INTRODUCING MILTON TERRY (1)

PMW 2021-021 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

Milton S. Terry wrote an excellent preterist commentary on Revelation. It will be released by April, 2021, as a stand-alone commentary, having been digitally extricated it from his larger work in which it was long embedded: Biblical Apocalyptics. In preparation for its release, I am providing this brief two-part biography of this remarkable scholar.

Family Background

Milton Spencer Terry was born on February 22, 1840 in the Town of Coeymans, New York. Coeymans was a small town in Albany County with a population of a little over 400 people. He died on July 13, 1914 in Los Angeles, a slightly larger town.

His father John Terry was born on March 13, 1786 in Swansea, R.I.. His mother Elizabeth McLoen (or: MacLaughlin) Terry was born on April 15, 1796 in New York City. At an early period in American history, the Terrys’ English ancestors arrived in America and settled in the New England colonies. In 1794, when John Terry was eight years, he moved with his father Philip Terry and his grandfather George Terry from Swansea to Coeymans.

Milton’s parents were farmers who enjoyed reasonable success in their work. Young Milton spent his youth on the farm but is reported to have always been studious, seeking ways to to “advance his mental instruction.” [1] He attended district (public) schools as a child in Coeymans.

During an old-fashioned prayer meeting at the home of an old saint, Milton had a remarkable conversion experience which greatly impacted his life. According to a memorial published in the Official Journal of the New York Conference (1915): “his heart, like Wesley’s, was strangely, divinely warmed, and the ecstasy of that hour he never forgot.”


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On May 15, 1864, twenty-four year old Milton Terry married Frances Orline Athchinson (b. Oct. 1, 1841) in Delhi, N.Y. They had two children, Minnie Ruth Terry (b. March 29, 1870) and Arthur Guy Terry (May 10, 1878).

Both of Milton Terry’s children were well-educated. His daughter Minnie was a Phi Beta Kappa at Northwestern University, where she received the A. B. in 1891 and the A.M (in Latin) in 1894. After graduating, she studied in Europe in 1894–95. Then for many years she taught French at Evanston, Illinois, high school. Arthur graduated from Northwestern with a Ph.M. in History in 1902, where he became Professor of History. He also was a Fellow in History at the University of Pennsylvania (1902). Like his father, he was a noted scholar and a published author. For example, he edited the multi-volume series History Stories of Other Lands: The Modern World (1915). In this series he wrote the second volume, which was well-received.

Formal Education

Milton studied briefly at Troy University, but in 1859 he graduated from the New York Conference Seminary in Charlotteville, N.Y. Later he also graduated from Yale Divinity School (1862). He had the D.D. degree conferred on him in 1879 by Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. He studied for a year in Berlin in 1887. Then in 1895 at the age of fifty-five, he was awarded the honorary LL.D. from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.

He did well in all of his formal academic studies. But he especially excelled in Greek and Latin, then later in Hebrew.

According to a memorial statement in the Official Journal of the New York Conference (1915), Milton Terry was a man of “keen intellect and warm heart.” He was loved and respected at Northwestern University and in the surrounding area, for he “made for himself a warm place in the hearts of all Evanstonians.” [2] He was deemed “very genial and approachable” being “well beloved by the larger number of students who had sat under his instruction, by his colleagues on the Garrett teaching force, and by a host of friends throughout the [Methodist Episcopal] Church.” [3]

Ecclesiastical Ministry

Terry was ordained to pastoral ministry in the New York Conference of the Methodist Episcopalian Church. He held various ministerial positions for over twenty years (1863 to 1884). For nineteen years of those years he held pastoral charges in the state of New York.

His first preaching was for one year in a Hancock, N. Y. where he filled the pulpit of his recently deceased brother. Following this he engaged in full-time pastoring in New York state in the cities of Hamden, Delhi, Peekskill, Poughkeepsi, Kingston, and New York City. Historical notices on his preaching ministry show he was an effective communicator. He was declared to be “a clear and forceful preacher, very efficient instructor, and profound biblical scholar.”

While at the St. Paul’s church in Peekskill, N.Y., he began rapidly advancing in his ministerial standing in the conference. During his final four years of ecclesiastical ministry, he was the Presiding Elder of the New District of the New York Conference. In 1880 he was elected as a delegate of the New York Conference to the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopalian Church. He left the pastoral ministry in 1884 when he was elected to the professorship at Garrett Biblical Institute in Evanston, Ill.


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Academic Positions

In 1884, Terry was elected to the chair of Old Testament Language and Literature at Garrett Biblical Institute, Evanston, Illinois. He served there for thirty years in various positions between 1884 until his death in 1914. His special interests were in apologetics, comparative religion, and Old Testament.

In 1871 he was elected to the American Oriental Society, and in 1883 to the Society of Biblical Literature and Exegesis. He also was a member of the newly established Victoria Institute (London).

Later in 1887 he attended lectures at the University of Berlin, where he picked up Higher Critical concepts that influenced his thinking. Despite his accepting much of what Higher Critics taught regarding the writing of the Scriptures, he personally maintained a strong commitment to the supernaturalism of the historic Christian faith. [4] Thus, he opens Biblical Apocalyptics with these words: “That God has at many times and in many ways revealed himself to men is a doctrine fundamental to the Christian faith, and the canonical writings of the Old and New Testaments are believed to be a truthful presentation of such divine revelations.” [5]

After serving as Professor of Old Testament Language and Literature at Garrett Biblical Institute, he transferred to the Chair of Christian Doctrine in 1897. He served in this position until his death in 1914.

(To be continued)


Notes

1. Robert D. Sheppard, History of Northwestern University and Evanston (Chicago: Munsell, 1906), 545.

2. Frances E. Willard, A Classic Town: The Story of Evanston (Chicago: Woman’s Temperance Publishing Association, 1891), 278.

3. “The Death of Dr. Terry,” Western Christian Advocate (July 22, 1914 [80]: 13.

4. He writes in this regard: “For the sake of any who may feel regret that I concede so much to the findings of modern higher criticism I take this opportunity to say that I have in some instances allowed the claims of a radical criticism, which I am personally far from accepting as established, for the very purpose of showing that the great religious lessons of the scripture in question are not affected by critical opinions of the possible ‘source,’ and date, and authorship, and redaction.” Terry, Biblical Apocalyptics: A Study of the Most Notable Revelations of God and of Christ (rep.: Grand Rapids: Baker, 1988 [1898]), p. 8.

5. Terry, Biblical Apocalyptics, 3.

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2 thoughts on “INTRODUCING MILTON TERRY (1)

  1. jaywise08 March 17, 2021 at 10:33 am

    Who is publishing this forthcoming commentary?

  2. Kenneth Gentry March 17, 2021 at 10:36 am

    Victorious Hope Publishing. https://victorioushope.com/

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