17:1-6 Rome clearly appears to be meant in this chapter. Pagan Rome subdued and ruled with military power, not by art and flatteries. She left the nations in general to their ancient usages and worship. But it is well known that by crafty and politic management, with all kinds of deceit of unrighteousness, papal Rome has obtained and kept her rule over kings and nations. Here were allurements of worldly honour and riches, pomp and pride, suited to sensual and worldly minds. Prosperity, pomp, and splendour, feed the pride and lusts of the human heart, but are no security against the Divine vengeance. The golden cup represents the allurements, and delusions, by which this mystical Babylon has obtained and kept her influence, and seduced others to join her abominations. She is named, from her infamous practices, a mother of harlots; training them up to idolatry and all sorts of wickedness. She filled herself with the blood of the saints and martyrs of Jesus. She intoxicated herself with it; and it was so pleasant to her, that she never was satisfied. We cannot but wonder at the oceans of Christian blood shed by men called Christians; yet when we consider these prophecies, these awful deeds testify to the truth of the gospel. And let all beware of a splendid, gainful, or fashionable religion. Let us avoid the mysteries of iniquity, and study diligently the great mystery of godliness, that we may learn humility and gratitude from the example of Christ. The more we seek to resemble him, the less we shall be liable to be deceived by antichrist.
4. The color scarlet, it is remarkable, is that reserved for popes and cardinals. Paul II made it penal for anyone but cardinals to wear hats of scarlet; compare Roman Ceremonial [3.5.5]. This book was compiled several centuries ago by Marcellus, a Romish archbishop, and dedicated to Leo X. In it are enumerated five different articles of dress of scarlet color. A vest is mentioned studded with pearls. The Pope's miter is of gold and precious stones. These are the very characteristics outwardly which Revelation thrice assigns to the harlot or Babylon. So Joachim an abbot from Calabria, about A.D. 1200, when asked by Richard of England, who had summoned him to Palestine, concerning Antichrist, replied that "he was born long ago at Rome, and is now exalting himself above all that is called God." Roger Hoveden [Annals, 1.2], and elsewhere, wrote, "The harlot arrayed in gold is the Church of Rome." Whenever and wherever (not in Rome alone) the Church, instead of being "clothed (as at first, Re 12:1) with the sun" of heaven, is arrayed in earthly meretricious gauds, compromising the truth of God through fear, or flattery, of the world's power, science, or wealth, she becomes the harlot seated on the beast, and doomed in righteous retribution to be judged by the beast (Re 17:16). Soon, like Rome, and like the Jews of Christ's and the apostles' time leagued with the heathen Rome, she will then become the persecutor of the saints (Re 17:6). Instead of drinking her Lord's "cup" of suffering, she has "a cup full of abominations and filthinesses." Rome, in her medals, represents herself holding a cup with the self-condemning inscription, "Sedet super universum." Meanwhile the world power gives up its hostility and accepts Christianity externally; the beast gives up its God-opposed character, the woman gives up her divine one. They meet halfway by mutual concessions; Christianity becomes worldly, the world becomes Christianized. The gainer is the world; the loser is the Church. The beast for a time receives a deadly wound (Re 13:3), but is not really transfigured; he will return worse than ever (Re 17:11-14). The Lord alone by His coming can make the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our Lord and His Christ. The "purple" is the badge of empire; even as in mockery it was put on our Lord.
filthiness—A, B, and Andreas read, "the filthy (impure) things."