Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 14.djvu/408

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terrestrial order would at any rate come to an end.

A Second Advent Convention has recently been held in New York, which was devoted to a modified form of this old doctrine. A church was crowded with its adherents, coming from all the religious denominations in various parts of the country, and the subject was discussed for days with great fervor and enthusiasm. Nothing was said in the proceedings about the end of the world, but they were redolent of the expectation of great supernatural events which it was supposed by many may happen at any time. A great array of theological talent was present, and many learned disquisitions were read. The conference was Pre-millenarian in sentiment, and Dr. West, a Presbyterian clergyman of Cincinnati, explained the doctrine as follows: "Christian Chiliasm, or Pre-millenarianism, is the doctrine of the personal reign of Christ one thousand years after beast, false prophet, and apostate Christendom, have been judged and perished in a common doom. It is the doctrine of a visible and external sovereignty of Christ upon earth as the outcome of history, the redeemed church of all ages rejoicing in the fullness of a resurrection-life, in the actual presence of Him who is the 'Prince of the kings of the earth'—a kingdom of outward glory established upon the ruin of the polities of all nations wide as the canopy of heaven."

Furthermore, "Pre-millennialism is a protest against the doctrine of the unbroken evolution of the kingdom of God to absolute perfection on earth apart from the visible and miraculous intervention of Christ. It is an equal protest against that vapid idealism which volatilizes the perfect kingdom into a spiritual abstraction apart from the regenesis of the earth."

What Dr. West here understands by "vapid idealism" and volatilizing the kingdom into a "spiritual abstraction" is simply a protest against the enlarged interpretation of Scripture passages in which many modern theologians are inclined to indulge. The convention went unanimously for the literal meaning of Biblical texts. "Outside of its lids" (the Bible), said Dr. Tyng, Jr. "we decline to follow our disputants." Again: "One verse in every twenty-five or about three hundred verses of the New Testament speak of this future event." Dr. Goodwin planted himself "on the self-sufficiency of the Scriptures to explain themselves." The discussion throughout was filled with theological technicalities, the import of adverbs and pronouns, the rendering of Greek and Hebrew passages, and the ransacking of Biblical books from the Pentateuch to the Apocalypse for hints, allusions, and declarations, that might be made to sustain the hypothesis to which the body was committed.

We refer to all this merely as a curious and instructive phenomenon of our times. There was but one reference, as we observe, to science in all the proceedings. A distinguished clergyman remarked: "Look at that audience; you can't get such a gathering at secular conferences. Why, at a scientific convention a paper an hour long nearly always succeeds in thinning the audience down to the specialists in the topic of which it treats." This observation seems to have exhausted the entire interest of the convocation in scientific matters. All the knowledge that has been developed in the last five hundred years regarding the order of the world was as so much idle wind to these Second Advent theologians. Prof. Henry, as we have seen, began his theology with the consideration of Nature; this conference neither began with Nature nor ended with it, nor made any more reference to it than as if it had been composed of disembodied beings who had never heard of natural things. Though their theories were maintained as taking effect upon