REV. x. 9....And I went unto the angel, and said unto him, Give me the little book. And he said unto me. Take it, and eat it up; and it shall make thy belly bitter, but it shall be in thy mouth sweet as honey.
THERE is a very general reluctance, obvious upon the part of mankind, to have their conduct tried by the precepts of divine revelation. This feature of human character appears, most conspicuous, in those great social concerns which involve the strongest feelings, and the most extensive temporal interests of multitudes of men—I mean those very complicated concerns which usually pass under the general name of politics. There exists, even among professed, and perhaps some real Christians, a powerful disinclination to have their political maxims and transactions subjected to the rules of Christianity.
This fact, while it is an evidence that religion is opposed to the general plans of worldly-minded men, and also that it has too little influence over its professed friends, is not surprising. Christianity, hitherto, except in a few instances, has suffered by its connexion with civil polity: and, from the very nature of society, it must suffer, in such connexion, until both learning and power are transferred into the hands of godly men, and so made subservient to piety. Independently of the impressive lessons of long and painful experience upon this subject, it is quite reasonable to expect, that if unsanctified men incorporate revealed religion with civil government, such a form will be certainly given to religion, as may suit unsanctified power. The daughter of Zion is much better without such an alliance: for it is the very essence of antichristianism. The bride, the Lamb’s wife, cannot be supposed to escape pollution, if taken into the embraces of unholy men, and rendered dependent upon a government which they administer. It is safer for the friends of religion to continue like the witnesses prophesying in sackcloth, faithfully struggling in poverty against the frowns of power, than to become the stipendiaries of irreligious statesmen.
This truth is inculcated by every line of
THE LITTLE OPEN BOOK.
It is the design of this lecture, To explain the manner in which this hook is brought into view—and To unfold its contents.
The discussion, although it does not assume the form of a Commentary, must be in fact an exposition of chap. x. throughout, and of chap. xi. from the 1st to the 13th verse. The succeeding verses of that chapter, have already been explained in Lecture VIII. of this series of discourses.
I. I am to explain to you the manner in which this book is brought into view.
In the preceding lecture, I have endeavoured to show the meaning of the term antichrist, and have given the reasons which require its application to the great apostacy of the Latin Roman empire.
When expounding the trumpets, we found it necessary to pass over the tenth, and the principal part of the eleventh chapter, in order to proceed directly from the sixth to the seventh trumpet; and we then showed the reason for interposing the present subject of discussion between these two trumpets, viz. To exhibit the object of the last-mentioned judgment, which had in fact risen up during the progress of the preceding trumpets.
As the same system of immorality and irreligion, which is the subject of punishment under the seventh trumpet, or third wo, is the subject of the judgments poured out from the vials also, it is necessary to describe it more particularly in this place, than could be consistently done at the time just mentioned. We have already observed, that the narrative of the trumpets proceeds from the close of chap. ix. to chap. xi. 14. and that the whole of chap. x. and xi. 1—13. should be considered as parenthetical.
This part is the little book introduced, as a codicil, or as a note to the larger, the sealed book: for that book, including the seven seals, must also have included the seven trumpets. And as the latter part of chap. xi. describes the seventh trumpet, that part must of course belong to the larger, and not to the little book.
This codicil, or LITTLE BOOK, is introduced to view in a distinct VISION. It is the fourth of the prophetic visions recorded in the Apocalypse. In reading the account here given of it, our attention is directed to him, who held in his hand this book,—to the seven thunders which accompanied the revelation of this personage—and to the fact of John the Diviners taking the book out of his hand.
1. This vision exhibits our Saviour as holding in his hand an open book.
Chap. x. 1, 2. And I saw another mighty angel come down from heaven, clothed with a cloud, and a rainbow was upon his head, and his face was as it were the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire: And he had in his hand a little book open: and he set his right foot upon the sea, and his left foot upon the earth, and cried with a loud voice as when a lion roareth.
The angel now revealed, is not an inferior messenger, but the Omnipotent Angel of the covenant, descending from heaven in his administration of the kingdom of Providence. Every part of the hieroglyphic points out God-man our glorious Redeemer. As lie dwelt in the cloudy pillar, which served as the guide of Israel from Egypt to the land of promise, so he appears clothed with a cloud, to his church, when he first announces the character of antichrist.
To the Father of the faithful, Gen. xv. he appeared passing between the parts of the sacrifice, which confirmed the covenant, in a smoking furnace, and burning lamp, signifying the troubles and the triumphs of the children of promise. Now, when the church is entering into the gloomy valley, in the period emphatically called the dark ages, Messiah puts on, as a mantle, a cloud of thick darkness.
The church shall, nevertheless, enjoy new covenant protection. The seal of God is visible, in the rainbow, on the head of Jesus Christ. Christians behold with joy this token; and, however dark the cloud, they are certain that the floods shall not overwhelm them.
They who love him too, during the general moral darkness of the world, are favoured with the light of his countenance. His face was as it were the sun. They who fear his name, shall see the Sun of Righteousness arising with healing in his wings: for light shall arise to the upright in darkness.
Pure in themselves, and sanctifying in their effects to his followers, shall be the dispensations of this almighty Messenger. His steps are in holiness and majesty: for his feet are as pillars of fire.
In evidence both of his mediatory power, and of the extent of his authority, he places his right foot upon the sea, and his left foot upon the earth. The Father indeed, hath put all things under his feet. The waters of the deep obeyed his voice when he was upon earth; yea, the sea received originally from him, the decree, hitherto shalt thou come, and no further. The earth also belongs to him; for he made it, and as the Redeemer of men he upholds the pillars of it. All that are upon it, whether man or beast, are subject to his government. Thou hast given him power over all flesh.
The right foot is that which naturally first advances. It is put in this case, upon the symbolical sea,—the turbulent and distracted multitudes of men who were left in confusion after the dismemberment of the western empire. Over them he reigns: and he controls their wrath. Afterwards, the antichristian system appears more firm—the symbolical earth. It also is under the feet of Messiah. For, although the man of sin, the impious king of Daniel’s prophecy, sitteth in the temple of God, in order to oppose the Most High and set at nought both his worship and his law, he is himself in fact under the feet of our Saviour: yea, the whole mystery of iniquity is absolutely under his control.
In possession of this power and authority he causeth his voice to be heard. He cried, as when a lion roareth. He spake with authority, when he appeared on earth in the form of a servant. Now, exalted to the right hand of God, and made King of kings, and Lord of lords, he gives the word, and it is done. Who can resist Omnipotence? Although he is the Lamb slain as a victim for our sins, he is also the Lion of the tribe of Judah, who governs both his own people, and his and their enemies.
He had in his hand a little book open. In the vision of the sealed book, it was made sufficiently manifest that Messiah alone can administer and reveal the purposes of the divine mind respecting the concerns of his empire. He took that book out of his Father’s hand: and it was not now necessary to repeat the evidence of his mediatory appointment to universal authority. He of course appears in the undisputed possession of supreme power. The book in his hand is also open. He who was entitled to break up the seven seals of the great book, of the Lord’s whole purpose respecting the future concerns of the church and of the moral world, may be justly represented as having the subordinate parts of the grand scheme already laid open to him, that he may lay them open to his servants. There is a more particular reason, however, for representing the present book as open in his hand.
Of the sealed book, the events were still future at the date of the vision. Of this book, the subject was actually matter of history at the time to which the vision now under consideration applies. It is introduced to view, after the age of the second wo, or sixth trumpet: and it respects what had, long before, been too well known, and severely felt throughout Christendom,—the great antichristian system. After the year 1672, when the second wo had overthrown completely the remains of the Greek empire, and the Ottoman power was seated in the city of Constantine the Great, a book, which described the antichristian system of the western empire, ought not to be represented as a sealed book. The persecuting character of the man of sin-, and the sufferings of the witnesses, had already been made manifest in the light of history, and therefore was this book open in the Redeemer’s hand.
It was a little book. Βιβλαριδιον, is a diminutive of Βιβλος. It is very surprising that, in direct contradiction to the assertion, which comparing the present book with the sealed book formerly described, calls this a very small volume, so many judicious men as the great mass of protestant Commentators upon the Apocalypse have been, should persist in making it larger than the other. There is not a shadow of reason for Dr. Johnston’s assertion, that it is the remainder of the sealed book itself, embracing the whole succeeding twelve chapters of the Revelation. There is as little foundation for the assertion of Mr. Faber, that it contains the whole of the chapters from the ixth to the xvth. Bishop Newton and Dr. Scott are undoubtedly correct, in representing the little book as terminating with verse 13 of chap. xi.
Both these gentlemen have, however, neglected to state the principal object of the little book, and of course the most forcible argument for limiting it as they have done. It was introduced between the narrative of the sixth and that of the seventh trumpet, because otherwise the seventh trumpet must have appeared without an object.
In no other part of the Apocalypse had there been given a view of the antichristian empire, before the sounding of the seventh trumpet; and consequently it was necessary in this place to return, and select from preceding history an account of that upon which the wo, denounced by the angel of the seventh trumpet; was about to fail. The parenthesis, therefore, which gives this account between these two trumpets, is the little book; and, on account of the vast importance of its contents, it is introduced to our view with very great solemnity.
The Lord Jesus Christ himself holds it open in his hand, and
2. The exhibition was accompanied with the voice of thunder.
Verses 3—7. And when he had cried, seven thunders uttered their voices. And when the seven thunders had uttered their voices, I was about to write: and I heard a voice from heaven, saying unto me. Seal up those things which the seven thunders uttered, and write them not. And the angel which I saw stand upon the sea, and upon the earth, lifted up his hand to heaven, and sware by him that liveth for ever and ever, who created heaven, and the things that therein are, and the sea, and the things which are therein, that there should be time no longer: but in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished, as he hath declared to his servants the prophets.
Thunder, is the noise produced by contending elements, and usually denotes, in the prophetic language, those alarming contentions among the principal powers of the nations, which issue in the great calamities of war. These seven thunders communicated to the apostle John an exposition of their own nature and design; and he was about communicating to us, in this place, the information which he had himself received. He was prevented by divine authority. I heard a voice from heaven, saying unto me, Seal up those things which the seven thunders uttered, and write them not. This is not the place for proclaiming these predictions. Like the visions of Daniel, these voices must be sealed up for an appointed time. What that time is, we must learn from the Messenger of the covenant, our Lord himself: and he proclaims it under the awful solemnity of an oath. The angel lifted up his hand to heaven, and sware by him that liveth for ever and ever, THAT THE TIME SHALL NOT BE YET: but in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished, as he hath declared to his servants the prophets.
The phrase on ὁτι χρονος ουκ ετι εσται, I render, notwithstanding the assertion of archdeacon Woodhouse, and the authority of our translation, that the time is not yet, instead of Time shall be no longer; because this version is justifiable, and it is much more intelligible than the other.
John the Divine, by a prejudice which has greatly abounded, and which indeed is natural to ingenuous and pious minds, anticipated the date of the termination of the fourth beast’s opposition to Christianity. The Redeemer corrects the mistake, and assures him, that the voice of thunder which he heard, and which he was about to write, should not be accomplished until the time of the seventh trumpet.
This trumpet puts an end to the antichristian system, about to be revealed in the xith chapter.
Then shall the mystery of God be finished. That sovereign and mysterious Providence, which permits the mystery of iniquity so long to prevail, will at the very time, revealed of old to his servants the prophets, come to an end.
The same truth was declared to Daniel under similar circumstances, with the solemnity of an oath, taken in the same holy and impressive manner.
Dan. xii. 7—9. And I heard the man clothed in linen, which was upon the waters of the river, when he held up his right hand and his left hand unto heaven, and sware by him that liveth for ever and ever, that it shall he for a time, times, and an half—then said I, O my Lord, what shall he the end of these things? And he said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words arc closed up and sealed till the time of the end.
These thunders, of course, have respect to the events which bring to a close the antichristian period, after the lapse of 1260 years: they accordingly synchronize with the thunders of the seventh trumpet, afterwards heard by the apostle; or rather, they are identified with the thunders of both the seventh trumpet and the seventh vial, which happen at the tune of the end, for the destruction of the man of sin, preparatory to the millennium. To this joyful period, the oath of our exalted Saviour hath undoubted reference, as the era in which the mystery of God shall be finished, and until which the man of sin shall be permitted to stand. This is evident from the words, verse 7. he hath declared as GOOD NEWS to his servants the prophets: for you are to be informed that the verb used in the text conveys this idea— ευηγγελισε; and is accordingly to be applied to that period for which the saints have been so long waiting in hope, and the approach of which they consider as glad tidings.
3. Let us take a view of the apostle John, as he receives the little book from his Redeemer’s hand.
Verses 8—11. And the voice which I heard from heaven spake unto me again, and said. Go and take the little book which is open in the hand of the angel which standeth upon the sea and upon the earth. And I went unto the angel, and said unto him, Give me the little book. And he said unto me, Take it, and cat it up: and it shall make thy belly bitter, hid it shall he in thy mouth sweet as honey. And I took the little hook out of the angel’s hand, and ate it up; and it was in my mouth sweet as honey: and as soon as I had eaten it, my belly was bitter. And he said unto me. Thou must prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings.
This transaction is similar to what took place when the Lord called Ezekiel, by the Assyrian river, Chebar, to go and prophesy to the captive Israelites, then suffering under the rod of the tyrant of Chaldea—the first of the four beasts of scripture prediction.
Unto that prophet was presented, in a miraculous manner, a hand holding a roll of a book spread out, and containing a message of mourning and wo. He too, was caused to eat that roll; and he said, like John the apostle, Then did I eat it; and it was in my mouth as honey for sweetness. To eat, is to receive, after due preparation, food into the stomach, and when applied to intellectual subjects, signifies to receive and understand. Jer. xv. 16. Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart.
The apostle receives in this instance, for himself, and for his successors in the gospel ministry, a commission suited to the exigencies of the church, the knowledge and reception of which was pleasant, although the circumstances of the case, and the condition of both the world and the church marked out in the commission, were painful to a benevolent heart. The acquisition of knowledge upon interesting subjects, is itself desirable and highly gratifying; but to foresee the sorrows and the sufferings of the people of God, is painful to Christian sensibility.
The little book is pleasant in the mouth; but it embitters the stomach. Often, it is our mercy to be ignorant of futurity.
The extent of the commission, given by the Redeemer along with the little open book, and under which we now in the interpretation of that book, are called to act, merits regard—“Thou must prophesy before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings.” It is required, as an indispensable duty, to deliver with plainness and fidelity, this message, however it may affect the great commonwealths of the nations, and their respective constituted authorities. But we proceed,
II. To unfold the contents of the book. The whole of this, Βιβλαριδιον το ηνεωγμενον, little open book, is contained in chap. xi. 17. It is not a part of the sixth trumpet, nor yet of the seventh, although, for the reasons already pointed out, it is introduced between them. Being perfectly distinct from both, we are not therefore, to embarrass the interpretation with any attempt to reduce it under these trumpets. True, indeed, it describes events cotemporaneous with those which are predicted by the last three angels of the trumpets; and it accordingly synchronizes with the three great woes: but while the object of these is to record the fall of the Roman empire in the east and in the west, the object of the little book is to give a miniature history of the state of religion in the western empire only, during the remarkable period of 1260 years, in which the great apostacy prevailed in opposition to true godliness.
This part of the Apocalypse, therefore, describes A heathenish church, in league with a tyrannical and idolatrous empire, opposed to a small company of true Christians, denominated the witnesses: and it exhibits the contest between these parties, and the ultimate result.
Such are the contents of this open book; and we proceed to exhibit them in order.
1. The heathenish church, and beast of the pit.
Chap. xi. 1, 2. And there was given to me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying. Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them, that worship therein. 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 command addressed in these words, by the Head of the church, the Angel of the covenant, to the apostle John, is intended for all the ministers of the gospel. It was not expected that the beloved disciple, who received in Patmos this revelation, should have his days prolonged to the period designated in the prophecy. His successors, in the public service of the church of God, are of course the persons to whom it belongs to see this part of the will of God carried into due effect.
For this purpose, the instrument of definite admeasurement is given to them—a reed like unto a rod. The Hebrew קנה whence are derived the Greek Κανων, and the English word cane, was both straight and light, and a fit, as well as the common instrument of measuring: and like our rod, or pole, it was of definite length—six ells, of six handbreadths each.
This symbol is borrowed from Ezek. xl. 5. and the reed καλαμος given in this text is to be applied to the same purpose of measuring the temple of God, the altar, and the worshippers.
The temple is the church of God, in her regular New Testament organization. The altar, as it was the place upon which offerings were presented, is the symbol of divine worship. The worshippers are themselves also to be measured by the sacred rule.
The measuring reed, is the word of God given in the scriptures; and the ministry are commanded by the Head of the church, to apply that word faithfully to Christian societies; to their forms of religious worship; and to the character of their members, enjoying Christian privileges. To the law, and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them. This duty of high importance at all times, is at the present period of distraction, contention, and sufferings, become more interesting than ever: because the great body of those who bear the Christian name, who occupy the court around the temple, and the whole of the great city of Jerusalem, are cut off from any part among the true worshippers, who worship the Father in spirit and in truth.
“Measuring the servants of God, is equivalent to sealing them. The unmeasured tenants of the outer court, and the unsealed men throughout the Roman empire, are alike the votaries of the apostacy: while they that were measured, and they that were sealed, are the saints who refused to he partakers of its abominations.”
These votaries of the apostacy, we, in this connexion, denominate, the heathenish church.
They have reduced the Christian system, as by themselves professed, into a resemblance to the heathen superstition; and the very name heathen, is given to them in this text. Verse 8. But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles—τοις εθνεσι, the heathen. These words of the great angel, Jesus Christ, furnish us, indeed, with three arguments to prove, that the body of the population of Christendom is, during the specified period, to be considered as an outcast apostate church.
1. The ministers of Christ are commanded by himself, to cast out from the true church, those who worship in the outer court—Εκβαλε is not merely leave out, but, cast out. It is not a simple reprobation, but a complete exclusion.
2. They are not to be measured by the servants of God. They are neither directed by the word of truth, nor sanctified by it; and are consequently like the unsealed sinful world.
3. Both the unmeasured court, and the great city itself, the holy city Jerusalem, are given to the heathen, to be occupied and oppressed by them for a specified time. What is usually called the Christian church, is thus represented as given to the heathen for forty and two prophetic months. We have of course a prediction, that the churches of the nations—the Roman Catholic church, should be considered as outcast, apostate, and heathenish, for the space of 1260 years.
This heathen church is described as in league with the fourth beast, the civil power of the Roman empire.
The first three beasts of Daniel’s vision were passed away long before the time of the little book; and the fourth alone remained in power. This beast is described as espousing the cause of the heathen church, and making a successful war upon those who bear witness to the truth, in opposition to the apostacy supported by the coalition between church and state. Verse 7. The beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them.
This symbol, beast, has been already explained to designate tyrannical and irreligious power. And, in the present case, it must apply to the powers which exist throughout the Roman empire, after its division into several kingdoms. The origin of antichristian power was formerly described, 2 Thess. ii. 9. Whose coming will be after the working of Satan. In this place it is said to be from the ABYSS. Θηριον εκ της αββσσου, the bottomless pit—a fit coadjutor for a heathenish church. I shall be under the necessity of explaining more particularly, in the course of the next lecture, the character of the beast of the pit, who, with his ten horns, persecuted the saints; and in alliance with an apostate church, trampled upon the interests of the holy city, and put to death the witnesses of our Lord. It is sufficient now to remark, that one of the contending parties held out to view, in this chapter, is represented to be the antichristian apostacy, embracing both the ecclesiastical and civil powers of the western Roman empire—“the heathenish church, and beast of the pit.”
In my representation of this formidable and complicated system of opposition to Christianity, I am supported by the best expositors. Bishop Newton has these words, “Though the inner court, which includes the smaller number, was measured, yet the outer court, which implies the far greater part, was left out and rejected, as being in the possession of Christians only in name, but Gentiles in worship and practice, who profaned it with heathenish superstition and idolatry: and they shall tread under foot the holy city, they shall trample upon, and tyrannize over the church of Christ, for the space of forty and two months. The beast that ascendeth out of the abyss, the tyrannical power of Rome, of which we shall hear more hereafter, shall make war against them, (the witnesses)—They shall be subdued and oppressed; be degraded from all power and authority; be deprived of all offices and functions, and be politically dead.”
Mr. Faber says, “that the outer court contained only those nominal Christians, who in practice were Gentiles, and who were unworthy the notice of a Being of infinite purity. The outer court was not formally given unto them by the secular power, till the saints were given into the hand of the little papal horn in the year 606, and till the apostacy became dominant. The foe that slays the witnesses, is styled the beast of the bottomless pit: and this beast will be found upon examination, to be the first beast of the Apocalypse, or the beast with seven heads and ten horns. He is the same as Daniel’s fourth beast, or the Roman empire.”
It is time, however, to turn your attention to the other party in the contest.
II. The Witnesses.
These are a small company of true Christians, defending the interests of religion against all opposition, and frequently sealing with their blood the testimony which they hold.
You will no doubt be desirous to understand their character, and become acquainted with their history. It is the principal object of the little book to gratify this desire. In examining its contents, and in meditating upon the representations which it makes, you will know by experience, that it is well calculated to excite the opposite affections of gladness and grief. It is sweet in the mouth, and makes the heart bitter. I lay the whole passage before you.
Verses 3—12. And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive-trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth. And if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed. 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, and when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them. And their dead bodies shall be in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified. And they of the people, and kindreds, and tongues, and nations, shall see their dead bodies three days and an half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to he put in graves. And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another: because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth. And after three days and an half the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood up on their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them. And they heard a great voice from heaven, saying unto them. Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud: and their enemies beheld them.
Such is the information concerning the witnesses, with which we are furnished in this prophecy. We shall endeavour to ascertain,
I. Their character, in order to assist in discovering their persons in the light of ecclesiastical history.
Witness is a term borrowed from the courts of law; and is applied to the person who declares facts upon oath for the purpose of deciding controversies. An oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife. The word Μαρτυς or μαρτυρ, witness or martyr, is derived from Μαρη, manus, the hand, because witnesses anciently used to lift up their hands in giving evidence upon oath. God’s cause, the Christian religion, is in trial before the world, the tribunal of public opinion among the nations. It is opposed always by corrupt society; and those who give their testimony in its favour are witnesses for God. At the time, referred to in this part of the Apocalypse, antichrist opposes Jesus Christ; and the Saviour employs certain persons to give testimony against the whole claims of the man of sin—I will give power unto MY witnesses. In former ages, they who supported the cause of Jehovah against the pretensions of idols, were called witnesses. The apostles and pastors of the primitive church were Christ’s witnesses against Jewish unbelief and misrepresentation. And those who suffered death for the testimony of Jesus, rather than deny the truth, are in every age emphatically called witnesses or martyrs.
The witnesses in the case before us, have, however, a distinguishing character. They give testimony to the truth in opposition to the antichristian system: and as we have shown, that this system is described in the little book before us, as an apostate church in league with the beast of the pit, these witnesses are of course opposed to the antichristian corruptions of civil and ecclesiastical polity throughout the whole extent of the Latin Roman empire.
This is their distinctive character. For this; express purpose they are introduced; and every assertion concerning them confirms this to be the case.
1. They are distinguished, as a part from the whole, from the great body of those who are to be considered as true Christians, and even from the visible church of God in general at this period. They are Christians; and they belong to the true visible church: but they are a distinct class of Christians in the communion of the visible church. “These witnesses differ as much from their contemporaries, the 144,000 sealed ones, as Elijah differed from the 7000 in Israel in his time, ‘who did not bow the knee to Baal.’ Those testify openly against the antichristianism of the papacy; while these abstain from the corruptions, and worship God sincerely in secret.”
They stand in the inner temple, but they are distinguished from the measured temple, altar, and worshippers, verse 1, and from the woman and her seed, chap. xii. 14—17. These are preserved completely throughout the period of 1260 years, until the millennium; but the witnesses lie dead three years and a half. God is never, for a moment, without a people upon earth; and the visible church is an indestructible society: but these witnesses are actually killed by the beast.
2. They are represented as principally engaged in the contest with the beast, verses 5, 6. They bear the principal suffering in the contest, verse 7. They occupy even in antichristian estimation, the place of most importance: for they are most feared; their death affords the greatest satisfaction; they suffer the chief reproach, a refusal of the rights of sepulture to their slain bodies: and inasmuch as they inflicted, in their life, the greatest torments upon their antichristian enemies, these enemies are, at their resurrection, filled with peculiar alarm, verses 8—11.
3. As king, horns, &c. represent in prophetic style, not an individual, but a succession of men in power, so witness is not to be applied to certain individuals, but to a succession of faithful men, opposing the antichristian corruptions both in church and state, throughout the gloomy period of 1260 years. These witnesses are two in number; because one is not sufficient according to the law to prove the guilt of the antichrist; and because there were as few employed as would be sufficient to attest the truth, and protest against the perversions of the Christian system.
There is besides in this number, two, an allusion to well-known characters who appeared, two and two, and who exemplified in their own day, and taught with fidelity, that doctrine which antichrist remarkably opposes, and which these witnesses are authorized to maintain—the doctrine which requires that man should regulate all his social concerns by the principles and precepts of revealed religion. This doctrine has always been opposed by the supporters of the man of sin; and in direct hostility to it, the antichristian system has been established. The two great branches of that system, the heathenish church and beast of the abyss, have of course corrupted the moral order of the two great kinds of society in Christendom, civil and ecclesiastical. They who bear testimony against this two-fold corruption of religion and morals, are not improperly called two, in allusion to several remarkable instances of two distinguished cotemporaries, who had applied true religion both to civil and ecclesiastical polity. Moses and Aaron are well known to those who read the Apocalypse. These two, the one king in Jeshurun, and the other high priest of the sanctuary, were eminent witnesses of the religious duties of the church and state. They are referred to in the description of our two witnesses, verse 6. as they who in the land of Egypt exhibited power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues. Elijah and Elisha were distinguished, cotemporaries, who restored the law, purged the sanctuary, and made Ahab to tremble on the throne of Israel. They contended for the reformation of society, both in church and state, and are referred to as possessing the spirit of these witnesses whose character we are now investigating, verses 5, 6. To bring fire from heaven to devour the enemy, and to prevent the refreshing rain from descending on the earth, are a reference to the actions of Elijah, whose mantle descended upon Elisha. There are two other remarkable witnesses, of whom these are the legitimate successors, referred to in this prophecy. They are Joshua the high priest, and Zerubbabel prince of Judah, who returned from the Chaldean captivity, and actually restored the moral order of the house of Jacob, re-establishing their civil and ecclesiastical polity. This fact leads me to state as the
4th Consideration, to show that we have not mistaken the character of the witnesses, the allusion in verse 4. These are the two olive-trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth. Here is an immediate reference to the vision of Zechariah the prophet, at the restoration from the captivity of Judah, chap. iv. A candlestick or lamp-bearer of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it, which communicated by seven distinct pipes, to as many lamps, the oil which it contained, appeared to the prophet, after his attention had been excited by an angel. That, however, which excited his curiosity most forcibly, was what respected the two olive-trees. These stood, one upon each side of the lamp-bearer, emptying golden oil out of themselves through two golden pipes, into the bowl which communicated with the seven several lamps of this splendid object. Three several times did the prophet ask of the angel an explanation of this symbol. At last he is informed that these two olive-trees, are the two anointed ones, or sons of oil, that stand by the LORD. These olive-trees represented to the prophet, for the encouragement of the emancipated Israelitish captives, in the holy work of reform in which they were engaged, the two distinguished anointed servants of the Lord, Joshua the high priest, and Zerubbabel the governor, both celebrated by name, and recommended also as worthy of confidence in chapters 3d and 4th. They represent the two great standing ordinances of God, for the preservation of moral and religious order in the human family, the ministry and magistracy, which antichrist is endeavouring universally to corrupt. The two witnesses therefore, standing before the Lord of the whole earth, and proclaiming the dignity of Jehovah-Jesus, of whom Joshua and Zerubbabel were eminent types, in the two-fold character of Head of the church, and Prince of the kings of the earth, oppose the pretensions of the antichrist, who having usurped the temple of God, claims also the right of disposing of crowns and kingdoms.
The sons of oil are, accordingly, those who maintain and promote the light of truth respecting the application of Christianity to the social order of both church and state. They are the two candlesticks, lamp-bearers, because they proclaim the truth, and hold up its light to the world. They are the two olive-trees, because they contend for those ordinances, and have succeeded to the spirit of those men, that by divine appointment support the light of truth, in its sanctifying influences over the sanctuary and the throne.
After these observations, it will appear unnecessary to enter upon a formal examination of the several opinions which have been offered relative to the character of the witnesses. We pass on,
2. To the history of the witnesses.
Having endeavoured to ascertain the character of these eminent witnesses, and to prove, what ought to have been upon first sight obvious to all, that they are the opponents of the system against which they testify—both the heathen church and the beastly state of civil government which exists throughout the western empire, we shall take a view of their history.
The time of forty-two months, in which heathenism prevails in Christendom, is the same with that in which the witnesses prophesy: 42 months of thirty days each amount to 1260 days. I now take for granted, what I shall afterwards prove, that these days are put for years, and that they are to be dated from the year 606, when the holy city was put under the feet of the man of sin, by the authority of the supreme head of the empire. It follows, that the period of history now under consideration, is from the year 606 until the year 1866, or 1843, according to the rules of chronology by which the length of the year is determined.
During this period, which is now drawing near its close, the sons of oil, or witnesses, prophesied; and this consideration ought to have prevented the application of the prediction, either to individual men, or to any society which did not exist from the beginning to the end of the specified time.
They are said to prophesy, not because they are themselves inspired, but because they act under the direction of the inspired writings, and apply the predictions to their proper objects.
Their clothing is sackcloth; because they are in mourning—exposed to oppression—and banished from the palaces of the great, where those dwell who are clothed in rich attire. They are habitually persecuted by the powers of this world.
The witnesses send fire out of their mouth, when they denounce from the scriptures, and in the spirit of true religion, just judgments upon their antichristian enemies. They smite the earth with plagues, when according to their prayers and declarations, vengeance comes upon the advocates of the apostacy, the inhabitants of the symbolical earth. They turn the waters into blood; when the nations are made the instruments of punishing one another for their opposition to the testimony of .Jesus Christ in the hands of his servants, as will more fully appear in the history of the seven last plagues. All these judgments, indeed, refer to the seven golden vials; and the witnesses co-operate, throughout the whole period of their history, with the living creature who gave the vials into the hand of the angels.
The fact of the faithful contendings of such characters, during this whole period—their death—and their resurrection, are the most interesting subjects of discussion, relative to this part of the Apocalypse.
Discarding all other interpretations of the WITNESSES of this little book, we maintain that they are
Those faithful men, of whatever age, nation, or church, who, during the apostacy of the Roman empire, maintain the doctrines of Christianity, and insist upon their application to the whole moral order of society, both in church and state, hearing their testimony against all persons and communities who refuse submission to Messiah our King.
I consider all other representations of the witnesses, as confused, unsatisfactory, and inconsistent, in themselves; and, as it respects the several systems upon which they proceed, private, partial, and illiberal. We ought not to embrace, among the few select servants of our Lord who prophesy in sackcloth, those splendid heretical establishments of the nations, which evidently abuse Christianity; but we ought not to discard from their fellowship, those men of piety, discernment, and fidelity, who, according to their several circumstances in society, wheresoever they live, or may have lived, are found engaged in contending against the great antichristian system of the Latin empire, and vindicating the doctrines and mediatorial prerogatives of Jesus Christ, the Head of the church, and Governor of the nations of the earth.
It is a fact, that a succession of such characters has always existed since the rise of the man of sin.
The Waldenses, from the earliest ages of antichristian usurpation, contended against the enemy, and resisted in open warfare the power of the beast. The Bohemian Brethren, the reformed cantons of Switzerland, and some of the states of Germany, resisted tyrannical power, and papal domination, and gave a practical example of their opposition to the heathen church, and the beast of the beast of the pit. The reformers in the Netherlands taught the principles of the Christian faith to statesmen and warriors, as well as to church members, and succeeded once in wresting from the man of sin, for a time, the oppressed provinces of Holland.
The French witnesses were numerous, and learned, and pious, and powerful; but although they deserved success, they were overcome. The age of the reformation confessedly exhibited, very extensively throughout the empire, able supporters of the Christian system, who laboured for the establishment of true religion in church and state. The British reformers, at the time in which the venerable Assembly of Divines sat at Westminster, exhibited the most accurate and comprehensive system of truth and order which has yet appeared in the national churches of Europe; and they abundantly exemplified their testimony against the beast of the pit, in their exertions to purify the throne as well as the sanctuary. For this purpose, the English and the Scottish Presbyterians, entered into the solemn league and covenant, which made them one body of witnesses, bound together by the oath of God, to contend even unto extirpation against the claims of antichrist in both church and state.
The United States of America feel the heat, and rejoice in the light of the sacred fire, which was transported by their fathers across the Atlantic ocean, when the British horn of the beast of the pit had succeeded in overthrowing the holy fabric of the reformation. Able and eminent men still exist among the several nations and churches, contending as witnesses for those principles which are destined ultimately to bless the moral world. Such witnesses will continue to prophesy ruin to the advocates of the antichristian system, and deliverance to the holy city from the feet of oppression, until they are made to seal their testimony with their blood.
We must now, painful as it is, consider
THE DEATH OF THE WITNESSES.
This alarming event is described in the following words, verses 7—10. “And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill thein. And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified. And they of the people, and kindreds, and tongues, and nations, shall see their dead bodies three days and an half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves. And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another, because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth.”
As there have been various opinions respecting the witnesses themselves, there have been different interpretations given of this interesting part of their history. The kind of death which they suffer must depend upon the kind of life and action which belongs to them: for death is the extinction of life, and puts an end to exertion. The power also which kills; the length of time in which they lie dead and unburied; the place and the time, in which they are put to death, must all be explained in consistency with our ideas of the witnesses themselves. An error, of course, in designating their character, will pervade the whole exposition of their history. This will account for the great disagreement among the expounders of prophecy upon this subject. I shall lay before you at one view.
The principal opinions concerning the death of the witnesses.
1. The general suppression of the bible, by the Papists and Mahometans.
2. The general persecutions of Christians by papal power from its origin.
3. The opposition made to the protestant and Greek churches by the papacy.
4. The burning, for heresy, of John Huss, and Jerome of Prague, &c. &c.
5. The defeat of the protestants in the battle of Mulburg, in April, 1547.
6. Persecutions in England, under Queen Mary, 1553.
7. The French St. Bartholomew’s massacre, in 1572.
8. The persecution, by Lewis XIV. at the revocation of the edict of Nantes, 1685.
9. Persecutions in Piedmont, by the duke of Savoy, in 1686.
10. The opposition to Christianity, by the French revolutionists, 1792.
Lastly, some terrible persecution which is, as yet, to come.
It would lead me too far from the immediate object of this discourse, should I attempt to examine minutely each of these opinions. 1 propose only to establish the truth of that which represents the death of the witnesses as still future, and thus supersede the necessity of discussing any other hypothesis.
In adopting this view of the subject, I confess I do not follow where inclination would lead. Could I find it consistent with the word of God, I should prefer to exhibit our calamities as past, than hold out to your fears the gloomy side of the picture. Even in this case, however, the friends of God ought not to be discouraged. Although the slaughter of the witnesses is yet to come, the cause of religion will generally prosper henceforward throughout the earth. The immense exertions which are at present made to send the word of life among the nations, and the state of Christianity already in places to which the power of the beast does not extend, secure under the divine blessing and protection, the progress of godliness over the earth, although iniquity shall have a short-lived triumph on the street of the mystical Sodom. The nations, within the symbolical earth, which are to be immediately affected by the approaching catastrophe, will be spared until they have done their work of providing elsewhere a place of refuge for the faithful. And our own country, remote from that earth and from the power of the beast of the pit, will remain as an asylum to the dispersed saints, at the time when the witnesses shall be slain in their native land. The religion of Christ shall still continue to move with accelerated velocity, and the number of its votaries shall continue to increase, as shall afterwards be made to appear from other prophecies, at the very time when Satan descends in extraordinary wrath, because his time is but short, to animate his servant the beast to kill the witnesses of Christ against antichrist. In a very short time after their death shall they arise where they fell, and even there obtain the power over their enemies.
“Many good and great men,” said an able divine, venerable for his age, his learning, and his piety, “entertain serious apprehensions of approaching evils, and cannot divest themselves of anxious fears, that the gloom will actually thicken at the close, that the number of believers will be greatly diminished, errors overwhelm the church, and true religion be reduced to an extreme point of depression—But if such apprehensions are the result of ignorance or unwarrantable timidity, if they are not supported by the word of God, especially if they contradict the word, and oppose the evident procedure of divine Providence, let thein be dismissed.” In these sentiments we acquiesce, and we dismiss undue apprehensions, although contrary to the views of President Livingston, we maintain the death of the witnesses to be still a future event. We do not admit, however, the charge even of timidity to apply in this case. When the hour of trial came, there was as much magnanimity displayed by Jeremiah, who predicted the foil of Jerusalem, as there was found in those who disbelieved that prediction. I have believed, therefore have I spoken.
The witnesses of this chapter, we have already described. They are immediately opposed to the complex system of tyranny and superstition, and display a testimony against antichristian principles in church and state. They are, of course, esteemed bad subjects to the beast and his ten horns; and are therefore said to torment them that dwelt on the earth. The present truth, whatever may be most disputed, they more immediately maintain. And wheresoever they are, they testify against the prevalent corruptions. That point upon which antichrist attacks Christianity, they for the time defend. They are the friends of both civil and religious liberty; but it is Christian liberty, and not irreligion, which they defend, and which they recommend to society, civil and ecclesiastical. They are not timid or partial, but boldly declare the truth; and because they are unyielding, they are hated. They are always persecuted during the 1260 years, in which they prophesy in sackcloth: and with a progressive testimony against the errors of the man of sin, they go on to complete it; and it is about the time in which they finish their testimony they are killed.
Their death is caused by the beast of the pit. The heathenish church excites the immoral power of the state to this deed; but it is the revived empire of the west which kills the witnesses, either directly by its own power, or by employing one or more of its horns or kingdoms to do this. “Let the reader,” said Mr. Faber, “only compare together the following texts, and he will be sufficiently convinced of the truth of my assertion. Rev. xi. 7. The beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit, shall make war against them. Rev. xiii. 1. And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns.
Rev. xvii. 7, 8. I will tell thee the mystery of the woman, and of the beast that carrieth her, which bath the seven heads and ten horns. The beast that thou sawest was, and is not, and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit. It is a palpable truth, that the beast of the sea, and the beast of the bottomless pit, are the self-same ten-horned and seven-headed beast.”
The time in which they lie dead is three days and a half. A day for a year. The time is specific. It is a forced construction, which, to answer a purpose otherwise irreconcilable with this prophecy, would render the three days and a half equal to the 1260 days of their prophecy. In that case the witnesses never lived. If they lay dead during the whole time of their prophecy, when was it that they tormented the nations? for in their death the nations rejoiced. With such a latitude of interpretation, dates may signify any thing. The plain truth is, those witnesses bore their testimony 1260 years, under circumstances of great affliction. At the close of this period, they were silenced by the last struggles of the beast to preserve his power. He triumphed, and they were silent for three and a half years. They revived at the end of that period; the beast disappeared; and the time of Daniel came when the saints possessed the kingdom. The little book terminates; and the narrative of the sealed book commences, where it was interrupted, with an account of the sounding of the seventh trumpet. Such is certainly the idea that a plain unprejudiced reader of intelligence would annex to this passage. Nothing but the design of making it consistent with some system, adopted from prejudice, would torture the three days and a half to an equality with 1260 days, and so rob us of all our living witnesses, keeping them dead during the whole time. Death and life, in relation to the same thing, cannot be predicated of them at the same time. It was their life, as witnesses to bear testimony against antichrist; it is, as witnesses, they are put to death, when such testimony is, violently and effectually silenced. There will be Christians, there will be churches, as there always have been. But for three years and a half, there will not be found, within the bounds of the Latin Roman empire, any witnesses to bear a public testimony against the man of sin, at the close of his reign. I shall, however, lay before you in this place, a summary of the argument by which we prove the death of the witnesses to be yet a future event.
1. The death of the witnesses is yet to come, because they are now neither dead, nor arisen from the dead.
They still prophesy in sackcloth. It is not imagined by any expositor that we are now under the three and a half years; and it is manifest we are not, from the fact that no joy is felt by the antichristian nations, no mirth, no sending of gifts, according to verse 10th, for such an event. There is too much activity still among Christians in opposing the grand enemy, to admit the idea that the witnesses are now lying unburied in the streets. And if their character has been properly defined in this lecture, it is equally manifest that their resurrection is not arrived. Immediately upon that event, extraordinary terror falls upon their enemies: and they are themselves, by the voice of God, called up to heaven, no longer to wear sackcloth; for that is not the place of mourning. The throne is, then, occupied by the saints; and the kingdoms of this world, become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ. The great predicted earthquake arrives—the antichristian system shakes to its centre; the impenitent supporters of it perish in despair; and the remnant submit to true religion, and give glory to God. Nothing like this has as yet accompanied or flowed from the French revolution—the only event, to which the earthquake, verse 13th, has at all been applied by modern expositors. The friends of religion, and the most enthusiastic admirers of civil liberty, find now that their early impressions were incorrect, when they hailed as the resurrection of the witnesses the convocation of the French national assembly.
Like other events, the French revolution will be overruled by the King of nations for his own glory; but it was unreasonable ever to have expected from such men, as made the principal figure in that work of judgment and of blood, that they should personate the arisen witnesses of the living Saviour Jesus Christ, or even that civil liberty itself should be established and protected by them.
2. We consider the event as future, because these witnesses have not as yet employed, in prophesying, the whole time unto which they have been called; and it is not until then that they are slain.
The time, definitely marked out in prophecy for this work, is 1260 years; and these years are not expired. The evils against which they testify still exist—corrupt constitutions of church and state—the heathenish church, and the seven-headed ten-horned beast. However happy the deliverance procured for the churches by the protestant reformation, there is not among these nations of the western empire a single one to-day without an antichristian constitution. So far, therefore, from being themselves, in their political character, ranked among the witnesses against the corruptions of church and state, are these nations, that they require from the faithful a testimony against the immoralities which they have incorporated with their several establishments. In each of these nations mere politicians have modified even the protestant churches into such a form, as that, while they are severed from other churches contrary to the unity of the Spirit, they are made a part of the civil government of the nation, and are thus degraded to the earth.
These corrupt establishments place the churches in league with the beast with the ten horns; and instead of being themselves witnesses against corruption, there are, both within and without their communion, men who, in sackcloth prophesy against them, and bear a testimony against the evil. It is when they shall have finished, at the end of 1260 years, their testimony, they shall be killed. Whether we render οταν τελεσωσι, in verse 7, when they shall he finishing, or, when they shall have finished, is a matter of no consequence. The idea in either case, carries us where the whole history of the witnesses leads us, to the termination of the period.
3. From the nature of the work of bearing testimony against antichristian misrule, in church and commonwealth, it is evident that it is still incomplete; and hence also it appears, that they who carry on the work are not yet dead.
Christ, our pattern and example, the faithful and true witness, was not put to death until he finished the work given him to do. And by the reference to his crucifixion, verse 8, it is to be expected that his witnesses shall not be slain until, as he did, they finish, in their last sufferings, the whole work they have to perform. This is the true import of the expression οταν τελεσωσι. In suffering death, our Saviour finished his work. When finishing their work, the witnesses are slain. By the blood of martyrdom, they seal the last article in their testimony; and thus is the testimony completed.
Of these articles, it appears from the history of the persecutions which preceded this age, there remains one, an important one, and only one, to be a ground of suffering. In testifying for it, there is high probability, the witnesses must be slain.
The true cause of all persecution, is in all ages the same—DISOBEDIENCE TO THE POWERS THAT BE. If Christians would act, as such powers desire, in all cases, there would be no controversy, no martyrdom. If in every point they obey, but in one, for that one they must suffer. Such is persecution.
Under the Old Testament, the saints suffered for worshipping the true God, and rejecting idols. At the commencement of the Christian era, they suffered from Jews and Gentiles, for receiving Christ as Messiah, and for defending the doctrine of faith in his name. Under antichrist they suffered, at and before the reformation, for defending the doctrines of grace, and the order of the sanctuary against the heathen church in league with the beast. Antichrist tolerated what the Jews and the pagans condemned. He permitted men to worship God, and acknowledge Messiah; but not to oppose the papal superstition. After the reformation, the protestant powers, as well as the popish kingdoms, claimed the right of prescribing a religion for their subjects. The saints then suffered, not merely for their abstract articles of belief, or for their opinions of the pope; but for not submitting to the religious worship supported by the government of the country. This was the cause of the persecutions in France under Lewis XIV. and in Britain under THE HOUSE OF STUART. Every where, throughout the Roman empire, the witnesses have testified that Christ is the only Saviour, and they died to seal that testimony. The Huguenots, the Puritans, and the Covenanters, have suffered death, in bearing testimony to the exclusive headship of Jesus Christ over his own church, and in disclaiming all human lordship over the conscience: but it does not appear that witnesses have been put to death for testifying against the irreligion of civil polity, any where as yet, in the antichristian world. This article still remains to be completed. As these sons of sorrow, clad in mourning apparel, were originally cited to give evidence for the cause of truth and order in the world, against the pretensions of the heathen church and beast of the pit, it is necessary that they be as explicit, in opposing the beastliness of the one, as they have been in opposing the heathenism of the other.
Christ’s HEADSHIP OVER THE NATIONS is the present testimony.
It is not probable that the witnesses will escape better in maintaining this doctrine than in other cases. Modern principles of government, it is true, disclaim persecution for articles of faith, or modes of ecclesiastical government: but the ten-homed beast will not submit to be fold, that he must kiss the Son: and that true religion is not merely to be tolerated, but is in fact to influence civil polity, and to overthrow all inconsistent establishments. When this one remaining article of the testimony against the antichristian system is so generally espoused, as that the number and power of the witnesses is sufficient to excite notice and alarm, then will the beast slay them, and in dying, will they have completed their testimony. This period is not yet arrived; but is fast approaching.
4. That the death of the witnesses has not, as yet, come to pass, appears from the fact that it is caused by the last great struggle of the beast against the saints. This is obvious, because this war is peculiarly mentioned in the prophecy; and because at the resurrection of the witnesses, the power of the enemy comes to an end.
No event corresponding to this has hitherto occurred in Christendom; nor can such an event occur until knowledge is so far increased, and influential men are so well instructed, both in the character of the mystery of iniquity, and in that of the true moral order which Christianity recommends for the government of society, as to be in due measure prepared both to testify against the one, and to reduce the other to practice. When the numbers, the learning, and the talents, enlisted on the side of the Bible religion, and Bible politics, are become so formidable as to alarm the beast, then will he make war upon them; and for three years and a half, that war will be successful. Dreadful will be the effect; but God will speedily interfere. The witnesses shall stand upon their feet before him. He will call them into supreme power, and the reign of antichrist is then no more. The nations are not as yet ripe for this harvest: but knowledge is certainly in rapid progression. Attention to the Bible is increasing every day; and mankind have many inducements, in the present convulsed state of the moral world, to fly for refuge to that book which contains the only correct view of the principles which will bless the earth with peace.
Resurrection of the Witnesses.
We have it not in our power to describe very accurately an event which is still future; but we are assured that when those faithful martyrs shall have been silent for the space of three prophetical days and a half, that is, three natural years and a half the spirit of life from God shall enter into them. By the grace of God they shall arise, in those who succeed to their principles, and shall assume a respectability and an influence, which puts down all subsequent opposition.
The experiment of antichristian policy will have been, in the estimation of civilized Europe, carried to a sufficient length; and it will be prepared to yield its government to the influence of true religion.
All irreligious polity will be discarded as insufficient to bless the earth with peace and happiness, and the saints alone exalted to the political heaven. The voice of God will cause this change. Divine grace will influence men to exalt to power over them by their suffrages none but those who will rule in the fear of God. They ascended up to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies beheld them.
Cotemporaneously, εκ εκεινη τη ὁρα, with the resurrection of the witnesses is the final earthquake, and the fall of the tenth part of the city. Time will be the most accurate expositor of this prediction. Some kingdom, probably that very one in which the witnesses were slain, and in which most has already been done for the dissemination of sound doctrine; some one of the ten kingdoms which have acted as the horns of the beast, will be distinguished in the general earthquake, by the first actual and complete secession from irreligious policy, and be the first to exemplify, upon a permanent footing, since the dismemberment of the Jewish monarchy by the first great beast, the true scriptural order of civil government.
This great and salutary change cannot be effected without the entire prostration of former civil and ecclesiastical dignitaries. In the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand.
In the original it is ονοματα ανθρωπων, names of men, that thus fall. The expression signifies, of course, the prostration of titles, rather than the destruction of lives. The inhabitants of other countries, saw and imitated this example. The remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven.
Here the little book closes. It is a summary history of the remarkable 1260 years, with special reference to the witnesses. It describes the state of the church become heathen in league with immoral power, and the state of the true church measured by the word of God, and worshipping at the New Testament altar; and it emphatically exhibits the few faithful men among the scattered churches who maintained correct principles relative to social religion, in opposition to the corrupt constitutions of church and state in the antichristian empire, until their cause became triumphant, and the reign of the man of sin had terminated.
I must now conclude this lecture, already prolonged to an extraordinary length. I have it in my power, from the sacred text, to assure my hearers, that the Christians and the witnesses of this land shall not suffer in the catastrophe which we have considered. That event takes place within the bounds of the western empire. We shall have, it is true, our trials, and our sorrows. Our sympathy will be excited by the sufferings of others; but as we never formed a street of mystical Babylon, the great empire, in which our Lord was crucified, and which is spiritually called Sodom and Egypt, we cannot by the death of our own citizens, exemplify the death of the witnesses. No: here they have hitherto found protection. Let this be the asylum of the oppressed. Our nation was peopled, in a great measure, by the persecuted pilgrims, and it has grown by accessions of a similar character. Whatever may be its crimes, and they are very great, and will assuredly be punished by a righteous God; whatever are its crimes, they are small, compared with those of other civilized nations.
America has not been guilty of shedding the blood of the martyrs. She has not persecuted the wandering and benighted sons of Abraham, still beloved for the Fathers’ sake, and again to be brought back to the knowledge of the truth. She has not, either by sea or by land, encouraged oppression, or despoiled of his goods him that was at peace with us. This hitherto happy land, has been a place of refuge from the storm which desolates the old world. Long may it retain this character! Let its door of hospitality be still open for the reception of the stranger, who sighs for a participation in the blessings of liberty enjoyed by the sons of Columbia! And let the republican banner cover as a mantle, and continue to protect its adopted citizens, against the unholy claims, and unblessed pretensions of perpetual allegiance to despotic power!
But if we are safe from the last war of the beast against the witnesses, where shall the blow fall? On what street, in what kingdom of the ancient empire, shall the witnesses of Jesus Christ lie dead, and unburied, the sport of the sons of darkness? In what land are to be found the victims, the last victims, to be offered upon the altar of the man of sin?
You anticipate my reply. There is one nation to which the eye is irresistibly turned. It is not a secret to the Christian world, in what country dwell the witnesses of our Redeemer, at the present time, in the greatest number, with the greatest zeal, intelligence, activity, and usefulness. There too, they are likely to continue in the greatest notoriety during the few years which remain of the time necessary for them to complete their testimony. It is painful, brethren, to anticipate this event. It embitters the heart. Heavy are these tidings from the little book: but we must receive it out of the angel’s hand. Shall our fathers, our friends, our brethren in the faith of God’s elect, bound with us in the most sacred ties, for the promotion of the Lord’s cause, be opposed, and persecuted, and put to death in the British dominions?
It is only a conjecture. We do not, we dare not predict. The place is not absolutely pointed out in the prophecy. We cannot be certain until the event declares what street of the great city, the old Roman empire, is to be the place of slaughter. The British empire is within the bounds of the symbolical earth. She is, at present, the principal support of the old antichristian systems of Europe. She bears up the empire of the west, against the third and the last wo, now pouring out its plagues by the agency of revolutionary France. Should that wo be permitted in the providence of God to break over the cliffs of Albion, and its foaming billows roll along to the high mountains of Caledonia, where the old Roman legions were stopped in the days of other times, the war of the beast against The witnesses must become matter of history. The best of the saints, and the most magnanimous, intelligent, and faithful of that land, as they would not be silent, could not be safe.
Men of no religion—men inclined to a splendid form without life or reality—the avowed enemies of evangelical doctrine—the high advocates of arbitrary power and prelatical pride—those who excommunicate from the pale of the church of God, all but themselves and the church of Rome, would easily embrace the views of the antichristian conqueror. But thousands among the several religious denominations of the British isles would seal their testimony with their blood.
Such an event—sufferings extreme from the hand of France—sufferings approaching to desolation, have been expected for ages by the pious people in that country. What is to prevent such a catastrophe? Britain, first in crime, because sinning against the clearest light, and the greatest mercies, deserves the scourge. Britain, possessing the most active, useful, and important part of the church of God, will be preserved from wrath until the work assigned to her pious sons shall have been accomplished. Let that work be done, and then though Noah, and Daniel, and Job, were there, they cannot prevent the evil to come.
Let us tremble and adore. Let us hail the prospect of a speedy resurrection to the successors of the martyrs. For in the fall of this tenth part of the idolatrous city, is involved the ruin of those who prevent the re-establishment of the reformation. And soon thereafter shall the friends of righteousness in the church and in the commonwealth be exalted to a station which shall be powerful and permanent. The country in which they suffered during the last struggle, may be the first to redeem its character, and to set the example to others of a kingdom which is, in fact, and by profession, one of the kingdoms of our God and his Christ. AMEN.
 The reader may consult in this connexion, Lecture VII. from page 188. to page 192. Argument 2d, for ascertaining the time of the third wo. [Begins HERE]
 See this explained in page 170. [HERE]
 Dan. viii. 26. and xii. 4, 9.
 It is preferred by Newton. Mede, Johnston, &c.
 The manner in which an appeal is made to the Supreme Being, ought never in a Christian country to be considered as indifferent. Custom, alas, and not conscience, will however, among irreligious men, usually direct the manner of their religious worship.
The prevailing manner of administering oaths, in this country, borrowed from English customs, is not only unmeaning and irreverent; but also superstitious, and greatly tends to destroy the solemnity of an oath. To see some careless servant or clerk holding out a book, no matter what, which the juror is to kiss, would be ridiculous enough, were it not a prostitution of a holy ordinance. In that case it becomes impious.
Paley, in his Principles of Moral Philosophy, admits the pernicious tendency of the English practice on this subject. “The forms of oaths—are, in no country in the world, I believe, worse contrived, either to convey the meaning, or impress the obligation of an oath, than in our own—the substance of the oath is repeated to the juror by the officer, adding in the conclusion, ‘So help you God.’ The juror, whilst he hears the words of the oath, holds his right hand upon a Bible or other book—then kisses the book: the kiss, however, seems rather an act of reverence to the contents of the book, as in the popish ritual, the priest kisses the gospel before he reads it, than any part of the oath,” page 137. Boston, Oct. 1801.
Another Archdeacon of the church of England takes notice of the prevailing deviation from the scriptural manner of swearing, and remarks with Mr. Paley, the continuance of the proper method still in Scotland. “The angel takes a solemn oath, in a form of scriptural antiquity. This mode of swearing has descended even to our own times and nation, being still used in Scotland.” Woodhouse in loco.
The practice of kissing the book, which Paley derives from the church of Rome, is of more remote antiquity. The papal superstition borrowed it, like the other parts of their demon-worship, from the heathen. Minutius Felix says, that as Cæcilius passed before the statue of Serapis, he kissed his hand toward the statue. And the editor of Calmet’s Dictionary gives several instances of this kind of idolatry. Job, xxxi. 26, 27. describes this kissing as an act of idolatry to be punished by the judges, instead of being imitated by them in their systems of jurisprudence. It is described, 1 Kings xix. 18. as a part of the homage given to the idol Baal. The prophet Hosea describes the prevalent idolatry in these remarkable words, which particularly explain the nature of this ceremony, Hosea xiii. 2. And now they sin more and more, and have made them molten images:—they say of them, Let the men that sacrifice KISS THE CALVES.
It is true, that the practice of this country does not command the men that swear or sacrifice to kiss the calves; but it requires, what is to the full as contemptible and superstitious, that they shall kiss the skin, whether of sheep or of calf.
I have no doubt, however, if we once had a few sensible and liberal-minded Christians, men raised above the petty prejudices which govern the practice of others, exalted to influence in our land, they could, considering the generous character of our public institutions, with facility correct the evil of multiplying unnecessary oaths, and of administering them in this antichristian manner. Mr. Woodhouse, in proof of the scriptural mode of swearing, produced by our Saviour,—by holding up to the Most High God the right hand, quotes Gen. xiv. 22. Deut. xxxii. 40. Ezek. xx. 5. and Isa. lxii. 8.
 Compare xi. 10. with xvi. 18.
 Ezek. ii. 8—10. and iii. 1—3.
 Faber, Vol. II. p. 49.
 The church of Rome will be described hereafter in these lectures. In the meantime, I transcribe the following passage from a well-known historian. “The images of those who, during their lives, had acquired the reputation of uncommon sanctity, were now honoured with a particular worship in several places; and many imagined that this worship drew down into the images the propitious presence of the saints or celestial beings they represented; deluded, perhaps, into this idle fancy, by the crafty fictions of the heathen priests, who had published the same thing concerning the statues of JUPITER and MERCURY. As there were none in these times to hinder the Christians from retaining the opinions of their pagan ancestors concerning departed souls, heroes, demons, temples, and such like matters, and even transferring them into their religious services; and as, instead of entirely abolishing the rites and institutions of ancient times, these institutions were still observed with only some slight alterations; all this swelled of necessity the torrent of superstition, and deformed the beauty of the Christian religion and worship with those corrupt remains of paganism, which still subsist in a certain church.
It will not be improper to observe here, that the famous pagan doctrine, concerning the purification of departed souls, by means of a certain kind of fire, was more amply explained and confirmed now than it had formerly been. Every body knows, that this doctrine proved an inexhaustible source of riches to the clergy through the succeeding ages, and that it still enriches the Romish church with its nutritious streams. Mosheim’s Church History, Vol. II page 37—39. Phil. 1797.
 See Lecture II. page 44. [HERE]
 Heb. vi. 16.
 See Hedericus, and Damm. Coll. 1495.
 See Parkhurst, and page 305 of these Lectures. [HERE]
 Isa. xliii. 10.
 Acts x. 39.
 Acts xxii. 20. Rev. xvii. 6.
 Frazer’s Key, page 148. Phil. 1802.
 Psa. cii. 28.
 Matth. xvi. 18.
 Deut. xvii. 6. 2 Cor. xiii. 1.
 Deut. xxxiii. 5.
 Exod. xxviii. 1. and xxix. 21.
 Exod. vii. 17.
 1 Kings xvii. 1. James v. 17. 2 Kings i. 10—12.
 “The prophets are particularly described, verse 2. by, 1. their special work to witness and give testimony for Christ, against the corruptions and usurpations of these times: so ministers are called witnesses, Acts i. 7, 8. Their work should be to be witnesses for mistaken truth, and against antichrist.
“They are said to be two, 1. because two witnesses arc the least that confirm a truth, but they are sufficient; so it importeth they shall not be many, yet sufficient to testify against these evils filly. 2. Because of allusion in the words following, where something of three couple of famous witnesses is attributed to these two mentioned here; in allusion, I say, to God’s way of making use of two, in all dangerous periods of the church, viz. Joshua and Zerubbabel, Moses and Aaron, Elias and Elisha; in respect to which three couple, the following description of the witnesses here, is holden forth in the effect of their prophesying, both to friends and enemies; viz. 1. They are as Zerubbabel and Joshua, two olive-trees, Zech. iv. 3. from whom droppeth the oil to keep light and life in the two candlesticks.
“2. If any will oppose them, fire proceedeth from them, as Elias destroyed the two fifties, 2 Kings i. 10. So their enemies shall be destroyed as surely, and their word and threatenings shall take effect on them.
“3. Their power is described by other effects, that as Elias, by prayer, prevailed to shut heaven, that it rained not, and Moses and Aaron did turn waters into blood, and wrought other wonders in plaguing of Egypt, so shall they have.” Durham on the Revelation, page 496. Glasgow, 1788.
“It is a sufficient reason why these witnesses are said to be two, as two were the legal number of witnesses, and as in the times of the ancient prophets on greater occasions, two were usually joined together, as Moses and Aaron in Egypt; Elijah and Elisha in the apostacy of the tribes; Zerubbabel and Joshua, after the Babylonish captivity.” LOWMAN.
Opinions relative to the witnesses.
1. The Old and New Testament.
2. The Old and New Testament churches.
3. The Protestant and Greek churches.
4. Some two distinguished individuals—Luther, and Calvin, &c.
5. All Christians, or the Protestants.
6. The French Republicans.
 This question must be hereafter discussed.
 See Lecture VIII. page 235. [HERE]
 The history of the true witnesses of Christ is exceedingly interesting, and here too rapidly sketched. In the works of Usher and of Allix, the learned reader will find much desirable information on the subject. Bishop Newton’s dissertation on the text, is re plete with important matter. But a comprehensive and satisfactory account of the two witnesses and of their testimony, from the rise of antichrist until the present day, would be a very valuable document to the Christian scholar. It would furnish an account of the remnant of the faithful as distinguished from nominal Christianity, in the first place; and in the second place, an account of those pious and public-spirited men who testified against thrones of iniquity. At the present day, these two witnesses, according to my definition of them, are greatly scattered: but still, there are many in Europe, and not a few in the United States of America, who, in opposition to the prevalent errors of their age, have raised a voice too loud not to be heard, too distinct not to be understood, and too persuasive not to be respected, both in defence of evangelical doctrine, and in support of the maxim, that religion should influence the political as well as the ecclesiastical conduct of man. Their names and their testimony to this truth, deserve to be distinctly made known in a history of the witnesses. For such a work, the author of these lectures has already made some preparation. Should his life be spared, he may hereafter, unless anticipated by a more able hand, lay it before the public.
 Dr. Livingston’s Missionary Sermon, New-York, 1804.
 This principle will be illustrated in Lecture XII.
 We have already intimated, page 211 [HERE], that this period synchronizes with that of the seventh trumpet, and with the time of the vintage, chap. xiv.
 High churchmen, contending for the divine right of prelacy, consign to uncovenanted mercy all who do not submit to their bishops. They claim a nearer connexion with the papists, than they do with other protestants.