What, with all the current froth about John MacArthur's 'Calvinists should be premillennialists' speech, I'm glad that my dissertation topic is relevant and bang on the pulse of today's burning issues. I'm surveying premillennialism and responses to it among American Presbyterians in the late 1870s and 1880s. Really quite a narrow topic, but some interesting things are cropping up. For example, I've returned to J.C. Ryle through my background reading. I've just crept onto page 24 of my first draft.
Here's an interesting observation I made, interesting, because it raises the question of what we mean when we quote some source or authority:
Presbyterians contributed several papers or addresses at the New York Prophetic Conference of 1878. Some of the addresses from the conference were collected and published in a book the following year. Introducing the book Nathaniel West cites two recent examples of preterism before quoting at length J.C. Ryle’s ‘expression of the true faith’ in Ryle’s own ‘Pre-Millennian Creed’ published in the preface of his 1867 book Coming Events and Present Duties. Ryle became the first Anglican bishop of Liverpool in 1880, having served as a Church of England vicar in various parishes in the middle years of the 19th century. This reference to Ryle illustrates that J.N. Darby was not the only transatlantic influence on American millennialism. However a comparison of Ryle’s preface and West’s introduction reveals a curious omission in West’s recording of Ryle’s creed. In the second edition of Coming Events and Present Duties, Ryle’s 1867 preface includes the creed that West quotes. But West only records ten of the eleven paragraphs in Ryle’s creed. Ryle’s ninth paragraph is worth quoting fully because it is wholly omitted from West’s introduction:
IX. I do not believe that the preterist scheme of interpreting the Apocalypse, which regards the book as almost entirely fulfilled, or the futurist scheme, which regards it as almost entirely unfulfilled, are either of them to be implicitly followed. The truth, I expect, will be found to lie between the two. (Ryle xi)
West’s introduction omits this paragraph and replaces it with Ryle’s tenth paragraph about the Roman Catholic Church and the Pope. Ryle’s eleventh paragraph, which encourages Christians ‘to expect as little as possible from Churches or Governments under the present dispensation,’ while at the same time holding themselves ready for sudden changes in the established order of things, is quoted. West fails to note the list of things that Ryle refuses to comment on, including the rapture of the saints, the burning up of the earth, and the first resurrection.