Page images

“ which is without the temple, measure it not;" and the reason affigned is, “ for that court, which was formerly an appendage to the temple and altar, was now to be given to the two Gentile apoftacies, the Mohamedan and Papal; as if the angel had faid, · You have already written a particular narra! tive of the first, under the metaphor of “ the star which fell from heaven *,” and you shall write the history of the other hereafter f. And, besides,

I am about to unfold to you a different subject, unconnected with the perfecutions of those two

hierarchies ; namely, the history of a “ beast that • shall ascend out of the bottomless pit;" or, as it will presently appear, of an infidel and atheistical power, more hardened, more mischievous, and confummately wicked, than either of the two that rose before it."

[ocr errors]

The angel having thus briefly anticipated the rise of the two apostacies, the depression of the Gofpel by them, and the period of its continuance, proceeds to describe the condition in which it should remain during that period; and even under the tyranny of the “ beast of the bottomless pit,” which latter should take place a short time before that depression Thould end.

Ver. 3.-" And I will give power unto my Two WITNESSES; and they shall prophesy one thousand “ two hundred and threescore days in fackcloth."

It is certainly very necessary to the right explanation of this verse to ascertain, in the firft place, who, or what, these two " witneffes of God” are; for tvithout it we must still go on in the darkness, and inconsistency of all former commentators. Some of them have thought that Enoch and Elias were the

* Chap. ix. 1,

Chap. xii. xiii.


two witneffes ;" others, John Hufs and Jerome of Prague ; others, 'Luther and Calriin; and others again, all those men who have been eminent for their piety'; and, at the same time, opposers of the church of Rome*. This variety of opinions is, of itfelf, a proof of their uncertainty, if not of their error: Indeed none of thote men can antwer to the metaphorical expression of two witnesses" having one

mouth" (ver. 5.) and prophesying 1260 years: forthey all differed in opinion refpecting one article or other, of the doctrine of the Old and New Testaments. Moreover, thofe men were only teachers, and not prophets, nor ever pretended to the gift of prophecy; and, even had they been prophets, they could not have continued to prophely 1260 years, according to the express words of the text. Besides, the “two “ witnesses" have power to “hut heaven(the upper atmosphere), " that it rain not, in the days of their pro

phecy," and " to fmite the earth with all plagues, as "softenas they will" (ver. 6.). These are powers which, in their full extent, had never yet been conferred by God on any man, or any two men, nor ever pretended to be pofleffed by any of the persons, marked out by former commentators. Indeed' it seems abfurd to look for them among the human race, as,'according to the settled course of God's providence, the lives of any two men have ncver, fince the date of this prophecy, been extended to one seventh part of the period, during which it is declared, by the yoice of truth, they shall continue to prophefy.

Where then shall we find in the world the "two “ witneiles" here introduced by, the angel. For they must be of great antiquity, they must be only two in number, and these two must have, but ,one “ mouth,” and be the witnesses of God, or of his reNewton; Dissertations; vol. it. 2356

vealed word and will to mankind. They are, I will venture to pronounce, and can be nothing else, but the Two TESTAMENTS, the Old and New. These two holy prophets, and pracles of God, alone, among all the variety of things upon the earth, can satisfy and fulfil the figurative description of the text. The angel speaks of them as in being at the time, and well known to the prophet; and why they have not been so to the commentators on the prophecies, is dif.: ficult to conceive, as they must have had them constantly in view. Indeed, the very name of these books, or witnesses, affords an unerring clue to the discovery. ::A testament, from the plain definition and common acceptation of the word, is a writing, or record, which tefiifies and bears witness to the mind and will of man. So that which reveals, and bears witness to the word and will of God, is certainly his witness :i and it is worthy of obfervation, that they are called, by the voice of truth, coming from God, so my two witnesses.” It may next be alked, what two witnesses has God been graciously pleased, in the course of his providence, to send into this fallen world, to reveal and attest to mankind his divine word, but the Old and New Testament? Is it not by thefe two sacred and infallible records, one of which is, by many ages, the most ancient in the world? a record, a part of which has, in'a most miraculous manner, during the course of 3400 years, been preserved amidst the waste of all-devouring time, the ravages of wars, the wrecks of books, and even during the dark ages of Pagan sensuality, of Mohamedan ignorance, and Papal superstition. I ak, is it not by these two holy records alorie, that God. bas been pleased to reveal and attefti his rightëous and immaculate will to mankind? Have not these “ two witnesses” alone given the clearest testimony of his omnipotence; his infinite wisdom,'his justice and mercy?' And have not all those divine


and exalted attributes of his glory and perfection, been demonstrated by innumerable events foretold and recorded by those two facred “ witneffes,” even during the Mohamedan and Papal aportacy and darkness?

But had the names of these two witneffesbeen more mysterious, there are other marks given by the angel, which clearly support this exposition of the text: theyare represented,

by the angel, as having one “ mouth*;" to denote that they both, when rightly understood, testify the same sacred truths. And we know that the two Teftaments, in this senfe; have but one mouth; that is, form one regular, confiftent, uniform history of the will and providence of God': and, when not perverted, agree in attesting to mankind the same great and important truths, in which their happiness here, as well as hereafter, is con-' cerned. These two witnesses” were, moreover, to continue to “prophesy in fackcloth" 1 260 years, during the perfecutions and depressions of the Gospel of Christ, by the Gentiles of “ the court which is “ without the temple;" and there have been no tuo men who have lived so long; nor any true prophets since John wrote his Revelation, except those two sacred and living oracles, which have and do yet foretel all the important truths needful for mankind to know, that have happened in the world, and shall happen to the end of it; and therefore have rendered all other prophets, and every other kind of holy witness, unnecessary.

Ver. 4.--" These (witnesses) are the iw ) olitica trees, and the two candlesticks Itanding before “ the God of the earth."

The literal and natural meaning of this allegorical verse is, that the two Teliaments are the only

* Verfe 5.



two most perfect codes of moral, social, and religious precepts, for the regulation and government of the thoughts and actions of men, towards the Supreme Author of their existence, themselves, and their fellow-creatures; and that, by a practical observation of them, mankind may regain the state of immortality and happiness, from which they have unfortunately fallen by their disobedience. The two great laws are here also reprefented ; by which mankind shall be tried, and acquitted or condemned, according to the deeds done in this probationary ftate, before the “KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF


In support of this interpretation of the text, I shall only obferve, that, in my humble opinion, a more apt and comprehensive figure of the two Testaments could not be invented by the wit of man, than the two olive-trees:" for, of all the ve. getable tribes, the olive-tree affords the richest oil, and a very nutritious food for the fuftenance of the body of man. It is also a sweetener of the blood, and an antidote to poison. In the same manner thote sacred oracles of God's righteous will, afford the most perfect and excellent inliruction, the richest food for the foul or spirit of man. They direct him in the path in which he should walk, and in the use of the means by which he may recover from his fallen fiate. They teach and feed him with the knowledge, fear, and love of God, and an entire submission and holy obedience to the divine will. They fill him with patience, hope, faith, and comfort, under the deepest afflictions: they prepare his foul for a life of eternal happiness, and are antidotes against the poison of all manner of evil. Zechariah, in his prophecy of the restoration of the church , describes them by the metaphor of “ the two anuinted ones,or (as the

* Chap. xvii. 14.

of Chap. iv. 3. 14.


« PreviousContinue »