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that the two witnesses are the Old and New Testament. And I will,
II. Show what we may understand by the two wit. nesses being clothed in sackcloth.
Sackcloth denotes a state of darkness, as in Rev. vi. 12, “The sun became black as sackcloth of hair;” that is, the sun became dark, invisible, and did not give its light. Just so during the dark ages of papal rule, the word of God was darkened by monkish superstition, bigotry, and ignorance in its sacred principles. It did not give its true light, because the laws, doctrines, and ordinances were changed by the laws of the Latin church; its doctrine was perverted by the introduction of the doctrine of devils and the anti-Christian abominations: its ordinances were so altered as to suit the convenience of carnal men; and it was obscured, because the common people were forbidden to read it, or even to have it in their houses, by the Papal authority. It was hid from the world in a great measure; for the Papal beast, the church of Rome, forbade its translation into any language except the Greek and Latin, which languages ceased to be spoken in the Roman government in the middle of the sixth century. Sackcloth denotes great calamities and troubles, as in the days of Hezekiah, 2 Kings, xix. 1, 2, “When king Hezekiah heard (the threatenings of the king of Assyria,) he rent his clothes, and covered himself with sackcloth;” also, the Ninevites put on sackcloth at the preaching of Jonah, when their city was threatened with a final overthrow. So with the two witnesses; while they were clothed in sackcloth, it was a time of great calamity and trouble to the people of God; persecution raged without any mitigation in some or all parts of the Roman government, and the church of God, which was fed and nourished by the “two witnesses,” during her residence in the wilderness, was threatened with a final destruction by the Papal armies, the inquisition, and every other means that could be devised by wicked men or devils. But God has preserved his word, through all the persecutions of the Roman power. I shall now,
III. Show their history, prophecy, and time specified in the text.
1st. Their history, contained in Rev. xi. 5–13, inclusive. Let me read and explain. 5th verse, “If any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies, and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed.” If any man shall add or take away from the book or revelation of God, “God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city;” and “God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book.” This verse has een verified in our day in the history of deistical France. The rulers of France, in the revolution, proclaimed a war of extermination against the fishermen's Bible, as they were pleased to term it; and within six years they exterminated themselves, the republic, and almost their principles. The kingdom was deluged in blood; anarchy was the law of the land; and the judgments denounced by this word were literally accomplished, so that deists themselves stood appalled at the horror and confusion their own principles had brought upon their heavendaring crimes. 6th verse, “These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy.” . Allusion is here had to “the three years and a half,” in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up, Luke iv. 25, which is the same time the witnesses prophesy clothed in sackcloth, 1260 days, forty-two months, thirty days to a month; that being common time, and this prophetic. The Scriptures are the means which God has made use of to convert sinners from error to truth, from sin to righteousness, and to convey the knowledge of grace, (which in this verse is compared to rain,) to a lost and perishing world. During the reign of anti-Christ, 1260 years, the church in the wilderness, and the two witnesses clothed in sackcloth the same 1260 years, the doctrine of grace in Jesus Christ was but partially taught. Much of the professedly Christian world have been taught that doing penance, purchasing indulgences, obeying the holy Catholic church, or performing some outward act for pardon, would answer them heaven and happiness. But when the Scriptures began to be read and understood, and where the doctrine of grace in Jesus Christ has been published by the translation and circulation of the word of God, how different the scene! Now, we can hardly find a Roman Catholic who will pre tend that heaven is purchased by infliction of bodily torture, by doing penance, or by a monastic seclusion from the world; neither do we see them selling indulgences, and promising the holders pardon for the most abominable crimes. And but rarely do we hear the infallibility of the mother, or holy Catholic church, advanced from pulpit or press. Why this mighty change in public sentiment? Because the reign of grace is not withheld; the two witnesses are no longer clothed in sackcloth; “Michael has stood up, that standeth for the children of thy people.” And the “angel is flying through the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to them that dwell on the earth.” “And have power over the waters to turn them to blood.” By waters, we understand people; and by blood, wars. This text has been amply fulfilled in the wars of Europe, fighting for religious tenets and ecclesiastical power, claiming their prerogatives from the two witnesses, and wresting and perverting the word of God to their own destruction. “And from thence come wars, tumults, fightings,” because they understand not. “And to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will.” In Old Testament times, it was the word of God, through Moses and Aaron, that smote Egypt with the ten plagues, and through Joshua the Canaanites. So, in New Testament times, the seven last plagues, and the three woes, are denounced against the anti-Christian beast, who dwells on and has great power over the earth. “As often as they will,” meaning as often as they have prophesied of them, so often will the plagues be sent. Not one jot or tittle of the word of God will fail. 7th verse, “And when they shall have finished their testimony,” that is, when the 1260 years are about fulfilled, the “beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless ło, this beast is the same as the little horn, Papal ome, and is said to ascend out of the bottomless pit, because it is founded on error. The principles taught by this beast were first Paganism, and ended in Deism, which are not built on the word of God; and, therefore, have no foundation, and may truly be said to be “bottomless.” “Shall make war against them.” The governments, under the authority of Papal Rome, shall endeavor to exterminate the “two witnesses,” the word of God. “And shall overcome them, and kill them;” have power over them, pass laws or edicts against them, and, by this means, destroy their usefulness, life, and activity. For where the Scriptures are not read, and believed in, they become a dead letter; but when read, and believed, “they are spirit, they are life,” John vi. 63. 8th verse, “And their dead bodies shall lie in the streets of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.” This verse teaches us, that the word of God would be made a dead letter, by the authority of one of the principal kingdoms out of one of the ten into which the Roman government was divided, and that they would be guilty of the same sins that Sodom and Egypt were guilty of; and, also, of crucifying our Lord, that is, in a spiritual sense. This will apply to France in particular. France, previous to, and in the French revolution, was guilty of Sodomitish sins; she also had held in bondage, like Egypt, the people of God; and, in France, Christ had been crucified afresh in his people, on St. Bartholomew's eve, A. D. 1572, when 50,000 Huguenots were murdered in one night. The people of God are called Christ's spiritual body, 1 Peter ii. 5, Col. i. 24. 9th verse, “And they of the people, and kindreds, and tongues, shall see their dead bodies three days and a half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves.” This decree, or edict, should be generally known among all nations; and although they could not prevent the witnesses from lying in the streets of the great city three years and a half, yet the nations about them would prevent the Scriptures from being buried, or put out of sight. 10th verse, “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 upon the earth.” We learn by this text
that the nation, who would suppress the reading of the word of God, would make great rejoicings upon this occasion, and congratulate each other upon the destruction of the Bible, as they would suppose, for this reason, because the doctrine and precepts of the Bible would be hateful and disagreeable to them. 11th verse, “And after three days and a half, [years, the spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them.” After the Bible would be dormant three years and a half, God would so order in his providence, that they would again be permitted to be read and enjoyed as usual, and the Bible would again stand upon its own foundation, or merits, and would again have their bearing on the hopes and fears of mankind, and the governments of the world, and their enemies would see it and tremble. 12th verse, “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.” . This verse shows us that many voices would unite in calling for a general spread of the Bible through the world, and that the Bible would be exalted among the nations, and great multitudes of them circulated, and the enemies of the word of God could not prevent it. Here we have a plain and distinct prophecy of the Bible societies. 13th verse, “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 [names or titles] seven thousand, and the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven.” At the same hour the witnesses would be slain, there would be a great revolution, and one of the ten kingdoms, which had given their power and support to the Papal beast, would fall; and seven thousand names, or titles of nobility, in chnrch and state, would be destroyed; and this revolution would produce great fear among the nations, and some would acknowledge that the word was fulfilling, and God was producing these wonderful events. Here we again see exactly depicted the French revolution, and its ef.