3. Reflections on the Prophecies Concerning Babylon in the Apocalypse

Reasons have now been given for the conclusion stated at the end of the foregoing Chapter of this Essay, that the prophecies contained in the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, Sixteenth, Seventeenth, Eighteenth, and Nineteenth Chapters of the Revelation of St. John the Divine, and which describe the guilt, and pourtray the punishment, of the mystical Babylon, have been partly accomplished, and are in course of complete accomplishment, in the Church of Rome.

1. Some may allege that such an assertion is uncharitable; that it is inconsistent with the living Spirit of the Gospel, to arraign a Christian Church, one so distinguished as the Church of Rome for amplitude, dignity, and antiquity; and to brand it with such an ominous name-to characterize it as Babylon.

But we may reply to this allegation, by asking, Who wrote the Apocalypse?... The Evangelist St. John. He was a Son of Thunder (Mark 3:17); but he was the beloved Disciple of Christ; he leaned on His bosom at the institution of the Divine Feast of Love. To him the Son of God bequeathed His beloved Mother with almost His last breath, when He was dying on the cross. He was the Apostle of Love. And this divine son of thunder, St. John, fulminded forth God’s judgments in love.

Repent (says Christ, by St. John’s mouth in the Apocalypse); do thy first works; and I will give thee the Morning Star (Revelation 2:28). As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten; be zealous therefore, and repent (Revelation 3:19). Behold, I stand at the door (Revelation 3:20).

Again; let us ask, Who moved St. John to write the Apocalypse? The Holy Spirit of God. If any man hath an ear, let him hear what The Spirit saith unto the Churches (Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 29, 3:6, 13, 22).

Assuredly, it is not uncharitable for us to declare, what the Holy Spirit of Peace dictated to the Apostle of Love.

Nay, rather, they, whose office it is to guide and warn others, are guilty of grievous sin; they are chargeable with cruelty to the souls of others, and the blood of those souls is on their heads, and they are doing what in them lies to frustrate St. John’s labour of love; they are resisting the Holy Ghost; they are forfeiting the blessings promised in the Apocalypse to all who read and keep the words of this prophecy (Revelation 1:3, 22:7), if they fail to proclaim, what, by the voice of St. John, it has pleased God to reveal.

They are not lovers of peace, or of their own and other men’s souls, who build up a wall, and daub it with untempered mortar (Ezekiel 13:10); and speak smooth things, and prophesy deceits (Isaiah 30:10), and say, Peace, peace, when there is no peace (Jeremiah 6:14); for it is written, O son of man, if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thy hand (Ezekiel 33:8).

2. We have received the Apocalypse from the hand of St. John, who calls it "the Revelation of Jesus Christ" (Revelation 1:1), and the voice of "the Spirit to the Churches." In the Apocalypse we have a positive command from Almighty God not to partake of the sins of Rome, lest we also receive of her plagues (Revelation 18:4). If any man worship the Beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of His indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the Holy Angels, and in the presence of the Lamb (Revelation 14:9, 10).

3. Some persons have used this latter text as an argument against the identification of Rome with Babylon. They allege that by such an identification, all, who are or have been in communion with Rome, are consigned to damnation; and that, since for many ages a great part of the Visible Church was in communion with Rome, the Church itself had become reprobated, and Christ’s promise of His presence and Spirit to it had failed, if Rome is Babylon. But this is a great mistake. Such persons do not seem to have observed, that many have never had an opportunity of hearing the warnings of the Apocalypse, and that the text (Revelation 14:10), refers to a period after the fall of Babylon, when God’s judgment will have been executed on the City and See of Rome, and that it is addressed to those who will not heed the warning given by that awful catastrophe.

We do not hesitate to affirm, that the Church of God has never ceased, and will never cease, to exist. We do not scruple to assert, that the Church of God has never ceased, and will never cease, to be Visible. We are not like the Donatists, who imagined that the Catholic Church of Christ might be reduced to a small and obscure Communion.

We also readily acknowledge, that, for many centuries, a large portion of the Church Catholic was infected by the errors of Rome. But those errors were not the essence of the Church; and it was possible to communicate with the Church of Rome, without communicating in its errors. And we doubt not, that many generations of holy men fell asleep in Christ, who deplored those errors, and did not communicate in them, although they were in communion with the Church in which those errors arose.

But as years passed by, Rome changed her course. She did not renounce her errors, and she made communion in her errors essential to communion with herself. She enforced her errors as terms of communion; and she excommunicated all, who would not, and could not, receive and profess those errors as articles of Faith. This she did particularly in the sixteenth century, at the Council of Trent. And thus she became the cause of the worst schism which has ever rent the Church of Christ.

And ever since that time, she has continued to enforce those errors, which she then imposed as truths; and by her recent Act claiming to herself power to make the dogma of the Immaculate Conception to become an article of Faith, she has aggravated her sin in inculcating heresy as if it were Truth, and in tearing the Church by schism, while she charges others with it, and professes to be the centre of Unity.

Thus she has verified the prophecy of the Apocalypse, in which God says, "Come out of her, My people, that ye be not partakers of her sins" (Revelation 18:4). She has still some people of God in her. But she has so identified her sins with herself that they can hardly remain in her now without being partakers of her sins. She has made communion in her sins necessary for communion with herself. They therefore, who hear the voice, must come out of her. And if they come out, she is guilty of the sin of the separation (for there never can be separation without sin), not only by teaching false doctrines, but by enforcing them as terms of communion with herself; and not only by separating herself from the Truth as it is in Christ, but by separating from herself all who desire to cleave steadfastly to Him.

Here, we say, was a new era in the History of the Church. And it is this change in the spiritual polity of the Church of Rome which has placed her in a new attitude with regard to the rest of Christendom; and which calls for more serious attention to the prophecies of the Apocalypse, because it is also a warning that the time of their full accomplishment is at hand.

Thus, then, we see in the Apocalypse a strong appeal to our Charity. Christian love longs, above all things, for the salvation of souls. It prays and labours that they may escape God’s judgments, and especially that they may be saved from the fearful woes which are denounced by God upon Babylon (Revelation 16:10, 11, 19:20). How, therefore, would it rejoice, that these prophecies of the Apocalypse were now duly pondered by all members of the Church of Rome! How thankful would it be, that the words of the Apostle and Evangelist St. John, who was miraculously rescued from the fiery furnace at Rome, to behold and describe these Visions in the Apocalypse, should have power, by God’s grace, to pluck them as brands from the fire! (Zechariah 3:2).

Especially too, as years pass on, and as God’s judgments on Rome approach nearer and nearer, and as, in the events of our own day, He makes us feel the tremblings of the earthquake which will engulf her, and behold the flashings forth of the fire which will consume her, true Christian Charity will put on Angels’ wings, and will hasten with a Seraph’s step; and will be like the heavenly Messengers dispatched by God to Lot in Sodom; and will lay hold on the hands of those who linger, and will urge them forth from the door, and will chide their delay, and will exclaim — "Arise! What dost thou here? Take all that thou hast, lest thou be consumed in the iniquity of this city" (Genesis 19:12-16).

And what, therefore, shall we say of those, our beloved friends, our brothers and sisters in Christ, who have been nurtured with the same mild of the Gospel at the breast of the same spiritual mother with ourselves; who have breathed the same prayers; knelt before the same altars, and walked with us side by side in the courts of our own Jerusalem; and have been carried away captive — alas! Willingly captive — to Babylon?

What shall we say of them? It may be, that we ourselves might have prevented their fall, if we had exhorted them to hear what the Spirit saith by the mouth of St. John. Shall we do nothing for their recovery? Shall we not, even with tears, implore them to listen — not to us, but — to their Everlasting Saviour, their Almighty King and Judge, speaking in the Apocalypse? Shall we not point to the cup of wrath in God’s right hand, ready to be poured out upon them? Shall we not say, in the words of the Prophet — "Arise ye and depart, for this is not your rest; because it is polluted, it shall destroy you, even with a sore destruction?" (Micah 2:10).

The Book of Revelation, thus viewed, as it ought to be, is a divine Warning of the peril and unhappiness of all who are enthralled by Rome. And its prophetic and comminatory uses ought to be pointed out by all Christian Ministers, and to be acknowledged by all Christian congregations. And they, whether Clergy or Laity, forfeit a great blessing and incur great danger, who neglect these divinely appointed uses of the Apocalypse, particularly in the present age, when the Church of Rome is busy, with more than her usual activity, in spreading her snares around us, to make us victims of her deceits, prisoners of her power, slaves of her will, and partners of her doom.

But in discharging this duty, the Minister of the Gospel must crave not to be misunderstood.

Having a deep sense of the danger of those who dwell in Babylon, he will never venture to affirm that none who have dwelt there could be saved. The Apocalypse itself forbids him. On the very eve of its destruction the voice from heaven says, "Come out of her, My People, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues" (Revelation 18:4). And so, we doubt not, God ever has had, and still has, some people in Babylon.

Many, doubtless, there were in former times in our own land, who had not the blessed privilege which we enjoy of hearing the voice, Come out of her. They had not the warnings of the Gospel; to them it was almost a sealed book. And this, too, is still the case with many in foreign lands. And, since responsibilities vary with privileges, and God judgeth men according to what they have, and not according to what they have not (Luke 12:48; II Corinthians 8:12), therefore Christian Love, which hopeth all things (I Corinthians 8:7), will think charitably, and if it speak at all, will not speak harshly of them.

All this we readily allow. But then we must not shrink from asking, What will be the lot of those who hear the voice, Gone out of her (Revelation 18:4), and yet do not obey it? And, still more, what will be the portion of those — the recent converts, as they are called, and others who follow them, who — when the voice from heaven says Come out of her — go in to Babylon, and dwell there?

Again: the Minister of the Gospel, to whose case we have referred, is obliged, for fear of misrepresentation, to say, that he readily acknowledges, and openly professes, that Christianity does not consist in hatred of Rome.

We are not of those, who, in the words of an eminent Writer, "consider the Christian Religion not otherwise than as it abhors and reviles Popery, and who value those men most, who do it most furiously." No; the Gospel is a divine Message of Peace on earth, and good will towards men (Luke 2:14). The banner over us is Love (Song of Solomon 2:4). No one is safe, because his brother is in danger; no man is better, because his neighbour is worse. Our warfare is not with men, but with sins. We love the erring, but not their errors; and we oppose their errors, because we love the erring, and because we desire their salvation, which is periled by their errors, and because we love the truth, which is able to save their souls.

We know that Error is manifold, but Truth is on; and that, therefore, it is not enough to oppose Error; for one error may be opposed by another error; and the only right opposition to Error is Truth. We know, also, that by God’s mercy there are truths in the Church of Rome as well as errors; and that some who oppose Rome, may be opposing her truths, and not her errors. But our warfare is against the errors of Rome, and for the maintenance of the truth of Christ. We reject Popery because we profess Christianity. We flee Babylon, because we love Sion. And the aim of our warfare is not to destroy our adversaries, but to save their souls and ours. Therefore in what we have said on this subject, we have endeavoured to follow the precept of the Apostle, Speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15); and if, through human infirmity, any thing has been spoken otherwise, we pray God that it may perish speedily, as though it had never been.

5. It cannot be doubted, that our most eminent Divines have commonly held and taught that the Apocalyptic prophecies concerning Babylon, were designed by the Holy Spirit to describe the Church of Rome. Not only they who flourished at the period of our Reformation, such as Archbishop Cranmer, Bishops Ridley and Jewel, and the Authors of our Homilies, but they also who followed them in the next, the most learned, Age of our Theology — I mean, the end of the sixteenth and beginning of the seventeenth century — proclaimed the same doctrine. And it was maintained by those in that learned age, who were most eminent for sober moderation and Christian charity, as well as for profound learning. It may suffice to mention the names of Richard Hooker and Bishop Andrewes.

But after them a new generation arose. This was a race of men endued with more zeal than knowledge; devoid, for the most part, of reverence for Authority and antiquity, elated with an overweening confidence in their own sagacity, and idolizing their own imaginations. And having once possessed themselves with a persuasion, that they could not adopt a more effectual mode of assailing what they disliked, than by arraigning it as Popish, they denounced ancient Truths as if they were modern Corruptions, and impugned Apostolic Institutions as if they were Papal Innovations. They involved them all in one sweeping accusation of Antichristian error and Babylonish pollution. Against them they sounded the Trumpets, and on them they would have poured out the Vials, of the Apocalypse.

Such was the use they made of this sacred Book. Now mark the result. A reaction took place. The indiscriminate violence and wild extravagance of these eager zealots afforded an easy triumph to their Romish antagonists.

Some of their precipitate charges where easily refuted. It was proved, that many things, which they had affirmed to be Antichristian, where really Apostolic’ and that many things which they execrated as Popish, and would exterminate as Babylonish, had been authorized by the unanimous consent, and embodied in the universal practice, of the Christian Church.

Let us observe the consequence.

Some of their accusations being thus ignominiously routed, it was inferred by many persons, that the rest of their assertions were no less futile; and because much was shown to be Apostolic, which they had alleged to be Antichristian, therefore it came to be supposed, that what was Antichristian, might be Apostolic. And so the passionate zeal of the accuser wrought the acquittal of the accused; and some pious and sober-minded men, disgusted by the extravagant folly, and alarmed by the destructive violence, of these furious Religionists, ceased to regard Rome as Babylon; not from any amendment on her part, but only through the presumptuous ignorance and intemperate vehemence of her foes.

What do we thence learn?

The necessity of sound reason and of sober caution, as well as of Christian charity, in the investigation of sacred truth. And, in the matter before us, we may rest assured, that however excellent our motives may be, we should in reality be acting as enemies to the cause of Christianity, as piously and wisely vindicated at our own Reformation; and be effective partisans of Romish error and corruption, if we bring a blind accusation of Popery against every thing which displeases ourselves.

This has been signally exemplified in the history of the Interpretation of the Apocalypse.

They who employed it to denounce whatever they disapproved, brought discredit on this Divine Book; and they did much to invalidate its solemn warnings against Roman Superstition, and to deprive the Church of its heavenly consolations.

We, therefore, have here a double duty. The Apocalypse is the Voice of God to the Church. On the one hand, although it prophecies have been misapplied by some, it is not safe for us to neglect their right application; on the other, we must be on our guard not to strain them beyond their proper limits, lest, by being applied where they are not applicable, they should become inapplicable where they ought to be applied.

6. Another consideration has had much weight even with some members of our own communion, and has rendered them unable to see the Church of Rome in the Apocalypse.

It is the following argument, with which we are often encountered, both by Romanists and Protestant Nonconformists. If — they — say, the Church of Rome is the Apocalyptic Babylon, then you yourselves, the Ministers of the church of England, who derive your Holy Orders from Rome, are infected with the taint of Babylon; your ministerial commission, therefore, is liable to grave suspicions; the validity of your ministrations is questionable; in a word — by fixing a stigma on Rome, you have branded yourselves.

Such is the objection. But assuredly, the fear of it is as groundless, as the allegation of it is illogical.

We, of the Anglican Priesthood, do not derive our Holy Orders from Rome — but from Christ. He is the only source of all the grace which we dispense in our ministry. And suppose that we admit, that this virtue flows from Him through some who were in communion with the Church of Rome, and that no charitable allowance is to be made for those who held some of her doctrines in a darker age — what then? The channel is not the Source. The human Officer is not the Divine Office. The validity of the commission is not impaired by the unworthiness of those through whom it was conveyed. The Vessels of the Temple of God were holy even at Babylon; and, after they had been on Belshazzar’s table, they were restored to God’s altar (Ezra 1:7). the Scribes and Pharisees, against whom Christ denounced woe, were to be obeyed, because they sat in Moses’ seat (Matthew 23:2), and as far as they taught agreeably to his Law. The Word and ordinances of Christ, preached and administered even by a Judas, were efficacious to salvation. The Old Testament is not the less the Word of God because it has come to us by the hands of Jews, who rejected Him of whom Moses and the Prophets did write (John 1:45). And so, the sacred commission, which the ministers of the Church of England have received from Christ, is not in any way impaired by transmission through some who were infected with Romish corruptions; but rather, in this preservation of the sacred deposit even in their hands, and in its conveyance to us, and in its subsequent purification from corrupt admixtures, and in its restoration to its ancient use, we recognize another proof of God’s ever-watchful providence over His Church, and of His mercy to ourselves.

7. We ought, therefore, to be on our guard against two opposite errors. On the one hand, it is alleged by some, that, if Rome be a Church, she cannot be Babylon. On the other hand, it is said by others, that if Rome be Babylon, she cannot be a Church. Both these conclusions are false. Rome may be a Church, and yet Babylon; and she may be Babylon, and yet a Church. This will appear from considering the case of the Ancient Church of God.

The Israelites in the Wilderness were guilty of abominable idolatry. Yet they are called a Church in Holy Writ (Acts 7:38, 41, 43). And why? Because they still retained the Law of God and the Priesthood. So also, Jerusalem — even when it had crucified Christ — is called in Scripture the Holy City (Matthew 27:53). And why? By reason of the truths and graces which she had received from God, and which had not yet been wholly taken away from her.

A distinction, we see, is to be made between what is due to God’s goodness on the one side, and to man’s depravity on the other.

As far as the divine mercy was concerned, God’s Ancient People were a Church; but by reason of their own wickedness, they were even a Synagogue of Satan (Revelation 2:9, 3:9), and, as such, they were finally destroyed.

Hence, their ancient Prophets, looking at God’s mercy to Jerusalem, speak of her as Sion, the beloved City (Psalms 87:2); but regarding her iniquities, they call her Sodom, the bloody City (Isaiah 1:9, 10, 3:9; Ezekiel 24:6).

In like manner, by reason of God’s goodness to her, Rome received at the beginning His Word and Sacraments, and through His long-suffering they are not yet utterly taken away from her; and by virtue of the remnants of divine truth and grace, which are yet spared to her, she is still a Church. But she has miserably marred and corrupted the gifts of God. She has been favoured by Him like Jerusalem, and like Jerusalem she has rebelled against Him. He would have healed her, but she is not healed (Jeremiah 51:9). And, therefore, though on the one hand, by His love, she was and has not yet wholly ceased to be, a Christian Sion — on the other hand, through her own sins she is an Antichristian Babylon.

8. Having now specified certain causes of a particular kind, which have partially interfered with the right application of these Apocalyptic prophecies, we should not be dealing candidly, if we did not advert to one, of a different nature, which has operated in a manner very unfavourable to the true Exposition of the Apocalypse.

This was the intimate connection of some of our own Princes, especially three of the Stuart race, with Papal Courts. One of these three Sovereigns was wedded to a Princess of the Romish persuasion; the second was brought up under Romish influence; and the third was himself a Romanist, and endeavoured to establish the Romish Religion in this land. This civil connection of England with Papal Courts exercised a pernicious influence on our own Theological Literature. Those writers were supposed to be ill-affected to the reigning Powers, and disloyal to the Throne, who identified Rome with Babylon, and pointed to the evils which Scripture reveals as the consequences of communion with her. They were discouraged or silenced; and so the true interpretation of the Apocalypse was for some time in peril of being suppressed.

This may be a warning, that civil connections with Rome are not unattended with religious dangers ... Let us pass to another topic.

9. Many admirable works have been composed by our own Divines, in Vindication of the Church of England from the charge of Schism, preferred against her by Romish Controversialists, on the ground of her conduct at the Reformation, when she cleared herself from Romish errors, novelties, and corruption.

It has been shown in those Vindications, that it is the bounden duty of all Churches to avoid strife, and to seek peace, and ensue if (Psalms 34:14; I Peter 3:11). But it was also demonstrated, no less clearly, that Unity in error is not true Unity, but is rather to be called a Conspiracy against the God of Unity and Truth.

Doubtless there is a Unity, when every thing in Nature is wrapped in the gloom of Night, and bound with the chains of Sleep. Doubtless there is a Unity, when the Earth is congealed by frost, and mantled in a robe of snow. Doubtless there is a Unity, when the human voice is still, the hand motionless, the breath suspended, and the human frame is locked in the iron grasp of Death. And doubtless there is a Unity, when men surrender their Reason, and sacrifice their Liberty, and stifle their Conscience, and seal up Scripture, and deliver themselves captives, bound hand and foot, to the dominion of the Church of Rome. But this is not the Unity of vigilance and light; it is the Unity of sleep and gloom. It is not the Unity of warmth and life; it is the Unity of cold and death. It is not true Unity, for it is not Unity in the Truth.

Therefore, since it has been proved by Appeals to Reason, to Scripture, and to Antiquity, that the Church of Rome has built hay and stubble on the one foundation laid by Christ (I Corinthians 3:12); that she has added to the faith many errors and corruptions which mar and vitiate it; and since, as the Holy Spirit teaches us in the Apocalypse, it is the duty of every Church, which has fallen into error, to repent (Revelation 3:3); and since Jesus Christ Himself, our Great High Priest — Who walketh in the midst of the Golden Candlesticks — declares, that when a Church has left her first love, He will remove her Candlestick out of its place except she repent (Revelation 2:5), and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die (Revelation 3:2); and since the corruptions of one Church afford no palliation or excuse for those of another; for, as the Prophet says, though Israel play the harlot, let not Judah sin (Hosea 4:15); and as Christ Himself teaches, though the Church of Sardis be dead (Revelation 3:1), and Laodicea be neither hot or cold (Revelation 3:15), yet their sister Ephesus must remember whence she has fallen, and do her first works (Revelation 2:5), and Pergamos must repent, or He will come quickly, and fight against her with the sword of His mouth (Revelation 2:16)—therefore, we say, it was justly concluded by our Divines, that no desire of Unity on our part, nor reluctance on the part of Rome to cast off her errors, could exempt England from the duty of Reformation; and if Rome, instead of removing her corruptions, refused to communicate with England, unless England consented to communicate with Rome in those corruptions, then no love of Unity could justify England in compliance with this requisition of Rome; for Unity in error is not Christian Unity; but, by imposing the necessity of erring as a term of Union, Rome became guilty of a breach of Unity; and so the sin of Schism lies at her door.

This has been clearly shown by our best English Divines; and a careful study of this proof is rendered requisite by the circumstances of these times.

But there are many persons who have not the opportunity of perusing their works; and they who have, will not forget that those works are the works of men.

Let all therefore remember, that there is another Work on this important subject; a Work not dedicated by man, but by the Holy Spirit; a Work, accessible to all — the Apocalypse of St. John.

The Holy Spirit, foreseeing, no doubt, that the Church of Rome would adulterate the truth by many "gross and grievous abominations" — I use the words of the judicious Hooker; and that she would anathematize all who would not communicate with her, and denounce them as cut off from the body of Christ and from hope of everlasting salvation; foreseeing, also that Rome would exercise a wide and dominant sway for many generations, by boldly iterated assertions of Unity, Antiquity, Sanctity, and Universality; foreseeing also, that these pretensions would be supported by the Civil sword of many secular Governments, among which the Roman Empire would be divided at its dissolution; and that Rome would thus be enabled to display herself to the world in an august attitude of Imperial power, and with the dazzling splendour of temporal felicity; foreseeing also that the Church of Rome would captivate the Imaginations of men by the fascinations of Art, allied with Religion; and would ravish their senses and rivet their admiration by gaudy colours, and stately pomp, and prodigal magnificence; foreseeing also that she would beguile their credulity by Miracles and Mysteries, Apparitions and Dreams, Trances and Ecstasies, and would appeal to their evidence in support of her strange doctrine; foreseeing likewise, that she would enslave men, and, much more women, by practicing on their affections, and by accommodating herself, with dexterous pliancy, to their weaknesses, relieving them from the burden of thought and from the perplexity of doubt, by proffering them the aid of Infallibility; soothing the sorrows of the mourner by dispensing pardon and promising peace to the departed; removing the load of guilt from the oppressed conscience by the ministries of the Confessional, and by nicely-poised compensations for sin; and that she would flourish for many centuries in proud and prosperous impunity, before her sins would reach to heaven, and come in remembrance before God (Revelation 16:19, 18:5); foreseeing also, that many generations of men would thus be tempted to fall from the faith, and to become victims of deadly error; and that they who clung to the truth would be exposed to cozening flatteries, and fierce assaults and savage tortures from her. The Holy Spirit, we say, foreseeing all these things in His Divine knowledge, and being the Ever-Blessed Teacher, Guide, and Comforter of the Church, was graciously pleased to provide a heavenly antidote for these wide-spread and long-enduring evils, by dictating the Apocalypse.

In this divine Book the Spirit of God has portrayed the Church of Rome, such as none but He could have foreseen she would become, and such as, wonderful and lamentable to say, she has become. He has thus broken her magic spells; He has taken the wand of enchantment from the hand of this spiritual Circe; He has lifted the mast from her face; and with His Divine finger He has written her true character in large letters, and has planted her title on her forehead, to be seen and read by all — "Mystery, Babylon the Great, the Mother of the Abominations of the Earth" (Revelation 17:5).

Thus the Almighty and All-wise God Himself has vouchsafed to be the Arbiter between Babylon and Sion, between the Harlot and the Bride, between Rome and the Church. And therefore, with the Apocalypse in our hands, we need not fear the anathemas which Rome now hurls against us. The Thunders of the Roman Pontiff are not so powerful and dreadful as the Thunders of St. John, the divine "Son of Thunder" of Patmos, which are winged by the Spirit of God.

What is it to us, if the Pope of Rome declares Ye cannot be saved, unless ye bow to me, when the Holy ghost says by St. John, Come out of her, My People, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plaques?

Here then we have a divine Vindication of the Church of England, and of her Reformation; and our appeal is, in this great question between us and Rome, not to Bishop Jewel and Hooker, not to Bishop Andrewes and Archbishop Bramhall, excellent as their writings are, but it is to St. John, the beloved disciple of Christ, and to the Holy Spirit of God.

Some persons, impelled by charitable motives, which are entitled to respect, have cherished a hope that a Union might one day be possible between the Churches of England and Rome; and some, it is to be feared, have been betrayed into suppressions and compromises of the truth, with a view to that result.

It is indeed greatly to be wished, that, if it so pleased God, all Churches might be united in the truth. It may, also, be reasonably expected, that, as the time of her doom draws near, many members of the Church of Rome may be awakened from their slumber — that they may be excited by God’s grace to examine their own position, and to contrast the present tenets of Rome with the doctrines of Christ and His Apostles. Thus they may be enabled to purify the truth which they retain from the dross of corruption with which it is adulterated; thus they may be empowered by God’s grace to emancipate themselves from her thraldom into the glorious liberty of the children of God (Romans 8:21).

Our own duty it is, to do all in our power to accelerate this blessed work. But let us be sure that it will be impeded by all who disguise the truth. It will be retarded by all who connive at, flatter, or extenuate guilt. It can only be furthered by uncompromising, though not uncharitable, statements of the sin and danger of communicating in the errors and corruptions of Rome.

And, of all the instruments which it has pleased God to give us for this holy labour of religious Restoration, none assuredly is so effectual as the language of the Holy Spirit in the Apocalypse of St. John.

His divine Voice forbids us to look for Union with the Church of Rome. We cannot unite with her as she is now; and it forbids us to expect that Rome will be other than she is. It reveals the awful fact that Babylon will be Babylon to the end. It displays her ruin. It says that death, mourning, and famine, are her destiny; and that she will be burnt with fire (Revelation 17:16). It shows us the smoke of her burning (Revelation 18:9); and we look upon that sad spectacle from afar with such feelings of amazement and awe as filled the heart of the Patriarch, when he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain; and, lo, the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a furnace (Genesis 19:28).

These things were written for our learning.

Let none imagine that Rome is changed; that, although she was once proud and cruel, she is now humble and gentle; and that we have nothing to fear from her. This is not the doctrine of St. John. It is not the language of the Holy Ghost. The Apocalypse teaches us that she is unchanged and unchangeable. It warns us, that if she regains her sway, she will persecute with the same fury as before. She will break forth with all the violence of suppressed rage. She will again be drunken with the blood of the Saints (Revelation 17:6). Let us be sure of this; and let us take heed accordingly. We have need to do so; more need, perhaps, than some of us suppose. The warning is from God: He that hath ears to hear, let him hear (Matthew 11:15; Revelation 2:7, 17, 29).

12. Again: from the Apocalypse we learn, that Rome will be visited with plagues, like Egypt, but that, like the Sovereign of Egypt, she will not repent; her empire will be darkened (Revelation 16:10), and her citizens will gnaw their tongues for pain. But she will not repent of her deeds (Revelation 16:9, 11). She will be Babylon to the end. And God forbid that Britain should be joined with Babylon!

Here then is a warning to us as a Nation. Let us pause before, with a view to peace, we sacrifice truth. Let us not incur God’s malediction, by doing evil that good may come (Romans 3:8). Let us repent of the sins we have already committed, in this respect. Let us not treat the Roman Babylon as if it we Sion, lest God should treat the English Sion as if it were Babylon.

Many there are among us, who seem to find pleasure in forgetting the spiritual blessings, which the members of the church of England enjoy, and to take pleasure in exposing and exaggerating personal defects in her Rulers; and some there are who speak of the Church of Rome as the Catholic Church, the Roman See as a Centre of Unity, and would bring all men under the sway of the Roman Pontiff.

Let them look at the Churches of Asia as represented in the earlier chapters of the Apocalypse. They are Seven, and by their Sevenfold unity they represent the Universal Church, made up of particular Churches; and what is said by Christ to them, is not to be understood as said to them exclusively, but as addressed to every Church in Christendom. The language of St. John to each of them is, "Hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches" (Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 29, 3:6, 13, 22).

Were the seven Churches of Asia subject to the Bishop of Rome? No. Was any one of them so subject? Not one. They were all governed by St. John, and one like the Son of man walked in the midst of the Candlesticks, and ordered St. John to write to the Angel of each Church. That is, every Church in Christendom is governed by Christ; and it is instructed by Him, not through the Bishop of Rome, but through its own Bishops; and all — Bishops, Clergy, and People — are responsible to Christ.

The Seven Churches of Asia are now no more. Their candlesticks have been removed. Here is a solemn warning to the church of Rome — Remember whence thou art fallen; repent, and do they first works or I will remove thy Candlestick out of its place (Revelation 2:5). Cease to claim Universal Dominion; cease to boast that the Roman See is the Rock of the Church. Behold the true Catholic and Apostolic Church displayed by St. John. She does not wear the Papal tiara, but is crowned with twelve stars (Revelation 12:1); she does not sit upon the seven hills, but she has twelve foundations, and in them are the names of the twelve Apostles of the Lamb.

If, therefore, any of the members of the Church of England should feel shaken in their allegiance to her, or be fascinated by the claims of Rome, they will find divine guidance and warning in the Apocalypse.

We may thank God, and we can never thank Him enough, that the Church of England does not impose any unscriptural terms of communion; that she holds in her hands the Scriptures pure and entire; that she administers the Sacraments fully and freely by an Apostolic Priesthood; that she keeps the Catholic Faith as embodied in the Tree Creeds, and possesses a Liturgy such as Angels might love to use. But we do not say that the Church of England is perfect. No; there are tares mixed with the wheat here, and in every part of the visible Church. We are on earth, and not in heaven; and we are subject to the infirmities of earth. In this world we dwell in Mesech, and have our habitation in the tents of Kedar (Psalms 70:5). On earth, the true Church of Christ is not, and never will be in a state of peace and happiness. No; she is the Woman persecuted by the Dragon, and driven by him into the Wilderness, subject to manifold persecutions, offences, distresses, and trials, from within and without. But the Church in the wilderness brings forth a man child, who has power to rule the nations with a rod of iron, and is caught up to God, and His throne. Such will be the lot of the remnant of her seed who keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. Such is the character of the true Church; and so now the Church of England, distracted as she is by divisions within, and beleaguered by foes without, and persecuted by the powers of Evil, and, like Eve, bringing forth children in sorrow, and in travail with them till Christ be formed in their hearts (Genesis 3:16; Galatians 4:19), has never failed to bring forth masculine spirits, who have been endued with power by Christ to break the earthen vessels of godless theories with the iron rod of God’s Word (Psalms 2:9); and they have been caught up to Christ in a glorious apotheosis. And if we are true to Christ, if we are of the Holy See, and keep God’s commandments, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ, in this wilderness of doubt and danger, even Persecution itself will give us wings for heaven.

And, that we may not be perplexed by the lukewarmness of many who profess the truth, or exasperated by the tyranny of evil men, and so, in a fit of weak and irritable impatience, fall into schism — let us observe the Apocalyptic Churches. Though under the government of St. John and of Apostolic Bishops, not one of them is free from blemish. Christ does not find their works perfect (Revelation 3:2). He notes their errors in doctrine, and reproves their defects in discipline (Revelation 2:5, 10, 16, 20, 3:2). And what follows? Does He advise their members to quit them? Does He exhort them to pass from Ephesus or Sardis to Rome, and to look for peace and perfection there? No; He commands them to repent, to watch, to strengthen the things that remain, to abide in the truth, to be faithful unto death. This is His exhortation to us. Hold fast the truth. In patience possess ye your souls (Luke 21:19). Edify the Church of England by longsuffering, meekness, zeal, faithfulness, holiness, and love. Pray for her, labour for her; be thankful for the privileges, the inestimable privileges, which you enjoy in her communion. Use them aright; and you will save yourself and others (I Timothy 4:16).

But let us now remark, that the Apostle St. John, as we have seen, having before his eyes many Churches requiring reformation, Churches of his own age and under his own jurisdiction, yet says little to them in comparison with what he says of the future condition of another Church, the Church of the City on the Seven Hill — the Church of the imperial City — the Church of Rome.

He contrasts her, in her corrupt state, with the Woman in the wilderness — who will hereafter be the Bride in heaven; that is, he contrasts her with the Church militant on earth, who will hereafter be the Church triumphant and glorified. And he calls her the harlot. He contrasts her with the new Jerusalem, or spiritual Sion, and he calls her Babylon. He reveals her history, even to her fall.

And wherefore does he speak so largely of her? Because, being inspired by the Holy Ghost, he foreknew what she would become. He foresaw how imposing her claims would be; how extensive her sway; how powerful her influence; how dangerous her corruptions; how deadly her errors; and how awful would be her end.

Therefore he uplifts the veil which hung before the future, and he displays her in her true colours. He writes her name on her forehead — Mystery, Babylon the Great He does this in love, and in desire for our salvation. He does it, in order that no one may be deceived by her; that no one may regard her as the Bride, since Christ condemns her as the Harlot; and that none should dwell in her as Sion, since God will destroy her as Babylon.

The Church of Rome holds in her hand the Apocalypse—the Revelation of Jesus Christ. She acknowledges it to be divine. Wonderful to say, she founds her claims on those very grounds which identify her with the faithless Church — the Apocalyptic Babylon. As follows:

1). The church of Rome boasts of Universality. And the Harlot is seated on many waters, which are Nations, and Peoples, and Tongues.

2). The Church of Rome arrogates Indefectibility. And the Harlot says that she is a Queen for ever.

3). The Church of Rome vaunts temporal felicity, and claims supremacy over all. And the harlot has kings at her feet.

4). The Church of Rome prides herself on working miracles. And the minister of the Harlot makes fire to descend from heaven.

5). The Church of Rome points to the Unity of all her members in one creed, and to their subjection under one supreme visible Head. And the Harlot requires all to receive her mark, and to drink of her cup.

Hence it appears that Rome’s "notes of the Church" are marks of the Harlot; Rome’s trophies of triumph are stigmas of her shame; they very claims which she makes to be Sion, confirm the proof that she is Babylon.

Therefore, let us not be weak in the faith; let us not be confounded by the wide extent, the temporal prosperity, the alleged Unity and Universality, and the long impunity, of Rome. It was prophesied by St. John that she would have a wide and enduring sway; that God, in His long-suffering to her, would give her time to repent, if haply she would repent; that He would heal her, if she would be healed; but that, alas! She would not repent, and that her sins would at length ascend to heaven, and that she would come in remembrance before God. And when that awful hour shall arrive, then, woe to the Preachers of the Gospel, if they have not taken up the warning of St. John and sounded the trumpet of alarm in the ears of their hearers, Come out of her, my people, and be not partakers of her sins, lest ye receive also of her plaques (Revelation 18:4).

Lastly, another caution is here given by St. John. Some, at the present critical time, may be in danger of being deluded by the confident language and bearing of Rome. They may imagine, that a cause pursued with such sanguine reliance, and with such outward appearance of success, must be good. But let us remember the parallel—Babylon. Its streets echoed with music; its halls resounded with mirth and revelry; its king’s guards were intoxicated at the gates of the city and at the very doors of the palace, and the vessels of God were on the tables at the royal banquet, when the fingers of a man’s hand came forth from the wall — and Babylon fell!

So Rome will be most infatuated, when most in peril. She will exult with joy, and be flushed with hope, and be elated with triumph, when the judgments of God are ready to fall upon her. Her Princes and her Prelates will vaunt her power, and will, as at this hour, be making new aggressions, and be putting forth new doctrines, and be entranced in a dream of security, when her doom is nigh. And, as the great River, the river Euphrates, the glory and bulwark of Babylon, became a road for Cyrus and his victorious army, when he besieged and took the city, so the swelling stream of Rome’s Supremacy, which has now flowed on so proudly for so many centuries, and has served for her aggrandizement, will be in God’s hands the means and occasion of her destruction and final desolation; and so the drying up of that spiritual Euphrates will prepare a Way for the Kings of the East — that is, for Jesus Christ, and for the Children of Light, who will be admitted to share in the royal splendour of the Mighty Conqueror, the King of Glory, Who is the Dayspring from on high — the Light of the World — the sun of Righteousness, with healing in his wings.

May we be of that blessed company, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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