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Hebrew text has it) " the two sons of oil that stand “ before the God of the earth.” In both cases they are aptly described : God has anointed and confecrated them by his holy Spirit, and they very appositely answer to the trope of the “two sons of oil :" for oil is, in sundry places, made use of as the type of the holy Spirit of God, which actuates, enlightens, and confecrates all things * ; and the two Teftaments are here very properly called the two sons of that Spirit, as they proceeded from, and were written under, and by its divine inspiration, for the evident purpose of revealing light and truth, to his ignorant and fallen creatures.
They are, moreover, prefigured in the text with equal propriety by the “ two candlesticks ftanding “ before the God of the earth :" for as a candleflick holds out to view the candle which illuminates a room, fo the two Testaments hold up to the comprehension of the world, the light and knowledge of the Gospel of Christ, or the will and providence of God, the Father and Creator of all things, to mankind; and by their “ standing before the God of the “earth,” or Jesus Christ, to whom God has delegated the power of judging the earth , we are to understand, that he will perform that awful talk by the light of his own revelation of his Father's will, fianding before him on the records of the two Teftaments. If any serious person should doubt this explanation of the “ two witnesses,” I would refer him to the authority of Christ himself; for he enjoins us to “ search the Scriptures ;” and expressly declares,
they are they which testify of me*;" they are my two witnesses."
* Exodus, xxviii. 7. Psalm xlv. 7.
St. John, v. 39.
+ Acts, X. 42.
The angel, having before made known, that a fchifin should take place in the “ holy city,” or the church of Christ; that “the court which is without “ the temple, shall be separated from the altar, and
given to the Gentiles, who shall tread the church " of Christ under foot” 1260 years, and explained the meaning of the “ two witnesses," proceeds to foretel what shall be their state and condition during that long period : “ they shall prophesy in fackcloth. The evident interpretation of this trope is, that during the domination and persecutions of the Mohamedan and Papal hierarchies, the pure truths of God, attested by the “ two witnesses,” shall lose a great part of their weight and influence in the world. They shall be misunderstood, misapplied, tortured, perverted, and corrupted by the two apostacies. They shall be as grass trodden under foot, of little or no value in the eliimation of mankind. Many true believers shall be seduced from the pure profession of the faith, and many be put to death; and yet those facred books, and the truths therein contained, shall not utterly be lost, but shall be preserved, and, in fome degree, understood ; and continue to predict the great and awful events that shall come to pass in the course of God's providence, and government of the world, to the end of time.
If we will not Thut our eyes to the clearest evidence of innumerable histories, and, indeed, against that of our own senses, we must perceive, that the depression of the “ two witnesses” has, in a great measure, been fulfilled. When the prophet wrote, the doctrine of the two Teftaments had made a great progress in the world. The influence of it over the minds and actions of men, continued to increase during several ages after To the time of Conftantine the Great, it became the religion of the late heathen world. So that there was nothing to induce E 2
the prophet to believe that Christianity could ever fall into decays or lose its general influence, unless by supernatural information : and yet he boldly announces that it would be fo. From a multitude of hisiories we learn the rapid progress of Christianity in the first centuries, notwithlianding the powerful opposition and cruel persecutions of pagan Rome, the then mistress of the heathen world. After that period, and the consequent decline of the truths attested by the two Teftaments, under the terrible persecutions of the two great apostacies, from their establishment in the beginning of the seventh century, the pure Gospel of Chrilt became ftrangely and moli wickedly perverted, to answer the nefarious purposes of their unbridled lufts and insatiable, ambition; and to that degree, that, before the eleventh century, it was in a great measure funk into fuperftition, idolatry, and sensuality. In this dispirited, this dirtressful state, without energy or influence, it remained until the fifteenth century, when learning and freedom of inquiry reared their heads, and the cornerstone of the reformation was laid. Froin that epoch, the two Teftaments have been translated into many languages, been more generally read, and better understood; and ignorance, idolatry, and sensuality. introduced into the Chriftian world, by those two grcat apostacies, have, in proportion, fallen before the blessed truths of the “ two witnesses” of God: but not to fallen as to justify true believers in laying aside their “ fackcloth," and lamenting that the truths of the Gospel of Christ are not yet restored to their primitive purity; nor that perfect faith in the providence and the revealed will of God, which leads to the salvation and cternal happiness of man, fully established.
Ver. 5.—" And if any man will hurt them " (the two witnesses), fire proceedeth out of
“ their mouth, and devoureth their enemies; and if
any man will hurt them, he must in this manner “ be killed."
Ver. 6.-" These witnesses have power to shut “ heaven, that it rain not in the days of their “ prophecy; and have power over waters, to “ turn them to blood; and to smite the carth with “ all manner of plagues, as often as they will.”
These two verses contain a brief and awful description of the OMNIPOTENCE of God, and of his determined purpose to support the truths revealed in the two Testaments, against all opposition, as well Pagan, Mohamedan, Papal, as atheistical, during the forty and two months, or 1260 years, in which they Thall prophesy in “ fackcloth.” The prophet expressly declares, that "if any man will hurt them, or, in other words, shall wickedly and wilfully oppose them, " fire shall proceed out of their mouth;" that is, the truths they contain, and a fense of his disobedience and perfecution of them, shall convince him of his error, and, as a consuming fire, shall prey upon and torment his never-dying conscience. Moreover, God will attend to the preservation of his "two witnefies,” by afflicting their enemies with famine. He will “ fhut heaven, that it rain not” during their prophecy; and will turn their rivers into blood, by their intestine insurrections and bloody wars, and “ smíte them with all manner of plagues, as “ often as he will."
The wonderful effects of this power of God, conferred on the “two witnesses,” were never more conspicuous, than immediately after the passion of our bleffed Redeemer, and his mission of the apostles. At that time mankind in general were immersed in pagan idolatry. All tradition of the true God, and of his power and providence, had been, during many E 3
ages, in a manner loft, excepting among the Jews; and even these, his much-favoured people, were divided into schisms, or fallen into pagan idolatry. They had disregarded the warnings of their Almighty Protector, through his “ faithful servants the pro
phets,” and put to an ignominious death his immaculate and blessed Son, who had long been promifed, and at length sent to fave them; and yet, notwithstanding all this, in less than half a century, the “two witnesses" went on conquering, and to conquer *, and established their truths in all parts of the world. The violent opposition and dreadful perfecutions of the great “ red dragon," or the Roman empire, then styled the miliress of the world, could not impede the rapidity of their progress to. Neither have those two mighty and formidable powers, the Mohamedan and Papal hierarchies, with all their bloody wars, oppression, edicts, anathemas, profcriptions, inquisitions, tortures, massacres, and slaughters, been able to destroy their teftimony. On the contrary, the power and spirit of God, declared in these two verses, have never forsaken, but constantly supported them ; by smiting their most inveterate enemies, such as many of the Roman, of the barbarian Mohamedan emperors, and popes, and their adherents, with tormenting remorse of conscience, and exemplary deaths; and punishing their countries with foreign wars and conquests, with inteftine convulsions and insurrections (thus“ turning their waters into blood”): moreover, with famine, pestilence, earthquakes, eruptions, and rivers of fiery lava, overwhelming whole cities and provinces. All these facts, which, through the providence of God, have been transmitted to us, by many faithful hiflorians, were thus foretold by the prophet ages before they happened, in the verses I am here commenting upon.
* Rev. vi. 2.
of Ibid. xii.