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To proceed to the application of this prophecy: we are not to expect a literal accomplishment. For first, that would be contrary to the mode of interpretation, to which we are in general directed by the highest authority; by our Lord himself and angels, who, in explaining the “ mystery” of the stars, the lamp-bearers *, the wild-beast, his heads, his horns t, teach us to look for a hidden and allegorical meaning. Secondly, such an explication becomes necessary in this particular prophecy : for, the dead bodies are represented as lying “ in the streets of the great
city which is called spiritually Sodom, and Ægypt, " where also their Lord was crucified.” Now it is plainly, in a spiritual sense in which we are to understand the words Sodom, Ægypt, and Jerusalem ;they are used metaphorically. And further, the great city which is called Sodom, Ægypt, and Jerusalem, cannot be all of them, and therefore must be interpreted to signify some great society, or body of men, which is like them all; resembling those famous communities in the peculiar wickedness of each; and in rebellion to the most high God; for such is the character of them all. As Jerusalem, in its degenerate days, is by the prophets called Sodom and Gomorrah I; so the great city, in which the witnesses prophesy and suffer, is called after the name of all the above mentioned communities, because resembling all. Thirdly; the time of the accomplishment of this
foretold of the witnesses in this part of the Apocalypse. That relation is plainly borrowed from this passage. (See Evang. Nicodemi, c. 25.) And some of the Fathers, among whom is Tertullian, seem to have taken up this notion. (Tertullian. de Animâ, sect. 50.) * Ch. i, 2.
+ Ch. xvii.
Isa. i. 9. 10.
prophecy seems well ascertained : for, although doubts may arise concerning the exact commencement, and consequently the close of its period; yet the main part of it is plainly seen to occupy many centuries of the most degenerate and idolatrous periods of the Christian Church; at a time when the Gentile world, the European nations, professed the Christian Religion, but not in purity; a time cotemporary with the reign of the wild-beast *; a period of 1260 years; a considerable part of which, at least, is now past. Yet, during this period, we cannot remark in history, that any such literal accomplishment has taken place. Nor, (fourthly,) can we expect such literal accomplishment: because in other instances, the acknowledged types under the Old Testament have not been thus literally fulfilled in the Gospel. John the Baptist is said to come “ in the spirit and power of “Elias †;" nay, to be that very prophet I; yet, conformably to the spirit of meekness which belongs to the Gospel, he performed no avenging miracles ; he called down no fire from heaven to consume his enemies. He knew by the Holy Ghost, and better than those disciples who intreated their Master for this fireş, “what manner of Spirit he was of.” He knew, that " the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but "mighty, through God, to the pulling down strong so holds ll."
Thus, in a spiritual sense, the prophecy may be accomplished in the witnesses, without (1.) literal fire; without (2.) the hindrance of literal rain; or (3.) the conversion of the waters literally into blood.
* Ch. xii. + Luke i. 17. # Matt. xi. 4. Mark ix. 13. § Luke is. 54-57. ll 2 Cor. x. 4.
The first may be deemed essentially fulfilled, if their enemies, the enemies of pure Religion, are in many instances disnayed, 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 witnesses, be found to have that peace troubled and discomfited, and blood and slaughter to be poured on their own lieads. 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 witnesses, 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 t.
We are then to look beyond the literal sense ; and fixing our attention on the period of history, to
* Psalms lxvii. 9; lxxii. 6. Isa. lv. 10. llos, vi. 3.
+ The prophets Moses and Elijah typify, in their history, that of the two witnesses. These two prophets led 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 prevalence of true Religion. They seem, both of them in their own persous, to have been exempt from death, or to have been raised immediately beyond its dominion. They both appeared at the transfiguration, 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 perforin Ouly in a borrowed and spiritual sease.
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 anıbitious 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
“ 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
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 truth, cherished and supported by the Spirit and power of God. If they suffered, their enemies suffered 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 history, 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 con: trary to true Christianity t. 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 I, and crusades
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 Ecclesiæ successione et statu. Allia's Remarks on the Ancient Churches of the Albigenses, and of Piedmont. Bp. Newton's Dissertations on Prophecy, vol. iii. pp. 150—160, of the octavo edition. Mosheim, cent. xiii. part ii. ch. v.