Reestablishment of the Christian Religion.—A large number of petitions had indeed been received by the council. Some of the petitions bore the signatures of as many as two hundred townships. The report of the committee was presented by its president, a young deputy named Camille Jordan. His report was a rare piece of eloquence and common sense. He said:
"The time for all kinds of fanaticism has passed. All religions dear to the people have become sacred to its representatives. Religion is necessary to the happiness and prosperity of a nation."
"Faith in God is a better pledge of public order than the best of laws. The people's will on this subject is unanimous, constant, and irresistible. Religion, with its immortal prospects, is the only solace of a nation in the throes of a revolution. It is the only true source of order and morality. We have created thousands of laws within the last few years. What have they done for us, but to flood this lovely empire with crime and destruction? And why ? Because the law teaching how to discern between right and wrong, the law which alone lends value to all other laws, had been torn from the hearts of the people. Let all forms of belief re-create that law in the hearts, and legislators will have little else to do. The thought of proscribing all religion from France is an impious one.
"Let therefore all our fellow citizens be today fully reassured; let everybody. Catholics and Protestants, consider it as the WILL OF THE LEGISLATOR AND THE DESIRE OF THE LAW, THAT THEY ARE AT LIBERTY TO FOLLOW THE RELIGION OF THEIR HEART. LET ME REPEAT TO THEM IN YOUR NAME THE SACRED PROMISE ALL FORMS OF WORSHIP ARE FREE IN FRANCE."
Jordan then proceeded to lay down and to develop at length the consequences deriving from the principle of religious liberty, such as the separation between the church and the state, the support of the clergy, equality between the various cults, the free choice of holidays, legal oaths, processions, the right to own church buildings, the freedom of publishing one's opinions, etc. In conclusion he urged, "Let us hasten, representatives of the people, to place upon these tutelary laws the seal of our approbation!"
There was no discussion on the first part of Jordan's report. Ten or twelve of the most influential speakers added the power of their eloquence in favor of restoring the Christian religion. While a few of them made a plea for the "religion of our fathers," most of the speakers insisted on making a clear distinction between the God and the religion of love, and the "religion of our fathers," which they qualified as the religion of Philip II, of Catherine de Medici, of Saint Bartholomew, and of the dragonnades. The Roman Catholic clergy was repeatedly 'alluded to as a permanent menace to religious freedom. On the main subject—the reopening of the churches and the establishment of religious freedom--no dissenting voice was heard.
The authoritative declarations of Camille Jordan and of the president of the Directory being considered as sufficient, no vote was taken. One of the speakers said: "The main question at issue is the freedom of worship," and many voices interrupted him, saying, "There is no question about that; we are all agreed on that point." For some reason the discussion did not begin until Friday, June 30, when it was postponed till July 9, and continued on July II, 13, 14, 15, and 16, all this time being devoted to minor matters, but especially to the burning question of requiring an oath of loyalty from the priests. This question was finally settled in the negative by the slim majority of 210 to 205. On the fourteenth of July, while the discussion was on, the Executive Directory held an open meeting at the National Palace, possibly for the benefit of the foreign diplomats who were all present. In a short and lofty speech, the president said:
"Let us take a sweep above our miserable differences, and lay a pure and sincere homage at the feet of the Eternal. Let everyone worship Him according to his own heart, in a spirit of unity and love. Let therefore every form of worship be freely exercised under the protection of the nation."
"After Three Days and a Half."—Twice in this prophecy we read that the "dead bodies" of the two witnesses were to lie unburied "in the street of the great city" for "three days and a half." Before looking at the dates furnished by the official documents, let me call attention to the following: First, it is a recognized fact among us that in figurative prophecy a day stands for a year and that the period "three days and a half" corresponds to three years and a half. But this prophecy is couched in terms of symbolic days (or literal years), and not in terms of such small fractions as the hours (or half a month) of Revelation 9:15. Hence, no one should expect to see these three years and a half fulfilled to a day, without any fraction, provided this fraction does not exceed three months, which would bring it to nearer four years. Second, the statement made in "The Great Controversy" about this prophetic period is as follows:
"It was in 1793 that the decrees which abolished the Christian religion and set aside the Bible, passed the French Assembly. Three years and a half later a resolution rescinding these decrees, thus granting toleration to the Scriptures, was adopted by the same body."—Page 287.
A European book committee to whom I had furnished some of the facts and dates given above wrote me on June 30, 1908:
"The matter which you sent us from the records in Paris . . . furnished confirmation of the setting aside of the Christian religion by the French Assembly, and its reestablishment, with the dates. but (quoting "The Great Controversy") it did not contain the specific point for which we were looking. . . . The point we cannot find is with reference to the Bible, a special decree prohibiting the Bible, and then the rescinding of said decree."
A careful reading of the statement in "The Great Controversy" does not bear out such demand. Nor is such a decree likely to be found in the official records which I quote, and which I have carefully examined several times. There were four or five various decrees, every one of which contributed to the official suppression of the Christian religion. The one taken on Novern.ber 23, 1793 (3d Frimaire, Year II, of the Republic), is probably the best one from which to count the three years and a half. It gave religion a finishing and at the same time a tangible blow, by ordering all places of worship to be closed.
If we now inquire: When and how were the atheistic decrees of 1793 rescinded ? it seems plain, from the authentic history before us, that this must have taken place on June 17, 1797, when Camille Jordan, in the name of the National Convention, solemnly proclaimed that "all cults were free in France."
These two dates—November 23, 1793. and June 57, i797—are three years, six months, and twenty-five days apart, or, in round figures, THREE YEARS AND A HALF, plus one month, which is one seventh of a semester, the smaller fraction of time mentioned in the prophecy. Thus it appears that this remarkable prediction, O for the murdering of the two witnesses, and for their lying as dead "in the street of the great city" for ''three days and a half," literally came true.
"After three days and a half" the "two witnesses" "stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which beheld them." In forty thousand Catholic parishes, the churches were reopened. The records of the time describe a remarkable religious revival that then took place. "In most cities the people showed an extraordinary zeal in attending religious services. The places of worship proved too small for the large congregations which crowded into them. Tears trickled down many faces." At Sens, where the Protestants had been cast into the river Seine one hundred years before, all work was laid aside for a time, and in the churches many were seen making amends for past sins by lying prostrate upon their faces.
A portion of the clergy was desirous of bringing the church back to its original purity. They proposed leaving out politics, refusing all state aid, banishing superstitions, pilgrimages, and veneration of relics, and favored receiving only pious persons into church fellowship. Bishop Gregory exhorted his people to read the New Testament, and to pray in their own houses. (See 'E. de Pressense, "The Church and the Revolution," book III, chap. 3.)
"And they [the two witnesses] heard a neat voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they went up into heaven in the cloud ; and their enemies beheld them." Verse 15.
This metaphorical prediction implies a glorious vindication. It was strikingly fulfilled by the immediate foundation of the various Bible societies, which have since that time translated, published, and scattered the Bible and portions of it by the millions in more than a thousand tongues. "And their enemies beheld them." This aptly describes the astonishment and impotent rage of Satan's devotees on earth and in the invisible regions, at the sight of their defeat.
"In that hour there was a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell; and there were killed in the earthquake seven thousand persons: and the rest were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven." Verse. 13.
This has reference to the political aspect of the French tragedy. The French Revolution, says Michelet, was "an immense commotion," which, writes Lamartine, "made of France a vast cemetery. The nation looked like a country ravaged by one of those great invasions which swept away the old civilizations at the fall of the Roman Empire."
Here ends the Western religio-political episode of the sixth trumpet. The trumpet itself terminated forty-three years later. From that date (1840), it could be said: "The second woe is passed: behold, the third woe cometh quickly." Verse 14. The period involved in the word "quickly,- has now been lengthened out to nearly ten decades. How many more decades or years may we expect to live before the third woe is due, that is to say, before the terrific peals of the seventh trumpet shake the world, and close forever the record of every existing political, military, social, and religious power on this earth? However, the third woe —the end of all earthly glory—is also the golden gate into the glorious, immortal reign of our blessed Lord Jesus and His saints. "Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly !"