The Millennial Voice in Victoria to 1914


Guy Featherstone is an independent scholar from Melbourne.


The expression of millennial beliefs in Australia has been little studied, perhaps because of the slight impact of adventism on the general religious experience. This essay surveys the millennial ideas current in nineteenth-century Victoria. Both Protestant Christian sects and the mainstream churches of British origin are considered; fringe groups which drew inspiration from Christian concepts are also noticed. An outline of the prophetic concerns which emerged in England late in the eighteenth century and refined in detail thereafter is followed by a discussion of the introduction of those ideas to Victoria. Special attention is given to a number of millennial sects that established a presence in the 1850s. This is followed by a consideration of the millennial beliefs employed later in the century by the mainstream denominations, especially as they were faced with threats from liberals, doubters, and freethinkers. In conclusion, the impact of liberalism and moral enlightenment on the Christian faith is discussed and related to the decline in church membership during the twentieth century.