The following is excerpted from the book written by Christopher Wordsworth D.D., titled “Union with Rome: Is not the Church of Rome the Babylon of the Book of Revelation?” Click on link to download a PDF of the whole book. Chapter 1 is here.
Chapter 2: Whether Babylon In The Apocalypse Is The Church Of Rome
We now advance a step further in the argument; and our present Inquiry is; Whether the Apocalyptic prophecies, which have been specified, refer to Rome in her spiritual as well as in her temporal character; that is, whether they concern her, not only as a City, but as a Church?
1. The Great City, the city on the Seven Hills, the City which in the age of St. John reigned over the Kings of the Earth, the mystical Babylon enthroned upon many waters, this, we have seen, is the City of Rome. And Rome it is acknowledged to be by the concurrent voice of the Christian Church in the age of St. John, and even to this day.
2. So strong, indeed, is the evidence of this identity, that the Divines of Papal Rome have not been able to resist it. It is enough to mention three most eminent among them, — Cardinal Bellarmine, Cardinal Baronius, and the famous French Bishop, Bossuet.
“St. John in the Apocalypse,” says Cardinal Bellarmine, “calls Rome Babylon; for no other city besides Rome reigned in his age over the Kings of the Earth, and it is well known that Rome was seated upon Seven Hills.”
“It is confessed by all,” says Cardinal Baronius, “that Rome is signified in the Apocalypse by the name of Babylon.”
And the language of the celebrated French Prelate, Bossuet, in his Exposition of the Book of Revelation, is: “The features (in the Apocalypse) are so marked, that it is easy to decipher Rome under the figure of Babylon.”
Such is the avowal of the most learned Divines of papal Rome.
3. Here then, we see, the question is brought into a narrow compass. The Babylon of the Apocalypse, it is allowed by Romish as well as Protestant writers, is the City of Rome.
4. But, it may now be asked; Since such heavy judgments are denounced on Babylon in the Apocalypse, how could any persons acknowledge Rome to be the Apocalyptic Babylon, and yet regard her as the Mother and Mistress of Churches?
The answer is, the Divines of Rome affirm that what St. John predicted of Babylon, concerns Rome as a City, but not as a Church. And, some of them add, that it concerned ancient heathen Rome, but does not refer to it as Christian.
In support of this opinion it is alleged by them, for instance by Bossuet, who has most laboured this point, in his Commentary on the Apocalypse, that the Ancient Christian Fathers did indeed identify the Apocalyptic Babylon with the City of Rome; but he affirms, that they did not identify it with the Church of Rome; and he adds that every person of judgment will prefer the interpretation of the ancient Fathers to that of those modern Expositors who identify Babylon with the Church of Rome.
5. But on this allegation it may be observed — The Fathers who lived in the first three centuries, that is, who flourished before Rome became Christian, recognized the City of Rome in the Apocalyptic Babylon; so did the Fathers who lived in the fourth, fifth, and sixth centuries, when Rome was becoming, and in the end did become, Christian. And we follow the Fathers, as far as they go. We, with them, see the City of Rome in Babylon. But the question is — Must we not see something more?
And here we make a distinction. St. John was inspired by the Holy Ghost; he was a prophet, and was enabled to foresee and to foretell what the Church of Rome would become. But the Fathers were not Prophets; they knew Rome only as she was in their own age; and we do not pretend that the Church of Rome was then, what she is now.
The Fathers could not foresee that, in the sixteenth century after Christ, the Church of Rome, at the Council of Trent, would add Twelve Articles to the Nicene Creed, and that she would impose those articles on all men, as terms of communion, and as necessary to salvation. The Fathers could not foresee, that in the nineteenth century after Christ the Church of Rome would add another new article to “the faith once delivered to the Saints” (Jude 3) by decreeing that the Blessed Virgin Mary was exempt from original sin. They would have recoiled from such notions, as incredible. Indeed one of our strongest objections to the Church of Rome is, that she enforces doctrines which the Ancient Fathers never knew, and which (as the Romish advocates of the Doctrine of Development allow) she herself did not explicitly profess for many centuries. And, if she had held these doctrines in the days of the ancient Fathers, then our argument against the novelty of these doctrines would fall to the ground.
Our answer therefore is: — We do not pretend, that, in the age of the Fathers, the Church of Rome was Babylon; but the question to be considered is, whether she did not become Babylon, by adopting and enforcing doctrines, and by anathematizing [cursing] all who do not receive them, she does not identify herself with the Apocalyptic Babylon, who requires all men to drink of her cup (Revelation 14:8; 17:3). And we think, that if the Fathers were alive, they would join with us in the inquiry, whether she is not Babylon?
6. The truth also is, that Bossuet misrepresents the interpretation which identifies the Church of Rome with Babylon. He calls it “a Protestant interpretation”; by which he means that it is a modern interpretation, contemporary with, or subsequent to, the Reformation in the sixteenth century.
But this is an oversight. For no sooner did the Church of Rome begin to put forth her present claims, and enforce her modern creed, than it was proclaimed by many witnesses, that by so doing she was identifying herself with the Babylon of the Apocalypse.
Dating from Pope Gregory the First, who made a prophetic protest against the title of Universal Bishop at the close of the sixth century, we can trace a succession of such witnesses to this day. In that series we may enumerate the celebrated Peter of Blois, the Waldenses, and Joachim of Calabria, Ubertinus de Casali, Peter Olivi, Marsilius of Padua, and the illustrious names of Dante and Petrarch.
The interpretation, which identifies the Church of Rome with the Apocalyptic Babylon, does not date from the Reformation; the truth is, that it was prior to the Reformation, and did much to produce the Reformation.
In the seventh and following centuries, the Church of Rome was united with the City of Rome, by the junction of the temporal and spiritual Powers in the Person of the Roman Pontiff; and when the Church of Rome began to put forth her new dogmas, and to enforce them as necessary to salvation, then it was publicly affirmed by many, (although she burnt some who affirmed it), that she was fulfilling the Apocalyptic prophecies concerning Babylon. And though the destruction of heathen Rome by the Goths in the fifth century was a most striking event, yet not a single witness of any antiquity can be cited in favor of the Exposition of Bossuet and his co-religionists, who see a fulfillment of the predictions of the Apocalypse, concerning the destruction of Babylon, in the fall of heathen Rome by the sword of Alaric.
Indeed, that exposition is a modern one; it is an afterthought; and has been devised by Bossuet and others to meet the other, which they call the Protestant, interpretation. The identification of the Apocalyptic Babylon with ancient Heathen Rome, as its adequate antitype, is an invention of modern Papal Rome.
7. Let us now suppose, for argument’s sake, with Bossuet and the great body of Romish Interpreters, that the prophecies of the Apocalypse concerned Rome only as a City, a pagan City, and do not concern her now both as a City and a Church. And let us also suppose with them, that Rome is, as they affirm her to be, the “Mother and Mistress of all Churches”; and that there is one thing needful for all men — as all Romish Divines assert — namely, to be in communion with Rome.
What then is the state of the case?
Here is the Apocalypse, a prophetical Book, as they allow, dictated by the Holy Ghost, revealing the History of Christianity from the Apostolic age to Christ’s Second Advent, and designed for the edification and comfort of the faithful members of the Church in the dangers, trials, difficulties, and perplexities which awaited them. Under such circumstances as these, nothing would have been more natural, nothing, we may almost add, more necessary, than that St. John should have said to the followers of Christ, — You will, I foresee, be assailed by violence from without, and by heresies and schisms from within; you will be tempted to swerve from the faith. But be of good cheer, you need not be distressed, you need not be perplexed. There is one Church, which cannot err, and will never fail, — the Church of Rome. Rome is now a Heathen City, the Queen of the Gentile World; but Rome will, ere long, become the Capital of Christendom. And the Church of Rome is, by Christ’s appointment, the Mother and Mistress of Churches. He, who now rules at Rome, is a Pagan Prince; but when a few years have elapsed, the sovereignty of Rome will pass into other hands: it will be swayed for more than a thousand years by the Bishop of Rome. He is Infallible; he is the Arbiter of the Faith; his chair is the Center of Unity; he is the Vicar of Christ. One thing is indispensable: remain in communion with him. Obey him; then nothing can harm you, nothing can disturb you. You will be safe, you will be blessed, for ever.
What a simple rule! How easy of application! Can it be imagined, that the Author of the Apocalypse would not have commended it? Can it be imagined that St. John — or, rather, the Spirit of God Who wrote by him, — would have been silent on this most momentous matter? That He, when writing a prophetic history of the Church, would not have breathed a syllable about it? And yet, if the Church of Rome is not the Harlot City, if she is not Babylon, then she is not even once mentioned in the Apocalypse! Indeed it is affirmed by Bossuet, that there “is not a single trace of the Church of Rome in this whole book.” Her very existence is ignored. And yet we are assured by all Romish Divines and Roman Pontiffs, that Rome is “the Mother and Mistress of Churches,” and that communion with the see of Rome is indispensable, and that subjection to her laws in necessary to salvation! How incredible!
Let us again put the same case. Let these prophecies of the Apocalypse be imagined to concern Rome only as a City, a pagan City, and not as the Papal Church. What then? Here are divine prophecies — prophecies large and full — commended in solemn terms to the pious meditation of the Church, even till Christ comes (Revelation 1:3; 22:19, 20); and yet they can afford warning and comfort only to a few, for a short period after they were published. Pagan Rome was sacked by Alaric and the Goths in the year of the Lord AD 410, little more than three hundred years after the Apocalypse was written; and then, we are told by Bossuet and other Romish Divines, Babylon fell!
What a lame fulfillment of these predictions! Give every advantage to the supposition. Allow that they were believed by the early Christians to be consummated in Heathen Rome; — which is not the case; — then what follows? Some ancient Christians were instructed by them; and, instructed to do what? To shun the idolatry of Heathen Rome. Not to sacrifice to Jupiter! Not to burn incense to the statue of the roman Emperor! Did they need a new, large, and elaborate prophecy to teach then that? St. Peter and St. Paul and all the Apostolic martyrs had done this. The Apocalypse was not necessary to save them from Apostasy. No; with reverence be it said, here was no worthy crisis for the intervention of the Holy Spirit of God.
But now change the hypothesis. Suppose Babylon to be, not a pagan City, but a corrupt Church, putting forth her claims, and veiling her corruptions, under the most specious and alluring colors: hiding them under the fair forms of Antiquity, Sanctity, Unity, and Universality. Then the case is different. Here is a new form of evil requiring a new remedy. Here is an Antichrist sitting in the Church, and teaching error disguised as Truth; and Antichrist speaking in the name of Christ. Here is a strong delusion, one that may ensnare the world. Here is a critical occasion, and urgent exigency, for the intervention of the Holy Ghost. Here is a profitable exercise of His Divine Office of prophecy, guidance and warning to the Church. Here is a fit Mission for the Comforter.
And, if such a Church as we have now described has existed, and if it has continued to exist for many centuries, and does now exist in the world; if it has so existed, and does still exist, at Rome; and if, by the union of the secular power with the spiritual, the Roman Church is, and has long been, identified with the Roman City; and if the Apocalyptic Babylon is the City of Rome, as all allow, then we here see a proof, that the Babylon of the Apocalypse, which is confessed by Romish Divines to be the Roman City, is not only the Roman City, but is also the Roman Church.
At this point, a few words may be addressed to some persons, who affirm that the real conflict of our own times is not between one form of Christianity and another, but between Christianity and Infidelity; and who either overlook these prophecies of the Apocalypse altogether, and seem to forget that they exist in the Word of God, and that the Holy Spirit pronounces those “blessed, who read and keep the words of this prophecies,” and denounces a malediction on all who take away from them; or else draw these prophecies aside from their aim, and are impatient with those who retain them in that direction which they believe, and think they can prove, to be the true one.
It cannot be defined, that we have much to dread from Infidelity; their fears in this respect are ours.
We allow also that the Antichrist briefly noticed by St. John in two of his Epistles is an Infidel Power.
But it is not the main end and aim of Prophecy, to warn men now against Infidelity, any more than it was formerly against Paganism. The Power described by St. Paul and St. John in the Apocalypse is expressly called a Mystery. But Infidelity proclaims itself: it is no “Mystery.” And Christ has pronounced His sentence, once for all, against Unbelief: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16). No subsequent voice could add force or clearness to this divine Verdict.
But it is the legitimate aim and end of Christian Prophecy, to warn the world against the insidious designs and mysterious workings of deadly error, masked in the garb of Religion; for Satan is never so much to be feared as when he is “transformed into an Angel of Light” (2 Corinthians 11:14).
And even because Infidelity its be dreaded, this warning against corrupt Religion was necessary to be given; for the state of those who use Religion as a cloak for sin and error is worse than that of Heathens. Superstition is the most prolific source of Atheism. When a People sees Religion allying itself with imposture, they soon regard Religion as a fraud. Thus Superstition drives them into Unbelief. This, as the Author of this Essay knows too well from personal observation, is the danger of Italy and France at this time.
Looking, then, at the declarations of Scripture concerning Infidelity, and at the true ends of Christian Prophecy, and at the perils of the World from Infidelity, and at the language and spirit of these Apocalyptic prophecies, we see reason to believe, even on this account, that the form of Antichristianism contemplated by them is not a heathen, or infidel, but a religious, one.
5. Another objection may be considered here. Some persons have alleged, that since Prophecy is best interpreted by its fulfilment, and since all do not agree in interpreting these Apocalyptic prophecies in such a manner as to apply them to Rome, and since Rome denies that they are applicable to herself, therefore they ought not be so interpreted.
But a little consideration will show the fallacy of this allegation.
It is indeed true, that Prophecy is best interpreted by its fulfillment; and, if it cannot be proved to the satisfaction of candid, intelligent, and attentive inquirers, that these Prophecies have been partly fulfilled in the Church of Rome, then assuredly there is a strong presumption that they have not been so fulfilled.
But,—because the fulfilment is not universally acknowledged, and, particularly, not acknowledged by the Church of Rome,—it is not therefore true, that they have not been fulfilled.
All Christians agree, that the Prophecies of the Old Testament, concerning the Messiah, have now been fulfilled for near two thousand years in the person of Jesus Christ. And yet, up to this hour, the heathens do not believe this; and, what is more, the Jews, who held those prophecies in their hands, and were the most concerned in the accomplishment of those prophecies, do not acknowledge their fulfilment, but obstinately deny it.
But, let us ask,—Does this denial of that accomplishment in any degree invalidate the truth of those prophecies, or render their fulfilment less certain? Assuredly not. Nay, it confirms it. For, this incredulity of the Jews was predicted in those prophecies: Lord, who hath believed our report? (Isaiah 53:1; John 12:38).
In like manner, it is futile to allege, that these prophecies of the Apocalypse do not point at the Church of Rome, because the Church of Rome does not acknowledge that they concern her. Indeed this her scepticism concerning them is a corroboration of the proof of their fulfillment. Just as it was foretold in the prophecies of the Old Testament, that the Jews would not believe their fulfillment, so in like manner it is foretold in those of the Apocalypse, that she whom they do concern will not believe them, and will not repent (Revelation 9:20; 16:9-11) but will be stricken with judicial blindness, and be hardened by God’s judgments; in a word, that Babylon will be Babylon to the end.
Therefore, if the Church of Rome is Babylon, we have no reason to be surprised that she does not acknowledge, and have no reason to expect that she will acknowledge, that she herself is the subject of these prophecies, and is there portrayed as Babylon.
Let us observe here the mysterious dealings of God. The Jews hold in their hands, and revere as divine, the Old Testament. And from the Old Testament the Church of Christ proves her own cause against the Jews,. And so the Church of Rome holds in her hands the Apocalypse; she acknowledges it to be the work of St. John, and requires all men to receive it as divinely inspired. And may not perhaps the church of Christ prove from it her own cause against Rome?
The true question therefore, we see, is—not whether the Church of Rome acknowledges,—no, nor whether persons of our own Communion acknowledge, that these prophecies have been already fulfilled, or are being fulfilled, and will be completely fulfilled, in the Church of Rome,—but, whether there is evidence to convince an unprejudiced mind that such is the case.
This is the question before us.
6. Let us therefore proceed with our argument. The Woman, called the “Harlot,” and “Babylon,” or “the Great City,” the “City on Seven Hills,” the City of Rome, sits on the Beast as on a throne, that is, governs it, and is supported by it. The Beast is represented as having ten Horns bearing Crowns, which, we are taught, are ten Kings, or Kingdoms; and these, it is added, had not received power in St. John’s age, but were afterwards to receive it with the Beast
Now, if, with Bossuet and his co-religionists, we imagine the Woman on the Beast to be Heathen, and notChristian, Rome, then let us ask, Where, in that case, were these Ten Kingdoms, which did not exist in St. John’s age, and which were to arise and receive power together with Rome? Heathen Rome reigned alone, and was destroyed, before any such kingdoms arose. None can be found to correspond to St. John’s description.
But now adopt, again, the other supposition. Let the Beast, with the Woman enthroned upon it, represent the City and Church planted on the Seven Hills on which the Woman sits. Let it represent the Church of Rome. Then all is plain. When the heathen Empire of Rome fell, new Kingdoms arose from its ruins. These were the horns of the Beast which then sprouted up; then the Church of Rome increased in strength; and these Kingdoms received power with her.
Look again at the prophecy. These kings, we read, give their power and strength to the Beast. They reign, as kings, at the same time with the Beast. As kings–that is, they are called kings—but the Beast is the real Sovereign of their subjects. And what is the fact? The European Kingdoms, which arose at the dissolution of the Roman Empire, surrendered themselves to the dominion of the Church of Rome, and were, for many centuries, subject to the Papacy. The Woman, who sat upon the Beast, had her hand upon the Horns, and held them firmly in her grasp. She still treats them as her subjects. The Papal Coins proclaim this. “Omnes Regesservient ei.” “Gens et Regnum, quod tibi non servierit, peribit.” Such are her claims; and at the Coronation of every Pontiff she thus accosts him: “Know thyself to be the Father of Kings and Princes, Ruler of the World.” These are the words which he assumes to himself, when the papal Tiara is placed on his brow. Thus in the claim of the Church of Rome to exercise sway over the Kings of the earth, and in that amplitude of dominion and plenitude of felicity, to which she has appealed for so many generations as a proof that she is favoured by Heaven, we recognize another proof that the Babylon of the Apocalypse, the Woman on the Beast, to whom Kings were to give their power and strength, is no other than the Church of Rome.
Still further: It is prophesied in the Apocalypse that some of the Horns, of kingdoms, which were to receive power together with the Beast, will one day rise against her, and eat the flesh of the Harlot, and burn her with fire (Revelation 17:16).
Now, again suppose, for argument’s sake, that the Woman on the Beast was Heathen Rome. Then, we readily allow, that Alaric with his Goths, Attila with his Huns, Genseric with his Vandals, Odoacer with his Heruli, did indeed sack the City of Rome. But when did they ever receive power together with Rome? when did they give their power and their strength to Heathen Rome? Never. If, therefore, the Woman upon the Beast is only the City of Pagan Rome, then the Prophecy of St. John has failed; which, since it is from God, is impossible.
But Pagan Rome has long since ceased to be. Therefore, these predictions cannot concern Pagan Rome. But they do concern the Seven-hilled City, Rome; and, therefore, they point at that City in which the Bishop of Rome now rules. And the marvel predicted by the Apocalypse is this—and a stupendous mystery it is—that some of the Powers of the Earth, which received strength with the Beast, and at one time gave up their might to it, would, under the overruling sway of God’s retributive justice, arise against the Woman seated on the Beast, and “tear her flesh,” and burn her with fire (Revelation 17:16). And, what is still more marvellous, they will do this, although, in the first instance, they have been leagued with the Beast and with the False Prophet (Revelation 17:13,14; 19:19), or False Teacher, who is the Ally of the Beast, on whom the Woman sits as a Queen, in opposition to Christ: and it is foretold, that they will punish Rome in a mysterious transport of indignation, and in a wild ecstasy of revenge.
Such is the prophecy of St. John. This latter portion of it remains to be fulfilled. But Pagan Rome has long since ceased to be. Therefore there predictions cannot concern Pagan Rome. But they do concern the Seven-hilled City, Rome; and, therefore, they point at the City wherein the Bishop of Rome now rules: and the Woman upon the Beast is the City and Church of Papal Rome.
7. Besides, the destruction of the Great City, the Mystical Babylon, is represented in the Apocalypse as a punishment for her sins, when brought to a head. Now be it observed that Rome when taken by Alaric had given great encouragement to Christianity: so much so, that the invasion of the Goths was represented by her heathen writers as a consequence of the anger of the heathen deities against the city for its neglect of the old religion, and for the favour shown by it to the Gospel. Rome as compared with herself any former period of her history was then not remarkable for her sins, but for her piety.
Therefore, again, the capture of Rome by Alaric cannot have been the destruction foretold in the Apocalypse.
(Edited: And let us ask the candid reader,–Is not this prophecy even
now in course of fulfillment, in the eyes of the World?)
Of all the princely houses of Europe that were once devoted to the Roman Papacy, none was a more abject vassal of it, than the house of Savoy. In the seventeenth century, A.D. 1655, it executed with ruthless obsequiousness [deference] the sanguinary mandates of Rome, exhorting it to exterminate the Vaudois—the Protestant communities of the Alps—with fire and sword. Such was its eagerness in the work of destruction, that Oliver Cromwell wrote a letter of expostulation to the Duke of Savoy, and sent an ambassador from England to deprecate this crusade of desolation; and Milton then wrote his famous sonnet, which has proved almost prophetic, “On the late Massacre in Piedmont, “Avenge, O Lord, Thy slaughter’d saints, whose bones Lie scatter’d on the Alpine mountains cold.”
And what is now the case, at the present time?
A Prince of that same house, the house of Savoy, has now been raised up to the Throne of Italy, Victor Emmanuel; and he has “torn the flesh” of Rome, he has despoiled her of the greater part of her temporal dominions; France (which is now virtually mistress of Rome), Spain, and Portugal, have recognized him as King of Italy; he has suppressed her Monasteries, and has thus deprived Rome of her most powerful spiritual Army; and it is not improbable, that either his dynasty or that of some other secular Potentates formerly devoted to the Papacy, may be employed as an instrument for inflicting more chastisements on Papal Rome.
8. Further, let us look forward, and examine the Apocalyptic Prophecy, which describes what the state of the mystical Babylon will be after her fall.
Her condition, we are taught in the Apocalypse, will then be like that of the literal, or Assyrian Babylon, after its destruction. Concerning the literal Babylon, Isaiah prophesied thus: Wild beasts of the desert shall lie there, and their houses shall be full of doleful creatures; and owls shall dwell there, and satyrs shall dance there (Isaiah 13:21). And Jeremiah predicted that Babylon shall become heaps, a dwelling-place for dragons, an astonishment, and a hissing (Jeremiah 51:37).
So St. John in the Apocalypse prophesies of the mystical Babylon: Babylon the great (he says) is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and the cage of every unclean and hateful bird. (Revelation 18:2). For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her; for her sins have reached to heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities.
Now, take, again, the supposition of Bossuet, and other Romish Theologians, and let it be imagined, for argument’s sake, that Babylon is only the Heathen City of Rome. Rome was taken, at several times, by the Goths and the Vandals; let its capture be, as is alleged by those Romish Divines, the fulfilment of St. John’s Prophecy, Babylon is fallen. Rome having been Pagan, became Papal. What then is the consequence? Rome—Papal Rome—is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit!….Will this be allowed by Romish Divines? Rome the habitation of devils, the hold of every foul spirit, the cage of every unclean and hateful bird!
No: we do not say this; and in their language Rome is ” the Capital of Christendom,” “the Holy City,” the “spiritual Sion.” They call her Sovereign ” the Supreme Pontiff,” “Holy Father”; his States are ” the States of the Church”; and his throne, “the Holy See.”
Therefore these Apocalyptic prophecies were not fulfilled in Pagan Rome. But it is allowed by Romish Divines that they concern Rome. Therefore they do not concern Rome as Pagan, but as Papal.
9. Again; it is prophesied in the Apocalypse that Babylon will be burnt with fire, and become utterly desolate. Now, let Babylon be imagined to be only the heathen City of Rome. How then, let us ask, can the prediction be reconciled with the fact? How can it be said, the Rome has been burnt with fire, and that the smoke of the burning ascends to heaven? (Revelation 18:8,9). Has the voice of harpers and musicians ceased within her? has she been taken up, like a great millstone, and plunged in the sea? No: the voice of melody is still heard in her princely palaces; they are still adorned with noble pictures and fair statues. The riches of her purple and silk and scarlet, and pearls and jewels, are still displayed in the splendid attire of her Pontiff and his Cardinals in their solemn conclaves. Cavalcades of horses and chariots, with gorgeous trappings, and long trains of religious processions, still move along her streets; clouds of frankincense still float in her Temples, which on high festivals are hung with tapestry and brocade and gay embroidery; her precious vessels still glitter on her Altars; her rich merchandise of gold and silver is still purchased; her dainty and goodly things are not yet departed from her. She still sits as a Queen, and glorifies herself, and says, I am no Widow, and shall see no sorrow. She still claims the title of Divinity, and calls herself ETERNAL.
(Let any one refer to the confident language she used, and to the gorgeous splendour in which she displayed herself on December 8, 1854, when she promulgated, in St. Peter’s Church, the dogma of the Immaculate Conception; and on Whitsunday, June 8, 1862, when she canonized the Japanese Martyrs,—a ceremonial associated with her own claims to Supremacy, spiritual and temporal, and he will admit these statements as unquestionable.)
Here, therefore, we are brought to the same conclusion. The Babylon of the Apocalypse is (allowed on all hands to be) Rome. Pagan Rome it cannot be. It is therefore Papal Rome.
10. But it may be said: True, the Apocalyptic Prophecies have failed of their effect, if Babylon be interpreted as representing only the City of Rome as Heathen. Still, it may be alleged, it does not necessarily follow, that they concern Papal Rome, inasmuch as it is possible that the City of Rome may cease to be Papal, and that it may, at some future time, become infidel, and then be destroyed in the manner described in the Apocalypse.
This is the theory of some Romish Expositors, who perceive the insurmountable difficulties embarrassing the hypothesis, which has now been examined; and which has been, and still is, maintained by their most eminent Divines.
Here then we may observe–
Romish Divines agree with us, that Babylon is the city of Rome. But they are not agreed among themselves,whether Babylon is the Rome of 1500 years ago, or a Rome still future! And yet they say that they have, in the Roman Pontiff, an infallible Guide for the exposition of Holy Scripture! How is it, that this unerring Guide has not yet settled for them the meaning of the prophecies concerning his own City? Here was a worthy occasion for the exercise of his powers. How is it, that the Bishop of Rome has left the Church of Rome in a state of uncertainty and of variance with regard to these awful prophecies which refer to the City of Rome? Is this unity? Is this infallibility? Is it not evident that by claiming for himself Infallibility (which is an attribute of God) he is rebuked and condemned by these Prophesies, which, his own Divines allow, concern his own City?
[How is it, that he allows some Romish Divines to say that these prophecies refer to a Rome of more than a thousand years ago, and permits others to say that they relate to a Rome still future? Is this Unity? Is this Infallibility?]
Let us now examine the hypothesis of these Roman Divines, who say that the Apocalyptic Babylon is Rome future; Rome becoming heathen and infidel.
A) Rome heathen and infidel! What then becomes of their assertion, that no Heresy has ever infected her and that every Church must conform to her?
B) Babylon is described as drunk with the blood of the saints, and as making all to drink of her cup (Revelation 17:6,2).
Now, that Rome will become heathen, and that she will propagate heathenism with the sword; this assuredly is an alternative to which no advocate of the Church of Rome could be driven, except by desperation. But, however this may be, this Exposition is irreconcileable with the words of St. John, and cannot therefore be sound. And why? Because, as we have seen, St. John refers to Rome reigning over the Kings of the Earth in his own day. He then proceeds to reveal her future History. No intimation is given of any break in the thread of his prophecy. But if Babylon is some future Rome, as well as the Rome of St. John’s age, there must be a chasm in that history of nearly two thousand years!
C) For, as we have seen, St. John refers to Rome reigning over the Kings of the Earth in his own day. He the proceeds to reveal her future History. No intimation is given of any break in the thread of his Prophesy. But if Babylon is some future Rome, as well as the Rome of St. John’s age, there must be a chasm in that history of nearly two thousand years!
D) Let us refer again to the Apocalypse. There it is said that the Beast on which the Woman sitteth, is the eighth head or king; and that five heads had already fallen in St. John’s age, that the sixth was then in being, that the seventh would continue only for a short time, and then the eighth would appear; and that the eighth head is the Beast on which the Woman sits.
If Kings are here used to signify individuals, then the eight head, i.e. the Beast and the Woman on it, must have arisen soon after St. John’s age. But let us allow, that kings are here used for forms of government, as is common in Scripture Prophecy(Daniel 7:17,23,24; Hosea 3:3). Then the eight heads are the eight successive forms of Government in the City of Rome. Five of these had followed one another, and had passed away, in St. John’s age. Therefore five heads are said to have fallen, The sixth or imperial head was then in being. But the imperial head also fell. It perished with Romulus Augustulus A.D. 476. It was to be followed by the seventh. And the seventh was to be of brief duration, it was only to continue for a short space (Revelation 17:10). The eight was to arise from the seven; that is, without interruption, after the seventh; and the eighth is the Beast on which the Woman sitteth (Revelation 17:3,8,11).
Therefore the Beast with the Woman sitting upon it has appeared long ago.
These Prophecies concern that Woman: this Woman is the City Rome: and they therefore concern Rome, not future, but such as she has long been, and now is.
We have seen that the Apocalyptic Babylon is not Pagan Rome. Let us now pass on to the positive part of our argument, and let us inquire more particularly, whether the Babylon of the Apocalypse is or is not Christian Rome, under the dominion of Popes; and whether it is Rome, as Rome is now?
Here we may observe first, the City seated on the Beast is called a Harlot. This is the scriptural name of a faithless Church.
Such is Christ’s love for His faithful people, that He is pleased to speak of His own relation to them under the term of marriage. The Church is His Spouse (John 3:29; Ephesians 5:23-32). I have espoused you as a chaste virgin to Christ, says St. Paul to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 9:2) Hence spiritual unfaithfulness to Christ is represented in Scripture as adultery.
This idea runs through the whole Book of Revelation. In the Church of Pergamos there are said to be some who hold the doctrines of Balaam, and cause others to commit fornication (Revelation 2:14). At Thyatira there is a Jezebel, who, by her false teaching, seduces Christ’s servants; and they who commit adultery with her are threatened with tribulation (Revelation 2:20,22). And, on the other hand, the faithful who follow the Lamb—i.e.Christ-–whithersoever He goeth, are said to be Virgins, and not to have been defiled with women; that is, not sullied with the stain of spiritual harlotry (Revelation 14:4).
The name Harlot, therefore, describes a Church, which has fallen from her first love, and gone after other lords, and given to them the honour due to Christ alone; and if the Roman Church gives to other beings any of the worship which is due to Christ alone (and surely she ascribes to; the Blessed Virgin Mary almost equal honour as to Christ), then this name is applicable to the Church of Rome.
But here it is said by Romish Divines,–If a faithless Church had been intended by St. John, then
A) he would not have called her a harlot, but an adultress; and
B) he would not have designated her by the name of a heathen city, Babylon, which never owned the true God, but by the name of some city, such as Samaria which once knew Him, and afterwards fell away from Him.
These (above) are Bossuet’s allegations. We may reply to them as follows:
A) We allow that a faithless Church may be called an Adulteress because she forsakes God; but she may also be, and often is, called in Scripture a Harlot, when she mixes false doctrine and worship with the true faith.
Thus Isaiah exclaims concerning Jerusalem, the ancient Church of God (Isaiah 1:21), “How is the faithful City become a harlot!” And Jeremiah, “Thou hast played the harlot with many lovers” (Jeremiah 3:1). And Hosea, “Though Israel play the harlot, let not Judah offend” (Hosea 4:15).
The original word which is uniformly used for harlot by St. John in the Apocalypse is porne. And this same word or its derivatives, is used in the passages just quoted, and is employed in the Septuagint Version of the Prophets of the Old Testament, at least fifty times, to describe the spiritual fornication, that is, the corrupt doctrine and practice of the Churches of Israel, which Bossuet specifies as the proper parallel, is charged with harlotry.
Therefore the word harlot does designate a Church; and if the Church of Rome is described by that name in the Apocalypse, then the word harlot, as applied to her, indicates the multitude of her sins.
Besides, the Harlot’s name in the Apocalypse is Mystery (Revelation 17:5,7). This word, Mystery, is used more than twenty times in the New Testament, and is never applied to any object openly infidel, but is always applied to something sacred and religious,—such as a Church.
B) To consider Bossuet’s second objection:–We readily allow that a faithless Church might be called a Smaria;but we affirm that it may also with greater propriety, under certain circumstances, be termed Babylon. Thus Isaiah addresses the ancient Church of God by two heathen names, Sodom, and Gomorrah. “Hear the word of the Lord, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah” (Isaiah 5:10). And again, he says, “they declare their sin as Sodom” (Isaiah 3:9). So Ezekiel calls Jerusalem a sister of Sodom; and Sodom more righteous than her (Ezekiel 16:48. Compare 2 Peter 2:6, Jude 7). It is clear that the words Sodom and Gomorrah, two heathen names applied to Churches, denote here great flagrancy of guilt in those Churches.
In the Apocalypse, also itself, a false teacher in a Church is called not only a Balaam, but a Jezebel (Revelation 2:14,20), that is, is compared to a heathen patron of idolatry.
Therefore, Babylon may represent a faithless Church; one which, having been a Bethel, or House of God, becomes a Bethaven, or House of Idols (Hosea 10:5,15). And if the Apocalyptic Babylon be a Church, and if the church of Rome be that Church, then the heathen name Babylon, ascribed to her, is designed by the Holy Spirit to show the enormity of her guilt.
The Harlot is named Babylon. And Babylon is called the Great City. She is so named twelve times in the Apocalypse, and no other city is called in this book The Great City. Now, the Great City, which is the city of the Beast, who persecutes the Witnesses, and in whose street their body lies (Revelation 11:8), which City is called, spiritually, Sodom and Egypt, is also called the City in which their Lord was crucified (Rev.xi.8). That is, it is also spiritually called a Jerusalem, i.e. it is called a Church of God.
Therefore, again we see, the Harlot is a Church.
This is also clear from the following considerations. The Apocalypse abounds in contrasts. For example, the Lamb, who in St. John’s Gospel is always called Amnos, and never Arnion, is called Amnos, and never Arnion, in St. John’s Apocalypse, in which Arnion occurs twenty-nine times. And why does HoAmnos here become To Arnion? To contrast Him more strongly with To Therion; that is, to mark the opposition between the Lamb and the Beast.
And as the Lamb is contrasted with the Beast, so is the Spouse of the Lamb, or the Bride, contrasted with the Harlot who sits on the Beast.
Thus, on one side we see the faithful Woman (Revelation 12:1), clothed with the Sun, Which is Christ, and treading on the Moon, that is, surviving all the changes and chances of this world; and having her brows encircled with Twelve stars—the diadem of Apostolic faith. She is a Mother; and her child is caught up to heaven. On the other side, we see a faithless Woman, arrayed in worldly splendor, and having on her forehead the name Mystery; and called “Mother of Abominations of the Earth.”
Again; On the one side, we see the faithful Woman driven into the wilderness and persecuted by the Dragon.
On the other side, we see the faithless Woman, enthroned on seven hills, sitting on many waters which are peoples and nations; persecuting, and sitting on the Beast, who receives his power from the Dragon.
The former Woman is the faithful Church, which is truly Catholic or Universal.
The latter Woman, who is contrasted with her, and is called the Harlot, is a faithless Church, which claims to be Catholic, but is not.
Let us pursue the contrast.
The faithful Woman appears again, after her pilgrimage in the wilderness of this world is over. Her sufferings have ceased. Look upward. Her glory is revealed at the close of the Apocalypse. The Woman which was in the wilderness has now become the Bride in Heaven. She is Christ’s Church glorified, His Spouse purified. She is arrayed in fine linen, pure and white. She is called the Holy City, the new Jerusalem (Revelation 19:7,8; 21:2,9,10).
Now look below at the faithless Woman, or Harlot, sitting on the Beast. She is arrayed in scarlet and pearls,and jewels, and gold. She is called Babylon, the Great City (Revelation 17:4,5; 11:8), the Jerusalem in which Christ is crucified (Revelation 11:8).
Behold once more. What is the end?
Look upward: Heaven opens its golden portals to receive the Bride.
Look downward: Earth opens its dark abyss to engulf the Harlot.
How striking is this contrast!
And what is the conclusion from all this?
As the former Woman, the Bride, the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, represents the faithful Church, so the second Woman, the Harlot, the great City, the City on Seven Hills, which reigned in St. John’s age, the mystical Babylon, the reprobate Jerusalem, represents a faithless Church.
The question now is,—What Church?
At this point, the evidence, stated in the former Chapter, comes in with irresistible force. It was then proved that the City on seven hills—the City which reigned in St. John’s age—the City called Babylon in the Apocalypse,—is the City of Rome; and this (as we have also seen) is generally allowed by Romish Divines.
The answer, therefore, is: The second Woman, the Harlot, represents the faithless Church in the City of Rome.
Is this result confirmed by facts? Let us inquire.
The Woman enthroned on the Beast is represented in the Apocalypse as holding a golden cup in her hand, with which she intoxicates men, and of which she requires all to drink (Revelation 14:8; 17:4; 18:6). Does this apply to the Church of Rome? Certainly it does: this appears as follows:
(1) Almighty God has distinguished man from the rest of the creation by the endowments of Reason and of Conscience; and He commands them to use them, and not to give them away. But the Church of Rome requires men to sacrifice them to her will. And then she pours into their minds a delirious draught of strange doctrines, which cannot be found in Holy Scripture, and which were unknown to the Apostles, and to the Apostolic Churches of Christ. She requires all to drink of this cup (Revelation 14:8; 17:4; 18:6). She says of her Trent Creed, “This is the Catholic Faith, out of which there is no salvation.”
(2) Again: the faithless Woman in the Apocalypse is represented as drunken with the blood of Saints. And when I saw her, says St. John, I wondered with great admiration (Revelation 17:6).
Now, if the Woman had been heathen Rome, past or to come, why should St. John wonder? It is not wonderful, that a heathen city should persecute the Saints of God. St. John had seen the blood of Christians split by imperial Rome. She had beheaded St. Paul, and had crucified St. Peter. He himself had been a martyr in will, and was now an exile, by her cruelty. Therefore he could not have wondered with great admiration, if the Harlot was heathen Rome. But it was a fit subject for surprise, that a Christian Church–a Church calling herself the “Mother of Christendom,” “the spiritual Sion,” “the Catholic Church”–should be drunken with the blood of the saints; and at such a spectacle as that St. John might well have wondered with great admiration.
Has, then, the Church of Rome ever stained herself with the blood of Christians?
Yes; she has erected the prisons, and prepared the rack, and lighted the fires, of what she calls “the Holy Office of the Inquisition” in Italy, Spain, America, and India. She commanded the ancestors of Victor Emmanuel to persecute to the death the Christians of Piedmont. One of her Popes, whom she has canonized, Pius the Fifth, is praised in her liturgical offices, for being an inflexible Inquisitor. She has engraven on her coins a picture of the sanguinary [involving or causing much bloodshed] massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Day, and represents it there as a work done by an Angel from heaven; and her Pontiff went in a public procession to church to return thanks to God for that savage and treacherous deed. She has inserted an Oath in her Pontifical, by which she requires all her Bishops to “persecute and wage war against” all whom she calls heretics.
Germany France, Holland, England, Scotland, Belgium, Poland, Croatia, Hungary. She commanded the ancestors of Victor Emmanuel to persecute to the death the Christians of Piedmont. One of her Popes, whom she has canonized, Pius the Fifth, is praised in her liturgical offices, for being an inflexible Inquisitor.
What would St. John have said to this? Would he not have justly wondered with great admiration, that such acts should be done under the auspices of one who calls himself the Vicar of Christ?
(3) Again: the Woman is represented as enticing the Kings of the Earth to commit fornication with her (Revelation 17:2; 18:3); and they are said to give their power and strength to the Beast (Revelation 17:13), on which she sits.
This assuredly does not apply to heathen Rome. She received the gods of other Nations into her Pantheon. Even the reptile deities of Egypt found a place there. She would have opened her doors to Christianity, if Christianity had been content to be enshrined with Heathenism.
But these words of the Apocalypse are strikingly characteristic of Papal Rome. She has trafficked and tampered with all the Kings and Nations of the Earth.
In the words of the judicious Hooker, “she hath fawned upon Kings and Princes, and by spiritual cozenage hath made them sell their lawful authority for empty titles.” She has caressed and cajoled them with amatory gifts of flowers, pictures, and trinkets, beads and relics, crucifixes and Agnus Deis, and consecrated plumes and banners. She has drenched and drugged their senses with love-potions of bewitching smiles and fascinating words; and has thus beguiled them of their faith, their courage, and their power. Like another Delilah, she has made the Samsons of this world to sleep softly in her lap (Judges 16:19), and then she has shorn them of their strength. She has captivated, and still captivates, the affections of their Prelates and Clergy, by entangling them in the strong and subtle meshes of Oaths of vassalage to herself, and has thus stolen the hearts of subjects from their Sovereigns, and has made Kingdoms to hang upon her lips for the loyalty of their People; and so in her dream of universal Empire she has made the World a fief of Rome.
So strong is the spell with which she enchains Nations, that even we in England who are excommunicated by her , and whose Virgin-Queen was anathematized by her as an Usurper, and whose land is now parcelled out into Papal Dioceses, as if it were a Roman Province, and the names of whose greatest Cities—our Westminsters and our Liverpools—are given away by her as titles as if they were Italian villages, have been fain to seek intercourse with her without requiring a retraction of the unrighteous oaths which she imposes on English subjects, or a revocation of the imprecatory anathemas [call down curses] which she has denounced, and still denounces on English Sovereigns; and as if it were possible for us to sever what she declares indissolubly united—her temporal and spiritual sway!
(4) Again: The Woman is described as sitting on a scarlet-coloured Beast, full of names of Blasphemy (Revelation 17:3)
Has not Rome fulfilled this prophecy? The colour here mentioned is reserved by her to her Pontiff and Cardinals. And how does she designate herself? As Infallible, Indefectible [perfect, having no defect], Eternal. And are not these names of Blasphemy? Some persons appear to imagine that names of Blasphemy must indicate an infidel power. But this notion is erroneous. “Blasphemy,” in the New Testament, denotes an assumption of what is divine. And the names which Rome claims for herself, are usurpations of God’s incommunicable Name. “When that which is temporal claims Eternity, this,” says S. Jerome, “is a name of blasphemy.” And when Rome withholds the Holy Scripture from her people (and she has never printed at Rome a single copy of the Old Testament in its original language)—and when she bestows honour on those who revile Scripture, calling it “imperfect, ambiguous, a mute Judge, a leaden Rule,” and by other opprobrious names, is she not guilty of Blasphemy against the Divine Author of Scripture? And when, with the Cup of her sorceries in her hand, she takes away the Cup of Blessing in the Lord’s Supper which Christ has commanded to be received by all (John 6:53, Matthew 26:26,27. Mark 14:23); and when she makes men drink of the one, and will not allow them to drink of the other, are not these her acts like acts of Blasphemy against God?
(5) Again: the Harlot in the Apocalypse exercises temporal and spiritual sway. She is enthroned upon many waters, which are Nations and Peoples (Revelation 17:15). She has kings at her feet. She makes them drink of her Cup. She trades in the souls of men (Revelation 18:13). The Beast on which she sits as a Queen, and of which she is the Governing Power, uses the agency of the second Beast, or false Prophet or Teacher, and this false Teacher causeth all, both small and great, to receive his mark, and that no one may buy or sell, save he who has the mark, the name of the Beast, or the number of his name (Revelation 13:16,17).
It is very observable, that this False Prophet or Teacher is said in the Apocalypse to have two horns like the horns of a Lamb (Revelation 13:2). Now the word Lamb is used twenty-nine times in the Apocalypse, and in every one of these places it relates to Christ, the Lamb of God. Hence it is clear, that the False Prophet or Teacher, who is the ally of the Beast on whom the Harlot sits, is not a heathen or infidel power, but makes a profession of Christianity. He comes like a Lamb with the specious words of Christian innocence and Love. He is therefore the Minister of some form of Christianity, or Church. Therefore, again, the Harlot is a Church. And the Church of which he is a Minister (as is evident from the passage of the Apocalypse just cited), puts forth a claim to universal temporal and spiritual sway; and this union of civil and religious Supremacy is a very striking characteristic.
Does not this characteristic apply to the Church of Rome,—and to the Church of Rome alone? Assuredly it does.
The Church of Room sits as a Queen upon many waters, which are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues. She claims two swords. Lord, behold! here are two swords (Luke 22:38); one of her Pontiffs has interpreted these words of St. Peter as authorizing her double sway, temporal and spiritual. She holds in her hands two keys–the emblems, as she asserts, of her universal power. The Roman Pontiff is twice crowned, once with the Mitre, his symbol of universal Bishopric, and once with the Tiara, in token of Universal Imperial Supremacy. He wears both diadems. There is indeed a Mystery on the forehead of the Church of Rome, in the union of these two Supremacies; and it has often proved a Mystery of Iniquity.
It has made the holiest Mysteries subservient to the worst Passions. It has excited Rebellion on the plea of Religion. It has interdicted the last spiritual consolations to the dying, and Christian interment to the dead, for the sake of revenge, or from the lust of power. It has forbidden to marry—and yet it has licensed the unholiest Marriages. It has professed friendship for Kings, and has invoked blessings on Regicides and Usurpers. It claims to be the only dispenser of the Word and Sacraments, and it has transformed the anniversary of the Institution of the Lord’s Supper into a season of malediction. It has changed the hill of the Vatican into a spiritual Ebal (Deuteronomy 27:13), from which it has fulmined [uttered] curses according to its will.
Hence we come to the same conclusion: vix. that the Harlot City is the Church of Rome. Other characteristics may now be noticed.
(6) The Woman in the Apocalypse is said to be seated on a scarlet beast; to be also clad in scarlet and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls (Revelation 17:4); and her merchandise is said to be in gold and silver, and precious stones, and pearls and fine linen, and purple and silk, and scarlet (Revelation 17:12); and after her destruction they who weep over her cry, Alas! alas! the Great City, which was clothed in fine linen, and purple, and scarlet, and decked with gold, and precious stones, and pearls (Revelation 18:16)
This description of the Woman’s vesture is so definite, and is repeated with such emphasis, that it is manifestly intended for the purpose of identification.
Such, let us note, is her attire.
Next we find in the Apocalypse that divine honour is given to the Beast on which she sits: They worshipped the Beast, saying (Revelation 13:4), Who is like unto the Beast?
The word here interpreted to worship is one (proskunein) which literally signifies to adore by prostration and by kissing; as described in the divine words, Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.
This word (“to bow down”) occurs twenty-four times in the Apocalypse. In ten of these instances, it designates Adoration paid to Almighty God: in nine others, it describes the adoration claimed for the Beast and his image; and thus it shows, that he exacts what is due to God, and (as the Angel warns St. John) not due to Angels, but to God alone (Revelation 19:10; 22:9); and this is Blasphemy.
Observe, next, the votaries of the Beast say, Who is like unto the Beast? This is a challenge to God Himself. Lord, says the Psalmist (Psalms 35:10), Who is like unto Thee? and again (Psalms 71:19; 113:5), O God Who is like unto Thee? and Among the gods, there is none like unto Thee, O Lord; there is not one that can do as Thou doest (Psalms 86:8). It is also a parody of the name of the Angel Prince, the conqueror of Satan and his angel, Michael, whose name means Who is as God? Let us remember, too, that this expression, Who is like unto the Beast? the watchword of the worshippers of the Beast, affords a striking contrast to the words emblazoned on the standard of the Maccabees, those courageous soldiers against Antiochus Epiphanes,–Who among the gods is like unto Thee, Jehovah? from which badge (according to some) the Maccabees derived their name.
Recollect, now, that Babylon is a type of Rome; and it is said to the King of Babylon, How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven; I will exalt my Throne above the stars of God; I will sit also upon the Mount of the congregation; I will be like the Most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell (Isaiah 14:12-15).
Here, the Mount of the congregation, wherein the King of Babylon sits is the Temple of God.
Let it be remembered also that the Woman sitting on the Beast is called the Mother of abominations (Revelation 17:4,5). The word abomination (Bdelugma) specially designates an object of idolatrous Adoration; and the prophecy of Daniel, predicting the pollution of God’s Temple by the setting up in it of the abomination of desolation, was fulfilled in the first instance (B.C. 168) by Antiochus Epiphanes, who placed an idol upon the altar of God in the Temple at Jerusalem: or, as the Book of Maccabees expresses it, set up the abomination of desolation on the Altar: thus defiling God’s House, and making it desolate; that is, banishing from it God’s true worship, and His faithful worshippers.
This prophecy was to have a second fulfilment in Christian times. For our Blessed Lord speaks of it as referring to an event still future, as follows–
When ye shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the Prophet, stand in the Holy Place; whoso readeth, let him understand (Matthew 24:15).
This prediction of our Lord had, no doubt, a partial fulfilment when Jerusalem was occupied, and its Temple profaned, by factious assassins professing zeal for God. But it will have another fulfilment in the Christian Sion, or Church. This opinion is confirmed by the prophecy of St. Paul, concerning the Mystery of Iniquity. Then, says the Apostle, shall the Man of sin, or that Lawless One (Anomos), be revealed, the Son of perdition, who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped, so that he, as God, sitteth in the TEMPLE of God, showing himself that he is God (2 Thess. ii. 3,4).
The words here rendered, so that he sitteth in the Temple of God (Kathisai eis naon), are remarkable. Naos, the word rendered Temple, is the holier part of the Temple,–the Sanctuary, where the Altar is; and Kathisai eis naon are words involving motion, and signify to be conveyed or to convey himself and take a seat in the Holy Place of the Temple of God, or the Christian Church.
Let us now pause, and review the evidence before us.
The abomination of desolation, as we have seen, was the placing of an IDOL upon the ALTAR in God’s TEMPLE; and our Lord speaks of the Abomination of desolation, as still to be expected, and to be manifested in the Holy Place (Matthew 24:15, Mark 13:14); and St. Paul predicted the appearance of a Power, which he calls Mystery, claiming Adoration in the Christian Temple,–taking his seat in the Sanctuary of the Church of God, showing himself that he is God. Let us also remember that Daniel’s word abomination, which describes an object of idolatrous worship, is adopted by the Apocalypse; and that, in like manner, St. Paul’s word Mystery is adopted in the Apocalypse; and that both these words are combined in this book, in the name of the Woman, whose attire is described minutely by St. John, and whose name on her forehead is “Mystery (Revelation 17:5,7), Babylon the Great, Mother of abominations of the Earth.”
Let us enquire now, – Whether this description is applicable to the Church of Rome?
Is this description applicable to the Church of Rome?
For an answer to this question, let us refer-not to any private sources-but to the official “Book of Sacred Ceremonies” of the Church of Rome.
This Book, sometimes called “Ceremoniale Romanum,” is written in Latin, and was compiled three hundred and forty years ago, by Marcellus, a Roman Catholic Archbishop, and is dedicated to a Pope, Leo X. Let us turn to that portion of this Volume, which describes the first public appearance of the Pope at Rome, on his Election to the Pontificate.
We there read the following order of proceeding: “The Pontiff elect is conducted to the Sacrarium, and divested of his ordinary attire, and is clad in the Papal robes.” The colour of these is then minutely described. Suffice it to say, that five different articles of dress, in which he is then arrayed, are scarlet. Another vest is specified, and this is covered with pearls. His mitre is then mentioned; and this is adorned with gold and precious stones.
Such, then, is the attire in which the Pope is arrayed, and in which he first appears to the World as Pope. Refer now to the Apocalypse. We have seen that scarlet, pearls, gold, and precious stones are thrice specified by St. John, as characterizing the Mysterious Power portrayed by himself.
But we may not pause here. Turn again to the “Ceremoniale Romanum.” The Pontiff elect, arrayed as has been described, is conducted to the Cathedral of Rome, the Basilica, or Church of St. Peter. He is led to the Altar; he first prostrates himself before it, and prays. Thus, he declares the sanctity of the Altar. He kneels at it, and prays before it, as the seat of God.
What a contrast then ensues! We read thus: “The Pope rises, and, wearing his mitre, is lifted up by the Cardinals, and is placed by them upon the Altar-–to sit there. One of the Bishops kneels, and begins the ‘Te Deum.’ In the meantime the Cardinals kiss the feet and hands and face of the Pope.”
Such is the first appearance of the Pope in the face of the Church and the World.
This ceremony has been observed for many centuries; and it was performed at the inauguration of the present Pontiff, Pius IX; and it is commonly called by Roman writers the “Adoration. It is represented on a coin, struck in the Papal mint with the legend, “Quem creant, adorant,”—“Whom they create (Pope), they adore.“… What a wonderful avowal!
The following language was addressed to Pope Innocent X, and may serve as a specimen of the feelings with which the Adoration is performed:–
“Most Holy and Blessed Father, Head of the Church, Ruler of the World, to whom the keys of the Kingdom of heaven are committed, whom the Angels in Heaven Revere, and whom the gates of hell fear, and whom all the World adores, we specially venerate, worship, and adore thee, and commit ourselves, and all that belongs to us, to thy paternal and MORE than divine disposal”.
What more could be said to Almighty God Himself?
But to return. Observe the nature of this ‘ADORATION.’ It is performed by kneeling, and kissing the face and hands, and feet. And what is St. John’s word, nine times used to describe the homage paid to the Mysterious rival of God? It is proskunein, to kneel before and kiss.
Next, observe the place in which this adoration is paid to the Pope. The Temple of God. The principal Temple at Rome, St. Peter’s Church. Observe the attitude of the Pope when he receives it. He sits. Observe the place on which he sits. The Altar of God.
Such is the inauguration of the Pope. He is placed by the Cardinals on God’s Altar. There he sits as on a Throne. The Altar is his footstool; and the Cardinals kneel before him, and kiss the feet which tread upon the Altar of the Most High.
Let us now turn to St. John. The Power described by him is Mystery, and is called the mother of Abominations.And the word Abomination in Scripture often means Idols; and, in the prophecies of Scripture, it describes a special form of idolatry. The Abomination of desolation, as we have seen, prefigures the setting up an object of idolatrous adoration on the Altar in the Temple of God.
Such was the Idol set up by Antiochus in the Jewish Temple. And our Lord describes the Abomination of desolation as standing in the Holy Place. And the Apostle St. Paul predicts that the fall of the Roman Empire will be succeeded by the rise of a power which he calls MYSTERY, exalting itself above all that is called God, or is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the Temple of God—or is conveyed to the sanctuary of God, and there placed to sit—showing himself that he is God.
7. The following questions therefore arise here:–
a) Has not the Church of Rome fulfilled the Apocalypse in the eyes of men, has she not proclaimed, and does she not now proclaim, her own identity with the faithless Woman in the Apocalypse, at every election of every Pontiff, even by the outward garb of scarlet, gold, precious stones, and pearls, in which she then invests him, and in which she then displays him to Christendom and the world?
b) Has she not fulfilled the Apocalypse, and does she not proclaim her own identity with that faithless Woman whose name is Mystery, Mother of Abominations, by publicly commencing every Pontificate with making the Pontiff her own Idol, by lifting him up on the hands of her Cardinals, and by making him sit on God’s Altar,and by kneeling before him, and kissing his feet?
c) By her long practice of this form of Abomination, which she calls “Adoration,” has she not identified herself with the Apocalyptic power, whose name is Mystery, and also with the “Mystery of Iniquity,” described by the Apostle St. Paul as enthroned in the Temple of God?
d) By placing her Pontiff to be adored, like the Most High, in God’s presence, on God’s Altar in God’s Church—in her own principal Church at Rome, St. Peter’s—as Antiochus Epiphanes placed an idol to be adored on the Altar in the Temple at Jerusalem,—does she not make the Pope of Rome to be like to the King of Babylon, whose pride and fall are portrayed by Isaiah, and to the Abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the Prophet, and by our Blessed Lord Himself?
8. Let us pause here ,and sum up what has been said.
Either the claims of the Church of Rome are just-or they are not.
If they are,—she is infallible, and indefectible. She is the Mother and Mistress of Churches. Her Pontiff is the Universal Pastor; the Centre of Unity; the Father of the Faithful; the Supreme Head, and Spiritual Judge of Christendom, and (as he himself asserts) it is necessary for every one to be in communion with him, and to be in subjection to him. Out of his Communion there is no salvation.
Now, we hold in our hand the Apocalypse of St. John, the Revelation of Jesus Christ (Revelation 1:1), the Voice of the Spirit to the Churches (Revelation 2:7,11,17, etc.); the prophetic History of the church from the Apostolic age to the Day of Doom.
In it St. John places us at Rome; he points to its Seven Hills (Revelation 17:9): he shows us the City enthroned upon them: he detains us there, while he reveals to us Rome’s future history, even to its total extinction, which he describes (Revelation 18:1-24).
a) If now (as Rome affirms) Christ has instituted a spiritual supremacy, and an Infallible Authority, which all men are obliged to acknowledge, and to which all must bow, and with which all must be in communion on pain of everlasting damnation, it may reasonably be supposed, that the Holy Spirit, in revealing the future History of the Church (as He does in the Apocalypse), and in providing guidance and comfort for Christians, under their trials, which He predicts, would not have failed to give some notice of such spiritual supremacy and infallible authority in the Church.
b) If Christ has settled that spiritual Pre-eminence and Supremacy at Rome, it may reasonably be concluded, that the Holy Spirit, when speaking specially and copiously of Rome, and tracing her history (as He does in the Apocalypse, and as Romish divines allow that He does), even to the day when she will be burnt with fire, and her smoke ascend to heaven,—would not have omitted to mention that Pre-eminence and Supremacy supposed to exist at Rome.
c) If the Church of Rome is,–as she herself affirms,– the true Spouse of Christ, the Mother and Mistress of all Churches in Christendom, and if communion with her is necessary to salvation, assuredly the Holy Spirit would have taken great care that no reasonable man should be able to impute to the Christian Church of Rome what He intended for the Heathen City of Rome. And, since by the Union of the supreme civil authority with the spiritual in the person of the Bishop, who is also the Sovereign of Rome, and by the consequent incorporation of the City of Rome in the Church of Rome, there was great probability of such a confusion—which the Holy Spirit could foresee—He would have guarded against it, and have taken care, that the Character He draws of the Harlot, and the awful description which He gives, in the Apocalypse, of her future doom, could not possibly be applied by any reasonable man to the Church of Rome.
9. Now, what is the fact?
a) Not a word does the Holy Spirit say, in the Apocalypse, of the existence of any Supreme Visible Head or Infallible Authority in the Church.
b) Not a word does He say of the Church of Rome being the Centre of Unity—the Arbitress of Faith—the Mother and Mistress of Churches. Not a word does he speak in her praise. Indeed the advocates of the church of Rome (who all allow that, in the Apocalypse, He speaks largely of the Roman City) say that He does not mention the Roman Church at all!
How unaccountable is all this, if, as they affirm, Christ has instituted such a Supremacy; and if He has placed it at Rome!
10. But now let us take the other alternative. Let the claims of the church of Rome be unfounded; then it must be admitted that they are nothing short of blasphemy: for they are claims to Infallibility, Indefectibility, and Universal Dominion, spiritual and temporal, which are Attributes of Almighty God.
And now again let us turn to the Apocalypse. What do we find there?
We see there a certain City portrayed—a great City—the great City-the Queen of the Earth when St. John wrote—the City on Seven Hills—the City of Rome
At Rome, then, we are placed by St. John. We stand there by St. John’s side. This city is represented by him as a Woman; it is called the Harlot. It is contrasted by him with the Woman in the Wilderness, crowned with the Twelve Stars, the future Bride in Heaven, the new Jerusalem; that is, it is contrasted with the faithful Apostolic Church, now sojourning on earth, and to be glorified hereafter in heaven.
The Harlot persecutes with the power of the Dragon; the Bride is persecuted by the Dragon: the Harlot is arrayed in scarlet; the Bride is attired in white: the Harlot sinks to an abyss; the Bride mounts to heaven. The Bride is the faithful Church; the Harlot contrasted with her, is a faithless Church.
The Great City, then, which is allowed to be Rome, is called a Harlot, and a Harlot is a faithless Church,therefore that Great City is the Church of Rome.
This Harlot-City is represented as seated upon many waters, which are Peoples, and Nations, and Tongues. Kings gave their power to her, and commit fornication with her. She vaunts that she is a Queen for ever. She is displayed as claiming a double Supremacy.
Now, look at Rome. She, she alone of all the Cities that are, or ever have been, in the world, asserts universal Supremacy, spiritual and temporal. She wields two swords. She wears two Diadems. And she has claimed this double power for more than a thousand years. “Ruler of the World”–“Universal Pastor”–“Father of Kings and Princes”–these are the titles of her Pontiff. She boasts that she is the Catholic Church; that she is “alone, and none beside her” on earth: she affirms that her light will never be dim, her Candlestick never removed. And yet she teaches strange doctrines. She has broken her plighted troth, and forgotten the love of her espousals. She has been untrue to God. She has put on the scarlet robe and gaudy jewels and bold look of a harlot, and gone after other gods. She canonizes men,—as she did the other day (June 8, 1862), and then worships them. She would make the Apostles untrue to their Lord, and constrain the Blessed Mother of Christ to be a rival of her divine Son. She adores Angels, and thereby dishonours the Triune God, before Whose glorious Majesty they veil their faces. She deifies the Creature, and thus defies the Creator.
St. John, when he calls us to see the Harlot-City, the seven-hilled City, fixes her name on her forehead—Mystery—to be seen and read by all. And he says, Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy (Revelation 1:3; 22:7).
Her title is Mystery, a secret spell, bearing a semblance of sanctity: a solemn rite which promises bliss to those who are initiated in it: a prodigy inspiring wonder and awe into the mind of St. John: an intricate enigma requiring for its solution the aid of the Spirit of God.
Heathen Rome doing the work of heathenism in persecuting the Church was no Mystery. But a Christian Church, calling herself the Mother of Christendom, and yet drunken with the blood of saints–-this is a Mystery. A Christian Church boasting her self to be the Bride, and yet being the Harlot; styling herself Sion, and being Babylon-this is a Mystery. A Mystery indeed it is, that, when she says to all, “Come unto me,” the voice from heaven should cry, “Come out of her, My People” (Revelation 18:4). A Mystery indeed it is, that she who boasts herself the city of Saints, should become the habitation of devils; that she who claims to be Infallible should be said to corrupt the earth; that a self-named “Mother of Churches,” should be called by the Holy Spirit the “Mother of Abominations”; that she who boasts to be Indefectible, should in one day be destroyed, and that Apostles should rejoice at her fall (Revelation 18:20): that she who holds, as she says, in her hands the Keys of Heaven, should be cast into the lake of fire by Him Who has the Keys of hell (Revelation 1:18). All this, in truth, is a great Mystery.
Eighteen Centuries have passed away, since the Holy Spirit prophesied, by the mouth of St. John, that this Mystery would be revealed in that City which was then the Queen of the Earth, the City on Seven Hills,—the City of Rome.
The Mystery was then dark, dark as midnight. Man’s eye could not pierce the gloom. The fulfilment of the prophecy seemed improbable,—almost impossible. Age after age rolled away. By degrees, the mists which hung over it became less thick. The clouds began to break. Some features of the dark Mystery began to appear, dimly at first, then more clearly, like Mountains at daybreak. Then the form of the Mystery became more and more distinct. The Seven Hills, and the Woman sitting upon them became more and more visible. Her voice was heard. Strange sounds of blasphemy were muttered by her. Then they became louder and louder. And the golden chalice in her hand, her scarlet attire, her pearls and jewels were seen glittering in the Sun. Kings and Nations were displayed prostrate at her feet, and drinking her cup. Saints were slain by her sword, and she exulted over them. And now the prophecy became clear, clear as noon-day; and we tremble at the sight, while we read the inscription, emblazoned in large letters, Mystery, Babylon the Great, written by the hand of St. John, guided by the Holy Spirit of God, on the forehead of the Church of Rome.