« FöregåendeFortsätt »
but good reason to determine the contrary. It is true, there is abundant evidence in scripture, that there is yet remaining a
I shall not pretend to explain the mystery of the three days and a half of the witnesses lying dead, or to determine the precise duration signified by that mystical representation. Possibly no particular measure of time may be intended by it; and yet it may not be without significancy. As no particular number of persons is intended by the two witnesses, but in general it intends a small, yet a sufficient number-for less than two witnesses was not sufficient-so, perhaps, no particular duration of that low state of the church before the reformation, may be intended by three days and a half. But in general it may be hereby signified, that this time of the triumphing of the wicked, and extremity of God's church, should be but short. Possibly three days and a half may be mentioned, because that is the utmost space of time that a dead body can be ordinarily supposed to lie without putrefaction; signifying that at this time the church should be brought to the very brink of utter ruin, yet should be preserved, and made to revive again. And half a day may be mentioned to signify the particular care of Providence in exactly determining this time of his church's extremity. And probably there may be some reference to the three times (or three years) and an half of the witnesses prophesying in sackcloth; the more apparently to shew the disproportion between the time of the church's welfare, and the time of her enemies' victory and triumph. The time of the church's affliction and conflict may be long, and in the issue she may be overcome; but the time of this victory shall be but short in comparison with the other, but as a day to a year. She may as it were be killed, and lie dead, till she comes to the very brink of utter and hopeless ruin; yet God will not suffer her to see corruption. But at that very time when her enemies expected that she should putrefy, she shall arise; and be set on high, out of their reach, greatly to their astonishment.
The grand objection against all this, is, that it is said, "The witnesses should prophecy twelve hundred and sixty days clothed in sackcloth; and when they have finislred their testimony, the beast should make war against them, and kill them," &c. And it seems manifest, that after this they are no longer in sackcloth; for henceforward they are in an exalted state in heaven: therefore, seeing the time of their wearing sackcloth, is twelve hundred and sixty days, which is the time of the continuance of antichrist; hence their being slain and rising again, must be at the conclusion of this period, and so at the end of antichrist's reign.
In answer to which I would say, that we can justly infer no more from this prophecy than this, viz. That the twelve hundred and sixty days is the proper time of the church's trouble and bondage, or being clothed in sackcloth; because it is the appointed time of the reign of antichrist. But this does not hinder, but that God, out of his great compassion to his church, should in some respect shorten the days, and grant that she should in some measure, anticipate the appointed great deliverance that should be at the end of those days. This he has in fact done at the reformation; whereby the church has had a great degree of restoration granted, from the darkness and power of antichrist, before her proper time, which is at the end of the twelve hundred and sixty days. Thus the church of Christ through the tender mercies of her Father and Redeemer, in some respects anticipates her deliverance from her sorrows and sackcloth: as many parts of the church are hereby brought from under the dominion of the antichristian powers, into a state of power and liberty; though in other respects the church may be said to continue in sackcloth, and in the wilderness, till the end of the days; many parts of it still remaining under grievous persecution.
What we render, "When they shall have finished their testimony," Mr. LOWMAN, (from Mr. DAUBUZ) renders "While they shall perform their testimo
* Mr. LoWMAN, in the preface to his paraphrase on the Revelation, page 8, observes as follows: "Prophetic numbers do not always express a determinate duration or space of time, any more than they always express a certain number. Prophecy, I acknowledge, uses numbers sometimes as other expressions, in a figurative meaning, as symbols and hieroglyphics. Thus the number seven, sometimes does not denote the precise number seven: but figuratively denotes perfection, or a full and complete number: and the number ten, sometimes does not mean precisely ten in number, but many in general, or a considerable number."
mighty conflict between the church and her enemies-the most violent struggle of Satan and his adherents in opposition to true religion, and the most general commotion that ever was in the world, since the foundation of it to that time-and many particular christians may suffer hard things in this conflict. But in the general, Satan and Antichrist shall not get the victory, nor greatly prevail; on the contrary, they shall be entirely conquered, and utterly overthrown in this great battle. So that I hope this prophecy of the slaying of the witnesses, will not stand in the way of a compliance with the proposal made to us in the memorial, as a prevalent objection and discouragement.
That the fall of Antichrist is at a great distance, answered.
A late very learned and ingenious expositor of the Revela tion, Mr. LowMAN, sets the fall of antichrist, and consequently the coming of Christ's kingdom, at a great distance; supposing that the twelve hundred and sixty years of antichrist's reign did not begin till the year seven hundred and fifty-six; and consequently, that it will not end till after the year two thousand; and this opinion he confirms by a great variety of argu
If this objection be allowed to be valid, and that which ought to determine persons in an affair of this nature, in con- ' nection with the duty before proved, then the following things must be supposed; viz. That it is the will of God his people
ny:" and observes, that the original may mean the time of their testimony as well as the end of it.-I might here observe, that we have other instances of God shortening the days of his church's captivity and bondage, either at the beginning or end, very parallel with what has been now supposed in the case of the witnessThus the proper time of predicted bondage to the posterity of Abraham in Egypt, was four hundred years; Gen. xv. 13. But yet God in mercy deferred the beginning of their bondage; whereby the time was much shortened. So the time wherein it was foretold, that the whole land of Israel should be a desolation and an astonishment, and the land should enjoy her sabbaths, by the Babylonish captivity, was seventy years; (Jer. xxv. 11, 12.) and these seventy years are dated (2 Chron. xxxvi 20, 21.) from Zedekiah's captivity; and yet, from that captivity to Cyrus's decree, was but fifty-two years; though it was indeed seventy years before the more full restoration of the Jewish church and state by Darius's decrec, Ezra vi. So the proper time of the oppression and bondage of the Jewish church under Antiochus Epiphanes, wherein "both the sanctuary and hosts should be trodden under foot by him, was two thousand three hundred days ;" Dan. viii. 13, 14. The time from Antiochus's taking Jerusalem, and polluting the sanctuary, to his death, seems to have been about so long But God shortened the days, by granting remarkable help to his people by means of the Maccabees, before that time. Yea, the temple and sanctuary were restored, and the altar rebuilt, and dedicated, before that period.
be much in prayer for this event; and particularly, that a little before its accomplishment his people be earnestly seeking, and importunately crying to God for it; but yet that it was God's design, before this time of extraordinary prayer and importunity, his church should understand precisely when the appointed time should be; and that accordingly he has now actually brought the fixed time to light, by means of Mr. LoWMAN. But is it reasonable to suppose, that this should be God's manner of dealing with his church; first to make known to them the precise time which he has unalterably fixed for shewing this mercy to Zion, and then make it the duty of his church, in an extraordinary manner, to be by prayer enquiring of him concerning it, and saying, How long, Lord! that he would come quickly, hide himself no longer, have mercy upon Zion, awake as one out of sleep, openly manifest himself, and make bare his holy arm for the salvation of his people? That they who make mention of the Lord should not keep silence, nor give him any rest, till he establish and make Jerusalem a praise in the earth?" And that the church should then say to Christ, "Make haste, my beloved, and be thou like a roe or a young hart on the mountain of spices?"
It may be many ways for the comfort and benefit of God's church in her afflicted state, to know that the reign of antichrist is to be no more than one thousand two hundred and sixty years; and some things in general may be argued concerning the approach of it, when it is near as the Jews could argue the approach of Christ's first coming, from Daniel's prophecy of the seventy weeks, though they knew not precisely when that seventy weeks would end. But it is not reasonable to expect that God should make known to us beforehand, the precise time of Christ's coming in his kingdom. The disciples. desired to know this, and manifested their desire to their Lord; but he told them plainly, that "it was not for them to know the times and seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power;" (Acts i. 6, 7.) and there is no reason to think that it is any more for us than for them; or for Christ's disciples in these days any more than for his apostles in those days. God: makes it the duty of his church to be importunately praying for it, and praying that it may come speedily; and not only to be praying for it, but to be seeking for it, in the use of proper means; endeavouring that religion may now revive every where, and Satan's kingdom be overthrown; and always to be waiting for it, being in a constant preparation for it, as servants that wait for the coming of their Lord, or virgins for the coming of the bridegroom, not knowing at what hour he will come. But God's making known beforehand the precise time of his coming, does not well consist with these things.
It is the revealed will of God, that he should be enquired of by his people, by extraordinary prayer, concerning this great mercy, to do it for them, before it be fulfilled. And if any suppose, that it is now found out precisely when the time is to be, and (the time being at a considerable distance) that now is not a proper season to begin this extraordinary prayer, I would on this supposition, ask, When we shall begin? How long before the fixed and known time of the bestowment of this mercy comes, shall we begin to cry earnestly to God that this mercy may come, and that Christ would make haste and be like a roe, &c.? For us to delay, supposing that we know the time to be far off, is not agreeable to the language of God's people in my text, "Come let us go speedily, and pray before the Lord, and seek the Lord of hosts.'
I acknowledge that Mr. LOWMAN'S Exposition of the Revelation is on many accounts excellently written, giving great light into some parts of that prophecy; and especially his interpretation of the five first vials: yet his opinion with respect to the time, times, and half a time of antichrist's reign, is the less to be regarded, because it is expressly declared it should be sealed up and hid, and not known till the time of the end of this period. Daniel, in the last chapter of his prophecy, gives us an account how the angel told him of a future time of great trouble and affliction to the church of God, and then said to him, ver. 4. "But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end." And then the prophet proceeds to give an account of a vision he had of one earnestly enquiring of the angel of the Lord "how long it would be to the end" of this remarkable time of the church's trouble, saying, "How long shall it be to the end of these wonders?" ver. 5, 6. The answer was, that " it should be for a time, times and an half," and that when so long a time was past, then this wonderful affliction and scattering of the holy people should be finished, ver. 7. But then Daniel tells us, in the next verse, that "he heard, but he understood not," and said, "O, my Lord, what shall be the end of these things?" He did not understand that general and mystical answer, that those things should have an end at the end of "a time, times and an half;" he did not know by it, when this period would have an end, and therefore he enquires more particularly what the time of the end was. But the angel replies, ver. 9. "Go thy way, Daniel, the words are closed and sealed up, till the time of the end." I do not know what could have been more express. The angel gently rebukes this over inquisitiveness of Daniel, very much as Christ did a like inquisitiveness of the disciples concerning the same matter, where he said to them, "It is not for you to know the times and seasons, that the Father hath put in his own power."
I think there can be no doubt but that this space of the church's great trouble, about the end of which Daniel enquires, is the same with what is spoken of, chap vii. 25, and Rev. xii. 14, as the time of antichrist's reign, and the church's being in the wilderness; and not merely the time of the church's troubles by Antiochus Epiphanes. But we see, when Daniel has a mind to know particularly when this time would come to an end, he is bid to go away, and rest contented in ignorance of this matter for, says the man clothed in linen, "the words are closed up, and sealed, till the time of the end." That is, very plainly, the matter that you enquire about shall not be known, but be kept a great secret, till the time of the end actually comes, and all attempts to find it out before shall be in vain. And therefore when a particular divine appears, who thinks he has found it out, and has unsealed this matter, we may well think he is mistaken*.
Though it is not for us to know the precise time of the fall of antichrist, yet I humbly conceive that we have no reason to suppose the event principally intended in the prophecies of antichrist's destruction to be at so great a distance as Mr. LOWMAN places it; but have reason to think it to be much nearer. Not that I would set up myself as a person of equal judgment with Mr. LowMAN in matters of this nature. As he differs from most other approved expositors of the Apocalypse, in this matter; so I hope it will not appear vanity and presumption in me to differ from this particular expositor, and to agree with the greater number. And since his opinion stands so much in the way of that great and important affair, to promote which is the very end of this whole discourse, I hope it will not look as though I affected to appear considerable among the interpreters of prophecy, and as a person of skill in these
* Mr. LoWMAN's own words in his preface, p. 24, 25, are here worthy to be repeated: "It will says he) ever be a point of wisdom not to be over busy, or over confident in any thing, especially in fixing periods of time, or determining seasons; which it may be are not to be determined, it may be are not fit to bo known. It is a maxim of greater wisdom than is usually thought, Seek not to know what should not be revealed.' Such are many future events. The precise time of our Saviour's coming to judgment was not revealed, because not fit to be revealed. The uncertainty of his appearance was of greater service to preserve a care of religion, than the revelation of it would have been; for the uncertainty itself gives many useful exhortations: Watch, for ye know not what hour the Son of man cometh.' Suppose then some of the events described in this prophecy should be of doubtful application-suppose the precise time of the downfall of the beast, the slaying and resurrection of the witnesses, and the beginning of the thousand years' happy state of the church, should not be so deter mined, but it would admit of different calculations; may it not be wise, and therefore fit it should be so? The certainty of those events in a proper time, though that time should not be precisely determined, will answer the greater ends of useful instruction. And if the revelation should go no further than this, it would yet be a revelation of great benefit and advantage; as the certainty of the day of judgment in its proper time surely is, though of that day and hour knoweth