Then a mighty angel picked up a stone the size of a great millstone and cast it into the sea, saying: "With such violence the great city of Babylon will be cast down, never to be seen again.
the whole kingdom of evil - that mighty empire, that hoary sinner against God and man. Though St. John meant Rome, his words tell of far more than Rome. And we, coming so far further down in the world's history, are able and glad to read in them this fuller meaning which we believe to have been in the Divine mind, though not in that of his servant. Let Babylon stand, then, for the city where Satan's seat is - the whole kingdom and dominion of the devil, and let us listen to the six times repeated stroke of the word "no more," which in our text and two following verses may be heard. The city is to be "no more," and her music "no more," and her trade "no more," and her food supplies "no more," and her lamp lit feasts "no more," and her marriage festivals "no more." Thus, by the utter desolation of a great city, such as that which came on Babylon, is set forth the fact of the final and complete overthrow of that kingdom of evil of which Babylon was the ancient type, and Rome, in St. John's day, the embodiment. Such utter overthrow is -
I. SIGNIFIED BY SYMBOL. See the mighty angel lifting aloft the huge and ponderous millstone and then hurling it, with all his force, into the depths of the sea. There, buried out of sight, sunk down into the bed of ocean, it shall never more be seen. Such is the symbol. One that seemed little likely of fulfilment when it was given, and even now, oftentimes, seems as if it never would be fulfilled.
II. VERIFIED BY FACT. Babylon had fallen, in spite of all its greatness, and heathen Rome was hastening to her fall. And other such Babylons have risen, and wrought their evil, and rioted in their sin, and, like her, have fallen. Therefore we may he assured that the last and greatest of them all will also one day be "no more."
III. LONGED FOR BY THE OPPRESSED. "How long, O Lord, how long, dost thou not avenge?" - such has been the cry of the oppressed for weary ages. "Thy kingdom come," is the cry we put up day by day.
IV. PROMISED IN THE GOSPEL. "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me," said Jesus, "because he hath anointed me to preach glad tidings to the poor," etc. (Luke 4.). And this is the gospel, that the kingdom of evil shall be "no more." It is present with us now, we know, in all its forms. But it is not always so to be. Ere the glad tidings were proclaimed, good men, sore perplexed and troubled, pondered much and sadly over the mystery of evil. They could not understand how God could let it be. Nor do we fully understand even now. But this much we know, that it is but for a time. And faith is able to grasp the promise of the gospel, and to "rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him."
V. REJOICED IN BY SAINTS. The joy of all heaven because of this overthrow of evil is told of in the next chapter. Their Alleluias ascend unceasingly, for that God hath judged the accursed city and established his own reign.
VI. CREDIBLE TO REASON. The evidence for the Divine existence and the Divine character - as holy, just, wise, and good - becomes more convincing the more it is considered, notwithstanding the existence of a kingdom of evil. Doubtless that kingdom is a great stumbling block to both reason and faith, but it is not an insurmountable one. But were it not for the truth we are considering now, that all this accursed rule of evil shall one day be "no more," we do not see how faith in God could live. For that faith necessitates as its corollary that evil should terminate and be "no more." Reason reiterates her conviction that if God be, evil must one day be "no more."
VII. ACCOMPLISHED BY CHRIST. "For this purpose the Son of God was manifested." "I saw," he says, "Satan as lightning fall from heaven." "The prince of this world is judged." There was that, however imperfectly we may understand it, in the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, which effected the virtual overthrow of evil. Satan received his death stroke; he is no longer what he was. We know and confess that in some aspects of life it seems very hard to believe this. But when we consider what the power of our blessed Lord and Master has already done; how the might of his meekness, the love of his sacrifice, the attraction of his cross, have already subdued so many hearts and triumphed over so many foes, - then faith revives, and we can believe that, as he said, "the prince of this world is judged." Lord, we believe; but help our unbelief. - S.C.
A mighty angel took up a stone.
1. Babylon's utter destruction represented by the type and sign of a millstone cast into the sea: like a millstone she had ground and oppressed the Church of God; and now, like a millstone thrown into the sea, she sinks into the pit of destruction. Almighty God, by this symbol, signified to St. John that Babylon's ruin should be violent, irrecoverable, and irreparable; she falls never to rise more. The casting of a stone into the sea was anciently the emblem of everlasting forgetfulness.
2. The amplification of Babylon's ruin particularised in several instances.(1) That nothing should ever more be found in her that belonged to pleasure or delight; no voice of harpers, musicians, or trumpeters.(2) Nothing which belonged to profit or trading, no artificers and craftsmen.(3) Nothing belonging to food, no noise of a millstone for grinding corn and making provision for bread.(4) Nothing to relieve against the darkness and terror of the night, as the light of a candle.(5) No means for the propagation of mankind by marriage — the voice of the bride and the bridegroom shall be heard no more. All which expressions do imply extreme destruction and utter desolation, intimating that Babylon shall be a place utterly abandoned and forsaken.
3. A threefold cause assigned for all this, to wit —(1) Damnable covetousness: her merchants were the great ones of the earth. Her sinful way of merchandising, by dealing in spiritual commodities, seems here to be pointed at; her making merchandise of the souls of men, as we have it (ver. 13).(2) Her bewitching idolatry, called here sorceries, whereby she enticed people to join with her in her superstitious worship.(3) Her cruelty and bloodshed; in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth.But how can the blood shed by others be laid to her charge?
1. Because the doctrines which caused their blood to be shed were with her.
2. Because her jurisdiction gave commission to slay the saints which were slain in other kingdoms.
3. Because by the influence of her example at home much blood had been shed abroad. God will charge upon others, as he did upon Babylon, not only the sin which they have acted, but all the sins which they have been necessary unto.
(W. Burkitt, M. A.)
Homilist.I. A symbolisation of its NATURE. If you want to see sin, or moral evil, in all its hideous aspects, in all its infernal operations, in all its damning consequences, study the great city of Babylon. The great city Babylon is in every unrenewed soul.
II. A symbolisation of its OVERTHROW. The moral evil of the world is to be destroyed; it is not to exist for ever.
1. It is to be overthrown by superhuman agency. "A mighty angel"; a messenger from heaven. Was not Christ a mighty Messenger sent from heaven for this purpose? Yes, He came to "destroy the works of the devil." It has been said that good alone can overcome evil. True, but it must be good in a supernatural form, and in this form the gospel brings us the good.
2. It is to be overthrown in such a way as never to appear again. Babylon is thrown like a great millstone into the sea. As Pharaoh sank like lead in the mighty waters, and rose no more to life, so shall moral evil, like a "mighty millstone," fall into the fathomless abysses of eternal ruin.
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