Page images

were levied against those who received it. In the fourteenth century, our Wickliffe caught the light, and delivered it to many followers. John Huss and Jerome of Prague died martyrs to the cause in the succeeding century; and it shone forth among their disciples, in many parts of Europe, till the Inquisition, with fire and fagot, and by obstinate perseverance, seemed at length to have obtained the object of so much bloody persecution ; to have extinguished the light of pure Religion: so that at the commencement of the next century, the Roman pontiff appeared to enjoy his usurpation in tranquil security * The witnesses were heard no more ; pure Religion appeared dead with them; their enemies enjoyed a temporary triumph. But suddenly, to the astonishment and confusion of the papal world, they behold this heresy (as they termed it) revive, “a spirit of life from “God enters into it,-it stands upon its feet;" it becomes immortal, and leads the way to heaven. Thus the revival of pure Religion in spirit and in power, placed by the Reformation beyond the reach of its enemies, seems expressed by the resurrection of the witnesses. Thus, in more early times, our Lord's Religion had appeared extinct and buried with him; but after three days, with him it rose again ; was rekindled in the faint and sunken hearts of his disciples; by whose preaching it was spread rapidly through the nations, disclosing universally, and in its purity, a knowledge of the true God and of a heavenly Redeemer.

The 1260 years preceding the Reformation, were strongly marked by a gradual corruption, and by the darkened face of Christianity: but the light of

[ocr errors]

* Mosheim's Hist. cent. xvi. ch. 1. sect. l; ch. ii. sect. 1.


genuine Religion was seen frequently to beam through the prevailing mists of superstition; to beam at intervals, and for a short time; and, many periods are pointed out by commentators, when this true light, overclouded, broke forth again at the end of three years and an half". These seem to be so many partial and particular resurrections of pure Religion, agaia to be buried and lost for a time. Such a dark period preceded the reformation preached by Luther.

"The “ rulers of the darkness of this world t,” had then apparently extinguished the light of Evangelical Religion ; but while they were enjoying their triumph, the holy light rekindles ; it rises, as it were, from the dead; by Luther, Melancthon, Calvin, Zuinglius, and their followers, the Gospel of Christ is produced to the world; is perpetuated, by the art of pripting; becomes the rule of worship and of duty, and points the true way to Heaven.

Ver. 13.) But this important change could not take place without great commotions. In prophetical language, " there was a great earthquake I.” The ecclesiastical edifice of papal Rome was shaken to its centre; among the reformers, some injudicious and guilty excesses, some folly and fanaticism, were seen to disgrace so good a cause g. The appeal of the divided Christian world was to the sword; and war was accompanied and followed by religious persecu

* Answering prophetically to the three days and half foretold. See them collected by Bp. Newton, Dissert. on the Proph, vol. iii. 140-146. Svo edit. + Eph. vi. 1!.

: Note, ch. vi, 12. Llistory has recorded such, in the war of the peasants in Germany; in the excesses of the Anabaptisis at Munster; in the History of the Reformation in Scotland,

" the

tion. In the earthquake, says the prophecy, “ tenth part of the city fell.” This can be no other than a tenth of “ the great city” before mentioned, (ver. 8.) corrupt, after the abominations of Sodom, of Ægypt, of Jerusalem in her most degenerate days; containing, at the same time, “the Gentiles,” (ver. 2.); containing “many people, and tribes, and languages, and nations,” (ver. 9.) who tread the Lord's courts, profess his religion, but are not admitted to the interior of his temple, (ver. 2). This description comprises the whole visible community of the Christian Church, afterwards divided into many cities *.

In this “ great “ city,” the edifices are shaken, and a tenth of them is seen to fall. Most of these buildings were “the “ work of men's hands ;” the foundation indeed was Christ and his doctrines. But on this foundation t strange edifices had been erected, by the ignorance and pride of superstition : many such are shaken by the reformation, and fall. Yet all such buildings are not thrown down in this earthquake. “Baby. “lon the great,” a conspicuous part, at least, of this great city, will be shaken again, and fall utterly, (Ch. xvi. 19. xviii. 22. )

In this “ earthquake there were slain names of men seven thousand.” Seven, in prophetical language, is an indefinite number; otherwise so many thousand would seem to bear but a small proportion to the im

* Cb, xvi, 19.

+ Described by Saint Paul, 1 Cor. iii. 10-13; Rom. xv. 20; Eph. ii. 20.

I The great city is certainly more than Babylon, and seems to come prehend ber; for in ch. xvi, 19, the great city is divided by the earthquake " into three parts, and the cities of the nations fall, and Ba“ bylon the great is remembered before God."

They be

mense population of so great a city. The Reformation, of the sixteenth century, though infinitely beneficial to the interests of true Religion and Humanity, was not attended with the same saving effects to all professed Christians. Liberty, in soine produced licentiousness; in some, fanaticism; in some, perhaps, infidelity. But to the much greater part of the Christian world it proved highly salutary. “came afraid, and gave glory to the God of heaven." Many nations withdrew themselves entirely from the corrupt, idolatrous worship of the church of Rome; and modelled their religion after the word of God and the practice of the primitive ages. And even they who adhered to the papal communion, incited by the example of the Protestants, began to cultivate, if not in their formularies, yet in their lives and practice, a less impure and corrupt religion. Some nations, acknowledging the papal name, have been enabled to shake off a considerable part of the papal yoke; to renounce the authority of the Court of Rome in their civil concerns; and a prospect is thus opened of their entire delivery from this audacious usurpa. tion *.

Such is the interpretation, which had presented itself to me, respecting the prophecy of the Witnesses; and it has received considerable accession from the commentators whom I had afterwards opportunity to consult; whose notions in general accord with those now delivered. Yet, upon a calm review, I must confess myself not very confident of complete success.

All the symbols of the prophecy, especially in the latter part, will not be found to be fulfilled so completely in the history which we exhibit,

* Mosheim, ceut. xvi. part i. sect. 3.


as should reasonably be expected. And therefore I am inclined to agree with Bishop Newton, that the final conflict of the beast with the witnesses, their death and resurrection, may be yet to come.

The 1260 years, beginning from the Saracene invasion, are not yet elapsed ; and in a prophecy, of which parts only are yet fulfilled, there must remain difficulties.

Ver. 14. The second woe is past ; &c.] The second woe appears, from this passage and its context, to be under the sixth Trumpet ; and to be included in the period of 1260 years, which contains the greater part of the Mahometan and Papal times. But where is the third woe? Certainly not under that Trumpet; for it is here stated to “come, when the second woe is ended.' But this woe ends with the completion of the sixth Trumpet: for, immediately after this declaration, that the third woe is coming, the seventh Trumpet sounds. The times, in which we now live, seem to be those of the latter end of the sixth Trumpet. I fear therefore that we must be led to conclude that the third woe or last dreadful conflict, in which the Christian cause shall suffer, is yet to come. More will be said on this subject, when the prophecy, which seems to foretel it, shall be explained *.

+ See note, ch. xvi. 13. towards the end.


« PreviousContinue »