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A Brief Commentary On The Apocalypse by Sylvester Bliss

The Fall of Babylon.

|And after this, I saw another angel descending from heaven, having great power; and the earth was enlightened by his glory. And he cried with a mighty voice, saying, She is fallen: Babylon the great is fallen, and is become a dwelling of demons, and a prison of every unclean spirit, and a prison of every unclean and hateful bird, for all the nations have drunk of the wine of the fury of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich through the abundance of her luxury.| Rev.18:1-3.

This announcement of the fall of the city, synchronizes with the same symbolization in the 14th chapter: |And there followed another angel, saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication,| 14:8. The angel, proclaiming her fall, doubtless symbolizes a body of men, who shall give utterance to corresponding declarations.

The epoch of this utterance is shown by the identity of this angel with that of Rev.10:1-3. They thus correspond: They both descend from heaven: the one is a mighty angel, and the other has great power; the one is enveloped with a robe of cloud, his head is arched with the rainbow, his face is like the sun, and his feet like fire, and he stands on both earth and sea; the other is so glorified, and occupies a position so conspicuous, that the earth is enlightened with his glory; and the one cries |with a loud voice as when a lion roareth,| while the other cries |mighty with a strong voice.| Thus their position, manner and conspicuousness, are alike. What was uttered by the angel of the tenth chapter, is not revealed; but the fall of Babylon being announced in the eighteenth, it follows that it was the subject of the angel's utterance in the tenth.

As the messenger of the tenth chapter appears subsequent to the sixth, and before the seventh trumpet; and as, after this epoch, there were to be prophesyings |again, before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings| (10:11), it follows that the time then symbolized must be at an epoch anterior to the end of the world. A corresponding reason -- namely, the command to come out of Babylon, and the fulfilment of her plagues and sorrows, which are to intervene between the cry of the angel announcing her fall and the time of her actual destruction -- proves that the mighty angel of the 18th of Revelation must also be at an epoch having a considerable period between it and the end.

It follows, that when John saw the angel of the eighteenth chapter, and |the earth was lightened with his glory,| it did not symbolize a literal but a moral light, -- the light of truth. And as the enlightening of the earth by its promulgation, pre-supposes a previous state of corresponding moral darkness, it must, as in the tenth chapter, symbolize an epoch, prominent in the history of the world, as a time when the darkness of ignorance, error and superstition, began rapidly to disappear before the spread of the light of truth and knowledge.

These considerations point to the epoch of the REFORMATION, when the midnight darkness of the dark ages began to be scattered before the uprising and onward progress of truth and knowledge. Then appeared a body of religious teachers, aided by the newly discovered art of printing, who so brought the Scriptures out from their obscurity, opposed the pretensions of the Papal hierarchy, and, by the clear teachings of the word, so secured the spread of gospel light and liberty, that they might appropriately be symbolized by an angel coming down from heaven, and enlightening the earth with his glory. The descent from heaven would symbolize the heavenly origin of the doctrines promulgated. His mighty power, and the strong voice with which he proclaimed his cry, would symbolize the greatness and earnestness of the movement, and the mighty results to be effected by it. This symbolization, twice given, could only be fulfilled by some great and mighty movement, like the Reformation.

The fall of Babylon is distinct from and anterior to its destruction, and must correspond with the fall of the woman from her position on the beast; -- she is no longer to be the director of, and to be sustained by, the civil power. The cry of the angel, announcing her fall, as Mr. Elliot remarks, seems to be anticipative, and not retrospective. The denunciations of the Papacy by the reformers were of a character to fulfil this symbolization.

The year 1300, during the pontificate of Boniface VIII., may be regarded as marking the highest eminence to which the Papal power ever attained. From this period the dominion of the Roman Pontiffs appeared to be gradually undermined. Twenty-four years after this date, John Wickliffe was born, who, together with his followers, made more vigorous attacks upon Babylon itself. Some of these declared Rome to be mystical Babylon, and the Pope and church there to be Antichrist. These heralds announced the fall of mystical Babylon, as the ancient prophets had done that of literal Babylon, long before the event. -- Jer.51:7, 8. Antichrist and Babylon are identified in prophecy. In 1518, Luther first suspected their application to the Papacy; and, writing to his friend Link, on sending him a copy of the acts just published of the conference at Augsburg, he says: |My pen is ready to give birth to things much greater. I know not myself whence these thoughts come to me. I will send you what I write, that you may see if I have well conjectured in believing that the Antichrist of whom St. Paul speaks now reigns in the court of Rome.|

At first, Luther and his companions sought only the reformation of that church. They had no idea of dissolving their own connection with it. But when the thunders of the Vatican were hurled at them, and they found themselves excommunicated as heretics, they came to the conclusion that the church of Rome was the Babylon of the Apocalypse. Immediately upon this conviction, they began to cry, |Babylon is fallen!|

In 1520 appeared a famous book, by Luther, on the |Babylonish Captivity of the Church,| in which he attacked Rome with great skill and courage. In Switzerland and England the reformers considered themselves as fulfilling this message of the Apocalyptic angel. Elliot says, |They seized on this very prophecy for application; and, for the first time, upon grounds of evidence sound and tenable, concluded on the fact of progress having been made up to it, in the evolution of the great mundane drama, and on their own chronological place being already far advanced under the sixth trumpet, and in near expectancy of the seventh trumpet, of the Apocalyptic prophecy.|

These denunciations against Mystic Babylon, and protestations against all her idolatrous ceremonies and superstitious appendages, were given, by the great body of the reformers, within the very bounds of her empire. They resulted in her loss of power, and of control over the princes of Europe. In 1526, the other monarchs becoming jealous of the power of Charles V., Emperor of Germany, |Pope Clement VII. placed himself at the head of a league of the principal states of Italy against him; but their ill-directed efforts were productive of new misfortunes. Rome was taken by storm, by the troops of the constable, sacked, and the Pope himself made prisoner. Charles V. publicly disavowed the proceedings of the constable, went into mourning with his court, and carried his hypocrisy so far as to order prayers for the deliverance of the Pope. On restoring the holy father to liberty, he demanded a ransom of four hundred thousand crowns of gold, but was satisfied with a quarter of that sum.| -- Ency. Am., v.3. p.76.

All the Protestant princes of Germany denied the assumptions of the Pope; and the powers of western and northern Europe, one after another, denied their allegiance to him. In 1798, Pius VI. was taken prisoner by the French, under Gen. Berthier, and died in exile. When Berthier entered Rome, many of the cardinals |fled from the city on the wings of terror;| but those who remained |were disposed still to uphold the authority of the Pontiff.| Finally, however, |with melancholy voice, they pronounced their absolute renunciation of the temporal government.| -- Life of Pius VI. His successor resumed his position. But in 1848 Pius IX. fled from his own subjects, and was only restored by French arms. Thus gradually the Babylonish woman became unseated, and fell from her position on the beast; and, instead of guiding and directing the civil power, now only exists by sufferance. As a city, also, her supremacy was gone. Being no longer the mistress of the nations, or the ruling city, the Papal See is in the condition of ancient Babylon when becoming a dependency of the Medes and Persians.

After the fall of ancient Babylon, it became gradually more and more deserted, until there was a literal fulfilment of the words of Isaiah: |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. And the wild beasts of the islands shall cry in their desolate houses, and dragons in their pleasant palaces,| Isa.13:21, 22. In like manner the apocalyptic Babylon, after her fall, and the withdrawal of Protestants from her communion, was to become the receptacle of corresponding spirits. Her members were to be more impious than before, and were to adhere more closely than ever to her idolatrous practices. The contrast between these and true Christians would also be more apparent from the separation which succeeds her fall, in obedience to:

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