Apr 3, 1804 Sermon Index
Van Deusen/Kosinski Collection
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what appertains to this inquiry, and meet the fears and wishes of believers with solid and satisfactory arguments, he would bring a message in season to the Churches. - Should those fears be well founded, it is time, indeed, with renewed vigor, to gird close the gospel armor, and become fortified with graces suited to a day of conflict and discomfiture. But if such apprehensions are the result of ignorance or unwarrantable timidity, if they are not supported by the word of God, especially if they contradict the word, and oppose the evident procedure of Divine Providence, let them be dismissed. They tend to mar the consolation, suppress the prayers, and weaken the hands of the faithful in the work assigned to this generation.

1. Those who expect greater calamities to be impending, refer - to the express prediction respecting the slaying of the witnesses - to that declaration of our Lord which implies, that at his coming there will be but little faith, and consequently but little holiness, the fruit of faith, in the world - to general intimations in the prophetic word of afflictions, perils, and apostacy, which await the Church antecedent to her enlargement, and mark the latter days - and to existing facts which portend more extensive evils, and in their train of consequences, must inevitably prove ruinous to the interests of religion. From these four arguments the conclusion is principally drawn, that the Church hath not yet seen her worst days.

In Rev. xi. it is unequivocally and pointedly foretold, that the faithful witnesses for Jesus during the reign of antichrist would be greatly reduced, and their situation rendered very distressing. The first is expressed by the symbolical number two, the least required to establish an authentic testimony. The last is delineated by their prophecying in sackcloth, an emblem of mourning and grief. This was to characterize them during the long period of forty two months, or 1260 prophetic years. It is added, and the beast shall overcome them and kill them. And they are described as lying unburied for three days and an half, after which they revive, begin their testimony anew in an exalted station, and with their resurrection the enlargement of the Church commences.

The construction put upon this prophecy in its connected parts, is, - that by the witnesses are meant all true believers at that time in Christ; - that the death of the witnesses is a distinct event, and something different from, and more than, the reduction of their numbers or their sackcloth habiliment; - that this is to happen at the very close of the suffering period; - that by their death and unburied state must be understood the total defect of the power of religion, and the entire extinction of life in the visible Church, when a mere profession may still prevail, and the Christian name continue, but all that is observable of the kingdom of Christ will be as a putrid


corpse, a body without life; - and, finally, that this deplorable condition has never yet been experienced, but is still to be expected, and will most assuredly be verified. From this conclusion very serious fears are excited. It is expected Zion will soon mourn in deeper sackcloth, and the interests of religion wither and expire. Oppressed with these gloomy apprehensions, many excellent Christians sink under the forebodings of greater evils, and their hearts tremble for the ark of God. Our limits restrict us to a brief examination of the first article alone, and compel us with reluctance to omit what was prepared upon each of the other arguments.

2. Those who can discover light, as well as shade, enjoy a brighter prospect. They put a different construction upon the passages of scripture produced, and draw a conclusion from existing facts, directly contrary to that advanced by their desponding Brethren.

What is foretold of slaying the witnesses, Rev. xi. must, no doubt, be understood to indicate a very grievous calamity. As this suggests the main argument in the present question, it deserves a distinct examination. Let us ascertain - who are intended by the witnesses - what is meant by their slaughter - who is to perpetrate this horrid deed - and whether this be not already accomplished.

The WITNESSES are usually understood to refer to the Lord's people, the spiritual Israel in the aggregate. But it deserves consideration, whether this general application of the term be accurate and corresponding with the symbols and style of this book. All true believers are indeed the Lord's witnesses. (Isa. xl. 10, 12) But in the Apocalypse, true believers, during the reign of antichrist, are particularly designated by the 144,000 sealed. So this symbol is used, chap. vii. and again chap. xiv. and this answers to the description of his hidden people under the persecution of Ahab, who were said to be 7000, whom God had reserved for himself, and did not bow the knee to Baal. These were distinguished at that time from Elijah and afterwards Elisha, who appeared publicly as witnesses for God and true religion. In analogy to this, it may be alleged, that by the witnesses who were to be slain are meant, not the whole Church, or sealed believers, who served the Lord during the season of persecution, in secret, but those eminent characters whom God, in succession, raised up to bear an open testimony against the corruption of the Church of Rome. Some such appeared in every century, and their names are enrolled in ecclesiastical history to their immortal honor. Those of John Wickliffe, Walter Lollard, John Huss, and others of later times, are to us most familiar. As under the Old Testament many of the prophets and messengers from God, who were emphatically his witnesses, were slain; so under the New, it is here predicted, the same base and bloody work would be


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