All the nations have drunk the wine of the passion of her immorality. The kings of the earth were immoral with her, and the merchants of the earth have grown wealthy through the extravagance of her luxury."
I. A GLORIOUS ANGEL PROCLAIMS THIS. (Cf. ver. 1 as to this angel.) Then such overthrow must be:
Had it been possible for men to affect this, it would have been done long since.
II. GOD'S PEOPLE RECEIVE COMMAND.
1. To separate themselves from sin. From which we learn:
(1) That God's people may have to dwell in the midst of sin.
(2) That though where wickedness is, they are not to be partakers of it.
(3) That they shall one day be effectually separated from it.
2. To avenge themselves upon it. Resentment and wrath are passions given us by God. Our peril and propensity is lest we turn them in a wrong direction. We do so when we use them for private revenge. This is what our Lord forbids. But against the forces of sin they may, they should, be used. This the command here.
III. THE FRIENDS OF WICKEDNESS LAMENT.
1. Wickedness has friends. Those who find delight in it, who "live deliciously" in it (ver. 9). Those who make profit out of it. The merchants, etc. (ver. 11). And:
2. Their lament is loud and long. They weep, mourn, wail; say, "Alas, alas!" cast dust on their heads, etc. (vers. 11, 15, 16, 19).
3. But the lament is utterly selfish. They mourn not because of the wickedness; that does not trouble them. Nor even for Babylon's sufferings. But because the hope of their gain is gone (ver. 19).
4. And they do not go to her help (ver. 15). They stand afar off for the fear of her torment. Look well at these friends, for such are they that sin and sinners call friends. "There is a Friend that sticketh closer than a brother," but such Babylon never gets.
IV. ALL HEAVEN, ANGELS AND SAINTS, REJOICE. When we read over the subject of their joy, we find that:
1. It is not because in this Babylon there was noticing innocent or good. There was much. Vers. 22, 23 tell of what was lawful and right in any community. In the worst of men there is good. None are utterly bad. But:
2. That the main characteristic of her life was evil. And, therefore, her destruction was a matter of joy. She deceived all nations. She slew God's saints. Thus:
3. Justice was done. And:
4. It was completely done. See the symbol of the angel with the millstone (ver. 21). Nothing like this has ever been accomplished yet, but this prophecy is a sure promise that it will be. "Who shall live when the Lord doeth this?" Amongst whom shall we be found? Let us now "come out of her, that we be not," etc. (ver. 4). - 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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