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Babylon, no doubt, boasts of her riches—she makes a great display of her resources ; for, according to the prophet, she is to be as much characterized for her pride as for her apparent wealth, (Jer. 1. 31.) The merits and means of propitiation of human fabric are the uncertain riches (1 Tim. vi. 17) which not only take to themselves wings and fly away, but which must be found to be entirely worthless in the emergency when something really precious will be most called for.
$385. “Having a golden cup in her hand.'-As we have taken gold to be symbolical of truth, it may appear hardly in keeping with our view of the character of Babylon as a false system, that the material of her cup should be gold. This however may be construed in two ways. She was decked in gold, that is, in her gold, (gold at the best very much alloyed or mixed,) and the material of her cup may be of the same debased character ; or,
if it be of pure gold, then it represents an instrument of truth, or a true exhibition showing the true character of the mixture in which her followers participate. We prefer this latter construction, although the result would not materially differ in either case.*
Full of abon.inations and filthiness of her fornication.'—Such is the real character of this mixture when truly exhibited. We are not to suppose the participants of this cup to be aware of its true character, any more than they are aware that the magnificent city Babylon, as they esteem it, is but a wilderness, or the capital of a wilderness. As we have considered the wine of the harlot an opposite of the wine of the marriage feast, we may also consider her cup a professed substitute, or a counterfeit, of the cup of salvation alluded to Ps. cxvi. 3. Babylon professes to furnish by her cup an element of joy and rejoicing, an atonement or propitiation essential to the enjoyment of eternal life. The most odious characteristic of the ingredients of this cup is, apparently, that it is a mixture, as indicated by the epithets applied to it; a mixture corresponding with what we have said ($33) of the character of the system represented by Babylon herself. This cup offers to the disciple, as an object of his faith and trust, a pretended atonement or propitiation,
* There would be no inconsistency in supposing the harlot to appear with ornaments of pure gold, and of gems and pearls, really precious; for it accords with our common experience of falsehood, that it usually makes its appearance “in truth's array.”
." In like manner, our supposed pseudo-economy of salvation, besides arraying herself in the sanguinary apparel of the legal covenant, may, in persect heeping with her mixed character, make a display also of many of the precious truths of the gospel economy; the character of these valuable materials being changed only by the abuse to which they are perverted: as it is said, Lam. iv. 1, 2, “How is the gold become dim! how is the most fine gold changed! the stones of the sanctuary are poured out in the top of every street. The precious sons of Zion, comparable to fine gold, how are they esteemed as earthen pitchers, the work of the hands of the wrought out partly by the merits of Christ, and partly by the merits of man. Such a mixture involves the ingredients of hypocrisy, of blasphemy, of vainglory, of mercenary and selfish motives, of ingratitude towards the author of salvation, and of lukewarmness in his service ;-hypocrisy, because it professes a dependence upon the merits of Christ, when the real dependence of the deluded disciple is upon his own merits, and because it prosesses to give the glory of salvation to the Saviour, when it really assumes this glory for some merit of the being saved; blasphemy, because, if man be supposed to be in any respect the efficient cause of his own salvation, such a supposition places him, in pretence, upon an equality with God; vainglory, because, if the disciple trace his eternal well-being to some merit in himself, he assumes for himself the glory of his own salvation ; mercenary selfishness, because on these mixed principles man must necessarily act from the secret motive of promoting his own interest, and his own glory, while the pretension that eternal life is a compensation for merited service, in any degree, must as necessarily diminish the gratitude due for that which is an unmerited gift, and must thus generate the lukewarmness so hateful to God, as we have seen it declared to be in the case of the Laodicean angel, ($ 102.) The ingredients of such a mixture may well be supposed to be abominations in the sight of Him, who has declared himself the only Saviour ; who will not divide his glory with another; a jealous God, beside whom no other object of worship or other source of dependence is permitted.
The word rendered filthiness in our common version, åxatuorntos according to some editions of the Greek, does not occur in any other passage of the New Testament; but its kindred, đzuð apoia, and the adjective axét ngros, are met with several times, and are uniformly rendered by the words uncleanness and unclean, as the three spirits were said, Rev. xvi. 13, to be unclean as frogs ; an uncleanness, as we have supposed, of a Levitical character—the opposite of that which is holy or set apart. We suppose the second ingredient of the harlot's cup to be a principle or principles of this unholy character : common or unclean, because not set apart to the service of God-elements of propitiation not of the class required by God; such uncleanness in matters of doctrine being apparently alluded to, Eph. iv. 19, and i Thess. ii. 3. Purity, however, being the opposite of mixture, as fornication is the opposite of marriage, this uncleanness may involve also the same idea of mixed principles, partly of self-dependence and partly of dependence upon God, as those alluded to under the figure of abominations; as a reliance partly on one's own righteousness and partly on the righteousness of Christ, is figuratively spoken of as an adulterous infidelity or breach of marriage vows.
The cup or the wine of a marriage feast represents in Scripture the occasion of joy or happiness afforded by the marriage, not merely to the parties united in wedlock, but to all the guests present at the feast. To participate in the wine of the marriage entertainment, is to share in the common joy and common cause of rejoicing of the whole company. The figure appears to be taken from the presumed interest which every friend or relative of the parties thus united takes in the prospect of their happiness, resulting as it does from a legitimate and honourable connection. The cup or wine of the harlot represents an occasion of false, ill-founded joy or rejoicing; as if we were to imagine the friends of a bride called together to celebrate, as they supposed, her nuptials, which proved to be only of a fictitious character, resulting in an illicit connection. The joy of these relatives would appear, to one aware of the deceit, a species of madness. In like manner, the followers of the harlot are led away with the insane delusion that her festal cup represents a real occasion of rejoicing ; while, to those who are aware of its fallacious character, the conduct of these devotees appears to be equalled only by the folly of the maniac. Something like this seems to be implied in the language of the prophet, “ Babylon hath been a golden cup in the Lord's hand, that made all the earth drunken; the nations have drunken of her wine, therefore the nations are mad,” Jer. li. 7 ;—they have been deceived into the belief that the illicit connections peculiar to the system of Babylon, affords that cause of rejoicing which can result only from the occasion of the legitimate union of the divine Spouse with his spiritual bride.
$386. “And upon her forehead a name,' &c.—The elements of truth, the sealed ones, bore upon their foreheads the name of the Father of the Lamb. The subjects of the beast were required to receive his mark in their foreheads, and, corresponding with these, the harlot is conspicuously marked with her name and character. The impress, however, we may presume is only to be seen by one who, like the apostle, in spirit sees her in her true character and position. Her deluded followers, of course, are not supposed to possess this degree of discernment. To the apostle she may be said to appear unveiled; by him, therefore, the inscription upon her forehead is plainly perceived, but to those partaking of her cup, she may appear as the espoused wife—the false economy usurping the place of the true, as the blasphemous beast usurps the place of the true God.
Mystery.'-We have already spoken of the mystery of truth, the mystery of God, of Christ, and of the Gospel, ($ 331.) Here, it is evident that there must be something of an opposite character. The gospel is termed, Rom. xvi. 25, “The revelation of the mystery of God, which was kept secret since the world began;" that is, the revelation of God's plan of salvation. Opposite of this, we suppose the harlot to represent a mystery or plan of salvation of human device—a simulation of the plan revealed by the gospel—a simulation of that union represented by the marriage tie, which Paul denominates a great mystery—an opposite of the covenant declared, Gal. iv. 26, to be “the mother of us all,” or rather a substitute for it ; for we do not suppose Babylon to represent the covenant of works--which is something of an unmixed character. We suppose the harlot to be rather professedly a representation of the covenant of grace, but in reality a confused mixture of the principles of both covenants. She does not profess to advocate a system of doctrine in which no salvation is esteemed necessary; she pretends, on the contrary, to furnish a cup of salvation of her own. And as the gospel mystery has its cup of propitiation, (the atonement of Christ,) so the harlot has her professed means of atonement, a mixture such as we have before noticed; the mystery of the harlot bearing to the beast (self) a relation corresponding with that borne by the bride, or true covenant of grace, to the Redeemer-Babylon being perhaps a figure of the mystery of iniquity, alluded to by the apostle Paul in his account of the man of sin, 2 Thess. ji. 3. The mystery of iniquity is not the man of sin himself, but the two are so intimately connected, in their principles and results, that they may be contemplated as identic. As, on the other hand, the bride (the covenant of grace, or the purpose of God) is in effect so much the same with the Lamb, Christ, (the personification of the Logos,) that they also, when fully revealed, will be manifested to be identic.
· Babylon the great.'—We have already enlarged so fully upon the system of consusion designated by this appellation, that a further analysis of it here would be but a repetition. The principal use to be made of this inscription at present is to identify expressly these two figures of the woman and the city, that there may be no hesitation in receiving whatever is affirmed of the one as equally applicable to the other : this harlot, the great city, and Babylon, represent but one and the same mystery; as we shall find their opposites, the bride, the holy city, and the New Jerusalem, alike representing one other mystery. The explanation may be the more called for here, as, while Babylon is described in this chapter as existing, and as being finally destroyed under the figure of a woman, her destruction in the next chapter is more circumstantially set forth as the conflagration of a great city.
· The mother of harlots and abominations of the earth.'—As any confused system of true and false principles must necessarily generate a multitude of subordinate errors, so Babylon, as a mixture of the elements of the law with those of the gospel, is the parent of a multitude of minor doctrinal systems and elements of the same erroneous character. All such adulterations of truth are alike offensive and abominable in the sight of God; all possessing the same features of hypocrisy, vainglory, ingratitude, lukewarmness, and blasphemy; for which reason they are entitled to the appellation of abominations, abominations of the earth, because they are peculiar to that earthly view of man's position which supposes him to be dependent upon his own merits or works. All these minor sys ems, with their variety of forms and phases, may be contemplated as inventions of the false prophet for sustaining the power of self, and for promoting the worship of that image of self, or of self-righteousness, which comes into immediate collision with the only true object of worship, Jehovah our Redeemer. They owe their origin, however, mediately to that mixture or amalgamation, of which Babylon is the representation. The inscription upon the forehead of this adulterous woman might accordingly be translated thus: Mystery, the system of confusion ; the parent of nired systems, and of self-righteous schemes of salvation, arising from carnal and perverted interpretations of the revealed word of God.
Vs. 6. 7. And I saw the woman drunk- Και είδον την γυναίκα μεθύουσαν εκ του en will tlie blood of the saints, and with αίματος των αγίων και εκ του αίματος των the blood of the mariyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great uaprípor 'hooù· xui tJaiuvou, idu ui. admiration. And the angel said unto me, την, θαυμα μέγα. Και είπέ μοι ο άγγελος Wherefore didst thou arvel ? I will tell διά τι εθαύμασας ; εγώ σοι ερώ το μυστήthee tlie nnystery of the woman, and of ριον της γυναικός και του θηρίου του βασ. the beast that carrieth her, which hath τάζοντος αιτήν, του έχοντος τας επτά κεthe seven heads, and ten horns.
φαλάς και τα δέκα κέρατα.
$ 387. “And I saw,' &c.—The idea to be associated with this drunkenness we suppose to be more especially that of satiety; as, in speaking of a ferocious animal, it might be said to be satiated, gorged with the blood of its victims. The figure corresponds with what is said of certain elements, represented as inhabiters of the earth in the last chapter, which are said to have shed the blood of saints and of prophets, on which account blood was given them to drink. The triumphant condition of the harlot precedes the pouring out of these vials of wrath ; the elements of her system being probably the same, or part of the same, as those said to be worthy of the visitation of the third vial, (Rev. xvi. 6.)
These saints (holy ones) and martyrs (witnesses) of Jesus we have before supposed (89 162, 262) to represent elements of revealed truth as transmitted to us in the sacred Scriptures, all witnessing to the true character of Jesus, as the Lord our righteousness, and to the nature of his work in the economy of grace, when their spiritual sense is correctly taken into consideration. On this account, to maintain the system of the harlot, it is necessary to divest these elements of revelation of their spiritual sense ; this separation of the spirit from the letter is, therefore, figuratively spoken of as a shedding of the blood, or a taking of the life of those who are witnesses of the truth. This the harlot system is supposed to have done to satiety, so as apparently to have completely triumphed, and to have done so with impunity.
· And when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration,' (wonder.)— This expression appears designed to bring out the explanation of the angel immediately following it ; but the wonder will appear the more natural, if