Understanding The Bible
Clarence E. Mason's "ESCHATOLOGY 1"


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Dr. Clarence E. Mason, Jr.
Philadelphia College of Bible

Edited by Dr. Clarence E. Mason, Jr.

    1. General assumption
      1. Origin of Dispensationalism
        It has been asserted or assumed by almost all opponents of the dispensational viewpoint that the whole idea is of comparatively recent origin. Some of the lesser informed have attributed its origin to Dr. C. I. Scofield (1843-1921) or/and some anonymous confreres. Those who consider themselves better informed knowingly and unctuously affirm that Scofield got his idea from John Nelson Darby (1800-1882) with perhaps an assist from Dr. James H. Brookes (1830-1897), with whom he studied privately after his conversion in St. Louis in 1879. It is also assumed that if they but knew the "facts" (that is, of its recent and Plymouth Brethren origin), most of the present-day adherents of dispensationalism would be shocked and, very probably, reconsider the advisability of retaining their view. The following quotes are typical:

        Bear begins his treatment of dispensationalism with the statement, "Dispensationalism as we know it today is of comparatively recent origin, having had its beginnings in England in the last century among the Plymouth Brethren."1

        A recent writer put it this way: "In the United States, the theology of the Plymouth Brethren blossomed into Dispensationalism, gaining
        adherents from among Christians of every sort, some so remote from Brethrenism as to be shocked upon learning the source of their doctrines. This theology has brought into being a large body of literature, a great number of schools, and many Christian movements. Its adherents have constituted, if not the backbone, at least much of the bony structure of conservatism for the past fifty years. Yet it is a theology which is treated with studied ignorance by large sections of the theological world."
      2. Implications of this theory
        This approach leaves two impressions: (1) that a movement of so recent origin must of necessity be assumed to be untrue; (2) it likewise implies that a person would never get any such ideas from personal Bible study, and that, therefore, the critics of dispensationalism have successfully traced the source of contamination and infection to Darby and the (Plymouth) Brethren.
    2. Explanation and answer
      1. Origin of Dispensationalism
        (1) It is admitted that in the last 150 years a substantial literature has been produced, and a greatly enlarged public have been brought into the picture through this literature and the spoken word as preached from pulpits, taught in Bible conferences and Bible schools, etc. This is especially true since 1875, and more so since the First World War, whose world-shaking events led to a greater and more earnest interest in the study of prophecy on the part of many. But we feel there is an adequate explanation for these facts. The line of thought goes somewhat like this...

        (2) As it will be shown later in these notes, when we come to the proper place, Premillennialism was strongly entrenched in the thought and life of the Early Church of the first four centuries, reaching formal climax in the great church creeds, such as the Nicean and Athanasian Creeds. There would of necessity be dispensations involved in the transitions required by Chiliasm, from Israel and her promises to her rejection of Messiah and the establishment of the Church, to the translation of the Church, to the return of Christ and the setting up of His kingdom. That there was basic recognition of such transitions, involving a procession of ages or dispensations will be affirmed later on pages 26-27 and 117-124.

        (3) We dispensationalists feel that the disrupted conditions which led to the dominance of Rome in the dark ages were not only sufficient explanation for the eclipse of this truth in the Church's thinking and writing, but for the distortion by Rome of the other great truths which the Church expressed at the Council of Nicea, etc.; e.g., justification.

        (4) We dispensationalists feel that it is not difficult to see why such truths as justification by faith and the problems of ecclesiology should have occupied the primary attention of the reformers and most of their adherents for a considerable time, as they sought to dig out from under the Roman debris.

        (5) We dispensationalists feel that the truths the Early Church held dear in relation to the Lord's return and kingdom inevitably came to light and prominence as men took time - after the heat of reformation controversy died down - to study what the Scripture had to say about God's plan for the world and its future.

        (6) We dispensationalists feel that, hence, the recovery of the premillennial emphasis of the Early Church was the proper result of such study, and that it was seen to be part of the overall picture of God's plan for the ages.

        (7) In point of time, therefore, the literature on dispensationalism would be the last to be developed. Men had previously been chiliasts but had not developed a full -blown system which shared its place with other great doctrines in the well-ordered program of God's dealings with man. Here and there they had said things which showed they realized that the return of Christ was not an isolated event but the culmination of God's purpose in the world. Nevertheless the logical dispensational system which is the basis for the culminating rule of Christ on the earth was developed when men gave the same amount of time to the study of this field as they had previously given to the other areas of Bible doctrine, such as Soteriology, Theology Proper, Anthropology, Hamartiology, Ecclesiology, and so on.

        Premillennialism known as "Chiliasm" in those days, being the Greek word for 1000. There were no post-or Amillennialists then, hence no need for the term Premillennialists. It was a standard part of the doctrine of the Church that Christ was coming back to earth again to rule for 1000 years. (Chiliasm is pronounced Kiliasm, like "Ch" in Christ.)

        (8) We shall demonstrate (pages 26ff.)that there was some discussion on the ages-dispensations question from very early times. It will be particularly pointed out, in rebuttal of the Darby-origin idea, that no less than 15 writers of more or less prominence wrote (many quite extensively) on the subject in pre-Darby times, between 1625-1825,

        (9) Dispensationalists are convinced that there can be no logical Premillennialism which is not based upon the dispensational emphases of the covenants with Abraham and David. There is certainly no future for the Jew or need for a kingdom reign of the Lord Jesus Christ if the covenants with Abraham and David affecting Israel, and through her the world, are not the valid basis and the controlling interpretational principles of one s eschatology. Therefore, the rediscovery of Premillennialism - held so earnestly by the Early Church - could not logically have failed to lead to an extensive study and elaboration of the principles which demand a return and reign of Christ. This is nothing more nor less than dispensationalism
      2. Implications concerning Dispensationalism's Origin answered
        (1) The movement must be untrue because comparatively new.
        The previous section a, and G, 3 (to follow), will have shown that the emphasis on the very recent origin of dispensationalism is erroneous. But even among those writers who first of all seek to establish a recent date, some must admit, as does Bear, that this is not a valid argument:
        "of course, doctrine may be new and yet not untrue" (Ibid, pp. 3-4). Rutgers, one of the most thoroughgoing foes. says: "Dispensationalism is modern in the sense that its widespread acceptance among Christians in America dates from the last decade of the 19th century. But it is not an invention of these few decades." (W. H. Rutgers, Premillennialism in America, p. 172). Reese is stronger. He puts it: "It matters not that (views) are new and novel. . .what men call heresy sometimes proves to be the truth of God." (Alexander Reese, The Approaching Advent of Christ, pp. IX, 29.). "Kromminga goes farther to assert: "Subdivision of dispensations had already been made by Tertullian and Joachim...' (D. H. Kromminga, The Millennium in the Church, p. 289).

        Are the propounders of this insinuation willing to accept responsibility for that principle if it were applied to the rise of the period of modern missions? Certainly the emphasis on missions so evident in the Early Church was lost in the Dark Ages under Rome. Just as certainly the Reformers did little or nothing to revive missionary activity and some spoke against the idea. Today everyone recognizes William Carey as the Father of the Modern Missionary Era (1790). The date was comparatively recent, after the writing of the U.S. Constitution. Is the missionary truth and emphasis, so recently recovered, to be urged as dangerous and automatically untrue because of that fact? Then, let such arguments be seen to be what they are, unfounded and grossly misleading.

        (2) No one would ever get any idea like dispensationalism from a study of the Scripture. It _is always traceable to a source of contamination and infection.

        A few years ago I received part of an unpublished paper from Talmage Wilson which makes a rather desperate effort to identify Darby as the source of infection in the case of James H. Brookes, because Darby visited Brookes in St. Louis on two or three occasions starting in 1864. In response to Wilson's request for an evaluation of his paper, I wrote the following which serves to illustrate the problem and to answer the implication raised:

        "Now concerning your comment on Brookes's relation to Darby. Undoubtedly men are influenced by what other men speak and write, and undoubtedly Brookes influenced Scofield, but I feel that your line of evidence which places Darby, Brookes, Scofield, Moody, Torrey, etc. in a sort of apostolic succession is circumstantial and presumptive, but not demonstrative, especially in the case of Brookes and Darby. But, supposing such influence could be demonstrated.

        "My first reaction is: What would be wrong with that, if it were true? Do not most of us find ourselves influenced by what we have heard and read from others? So, if your presumption were true, it would scarcely call for special comment, for people are supposed to pass on to others what God shows them from their study of the Bible. But, if the one influenced the other, why might not Brookes have influenced Darby quite as much as you presume Darby influenced Brookes?

        "It appears that who influenced whom would be of little significance unless you were committed to the proposition that the system is so abstruse that no one else would have conceivably come up with it.

        "But if, as Ehlert indicates (on pages 26ff. of this syllabus), other men prior to Darby had independently expressed themselves as seeing a series of eras-' dispensations-ages-or economies under which God dealt with men, then what happens to your earnest attempt to trace all this erroneous system back to Darby? There is no indication that Darby got it from any of them, and there is certainly no indication that any of them got their ideas from one another.

        "What is the conclusion then? May it be that you have overlooked something very important? Is it not possible that careful reading of the Scripture could lead different men at different times without collaboration to a similar or the same conclusion? In other words, are you not assuming too much when you imply that no one would get such a system out of personal research of the Scripture; that he could only get it from someone else, who in some strange way developed a queer system of interpretation?

        "Though it would have been perfectly proper for Brookes to accept Darby's explanation, or for Darby to accept someone else's explanation, if Brookes says that he came to his own conclusions from a study of Scripture, is there not precedent in the experience of some of those other men (Poiret, Watts, etc.) for. such a possibility? If the system is not inherent in Scripture and must always be learned from another (and thus be traced back to one source of contamination) how do you explain the multiple adherents m pre-Darby days? (pp.28ff.)

        "Also, is it not true that although we do hear and read others, have we not again and again in our own experience deliberately set time apart and given ourselves to a study of what the text of Scripture itself says? Particularly because he was equipped for this study with skill in the original languages, I would see nothing in Brookes's statement that would make it impossible for him to say honestly and sincerely that he came to his conclusion from a study of the Scripture, even if he, at the same time, evaluated things that he had heard and read pro and con on the subject. I am trying to say that it is possible to be convinced that the Scripture says something without succumbing to some book(s) or oral exposition(s) of some writer(s) and/or speaker(s). I think he means he made his final decision solely on the authority of Scripture regardless of whether it cut directly across or agreed with what Darby or anyone else said or wrote.

        "May I cite a very similar illustration in Dr. Albert Schweitzer's experience? You will remember that he took his Greek Testament-with him when he left Strasbourg to go into his compulsory military training service period. You will remember that all his professors and the great minds of his day and most of the great theologians of Europe were confidently asserting, and had for many years asserted, that the kind of kingdom Jesus was announcing was not eschatological but an ethical rule of God over the hearts of men on earth. You will remember that after exhaustive study of the Greek New Testament alone, Schweitzer became thoroughly convinced that the very same kingdom the O.T. prophets had been predicting a Messiah would set up on earth was the only kind of kingdom which Jesus could properly be interpreted as offering (as recorded in the Gospels). In other words, Schweitzer came to exactly the same conclusion from the study of the Greek New Testament itself that Premillennialists came to when they insisted that the kingdom Jesus offered was an earthly, literal kingdom on David's throne, albeit on moral and spiritual bases predicated on repentance.

        "Because Schweitzer did not believe in the kind of inspiration we do, he was then forced to say that this kind of kingdom was what Jesus actually believed and taught, but that He was mistaken. Of course, we say that this was the kind of kingdom Jesus meant, but that Israel did not repent; thus, this kingdom was rejected in the King, and was put in abeyance ("postponed") until they should, through the suffering of Daniel's 70th week, be brought to the place where they shall "look on Him whom they have pierced and mourn because of Him" and say "blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord." In the meantime, God has revealed that which was "hidden from ages and generations past," His Church, and is accomplishing His witness to the world through the Church until He takes that Church out of the world unto Himself and again takes up His dealings with His ancient people, Israel, with the result previously stated, the setting up of the mediatorial Messianic kingdom of 1000 years on earth.

        "Is it not true that Schweitzer insists that he came to his conclusion in spite of all he was taught, from a study of the Greek New Testament alone? I ask, therefore, 'Who was the John N. Darby who misled him?'"
    3. A Survey of Literature on Dispensations PRIOR TO the Modern Emphasis (up to 1825)
      1. Apostolic Times and the Church Fathers
        "In apostolic and near apostolic times, because the first coming of Christ was fresher in the minds of men, and because His second coming was a bright and living daily hope, the events of the general eschatological program which were constantly expected have a very prominent place in the writings of the 'fathers' of those times. To this fact the united testimony of all sources gives unfailing witness. " (Lincoln) This quotation refers of course particularly to the coming and kingdom of Christ (i.e., Premillennialism or chiliasm), but as already pointed out, these truths rest on the implication of an orderly procession of the ages.

        Dr. Arnold D. Ehlert has done the best piece of research in this field and his findings, entitled "A Bibliography of Dispensationalism, " are recorded in Bibliotheca Sacra, numbers 401-409,1944-46. Any person will be well rewarded by reading this series.

        In number 402, Ehlert calls attention to the Christian adaptation of the old Jewish "septa-millenary tradition." By this is meant that the Jews had a tradition that the world would go on for 6000 years, and Messiah would then come and reign in a final 1000 years, making 7000 years of mankind's history in all. Early Christian writers clearly emphasized Christ's coming for a 1000 year reign which was sometimes said to be the seventh 1000 years, but they rather generalized on the six eras of 1000 years which preceded. Eventually the emphasis came to be on the obvious transitions in the program of God's dealings with men regardless of whether the transitions fell on even 1000 years. Thus, logical rather than chronological divisions resulted and this was the first step toward a consistent dispensational sequence.

        Among those whom Ehlert quotes in No. 403 is Clement of Alexandria (150?-220?) concerning whom Dr. Samuel Hanson Cox claimed that his seven-fold system was "sustained by Clement's authority." Clement pluralized "the patriarchal dispensation" distinguishing clearly three patriarchal dispensations (in Adam, Noah, and Abraham). Then comes the Mosaic. Clement also held a multi-covenant position, speaking of the "sacred tetrad of the ancient covenants."

        Augustine quotes Pelagius (3607-420?) and Coelestius as "dividing the times" so as to say that "men first lived righteously by nature, then under the law, thirdly under grace, --by nature meaning all the long time from Adam before the giving of the law." He quotes them as follows, '"For then, ' say they, 'the Creator was known by the guidance of reason; and the rule of living rightly was carried written in the hearts of men, not in the law of the letter, but of nature. But men's manners became corrupt; and then,' they say, 'when nature now tarnished began to be insufficient, the law was added to it, whereby as by a moon the original luster was restored to nature after its original blush was impaired. But after the habit of sinning had too much prevailed among men, and the law was unequal to the task of curing it, Christ came; and the Physician Himself, through His own self, and not through His disciples, brought relief to the malady at its most desperate development.'"

        Another writer cited was Theodoret, bishop of Cyrrhus (3907-4577).

        But by all odds the most important name to consider is that of Augustine (354-430). His famous "Distinguish the times (ages) and Scripture agrees (is in harmony with itself)" sounds good, though some feel its context weakens its force.

        Ehlert then cites three significant quotations from Augustine) very clearly showing his belief in successive ages to which the dispensations are adapted:

        "The divine institution of sacrifice was suitable in the former dispensation, but is not suitable now. For the change suitable to the present age has been enjoined by God, who knows infinitely better than man what is fitting for every age. and who is, whether He give or add, abolish or curtail, increase or diminish, the unchangeable Governor as He is the unchangeable Creator of mutable things, ordering all events in His providence until the beauty of the completed course of time, the component parts of which are the dispensations adapted to each successive age, shall be finished, like the grand melody of some ineffably wise master of song, and those pass into the eternal contemplation of God who here, though it is a time of faith, not of sight, are acceptably worshipping Him." (A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, ed. Philip Schaff, First Series, vol. 1, 482).

        Again, "For as the man is not fickle who does one thing in the morning and another in the evening, one thing this month and another in the next. one thing tills year and another next year, so there is no variableness with God, though in the former period of the world's history, He enjoined one kind of offerings, and in the latter period another, therein ordering symbolical actions pertaining to the blessed doctrine of true religion in harmony with the changes of successive epochs without any change in Himself. For in order to let those whom these things perplex understand that the change was already in the divine counsel, and that, when the new ordinances were appointed, it was not because the old had suddenly lost the divine approbation through inconstancy in His will, but that tills had been already fixed and determined by the wisdom of that God to whom, in reference to much greater changes, these words are spoken in Scripture: "Thou shaft change them, and they shall be changed; but Thou art the same, (Ps. 102:26-27) it is necessary to convince them that this exchange of the sacraments of the Old Testament for those of the New had been predicted by the voices of the prophets, For thus they will see, if they can see anything, that what is new in time is not new in relation to Him who has appointed the times, and who possesses, without succession of time, all those things which He assigns according to their variety to the several ages." (Schaff, op. cit., p. 483).

        Similarly, Augustine says, "If it is now established that. that which was for one age rightly ordained may be in another age rightly changed, - -the alteration indicating a change in the work, not in the plan, of Him who makes the change, the plan being framed by His reasoning faculty, to which, unconditioned by succession in time, those things are simultaneously present which cannot be actually done at the same time because the ages succeed each other." (Ibid.).
      2. The Dark Ages: from the Fall of the Roman Empire (476 AD) to the End of the Reformation (c.1625).

        As we would expect, there was no substantial constructive teaching during this period when the Bible was chained in monasteries, monks' cells, and church edifices.

        A few who mentioned the idea of eras in God's dealings with men are: Aelifric (? - 1006/20?), Joachim of Fiore (1130/45-1201/2), Amalric of Bena (?-1202/06), and even the Koran's interesting Mohammedan parallel to the idea of successive revelations by dispensations.
      3. The Post-Reformation Period, c.1625 to c. 1825
        After the heat of controversy over Soteriology had cleared the air on justification by faith, men began to study and write on the important questions involved in God's dealings with man. The 15 citations of this period according to No. 404 (Bib. Sac.) are:

        William Gouge (1575/78-1653)
        William Cave (1637-1713)
        Pierre Poiret (1646-1719)
        John Edwards (1639-1716)
        John Shute Barrington (1678-1734)
        Isaac Watts (1674-1748)
        Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758)
        John Taylor (1694-1761)
        John Fletcher (1729-1785)
        David Bogue (1750-1825)
        Adam Clarke (1762-1832)
        Joseph Priestley (1733-1804)
        George Stanley Faber (1773-1843)
        David Russell (1779-1848)
        Richard Watson (1781-1833)

        From these writers a few comments are chosen to show the keen interest and care they displayed in the development of their study concerning God's dealings with man, and especially to emphasize the 6 or 7 division tendency which many of them had come to see. Also, a number of the writers distinguish the idea of dispensation as a stewardship or revelation of truth from the time word (usually age) to which that stewardship is particularly related.

        It is to be regretted that some of their treatises were hampered in their development by the author's adherence to the so-called all-time covenant of grace. But otherwise Poiret's, Edwards's, and Watts's systems practically parallel the popular present-day division.

        From this view of 6 or 7 dispensations, modern covenantism has receded and now allows only 2 or 3 within the Covenant of Grace, sometimes including the Covenant of Redemption as a joint covenant. The Covenant of Works is added outside but related to the Covenant of Grace. (Cp. Hodge's scheme, p. 35)

        On the contrary, starting with the same background, present-day dispensationalism has advanced in clarity of thinking and expression to a different division of Biblical truth divorced from the whole covenantism of redemption-works-grace idea at the beginning of Section III.

        (1) Isaac Watts (1674-1748), the great hymn writer, was also a considerable theologian. His collected works fill six large volumes. He wrote an essay of some forty pages entitled, "The Harmony of all the Religions which God ever Prescribed to Men, and all his Dispensations towards them." Due to the comparative inaccessibility of his works to the general public, it seems to be in order to quote here his definition of dispensations.

        "The public dispensations of God towards men, are those wise and holy constitutions of his will and government, revealed or some way manifested to them, in the several successive periods or ages of the world, wherein are contained the duties which he expects from men, and the blessings which he promises, or encourages them to expect from him, here and hereafter; together with the sins which he forbids, and the punishments which he threatens to inflict on such sinners: Or, the dispensations of God may be described more briefly, as the appointed moral rules of God's dealing with mankind, considered as reasonable creatures, and as accountable to him for their behavior, both in this world and in that which is to come. Each of these dispensations of God, may be represented as different religions, or, at least, as different forms of religion, appointed for men in the several successive ages of the world." (Isaac Watts, Works, ed. Leeds, II. 537-573; 625-660).

        Watt's outline follows:
        I.    The Dispensation of Innocency; or, the Religion of Adam at first
        II.    The Adamical Dispensation of the Covenant of Grace, or, the Religion of Adam after his Fall
        III.    The Noachical Dispensation; or, the Religion of Noah
        IV.    The Abrahamical Dispensation; or, the Religion of Abraham
        V.    The Mosaical Dispensation; or, the Jewish Religion
        VI.    The Christian Dispensation

        It is not possible to go into detail here as to the great mass of material contained in this work. One can only recommend its perusal to any who would attempt to understand the beginnings of dispensationalism in its larger sense.

        (2) John Edwards (1639-1716) wrote the first extensive treatise on the subject of dispensations that has come to our attention. He was an eminent English Calvinist, educated at Merchant -Taylor's School, London, and St. John's College, Cambridge, of which latter he became scholar and fellow. He moved to Cambridge in 1697 and spent the following two years in the library there. In 1699 he published two volumes totaling some 790 pages entitled A Complete History or Survey of all the Dispensations.

        In his preface he has this to say: "I have undertaken a Great Work, viz., to display all the Transactions of Divine Providence relating to the Methods of Religion, from the Creation to the end of the World, from the first Chapter of Genesis to the last of the Revelation. For I had not met with any Author that had undertaken to comprise them all, and to give us a true account of them according to their true Series: nor had I ever lit upon a Writer (either Foreign or Domestic) who had designedly traced the particular causes and Grounds of them, or settled them in their right and true foundations. Wherefore I betook myself to this Work, resolving to attempt something, though it were only to invite others of greater skill to go on with it." (see John Edwards, A Complete History or Survey of all the Dispensations and Methods of Religion, 2 Vols., London, 1699). From this it appears that there was a literature on the subject at that early date, which could probably still be examined at the Cambridge libraries.

        The scheme that Edwards developed is rather involved. He understood three great "Catholic and Grand Oeconomies, " the third of which he subdivided, and which constitutes the main sweep of Biblical time to the consummation and conflagration.

        Following is his scheme outlined:

        I.    Innocency and Felicity, or Adam created upright
        II.    Sin and Misery, Adam fallen III. Reconciliation, or Adam recovered, from Adam's redemption to the end of the World, "The discovery of the blessed seed to Adam":
            a.    Patriarchal economy:
                (1)    Adamical, antediluvian
                (2)    Noachical
                (3)    Abrahamic
            b.    Mosaical
            c.    Gentile (concurrent with a and b)
            d.    Christian or Evangelical:
                (1)    Infancy, primitive period, past
                (2)    Childhood, present period
                (3)    Manhood, future (millennium)
                        NOTE: Edwards believed in a millennium, but he took it to be a spiritual reign. He was antichiliastic. The reign would be characterized by universal righteousness and holiness, but he declines to set the time of its commencement. With regard to the coming of Christ, he says, "I conceive he may Personally Appear above, though he will not Reign Personally on Earth," II, 720.
                (4)    Old age, from the loosing of Satan to the conflagration

        It is impossible to go into detail here as to the great mass of material contained in this work. One can only recommend its perusal to any who would attempt to understand the beginnings of dispensationalism in its larger sense.

        (3)    Perre Poiret (1646-1719) was a French mystic and philosopher, whose more than forty works are of great importance to French theological thought. He attempted, like many others, to comprehend the whole story of redemption in one sweep, and saw clearly that the work of God through the ages falls into various periods differing in detail, yet preserving a unifying thread throughout. His great work, L'Oeconomie Divine, first published in Amsterdam in 1687, was (apparently by himself) rendered into English and published in London in six volumes and appendix in 1713.

        He started out to develop the doctrine of predestination, but says that so many things came to his attention that seemed to be inter-related that he decided to expand the work,' and the result is a rather complete Systematic Theology covering in considerable detail six of the seven major divisions (Bibliololgy being omitted). It is distinctly Biblical, although there is the mystical element and terminology in places, and he admits a modified form of purgatory.

        It appears to be a modified Calvinism, or mediate theology, but its most interesting and significant feature is the fact that it is premillennial and dispensational. As such, it forms the most solid kind of support to these doctrines as now held by conservative Bible students and teachers. The six volumes are entitled as follows:

        I.     The Oeconomy of the Creation
        II.     The Oeconomy of Sin
        III.     The Oeconomy of the Restoration before the Incarnation of Jesus Christ
        IV.     The Oeconomy of the Restoration after the Incarnation of Jesus Christ
        V.     The Oeconomy of the Co-operation of Man, with the Operation of God
        VI.     The Oeconomy of Universal Providence

        The main work is followed by an appendix in the form of a vindication against a letter by a certain Mr. LeClerc. Volume VI is a sort of recapitulation, but it goes on to treat the subject of the nations in relation to God's program, prophecies and their fulfillment; and there is a summary outline of Paul's epistle to the Romans in nineteen propositions with an abridgment of the first eight chapters, supporting the whole argument of the work. Grace is strong throughout, although free will is allowed.

        There is no question that we have here a genuine dispensational scheme. He uses the phrase "period or dispensation" and his seventh dispensation is a literal thousand-year millennium with Christ returned and reigning in bodily form upon the earth with His saints, and Israel regathered and converted. He sees the overthrow of corrupt Protestantism, the rise of the Antichrist, the two resurrections. and many of the general run of end-time events. These are all discussed more freely and fully than in any author to come under our attention in this bibliography up to the time of Darby.

        Poiret's dispensational scheme does not articulate with his volume titles. He is very clear that the seventh dispensation is the millennium. The sixth appears to be the latter portion of what we would call the Christian dispensation, and the fifth the early pare of it. The scheme is based on the septa-millenary tradition and somewhat on Augustine's scheme of ages and dispensations.

        His outline of the dispensations is as follows:
        I.     Infancy, to the deluge
        II.     Childhood, to Moses
        III.     Adolescence, to the prophets, or about Solomon's time
        IV.     Youth, to the time of the coming of Christ
        V.     Manhood, "some time after that"
        VI.     Old Age, "the time of his (man's) Decay"
        VII.     Renovation of all Things

        The author explains, "Though I do not pretend precisely to determine the Number nor Duration of these Periods, it is obvious however unto all, that the World hath really passed through Periods of this Nature." (Peter Poiret, The Divine Oeconomy: or, An Universal System of the Works and Purpose of God Towards Men Demonstrated, 7 vols. in 4 (as bound in the edition in the Rufus M. Jones Collection on Mysticism at Haverford College, the last volume having been labeled "Volume VII. Appendix" at some early date). London, 1713. See especially III, 150 ff.).

        Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) had a very interesting comment on the law-grace controversy of his day:
        "All allow that the Old Testament dispensation is out of date, with its ordinances: and I think in a manner pertaining to the constitution and order of the New Testament church, that is a matter of fact wherein the New Testament itself is express, full, and abundant. In such a case to have recourse to the Mosaic dispensation, for rules or precedents to determine our judgment, is quite needless and out of reason. There is perhaps no part of divinity attended with so much intricacy, and wherein orthodox divines do so much differ as the stating the precise agreement and difference between the two dispensations of Moses and Christ." (Jonathan Edwards, The Works of President Edwards, 1858, I, 160).
    4. Literature on Dispensations since 1825
      This has been increasingly extensive and it is not the purpose of this syllabus to review it. Our major emphasis was to show that there was a literature before 1825, All during the Church age people have pondered this providential program of God. They have come up with different answers but it is instructive to observe the large number who came up with 5 to 10 periods of God's dealings and especially interesting to note those who came up with 6 or 7.

      Ehlert makes the following significant comment on the period since 1825: "The year 1825 seems to be the logical dividing-line between the old and the new dispensational -ism. This is not to forget that many of the roots of later systems are to be found in works before that date, nor that much of the other philosophy is carried over to the later period. As late as 1929 a rather substantial volume appeared in England on the subject by George Croly in which he seems utterly to ignore almost all the dispensational literature since 1825, and indeed much of that before. He might as well have dated his book 1829 so far as the doctrinal content is concerned."
      1. John Nelson Darby (1800-1882)

        "Much has been said about the rise of so-called modern dispensationalism, Many date this beginning with John Nelson Darby, who first wrote on the subject in 1836. It is no doubt true that the Plymouth Brethren, of whom he was a prominent pioneer, colored the doctrine to a considerable extent, but it will appear readily to him who takes the pains to compare all the writers enumerated in this bibliography just how much this contribution was, and how much is to be traced to other various sources."

        Since so much has been said about Darby, I am including Ehlert's summary on him: "John Nelson Darby (1800-1882), one of the chief founders of the Plymouth Brethren movement in England, is credited with the great revival and a substantial advance of the whole subject of ages and dispensations. He was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, and was called to the English bar but soon gave that up for an ecclesiastical career. He took holy orders and served in a curacy in Wicklow until 1827, when his views on ecclesiastical authority and establishments caused him to leave the church and to take up association with a little company of believers of like mind m Dublin.

        "After some travel, he and several others settled in Plymouth (England) and started a little paper called The Christian Witness in 1834. It was in 1836 that Darby first published his dispensational views in tins paper under the title 'Apostasy of the Successive Dispensations.' It was afterward published in French as 'Apostasie de l'economic actuellc.' Darby's writings have been collected, though the collection is not complete, and published in 32 volumes (there was also a 35-volume edition, including an index volume), and it is in these volumes that we find his available writings on the subject.

        "In his article from The Witness he gives the philosophy of the dispensations and discusses each briefly. Communion with God in a new nature is God's desire for us, and the means by which He can bring us the knowledge of Himself as well as delight Himself in us. Good and evil have their important part in bringing about our instruction in grace, based upon the incarnation of Christ. 'This however we have to learn in its details, in the various dispensations which led to or have followed the revelations of the incarnate Son in whom all fullness was pleased to dwell, . .

        '"The detail of the history connected with these dispensations brings out many most interesting displays, both of the principles and patience of God's dealings with the evil and failure of man; and of the workings by which He formed faith on His own thus developed perfections. Bur the dispensations themselves all declare some leading principle or interference of God. some condition in which He has placed man, principles which in themselves are everlastingly sanctioned of God, but in the course of those dispensations placed responsibly in the hands of man for the display and discovery of what he was, and the bringing in their infallible establishment in Him to whom the glory of them all rightly belonged.. .

        '"In every instance, there was total and immediate failure as regarded man, however the patience of God might tolerate and carry on by grace the dispensation in which man has thus failed in the outset; and further, that there is no instance of the restoration of a dispensation afforded us, though there might be partial revivals of it through faith. (John Nelson Darby, Collected Writings, ed. Wm. Kelly, 2nd ed., London, 1857-1867, I, 192-193).

        "We might outline Darby's scheme as follows:
            (I.     Paradisiacal state), to the flood
            II.     Noah
            III.     Abraham
            IV.     Israel:
                a.     Under the law
                b.     Under the priesthood
                c.     Under the kings
            V.     Gentiles
            VI.     The Spirit VII. The Millennium

        (it is very difficult to get Darby's exact outline here, as he is not always a lucid writer. He says, "The paradisiacal state cannot properly be called a dispensation in this sense (i.e., that there is no instance of the restoration of a dispensation); but as regards the universal failure of man, it is a most important instance" (p, 194). This succession of dispensations is again discussed in II, 568-573. In neither place does he attach the millennium to the list as a dispensation, although he firmly holds to the literal thousand years. His chapter on "The Dispensation of the Kingdom of Heaven," II, 80-96, does not indicate clearly whether he means to identify the Dispensation of the Kingdom of Heaven with what he elsewhere calls the Dispensation of the Spirit. The Church is not properly a dispensation, IV, 504; V, 24. The present dispensation is parenthetical, I, 142; XIII, 236; XXVI, 373).

        Much has been said about Scofield parroting Darby. It is with somewhat of a shock that one reads Darby's very different list. Note he omits Innocence (as I do) as a true dispensation, though it is a crucial turning point (see footnote #18). Also observe that he does not have two consecutive periods called Law and Grace or Law and the Church. He has three subdivisions under Israel, and he inserts Gentiles to run alongside Israel in the latter part of the period of Law before the period of the Church. Observe that the period of the Church or Grace is called the dispensation of the Spirit. Note that he conceives the Millennium as being brought in at the conclusion of the ages of time (which is characterized by man's failure). He evidently does not consider the rebellion at the end of the thousand years important enough to make the millennium another dispensation in which man fails.
      2. Among the other writers cited by Ehlert are:
        John Eagleton - Covenant of Works (1829)
        John Dick (1764-1833) - Lectures on Theology (1836)
        John Forbes - A course of lectures on the Jews (1840)
        W. H. Neal - The Mohammedan System of Theology (1843)
        John Nelson Darby - Collected Writings, ed. Wm. Kelly, 2nded., London, 1857-1867, I, 192-193
        Benjamin Wills Newton (1805-1898) - Thoughts on the Apocalypse (1844) (A contemporary with Darby among Plymouth Brethren who disagreed with Darby on some points)
        Patrick Fairbairn (1805-1874) - The Typology of Scripture (1870)
        Samuel Farmer Jarvis (1787-1851) - The Church of the Redeemed (1850)
        Frederick W. Robertson (1816-1853) - Sermons on Christian Doctrine (1907)
        J. H. McCulloh, M.D. - On the Credibility of the Scriptures (1867)
        John Pye Smith (1774-1851) - First Lines of Christian Theology (1854)
        George Smith - The Harmony of the Divine Dispensations (1856)
        John Cox (1802-1881) - A Premillennial Manual (1856)
        John Gumming (1810-1881) - The Great Consummation (1858)
        Isaac P. Labagh - Twelve Lectures on the Great Events of Unfulfilled Prophecy (1859) (20 years before Scofield was saved, Labagh listed the dispensations as the Adamic, Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, Christian, Millennial, and New Jerusalem. These are practically Scofield's words if his covenants be compared with his dispensations, yet I dare say Scofield never saw Labagh's book!)
        William E. Blackstone - Jesus Is Coming (a classic!)
        Judge Joel Jones (1795-1860), (Once mayor of Philadelphia) - Jesus and the Coming Glory (1865)
        William Cunningham (1805-1861) - Historical Theology (1864)
        W. C. Bayne (1808-1887) - Waymarks in the Wilderness, and Scriptural Guide (1864/5)
        David Higgins - The Three Dispensations of Grace (1866)
        Robert Jamieson (1802-1880) - A Commentary, Critical, Experimental, and "Practical, on the Old and New Testaments, in 6 volumes (1868) (of the famous Jamieson, Faussett and Brown trio, which authored the above)
        Charles Hodge (1797-1878) - Systematic Theology (1874) (Hodge lists 4 dispensations in the so-called Covenant of Grace and seems to allude to a last dispensation, either the millennium or the eternal state. He also foresees a future for Israel!)
        John Jakob Van Oosterzee (1817-1882) Christian Dogmatics (1878)
        Robert Lewis Dabney (1820-1898) - Systematic Theology (1890)
        Henry Grattan Guinness (1835-1910) - The Approaching End of the Age (1892)
        Samuel HansonCox (1793-1880) - Elucidation III, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (1885)
        Arthur Cleveland Coxe (1818-1896) - Lectures on Prophecy (1871)
        John R. Graves (1820-1893) - The Work of Christ in the Covenant of Redemption (1928)
        Samuel James Andrews (1817-1906) - God's Revelation of Himself to Men (1885)
        George Wilson - The Kingdom of God Developed (1887)
        Burlington B. Wale - The Closing Days of Christendom (1883)
        Charles Taze Russell (1852-1916) - Millennial Dawn, Vol. I, The Plan of the Ages (1905), (the founder of what is now Jehovah's Witnesses)
        A, J. Frosr - International Prophetic Conference (1886)
        James Hall Brookes (1830-1897) - Maranatha: or the Lord Cometh (1889)
        William A. Parlane - Elements of Dispensational Truth (1894)
        George Hawkins Pember (1837?-1910) The Great Prophecies of the Centuries; Concerning Israel and the Gentiles (1942)
        Robert Cameron - The Doctrine of the Ages (1896)
        Frank White - The Sure Word on Prophecy (1897)
        James Martin Gray (1851-1935) - Dispensational Bible Studies (1901)
        G. B. M. Clouser - Dispensations and Ages of Scripture (1903)
        Ethelbert W. Bullinger (1837-1913) - How to Enjoy the Bible (1907)
        E. C. and R. B. Henninges - Bible Talks for Heart and Mind (1919)
        J. H. Burridge - God's Prophetic Plan (1909)
        C. I. Scofield (1843-1921) - The Scofield Reference Bible (1909)
        George Soltau - Past-Present; -Future (1912)
        Charles H. Welch - Dispensational Truth (1912)
        Adolph Ernst Knoch (1874-?) - The Divine Calendar (1913)
        William Evans (1870-?) - Outline Study of the Bible (1913)
        Isaac Massey Haldeman (1845-1933) - A Dispensational Key to the Scripture (1915)
        Clarence Larkin (1850-1924) - Dispensational Truth (charts) (1920)
        Algernon Jamea Pollock (1864 -?) - Things Which Must Shortly Come to Pass (1918)
        Wm. Graham Scroggie (l 877 -1958) - Ruling Lines of Progressive Revelation (1918)
        Lewis Sperry Chafer (1871-1952) - Major Bible Themes (1924)
        Philip Mauro (185 9 - ?) - The Gospel of the Kingdom (1928) (He began in our camp but became one of the bitterest enemies. His book was demolishingly answered by '.. M. Haldeman in "A Review of Mr. Philip Mauro's Book,")
        George Croly - Divine Providence (1929)
        Alfred Pearson - Creation and Its Sequel (1929)
        Norman Baldwin Harrison (1874 - ?) - His Book on Structure in Scripture (1934)
        George H, Gudebrod (1863-?) - Bible Problems Solved (1937)
        C. A. Chader - God's Plan Through the Ages (1938)
        Clifton Lefevre Fowler (1882-?) - Building the Dispensations (1940)
        Henry Alien Ironside (1876-1951) - The Lamp of Prophecy (1940)
        David Lipscomb Cooper (1886- ?) - The World's Greatest Library Graphically Illustrated (1942)
        Arthur Isbell (1913 - ?) -  Total Depravity as Manifested in the Dispensations (1944)
        Reuben A. Torrey (1856-1932) - What the Bible Teaches (1898)
        Arno C. Gaebelein (1861-1945) - Harmony of the Prophetic Word (1905)
        There are a host of books since Ehlert's list above was issued.
      3. Ehlert's conclusion on the definition of "dispensation"
        '" An unperverted mind,' said Austin Phelps in the seminary chapel at Andover, 'will approach reverently any revelation of God in the destiny of man. (Austin Phelps, Regeneration the Work of God, as quoted by Ehlert).  The word dispensation is a Scriptural term (1 Cor. 9-i7. Eph. 1:10; 3-9; Col. 1:25). Biblically speaking, its meaning, but not its etymology, stems from the Old Testament idea of stewardship, or house management.
        Gen. 15:2; 43:19; 1 Chr. 28:1, etc.)

        Etymologically it is the anglicized form of the Latin dispensation, which is the rendering in the Vulgate Version for the Greek oikonomia. English has also taken over this Greek term as oeconomy or economy, which is more or less synonymous with dispensation.

        "For a solid background in the use of the Greek term one should consult the standard lexicons, especially Liddell and Scott (the new 2-volume revised edition), Moulton and Mill igan, Cremer, Thayer and W. E. Vine's Comprehensive Dictionary of the Original Greek Words with their Precise Meanings for English Readers. This latter specifically denies the time-period aspect; of the word in Biblical usage.

        "The word dispensation should be consulted in Corradini's Lexicon Totius Latinitatis of Facciolati, Forcellini and Furlanetti, and Du Cange's Glossanum Mediae et Infimae Latinitatis.

        "In approaching the whole subject of dispensations from a historical standpoint one is shut up immediately to the definition found in the New English Dictionary on Historical Principles. For the benefit of those who might not have access to this set, the theological definition of the word, which is only one of the eleven divisions of the definition listed, is there quoted: 'A religious order or system, conceived as divinely instituted, or as a stage in a progressive revelation, expressly adapted to the needs of a particular nation or period of time, as the patriarchal, Mosaic (or Jewish) dispensation, the Christian dispensation; also, the age or period during which such system has prevailed. '

        "The word economy should also be consulted in the same work. Other definitions of dispensation in the theological sense will be found in the Encyclopedia Britannica, 14th ed.; M'Clintock and Strong's Cyclopaedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature; Watson's Biblical and Theological Dictionary; Gardner's Christian' Cyclopedia, or Repertory of Biblical and Theological Literature (a good definition based on covenant distinctions); and Fausset's Bible Cyclopedia. Critical and Expository (First published in London in 1878 under the title, The Englishman's Critical and Expository Cyclopedia). Canon Fausset, because of his unimpeachable scholarship, is especially to be noted. He was born 22 years before Scofield. Theologically he was of the Evangelical school of the Church of England, and he wrote a number of substantial volumes of his own on prophecy. He will be recognized as one of the Jamicson, Fausset and Brown trio of commentary fame. (The original 6-volume critical commentary is not to be confused with the popular one-volume abridgement that is so widely circulated. The latter does not reveal the dispensational viewpoints of Jamieson and Fausset as the original does. The condenser unfortunately deleted these. For the benefit of those who will not be able to consult this Cyclopaedia, the outline that Fausset presents is given here.

        Canon Faus set's dispensational scheme:
            I.     Innocence, in Eden
            II.     Adamical, after the fall
            III.     Noaichal
            IV.     Abrahamic
            V.     Law
            VI.     Christian:
                    i.     Present "ministration of the Spirit"
                    ii.     Epiphany of the glory23 (Because of the significance of his statement on this point, it will be welcomed by many as given
        in full here; "The epiphany of the glory of the great God and Saviour (Tit. 2:13), the manifested kingdom when He 'will restore it to Israel' (Acts 1:6-7; Ezk. 21:27), and Himself shall 'take His great power and reign' with His transfigured saints for a thousand years over the nations in the flesh, and Israel at their head (Zech. 14; Isa. 2; 65; Rev. 7:15-18; 5:10; 20).
                    iii.     Final ages of the ages Of course, definitions can be found in many of the individual works on the subject.

        "Theologically speaking, an adequate definition of dispensationalism probably remains to be written. As soon as the suffixes are added to the word the subject is transferred immediately from Biblical to theological grounds. The recent literature on the subject has made it necessary to revise the theological definition, which it is hoped will receive some adequate consideration by lexicographers. The current conception of the term in the popular mind is entirely inadequate, covering as it does for many the whole field of premillennial writings and prophecy, or on the other hand the restricted school of thought that is chiefly concerned only with the present church age and its problems. The one is too wide, the other too narrow." (Arnold D. Ehlert, "A Bibliography of Dispensationalism, " Bibliotheca Sacra, vol. 101, no. 403, July-September 1944, pp. 319-321).
POIRET 1646-1719 SCOFIELD 1843-1921 DARBY 1800-1882 FAUSSET 1821-?
Infancy - to the deluge Innocency (Paradasaical state)
to flood
Innocence, in Eden
Conscience Adamical, after the fall
Childhood - to Moses Human Government Noah Noaichal
Promise (given Abram) Abraham Abrahamic
Adolescence - to the prophets or about Solomon's time Law Israel:
a. Under law
b. Under priesthood
c. Under kings
Youth - to the time of the coming of Christ Gentiles
Manhood - "sometime after that" Grace
[both Scofield and Darby teach the Church Age will end in apostasy]
The Spirit
[both Scofield and Darby teach the Church Age will end in apostasy]
present ministration of the Spirit
(i.e., Church)
Epiphany of the glory (i.e., millennium)
Final ages of the ages
Old Age - "the time of his (man's) decay" (i.e., apostasy)
Renovation of all things Kingdom (The Millennium)

1.  J. E. Bear, "Dispensationalism and the Covenant of Grace," Union Seminary Review, July, 1938, p. 2.
2.  Talmage Wilson, "Modern Dispensationalism in the united States," unpublished paper, p. 35.
3.  Known as "Chiliasm" in those days, being the Greek word for 1000. There were no post or amillennialists then, hence no need for the term premillennialist. It was a standard part of the doctrine of the Church that Christ was coming back to earth again to rule for 1000 years. (Chiliasm is pronounced Kiliasm, like the "Ch" in Christ.)
4.  W. H. Rutgers, "Premillennialism in America," p. 172.
5.  Alexander Reese, "The Approaching Advent of Christ," pp. IX, 29.
6.  D. H. Kromminga, "The Millennium in the Church," p. 289
7.  A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, ed. Philip Schaff, First Series, Vol. 1., p. 482.
8.  Psalm 102:26-27
9.  Schaff, op. cit., p. 483.
10.  Ibid.
11.  Isaac Watts, "Works," ed. Leeds, II, 537-573; 625-660.
12.  Ibid., pp. 543, 625.
13.  See John Edwards, "A Compleat History or Survey of all the Dispensations and Methods of Religion, 2 Vols., London, 1699.
14.  Edwards believed in a millennium, but he took it to be a spiritual reign. He was antichiliastic. The reign would be characterized by universal righteousness and holiness, but he declines to set the time of its commencement. With regard to the coming of Christ, he says, "I conceive he may Personally Appear above, though he will not Reign Personally on Earth," II, 720.
15.  Perter Poiret, "The Divine OEconomy: or, An Universal System of the Works and Purpose of God Towards Men Demonstrated," 7 vols. in 4 (as bound in the edition in the Rufus M. Jones Collection on Mysticism at Haverford College, the last volume having been labeled "Volume VII. Appendix" at some early date).  London. See especially III, p. 150 ff.
16.  Jonathan Edwards, "The Works of President Edwards," 1858, I., p. 160.
17.  John Nelson Darby, "Collected Writings," ed. Wm. Kelly, 2nd Ed., London, 1857-1867, I., p. 192-193.
18.  It is very difficult to get Darby's exact outline here, as he is not always a lucid writer. He says, "The paradisaical state cannot properly be called a dispensation in this sense (i.e., that there is no instance of the restoration of a dispensation); but as regards the universal failure of man, it is a most important instance" (p. 194). This succession of dispensations is again discussed in II, p. 568-573. In neither place does he attach the millennium to the list as a dispensation, although he firmly holds to the literal thousand years. His chapter on "The Dispensation of the Kingdom of Heaven," II., p. 80-96, does not indicate clearly whether he means to identify the Dispensation of the Kingdom or Heaven with what he elsewhere calls the Dispensation of the Spirit. The Church is not properly a dispensation, IV., p. 504; V., p. 24. The present dispensation is parenthetical, I., p. 142; XIII., p. 236; XXVI., p. 373.
19.  Austin Phelps, "Regeneration, the Work of God." as quoted by Ehlert.
20. Genesis 15:2; 43:19; 1 Chronicles 28:1, etc.
21.  First published in London in 1878 under the title, "The Englishman's Critical and Expository Cyclopaedia."
22.  The original 6-volume critical commentary is not to be confused with the popular one-volume abridgement that is so widely circulated. The latter does not reveal the dispensational viewpoints of Jamieson and Fausset as the original does. The condenser unfortunately deleted these.
23.  Because of the significance of his statement on this point, it will be welcomed by many as given full here: "The epiphany of the glory of the great God and Saviour (Titus 2:13), the manifested kingdom when He 'will restore it to Israel' (Acts 1:6-7; Ezekiel 21:27), and Himself shall 'take His great power and reign' with His transfigured saints for a thousand years over the nations in the flesh, and Israel at their head (Zecheriah 14; Isaiah 2; 65; Revelation 7:15-18; 5:10; 20)
24.  Arnold D. Ehlert, "A Bibliography of Dispensationalism," Bibliotheca Sacra, Vol. 101, no. 403, July-September 1944, pp. 319-321.


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