REV. v. 5.
THE book of Revelation has been called by thousands a sealed book; and many a dear saint, while in this imperfect state of vision and knowledge, has wept much, because they could not read and understand the book. For it is very evident that the book of Revelation is not only interesting in its symbolical and mystical descriptions, natural scenery, and figurative language, but it is rich in truth, and the communication of events then hid under the veil of futurity, and would only be unfolded to the natural visions of men, many ages to come. John has written this book after the laws of nature; that is, he has seemed to copy after some of the richest and most picturesque scenes in nature's laws. He has, in revealing truths to our minds, followed the same steady course that fountains of water do in their course to the sea. He begins as it were back upon the mountains, where the head may be but a fountain, and there gives us a description of the source. He then glides gently along through the vale below, winding between hills and mountains, visiting in his course the hamlets of the peasant, the villages of men, the populous towns and cities of commerce, until he lands us or leaves us in the ocean of eternity. At first, he appears to be describing some bubbling fountain or gentle spring, and swelling in importance as he proceeds, brings in and adds every important stream of event, deepens and widens in his course, until he makes his prophetic history like a deep-flowing river, bearing upon its bosom the gallant ships and galley with oars. At first, he describes a pebbly brook murmuring along the hills, now and then bursting into view with some gentle fall, then gliding softly away, until it meets some rugged head-land, shifts its course, and almost seems to retrace its path; then, suddenly bursting from the hills in cataracts of foam, bounding from rock to rock, leaping into the vale below, he again seems to follow the alluvial flats and receives his tributary streams, winds on his way, until it falls at its mouth by a tremendous leap into a gulf of waters, and is swallowed up in the waves of the sea.
And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David, hath prevailed to open the book and to loose the seven seals thereof.
Four times the Revelation seems to bring us down in this manner, as though he had begun on one mountain, and traced four different streams of history down to the great ocean of eternity; like the river of Eden, which watered the garden, becoming four heads of four great rivers, which watered and encompassed the whole land, taking different points of the compass, but falling at last into the ocean, Gen. ii. 10-14; and all these having seven tributary streams in their course. The seven churches of Asia is a history of the church of Christ in her seven forms, in all her windings and turnings, in all her prosperity and adversity, from the days of the apostles down to the end of the world. The seven seals are a history of the transactions of the powers and kings of the earth over the church, and God's protection of his people during the same time. The seven trumpets are a history of seven peculiar and heavy judgments sent upon the earth, or Roman kingdom. And the seven vials are the seven last plagues sent upon Papal Rome. Mixed with these are many other events, woven in like tributary streams, and filling up the grand river of prophecy, until the whole ends us in the ocean of eternity.
This, to me, is the plan of John's prophecy in the book of Revelation. And the man who wishes to understand this book, must have a thorough knowledge of other parts of the word of God. The figures and metaphors used in this prophecy, are not all explained in the same, but must be found in other prophets, and explained in other passages of Scripture. Therefore it is evident that God has designed the study of the whole, even to obtain a clear knowledge of any part. I shall then pursue the following method:--
I. Explain the book which was in the right hand of him who sat on the throne.
II. Give the history of the seven seals, and their opening.
I. I am to explain what is meant by the book.
The book is often spoken of in the word of God. Sometimes we hear it spoken of as a little book, open, in the hands of the angel; and sometimes it is commanded to be sealed up; and sometimes to be unloosed, as in our text. The question arises, What can this book mean? It cannot mean the book of Revelation, for John was commanded not to seal the sayings of this book, Rev. xxii. 10. Neither could it be the prophecies, for they were commanded to be read every Sabbath day by the Jews, and were so read. Yet John tells us, in our context, "That no man, neither in heaven, nor in earth, nor under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon; and I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon." We see, plainly, that it could not apply to the law, nor the prophets, to the Old or New Testaments, for these were committed to the Jews, and also unto us Gentiles, and were to be read by all men; but this book they could not open, read, nor look thereon. There is one more book which answers to John's description, which no man, neither in heaven, nor on earth, nor under the earth, has yet been able to look thereon, or open and read, as we have any account of; and which, according to the whole tenor of the Scripture, will never be opened, read, or looked upon, until the last seal is broken, and the judgment sits. "And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books." In this book, which is called the book of life, the names of all the redeemed in heaven, in earth, or under the earth, are written, which are not known to any man, neither will be known, until the last seal is broken open; for the judgment will declare who is on the Lord's side. For the apostle tells us, plainly, "Our lives are hid with Christ in God; that, when he appears, then we shall appear with him in glory." And John tells us, Rev. xxi. 26, 27, "And they shall bring the glory and honor of the nations into it, and there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie; but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life." "And whosoever was not found written in the book of life, was cast into the lake of fire." Again: "And they whose names were not written in the book of life, from the foundation of the world, shall wonder," &c. This book, although we are abundantly informed there is one, in the right hand of him that sitteth upon the throne, no man, as we are any where informed, has been able to look upon it, or open it, or to read its contents. This, then, is the book, on account of which John wept to know its contents. And so it has been with all Christians. They are anxious to know whether their names are written in the Lamb's book of life. But you must first learn, my dear brother in Christ, to live by faith; and faith, too, founded on the book in which you can look--of which you may read the promises, the prophecies, and commands. But into the book of life you can never look, until the Lamb of God shall open the seventh seal, and the righteous dead be raised, to meet with the dear Savior in that world of glory, when the book will be opened in the presence of the universe, and he will own you as his, and crown you with joy unspeakable and full of glory.
II. I shall now give the history of the seven seals, with the time of their opening. After the prophecy of the seven churches, in the 2d and 3d chapters of Revelation, John has a view of the heavenly host, singing the grand song, and gives us a description of the heavenly choir, and a part of the song. He likewise introduces the book, sealed with seven seals, and shows who can open the book, in the fourth and fifth chapters. These we have attended to, in a former lecture.
We shall now begin with the sixth chapter, 1st verse, "And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals; and I heard, as it were the noise of thunder, one of the four beasts, saying, Come and see. And I saw, and behold, a white horse, and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him; and he went forth conquering and to conquer." The "beast," in this passage, is the first, which was like a lion, representing the church in its first state, in the days of the apostles, when the church went every where, preaching the word, bold as a lion. The white horse, and him that sat upon him, represent Jesus Christ going forth in the power of the gospel. This is proved by the passage, Rev. xix. 11-13, "And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written that no man knew but he himself, and he was clothed in a vesture dipped in blood; and his name is called The Word of God." This is the same personage as the other, and both places represent the same thing, only the first description is representing the spread of the gospel in the beginning of the gospel day, the other at the end of the gospel period, under which we are now living. Therefore the first seal opens with the promulgation of the gospel, as the last will be closed by the same. 3d and 4th verses, "And when he had opened the second seal, I heard the second beast say, Come and see. And there went out another horse, that was red; and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another; and there was given unto him a great sword." The red horse denotes blood and carnage, and has reference to the times of persecution in the days of Nero and other Roman emperors, and answers to the same time as the Smyrna church. "Given unto him a great sword," shows that the power would have great authority. The second beast spoken of in this passage is the representation of the church, which was like a calf, showing that the church would be given to the slaughter, like a calf fatted for the market, during the period of the opening of this seal, which period lasted until about A.D. 318, when Constantine put a period to the persecutions of the Christians.
5th and 6th verses, "And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say, Come and see. And I beheld, and lo, a black horse; and he that sat upon him had a pair of balances in his hand. And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say, A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny, and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine." The third beast, which represents the church, under this seal, had a face as a man, and shows that the church would be like a natural man, proud, haughty, independent, selfish, ambitious, covetous, and worldly. This seal was opened in the days of Constantine, when religion became popular, and was a stepping-stone to power; and this seal agrees with the Pergamos church, as to time and place. The black horse denotes error and darkness; and when the church became connected with worldly power and wisdom, she lost her purity of doctrine and practice, and adopted, in her creed, maxims and principles congenial with the natural heart, and forms and ceremonies for show and parade, rather than the humbling and cross-bearing life of the followers of Jesus. The balances denoted that religion and civil power would be united in the person who would administer the executive power in the government, and that he would claim the judicial authority both in church and state. This was true among the Roman emperors, from the days of Constantine until the reign of Justinian, when he gave the same judicial power to the bishop of Rome. The measures of wheat and barley for a penny denote that the members of the church would be eagerly engaged after worldly goods, and the love of money would be the prevailing spirit of the times, for they would dispose of any thing for money. The oil and wine denote the graces of the Spirit, faith and love, and there was great danger of hurting these, under the influence of so much worldly spirit. And it is well attested, by all historians, that the prosperity of the church in this age produced the corruptions which finally terminated in the falling away, and setting up the anti-Christian abominations.
7th and 8th verses, "And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the fourth beast say, Come and see. And I looked, and behold, a pale horse, and his name that sat on him was Death, and hell followed with him; and power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with beasts of the earth." The fourth seal opened in the year A.D. 538, when anti-Christ first arose, for the fourth beast was like a flying eagle. "And to the woman was given two wings of an eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, times, and a half, from the face of the serpent." The pale horse is named, in this passage, death. And hell followed, showing us plainly that it is the anti-Christian power which would have the ascendency over one fourth part of the earth, during the opening of this seal. "Power was given unto them," shows conclusively that it is the same power mentioned in Rev. xiii. 2-5, "And the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority." "And there was given him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months." Again, 7th verse, "And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them; and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations." In our text he says, "Power was given them to kill with the sword," that is, to make war, which was fulfilled in Europe, when the papal power sent out large armies to exterminate the heretics, as they were called, who would not worship the beast or his image. "And with hunger;" this was fulfilled by the same power imprisoning and starving to death many thousands of persons who were suspected of opposition to her ungodly pretensions. "And with death;" inventing the most cruel and bloody means of torture that were ever imposed upon our world; to inflict death, in every possible shape that men or devils could invent thousands and tens of thousands suffered death under the most excruciating torments that the Inquisition could devise. "And with the beasts of the earth;" after they had glutted their thirst for blood in every possible shape that man could inflict, thousands were thrown to ferocious beasts, to be destroyed by them. The time and place of the opening of this seal we cannot be mistaken in. It must have been during the bloody and persecuting reign of the papal church.
9th-11th verses, "And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held; and they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellow-servants also, and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled." On the opening of the fifth seal, there is no beast to say, "Come and see," for this very good reason--the church has not changed her position, and is yet in the wilderness, like the flying eagle. Therefore, under the fourth beast, the church is likewise under the control of the same anti-Christian power as under the fourth seal, but the difference appears to be only in one thing--the church appears to enjoy a little respite from her persecuting enemy; and it would seem by the language of the souls of the martyrs that they are now looking for a day of vengeance, which God hath promised upon them who worshipped the beast or his image; and the inquiry is, How long before this day of vengeance will come? The answer is given to these praying souls to rest a little season, and they are informed there must be one more day or little season of persecution, when their brethren must be killed in like manner with themselves; and when that is accomplished, they would then experience the last promise of God, the resurrection. This seal was opened about the beginning of the 18th century, A.D. 1700 when the bloody persecutions against Protestants ceased, and the nations of the world began to enjoy religious freedom.
12th-17th verses, "And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and lo, there was a great earthquake." On the opening of this seal there is a great earthquake. This earthquake is spoken of in other places in this book and alludes to the French revolution; and of course this seal opened about A.D. 1790. "And the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood." Sun sometimes denotes rulers or kings, as in the case of Joseph's dream, when the sun, moon and stars made obeisance to him, meaning his father, head over all Israel, his mother, and his brethren; for where the king is called the sun, the queen is called the moon, and inferior rulers are called stars, as Christ is called sun of righteousness, because he is king of Zion. The church is called the moon, because she is the bride of Christ. Ministers are called stars because they are inferior rulers in Christ's kingdom. Therefore I understand this to mean in that revolution when the king lost his authority, and tried to disguise himself, and fled from his own subjects, afterwards was beheaded. The queen, too, became blood, and all the nobility of France fell to the earth. One decree levelled all titles and distinctions with the commonalty, like a fig-tree casting her untimely figs. "And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig-tree casteth her untimely figs when she is shaken of a mighty wind. And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together." The heavens must mean that circle in which the planets move; and if that is to be understood figuratively, so must this. Heavens must then mean the laws and government of France. These were all swept away, or rolled up and laid away like an old parchment out of date or use. "And every mountain and island were moved out of their places." Mountains and islands are figures of large and small governments, and in the French revolution every government was removed from their legitimate sovereigns, except England, in the old Roman empire, and given to kings of Bonaparte's creation. And certainly all the kingdoms in Europe were changed from what they were before; so that when legitimacy was restored, the ancient kings could not and have not found their kingdoms in the same situation they were in before the revolution. "And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every freeman, hid themselves in the dens, and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the rocks and mountains, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb."
It is a well-known fact to all who are conversant with the history of the French revolution, that almost every king in Europe had to flee from his kingdom during the space of about five and twenty years: the king of Portugal to Brazil; the king of Spain to France; the king of France fled to England; the Pope died in exile; the king of Sardinia left his kingdom and fled to the island of Sardinia; the king of Naples to the island of the same name; the king of Austria left his capital; and the king of Prussia took shelter under Russia; the emperor of all the Russias left Moscow to its fate; and Bonaparte himself fled to the island of Elba, and died a prisoner on St. Helena. The great men and chief captains, and all orders and degrees of men, had to flee from the land of their fathers, and seek an asylum among strangers. So true was this passage of Scripture fulfilled that many writers and divines actually supposed that it was the last great battle and supper of the great God. "For the great day of his wrath is come, and who shall be able to stand?" The sixth seal is not yet wholly opened; for it is evident that we are carried down to the last day, the great day of wrath which will immediately follow the sealing time which he gives us in the next chapter.
Rev. vii. 1, "And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that it should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree." Daniel tells us, vii. 2, "I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven strove upon the great sea." The four winds, then, means the opposing elements, war and contention. These principal elements of war and contention God would restrain for a little season, so they should not fan up the spirit of war and strife, neither in the Roman government, (called earth,) nor on the great nations, (called great sea,) nor on individuals or small societies of men, (called trees;) and this has been remarkably fulfilled for twenty years past. Not a particle of opposition has been experienced against the translation and spread of the Bible, or the missionary cause. Kings have been nursing fathers, and queens nursing mothers, to help forward the cause of God. The wind of Papacy has been kept down by the angel, so that all the opposition they could raise has been weak and inefficient. The Mahometan wind has not blown a blast for twenty years; the idolatrous and pagan nations of the East have, by some invisible power, been kept in check; the infidel and deistical principles of the West have been held in complete subjection by the same invisible hand, until the servants of God should be sealed. Therefore, since the French revolution, none of these four winds of opposition to Christ have been permitted to use any physical force, as formerly, to suppress the spread of the gospel through the earth. "And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God; and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea." The angel here spoken of as ascending from the east, is the angel standing on the land and on the sea, with a little book open, and the same that is represented in another place as flying through the midst of heaven having the everlasting gospel to preach to them who dwell on the earth. Coming from the east, the place of light, and having the seal of the living God, shows plainly that it is the angel of the gospel. The four angels are the four messengers of God, who suppress those four opposition principles, until the sealing time shall be over, "saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of God in their foreheads." The four angels are here commanded not to let these four winds of opposition hurt the earth, sea, or trees, until the sealing time is past, which is the same time spoken of, Daniel xii. 1, "Then shall Michael stand up, the great Prince which standeth for the children of thy people." "And I heard the number of them which were sealed; and there were sealed a hundred forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel." John first gives us an account of the number that were sealed in his day, out of all the tribes of Israel. They were sealed, as he tells us when he wrote, it being finished in the close of the Jewish dispensation. It being a complete number, 144,000, and therefore could be numbered; and as these were sealed at the close of that dispensation, so John now saw in vision a great number, which no man could number, sealed at the close of the Gentile dispensation, of which he has been prophesying; for after he has gone through with numbering twelve thousand in every tribe, he then says, Rev. vii. 9, "After this I beheld," that is, after this sealing, by which 144,000 had been sealed among the Jews, he beheld, "and lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands." This evidently refers to the last sealing time among all nations; for he again hears them singing the grand chorus song, as at the close of the history of the seven churches, "And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God, which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb. And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God, saying, Amen: blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honor, and power, and might be unto our God forever and ever, amen."
This shows us that we are again brought down the stream of time, to hear a part, at least, of the song which no man can sing, but those whose bodies are redeemed from the earth. "And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? And whence came they? And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said unto me, These are they which come out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." This passage shows who those were that John saw, and how they obtained the honor and glory, which John saw them possessing, through great tribulation, and the blood of the Lamb "Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them;" the same as in Rev. xx. 6, "And they lived and reigned with him," in the New Jerusalem state; for he goes on to describe this state of happiness, which John does in Rev. xxi. 1-5, compared with the two following, and there can be no doubt on the mind that John is describing the same in one place as in the other. "They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb, which is in the midst of the throne, shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters; and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes." There can be no doubt left on the mind of any man, that John has, in these passages, given us a view of the New Jerusalem in the immortal state. We have been permitted to hear a part of the new song, and have received, in the passage just read, the blessed promises contained in that beloved city. And now, we only wait for the last seal to open. "And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour." Zechariah says, ii. 13, "Be silent, O all flesh, before the Lord; for he is raised up out of his holy habitation!" Habakkuk says, ii. 20, "But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him!" From these passages I should infer, that when God arises up to the prey, when his great white throne is set in the heavens, and when the Son of Man shall come in the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory, then will all flesh be silent before him. And it is reasonable to suppose that the whole universe of rational beings who may be permitted to witness that grand scene, will be so filled with wonder and awe at the sight of the glory of God, that they will be silent. Then, too, will the redeemed souls, while the great Judge is separating them from the wicked, while they are rising to meet their Lord in the air, be silent. They will, like the children of Israel, stand still, (be silent,) and see the salvation of God. And the wicked world, who have scoffed at the idea of Christ's second coming, who have said, "Where is the promise of his coming?" and laughed and ridiculed the servants of Christ, who have cried to them, in their midnight revels, "Behold, the bridegroom cometh," will be silent. Then will those servants who have "said in their hearts, My Lord delayeth his coming," and "begin to beat and bruise their fellow-servants," who have proclaimed his coming, "and to eat and drink with the drunken," be silent. Then, too, will all the false prophets, who have cried Peace, peace, when there was no peace, be silent, when they see the frowns of an angry judge whom they have disregarded. Then shall those who have promised the wicked life, though he should not turn from his wickedness, be silent. Then, every one found in that great assembly, when the Son of Man shall come in the clouds, and all the holy angels with him, and all the saints who have slept, and all nations then shall be gathered before him, and every eye shall see him; then, I say, will every one found in this vast multitude, not having on the wedding garment, be silent; for the Scripture says, "He was speechless."
And now, my dear friends, what say you? Have you wept much to know whether your names are written in the Lamb's book of life? "Weep not," for "behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah hath prevailed to open the book." And he says, "He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels. Therefore, "rejoice, because your names are written in heaven," says the dear Savior.
But you, my impenitent friends, who have never wept, nor confessed your sins to God, who have been more anxious to have your names written in the book of fame, of worldly honor, of the riches of this world, than in the book of life, remember, you too will weep when all heaven is silent--when the last seal is broken--then you will see the book, and your name blotted out. Then you will weep and say, "Once, my name was there; I had a day of probation; life was proffered; but I hated instruction, I despised reproof, and my part is taken from the book of life. Farewell, happiness farewell, hope! Amen.
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REV. xi. 3.
THE two witnesses in our text have caused as much speculation among the writers on the New Testament, as any other passage in the word of God. Some have supposed that it was a succession of orthodox divines, whom God had raised up to witness to the truth, during the time specified, which all agree is twelve hundred and sixty years. And those writers who have taken this side of the question, have endeavored to find some favorite divines, among their sect, answering to the description given of the two witnesses. Upon this construction every sect might claim the honor of giving to the world the two witnesses. And were this explanation true, instead of two witnesses, we should have more than eight hundred; for every sect must have a set, and I dare not give preference to any. This would destroy the idea of two witnesses at once.
And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth.
Other writers have fixed on the church as the two, clergy and laity; but here are many difficulties to encounter, the same as above. Every sect must have their own church and clergy, or admit at once that they are not the true church. But let us now come to the word of God. And if the word of God does not explain the "two witnesses," I shall despair of ever coming to the truth on this subject, for I am commanded by Christ himself to call no man master. I shall, then,
I. Attempt to show what the Bible calls the two witnesses.
II. What we may understand by their being clothed in sackcloth.
III. Their history, prophecy, and time specified.
I. What is the Bible account of the two witnesses? And, first, What is a witness? I answer, A witness is a person, or legal instrument, testifying to the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, on matters of fact which are supposed to be known no way but through testimony, either oral or written. Oral testimony is given by a person who is sworn to tell the whole truth, as above, and relate what he actually knows, by the medium of his own senses, and no more nor less. The apostles were such witnesses; for they testified to the things which Christ did in public. And when Judas fell by transgression, Peter informed his brethren that one must be chosen, "of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning at the baptism of John, unto the same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection." But these could not be the "two witnesses;" for here were twelve. But we learn by this history what a witness must be. He must go in and out; he must know by actual observation, or he could not testify any thing concerning Christ. That was the manner of oral testimony in that day, and so it is at the present. This, then, precludes the idea at once of any men, or set of men, being Christ's witnesses at the present day, or since the days of the apostles. But, says the objector, does not the word of God call all Christians witnesses for Christ? I do not know of any scripture where Christians are called witnesses, except the prophets and apostles, or inspired writers, that is, concerning Christ. They may witness a good profession, or they may witness for themselves, that they believe in Christ or his word; but further they cannot go. They are not witness either to the person of Christ, to his works, death, miracles, or resurrection and ascension; and if there was no other testimony but oral, we should be no better off than the darkest Hindoo or most ignorant Hottentot. But, thanks be to God, he has not left us without a witness. There is a better testimony than all Christendom, which is written; and it is this which I hold in my hand; it is the word of God. It tells the truth; "for not one jot or tittle of this word shall fail." It tells the whole truth, "that the man of God may be perfectly furnished to every good work." It tells nothing but the truth; for it is the truth indited by him who cannot lie.
You are well aware, my friends, that written testimony is considered in all courts, under all laws, to be stronger than any oral testimony whatever. For instance, take the last will and testament of any man; if it was written or indited by himself, signed by his own hand, sealed with his own seal, in presence of witnesses chosen by himself, and ratified by his death, no oral testimony can be brought against it; unless the instrument itself shows some contradiction or discrepancy, it cannot be destroyed. So it is with these two testaments, revealed, indited, confirmed, witnessed, and ratified, by the death of the testator, the Lord Jesus Christ. And although wicked men and devils have endeavored to show some contradiction or discrepancy in its testimony, it has stood the shock of ages, the wreck of kingdoms, and will stand when these heavens and this earth shall pass away with a great noise and the elements melt with fervent heat; for by this word we must all be judged; by these witnesses we shall be justified or condemned. Christ says, "Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life; and they are they which testify of me." The angel tells John, in the next verse following our text, that the two witnesses "are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth." The angel, in his allusion to the two olive trees, quotes the prophet Zechariah, iv. 3, "And two olive trees by it, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof." Here the olive trees are used in a figurative sense, and properly denote the "sons of oil," or the two cherubims which stood over the ark, and spread their wings over the mercy seat. The wings of the cherubims stretched from either side of the house to the centre over the mercy seat, and their faces turned inwards down upon the mercy seat, and the glory of the God of Israel was above the cherubims. These cherubims are a lively type of the Old and New Testament. The signification of cherub is "fulness of knowledge;" so is the word of God, "that the man of God may be thoroughly furnished, perfect in every good work." They have the whole truth, all we can know about Jesus Christ in this state. They stand on either hand of Christ, one before he came in the flesh, pointing to a Messiah to come, by all its types and shadows; and like the cherub whose wings touched the outer wall of the room and reached to the centre over the mercy seat, so did the Old Testament reach from the creation of the world down to John's preaching in the wilderness, and like the cherub looking down on the mercy seat, it testified of the Messiah. The other cherubim's wings reached from the centre over the mercy seat, and touched the other wall of the room, while his face was turned back upon the mercy seat. So does the New Testament begin at the preaching of John, and reveals all that is necessary for us to know, down to the end of the world. And all the ordinances of the New Testament house look back to the sufferings, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and are to continue until his second coming and end of the world. These cherubims were made of olive trees, and overlaid with pure gold, 1 Kings vi. 23-28. Again: the angel tells Zechariah what the two olive trees are, Zech. iv. 4-6, "So I answered and spake to the angel that talked with me, saying, What are these, my lord?" (the two olive trees.) "Then the angel that talked with me answered and said unto me, Knowest thou not what these be? And I said, No, my lord. Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the Lord unto Zerubabel," &c. Here we are plainly told that the two olive trees are the word of the Lord, and the angel tells John, Rev. xi. 4, that "the two witnesses are the two olive trees and the two candlesticks." As candlesticks are the means of light, so is the word of God. Candlesticks are used in Scripture in the same sense as lamps. And David says, "Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path." Therefore I humbly believe that I have fairly and conclusively proved that the two witnesses are the Old and New Testament. And I will,
II. Show what we may understand by the two witnesses 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 been 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 heaven-daring 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 pretend 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 pit;" this beast is the same as the little horn, Papal Rome, 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 church 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 effects; and we cannot but see that the whole of this prophecy has been literally fulfilled.
In the beginning of the sixth century, about A.D. 538, Justinian, emperor of Constantinople, in his controversy with the Arians, and other schismatics in the Greek church, constituted the bishop of Rome head over all others, both in the western and eastern churches, who, by his authority, suppressed the reading of the Bible by laymen, pretending that they could not read and understand without the assistance of the clergy. About this time, too, the Latin language ceased to be spoken in Italy, and the Greek and Latin both became dead languages. The Bible at that time not being written or translated into any other languages in Europe, it became an easy task for the bishop to obscure the doctrine and discipline of the word of God, so far as suited his convenience, and to obtain universal power over the minds and consciences of men, and clothe the Scriptures in sackcloth. If, then, the Scriptures were first clothed in sackcloth in A.D. 538, and were to prophesy 1260 years in this situation, their prophecy would end in 1798. About the close of the eighteenth century, in consequence of the abominable corruptions of the church of Rome being exposed to public view, the men of the world began to treat revelation as a fiction, and religion as priestcraft; and instead of searching for the pillar and ground of the truth, "their imaginations became vain, and their foolish minds were darkened." They declared war against the Bible, the "two witnesses," which war became general all over Europe and America. Some of the most eminent and principal writers in this controversy were in France, the principal kingdom among the ten, into which Rome had been divided at the close of the fifth century; and so successful were these writers, that almost the whole nation of the French became Deists, or Atheists, in a short time. This nation had long been guilty of the abominations of the anti-Christian beast, the sins of Sodom and Egypt, and the persecution of those who protested against her national corruptions: the slaying of the witnesses; their lying in a dead state three years and a half in the street of the great city; the revolution spoken of in this prophecy--all happened in the French revolution, between the years 1793 and 1798. A decree was passed by the council and directory of France, prohibiting the Bible to be read in public, in any of the chapels in France, and Bibles were gathered in heaps, and bonfires were made of them, and great rejoicings were had all over the kingdom at the downfall of priestcraft, as they called it; and particularly at Lyons, where the scriptures were publicly dragged through the streets, with circumstances of the greatest contempt, and other things transacted in the exultation of their triumph, which are too shocking to narrate. Let it suffice, then, to say, that after three years and a half the Bible was again permitted to be read, and religion had free toleration in France; and what is equally as remarkable, is, that the same year a few individuals in London established what has since been styled the Bible society, which has been instrumental in sending Bibles among all nations, and of translating them into more than 150 languages since that period; and almost all the writers, who acknowledge the Bible to be the two witnesses, do agree that the events, prophesied of in this passage, were literally accomplished in the French revolution. Now, the Bible is more than restored to its former state in society; it is exalted, and every person can have, and read, and examine for themselves into its sacred truths. It is also a fact, that the progress of the Bible society has exceeded the most sanguine expectations of its advocates; and the Atheists and Deists of our day appear to be perfectly confounded at these events. Instead now of declaring open war against the Bible, they make pretence at least of drawing their rules of morality from this blessed book; and the man who should now undertake to write down the word of God, would be considered either a madman, or a fool. One thing more: In the French Revolution, the names or titles of men were abolished; and it is said by some writers, that, in the long list of titled nobility, and the great catalogue of priestly orders, there were seven thousand destroyed at once. Well might the remnant be affrighted, and give glory to the God of heaven!
Let us now for a moment see what follows the history of the two witnesses.
14th verse, "The second woe is past, and behold, the third woe cometh quickly." The second woe began by the civil wars in France and Germany, and ended in the French revolution; and the third woe will come quickly. It is the last great woe denounced against the woman sitting upon the scarlet-colored beast, and against the earth, which she hath filled with her sorceries, and the kingdoms of this world, which must all be destroyed under this woe.
15th verse, "And the seventh angel sounded, and there were great voices in heaven saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever." The third woe and seventh trumpet are both the same thing, (see Rev. viii. 13;) and the seventh trumpet is the last trump, when the dead shall be raised. See 1 Cor. xv. 52. It is evident, also, that we are carried into the eternal state forever and ever.
16th verse, "And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell on their faces and worshipped God." By the four and twenty elders, I understand the true ministers of Christ, alluding to the twenty-four courses of the priesthood appointed by David, 1 Chron. xxiv.
17th verse, "Saying, We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come, because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned." This is the language of every humble and devoted minister of Jesus Christ, who makes the word of God his study, and believes in the overruling hand of God as accomplishing the great designs therein revealed.
18th verse, "And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great, and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth."
This verse shows us what takes place at the sounding of the seventh trumpet and third woe, which the angel says will come quickly after the French revolution, if I am right in my explanation of the two witnesses. It is morally certain that the word of God is not now in an obscure state; it is not hid from the world, neither is clothed in sackcloth. It is true that many voices have united in the Bible societies to spread the knowledge of the word of God; and that it is translated into about all the known languages in the world. It is almost absolutely certain that the French people are the nation that is compared to Sodom and Egypt, in the passage we have been examining; and likewise the earthquake spoken of is the French revolution. Then if the two witnesses are the Old and New Testament, we are certain the third woe is coming quickly, and the seventh trump must shortly begin to sound, as I have already proved in my lecture on the trumpets, in the year 1839. You have undoubtedly seen, my friends, that we are likewise brought down to the judgment, when God will reward the righteous, and destroy the wicked, who have persecuted the saints and trampled them under foot.
And once more let me inquire how it stands with you, my dear hearer. Are you prepared for that great and solemn day? Are you ready to meet the judgment? The two witnesses will appear for or against you. Their testimony will not fail. Do you believe them? He that believeth shall be saved, and he that believeth not shall be damned. "The word that I have spoken," says Christ, "the same shall judge you in the last day." Why will you not be warned? If half the evidence that I have brought of our being on the end of this dispensation, was brought to prove there was a great treasure hid in your field, how soon would you search and how diligently would you seek until you found it!
In this book, of which we have now been speaking, are durable riches, gold tried in the fire, seven times purified. "Search for it as for hidden treasures; seek and you shall find." Can you tell me where the word of God, the Bible, has failed of being accomplished literally, and in the time specified? Many events have been foretold, the times given, and not one failed. How can you disbelieve? How can you shut your eyes against so much light? Where will you have an excuse in the day of judgment? I have repeatedly brought you down to this time, and shown, by Scripture proof, the judgment must commence immediately. You are in your hearts convicted that what has been declared concerning the two witnesses, in this discourse, is true. And if so, your reason must teach you that what follows under the third woe must be equally as true. "And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth."
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REV. xii. 6.
THE history of the church, in all ages of this present world, is but a history of persecution and blood, when we follow her through all dispensations from Adam to Moses, and from Moses to Christ; so likewise from Christ's first coming down to his second appearance, the church have experienced, and according to the whole tenor of Scripture, must expect to realize from the kingdoms and men of this world, this one promise at least, "In the world ye shall have tribulation." These facts are so plain and obvious, that it has given rise to a common saying among almost all writers, that "the blood of martyrs is the seed of the church." Yet there is a bright side to her history; for she has come out of all her persecutions more purified, more faithful, and with more energy, to prosecute the work her divine Master has left her to perform. And one other thing is certain--God has preserved her, whether in the wilderness or among the nations of the earth, in an extraordinary and miraculous manner; even her enemies themselves being her judges. Where has a kingdom stood when all the nations about them have conspired their overthrow? Where is the Assyrian and populous Nineveh? Where is Chaldea, the queen of nations? Where is the Grecian empire, once the colossus of the world? Where is imperial Rome? Gone, gone, by the power of earthly foes. But behold the church of Christ and of God, delivered first from Egyptian bondage by the mighty arm of the God of Jacob, led by miracles through the wilderness forty years, brought into the promised land, although all the nations of the earth were her enemies, preserved as a nation through the rise and fall of mighty empires, and experiencing a reverse of fortune only when she courted the aid of worldly kingdoms, or suffering diminution only when she adopted the more popular worship of heathen idolatry. Yet in her lowest estate, God told his servant the prophet, that "he had reserved seven thousand that had not bowed the knee to Baal." And if men would reason on the subject of religion as they do on other subjects, there could not be an infidel in the world. For nothing is or can be more manifest than the miraculous interposition of Providence in the preservation of his people through the most severe trials, heaviest afflictions, and deadliest hatred of all men, that men or societies ever endured.
And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.
Our present discourse will show us the history of the church by prophecy, through the darkest age the church has ever been permitted to experience since the days of Abraham.
I. I shall show what we may understand by "the woman" in our text.
II. I shall show what we are to understand by the great red dragon and beast.
III. I shall give the history of the woman given in the chapters of our text.
IV. The time specified in the text, 1260 days, their beginning and end.
I. What may we understand by woman in our text?
I answer, We must understand the people of God, in all ages of the church, whether among the Jew or Gentile: she is called a woman because she is the spouse of Christ; she is likewise called a woman because of her dependence on Christ for all things. As a man is the head of the woman, so is Christ the head over all things to the church, says the apostle. As the woman depends on her husband for a name, for food, and for raiment, so likewise the church on Christ, for a name--"And thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord shall name," Isa. lxii. 2-5. "And they were called Christians first at Antioch." For food, our text says, "that they should feed her there," &c. The prophet Isaiah says, xl. 11, "He shall feed his flock as a shepherd." John vi. 53, "Except ye eat the flesh of the son of Man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you." For raiment, the psalmist, speaking of the church, says, "She shall be brought to the king in raiment of needlework; her clothing is wrought gold." The angel to the seven churches says, "He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment." And again, "I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from God, out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband." This shows conclusively that the people of God are compared to a woman. And now let me show,
II. What we may understand by the great red dragon and beast that persecuted the church, or woman that fled into the wilderness.
The red dragon is the same power as Daniel's fourth kingdom, the Roman, for the description is the same, having ten horns; his character, too, is the same. Daniel says he should break in pieces the whole earth, and stamp the residue with his feet; that he should work deceitfully, &c. John says that the dragon drew a third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth, and that he deceiveth the whole world. The Roman government, then, must be the apocalyptical red dragon beast, having seven heads and ten horns. The Roman power is called red, either because of their persecuting and bloody spirit, or on account of their emperors wearing purple robes, when dressed in state; either might be sufficient to entitle them to the appellation "red." "Dragon" is undoubtedly given the Roman government from the fact that the Romans changed their forms of government so often, having seven different forms in about five hundred years, and from their deceitful, cunning, intriguing manner by which they obtained power over the nations around them, that they were properly a nondescript; and could not be described by Daniel or John by any thing seen on earth; and therefore they took one of the inhabitants of the bottomless pit, "the dragon," to describe to us by figure this dreadful, persecuting, and bloody power. The red dragon is, therefore, used as a figure to denote Pagan Rome, and the woman sitting on the scarlet-colored beast to denote the church of Rome, or Papal Rome; and both together, civil and Papal, make the anti-Christian abomination, which would drive the church of Christ into the wilderness, where she would be fed 1260 days, or time, times, and half a time. I shall,
III. Give the history of the woman, as in the twelfth chapter of Revelation.
Verse 1, "And there appeared a great wonder in heaven,"--John saw this wonderful sight as transpiring under the gospel day, or government of God, with his people in the gospel, the circle in which the church moves, here called heaven,--"a woman clothed with the sun," the church adorned with gospel light; as the natural sun gives light to the world, so does the gospel the church,--"and the moon under her feet." This shows us that John had a view of the church while it was in its Jewish state. For the moon represents the ceremonial law, which was typical of the gospel, like the moon shining in a borrowed light, and liable to change when the Shiloh should come. "Under her feet," shows that she walked or stood on the ordinances of God's house, which, like the moon, pointed to the sun both before and after Christ. "And upon her head a crown of twelve stars,"--first the twelve patriarchs, afterwards the twelve apostles, Eph. ii. 20. Like stars they are smaller lights in the government of God, and teachers under the law and gospel.
Verse 2, "And she, being with child,"--having the promise that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head,--"cried travailing in birth,"--denoting prayer in faith,--"and pained to be delivered,"--that is, an anxious and deep longing for the advent of the promised Messiah, when she expected deliverance from bondage, sin, and all her foes, Matt. xiii. 17.
Verse 3, "And there appeared another wonder in heaven,"--another sight or view of God's government of the world in connection with the gospel,--"and behold, a great red dragon"--a figurative representation of the Roman kingdom.
Verse 4, "And his tail drew a third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth." Judea became a Roman province before the Messiah's advent, which is figured by the tail, and the Jews had for a number of years been governed by tetrarchs or kings of the Romans' appointment. The Jews were governed by three different offices, figuratively called stars--kings, high priest, and sanhedrim, or the seventy elders. When, therefore, the Jews were deprived of their right to appoint their own kings, one third part of their rulers fell to the Roman power, in this passage called "earth"--"And the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered,"--Herod was then king of the Jews, at the birth of Christ, a representative of the Romans, because he was supported by their authority,--"for to devour her child as soon as it was born." Herod sought the young child's life, to destroy him. See Matt. ii. 13.
Verse 5, "And she brought forth a man child,"--Jesus Christ, born of a virgin. "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given," &c. Isa. ix. 6, 7, "Who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron," denoting the power of Christ to break in pieces and subdue all the kingdoms of the earth. Psalms ii. 9. Rev. xix. 15,--"and her child was caught up to God and his throne." Christ has ascended up on high, and is seated at the right hand of the Father until he makes his enemies his footstool." See John vi. 62. Eph. iv. 8-10.
Verse 6, "And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God." The church had grown weary of the protection of the Roman power, for she found, by woful experience, that whenever she placed herself under the protection of this red dragon, he destroyed some of her blessed privileges, and brought in a flood of errors, which caused divisions and subdivisions in the church. The Jews had tried their friendship and protection for more than two hundred years before and after Christ, and the event proved the destruction of their nation and place. The Christians, too, had tried the friendship of the same power, under Constantine and succeeding emperors, for little more than two hundred years, beginning A.D. 313, and ending in A.D. 538, as we shall show; which so corrupted the Romish church that she became the anti-Christian abomination, and the true children of God were driven into the wilderness out from her connection with the anti-Christian church, "the city of the nations," as she is called. But God took care "that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days," which is 1260 years, from A.D. 538 until 1798, during which time a free toleration of religious rights were not permitted in any of the kingdoms which formerly composed the Roman empire; but God raised up teachers among them, who retained in a good degree the doctrine and purity of the word of God, and practised the ordinances as they were delivered to the saints in the apostles' days: yet but little is known of them for six or seven hundred years.
Verse 7, "And there was war in heaven." After the prophet John had given us a history of the church, as in the preceding verses, he now goes back to bring up the history of the dragon, the Roman kingdom, and begins his history in the days of Christ and his apostles. "Michael and his angels fought"--Christ and his apostles. See Matt. x. 34, "Think not I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword"--"against the dragon," against principalities and powers, and wickedness in high places.--"And the dragon fought, and his angels," imperial Rome and worldly men.
Verse 8, "And prevailed not, neither was their place found any more in heaven." Rome could not prevail against the kingdom of Christ or the gospel; for it differed materially from the Jewish mode of worship; and although Rome in her Pagan state could find easy access into the Jewish sanctuary, because of the similarity of their worship, yet when Christ set up his gospel kingdom they were excluded, for none could enter this kingdom without regeneration, faith, and repentance.
Verse 9, "And the great dragon was cast out,"--Rome Pagan was deprived from having any authority in the gospel kingdom, as Christ says in John xii. 31, "Now shall the prince of this world be cast out"--"that old serpent,"--Rome Pagan is compared to the old serpent because he works deceitfully and deceives the church, (woman,) as the serpent did Eve, the woman in the garden,--"called the devil," because they devour and persecute with a devilish spirit,--"and Satan," because satan-like he claims power over all kingdoms of the world--"which deceiveth the whole world."--This may be said of Rome, for she conquered more nations by deceit and flattery than by fair warfare.--"He was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him." This was literally fulfilled when Christ cut off the Jews and all unbelievers; when he said, "My kingdom is not of this world;" when he excluded the kingdoms of this earth from participating in the spiritual kingdom which they claimed on account of their authority among men.
Verse 10, "And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven,"--many voices in the church under the gospel dispensation,--"Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ."--This represents the grand chorus of all the saints, when they discover the true principle on which the kingdom of God is built. This was literally true at the day of Pentecost.--"for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God night and day." The Romans had, by drawing the Jews into idolatry, caused them to sin against God in all their evening and morning sacrifices. And by these means, they were accused before God, that is, God was angry with them, and destroyed our brethren, the Jews.
Verse 11, "And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb,"--by the blood of atonement, all believers in Christ do finally overcome the powers of darkness and princes of this world,--"and by the word of their testimony,"--preaching and testimony of the apostles.--"And they loved not their lives unto the death"--suffered martyrdom. This was fulfilled in the death of the apostles and others.
Verse 12, "Therefore rejoice ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them." It was a matter of great joy among the primitive Christians, to be counted worthy to suffer persecution for Christ's sake. "Woe to the inhabitants of the earth,"--those who live under the Roman government,--"and of the sea,"--meaning the principal kingdom among the ten kingdoms. France is generally meant by sea in this prophecy. "For the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time." The devil means destroyer, and the three woes, and seven last plagues, were all to be sent upon the earth and sea, which denote wars, revolutions, and changing of governments. These things would prevail in the close of this Roman kingdom, and war would be the closing up of the earthly scene of this fourth kingdom which Daniel saw and John has been describing under the figure of the "great red dragon."
Verse 13, "And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth,"--when the Roman government saw they could have no control in the things of Christ's kingdom, they hated the church and the doctrine that taught that Christ's kingdom was not of this world, and they "persecuted the woman that brought forth the man child," which is the church that had a Savior born unto her, Christ Jesus, the Lord of life and glory.
Verse 14, "And to the woman was given two wings of a great eagle,"--by which wings I understand the means God used between the Arian and Papal controversy, at the time of the division of the Greek or eastern church from the west or Roman church, which happened in the reign of Justinian, emperor of the east, about A.D. 538, when the controversy arose concerning the worshipping of departed saints, images, and the infallibility of the church at Rome. In this controversy, many privately withdrew themselves, and settled in the north-west part of Asia and in the north-east part of Europe, and after a number of years colonies were sent by them into Piedmont and valleys of the Alps, where it is supposed the true worship of God was retained during the dark ages of Papal ignorance, bigotry, and superstition. (See Milner's Church History, and Benedict's History of the Baptists.)--"that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place,"--a separation from the world, as says the voice from heaven, "Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues," Rev. xviii. 4.--"where she is nourished for a time, times, and half a time,"--fed and nourished by the spirit and word of God 1260 years, "from the face of the serpent"--from the knowledge of Papal Rome.
Verse 15, "And the serpent cast out of his mouth waters as a flood after the woman,"--waters, in prophecy, means people, Rev. xvii. 15. Therefore I understand this prophecy to have been fulfilled when the Pope, the head of Papal Rome, sent forth his armies and inquisition to subdue the heretics, as he called them, who dwelt in the valleys of the Alps, which was about the beginning of the thirteenth century,--"that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood"--exterminated and destroyed by his armies and inquisition.
Verse 16, "And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth." This verse was fulfilled in the wars which followed the above-mentioned time of persecution, in which the German princes helped their subjects against the armies of the Pope, and destroyed and swallowed up many of the Papal armies, from the thirteenth to the fifteenth century. Or, as some authors have supposed, the waters which the dragon cast out of his mouth was the flood of errors which arose about the time of the French revolution, under the name of Deism, which was calculated to destroy the doctrine of the gospel, as they vainly supposed, backed up by the republican armies of France, and afterwards by the power of Bonaparte, who was finally subdued by the combinations of the kings of the earth. But, as this transaction seems to me to be too late to affect the woman in her exiled state, I have inclined, in my humble opinion, to my first exposition of these texts.
Verse 17, "And the dragon was wroth with the woman,"--Papal Rome was angry with the true church,--"and went to make war with the remnant of her seed." This war has not yet come; for it is evident by the expression "remnant of her seed," that it means the last of the church "who keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ." This is the last struggle of this anti-Christian beast, and is described in many places as the last great battle, or the supper of the great God. Such expressions as "and went," as though this power would go to some place out of their own territory, and "the kings of the east might be prepared," show that they will go west. I am, therefore, constrained to believe that this battle of the dragon's last power will be in America; and if so, it must be mainly in these United States. It will be a battle on political principles, as we may learn by the passage in Rev. xvi. 13-16, "And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet;"--the "unclean spirits" shows that it is political principles; and, like the frogs in Egypt, it will pervade all the departments of life--the social, civil, and religious. By "dragon," we must understand the kings of the earth; by the "beast," Papal principles, or the church of Rome; by the "false prophet," Mahometan power;--"for they are the spirit of devils, working miracles,"--that is, spirit of deceit, separating friends, dividing kingdoms, states, societies, churches, and families, and crumbling every man-made institution, and levelling to the dust all law, order, and bond of union, which the wisdom of man may have invented,--"which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world." This shows the universal spread of this fanatical spirit of disorganization, and it will finally lead to "gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty." "Behold, I am come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame." We are here notified that his coming will be like a thief to those who are engaged in this political warfare, and in those popular and men-made societies of the day; and we are told that those will be blessed who watch, that is, for his coming, and the signs of the times, and that keepeth his garments unspotted from these worldly institutions, which engender strife and animosity among brethren. Be warned, dear Christian, "enter into thy chamber, and hide thyself for a little moment, until the indignation be over and past, that ye need not be ashamed before him at his coming." It will also be a battle of religious principles, as is evident by the following scripture, Rev. xix. 11-16, "And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written that no man knew but he himself, and he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood; and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations; and he shall rule them with a rod of iron; and he treadeth the wine-press of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God." This passage proves that there will be at the close of this dispensation, immediately preceding the marriage of the Lamb to his bride, a great and last struggle between error and truth, between infidelity and the word of God. And you may inquire, perhaps, and with propriety too, How shall we know on which side we are engaged in this great war of principle? I answer, "In righteousness," he doth make war. But, say you, we are so prone to follow tradition or prepossessed notions, and think we are right, that, like Paul, we may be found at last fighting against God. You must see to it, that you are "faithful and true," have faith in his name, "and his name is The Word of God." This is your only rule--The Word of God. Be careful; lay yourselves on this word. Try yourselves by this standard. If your life, faith, experience, and hope, are built on this foundation, you can never fail; for he that is The Word of God, is "KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS." Again: it is to be a literal battle with the sword, for Christ says, "He that taketh the sword shall die by the sword." And kings, Papal Rome, and the Mahometans, have ruled the world by the sword, and their swords, during all the days of their power, have been red with the blood of their subjects, and the innocent victims of their hate. And in Rev. xix. 17-20, it is evident, by the "fowls" spoken of in the 17th verse, is meant, warriors in favor of liberty who are to "eat (destroy) the flesh (strength or power) of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and them that sit on them, (armies are undoubtedly meant in this passage,) and the flesh of all men," who are engaged in favor of kings, papal Rome, or false prophet, "both free and bond, both small and great." "And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army." "And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon," (awake to the spoil,) Rev. xvi. 16-21.
These will be the means the dragon will use in his last great struggle to gain ascendency over the minds, consciences, and bodies of men. He will fan up their political animosities; he will stir up strife and division among religious communities; and, last of all, and not least, he will encourage an intolerable thirst for blood. In which battle Christ will come, chain the dragon, give his body to the burning flame, confine the spirits of all who worship the dragon, beast or false prophet, in the pit of woe; raise the saints, purify, cleanse, and glorify them with his own glory.
IV. We are to speak of the time the saints, or church, were to be in the wilderness, "one thousand two hundred and threescore days." I believe all commentators agree that these days are to be understood years; and, as I have proved this point in a former lecture, I need not stop to argue this given principle at this time, but will proceed to give some proof when this time began and when it ended. The time given in our text is the same length of time as given by Daniel for the reign of the little horn. See Daniel vii. 25. It is, also, the same time John has given for the image beast to have power "to continue forty and two months." Thirty days to a month is 1260 days, Rev. xiii. 5. It is, also, the same length of time that was given the Gentiles to tread the holy city under foot. See Rev. xi. 2. Also for the witnesses to prophesy, clothed in sackcloth. Rev. xi. 3. And there can hardly be a shadow of a doubt but that all these times had their beginning and ending at one and the same time. If so, then the arguments used heretofore may have their proper bearing in this place.
But let us consider a few things in addition to our former reasons. 1st. What may we understand by the woman "fleeing into the wilderness," and "from the face of the serpent." We must consider it in a state of obscurity; this was true in the time we have stated, A.D. 538. Historians tell us but little about any regular church but the Roman church, and this has never been in an obscure state; of course the Roman is not the church in the wilderness. But they do tell us that, in the days of Justinian, emperor of Constantinople, there were many schismatics, as they were called, who opposed the power of the bishop or pope of Rome, and doings of councils in the east and west, and a large share of the latter part of Justinian's life was spent in religious broils and expelling from his kingdom these schismatics; and the code of laws which he published about A.D. 533, forbade any Christians any rights or privileges as citizens in his empire who would not acknowledge the bishop of Rome as head. And in these laws he gave the bishop power to hold courts and try all matters of faith within his kingdom. These, and other things of like import, drove all true followers of the word of God to seek a rest out of the jurisdiction of the city of nations; and, of course, became outlaws to the Roman government. Then, if we fix the beginning of the exile of the church at the same time of setting up anti-Christ, A.D. 538, then the church was in its exiled state until A.D. 1798, which would be the 1260 years. It is here worthy of remark, that the code of laws passed by Justinian were in full force in the kingdoms belonging to, or under the control of, the pope of Rome, respecting the rights and privileges of those who might differ from the Catholic faith, until the French took Rome, in 1798, and declared Italy a republic; when free toleration was given for any religious opinion or privilege whatsoever. Here, then, the church, in whatever form she might appear, was permitted to enjoy the rights and privileges of citizens, and to worship God as their conscience might dictate. This is the first time, during the 1260 years, that free toleration of religion was granted in any kingdom where the Catholic church had power; and, although Catholic princes and popes have since had rule in Italy and France, yet they have never dared, as yet, to pursue the former intolerant course of conduct towards Protestants. And it is very evident, my dear friends, that the church is now out of the wilderness; that is, if she ever was; for there never has been a time since the days of the apostles, no, nor even then, that the church, in all its several branches, has enjoyed greater privileges than for nearly forty years past. She has spread her wings over every land, and carried the news of salvation into every language on the known world. Her reapers have followed the sowers of seed, and there is handsfull of corn in the tops of all the mountains; but the harvest is short. The church has had rest as long as she has ever had since Christ left her and ascended to his Father. The dragon begins to show his anger; the trumpet begins to sound to the onset; the armies of the beast begin to muster for the battle, they are furbishing their swords for the slaughter; the kings of the earth are combining against the freedom of their subjects; the great men and nobles are riveting closer the chains of their vassals; tyrants are braiding in firmer knots their scorpion whips for their slaves; expediency has taken the room of moral law, and anarchy has crowded order from his seat; mobs have taken the place of judges, and law is popular will; the liberty of the press is but the nod of demagogues, and the freedom of speech is called fanaticism. Division seems to be the order of the day, and our valuable institutions are tottering to their base. Be warned, then, O my friends, to seek safety under the banner of the gospel before the armies are filled up. "And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ." "The spirit of prophecy"
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REV. xvi. 17.
THIS text is the account we have in the word of God of the last plague that will ever visit our world, or the inhabitants who hereafter will be permitted to dwell thereon. That is evident, because it is the seventh of the last seven. For John says, Rev. xv. 1, "And I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvellous, seven angels having the seven last plagues; for in them is filled up the wrath of God." And the wrath of God is filled up, that is, the cup of God's wrath of which he will make all nations drink; and he will give unto Babylon "the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath."
And the seventh angel poured out his vial into the air; and there came a great voice out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, It is done.
Then it cannot be uninteresting to those who wish or who may desire to learn where and when the last plagues have been poured out, and how many yet remain for us to experience. These seven last plagues have had their shadows in the plagues which God sent on slave-holding Egypt, when he delivered his people, the Jews, from their Egyptian bondage, the least of which plagues destroyed Pharaoh and his host, just in the moment when Israel were shouting deliverance on the banks of the Red Sea. So likewise, in the seven last plagues, they are poured out upon spiritual Egypt, slave-holding Babylon, who has enslaved the people of God for centuries, and has trafficked in the bodies and souls of men. She, like Egypt, has appointed task-masters over the church, and has endeavored to strangle her children in the birth. She has commanded the kings and rulers of the earth to destroy the children of the church, as did the Egyptians the Hebrew midwives; but the church has found favor in the eyes of some of the kings and princes of the earth, and the earth has helped the woman, and her children are not all dead. And their cry has gone up to the Lord of Sabaoth, and he has come down in these seven last plagues to deliver his people from the hand of the spoiler, and from the power of the beast, the anti-Christian abomination; and when this last vial is poured into the air, all the doctrines of men and devils, and all the theories of men and the wisdom of this world will be confounded and brought to nought. The Lord will overwhelm with the red and fiery wrath of his last judgment the kings of the earth, the beast or Catholic church of abomination, the false prophet and all his followers, the great men of the earth, mighty men and captains, tyrants, slave-holders, rich and poor, bond and free: all who have worshipped the beast or his image, will, like the host of Pharaoh, be destroyed in the general conflagration of the world, and the saints will shout deliverance in the New Jerusalem state. I shall, therefore,
I. Give the history of the seven last plagues, or the seven vials of wrath.
II. Show what may be understood by "It is done."
I. Then we are to give the history of the seven vials or last plagues; and for this purpose we must give a comment on the sixteenth chapter of Revelation. Verse 1, "And I heard a great voice out of the temple, saying to the seven angels, Go your ways, and pour out the vials of the wrath of God upon the earth." This verse shows us that these plagues are poured upon the earth at the command of him who sits in the temple of God. Verse 2, "And the first went, and poured out his vial upon the earth; and there fell a noisome and grievous sore upon the men which had the mark of the beast, and upon them which worshipped his image." This first vial was poured upon the earth, meaning the kingdom of the beast or the Roman government. A noisome, a grievous sore, indicates the dissolution of the body afflicted, and that the constitution is laboring under some inward disease, or affected by contagion from without. It is therefore a fit emblem to represent the exposure of the corruptions of the church of Rome, and breaking out of those loathsome diseases of internal abominations which had been hid for ages from the world by the cunning craftiness of this Papal beast. The men spoken of in this passage are those who worship the beast, and who are the professed followers of this corrupt society, and all who live under the influence and control of the idolatrous city of nations, and who traffic in her indulgences and abominable practices. This vial then began to be poured out when the Protestants first published to the world the corruptions and abominable practices of the church of Rome, when the world began to see the noisome and grievous sores that covered the men who pretended to preach or proclaim the doctrine, laws, or commands of the beast. And of course this plague was sent on the Romish church about the year A.D. 1529, under the preaching of Luther, Calvin, and others who opposed and exposed the corruptions of the church of Rome.
Verse 3, "And the second angel poured out his vial upon the sea, and it became as the blood of a dead man; and every living soul died in the sea." The sea, in prophetic language, is the centre of some great nation, or society of men, as in a restless and turbulent state; and the things living in the sea, are the persons living under the power or control of this nation, or society. Living soul denotes those persons who have been born of the Spirit, and are in possession of that living faith in God, and love for all men. "As the blood of a dead man." There is something very striking in this figure--not an ordinary figure of blood, which denotes war and mortal controversy, but cold, congealed blood; the blood of a dead man denoting a massacre in cool blood, without any resistance on the part of those murdered. This vial was, then, poured out in France, the principal kingdom in the Roman ten horns, in the year A.D. 1572, at the massacre of the Huguenots on St. Bartholomew's eve, when 50,000 were slain in one night, and the streets ran blood, as Sully tells us, in some places ankle deep, in the city of Paris. This massacre was in cold blood; for the same historian tells us, that the king stood in his balcony, and shot down his naked and defenceless subjects as they were fleeing through the streets. This happened in France, the stoutest of the Papal horns--the chief instrument in establishing, building up, and supporting that cruel, murderous power of Papacy.
Verse 4, "And the third angel poured out his vial upon the rivers and fountains of waters, and they became blood." By "rivers and fountains of water," I understand the nations and states who live around the centre, or sea, as it was called in the preceding vial. By "blood," I understand destructive war. "And I heard the angel of the waters say, Thou art righteous O Lord, which art, and wast, and shalt be, because thou hast judged thus. For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and thou hast given them blood to drink, for they are worthy. And I heard another out of the altar say, Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are thy judgments." In these verses we have the reasons given, why they were visited with this scourge of war, because, in the preceding vial, they had shed the blood of saints; which proves that the exposition of that vial, which I have already given, is correct. This vial, then, was poured out upon the nations that had given their strength and their power to the beast; and the governments were filled with war and blood. This vial was poured out about A.D. 1630, and lasted nearly fifty years. Spain and Portugal carried on a bloody and destructive war for more than thirty years of this time. France was torn by civil and intestine wars during a long period. The civil wars in England began under king Charles I., 1642, which lasted with but little cessation, until king George I. ascended the throne, in 1714. Germany was filled with blood, between the contentions of the Evangelical league and Catholic league, "which gave rise to a ruinous war, which lasted thirty years." See Guthrie, vol. i., page 443. This war was headed, on the part of the Protestants, by Gustavus Adolphus, king of Sweden, who was killed at the battle of Lutzen, A.D. 1632, which war lasted until the peace of Munster 1648. The other kingdoms of the ancient empire of Rome were more or less drenched in blood, and civil wars, on account of their religious tenets, and contention of their rulers and sovereign princes. These were the heavy judgments which God saw fit to inflict upon the kingdoms and states of the church of Rome, for the innocent blood which she had shed of the Protestants who had protested against her cruel and blasphemous practices. "For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and thou hast given them blood to drink, for they are worthy." "And the fourth angel poured out his vial upon the sun, and power was given unto him to scorch men with fire. And men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues; and they repented not to give him glory." The sun is the great source of light and heat, and, in prophetic language, is an emblem of the gospel, as explained in the 19th Psalm, 4-10. "Their line has gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun," &c. To "scorch men" with fire, signifies to make men angry; "great heat," uncommonly angry, vengeful, malicious. This vial was poured out in the last century, when the gospel was proclaimed in these kingdoms of the beast. Now, during the greater part of the last century, and in all the kingdoms where the gospel was preached, there were manifested insidious attempts and a systematic opposition against the gospel of Jesus Christ, or the Holy Scriptures. This opposition was headed by Frederick, king of Prussia, and aided by all the wits, men of genius and learning, as they boasted, of all Europe and America; and in their secret assemblies, or clubs, they went so far as to calculate about what length of time it would take for them to destroy and exterminate the religion of the "Galilean and his twelve fishermen;" and no writers that ever wrote took such unwearied pains, showed so much virulence and anger, blasphemed the name of God to such a degree, as these writers; and none, either before or since, have ever dared to exhibit the like. "And they repented not to give him the glory." I believe it is not known, that any of these principal deistical writers were converted to the religion of Jesus Christ before their death, to give God the glory. Yet I think we have some account of many of them dying in horror, at the frightful view of the future, in consequence of their blasphemous lives against the majesty of the King of kings. Therefore, in the history of the Deists in the eighteenth century, we have the history of the plague of the fourth vial. "And the fifth angel poured out his vial upon the seat of the beast; and his kingdom was full of darkness, and they gnawed their tongues for pain, and blasphemed the God of heaven, because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds." "The seat of the beast" must mean those ten kingdoms on which the woman sitteth, which is ancient Rome. "Full of darkness" must mean full of wickedness, confusion, and every evil work. "Gnawed their tongues for pain" shows shame, disgrace, and disappointment. This vial was poured out in the French revolution, about 1798. When Bonaparte began his extraordinary career, exalted to the pinnacle of power, he dethrones the pope, (whose power and authority had made kings and emperors quail at his feet, who had ruled over the nations with despotic sway for more than 1200 years,) and makes Rome the second city of France; conquers the ancient monarchies; deluges every country with blood; masters every king; gathers spoils from every land, and humbles cities in the dust; changes the laws of kingdoms, and destroys the most sacred constitutions of the Roman states. In this revolution among the Roman kingdoms, and under this vial, the bastile was demolished, the inquisition destroyed, torture suppressed, and the power of the Papal clergy restrained. Their kingdoms were full of darkness; they were troubled, chafed, and grieved; a thousand plots were laid; many times they confederated against him, the master spirit of the times; but they prevailed not, until this vial had its accomplishment on the seat of the beast. Yet, after all this wonderful display of God's judgments upon the beast and kingdoms of ancient Rome, they repented not, but, Pharaoh-like, they blasphemed God, because of their pains and their sores. "And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared." The scene has now changed from Europe to Turkey. The "river Euphrates" means, in prophecy, the people of that country bordering on the river, and, of course, refers to the Turkish power, as I have formerly shown in my lecture on the fifth and sixth trumpet. "Water thereof was dried up," is an emblem of the power and strength of that kingdom being diminished, or taken away. This vial was poured out on Turkey, by the loss of a great share of the empire; first, Russia on the north, in her last war with the Turks, took away a number of provinces; then, by the revolt of Ali Pacha; then, by the rising of the Greeks; since, by the Albanians and Georgians, and other distant parts of the empire, becoming disaffected; which, all together, have so wasted the power of the Turks, that, now, it is very doubtful whether she can maintain her power against her own intestine enemies; and, to compare her now with her former greatness, would be like comparing a fordable stream with the great river Euphrates; so that the way now appears to be prepared for the kings to come up to the battle of the great day, in which the false prophet is now to take his part, as we shall see in our next verse.
"And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet; for they are the spirits of devils working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of the great day of God Almighty." Now, if we can decipher this passage, we can tell what are now and what will be the signs of the times. "Three unclean spirits." By this we must understand three wicked principles. "Frogs" I understand to show us that it is political. As frogs came over the land in the judgment on Egypt, and pervaded every house, even the palace of the king, so do politics. "Mouth" denotes orders or commands. The dragon is a figure of the kings of the earth. The beast is used to represent Papacy. The false prophet evidently represents Mahometanism. These have all the spirit of devils. The devil pretends to claim power over all the kingdoms of the world, (see Rev. xii. 9,) there called the devil. Papacy is said, in Rev. xiii. 2, to receive its power from the dragon, and to come out of the bottomless pit, and shall go into perdition; of course, must belong to Satan's kingdom. The false prophet, too, is to be "cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone." All these powers have pretended to work miracles, to establish their authority over the bodies and souls of men. But what are the principles which each of these teach their political followers? The dragon and his political party, in whatever nation they may appear, (as all three of these political principles must pervade the whole earth,) will support tyranny, slavery, and aggrandizement of the few at the expense of many. The beast and his political party will be known only by their hypocrisy, bigotry, and superstition. Their principal object will be to operate on the hopes and fears of men, and so gain an ascendency over the minds of the individuals who may be so unfortunate as to be found in their ranks. The false prophet will fill his party with notions of infidelity, lust, and conquest. And the spirit of all these parties, working at one and the same time, in all nations, and among all people, will produce an effect which only can be known to mortals in experiencing the conflict. "Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame." This verse gives us notice of the near approach of him who hath all power in heaven and earth. "For when they say, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them, and they shall not escape. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day shall overtake you as a thief." Watch, therefore, for if ye have put on the Lord Jesus Christ, keep your garment, and let none take your crown, that you may be found of him without spot and blameless. "And he gathered them together into a place called, in the Hebrew tongue, Armageddon;" that is, "Where the Lord will declare his precious fruit." This gathering is the same spoken of in Matt. xxv. 32, "And before him shall be gathered all nations; and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats." In the place Armageddon, the Lord will manifest who are his; he will separate the chaff from the wheat, the wicked from the just. The wheat he will gather into his garner; they will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air, while the chaff will be burnt with unquenchable fire. His own right hand shall save us while his last plague shall be poured out upon the head of his enemies. "And the seventh angel poured his vial into the air; and there came a great voice out of the temple of heaven from the throne, saying, It is done." The seventh and last vial of God's wrath will be poured into the air about the year 1840, if my former calculations are correct, when this judgment will have a quick and rapid circulation over the whole globe. Like the air, it will pervade every kingdom, circulate into every nation, sow the seeds of anarchy in every society, and disorganize every bond of union among men, except the gospel. "And there were voices, and thunders, and lightnings, and a great earthquake, such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake, and so great." Voices, political strife. Thunders is an emblem of divisions. Lightning is a representation of anger and war. Great earthquake denotes a great revolution. And there will be, when this vial is poured out, political strife among all nations, divisions among all sects, societies, and associations of men upon earth. Anger, war, and bloodshed will fill the countries with horror and dismay; and a great revolution, such as was not since men were upon earth, so mighty a revolution and so great. "And the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell; and great Babylon came in remembrance before God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath." The great city is the woman which reigneth over the kings of the earth, says the angel, Rev. xvii. 18. And the woman is Papacy. Papacy must also be divided into three parties, to show her dissolution. And the cities of the nations fell. As city denoted the papal power and religion, so does cities represent the power and religion of all other nations. Therefore all the power, and all national religion, will fall in and under this vial, and the anti-Christian power will be judged; all their sins, cruel persecutions, and bloody deeds, will be brought into judgment into remembrance before God, and he will fill to her the cup which she has made others drink, and she in her turn must drink the dregs. "And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found." Islands and mountains are figures of great and small kingdoms and governments. This text alludes to the same time and circumstances which Nebuchadnezzar's dream does, Daniel ii. 35, 45--when the stone cut out without hands shall smite the image upon his feet, and all the kingdoms of the earth be carried away, that no place shall be found for them. In this verse it is, the "mountains were not found." "And there fell upon men a great hail out of heaven, every stone about the weight of a talent, and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail; for the plague thereof was exceeding great." This closes the history of the seven last plagues, and this storm of hail is the last part of the seventh vial; it is the closing up of the judgments of God on an ungodly world. Whether we are to understand this hail figuratively or literally, I am not able to say; but my prevailing opinion is , that we are to understand it literally, for this reason--I have never been able in the word of God to find any figurative explanation, although it is used in a number of places with particular reference to the last day. Isa. xxviii. 17, "Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet, and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding-places." xxx. 30, "And the Lord shall cause his glorious voice to be heard, and shall show the lighting down of his arm, with the indignation of his anger, and with the flame of a devouring fire, with scattering, and tempest, and hailstones." Exek. xiii. 11, 13, "Say unto them which daub it with untempered mortar, that it shall fall; there shall be an overflowing shower; and ye, O great hail-stones, shall fall; and a stormy wind shall rend it. Therefore, thus saith the Lord God, I will even rend it with a stormy wind in my fury; and there shall be an overflowing shower in mine anger, and great hail-stones in my fury, to consume it." Ezek. xxxviii. 22, "And I will plead against him with pestilence and with blood; and I will rain upon him, and upon his bands, and upon the many people that are with him, an overflowing rain, and great hail-stones, fire and brimstone." Also, Rev. xi. 19, "And there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail."
By reading the connection of these texts, you cannot but be struck with the agreement of the prophets in their descriptions of this last and dreadful judgment of God upon the world. All of them evidently fix it on the last day; all call it apparently a rain of great hail-stones, like those which fell upon Egypt in the days of Moses. Exodus ix. 23-25, "And Moses stretched forth his rod toward heaven; and the Lord sent thunder and hail, and the fire ran along upon the ground; and the Lord rained hail upon the land of Egypt. So there was hail, and fire mingled with the hail, very grievous, such as there was none like it in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation. And the hail smote throughout all the land of Egypt, all that was in the field, both man and beast; and the hail smote every herb of the field, and brake every tree of the field." This, it is evident, is the type of the last part of the seventh plague.
And now, my friends, will you believe? Six of these plagues have been accomplished in as literal a manner as we could expect, after a fair and scriptural explanation of the figures and metaphors used. And again I ask, Do you believe? You think, perhaps, you will wait until you see the hail come, and then you will believe. But will you not recollect that our text says, "And they blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail"? Will you thus tempt God through six successive judgments, and wait for the last before you will believe? What hope or prospect have you that the seventh will do what the six preceding could not do--that is, make you believe? Is there one rational conviction that you will be then convinced? No, not one. Then will you not see and learn wisdom by what is gone before? Pharaoh had no space for repentance under, or even just before the last plague. And so it will be with you; the door will have been shut before any part of the seventh vial will be poured out, for then will be heard a great voice reverberating through the upper vault of heaven, and, sounding even to the dark cells of the pit of woe, shaking the middle air with its deep-toned thunder, and, like the lightning, darting its vivid flash of fire from east to west, will pierce the deafest ear, and make the hardest heart to break, although a thousand fold more hard than the adamantine rock, saying, "It is done." This brings me to show,
II. What we may understand by "It is done."
The first question which naturally arises on the mind is, What is done? When Christ was about expiating for the sins of the world; when he was closing up the work which his Father gave him to do on earth in the flesh; when the spirit was about leaving the tenement of clay which it had inhabited through a life of thirty-three years of pain, sufferings, deprivations, sorrows, groans, and tears, made more acute by temptations trying as the arch-demon of hell could invent; suffering reproach from the haughty Pharisee, and the more obstinate Sadducee, and contempt and ridicule from the base rabble of his own people; persecuted even until death by the envy, malice, and hatred of those who had received boons and blessings of life at this hands,--he had saved them from disease, death, and the rage of demons; yet, in this moment of great need, he was forsaken of all; they stood afar off; and when he was about giving up the ghost, he cried, "It is finished!" and bowed his head, and died. The fratricide man could do no more; he had followed him to death; beyond that the envy of his brother could not reach him. The rabble, who a few days before had cried, Hosannas to the Son of David! this day were crying, Crucify him! crucify him! now could cry no more, but with downcast looks, returned into the city. The Pharisees and rulers could do no more; they had plotted his death, and obtained their object; but into the dark recess of the tomb they dare not, they would not, follow. The great red dragon (the Roman power) had sought his life when a child, but the hour had not come. Herod sought his life when a man, but he could not succeed until the last day of the seventy weeks should be accomplished. Then the powers of earth, wicked men, and devils, could combine to take the life of the Lord of glory. Then, while these powers had control, the heavens hid their face; nature stood back aghast, and the material world shuddered with a groan. Then, at that awful, fitful period, he who had been the object of all this malice, cried with a loud voice, "It is finished!" The work on earth in the flesh is finished; the temptations of Satan are finished; the persecution of his brethren are finished; envy, malice, and hatred towards the person of Christ are finished; the power of earth, hell, and wicked men to do any thing with him, is finished; death has no more terrors over him. It is finished.
Although Christ had finished his work, and had endured all the sufferings which he was to finish; yet in his spiritual body, the church, the measure of his sufferings was to be filled up. His people must pass through the same scenes in the world as their divine Master had experienced from satanic temptations and the hatred of the world. "The world will hate you and persecute you for my name's sake, even as they hated me before they hated you," says our blessed Redeemer. Therefore the same manifestations of cruelty, contempt, persecution, and death, were to be acted over again in the church until the 2300 years should be accomplished, when Christ would come again, receive home his weary, persecuted people, conquer death, and him that had the power of death, which is the devil. "And there came a great voice out of the temple of heaven from the throne, saying, It is done." The power of earth, hell, and wicked men over the dear people of God, is done. Their temptation in the flesh is done; their trials, persecutions, sufferings, darkness, fears, and death itself, are done. As the sufferings of the head was finished in Christ, so will all the pains of the body be completed when the seventh and last vial shall be poured into the air, and cleanse the atmosphere from all noxious vapors, pestilence, and death. "Then shall the sanctuary be cleansed," and then will the great voice from the throne say, It is done. These old heavens and this old earth will have passed away, and the New Jerusalem come "down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband," Rev. xxi. 3-6.
"And I heard a great voice out of heaven, saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them and be their God, and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain, for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write; for these words are true and faithful. And he said unto me, It is done." Here we have the same expression as in our text, having the same identical meaning, the same "great voice," in one as in the other; the same throne, and the same voice speaking, alluding to the same period of time when the old things are done away and the new heavens are finished, to the same point in prophecy, "the end." Therefore, as we have passed the sixth vial, the seventh and last hangs trembling in the air. The drops of this vial are already contaminating the minds of men; already we see the unclean spirit going forth; the great city is being divided, and the signs of the heavens denote a moral conflict, and on the earth a speedy revolution.
Then, my friends, let us be wise; let us make peace with Him who has power to save or to destroy. For we learn by our subject that the world and worldly scenes are passing away; every vestige of mortal grandeur, every form of carnal pride, every fashion of human glory will soon be eclipsed by the grandeur of that great white throne from whose face the heavens and earth will flee away, and the great voice from the throne will sound the last requiem, "It is done."
"Yet when the sound shall tear the skies,
And lightning burn the globe below,
Saints, you may lift your joyful eyes;
There's a new heaven and earth for you."
On to LECTURE XVI. "The Parable of the Ten Virgins"
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