Page images
PDF
EPUB

language, like that which is used in the preceding verse, must be understood figuratively. In the period of the sackcloth state of the witnesses, the evil of famine sometimes prevailed; but there were other seasons in which God did not leave himself without a witness to his goodness in common providence, by giving rain and fruitful seasons, and filling the hearts of men with food and gladness. But as the doctrine of the word of God is often compared to rain, this figure may be intended to intimate, that during the sackcloth state of the witnesses, there would be a constant famine of the word of the Lord. And this was certainly the case among the members of the Antichristian church, when they were deprived of the use of the Bible in their families and closets, and seldom heard from the lips of their instructors, any thing which bore the smallest affinity to the doctrines or duties of revelation.-Rain is also used as an emblem of the influences of the Spirit ; and this figure may also be intended to intimate, that during the 1260 days, the salutary and refreshing rains of the Spirit would be in a great measure restrained. In whatever abundance they might fall upon the fields of the true church, the extensive territory of the false would be like the parched lands of Israel, which were scorched with a drought for the period of three years and a half.

The pointed reference in these figures to the times of Elijah is fitted to suggest the following reflections. 1st, That there would be a remarkable similarity of character between the times of the witnesses and those of the ancient prophet. Elijah flourished in a time of great degeneracy; idolatry was then established by law in Israel ; and, as if the offence had been too small to worship the true God in any other manner than what he himself had prescribed, they also paid their religious worship to the gods of the Heathen. The immediate occasion of Ahaziah's quarrel with Elijah was the stern reproof of the prophet, because he had sent to inquire at Baalzebub the god of Ekron. And from what is predicted in the close of chap. ix. of this book, it appears that the period of the sackcloth state of the witnesses was to be a season of great apostacy, in which the grossest of all idolatries would prevail.—2d, That in this degenerate age, the witnesses would be distinguished by their courage and zeal. The comparison bears not only upon the times, but upon the spirit and temper manifested by those that studied to be faithful. Elijah met with great opposition ; he nevertheless persevered in declaring the truth; all the threatenings of the wicked Ahab, and of his successor Ahaziah, could not induce him to be silent. And in the like manner, these witnesses would continue to prophesy, though it should be in sackcloth. Their enemies would not be able to quench the ardour of their zeal, nor make them relinquish any part of their duty.-3d, Like the ancient judgments, those to be inflicted upon

the

apostate church of Rome would be very destructive. As if the very breath of the witnesses would be pernicious, it is here foretold, that fire would proceed out of their mouth, and devour their enemies.

In the conclusion of the verse, there is an allusion to the plagues that were inflicted upon the enemies of the church in the time of Moses, particularly to the turning of those waters into blood, in which the infant sons of the church had been drowned by their unfeeling persecutors. Of the witnesses it is said, that they have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues as often as they will. Blood is a very common figure of carnage, and this part of the prophecy may be intended to intimate, that a dreadful carnage would take place among the enemies of the witnesses. Not that the witnesses would be the authors of this carnage, but that the treatment which they received would be the true cause of God's quarrel with their enemies. As they had shed the blood of his saints, so he would give them blood to drink, for they were worthy.—But as Christ and his people are one in law, and as they have fellowship with him in all the acts of his administration, whatever is performed by him is represented as if it were performed also by them. And as whatever he does is according to his will, so his people are represented as

having all manner of plagues under their management, and therefore smiting the earth as often as they will.-From these verses it appears,

1st, That it is extremely dangerous to offer an insult, or to do an injury, to the saints. He that offendeth one of these little ones, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea. Those that touch them treasure up wrath to themselves against the day of wrath ; and when the storm breaks out, it may be more destructive than any imagination could have supposed.

2d, That even in the lowest state of degradation, the saints are both the lights and ornaments of the age in which they live. They are the lights of the world, the salt of the earth, and the substance of a nation. They may be literally clothed in sackcloth, but they are spiritually covered with the robe of righteousness, and the garments of salvation. They may be despised and rejected of men, but they stand high in the estimation of God, and for their sake the days are prolonged. How safe, how happy and honourable, to be found in such company ; surely no real evil can befall them, no plague can come nigh the dwelling of such men! How dreadful the risk those persons run who dare to do an injury to the saints ! These last are represented as if they could point the artillery of the heavens in whatever direction they have a mind. To do them an injury is to expose one's self to certain harm.

427

LECTURE LXI.

THE SLAYING OF THE WITNESSES.

Rev. xi. 7–13. And when they shall have finished their testimony,

the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill

them. And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city,

which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our

Lord was crucified. And they of the people, and kindreds, and tongues, and nations,

shall see their dead bodies three days and an half, and shall

not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves. And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and

make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because

these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth. 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. And the same hour was there a great earthquake, and the tenth

part of the city fell, and in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand : and the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven.

THESE verses are a continuation of the history of the witnesses, in which we are first informed of the season of their being slain, as in the beginning of ver. 7. And when they shall have finished their testimony. According to this translation, their work of prophesying, or bearing testimony, was to be finished some time previous to their death. But this is a supposition which cannot be admitted ; because genuine witnesses never cease to testify for Christ as long as they live; and as these witnesses were to appear on the side of truth and duty, during the whole period of the 1260 days, there could not be any interval between their work of prophesying, and the cruel treatment they were to meet with from their enemies. It may likewise be observed, that if they had ceased to prophesy, they would not have been exposed to suffering, because they would then have ceased to be the objects of the resentment of the beast. It is their witnessing character which provokes his indignation; were they divested of this, he would be disposed to treat them as his friends.

The words have been literally translated thus :- And when they shall be about finishing their testimony. An able critic has observed, that the word rendered finished, is in that peculiar tense which generally bears a future signification, and therefore, instead of expressing what is past, it is intended to intimate something which yet remained to be done. The meaning of the expression appears to be this: , When the period of their sackcloth condition, and of their work of bearing testimony in that state of abasement and affliction was coming to a close, then the beast which ascendeth out of the pit would make war against them, and kill them. Contrary to all the fond expectations of deliverance which they had cherished, they would be involved in new troubles, and placed in worse circumstances than in any former period of their sackcloth condition. Like Jeremiah, they might be looking for peace, but no good would come; and for a time of health, but behold trouble, Jer. viii. 15.

The author of this calamity is called the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit.-We have no mention of this beast in any of the preceding parts of the Revelation, and as John was afterwards to point him out in all the odious features of his character, it is only a simple notice which he gives of him

« PreviousContinue »