« AnteriorContinuar »
lost, and the power and tyranny of Antichrist be more confirm. ed, and the church brought more under, and more entirely subdued than ever before, and further from all help and means to recover. This is not God's way of dealing with his people, or with their enemies : His work of salvation is perfect : When he has begun such a work he will carry it on: When he once causes the day of deliverance to dawn to his people, after such a long night of dismal darkness, he will not extinguish the light, and cause them to return again to midnight darkness : When he has begun to enkindle the blessed fire, he will not quench the smoking flax, until he hath brought forth judgment unto victory. When once the church, after her long labor and sore travail, has brought forth ber man child, and wrought some deliverance, her enemies shall never be able to destroy this child, though an infant ; but it shall ascend up to heaven, and be set on high out of their reach.
The destruction that God often foretold and threatened to ancient Babylon (which is often referred to in the Revelation, as a great type of the Antichristian church) was gradually accomplished, and fulfilled by various steps, at a great distance of time one from another : It was begun in the conquest of Cyrus, and was further accomplished by Darius, about eighteen years after, by a yet greater destruction, wherein it was brought much nearer to ulter desolation ; but it was about two hundred and twentythree years after this, before the ruin of it was perfected, and the prophecies against it fully accomplished, in its being made an utter and perpetual desolation, without any human inhabitant, becoming the dwelling place for owls, dragons and other doleful creatures. But yet when God had once begun to destroy her, he went on until he finished, and never suffered her any more to recover and establish her former empire. So the restitution of the Jewish church, after the Babylonish captivity, was gradual, by various steps; there were several times of return of the Jews from captivity, and several distinct decrees of the Persian emperors, for the restoring and rebuilding Jerusalem, and reestablishing the Jewish church and state ; and it was done in turbulent times; there were great interruptions and checks, and violent
oppositions, and times wherein the enemy did much prevail : But yet, when God had once begun the work, he also made an end; he never suffered the enemies of the Jews to bring Jerusalem to such a state of desolation as it had been in before, until the promised restoration was complete. Again, the deliverance of God's church from the oppression of Antiochus Epiphanes, (another known type of Antichrist) was gradual ; they were first holpen with a little help, by the Maccabees ; and afterwards the promised deliverance was completed, in the recovery of Jerusalem, the restoration of the temple, the miserable end of Antiochus, and the consequent more full deliverance of the whole land. But after God once began to appear for the help of his church in that instance, after it seemed dead and past all hope, he never suffered Antiochus to prevail against his people, to that degree, again ; though the utmost strength of this great monarch was used, from time to time, in order to it, and his vast empire was engaged against an handful that opposed them : God never for. sook the work of his own hand ; when he had begun to deliver his people, he also made an end. And so Haman, that proud and inveterate enemy of the Jews, that thought to extirpate the whole nation, who also was probably another type of An: tichrist, when he began to fall before Esther and Mordecai, never stayed, until his ruin, and the church's deliverance were complete. Haman's wife speaks of it, as an argument of his approaching inevitable full destruction, that he had begun to fall, Esth. vi. 15.
3. If it should be so that Antichristian tyranny and darkness should hereafter so prevail against the Protestant church, and the true religion, and every thing appertaining to it, as to bring things to the pass forementioned, this would hardly so properly answer the prophecy of slaying the two witnesses ; for doubtless, one reason why they are called two witnesses, is that the number of the remaining witnessess for the truth, though sufficient, was yet very small. Which was remarkably the case, in the dark times of Popery : But since the reformation, the number of those appearing on the side of true religion, has been far from being so small. The visible church of Christ has been vastly large, in comparison of what it was before: The number of Protestants has sometimes been thought nearly equal to that of the Papists; and doubtless the number of true saints has been far greater than before.
4. It seems to be signified in prophecy, that after the reformation Antichrist should never prevail against the church of Christ any more, as he had done before. I cannot but think, that whoever reads and well considers what the learned Mr. Lowman has written on the five first vials, Rev. xvi. in his late exposition on the Revelation, must think it to be very manifest, that what is said ver. 10, of the pouring out of the fifth vial on the throne of the beast, (for so it is in the original) is a prophecy of the reformation. Then the vial of God's wrath was poured out on the throne of the beast, i. e. according to the language of scripture, on his authority and dominion, greatly to weaken and diminish it, both in extent and degree. But when this is represented in the prophecy, then it is added, and his kingdom was full of darkness, and they gna wed their tongues for pain. If we consider what is commonly intended by such like phrases in the scripture, I think we shall be naturally, and as it were necessarily led to understand those words thus : Their policy, by which heretofore they have prevailed, shall now fail them; their authority shall be weakened, and their dominion greatly diminished, and all their craft and subtilty shall not avail them to maintain and support the throne of the beast, or ever again to extend his authority so far as it had been before extended, and to recover what it lost ; but all their crafty devices to this end shall be attended with vexatious, tormenting disappointment; they that have the management of the affairs of the beast's kingdom, shall hence. forward grope as in the dark, and stumble, and be confounded in their purposes, plots and enterprizes; formerly their policy was greatly successful, was as a light to guide them to their ends, but now their kingdom shall be full of darkness, and their wisdom shall fail them in all their devices to subdue, and again to bring under the church of God.
. The scripture takes notice of the great policy and subtilty of the powers that support this kingdom, Dan. vu. 8. “ And
behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of a man." So it is said of Antiochus Epiphanes, that great type of Antichrist, Dan viii. 23.“ A king of fierce countenance, and understanding dark sentences, shall stand up." Verse 25. " And through his policy also, shall he cause craft to prosper in his hand." This understanding and policy is the light of this
kingdom, as true wisdom is the light of the spiritual Jerusa- lem. And therefore when this light fails, then may the king
dom of this spiritual Egypt be said to be full of darkness. God henceforward will defend his people from these mystical Egyptians, as he defended Israel of old from Pharaoh and his host, when pursuing after them, by placing a cloud and darkness in their way, and so not suffering them to come nigh. So he will protect his church from the men of that city that is spiritually called Sodom, as Lot's house, wherein were the angels, was defended from the men of Sodom, by their being smitten with darkness or blindness, so that they wearied themselves to find the door ; and as God defended the city in which was Elisha the prophet and witness of the Lord, from the Syrians, when they compassed it about with horses and chariots and a great host to apprehend him, by smiting them with blindness. The scripture teaches us, that God is wont in this way to defend his church and people from their crafty and powerful enemies; Job. v. 11, &c. “ To set up on high those that be low, that those which mourn may be exalted to safety : He disappointeth the devices of the crafty, so that their hands cannot perform their enterprize : He taketh the wise in their own craftiness, and the counsel of the froward is carried headlong : They meet with darkness in the day time, and grope in the noon day as in the night ; but he saveth the poor from the sword, from their mouth, and from the hand of the mighty." Psal. xxxv. 4, 6, 6 Let them be confounded and put to shame, that seek after my soul ; let them be turned back, and brought to confusion, that devise my hurt....Let their way be dark and slippery."
Such defence of God's Protestant church, and disappointment and confusion of all the subtle devices, deep laid schemes, and furious attempts of their Antichristian enemies, to bring them under, and root them out, and their seeing them still maintaining their ground, and subsisting in an independency on them, in spite of all that they do, makes them as it were gnash their teeth, and bite their tongues for mere rage and vexation ; agreeable to Psal. cxij. 9, 10. “ His righteousness endureth forever, his horn shall be exalted with honor : The wicked shall see it and be grieved, and gnash with his teeth and melt away : The desire of the wicked shall perish."
Hitherto this prophecy has been very signally fulfilled ; since the reformation, the kingdom of Antichrist has been remarkably filled with darkness in this respect. Innumerable have been the crafty devices, and great attempts of the church of Rome, wherein they have exerted their utmost policy and power, to recover their lost dominions, and again to subjugate the Protestant nations, and subdue the northern heresy, as they call it. They have wearied themselves in these endeavors for more than two hundred years past. But have hitherto been disappointed ; and have often been strangely confounded. When their matters seemed to be brought to a ripeness, and they triumphed as though their point was gained, their joy and triumph was suddenly turned into vexation and torment. How many have been their politic and powerful attempts against the Protestant interest in our nation, in particular? And how wonderfully has God disappointed them from time to time! And as God has hitherto so remarkably fulfilled his word in defending his Protestant church from Antichrist, so I think we have ground to trust in him, that he will defend it to the end.
5. The hypothesis of those that suppose the slaying of the witnesses is a thing that yet remains to be fulfilled, makes the prophecies of the Revelation to be inconsistent one with another. According to their hypothesis, that battle Rev. xi. 7, wherein the beast makes war with the witnesses, and overcomes them, and kills then, is the last and greatest conflict between Antichrist and the church of Christ, that is to precede the utter overthrow of the Antichristian kingdom. And they must suppose so; for they suppose that immediately