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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 shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters:
Ver. 1. And there came ] This and the following chapters are set for the explanation of the dark and difficult passages in the former, in the three last vials especially.
One of the seven ] Probably the seventh.
And talked with me ] ελαλησε λαλια , familiarly as the Samaritess with her countrymen, John 4:42 , or as the master with his scholar.
I will show unto thee ] Thou shalt not only be an ear but an eye witness.
" Segnius irritant animos demissa per aures,
Quam quae sunt oculis commissa fidelibus. "
The judgment ] The damnation of her; the destruction is reserved to the next chapter.
Of the great whore ] The whore of Babylon, more infamous and notorious than any Thais, Lais, Phryne, Messalina, Orestilla ( cuius praeter formam nihil unquam bonus laudavit, Sallust), or Pope Joan, of whom Funccius the chronologer speaketh thus; Ego Funccius non dubito quin divinitus ita sit permissum ut femina fieret Pontifex eadem meretrix, &c.; I doubt not but that God therefore permitted a notorious harlot to be advanced to the popedom (and this about the very time when the popes were most busy in subjecting the kings of the earth, and making them their vassals), that he might point out to men this whore here mentioned, with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication.
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.
Ver. 2. With whom the kings ] As submitting their sceptres to his keys; and becoming his feudatories.
And the inhabiters of the earth ] So that she is not a noble whore only, but a common strumpet, prostituting herself to the meanest for their money, as in the pardon office.
Have been made drunk ] Hence it is so difficult to convert idolaters: there is no dealing with a man that is drunk. "Whoredom and wine take away the heart," Hosea 4:11 .
Of her fornication ] Both spiritual and corporal. Sixtus Quintus lupanar utriusque Veneris Romae condidit (saith Agrippa) et decessit tabidus voluptate.
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.
Ver. 3. Into the wilderness ] Whither the true Church fled, Re. xii., of which they must be (saith one) that can learn to know the Romish Church to be a whore, condemned of God.
I saw a woman ] See Trapp on " Rev 17:1 "
Sit upon ] Not going afoot, as Christ and the apostles did, but magnificently mounted, as the pope is ever, either upon a stately palfrey (emperors holding his stirrup) or upon men’s shoulders. England was once called the pope’s ass, for bearing his intolerable exactions. This ass he held by the ears instead of a bridle.
Upon a scarlet coloured beast ] The proper colour of the court of Rome; and it well serves to set forth their pomp and their hypocrisy. Innocent IV gave a red hat to his cardinals, to show them (as he said) that they should be ready to shed their blood for the truth. But that painter was nearer the point, who being blamed by a cardinal for colouring the visages of Peter and Paul too red, tartly replied, that he painted them so as blushing at the stateliness and sinfulness of his successors.
Full of names of blasphemy ] His head only before was busked with the blasphemy,Revelation 13:1; Revelation 13:1 , now his whole body. Thus evil men and seducers grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived,2 Timothy 3:13; 2 Timothy 3:13 .
4 And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication:
Ver. 4. In purple and scarlet ] Clothing for kings and nobles, over whom this whore domineers much more than the concubines did over the kings of Persia.
And decked with gold ] Gr. κεχρυσωμενη , gilded with gold, to note her hypocrisy and outsideness, gold without, copper within. The pope styles himself the servant of God’s servants, but yet stamps in his coin, "The nation and country that will not serve thee shall be rooted out." At the absolution of King John of England, 8000 marks of silver were presently delivered to Pandoffus the pope’s envoy, who trampled it under his feet as condemning that base matter, but yet received it and sent it away to Rome. (Daniel’s Hist.)
And precious stones and pearls ] Besides the rich stones that are in the pope’s triple crown of inestimable price and value, he carries in his pantofle a (which he holds out to be kissed) the picture of the cross, set in pearls and precious stones, Ut plenis faucibus crucem Christi derideat, saith Hiedfeld. Pope Sixtus quintus five was wont to give to Tiresa, his harlot, pantofles covered with pearls. He spent two hundred and threescore thousand crowns upon a conduit, which he built for his pleasure; and yet he brought in fifty hundred thousand crowns into the new treasury built by himself in the castle of St Angelo. At the coronation of Pope Leo X, a million crowns are said to have been spent in one day. Pope Paul II was wont to sleep all day, and spend whole nights in weighing monies and beholding jewels and precious pictures, uno eo die 1,000,000 aureorum expendit. (Jac. Rev 261.)
A golden cup full of abominations ] Gold, if it be right, they say discovers and expels poison. Put poison into a cup of gold, and it will hiss and send up certain circles like rainbows. Hereby is signified (saith an author) that God threateneth judgment and fire to those that pour poison into divine doctrine, as the pope doth with his mad mixtures. He that argued from the letters of Papa, P. Poculum, A. Aureum, P. Plenum, A. Abominationum, argued no less wittily than that other, who of Roma made Radix omnium malorum, the base of all evils.
a A slipper; formerly applied very variously, app., at one time or another, to every sort of in-door slippers or loose shoes; esp. to the high-heeled cork-soled chopins; also to out-door overshoes or goloshes; and to all manner of Oriental and non-European slippers, sandals, and the like. (In Scottish use from 15th c.; in common Eng. use from c 1570 to c 1650-60; after that chiefly an alien or historical word.) ŒD
5 And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.
Ver. 5. Mystery ] This word mystery is in the pope’s mitre, saith Brocard the Venetian, and many more who have been at Rome, and profess to have seen it. (Dr James of the Corr. of Script. Preface.) The whole antichristian state is a mystery of iniquity, 2 Thessalonians 2:7 , and is much conversant about mysteries, sacraments, ceremonies, pompous rites, &c.: murders, treasons, thefts, &c., they easily dispense with, but none of their ceremonies. Let God, say they, see to the breach of his own law; we will look to ours. Rome was raised in a mystery: she grew to her greatness insensibly and cunningly. Her bishop is both an Aemulus and an opposite to Christ; one that would seem like him, a vice-Christ, αντιχριστος , and yet is his chiefest adversary; this is the mystery of iniquity. See 2 Thessalonians 2:7 , See Trapp on " 2Th 2:7 "
Babylon the great ] Rome, resembling the Assyrian Babylon in pride, idolatry, filthiness, but especially in cruelty toward the Church. See the Babylonian cruelty graphically described, Jeremiah 51:34 , and make the comparison.
The mother of harlots ] The Church of Rome to this day delights to be styled Holy Mother Church. Holy she is in the sense that the Hebrews call harlots. And such a mother, as bastards have for their mother, by whose name they are called; the father is seldom mentioned by them.
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.
Ver. 6. Drunken with the blood, &c. ] Bishop Bonner delivered Richard Woodman, with four more, requiring of them to be but honest men, members of the Church Catholic, and to speak good of him. And no doubt (saith Woodman) he was worthy to be praised, because he had been so faithful an aid in the devil his master’s business, for he had burned good Mr Philpot the same morning. In whose blood his heart was so drunk as I suppose he could not tell what he did, as it appeared to us both before and after. For but two days before, he promised us we should be condemned that same day that we were delivered; yea, and the morrow after he sought for some of us again, yea, and that earnestly. He waxed dry after his great drunkenness; wherefore he is like to have blood to drink in hell, as he is worthy, if he repent not, &c. It is wisdom (said a certain unknown good woman in a letter to Bonner), it is wisdom for me and all other simple sheep of the Lord, to keep us out of your butcherly stall as long as we can; especially seeing you have such store already, that you are not able to drink all their blood, lest you should break your belly, and therefore let them lie still and die for hunger, &c. Thus I kept the bandogs a at staves’ end (said Shetterden the martyr), not as thinking to escape them, but that I would see the foxes leap above the ground for my blood, if they can reach it.
I wondered with great admiration ] All things are portentous in the popedom; what monsters were Pope John XII, and Hildebrand, as Luitprandus (Lib. 6, de Reb. Gest. in Europ. in Vita Hildeb.) describes the one, and Cardinal Benno the other, both of their own side. Tertia classis continet Papas vel potius πωπους , saith Alstedius. After the thousandth year of Christ, there was nowhere less piety than in those that dwelt nearest to Rome, as Machiavel observeth.
a A dog tied or chained up, either to guard a house, or on account of its ferocity; hence gen. a mastiff, bloodhound. ŒD
7 And the angel said unto me, Wherefore didst thou marvel? I will tell thee the mystery of the woman, and of the beast that carrieth her, which hath the seven heads and ten horns.
Ver. 7. Wherefore didst thou marvel? ] Nil admirari prope res est una, Numici. We wonder at things out of ignorance of the causes of them. Hinc admiratio peperit philosophiam.
8 The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.
Ver. 8. Was and is not ] Was before the time of this revelation in the Roman government, which was afterwards usurped by the pope. A thing that the first bishops of Rome dreamed not of. And yet Tertullian (Lib. de Pudicitia) taxes the rising ambition of the popes in his time, thus: I hear, saith he, that there is an edict set forth, and that very peremptory, in these terms, Pontifex, scilicet maximus, Episcopus Episcoporum dicit, Thus saith the high priest, the bishop of bishops. (Baron. Annul. tom. 4.) Odi fastum illius Ecclesiae, I hate the pride of the Church of Rome, saith Basil.
Go into perdition ] Go, not run; by degrees, not all at once. He now takes long strides toward the bottomless pit; which is but a little before him, and even gapes for him. There stands a cold sweat on all his limbs already.
Shall wonder ] Admiration bred superstition; and illumination draws men off it. Julius Palmer, martyr, was a most obstinate Papist all King Edward’s days; and yet afterwards, in Queen Mary’s time, suffered most cruel death at the Papists’ hands at Newbury, for the most ready and zealous profession of the truth. His words to one Bullingham, walking in Paul’s after his conversion, were these; Oh that God had revealed these matters unto me in time past! I would have bequeathed this Romish religion, or rather irreligion, to the devil of hell, from whence it came. Believe them not, Bullingham, I will rather have these knees pared off than I will kneel to yonder jackanapes a (meaning the rood). a
And yet is ] In regard of that imperial power then extant, which the pope should afterwards take to himself.
a Applied contemptuously to a crucifix. Obs. ŒD
b The cross upon which Christ suffered; the cross as the symbol of the Christian faith. Now only arch. ŒD
9 And here is the mind which hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth.
Ver. 9. Here is the mind ] q.d. Here is work for wise men to busy their brains about. Sapientia est vel codicibus vel cordibus. Wisdom is either from books or from the hearts.
Seven mountains ] The Jesuits cannot deny but that Rome is here pointed at, as being set upon seven hills, επταλοφος . So the ancient Rome was, whereof the present Rome is but a carcase, retaining nothing of the old but her ruins, and the cause of them her sins.
10 And there are seven kings: five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come; and when he cometh, he must continue a short space.
Ver. 10. And there are seven kings ] That is, kinds of government.
Five are fallen ] Kings, consuls, dictators, decemvirs, tribunes.
One is ] i.e. The heathen emperor.
And the other is not yet come ] sc. The Christian emperors.
A short space ] sc. At Rome; for Constantine soon translated the seat of the empire to Byzantium, calling it Constantinople, and left Rome to be the pope’s nest. (Zonaras.) The Emperor Constans, nephew to Heraclius, and after him, Otho, had some thoughts to set up again at Rome, but could not; that so the kingdom of the Church foretold by Daniel might there be seated, saith Genebrard: if he had said the kingdom of Antichrist foretold by John the divine, he had hit it.
11 And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition.
Ver. 11. He is the eighth ] viz. The Pontifficality.
And is of the seven ] i.e. Shall exercise that monarchical power that was before in the seven heads.
12 And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast.
Ver. 12. Are ten kings ] Of ten different kingdoms, Naples, Spain, Portugal, France, Polony, Bohemia, Hungary, Denmark, Sweden, and this of England, which as it was the first of the ten that submitted to the pope’s yoke, so was it the first that shook it off again in Henry VIII’s time.
13 These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast.
Ver. 13. These have one mind ] This is the unity or rather conspiracy of the Church of Rome. The Spouse only is but one, Song of Solomon 6:9 . Other societies are but as the clay in the toes of Nebuchadnezzar’s image, they may cleave together but not incorporate one into another. There is a great deal of seeming unity under Antichrist. The Turks also have as little dissension in their religion as any. But well may that garment have no seam that hath no shape. Bellarmine notes a providence, that in the ninth age there sprang up no new heresy. But how could there, when little religion was afoot besides superstition and heresies?
14 These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful.
Ver. 14. The Lamb shall overcome them ] 1. With a spiritual victory, by a sweet: subjection, at least by a conviction of their consciences. 2. With an external victory, as the Imperialists in Germany, the Papists here.
15 And he saith unto me, The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.
Ver. 15. Are peoples ] Fitly called waters for their instability and impetuosity.
16 And the ten horns which thou sawest upon the beast, these shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire.
Ver. 16. These shall hate ] As base fellows use to hate their harlots when they find them false.
And shall make her desolate ] Shall deny to defend her.
And naked ] By denying her maintenance, and laying her open to the world by their remonstrances. King Henry VIII and the French king, some half a year before their death, were at a point to have utterly rooted the bishop of Rome out of their realms, and to exhort the emperor to do the same, or else to break off from him. The realm of France was ready (upon the pope’s refusal to rebless King Henry IV upon conversion to them) to withdraw utterly from the obedience of his See, and to erect a new patriarch over all the French Church. The then archbishop of Burges was ready to accept it; and but that the pope, in fear thereof, did hasten his benediction, it had been effected, to his utter disgrace and decay. (Spec. Europ.)
And shall eat her flesh ] Be so bitterly bent against her, that they could find in their hearts to tear her with their teeth. SeeJob 19:22; Job 19:22 . We read of two notable thieves in the kingdom of Naples (the one called himself Pater noster, and the other Ave Maria) that had slain 116 men at different times and in different places. These two were at length taken and tormented to death by the command of the magistrate, with hot burning pincers, &c., and made to die piecemeal. It were but reason that Christian princes should use like zeal and severity against that grand soul-murderer the pope.
And burn her with fire ] For an old bawd. a It is reported that in Meroe, the priests of Jupiter had so bewitched the people with their superstition, that they would sometimes send to the king of Ethiopia for his head; which was never denied them, till it came to King Erganes, who upon so insolent a demand slew them all, and took away their priesthood. Why is not the same now done to the bridge maker of Rome?
a fig. He who or that which panders to any evil design or vicious practice. ŒD
17 For God hath put in their hearts to fulfil his will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled.
Ver. 17. For God hath put ] As he sent Nebuchadnezzar against Tyre, Alexander against Asia, and Attila against Rome, who surnamed himself the World’s Scourge; so he will one day send these kings against Rome. It had been burnt when Charles V took it, but that the soldiers were kept in by a kind of violence. God’s time was not yet come for that purpose.
18 And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth.
Ver. 18. Is that great city ] Rome, that radix omnium malorum, the base of all evil. This is confessed by Bellarmine, Ribera, Alcasar, and other Jesuits. The Rhemists are so straited, that they know not which way to turn them, or how to deny so clear a truth, which yet they are not willing to acknowledge. The wit of heretics will better serve them to devise a thousand shifts to elude the truth, than their pride will suffer them once to yield and acknowledge it.
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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Revelation 17". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26