Anglo-American Millennialism, from Milton to the Millerites by Richard Connors

By Richard Connors

Neither the meliorist political tradition of the nascent American republic nor its later glide towards apocalyptically tinged 'fundamentalist' Protestantism and dispensationalism could be defined outdoor the context of the shared Anglo-American traditions and practices of millennial expectation and apocalyptic angst--whether expressed via early colonists, Milton, Blake, Miller or the Continental Congress. during this chronologically direct and thematically different quantity, 5 students operating in 3 designated disciplines (Religion, English literature, and background) procedure millennialism and apocalypticism within the British and Anglo-American contexts, making outstanding contributions either to the examine of non secular, literary and political tradition within the English-speaking ecumene, and, at the least implicitly, to the critique of disciplinary exclusivity. merely in such combined corporation does the research of the millennial nexus in English and American faith, tradition, literature and politics, from the time of Milton to the time of the Millerites, come into concentration.

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By Richard Connors

Neither the meliorist political tradition of the nascent American republic nor its later glide towards apocalyptically tinged 'fundamentalist' Protestantism and dispensationalism could be defined outdoor the context of the shared Anglo-American traditions and practices of millennial expectation and apocalyptic angst--whether expressed via early colonists, Milton, Blake, Miller or the Continental Congress. during this chronologically direct and thematically different quantity, 5 students operating in 3 designated disciplines (Religion, English literature, and background) procedure millennialism and apocalypticism within the British and Anglo-American contexts, making outstanding contributions either to the examine of non secular, literary and political tradition within the English-speaking ecumene, and, at the least implicitly, to the critique of disciplinary exclusivity. merely in such combined corporation does the research of the millennial nexus in English and American faith, tradition, literature and politics, from the time of Milton to the time of the Millerites, come into concentration.

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Foxe divides all history into apocalyptic ages—four ages in the 1563 edition (C4r), revised to five ages in 1570 (e1r)—each revolving around the activity of Antichrist and the true church’s attempt to resist him. The first book of the 1570 edition concludes with a numerological interpretation of the Book of Revelation and of recent events in European history (m3v–m4v). The 1576 edition expands this discussion and gives it a separate title heading, “The mystical numbers of the Apocalypse opened” ( J3v).

16   The conditions of nonmillenarian theology prevent him from elaborating a specifically English apocalyptic future in any detail. I believe that Foxe’s desire for a national future but inability to specify its relation to Christ’s return partly accounts for the difficulty modern scholars have had in gauging the precise proportion of nationalism and apocalypticism in Acts and Monuments. It may also account for Foxe’s curious ambivalence about the ending of his narrative. For example, both the 1576 and 1583 editions formally end with a brief section titled “Conclusion of the work,” in which Foxe speaks one last time about the present reign of Elizabeth and the near future.

Emphasis in original)52 Marshall’s apocalyptic futurism leads him to extend the purview of human effort from personal salvation to cosmic polity. The fate of Christ’s church on earth lies in English hands. The millenarian interpretation of Christ’s return thus shifted emphasis from the apocalyptic judgment of individual souls to the apocalyptic culmination of national effort. The outcome of this effort, as commentators make clear, remained uncertain, and hence the notion of an “elect nation” fails to capture the provisional quality of most millenarian thought.

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