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The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, vol. 4

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    CHAPTER FIFTEEN: Conflict Centers Around Millennialism

    I. Duffield Declares Premillennial Advent Scenes Impend

    In this intensive restudy of prophecy, one of the influential western expositors was GEORGE DUFFIELD, 1GEORGE DUFFIELD, D.D. (1794-1868), was for twenty years pastor of the First Presbyerian Church at Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and for thirty years was with the First Presbyterian Church of Detroit, Michigan. He was born in Pennsylvania, of Huguenot descent, was a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, with further training at the Theological Seminary of the reformed Presbyterian church. He early showed a love of learning, and was a constant student to the end of his days. He “was a man’ of great energy and” strong’ conviction, and served as a trustee of the University of Michigan. He was also an abolitionist. (A Sermon on American slavery, 1840) His trial before the presbytery in 1830 was generally looked upon as a ciolation of Duffield’s constitutional privileges under presbyterian polity. Even the press took to the cudgels in his behalf. Rhea atmosphere was tense in the crowded galleries, for the public was charmed by his eloquence and scholarship. scholarly Presbyterian minister for thirty years in frontier Michigan. He was an independent thinker, a ceaseless searcher for truth, and a careful investigator of the foundations of inherited theology. He was actually brought to trial as were various other Presbyterian leaders of the time because he had broken away from the earlier strict Calvinism. He was also an Historicist in prophetic exposition, and thus differed from the contemporary post-millennial and spiritualizing schools of interpretation.PFF4 330.1

    Professor Moses Stuart of Andover Theological Seminary ridiculed Duffield’s Dissertations on the Prophecies Relative to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ (1842) in an attack similar to his assault on the Millerite positions on prophecy and the millennium. And on many points Duffield’s position was somewhat akin to theirs. But Duffield answered Stuart effectively in Millenarianism Defended; A Reply to Prof. Stuart’s Strictures (1843). He points out the absurdities, as well as the dilemma, into which Stuart’s positions had led him, and gives specimens of Stuart’s illogical statements and his unfairness in discussing others’ positions, along with his evasions of vital principles and factors. 2George Duffield, Millenarianism Defended, p. 37. He also challenges Stuart’s position that the millennium is simply an “expansion” of the present “Evangelical Dispensation.” 3Ibid., p. 57.PFF4 330.2

    (Left to Right) Dr. George Duffield, presbyterian pastor of pennsylvania and Michigan; protestant episcopal Bishop John P. K. Henshaw of rhode Island; Isaac T. Hinton, Baptist pastor of Chicago and St. Louis; and Dr. Stephen H. Tyng, episcopalian rector of philadelphia
    Page 331
    PFF4 331

    After riddling Stuart’s argument (derived from Porphyry), that the fourth beast of Daniel 7 is simply divided Greece, and the Little Horn is Antiochus Epiphanes, and other expositions, 4Ibid., pp. 125-127. he admonishes Stuart to read the Bible a “little more attentively,” 5Ibid., p. 132. and points to Dr. Whitby as the source of Stuart’s postmillennialism. Let us note Duffield’s simple, positive positions.PFF4 331.1

    Duffield was not associated with the Millerites; yet in November, 1840, upon reading the newly established Signs of the Times, he wrote at length to J. V. Himes, stating that he himself had studied prophecy for many years, and was strongly persuaded of the error of the postmillennial view. While he differed from Himes on the matter of the precise “time,” he said:PFF4 331.2

    “The publication has given me pleasure. I bid God-speed to every judicious effort to awaken attention, and to spread, before a slumbering church and world, the tokens of our blessed Saviour’s approaching return to earth.” 6Signs of the Times, March 1, 1841, p. 179.PFF4 332.1

    Duffield delivered a series of remarkable discourses on prophecy in 1841-1842, publishing them in 1842. In his well-documented discourses, revealing wide reading and research, he appeals to his readers to put away “pre-conceived opinions” and study this vital question: Does the millennium introduce an entirely “new dispensation,” brought on by the personal, visible second advent of Christ; or is it now in progress, destined to expand merely through moral and political means especially the preaching of the gospel and missionary endeavor till all human corruption is overcome, every system of superstition and idolatry is prostrated, and truth, peace, and righteousness established without miraculous intervention? However, on the latter procedure, the past provides little hope for the future, he observes pointedly. Only prophecy gives the true answer; 7George Duffield, Dissertations on the Prophecies Relative to the Second Coming of Christ, pp. v, vi. so to prophecy he turns.PFF4 332.2


    After answering several popular objections, Dr. Duffield deals with the contention that some “have become deranged or fanatical” through the study of prophecy. He admits that certain weak temperaments, predisposed in the direction of a breakdown, may have been injured by such study. But he adds that the same would be true of application to business, literary, or scientific pursuits, and makes this pointed observation, well worth remembering:PFF4 332.3

    “For one Austin, or Irving, or others, whose derangement and fanaticism have shown themselves on the subject of the study of the prophecies, we can point to ten or more, whose business and literary and scientific pursuits, have rendered them insane. The truth is, some minds and temperaments are incapable of close and assiduous application; but does it therefore follow, that study and business must be abandoned by all? This objection is exceedingly frivolous.” 8Ibid., pp. 28, 39. On Austin and Irving, see Prophetic Faith, Vol. III.PFF4 332.4

    And to the charge that premillennialism is a “novelty,” he rejoins with the declaration that such was the universal belief of the early church and of post-Reformation times; and that, on the contrary, it is the theory of a millennium consisting of the universal triumph of the gospel among all nations for a thousand years before the second advent, which is itself a novelty, being of but recent origin. 9Ibid., pp. 29, 30. Daniel Whitby was the originator, about 1706; see Prophetic Faith. Vol. II, pp. 651-655. So the Unitarian allegorizes, the German Neologist philosophizes, the Sweden borgian spiritualizes, and the mystic seeks recondite theological connotation and all such miss the plain, obvious intent of prophecy. 10Ibid., pp. 44-46.PFF4 333.1

    The literal interpretation is sanctioned by the example of the patriarchs, the prophets, and apostles. And the prophets’ communications were so understood by their contemporaries, Duffield maintains. Origen’s Neo-Platonic, mystical philosophy proved a curse to the church of the third century and onward,” 11On Origen see Prophetic Faith, Vol. I, pp. 310-324. and became the means by which the bishop of Rome in time ascended his lofty throne, sitting as the Man of Sin in the temple of God. 12George Duffield, Dissertations, pp. 66-76, 93-95. The figures of prophecy are not metaphors, Duffield holds, but symbols a woman symbolizing a church; a lascivious woman, yielding to the embrace of the kings of the earth, a polluted or apostate church; seas, masses of people; an earthquake, a revolution; the drying up of a river, a drying up of population, revenue, and supports; a beast, an empire; horns, separate kingdoms or divisions, and the like. 13Ibid., pp. 128, 129.PFF4 333.2

    There is frequent reference to able and well-known prophetic expositors of the Old World Advent Awakening Cuninghame, Brooks, Bickersteth, Fry, M’Neile, Noel, Cox, Sirr, Habershon, Hooper, Hawtry, Pym, and Begg. And there is wide acquaintance with older prophetic writers back over the centuries. Many of these British and American interpreters are grouped in clusters, and some are segregated as to religious affiliation Church of England, Dissenter, Baptist, Presbyterian, Episcopalian. 14See pp. 163, 258, 259. Other groupings are according to periods or geography. Duffield had mastered the historical background to an outstanding degree.PFF4 333.3


    He dissents from the “spiritualizes,” who believe the millennium is nothing more than a “highly-prosperous state of the church,” to be “introduced through the gradual diffusion of light and knowledge,” by means of missionaries, Bibles, tracts, and other instrumentalities employed for that purpose. During this period, they say, Satan is restrained, the Jews throughout the world converted, the church enjoys astonishing influence, all wars cease, the nations are confederated for peace, civilization is carried to the highest plane, and the entire globe transformed into Eden-like prosperity. Then, at the close, Satan is again loosed to produce a defection from the millennial provisions and truth, and the apostate nations conspire for the destruction of the “camp of the saints.” Then, according to such, the Lord rains down fire from heaven to destroy them all, and the second personal advent of Christ occurs, with the resurrection of the dead, the final judgment, and the dissolution of the globe by fire and finally the new heavens and the new earth, which will be the saints’ inheritance forever. 15George Duffield, Dissertations, pp. 153-155.PFF4 334.1

    Others, says Duffield, look for a fearful crisis a time of trouble, growing out of conflict between truth and error, and tyranny and liberty, with terrible judgments and signal interpositions of Providence. William Miller and his associates are dubbed “spiritualizes” because they “allegorize” the return of the Jews, and are criticized because they place the resurrection of the dead and the renovation of the globe by fire at the beginning of the millennium. 16Ibid., pp. 146, 158.PFF4 334.2


    Three chapters (7 to 9) are devoted by Duffield to tracing the variations and vicissitudes of the millennial doctrine through the centuries. He contends that the second advent will be “pre-millennial,” and cites the outline prophecies as proof. The prophecy of Daniel 7, for example, reaches from Daniel’s day to the “times of restitution,” when the everlasting kingdom is given to the saints. Following Babylonia, Medo-Persia, and Macedonia comes Rome, the fourth world power, which is divided into the ten kingdoms. Then an eleventh power, rising in their midst, eradicates three, displays “prodigious sagacity,” and makes lofty pretensions. The ten kingdoms are the Vandals, Suevi, Alans, Burgundians, Franks, Visigoths, Anglo-Saxons, Heruli-Turingi, Ostrogoths, and Lombards.” 17Ibid., pp. 277-280, 385.PFF4 335.1

    The pope arises among them, and in 533 is declared by Justinian to be head of all the churches, thus putting the empire under his spiritual dominion. This was embodied in the Code of Justinian. And in 606 Phocas confirms the grant, but by that time the ten kingdoms had become subject to the papal sway. ‘The Heruli, Ostrogoths, and Lombards being eradicated, St. Peter’s patrimony was carved out of the subjugated dominions. Thus the vision extends to the judgment day, the destruction of the Little Horn’s power, and the establishment of the dominion of the saints. Some allegorize it all, as merely divine judgments on the Papacy. But the judgment is literal, he holds, the advent is literal, and the destruction of the Papacy and the worldly empires is literal. 18Ibid., pp. 281-290.PFF4 335.2

    The Little Horn is the same as Paul’s Man of Sin, he maintains, coming up after the hindering or withholding Roman Empire gives way. But this power is destroyed by the brightness of the glory of the second advent. This is likewise described by John the revelator in the great harvest and vintage scene of Revelation 14. And this is before the millennium. 19Ibid., pp. 295-325.PFF4 335.3


    Duffield is careful to affirm that this day of judgment is not limited to a twenty-four-hour day, or even to a very short time. Rather, it is a judicial process. Moreover, the first resurrection is not the general, or promiscuous, resurrection. Interestingly enough, he does not believe this to be a short judicial investigation, but one that runs through the millennial period. 20Ibid., pp. 365-367.PFF4 336.1


    The time, or “season,” of Christ’s coming is before the millennium, according to Daniel, Paul, and John alike. And the signs of His coming are numerous, including:PFF4 336.2

    1. Great increase of knowledge (Daniel 12:4) investigation and close, diligent study of the sealed book of prophecy. It will be a season of great light and religious knowledge. The minds of men have already been remarkably turned to prophecy in the early decades of the nineteenth century. This is also true of all Biblical study. It is pre-eminently the day of the Bible and tract society, the Sabbath school, missionary society, and religious association. Duffield was therefore able to add with force, “It is at this day remarkably fulfilled.”PFF4 336.3

    2. Great luxury springing from increased wealth (James 5). The pursuit of wealth is unparalleled. Great corporations, combinations, and monopolies have heaped up treasures.PFF4 336.4

    3. Perplexity and trouble (Luke 21:26). There will be a time of unprecedented trouble, men’s hearts failing them for fear.PFF4 336.5

    4. Great peace plans and preparations.PFF4 336.6

    5. Profound slumber on the part of the church sleep as at midnight, in the parable of the foolish virgins. Many ministers cannot be induced to study the question of the second advent, and those who do are by some accounted eccentric. Skepticism and rationalism are permeating the church. Peace is the cry no avenging God to alarm universal salvation civilization advancing! And many are laboring in the confident expectation that the multiplication of human agencies will lead into the millennium. 21Ibid., pp. 368-381.PFF4 336.7


    The ending of the prophetic time periods is another evidence. The 1260 years of papal spiritual supremacy is the primary measuring rod, though there is uncertainty as to its exact placement. The dates 533, 538, 606, and 756 have all been put forth as the opening year for the 1260-year period, and conjointly for the 1290, 1335, and 2300 years as well the 1290 extending thirty years beyond the 1260, and the 1335 seventy-five years beyond the close of these same 1260 years of papal domination. The 1260 years would therefore end in 1793, 1798, 1866, or 1910, although he does not so specify. Nevertheless, a definite time period is involved, like Noah’s warning of 120 years until the Deluge. 22Ibid., pp. 385-387.PFF4 337.1

    And the “seven times” of the Gentiles, or the 2520 years, could be dated from 731 B.C. (Shalmanezer’s invasion); 722 B.C. (when taken the second time); 714 B.C. (when Sennacherib invaded Judea); 708 B.C. (when his army was destroyed); or 677 B.C. (when Esarhaddon destroyed the kingdom of Israel). 2520 years from these dates would therefore terminate between 1780 and 1834-1844, preparing the way for the final catastrophe of the nations. 23Ibid., p. 388.PFF4 337.2


    And the 2300 years may possibly be dated from the edict of Cyrus (536 B.C.), or Darius Hystaspes (518 B.C.), or the 7th of Artaxerxes (457 or 456 B.C.), or the 20th of Artaxerxes (444-432 B.C.). The end of the 2300 years would then bring us to 1764, 1782, 1843, 1856, 1866, 1868, respectively. William Miller, Duffield adds, has chosen the third 457 B.C. with the ending in A.D. 1843. But, Duffield remarks, he “has not proved his assumption to be correct.” 24Ibid., pp. 388, 389. Nevertheless, he adds:PFF4 337.3

    “We can descry with sufficient distinctness the general period or season during which the grand event will take place, so that we cannot be more remote from it, at the furthest assignable date, than one hundred and seventy-five years. We may be, and most probably are, much nearer, and although we cannot but condemn the confidence with which it is asserted that next year will be the period, as do Mr. Miller and many others, yet we believe that somewhere from 1843 to 1847, will be marked by very clear and decided movements in God’s providence, tending to shape the character of approaching political commotions, and to affect the interests of the Jewish nation, and of the church and the world, which shall render it a marked epoch, and prove that we are advanced one stage nearer to the time of the end.” 25Ibid., p. 389.PFF4 338.1

    This is a rather remarkable statement. The chronology, or timing, is not challenged, simply different events are anticipated.PFF4 338.2

    “The time of the end, or the end of the times, that is, the season during which the great periods of chronological prophecy run out, and the great things so long predicted will transpire, is described to us as characterized by very strong and marked signs, and particularly signs in the heavens.” 26Ibid., p. 403.PFF4 338.3

    These signs were in the sun, moon, and stars, and on earth famines, pestilences, and earthquakes. These celestial signs are visible symbols, which God himself “hangs out in the heavens” to predict the coming consummation.” 27Ibid., pp. 403, 404.PFF4 338.4


    In chapter 13 “The Seasons and the Signs of Christ’s Coming,” Duffield has this remarkable summation:PFF4 338.5

    “Ever since the French Revolution, the peculiar signs, both moral and political, which it is predicted shall mark the time of the end, have been developing. In a few words, the nations of the earth are rearing the standard of infidelity; Popery is propagating its abominations; the Ottoman Empire is wasting away; the Gospel is extensively propagated, and has been preached in nearly every nation on earth; the Bible has been translated into more than one hundred and fifty languages; an extraordinary movement has been made in favor of the Jews; the world is sunk in fatal security and indifference, and laughs at the thought of danger; a large portion of the church, like the foolish virgins, has fallen asleep; the spirit of despotism has forged fresh chains to enslave the minds of men, and to oppress the nations of the earth; the preparation is making for a great and fearful crisis; the kings and rulers of the earth are leaguing and conspiring together, and becoming involved more and more in their ambitious schemes and enterprises; and the Lord is sealing his people, pouring out his Spirit, and gathering in his elect. Verily we must be blind indeed, if we cannot discern the signs of the times.” 28Ibid., p. 406.PFF4 338.6

    9. 1260 YEARS PROBABLY ENDED IN 1792

    Duffield then concludes:PFF4 339.1

    “The judgment of the Ancient of Days, for aught we can tell, may have already begun to sit in Heaven, and the signs in the sun, moon and stars, distress of nations, &c., may soon be transferred to earth. Already we hear the roaring of the sea and waves; the breaking forth of popular commotions; men’s hearts begin to fail them through fear, in looking after those things to come upon the earth; and the powers of the political heavens, or constitutions of governments, begin to shake. All these things have been transpiring, in greater or less activity, ever since A.D. 1792, when, very probably, the twelve hundred and sixty years ended, and the seventy-five years, for the time of the end, commenced; and if so, then lift up your heads, ye saints, for your redemption draweth nigh. The Lord’s coming in the clouds of heaven is fore-signified by all these things, and is even at the doors.” 29Ibid.PFF4 339.2

    That is the position of Duffield, contemporary of Miller with entry upon the “time of the end” since the French Revolution, or more specifically A.D. 1792, when the 1260 years probably ended.PFF4 339.3

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