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vile. May every reader endure the test of this severe scrutiny, and be found among those who will be pardoned, accepted, justified, and sanctified, “ in “ the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of “ our God!"
Chap. xi. 3–6. AND I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth. 4. These are the two olive-trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth. 5. And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies : and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed. 6. These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy; and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will.
The import of these verses is, that, during the long period of popish tyranny and persecution, God would have his faithful witnesses, who should testify against it. As, in prophetical language, a king symbolizes a succession of monarchs, so a witness must be explained by the same rule. The prophecy, therefore, does not refer to any two individuals, but to a succession of faithful men, who should arise and bear witness to the truth. Two witnesses were mentioned, because one was insufficient for the proof of any fact, “ for out of the mouth of two or three wit“ nesses shall every word be established.” The allusion to the two witnesses may perhaps have reference to Moses and Aaron, to Elijah and Elisha, and to
the Apostles and seventy disciples of our Lord, who were sent forth by two and two. As the witnesses are represented as “ two olive-trees and two candle“ sticks," some commentators consider them as symbolizing churches. But, whether we view them as individuals or as Christian churches, the spirit and meaning of the prophecy will be much the same. All real Christians, as well as particular churches, who boldly profess their religion, may be considered as uniting in this testimony; although ministers and other bold, zealous, and pious men, who attempted reformation, may be more particularly intended. The glorious angel, even the Lord Jesus, who commanded the Apostle to measure the temple, declared that he would give them power or authority to prophesy, or publish his truth, during the assigned period of twelve hundred and sixty years. They were, however, to prophesy in sackcloth, on account of their persecuted and afflicted state, and in token of their deep concern for the abominations against which they protested. It has been shewn by many writers, that, during the darkest ages of Popery, men were raised up who bore a decided testimony against the prevailing corruptions of the Roman church, and for the leading doctrines of the Gospel. The idolatrous devotion to the papal hierarchy, and the worship of images, did not universally prevail till the beginning of the tenth century. Till that time, many of the churches in communion with Rome possessed the Scriptures in the vulgar tongue. With such a light, therefore, we may conclude, notwithstanding the ignorance and rapid strides of Popery, that some faithful witnesses continued even in Babylon itself. If we look at other churches, we shall find there were those who evidently held and openly professed the great doctrines of salvation through the merits and grace of Christ, and who constantly opposed the corruptions of the papal Antichrist. The English church was renowned for its piety during the first centuries of the general apostacy. The doctrines of the Gospel were here preached from the earliest times, till some years after the death of the Venerable Bede. England, therefore, furnished witnesses from the commencement of the apostacy till about the year 800; and probably a century longer, till the death of Alfred the Great. The famous Claude, Bishop of Turin, preached the doctrine of Christ in great purity, and testified against the errors of the papacy in the beginning of the ninth century; and Roman Catholic writers admit that the valleys of Piedmont, which were included in his diocese, preserved his opinions through the whole of that and the next century. The word of God was also faithfully taught in the congregations of the Cathari, or Puritans, who were numerous in Cologne, in Flanders, the south of France, Savoy, and Milan, in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Many thousand Catholics, of each sex and every age, embraced their doctrines; and, notwithstanding the persecutions they suffered in the south of France, “ the invincible « spirit they had kindled," says the infidel and insidious historian, “ lived and breathed in the western “ world. In the state, in the church, and even in “ the cloister, a latent succession was preserved of “ the disciples of St. Paul, who protested against the “ tyranny of Rome, embraced the Bible as the rule “ of faith, and purified their creed from all the vi“sions of the Gnostic theology."- (Gibbon.) Such is the testimony of the admired historian, who so frequently, though unwittingly, illustrates the prophecies which he affected to disbelieve. The Vallenses (Valdenses) or Vaudois, who derived their name from the valleys in which they resided, had retreated to the valleys of Piedmont, so early as the seventh century, there to profess and exercise a purer religion than was permitted them elsewhere. Here, therefore, the witnesses appeared in the early part of the predicted period. They were afterwards
called Albigenses, from the town of Albi, in the south of France, where many of them resided; and subsequently Waldenses, from Peter Waldo, by whose zeal the doctrines of these witnesses were widely circulated. The Waldenses (as we shall now call them) flourished especially during the twelfth, thirteenth, and fourteenth centuries; and, according to the testimony of Rheinerus Sacco, the Dominican inquisitor, they had existed more than five hundred years previously to the middle of the thirteenth century. This carries back their existence at least to the middle of the eighth century. Their lives were generally exemplary, as the Papists themselves have allowed. They were evidently (to speak in modern language) moderate Calvinists. They were eminent witnesses for Christ, but they truly prophesied in sackloth, for their persecutions were tremendously great. In France alone, a million of them have been computed to have been slain for the sole crime of protesting against the tyranny of the Pope, and the corruptions of the church of Rome. But, so true is it that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church, that, in the year 1530, it is said there were in Europe 800,000 who professed the doctrine of the Waldenses. Connected with them, and agreeing with their leading doctrines, the Lollards and Wickliffites arose in England, in the fourteenth century. About the same time the witnesses were flourishing in Bohemia, where arose John Huss and Jerome of Prague, who were cruelly and perfidiously burned in the fifteenth century by the council of Constance. Multitudes embraced the doctrines of the Gospel in many places during these times, and professed or preached it, at the hazard of their lives; and great numbers were in consequence burned, or put to death in some other cruel manner. At length Luther arose, and was soon followed by a constellation of other worthies, Melancthon, Calvin, Zuinglius, Bucer, Cranmer, Beza, and a host of other
Opishment, the predictetotestant con account
names dearly estimated by Protestants; and the glorious Reformation took place. Since that period, the same testimony for the truth of Christ, and against the errors of Antichrist, has been maintained. Nor is the term yet expired: the twelve hundred and sixty years are not terminated ; and, therefore, the witnesses are yet prophesying. Blessed be God, they are not at present exposed to such horrible persecutions as informer times, but they still have reason to prophesy in sackcloth, on account of the state of religion even in Protestant countries; and, perhaps, before the predicted period receives its accomplishment, the same or similar scenes may be acted over again for a short season, for the purpose of purifying the church. But should this be the case (respecting which more will be said presently), the conflict, however severe, will most assuredly be short.The two witnesses, however hated, despised, and persecuted, are, in reality, the two olive-trees (alluding, probably, to Zech. iv. 11-14) receiving abundant supplies of the Holy Spirit, and endued with spiritual gifts and graces, that through their instrumentality others likewise might receive the unction from the Holy One. They are also the two candlesticks, holding forth the light of truth to a world involved in spiritual darkness, and standing to minister with acceptance before the “ God of the earth," the proprietor and governor of all mankind.. . 3. It is said, moreover, respecting these witnesses, that “ if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth “ out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies ; " and if any man will hurt them, he must in this “manner be killed.” In scriptural language, the prophets are often said to do those things which they denounce. The meaning of this prophetic denunciation seems to be, that if any should reject their testimony, and be enraged by it, so as to attempt to injure them, they should be exposed to the divine judgments: the Almighty would plead and avenge