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DISCOURSE XIV,

THE FIRST GENERAL DESCRIPTION CONTINUED : OF THE SLAUGHTER

AND RESURRECTION OF THE WITNESSES, WITH THE

FALLING OF A TENTH PART OF THE CITY,

Chap. xi. 7–14

And when they shall have finished their festimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit, shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them. 8. And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified. 9 And they of the people, and kindreds, and tongues, and nations, shall see their dead bodies three days and an half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves. 10 And they that dwell upon

the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another ; because these two prophets tormented them that dwell on the carth. 11 And after three days and an half the Spirit of life from God entered into them; and they stood upon their feet, and great fear fell upon them which saw them. 12 And they heard a great voice from heaven, saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies beheld them.

If the testimony of the witnesses be the same as their prophesy. ing in sackcloth, it must continue through the whole of the 1260 years. But it does not appear that the beast at the termination of that period, will be able to overcome and kill them," seeing he himself will then be slain, and his body given to the burning flame. Several commentators therefore have rendered it, rohile they shall Vou. VI.

17

perform, or be about to finish their testimony, &c. And with this agrees the account which represents the beast and bis party at the time of the slaying of the witnesses as being in the plenitude of

their power.

The slaughter of the witnesses would not, according to the usual style of the prophecy, denote, their being put to death as individuals, but silenced and crushed as witnessing bodies. It was thus, as we have seen, that the Eastern empire and the Greek church as connected with it, were killed by the Turkish horsemen. Chap. ix. 18.

Of the beast that shall kill them no mention is made before ; but we shall hear much of him hereafter. Suffice it at present to say, it is the same as Daniel's fourth beast, (Chap. vii,) and as that which is described by John, in Chap. xiii. 1-8. of this book, as having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns :" it is the Roman empire under its last form, as divided into ten independent kingdons. There he is described as rising out of the sea ; here, out of the abyss, or bottomless pit : the one, as Mr. FABER remarks, may denote his political, and the other his spiritual origin.

The witnesses were to be killed in the great city, which“spiritgally is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was cru. cified.” We shall have occasion more than once to notice an antichristian city as opposed to the church of Christ, just as the great harlot is opposed to the bride the Lamb's wife. It will be proper therefore to fix the meaning at the outset. If the prophecy had related to Old Testament times, when God chose a literal city in which to build his temple, a literal city might have been properly opposed to it. When Zion was his dwellingplace, Babylon was its adversary. But as the true church and the gospel is not confined to place, neither is the false church. The New Testament Zion does not consist of material buildings, but is a community scattered among the nations ; and such is the New Testament Babylon. The "great city" therefore means Rome, not in respect of its buildings, nor the inhabitants within its walls, nor as a political empire, the symbol of which is the beast; but as the head of the antichristian community. This city, or community of nations under one ecclesiastical head, was a Sodom for its filthiness, an Egypt for its idolatry and persecution, and a Jerusalem for its malignant hatred of tbe Lord Jesus Christ.

The dead bodies of the witnesses were to lie in the street of the great city unburied : that is, being silenced and crushed throughout Christendom, they would for a time be treated with the utmost indignity and reproach, as those are who are denied the ordinary decencies of burial. Nor would these indignities be. inflicted by the highest orders only ; but “ peoples, and kindreds, and tongues, and nations," that is, the body of the inhabitants of Christendom, would take a part in them. While insulting the witnesses, they would make merry on their own account, as being no longer tormented with their testimony.

Such is the description given of the witnesses, and of the treatment which they would receive, both from the ruling powers and the common people. The question is, What are the facts which correspond with it? It is thought by some that both the slaughter and the resurrection of the witnesses are yet to be fulfilled. If so, it is vain to look for corresponding facts in past events. This was the opinion of Bishop Newron, of Dr. Gill, and of other expositors of note. I cannot but consider this as a mistake. In the Bishop it appears to have been founded on the supposition of the time of the dead that they should be judged, spoken of in ver. 18. referring to the last judgment, or the consummation of all things ;" but which manifestly refers to the avenging of the mar. tyrs by the judgments to be inflicted on the papal power, under the seven vials, antecedent to the Millennium. (Compare Chap. xi. 18, 19. with Chap. xvi. 12–21.) Dr. Gill speaks of the war by which the witnesses are slain as being " the last war of the beast:" * but the last war of the beast is that in which he and the false prophet will be taken ; and in which the followers of Christ, instead of being killed, shall be victorious over their enemies. Chap. xix. 20. It is remarkable too, that both the slaughter and resurrection of the witnesses, together with the falling of a tenth

* On Chap. xi 8.

+ See President Edwards on Agreement in Extraordinary Prayer, Part UI. p. 100.

part of the city, are introduced before the termination of the sixth, or second woe-trumpet. I question therefore whether these prophecies can refer to events of so late a date as this bypothesis requires.

The time in which the witnesses are slain, and their bodies lie unburied, appears to be a time in which the beast is in the height of his power, or as President EDWARDS says, “In which the true church of Christ is lowest of all, most of all prevailed, against by antichrist, and nearest to an utter extinction; a time in which there is left the least visibility of the church of Christ yet subsisting in the world, and the least remains of any thing appertaining to true religion, whence a revival of it could be expected." * It is true, we know not what is before us; but if such a state of things as this should return after what has occurred in Europe within the last 300 years, it will, as Mr. EDWARDS I think bas proved, be contrary to all God's usual methods of proceeding. I cannot therefore but think with him that the persecution and slaughter of the witnesses preceded the Reformation.

After the suppression of the Bohemians, for nearly a hundred years, true religion was in a manner crushed. The enemy con. tinued without resistance to wear out the saints of the. Most High.” Not a society or body of Christians was to be found which dared to oppose the general corruption. The popish party considered the beretics as suppressed, and congratulated each other on so happy an event. The security that they felt was manifest by the barefaced manner in which they sold their par dons and indulgences at the time when Luther's indignation was first kindled against them.

Whether the "three days and a half” during which the witnesses should lie unburied, denote three years and a balf, and refer to a particular period of that duration, or only to a short space of oppression, in allasion to the three times and a balf," as being a kind of 1260 years in miniature, I am not able to determine; nor have I seen any thing on the subject relating to a particular period which afforded me satisfaction. However this may

* On Agreement in Prayer, &c. p. 92.

be, if the slaying of the witnesses refer to the times immediately preceding the Reformation, their resurrection and ascension to heaven must denote the Reformation itself, and the placing, by Divine Providence, of the parties concerned in it out of the reach of their enemies. The resurrection, as it were, of the Waldenses, the Wickliffites, and other reputed heretics, in the persons of Luther and his cotemporaries, with the rapid progress made by them in various nations nearly at the same time, would cause great fear to fall upon their adversaries ; and the security in which they were placed by the succession of those nations from the See of Rome was equal to their being taken up to heaven in a cloud, where those who thirsted for their blood could only look after them with malignity and envy.

13 And the same hour was there a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell, and in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand: and the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven.

After the resurrection of the witnesses, and before the sounding of the seventh, or third woe-trumpet, follows an earthquake, and a tenth part of the city falls. In the earthquake are slain of men, (or names of men,) 7000, and the remnant are affrighted, and give glory to the God of heaven.

If the meaning of this passage can be clearly ascertained, it will determine the time of the sounding of the seventh angel, and serve as a medium by which to judge of several other things.

The “ earthquake" must, I conceive, denote a revolution, as this is the appropriate and well-known symbol of such an event. The “ city” is doubtless the same as that which in the 8th verse is “spiritually called Sodom and Egypt;" that is, the Romish Church, or the Apocalyptic Babylon. By " a tenth part” of it, must be understood a considerable portion of it, and very probably a part belonging to one of the ten boras, or kingdoms into which the empire under its papal form was to be divided. By * the names of men," Dr. GOODWIN and others have understood titles or orders of men, and supposed that the revolution signified by the earthquake would destroy them. Or if the phrase denote, as some have understood it, men of name, it would signify the de

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