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and generally by the prophets.* They often put ashes also on their heads, and sometimes earth, as emblematic of their humility, and considering them. selves as the meanest of the people. This is designed to show, that however reduced these witnesses shall be in the common estimation, during this period of darkness and declension; yet they should still be the means under God, of instructing the people. They should also bear a testimony for God, though it should be but in a weak, complaining and mourn. ful stile and manner, until the event mentioned in the 7th verse, that is, the finishing their testimony, should take place.
But the great question of difficulty, which arises on this part of the subject is, who or what are these witnesses, thus mentioned with so much apparent certainty and identity of designation, in this important revelation. This has been a question, on which the ablest men have differed so greatly, that it has produced more doubt and uncertainty than any other subject of this prophecy; and it is not improbable but that infinite wisdom had great purposes to answer by keeping this fact from being fully explained until these witnesses being about to finish their prophecy, should lead to the discovery.
* Daubuz says, “ the word prophecy signifies always in this book, the testimony of the truth and the public profession and vindication of it; which notion is derived from the use of that word among tbe Hebrews.”
Is it not necessary, that every part of a prophecy, or revelation, should be distinct and plain to every observer in order that the subjects of them, should enjoy the benefit intended to be conferred, by the general design of the whole scheme. As for instance, if the final deliverance of the people of God from all their oppressors, is made known, and firmly believed in, there may be no necessity for their being made acquainted with the means, manner and precise time of such deliverance. Their faith and hope will be sufficiently kept up and established, by their reliance on the truth and power of God, and their zeal and watchfulness increased and kept in continual exercise.
It is well observed by a modern writer, “ all that was possible, and all that was intended, and all that was needful to be understood, by those who lived in the ages before our Saviour, was, that God designed by his prophets, to keep up in the world a perpetual expectation and reliance upon his promises in general, that his true worshippers should be sure finally to meet with an everlasting deliverance, and a Saviour of whose kingdom there should be no end. This was what Abraham saw afar off and was glad." So God may have designed by the promises relative to the second coming of the Messiah in glory at the finishing of the prophecy of these witnesses in sackcloth that his people depending on his veracity, should look, and long and pray for this joyful event, while at the same time they know and believe, from bis
express declaration, that when the time does arrive, it will be to the world at large, as a thief in the night, though it should be well known to his people, who should diligently attend to his word, “ for your. selves know perfectly that the day of the Lord cometh as a thief in the night."*
We are expressly encouraged, as before observed, to search into the meaning of the spirit of God in these scriptures, when the time of the end shall be near approaching; and are called upon to hear what the spirit saith unto the churches; and as this time of the end, or dissolution of the Roman hierarchy and government, is apparently drawing nigh, it may not be amiss to enquire how the scriptures themselves, have determined the circumstances of these witnesses, as connected with the finishing their prophecy or the end of the 1260 years, by which “ the wise may un. derstand." This may be hastened by every one casting in his mite, though in many circumstances he may be mistaken—a single idea from each, may at last lead to the great truth.
* ist Thess. v. ch. 2d verse
WHO OR WHAT THEY ARE.
These witnesses then, are spoken of by St. John, as known subjects, and who were then in being.They are particularly said to be Christ's witnesses; and therefore who had been in the habit of testifying to the truth. These were to receive a special power from him, to continue their teachings for the term mentioned, in opposition to the powers of the earth, and especially the man of sin in the temple of God, presiding over the churches, notwithstanding all the persecutions they were to undergo.
I humbly conceive, however I may differ from many great and learned men, that these were not to be a succession of witnesses, but the same specific witnesses, and who had been so from the beginning. -Had the meaning been of a succession of witnesses, they could not with propriety have been said to have been two, and that they should continue for 1260 years, for it is not the continuance of testimony that is the jet of this subject, but the power given to “ his two witnesses” personally to continue during this period; and it is their prophecy or testimony or teaching by virtue of that power that is also to be continued during that period; for a succession of
witnesses teaching would not have been so remarkable an event, as to have justifjed such strong language.
Some writers have said, that they are two, from the number required by the law, for the establishment of every controverted fact; and that they were typified by Moses and Aaron-Elijah and ElishaJoshua and Zerubbabel-The old and the new testa. ment; but I have never yet seen any arguments, of sufficient force, to supportso uncertain a reference except as to the last, for which much may be said.
But to ascertain the characters of these two witnesses with more precision, and to prevent greater uncertainty and doubt to the wise and careful ob. server, we are further told in the
4th verse, That they are the two olive trees and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth.
One would have imagined that this description would have prevented the application to a succession of witnesses, or to the individuals before mentioned, for with the same propriety, the twelve apostles and all the faithful, in all ages of the church, were witnesses.
Most of the various expositors of these verses, from the pious and learned Mr Joseph Mede, already mentioned, to the late ingenious Mr Langdon of our own country, have been examined with great care; but besides many other insurmountable objections