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FIRST GENERAL DESCRIPTION.
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 which 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 troo 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 oder waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as
The import of these verses is, that during the long period of papel corruption and persecution, God would have his 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 pot 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 fled from her persecations 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 bave 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 de. scriptions 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 : 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.
In the latter end of the fourth or Roman government, according to Daniel, a little hora 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 candlestick 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.
trees and the candlesticks in different ways are witnesses to the truth.
The “fire that proceedeth out of their mouth” denotes the divine threatenings to which those who reject their testimony are exposed. In this way all who have perseveringly set themselves against the truth of God, have been slain by it; not only as incurring the wrath to come, but spiritual judgments even in this life : such are blindness of mind and hardness of heart, the most awful and sure presages of eternal death.
Their having power to shut heaven that it rain not in the days of their prophecy, to turn waters into blood, and to smite the earth with plagues as often as they will,” denotes the influence of prayer when presented in faith and in conformity to the will of God. There is a reference, no doubt, to the prayer of Elijah against apostate Israel, which prayer was answered with a dearth; but without any thing properly miraculous, the prayers of God's suffering servants may draw down both temporal and spiritual judgments on persecuting nations. The terrible things which God is now in righteousness inflicting on the nations, may be in answer to the prayers of his servants of former ages, who century after century have been crying, “ How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them dwell on the earth!” Such cries epter the ears of the Lord of Hosts, and must be answered.
The history of the witnesses prior to the eleventh and twelfth centuries is difficult to be traced, owing to the want of materials ; and during those centuries, almost all the accounts that we have of them are from the pens of their persecutors, who have not failed to transmit their memory to posterity in the most odious colours. That some who in church history are deemed heretics were really such, need not be questioned; but let any serious Christian read the church history of Mosheim ; and unless he can find a portion of true religion under the article of “heresies and heretics that disturbed the peace of the church during this century,” it is difficult to say where he is to look for it. After the utmost search through other parts, he may ask, Where is wisdom, and where is the place of understanding? There is little doubt but that all through these dark ages
there were many thousands who stood aloof from the corruptions of the times, and bore practical testimony against them; and who, not. withstanding some errors, were much nearer the truth and true religion than those who have reproached them as heretics. Vol. VI,