of modern times.-The French Revolution is such a remarkable event in the history of society, almost every person supposes that it must have had a place in prophecy; and many suppose that the prophecy before us ought to be applied to it. The deposition of the king, and the abolishing of all titles of nobility, they conceive to be the slaying of the names of men. The interdict that was laid upon the observance of the Christian Sabbath, the shutting up for some time of all the places of public worship in Paris, and particularly the insurrections and murders, in which 24,000 of the Popish clergy perished, while a far greater number fled from that distracted country, where the rulers did not seem inclined to leave one of them alive, -they conceive to be the slaying of the witnesses; and the revolution which preceded them, they consider as the earthquake of this prophecy. Since that unhappy æra, the murders that have been committed in France, are almost without a parallel in the history of the world. Between the beginning of 1792 and the close of 1795, a period of only four years, there were put to death, by the guillotine, and other methods of execution, to the amount of one hundred and fifty thousand persons, in the city of Paris alone.* Independent of those who fell in battle, the public executions, and private murders and assassinations, within the limits of the French territory, were considerably above a million of human beings. In this dreadful carnage, men of name and rank, and the ministers of the church of Rome, suffered in a greater proportion than other classes of the inhabitants. But what has all this to do with the slaying of the witnesses? Unless it be pleaded that Popery is the only true religion, Popish priests the only true prophets, and the members of the church of Rome the only true witnesses; it cannot with any shadow of propriety be argued, that those scenes of blood which have deluged and disgraced that unhappy country, were the slaying of the witnesses. The earthquake described in this

of the city are still standing? So long as a single street of this city is peopled with inhabitants, they will shew a spirit of hostility against the witnesses.

Kett. on Proph. v. II. p. 242.

prophecy, is one which affects the mystical city; but the French Revolution was not occasioned by a body of men that were disaffected to the Roman church, any more than they were disaffected to Christianity in any other form; but by a people that were disaffected to the order of things in the state. It was a political, and not a religious revolution; and therefore could not be the earthquake of this prophecy.-There does not appear to be any thing between the period of the Reformation from Popery, and the late Revolution in France, that can fairly be understood as the accomplishment of this prophecy; we may therefore consider a little the history of the Reformation, to see if it did not meet with its completion in that age.

The council of Constance assembled in November, 1414, and continued its sittings till April, 1418, a period of about three years and a half. By this council, the celebrated Jerome of Prague, and Huss of Bohemia, were condemned to suffer death, because they had taught doctrines contrary to the received faith of the church of Rome. They were certainly two of the most remarkable witnesses of the age in which they lived. And when such severe and unjust measures were adopted against them, it was supposed that the cause for which they suffered would perish. But soon after the council broke up, the friends of that cause appeared in greater multitudes, and assumed a far more menacing aspect against the church of Rome, than they had done while those great reformers were alive. The issue of the struggle was, the revolt of the kingdom of Bohemia both from the Emperor and the Pope. During the sitting of the council, the witnesses are supposed to have lain dead; but when such multitudes espoused the cause of truth soon after it was broken up, they are supposed to have revived; and the falling of the tenth part of the city, is understood of what took place in Bohemia in that eventful period. But though there are many things in the history of that age which bear a striking resemblance to what is predicted in these verses, there are others in which we are at a loss to see the fulfilment

of the prophecy. Neither the slaughter nor the resurrection were so extensive as we are warranted to expect from the language before us.

If we descend to a later period, which is commonly considered as the æra of the Reformation, we will meet with events in the history of that great revolution of religious opinion, which have very much the appearance of being the fulfilment of this prediction.—The ministry of Luther commenced in the year 1517, and his success far exceeded his own expectations, and those of every other person. Only a few years elapsed, when his doctrines were embraced by some in all the different countries of Europe. In Germany, which at that time was like the market-place of the church of Rome, for the open and extensive sale of indulgences, they met with a ready and very general reception. The rapid progress of the new opinions, excited both the fears and indignation of the bishop of Rome. Every means was adopted to check their progress, and some of them were the most bloody and deceitful that can well be conceived. Between the years 1540 and 1555, a million of persons suffered martyrdom; some of them perished on gibbets, some on the wheel, some at the stake, and far greater multitudes were hunted like beasts of prey, and put to death in the open fields. But the most remarkable killing of the witnesses, has been supposed to refer to the events in Germany, between 1548 and 1551.—By a treaty between the Emperor of Germany and the Pope, it was agreed, that the former should employ the whole force of his dominions for the extirpation of the Protestant religion among his subjects. This perfidious monarch, however, endeavoured to persuade the Germans that they had nothing to fear from him upon the head of religion; and that his only object in taking up arms, was to vindicate his authority, and repress the political insolence of the princes and cities that were associated in the league of Smalcalde.* Some were deceived by these false declarations; others, knowing the perfidy of the man, conceived that

Robertson's Chas. V.



there could be no hope of the enjoyment of their privileges as Protestants, but in the way of repelling force by force. Both parties had recourse to arms; but in a few weeks, the powerful confederacy of Smalcalde was broken to pieces. Many of the leaders fell in battle; one that had been most active in the work of Reformation, was taken prisoner, and another, the only one that remained in arms, was compelled to cast himself upon the unfeeling clemency of the emperor. Their forces were routed and dispersed, and their strong-holds taken. the Protestant places of public worship were shut up; the ministers were either cast into prison, or loaded with chains, and carried, with the elector of Saxony and landgrave of Hesse, in triumph wherever the emperor went. The Popish ministry were again thrust in upon the people, who were compelled, upon pain of death, to attend upon their ministrations. The organized state of the Protestant church in Germany, was as completely broken down and dissolved, as though a church of this description had never been erected in that country. Whatever they might be as individuals, as a public organized and witnessing body, they appeared to be slain.

Nor was this the only evil which befell them. A rule of faith and worship, called the interim, was proposed, upon the acceptance of which the free cities of Germany were to have their political privileges restored. In this rule, some of the errors of Popery were softened, but none of them rejected. In every respect it was a rule wholly Popish. When it was presented to the diet of Augsburg, May 15th, 1548, the city was filled with foreign troops, to enforce its acceptance at the point of the bayonet. The reading was no sooner finished, than the archbishop of Mentz rose up, and, in the name of the diet, thanked the emperor for his pious endeavours to restore the peace of the church, and signified their approbation of the system which had been read, and their resolution of conforming to it in every particular. None of the members of the diet had the courage to contradict what the president said. The emperor, therefore, held this declaration of the archbishop as


2 F

a ratification of the rule, and soon proceeded to enforce it by all the compulsory methods in his power. As it was declared that this rule was only temporary, some might be disposed to submit to it, because they hoped it would soon come to an end. But submission to it for a single hour, was inconsistent with faithfulness to Christ, and to their former engagements as witnesses for the truth. At the same time it was agreed, that all controversies respecting religion, should be settled by a council to be called by the Pope, in which he or one appointed by him should preside, and whose decisions should be final. This was virtually robbing them of all their attainments, and compelling them to return to the fellowship of the church of Rome.

But in the year 1552, their affairs took a very unexpected and favourable turn. Maurice, the new elector of Saxony, routed the imperial forces,-wherever he went, he proclaimed liberty to every man to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience, he turned out those magistrates who refused to grant this toleration, and put others in their room, -and likewise put the emperor into such consternation, that he was glad to make peace with him upon almost any terms the conqueror thought fit to dictate. The result of this pacification was, that in the mean time the Protestants should be restored to all those privileges which they had formerly enjoyed; and that within six months, a free diet of the empire should be held, in which all points respecting religion should be settled to their satisfaction.

I do not know of any thing in history which so exactly corresponds with this prophecy, as those events to which we have just referred. Here was something very like the slaying of the witnesses, when, after the Reformation had got such a footing in Germany, that the greatest princes had openly espoused it, and set up the Protestant form of worship in their dominions, they were subdued, and compelled to submit to a Popish rule of faith and worship, and to agree that their cause should be tried at the bar of a Popish council, and decided by judges who were the sworn adversaries of every thing that re

« VorigeDoorgaan »