« VorigeDoorgaan »
THE GREAT HARLOT, AND THE BEAST THAT CARRIETH HER.
HAVING gone through the vials, we have arrived at the commencement of the Millennium. Indeed we descended to this period in each of the three general descriptions, and in the pouring out of the vials have only retraced the latter part of the ground more particularly. All that remains between this and the 20th chapter would in modern publications be called notes of illustration. No new subject is introduced, but mere enlargement on what has already been announced. We have heard much of the beast in the 13th chapter; but in the 17th we have a still more particular account of him, and of the woman that sitteth upon him, without which we should not have been able to understand the other. We had a hint given us of the fall of Babylon in the 14th chapter; but in the 18th and part of the 19th we have a triumphant ode, sent as it were from heaven, to be sung on the occasion. Finally, we have been given to expect in the 14th chapter, that prior to the overthrow of the antichristian cause the gospel would be making progress; but in the 19th we see the Word of God going forth, riding upon a white horse, and the antichristian powers destroyed in the very act of opposing him.
The first of these illustrative notes, as we shall call them, is contained in the 17th chapter; and respects the leading characters of the antichristian party.
1 And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither, I will show unto thee the judgment of the great whore, that sitteth upon many waters; 2 With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication. 3 So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet-coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. And the woman was arrayed in purple, and scarlet colour, and decked with gold, and precious stones aud pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication: 5 And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABY. LON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS, AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. 6 And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration.
The object of this vision was not to gratify curiosity, but to show the justice of those plagues which were, or were about to be inflicted.
The opprobrious name given to the woman determines its reference to a corrupt and false church, as opposed to " the bride the Lamb's wife." Her" sitting upon many waters," and which are said to be "peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues," (Ver. 15.) prove that this corrupt and false church would not be confined to a single city, or nation, but would extend over a number of nations. The " kings of the earth that have committed fornication with her," are all those governments which are or have been within the pale of her communion, and which till the Reformation included the whole of Western Europe, "the great Gothic family," as they have been denominated. It is this their idolatrous communion with her that is called fornication. Those. who have been "made drunk with the wine of her fornication"
are those who have drunk into her doctrines, worship, spirit, and practices, and have become as it were intoxicated by them.
To have a view of this harlot, the apostle is carried in vision "into the wilderness." She was represented before as sitting upon many waters; but as she is now to be described as riding upon a beast, it is proper that it should be upon the earth. Though the imagery however is changed, yet the meaning may be much the same for a wilderness, no less than many waters, signifies peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues, Hence the nations into which Judah was carried captive are called "the wilderness of the people."* For the apostle to be carried into the wilderness may be equal to his being placed in the midst of the nations of Europe, say in London, Paris, Madrid, or Vienna, at a time when papal Rome was in all her glory.
Being in the wilderness, he sees a woman sitting upon a beast which beast was caparisoned with scarlet trappings, full of the names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. This beast is manifestly the same as that which is described in the 13th chapter, as "rising out of the sea," and is no other than the Roman empire under its last head, or form of government, or that which has been known in history, as the Western, or Holy Roman Empire, in connexion with the kingdoms of Europe, which are its ten horns. It is this government which has given the title of emperor, sometimes to a king of one nation, and sometimes of another; but whoever has possessed it, he has been considered as the grand supporter of the papal hierarchy.
It is said that the ancient pagan emperors were wont to be dressed in "scarlet" in times of war; a fit attire then for a bloody period, and now for a bloody persecuting government. Its "names of blasphemy" express its impious and antichristian character, assuming the throne of God in the minds and consciences of men.
The "purple and scarlet, and gold, and precious stones, and pearls" with which the woman was arrayed, allude no doubt to the attire of an harlot of no ordinary rank. The design is to describe her as being of the world, and seeking the things of the world, or as contriving by her meretricious ornaments to dazzle the
* Ezek. xx. 35.
eyes of her beholders. It is by that ceremonious pomp, splendour, and will-worship, which have often been defended under the name of decency, and deemed necessary, both to gratify the taste of the polite and to excite the admiration of the vulgar, that false religion makes its way. The "golden cup in her hand, full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication" are her corrupt principles and idolatrous practices, recommended by her seducing emoluments. The " name on her forehead" is thought to allude to the ancient practice of harlots, who not only used to put their names on their doors, but some of them upon their foreheads. It is expressive not only of the general character of the antichristian church, but of her impudence; practising day by day the foulest and filthiest impostures, and yet calling herself the Holy Catholic Church, and denying salvation to all without her pale! The name of "mystery" was given to this apostasy by Paul as well as John, and with this very proper exposition, "The mystery of iniquity." The system is full of "the depths of Satan," which it is an honour not to know.-She is farther denominated "Babylon the great." Here we see that the apocalyptic Babylon and the harlot are the same: it is Rome, as an antichristian community extending over many nations. What Babylon was to the Old Testament church she is to the New; and such will be her end. Finally, She is denominated "The mother of harlots and abominations of the earth." There are other corrupt churches as well as that of Rome; but she is the principal, and the parent of them, the harlot of harlots. Not only by "forbidding to marry" does she open the floodgates to illicit commerce between the sexes, and even to unnatural crimes, but sells indulgences and pardons in the name of Jesus Christ!
To complete the character of this mother of harlots, she is described as making others intoxicated, and as being herself "drunken with the blood of the saints!" Persecution is the crowning sin of the greatest sinners.
The apostle having beheld her, "wondered with great admiration," as well he might. So much wickedness, be it committed by whom it might, was wonderful; but who could have thought that this was a picture of what would be called The Holy Catholic