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they commenced their testimony with the grand apostacy, so they run parallel to it, in time, and will be brought to a violent end, three prophetic days and a half before its termination. As many years, in all probability, will elapse before this-half a century at least--with moral certainty we may conclude, that the witnesses are still prophesying in sackcloth. But as these years constitute a very small proportion of the whole number 1260, the witnesses are, strictly, drawing near the close of their testimony.
"4. I add the opinion of the great archbishop Usher, and other eminent and godly men of an early day, who, on many occasions, displayed a spirit not unlike that of prophecy. These characters, from the predictions of scripture, especially that of the death of the witnesses, looked with certainty for the revival of popery at some future day. Usher, in particular, was deeply affected with the prospect before the church, and repeatedly made known his impressions. Other names might be mentioned, were it necessary, but time forbids.
"Such are the chief grounds on which the opinion rests, that the prophetic period of which we have been speaking is yet to come. It will be a period of calamity, distress, impiety, ferocity, tyranny, superstition, and gross ignorance a period darker than the middle ages, for even then, the witnesses prophesied, though in sackcloth: but now they will be dead, and their dead bodies will lie. unburied, to feast the malice of their foes: a period in which the principles of civilization will be destroyed by those of barbarian rudeness. The state of society will be deplorable, both as it respects intercourse between man and man, and nation with nation. The bonds of union
will be dissevered; the foundations of order torn up; a lawless, unprincipled, and superstitious tyranny, in church and state, will prevail; not in one nation, but throughout the spiritual Sodom and Egypt--the mystical Babylon, among all the ten kingdoms, which have given their power to the beast."
GOD'S MERCY TO THE FATHERLESS.
HOSEA XIV. 3.
For in Thee the fatherless findeth mercy.
THIS chapter," says the eminently pious Mr. Hervey, "is one of those which, for "their peculiar importance and excellency, "deserve not only to have a turn in our "reading, but a place in our memory"." Though it literally refers to the ultimate restoration of Israel to the favour of God; yet as that restoration will be effected through the grace of the Lord Jesus, and the power of his Spirit, it unfolds to us, in a most affecting and lively manner, the genuine expression of evangelical penitence, and the motives for its exercise.
Having exhibited in detail, in the previous chapters, an account of the Jewish nation, a Hervey's Dialogues, Dialog. 2.
which is sad and disgusting to an extreme, the prophet, here, after reminding them of their miserable and degraded state, as fallen by their iniquity, exhorts them to return unto God. The way of return he teaches them, is not that of self-righteousness, but of grace, even the free grace of God through a Saviour. "Take with you words," says he, and not works. Being bankrupts, destitute of all good in yourselves, go to God as such, confessing your wants, and supplicating his mercy. Say, "Take away "all iniquity and receive us graciously," or as we read in the margin, "give us good:
so will we render the calves of our lips." Plead for a free and full pardon, such an acquittal from the demands of justice, as will utterly cancel your guilt; and seek that good which, consequent upon the taking away of all iniquity, will qualify you for the enjoyment of God's favour. Thus
you can without fear engage to offer unto God, for calves or bullocks as a sacrifice, your praise and thanksgivings. With this application for mercy, and this promise of honouring God, the prophet directs them to connect a re24
nunciation of every refuge of lies and all confidence in gods of human creation. Confess, "Ashur," i. e. the Assyrian," shall not
save us; we will not ride upon horses; "neither will we say any more to the work "of our hands, Ye are our gods." Then follow the words of the text, which exhibit the ground on which the whole exhortation rests, "for in thee the fatherless findeth "mercy."
Had not God revealed himself to our fallen race as merciful, we never would have been commanded to repent, or return unto him". A real return unto him can only be effected through the blood of the everlasting covenant. Evangelical, that is, gospel repentance, springs from the publication of divine mercy, and is solely matured into a saving grace, by a believing apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ.
Without adverting further to the connexion between the fact of God's exercising mercy towards sinners, and the duty of gospel penitence, I design at this time from the text, to direct your attention,
b Owen on the 130th Psalm, v. 4. sect. iii. Discovery of Forgiveness.