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THE DESOLATION OF
BABYLON. THE CONFLAGRATION.
Vs. 1, 2, 3. And after these things I Καὶ μετὰ ταῦτα εἶδον ἄλλον ἄγγελον saw another angel come down from hea- καταβαίνοντα ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ, ἔχοντα ἐξουven, having great power; and the earth σίαν μεγάλην· καὶ ἡ γῆ ἐφωτίσθη ἐκ τῆς was lightened with his glory. And he cried mightily with a strong voice, sayδόξης αὐτοῦ. Καὶ ἔκραξεν ἐν ἰσχυρὰ φωνῇ ing, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, λέγων· ἔπεσεν, ἔπεσε Βαβυλὼν ἡ μεγάλη, and is become the habitation of devils, καὶ ἐγένετο κατοικητήριον δαιμόνων καὶ and the hold of every foul spirit, and φυλακὴ παντὸς πνεύματος ἀκαθάρτου καὶ For all nations have drunk of the wine of φυλακὴ παντὸς ὀρνέου ἀκαθάρτου καὶ μεthe wrath of her fornication, and the kings μισημένου· ὅτι ἐκ τοῦ οἴνου τοῦ θυμοῦ of the earth have committed fornication τῆς πορνείας αὐτῆς πέπωκε πάντα τὰ ἔθνη, with her, and the merchants of the earth καὶ οἱ βασιλεῖς τῆς γῆς μετ ̓ αὐτῆς ἐπόρ
cage of every unclean and hateful bird.
are waxed rich through the abundance ofνευσαν, καὶ οἱ ἔμποροι τῆς γῆς ἐκ τῆς δυνάμεως τοῦ στρήνους αὐτῆς ἐπλούτησαν.
§ 401. And after these things,' &c.-After having seen in the wilderness Babylon in the midst of her glory, under the figure of an adulterous woman, after having been made acquainted with the mystery of her power, and after having heard the prediction of her final destruction as by fire, the apostle is furnished with further particulars of the desolations of this great city, and of the final destruction awaiting her by fire, corresponding with the prediction in the sixteenth verse of the preceding chapter. The scenery is now changed: the apostle is restored to the position he occupied as a spectator at the pouring out of the seventh vial, when the great city was divided into three parts, and Babylon came in remembrance before God. The figure of a woman is dropped; and consequently the corresponding figures of the manner in which this woman was to be destroyed, are also dropped, except that of the action of fire, the only one of the four figures before employed applicable to the nature of the subject, (a city,) now about to be described.
In order the better to preserve the connection, we may set aside the episode of the seventeenth chapter, and read as from the end of the sixteenth, 'After these things; that is, after the earthquake, after the division of the city, and after the fall of the great hail out of heaven, 'I saw,' &c.
'Another angel come down,' &c.; or, coming down out of heaven.Another revelation-another important development of truth; a revelation of such importance as to throw an extraordinary light upon the whole mystery or scheme spoken of as the earth. The effect of this light, we suppose to be such as virtually to perform what the angel is said to proclaim ; that is, when Babylon is seen to be fallen, or to be in the state of destitution and desolation described by the angel, the earth is lightened with the glory resulting from this great development of truth.
'And he cried mightily,' &c.-This expression we suppose to be equivalent to that of the great power and glory of the angel; indicating something in the revelations made of a peculiarly mighty and overpowering character, beyond all other revelations, and still more beyond all imaginations of man; as it is the characteristic of a very strong voice to overcome all other sounds or voices. Indeed the appearance of this angel corresponds in some degree with that predicted of the coming of the Son of man-as the lightning that shineth from one end of heaven unto the other, and the sound as of the trump of God overcoming all other sounds. So we may say, when Christ is fully revealed or unveiled, the effect of this revelation must be virtually to exhibit the fallen state of the mixed or harlot system.
'Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become,' &c.-The angel following the messenger of the everlasting gospel, had before proclaimed this fall of Babylon, (Rev. xiv. 8.) but this was a declaration in the midst of heaven; it is now represented as something taking place on earth.
As the great city was said to be "divided into three parts," and as the action of the ten horns upon the harlot is described as producing three different results previous to her final destruction by fire, so the fall of Babylon is here characterized by three different features of desolation; depicting, apparently, the condition of the city prior to its utter destruction by fire: although this threefold figure of desolation may be an equivalent of that of the conflagration afterwards described, the two illustrations representing in effect the same entire destruction.
$402. The habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and the cage of every unclean and hateful bird.'-The place of dwelling of demons, and the place of custody of all unclean spirits, and of all unclean and hateful birds. The figure does not imply that these unclean spirits and hateful birds choose Babylon as a dwelling-place: their own inclination would lead them to fly abroad, to contaminate other spirits and other places; but they are now confined to Babylon, as this great city is on the other hand restricted to furnishing a dwelling for them.
As affecting a doctrinal system or view of a plan of redemption, we presume the change in Babylon to be, not in her nature or real character, but in her appearance. The truth being developed, this great city, once
apparently so magnificent, is now seen to be what she really is, a mere menagerie of unclean and ferocious beasts; or the habitation of maniacs. The mixed system, like the whited sepulchre, appears beautiful outwardly, but within it is full of all uncleanness, (Matt. xxiii. 27.) The ornamented tomb being opened, and the sculptured marble laid aside, the interior exhibits but a mass of putrefaction. This interior was the same before the opening of the tomb as afterwards; it is only the appearance that is changed.
The habitation of demons,' (daóvar)-something different from devils or accusers; these latter being more peculiarly elements of a legal system. The demon of the Hebrews was an unclean spirit; but we do not suppose that to be the sense here, because the term unclean spirits is mentioned immediately in connection with these demons as something additional. Among the Greeks, demons were a species of divinities, good and bad, occupying, in the estimation of the heathen, the place of gods. In this respect, these demons may represent the blasphemous elements of the mixed system; principles of doctrine tending to represent men as the authors of their own eternal well-being. Principles, tending to create in the mind of man an image of his own righteousness, (§ 311,) may be considered of this demoniacal character; as a disciple, misled by a false doctrine, may be figuratively spoken of as possessed of a demon. If, however, we choose to give to these demons the character of devils, it would be easy to show that the mixed system, when duly exposed, must necessarily appear a habitation of accusatory as well as of blasphemous elements. Such a construction would also correspond with the language of the prophet, (Jer. li. 37:) "And Babylon shall become heaps, a dwelling-place for dragons, an astonishment, and a hissing, without an inhabitant,"-the dragon, or the hissing spirit of the prophecy, being equivalent to the demon or accusing spirit of the Apocalypse; and the prophetic expression, without an inhabitant, showing the entire destitution of shelter peculiar to the system alluded to: its whole tendency being that of accusation and condemnation; the demon of the Apocalypse, like the dumb spirit mentioned Mark ix. 22, bringing its subject into continual danger, as from fire or flood.
$403. And the hold (prison, place of confinement) of every unclean spirit.'-Unclean, as the opposite of clean, is Levitically something not set apart or sanctified, as opposed to that which is set apart. The motive of a man's conduct may be said to be the spirit by which he is actuated; so an impure motive may be denominated an unclean or unsanctified spirit. The only pure motive of conduct, and the only motive set apart to the worship of God, is the love of God-the motive of gratitude. Opposite to this is every motive involving selfish or mercenary considerations. The desire of promoting one's own interest and glory, even one's own eternal interest and
eternal glory, is but a motive or spirit of covetousness; all such motives, when the truth is manifested, will be proved to be found in the system represented by Babylon, as in a place of custody.
And the cage' (also place of confinement, the Greek term being the same in both cases,) of every unclean and hateful bird.'-The appellation oovεov (a carnivorous bird) is here employed as distinguished from öpris, a domestic bird, (Rob. Lex. 515.) Birds of prey, the eagle, the vulture, the kite, &c., were held in abomination under the Levitical law. Those also which obtained their sustenance partly from the land and partly from the water, were an abomination; as was likewise every flying, creeping thing, of a certain mixed character, (Lev. xi. 13–25.) The term hateful reminds us of the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, (Rev. ii. 6 and 15;) and the twofold nature of these abominable birds, suggests the conclusion that the unclean and odious elements here alluded to, are principles of a mixed character, such as we have before had occasion to notice as being hateful for their hypocrisy as well as for their tendency to lukewarmness :-elements of doctrine professedly advocating a dependence upon the redeeming work of Christ, but really inculcating the dependence of man upon his own works; professing to seek the glory of God, but combining this motive with the desire of glorifying self;-in effect going about to rob God of the glory belonging to him as the only Saviour, and this under the garb of a professed zeal for his honour and service. Motives or principles of this kind are unclean as well as hateful, because cleanness or purity is the opposite of mixture. No motive of conduct is set apart or holy in the sight of God, except that of love to him; this love must be pure, unmixed, unadulterated by amalgamation with other motives.
The system represented by Babylon affords no such pure motive. Whatever its pretensions may be, when submitted to the test, its professed element of love to God will be manifested to be the opposite of a pure and grateful attachment. As it offers no shelter to the disciple from the wrath to come; so likewise, in the nature of things, a pure motive can no more abide in it, than a human being can dwell with serpents and dragons. The system, when seen in its true light, must appear capable only of containing elements of a selfish, mercenary, or mixed character. Corresponding with this, appears to be the allusion in the prediction concerning Babylon, Jere miah li. 62: "Then shalt thou say, O LORD, thou hast spoken against this place, to cut it off, that none shall remain in it, neither man nor beast, but that it shall be desolate forever."
§ 404. For (because) all nations have drunk,' &c.-The word rendered wrath in this passage, is the same as that translated fierceness, Rev. xvi. 19. For the reason before assigned, (§ 332,) we prefer the term vehemence, as giving intensity to the expression, and according with the
antithesis implied, when contrasting the vehemence of unlawful gratification
The extraordinary annunciation of this angel is composed of two parts: the first exhibiting the miserable condition of Babylon, the last assigning the cause of this visitation. The wine of Babylon we have already defined (385) as a supposed means of propitiation; a mixture of man's pretensions of atonement, with a professed faith in the atonement of Christ. This mixture of the adulterated economy contaminates every doctrinal system, and every element of doctrine coming in contact with it. The only remedy for the evil is the utter destruction of that which causes it. Babylon once destroyed, her cup of abominations is destroyed with her; the mixed system itself being overthrown, and its fallacies exhibited; and among these fallacies, the most prominent (its pretended means of propitiation) being manifested in The abomination, and their true character, its deleterious influence ceases. hatefulness, and impurity of this false economy are exposed, especially because of the influence of its prominent element (a pretended atonement) upon doctrinal views and principles of doctrine generally.
Such we suppose to be the purport of the reason here assigned for the desolation of the great city. The terms nations and kings have been sufficiently noticed on other occasions, as figures of powers and leading principles of the earthly scheme of salvation. Whether we contemplate these nations and kings as those of the earth generally, or as those of the empire of Babylon, hyperbolically spoken of as the earth, does not appear to be material. The important subject of consideration presented by the passage is, that a mixed scheme of salvation, with its adulterated views of propitiation, such as are represented in this and in the preceding chapters, constitutes an insurmountable obstacle to the promulgation and right understanding of the truth of salvation by grace; that this obstacle must be entirely removed by a just exposition of their character and tendency of these views, before the truth itself can have free course; and perhaps we may add, before the main error of self-dependence can be directly attacked and overcome.
'And the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through abundance of her delicacies; or, have become rich through the greatness of her luxury: e virtute luxus ejus divites facti sunt, (G. & L.)—The merchants are not supposed to be sharers in the delicacies, but the great luxury of the city, by its effect upon commerce, has been the means of enriching the merchants. These traders have thus a direct interest in sustaining the luxury, and in promoting the prosperity of this great emporium; we may therefore consider them as constituent elements of the system, placing in a prominent point of view the mercenary character of the scheme itself. The merchants in contemplation are figures of mere calculating elements; guided by no considerations but those of profit and loss. They find a pecu