DOUBLE FOREVIEW OF THE REFORMATION
In our previous lectures we have considered from the standpoint of prophecy the great Papal system of Latin Christianity, and it now remains for us to show you, in this closing one, that the same mirror of the future which so fully reflected the coming Roman apostasy reflects as clearly that Reformation movement of the sixteenth century which emancipated from it myriads of mankind.
This could hardly be otherwise. As prophecy traces the entire story of Roman rule, in both its pagan and Papal forms, and carries it on to a point even now future, it would not, of course, pass by unnoticed the most remarkable and noteworthy incident in the later section of history. It could not omit from its anticipative record an episode so distinctly providential as that Protestant exodus, which split western Christendom into two halves, and severed from the communion of Rome Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Holland, and Great Britain.
It might well be omitted from Daniels very distant foreview, but scarcely from the latter prophecy of John, when the incipient workings of the apostasy had already commenced. Neither the story of the apostate Church nor that of the true would be complete without it; for it was an episode of stupendous importance to the welfare of hundreds of millions of mankind through nine or ten generations, both to those whom it liberated from the superstitions and tyrannies of Rome, and to those on whom by a counter movement ù it riveted her fetters more strongly then ever.
What! should the ruin wrought by Romanism be plainly portrayed in advance on the prophetic page, and the revival produced by the Spirit of God and the word of His mouth be left altogether out of view? Should the work of Satan, his corruption and defilement of the professing Church, be reflected in the Divine mirror, and not the work of the glorious Head of the true Church through His faithful witnesses in the restoration to the world of the primitive Christianity it had lost? Never! A true mirror reflects everything alike, and Scripture prophecy anticipates the entire outline of Church history. Just as there were no events in the history of Israel which were not foretold before they came to pass, so in the history of the Church. The Reformation of the sixteenth century, and its glad and glorious results, are as clearly foreshadowed and foretold as the Romanism of the dark ages.
You will naturally inquire, Where and how? Before replying, let me remind you that there are two kinds of prophecy in Scripture ù the acted, and the spoken or written; the type and the prediction. In the Levitical sacrifices, for instance, we have acted prophecies of the atonement; in Isaiah 53 we have verbal predictions of it. The whole history of the natural Israel is typical of that of the spiritual Israel, or Christian Church. Both are delivered from Egypt, both are redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, both are led through a desert, both are sustained by bread from heaven, both journey towards a rest that remains for the people of God. This broad analogy descends in a wonderful way to details. The Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 10 shows this, and states that, not only was Israels history typical, but that it was divinely ordered that it might be so; in other words, it was intentionally prophetic. "These things," he says, "happened unto them for ensamples (or types, ?????), and are written for our instruction." Not only are they recorded for our warning, but they occurred in the providence of God in order that they might foreshadow the experiences of the Christian Church, and that she might learn from them solemn and needed lessons.
The incidents of Jewish history actually happened, that they might be types of Christian history; and Divine foreknowledge is as much exemplified in this correspondence between type and antitype as in that between prediction and fulfillment.
I am to show you this evening, then, two sets of predictions of the Reformation, one acted in Jewish history, the other symbolized in apocalyptic prophecy; the one embodied in the story of the Old Testament, the other in the symbolic predictions of the New.
Before I can do this, you must allow me to remind you with some degree of accuracy what the Reformation was, as to its broad historical characteristics.
It was not the formation of the Church, but its re-formation after its ruin by Romanism. It was not a first beginning, but a second. Pentecost formed the Church; Popery deformed it; Protestantism reformed it. Pentecost occurred in the first century, and is associated with the work of the apostles themselves. The Reformation did not occur till the sixteenth century, and was not completed till the seventeenth, and is associated with such names as Luther and Calvin, Zwingle and Knox, Cranmer and Latimer. The first belongs to ancient history, the last to modern times. A great chronological gap of nearly fifteen hundred years lies between the two. There were the early ages of first love, apostolic zeal, rapid extension, martyr suffering, noble confessions and apologies; followed by other centuries of imperial Christianity, growing corruption, of bitter strife and ambitious rivalries; and these again by a thousand years of Papal domination and ever- deepening moral darkness before the glad light of the Reformation broke over the earth. It is a late episode of Church history, not an early one.
And further. When it did take place, its results were very partial. It has affected but a portion of apostate Christendom. It has not brought back to the faith of Christ Austria, Italy, Spain, Portugal, France, or Belgium. The reformed nations may be the mightiest, the wealthiest, and the most progressive; but they constitute only a fraction of Roman Christendom. The greater part of it remains involved still in the Papal apostasy.
Moreover Protestantism priceless as have been the benefits it has conferred on those who have joined its ranks ù is yet very far from being a perfect recovery of primitive Christianity. It has risen out of the gross ignorance and superstition of mediaeval Romanism; it has altogether abandoned the idolatry of image worship, virgin worship, saint worship, and the adoration of the priest-made wafer deity of the Latin mass; it has recovered a purer faith and a simpler ritual, and secured for the Church a measure of liberty and independence; above all, it has circulated the Scriptures in the vulgar tongues of the nations of Christendom, and has adopted as its motto, "The Bible, the whole Bible, and nothing but the Bible": but it has never completely purified itself from Romish doctrine and practice, it has never regained complete independence of secular domination, it has never got clear of union with the world. It has rejected the claim of the Church to rule the State, it has not as clearly refused the pretension of the State to rule the Church; it has suffered worldly ambition, priestcraft, simony, and abuses of many kinds; and it has developed two strong tendencies, one to a return to the Romish apostasy, and the other to rationalism and infidelity. The true spiritual Church of Christ is still, even in Protestant lands, but a small part of the professing Church.
I want you clearly to bear in mind from the outset then, first, that, in point of time, Protestantism is a late or modern movement; secondly, that it is, in point of sphere, a limited one; and thirdly, that it is, in point of character, a very imperfect return to primitive Christianity.
One more introductory remark before I pass on. May we not safely conclude that Protestantism will last till the end of the age and the second advent of Christ? The reformed Churches will never be darkened by a universal apostasy, as was the early Church. The innumerable millions of Bibles read and studied all over the world, the countless human minds enlightened by their contents, and human hearts regenerated by their revelation of God in Christ, and linked by faith and love and eternal life to the Savior, forbid the fear that the recovered gospel will ever again be lost to the world. The chronology of the Papacy shows us that the coming of the Lord is at hand; and hence we may rest assured that the Reformation is, not only a late incident in Church history, but that it is the last great movement. The next will be the final change from the militant to the triumphant condition of the Church, when the fourth empire shall pass away, and be succeeded by the kingdom of the Son of man and of the saints. We have entered on that phase of Church history which will exist at the second advent; nothing remains unfulfilled of the predictions concerning Romanism, except her sudden destruction at the end of this age.
As regards the history of the Reformation, I want you to remember that it took place in stages during a period extending over about half a century. Its commencement is reckoned from the year when Luther published his theses against indulgences, A.D. 1517; and its close, in Germany at least, may be placed in A.D. 1555, when the celebrated Peace of Augsburg confirmed the Protestants of Germany in all their rights and possessions, and recognized their complete national and ecclesiastical independence of the popes. The close of the anti-Reformation Council of Trent and the full establishment of the Protestant Church in England were in A.D. 1563, forty-six years from the initial date of the Reformation. The struggle to maintain the position gained, in face of the murderous Papal reaction, which dates from the Council of Trent, occupied a much longer period, and was not over even at the Peace of Westphalia, at the end of the thirty years religious war, in A.D. 1648, when a basis was laid for the settlement of the long struggle in Central Europe.
It extended however in France and England still further, nearly up to the close of the seventeenth century, when it was finally settled in favor of Popery in France by the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, and in favor of Protestantism in England by the glorious Revolution, which placed William of Orange on the throne, and passed the act of succession excluding Popish monarchs for the future. Not without so severe and long-continued a struggle did the reformed religion establish itself, even in the countries where it did take root, nor did Protestantism cease to resist, even in the countries where it was ultimately crushed.
As to the various aspects of this great Reformation movement, you must distinguish especially between three.
1. It was first and mainly, as we have said, a return from gross and long-continued apostasy to primitive Christianity; it was a revival of spiritual religion in the hearts of men. As at the first promulgation of the gospel in Europe the pagan people "turned from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven," so in the sixteenth century. Men turned once more from the idols of Papal instead of pagan Rome which they had been worshipping, and they turned to GOD. They turned from the doctrines of demons to the gospel of Christ; they began once more to rejoice in the belief that Jesus had delivered them from the wrath to come; they received the doctrines proclaimed by the reformers not as the word of men, but as it was in truth, the word of God. It worked in them effectually, so that they took joyfully the spoiling of their goods, and all the other sufferings which came upon them from their enemies, and from them sounded out everywhere the word of the Lord. They received the word in much affliction, but in the joy of the Holy Ghost, and in power and assurance. The Reformers were like the apostles, holy, self-denying, Bible-loving, hard-working preachers of the gospel. In its first and primary aspect the Reformation was a spiritual work. Its germ was the work of the Holy Ghost in the soul of Luther, convincing him of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment, leading him to repentance and to belief of the gospel of Gods grace, and convincing him that salvation was "not of works." It was what we should in these days call a spiritual revival, traceable to the sovereign grace of God in the first place, and to the republication of His Word in the second.
2. But the Reformation did more than produce a spiritual revival. As a matter of history, it gave also to the world a new ecclesiastical system. It established reformed Churches in separation from the Church of Rome, national Churches, with secular monarchs in some cases at their head. This was the case in England, where Henry VIII made himself head of the Church in these lands. Whether this was for evil or for good we must not here consider, but simply note the fact that the Reformation movement built up a new outward organization of an ecclesiastical character, with new articles and rubrics, new ceremonies and practices, and a new fountain head of authority. This new organization was not only distinct from, but antagonistic to Romanism, and because of its being so was called Protestant. It has grown with enormous rapidity during the last three centuries, and has already attained proportions not far short of those of the ancient and apostate Church against which it protests. It is characterized by the circulation of the Bible, and the reference to it as to a standard of all controversies; by the recognition that ministers of Christ should not be "sacrificing priests" but gospel preachers, preachers of the word, heralds of the great salvation; and by an acknowledgment of the right of private judgment in the interpretation of Scripture.
3. And lastly, the Reformation produced Protestant kingdoms ù nations which severed all the links that bound them to Rome, and asserted their own absolute independence of the popes.
In a word, the movement was one of renovation and liberation, which spread in successive and ever- widening circles, from the individual to the Church, and from the Church to the nation. It was one founded on a recovered Bible, extended by a renewal of the long-disused practice of preaching, and issuing in the largely improved but still imperfect state of things which we see around us this day. It emancipated the minds of men from long and bitter bondage; it gave an impetus to arts and sciences, to enterprise and culture, to freedom and liberty. It was naturally hailed as a glad deliverance by all who came under its influence; but it brought upon them long struggles and cruel sufferings under the terrible and mighty Roman wild beast. The world reeled under the fierceness of his wrath on the escape of so many of his victims, his thunderous roar rent the air, his mad passion caused the blood of saints to flow in torrents, his cruel claws dragged thousands into his dens of torture in dark Inquisition dungeons; and so horrible was the sacrifice of human life resulting from his rage, that the world turned on him at last and bade him be still; bound, and beat him into silence, drew his claws and his teeth, deprived him of dominion and the power to do further damage, and left him feeble and defenseless, albeit as fierce as ever.
We stated just now that this great Reformation movement was doubly foretold in the Bible. It is foreshadowed in the typical history of Israel in the Old Testament, and its story forms one act of the prophetic drama of the Apocalypse in the New.
1. IT WAS FORESHADOWED IN THE HISTORY OF ISRAEL. Just as the exodus of Israel from Egypt after the passover and their crossing of the Red Sea foreshadowed the redemption of the Church by the death and resurrection of "Christ our Passover," just as the murmurings and rebellions of Israel in the wilderness prefigured the similar incidents in Church history ù so the idolatries of Israel foreshadowed the idolatry which early crept into the Church, and which soon corrupted it altogether. Even in the desert Israel fell into idolatry, and worshipped the golden calf; and perhaps the most salient feature of their history is the constant tendency to relapse into this degrading iniquity. No sooner were Moses and Joshua and their contemporaries dead and gone than declensions into idolatry became frequent. Various tyrants were allowed to conquer and oppress the people as a chastisement for this sin; and when they cried to God in their trouble, and He sent judges and deliverers, they perhaps served Jehovah as long as the judge lived, but quickly afterwards relapsed again. Six times over they were given up to their enemies, and the united servitudes they endured extended to a hundred and eleven years. Still they did evil
"in the sight of the Lord, and served Baalim, and Ashtaroth, and the gods of Syria and Zidon, the gods of Moab and Ammon, and the gods of the Philistines, and forsook the Lord, and served not Him" (#Jud 10:6):
Hardly had the Jews reached the zenith of their national prosperity under David and Solomon than again there set in a process of declension. Solomon himself built idol temples for his heathen wives, and after the schism between Israel and Judah, idolatry became the State religion among the ten tribes, who worshipped the golden calves set up by Jeroboam the son of Nebat at Dan and at Bethel, and adopted besides all the idolatries of the heathen around them.
Israel built, as we read in Kings, "high places in all their cities, from the tower of the watchmen to the fenced city. And they set them up images and groves in every high hill, and under every green tree: and there they burnt incense in all the high places, as did the heathen whom the Lord carried away before them; and wrought wicked things to provoke the Lord to anger: for they served idols, whereof the Lord had said unto them, Ye shall not do this thing..And they left all the commandments of the Lord their God, and made them molten images, even two calves, and made a grove, and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served Baal" (#2Ki 17:9-16).
So general did this worship of Baal become in Israel, that in the days of Elijah it was all but universal, and there were but seven thousand left who had not bowed the knee to Baal. Jeremiah exclaims in the Lords name, "Hath a nation changed their gods, which are yet no gods? but My people have changed their glory for that which doth not profit. Be astonished, O ye heavens, at this, and be horribly afraid, be ye very desolate, saith the Lord. For My people have committed two evils; they have forsaken Me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water" (#Jer 2:11-13).
Isaiah cries, "How is the faithful city become a harlot!..They have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward."
Ezekiel describes the idolatry of Jerusalem and Samaria under the figure of the grossest and most abominable harlotry.
Hosea said, "Israel hath forgotten his Maker, and buildeth temples" (Hosea 8:14).
"Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone" (Hosea 4:17).
Amos accused Israel, saying, "Ye have borne the tabernacle of your Moloch and Chiun your images, the star of your god, which ye made to yourselves" (#Amos 5:26).
Speaking by the mouth of Jeremiah, the Lord exhorts His people "Trust ye not in lying words, saying, The temple of the Lord, The temple of the Lord, The temple of the Lord, are these..Will ye steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and burn incense unto Baal, and walk after other gods whom ye know not; and come and stand before Me in this house, which is called by My name, and say, We are delivered to do all these abominations? Is this house, which is called by My name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? (Jer 7:4-11).
The ancient prophets are full of this subject, as you will remember; expostulations, appeals, threats, irony, indignant remonstrance are all employed in turn; but the people were obdurate. "We will not hearken unto thee," said they to Jeremiah "we will certainly..burn incense unto the queen of heaven, and pour out drink offerings unto her" (#Jer 44:16,17).
The enormity of this sin was enhanced by the fact that the very object of Israels existence as a nation was that they might be a holy nation, a peculiar people to Jehovah. They were the sole witnesses to the true God in the world, and yet they seemed obstinately resolved to sink back to the level of their heathen neighbors.
The relapse of Israel and Judah into heathen idol worship was punished in the providence of God by their captivity in the lands of the heathen: Israel was carried captive into Assyria, and Judah into Babylon. The heathenism of Jerusalem and of Babylon were substantially the same; each was marked by gross idolatry, and accompanied by the cruel persecution of all who resisted it. Manasseh filled Jerusalem with the blood of the faithful whom he slew. In Babylon, however, both idolatry and persecution found their most complete development. Nebuchadnezzar set up his golden image, issued his persecuting edict, and kindled his fiery furnace; and Belshazzar made his impious feast, and brought the vessels of Gods house to his table, that he and his lords, his wives and his concubines, might drink wine in them; and praise "the gods of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone, which see not, nor hear, nor know"; and Daniel said, addressing the doomed man,
"The God in whose hand thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways, hast thou not glorified" (#Dan 5:23)
Jeremiah cries concerning Babylon: "Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will do judgment upon her graven images" (#Jer 51:52).
"A drought is upon her waters; and they shall be dried up: for it is the land of graven images, and they are mad upon their idols" (#Jer 1:38).
The climax of apostasy and rebellion was reached at last; and when Judah had practically sunk to the level of idolatrous Babylon, God suffered her to be conquered and carried captive by one Babylonian tyrant after another, and His own temple at Jerusalem, which had been so desecrated and profaned, He permitted to be captured and burned. The visible existence of the Jewish nation ceased for a time. The daughters of Jerusalem hung their harps upon the willows by the rivers of Babylon, and Judah lay desolate.
Then, about five hundred years before the first advent of Christ, there came suddenly and unexpectedly deliverance and restoration. Ezra and Nehemiah were raised up to lead back and reorganize in the land a remnant of the people. The temple of God rose from its ashes once more on Mount Moriah. Jerusalem was rebuilt, and its civil and religious polity restored; it was surrounded with walls and towers; the long forgotten word of God was recovered, and read in the audience of the people; and as the language had become somewhat obsolete during the seventy years of the Babylonish captivity, the Jewish reformers, we are told, not only "read in the book in the law of God distinctly," but they also "gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading" (#Neh 8:8).
The restoration from Babylon inaugurated a blessed era of civil and religious liberty. The restored remnant were not without severe trials; it was by no means easy for them to accomplish their task in face of the persistent and successful opposition of Sanballat the Horonite and his confederates and companions. Again and again the work had to cease, and the people would have given up in despair but for the encouraging and stimulating words of Haggai, Zechariah, and other prophets. The joint ministry of Ezra and Nehemiah seems to have lasted about half a century, and they were permitted to see the work accomplished, the Jewish people liberated from their long exile, and, better still, from all tendency to heathenism and idolatry. They never fell back into that sin after the return from Babylon. The long suspended worship of God was restored; magistrates, judges, and teachers of the law were appointed over the land. The people entered into a solemn covenant to separate themselves from all idolaters, and even, painful as it was, from the heathen wives some of them had taken; and before Ezra and Nehemiah passed to their rest the people, the worship, the temple, and the city were all restored, and the canon of Old Testament Scripture was arranged and closed.
Many political and military troubles arose afterwards, but no such overthrow and restoration. It was to that second temple that Christ came, thus making the glory of the latter house greater than that of the former.
Need I interpret all this true and yet typical history? Does it not apply itself to the later antitypical history? Have you not seen the Reformation of the sixteenth century as I have described the return from Babylon? Is not Jerusalem the true Church, and Babylon the false? and is not Babylon, Rome? Scripture distinctly states this. "The woman which thou sawest" (whose brow was branded "Babylon") "is that great city which reigneth over the kings of the earth." The angel said this to John. In Johns days no other great city than Rome ruled over the kings of the earth. Babylon represents Rome. The captive Jews represent Gods people oppressed in and by Rome. Their deliverance and restoration, under Ezra and Nehemiah, represent the Reformation under Luther and Calvin and other reformers. Their repentance and abandonment of idolatry, their reading of the word of God and re-establishment of the worship of God, all this had its parallel in the movement we have described. Their rebuilding of Jerusalem and reorganization of Jewish polity and national life foreshadowed the constitution of reformed Protestant communities and nations; the duration of the two movements was the same, about half a century; the results of the two movements were similar; in spite of much bitter but futile opposition; the proportion of the restored remnant was the same, representatives of only two tribes out of the twelve returned to Jerusalem.
Protestantism is growing now with amazing rapidity; but at the end of the sixteenth century it was small, compared with the hosts of Romanism. Both movements consisted of a spiritual work, an ecclesiastical work, and a political work. Both are connected with a recovered Bible, and both "gave the sense" of the original documents to the common people, or made them understand the word of God. Luther, Tyndale, and others translated the Bible into the vulgar tongues of Europe. The close and wonderful parallel extends to many particulars, which I have no time to indicate. Both movements occur late in the stories to which they respectively belong; and if the first advent belongs to the days of the restored temple, we have every reason to believe that the second will take place in this Protestant era, for, as I will show you presently, a chronological prediction occurs in the prophecy of it in Revelation.
But I must revert to the point of Israels idolatry for a moment, and ask you to glance at the remarkable development of this same sin in the apostasy in the Romish Church.
All through its history idolatry has been the most marked characteristic of the Papal system. Romanism is simply the old Roman paganism revived under Christian names. Romanism and paganism bear to each other the most exact and extraordinary resemblance.
Had paganism its temples and altars, its pictures and images? So has Popery. Had paganism its use of holy water and its burning of incense? So has Popery. Had paganism its tonsured priests, presided over by a pontifex maximus, or sovereign pontiff? So has Popery; and it stamps this very name, which is purely heathen in origin, upon the coins, medals, and documents of the arrogant priest by whom it is governed. Had paganism its claim of sacerdotal infallibility? So has Popery. Had paganism its adoration of a visible representative of Deity carried in state on mens shoulders? So has Popery. Had paganism its ceremony of kissing the feet of the sovereign pontiff? So has Popery. Had paganism its college of pontiffs? So has Popery, in the college of cardinals. Had paganism its religious orders? So has Popery. Had paganism its stately robes, its crowns and crosiers of office? So has Popery. Had paganism its adoration of idols, its worship of the queen of heaven, its votive offerings? So has Popery. Had paganism its rural shrines and processions? So has Popery. Had paganism its pretended miracles, its speaking images, and weeping images, and bleeding images? So has Popery. Had paganism its canonization of saints, as in the deification of the dead Caesars? So has Popery. Had paganism its idolatrous calendar and numerous festivals? So has Popery. Had paganism its enforced celibacy, its mystic signs, its worship of relics? So has Popery. Had paganism its cruel persecution of those who opposed idolatry? So has Popery. Was paganism satanically inspired? So is Popery. God overthrew paganism; Satan revived it under Christian names: but God shall yet destroy it, and sweep its hateful presence from the earth.
And further, just as there never failed in Israel
A LINE OF FAITHFUL WITNESSES
to testify against the idolatry of the people of God, so also in the case of Romanism. All the prophets testified against Jewish idolatry. Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, Hosea and Amos were burning witnesses against it; but perhaps the most typical witness of all was Elijah the Tishbite. This holy and earnest man was one who feared God, and consequently feared not the face of his fellow man. Though Jezebel had slain the prophets of the Lord, he hesitates not to startle Ahab with the bold accusation that his idolatries were the cause of the famine that was desolating the land. "I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy fathers house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the Lord, and thou has followed Baalim."
Forced to flee to the wilderness when Jezebel seeks his life, hear him plead with God that he had been jealous for His name, "because the children of Israel have forsaken Thy covenant, thrown down Thine altars, and slain Thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away."
Like these Jewish witnesses, the Christian witnesses of later days were very jealous for the Lord, grieved and indignant at the desecration of His name and cause. Like the prophets they were opposed, despised, denounced, persecuted, exiled, and slain. Who were these Christian witnesses? They were, to use the words of one of them, an exiled Huguenot, "those who since the birth of anti-Christianity have cried against its errors and idolatries." If you wish to know their names this Huguenot will tell you. He says in his "Commentary on the Apocalypse," "they were called Berengarians, Stercorists, Waldenses, Albigenses, Leonists, Petrobrusians, Henricians, Wicliffites, Lollards, etc.; as they are now styled Lutherans, Zwinglians, Calvinists, Sacramentarians, Huguenots, heretics, schismatics, etc; and to these reproachful names their enemies added fines, confiscations, imprisonments, banishments, and condemnations to death."1
Read Foxes "Acts and Monuments of the Martyrs" if you desire a fuller account of the lives and testimony of these faithful witnesses against antichrist and his abominable idolatries, and of the sufferings they endured in the cause of truth through weary centuries. God never left Himself without a witness. All through the dark ages there were bold and holy men who stood aloof from Romes corruptions, as we have seen, who denounced her idolatries, who endured her malice, who dared the fury of the wild beast, who resisted unto blood striving against sin. We shall have to speak again of these witnesses in connection with the New Testament prophecy of the Reformation.
Meantime let me remind you that from the existence of this analogy it follows that the moral judgments which are applicable to the Jewish apostasy and reformation are equally so to the Christian. To justify the Christian apostasy is in principle to justify that Jewish apostasy so signally condemned in the Word of God; and to condemn the Christian reformation is in principle to condemn that Jewish reformation so evidently sealed with divine approval. To approve the apostasy, whether Jewish or Christian, is to approve the work of sin and Satan; and to condemn the Reformation, whether Jewish or Christian, is to condemn the work of divine providence and grace. The enemies of the Reformation are the enemies of God. Those who would pull down the sanctuary which the Reformation reared would have pulled down the second temple built by the exiles restored from Babylonish bondage. But what said the promise of God as to that second temple? "Be strong, saith the Lord, and work: for I am with you..I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come: and I will fill this house with glory, saith the Lord of hosts..The glory of this latter house shall be greater than that of the former, saith the Lord of hosts: and in this place will I give peace." 2 And again, "The Lord whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to His temple." 3
NEW TESTAMENT PROPHECY OF THE REFORMATION
We turn now, in the second place, to THE PROPHECIES OF THE REFORMATION in the last book of the Bible. Here again the prediction is an acted one; but instead of being acted in real history, it is acted as on a stage. The whole drama of the Apocalypse is thus acted. Symbolic beings perform symbolic actions. The dramatis personae seen in vision by St. John include heavenly, earthly, and satanic beings, all of whom are representative, symbolical. Christ is represented by "a lamb as it had been slain," or by a mighty, cloud-clothed angel; Satan, as inspiring the Re-man empire, by "a great red dragon"; and so on. In no other way could so vivid a foreview of the events of ages have been presented in so small a compass. The book of Revelation consists of Johns descriptions of the living, moving, acting hieroglyphs he saw. He uses constantly the words, "and I saw," "and I heard." In reading it we should try first to realize accurately what the hieroglyph which John saw and describes was, and then consider what it signified. Other Scripture use of similar figures will in most cases give the clue to the meaning.
John also takes part in the drama himself. He speaks and is spoken to, and when he does so he represents the true witnesses of Christ at the time and in the circumstances prefigured. He is himself a hieroglyph, as it were, and stands as the representative of the true servants of God who would be living in the successive periods the events of which are predicted.
The drama as a whole foreshadows the external and internal history of the Church from Johns own day to the second advent. As its outward history depends largely on the mere political history, many purely secular events, such as the overthrow of the Roman empire, have their place in this prophetic drama. For just as, if a traveler takes a voyage in a ship, the history of the ship becomes for the time his history, just as the story of an individual cannot be told without taking into account his environment, so the story of the Church cannot be told without a consideration of the contemporary state of the world in which it exists. Moreover Providence employs outward events in the government of the Church itself; wars and invasions are judgments; so are revolutions and insurrections, famines and pestilences. They have therefore properly their place in Church history.
But the Church has also an inward spiritual history, which depends, not on earthly events, but on heavenly and satanic action. If she is sustained, revived, increased, and rendered spiritually victorious, it is because her glorious Head is acting in her and on her behalf. If she is betrayed, corrupted, misled, or persecuted and oppressed, it is because Satan is acting against her in and by her enemies. In the Apocalypse these spiritual agencies are symbolized, as well as material historical events. They are seen acting, but always indirectly through outward agents. Thus earthly material events are continually linked in this wonderful prophecy with their hidden spiritual causes. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, angels and archangels, and the spirits of the just, are all seen in action under various symbols; and so also are the devil and his agents. Under the symbols of the dragon and the wild beasts, they are seen opposing and counterworking Christ, and persecuting and slaughtering His faithful witnesses.
The visions of this holy and sanctifying book, to the study of which a special blessing is attached, constitute a prophetic history of the Church and of the world from apostolic days to the present day, and on to the end of this age. They are, as you know, arranged in order in three groups of seven: first seven seals, then seven trumpets, and then seven vials. Speaking broadly (for I have no time to do more, nor is it needful to our subject), the first six seals represent events extending from Johns own day to the fall of paganism and the establishment of Christianity in the Roman earth; while the seventh contains the seven trumpets and all that follows. The first four trumpets depict the Gothic invasions and the overthrow of the old Roman empire in the fifth century. The next two trumpets give events in the East instead of the West, the fifth predicting the Saracenic conquests of the seventh and eighth centuries (symbolized as the ravages of an army of locusts), and the sixth the Turkish invasions of eastern Europe, which extended from the middle of the eleventh century to the middle of the fifteenth. These, and the intolerable misery they occasioned to the Greek Churches of the East, are symbolized under the sixth trumpet by the career of the Euphratean horsemen in the ninth chapter of the book. This vision brings down the prophetic history to the fall of Constantinople, the capital of the eastern empire of Rome, before the Turks in A.D. 1453; and the remainder of the fifteenth century seems covered in the prophecy by the statement that "the rest of the men who were not killed by these plagues, yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and wood." This description of continued obdurate and inveterate apostasy and idolatry applies both to eastern and western Christendom at that time. Thus we are brought down chronologically to the end of the fifteenth century; and then there is a break and a great change in the series of visions!
And what is the next scene that attracts the eye of the holy seer? It is a vision symbolic of the Reformation movement of the sixteenth century, coupled with a retrospective narrative of the history of Christs true witnesses against idolatry, from the beginning of the apostasy to the close of the Protestant Reformation. You will find this most interesting prophecy in the tenth and first thirteen verses of the eleventh chapters of Revelation. Study it carefully at your leisure, and you will see that the vision consists of the manifestation of a glorious mighty angel, who evidently symbolizes Christ Himself, and of the bestowal by Him on John (in his representative character) of three things:
1. Of a little open book which he was to eat;
2. Of a great commission which he was to execute; and
3. Of a reed with which he was to measure the temple of God.
There follows the story of Christs "two witnesses," symbolized as two olive trees and two candlesticks; the narrative of their doings and sufferings, of their persecution and slaughter by their enemies, of their brief, trance-like death, and of their speedy resurrection and exaltation. Lastly, there is a great earthquake or revolution, and the fall of a tenth part of the city, or a tenth part of Roman Christendom.
Do you ask my grounds for asserting that the "mighty Angel" of this vision is no other than Christ Himself? I will give you them! His power and glory, the rainbow encircling His head, the sun-like brightness of His countenance, and the resemblance of His feet to pillars of fire ù all these features identify Him with the Son of man seen by John in the first vision of this book. His position and his words identify him also with the one whom Daniel in his last chapter calls "my Lord." No mere angel is cloud-clothed and rainbow-crowned, resplendent as the sun, or speaks with a voice full of majesty, or assumes an attitude which implies the lordship of earth and sea, setting "his right foot on the sea, and his left foot on the earth." No angel would talk of "my two witnesses," or claim to give to men power and authority. There is a loftiness of tone and a sublimity of appearance and action about this Angel that distinguishes Him from all the other lowly servant angels of the book as widely as heaven is distinguished from earth. It is the Lord of angels and of men alike who is manifested in action at this point in the apocalyptic drama; and the very manifestation prepares us for events of the first magnitude, events like those which succeeded Christs actual manifestation on earth, events like the first promulgation of the gospel in the apostolic age. The manifestation is of course only symbolic. The prediction is not that Christ would visibly appear at the juncture in question. He would act, but indirectly. His action would be the cause of human action. His glorious influence and interference would become visible in the course of mundane events. He would reveal His power in His providence.
This glorious Being holds in His hand, not seven stars, as in the first vision, but a little book ù open. At a command from heaven, John asks the Angel for this little book and receives it with the injunction, "Take it, and eat it up; and it shall make thy belly bitter, but it shall be in thy mouth sweet as honey." It is immediately added, "Thou must prophesy (or preach) again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings." Now the same remarkable figure of eating a book, and then going forth to proclaim to others its contents, does not occur here for the first time. We meet it in the Old Testament, where Ezekiel is commanded to eat a roll, and go and speak to the house of Israel; and the action is thus explained. Ezekiel says: "I did eat it; and it was in my mouth as honey for sweetness. And He said unto me, Son of man, go, get thee unto the house of Israel, and speak with My words unto them..All my words that I shall speak unto thee receive in thine heart, and hear with thine ears. And go, get thee..unto the children of thy people, and speak unto them, and tell them, Thus saith the Lord God; whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear." We have no question therefore as to the meaning of this emblematic action in the vision. John was first to appropriate and digest the contents of the little book, and then to go forth and proclaim its messages to others as the word of the Lord.
Now what is this little book? What can it be but the Bible ù that blessed word of God, His own word? It is here seen given afresh, a second time, to the Church. And indeed, so long had the Bible been buried in Latin, so long withheld from the people, so long made void by the traditions of men, that it was as a new book given afresh to the Church when it was, as it were, rediscovered, restudied, and republished by the reformers at the close of the dark ages.
When Martin Luther, then a student of about twenty years of age, in the University of Erfurt, first accidentally found a Latin Bible, he was amazed.
One day he opens several books of the library, one after the other, to see who their authors were. One of the volumes which he opens in its turn attracts his attention. He has never before seen one like it. He reads the title..It is a Bible! a rare book, at that time unknown. His interest is strongly excited; he is perfectly astonished to find in this volume anything more than those fragments of gospels and epistles which the Church has selected to be read publicly in the churches every sabbath day. Hitherto he had believed that these formed the whole word of God. But here are so many pages, chapters, and books of which he had no idea. His heart beats as he holds in his hand all this divinely inspired Scripture, and he turns over all the leaves with feelings which cannot be described. The first page on which he fixes his attention tells him the history of Hannah and young Samuel. He reads, and his soul is filled with joy to overflowing. The child whom his parents lend to Jehovah for all the days of his life; the song of Hannah, in which she declares that the Lord lifts up the poor from the dust, and the needy from the dunghill, that He may set him with princes; young Samuel growing up in the presence of the Lord: the whole of this history, the whole of the volume which he has discovered, make him feel in a way he has never done before. He returns home, his heart full. "Oh!" thinks he, "would it please God one day to give me such a book for my own!" Luther as yet did not know either Greek or Hebrew, for it is not probable that he studied these languages during the first two or three years of his residence at the university. The Bible which had so overjoyed him was in Latin. Soon returning to his treasure in the library, he reads and re-reads, and in his astonishment and joy returns to read again. The first rays of a new truth were then dawning upon him. In this way God put him in possession of His word. He has discovered the book which he is one day to give his countrymen in that admirable translation in which Germany has now for three centuries perused the oracles of God. It was perhaps the first time that any hand had taken down this precious volume from the place which it occupied in the library of Erfurt. This book lying on the unknown shelves of an obscure chamber, is to become the book of life to a whole people. The Reformation was hid in that Bible. 4
Later on, when soul agony had driven the young student from his loved university into a Benedictine convent, to seek the salvation for which he longed, it was the same blessed book, with its glorious doctrines of the forgiveness of sins and justification by faith alone, that calmed his storm-tossed spirit, and quickened his soul to new spiritual life. Staupitz, the vicar-general of his order, who proved himself a true pastor to the poor young monk, gave him a Bible of his own. His joy was great. He soon knew where to find any passage he needed. With intense earnestness he studied its pages, and especially the epistles of St. Paul. Right valiantly did the young reformer use the sword of the Spirit thus placed in his hand.
The Reformation, which commenced with the struggles of a humble soul in the cell of a convent at Erfurt, has never ceased to advance. An obscure individual, with the word of life in his hand, had stood erect in presence of worldly grandeur, and made it tremble. This word he had opposed, first, to Tetzel and his numerous host; and these avaricious merchants, after a momentary resistance, had taken flight. Next, he had opposed it to the legate of Rome at Augsburg; and the legate, paralyzed, had allowed his prey to escape. At a later period he had opposed it to the champions of learning in the halls of Leipsic, and the astonished theologians had seen their syllogistic weapons broken to pieces in their hands. At last he had opposed it to the pope, who, disturbed in his sleep, has risen up upon his throne, and thundered at the troublesome monk; but the whole power of the head of Christendom this word had paralyzed. The word had still a last struggle to maintain. It behooved to triumph over the emperor of the West, over the kings and princes of the earth, and then, victorious over all the powers of the world, take its place in the Church, to reign in it as the pure word of God. 5
"Let us believe the gospel, let us believe St. Paul, and not the letters and decretals of the pope," Luther was wont to say. "Are you the man that undertakes to reform the Papacy?" said an officer to him one day. "Yes," replied Luther; "I am the man. I confide in Almighty God, whose WORD I have before me." "Sooner sacrifice my body and my life, better allow my arms and legs to be cut off," said he to the archbishop, who tried to persuade him to retract his writings, "than abandon the clear and genuine WORD OF GOD."
From his lonely, Patmos-like prison in the castle of Wartburg, in the forests of Thuringia, Luther gave this priceless treasure, the word of God, to his country in a translation which is still in use in Germany. He felt that the Bible which had liberated him could alone liberate his people. "It was necessary that a mighty hand should throw back the ponderous gates of that arsenal of the word of God in which Luther himself had found his armor, and that those vaults and ancient halls which no foot had traversed for ages should be again opened wide to the Christian people for the day of battle." "Let this single book," he exclaims, "be in all tongues, in all lands, before all eyes, in all ears, in all hearts"; and again, "The Scripture, without any commentary, is the sun from which all teachers must receive light."
And not Luther only, but all the reformers ù like the apostles ù held up the word of God alone for light, just as they held up the sacrifice of Christ alone for salvation. They gave to the world the book which Christ had given to them, which they had found sweet to their souls, though it subsequently brought on them bitter trouble. It was an established principle of the Reformation to reject nothing but what was opposed to "some clear and formal declaration of the Holy Scriptures." "Here only is found the true food of the soul," said Luther, familiar as he was with the writings of the philosophers and schoolmen ù "here only." "You say, Oh if I could only hear God! Listen then, O man, my brother. God, the Creator of heaven and earth, is speaking to you."
The New Testament once printed and published did more to spread the revival of primitive Christianity than all the other efforts of the reformers. The translation was a splendid one; as a literary work it charmed all classes. It was sold for so moderate a sum that all could procure it, and it soon established the Reformation on an immovable basis. Scores of editions were printed in an incredibly short time. The Old Testament from the same hand soon followed, and both were diffused through a population, familiar till then only with the unprofitable writings of the schoolmen. The Bible was received with the utmost avidity. "You have preached Christ to us," said the people to the reformer; "you enable us now to hear His own voice." In vain Rome kindled her fires and burnt the book. It only increased the demand, and ere long the Papal theologians, finding it impossible to suppress Luthers translation, were constrained to print a rival translation of their own.
Once the Bible was thus read in the households of Christendom, the great change could not be averted. A new life, new thoughts, new standards, a new courage sprang up. Gods own words were heard at the firesides of the people, and the power of the priest was gone. "The effect produced was immense. The Christianity of the primitive Church, brought forth by the publication of the Holy Scriptures from the oblivion into which it had fallen for ages, was thus presented to the eyes of the nation; and this was sufficient to justify the attacks which had been made upon Rome. The humblest individuals, provided they knew the German alphabet, women, and mechanics (this is the account given by a contemporary), read the New Testament with avidity. Carrying it about with them, they soon knew it by heart, while its pages gave full demonstration of the perfect accordance between the Reformation of Luther and the Revelation of God." 6
It was the same in France. In 1522 a translation of the four Gospels was published in France by one Lefevre, and soon after the whole New Testament. Then followed a version of the Psalms. In France, as in Germany, the effect was immense. Both the learned and noble and the common people were moved. "In many," says a chronicler of the sixteenth century, "was engendered so ardent a desire to know the way of salvation, that artisans, carders, spinners, and combers employed themselves, while engaged in manual labor, in conversing on the word of God, and deriving comfort from it. In particular, Sundays and festivals were employed in reading the Scriptures and inquiring after the goodwill of the Lord."
The pious Briconnet, Bishop of Meaux, sent a copy to the sister of Francis I, urging her to present it to her brother "This from your hands," added he, "cannot but be agreeable. It is a royal dish," continued the good bishop, "nourishing without corrupting, and curing all diseases. The more we taste it, the more we hunger for it, with uncloying and insatiable appetite." "The gospel," wrote LeFevre in his old age, "is already gaining the hearts of all the grandees and people, and soon, diffusing itself over all France, it will everywhere bring down the inventions of men." The old doctor had become animated; his eyes, which had grown dim, sparkled; his trembling voice was again full toned. It was like old Simeon thanking the Lord for having seen His Salvation. Farel, the French reformer, maintained the sole sufficiency of the word of God as a rule of faith, and the duty of returning to its use. In the great Protestant Confession of Augsburg it is by a simple reference to Scripture that the new doctrines of the Reformation are justified. From first to last, from its incipient germ in the soul of Luther to the crowning day of the Reformation, the Bible was the very heart and core of the movement; and Protestantism has since deluged the world with Bibles. Do you wonder then that prophecy makes the giving of a "little book open" to the representative of the Church at that time a leading feature of its prefiguration?
But you must note that this was not the only thing given to John by the mighty Angel. There follows a great commission, which he was to execute.
He who of old had said to His disciples, "Go ye into all the world, and proclaim the glad tidings to every creature," renews this commission to John in his representative character, and says to him, "Thou must prophesy (or preach) again, before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings." It is a second sending to the world of the gospel message, a second appointment of witnesses to proclaim the glad tidings.
And this was needed, for the fundamental ordinance of gospel preaching had long fallen into entire disuse among Romanists; the preacher had been lost in the sacrificing priest; the people had for ages had none to break to them the bread of life. Luther shrank at first from the office of a preacher, but it was forced on him by circumstances. After he had finished his translation of the book, and returned from his seclusion in the Wartburg, he began to publish the truth from the pulpit as well as through the press. "It is not from men," he wrote to the Elector, "that I received the gospel, but from heaven, from the Lord Jesus; and henceforth I wish to reckon myself simply His servant, and to take the title of evangelist." He began to preach in an old wooden hall in Wittemberg, and soon the largest churches were thronged to hear him. Within two or three years the gospel was being preached as well as read all over Germany, and in Sweden, Denmark, Pomerania, Livonia, France, Belgium, Spain, and Italy, and also in our own isle. Bilney had procured a copy of Erasmus New Testament, and found comfort and saving light in its study. "Then," he says, "the Scriptures became to me sweeter than honey or the honeycomb"; adding, "as soon as, by the grace of God, I began to taste the sweets of that heavenly lesson which no man can teach but God alone, I begged the Lord to increase my faith, and at last desired nothing more than that I being so comforted of Him might be strengthened by His Spirit to teach sinners His ways."
Renouncing the Romish title of "priest" and that of doctor, Luther, in a treatise against Papal orders, styles himself simply, "the preacher," and the reformed Churches provided for a continuance, not of sacrificing priests, but of gospel preachers. "In the Popedom," says Luther in his "Table Talk," "they invest priests not for the office of preaching and teaching Gods word; for when a bishop ordaineth one he saith, Take to thee power to celebrate mass, and to offer for the living and the dead. But we ordain ministers, according to the command of Christ,...to preach the pure gospel and the word of God." So in the reformed Swedish Church it was enacted that none should be ordained who did not approve themselves both able and willing to preach the gospel. Instead of putting into the hands of the newly ordained the chalice and the patten, the reformers presented them with "a little book" ù the New Testament ù saying, Wake thou authority to read and to preach the gospel." If a recovered Bible be the first and greatest feature of the Reformation, most assuredly a renewal of gospel preaching stands next.
But a third thing was also given to John (in his representative character). In the vision, it was "a reed like unto a rod," with which he was to measure "the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein," omitting, or casting out, the outer court, which was given up to the Gentile enemies who were treading down the holy city. It was a measuring reed in the first place, but it looked like a rod of princely or ecclesiastical authority ù "a reed like a rod." This measuring of "the temple of God" ù the symbol of the outward, visible Church in the world ù and this command to define and measure out its boundaries and dimensions, including one portion, and excluding another, looks like a direction to give attention and definition to the ecclesiastical foundations and boundaries, or limits, of the new reformed Churches, and to separate them in a formal public manner from the apostate Church of Rome.
If Protestant Christianity owed its birth to the Bible, and its early growth to revived gospel preaching, it owed its continued existence to its definite constitution as a separate ecclesiastical organization from Romanism. This came in due course. At first the reformers had to attend to the core and kernel of the movement; its spiritual side claimed all their efforts. A reformation of creed, of doctrine, of life and manners, of worship, of ordinances ù all this came first. But there followed ù and if the change was to be permanent there had to follow ù something additional and of a different character. When the child was born, it had to be dressed and named; life first, organization afterwards.
There had to come an embodiment of the new life in a new Church organization, and ù a definite separation from Rome. It was not merely that Rome on her part excommunicated and anathematized those whom she called heretics. The reformers felt that they had a solemn duty to perform. They had to justify their own separation from the apostasy by a public denunciation of it as such. They had to cast it out as any part of the true Church of Christ. They had to constitute a new evangelical and Protestant Church, to provide it with schools and colleges, with ministers, services, and buildings, and all the outward requirements of a fully organized system of religion.
This accordingly was the next stage of the Reformation movement, both in Germany and elsewhere. And this could not be done effectually without the concurrence of the governments of the respective countries. If Romish authority was to be thrown off, if public property was to be converted to Protestant uses, if Papal ordination was to be rejected and Papal bishops refused, the governments must evidently take part, and sanction the great change. Hence the need of the "rod" of authority; nor was it lacking when the time came for its use.
I have not time to trace the story. The Elector John, assuming to himself, like our own Henry VIII, the supremacy of the Church as a natural right of the Crown, "exercised it with resolution and activity, by forming new ecclesiastical constitutions, modeled on the principles of the great reformer." "Come, let us build the wall, that we be no more a reproach," said Nehemiah to the Jews. And so Luther and Melanchthon and other reformers urged the introduction into the reformed Churches of new formularies of public worship, the appropriation of the ecclesiastical revenues to the reformed parochial clergy and schools, and the ordination of a fresh supply of ministers independently of Rome. A general visitation of the churches was made by the princes desire, to see to the execution of the new system, and complete what might be wanting to the establishment throughout Saxony of a
SEPARATE EVANGELIC CHURCH.
In this feature the Reformation differed from all the earlier movements of a kindred nature, such as that of the Lollards in England or of Huss in Bohemia. As Schlegel remarks in his "Philosophy of History," "It was by the influence Luther acquired by asserting the kings authority, as well as by the sanction of the civil power, that the Reformation was promoted and consolidated. Without this, Protestantism would have sunk into the lawless anarchy that marked the proceedings of the Hussites." This change took place in all the reformed States, the measuring reed like a rod being given by the civil authorities to the founders of the new communions, that they might solidly construct them on a permanent basis.
The outer court, representing the apostate Church, they on the other hand formally cast out. It was insisted on at the Diet of Augsburg that "the Roman pope, cardinals, and clergy did not constitute the Church of Christ, though there existed among them some that were real members of that Church, and opposed the reigning errors. That the true Church consists of none but the faithful, who had the word of God, and were by it sanctified and cleansed; while, on the other hand, what Paul had predicted of antichrists coming and sitting in the temple of God had had its fulfillment in the Papacy; and that the reformed Churches were not guilty of schism in separating themselves, and casting out Romish superstitions." In his answer to the pope, Luther writes: "Rome has cut herself off from the universal Church; if ye reform not, I and all that worship Christ do account your seat to be possessed and oppressed by Satan himself, to be the damned seat of antichrist, which we will not be subject to nor incorporate with, but do detest and abhor the same."
This formal separation of the reformers from the apostate Church, and this formal organization of the new Churches, holding evangelic faith, and using a pure ritual, is the fulfillment of this part of the symbolic prophecy of the Reformation; but we must not pause to justify this interpretation, as a most important and interesting section of our subject lies still before us. Thus far we have seen that the Reformation is predicted as first the result of the action and interference on her behalf of the glorious Head of the Church, that it was produced instrumentally by a recovered Bible and by a renewed gospel testimony in all lands, and that it issued in the development of a new ecclesiastical organization.
A retrospective narrative of the history of Christs two witnesses is then given, which time forbids my fully expounding now. These witnesses unquestionably represent the faithful evangelic Churches, which held fast the gospel all through the dark ages of Roman apostasy. They are called candlesticks; and we are told in the first chapter of the book that CANDLESTICKS SYMBOLIZE CHURCHES. They are also called olive trees, and this figure is used in Zechariah (where two such trees are seen supplying the candlestick with oil) to represent faithful ministers. The double symbol seems to predict, that all through the darkest period of antichristian apostasy, faithful Churches, ministered to by faithful pastors, should exist. They might be few and feeble, persecuted and hidden, small in numbers, and inconspicuous in status; yet acting as Christs faithful witnesses, and holding forth the word of life, they would keep alight amid the darkness the lamp of truth.
The number two is used apparently in compliance with the law of testimony. "In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established." These witnesses are not individuals, but Churches, and their prophesying or preaching lasts all through the dark ages, through the entire period of Papal domination, with the exception of one brief interval, during which they are to all appearance killed ù extinct.
In addition to witnessing for Christ and to His gospel, these evangelical Churches would also witness against the Roman antichrist and his assumptions. And the result would naturally be intense opposition on his part. When their testimony reached this point, he would make war with them, until at last he would overcome and kill them; that is, he would silence their witness completely. He would so exterminate Bible Christians wherever they were found in Christendom, by persecution unto death, that as witnessing Churches, maintaining a public testimony to the truth, they would cease to exist. Individuals, of course, would still ù like the seven thousand in Israel who had not bowed the knee to Baal ù hold fast their integrity; but such would be the power of the oppressor, that they would have to hide their heads and hold their peace, in face of a mighty and triumphant and universal idolatry. This state of things would however be of very brief duration; for at the end of three years and a half the death-like silence would be broken, the voice of true testimony would once more be publicly heard, the witnessing Churches would experience a wonderful and startling resurrection, which would greatly alarm the enemies who witnessed it; and instead of being oppressed and extinguished, the faithful Churches would thenceforth be exalted and established. Such is the prediction of Revelation 11 translated from symbolic into plain language.
Now to those who are familiar with the Church history of the middle ages all this reads like history. It is a sketch from nature, in which all the leading features of a well-known landscape are clearly discernible, though laid down only in a small miniature. All came to pass precisely as here foretold. As superstitions and apostasy darkened down over Christendom, and an ever- increasing multitude faithlessly bowed the knee to Baal; as the man of sin gradually developed his power and his false pretensions at Rome ù protests arose here and there, and witnesses for Christ sprang up whose records remain with us to this day. In the East there were the Paulicians, who arose about the middle of the seventh century, and whom we know principally through the writings of their foes, who brand them as heretics. Already, even at that date, the priests withheld the Testament from the laity as too mysterious for the comprehension of common people, and a sort of paganized Christianity had begun to prevail, when a man named Constantine, who had come into possession of the gospels and of the epistles of St. Paul, and received their teachings into his heart, set himself like the great apostle himself to propagate the truth by extensive missionary labors. He pledged his followers to read no other book, and hold no other doctrines than those of Scripture, and his thirty years of labor produced what his enemies called a sect, but what seems to have been in reality a true Christian Church. A persecuting edict was issued against it; Constantine himself was stoned to death, his successor burned alive, with other leaders of the party. A subsequent president of the sect, one Sergius, writes, "From East to West and from North to South, I have run, preaching the gospel of Christ, and toiling with these my knees." His faithful ministry lasted for thirty-four years, and tended to the large extension of the Church, which was bitterly persecuted by the eastern emperors of Rome. He too sealed his testimony with his blood, urging his followers to "resist not evil." The Empress Theodora slaughtered and drowned one hundred thousand of these Paulician Christians, without extinguishing them. Her cruelties, however, at last drove them to resistance, and they lost to some extent the purity and godliness which had marked their earlier days. They spread into Thrace and as far as Philippopolis, and even as late as the twelfth century it was found impossible to reconcile them to the Catholic faith.
In the West, the confessors of Christ were similarly raised up in the early part of the seventh century, just when Gregory the Great was founding at Rome the distinctive system of Latin Christianity. Serenus, Bishop of Marseilles, protested both by word and deed against image worship ù one of the most characteristic features of Romanism. In the great Council of Frankfort, A.D. 794, under Charlemagne, a protest was made by the emperor and three hundred bishops of the West, in opposition to the popes, on this subject of image worship; and the Council of Paris, in A.D. 825, accompanied its decrees against the practice with an express rebuke to the pope. In fact, the Gallican Churches at this time held many views which we should now call Protestant, in opposition to the doctrines already prevalent at Rome; such as the sufficiency of the Scriptures, prayers in the vulgar tongue, the nature of the eucharist, and the truth as to justification and repentance, the folly of relics and pretended miracles, and other similar practices. Claude, the good Bishop of Turin, has been called "the Protestant of the West." He was a contemporary of Sergius ù "the Protestant of the East" ù in the ninth century. He was a true, fearless, enlightened witness for Christ, though men called him a "heretic." He took Scriptures as his guide, and protested against all the Romish innovations. He delighted, like Augustine, to set forth Christ and Divine grace through Him as the all in all in mans salvation. "With the utmost fullness, unreserve, and precision he asserts the great doctrine of mans forgiveness and justification in all ages through faith alone in Christs merits, and not by any works of the law, ceremonial or moral."
Claude of Turin, though thus faithful, was not martyred, for the Papacy had not at that time established its supremacy in Savoy; but he was sorely persecuted, and his prophesying or preaching was "in sackcloth," like the emblematic witnesses. "If the Lord had not helped me, they would have swallowed me up quick," he writes. "They who see us do not only scoff but point at us." His diocese was a wide one, and his influence great, nor did it soon pass away. Traces of its effects may be found long after his departure; faithful witnesses continued to hold and teach the truth, as the corruptions around them increased. A sect who are mentioned by their enemies as "prophets" in the tenth century seem to have been spiritually descended from this good Bishop of Turin, and his sphere continued in Papal estimation to be a hotbed of heretics.
Later on, in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, we have numerous accounts of "heretics," who were brought before the Councils of Orleans, Arras, Toulouse, Oxford, and Lombers. The accounts still extant of the examinations of these so-called heretics show that, so far from being such, they were men who witnessed a good confession, and held fast the doctrines of the apostles. They denied all the distinctive teachings and practices of Popery, and were blameless and godly in their lives, even by the admission of their foes. Berenger, in the middle of the eleventh century, was the founder of a fresh witnessing Church, or, as his enemies put it, a fresh set of heretics. He was principal of a public school, and afterwards Archdeacon of Angers, and began by contending against the dogma of transubstantiation. He was a brilliantly clever, learned, and good man, and much venerated by the people. His doctrines were condemned by Papal councils; he was deprived of his benefice: but he had not the fortitude of a martyr, and was at last driven to retract through fear. Still he employed poor scholars to disseminate his doctrine, and died a penitent for his own want of courage and fidelity in A.D. 1088.
Time would fail me to tell of Peter de Bruys and his disciple Henry ù the Whitefield of his age and country ù who, after having almost overthrown the Papal system in Languedoc and Provence, was seized, convicted, imprisoned, and some say burned; of the heretics of Cologne, in 1147, who "bare the torment of the fire, not only with patience, but with joy and gladness"; of the thirty poor publicani, as they were called, tried at Oxford in 1160, who, convicted of holding the truth of Christ and denying the errors of Rome, were "branded on their foreheads, beaten with rods before the eyes of the populace,...publicly scourged, and with the sounding of whips cast out of the city."
A prohibition having been previously made that none should succor or shelter them, these poor, persecuted witnesses for Jesus, whose garments had been cut down to the girdle ù though the weather was cold and inclement ù perished in helpless wretchedness, yet singing, "Blessed are ye, when men hate you and persecute you!"
Nor can I pause to speak of the Henricians, who were condemned in 1165 for their noble testimony to the truth, and against the errors of the wolves in sheeps clothing who were called priests; nor of others who formed links in the long chain of witnesses which extended from the seventh to the twelfth centuries. One and all they endured privations and sufferings, which bear out the emblem of being clothed in sackcloth; and one and all they exhibited a self-denial, an unwearied zeal, and a degree of consistency and fortitude which show they were sustained by the power of Christ, according to this prediction: "I will give power unto My two witnesses, and they shall prophesy, clothed in sackcloth."
But I must pass on to the great witnessing Church of the Waldenses. Would that I could tell its thrilling story! Read it for yourselves; it deserves to be restudied in these dangerous days of latitudinarian indifference to truth or falsehood in doctrine. This far-famed "sect," or true Church of Christ, arose in A.D. 1179; some of its members were present at the third Lateran Council, with their books. Pope Alexander III showed them some favor, but they and their writings were condemned and anathematized by his successors, and persecution forthwith arose against them. They had a powerful missionary spirit, however, and their views soon spread in every direction; Provence, Languedoc, Arragon, Dauphine, and Lombardy were speedily permeated with the gospel, as preached by them. Their doctrine, as illustrated in their ancient poem called "The Noble Lesson," was scriptural and spiritual; and they protested against the Romish system, as one of soul- destroying error, against the confessional, against purgatory, against masses for the dead and the assumption of power to forgive sin, and against the love of money which marked the whole system. They denounced the Papacy as antichrist in a separate treatise. These Waldenses united all their communities into the bond of one Church, cultivated learning, eschewed mere ignorant fanaticism, and were filled with zeal and prudence. Their motto was, "The light shineth in darkness"; and their symbol or crest, a lighted candle in a candlestick the very symbol employed in this prediction of them and their fellow witnesses.
But we must now recall that the prophecy not only presents the whole line of faithful witnesses as sufferers and mourners by the sackcloth emblem, but that it predicts that at a certain stage in their history the Roman wild beast would in some specially definite way make war against them, conquer them, and kill them. This part of the prophecy began to receive its fulfillment at the end of the twelfth century, when, at the third Lateran Council (A.D. 1179), the Popedom roused itself collectively to a war of extermination against heretics. Previously to this, separate members of the system, acting alone and independently, had opposed the truth by force and cruelty. But in the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth centuries, Romanism, then in the plenitude of its power, gathered itself together for a great, determined, united, and persistent effort to crush out all that opposed its supremacy, and to clear Christendom of heresy.
This deadly onslaught against the saints was predicted, as you will remember, both by Daniel and by John in their foreviews of the Roman antichrist. He was to wear out the saints of the Most High, and prevail against them. Here the same fierce and fatal antagonism comes in as an incident in the career of the two representative "witnesses," who symbolize the succession of evangelical Churches, which kept up the testimony of Jesus during the dark ages. During the three centuries we have just mentioned the furnace was heated seven times hotter than it was wont to be heated. Persecution raged systematically. The fourth Lateran Council, in 1215, sanctioned all former plans for the extirpation of heresy, urged their adoption with renewed vigor, and subordinated secular authority to spiritual powers for the purpose. If kings would not clear their dominions of heresy, their subjects were to be absolved from all allegiance to them. Crusades against heretics were to be organized, and to secure the same privileges and rewards as crusades against the Turks. The Holy Scriptures were to be interdicted to the laity; even children were to be forced to denounce their own relatives.
All sorts of methods were to be used for the detection of heretics; bishops were to gird themselves for the work of ferreting out and exterminating them; and all the Franciscan and Dominican monks were to supply instruments for carrying out this process of inquisition and blood. The Waldenses and Albigenses were, of course, especially singled out for extermination. A crusade was proclaimed against them, and plenary absolution promised to all who should perish in the holy war. Never was a more merciless spirit of murder exhibited than by these terrible crusaders against the meek and lowly and Christian-spirited Vaudois. The Inquisition ù that invention of Dominic, or rather Gregory IX ù established its horrid tribunal for making inquest after unseen, secret "heresy"; and wherever any revival of true religion took place, or any confessors of Christ could be found, there they were hunted, if possible, to death. Genuine disciples of Christ, under whatever name they might pass, whether called Petrobrusians, Catharists, Waldenses, Albigenses, Wicliffites, Lollards, Hussites, Bohemians, or any other name, it mattered not ù to the torture and the stake with them if they held fast the gospel of Christ! Savonarola, one of the wisest and worthiest of the age, was burnt at the stake in 1498. Seven years of cruel war raged against the Hussites, and a civil persecution yet more bitter followed. Eighteen thousand soldiers were sent into the valleys of Piedmont, towards the end of the fourteenth century, to exterminate the Waldenses of Piedmont, and appropriate to themselves all their property. The Christians of Val Louise, in Dauphiny, were actually exterminated, burned alive, and suffocated in the caves in which they had sought refuge. Four hundred infants were found dead in their mothers arms, and 3,000 perished in the struggle.
Lorente calculates, from official reports, that in the forty years prior to the Reformation, the Inquisition alone burned 13,000 persons and condemned 169,000. The latter half of the fifteenth century was a time of Satans raging against the saints. But in spite of racks and prisons and sword and flame, the voices of the witnesses of Jesus were still raised in behalf of the truth, and against the power and pretensions of antichrist.
At last, however, as the fifteenth century drew to a close, the furious crusade seemed about to accomplish its object. The beast had all but conquered and killed the witnesses, according to the prediction. The strong figure employed of the witnesses lying dead for three and a half days, means, of course, that their testimony was silenced. They no longer prophesied; they were silent, helpless, extinct for a brief period. They were worn out. The wild beast from the abyss had prevailed against them. For the moment the struggle was over.
The fulfillment of this part of the vision was at the opening of the sixteenth century, just before the Reformation movement commenced. Hear Mosheims description of the crisis. "As the sixteenth century opened, no danger seemed to threaten the Roman pontiffs. The agitations excited in former centuries by the Waldenses, Albigenses, Beghards, and others, and afterwards by the Bohemians, had been suppressed and extinguished by counsel and by the sword. The surviving remnant of Waldenses hardly lived, pent up in the narrow limits of Piedmontese valleys, and those of the Bohemians, through their weakness and ignorance, could attempt nothing, and thus were an object of contempt rather than fear." Milner, the Church historian, says that at this date, though the name of Christ was professed everywhere in Europe, nothing existed that could properly be called evangelical. All the confessors of Christ, "worn out by a long series of contentions, were reduced to silence." "Everything was quiet," says another writer; "every heretic exterminated." This was not, of course, literally true. The Lord knoweth them that are His, and had even in that darkest hour of the night that precedes the dawn, His own who served Him secretly. But so far as collective testimony before Europe was concerned, the witnesses were dead! Their enemies gloried in the fact. The Lateran Council congratulated itself that Christendom was no longer afflicted by heresies, and, as one of its orators said, addressing Leo X, "Jam nemo reclamat, nullus obsistit." "There is an end of resistance to the Papal rule, and religious opposers exist no more." And again, "The whole body of Christendom is now seen to be subjected to its head, i.e. to thee." Leo commanded a great jubilation, and granted a plenary indulgence in honor of the event. Dean Waddington, describing the close of this council, says: "The pillars of Romes strength were visible and palpable, and she surveyed them with exultation from her golden palaces." "The assembled prelates separated with complacency and confidence, and with mutual congratulations on the peace, unity, and purity of the apostolic Church." "The power of Rome was de facto paramount in the Church." So Neander says: "The edifice of an unlimited Papal monarchy had at that time come victoriously out of all the preceding flights, and established itself on a firm basis. In the last Lateran Council at Rome, the principle of an unlimited Papal power was established, in opposition to the principle of general councils, and the Waldenses and Hussites had no more any importance to fight against the Papacy." So another writer 7 says: "At the commencement of the sixteenth century Europe reposed in the deep sleep of spiritual death. There was none that moved the wing, or opened the mouth, or peeped."
The witnesses were dead! Never before, and certainly never since, was Rome able to congratulate herself that heresy was extinguished and heretics exterminated from the face of Christendom. It is a fine, striking hieroglyph of the crisis that the prophecy presents. There stands the fierce wild beast monster from the abyss! He has prevailed against his defenseless human victims. The struggle has been long and hard; it has made him all the more savage and impatient: but it is over at last! His jowls still drop with gore, his eyes are red with blood as he stands glaring with his fierce eyes on the pale, cold, silent corpses of Christs two witnesses, so long empowered from above to resist and defy all his might.
As John watched the sad scene, did there not recur to his mind scenes in the amphitheaters of pagan Rome, scenes such as Dore has imagined and painted for us, scenes with which the exile of Patmos was all too familiar? The arena strewn in the pale moonlight with the cold, stiff corpses of the faithful witnesses of Christ; and the victorious wild beast, glutted and sufficed with their flesh and blood, standing guard over the remains! That was the symbol. The reality was ù wimessing Churches silenced by long and bloody persecution. The time ù A.D. 1514, the close of the last Lateran Council, which proclaimed to the world in a formal, official manner the fact that all opposition to Rome had ceased.
Now note the sequel: In 1517 the Reformation began ù the movement which, like a snowball growing ever greater as it rolls along, has in the year 1887 one hundred and tiny millions of adherents, all professing the faith of Christ in opposition to the apostasy of Rome! Witnessing Churches ù Protestant Churches sprang up everywhere, and have been multiplying ever since.
What shall we say? Is not this a resurrection of the witnesses? Rome had crushed them, had she? So she thought! But she knew better before fifty years had rolled by! She knew better when Germany threw off her yoke, and England withdrew from her communion, and Holland resisted her legions, and the trumpet of Protestant defiance deafened her ears, and the earthquake of Reformation revolution shook her throne, and when the outburst of heavenly light so illumined the minds of men that they laughed at her once dreaded excommunications, sat unmoved under the thunders of her interdicts, and boldly tearing the mask of mother Church from her face, exposed her as the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth!
They were dead, were they, the witnesses of Christ? They had no longer any voice to testify, any courage to struggle, any fortitude to resist? So Rome fancied ù till the spirit of life from God entered into them, and they rose up a mighty host to proclaim the glad tidings through Europe, to do and dare and die in their myriads, denouncing Romes "doctrines of devils," with such boldness and power as to arrest the attention of the world, and to produce a revolution of unexampled greatness in Christendom. Rome reeled on its seven hills as if shaken by an earthquake, and a "tenth part" of the Babylonian "city" fell. England, one of the ten kingdoms into which the western Roman empire had been divided, fell away ù separated from Latin Christendom. Thousands perished in the terrible struggle which ensued in many lands, and Rome was worsted in her warfare. The rise of Protestantism was, as the very name attests, the resurrection of the witnesses; the Reformers themselves recognized it as such, and their enemies also. Pope Adrian, Leos successor, wrote in a brief to the Diet of Nuremberg, "The heretics Huss and Jerome seem now to be alive again in the person of Luther."
The Reformation of the sixteenth century commenced in the year 1517. The translation and publication of the Word of God, the definition of Protestant doctrine, and the founding of Protestant Churches occupied the next half-century, while the liberation of Protestant States from Papal dominion was not completed till the century which followed. During much of this period the "war" of the "wild beast" against the "witnesses" continued, and with it the sufferings, "sackcloth" testimony, and slaughter of the latter.
The birth of Protestant Churches and nations in the first half of the sixteenth century did not however, as we know, mark the close of Romes bitter and bloodthirsty opposition to the truth. The Papal war against the witnesses continued to rage all through that century and all through the next with undiminished hatred and cruelty. But there was one great difference. In pre-Reformation times the beast had the best of it; he "prevailed against" the saints; he wore them out, and was at last so far victorious that for a few brief years he completely silenced all corporate testimony to the truth. But after the marvelous resurrection of the witnesses, after the uprising of powerful Protestant communities, duly organized on a permanent basis and backed up by civil power, the Papacy was never again able to silence the witnessing Churches as a whole, never again able to prevail against them simultaneously in all quarters. Her victims had been transformed into her powerful enemies; and while Rome prevailed against the reformers in some lands, they prevailed against her in others. Henceforth Roman Christendom was divided into two camps; and, as of old, the house of Saul grew weaker and weaker, and the house of David stronger and stronger, so there was a gradual loss of power on the part of the Papacy and the Papal nations; and as time passed on, a gradual growth in political influence, material prosperity, intellectual enlightenment, and social condition, on the part of Protestant nations. But at first the struggle was a sore one. Just as Pharaoh pursued the people after he had been compelled reluctantly to let them go, and pursued them to the annihilation of his own power, so Rome pursued the young Protestant Churches of Europe to her own undoing in the end. She stirred up opposition and international conflicts, instigated blood massacres and cruel exiles and banishments, and plunged the reformed communities into a sea of sorrow and trouble: witness the terrible massacre of St. Bartholomew with its 60,000 victims in France, the Marian persecutions in England, the cruel slaughter in six brief years of 18,000 Protestants in the Netherlands, the desolating Thirty Years War in central Europe, and the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, which in 1685 exiled 400,000 Huguenots from France and caused the death of nearly as many more. This may be regarded as the last great act of the Papal war against the witnesses. Protestantism had to pass through a long drawn out agony before Rome recognized, not its right to exist, for she still denies that, but its existence and growth as a fact against which it was useless to fight.
It was not till the close of the seventeenth century, not until the glorious Revolution which placed William of Orange on the throne of England in 1689, that Protestantism was firmly established in England. This event took place about three and a half years after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. Papal supremacy had been abrogated in England in 1534, but in the reign of Mary and again under the Popish Stuarts its very existence was imperiled afresh. The Peace of Ryswick, at the close of 1697, first completely established the civil and religious liberty of Protestants.
All this proves that while the first stage of the resurrection of the "witnesses" took place at the commencement of the Reformation movement of the sixteenth century, their exaltation to political power and supremacy, the establishment of Protestantism, occupied a much longer interval. Like all other similar great movements, the Reformation, starting from an epoch, extended over an era.
Space forbids the exposition of the chronology of this most remarkable period, including its relation to the 1,260 years of prophecy. Suffice it to say, that the interval from A.D. 1534, the date of the abrogation of Papal supremacy in England, and the publication of Luthers Bible in Germany, to A.D. 1697-8, the date of the complete establishment of Protestantism at the Peace of Ryswick, is separated by exactly 1,260 lunar years from A.D. 312-476, or the period which extended from the fall of paganism at the conversion of Constantine to the fall of the western Roman empire.
I have not attempted, nor could I in the compass of this lecture attempt, to expound fully the wonderful Reformation vision of the book of Revelation. I have only glanced at its leading features. There is in it very much more of the deepest interest which I dare not touch at this time because it would take me too far. But have I not said enough to convince you that the great and blessed revival of true doctrine and of spiritual life which took place between three and four centuries ago, and which we call the Reformation, was both foreshadowed in Jewish history and foretold in Christian prophecy, and that in connection with each of these wonderful predictions the seal of Gods approval is conspicuously set on the movement? What is the vision of Revelation 10? One of a divine interference, giving back to the Church the Bible and the preaching of the gospel, and formally separating between apostate Christendom and the true Church. What is the retrospective narrative told by the angel? It is the story of witnessing Churches, sustained for long centuries amid sorrow and poverty and shame, destroyed at last as corporate bodies by the ferocious attacks of the Roman beast, resuscitated however after a very brief interval, and exalted to political power in spite of all enemies. Such is the prediction; such have been the facts. How came that strange prediction to be incorporated 1,800 years ago with these sacred writings? Realize, if you can, the stupendous marvel of the fact that it is here in this book, and that myriads of men of all nations were for ages engaged, all unconsciously to themselves, in fulfilling it. Realize, if you can, the sublime tenderness and sacred sympathizing approval with which the Savior uttered those simple words, "My two witnesses." Yes, Lord, they were Thy witnesses, those poor, persecuted Lollards and Huguenots, those martyred Waldenses and Paulicians! Thy witnesses, Thou blessed Sufferer, who didst Thyself resist unto blood, striving against sin!
They were witnesses to Thy grace, to Thy glory, to Thine all-sufficient atonement, to Thine only high priesthood and sole mediatorship; and for this they suffered, for this they died! They suffered with Thee; they shall reign with Thee, according to Thine own word, "Where I am, there shall also My servant be."
"My two witnesses"! Ah, Lord, how Thou didst love Thy faithful martyrs! How Thou dost hate the cruel and evil system which for ages made bitter war upon them, and would fain do so still! In persecuting them did it not persecute Thee? Oh, how often didst Thou ask of pope and prelate, as of Saul of Tarsus in earlier days, Why persecutest thou Me?" As we think of these things, must we not share the feelings of the psalmist, and say, "Do not I hate them, O Lord, that hate Thee? Am I not grieved with them that rise up against Thee?" Far, far be it from us to sympathize with the persecutors and lightly esteem the true witnesses, as is the fashion with too many in our days! Let us rather maintain against the great enemy of the gospel the same testimony they held fast amid his fiercest onslaughts, and thus share with them the honor of being numbered by Christ among His faithful witnesses.