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CHAPTER IX.

CHRISTIANS IN AMERICA-SEVENTEENTH CENTURY.

"Behold, the Lord hath proclaimed unto the end of the world, Say ye to the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy salvation cometh; behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him."—Isa. 62:11.

N presenting the prophetical views of the first Christians in America, it will not be amiss to state first that the famous discoverer of the new world was a devout Christian, a student of and writer on the sacred prophecies, and a full believer in the world's near ending. The fact is a curious one, and furnishes a suggestive introduction to this chapter.

COLUMBUS, A. D. 1504.

Christopher Columbus belonged to the last half of the fifteenth century. We know of no millenarian writers at that period, though expectations of the consummation were rife in many hearts. A hundred years before, Wycliffe had looked for the end. A volume on the Apocalypse which asserted the approaching end of the world, had been issued at Leipsic in 1481. Columbus himself declares that Cardinal Alliaco, of his time, held to the sex-millennial duration of the world, and that King Alphonso of Spain had calculated the chronology of the world. Columbus also quotes Augustine as dividing time up into seven ages. The great discoverer, who was evidently familiar with previous prophetical

writers, was, says Irving, in all save a spirit of intolerance," devotedly pious," a man of faith and prayer; and he died, it would seem, in peace and hope in the faith of Christ, May 20, 1506.

In the year 1498, Columbus prepared a paper on the prophecies, which, in 1501, was further illustrated with learned citations, by a Carthusian friar named Gaspar Gorricio, and given to the world in 1504.

Humboldt, who cites the fact, says that this treatise "recalls involuntarily the great discussion of the immortal Sir Isaac Newton upon the eleventh horn of the fourth beast of Daniel." *

It is not necessary to give in detail the prophetical opinions of Columbus, except to show that he was no believer in the world's conversion. He held the doctrines of his church, and was, probably, an Anti-millenarian. He thought the ends of the earth would shortly be brought together under the sway of the Redeemer,— Mount Zion and Jerusalem be rescued from the Turks and rebuilt by the Christians; the nations know and revere the cross; the gospel, in fulfillment of our Lord's words (Matt. 24: 14), be proclaimed in all the world; and then, without further delay, the end would This faith made him a discoverer. "In the execution of my enterprise to the Indies," says Columbus, “human reason, mathematics, and maps of the world have served me nothing. It has accomplished simply that which the Prophet Isaiah had predicted; that before the end of the world all the prophecies should have their accomplishment." †

come.

He is quoted again by Humboldt as saying: "St Augustine informs us that this end of the world will be in

*Examen Critique de l' Histoire de la Geographie du Nouveau Continent etc., 1835. I. pp. 15-19, by A. Von Humboldt.

† Quoted by Humboldt from fol. iv., of Columbus' Volume.

EARLY NEW ENGLAND PASTORS.

295

the seventh thousand of years after the creation. Such is also the opinion of sacred theologians, and of Cardinal Pedro de Alliaco. Your Highness* knows that from Adam to the birth of Christ one counts 5343 years and 318 days, according to the exact calculations of King Alphonso. But we have 1501 years not now entirely accomplished from the birth of our Saviour until now. The world has, therefore, already endured 6845 years. There remain, consequently, but 155 years to the time when the world may be destroyed."†

Two years later, in a letter to his sovereign, dated Jamaica, July 7, 1503, Columbus, after saying he must hasten and finish up his work of divine inspiration, namely, the opening up of the whole earth to the spread of Christianity preparatory to the coming of the Lord, added as follows: "According to my calculations there remain now to the end of the world but one hundred and fifty years!" How very striking it is that the great discoverer of the earth's western hemisphere should have been impelled to his task and have enthusiastically performed it all under a deep and solemn conviction of the fast approaching, and, we may say, the actual imminence of the Great Consummation. ‡

EARLY NEW ENGLAND PASTORS.

The well-known Increase Mather, in a work published in 1710, said: "The first and famous pastors in the New England churches did, in their public ministry, frequently insist on the doctrine of Christ's glorious kingdom on earth, which shall take place after the conversion of the Jews and when the fullness of the Gentiles shall

* Written to Ferdinand and Isabella.

† He probably followed the Septuagint instead of the Hebrew chronology. Humboldt's Critical Examination, etc., Vol. I. pp. 15-19. Irving's Life of Columbus, I. pp. 38, 79, 119; III. p. 201.

come in. It is a pity that this doctrine is no more inculcated by the present ministry." He adds that the too great silence of the pulpit at that time on the subject, "induced me the rather to preach, and now by the press to publish, what is emitted herewith."*

But few of these first pastors were authors of books; hence we can only judge of their views by such historic testimony as Mather and others furnished, and by the few works they published. Nevertheless we know that for a hundred years the large mass of New England Christians knew nothing of a post-millennial advent. "Millenarian doctrines," wrote Joshua Spalding, "were, beyond all dispute, favorite doctrines with the Fathers of New England.” †

ELIOT, A. D. 1631.

John Eliot, the celebrated and indefatigable evangelist among the Indians, and the translator into the Indian tongue of the first Bible ever printed in America from the foundation of the world, held similar views with Huet. He was pastor at Roxbury, Mass., 16311689. In one place he writes of "the great kingdom of Christ, which we wait for, when all kingdoms and nations shall become his." Rev. 11:15. He does not allude to the thousand years of Rev. 20, but delighted in the hope of our Lord's return. Dr. Cotton Mather records that on his dying bed "his discourses from time to time ran upon the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ; it was the theme which he still had recourse unto, and we were sure to have something of this, whatever other subject he was upon." Christians in those days had not learned to deny in toto a personal second coming

Faith and Fervency in Prayer. Pref., p. 18. † Spalding's Lectures, 1796, p. 254.

Magnalia, book 3, p. 257.

R. MATHER AND OTHERS—WILLIAMS.

297

of their Lord, nor had they ceased to "love his appearing," and live "looking for that blessed hope."

R. MATHER AND OTHERS, A. D. 1635.

Richard Mather, pastor at Dorchester, Mass., 1635, John Higginson, born, 1616, pastor at Salem, with John Dury, a minister in Massachusetts, all held views similar to those of Shepherd, Huet, and Eliot. "The sanctifying of the Lord's name and the coming of the Lord's kingdom," writes Mather, "are the first two things in the Lord's prayer, hence their importance." And Cotton Mather, who preached at Higginson's funeral, said that "his soul was filled with longings for the consolation of Israel, and for the time when the kingdoms of the world shall become the kingdoms of our Lord.” * These three pastors say nothing about the Millennium, so far as we discover.

John Baily, pastor at Watertown, Mass., 1686, and Jonathan Mitchel, minister at Cambridge, Mass., 1635, held opinions like the pastors named. A divine kingdom was coming; it was near. So, too, did Joshua Moody, minister at Portsmouth, N. H., also at Boston, 1671. None of these wrote specially on prophecy, but all allusions to the Lord's last advent were joyful. It was the one hope. Baily said, "Let your happiness lie in the second coming of Christ;"† and Mitchel wrote, "Christ shall break out of the clouds and sit on the throne of his glory." +

WILLIAMS, A. D. 1635.

Roger Williams, founder of Rhode Island, 1635, and pastor of the first church in Providence, put the one

*Sermon, pp. 35-41.

† Man's Chief End, etc., 1689, p. 106, Sermons on Nehemiah 2: 10, 1671,

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