This is a fourth post in a series on Bishop Jon Holt Titcomb’s evidence for British Israelism. His pamphlet is not only an argument for BI but also a defense of its methodology. Chapter 3 of his book, Message From the 19th-Century, now introduces the point that contemporary events may clarify Scripture’s prophecy regarding the fulfillment of Promises.
After discussing the latter-day, or at least, Messianic-Era basis of Micah 7.20 (see Ch. 2), Titcomb insists upon the longer extension of Christendom. In contrast to certain high-church views which tend to locate the completion of Abrahamic Promises in the rudiments of the primitive Church, Titcomb would elongate the period of such outflowings to recent time. He says,
“if the promises, guaranteed by the Abrahamic covenant to Jacob, are to be chiefly fulfilled under our own Messianic era, it is against both faith and reason that we should fix our attention only upon those fulfilled in the first century of Christendom, and overlook the later centuries.“
The comment is safe given Evangelicals in general believed the latter-day promises (before the second Coming of Christ) of the Covenant, namely the fullness of Gentiles and conversion of the Jews, were being accomplished (or happening very soon). Titcomb is simply reiterating something well-received in his own Evangelical milieu. However, the Bishop takes something of a minority-opinion, though of rising popularity at the mid-19th century– regarding a Millennial Dispensation prior to final judgement. But, keep in mind, Titcomb is operating within a set of ideas fairly popular even among clergy when he says,
“there is a very general consensus of opinion that we are rapidly drawing towards the end of the present dispensation. When I say this, I do not mean we are drawing near to the actual end of the world, but only toward the predicted time when that New Era will commence, which (for want of a better term) is called the Millennial Dispensation; an era which is to be ushered in after fearful conflicts between the Church and the confederate powers of a hostile world, but which will finally issue in a reign of universal peace; when the kingdom of Christ shall be established on the top of the mountains, and when ‘the knowledge of the glory of the Lord shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea'”.
Here, Titcomb is rather plain describing the school of eschatology he subscribes, namely, the premillennial type. At any rate, the expectation of Gentile and Jewish conversion (which I believe is indeed biblical), leaves the door open to considering current-day events as they are directed by Providence. Titcomb is sure, “we seem, at any rate, to have sufficiently approached it to be able to take stock of the events which have passed”. Yet, he also includes sufficient caution about worldly affairs when he warns, “They [current events] must be studied inn their full variety, as well as in their unity; otherwise divine inspiration becomes invalidated, and the Word of God is made void”. I suppose he wishes to avoid make too much about any single event but look at the longer course or trend instead?
Titcomb certainly believes current-day events can clarify scripture. Nor is this an unusual opinion given Dr. Smith’s (and Lowth earlier) broader meaning of the “Isles Afar”. Such a position was set forth by the eminent Bishop Joseph Butler (the father of the 18th-century evidential method), and Titcomb is smart to quote his Analogies, where Butler says,
“It is not all incredible that Scripture, which has been so long in possession of mankind, should contain many truths as yet undiscovered…It might, therefore, very possibly be intended that events, as they come to pass, should open and ascertain the meaning of several parts of the Scriptures.
Again, Titcomb is covering himself in the methodology of, probably, the greatest English apologist of his time (that is, Bulter). So, Titcomb has established three things, each of which were fairly-well received in the 19th century: 1) where mystery exists in Scripture, Truth can be ascertained by reasonable evidence, which can prepare Faith; 2) the Promises of Jacob extend into the latter-days and were not completed in the Apostolic era; 3) therefore, the events of the latter-days must reveal how God has been faithful to Jacob.
“This correlation of modern history with Scripture, being thus founded upon a reasonable basis, it has a necessary application to prophecy, and especially to the promises of the patriarchal covenant, which, as they stretched beyond the Mosaic dispensation, must obviously interpenetrate within the domain of Christendom“
In Chapter 4 Titcomb will analyze more particulars of the Abrahamic Covenant.