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THE FALL OF GREAT BABYLON--A PERPLEXITY RELIEVED--LENGTH OF THE JUDGMENT PERIOD--THE ANGEL WHO PROCLAIMS THE FALL--THE TWOFOLD FALL--THE PEOPLE CALLED OUT--FORMS OF THE DESTRUCTION--ADMINISTRANTS OF THE CALAMITIES--MEASURE OF THE TORMENT--THE TOTAL EXTINCTION--THE CRIMES WHICH PROCURE THIS DOOM--THE POWER AND GODLESSNESS OF COMMERCE--THE NATURE OF ITS SORCERY--ITS PRESUMPTUOUS SELF-GLORIFICATION AND ARROGANCE.
Revelation 8:1-8. (Revised Text.) After these things I saw another angel coming down out of the heaven, having great authority, and the earth was lighted up from his glory. And he cried with mighty voice, saying, Fallen, fallen Babylon the great, and become a habitation of demons, and a hold of every unclean spirit, and a hold of every unclean and hated bird; because of the wrath of her fornication all the nations have fallen, and the kings of the earth committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth became rich out of the power of her wantonness.
And I heard another voice out of the heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye may have no fellowship in her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues; because her sins have been builded together as far as the heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities. Reward to her even as she rewarded, and double double according to her works; in the cup which she mixed, mix for her double; insomuch as she glorified herself and was wanton, to that proportion give to her torment and grief; because she saith in her heart, I sit a queen and am not a widow, and shall see no mourning; therefore in one day shall come her plagues, death, and mourning, and famine, and with fire shall she be burnt, because strong the Lord who hath judged her.
Having already consumed two evenings in our endeavours to identify and understand what is meant by Great Babylon, we come now to the consideration of her final fall.
But before proceeding directly to that subject, it may be well first to relieve a perplexity into which some may have fallen by reason of what I have said concerning the restoration of the literal city of Babylon.
When we speak of the day of the Lord, or the judgment period, many have the notion that it is but one day, or a very brief space of time. They are consequently led to wonder how we can speak of the impending nearness of that day, and yet look for the rebuilding of a great city then to be destroyed. The difficulty, however, does not lie in the nature of the things, but in the popular misapprehensions of what the day of the Lord means, and the length of the period which it covers. The mistake is in taking the day of the Lord, or the coming again of our Saviour, as if one particular moment of time, and one single event or scene were to be understood. What the Scriptures describe as the day of the Lord, and the second coming of Christ, is no more limited to a single event or moment of time than was the day of his first coming, which extended over more than thirty years, and embraced various stages and successive presentations. If we take the prophecies concerning the first advent, we find it impossible to apply them to any one day, year, or scene, in the evangelic history. Micah said that Christ should "come" out of Bethlehem (Ephratah), but Hosea said that he would come "out of Egypt." Malachi said that he should "suddenly come to his temple," and Zechariah that he would come to Zion "riding upon an ass, upon a colt the foal of an ass;" whilst, according to Isaiah, "the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali" were to see the "great light." All these presentations were his coming. He did come when he was born at Bethlehem; he did come out of Egypt; he did come when he announced himself at Nazareth; he did come as a great light among the people of Northern Galilee; he did come riding into Jerusalem on the ass; he did come suddenly to his temple when he twice drove out the money-changers; and he came when he reappeared after his resurrection. Each one of these particular incidents is alike called his coming; but they were only so many separate presentations, at different dates, extending through a period of thirty-three years, all of which together are required to make up the first advent as a whole. And just as it was then, so it will be again. The second coming, like the first, is complex and distributive, extending through a variety of successive and diverse scenes, stages, events, and manifestations, requiring as many, if not still more, years. Just what length of time will intervene between the first and sudden catching away of the watching and ready saints, and the final overthrow of Babylon and Antichrist, we may not be able precisely to determine; but I am fully persuaded that it will be a goodly number of years. Antichrist reigns for a full week of years,-that is seven years,-three and a half as the friend and patron of the Israelitish people, and three and a half as the great Beast. (Daniel 9:27; Revelation 11:2; Revelation 12:6.) But the Antichrist is not revealed until after the Hinderer is taken away; who is only taken away when the saints are removed, the removal of whom is the taking away of the Hinderer. The Antichrist does not appear at all amid the scenes of the Apocalypse until after the seven seals have been opened, and six of the succeeding trumpets have been sounded. How many years those seals and the six trumpets may consume we are not informed, but we have every reason to believe that they may be counted by tens, if not by scores, subsequent to the opening of the door in the heaven and the taking up of the saints, which is the first act in the great drama. The space occupied in narrating what occurs under the seals and trumpets would indicate this. The long waiting of the Ten Virgins for the coming of the Bridegroom, which is subsequent to the first translation, indicates the same thing. Forty years, at least, perhaps a whole jubilee period of fifty years, or even a full seventy years, answering to the period during which the judgment was upon Israel for its sins, are likely to be embraced in what the Scriptures call the day of the Lord, and the second coming and revelation of Jesus Christ.
Supposing, then, that Babylon should not even begin to be rebuilt until after the day of the Lord has commenced in the rapture of the eagle-saints (Luke 17:34-37; 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17; Revelation 4:1), there still would be ample time for it to come up in all the grandeur and force indicated before the great acts of destruction in which that day reaches its consummation. Much can be accomplished in forty, fifty, or seventy years.
A few years ago I was the guest of a man, scarcely older than myself, who was already grown, and secretary of a frontier trading company, before the first dwelling was built of what is now the great and powerful city of Chicago. And if the rich merchants, money-kings, and great mercantile organizations of the world were to unite for the establishment of such a centre of wealth, influence, and trade, as the foreshowings are respecting great Babylon, with the treasures, facilities, and energies that would at once be brought to bear, a much shorter time would be required to realize all that has been foretold, even if nothing special were to occur to hasten the project. But the indications are that there will be special providences in its favour. Zechariah saw the winds of heaven filling the wings and favouring the flight of the two women bearing the ephah to its house in the land of Shinar. It will then be the midst of the judgment time, when great and startling events are to succeed each other in quick succession, when things will move under other and mightier impulses than now, and when God in the administrations of His wrath upon nations and systems will hurry them on to the destructions which await them, or so give them over to the spirits and powers of hell because of their unbelief, that the most wonderful changes and achievements will go forward with a celerity of which we now have no conception. And even if the great day of the Lord should break in upon the world this night, it would not at all embarrass the idea, or prevent the possibility of the restoration of old Babylon in all the magnificence and power ascribed to her in these chapters. The time would still be ample for it all.
But it is with the fall of Babylon, and not with the time and incidents of her restoration from present depression that we are now concerned. God help us to understand it as we should!
A glorious being from heaven appears. To John he seems like an angel, but quite "another" from the one who was showing him these things. This angel does not speak from heaven, but comes down out of the heaven. He comes also with "great authority." There is reason to believe that it is Christ himself whom we are to see in this angel; for the Father "hath given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man." (John 5:27.) When Satan was cast out of heaven the celestial worshippers celebrated this εξουσία, authority, dominion, or power, as the particular possession of Christ, who is appointed to "put down all rule and all authority and power." (1 Corinthians 15:24.) It is said that "the earth was lighted up from his glory." Such language is nowhere used concerning created angels, but is quite common to all the prophets with regard to our Divine King and Saviour. The Psalmist (72:18, 19) blesses the glorious name of the Lord God of Israel, and speaks of a scene in which "the whole earth is filled with his glory." Isaiah 6:1-3, in his vision of the enthroned Messiah, heard the seraphim cry, "The whole earth is lull of his glory." Ezekiel 43:2 beheld the glory of the God of Israel coming from the way of the East, and says:
"His voice was like the noise of many waters [answering to the 'mighty voice' here], and the earth shined with his glory." The garment of Jehovah is light, and such intense luminousness everywhere attaches to what is divine; whilst the enlightening of things by the glory of God and the Lamb is specially spoken of in these visions. (Revelation 21:23; Revelation 22:5.) We are not likely to be mistaken, then, in taking this angel for the Lord Jesus himself, and the more so as the remembrance of Great Babylon to give to her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of divine wrath is specially said to be "in the presence of God," as if God in Christ were then manifested and personally revealed upon the earth. (Revelation 16:19.)
From this glorious being the word goes forth in tremendous power: "Fallen Fallen, Babylon the Great." It is not simply the word of information as to what has been or what is to be, but the word which effects what it describes,-the word which brings Great Babylon down, and makes it "a habitation of demons, and a hold of every unclean spirit, and a hold of every unclean and hateful bird." The twice-repeated word describes two separate parts or stages of the fall, answering to the two aspects in which Babylon is contemplated, referring first to Babylon in mystery, as a system or spirit of false worship, and second to Babylon as a city, in which this system or spirit is finally embodied. The thrice-repeated cry of "woe, woe, woe," in Revelation 8:13, meant three distinct woes, as the subsequent account makes plain; and so here, the twice-repeated "fallen, fallen," means two distinct falls. The first fall, or the fall of Babylon in mystery, is accomplished through the agency of the Beast in confederation with the ten kings (Revelation 17:16-17), which occurs soon after the Antichrist is fully revealed; but after the denudation and burning which they inflict, she is represented as still existing as a city, who sits as a boastful queen, promising herself an immortality of worldly glory, and from which certain people are called out that they may not share her doom. Two falls are thus inevitably implied, and the last is more than three years after the first; for the reign of the Beast is three and one-half years, and the setting up of the enforced worship of his image, and hence the first great Babylonian disaster occurs at the beginning of those years, whilst the final catastrophe occurs at the pouring out of the last bowl of wrath, which sweeps the Beast as well as Great Babylon to perdition.
But before the mighty word of this glorious angel goes into full effect upon the final Babylon, a voice from heaven says: "Come out of her, my people,
that ye may have no fellowship in her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues." It seems that there will be children of Abraham among the population of the final Babylon, for wherever there is great trade and banking we may expect to find Jews, and these are the people to whom this call is made. If the glorious angel is Christ, it is the Father who here speaks, and who now again acknowledges Israel as his earthly people. The New Testament Church is here out of the question. Every divinely acknowledged part of that has been by this time taken, and is with the Lord Jesus in heaven. But the times of the Gentiles being fulfilled, the Lo Ammi (not my people) is reversed with regard to Israel, and this is the time when the Spirit comes upon them again, and they are recovered to life and salvation. Jeremiah (Jeremiah 50:4-9) writes: "In those days, and in that time [the very time of the threatened destruction of Babylon], saith the Lord, the children of Israel shall come, they and the children of Judah together, going and weeping; they shall go and seek the Lord their God. They shall ask the way to Zion with their faces thitherward, saying, Come, let us join ourselves to the Lord in a perpetual covenant that shall not be forgotten. My people hath been lost sheep; their shepherds have caused them to go astray, they have turned them away on the mountains; they have gone from mountain to hill, they have forgotten their resting-place. All that found them have devoured them; and their adversaries said, We offend not, because they have sinned against the Lord, the habitation of justice, even the Lord, the hope of their fathers." And in immediate connection with this description the command is: "Remove out of the midst of Babylon, and go forth out of the land of the Chaldeans, and be as the he goats before the flocks." "Flee out of the midst of Babylon, and deliver every man his soul; be not cut off in her iniquity; for this is the time of the Lord's vengeance; he will render unto her a recompense" (Jeremiah 51:6). "My people, go ye out of the midst of her, and deliver ye every man bis soul from the fierce anger of the Lord" (Jeremiah 51:45). "Though Babylon should mount up to heaven, and though she should fortify the height of her strength, yet from me shall the spoiler come unto her, saith the Lord" (Jeremiah 51:53). "And I will make drunk her princes, and her wise men, her captains, and her rulers, and her mighty men: and they shall sleep a perpetual sleep, and not awake, saith the King whose name is Lord of hosts" (Jeremiah 51:57). Thus beautifully and unmistakably do the records of the ancient prophet explain what the Apocalyptic seer was shown. The merciful providence of God has by this time again taken hold on the long-rejected children of Israel and Judah, and such of them as are in Babylon are divinely warned of what is coming, and brought away from the impending destruction, as Lot was called out of doomed Sodom (Genesis 19:15-22), and as the people in Moses' time were called to get them up from the tents of Dathan and Abiram in the day that judgment came upon these rebels (Numbers 16:23-26).
The particular calamities which then break forth are described as death, mourning, famine, and burning with fire. Both the calling out of those who are not to share Babylon's doom, and the nature of these inflictions immediately following, prove that a literal city is meant. Part of the trouble is also of just such a character as to fall in with the idea, and so to prove that that city is Babylon, and that the drying up of the waters of the Euphrates under the sixth bowl of wrath is a literal occurrence. Terrible mortality and famine would be the natural and inevitable result of the failure of that river to a city built upon it, and so dependent on its waters. All her shipping would thus be disabled. All the fertility of her gardens and surrounding country would be turned to dust and barrenness. The exposed and stagnant filth of so great a river, together with the decaying vegetation for the space of nearly 2,000 miles, would be a source of deadly pestilence, which no skill or power of man could abate or stay. With such a plague over all the place all helpers would fear to approach, their markets would be unsupplied, their communication with the rest of the world, already so largely emptied and desolated by the march of the kings with their armies to the scene of battle against the Lamb, would be without avail. And thus black death and helpless want would stalk through every street, and highway, and lane, and alley, of the whole city, and fill all the region round about with unexampled suffering, mourning, and horror.
And amid it all comes the great unprecedented earthquake, by which the cities of the nations are thrown down. Fires break forth, and there is no water to extinguish them, and no hands to apply it if it were to be found. The whole city burns to ashes, and all its population with it, "as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah," making the very land vitreous round about.
Thus would be fulfilled what Isaiah sung: "Come down, and sit in the dust, O virgin daughter of Babylon; sit on the ground; there is no throne, O daughter of the Chaldeans; for thou shalt no more be called tender and delicate. Sit thou silent, and get thee into darkness, O daughter of the Chaldeans; for thou shalt no more be called, the lady of kingdoms. Thou saidst, 'I shall be a lady forever,' so that thou didst not lay these things to thy heart, neither didst remember the latter end of it. Therefore hear now this, thou that art given to pleasures, that dwellest carelessly, that sayest in thine heart, 'I am, and none else beside me; I shall not sit as a widow, neither shall I know the loss of children;' these two things shall come to thee in a moment, in one day, the loss of children and widowhood; they shall come upon thee in their perfection, for the multitudes of thy services, and for the great abundance of thine enchantments. For thou hast trusted in thy wickedness; thou hast said, 'None seeth me.' Thy wisdom and thy knowledge, it has perverted thee; and thou hast said in thine heart, 'I am, and none else beside me.' Therefore shall evil come upon thee; and thou shalt not know from whence it riseth; and mischief shall fall upon thee; thou shalt not be able to put it off; and desolation shall come upon thee suddenly, which thou shalt not know. Stand now with thine enchantments, and with the multitude of thy sorceries, wherein thou hast laboured from thy youth; if so be thou shalt be able to profit, if so be thou mayest prevail. Thou art wearied in the multitude of thy counsels. Let now the astrologers, the star-gazers, the monthly prognosticators, stand up, and save thee from these things that shall come upon thee. Behold, they shall be as stubble; the fire shall burn them; they shall not deliver themselves from the power of the flame." (Isaiah 47:1-15.)
Babylon burned Jerusalem and the temple of God, and her end is a conflagration, which leaves nothing of her. As the Lord said by Jeremiah, so it cometh to pass: "I will render unto Babylon, and to all the inhabitants of Chaldea, all their evil that they have done in Zion." (Jeremiah 51:24.) The voice from the heaven says that her iniquities come into remembrance. So long a time had passed since the early wickednesses of Babylon that it might seem as if Jehovah had forgotten them, or never meant to recall them to mind; but the last Babylon is but the final outgrowth of the same principles and spirit which animated the first, and is so interiorly identified with that same old apostasy that all the old offences come forward again with the new, and help to inflame the final vengeance; just as the full punishment of the sin of Israel respecting the golden calf is not yet over (Exodus 32:34), and as all the martyr blood of all the ages still cries to be further avenged.
In connection with these final plagues upon Babylon the voice from heaven says: "Render to her even as she rewarded, and double [the] double according to her works; in the cup which she mixed, mix for her double; insomuch as she glorified herself and was wanton, to that proportion give to her torment and grief." Some take this as a commission to returning the house of Israel, which is to become a cup of trembling and a burdensome stone to the people round about in connection with these events; but I do not so understand it. Israel will at that time be so enclosed, and under the heel of the great beast, as to be quite disabled from such an office until Christ himself has gone forth to avenge them of their enemies. Besides, the final judgment upon Great Babylon is so miraculous and direct from heaven, that mere earthly agents have but little to do with it, if anything. There is also another and far mightier class of operators in the infliction of these great judgments. Angels are concerned, and the descended Son of God himself. But there are others in addition to these, and taking part with them in these administrations. Among the promises to the overcomers out of the seven churches, was one that they should have authority over the nations, and rule or judge them with a rod of iron, and break them to shivers as a vessel of pottery is dashed to pieces (Revelation 2:26-27). Of old it was sung of the saints in glory, that, with the praises of God in their mouth, and a two-edged sword in their hand, they should execute vengeance upon the nations, even punishments upon the people, to bind their kings with chains, and their nobles with fetters of iron, to execute upon them the judgment that is mitten. "This honour have all the saints." (Psalms 149:5-9.)
Paul reminded the Corinthians, as if indignant at their low appreciation of the Christian calling: "Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world?" (1 Corinthians 6:2.) Of the mystic man-child caught up to God and to his throne, the record was that he should rule or shepherdize all the nations with a rod of iron. (Revelation 12:5.) When the Beast and the False Prophet, and their allied kings and armies perish at Harmageddon, the saint-armies of heaven, robed in fine linen, and riding on white horses, are those taking part in the terrible vengeance then to be executed. (Revelation 19:11-21.) And it would be strange, indeed, if in the rendition of final judgment upon Babylon, which sends a thrill of joy through all the holy universe, they were to have neither place nor part. To these, then, and to all the avenging powers of heaven, are we to consider this direction and commission to be addressed.
In the days of mercy and forbearance God is not strict to mark iniquity, or to punish it at once according to its deserts. There is much that he winks at and suffers to pass for the present. But it is all written in his book, and when the final recompense comes there is no more sparing. As the sinner has measured, so it will be measured to him again. It is an awful thought, but true, that by the ills and wrongs which people do on earth they are themselves setting the gauge or measure by which they are to have judgment dealt to them at the last.
The language here might seem to imply that God meant to double up vengeance upon Babylon without proportion to her deservings; but a more attentive consideration shows that such is not the case. God is always just, and the duplication and intensifying of the torment and grief still has a righteous rule underlying it. The judgment is to be double, and double double; but it is to be "as she rewarded,"-"according to her works,"-a cup of mixture such as she herself gave, doubled because her administration was only half of her iniquity. There may be great self-sins, over and above the sins against rights and peace of others. And such are here charged against Babylon, even blasphemy, self-honour, self-security, wantonness, and the deification of wealth and luxury. For these, as well as for the cup of uncleanness and oppression given by her to others, the cup is doubled to her. Her real evilness is double, and she must drink her own cup double. She is herself double, being both a system of abominations, and a city of abominations; and what is visited upon the one is repeated or duplicated on the other.
The result of all this is that Great Babylon will be blotted from the earth, "as in the day when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah," and so fulfil to the letter all that the old prophets have spoken. The symbolic act which Jeremiah commanded Seraiah to perform at Babylon to signify the utter extinction that was to come upon her (Jeremiah 51:63-64), John beholds repeated in a still more striking form: "A mighty angel took up a stone, as a great millstone, and cast [it] into the sea, saying, Thus with a bound shall the great city Babylon be cast down, and shall not be found any more."
When Jesus was upon the earth, he said: "Whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea." (Matthew 18:6.) But who or what is a greater stumbling-block to the believers in God, and to the faith of Jehovah's humble worshippers, than Great Babylon! In every form in which she has existed, and through all the ages, in all the world, she has been holding up the golden cup of her abominations wherewith she has intoxicated and demented the nations, and filled the whole earth with spiritual madness. Therefore, to her neck the stone is hanged, and into the depths she is cast, descending with still increasing speed toward the seething abyss of everlasting fires.
Babylon is a region full of bitumen. The mortar of its buildings from the beginning was not clay, but bituminous slime. All the earth around it is, therefore, full of inflammable material, as was the vale of Siddim before the conflagration of the cities of the plain, which was "full of slime-pits," so that when the fiery judgment of God descended, and it began to rain "brimstone and fire out of heaven," the thunderbolts ignited the oil-springs, and naphtha, and petroleum, and bituminous wells, till "all the land of the plain glowed and burned as a furnace," sinking as the burning went on, and swallowing up the doomed cities in a literal "lake of fire," which has left nothing but a dead sea and everlasting desolation where they stood. With corresponding conditions of the ground, and the ancient prophets assuring us that "the beauty of the Chaldees' excellency shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah" (Isaiah 13:19; Jeremiah 49:18; Jeremiah 50:40), we may readily infer something of the nature of the fires amid which Great Babylon is to find her perdition. First is the drying up of her waters, as God said by the mouth of Jeremiah, "I will dry up her sea, and make her springs dry" (Jeremiah 51:36); then the consequent death-plague, mourning, and famine; and then the fires which run over her, and around her, and under her, feeding on the parched and pitchy ground, and sinking the whole region into a charred and igneous desolation, never again to be inhabited. Nimrod called it, "The Gate of God," and lo, it proves the mouth of hell, where the unclean spirits throng, and the very filth of the universe finds its hold! The world's greatest power was concentrated there, which all the kings of the earth were delighted to court and serve; but "in one hour" all her greatness, might, and majesty, come to nought. She was a mart for the nations, enriching multitudes on land and sea, but in one day the harvest of her soul's desire is gone, and all her bright and dainty things perished, with no one left to buy or enjoy them any more. She had "great riches," and was "clothed in fine linen, and purple, and scarlet, and decked with gold, and precious stone, and pearl," but not a scrap or fragment of all her costliness and treasure is left. She was the very paradise of musicians, harp-singers, and flute-players, and trumpeters; for these are always a great feature and one of the chief glories of a rich, gay, luxurious, and worldly city; but every note is silenced, and no voice of song, or dance, or opera, is ever heard there again. The finest artists and artisans of the world, of every order, had found there a very Golconda, but in one hour their glorious elysium is gone, and they and their works with it. It was the centre of the grandest and most noted of bridals, and the sublime resort of grand bridal tours, but with one stroke of heaven's judgment every sound of joy is hushed, "and the voice of bridegroom and bride" ceases to be heard there any more.
When the curse upon Jerusalem was spoken, it was that "the voice of mirth, and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride," should cease from her streets (Jeremiah 7:34); but it was at the same time added that God would "restore the captivity of the land, as at the first," and that, in the place of the threatened desolation, there should yet again be "the voice of joy, and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride, the voice of them that shall say, Praise the Lord of hosts; for the Lord is good; for his mercy endureth forever." (Jeremiah 33:10-11.) But in the case of Great Babylon there is to be no recovery, no restoration. There shall be no remnant left to rebuild it, no workman to lift up tool to reconstruct it, no mills to sound there any more, no light of candle or token of joyous civilization to shine again amid its darkness; but it shall be "a habitation of demons, and a hold of every unclean spirit, and a hold of every unclean and hated bird;" and "it shall be no more inhabited forever, neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation." (Jeremiah 50:39-40.)
So great a judgment argues gigantic crimes. Glance a moment then at these, that we may learn to stand in awe and "have no fellowship in her sins;" for it does not require that we should live in Babylon when she fails in order to be involved in her perdition. Every place is Babylon to them that have her spirit and exhibit her iniquities, and the same judgment awaits them.
To the credit of Babylon's worldly greatness, but also as a marked ingredient of what procures her doom, it is said: "Thy merchants were the great men of the earth." Most people would see no crime in that. What harm is there in buying and selling and getting gain, and in making the weight of fortune felt according to its greatness? Nothing, indeed, if no wrong spirit is under it, and no wrong principles animate the accumulation, or control its management when it is made. But, the son of Sirach hath truly said: "As a nail sticketh fast between the joinings of stones, so doth sin stick close between buying and selling." (Ecclesiasticus 17:2.) And commerce is certainly indicated as the chief vehicle, support, and embodiment of the great defiling wickedness of the last days. In the bushel measure, and under the weighing talent, sits the Woman whom the angel says is Wickedness. Nor should it be thought strange that commerce, and the machinery connected therewith, should supply the formative principles of a great and godless apostasy. Is there a prominent country now on earth in which commerce does not rule, or where things are not all being determined by commercial principles, ideas, and interests? "Have we heard nothing respecting the wondrous results expected from commerce in making nations happy, in bringing men together in ties of amity and brotherhood, in developing the resources of the earth, in making nations conscious of their mutual dependence on each other, and so effecting, by the suggestions of self-interest, a result which the Gospel (it is said) has failed to accomplish. These and suchlike sayings are continually being sounded in our ears. Nor can we say that they are altogether untrue, or that there is no wisdom in them." (B. W. Newton.) But who that looks with an attentive eye but can see in it the coming forth of a wisdom which is not from above, but which savours of him who said to Jesus, "All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me." Commerce is not necessarily sinful. Exchange on just and right principles may be a thing of beneficence and good, involving nothing against God or his truth. But the tendency is otherwise. The disposition is to concentration and consolidation on selfish principles for selfish ends. The struggle is continually more and more to monopolize, to crush out rivalry and competition, and to enter into worldwide combinations to seize first one interest and then another, till everything is finally swallowed up in one great centralized aristocracy of unbounded wealth, to which all the kings and governments on the earth must truckle. In our day an association of merchants has commanded the riches of the Indian seas, dragged along with it the armies and legislation of England to effect its ends, and enriched itself at the sacrifice of innocent blood, national treasure, and every honourable principle, whilst the good Queen Victoria, helpless in its hands, must submit in royal gratitude to bear for it the title of the Empress of India! The eloquence of a Burke, in sentences which shall never die, has given a tongue to a few of the abominations which have accompanied those administrations; but not a moiety of them has been told, as they have added stain upon stain to the escutcheon of England, and dishonoured the whole Anglo-Saxon race.
This is but one instance, and one belonging to the babyhood of these great commercial combinations; what then may we not expect when these privileged associations, which control the local exchanges, money markets, and commercial affairs of the nations, have fully consolidated, and a great, united, money aristocracy, takes command of the commerce of the world? These would indeed be "the great men of the earth," and their rule would be the rule of the earth.
But what sort of a rule would it necessarily be? Would it be God's kingdom come, and God's will done, on earth as it is in heaven? So the arguments and oratory of the priests of that interest would seem to say. But, is it so? Can it possibly be so? Look at the root-principle of these commercial compacts. Co-equality of man with man is to them the greatest absurdity, What right, or place, or standing, can a man who has no money have in them? Wealth is the only ticket of admission, and for that all seats are absolutely reserved. But who would ever think of going among these money-lords and bourse-kings to find saints of God! There are some rich men from whose hearts the Holy Ghost has not been choked out; but "how hardly shall they that have riches enter the kingdom of God? It is easier for a camel to go through the needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God." (Mark 10:23-25.) It has become an axiom that "corporations have no souls," and upon this all great moneyed corporations act, though the men who constitute them will find out a different doctrine when they come to the day of judgment. And when it comes to these great and ever magnifying commercial compacts and interests, there is not a law of God or man which is not compelled to yield if found in the way. Protestant and Papist, Pagan and Jew, Mohammedan and Infidel, believer and unbeliever, Bible, Talmud, Vedas, Shasters, Koran, and Book of Mormon, are all alike, and stand in these organizations on one and the same footing, provided only that there is power of wealth to aid and direct the one great scramble for the world's trade and riches. If the question were ever pressed in these circles, What is truth? it would be hooted and laughed to scorn. The cry would be, "What have we to do with that? Let every one quietly enjoy his own opinions. Give each a share, not only in the protection of the government, but in its fostering and sustaining care, for the office of government is to minister for the governed, not to concern itself with the laws and revelations of God." Accordingly, also, the greatest mercantile government on earth, England, Protestant England, which claims to maintain the only true church, and hails all her sovereigns as "Defenders of the Faith," at the dictation and demand of secular and commercial interests makes her appropriations to Romish institutions, salaries Roman priests and professors, advances Jews to her highest offices, expends her blood and treasure to sustain the tottering existence of the deadly curse of Mohammedan dominion, pensions Brahmin nobles, and pays and pampers Pagan priests. And such is the tendency and bearing of legislation in general, and from the same causes. Governments are in the hands of commerce and the money-kings; and commerce knows no God but gold, and no law but self-interest and worldly gain. Church is nothing, State is nothing, creed is nothing, Bible is nothing, Sunday is nothing, religious scruples are nothing, conscience is nothing, everything is practically nothing, except as it can be turned or used to the one great end of accumulation and wealth. To make common cause with all classes of men, to honour Mohammedan festivals and Jewish rites alike with those commanded by the one only rightful King of the world, to pay Hindoo and Romish priests, to endow their seminaries, and to give aid and comfort to their idolatries with all Christian institutes,-which is now not only being done, but advocated and defended on the ground that this is the only rightful sphere of government, and these the only principles on which the true progress of humanity depends,-is already the incipient dethronement of all positive truth, the turning of it into a lie, or into a mere ideal thing without claims upon the human soul; the systematic inauguration of a latitudinarian infidelity, removing human society into many degrees of greater distance from God than ever it has been in all the ages. And when once the earth has come to acknowledge the representatives and embodiments of such a system of ideas and rule as its true and only "great men," there lies couched in this one simple statement a whole world of iniquitous apostasy, which well deserves the doom which makes an end of Great Babylon. Yes, commerce will yet have an account to settle, at which the world shall shake.
Another ingredient in the cup of Babylon's doom, is her bewitching sorcery, by which she leads all the nations astray. Some understand by this that she is to be the great patron and head centre of spiritism and necromancy. Magicians constituted an integral part of the state officials there in Daniel's time, and it is quite likely that a goodly share of her wisdom, and policy, and influence, will come from familiar intercourse with demons and their unclean teachings. But it does not seem to me that this touches the nerve of what is here called her sorcery. The great preponderating idea which runs through the whole description, is that of commercial greatness, success, and power; and the potent and contaminating sorcery must be something which is naturally construable with this,-some bewitching attractiveness going along with a mercantile system, and drawing after it the admiration and sympathy of the world. Meretricious allurement, gathering around it the homage of governments and kings, is the idea. And it is in Great Babylon's management to ennoble her chief aims and spirit that we are to find her witchery.
It is hardly possible to separate traffic, and especially great commercial combinations and schemes, from covetousness, which is idolatry. But naked covetousness is not attractive. Even the natural heart is repelled by it, and is ready to condemn and denounce it. When the possession of wealth is made the final end, when it is treasured in the coffer and not expended, or when means disreputable are adopted for its attainment, the pursuit of riches is regarded with disdain. The acquisition, under such circumstances, is connected with what is so repulsive to pride, and taste, and respectabilities which hold in approved society, that it meets only with frowns and disfavour. To array it in honourable garb, to dignify it, to make it appear good and praiseworthy, so that men may love, bless, and follow it as something noble and beneficent,-this is what calls for the magician's wand and the wizard's power. And here it is that Great Babylon's delusive witchery comes in. If a godless and unscrupulous commerce can be made to appear as the great and only availing civilizer, if it can show its end to be, not only the welfare of individuals, but the prosperity of nations and peoples; if its office is the development of the resources of the whole earth, and for that end visits every land and traverses every sea; if it is really the great stimulant to intellectual effort, the helper of science, the procurer and disseminator of all useful wisdom and intelligence, the rewarder of inventive genius and engineering skill, the self-sacrificing handmaid of all social, moral, and legislative improvement; if it is not the mere possession of wealth for its own sake, but to secure the beneficent power, and influence and glory to result from its wise and proper employment that makes up the end and aim of its endeavours, then will the ugliness of avarice be voided, bitter will have been made sweet, and all attendant deflections from right and truth swallowed up in the grandeur, and beauty, and beneficences of its purposes. The demon of covetousness would then have become an angel of light. A halo of glory would encircle its head. Nations would hail its undertakings, admire its enterprise, and praise its wonderful benignity. The arts and the sciences, the museums and the universities, would lay their chaplets at its feet. Kings and governments would cheerfully become its nurses and patrons. Religions would be glad to bestow upon it their prayers and benedictions. The apostles and prophets of this world's progress would clap their hands and shout over its success. And myriads would celebrate its triumph as the ushering in of the long-dreamed millennium.
And here is the sorcery with which Great Babylon leads all the nations astray. Linking the false doctrines of human progress and perfectibility to the worst of passions, she lures the world to her support, and makes mankind the willing slave of her base idolatry. And already, from pulpit and platform, from philosopher and political economist, from orator and poet, are we compelled to hear just these very glorifications of the cupidities of man as the forerunner, if not the instrument, of this world's regeneration. Alas, for such philosophy and such hopes! What estimate God puts upon them may be learned from what he has revealed of the doom of Babylon. It is sorcery, the penalty for which is death. (Exodus 22:18.)
I can mention now but one more particular in the count of Great Babylon's sins, and that is her presumptuous self-glorification, conceit, and arrogance. She has no rights of kingdom from God or man, and yet she presumes to bear rule over all the kings of the earth, to dictate their policies, to fashion their laws, and to be their protector and redeemer. She acknowledges no God, no Christ, no Holy Ghost, and yet proposes to do for the world what she assumes to be beyond the power of the institutes and administrations of heaven. She makes no claims to sacred prophecy, acknowledges no sacred books, and glories in being entirely secular in her sphere and aims, and yet presumes to teach the nations the ways and means of their highest prosperity and redemption, and to realize for them their sublimest peace and good. She is but human in her derivation, her principles and her power, and purely earthly in her dependence her treasures, and her glory; yet she presumes to think herself invincible, immortal, and forever sufficient in her own possessions against all adversity. "She saith in her heart, I sit a queen, and am not a widow, and shall see no mourning." She thus exalts herself over the Church of God, in which all that is divine on earth resides, and where the preaching has ever been about divine sonship, and kinghood, and a glorious kingdom, but to which no dominion has ever come. The saints are to reign; but while the Devil reigns their kingdom is in abeyance, and Babylon taunts them and congratulates herself with having in reality what they have only in empty promise. They do not reign; she sits a queen. While Christ is away the Church is in widowhood; her husband is absent. All her hope is in his return. Babylon boasts that she experiences no such privation. She is no widow. Her lovers are plenteous. Her joy is full. She claims to have in fruition what the Church has in mere expectation. The people of God have perpetual sorrow and trial on earth. Like their Lord, they are poor, despised, persecuted, with scarce a place to lay their heads in peace from their enemies. Great Babylon glories in being far above a condition so mean, or vicissitudes so afflicting. She is rich; she is mighty; she hath all her necessary goods secure; she is not the one to see mourning. Thus she vaunts, professes, and glorifies herself. Though the world from the beginning is crowded with monuments of the wrath of heaven upon every such spirit, and though through all the long gallery of ages the voice comes echoing down, "They that walk in pride God is able to abase," she heeds not the lesson, and defies all judgment. Hence Jehovah writes it once more in larger letters, drawn with the black cinders of her own eternal desolation, that all the universe may read and tremble.
Friends, let us learn the lesson. It is to this end that all these things have been written. Participation in Great Babylon's sins must needs bring Great Babylon's doom, be the offender who or where he may. And to but little avail will we have considered this subject if it does not serve to imprint upon our souls at least this one eternal truth of God, that "whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted." (Luke 14:11.)
; Revelation 19:1-6
(Revelation 18:9-24; Revelation 19:1-6)
SEQUENCES OF THE FALL OF BABYLON--THE WAILS OF ROYALTY--THE WAILS OF THE MERCHANTS--THE WAILS OF OTHER CLASSES--HEAVEN'S GLADNESS--THE SAINTS, APOSTLES, AND PROPHETS AVENGED--THE DOUBLE HALLELUIA--THE AMEN-FURTHER ITEMS OF THE JOY--THE TAKING OF THE KINGDOM--BLESSEDNESS OF THE RULE OF GOD.
Revelation 18:9-24. (Revised Text.) And shall wail and mourn over her the kings of the earth, who committed fornication with her, when they see the smoke of her burning, standing afar off through the fear of her torment, saying, Alas, alas (woe, woe), the great city Babylon, the mighty city! because in one hour came thy judgment.
And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn over her because no one buyeth their merchandise [or ship's freight] any more,-merchandise of gold, and of silver, and of precious stone, and of pearl, and of fine linen, and of purple, and of silk, and of scarlet, and all thyne [or citron] wood, and every article of ivory, and every article of most costly wood, and of brass, and of iron, and of marble; and cinnamon, and amomum, and odours, and ointment, and frankincense, and wine, and oil, and fine meal, and wheat, and cattle, and sheep; and [merchandise] of horses, and of chariots, and of bodies and souls of men. And thy harvest of the soul's desire has departed from thee, and all dainty things and bright things have perished from thee, and they shall not find them any more. The merchants of these things, who were made rich from her, shall stand afar off through the fear of her torment, weeping and mourning, saying, Alas, alas (woe, woe), the great city which was clothed in fine linen, and purple, and scarlet, and decked with gold, and precious stone, and pearl, because in one hour such great riches hath been desolated.
And every shipmaster, and everyone who goeth by sea, and sailors, and as many as trade by sea, stood afar off and cried out when they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, What is like to the great city! And they cast heaped-up earth upon their heads, and cried out, weeping and mourning, saying, Alas, alas (woe, woe), the great city by which all who had ships in the sea were made rich from her costliness [or treasures], because in one hour she hath been desolated!
Rejoice over her, O heaven, and saints, and apostles, and prophets, because God hath judged your judgment out of her.
And one, a mighty angel, took up a stone, as a great millstone, and cast [it] into the sea, saying, Thus with a bound shall the great city Babylon be cast down, and shall not be found any more. And the sound of harpers, and musicians, and flute-players, and trumpeters shall not be heard in thee any more, and every artisan of every art shall not be found in thee any more; and sound of the millstone shall not be heard in thee any more; and light of a candle shall not shine in thee any more; and the voice of the bridegroom and bride shall not be heard in thee any more; because thy merchants were the great men of the earth; because by thy sorcery all the nations were led astray.
And in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that have been slain upon the earth.
Revelation 19:1-6. (Revised Text.) After these things I heard as a great voice of much multitude in the heaven, saying, Alleluia, the salvation, and the glory, and the power, of our God, because true and righteous his judgments, because he judged the great harlot that corrupted the earth with her fornication, and avenged the blood of his servants out of her hand. And a second time they say, Alleluia; and her smoke goeth up for the ages of the ages.
And the twenty-four Elders and the four Living Ones fell down and worshipped the God the sitter upon the throne, saying, Amen, Alleluia.
And a voice came out from the throne, saying, Praise our God all his servants, those that fear him, the small and the great.
And I heard as a voice of much multitude, and as a voice of many waters, and as a voice of mighty thunders, saying, Alleluia, because the Lord God the All-Ruler hath assumed the kingdom.
The fall of Great Babylon is one of the most marvellous events of time. More is said about it in the Scriptures than perhaps any one great secular occurrence. And when it comes to pass the whole universe is thrilled at the sight. But the emotions are not all of the same kind. Two worlds are concerned, and in nothing are they more sharply in contrast than the manner in which they are respectively affected by the dreadful catastrophe. Great Babylon does not mean the world, as some have erroneously supposed; for there is still a world of unsanctified people left to mourn and lament over her after she is no more. And great is the lamentation and terror which her destruction calls forth. Let us look at it for a moment and see to what sudden disappointment and helplessness the schemes of human progress and development are leading. Just when the wisdom, and reforms, and utilitarian philosophies of apostate man have wrought themselves out, and their glorious fruits are being realized, the strong hand of judgment strikes, and all is confounded and blasted in an hour. And the terribleness of the disaster may be read from the lamentation which ensues.
First of all the apostolic Seer hears the wailings of royalty and dominion. "The Kings of the earth wail and mourn." They were all in close affinity with Babylon. They had lent themselves to her bewitching schemes and policy. They were enamoured with the enriching and glorifying power of her greatness. They had given their influence and favours to her, and consented to be the willing ministers to her wantonness. She was their particular love, in whom was their chief delight, and on whom they were glad to lavish their treasures. And when she falls, the main artery of earth's glory is cut, and every government feels its life-blood ebbing away. They contemplate the smoke of her burning with horror. They stand afar off in dread of her torment, alarmed and terrified at the consequences of her ruin. They leaned upon her mightiness, but the strong staff is now stricken from their hands. The mightier power of judgment is before them, and they tremble before its disastrous strokes. They show no penitence, but Alas, alas,--woe, woe,--is the note of outcry from every capital when it is seen and known that Babylon is no more.
Next come "the merchants of the earth," full of tears and grief over the sudden collapse of their enriching trade. It was promised that the wand of the sorceress would give prosperity to nations, and that as commerce ruled all people would be blest by its administrations; and a great tidal wave of mercantile thrift and glory is indicated as having come over the world by this grand unification. There never was so great a market or so brisk a trade as that which grows up with the revival and restoration of Babylon. The whole world becomes alive with traffic in "merchandise of gold, and of silver, and of precious stone, and of pearl, and of fine linen, and of purple, and of silk, and of scarlet, and all thyne or citron wood, and every article of ivory, and every article of most costly wood, and of brass, and of iron, and of marble; and cinnamon, and amomum [a precious preparation from an Asiatic shrub], and odours, and ointment, and frankincense, and wine, and oil, and fine meal, and wheat, and cattle, and sheep; and merchandise of horses, and of chariots, and of bodies and souls of men." Never before was there such a demand for these things, and for all things dainty and goodly, as when the house of the Ephah is built in the land of Shinar, and that Ephah is settled there upon its own base. "The merchants of these things" the world over never before experienced so great a harvest, and double up riches on riches with a rapidity which seems like miracle. Everything looks like secure and perfect triumph for earth's wisdom and inventions. But all at once this mighty commerce stops, and all its wheels stand still. The mercantile circles of the whole earth are stricken with consternation. Every counting-room becomes a place of mourning. The great traders all weep and mourn, not so much for Babylon's sufferings, for man's sympathy for man shall then have been eaten away by the common sordidness; nor yet for their great sins, for the day of repentance is then over for them. The centre of their distress is that their market is gone, that "no one buyeth their merchandise any more," that "in one hour such great riches hath been desolated," that the scorching of the great city's torment reaches them even at the remotest distances. Alas, alas,--woe, woe,--is the cry that comes from all their warehouses and homes.
But there is a third and still larger class of mourners. Great firms have more employes than heads, and very many are dependent on them for occupation and livelihood. Shipmasters, and seagoers, and sailors, and as many as trade by sea, with all their helpers and crews, also have their harvest out of this great and enriching Babylonian traffic. And these still more sorely feel the calamity of its sudden interruption. Therefore, from them also comes the cry of lamentation when they behold the smoke of Babylon's burning. And so bitter is the realization of the calamity to them, that "they cast heaped-up earth upon their heads and cry out, weeping and mourning, saying, Alas, alas,--woe, woe,--the great city by which all who had ships in the sea were made rich from her costly treasures!"
Thus, from every throne on earth, and from every power behind the throne, from every seat of trade, and every city,--from every continent, every island, every sea, and every ship that plies upon the sea,--comes forth the voice of woe and irremediable disaster. It is a triple voice, each part of which is double. It is the evil six complete. It is the inconsolable lament of all the potencies and activities of earth, exhibiting another star in the crown of this world's wisdom and progress.
But whilst the chorus of lamentation, disappointment, and terror is upon the earth, a grand jubilation fills the sky. As this world's great ones, and rich ones, and dependent ones cry Woe, woe, over Great Babylon's fall, all the peoples on high pour out their mightiest Halleluias. No sooner has the harlot city gone down amid her judgment fires, than a voice springs up spontaneous over all the holy universe: "Rejoice over her, O heaven, and saints, and apostles, and prophets, because God hath judged your judgment out of her."
For all the ages had God's messengers and people been protesting, prophesying, and declaiming against these worldly philosophies, systems, hopes, and spirit. It lies in the very nature and essence of the profession of all saints to "renounce the Devil and all his works, the vanities of the world, and the sinful desires of the flesh." No one in any age can have place among God's holy ones without this. As Noah by his faith, so the children of God in all time, by the very act of becoming God's children, "condemn the world," and give judgment against its wisdom, its principles, its spirit, and its hopes. So, too, all the teachings of the apostles, all the holy messages of the prophets, and all the sermons of God's faithful ministers the world over. What, indeed, has been the great controversy ever since the race begun, but that between revelation and the sensual wisdom, between the system of God's salvation and that which men propose to work out for themselves, between the bringing up of the world on principles of human progress and the only redemption through faith in Christ Jesus? And between these two there is an inherent, irreconcilable, and eternal antagonism. That which makes and marks the saints, the apostles, and the prophets, is at perpetual variance with what characterizes and animates all the rest of the world, condemns it, and ever pronounces and prophesies against it. Thus far, however, as respects this world, the saints, apostles, and prophets have had the worst of it. Always in the minority, the world at large has never listened to them, never agreed with them, never consented to accept their system, never sympathized with their hopes, never respected their profession. They depreciate its interests too much. They are too severe on its principles. They are in the way of its liberties. They would draw a cowl over its joys. They would disable its beneficent progress. They are pessimists, who shut off all blessed outcome from its philosophies and efforts touching the amelioration of the condition of the race. In a word, they are intolerable to the world, a poor croaking set, fit only to be killed off by the hand of power where they are too persistent and loud, and unfit at best to receive respectful attention. If the world can find a Balaam, ready to compromise himself for gold, to bless it for a price, and to speak God's benediction on its lusts and passions, him it will honour, and to him will Balak's nobles come; but for the Elijahs, Isaiahs, Jeremiahs, Peters, and Pauls, their fate has ever been to be mocked, scourged, imprisoned, stoned, sawn asunder, slain with the sword, nailed to the cross, thrown to wild beasts, or compelled to seek asylum in deserts, mountains, and dens and caves of the earth, being destitute, tormented, afflicted, because they condemn the godless world, its Ahabs, its Jezebels, its Herods, and its sins. Compared with the great mass of mankind, the true Church has always been a "little flock," toiling with difficulties, opposition, and hatred, and never able to make effective headway against the powers holding sway over the race. Now and then the course of history seemed on the point of justifying her principles and profession, but then came internal defections, setting her back again, and almost extinguishing her being. And so it will be unto the end. So far as this present world is concerned, the general verdict of mankind, sustained by the great current of human history for 6,000 years, is against the faith and testimonies of the saints, apostles, and prophets of God. To the general population of the earth their profession stands branded as mere hallucination and lies. But at last their vindication comes. When the vaunted wisdom, and progress, and experiments of unregenerate man are consummated, and there is nothing to show from it but a valley of burning cinders and desolation, with the whole earth from highest kings to meanest subjects howling in helpless lamentations, terror, and despair, history will have added its seal to all that saints, apostles, and prophets have said and maintained. Then will their judgment have been judged out of that world which despised and persecuted them, and spurned their hated pessimism for more flattering philosophies. Then will their renunciation of this world and its delusive hopes be justified by the ruin of its most cherished greatness. Then will the false verdict under which they have lain and suffered for sixty centuries be reversed in the living facts, of which they never ceased to tell and prophesy. Now they have sorrow, and can only weep and lament, whilst the world rejoices and sets them at naught; but then the sorrow and joy will exchange places, and the sorrow of the one be turned to joy, and the joy of the other to enduring lamentation.
It is in answer to this call for heaven, saints, apostles, and prophets to rejoice, that the sublime outbursts described in this chapter occur. John listens and looks, and sounds fall on his ears, and sights pass before bis eyes, which stir and affect him more deeply than anything he yet had seen or heard since the first vision.
First of all he hears "a great voice of much multitude in heaven, saying, Alleluia." Here, for the first time in the New Testament, we come upon one of the most admirable words of praise ever made known on earth. It is the same that occurs so often in the most exultant of the Hebrew Psalms. Anselm of Canterbury, considers it an angelic word, which cannot be fully reproduced in any language of man, and concurs with Augustine that the feeling and saying of it embodies all the blessedness of heaven. The Apocrypha (Tobit 13:18) gives it as among the great glories of the New Jerusalem that all the streets shall say, Alleluia. And this word John hears sounding from the sky,
Loud as from numbers without number,
Sweet as from blest voices uttering joy.
It is one of the very highest acknowledgments and celebrations of God. Where it is understandingly sung there is at once the profoundest adoration and the most exultant joy. And this is the feeling and experience in the heaven when the proud system of this world's apostate wisdom and glory falls.
We are not told precisely from whom this voice comes. It may be from the souls under the altar who waited so long to be avenged. It may be from that multitude which no man could number who come out of the great tribulation. It may be, but not so likely, from the host of holy angels who had been ministering for all these ages for what is then being realized. It may be from the 144,000 remembering the terribleness of the Antichristian severities they suffered, whose acclaim is elsewhere compared to mighty thunder. (Revelation 14:2.) But whoever the particular parties may be, it is the voice of a multitudinous company of people in the heaven, and it is the voice of exultant adoration, celebrating "the salvation, and the glory, and the power of our God." Thus, what the kings, merchants, and shippers on earth mourn and lament as destruction, is celebrated in heaven as divine "salvation." What is considered nothing but woe here is praised as divine glory there. And what is here regarded as the unmaking of all that earth called mighty is sung there as the very triumph of divine goodness. Heaven's estimate of things is widely different from that entertained by this world. The object of earth's fondest love and delight is the object of God's intensest wrath. That which men most work for, and most fondly serve, is that which God most severely judges. And that which the great ones most deplore is the very thing which evokes the sublimest heavenly Halleluias.
The destruction of Great Babylon is an illustrious exhibition of the truth and righteousness of the divine administrations. Often it would seem as if God had forgotten his word, or quite abandoned the earth, so great is the prosperity of the wicked, the triumph of injustice, the wrongs and afflictions which those who most honour him suffer. But it is not so. He is true. His ways are just. Everything will come out fully equalized at the last. And here is a signal demonstration of the fact. The godless wisdom and pride of men are left to work themselves out to the full, but when the harvest is ripe the sweep of the sharp sickle of judgment comes against it and it suddenly falls, and all its just deservings it gets. The harlot has her day; but then comes her night with never a star of hope to rise upon her any more. She is permitted to lure, delude, and debauch the world, because men preferred her abominations to the truth and kingdom of God; but only that her judgment may be the more conspicuous, and her destruction the more signal and complete. And the Halleluia of eternity is all the louder and more intense because her judgment comes as it does. Ah, yes, God's ways are right; his judgments are true and righteous. Perplexing and trying as they may be for the time, our Halleluias will be all the deeper and the sweeter by reason of what we may now deplore. Nay, they will be double then, by reason of the darkness now; for "a second time they say, Alleluia."
And what the unnamed heavenly multitude so exultantly express, the twenty-four Elders and the four Living Ones equally feel and endorse. They even prostrate themselves in profoundest adoration, and "worship the God, the sitter upon the throne, saying, Amen, Alleluia."
And here we meet with another of those peculiarly sacred and expressive words, reasonably supposed to have had their origin in heaven. From our first meeting with it in the Scriptures (Numbers 5:22) to the concluding word of this Book, we find it used as the special word of holy acquiescence and sacred ratification. It was constantly on the lips of the Saviour in his most solemn enunciations. It is the sealing word to all the Gospels and Epistles. It is not an oath, yet it has much of the solemnity and force of an oath. It contains no adjuration or appeal, yet it authenticates, confirms, binds, seals, and pledges to the truth of that to which it is affixed. It is not an imprecation upon him who utters it, but it is a tying up and giving over of his whole being and life to what he thus acknowledges and confirms. When placed at the end of an utterance or act of devotion, as placed by the Saviour at the end of the prayer he propounded as our model and form, it has the office of an underwriting or subscription, carrying the hearty consent and confidence of the worshipper with what has gone before. It is the word of fervency and soul-earnestness by which every utterance is grasped up again, and renewedly laid before God, as the full and ardent desire of our hearts, and as that which our souls most feel and most sacredly rest in. And so it is in the case now before us. The Elders and the Living Ones hear the triumphant celebration of the salvation, and the glory, and the power of our God, as sounded forth in the great voice of the much multitude, and feel the convictions and emotions of their own souls so completely expressed that they adoringly bow down and sacredly make it their own. All heaven is of one mind and of one soul.
Therefore the self-prostrated Elders and Living Ones answer the Halleluias of the unnamed host with a third Halleluia, prefaced with the Amen, which makes the other two theirs also.
But this triple utterance of exultant praise and celebration of the salvation glory, and power of our God, is still further urged on by a voice that comes out from the throne itself, saying, "Praise our God, all his servants, those that fear him, the small and the great."
We are not told whose voice this is. Some take as the voice of Christ, who is elsewhere said to be "in the midst of the throne." (Revelation 7:17.) If it is his voice, he thus recognizes the Father as his God, as he did in the days of his earthly life, and at the same time owns all the glorified as his associates. But Whether it is Christ's voice or not, it is the voice of the throne, a voice having authority to command and lead off in further exultation for the marvellous things then being accomplished. Nor is it unlikely that the Saviour himself leads in the praise enjoined. So the promise runs in Psalm chapter 22: "I will declare thy name unto my brethren; in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee. Ye that fear the Lord, praise him. My praise shall be of thee in the great congregation; I will pay my vows before them that fear him."
The subject of the praise here called for seems to look two ways, embracing the judgment just executed, and new glories about to be realized, of which that judgment is the pledge and inauguration. The voice which gave the first and second Halleluias was the voice of a vast heavenly multitude. The Amen and third Hallluia were from the Elders and the Living Ones. These all centre in the display of divine truth, justice, and almightiness in the judgment of Great Babylon, and the avenging of the blood of the saints out of her hand. If there be any other servants and fearers of God, great or small, they are also called to join in the exulting praises for the same. But as response comes to this admonition from the throne, the songs take in other subjects, and seem to embrace all that is described in the latter part of the chapter. The Halleluia which now comes with redoubled power and majesty celebrates the assumption of the kingdom by the Lord God, which would seem to imply that the victory in the battle of the great day is included. The marriage of the Lamb, the readiness and array of the Bride, and the blessedness of those who are called to the marriage banquet are likewise recounted, which can hardly be taken as coincident with the fall of Babylon. A point would, therefore, seem to be indicated in this call, from which the contemplation is both backward to Babylon's overthrow and forward to the fall of the Beast, and the contemplation of the Church's blessedness in her Lord; the main stress gravitating now toward what follows the judgment on Babylon.
No sooner does the voice from the throne give command for praise than John "heard as a voice of much multitude, and as a voice of many waters, and as a voice of mighty thunders, saying, Alleluia, because the Lord God the All-Ruler hath assumed the kingdom." This is a mightier Halleluia than either of the preceding. It refers also to an ampler subject. The judgment of Great Babylon demonstrated, indeed, that God is mighty, and that he is the All-Ruler. It also showed a potent taking up and enforcement of his sovereign and righteous authority. But what was thus shown in one aspect and relation is at once followed out to a much wider and more direct assumption of active rule and sovereignty. When the seventh trumpet was sounded a great voice anticipatively exclaimed: "The kingdom of the world [not kingdoms, as some versions and unsupported copies read, but ἡ βασιλεία του κοσμου, as all the great manuscripts have it, rendered by Wickliffe, the Rheims version, the old Vulgate, and the still older Syriac, the kingdom of the world], is become our Lord's and his Christ's." The kingdom of the world means the political sovereignty of the world, the rulership of the world, the kingly dominion or government of the world, the same which is now exercised by the potentates and authorities of the earth. And this kingdom of the world, this sovereignty this rule, this power of making and enforcing the laws regulating human society, the great voice said was then about to pass into the hands of the Lord. It does not mean the leavening of existing governments with Christian principles, the spiritual conversion of countries and empires, leaving them in existence, and simply Christianizing them so as to exhibit something of Christ's spirit in their administrations; but the total displacement of all this world's sovereigns and governments, the taking of all dominion and authority out of their hands, and the putting of it in the hands of Christ, as the true and only King of the world. And the actual assumption of this rulership of the earth in the place and stead of existing governments and lordships is what the song of praise to God here so mightily celebrates. "As a voice of much multitude, as a voice of many waters, and as a voice of mighty thunders." comes forth the grand "Alleluia, because the Lord God, the All-Ruler, hath assumed the kingdom;" that is, has himself entered upon the actual administration of the sovereignty and government of the world.
The fall of Great Babylon heralds and begins the political regeneration of the earth.
And well may the tide of holy exaltation swell to its sublimest height over such an actuality. What is the crown and consummation of that prayer which the Lord Jesus put upon the lips and into the hearts of all his followers when he said, pray, "Thy kingdom come?" Does it mean no more than that our own hearts may be thoroughly subdued to our Maker, purged of idolatry and lust, purified by the Holy Ghost, and filled with all pureness, heavenly knowledge, devotion, obedience, and grace? That might be, and yet the earth be crushed with misrule, tyranny, corruption, and oppression. Does it mean simply that the Church may be ever dear and faithful to God, its ministers multiplied, its membership increased, its Scriptures distributed, its faith kept pure, its sacraments observed, its defections healed, its weaknesses removed, its success augmented, and all its members blessed with all spiritual riches in Christ Jesus? That might all be and the world still be to her a valley of Baca, a Bochim, a wilderness of sorrow and hardship. Does it mean only the removal of what hinders the preaching and belief of the Gospel, or the progress of faith and piety in the individual and in the world? That might also be and still God's kingdom be no nearer than it is at present. When Isaiah prophesied of Christ, he said: "The government shall be upon his shoulder; of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and justice." (Isaiah 9:6-7.) When the Holy Ghost explained the meaning of the all-crushing stone in Nebuchadnezzar's dream, which broke to atoms the whole statue of worldly power and dominion, took its place, and filled the whole earth, the word was, This is the kingdom which the God of heaven shall set up, which shall break in pieces and consume all other kingdoms and it shall stand forever. (Daniel 2:32-45.) When Daniel was beholding till "the judgment was set and the books opened," he saw in the night visions, like to the Son of Man, brought before the Ancient of days, "and there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages should serve him," even "the kingdom, and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven," "an everlasting kingdom." (Daniel 7:1-28.) When Gabriel announced to Mary the child to be born of her, he said: "He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest, and the Lord shall give unto him the throne of his father David, and he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there shall be no end." (Luke 1:26-33.) When he himself was among men, because some "thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear," he spake a parable, and said that the matter is as a nobleman going "into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return," meanwhile entrusting to his servants certain possessions with which to trade and occupy till he should come. (Luke 19:11-13.) And so again he said: "When the Son of Man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit in the throne of his glory." (Matthew 25:31.) All these and many like passages treat of that very kingdom, for the coming of which all are commanded to pray. Nor can they be explained according to their plan and pointed terms without taking in the coming again of Christ to reckon with his servants, to take the rule out of the hands of those who have usurped dominion over the earth, to dethrone Satan and all his agents, and to reign from sea to sea, the only rightful King of the world. And thus, when Great Babylon falls, it will be God's kingdom come, as it never yet has come, and the burden of the prayer of all these weary ages answered.
This assumption of the rule of the world will likewise bring with it the great desideratum of the race. When Adam was in Eden God was king. In the days of Israel's greatest triumph it was the same. And until the original Theocracy is restored, and the powers of heaven again take the rulership and control of the nations, there is no peace, no right order for man. There is no earthly blessing like that of good, wise, and righteous government; but there is no such government outside of the government of the Father and the Son. Some are better than others, but none are satisfactory. Men have experimented with power for 6,000 years, and yet there is no department in which there is more disability, corruption, and unsatisfactoriness than in the administrations of government. There is nothing of which all people so much complain, or have so much cause to complain, as of the manner in which their political affairs are managed and administered. Those who live on government patronage and plunder are enthusiastic enough in behalf of what they call their country, and consider it piety to eulogize the instrument which pampers their greed and passions; but the helpless multitude is left to sigh and cry in vain over the abominations that are done. The best governments man has ever tried have invariably disappointed their founders, and proven themselves too weak or too strong, too concentrated or too dissevered, and in one way or another have turned into instruments of injustice, ambition, selfishness, and affliction. The demonstration of the ages is, that "that which is crooked cannot be made straight, and that which is wanting cannot be numbered." So true is this that one has said, with a pathos that shows how deep the conviction was, "I know no safe depositary of power among mortal men for the purposes of government. Tyranny and oppression, in Church and State, under every form of government,-social, civil, ecclesiastical, monarchical, aristocratical, or democratic,--have, sooner or later, characterized the governments of the earth, and have done so from the beginning." Bad government is doubtless better than no government. In the nature of things we must have government of some sort. Because of the worse ills of anarchy we take the lesser afflictions of government in such forms as we can get it. But what right-thinking and right-feeling man is not outraged every day at the injustice, maladministration, perversion, and abominations that go along with every government of man? So it ever has been, and so it ever will be while "man's day" lasts. "The kingdom is the Lord's," and till he comes and assumes it there will be disappointment, misrule, revolution, and incurable trouble in all human calculations and affairs. Nothing but the sway and reign of heaven can redeem this fallen world out of the pestilential morasses of its incompetent and oppressive governments. But there is an All-Ruler who will yet assume the kingdom, and give the race the reign of blessedness. "He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass, as showers that water the earth. In his days shall the righteous flourish, and abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth. He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth. They that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before him, and his enemies shall lick the dust. All kings shall fall down before him; all nations shall serve him. For he shall deliver the needy when he crieth, the poor also, and him that hath no helper. He shall redeem their soul from deceit and violence, and precious shall their blood be in his sight. He shall live, and to him shall be given of the gold of Sheba; prayer also shall be made for him continually, and daily shall he be praised. His name shall endure forever, and men shall be blessed in him. All nations shall call him blessed."
Thus flowed the glorious numbers from David's prophetic harp, telling of the All-Ruler's assumption of the kingdom, and exulting in it, until the royal singer's soul fired up into the very Alleluia of the text, crying, "Blessed be his glorious name forever! and let the whole earth be filled with his glory. A men, and A men." Human utterance could go no higher. The mountain summit of the promised blessedness was reached. And there the prayers of David, the son of Jesse, ended. (Psalms 72:1-20.)
We thus begin to see something of the dawn and character of those better times to come when once the mystery of God is finished. Tyrants, despots, and faithless and burdensome governments shall then be no more. Like wild beasts, full of savage instinct for blood and oppression, have the world-powers roamed and ravaged the earth, treading down the nations, their will the only law, the good and happiness of men the furthest from their hearts. But it will be otherwise then. "The Lord shall be king over all the earth," and therein is the signal and pledge of the dominion of right and everlasting peace. Wars shall be no more. Injustice and unequal laws shall be done away. Enemies will be powerless. Men will then have their standing according to their moral worth. The salvation of God will be nigh to them that fear him. Truth shall spring out of the earth, and righteousness shall look down from heaven. And sorrow and sighing shall flee away. Therefore the voice of eternal right is, "Praise our God, all his servants, those that fear him, the small and the great," and from all the holy universe comes the song, in volume like the sea, in strength like the thunder, "Alleluia, because the Lord God the All-Ruler HATH ASSUMED THE KINGDOM."
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Seiss, Joseph A. "Commentary on Revelation 18". Seiss' Lectures on Leviticus and Revelation. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany