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Thus it is evident, that in a spiritual sense only, we are to understand the words Sodom, Egypt and Jerusalem; they are used metaphorically. And farther, the great city which is called Sodom, Egypt, and Jerusalem, cannot be all of them, and therefore must be interpreted to signify some great society or body of men, which is like them all; resembling them all in the peculiar wickedness of each, as well as in rebellion against the most high God; the common character of them all. As Jerusalem in its degenerate days, is by the prophet called Sodom and Gomorrah, (Isa. i. 9, 10.) so the great city, in which the witnesses prophesy and suffer, is called after the name of all the cities mentioned, because it resembles all.
Thirdly, the time of the accomplishment of this prophecy seems, upon the whole, to be pretty well ascertained; for although doubts must arise concerning the exact commencement, and consequently the close of its period; yet a main part of it is plainly seen to occupy many centuries of the most degenerate and idolatrous times of the Christian church; when the Gentile world, the European nations, professed the Christian religion, but not in its purity; a period of twelve hundred and sixty years, contemporary with the reign of the wild beast, the much greater part of which seems now to be past. Yet, during this period, we cannot collect from history that any such literal accomplishment has taken place.
Nor, fourthly, ought we to expect such literal accomplishment; because, in other instances, the acknowledged types under the Old Testament, have not been fulfilled literally in their antitypes under the gospel. John the Baptist
John the Baptist is said to come “ in the spirit and power of Elias,” nay, to be that very prophet, (Luke i. 17; Matth. xi. 4; Mark ix. 13); yet, conformably to the spirit of meekness, which is peculiar to the gospel, he performed no avenging miracles; he called down no literal fire from heaven to destroy his opposers.
He knew, better than those disciples who intreated their Master for this fire, (Luke ix. 54–57,) “ what manner of spirit he was of.” He knew that “ the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God, to the pulling down strong holds. He poured down fire on them by the words of his mouth. (2 Cor. x. 4; Matth. iii, 7-12.)
Thus, in a spiritual sense, the prophecy may be accomplished in the witnesses, without (i.) literal fire; (2.) without the hindrance of literal rain; or (3.) the conversion of the waters literally into blood. The first may be deemed essentially fulfilled, if the enemies of the witnesses, and of their pure religion, are in many instances dismayed, confounded, frustrated, and subdued by the heavenly words of their mouth. The second, if the rain from heaven which, spiritually interpreted, is the blessing from heaven upon the growth of true religion generally in the world,' is suspended during their prophecy. The third, if in the contest, the enemies of the witnesses, instead of the peaceful enjoyment expected to accrue from their apparent destruction, behold their tenets, and the open profession of them revive with power irresistible.
Add to this, that the death of the witnesses is also to be taken in a spiritual sense. Such an acceptation of it agrees best with the succession of witnesses, which, as before observed, must necessarily take place in so long a duration of time. They do not all die, and rise again from the dead ; but if their religion, and the power thereof, be extinguished for a time, and then raised again unexpectedly, and by
1 Ps. Ixviii. 9; lxxii. 6; Isa. lv. 10; Hos. vi. 1; Ezek. xxxiv. 26; Heb. vi. 7.
heavenly agency and power, the prophecy may appear to be fulfilled.
The prophets Moses and Elijah, typify in their history, that of the two witnesses. These two prophets fled to the wilderness, from the presence of two idolatrous kings. In a time of general depravity, they preserved, and at length miraculously restored the light and prevalence of true religion. They seem both of them, in their own persons, either exempt from death, or to have been raised immediately from its dominion; for they both appeared at the transfiguration of our Lord, types of a glorious resurrection. Whatever in this chapter is attributed to the witnesses, may be found prefigured in one or other, or both these prophets. But that which the prophets did in their bodies literally, the witnesses perform only in a spiritual sense; that sense which is peculiar to the gospel of the New Testament, when compared with its prototypes in the Old, We are then to look beyond the literal sense; and fixing our attention on the period of history to which we seem directed, we cannot fail to remark a long succession of ages, commencing with the times when the western Gentiles flowed into the Church, and possessed the outer courts of the temple; when, on their ignorance and superstition a corrupt and ambitious clergy began to raise the papal hierarchy, substituting Pagan ceremonies, and, unauthorised observances in the room of primitive religion.
These in history are called the middle ages ; intervening between the bright period of ancient literature, and the restoration of learning in the fourteenth century; between the days of primitive Christianity, and the return of it at the Reformation. They are marked in ecclesiastical history by ignorance, superstition, corrupt morals, and by papal usurpation. But the progress of these foes to true religion, and to the happiness of mankind, was opposed and retarded by the professors of a purer faith. “God did not leave himself without a witness." There arose in many parts of the great Christian republic, and at various periods, professors and preachers of a purer religion; of a religion formed upon the promises and precepts revealed in that sacred book, which it was the constant endeavour of the ecclesiastical usurpers to keep out of sight.
A successive train of these, though thinly scattered, was seen, in defiance of the papal thunder, to devoutly hold up to admiring Christians the light of the gospel, and the true worship of the temple. Though beset with difficulties and dangers, from the powers civil and ecclesiastical united to suppress them, they stood their ground with a confidence and energy that could arise only from such a cause, the cause of truth, cherished and supported by the spirit and power of God.
of God. If they suffered, their enemies suffered also, were frequently discomfited and repulsed, and obtained at last a dear-bought and only temporary victory.
of the witnesses in the early part of this history, we have received but imperfect accounts; and these are come down to us in a very suspicious form, being transmitted to us chiefly in the writings of their adversaries. We may admit, therefore, what is thus said in their praise, while in other respects, we must be allowed to doubt.
It appears probable, that the Valdenses, so early as in the seventh century, had retreated to the valleys of Piedmont, there to profess and enjoy a purer religion than was permitted to them elsewhere." In the eighth and ninth centuries, the progress of Popery was vigorously opposed; and private masses, and pilgrimages, and the worship of images, and other superstitions, and the doctrine of transubstantiation, then first broached, were clearly shown, by many learned writers, to be contrary to the truth of Christianity. From the time of Pope Gregory VII. in the eleventh century, we see the light of truth more frequently beaming forth, and with increasing lustre. In the twelfth century, it was widely diffused by Peter Waldo and his followers. In the thirteenth century, the inquisition was established to extinguish it, and crusades were levied against those who received it. In the fourteenth century, our Wickliffe caught the holy light, and communicated it to many proselytes. In the succeeding century, John Huss, and Jerome of Prague, died martyrs to the cause; and it shone forth among their numerous disciples, in many parts of Europe, until the inquisition, with fire and faggot, and by obstinate perseverance, seemed at length to have obtained the object of so much murderous persecution, the extinction of a pure faith and practice; so that at the commencement of the next century, the Roman pontiff appeared to enjoy his usurpation in tranquil security.
i Mosheim's Hist. cent. vii. part ii. ch. ii. sect. 2; cent. xii. part ii. ch. v. sect. 2. note; and the authorities referred to.
But suddenly, to the utter astonishment and confusion of the papal world, they beheld this heresy (as they termed it,) revive, --" a spirit of life from God enters into it,-it stands upon its feet;" it becomes immortal, and leads the way to heaven.
Thus, the revival of pure religion “in spirit and in truth,” placed by the Reformation beyond the power
i Usserius de Christianæ Ecclesiæ successione et statu. Allix's remarks on the ancient churches of the Albigenses, and of Piedmont. Bishop Newton's Dissertations on Prophecy, vol. iii. pp. 150-160. octavo edit.
? Mosheim, cent. xiii. part ii. ch. v.