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Under the Representation of a Woman, arrayed in purple and scarlet is shown unto John, the Whore of Babylon. Her Character given. The Victory of the Lamb. The Whore's Punishment.
(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: (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.
We cannot well be at a loss to discover, who is here meant, if we call to remembrance, that in scripture language, Persons are spoken of by figures, and places by waters. That this woman is a city, the last verse of this Chapter, in so many words plainly saith, the woman which thou sawest, is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth. And what great city but Rome, which had so many provinces under her, and in a religious sense, (that is, I mean a mere nominal religion,) how many kings and nations have owned the Pope's supremacy. So that nothing can be more clearly defined. Add to these, it is a very usual thing, to call states and empires harlots and whores, when becoming profane and ungodly. Thus the Lord complained of Israel, How is the faithful city become an harlot. Isaiah 1:21 . Waters and rivers are terms used in scripture for states and people; yea, in this very Chapter, the term is explained. And he saith unto me, the waters which thou sawest where the whore sitteth, are people, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues, verse 15. Hence, therefore, here are explanations given, as plain as words can make them, in proof that this great whore, is great city, that hath rule over the kings of the earth, and the many waters she sitteth upon, expresseth her power and authority. So, that Papal Rome and none else, can be meant. This is a great point in discovery.
The next account is, that she is said to commit fornication with the kings of the earth, and the inhabitants of the earth, and to have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication. Now when we consider, how many nations profess popery, surely we discover the awful proof of her fornications. And when we call to mind, the blood of the martyrs she has shed, we may well call her thirst after blood drunkenness. We shall see by and by as we prosecute the Chapter, the number of those kings, that are tributes to the whore. But this in due time.
(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. (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: (5) And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON 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.
Let the Reader recollect, that John beheld all this in vision, similar to Ezekiel, who, while he was at Chebar, his mind was led to Jerusalem, Ezekiel 8:3 . So John was in Patmos, and he talks of being carried away in the spirit into the wilderness. All the characters here given of this woman, are descriptive of Rome and the Pope, and impossible to be applied to any other. The scarlet-colored beast, implies the regal power. The names full of blasphemy, are those by which the Pope is known. Such as his holiness, who is a sinner, the vicar of Christ, and the Head of the Church. His dress decked with gold, and precious stones and pearls. But more especially the names in his forehead. And if it be true, as is said that the Popes, until the time of Julius the Third, always wore the word mystery on their forehead, and that he dropped it, when he found this portion of the scripture was applied to him, and his wearing the word considered a confirmation of it, all these circumstances, are unanswerably decisive to whom they belong. And if to these be added, the hierarchy of cardinals, archbishops, monks, and abbots, their traffic in the sale of indulgencies, holy water, penance, and absolutions, and the nefarious trade, carried on under the color of religion, it should seem, that the title of mother of harlots, and abominations of the earth, cannot be withheld for a moment, either from the place of Rome, or the person of the Pope. And though John, it appears, was astonished at what he beheld, marvelling perhaps, that there should be such characters upon earth, and at the long - suffering and patience of God, in bearing with them; yet, such is the awful depravity of human nature, when void of God's grace, that nothing of atrocity can be too bad, for the corrupt heart to follow. Reader, such views, shocking as they are, are yet profitable. Oh! how loudly do they preach to us, the blessed doctrine of distinguishing grace; and which is the sole cause, wherefore one man differs from another.
(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. (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. (9) And here is the mind which hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth. (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. (11) And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition. (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. (13) These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast.
There can be no doubt, but that when the whole of this blessed book of prophecy comes to be unfolded, every minute circumstance concerning it, will appear to the Church, as plain, that we shall only wonder at our dullness of apprehension, in not having discovered it before. But certain it is, that what is here said is not rendered so perfectly clear at present, as that the whole is level to our thoughts. That the seven kings are those that worship the beast, we can easily conceive, and that both those that receive the mark of the beast, as well as the beast and false prophet, shall finally be cast into the bottomless pit, these are truths we can readily apprehend. But concerning the beast that was, and is not, and yet is, and the eighth that shall arise and go into perdition, together with those other ten kings, who receive power for one hour with the beast, these things have called forth a great variety of opinions, but there are none on which we can lean with a certainty of assurance, that they are correct. I therefore pass them all by, and desire not to, be wise above what is written.
In the place therefore of writing upon mere conjecture and supposition, I would beg to offer a short observation which the present moment seems to furnish, and which, if I am correct, may be profitable. I assume for granted, (what I venture to conclude, none but the worshippers of the beast will deny,) that the woman which John saw sitting upon the great waters, is Papal Rome, and if so, the late wonderful events very clearly manifest, that the Lord's purpose concerning this heresy, hath undergone a great change within the last thirty years! To what a humiliating state was this Anti-Christian power brought, before a late change raised her up again. Now, the prophet Daniel, speaks of the scattering of the power of the holy people, and then all these things shall be finished, Daniel 12:7 .
And that Daniel had one and the same object in view, and John and Daniel were both taught by the same Holy Spirit is most certain, by comparing Daniel 12:7 with Revelation 12:14 . Hence, therefore, I am inclined to believe that the late humbling of this Anti-Christian power, is only preparatory to a greater extent of power than she hath ever yet had, and as the language she useth in the next Chapter, seems to imply. And, thus, just before her final overthrow, she shall exult in her security, and seem to bid defiance to heaven and earth. She saith in her heart, I sit as a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow, Revelation 18:7 . This appears to me to be her present language, in consequence of the recent lifting up, after her former depression. I shall rejoice, if it be the Lord's will, and for the Lord's glory, that I am mistaken in my expectation, and that she will not arise higher. But the scattering of the power of the holy people, which the Prophet speaks of, hath not in my view taken place, neither are the two witnesses slain, neither hath the sixth vial been as yet been poured out. All these events appear to me, to be first expected, before that this intoxicated woman will have her plagues come upon her in one hour; and her everlasting destruction follow. And here for the present I leave this subject.
(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. (15) And he saith unto me, The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues. (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. (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. (18) And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth.
All indeed make war with the Lamb; that is with the Lamb's followers. Both Herod and Pontius Pilate, though in themselves no friends to each other, but when Christ or his people are in view, all the Herods, and all the Pilates of the earth, with the Gentiles and the people of all descriptions of carnal men, are joined together. Everything in the natural mind, unrenewed by grace, is hostile to Christ. But, Reader, observe what is said, the Lamb shall overcome them. Oh! yes! And in Him, and His righteousness; the feeblest of this little army, shall overcome them too.
I cannot refrain from begging my Reader to remark with me, what a blessed and glorious account is given of Christ's Person, and what a lively one of his people. For he is Lord of lords, and King of kings. Yes! blessed forever, thou Almighty God, be thou in thine own eternal nature and essence! Thine own eternal distinctions as one in the Godhead make these titles thine. And by creation, providence, grace; and glory, thou, in common with the Father and the Holy Ghost, hast, and art all. And how sweet is it to the souls of thy people, that by means of their oneness with thee, in that nature of theirs thou hast taken into union with thyself, they that are with thee, are called, and chosen, and faithful. Yes, Lord! by thy calling them with an holy calling, they are proved to have been chosen of God, before the foundation of the world. For whom he did predestinate, them he also called. And by their call in grace, they are made faithful in Christ Jesus. Oh! the unspeakable blessedness of such distinguishing grace! Reader! what saith your heart's testimony to these things? Can you, and do you, take up the sweet language the Holy Ghost by the Apostle teacheth the Church. Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, given us in Christ Jesus before the world began. For the Commentary on the 15th and 18th verses ( Rev_17:15; Rev_17:18 ), see the 1st and 2nd, 2 Timothy 1:9 .
Blessed and condescending Teacher of John! Thy Church desire to praise thee, O Lord Jesus, for causing thy servant the Apostle to be shown, and the Church through him also concerning this great spiritual whore, which sitteth upon many waters, committeth fornication with the kings of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof, and hath been made drunk with the wine of her fornication. Through thy grace, Lord, instructing thy people, we cannot mistake her character. Her purple and scarlet robes, her gold and proud trappings, the blasphemy of her pretended power, and the names she assumes, her whore's forehead and the mystery she hath put there, all mark her out, as the object of horror and detestation, to thy people. And while we behold her drunken with the blood of thy saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus, we cannot but wonder, with great admiration! Oh! the awful state, to which the nature of man is brought down! Oh! the astonishing extent of the long suffering of Almighty God.
Dearest Lord Jesus! the souls of thy people are relieved in the pleasing prospect, that shortly thou wilt come and root out of thy kingdom, all things that offend. She, which hath intoxicated herself with the blood of thy saints, shall have her flesh eaten by those who professed to love her. She, who hated the meek and humble followers of the Lamb, shall herself be despised; yea, they shall hate the whore, and make her desolate and naked, shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire.
Oh! what a relief to my soul is it, to turn from the view of images so horrible, and to contemplate Jesus under his own rightful character, Lord of lords, and King of kings! May every knee bow before thee! And oh! what praises shall I offer to my God, that Jesus hath a seed that serve him, a generation that call him blessed; who are called, and chosen, and faithful! Lord! do thou in those awful times, make them and keep them faithful. It is thy sweet province, and sure I am, it is my Lord's delight, to keep them from falling, and to present them faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy. To the only wise God, our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Revelation 17". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 12 / Ordinary 17