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Upon the whole, I think there appears to be no reason from the prophecy concerning the two witnesses, Rev. xi. 1o expect any such general and terrible destruction of the church of Christ, before the utter downfall of Antichrist, as some have supposed ; but good reason to determine the contrary. It is true, there is abundant evidence in scripture, that there is yet remaining a mighty conflict between the church and her enemies, the most violent struggle of Satan and his adherents, in opposition to true religion, and the most general commotion that ever was in the world, since the foundation of it to that time ; and many particular Christians, and some parts of the church of Christ, may suffer hard things in this conflict : But in the general, Satan and Antichrist shall not get the victory, por greatly prevail; but on the contrary be entirely conquered, and utterly overthrown, in this great battle. So that I hope this prophecy of the slaying of the witnesses, will not stand in the way of a compliance with the proposal made to us in the memorial, as a prevalent objection and discouragement.
OBJECT. 5. A late very learned and ingenious expositor of the Revelation, viz. Mr. Lowman, sets the fall of Antichrist, and consequently the coming of Christ's kingdom at a great distance ; supposing that the twelve hundred and sixty years of Antichrist's reign did not begin until the year seven hundred and fifty six ; and consequently that it will not end until after the year two thousand, more than two hundred and fifty years hence ; and this opinion he confirms by a great variety of arguments.
Ans. 1. If this objection be allowed to be valid, and that which ought to determine persons in an affair of this nature, and those things, concerning God's people praying for this glorious event, be also allowed to be true, which before were shewn to be the will of God abundantly revealed in his word, then the following things must be supposed ; viz. that it is the will of God that his people be much in prayer for this event, and particularly that it is God's revealed will and purpose, that, a little before the accomplishment of it, his people be carnestly seeking and waiting, and importunately and inces
VOL. III. 3 I
santly crying to God for it ; But yet that it was God's design, that before this time comes of extraordinary prayer and importunity of his church, for the bringing on this glorious event, his church should have it given them to understand precisely when the appointed time should be ; and that accordingly he has now actually brought the fixed time to light, by means of Mr. Lowman. But is it reasonable to suppose, that this should be God's manner of dealing with his church, first to make known to them the precise time which he has unalterably fixed for the shewing this mercy to Zion, and then make it the duty of his church, in an extraordinary manner, to be by prayer inquiring of him concerning it, and saying, How long, Lord ! And waiting for it, day and night crying to him with exceeding importunity that he would bring it on, that he would come quickly, that he would hide himself no longer, but would arise and have mercy upon Zion, and awake as one out of sleep, openly manifest himself, and make bare his holy arın for the salvation of his people? That they that make mention of the Lord, should not keep silence, nor give him any rest, until he establish, and make Jerusalem a praise in the earth? And that the church should then say to Christ, Make haste, my beloved, and be thou like a roe or a young hart on the mountains of Spiccs?
It may be many ways for the comfort and benefit of God's church in her afflicted state, to know that the reign of Antichrist is to be no more than 1260 years: And some things in general may be argued concerning the approach of it, when it is near : As the Jews could argue the approach of Christ's first coming, from Daniel's prophecy of the seventy weeks, though they knew not precisely when that seventy weeks would end. But it is not reasonable to expect that God should make known to us beforehand, the precise time of Christ's coming in his kingdom. The disciples desired to know this, and manifested their desire to their Lord; but he told them plainly that it was not for them to know the times and seasons, whichthe Father hath put in his own power ; Acts i. 6,7, and there is no reason to think that it is any more for us than for them; or for Christ's disciples in these days any more than for his
apostles in those days. God makes it the duty of his church to be importunately praying for it, and praying that it may come speedily; and not only to be praying for it, but to be seeking of it, in the use of proper means; endeavoring that religion may now revive every where, and Satan's kingdom be overthrown; and always to be waiting for it, being in a constant preparation for it, as servants that wait for the coming of their Lord, or virgins for the coming of the bridegroom, not knowing at what hour he will come. But God's making known beforehand the precise time of his coming, does not well consist with these things.
It is the revealed will of God, that he should be inquired of by his people, by extraordinary prayer, concerning this great mercy, to do it for them, before it be fulfilled. And it any suppose, that it is now found out precisely when the time is to be, and (the time being at a considerable distance) that now is not a proper season to begin this extraordinary prayer, I would, on this supposition, ask, when we shall begin ? liow long before the fixed and kuown time of the bestowment of this mercy comes, shall we begin to my earnestly to God that this mercy may come, and that Christ would make haste and be like a roe, &c? For us to delay, supposing that we know the time to be far off, is not agreeable to the language of God's people in my text, Come, let us go speedilij, und pray before the Lord, and seek the Lord of hosts.
Ans. 2. I acknowledge that Mr. Lowman's exposition of the Revelation is, on many accounts, excellently written, giving great light into some parts of that prophecy, and an instance of the fulfilment of that prediction, Dan. xii. 4. “ Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased :” And especially in his interpretation of the five first vials (which he supposeth already poured out) exceeding satisfying. But yet the opinion of Mr. Lowman, with regard to the particular time of the beginning and end of the time, times and an half of Antichrist's reign, and of all others that pretend to fix the time, is the less to be regarded, because it is clearly revealed, and expressly declared by God, that that matter should be sealed up and hid, and not known until the time of the end of this time, times and an half. Daniel, in the last chapter of his prophecy, gives us an account, how the angel told him of a future time of great trouble and affliction to the church of God, and then said to him, ver. 4. “ But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end." And then the prophet proceeds to give an account of a vision that he had of one earnestly inquiring of the angel of the Lord, how long it would be to the end of this remarkable and wonderful time of the church's trouble, saying, How long shall it be to the end of these wonders ? Ver. 5, 6. The answer was, that it should be for a time, times and an half, and that when so long a time was past, then this wonderful affliction and scattering of the koly people should be finished, ver. 7. But then Daniel tells us, in the next verse, that he heard, but he understood not, and said, O my Lord, what shall be the end of these things ? He did not understand that general and mystical answer, that those things should have an end at the end of a time, times and an half; he did not know by it, when this period would have an end : And therefore he inquires more particularly what the time of the end was. But the angel replies, ver. 9. • Go thy way, Daniel, the words are closed and sealed up, until the time of the end." I do not know what could have been more express. The angel gently rebukes this over inquisitiveness of Daniel, very much as Christ did a like inquisitiveness of the disciples concerning the same matter, when lie said to them, It is not for you to know the times and srasons, that the Father hath put in his own power. I think thcre can be no doubt but that this space, of a time, times and half of the church's great trouble, about the end of which Daniel inquires, is thic same with that time, times and half, that is spoken of Chap. vii. 25, and Rev. xii. 14, as the time of Antichrist's reign, and the church's being in the wil. derness; and not merely the time of the church's troubles by Antiochus Epiphanes. But we see, when Daniel has a mind to know particularly when this time would come to an end, he is bid to go away, and rest contented in ignorance of this matfer: For, says the man clothed in linen, the words are closed 2}, and sealed, until the time of the end. That is, very plainly the matter that you inquire about, when the end of this time, and times and half shall come, shall not be known, but kept a great secret, until the time of the end actually comes, and all attempts to find it out before that shall be in vain. And therefore when a particular divine appears, that thinks he has found it out, and has unsealed this matter, and made it mani. fest with very manifold and abundant evidence, we may well think he is mistaken, and doubt whether those supposed evi. dences are truly solid ones, and such as are indeed sufficient to make that matter manifest, which God has declared should be kept hid, and not made manifest before it is accomplished.
Mr. Lowman's own words in his preface, page 24, 35, are here worthy to be repeated : “It will (says he) ever be a point of wisdom, not to be over busy, or over confident in any thing, especially in fixing periods of time, or determining seasons ; which it may be are not to be determined, it may be are not fit to be known. It is a maxim of greater wisdom than is usually thought, Seek not to know what should not be revealed. Such are many future events. The precise time of our Saviour's coming to judgment, was not revealed, because not fit to be revealed. The uncertainty of his appearance was of greater service to preserve a care of religion, than the revelation of it would have been : For the uncertainty itself gives many useful exhortations ; Watch, for ye know not what hour the son of man cometh. Suppose then some of the events described in this prophecy should be of doubtful application, suppose the precise time of the downfall of the beast, the slaying and resurrection of the witnesses, and the beginning of a thousand years happy state of the church, should not be so determined, but it would admit of different calculations ; may it not be wise, and therefore fit it should be so ? The certainty of those events in a proper time, though that time should not be precisely determined, will answer the greater ends of useful instruction. And if the revelation should go no further than this, it would yet be a revelation, of great benefit and advantage ; as the certainty of the day of judgment in its proper time surely is, though of Lhat day and hour knoweth no man.".