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will look on them without being able to hinder or oppose the marvellous event: that is, the apparent extirpation of real Christianity in the western church (which is the scene of the prophecy) will make way for better times, when the ministers and professors of the Gospel shall be far more zealous and prospered than before; as the ascension of Christ. to glory, subsequent to his death and resurrection (from which the allusion seems to be taken), was followed by more glorious and blessed effects than any that preceded this event.
Such is undoubtedly the general outline of the prophecy. But what are the facts which correspond with it? This inquiry will lead me to mention a few of the various opinions of commentators respecting it.
Some writers suppose that the slaying, rising, and ascending of the witnesses, refer to the constant and alternate persecutions and triumphs of the confessors of Christ during the whole period of the twelve hundred and sixty years: they resolve the three days and a half into prophetic days of years, and then consider the three years and a half as coinciding with “ the time, and times, and half a time," and thus make the period equal with the prophetic forty-two months, or twelve hundred and sixty days of years. This, however, appears to be an unwarrantable liberty with the language of prophecy, and would render it extremely vague and uncertain.
Another class of interpreters are of opinion that this prophecy received its completion in the case of John Huss and Jerome of Prague, who were two faithful witnesses and martyrs for the cause of Christ, and who were condemned to death, and afterwards burned for heresy, by the council of Constance, which sat about three years and a half; namely, from November 1414 to April 1418. But this hypothesis would evidently render the prophecy of « private interpretation.'
• Others refer its accomplishment to the popish persecution in England in bloody Mary's reign, about the year 1553: some, to the massacre of the Protestants in France, 1572, and others, to the cruelty exercised on the Waldenses in Piedmont, under the Duke of Savoy, A. D. 1685: all of which remarkable persecutions lasted about three years and a half. But none of these hypotheses are satisfactory to the accurate students of prophecy.
The next hypothesis is supported by many eminent writers, among which are Messrs. Faber, Cuninghame, Holmes, and Fuller, with Dr. Bryce Johnston, and others. These commentators confidently suppose that the prophecy of the death and resurrection of the witnesses received its accomplishment in the suppression of Protestantism in Germany, A.D. 1548, and its restoration about three years and a half afterwards, A. D. 1551. As this opinion is, perhaps, the most plausible of any that implies the prophecy to be past, and as it is received by so many able and respectable authors, it may be proper to give an outline of it.-In the year 1546, the confederacy which had been entered into by the Protestant princes of Germany for the defence of their religion (usually called the league of Smalcalde), was broken to pieces. The Elector of Saxony and Landgrave of Hesse, alone remained in arms. On the 24th of April 1547, the elector was totally routed and taken prisoner at the battle of Muhlberg. The landgrave was soon after obliged to submit likewise, and, by a dishonourable stratagem, was seized and confined by the emperor. In the following year, a new system of doctrine, afterwards called the Interim, which had been prepared by the command of the emperor, was presented to the diet assembled at Augsburg, to receive their sanction as a general rule of faith in Germany, till a council should be convened. By this instrument Protestantism was in a manner suppressed, and the mass restored. The interim was read and accepted in the diet, on the 15th of May 1548; and the reformed religion was almost entirely suppressed throughout the provinces. The death of the witnesses, therefore, is supposed to have taken place when these German Protestants were silenced; and the Papists “ rejoiced over them, and made “ merry, and sent gifts one to another.” But this joy of the enemies of the true Church was of no long continuance; for, in the space of three years and a half, the witnesses were again raised to life. About the end of the year 1551, Maurice of Saxony, who had long meditated the deliverance of the Protestants, accomplished his object, and obtained the treaty of Passau; by which the Protestants were allowed the free exercise of their religion, and readmitted into the imperial chamber; from which, ever since the treaty of Muhlberg, they had been excluded. Thus, they rose again, and ascended into the symbolical heaven of the government. The war against the witnesses, and their death, were to take place in the broad street of the “ great city, which
spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also « our Lord was crucified.” The great city, as these interpreters suppose, is the Roman empire. The broad street of the great city, according to their interpretation, signifies its principal kingdom. But at the period when these events took place, Germany was the principal kingdom, and therefore Germany was the place where the witnesses lay dead and unburied for three years and a half.-Such is the outline of this hypothesis. .. It appears, however, to me, notwithstanding the weight of the preceding opinions, that the death and resurrection of the witnesses is still a future event. Many writers of great judgment and eminence have ably maintained this position; among whom may be enumerated Archbishop Usher, Bishops Newton and Horsley, Archdeacon Woodhouse, Dr. Gill, Mr. Scott, and many others *. But in order to establish the futurity of the event here predicted, respecting the witnesses, it will be only necessary to state the insuperable objections to the hypotheses that suppose it to be past.
In the first place, if this prophecy be already fulfilled, it appears to be different in one important particular from all the other predictions contained in the volume of Scripture. It is the universal character of the prophecies, that they are involved more or less in mystery and obscurity, previously to their accomplishment; after which they become so lucid and plain, that their fulfilment is universally admitted. But here we have a prophecy, supposed to have been accomplished two or three centuries ago, still enveloped in darkness; and respecting which, its interpreters are materially disagreed. The different opinions, therefore, which learned and able men entertain on the subject, and the extreme difficulty which they all seem to find in making one part of their interpretations consistent with the others, are strong arguments that facts will not bear them out in their opinions, and consequently, that the prophecy is yet unfulfilled.
Secondly, no event has hitherto occurred of sufficient magnitude and importance, and of apparent definiteness, to correspond with the terms of the prophecy; which seem to announce a general death of the witnesses in all parts of the western Roman empire. The testimony of the witnesses against idolatry and popery through the whole western empire, for the space of twelve hundred and sixty years, is the immediate subject of the prophecy; and till this testimony is generally suppressed, the witnesses are not slain. But it never has been so suppressed, and therefore the witnesses have never been slain. The triumphs of the persecutors, at different times, in Germany, Bohemia, England, France, Spain, and Italy, do not amount to any thing which can be called “ slaying the witnesses;” so long as a public testimony against papal corruptions, and for the true Gospel, has at the same time been abundantly borne in the western empire. Mr. Faber has, indeed, made two rejoinders to this objection; neither of which, in my opinion, is at all satisfactory. He observes, that the prophecy cannot imply a general death of the witnesses, because the broad street of the great city must signify a single Roinan province. But, assuredly, such an interpretation is not necessary. The witnesses, in prophetic language, are restrained to two; how then can it be said with any propriety, that the dead bodies of the two witnesses were lying unburied in several streets of the city? If the city means the western empire (as Mr. Faber supposes), and the two witnesses refer to the witnesses in general through the empire, which is almost universally admitted, then the broad street of the city may be considered in the symbolical language of prophecy as referring to a large part of the empire. But if, by the great city, is intended, as has been stated above, Rome as an antichristian church, and not as a secular and political empire, then the dead bodies of the persecuted and slain witnesses must be considered as lying in an extensive part of those countries where this antichristian church is locally situated. The reader will here call to mind, that the death of the witnesses, as well as their resurrection, is not to be considered physically but politically. It does not follow that they will all be literally kilied, but only that they will be silenced, persecuted, and crushed; though many of them, in undergoing these extremities, may, as in former ages, actually suffer death. -Again, the same learned and able expositor says, that, admitting the general death of the witnesses,