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members. The great question here to be considered is, Has this slaying of the witnesses taken place, or is it still future? I am persuaded that it is an event that is still future. It is certain that the whole time for which they were to testify has not elapsed, and it was not till after the expiration of the twelve hundred and sixty years that they were to be slain. Besides, their death is mentioned as the very last great struggle of the beast, who is successful for three years and a half, when God immediately and powerfully interposes, and ushers in the latter-day glory of the church.
And let not the Christian be discouraged in anticipating this death of the witnesses. Notwithstanding it, religion will be continually advancing; the cause of the Redeemer will be extending over the world: for this prediction has reference, as we have already said, to some part of the Latin Roman empire; and according to the judicious remark of Scott, probably at the time that the witnesses are slain, "there may be many very flourishing churches in America, Africa, and Asia;" and we may add, in many parts also of Europe.
But the witnesses, like their Saviour, shall rise again, shall ascend to heaven, shall be still more instrumental than before in spreading the gospel, to the confusion of its enemies, and the joy of its friends. This we are taught in the eleventh and twelfth verses: "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. 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." You immediately perceive that this
is not to be understood literally: a literal interpretation would be inconsistent with the remarks already made, that these are not two individuals, but successions of men, and that their death is the forcible silencing and suppressing of their testimony. The general meaning is evident; though we attempt not to describe minutely an event that is still future. After the enemies of the Redeemer had for three and a half years supposed that they had triumphed over the witnesses, new friends to truth shall arise, with the same spirit as these persecuted men possessed, and shall be as evidently under the care, protection, and blessing of God; and as assuredly advanced above the malice of their enemies, as though they had visibly, in the presence of their foes, been taken up to heaven in a cloud.
At the same time that the witnesses ascend to heaven, “an earthquake destroys the tenth part of the city;" that is, one of the ten kingdoms into which the Roman empire was divided; one of the ten horns of the beast. Time will minutely explain this prediction. It in general denotes some great commotions to take place in one of those kingdoms, when seven thousand shall be slain. This will not be a disregarded and unimproved dispensation, for "the remnant shall be affrighted, and give glory to the God of heaven;" shall acknowledge his authority, and submit to him.
Such are the contents of the little book: a sketch of the history of the church during the one thousand two hundred and sixty years that must elapse from the period when the church became antichristian, until it obtained the victory over all its foes.
1. See the insufficiency of a mere profession of religion, unattended by the spirit of the gospel.
Many who called themselves Christians, are here classed by him who reads the heart, among Gentiles. Never forget, that in the final day the name of a Christian will not be received as an evidence of true Christianity. Many will then perish as utter enemies of the Redeemer, who on earth called themselves his followers. Search deeply then your souls and your lives; measure yourselves by the word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice. Be not satisfied, though men regard you as Christians; they do not decide your everlasting doom. Be not contented till you have such a testimony of the approbation of God, wrought in you by the Holy Ghost, and attested by an exemplary life, as will sustain the scrutiny of the Omniscient, the trial of the judgment-bar; as will be rendered more bright and lustrous by the light of eternity.
2. Observe, that in the darkest periods of the church, Jesus has had his witnesses; scorned, perhaps, by the world, overlooked by the great, neglected by the historian; but having their names written in the Lamb's book of life. With what joy, believers, will you meet in heaven many thousands of those friends of Jesus who adhered to him in the worst of times; who esteemed the "reproach of Christ greater riches than" the world could bestow, and who now rejoice in their choice of that good part which can never be taken from them!
3. How much more desirable is it to be real believers, even though affliction or martyrdom should be our portion, than to be encompassed with all that the world idolizes, and destitute of true piety! Who would not rather be one of the persecuted and obscure witnesses of Christ, than the most splendid of the impious men who opposed them? Where are
these last? In that world where the recollection of their former pomp and magnificence cannot for a moment assuage their pains; where the remembrance of their reproaches and persecutions of the pious adds new agony to their souls. And where is the witness of Jesus? On earth he had, perhaps, accumulated sufferings; but in the midst of them he was happy for under them he felt the consolations of grace, the presence of the Saviour, the assurance of glory. Perhaps he sealed his testimony with his blood, and expired on the rack or in the flames; but, like the great body of martyrs, he had supernatural supports, and felt all the sweetness and efficacy of religion; he heard the voice of Jesus saying to him, "Come up hither." His spirit was received and crowned by that Redeemer whom he had owned, whose cause he had defended, for whom his heart had beat high with affection. Looking back from the world of glory over all his trials and sufferings, does he now regret that he devoted himself to Immanuel? Does he not adore that grace which enabled him rather "to endure affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season?" With one of these two classes, the enemies or witnesses of Jesus, you must for ever be associated; in one of these two worlds, heaven or hell, you must dwell for ever. Choose between them, for life and death are now offered to you.
4. How vain are all the efforts of the enemies of the church! Founded on the rock of ages, the gates of hell shall never prevail against it. Often has it been assailed; often have its enemies congratulated themselves on its supposed extinction; but the witnesses, who they flattered themselves were irrecoverably dead, have risen with new power. Zion
has shone with greater glory after her sufferings, and her splendour will still increase, as long as the throne of God is established in the heavens, and the Redeemer has the government of the world. Strong as Omnipotence, the cause which thou lovest, Christian, shall hold on its course, and bear down all opposition. Are our everlasting interests and our dearest hopes inseparably united with the prosperity of the kingdom of Christ?
5. Finally happy are they who are led by judgments upon others or themselves, to give glory to the God of heaven. Who of us has not witnessed the afflictions of others; has not had to contend with personal trials? What has been their effect? Have we remained stubborn, impenitent, refusing to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God? Then these temporal calamities shall be succeeded by eternal woes. For their misimprovement we must answer to God; and they will only inflame our future reckoning. But if they have been sanctified; if they have taught us the vanity of the world, we may exclaim, Happy afflictions! which made me remember that this is not my home! which drove me for support to the throne of grace, to the arms of my Redeemer! which made me come to myself, and think of my Father's house! I bless the mercy which sent them; I will ever adore the grace which sanctified them!"
Children of sorrow! may such be the result of all your trials!