Showing the state of our nation in the light of God’s Holy Word

THOUGHTS ON THE APOCALYPSE

An extract from the book by B. W. Newton (1807-1899)

Revelation 17 and 18

IT has been already remarked, that it is the habit of prophecy first of all to develop the end. It describes the consummation first ; and if in subsequent visions the same subject be retraced, we find ourselves led further back as to time, and earlier circumstances are portrayed. He who has valued and given heed to the earlier lesson, will desire further knowledge and he is worthy to receive it. We find a remarkable instance of this enlarged instruction in the chapter before us.
The thirteenth chapter had, as we have seen, revealed the great Monarch of the prophetic earth in all the plenitude of his glorious power. We see him there in his last estate, with all glory centred in himself all recognised as proceeding from him, and all returning to him : for he glorifies himself as God.

But this chapter treats of a preceding period. It ends where the thirteenth begins. We find here the initiatory steps of his glory. And although that glory is even here exceeding great, for ” the beast had seven heads and ten horns” the emblems of concentrated authority over the whole “Roman earth, yet he holds this glory from and with another, fairer and more attractive than himself; for he sustained a “ woman arrayed in purple and scarlet, and decked with gold, and precious stones, and pearls.”

The path, therefore, of Antichrist into power will not be dissimilar to that which has hitherto uniformly been trodden by those who have exalted themselves into greatness. They who have hitherto risen from obscurity into glory who have founded new sovereignties, and given their name to empires, have first been the servants of some existing system which they have served, and under whose favours they have grown, until they have become strong enough to despise and spurn its patronage. And hence it is that none, no, not even saints (except indeed they watch and keep the testimonies of the prophecy of this book) will feel surprised or scandalized at the course upon which Antichrist enters. He will merely be the friend and the supporter of a system already known and already honoured a system that will have been long existent and long valued. And they who have seen no deformity therein whose eyes and whose thoughts have been habituated to rest in it with complacency, if not with joy who have seen in it no “mystery” of iniquity will find little to offend them in the ways of that mighty One who will arise to be its champion and its shield. Indeed it cannot be doubted, that many an individual, admired and idolized by men, is even at this present hour occupying a place that resembles, in the estimate of God, this early place of Antichrist. Few resemble him in his final place of individualized power : but all who have thrown their energies into the support of any systems whereby the truth of God has been discredited, or wickedness sanctified by the name of Christ, do virtually stand in a place that answers, in measure, to the symbol here given, and have, like the beast, names, though not all names, of blasphemy written on them.

We cannot, therefore, be surprised that this chapter has frequently been applied by the servants of God, in different ages, to those ruling systems which they have severally recognised in their own day as hostile to the people and to the truth of Christ, whilst perhaps blasphemously assuming His authority and name. Nor were they altogether wrong in this ; for what ecclesiastical body, I might add, what secular body, has. . . . . .

yet arisen in the earth, that has set itself to order the ways of men either in their relations toward Christ or in their natural relations toward God, that has not run counter to His will, dishonoured His Scripture, opposed His saints, and arrogated to itself a place which God never gave it ? And how can any be the sustainers of such things, without names of blasphemy being written on them, the more in proportion to the energy and devotedness of their labour ? Many a defender of Romanism and such like systems, must be regarded as marked with names of blasphemy for falsehood cannot be thrust into the place of Truth, without Truth being rejected and reviled; and false assumption, and the consequent reviling of God’s Truth and people, is blasphemy in His sight.” I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews, and are not ; but are the synagogue of Satan.”

But the exactness of prophetic statement must not be destroyed by applications, which, however valuable as applications, must never be substituted for direct and exact interpretation.
Our first duty always is to inquire what the event which God is pleased to reveal, definitely and specifically is. It may be with godly and upright intention that many have sought to turn the edge of the testimony of the seventeenth of Revelation sometimes on Rome, sometimes on national assumptions of Christianity ; but the cause of Truth will not ultimately be served hereby, if in doing this they have unconsciously narrowed the testimony of God, and refused to see in this chapter the definite picture of that closing system to Avhich Romanism and every thing else that successfully sways the unregenerate heart will finally lead a system the more important to be watched, because it is future, and may be (I fear not to say, is) at present rising ; and because, by the terms of this prophecy, it will extend its influence over regions which the ecclesiastical systems of Rome, or Greece, or England, have never swayed ; and because its adaptation to such a mass of nations, for they are described as ” peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues,” shows that it must be constructed on principles wide as the heart of man ; and therefore that all, whatever their creed or whatever their nation, are in danger of its seductions, whose path is not simply ordered by the Spirit of God.

It cannot be doubted by any who seriously examine this chapter, that its fulfilment is altogether future. The beast by whom the woman is sustained has ten horns, which indicate a sphere not less extensive than the whole Roman earth : and when, since the power of secular Rome crumbled, have we seen any system that has thus borne sway over the West and East together, or when have we seen any individual like him that is described, sustaining such a system ?
Moreover, the seven mountains occupied by the woman is the symbol that all and every form of concentrated governmental influence in a word, all authority belongs to her; and, as we might expect, her sustainer and instrument is invested with the same in him, symbolized by seven heads in her, by seven mountains on which she sitteth. This complete possession of all authority has never yet been found in any system that has heretofore acted in the earth. Many have coveted it, but none have attained it : power has conflicted with power, system with system, and the jar of opposing interests has hindered the progress of any into undisputed supremacy. And when we consider what it means to have the control of all the influence of the renovated Roman earth, its political, military, civil, religious, commercial, educational, systems to have the control of these things in and throughout the many and now differing nations within its scope ; to have the jarring elements of the human mind touching these things brought under effectual control a control wonderful, if exercised only in one nation, but how much more wonderful in all ; when we consider this, we cannot but confess that such a spectacle has never yet been presented in the history of human things. It is the marvellous exhibition of a power yet to be ; the more marvellous, because it will be the power not of an individual, but of a system, which, though long prepared in secret (see Zechariah v. 5), will suddenly burst in development upon the eyes of men. ” When I saw the woman,” says the apostle, ” I wondered with a great wonder.”

The very fact that the long-lost unity of the Roman world should in any sense be restored, is in itself wonderful. When we consider how entirely it has been broken, first by the inroads of the barbarous Northern nations then by the successive triumphs of the Saracens and the Turks, and how the last bonds of union which still kept the Western states of Europe in some degree together under the emperor and the pope, were finally broken by the revolutionary war, it is wonderful that fragments so shattered nations so dissimilar as those of Asia Minor, and Palestine, and Greece, and Barbary, and England, should again be united so as to be symbolized by the ten horns of the same beast, or the ten toes of one image.
Yet so is it determined by the word of God; and if we watch the signs of the times we may see the symptoms of returning union. We see nothing like the restoration of one undivided empire, neither the appearance of any one universal monarch ; for the time of the last monarch of the Gentiles is not yet come. We see, on the contrary, kingdoms broken into distinctness we see Greece and Egypt separated from Turkey and from one another ; and other divisions of this kind there must be, for the last unity of the Roman earth is a unity of distinctness ; yet whilst these things are silently progressing, we may equally observe the rapid rise of a peculiar system which is beginning to give to these kingdoms a likeness one to another, and to unite them, not by arms or by religious uniformity, but by the influence of a moral and political system as extensive and as certain as the covetousness and pride of the heart of man.
Limited or, as it is called, constitutional monarchy ; commercial enterprise; the consequent subjection of everything art, science, taste, to utility (the standard of utility being productiveness of wealth); the control of ecclesiastical by civil power, and, what is still more remarkable, the increasing control of governments by capitalists, manufacturers, and merchants ; the gradual yielding of the aristocracy of birth and station to the aristocracy of wealth these and other connected principles have marked a character so distinctive upon the present period, as to be recognised even by those who have never thought of reading these things in the light of the testimony of God.
And if facts prove to us that these are the principles that are beginning to spread a moral unity throughout the Roman earth, we could scarcely avoid concluding upon this ground alone, that this is the system represented in this chapter as dominant over the prophetic earth at the time of the end. But when we also find that these are the very features which the Scripture notes as characterizing the Babylon of the latter day, it remains no longer an undetermined question; and what features can be more clearly marked as attaching to the Babylonish period than commercial greatness, the supremacy of wealth, and the mixing of iron and miry clay in the government of the kingdoms ?
The supremacy of commercial wealth is an unusual feature in the history of men. I do not mean that there have never been cities like Tyre, or Corinth, or Carthage, or Venice, that have flourished commercially ; but their influence has been little felt beyond their own immediate sphere, nor have they by their institutions ever imparted a character to the general system of the nations. Commerce was not supreme either in the early native monarchy of Nimrod, nor in the Chaldean, Persian, Grecian, or Roman empires. None of these empires were distinctively commercial. They all would
have emblazoned the sword rather than the ephah on their banners. The ruling power in each depended for its support, sometimes on the nobles or the aristocracy of birth ; sometimes on the aristocracy of merit such as successful generals; sometimes on the people; but never on an aristocracy of merchants. But when, in the history of the declension of monarchic power, the sovereign began first to lean upon his nobles, then upon his generals, then upon the people ; and when at last, in modern Europe, the ecclesiastical system, which for a long time had checked the progress of democracy, was itself enfeebled, and the cry of democracy was on every lip, we have seen suddenly arise another barrier more potent and more firm than any that has yet existed in the history of man the aristocracy of wealth.
It is in England that this has chiefly been exhibited. It is no longer the nobles, nor the Church, nor the people ; but the exchanges of our great commercial cities that secretly guide the wheels of government here. “Capital” is power ; and men of wealth are becoming the chief guardians of society and the firmest pillars of the throne.

The place occupied by England has been for ages one of singular responsibility. When the last remnants of Eastern civilization were finally swept away by the fierce inroad of the Turks, and when the Western provinces of the Roman world groaned under the heavy yokes of despotism and
superstition, it pleased God to allow this country, placed as it is on the remotest limit of the Roman world, to become the repository of those mighty’ but godless principles that are to re-animate the Roman kingdoms, and strengthen them for their last hour of proud defiance of God. The great events of modern days have been the invention of printing; the Reformation ; the maritime discoveries of Vasco di Gama in the East, and of Columbus in the West ; and scientific and mechanical inventions. A new era in the history of mankind has been marked by these things, and where have their effects been felt as in England ? They have concentrated their power on England, I might almost say on England alone. As to the results, I must ask the consciences of those who know Christ and who fear God, to judge. Influence enough has gone forth from England, and the whole world is feeling its effects; but what evil under the sun does it not foster for the sake of gain ? Hindooism, which is natural idolatry; Mahommedanism, which is apostasy; and Popery, which, professedly in the name of Christ, leads back the Gentile world into the same idolatry and corruption whence the gospel was sent to take them, and which by idolatry violates not merely the revealed, but even the natural relations of man to God all these and such like things are protected, and honoured, and paid by England for the sake of commercial rule. She has found in her Indian and in her colonial possessions, a school in which she has well learned to adapt herself to the varying condition of the human family, whatever their blasphemies, and whatever their sins, and has thus become the mainspring of the new system that is arising in the earth.

It has been said, however, by one well qualified to pronounce a judgment on such subjects, that France is the great artery of the social system ; and that nothing wheresoever it may be originated, no principle of government, no invention of science, ever becomes European without first passing through France. Accordingly, we are now seeing these principles of which we have been ‘speaking infused into the system of France : and by France and England they are being disseminated ; but specially in those countries (Greece, Turkey, and Algeria, are examples) which fall within the limits of the Roman earth. They are obviously principles well calculated to cement into closest union.
Similarity of political institutions, especially when those institutions stand in contrast with, and in danger from, the institutions of a near and powerful rival, such as Russia, are in themselves no slender bond. Of old, democrats were wont to assist democrats, and despots to aid despots ; but when in addition to this men have found a new and more efficacious centre of union in their commercial interests, and when they feel themselves mutually dependent upon each other for the preservation as well as the increase of their riches when the ruin of one involves the danger of all
men in such circumstances become wonderfully careful of each other’s interests. This is the kind of dependence into which nations are being brought one on the other. Not only are the inhabitants of the commercial nations interested in the maintenance of order and tranquillity in their own countries (for commerce diffuses wealth, and gives to millions an interest in the prosperity of the common weal, which they never had before) ; but when the wealth of one nation becomes embarked in the undertakings of another, or when one nation lives by selling to another, they become dependent on each other, and soon becoming aware of their mutual dependency, they understand that common interests involve common prosperity or common ruin.
That peace may be promoted hereby that the quiet pursuits of industry may be substituted for the bloody triumphs of destroying armies and the crowded manufactory with all its secret history of sin and misery, be in the social system what the baronial castle or the camp once was, no one can doubt. The sword is not mentioned in all the detail of the greatness of Babylon ; but “ merchandise of gold, and silver, and precious stones, and pearls, and fine linen, and purple, and silk, and scarlet, and all thyme 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 bodies and souls of men.”
Such are the fruits that the soul of Babylon loveth, and they flourish beneath a sky that is to the eye fair and serene.
The rude jarring of former ages has passed away. It seems as though men had at last learned that it is best for their own interests to cease from biting and devouring one another.
The disturbance and dissension that was once caused by God’s own Truth is gone. Men respect the opinions of their neighbours, and charity hopeth well of all. Every one shall be fostered, and loved, and valued, who subserves the interests of the common weal, and does not interfere with the ways or doctrines of others. Such are the rules of Babylon, such the principles on which human society is beginning to be organized throughout the Roman earth. Such rules indeed will not bring the sword into the household, yet Christ in His faithfulness may, (for Truth is a sword and He will not permit it to be banished from the earth,) and then there will be the opportunity for Babylon ” to drink of the blood of saints, and of the blood of the martyrs of Jesus ;” but, with this exception, the moral atmosphere will be untroubled and serene, and little indicate the coming storm.
For man to be proud of any thing is a sin, or to lean upon any thing, or worship any thing, save God ; but how peculiarly hateful must that sin become when the idol is that which God has so expressly named ” filthy lucre.” Yet money is everything in the system of which we speak : its foundation and its pillar the mainspring of all its energies. For men to spread over the earth and subdue it to produce wealth by supplying food and necessary clothing by the sweat of their brow to exchange one with another on principles fairly remunerative of the time and labour spent in the production, all this is according to the natural arrangements of God. But this is not the commerce of Babylon. It deals in luxuries rather than in necessaries ; in other words, it ministers to the lusts, rather than to the need of man ” the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, pride of life, and vanity of spirit.” But not only so ; heedless of every thing, excepting gain, its avowed principle is ” to buy at the cheapest, and to sell at the dearest.” The misfortune of another may constrain him to sell his all that misfortune is welcomed, if it cheapens the object of my search. Poor distant barbarous nations may be ignorant of the real value of what I bring, and I scruple not to take a price a hundred times greater than the value of that which I sell. But did God prescribe these principles to regulate the mutual supply of the need of those who found themselves together the inhabitants of a ruined earth themselves born to sorrow, as the sparks fly upward ? Were these the principles on which Abraham dealt with Lot, or with the sons of Heth ? or are they the principles of him who loves in this and every other way to add to the miseries and sins of men, and deepen the groan of creation ?

We cannot, therefore, wonder at the result. Unscrupulous avidity, endowed with every superiority that skill, and art, and science, and courage, and commanding influence can give, going forth to ransack the whole earth for treasure, is sure to prosper, now that God hath ff withdrawn Himself into His place,” and is “still, and refrains Himself.”
But what is wealth what is prosperity without Him and His blessing? It ministers joy. But what joy? I saw in her hand ” a golden cup full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication. And upon her forehead was a name written, Mystery Babylon the great, the mother of the harlots, and abominations of the earth.” Such is the symbol. Who would desire such joy ? Yet men do desire it, and will desire, and will drink of it till they are drunken ; for conscience has become dead. The Reformation itself (sent as it was in mercy) has been one innocent cause of this.
Before that, men were sinning, comparatively in th’e dark ; but since, they have been sinning in the light. Worldly and designing men have availed themselves of the truths of the Reformation ; they have struck off thereby the fetter of superstition from many a hand ; but their wish has been to set it free for worldliness, not for God ; and they have succeeded.
But this system, it must be remembered, is in the fullest sense to be a ruling system ; that is, it will not be merely a morally influential system which kings and governors may be glad to use ; but it will be a system that will use them, and make them subservient to its will. The beast having ten horns carries the woman. This willing subjection of the executive organs of government is a peculiarly distinguishing feature in the Babylonish period. The Papal system struggled for ages to reduce the crowns of Western Europe into this kind of subserviency to itself; but the attempt signally failed, even in the limited sphere in which it was made. But here we find the ten horns of the Roman earth in willing and complete subjection. And this subjection has begun, at least in the country in which we dwell ; for what minister would in England hold the reins of government for an hour, who should refuse to be the servant of that half- popular half-monarchic commercial system with all its latitudinarianism and infidelity, which is already paramount here, as it soon will be throughout the prophetic earth ?
And this very fact of governors acting, not as individuals, not on the unbiassed judgments of their own minds, but as the organs of a system, invests their actions with the greater importance as signs of the moral character of the times ; because the actions of the representative of a system indicate not the condition of a mere individual mind, but the habitual moral condition of millions before God. I say habitual because caprice may determine an individual, but it cannot influence the actings of a deliberately planned and settled system. And although that system is as yet but partially formed, and is only partially influential, yet the character of policy and legislation at home and abroad is strongly enough marked with new peculiarities ; and those peculiarities we shall, I doubt not, find to be retained when it is developed in its perfectness. If, for example, we could now transport ourselves to the council-chambers at Constantinople (I name that place, because there the affairs of the Eastern and Western branches of the Roman, world are necessarily in question), and were permitted to hear the plans of England and France developed, we should soon be able to form an estimate of the political and religious character of Babylonish government. Mahomedanism, Arminianism and all the other corrupted forms of Eastern Christianity, Judaism, and the heathenism of the Druses, all fall within the East ; whilst Judaism, Mahomedanism, the Greek, Roman, and Anglican churches, together with various forms of Protestantism and Infidelity divide the West; and all have to be considered. The plan adopted must be such as to suit them all none are to be pre-eminent no, not even if the fulness of God’s own Truth should be in them ; but all are to be not merely protected but fostered in their own proper sphere, and no question of ” what is truth ” must be allowed for a moment to interrupt the harmony of this Satanic concord.

I have said that this system is not as yet developed, so that we must not expect at present to be able fully and accurately to trace its details. Its manifestation before the eyes of men (when it will assume a form as definite and palpable as Popery, Mahomedanism, or any other system that has heretofore appeared) its manifestation will not be until it shall be set up in the land of Shinar on its own base ; for this woman represents not a system merely, but a system connected with one especial city, and that place is Babylon, the Euphratean city in the land of Shinar. ” The woman which thou sawest, is that great city which reigneth over the kings of the earth.” Such are the concluding words of the seventeenth chapter ; and in that which immediately succeeds, the outward circumstances of that great city are described. The land of Shinar, whence civilization first proceeded, is the place to which it will again return, and in which it will be concentrated. There also it shall find its grave. The pit shall suddenly open its mouth upon it. The silent progress of the mystery of iniquity is advancing secretly now so secretly, that even they who are expecting something to arise, are expecting anything except the right. The lid of the ephah, however, is lifted for the servant of God, and he is allowed to glance at that which is contained within it. To him it is given to understand the truth, whilst others are lost in conjecture. Some, for example, fear lest the hordes of the North from Russia should again pour down upon the plains of Europe, and again establish an universal monarchy upon the ruins of Western civilization. Others hope for the rise of some great conqueror, who, like Napoleon, may again individualize power, and give the sword pre-eminence over the sceptre. Others expect, some with fear, some withhope, that a dominant religious system will be revived, and Romanism, or modified Romanism, be again supreme. Others desire that the government of the whole Roman world should depend upon religious systems, but that those systems should be all the Churches of Christendom that can pretend to (so called) apostolic lineage, linked together in a catholic union ; ” the German sects of the Reformation”
(I use their own words) being alone excluded. I merely mention these things to show how utterly unconscious men are of the real nature of the system which is being silently prepared ; and whilst
some are exclaiming against one form of evil, and others against another, the literature, the philanthropy, the government, and often the real Christianity of the day, is in the meanwhile advancing, and that with most successful efforts, that system which. God has named “Babylon the Great, the Mother of the harlots and abominations of the earth.”

It is well that we should consider carefully that remarkable passage in Zechariah to which I have alluded, respecting the ephah and its “going forth.” When the prophet was taught where the influence would dwell which, in the latter day, should “go forth” with pervading sovereign power over Israel and the nations of the prophetic earth, there was shown to him not a sword, nor a mitre, nor a diadem, but an ephah the emblem of commerce. ( ‘ Then the angel that talked with me went forth, and said unto me, Lift up now thine eyes, and see what is this that goeth forth. And I said, “What is it ? And he said, This is an ephah that goeth forth. He said moreover, This is their resemblance through all the earth.” Such was the vision ; and how truly is it beginning to be verified ? Is not commerce the sovereign influence of the day ? If we wished to inscribe on the banners of the leading nations of the earth, an emblem characteristically expressive of their condition, could we fix on any device more appropriate than an ephah ? Will not Israel, when they shall concentrate their unsanctified energies, and gather together their wealth, and resettle themselves in the land from which they have been driven, glory in assuming some such symbol as this ? “This,” said the angel,” is their resemblance throughout all the earth.” The commencement of the reign of commerce is already recognised, and men welcome it. We have suffered enough (say they) from the sword of the conqueror, and from the mitre, and from the crown. We wish not that society should fall beneath the sway of either. Let commerce be supreme. Its influences are benign and gentle. It gives scope to the energies of man. It ennobles and enriches. It cherishes science; it encourages art; it stimulates research. It diffuses wealth and banishes penury. It breathes of peace and concord. It is the panacea for our ills. Who, then, will condemn commerce ? Who will say that the ephah can be the harbinger of anything but good ? The material interests of commerce for the most part absorb the attention of those who are occupied therein, and they care little respecting the moral principles which the god of this world may be silently connecting with the exaltation of their idol. Yet it is very manifest, that the inauguration of this rising age of commercial greatness is accompanied by the introduction of new principles new governmental principles which, although not yet fully systematised, are silently operating on society and gradually casting it in a new mould. For governments openly to ignore Truth, and avowedly to cherish all the varieties of falsehood, is, in the history of Christendom at least, something new. Society apart from God, and from His Truth, is but a many-tongued monster that gives utterance to voices that all emanate from the pit. Yet we are taught that it is the duty of government to be the exponent of the mind of society, and to give effect to the expressions of its will ; that it should honour falsehood, sustain its emissaries, conciliate all by pleasing all, and oppose none except those who maintain that the Truth of God is unchangeable and eternal that it is clear, precise, and definite that it cannot bend to the wilfulness and perversity of man, nor confound darkness with light, nor call evil good. But the steadfast inflexibility of Truth ill suits the designs of those who need pliant principles principles that can accommodate themselves to all circumstances, and adapt themselves complacently to all forms of superstition, to all varieties of evil. If the {f solidarite” of nations is to be sought on such principles as these, and if the “material” interests of the human family are to be made the supreme object of pursuit, it is no wonder that God and revealed Truth should be excluded from such consolidation. Such will be the result of the now germinant principles of this rising age of commercial greatness. Fewy however, care to analyse them. They are hidden in the ephah.

Zechariah was not restricted to the sight of the outward form of the ephah only. He was also commanded to look within, and there he saw a woman seated in the midst of the ephah. ” A woman,” as we have already seen, is a symbol continually used to designate a moral system. Thus then we are taught in this vision just what we learn from present facts, that an attractive moral system is associated with that which, if viewed in its physical aspect merely, would be but as the bare form of an ephah. The prophet looked again, and he saw the angel cast something into the ephah with the woman, saying, ” This is wickedness.” And he cast it into the midst of the ephah, and he cast the weight of lead upon the mouth thereof. “Wickedness,” or, as it is interpreted by St. Paul, “lawlessness”, is a word that specifically designates that peculiar form of evil which makes Antichrist what he will be as the man of lawlessness, or the wicked one, Isaiah xi., 2 Thess. ii.). The principles therefore of “lawlessness” in their earliest form of concentration will be found connected with the ephah. But they remain hidden, and continue to be the “mystery of lawlessness,” until the ephah is translated to the land of Shinar, and there established. With its establishment in the land of Shinar (and can any words more plainly mark locality) the vision of Zechariah, touching the ephah, closes. Can there be any difficulty in understanding these things ? In the land of Shinar the woman hidden in the ephah will be manifested, and known as Babylon the Great, “ wondered after” by men, but in the estimate of God, “the Mother of the harlots, and the abominations of the earth.”

It is this system, then, that Antichrist will, in the early period of his history, espouse. All plenitude of authority and influence, indicated in the vision by seven mountains, will, at the period of which this chapter treats, be possessed by the woman. But power, if it is to be used, requires of course some form of executive agency, and this is supplied in him. He for the time being becomes the executive agent of all her power ; making this his last step onward into the eighth final form of executive government, or “kingship,” which concludes the evil history of authority delegated to man. ” There are seven kings five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come ; and when he cometh he must continue a short space. And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of “the seven.”

This passage (which is parenthetic) is evidently intended to direct our thoughts to the various forms of executive government or kingship that have existed, or shall exist in the prophetic earth, until the hour when the sovereignty of the world shall become the sovereignty of the Lord and of His Christ. We might expect to find such a reference in a chapter which professedly treats of him who is to close the history of human government by the introduction of a new and marvellous form of power a form new as to its mode of administration and development, yet not unconnected with the past, for it will be constructed upon principles drawn from the experience of preceding ages, and will have the foundations of its greatness laid by the primeval efforts of mankind. He will be the eighth ; but he is of the seven.

The native energy and intrepidity of him who is said to have been a mighty hunter before the Lord an energy essential to men who were settling in a forlorn and unsubdued earth, surrounded by beasts of the forest and countless other difficulties and dangers, very naturally gave the first form to kingship, and hence its parentage may be said to spring.” The beginning of his kingdom was Babel.” The supremacy of Nimrod was not derived from any previously existing system. He neither inherited his power from others, nor did he, like Nebuchadnezzar afterwards, receive it as a gift from God. He earned it for himself by the force of his own individual character but it was without God. Great progress was made in the kingdom which he founded in the land of Shinar, in civilization and refinement; for we early read of the goodly Babylonish garment, and of the skill and learning of the Chaldees ; but their dominion was repressed and kept, as it were, in abeyance by the hand of God, until the trial of Israel, His people, had been fully made, that it might be seen whether they would prove themselves worthy of supremacy in the earth.

The form of government in Israel was a theocracy ; as was seen in the reigns of David and of Solomon, who were types (imperfect types indeed) of Him that is to come. The monarch was independent of and uncontrolled by those whom he governed, but he was dependent upon God, who dwelt in the temple, ever near to be consulted, and whose law was given as the final standard of appeal. He stood between God and the people, not to be their functionary and slave not to be the expression of their judgments and the reflection of their will ; but as set over them by God, his office was to mould them and to fashion them by principles which he himself had received from above. But the possession of power like this, held in companionship with God, required a holiness that was not found in man in the flesh, and therefore it was soon forfeited. Divine sanction, however, has many times since been coveted, and the name of “the Lord’s anointed” assumed. The last great king of the Gentiles, indeed, will do mpre than this, for he will take the place of Divinity itself, and sit upon the mount of the congregation on the sides of the north, saying that he is like the Most High. But all this is unauthorized assumption. God has never connected His name with Gentile power, save as declaring that He is the source from which it flows ; nor has He ever granted the title of “the Lord’s anointed “to any Gentile king, in the sense in which it once attached to the occupant of Israel’s throne. It is a title reserved for Him who shall soon come to fill that throne, and to bear the glory ; and then we shall again behold the theocracy, sustained for ever in holiness and in blessing.

The third form was developed when the Gentile dynasty was formally constituted by God in the person of Nebuchadnezzar. He, like the monarchs of Israel, had absolute sovereignty granted to him but God was not with him in it. He and his successors received it as delegated power, to be exercised according to their own pleasure, though in final responsibility to God. It is not necessary here to pursue the painful history of the Gentiles. It is sufficient to say, as regards the history of power, that the Gentile monarchs from the beginning, not knowing God so as to lean upon Him, and too weak to stand alone ; exposed to the jealousy and hatred of those whom they governed ajealousy not unfrequently earned by their own evil, found it necessary to lean upon something inferior to themselves : and thus the character of power has been deteriorated from age to age, until at last the monarchy of these latter days has consented not only to own the people as the basis and source of its power, but has also submitted to be directed in the exercise of that power by given rules prescribed by its subjects. The authority held by Nebuchadnezzar is represented by fine gold ; that of the constitutional monarchies of this present hour by iron mixed with miry clay. There never was a declaration of Scripture more distinctly verified by facts than this.
The native monarchy of Nimrod, the theocracy of Israel, the despotic authority of Nebuchadnezzar, the aristocratic monarchy of Persia, and the military monarchy of Alexander and his successors, had all passed away when John beheld this vision. All these methods had been tried none had been found to answer even the purposes of man ; and now another had arisen, the half military, half popular monarchy of the Csesars the iron empire of Rome. ” Five have fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come ; and when lie cometh he must continue a little space.”
That other (though it cannot yet be said to have come so as to fulfil this verse )f has nevertheless appeared and is found in the constitutional monarchy of this present hour. This is the seventh, and, with one brief exception, the last form that is to be exhibited before the end shall come, and it is under this form that the system of Babylon is matured. It is obvious that a monarchy, guided not by the people numerically, but by certain classes of the people, and those classes determined by the possession of property, must be the form best adapted for the accumulation of wealth, and the growth of commercial power ; for it gives (which pure democracy has ever failed to do), the best security for property without unduly fettering the liberty of individual enterprise.

A system, however, like that of Babylon, will ill suit the individual ambition of Antichrist. He will not submit to be legislated for by the classes of the wealthy, nor any other classes. He will spurn even the laws of God, and will do according to his own will. The ten kings of the ten kingdoms will gladly own him as their lord. The yoke of the Babylonish system is a hard yoke upon them ; besides which the democratic pressure, which is perpetually increasing in strength, could scarcely be finally resisted even by the system of Babylon itself. They will gladly, therefore, take refuge under the arm of one whom Satan strengthens for dominion, and join in destroying a system which has really made them its slaves, and, in many things, left them less liberty than the meanest of their subjects.
“They shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh and burn her with fire : for God hath put in their hearts to fulfil His will, and to agree and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled.”
The system of Babylon will be destroyed; but the city with all its wealth and greatness will for a time continue, and Antichrist will reign over it for a season, until the hour of his doom and its doom together comes. He will hate its system, but he will not hate it; for its resources, its palaces, its ships, and its merchandise, will be among the chiefest objects of his desire the sinews of his strength, and the adornment of his glory.

We have not, therefore, to watch so much against Antichrist himself, as against that system which precedes Antichrist, which he adopts, and by which he rises into his glory a system whose principles are already operating, and everywhere spreading their destructive influence, and yet discerned by few, neither judged according to the light so fully given in this chapter. The system of Babylon will not be an ecclesiastical system on the contrary, it will be distinctively secular ; but ecclesiastical systems may be dragged in its train, as every system will be that is not simply ruled by the Spirit of Jesus : neither will any but they who are content ” to go without the gate bearing His reproach,” be free from its evil influence.

It has been the practice of some, and especially of those who have been lately labouring to revive the darkness and abominations of Popery in this country, to speak much of Antichrist. If, say they, such an one is to arise (as he surely will) full of all wickedness and blasphemy, and if he will set himself to destroy all institutions, human and divine, that are contrary to him, let us only consider what he will destroy, and then we shall learn what we should cherish. According to this we may, nay, we ought to, nourish the Harlot and all her abominations, because Antichrist will be her destruction. This is strange counsel ; and yet it is virtually accepted by all who justify their position, not because it will answer to the requirements of truth, but because it is obnoxious to some more palpable form of wickedness that may be at hand. It is an easy thing to speak against Antichrist, and yet to sustain those very things that cause God to send him in judicial infliction upon a transgressing world.

The alarm which has lately been excited as to the revival of Popery, has concentrated the attention of God’s children upon one corner of the camp, and diverted their attention from that point where Satan is making his real and triumphant assault. I do not say that the deadly doctrines which are being spread around us ought not to be resisted, even unto death. I do not say that they may not yet more widely spread ; but another system is being prepared, which is not religious, and it is the system to be really feared, for it will reign supremely in the nations among whom we dwell.

It is being secretly prepared, and therefore men do not see it : but its establishment will be sudden. “ I saw,” says the prophet, ” and behold there came forth two women, and the wind was in their wings ; for they had wings like the wings of a stork ; and they lifted up the ephah between the earth and the heaven. Then said I to the angel that talked with me, Whither do these bear the ephah ? And he said unto me, To build it an house in the land of Shinar : and it shall be established, and set there upon her own base.” The stork is a bird of strong and rapid flight their wings were spread, and no adverse influences resisted, but all influences were in their favour, even all influences from God ; for ” the wind was in their wings.” Such will be the rapidity and the success with which these principles, which are now being prepared in these “Western regions, will be suddenly established in the East. The nations will be suddenly knit into this harmony of evil they will have one mistress, and one cup, from which they will all drink, until they are together drunken. Antichrist, in all the attractiveness of his glory, will then arise in their midst ; the power of delusion will be on them; they will worship the dragon, and worship him; and then the end will come.