Ver. 1. Here we enter upon a new scene. Babylon the great is fallen. The saints are here represented rejoicing over the woman who was drunk with the blood of the saints. C. xvii. 6. Calmet.
--- The voice of many multitudes . . . saying: Alleluia. In these visions, when the martyrs have triumphed and overcome persecutors, are sometimes represented their praises of God in heaven. Here in the Protestant translation, are retained Alleluia and Amen, which as S. Aug. takes notice, used not to be changed nor translated in any language. Wi.
Ver. 6. The voice of a great multitude. Menochius applies this voice to the multitude of Angels and saints, which from its strength may be compared to the voice of rushing waters, and because of the terror with which it strikes the wicked. Pastorini understands by this voice of many waters, the voices of many Angels that preside over the nations, denoted by waters, which had all before groaned under the tyranny of antichrist; and the voice of great thunders, that of the Angel who presides over fire, which, as employed in military engines, by its explosion resembles thunder. It must be observed that the latter author refers it to the last stage of the world.
Ver. 7. For the marriage, &c. In the New Testament, the word marriage points out the establishment of the Church, the vocation of different people to the faith, or the reign of the Messias. Calmet.
Ver. 8. Fine linen. The symbol of justifications, or the good works and merit of her holy members; the most pleasing attire in which she can present herself to the Lamb. Her robe is glittering and white, because she has been purified as silver in the furnace, and washed white in the waters of tribulation and persecution. Pastorini.
--- The fine linen, or byssus, here mentioned, is, according to Calmet, a kind of silk produced by a shell-fish, called pinna; though the same learned commentator allows that the Greek authors use this word for fine linen.
Ver. 10. And I fell before his feet, to adore him.† They of the pretended reformation think they have here a clear proof that no veneration is due to Angels and saints, and that papists in so doing are idolaters. In answer to this: First, they make S. John the apostle guilty of that idolatry which they lay to our charge. For they must suppose and grant that S. John, as to the dispositions of his mind and will, was just ready, or rather falling down, did pay an idolatrous worship to the Angel; and what Christian can believe this of so great an apostle, that after he had been favoured with all those extraordinary visions, he should either be so very ignorant as not to know what was idolatry, or so impious as to become guilty of it, and give divine honour to any creature? And what makes S. John altogether inexcusable, (had it been idolatry) we find him doing the very same a second time, in the last chapter of the Apocalypse; (v. 7 and 8) that is, falling down at the Angel's feet to adore. Secondly, as it would be extravagantly unreasonable to suspect this apostle, this evangelist, this prophet of the new law, to be guilty of what every Christian, every Jew knows to be idolatry; to wit, to give divine honour due to God alone to any creature whatsoever; so in reason we cannot but conclude that he was not for giving divine honour to any Angel, knowing them all to be God's creatures. If therefore he was about to pay divine honour, we must either say that he took him who then appeared to him to be our Saviour Christ, God and man, as some expound it; or, which seems more probable, he was only for offering an inferior honour and veneration to the Angel, such as he knew was lawful: and therefore he was for doing it afterwards a second time; though the Angel would not receive it from S. John, to make us the more convinced of the great dignity of this apostle and prophet, who should be raised in heaven to a degree of glory, not inferior to that of the Angels: and thus the Angel tells him, that he is his fellow creature, who with him must adore Almighty God, that by these prophecies they both bear testimony concerning Jesus Christ and his Church, the Angel by revealing them, and S. John by publishing them, which seems to be the sense of the following words, for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy: or they may be expounded thus, for the testimony that we give concerning Christ and his Church, we both of us receive from the divine spirit of God, who reveals such truths to his prophets. Thirdly, the Protestants are for proving us idolaters from what S. John was about to do, or rather from what he did, expressed in these words, and I fell before his feet to adore him; or, as in the Prot. translation, and I fell at his feet to worship him. Now it is certain and evident that these words neither in the Latin nor in the Greek, express that divine worship and honour which is due, and which is given to God alone, whether we consult the Hebrew or the Sept. of the Old Testament, the very same words are many times used to signify no more than an inferior honour given to creatures. This is a thing well known, and agreed upon by every Protestant as well as Catholic, who has read the Scriptures, or who knows any thing of Latin, Greek, or Hebrew. Fourthly, it seems very strange, very unaccountable, that our adversaries will not understand the difference betwixt divine honour due to God alone, and an inferior honour, respect, or veneration given to Angels or saints, to their relics or images, which inferior honour may, in some sense, be called a religious honour, inasmuch as it is paid to persons or things that may be called sacred or holy. Is not honour or veneration certainly different, as the objects or things we pay honour to, and the intention of him that pays this honour, are different, though perhaps the exterior marks of bowing, of kneeling, of prostrating, of kissing, may be the same? We honour the king, and we also honour his courtiers, his officers, and such as are invested with dignities and authority from him: but shall any one think that we pay the same honour to all these persons or things belonging to them? though the eastern people kneel or prostrate themselves before kings or persons in dignities, they neither give nor design to give them divine honour. Why will our adversaries pretend to make us idolaters against our wills, minds, and intentions, when we have always protested that we give divine honour and supreme worship to God alone? that we honour, worship, serve and adore him only as the author of all things? that we never design to pay any thing but an inferior honour to the highest Angels or saints, or to their relics and images. We know, believe, and profess that there is an infinite distance betwixt God the creator, and the highest and most perfect of all created beings; so that the honour we give them is infinitely inferior, as they themselves are, to the honour that with our hearts and minds we pay to God: and must it be said that we give divine honour to creatures, and so become idolaters, when we never design it, when we design quite the contrary? This made Mr. Thorndike, in his book of just weights and measures, tell his Protestant brethren, that the Church of Rome cannot be charged with idolatry for their reverencing images, nor on any other account; and so exhorts them not to pretend to lead the people by the nose, to make them believe suppositions which they cannot prove. See C. ii. and xix. Wi.
--- Fell before, &c. S. Athanasius and S. Aug. think S. John took the Angel to be Jesus Christ, and as such was desirous of paying him the supreme homage, or latreia. Calmet.
--- S. John, in token of gratitude, offers to pay to the Angel such homage as is due to a being of his rank, which the Angel however refuses to accept, giving for reason, that his is a fellow-servant of the apostle, and of the apostle's brethren, who bear testimony to Jesus Christ. Pastorini.
--- This speech evidently agrees with the character of the Baptist, but not with that of a real Angel.
--- Testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. The testimony which you give to Christ, by suffering for his holy name and the profession of his doctrine, is of equal value with the spirit of prophecy which I possess. Past. Calmet.
[†] V. 10. Cecidi ante pedes ejus ut adorarum illum: epeson emprosJen twn podwn autou proskunhsai autw, proskunein, as Mr. Legh shews out of other authors: promiscuè de Dei et hominum cultu apud LXX. usurpatur, cui respondet apud Latinos, adorare, quod est quasi ad aliquem orare, says Erasmus, capite vel corpore inclinato. We have very many examples in the holy Scripture, where both proskunein and latreuein signify not only divine honour, but also the honour paid to men. When God gave the ten commandments, (Ex. xx.) he forbad his people to adore strange gods; non adorabis ea, neque coles; ou proskunhseiV autoiV, oude mh latreuseiV autoiV. Yet the same words are used in a great many places, where it is evident that no divine adoration or worship was designed, as we read of Abraham, (Gen. xxvii. 7.) adoravit populum terræ, prosekunhse tw law thV ghV; Gen. xlii. 6. of Joseph's brethren, cum adorassent eum fratres sui, prosekunesan autw epi proswpon. See also 1 K. xx. 41. where David is said to have adored Jonathas, cadens pronus in terram adoravit, epesen epi proswpon kai prosekunhsen autw triV. See likewise 3 K. i. 16. where Bethsabee is said to have adored old king David, adoravit regem, prosekunhse tw basilei. Though in these and many other places be the same expressions as when S. John is here said to have fallen at the angel's feet to adore him, or worship him, yet no one can think that in these places is meant the supreme worship due to God alone: did Bathsabee take her old, decayed, dying husband, David, to be God, or design to pay him divine honour? Nothing then is more frivolous than such arguments drawn from the like words, which have different significations.
Ver. 11. Behold a white horse. The titles and character given to him that sat on this white horse, shew that hereby was represented Jesus Christ, called also here the word of God, v. 13; and v. 16, and he hath on his garment and on his thigh written: King of kings and Lord of lords, &c. Wi.
--- And he that sat, &c. The heavens open and S. John sees Jesus Christ, the Son of God, descending, seated on a white horse. He is known by the peculiar appellations of faithful and true. Faithful, in protecting his servants; and true, by always keeping strictly true whatever he promises. Past.
Ver. 12. Flame, &c. Which shews his indignation.
--- Diadems; the mark of power. So Ptolemy, the king of Egypt, after he had entered Antiochia, took two crowns, to signify that he was king of two countries, Syria and Egypt. Pastorini.
--- Which (name) no man knoweth but himself. Some interpreters think S. John alludes to an ancient custom which still obtains among the Orientals, of having a secret name, which they discover to no one. Calmet.
--- Pastorini understands this to be the name of the word of God, as mentioned in the subsequent verse; which is so comprehensive in its meaning, that human reason cannot fathom it, and no man knoweth but himself.
Ver. 13. Sprinkled with blood, &c. Which betokens the carnage made among his enemies.
Ver. 14. The armies, &c. The celestial armies of saints follow the Son of God, as their captain and commander; they are all like him, mounted on white horses, and clothed in fine linen, white and clean, a symbol of their merit and glory. Past.
Ver. 15. Sharp two-edged sword. The power which Christ exercises over the impious. Menochius.
--- Wine press, &c. This painting corresponds to the triumph of Jesus Christ. Calmet.
--- Some of the attributes here mentioned are also ascribed to Christ, by the prophet Isaiah. C. lxiii. 2, 3. "Why then is thy apparel red, and thy garments like theirs that tread in the wine press? I have trodden the wine-press alone, and of the Gentiles there is not a man with me: I have trampled on them in my indignation, and have trodden them down in my wrath, and their blood is sprinkled upon my garments, and I have stained all my apparel." Past.
Ver. 17. An Angel . . . in the sun, . . with a loud voice invites all the birds of the air to a most plentiful entertainment which is preparing for them, where they may fill themselves with human flesh of all kinds; from that of kings to that of bondmen; (v. 18) and with the flesh of horses and that of them that sin on them: an expressive picture of the immense slaughter that is going to be made. It would seem that this bloody scene will terminate in the evening of the day, as the invitation is given to a supper. Past.
Ver. 19. We have just now seen the heavenly captain on horseback, at the head of his holy troop, marching to battle; and now we see who are the enemies he comes to encounter. Here is the beast, or antichrist, with prodigious armies gathered from all parts of the earth, and headed by their kings and princes. Past.
Ver. 20. The beast, &c. Antichrist is taken alive. Menochius.