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earth by the space of three years and six months."So these witnesses have "power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy." Aaron took his rod, and stretched forth his hand upon the waters of Egypt, and they became blood.-These witnesses also have power over waters, to turn them into blood. Moses and Aaron smote the land of Egypt with divers plagues-and so these witnesses have power to smite the earth with plagues, as often as they will.
When Ezekiel declared the vision concerning the destruction of the city, (Ezek. ix.) he is said (Ezek. xliii. 3.) to have come to "destroy the city." Jeremiah is said to have been set over the nations, to root out, to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant; because he was ordained to prophesy of such things. And further, the Lord said to Jeremiah; "I will make my words in thy mouth fire, and this people wood, and it shall devour them." And thus, likewise, the Apocalyptic witnesses are described, as actually doing the things of which they prophesy and as they declare the destruction of their enemies, and the time and the circumstances of that destruction; they are said to destroy their enemies by the fire which proceedeth out of their mouth. No other witnesses which have been seen upon the face of
the earth, during the gospel days, have ever yet exercised powers of this description.
The eleventh chapter of Revelations gives the history of the witnesses in sackcloth.
Rev. xi. 1. -6. “ And there was given me a reed, like unto unto a rod; and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein. But the court which is without the temple, leave out; measure it not, for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city they shall tread under foot, forty and two months. And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth. And 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. These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy, and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will."”
The two first verses intimate that a distinction should be made manifest, between the true worshippers of the Lord, who draw nigh unto him in spirit and in truth; and those who, as nominal Christians, make a mere outward profession of the Christian religion. Thus the apostle was commanded to measure, or take an account of the temple, and of the altar, and of them that worship therein; whilst the outward court, or the forms of Christianity, should
be given to the Gentiles to walk therein, that they might tread the holy city (or the true and spiritual worshippers) under foot, for forty and two prophetical months, making 1260 years. For a like space of time, viz. for one thousand two hundred and threescore prophetical days, (signifying years) the two witnesses are ordained to prophesy, clothed in sackcloth. They had already prophesied from the beginning, but during the 1260 years they were to be in sackcloth; and according to v. 6, heaven was to be shut, so that no rain could descend on the thirsty land. The rain seems intended here to represent the kindly influences of the Spirit of God, through which alone the land of religious profession is made fruitful; and it has accordingly been found, that during the reign of popery, and in the countries where it has prevailed, those influences, for the most part, have been withheld; and the prophesying of the witnesses, such as it was, has been attended with very little effect.
The clothing of the witnesses in sackcloth, may well represent the Scriptures, kept from the hands, and from the knowledge of the people, and veiled in an unknown tongue. And it is a very extraordinary circumstance, that within about fifty years from the edict of Justinian (A. D. 529,) the Latin tongue became a dead language, notwithstanding
which, public worship has been always continued in Latin, throughout the papal countries; so that the only portions of Scripture, which were presented to the people, in the worship and formularies of their church, have been in a language which few could understand. Knowing the word of God to bear witness against their ways, the Roman hierarchy concealed it from the people; till at length the Bible was unheeded and unknown. The priests and the learned might refer to it, but no gospel was preached unto the poor; and if, at any time, the Scriptures were entrusted to the laity in their vernacular tongue, they were accompanied by the false glosses of the popish doctors, to obscure and to pervert their meaning; whilst the idolatrous and superstitious ceremonies of the Church, led their minds more and more away from the blood of the Lamb; till every ray of gospel light was well nigh excluded from the land. The forty and two months, during which the outward court is given to the Gentiles, and the 1260 years of the witnesses prophesying in sackcloth, are one and the same period; and these may be "the times of the Gentiles,' mentioned in other parts of Scripture, because, then, the Gentiles tread the Holy City under foot. And they are, further, the times of the prevalence of the little horn of Dan. vii. against the saints; and also the times of the king spoken of in Dan. xi. who magD d