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The result will not differ much if we give to these two witnesses the appellation of the law and the gospel.* These both are witnesses of Christ -the law, used lawfully, showing the necessity of a remedy for sin ; and the gospel, rightly understood, showing the provision of that remedy to be precisely such as to meet the case. The law unlawfully used, on the contrary, and the gospel, contemplated merely as a commentary upon the law, while they witness of Christ, can do so only in a garb of sackcloth.
We do not pretend to define a time or place where the misconstruction alluded to has prevailed; whether in the disciple's own breast, or in the world at large, or in any portion of it. Where the carcase is, it is said, there the eagles shall be gathered together. Wherever the error is to be found, there these witnesses are prophesying in sackcloth ; and this so long as the exhibition of the economy of redemption to the same individual or mind is perverted by the influence of the Gentile elements of self-justification; the one peculiarity involving the other.
A clothing of sackcloth is the opposite of white raiment—the white linen, fine and clean, declared to be the righteousness of the saints ; and which we take to be the imputed righteousness of Christ. The two witnesses, during the season of humiliation, do not appear clad in this livery of the household of faith. And, as in physics black is said to be nothing more than the deficiency of colour, the rays of light not being reflected, so with the witnesses, so long as they do not exhibit the robe of divine righteousness—the garment bright as the light—the want of this array causes them to appear as in sackcloth ; as the Sun of righteousness, so long as his true character is not
* We do not mean by these terms to confine our idea of the law to what is said of it in the Old Testament alone, nor our idea of the gospel to what is said of that in the New Testament alone; we consider them each, as revealed in both the Old and New Testaments ;-the gospel being shadowed forth in the Levitical dispensation, as well as in the typical history of the patriarchs, and constituting the burden of the Psalms and of the prophets; and the legal dispensation being referred and appealed to, and argued upon, in setting forth the glad tidings of the New Testament.
The law and the prophets are spoken of, Rom. iii. 21, as witnessing to the righteousness of God, evidently considering them as one witness of Christ. So, Is. viii. 16, the law and the testimony are appealed to as one witness; and John v. 39, the Scriptures, those of the Old Testament of course-no other Scriptures being then in existence-are referred to by Christ as witnessing of him.
On the other hand, the preaching of the gospel is spoken of as “ a witness unto all nations,” Matt. xxiv. 14; and the testimony of Jesus, Rev. i. 2, and xix. 10, is also spoken of as a witness; while it is said also to be the spirit, or as we may say, the essence of prophecy ;-to testify and to witness being expressed by the same word in the Greek; and in fact the only difference between the terms in our language being this, that one is a Latinism and the other is Saxon. We have thus no occa. sion for going out of the Scriptures to find two special witnesses of Jesus. Two wit. nesses always prophesying; but prophesying in sackcloth only for a limited term in the sense supposed.
perceived by the spiritual understanding, appears in a literal aspect black as sackcloth of hair, ($164.)
$ 243. The children of the bride-chamber do not mourn while the bridegroom is with them; but the days come, says our Saviour, when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and then shall they fast or mourn, Matt. ix. 15; fasting and mourning being terms scripturally interchangeable, or nearly so. These days of fasting probably correspond with the days of prophesying in sackcloth. Wherever and whenever the disciple is unable to trust in his imputed identity with his Saviour, as the wife is accounted one with her husband, there the bridegroom is taken away, and there is the season for mourning and fasting; there too, “ the city sits solitary,”—the economy of redemption is no longer recognized as the bride adorned for her husband. The ways of Zion do mourn—her beauty is departed, (Lam. i. 4 and 6)-the gold has become dim, and the fine gold changed.
We have only to suppose the scriptural revelation of the two covenants -the legal and gospel dispensations—to be read under the influence of such misconstruction as to cause them to appear to prophesy bitter things instead of sweet, to appear as the messengers of death rather than of life, and we shall contemplate them as two witnesses of Jesus clothed in sackcloth. Or if we suppose the law and the prophets of the Old Testament as one witness, and the gospel of the New Testament as the other witness, taken in a literal sense, (2 Cor. iii. 6, 7,) to be so construed as to carry with them a legal import only, we shall then see cause for the mourning of the children of the bride-chamber; while we also see the prophesying in sackcloth of these two instruments of interpreting the divine counsels, to be a consequence of the possession of the city by the Gentiles—a cause of lamentation alluded to apparently, Is. i. 21, “ How is the faithful city become an harlot! It was full of judgment; righteousness lodged in it, but now murderers,"—(principles tending to death or condemnation.) “ Thy silver is become dross, thy wine mixed with water,”—(adulterated ; the price of redemption being represented by that which is in reality worthless, and the atonement by that which is deprived of its exhilarating quality of joy and gladness.) Thy princes are rebellious,”-(opposed to the sovereignty of God.) “Companions of thieves”-robbing God of the honour and glory due Him for the work of redemption.) “Every one loveth gifts, and followeth after rewards,”—(mercenary principles substituted for those of gratitude for God's free gift:) " they judge not the fatherless, neither doth the cause of the widow come before them.” There is no provision in this perverted system for the sinner in his entirely helpless state-as by nature, without any merit of his own, exposed to the condemnation of the law without a defence. A parallel allusion may be found, (Ps. cxxxvii. 4) “How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?” How shall the redemption of Christ be celebrated amongst those who advocate a system of selfjustification ; or how can gospel principles of doctrine be set forth in a legal and self-righteous system of salvation? It is very evident that these mistaken views—this prophesying in sackcloth, and treading of the city, have not been confined literally to a period of one thousand two hundred and sixty years in the Christian church, still less to any like period prior to the Christian era ; we have again therefore, in this particular, to fall back upon the declaration of the mighty angel, there shall be time no longer.
$ 244. “These are the two olive-trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth.'—Not merely two olive-trees, but the two olive-trees ; referring perhaps to the vision of the prophet, Zech. iv. 2, 7, “ And he said unto me, What seest thou ? And I said, I have looked, and behold a candlestick, all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it, and his seven lamps thereon, and seven pipes to the seven lamps, which are upon the top thereof: and two olive-trees by it, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof.” This exhibition is declared in the sixth verse to be “the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts.” The declaration is preparatory to a prediction of bringing forth the head-stone (or perhaps the key-stone, speaking of the plan of salvation as an arch) “ with shoutings, Grace, grace unto it.” The two olive-trees or branches are afterwards, v. 14, declared to be the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth, corresponding very nearly with what is said in the Apocalypse of the two witnesses—“These are the two olivetrees, &c., standing before the God of the earth,” or according to the Greek, the Lord of the earth. The oil of olives being employed in anointing or setting apart any one to a distinguished office, the tree itself producing the oil, is put for an anointed person or thing set apart to some peculiar office. These two anointed ones were standing before the Lord, we may say, in the time of Zechariah, and this we suppose to have been the case with the two witnesses ; but they were not then or there perhaps in sackcloth. These anointed ones are termed in the Septuagint the two sons of fat
The scriptural attribute of the olive is its fatness, which quality in a good sense is a figure of the righteousness or merits of Christ; the disciple, in partaking of this righteousness by imputation, being said to partake of the fatness of the good olive-tree, (Rom. xi. 17–24.) When the dove returned to Noah with an olive-leaf, he knew that the waters were abated ; and perhaps from that time to the present an olive-branch has been proverbially considered an emblem of peace and reconciliation. These two olive-trees or olive-branches are witnesses of the reconciliation of man to God. They bear testimony to the mode or process of this reconciliation ; and this we think may be affirmed of the two economies, or dispensations.
They are harbingers of peace with God, inasmuch as they exhibit the rich provision by which it is secured. Or, if we preser it, the law and the prophets serve as one olive-branch in the Old Testament, while the gospel is seen as the other in the new; that is, when both of these are rightly understood ; otherwise, so long as the witnesses prophesy in sackcloth, their true character as olive-trees is not perceived.
* And the two candlesticks.'— There are no two candlesticks mentioned elsewhere in the Scriptures. The golden candlesticks of the temple were ten in number, five on each side, (two ranges,) i Kings vii. 49, and there was but one such candlestick in the vision of Zechariah ; although the office of the two olive-trees seen by the prophet seems to have been to supply the candlestick and its seven branches with the material for giving light by means of two golden pipes, which may be equivalent to the two candlesticks of the Apocalypse. According to some editions of the Greek, however, we may read, “and two candlesticks there before the God of the earth,” &c. The witnesses are the two olive-trees, and certain two candlesticks. They perform the part of candlesticks in exhibiting the light of the glory of that rich provision of righteousness, which is figuratively the fatness or fulness of the olive-tree—the true means of sanctification, anointing, or setting apart : the true means by which the disciple is brought out of his position of darkness by nature into the position of God's marvellous light, 1 Pet. ii. 9; both the old and the new dispensations being instrumental in exhibiting and carrying into effect this wonderful operation of Sovereign Grace. They are not candles, but candlesticks; they are not the light, but the means by which the light is exhibited, or imparted—not an intellectual light, but, as we suppose, the moral perfection of the Deity-spiritual light or divine righteousness imparted by imputation to the subjects of divine favour. As it is said, Is. lx. 19, 20, “ The Lord shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory.” “ The Lord shall be thine everlasting light, and the days of thy mourning shall be ended.” The two witnesses are the instruments of exhibiting this light of divine righteousness.
* Standing before the Lord of the earth.'—Were it not for this expression we might confine our ideas of these witnesses, olive-trees, or candlesticks, to the written revelations of divine mercy—the Old and New Testaments ; but this standing seems to imply something perpetual, eternal, in the sight of the Lord, as the words év6ZLOV toŨ xvpiov might be rendered. Whether the light from the candlesticks be perceived by men or not; or whether the fatness or fruit of the olive-trees be recognized or not by those for whose benefit it is designed, the candlesticks and the olive-trees are ever before God. This consideration induces us to prefer supposing the two witnesses to represent the two covenants or dispensations, as they exist and have always existed in the mind of Him who is without variableness or shadow of change. As the Creator and Preserver of all things, God is declared by the apostle (Acts xiv. 17) never to have left himself without witness ; so too as the Gracious Sovereign he has never lost sight of his purposes of mercy; his covenants, old and new, have been with him from the beginning, and are, and have always been, and always will be, the witnesses of his loving-kindness and tender mercy-always standing before God, but not always revealed to man; and when revealed, not always discerned in their true characters.
V.5. And if any man will hurt them, Και εί τις αυτούς θέλει αδικήσαι, πέρ fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and εκπορεύεται εκ του στόματος αυτών και κα. devoureth their enemies : and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be
τεσθίει τους εχθρούς αυτών και εί' τις αυkilled.
τους θέλει αδικήσαι, ούτω δεί αυτόν αποκ
τανθήναι. . § 245. 'If any one,' &c.—The word man is not in the original. The participle ris may be applied to man or anyel, but we suppose it to be put here for principle. If any principle hurt, ($ 174,) or tend to cause these two witnesses to appear to be unjust, or wanting in righteousness, fire proceedeth out of their mouth. The action of revealed truth, comprehended in their prophesying, will devour or overcome their enemies; corresponding with what we have before supposed to be represented by the element of fire, ($ 30.) This agent of destruction is also very plainly indicated to be a revelation, by its proceeding from the mouth of the two witnesses ; and these witnesses being the legal and gospel dispensations, bearing testimony as with one mouth to the goodness and glory of Jehovah, their enemies are doctrinal principles, operating against their testimony—an opposition entirely ineffectual, the matter of this testimony itself destroying these opposing principles by exhibiting their fallacy.
And if any one will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed.'— This clause seems to be a repetition of the preceding. The sense apparently is this: If any one desire to prove them unjust, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, &c.; and therefore if any one do this, in this way he must be killed, or destroyed; that is, by the fire out of their mouth. Whatever the enemy be, the destruction to be encountered is of this kind; the result of the action of the word of God through the instrumentality of the revelation made by these two witnesses. A destruction similar to that predicted of the mystery of iniquity—the man of sin—whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit or breath of his mouth, 2 Thess. ii. 8, and to that of the wicked, Is. xi. 4. The breath, or fire, or spirit, being the same in all these cases; the difference being only in the instrumentality. Taking the two witnesses to be the two dispensations, the fire from their mouths is the revealed word of God acting through their instrumentality upon opposing errors, or erroneous doctrines.