Page images
PDF

The first may be deemed essentially fulfilled, if their enemics, the enemics of 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 ", is evidently suspended during their prophecy. The third, if in the contest, their enemies, instead of the peaceful enjoyment, expected to accrue from the overthrow of the wit. nesses, be found to have that peace troubled and discomfited, and blood and slaughter to be poured on their own heads. Add to this, that the death of the witnesses is also to be taken in a spiritual sense. Such interpretation agrees best with the succession of wit. nesses, which, as before observed, must necessarily take place in so long a duration of time. They do not all die, and again arise from the dead; but if their religion and the power thereof be first extinguished, and then raised again, the prophecy seems to be accomplished f. We are then to look beyond the literal sense; and fixing our attention on the period of history, to

* Psalms lxviii. 9; lxxii. 6. Isa. lv. 10. Hos, vi. 3.

+ The prophets Moses and Elijab typify, in their history, that of the two witnesses. These two prophets fled to the wilderness before the face of idolatrous kings. In a time of general depravity, they preserved, and at length miraculously restored, the light and preva. lence of true Religion. They seem, both of them in their own persons, to have been exempt from death, or to have been raised im’ mediately beyond its dominion. T hey both appeared at the trans' figuration,-types of a glorious resurrection. Whatever is attributed to the witnesses, may be found prefigured in one, or other, or both, of these eminent prophets. But that which the prophets did literally, the witnesses perform ou!y in a borrowed and spiritual sease.

[ocr errors]

which we seem directed, we cannot but 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 anbitious 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 Grecian and Roman literature, and the restoration of learning in the fourteenth century; between the days of primitive Christian knowledge, and the return of it at the Reformation. They are marked in ecclesiastical history by increasing ignorance, superstition, corruption, 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 various parts of the great Christian republic, and at various periods, professors, and preachers of a purer religion; of a religion formed upon the precepts and promises 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 steadfastly to profess pure Religion, and, in defiance of the papal thunder, to hold up to admiring Christians the light of the Gospel, , and the true worship of the Temple. Although beset with difficulties and dangers, from the civil and ecclesiastical powers, now united to suppress them, they stood their ground with a confidence and energy, which could arise only from such a cause ; the cause

of

of truth, cherished and supported by the Spirit and power of God. If they suffered, their enemies suffer. ed also, were frequently discomfited in the conflict, and enjoyed at last a dear-bought and only temporary victory. Of the witnesses, in the early part of this his. tory, we have received but imperfect accounts: and these come down to us in a very suspicious form, being transmitted chiefly in the writings of their enemies. What therefore is said in their praise, we may admit; of other parts we may 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 exercise a purer religion than was permitted to them elsewhere". In the eighth and ninth and tenth centuries, the progress of popery was vigorously opposed; and private masses and pilgrimages, and the adoration of images and pictures, and other superstitions, and the doctrine of transubstantiation (now first broached), were clearly shewn, by many learned writers, to be contrary to true Christianity f. From the time of Pope Gregory VII., in the eleventh century, we see this light of Truth more frequently beaming forth, and with increasing lustre. In the twelfth century, it was widely spread by the zeal of Peter Waldus and of his followers. In the thirteenth century, the Inquisition was established to extinguish it 4, and crusades were levied against those who received it. In the fourteenth century, our Wickliffe caught the light, and delivered it to many followers. John Huss and Jerome of Prague died martyrs to the cause in the succeeding century; and it shone forth among their disciples, in many parts of Europe, till the Inquisition, with fire and fagot, and by obstinate perseverance, seemed at length to have obtained the object of so much bloody persecution ; to have extinguished the light of pure Religion: so that at the commencement of the next century, the Roman pontiff appeared to enjoy his usurpation in tranquil security". The witnesses were heard no more; pure Religion appeared dead with them; their enemies enjoyed a temporary triumph. But suddenly, to the astonishment and confusion of the papal world, they behold 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 power, placed by the Reformation beyond the reach of its enemies, seems expressed by the resurrection of the witnesses. Thus, in more early times, our Lord's Religion had appeared extinct and buried with him; but after three days, with him it rose again ; was rekindled in the faint and sunken hearts of his disciples; by whose preaching it was spread rapidly through the nations, disclosing universally, and in its purity, a knowledge of the true God and of a heavenly Redeemer. The 1260 years preceding the Reformation, were strongly marked by a gradual corruption, and by the darkened face of Christianity: but the light of

* See Mosheim's Hist. cent. vii. part 2. ch. ii. sect. 2; also cent. xii. part 2. ch. v. sect. ii. note; and the authorities there produced.

+ Usserius de Christianæ Ecclesiae successione et statu. Allix's Remarks on the Ancient Churches of the Albigenses, and of Piedmont, Bp. Newton's Dissertations on Prophecy, vol. iii. pp. 150–100, of the octavo edition.

: Mosheim, cent. xiii. part ii. ch. v.

WCTC

* Mosheim's Hist. cent. xvi. ch. 1. sect. 1; ch. ii. sect. 1. genuine

[ocr errors]

genuine Religion was seen frequently to beam through the prevailing mists of superstition; to beam at intervals, and for a short time; and, many periods are pointed out by commentators, when this true light, overclouded, broke forth again at the end of three years and an half". These seem to be so many partial and particular resurrections of pure Religion, again to be buried and lost for a time. Such a dark period preceded the reformation preached by Luther. “The “rulers of the darkness of this world t,” had then apparently extinguished the light of Evangelical Religion ; but while they were enjoying their triumph, the holy light rekindles; it rises, as it were, from the dead; by Luther, Melancthon, Calvin, Zuinglius, and their followers, the Gospel of Christ is produced to the world; is perpetuated, by the art of printing; becomes the rule of worship and of duty, and points the true way to Heaven. Ver. 13.] But this important change could not take place without great commotions. In prophetical language, “there was a great earthquake j.” The ecclesiastical edifice of papal Rome was shaken to its centre; among the reformers, some injudicious and guilty excesses, some folly and fanaticism, were seen to disgrace so good a cause Ś. The appeal of the divided Christian world was to the sword ; and war was accompanied and followed by religious persecu

* Answering prophetically to the three days and half foretold. See them collected by Bp. Newton, Dissert. on the Proph. vol. iii. 140–146. Svo edit. _ + Eph. vi. 12. : Note, ch. vi. 12. $ History has recorded such, in the war of the peasants in Germany; in the excesses of the Anabaptists at Munster; in the History of the Reformation in Scotland.

« PreviousContinue »