Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
And after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory.Revelation 18:2
Here we are at Treves. I need not tell you all I have felt here and at Fleissen. At first the feeling that one is standing over the skeleton of the giant iniquity—old Rome—is overpowering. And as I stood last night in that amphitheatre, amid the wild beasts' dens, and thought of the Christian martyrdoms and the Frank prisoners, and all the hellish scenes of agony and cruelty that place had witnessed, I seemed to hear the very voice of the Archangel whom St. John heard in Patmos, crying, Babylon the Great is fallen;—no more like the sound of a trumpet, but only in the still whisper of the night breeze, and through the sleeping vineyards, and the great still smile of God out of the broad, blue heaven.
Fly from Rome, for Babylon signifieth confusion, and Rome has confused all the Scriptures, confused all vices together, and confused everything. Fly, then, from Rome, and come to repentance.
—Savonarola, to the Florentines, in 1496.
Compare also Carlyle's use of the text in his diatribe against the landed aristocracy, in Past and Present. After accusing them of indolence and oppression, he pauses for a moment to reflect: 'Exceptions!—ah yes, thank Heaven, we know there are exceptions. Our case were too hard, were there not exceptions, and partial exceptions not a few, whom we know, and whom we do not know. Honour to the name of Ashley,—honour to this and the other valiant Abdiel, found faithful still, who would fain, by work and by word, admonish their Order not to rush upon destruction! These are they who will, if not save their Order, postpone the wreck of it. All honour and success to these. The noble man can still strive nobly to save and serve his Order;—at lowest, he can remember the precept of the Prophet: 'Come out of her, my people, come out of her'.
References.—XVIII. 7, 8.—Expositor (4th Series), vol. ii. p. 292. XVIII. 8.—Ibid. (6th Series), vol. v. p. 114.
The Manhood Traffic
This passage is built up after the analogy of Ezekiel's prophecies concerning Tyre, in conjunction with which they should be read (see Ezek. XXVII., XXVIII.); and the merchandise of the city of Rome in the Apostle's time has undoubtedly formed the groundwork of this enumeration.
I. The text declares that one of the causes of the ruin of this Babylon was her extravagant luxury. The history of the world is full of solemn lessons concerning the enervating influence of luxury. It is scarcely too much to say that luxury was the chief destroyer of all the great empires of antiquity. We are constantly discovering a proneness to fall away into the ease-taking and self-pampering which ruined the great empires of ancient Babylon, of Media and Persia, of Greece and Rome. Christlike self-renunciation is a virtue which cannot grow in the soil of luxurious living.
II. But it is to the two last items in this extraordinary inventory that I wish to call your attention, viz., slaves and souls of men. As the margin informs us the literal translation is bodies and souls of men. There are ways of making merchandise of manhood beside the coarse and palpable one of selling men for slaves. (1) I very much fear, thanks to the cruel, heartless, atheistic political economy which this country learnt from Jeremy Bentham, John Stuart Mill, and company, that very much of our commerce is practically a traffic in the blood, and bones, and nerves, and souls of men. No commerce is healthy, except that whose fundamental law is, 'Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. (2) The drink traffic, the opium traffic, and whoremongering are other manifestations of this awful trade in the bodies and souls of men. If the Church would do her Master's work she must arise and be the champion of the poor, the enemy of all sweating, the inexorable foe of all manhood traffic.
—G. A. Bennetts, The Preacher's Magazine, vol. IV. p. 509.
Reference.—XVIII. 14.—Expositor (6th Series), vol. xii. p. 283.
Compare the use of this verse in Tennyson's poem, 'Sea Dreams'.
References.—XIX.—Expositor (5th Series), vol. x. p. 292. XIX. 1.—H. S. Holland, God's City, p. 59.
And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.
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, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies.
And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.
For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities.
Reward her even as she rewarded you, and double unto her double according to her works: in the cup which she hath filled fill to her double.
How much she hath glorified herself, and lived deliciously, so much torment and sorrow give her: for she saith in her heart, I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow.
Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire: for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her.
And the kings of the earth, who have committed fornication and lived deliciously with her, shall bewail her, and lament for her, when they shall see the smoke of her burning,
Standing afar off for the fear of her torment, saying, Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! for in one hour is thy judgment come.
And the merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn over her; for no man buyeth their merchandise any more:
The merchandise of gold, and silver, and precious stones, and of pearls, and fine linen, and purple, and silk, and scarlet, and all thyine wood, and all manner vessels of ivory, and all manner vessels of most precious wood, and of brass, and iron, and marble,
And cinnamon, and odours, and ointments, and frankincense, and wine, and oil, and fine flour, and wheat, and beasts, and sheep, and horses, and chariots, and slaves, and souls of men.
And the fruits that thy soul lusted after are departed from thee, and all things which were dainty and goodly are departed from thee, and thou shalt find them no more at all.
The merchants of these things, which were made rich by her, shall stand afar off for the fear of her torment, weeping and wailing,
And saying, Alas, alas, that great city, that was clothed in fine linen, and purple, and scarlet, and decked with gold, and precious stones, and pearls!
For in one hour so great riches is come to nought. And every shipmaster, and all the company in ships, and sailors, and as many as trade by sea, stood afar off,
And cried when they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, What city is like unto this great city!
And they cast dust on their heads, and cried, weeping and wailing, saying, Alas, alas, that great city, wherein were made rich all that had ships in the sea by reason of her costliness! for in one hour is she made desolate.
Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets; for God hath avenged you on her.
And a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all.
And the voice of harpers, and musicians, and of pipers, and trumpeters, shall be heard no more at all in thee; and no craftsman, of whatsoever craft he be, shall be found any more in thee; and the sound of a millstone shall be heard no more at all in thee;
And the light of a candle shall shine no more at all in thee; and the voice of the bridegroom and of the bride shall be heard no more at all in thee: for thy merchants were the great men of the earth; for by thy sorceries were all nations deceived.
And in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth.