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REVELATION OF ST. JOHN THE DIVINE - Chapter 10 - Verse 10

Verse 10. And as soon as I had eaten it, my belly was bitter. The effect immediately followed: that is, as soon as he was made acquainted with the contents of the book, either, as above explained, requiring him to deliver some message of woe and wrath which it would be painful to deliver; or, that the consequence of receiving it was to bring on bitter persecutions and trials.

——————————————————————————————————— This is part 4 of 4 parts of the Note for Revelation 9:20

Part 1 See Barnes "Re 9:20"

Part 2 See Barnes "Re 9:21"

Part 3 See Barnes "Re 10:5"

 

(3.) The next point specified is murders, (Re 9:21) "Neither repented they of their murders." It can hardly be necessary to dwell on this to show that this was strictly applicable to the Roman power, and extensively prevailed, both before and after the Turkish invasion, and that that invasion had no tendency to produce repentance. Indeed, in nothing has the Papacy been more remarkably characterized than in the number of murders perpetrated on the innocent in persecution. In reference to the fulfilment of this, we may refer to the following things:

(a) Persecution. This has been particularly the characteristic of the Roman communion, it need not be said, in all ages. The persecutions of the Waldenses, if there were nothing else, show that the spirit here referred to prevailed in the Roman communion, or that the times preceding the Turkish conquest were characterized by what is here specified. In the third Lateran council, A.D. 1179, an anathema was declared against certain dissentients and heretics, and then against the Waldenses themselves in Papal bulls of the years 1183, 1207, 1208. Again, in a decree of the fourth Lateran council, A. D. 1215, a crusade, as it was called, was proclaimed against them, and "plenary absolution promised to such as should perish in the holy war, from the day of their birth to the day of their death." "And never," says Sismondi, "had the cross been taken up with more unanimous consent." It is supposed that in this crusade against the Waldenses a million of men perished.

(b) That this continued to be the characteristic of the Papacy after the judgments brought upon the Roman world by the Turkish invasion, or that those judgments had no tendency to produce repentance and reformation, is well known, and is manifest from the following things:

(1.) The continuance of the spirit of persecution.

(2.) The establishment of the Inquisition. One hundred and fifty thousand persons perished by the Inquisition in thirty years; and from the beginning of the order of the Jesuits in 1540 to 1580, it is supposed that nine hundred thousand persons were destroyed by persecution.

(3.) The same spirit was manifested in the attempts to suppress the true religion in England, in Bohemia, and in the Low Countries. Fifty thousand persons were hanged, burned, beheaded, or buried alive, for the crime of heresy, in the Low Countries, chiefly under the duke of Alva, from the edict of Charles V. against the Protestants, to the peace of Chateau Cambrisis in 1559. Compare Barnes on "Da 7:24-28".

To these are to be added all that fell in France on the revocation of the edict of Nantz; all that perished by persecution in England in the days of Mary; and all that have fallen in the bloody wars that have been waged in the propagation of the Papal religion. The number is, of course, unknown to mortals, though efforts have been made by historians to form some estimate of the amount. It is supposed that fifty millions of Christians have perished in these persecutions of the Waldenses, Albigenses, Bohemian Brethren, Wycliffites, and Protestants; that some fifteen millions of Indians perished in Cuba, Mexico, and South America, in the wars of the Spaniards, professedly to propagate the Catholic faith; that three millions and a half of Moors and Jews perished, by Catholic persecution and arms, in Spain; and that thus, probably, no less than sixty-eight millions and five hundred thousand human beings have been put to death by this one persecuting power. See Dr. Berg's Lectures on Romanism, pp. 6, 7. Assuredly, if this be true, it would be proper to characterize the times here referred to, both before and after the Turkish invasion, as a time when murders would prevail.

(4.) The fourth point specified is sorceries. It can hardly be necessary to go into detail to prove that this also abounded, and that delusive appeals to the senses; false and pretended miracles; arts adapted to deceive through the imagination; the supposed virtue and efficacy of relics; and frauds calculated to impose on mankind, have characterized those portions of the world where the Roman religion has prevailed, and been one of the principal means of its advancement. No Protestant surely would deny this, no intelligent Catholic can doubt it himself. All that is necessary to be said in regard to this is, that in this, as in other respects, the Turkish invasion, and the judgments that came upon the world, made no change. The very recent imposture of the "holy coat of Treves" is a full proof that the disposition to practise such arts still exists, and that the power to impose on a large portion of the world in that denomination has not died away.

(5.) The fifth thing specified is fornication. This has abounded everywhere in the world; but the use of the term in this connexion implies that there would be something peculiar here, and perhaps that it would be associated with the other things referred to. It is as unnecessary as it would be improper to go into any detail on this point. Any one who is acquainted with the history of the Middle Ages—the period here supposed to be referred to—must be aware of the widespread licentiousness which then prevailed, especially among the clergy. Historians and poets, ballads and acts of councils, alike testify to this fact. ("If you wish to see the horrors of these ages," (the Middle Ages,) says Chateaubriand. Diet. Hist. tom. iii. 420, "read the Councils.") It is to be remarked also, as illustrating the subject, that the dissoluteness of the Middle Ages was closely, and almost necessarily, connected with the worship of the images and the saints above referred to. The character of many of those who were worshipped as saints, like the character of many of the gods of the Pagan Romans, was just such as to be an incentive to every species of licentiousness and impurity. On this point, Mr. Hallam makes the following remarks: "That the exclusive worship of saints, under the guidance of an artful though illiterate priesthood, degraded the understanding, and begat a stupid credulity and fanaticism, is sufficiently evident. But it was also so managed as to loosen the bonds of religion, and pervert the standard of morality."—Middle Ages, vol. ii. pp. 249, 260; Edit. Phil. 1824. He then, in a note, refers to the legends of the saints as abundantly confirming his statements. See particularly the stories in the "Golden Legend." So, in speaking of the monastic orders, Mr. Hallam (Middle Ages, vol. ii. 253) says, "In vain new rules of discipline were devised, or the old corrected by reforms. Many of their worst vices grew so naturally out of their mode of life that a stricter discipline would have no tendency to extirpate them. Their extreme licentiousness was sometimes hardly concealed by the cowl of sanctity." In illustration of this we may, introduce here a remark of Mr. Gibbon, made in immediate connexion with his statement about the decrees respecting the worship of images. "I shall only notice," says he, "the judgment of the bishops on the comparative merit of image-worship and morality. A monk had concluded a truce with the demon of fornication, on condition of interrupting her daily prayers to a picture that hung in his cell. His scruples prompted him to consult the abbot. 'Rather than abstain from adoring Christ and his mother in their holy images, it would be better for you,' replied the casuist, 'to enter any brothel, and visit every prostitute in the city,'" iii. 341. So again, Mr. Gibbon, speaking of the pope, John XII., says, "His open simony might be the consequence of distress; and his blasphemous invocation of Jupiter and Venus, if it be true, could not possibly be serious. But we read with some surprise that the worthy grandson of Marozia lived in public adultery with the matrons of Rome; that the Lateran palace was turned into a place of prostitution, and that his rapes of virgins and of widows had deterred the female pilgrims from visiting the tomb of St. Peter, lest, in the devout act, they should be violated by his successor," iii. 353. Again, the system of indulgences led directly to licentiousness. In the pontificate of John XXII., about A. D. 1320, there was invented the celebrated Tax of Indulgences, of which more than forty editions are extant. According to this, incest was to cost, if not detected, five groschen; if known and flagrant, six. A certain price was affixed in a similar way to adultery, infanticide, etc. See Merle D'Aubigne's Reformation, vol. i. p. 41. And farther, the very pilgrimages to the shrines of the saints, which were enjoined as a penance for sin, and which were regarded as a ground of merit, were occasions of the grossest licentiousness. So Hallam, Middle Ages, says, "This licensed vagrancy was naturally productive of dissoluteness, especially among the women. Our English ladies, in their zeal to obtain the spiritual treasuries of Rome, are said to have relaxed the necessary caution about one that was in their own custody," vol. ii. 256. The celibacy of the clergy, also, tended to licentiousness, and is known to have been everywhere productive of the very sin which is here mentioned. The state of the nunneries in the middle ages is well known. In the 15th century, Gerson, the French orator so celebrated at the council of Constance, called them Prostibula meretricum. Clemangis, a French theologian, also contemporary, and a man of great eminence, thus speaks of them: Quid aliud sunt hoc tempore puellarum monasteria, nisi quaedam non dico Dei sanctuaria, sed veneris execranda prostibula; ut idem sit hodie puellam velare, quod et publici ad scortandum exponere.—Hallam, Middle Ages, ii. 253. To this we may add the fact that it was a habit, not unfrequent, to license the clergy to live in concubinage, (see the proof in Elliott, i, 447, note,) and that the practice of auricular confession necessarily made "the tainting of the female mind an integral part of Roman priestcraft, and gave consecration to the communings of impurity." It hardly needs any proof that these practices continued after the invasions of the Turkish hordes, or that those invasions made no changes in the condition of the world in this respect. In proof of this, we need refer only to Pope Innocent VIII., elected in 1484 to the Papacy; (His character is told in the well-known epigram—Octo nocens pueros genuit, totidemque puellas: Hunc merito potuit dicere Roma patrem.) to Alexander VI., his successor, who at the close of the fifteenth century stood before the world a monster, notorious to all, of impurity and vice; and to the general well-known character of the Romish clergy. "Most of the ecclesiastics," says the historian Infessura, "had their mistresses; and all the convents of the capital were houses of ill-fame."

(6.) The sixth thing specified, (Re 9:21,) is thefts; that is, as explained, the taking of the property of others by dishonest arts, on false pretences, or without any proper equivalent. In the inquiry as to the applicability of this to the times supposed to be here referred to, we may notice the following things, as instances in which money was extorted from the people:

(a) The value fraudulently assigned to relics. Mosheim, in his historical sketch of the twelfth century, observes, "The abbots and monks carried about the country the carcases and relics of saints, in solemn procession; and permitted the multitude to behold, touch, and embrace the sacred remains, at fixed prices."

(b) The exaltation of the miracle-working merit of particular saints, and the consecration of new saints, and dedication of new images, when the popularity of the former died away. Thus Mr. Hallam says, "Every cathedral or monastery had its tutelar saint, and every saint his legend; fabricated in order to enrich the churches under his protection; by exaggerating his virtues and his miracles, and consequently his power of serving those who paid liberally for his patronage."

(c) The invention and sale of indulgences—well known to have been a vast source of revenue to the church. Wycliffe declared that indulgences were mere forgeries whereby the priesthood "rob men of their money; a subtle merchandize of Antitichrist's clerks, whereby they magnify their own fictitious power, and instead of causing men to dread sin, encourage men to wallow therein as hogs."

(d) The prescription of pilgrimages as penances was another prolific source of gain to the church that deserves to be classed under the name of thefts. Those who made such pilgrimage were expected and required to make an offering at the shrine of the saint; and as multitudes went on such pilgrimages, especially on the Jubilee at Rome, the income from this source was enormous. An instance of what was offered at the shrine of Thomas a Becket will illustrate this. Through his reputation, Canterbury became the Rome of England. A Jubilee was celebrated every fiftieth year to his honour, with plenary indulgence to all such as visited his tomb; of whom one hundred thousand were registered at one time. Two large volumes were filled with accounts of the miracles wrought at his tomb. The following list of the value of offerings made in two successive years to his shrine, the Virgin Mary's, and Christ's, in the cathedral at Canterbury, will illustrate at the same time the gain from these sources, and the relative respect shown to Becket, Mary, and the Saviour :—

 

First Year. L s d Next Year. L s d

 

Christ's Altar........... 3 2 6 Christ's Altar...........

Virgin Mary..............63 5 6 Virgin Mary.............. 4 1 8

Becket's ...............832 12 9 Becket's ...............954 6 3

Of the Jubilee of A.D. 1300, Muratori relates the result as follows: "Papa innumerabilem pecuniam ab iisdem recepit; quia die et nocte duo clerici stabant ad altare Sancti Pauli, tenentes in eorum manibus rastellos, rastellantes pecuniam infinitam." "The Pope received from them a countless amount of money; for two clerks stood at the altar of St. Paul night and day, holding in their hands little rakes, collecting an infinite amount of money."—Hallam,

(e) Another source of gain of this kind was the numerous testamentary bequests with which the church was enriched—obtained by the arts and influence of the clergy. In Wycliffe's time there were in England 53,215 foeda militum, of which the religious had 28,000—more than one half. Blackstone says that, but for the intervention of the legislature, and the statute of mortmain, the church would have appropriated in this manner the whole of the land of England, vol. iv. p. 107.

(f) The money left by the dying to pay for masses, and that paid by survivors for masses to release the souls of their friends from purgatory— all of which deserve to be classed under the word thefts as above explained—-was another source of vast wealth to the church; and the practice was systematized on a large scale, and, with the other things mentioned, deserves to be noticed as a characteristic of the times. It is scarcely necessary to add, that the judgments which were brought upon the world by the Turkish invasions made no essential change, and wrought no repentance or reformation, and hence that the language here is strictly applicable to these things: "Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts."

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