ, as well as with the beginning of the millennium, when the kingdom of God will be given to the saints, the New Jerusalem set up, and a new priesthood (in the “new heaven”) commissioned. M’Corkle bluntly calls the churches Babylon and “harlots.” And the “priesthood” he dubs “blind leaders of the blind, self ordained, or ordained by antichristian hands.” Furthermore, he holds that the second beast of Revelation 13 represents the reformed, or Protestant, churches, that actually “have got the power of the ‘first beast,’” but will be engulfed in the impending time of trouble. Then will follow the millennium (365,000 years).PFF4 260.3

    The seven seals, he holds, portray the history of the church in seven distinct periods—(1) the introduction of Christianity, (2) pagan persecutions, (3) Christianity established by creeds and civil power, (4) corruptions following their establishment, (5) papal persecutions, (6) judgments preceding the millennium, and (7) the new Jerusalem set up. The trumpets are a “kind of review,” under different imagery. The Two Witnesses are the Word and the Spirit. The everlasting gospel signifies a new dispensation, to be introduced with the millennium, or the new heaven and earth. The seven vials are held to be still future, and the False Prophet is the clergy of the Catholic and Protestant churches. Campbell observes that M’Corkle seems to lean heavily on Scott’s commentary. 33Ibid., pp. 166, 167.PFF4 261.1

    After expressing certain criticisms and reservations, Campbell makes this strong declaration:PFF4 261.2

    “But yet the pamphlet is well worthy of a perusal, not only on account of the many truths uttered on the present state of things, but because it awakens attention to one very plain and interesting subject of prophecy, viz. that Christendom is to be the theatre of the most tremendous calamities and sudden disasters, terminating in that unexampled earthquake, which is to destroy the monarchies, hierarchies, and all the bastard progeny of the Mother of Harlots, which, like the frogs of Egypt, pollute every synagogue, fireside, and closet in the land; and all this as preliminary to the commencement of the reign of a thousand years.” 34Ibid., p. 167.PFF4 261.3

    Finally he adds:PFF4 261.4

    “A reformation, we rejoice to know, has always been proclaimed before the cup of indignation has been poured out. And, bless the Lord! this voice is heard in our land. Therefore, ‘Come out of her, my people, that you partake not of her sins, and that you receive not of her plagues:’ for unless you reform you shall also perish.” 35Ibid., p. 168.PFF4 261.5


    Then in the May issue, Campbell notes “Croly on the Apocalypse,” 36See Prophetic Faith, Vol. Ill, pp. 544-548. and quotes without comment from his Introduction, which epitomizes George Croly’s position on the seals, trumpets, and vials. 37The Millennial Harbinger, May 1831, pp. 216-219. In the December number Campbell inserts a quotation from Faber on the prophecies, who ends the 1260 years in 1866, to which are added the thirty additional years (of the 1290), and the forty (i.e., forty-five) more (of the 1335)—or a total of seventy-five years-which bring him to about 110 years from 1831. A quotation from the Columbian Gazette shows that prophecy was even discussed in the newspapers of the day. 38Ibid., December, 1831, p. 555 [i.e. 565]. It might be added that The Millennial Harbinger is often argumentative in style and belligerent in tone, with many discussions and not a few debates—the latter often involving the editor.PFF4 261.6


    In Campbell’s “Historic Prophecy,” in two editorial installments (March and May, 1832), he presents the results of his own investigations in prophecy. 39Ibid., March and May, 1832, pp. 130-134, 214-219. The fiery, or red, dragon, with its seven heads, is pagan Rome with its seven forms of government; the woman is the church; the man child is Christ. The ten-horned beast from the sea is Rome (the fourth beast of Daniel), with the seven heads listed and the ten horns identified. The two-horned beast is an ecclesiastical power, a pseudo teacher and false prophet, the horns being “the corrupted priesthood, whether Papal or Protestant.” 40Ibid., pp. 214-219. Then, in the September and October issues, Campbell begins a discussion of the intent of the prophetic symbols, and quotes from a pamphlet representing the contemporary British advent awakening—J. A. Begg’s Twelve Short and General Reasons for a literal premillennial second advent. 41Ibid., September, 1832, pp. 433-438. On Begg, who will also be noted later, see Prophetic faith, Vol. III, pp. 560-564.PFF4 262.1

    Another series, in volume 4, of ten articles on the “Signs of the Times,” by S. M. M’Corkle, begins in February, 1833. There are also discussions of prophecy in an editorial series on the “Everlasting Gospel,” beginning in the same issue. And September, 1834, opens yet another series, on “The Millennium,” by a “Reformed Clergyman,” in answer to M’Corkle. Volume 6 (1835) for March, has an editorial on “The Last Days,” in reply to “J.B.” And starting in May another extended series appears from S. M. M’Corkle, “a Layman,” as a rebuttal to the “Reformed Clergyman,” and in volume 7 (1836) there are the latter’s replies to “our invincible lay brother, M’Corkle”—and other articles on prophecy, as “Letters to a ‘Reformed Clergyman,’” by “D.A.”PFF4 262.2


    The “Second Series,” volume 1 (1837), now has, under the heading “Prophetic Department,” a series called “The Prophecies,” by the “Reformed Clergyman.” Number 11 of this series discusses the year-day principle (based on Numbers 14:34 and Ezekiel 4:4-6). The 70 weeks of Daniel 9 are set forth as extending from the seventh year of Artaxerxes to the crucifixion. 42Ibid., June, 1838, pp. 273-275. Number 12 of this series of a dozen articles on “The Prophecies” discusses Daniel’s 1260, 1290, 1335, and 2300 year periods. The various involvements of the 1260 years (the Little Horn’s war on the saints, the holy people scattered, the dragon persecuting the Woman, and the Two Witnesses in sackcloth) are all recognized as being identical in time.PFF4 263.1

    And in this same article the “Reformed Clergyman” is inclined to agree with Campbell’s position in the famous debate with Robert Owen—namely, placing the 2300 years from 453 years before the birth of Christ to about 1847 years after it, although he refers to others who end them at other times. 43Ibid., July, 1838, pp. 321-324. He likewise discusses the various dates for the 1260 years, citing 529-533 for the beginning and 1789-1793 for the close, but noting 606 and 722 as well. For the 1290 years he adds 30 years more to about 1820, the 1335 years extending to 1865-1866. The dates 1847 and 1866 are, he finds, hard to decide between for the end of the 1260 years, but he is more inclined to 1847, because he can terminate “all the times of Daniel and John” there.PFF4 263.2


    In volume 5 of the new series (1841) Campbell launches an array of editorials on “The Coming of the Lord,” running through the volume. In the first he discusses three theories ot the millennium: (1) James Begg’s—stressing literal Israel’s return to their own land, with Christ reigning in Jerusalem probably 365,000 years, the Man of Sin destroyed by the pre- millennial advent, and the first resurrection (of the saints); and a brief apostasy following the millennium; then the general resurrection and judgment; (2) William Miller’s—a general conflagration, the destruction of the wicked, and the resurrection of the dead saints and the transformation of the living at the advent, followed by a new dispensation of the new heavens arid new earth, an immortal reign, the first segment of which is a thousand-year day of judgment between the two resurrections, beginning in 1843 (or 1847, as some reckon it); and then (3) the popular postmillennialist (Protestant theory)—the greatly enlarged prosperity of the church, marked manifestations of the Spirit, with the Jews converted and the Gentiles brought in, with Christianity diffused, crime and wars ceasing, the land becoming fertile and the climate mild, and the animal creation more prolific, with the coming of Christ not until its close; and then the grand conflagration, followed by the new heavens and earth.” 44Ibid., January, 1841, pp. 8-10. In the fourth installment he discusses the two resurrections, of soul and of body respectively. 45Ibid., March, 1841, pp. 100-104.PFF4 264.1


    In 1842 the editorials continue on “The Coming of the Lord,” quoting from the Signs of the Times on the Millerite view, and from the positions taken by the first General Conference of the Millerite leaders, particularly Henry Dana Ward’s much-publicized address on the millennium. 46Ibid February, 1842, pp. 42-45, 55-59. In the March issue Campbell refers to that “excellent Baptist brother, Elder William Miller, of New York.” 47Ibid., March, 1842, p. 97. He then proceeds to give his reasons for disagreeing with these views. In volumes 6 and 7 (1842 and 1843) there is heavy discussion of the main Millerite positions on prophecy, critically reviewing Miller’s time arguments. He discusses each of the seven time periods employed by Miller in connection with the year 1843-the 6000 years, 2300 years, “seven times,” and the 1260, 1290, and 1335 year periods, as well as the 391 years. Pointing out, logically, that the certainty of the year of terminus depends on the certainty of the year of commencement, he by now dissents from the principle of the 70 weeks as the first part of the 2300 years. This, of course, was a repudiation of his former positions.PFF4 264.2

    Campbell calls Miller an “amiable enthusiast and pious expectant of the world’s end in 1843.” 48Ibid., February, 1843, pp. 49-58. In April, Campbell calls it a “gratuitous assumption” to call the earth the “sanctuary” and its destruction the “cleansing.” The July issue contains editorial No. 25 in the series on the second advent—so far interest and agitation in the year “1843” are obviously keen—but the October editorial ends the series by disavowing the Whitbyan spiritual millennium.PFF4 265.1


    However, when we come to 1844, there is a sharp decline in prophetic discussion in the Harbinger. And there is a marked change of editorial policy. In fact, the only conspicuous item on prophecy in the entire volume is “The Pope Demonstrated to Be the Little Horn”—a reprint of the substance of a treatise by Prof. Louis Gaussen, of Geneva. 49Ibid., September, 1844. pp. 394-405. This classic, with its inconcealable identification marks, was translated from the French, and first appeared in the New York Observer. 50On Gaussen see Prophetic Faith, Vol. III, pp. 687-700, where his points are summarized. And Campbell states that the positions held are virtually the same as his own.PFF4 265.2

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