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rison to illustrate each other, and thus produce an accordant whole. In endeavouring to effect this, we shall keep in view the rules of interpretation laid down in the prefatory introduction, relying principally upon the comparison of similar passages of Scripture, and taking advantage, at the same time, of such observations by the commentators, as seem to afford the best light upon the subject.
In the first place, we may observe two personages in this chapter, who are distinct from the scenery of the vision. 1. The angel, who, by divine appointment, exhibits the scenery, and comments upon it by way of explanation. 2. The apostle, who is first the spectator, and afterwards the recording prophet, of what takes place in the vision.
1. The angel, we are told, (ver. 1,) is one of the seven, to whom the vials were committed; whence is justly concluded, that the vision now to be exhibited, has reference to the vials, that is,
“ to the wrath of God," poured out upon his enemies. And by recurring to the seventh vial, we see this punishment falling upon “ the great city, and the cities of the nations ;” and that “great Babylon is to be remembered, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath.” (Ch. xvi. 19.) Now, as it appears in verse the fifth of this chapter, that the woman here exhibited is “the great Babylon,” we must necessarily expect, that this great city, or some other representing her symbolically, is a principal subject of this vision. And accordingly, it will be seen, as Vitringa has observed, that her description and character are fully manifested in this chapter, and that the extreme of her sufferings, the effect of the seventh vial, is narrated in the eighteenth, and part of the nineteenth chapters following.
2. The apostle and prophet St. John, is now removed from the station, whence he had witnessed the arrangement and effusion of the vials, to the wilderness, where this additional vision is to be seen.
The removal is effected by the angel, ev aiviyματι, , in the Spirit. So, St. Paul was caught up to heaven, to behold visions, not sensible whether it was in the body or out of the body; and in some such manner the apostle himself had been removed from scene to scene. (2 Cor. xii. 2; Rev. i. 10; iv. 2.)
We now proceed to consider the character of the actors in the scene of this vision.
1. The woman. 2. The wild beast. 3. The kings.
1. The woman, who is now seen in the wilderness, may be compared or contrasted with the woman of the 12th chapter, who fled into the wilderness to escape the pursuit of the dragon; and it seems to be with the view of calling this woman to our recollection, that the wilderness is made the scene of the present vision.
In the notes at the beginning of the twelfth chapter, it will be seen, that this celestial woman represents the Church of Christ in its primitive and purer days; as does the worldly woman now before us, in her degenerate and impure times.' The first has received her vesture and ornaments from heaven, the celestial luminaries being employed to shed upon her a pure and heavenly lustre. She is far above worldly impurities, an object of wonder and delight to pious men and angels, and of envy, hatred, and persecution to the enemies of the Lamb, to the dragon, the arch fiend himself, whose utmost efforts are exerted to destroy her. The second is arrayed in the most costly attire and gorgeous decoration that worldly rank and riches can procure, and which she has procured, by her influence over the beast, the depositary of the dragon's worldly power and greatness. (Ch. xiii. 4, 5.) Her dress and demeanour are meretricious, and she proves to be “the great harlot,” by name“ Babylon, the mother of harlots, and of the abominations of the earth.” It is a name mysterious, as the word Muotipov, written over this her title, imports. That which the ancient Babylon was to the nations around her, and more particularly to the people of God,—their corrupter and ferocious subduer,-such has been the more recent Babylon to the nations of her time, and to the Christian Church.
1 In the note, chap. xii. ver. 1, are references to Scripture, showing that she is a church as well as a city. And she is seen again in chap. xxi, the heavenly church, “the New Jerusalem, prepared as a bride for her husband the Lamb:" and who is the bride of the Lamb, but his pure church? St. Paul speaks of this relation as a mystery, but so plainly, that no one versed in the writings of the Prophets in the Old Testament, can doubt this conjugal relationship. The Apocalypse is of later date, and relates this holy connexion in terms of easy solution. The heavenly city, the New Jerusalem, has her foundation on the twelve apostles of the Lamb: contrasted with this, stands the harlot city,-on the seven heads of the beast, his mountains of worldly power and vanity,--the church which seduces and intoxicates the kings and nations, and is herself intoxicated with the blood of the saints.
She is seated figuratively, as her prototype was literally, “ on many waters ;" which the angel explains to be peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.” (Ver. 15.) These, together with their kings, she inflames, seduces, and corrupts by the wine of her golden cup.' It is called “the wine of her fornication;" for she is the “great harlot," and it is by inflammatory enticements that she seduces the kings and their nations to sin, the sin of apostasy, by forsaking their God and his pure and saving religion, to follow the seducer in all her abominations of corrupt faith and practice.
1 This is a metaphorical expression, frequent in Scripture, representing by the contents of the cup, the portion or lot of good or evil. which falls to him who drinks it. “ The Lord is the portion of my inheritance, and of my cup," says the Psalmist, (Ps.xvi.5.) “Thou, O Lord, shalt maintain my lot." And the perfect pattern of pious submission, prays for a moment, that the cup containing his bitter lot,“ might pass from him.” (Matth. xxvi. 39.) Instances of punishment inflicted by the drinking of the cup of the Lord's wrath may be seen in Psalms sxxv. 8; xi. 6; Is. li. 17, 22; Jer. xxv. throughout; and li. 7. The same figure of speech has been used also by the classical writers of antiquity, and in the apologue, entitled Tabula Cebetis, a beautiful woman, whose name is Deceit, offers her cup to the young and incautious, tempting them to destructive pleasures.
But, where are we to look for this corrupt city or church, denominated the great Babylon ? No one versed in the prophetic language of Scripture, and in the ancient history of nations, will think of applying the name, character, and fate of the Babylon in the Apocalypse, to the Babylon of antiquity, as having fulfilled the prophecy in its literal sense. This Babylon had fallen into nothing long before the apocalyptic visions were seen, and her fall had fully verified the prophecies of the Old Testament concerning her.' Therefore, commentators of all ages have looked to a typical fulfilment of these later predictions; and, finding it declared that this representative of ancient Babylon is “seated on seven mountains,” and “ is that great city which reigneth over the kings of the earth,” they have been led, almost universally, to turn their thoughts to Rome, to the great city, which at the time when the prediction was delivered, was the seat of empire over the civilized portions of the earth.
The figurative use of the terms woman and harlot, &c. may be seen at large exhibited with learned diligence, not only in relation to the prophets, but to many classical authors, in Daubuz's Symbolical Dictionary, prefixed to his exposition of the Apocalypse. See art. Woman, Čity, and Whore.
2 Bishop Newton, in his Dissertation on the elder Prophecies, has shown from the testimonies of Herodotus and Xenophon, that the city of Babylon, with its vast empire, fell into the hands of Cyrus and the Persians, 539 years before Christ ; and he has traced the decline of that city, after the loss of empire, as foretold by the prophets, and narrated by succeeding historians, to the time of Pausanias, soon after the publication of the Apocalypse, when, as this au. thor relates, there was nothing left of this greatest of cities but her wall. The wall was kept up for a time, as enclosing a hunting park for the kings of Persia.- Dissertation X. on the Prophecies concerning Babylon.
But, whether the prophecy has been fulfilled in Rome ancient and pagan, or in the apostate Christian Rome, has been a subject of enquiry and contention.2
Grotius, followed by Hammond, and led by the system of error taken up in his notes on chapter xii. has declared for the former opinion, which has been adopted also by the Romanists, for obvious reasons; but the times of imperial Rome exhibit no such dominant power as is symbolised by the woman riding upon the beast. In Rome, so long as the imperial government continued, there was no splendid triumphant church, intoxicated with her worldly glory, and seducing the kings and inhabitants of the earth. “ Ancient Rome,” says Bishop Newton,
does not answer to the character; for she ruled more with the rod of iron, than with the wine of her fornication. What and where were the kings whom she courted and debauched to her communion ? What and where the people, whom she inveigled and intoxicated with her idolatry? Her ambition was to extend her empire, not her religion. She permitted the conquered nations to continue in the
1 Euseb. Hist. Eccl. lib. ii. c. 13. Babylon, apud Joannem nostrum, Romanæ urbis figura est, proinde et magnæ, et regno superbæ, et sanctorum Debellatricis. Tertull. adv. Jud. p. 217. The writers of note in the Roman Catholic Church are agreed that Babylon is Rome. See Bishop Newton's Preface to the 17th chapter, and the note there, with quotations. ? An pagana vetus, aut pseudo-Christiana adultera?