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The period of this prediction is the same with that of the last one. It is for 1260 days, equal to the 42 months at 30 days in each month, that is 1243 folar years. It is the relative situation of the same parties which is represented; but, in a different point of view. The two witnesses of Christ prophesying in sackcloth, are the symbol for the church of Christ in a persecuted and mourning state. The beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit, is the symbol of the papal hierarchy during the period in which the temporal and the ecclesiastic powers were united in it. A. full account of the beast will be given in its proper place in the commentary, on chap. xiii
It is said. that this beast ascendeth, not that it ascended, nor that it shall ascend; to intimate that its rise shall be contemporary with that of the witnesses prophesying in fackcloth. That beast makes war against them, and kills them; but they rise again.
In the former hieroglyphic, the church of Christ is represented as stripped of all outward grandeur; and the church of Rome, as adorned in a pompous and magnificent manner. In this, the church of Christ is represented as bearing testimony to the truth, though her votaries are few and persecuted, and the church of Rome is represented as persecuting her; and for a short time apparently overcoming her; but yet the
rises again, and, by her rise, the limits of the papal kingdom are greatly contracted.
The least attention to the different parts of this hieroglyphic, may satisfy any person that they are not any two individual persons, who are meant by these two witnesses ; first, because no two persons have ever lived so long as 1243 years, the time they are said to prophecy; and secondly, because it is not to be supposed that any individual persons shåll rise to life and vigour again, after they have been exposed dead, on an open street, for three days and an half, which, as shall be shewn, is three folar years and an half.
It is the mighty angel mentioned in the preceding chapter, who still speaks in this, and who calls these two witnesses his witnesses: But, it was shewn that this mighty angel is Christ; hence, these are his two witnesses, and from him they derive the power by which they are enabled to prophecy so long, in so trying a situation. It is by faith in him, by the superintendency of his providence, by the influence of his gospel, and by the agency of his spirit, that he giveth them this power. Christians, in that period, are called Christ's witnesses, because they bear testimony to the truth as it is in Jesus, and to Jesus himself, that he is the Christ, and the Son of God. Like honest witnesses, they declare the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. An Vol. I.
honest witness will declare neither his own con. jectures, nor the hearsays of others, but only those facts which he hath perceived himself. In like manner Christians, as witnesses to the truth, nei. ther believe nor profess, as articles of their faith, their own conjectures and fancies, nor the mere commandments of men; but they believe and profess as such all those truths, and only those, which they perceive to be taught in the sacred scriptures, the word of God. They dare not add to them, nor take from them. They have not the impious vanity to imagine that they can im. prove the oracles of God, by human additions. Nor are they influenced by that worse than childish cunning, which makes too many think that it is unsafe or imprudent to profess or to teach, what the unerring wisdom of God thought fit to reveal; and, to reveal without any of those cautions, which little minds too often falsely call prudence. Like the apostles of Christ, Acts, XX. 27. “ They shun not to declare all the counsel of “ God.” Thus, chap. vi. 9. these martyrs or wit. nesses, who were slain, are said to have been flain, " for the word of God, and for the testimony “ which they held.”
For the space of 1243 years, commencing in the year 756, all true Christians are stiled, as in this hieroglyphic, witnesses or martyrs; for the word martyr is the one in the original, which
here and in every other place, is translated witnefs; as all acquainted with the Greek language know. It is not in suffering but in witnessing for the truth, that the essence of martyrdom confifts. It is a steady and open attachment to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus. Though a man should give his body to be burned, and have not this testimony, it profiteth him nothing. And he, who firmly believes, and uniformly professes and obeys the truth as it is in Jesus, in this period, is a martyr of Christ, though he should ne. ver be called, in the course of divine providence, to seal that testimony with his blood, provided he is one who would do so, if God in his providence should call him to suffer for the truth.
In this period Christians are stiled witnesses, chiefly, because their situation, during the 1243 years of it, compared with that of the Christians who shall live in the world after that period, is like that of honest witnesses, during the dependance of a long, intricate, and important trial in a cause of great consequence, in which the passions of many parties and their adherents are deeply engaged ; compared with the situation of these same witnesses, after a final sentence hath been passed in the cause, in the most exact conformity to their depositions, by a judge of such established character for abilities, attention, and integrity, as to convince all men of the justice of his sentence;
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or, at least, completely to filence the few, who will not yield to conviction. During the dependance of the trial, though these witnesses are fully satisfied in their own minds, that they have told the truth, and concealed no part of it; and, knowing the character of the judge, are perfectly confident that his judgenient shall correspond to their testimony; yet, by those persons interested in a contrary decision, and by the great multitude who in most cases form opinions without examining the case, and deliver these with that confidence for which their ignorance only hinders them to blush, they are sometimes represented as ignorant fools, and sometimes as artful and perjured knaves. Some take one side of the question, and others the other. Those, who em. brace the wrong fide, commonly misrepresent the characters of the witnesses, and of those who embrace the right side. It is not reason, a sound judgement, and a well informed understanding, which make men take the wrong side in any case; but, it is prejudice, private interest, or passion, and in many cases, all the three; and these never fail to make them rail against and misrepresent all who take the oppofite fide. But, when the final judgement shall be given in terms of their evidence, then, the general opinion shall change, and there witnesses will be treated with that refpect, which is due to their upright and well-in