Mark K. Olson, “Millennial Aspirations and the Problem of Religious Nominalism”

, posted by SEA

Abstract: This is part one of a five-part study on John Wesley’s eschatology. This opening article recounts the development of eschatology in England from the Protestant Reformation to the Evangelical Revival in the eighteenth century. The central aim is to address the relationship between millennial expectations and the problem of nominal belief in the Protestant traditions, and how this relationship contributed to Methodism’s identity as an eschatological movement in the eighteenth century. The article was published in Mark K. Olson, ed. A John Wesley Reader on Eschatology (Truth in Heart, 2011).

Introduction

Methodism was born in an age when many Protestants believed they were living on the precipice of human history. The roots of this eschatological expectation reach back to the Reformation in the sixteenth century. The great struggle between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism that dominated European politics for over three centuries also served as the lens through which Protestants read biblical prophecy, especially the Book of Revelation. While differing over details of interpretation, Protestants of nearly all stripes agreed the Papacy was the Antichrist, the Church of Rome the harlot Babylon, and that Revelation describes in historical detail the triumph of the true faith over all false faiths in the not-to-distant future. Therefore, Protestants early on developed a unique philosophy of salvation history that centered on the problem of religious nominalism.[1]

Martin Luther’s Eschatology

To justify their rift with Rome, Protestants turned to the prophetic texts of Holy Scripture. When Martin Luther (1483-1546) published his first German translation of the New Testament in 1522, he had little esteem for the Book of Revelation. His failure to see Christ in its “visions and figures” led Luther to reject outright the book’s apostolic and prophetic authority. “First and foremost,” wrote Luther, “the apostles do not deal with visions, but prophesy in clear, plain words.”[2] By 1545, when his second preface appeared, his views had dramatically shifted. Luther now believed Revelation to reveal in detail the future of the church. By looking at church history, and aligning specific historical events to the narrative of Revelation, Luther concluded that a “sure” and “unobjectionable interpretation” of the book could be maintained. From his own calculations, Luther believed the Papacy was the Antichrist, the sack of Rome in 1527 (by Charles V) the beginning of the destruction of “Babylon the Great,” and the Turkish invasion of Europe the fulfillment of John’s vision of “Gog and Magog.” No wonder Luther saw the Reformation as the “final years of history.”[3]

Sixteenth-Century England

Across the English Channel similar developments were taking shape. Though the Henrician Reformation left the nation largely unchanged in its religious sympathies, for only a minority was Protestant at the time, the historical method of interpretation (historicism) began to be used by English Protestants to address the problem of religious nominalism. John Bale (1495-1563) borrowed Augustine’s analogy of two cities, the heavenly and earthly, but applied the imagery to the struggle between the two churches, Protestant and Catholic. According to Bale, the English church was founded by apostolic commission long before Rome sent her corrupting emissaries in the sixth century. Consequently, ecclesiastical history confirmed to Bale and his readers that Rome was the Great Harlot (Rev. 17) and this justified her expulsion by King Henry VIII.[4]

The merging of religious reformation with the English monarchy found its strongest proponent in John Foxe (1516-87). In his Acts and Monuments (later known as Foxes Book of Martyrs) Foxe presented an ecclesiastical history in which the English “Babylonish captivity” was nearing its end with the ascension of Queen Elizabeth. Comparing the Protestant Queen to Constantine the Great, who in effect made Christianity the religion of the Roman Empire, Foxe held that England was an “elect nation,” chosen by God to overthrow the papal beast. The Reformation “signaled the final battle” in which the true faith, the Protestant religion, would overcome the apostate church of Rome. Like Bale before him, Foxe taught that the chief instrument in this battle was the “Godly Prince,” the English monarchy. With the ascension of Elizabeth in 1558, Foxe believed the final stage of providential history was at hand, which would culminate in the final overthrow of the Roman Antichrist.[5] The influence of Foxe’s work on the English people is confirmed by James Thompson, “‘It became almost the Bible of Protestant England, and was ordered by Convocation to be placed in churches where everyone might have access to it.’”[6] Foxe’s Acts and Monuments played a powerful role in altering the religious sympathies of the English people, drawing them away from Rome to the Protestant cause.

Nevertheless, not everyone was satisfied with the Elizabethan settlement. Though the Acts of Supremacy and Uniformity formally severed ties with the Church of Rome, the early Puritans felt the Queen had not gone far enough to reform the nation of popish influence. In light of current events, their concern appeared justified. During Elizabeth’s reign, the Pope recruited young English sympathizers to infiltrate the nation and convert the masses. At the same time, Rome agitated political challenges to the young Queen’s legitimacy to the throne by supporting her archrival, pro-Catholic Mary Queen of Scots. The Pope’s meddling in English affairs did not stop there. By the 1580s, Rome was supporting a massive military invasion known as the Great Spanish Armada. Though the English fended off this invasion (and again in 1596 and 1597), handing the pro-Catholic forces a devastating blow, the Counter-Reformation continued to gain ground on the continent and in the new world through Spanish missions.

Seventeenth-Century England

 The situation in England was aggravated in the seventeenth century by the reigns of James I (1603-25) and Charles I (1625-49). Their dogmatic belief in divine right, that kings receive their authority solely from God and not the people, eventually pushed the Puritans and other republican radicals toward open defiance. This led to civil war in the 1640s and the execution of Charles in 1649. Fear that the nation might slip back under Rome’s control reached a feverish pitch. In this volatile climate, revolutionary ideas began to find fertile soil in the hearts of many Englishmen through a more radical reading of the Book of Revelation.

One of the prominent apocalyptic writers of the era was Thomas Brightman (1562-1607). What made his celebrated book Apocalypsis Apocalypseos, or Revelation of the Revelation (1609) so influential to the Puritan cause was his radical revision of Foxe and Bale. Whereas the latter writers retained Augustine’s dualism of heaven and earth, placing the millennium beyond human history in a heavenly ethereal realm, Brightman located the millennium and the New Jerusalem squarely within human history:

“But as touching this new-Jerusalem . . .  it is not that Citie which the Saintes shall enjoy in the Heaven . . . but that Church, that is to be looked upon the earth, the most noble and pure of all other, that ever have been to that tyme.”[7]

This blending of the millennium with the eternal state (New Jerusalem) was a common feature of post-Reformation English eschatologies. Besides the postmillennial flavor of Brightman’s system, his exegesis stands out for endorsing a double millennium. Holding that the first millennium stretched from the reign of Constantine the Great (AD 304) to the scourge of the Turks in AD 1300, the second millennium would reach from 1300 and culminate in the final triumph of the Reformed faith over the Roman Antichrist.

Brightman’s exegesis went even further. He asserted the seventh trumpet, when the “mystery of God should be finished” and the “kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord” (Rev. 10:7; 11:15), had already sounded with the ascension of Queen Elizabeth. Therefore, Brightman believed his generation was already living in the “last ages” when God will judge the nations and reward his saints (Rev. 11:18). Three of the vials (bowls) had already been poured out and Brightman expected the fourth (revival of Gospel truth) and the fifth (fall of Rome) to transpire by the 1650s. The great ingathering of the Jews would be the sixth vial. He looked for the Euphrates River to dry up so the lost tribes of Israel in the east could return to their homeland and battle the Turks. With the sack of Rome, the forces of the Antichrist and the Turks would crumble by the 1690s. A stronger chord of imminence could not be struck.

The linchpin for the Puritan revolution was found in Brightman’s exegesis of the seven churches. Agreeing that these letters were written to seven historical churches in the first century, Brightman argued they “comprehend the ages following” up to his own day.[8] Identifying the first four churches with prior epochs of church history, Brightman taught that godly Philadelphia and sinful Laodicea point to the current situation in England.[9] This was where his interpretation took a radical turn from Bale and Foxe. Writing nearly a half century later, Brightman had witnessed how Queen Elizabeth became unwilling to push for further reforms. He therefore identified godly Philadelphia with the Reformed churches of Geneva, and soon-to-be-judged Laodicea with the Church of England. The message was clear: the Puritans should not expect significant reform from the “Godly Prince” and instead seek to usher in the kingdom themselves. Brightman’s interpretation poured explosive fuel on the Puritan cause. Convinced the nation was on the brink of divine judgment, many Puritans and Separatists fled to the new world in the 1630s,[10] while others decided to stay and fight for the establishment of God’s kingdom in the nation. The Puritan revolution reveals a shift in the battle-line over religious nominalism. Whereas in the sixteenth century the line was drawn between two churches, Protestant and Roman, now the line was drawn between two Protestant factions, Puritan and Anglican, with many Puritans linking the Anglicans to the Antichrist.[11]

Brightman was not the only voice sounding the alarm that the day of the Lord was at hand. The 1640s saw a burst of millennial frenzy after Archbishop Laud’s hold on authority broke down. Radical splinter groups sprung up everywhere anticipating the end-times. Many, like Puritan Thomas Goodwin, mathematician William Oughtred, Fifth Monarchians John Rogers and John Tillinghast,[12] Independent Peter Sterry and others looked to 1656, or there about, as the year when the Antichrist would fall and the great ingathering of the Jews begin.[13] Even the great commentator Joseph Mede looked to the 1650s as the beginning of the messianic age. Using the standard practice of prophetic years, Mede calculated the 1260 days of Revelation 12:6 to represent the Pope’s reign of 1260 years (395-1655). Others looked to later dates in the seventeenth century. Sabbatians looked to 1666 when the Messianic age would begin.[14] John Napier, inventor of logarithms, became convinced the end would arrive before the end of the seventeenth century.[15]

Many expected Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658) to inaugurate the millennium. George Fox, the founder of Quakerism and later a pacifist, swept up in the fervor chastised Cromwell in 1657 for not fulfilling the prophecy of Rome’s destruction (Rev. 18) by leading an attack on the city.[16] Even the great John Owen (1616-83) saw the rise of Cromwell as the beginning of a new era. Preaching before Cromwell and Parliament only three months after King Charles’ execution, Owen took for his text Hebrews 12:26-27, which refers to the shaking of heaven and earth.[17] Interpreting the text to refer to political powers (heaven) and the people (earth), Owen proclaimed that God was now overthrowing governments that support Catholicism and establishing rulers that would serve the interests of the true faith, the Reformed religion. Owen based his thesis on a unique reading of Revelation 17:12-16. The ten kings that give their power to the beast refer to the nations that have been subservient to papal control (vv. 12-13). The apocalyptic war in which the Lord gains the victory (v. 14) refers to the shaking of western governments since the Reformation. God was now raising up leaders to overthrow the Pope’s political power so the true faith could flourish in the world. In simple terms, Owen believed God was shaking the western nations to free the gospel to Christianize the world. This vision of an evangelical gospel unfettered by civil government to convert the world was finding fertile soil in a rising movement on the continent. That movement was Pietism.[18]

Continental Pietism

The Thirty Years War (1618-48) left German society in shambles, divided into more than three hundred territories and states. As in England, the German Reformers initially looked to political rulers to underwrite their separation from Rome and implement the needed reforms in the church. However, in character with the times, these rulers asserted divine right, which led to state control of the churches. Even though the struggle was at first between Lutherans and Roman Catholics, by the early decades of the seventeenth century the Reformed church made strategic inroads into Lutheran territories. This sparked bitter resentment between both groups, making it impossible for Protestants to present a united front against Rome’s Counter-Reformation. Compounding the situation were German rulers who saw the political advantage of maintaining religious uniformity in their territories, thereby encouraging intolerance toward any confession but their own. As a result, the three main confessions hardened in their doctrinal and ecclesiastical positions producing a stale spirit within the life of the churches:

“People attended church partly because they were required to do so by law, and attendance was sometimes thought of as a good work whose performance gave them credit in God’s sight. Even more was participation in the Lord’s Supper regarded as an act which had a mechanical effect on one’s relation to God, and most people were regular communicants, whether once a year, once a quarter, or (occasionally) once a month.”[19]

Although its roots reach back to Johann Arndt (1555-1621) and his influential work True Christianity, Pietism began as a movement with the publication of Pia Desideria in 1675 by Philip Jacob Spener (1635-1705). Whereas Orthodox Lutherans stressed the more objective Christus pro nobis (“Christ for us”), justification by faith alone, Pietists emphasized the more subjective Christus in nobis (“Christ in us”), regeneration and sanctification.[20]  This meant that having a correct creedal faith was not enough for Pietists; the real need was for a living faith that brings new birth and transformation of life.

Spener was appalled at the spiritual and moral laxity in German society. Like Brightman, Spener compared the German church to lukewarm Laodicea and confessed the Reformation remained incomplete, “We are stuck fast in Babel as much as the Roman church is, and therefore we cannot boast of our withdrawal from it.”[21] Though “anti-Christian Rome” had received a “decided jolt” by Luther, its “spiritual power” had not yet been broken. Spener felt the prophecy of Rome’s “great fall” in Revelation 18 had not yet been “completely fulfilled.”[22] Yet his diagnosis went further. The present spiritual condition of the Protestant church could be compared to the Jews returning from the Babylonian captivity in the sixth century BC. At the time, God’s people had been delivered from exile and returned to their homeland, but they failed to “restore the temple and its beautiful services.”[23] In a manner quite similar, the German church had failed to complete her deliverance from Rome by reforming the church of her spiritual deadness. Using the mark “love for one another” (Jn. 13:35), Spener concluded, “How difficult it will be to find even a small number of real and true disciples of Christ among the great mass of nominal Christians!”[24]

However, all was not lost. With the same millennial spirit that fueled the Puritan revolution in England, Spener’s postmillennialism affirmed that God “promised his church here on earth a better state than this.”[25] In agreement with other Christians, Spener anticipated the defeat of the Counter-Reformation, the national conversion of the Jews, and a global Christian faith through evangelism, religious tolerance, and compassionate ministries. At its heart, Spener’s message was a call for revival, but a revival infused with an evangelical eschatological hope. Spener saw that the millennium would never be realized unless the level of holiness in the church could be raised. In a manner similar to Brightman, Spener called for true believers to work proactively to revive and reform both church and society, but with an evangelical focus that set his agenda apart from his predecessors. His six-prong program called for the use of Scripture, the engagement of laity in the ministry, the prioritization of Christian practice, the promotion of Christian love in confronting heresy, the training of ministers in holy living as well as in learning (“study without piety is worthless”[26]), and the need for preaching that spiritually edifies its hearers. Spener’s program was put into practice through his collegia pietatis, small groups for the promotion of personal holiness, which later informed Count Nicholas Zinzendorf’s concept of ecclesiola in ecclesia, the true church within the nominal church. The line between a true and false faith, first drawn between Protestant and Catholic, then between Puritan and Anglican, was now being drawn between Pietists and nominal Christians.

Post-Restoration England

Across the English Channel apocalyptic expectations continued to flourish despite setbacks. With Cromwell’s death in 1658, the Commonwealth soon collapsed leading to the Restoration of the Stuarts in 1660. While Royalists celebrated with a “flood of royalist poems and pamphlets hailing Charles II as a messianic king,”[27] two thousand Dissenting clergy were expelled from their parishes because they would not subscribe to the Church of England’s liturgy and episcopal order.[28] The Puritan revolution was essentially over. Yet, with the fading of old hopes new ones began to take root. Tensions continued to rub between the pro-Catholic Stuart monarchy and the deeply committed pro-Protestant Parliament. When James II abdicated the throne in 1688, commentators celebrated the Glorious Revolution of Protestant William and Mary with apocalyptic exuberation.

One of these was Hanserd Knollys (1598-1691), a Baptist by profession, who wrote extensively on biblical prophecy. In his Exposition of the Whole Book of the Revelation (1689), Knollys suggested the millennial kingdom had dawned with the Glorious Revolution.[29]  Using the Protestant hermeneutic of prophetic years, Knolleys dated the rise of the Antichrist at AD 428, when Celestine I (422-32) attempted to expand the power of the Roman see into North Africa and the East.[30] Maneuvering to find historical events that fit the prophetic calendar was a common feature of commentators who leaned on historicism to guide their exposition. Knollys was not the only commentator to see the Glorious Revolution as the fulfillment of biblical prophecy. Benjamin Keach (1640-1704) also believed he was living on the edge of prophetic history.[31] Moving along similar lines as Knollys, Keach proposed the slaying of the two witnesses in Revelation 11:7-10 to represent the sufferings of Dissenters between the Restoration and the Glorious Revolution. This meant the blowing of the seventh trumpet and the turning point of prophetic history was at hand. Leading up to 1688, when pro-Catholic Stuarts sat on the throne, the Antichrist reigned supreme in the nation. Now, with the ascension of William and Mary, the first blow against the papal beast had been struck, Protestantism was now secure in Britain and would soon defeat the beast elsewhere.

These two commentators illustrate the millennial fervor that pervaded the final decades of the seventeenth century. Paul Korshin notes, “Religious writers of every kind mention the beginning of Christ’s thousand-year reign.”[32] This included Dissenters, more radical groups, like the French Prophets, and even Anglican churchmen. Korshin informs us the early Boyle lectures “often dealt quite thoroughly with expectations of the millennium,”[33] though he notes that by the second decade of the eighteenth century Anglicans became more conservative and less inclined to engage in millennial expectations.[34] Millennial fervor attracted the most prominent scientists of the era. Isaac Newton (1643-1727) spent much energy pouring over the sacred text. Endorsing several Protestant tenets, like historicism, the conversion of the Jews, their restoration to the homeland, and the identity of the Pope as the Antichrist, Newton parted paths with the majority by advocating premillennialism and a literal rebuilding of the Jewish temple. The one who followed Newton as Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge was William Whiston (1657-1752). Best remembered for his translation of the works of Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, Whiston gained notoriety in 1696 with his book A New Theory of the Earth (which Wesley read in 1725). Utilizing the new science of Newton, Whiston proposed that the Genesis deluge was caused by cometary catastrophism. Walking in the footsteps of his mentor at Cambridge, Whiston endorsed premillennialism but based his eschatology on the idea that the present creation will last six thousand years before the millennial age breaks forth in the eighteenth century.[35]

These intellectuals were heavily influenced by the greatest English commentator on Revelation in the seventeenth century, Joseph Mede (1586-1638). Born in Essex and educated at Christ’s College, Cambridge, Mede served as professor of Greek at Cambridge. Since Protestants espoused a historicist reading of Revelation, questions of chronology and synchronism played a significant role in their discussions. Mede presented his breakthrough on synchronization in his Clavis Apocalyptica (The Key to the Revelation). First published in 1627 and again in 1632, the Clavis was released in English posthumously in 1643 by order of the Long Parliament.  The “key,” of course, was Mede’s system of synchronization: “I call a synchronism of the prophecies a concurrence of events predicted therein within the same time; which may be called a contemporary or coetaneous period; for prophecies of contemporary things synchronize.”[36] Through a series of fourteen synchronisms, Mede demonstrated that much of Revelation describes people and events that run concurrent to each other. He further advanced what many considered were new ideas on Revelation 20. In contrast to those who espoused a postmillennial vision (e.g. Brightman), Mede advanced a premillennial reading with Christ’s physical return inaugurating the millennium. Mede’s influence was widespread, stretched well into the eighteenth century, and, as we will see, influenced the eschatologies of both Wesley brothers (especially Charles) and that of Thomas Hartley (whom Wesley read in 1764).

Eschatology & Political Context

Tensions over Catholicism continued to reverberate throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries with France replacing Spain as Britain’s main nemesis.[37] The opening of colonial markets throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries expanded the struggle from one of political conquest to include that of wealth and commerce. In the new global theater, trade became as important as military victory to defeating the Counter-Reformation. Millennial hopes now became intertwined with the expanding British Empire.[38] Still, before the mid-1750s, when Wesley penned his commentary on Revelation, several geopolitical events would transpire that alarmed English fears and confirmed once again to British Protestants that Rome was the Antichrist and the harlot Babylon in Revelation.

Even though William (1689-1702) and Mary (1689-1694) and Anne (1702-1714) were Protestant, segments of the nation continued to support the line of James II. Known as Jacobites, support for James III (known as the Old Pretender) broke out in open rebellion in Scotland, leading to a major battle and defeat by government forces in November 1715. The promised French troops never materialized, and though James III arrived in December, the rebellion melted away and the Pretender fled back to France. The ’15 rebellion was followed thirty years later by a more serious threat to the Hanoverian line. By 1744 rumors of an imminent French invasion were floating around the British Isles, leading officials to order all Roman Catholics to leave London. In 1745, Prince Charles Stuart (the Young Pretender), landed in Scotland and began his march toward London. Panic struck the nation as the rebellion gained steam with one victory after another, leading the rebel forces as far south as Derby, within striking distance of London. Due to events that many saw as nothing less than divine providence, the ’45 rebellion unraveled in the spring of 1746 forcing the Young Pretender to retreat to France, ending any hope of the Catholic Stuarts regaining the throne.[39]

With Great Britain secure from Jacobite threats, a larger global conflict was brewing between France and Great Britain, and their respective allies. Wesley was just putting the finishing touches on his Explanatory Notes Upon the New Testament when the two European super-powers collided over global colonial supremacy. The Seven Years War (1756-1763) was fought on four continents and proved a great victory for the British; her spoils included large sections of territory in North America, expanded control in India, Grenada, and Senegal. Great Britain was now an “empire encircling the globe,”[40] and with military success came wealth and prosperity. The Industrial Revolution was reshaping British society and produced an expanding market economy for an ever-growing population.[41] By the last third of the eighteenth century, a noticeable rise in affluence became evident in British society, leading Wesley to lament the rising standard of living among Methodists.[42]

Evangelical Eschatology & Religious Nominalism

What constituted nominal faith now began to shift. As the threat of the Counter-Reformation dissipated in Britain, the transformative effects due to the Industrial Revolution and the Enlightenment left many evangelicals, like Wesley, to reflect on the dangers of wealth, materialism, and natural reason to an authentic faith. Simply stated, the “spirit of antichrist” was now seen as more sinister and pervasive. No longer was the divide between a true and false faith demarcated along confessional lines, even within Protestantism. The impact of the Evangelical Revival carried with it a subtle reshaping of standard Protestant eschatology by infusing it with evangelical priorities. This became evident in Wesley’s later life. A preoccupation with the dangers of wealth and materialism was, in Wesley’s eyes, “an offence before God and man, an urgent and dire peril to any Christian’s profession and hope of salvation.”[43] Riches lead to atheism and idolatry, stirring within the human heart pride, self-will, and “every temper that is contrary to the love of God.”[44] Framed in eschatological terms, the divide between a true and false faith, the “spirit of truth” and the “spirit of antichrist” (1 Jn. 4:3-6), primarily lies within the human heart. Thomas Hartley (1708-84) made this point explicit, “Mystical Babel is in the root of our fallen nature, and born into the world with us all, which the spirit of Christ alone can cast out.”[45] Hartley then applied his evangelical hermeneutic to the problem of religious nominalism, clothed in eschatological categories:

“Most of us are apt to look towards Rome only for the signs of the times, as if that were the sole residence of Anti-Christ…But look around thee, spectator, and thou shalt see Anti-Christ and his retinue also behind thee and on each hand of thee, and beware lest he be not also within thee…He is the beast in the natural, sensual man, and the red dragon in the man of persecution, he is the serpent in the sly deceiver and subtle hypocrite, the false prophet in the lying lip of interpreting the Scriptures, he is the whore in those that commit fornication with the civil powers and great ones of the earth for filthy lucre-sake.”[46]

The eighteenth-century Revival led evangelicals, like Wesley, to interiorize their eschatology when it came to the problem of religious nominalism, because they saw the fundamental concern to be spiritual and transformative, not creedal. Without denying that Catholicism was the great enemy of God in the Book of Revelation, Wesley and other evangelicals believed Protestantism to be plagued with the same disease: creedal profession apart from living faith in Christ.[47] The central aim of the Revival was to change this reality among the masses. The Revival’s message began with the Reformation’s emphasis on justification by faith alone, but reemphasized that this faith is the “work of God in us, which changes us and brings us to birth anew from God.”[48] This much is widely known and studied. What is lesser known is how the Revival was carried forth by a powerful impulse of eschatological fervor, profoundly shaping early Methodist self-understanding as a movement. As we will see in the next chapter, John Wesley’s evangelical eschatology was formed in the crucible of the Evangelical Revival.

Works Cited:

[1] In this study religious nominalism is a broad label which refers to a Christian faith deemed false, unscriptural, as mere profession or ritual, or lacking the transformative power of the gospel. Religious nominalism was a fundamental concern of Protestants (ch. 1), of early evangelicals and Methodists (ch. 2), and its antidote, real Christianity, was a major theme in Wesley’s eschatology (ch. 4).

[2] Avihu Zakai, Exile and Kingdom: History and Apocalypse in the Puritan Migration to America. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992, 20.

[3] Ibid., 20-21.

[4] Ibid., 26-31.

[5] Ibid., 31-37.

[6] James Thompson, “A History of Historical Writing,” 2 vols. New York, 1942, 1:615, in Avahu Zakai, Exile, 33.

[7] Avihu Zakai, “Thomas Brightman and English Apocalyptic Tradition,” in Menasseh Ben Israel and His World. eds. Yoset Kaplan, Richard H. Popkin, and Henry MechoulanLeiden: E. J. Brill, 1989, 39.

[8] Zakai, Exile, 48.

[9] Brightman believed Sardis pointed to the German Lutheran church.

[10] Rebecca Fraser estimates up to 5,000 per year immigrated to the Massachusetts colony (Rebecca Fraser, The Story of Britain: From the Romans to the Present: A Narrative History. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2003, 325).

[11] Zakai, Exile, 60.

[12] The Fifth Monarchy took their name from the Book of Daniel and the five kingdoms (Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome, and God’s kingdom).

[13] Christopher Hill, “Till the Conversion of the Jews,” in Millenarianism and Messianism in English Literature and Thought 1650-1800. ed. Richard N. Popkin, Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1988, 14-15.

[14] Harry M. Bracken, “Bishop Berkeley’s Messianism,” in Popkin, ed. Millenarianism and Messianism, 72.

[15] Hill, “Till the Conversion of the Jews,” 14-18.

[16] William F. Burns, “The Whig Apocalypse: Astrology, Millenarianism, and Politics in England during the Restoration Crisis, 1678-1683,” in Millenarianism and Messianism in Early Modern European Culture: The Millennial Turn. eds. James E. Force and Richard H. Popkin. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2001, 29.

[17] John Owen, The Works of John Owen. Carlisle: Banner of Truth, 1967, 8:247-79.

[18] Wesley makes the same positive point about the new American government, “The total indifference of the government there whether there be any religion or none leaves room for the propagation of true scriptural religion without the least let or hindrance” (“Of Former Times” §20, The Works of John Wesley. 34 projected vols. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1984-Present, 3:452. Hereafter: Works). Albert Outler comments, “An interesting recognition of the positive effects of the principle of the separation of church and state.”

[19] Theodore G. Tappert, ed. Pia Desideria. Fortress Press, 1964, 7-8. The Pia Desideria was published in 1675, 1676, 1678 (fuller edition), with three more German editions by 1712. First published as an introduction to a new collection of Arndt’s sermons, Spener’s introduction became so popular that it was released six months later as a book.

[20] K. James Stein, “Philipp Jakob Spener,” in The Pietist Theologians. Carter Lindberg ed. Malden: Blackwell Publishing, 2005, 89.

[21] Tappert, 69, 84.

[22] Ibid., 77.

[23] Ibid., 73.

[24] Ibid., 57.

[25] Ibid., 76.

[26] Ibid., 104.

[27] Bernard Capp, “The Political Dimension of Apocalyptic Thought,” in The Apocalypse in English Renaissance Thought and Literature. eds. C. A. Patrides and Joseph Wittreich. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1984, 117.

[28] Fraser, 363.

[29] Kenneth G. C. Newport, Apocalypse & Millennium: Studies in Biblical Eisegesis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000, 28.

[30] Newport, 29. From 428 to 1688 is 1260 years.

[31] Ibid., 39.

[32] Paul J. Korshin, “Queuing and Waiting: The Apocalypse in England, 1660-1750,” in The Apocalypse in English Renaissance Thought and Literature. eds. C. A. Patrides and Joseph Wittreich. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1984, 242.

[33] Korshin, 240. The Boyle Lectures began in 1692 and became a platform for Anglican discourse on matters of religion and science.

[34] Korshin, 249.

[35] This idea goes back to the first-century Christian writing The Epistle of Barnabas. It is based on the 7 days of Genesis 1 and Peter’s comment that “one day is with the Lord as a thousand years” (2 Pet 3:8). The world will last 6,000 years followed by the 1,000 year reign of Christ.

[36] Joseph Mede, Clavis Apocalyptica, or A Key to the Revelation. Translated by R. Bransby Cooper. London: J. G. & F. Rivington, 1833, 1.

[37] In 1707 England, Scotland, and Wales were united to form Great Britain, with the Union Jack as the national flag. In 1801 Ireland was incorporated to form the United Kingdom.

[38] Hill, 22-23; A. H. Williamson, “Britain and the Beast: The Apocalypse and the Seventeenth-Century Debate About the Creation of the British State,” in Millenarianism and Messianism, 22.

[39] On the ’15 and ’45 rebellions, see Fraser, 414-17, 432-36. For Wesley’s comments on the ’45 rebellion in his Journal, see Works 20:90-94.

[40] Fraser, 437.

[41] Roy Porter, English Society in the 18th Century. Revised Edition. London: Penguin Books, 1990, 185-213.

[42] This was a common concern of Wesley’s; see “The Danger of Riches” (1780), Works 3:227-46; “On Riches” (1788), Works 3:518-28.  In this Reader see “The Mystery of Iniquity.”

[43] Albert C. Outler, Introduction, Wesley’s sermon “The Danger of Riches,” Works 3:227-28.

[44] “On Riches” II.1-7, Works 3:519-28.

[45] Thomas Hartley, Paradise Restored: Or, A Testimony to the Doctrine of the Blessed Millennium. Leeds: Binns and Brown, 1799, 211, emphasis his. Wesley read his work soon after it was published in 1764. Hartley would later become a follower of Emmanuel Swedenborg.

[46] Ibid,. 210, emphasis mine.

[47] This theme is fully developed in Wesley’s sermon “The Mystery of Iniquity.”

[48] Martin Luther, Preface to the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans. trans. by Andrew Thorton, OSB. Saint Anselm Abbey, 1983. Web: www.ccel.org/l/luther/romans/pref_romans.html. No doubt these words were part of what Wesley heard on the evening of May 24, 1738, which led to his evangelical conversion.

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This article was taken with permission from Dr. Mark K. Olson’s website. Here is a link to the article in its original online location: https://wesleyscholar.com/millennial-aspirations-and-the-problem-of-religious-nominalism/.