The First Report of the General Conference of Christians Expecting the Advent of the Lord Jesus Christ


Table of Contents


In presenting this work to their constituents, and to the public, the Publishing Committee have allowed each author to express his own views in his own way; and it is matter of surprise, that articles prepared without consultation or mutual acquaintance of their writers, upon topics of highest interest on which Christians often disagree, should accord in doctrine, as these dissertations and discourses do, both among themselves, and with the great body of the Conference. Any exception to this, worthy of notice, is found in two particulars: 1. Prescribing a date for the time of the second advent; 2. Regarding the return of the Jews. FRGC 3.1

As to prescribing the time, the Committee state the fact of difference: comment is unnecessary. Those who prefix the date, give the reason; and the reason is interesting and worthy of close attention, though it fails to convince. A date there is, in which this most stupendous event will take place, and disclaiming the knowledge of it does not allow one to refuse the right hand of fellowship to others who think they have found it. FRGC 3.2

As to the return of the Jews, the main body of the Conference think they are not to return in this world, but only in “life from the dead.” Some, however, think they return in this world. This is a point of deepest interest-to the Jews, and the wise will not rush to a conclusion respecting it; but will rather search with deference the mind of the Spirit portrayed in the Bible. FRGC 3.3

A plausible objection has been made to the antiquity of the doctrine of the near coming of the Lord, which deceives some, to wit, That a hope cherished by the apostles, and by them soon expected to be realized, is not a proper hope for us to cherish, and to expect soon to realize; because the experience of eighteen hundred years is enough to prove it a false hope, an ignis fatuus, which no man in his senses can cherish and pursue. FRGC 3.4

This objection lurks in the bosom of men, who are restrained from uttering it by its manifest impiety; men who will not reject a doctrine of the apostles, neither can they readily discover a defence from the charge of insanity, in following a faith which many generations have failed apparently to realize. For them we observe:- FRGC 3.5

“Far” and “near” are wholly comparative; their value and power depend on their connexion, whether with time and this world, or with eternity and infinite space. At night, morning draws near; and in the sleep of death, the morning of the resurrection. Eternity admits of points of time two thousand years in duration, scarcely visible to faith; and infinite space admits of points two millions of miles in diameter, scarcely visible, yea, invisible to the natural eye. The holy and blessed God shows to finite mortals works of his hands so remote, that the diameter of the earth’s orbit around the sun is a mere point in space compared with their immeasurable distance: even a thousand millions of miles is to their infinite distance, as nothing, in the eyes of an astronomer! O fool to think, and mad to say, that with Him whose works are so extended, eternity is limited; and two thousand years of experience is enough to prove the delusion of His promise; and the ages of the church are sufficient to convict. His holy apostles of mistaking the times; and also to warrant the wise at this day in departing from His counsel, and from the example of the primitive church! The mighty God, who regards the nations as the fine dust of the balance; who stretches out the heavens as a curtain; who marshals their innumerable hosts, and calls every one by its name; who slings the moon about the earth by invisible cords, the earth about the sun, and the sun with its planetary train around some centre, as of the cluster of the Milky Way: He can speak to his creature man of a period of two thousand years, as a very short time. The sun in the heavens has moved during that period many thousand miles every hour, without having very sensibly receded from one portion of the heavens, or approached the other; and the period of two thousand years may be, and probably is, less to the whole time of the sun’s circuit around his unknown centre, than two days are to the earth’s circuit around the sun. The mighty God is able to announce the near approach of the Sun of Righteousness, and to require the apostles, and the generations from their age to this, to believe, and to proclaim it; and also to fulfil his word, though many ages sleep in death yet, before his glorious appearing. FRGC 3.6

We are children in knowledge, and our duty is, to believe implicitly what our heavenly Father tells us. When first told the earth is round, who did not suppose it was a round plane? and when further told it is a globe, inhabited beneath and all around, what child ever failed to know better? it being self-evident to children that men cannot live in the antipodes, and walk and do business, without falling off. The mysteries of the world to come are greater to the profoundest human intellect, than the things of this world are to little children; and their folly in disputing with their teachers is incomparably less, than that of the man who sets up the experience of the world, to refute the promise of the world’s Maker, Redeemer, and coming King. If the child cannot believe the earth is inhabited all around, it is due to his teacher, and to the wisdom of age, to submit his judgment, and to restrain his unbelief. No less is it due to the word of God by his apostles, to hearken to what they say; and if any doctrine of theirs seems to contradict our common sense, it becomes us to consider that we are of yesterday and know nothing;-the great Newton himself being, in his own esteem, a child playing with pebbles on the shore of knowledge, while the great ocean stretched beyond him. FRGC 4.1

The objector insists: “If the event was at hand in the apostles’ days, reason, manhood and philosophy cry out upon him who thinks it has not already come to pass.” FRGC 4.2

Reason, manhood and philosophy do no such thing. They admit and approve of paradoxes in the visible world greater than this. The passage of light is in this world instantaneous: it is only by the eclipses we learn to measure its flight; and by following on to know, we learn that stars are visible by the telescope, whose light has been longer in coming to us than this world has had a being:-that is, a thing instantaneous on earth, is above six thousand years in heaven! And the great and incomprehensible One, who made all worlds, and made the light to traverse his realms with messages of his glory, (which messages time has not been long enough for light to bear through the vast regions of his empire.) is faithful and true to his word, and will fulfil it to the letter, not withstanding he promised eighteen hundred years ago to come quickly, and has not appeared yet; and notwithstanding men do scoff, and ask, in the words of the prophet, “Where is the promise of his coming?” FRGC 4.3

The Almanac of heaven is made up of seasons and of cycles imperfectly known to man; and when it records the sign of the coming of the Son of Man, in language to make every reader of the holy word, in every age and generation, look out for the day of judgment and of righteous retribution, it mercifully regards his nature, to neglect what comes not within the reach of his own time and arm; and it urges him to holiness by the very highest motive, if he will receive it; at the same time no delusion is practised, for the dead realize, what the living will soon prove to be accurately true, the fidelity of the promise: “Surely I come quickly: Amen.” FRGC 5.1

The dissertations in this Report are prepared by men of devout habits, of independent and thinking minds, who do not fear to combat error because it is intrenched in high, and even in holy places: men who fear God, and reverence high and holy places; but able, at the same time, to distinguish between the place and the tenant; men willing to engage with angels of light for the truth of Jesus and his word, not with scoffing and railing, but in the fair exhibition of his faith, doctrine and life. The discourses on the Chronology of Prophecy exhibit patient industry, close reflection, and a formidable conclusion; seeing that many ages have been wont to regard the time of this world as only six thousand years. The discourses on the Judgment, the Second Advent, and the Restoration of Israel, are fraught with revealed truth, set in plain light and clear, with fresh aspects of the most solemn, personal, and joyful interest. We are of “Israel,” or we have no part in Christ; and we have part in “Israel’s” promises, chief among which is that of a restoration. But our Holy Land is not Palestine under the curse; our holy city is not Jerusalem which is in bondage with her children; our King is not the prince of this world: but our hope, our promised land, our holy city, is in the world to come with “Jesus and the Resurrection,” where “there shall be no more curse.” “The former things are passed away;-behold, I make all things new.” FRGC 5.2

The discourse on the Millennium contains matter of high interest drawn from original fountains; and seems completely to overset the commonly received doctrine on that subject. For it must be confessed by intelligent divines, that the popular doctrine of the millennium is a modern one, totally unknown to the primitive and martyr church: so modern that it has never a place in the formula of the faith of any church. Catholic, Greek, Roman, or Protestant: but all their creeds involve the contrary: a doctrine alike opposed to the divine economy with all past ages, and opposed to the promises relating to this world, and to the destiny of man;-the law and the prophets uniting with the gospel to teach the vanity of this life and the reality of the resurrection and of the world to come. [CD-ROM Editor’s Note: The History and Doctrine of the Millennium, while published as part of this book, was paged separately. Thus you will find it coded HDM separately from this current document.] FRGC 5.3

The attention of divines is called to these subjects. We hope that learned and gifted minds will be faithful to examine, and bold to speak the truth on this world’s Millennium, with a view to dissipate the thick darkness which shrouds from the sight of thousands “the blessed hope and glorious appearing of the great God, and our Savior Jesus Christ.” FRGC 5.4