the ancient Heathen, the objects of her worship are numerous. At one time the gods of the Roman empire were supposed to be about thirty thousand; but the family of Popish gods has increased and multiplied so fast, that it is a long time since they were increased into a multitude which could not be numbered. All the hosts of angels, all the spirits of just men departed, and all the relics of saints and martyrs, together with many of more modern date, who were of a very dubious, if not infamous character while they lived, have a place in her calendar, and are with Catholics objects of religious worship. Whenever a new collection of wafers is consecrated to be used as the host in the sacrament of the supper, or another flagon of wine is set apart for the same purpose, these new deities are set up to be worshipped; and as this forms part of the daily employment of the priesthood of that church, it is impossible to say what a rabble of deities may yet be added to the calendar of their gods. This society is so completely Heathen in respect of the objects of worship, that she has far excelled all that ever preceded her in the number of her gods.—In respect of the manner of her worship, she is no less entitled to be called a Gentile or Heathen society. There is hardly a rite belonging to the church of Rome which cannot be traced up to a Heathen origin. When the ministers of this church began to deviate from the simplicity that is in Christ, they endeavoured, in order to conciliate the Heathen, and to gain them over to at least a nominal profession of Christianity, to accommodate their mode of worship as nearly as possible to the ancient Pagan forms. Multitudes were in this manner brought to espouse a profession of Christianity, while all the rites and forms of their Pagan services were retained: they exchanged the name of Pagans for that of Christians, but they knew almost nothing of Christianity except the name.*

As historical statements furnish the best illustrations of prophecy, I shall subjoin in this note a short comparison between Popery and Paganism, selected chiefly from Laborde's View of Spain, and Middleton's Letter from Rome.

When any stranger enters a Popish church, especially on high festivals, the

It is added in the close of the verse, and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months. The literal Je

first thing that affects his organs of sense is the strong smell of perfumes. Indeed, few of their public offices are performed without the use of incense in some part of the service. This was so common with the ancient Heathens, that their altars and temples are seldom mentioned without the epithet of perfumed being applied to them.

No person

The next thing that attracts his attention is the use of holy water. goes into or out of a church, but is either sprinkled with it by a priest, or else serves himself with it from a vessel placed at the door, that every person may have access to it. There was also a vase of holy water placed at the door of every Heathen temple, for the sprinkling of the worshippers. The composition of this water is the same in Popish churches as in Heathen temples, being only a mixture of salt with common water.

No sooner is one advanced a little farther into their churches, than he sees a multitude of lamps and wax-candles burning before the shrines and images of the saints. Before some of the principal saints, such as St Anthony of Padua, and the Lady of Loretto, they are kept perpetually burning.-Heathen writers speak also of lamps which burned continually before the shrines of different gods; there were very few of their gods but were honoured, like the Popish saints, with a taper burning in broad day while the rites of their worship were celebrating.

A great number of votive gifts are hung round the images and altars of the saints, in consequence of miraculous cures, deliverances, &c. said to have been wrought by them. In some of the churches they are so numerous, that the image can hardly be seen on account of them.-This was common in every Heathen temple; but the walls of none of them were so laden with these offerings as were those of the temples dedicated to Esculapius, the god of medicine, which his worshippers vowed to him in testimony of gratitude for the cures which they apprehended he had wrought.

But their temples are not the only places where we see the proofs of their superstition and idolatry. The whole face of Italy has still the visible characters of Paganism upon it.-The old Romans had their gods who presided over the roads, streets, and highways, whose little temples, altars, or statues, were placed at convenient distances for the benefit of travellers, who used to step aside to pay their devotions, and beg of them a prosperous journey.-Here it is still common to see travellers kneeling before the rustic altars of the saints; and even those who are most in haste are sure to pull off their hats, or shew some marks of reverence as they pass by.-Huge wooden crosses are frequently erected on the road, dressed with flowers, which cannot fail to put one in mind of the superstitious veneration which the Heathen used to pay to the trunks of old trees, or posts set up on the highways, which they held sacred.-Their little oratories are sometimes placed under the covert of a tree or grove, agreeably to the old idolatry described in sacred as well as in profane writings. More generally they are raised on some high place, the constant scene of idolatrous worship in all ages, it being an universal opinion among the Heathen, that the gods loved to reside on the tops of mountains. This Pagan notion prevails so much with Papists, that there is hardly a rock or precipice, however dreadful or difficult of access, which has not an oratory, altar, or crucifix, planted on the top of it. On the top of mount Senis, the highest mountain of the Alps, covered with perpetual snow, a chapel is erected, in which divine service is performed once in the year, in the month of August, sometimes to the destruction of the whole congregation, by the accident of a sudden tempest in a place so elevated.

The descriptions of the religious processions of the Heathen come so near to

rusalem cannot be the city here meant, as it is more than fortytwo prophetic months since it was overthrown by the Romans; and, excepting a short period in the time of the Crusades, it has, ever since the time of Mahomet, been possessed by the avowed enemies of Christianity. Jerusalem, like the temple and the courts, is here introduced by way of figure, and is the symbol or hieroglyphic of some other city. The Christian church is intended: and the treading of the city under foot, is meant to symbolize the ruinous condition of her external form and polity. When Jerusalem fell into the hands of the Babylonians, and was afterwards ploughed like a field by the Romans, it afforded a striking emblem of the extensive ruins of the Christian church during the reign of Antichrist. She was then like a city in ruins; and genuine Christians had as great occasion to lament the desolations of the place as Jeremiah and others in his day, had to lament the ruins of that what we see on every festival of the tutelar saint of a country or a city, that one can hardly help thinking, that they are all regulated by the old ceremonial of Pagan Rome. At these solemnities, the chief magistrate used to assist in robes of ceremony, attended by the priests in surplices, with wax-candles in their hands, carrying upon a pageant, or thensa, the images of the gods dressed in their best clothes; these were usually followed by the principal youth in the place, in white linen vestments or surplices, singing hymns in honour of the god whose festival they were celebrating, accompanied by crowds of all sorts that were initiated in the same religion, with flambeaux or wax-candles in their hands.-This is the account which Apuleius and other authors have given of a Heathen festival; and I may appeal to all who have been abroad, whether it might not pass as well for a Popish one.

In one of these processions made lately to St Peter's in the time of Lent, ' I saw,' says Dr Middleton, that ridiculous penance of the flagellantes, or selfwhippers, who march with whips in their hands, and lash themselves as they go along on the bare back till it is all covered with blood, in the same manner as the fanatical priests of Bellona, or the Syrian goddess, as well as the votaries of Isis, used to slash and cut themselves, in order to please the goddess by the sacrifice of their own blood.'-They have another exercise of the same kind, and in the same season of Lent, which, under the notion of penance, is still a more absurd mockery of all religion. On a certain day appointed annually for this discipline, men of all conditions assemble towards evening in one of the churches, where whips or lashes made of cords are provided, and distributed to every person present. After they are all served, and a short office of devotion is performed, the candles are put out, and upon the warning of a little bell, the whole company begin presently to strip, and try the force of the whips upon their backs for the space of near an hour. During all this time, the church becomes as it were the proper image of hell, where nothing is heard but the noise of lashes and chains, mixed with the cries and groans of these self-tormentors, till the bell gives another signal to stop their flagellations, and put on their clothes.

house in which their fathers praised God, and the capital of that country, for which all the pleasant things of Babylon could not be any compensation.-As the period of this desolation is of the same extent with the sackcloth state of the witnesses mentioned in the next verse, we shall afterwards consider them together.

At present, we proceed to consider the true worshippers as described in ver. 3., And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days clothed in sackcloth. The word translated witness, properly signifies a martyr; and as all true worshippers are martyrs in spirit and resolution, the term is applicable to the saints in all ages. But, as in the mournful period to which this prophecy refers, such multitudes fell a sacrifice for the truth, with special emphasis this name is given to the friends of truth in the times of Antichrist.

They are called two witnesses, in allusion to the number that is necessary, according to the laws of well-regulated states, for the establishment of any litigated point. At the mouth of two or three witnesses every word is to be established,' 2 Cor. xiii. 1. They cannot be understood as restricted to any two individuals, because they continue to bear testimony, during a thousand two hundred and threescore prophetic days, a length of time to which the life of no individual ever was prolonged. They must therefore be intended of a succession of witnesses. Though their number might sometimes be very small, a competent succession would be preserved, till the period of the great apostacy had expired. As one generation retired, another would appear upon the scene, to testify for the same cause, and to confirm their testimony in every way that was competent for them.-These two witnesses are the same with the sealed company, who were not to appear at one and the same time, but in succession, that in every age there might be a seed preserved for Christ.

When they are said to prophesy, it is not meant that all of them, in the strict and proper acceptation of the word, would

be endowed with a prophetic spirit. Prophesying is often of the same import with preaching, and denotes the faculty of explaining and illustrating the doctrines of prior revelation, Neh. vi. 7. Whoever speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort, is by Paul called a prophet, 1 Cor. xiv. 3. Whether they occupied a public or private station in the church, like true prophets of the Lord they would study fidelity to his interests. They would appear openly and explicitly as his witnesses, testifying for truth in opposition to all the errors and abominations of the time and place in which they lived. Their external circumstances were to be afflictive; they were to prophesy in sackcloth. This is not meant of any sort of garments or covering for the body, with which, like some of the old prophets, they were to be distinguished from other men; it is intended to describe the painful circumstances in which they were to be placed, and the grief and sorrow of heart with which they would be filled, when they saw the ordinances of religion profaned, and the holy city trodden under foot. Many of them, like the Old Testament worthies, would be robbed of their property, and even of their apparel, and have to wander about in sheep-skins and goat-skins. And as penitents were usually clothed in sackcloth, so these witnesses would never cease to lament over the abominations that were done in the midst of Jerusalem.

We may now consider the period of their sackcloth condition, and also the period of the occupancy of the court, and of the treading of the holy city by the Gentiles. Two different seasons, or rather two different ways of describing the same season, are employed in these verses; and in order to see what -length of time is meant by both descriptions, it will be necessary to offer the following remarks:

1st, In the early periods of society, months were regulated by the moon. The appearance of every new moon was the commencement of a new month; and as it is about 30 days from change to change in that luminary, their months consisted of only 30 days each. Twelve of these months made their

« VorigeDoorgaan »