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 flow towards apocalyptically tinged 'fundamentalist' Protestantism and dispensationalism might be defined open air the context of the shared Anglo-American traditions and practices of millennial expectation and apocalyptic angst--whether expressed by way of early colonists, Milton, Blake, Miller or the Continental Congress. during this chronologically direct and thematically various quantity, 5 students operating in 3 certain disciplines (Religion, English literature, and heritage) procedure millennialism and apocalypticism within the British and Anglo-American contexts, making striking contributions either to the research of spiritual, literary and political tradition within the English-speaking ecumene, and, at the least implicitly, to the critique of disciplinary exclusivity. purely in such combined corporation does the learn 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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Apocalypticism, for all its shortcomings, offered one of the few large-scale interpretations of history that mitigated the distressing sense of the English church’s novelty. At first glance, eschatology’s revelation of God’s unfolding plan does appear to resemble a narrative of progress. The difference remains crucial, however. In the post-Renaissance notion of progress, human institutions improve through time, each event producing a further set of resources or an additional paradigm of knowledge that nonetheless takes on a novel quality, breaking with the past.

67 My interpretation of Milton’s millennialism attempts to combine this sense of human activity with Appelbaum’s description of Milton’s earthly eternity. Hence, I’d perhaps reformulate Mueller’s conclusion as: Milton interprets the coming Apocalypse as a product of historical progress by imagining an affiliation between the apocalyptic future and the earthly, English future. True, Milton is no Winstanley; he provides no fullyfledged description of a future earthly paradise. Yet he repeatedly 66 “Tip-toeing to the Apocalypse: Herbert, Milton, and the Modern Sense of Time,” George Herbert Journal 19:1–2 (1995 Fall–1996 Spring): 39, 45.

To put it crudely: as a Christian, Foxe eagerly awaits the Promised End; as a nationalist, Foxe at times reveals an ambivalence about this End. 32 Rogers, Of the End of this World, and the Second Coming of Christ (London, 1577), C4r. According to STC this translation went through an impressive five editions between 1577 and 1589. 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.

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