« PreviousContinue »
his indignation upon it. At present, therefore, write it not; but receive a general impression of things by eating the book !' "The allusion doubtless is to Ezek. iii. 1-3, and denotes that he must understand and digest its contents. The book, he was told, would be sweet in his mouth, but bitter in his belly. The same desire of understanding the future state of the church which made him weep when no one was found worthy to open the sealed book, must make him rejoice when an open book was put into his hand, with a direction to eat it: but when he came to digest it, and to perceive the corruptions and persecutions that should prevail, and for so long a period retard the progress of the gospel, it would be grievous to him.
To teach him that what he had now seen and done was designed only as a general impression, preparatory to what should follow, he is given to understand that he must go over the ground « again," writing prophecies which respect to many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings."
THE FIRST GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF THE PAPAL APOSTASY, AND OF
THE STATE OF THE CHURCH UNDER IT.
Chap, xi &ẹ.
I SONCEIVE with Mr. LOWMAN, that the following chapters contain three general descriptions of the papal antichrist, and of the state of the church under it; only he confines them to the xith, xiith, and xiiith Chapters, whereas it appears to me that the xiiith and xivth should not be divided, but considered as containing between them the third general description. The reasons for considering these four chapters not as one continued prophecy, but as general representations of the events of the same period, are the following:
First, The events foretold by the slaughter and resurrection of the witnesses in Chap. xi. ; by the flight of the woman into the wilderness, and the victory over the dragon in Chap. xii.; with the ravages of the beasts, and the triumph of the Lamb's company in Chapters xiii. aod xiv. are the same. Secondly, These representations are not confined to one or two trumpets, but comprehend the times of the greater part of them. Some of the things represented, particularly those at the beginning of Chap. xii. in which the origin of the apostasy is traced, appear to go back to the times of the first four trumpets, namely, to the fourth and fifth centuries : others, particularly those at the close of Chapters xi.
and xiv., which describe the overthrow of the apostate church, go forward to the times of the last trumpet, and even of the last vials, into which that trumpet is subdivided. This will be evident by comparing Chapter xi. 19. with Chap. xvi. 18. In both mention is made of " lighrinings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail ;” both therefore manifestly refer to the same events. Thirdly, In each of these descriptions there is a reference to the 1260 years, the period which in prophecy marks the duration of the antichristian power. So long were the witnesses to prophecy in sackloth, so long the woman to be in the wil. derness, and so long the beast to make war with the saints. It is therefore to the events of this period that these chapters relate ; containing an account of the rise, the reign, and the overthrow of the papal antichrist.
It could hardly be expected that so long a period, embracing such multifarious characters and events, events too which so deeply interest the church of God, should be passed over without particular notice. The sacred writer is as it were made to pause, and to give us several distinct views of the subject according to the different lights in which he beheld it. I only add, if these chapters do really comprehend the events of the 1260 years, we might almost presume, in going over them, to meet with something under each description relating to so distinguished an event as the Reformation, and must .certainly have thrice to cross the meridian of our own times.
The first of these general descriptions, which we now enter upon, does not appear to trace the origin of the apostasy, but to take it
from the time in which things were so matured, that in taking the measurement of God's temple, the papal community was ordered to be left out, as not belonging to it.
1 And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and then that worship therein. . 2 But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not : for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months.
The language no doubt is Jewish, but the doctrine, worship, and worshippers of the Christian church are intended. Christianity, having become the religion of the state, abounded with converts ; but such would be their character, and such the kind of religion they would introduce, that the extent of the church would require to be contracted. The outer court, containing the body of the worshippers must be left out. That wbich had been known by the name of the Catholic Church must be given up as idolaters; and thus the profanation of the temple by Antiochus would be acted over again.*
:3 And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days clothed in sackcloth. 4 These are the two olive-trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth. 6 And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed. 6 These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will
The import of these verses is, that during the long period of papal corruption and persecution, God would have bis faithful witnesses who should bear testimony against it, though it were in sackcloth. As in the language of the prophecy a king denotes not an individual monarch, but a succession of kings, or a kingdom,
* “ Our Reformers, (says Mr, FABER,) never thought of unchurching the Church of Rome, though they freely declared it to bare erred. Hence, while they rejected its abominations, they did not scruple to derive from it their episcopal and sacredotal ordination.” Vol. II. p. 3. Note.
The English Reformers might allow the Church of Rome to be a true Church of Christ; but do the scriptures support them in this concession ? The Church of Rome was once a part of God's temple; but from hence it is left out of the measurement. Instead of being “the holy city,” it is a body of idolaters who tread it under foot. It is not Zion, but Babylon. Some of God's people might be found in her, but they are commanded to come out of her. She is not the bride, the Lamb's wife, but the mother of harlots. Finally, if the Church of Rome continued to be a Church of Christ, what must that Church be who Aed from her persecutions into the wilderness?
so by “two witnesses” we are doubtless to understand not two individual witnesses, but a competent succession of them. This is manifest from their continuing through the long period of 1260 years, which can only be true of a succession of men. Some have supposed them to be the Old and New Testaments, others the Old and New Testament churches; but I see no reason why they should not be understood of the faithful servants of Christ who during this period would bear witness for the truth. It is of the true church, as opposed to the false, that the other general descriptions speak ; namely, of the woman and her seed who fled into the wilderness, and of the Lamb's company as opposed to that of the beast : I conclude therefore that such are the two witnesses in this.
Moreover, The correspondence of 1260 days, in which they should prophesy, with the “time, times, and the dividing of time,” in Daniel, (Chap. vii. 25.) not only determines the general application of the prophecy, but the parties concerned in both to be the same.
lo the latter end of the fourth or Roman government, according to Daniel, a little born should grow up among the ten horns, that should “ wear out the saints of the Most High, until a time, times, and the dividing of time.” According to John, the witnesses during the same period should prophesy, in sackcloth, and be persecuted and slain. The witnesses of John, therefore, and the saints of Daniel, are the same.
These two witnesses are said to be “the two olive-trees, and the two candlesticks, standing before the God of the earth.” The olive-trees and the candlestick of Zechariah, to which there is a manifest reference, were not the same.
The former supplied the latter, or the two sides of the bowl of it, with oil. The can dlestick seems to have signified the church, and the olive-trees the prophets of God who were with the builders, helping them. Ezra v. 2. Corresponding with this, the olive-trees of John are faithful ministers, and the candlesticks Christian churches. The same prophesying which bears witness against the corruptions of antichrist, supplies the friends of Christ as with fresh oil, and .enables them to shine as lights in the world. Both the olive