38. But in his estate shall he honor the God of forces: and a god whom his fathers knew not shall he honor with gold, and silver, and with precious stones, and pleasant desirable things.
38. Et Deum fortitudinum, vel, munitionum, in loco suo honorabit: et Deum quem non cognoverunt patres ejus honorabit cum auro, et argento, et lapide pretioso, et desiderabilibus, 1 hoc est, rebus omnibus pretiosis.
39. Thus shall he do in the most strong holds with a strange god, whom he shall acknowledge and increase with glory: and he shall cause them to rule over many, and shall divide the land for gain.
39. Et faciet adversus munitiones fortitudinum cum Deo alieno, quem agnoverit, multiplicabit gloriam, et dominari faciet eos in multis, et terram dividet pretio.
As I have already hinted, at the first glance these statements seem opposed to each other; the king of whom we are now treating shall despise all deities, and yet shall worship a certain god in no ordinary way. This agrees very well with the Romans, if we study their dispositions and manners. As they treated the worship of their deities simply as a matter of business, they were evidently destitute of any perception of the divinity, and were only pretenders to religion. Although other profane nations groped their way in darkness, yet they offered a superstitious worship to some divinities. The Romans, however, were not subject to either error or ignorance, but they manifested a gross contempt of God, while they maintained the appearance of piety. We gather this opinion from a review of their whole conduct. For although they fetched many deities from every quarter of the world, and worshipped in common with other nations Minerva, Apollo, Mercury, and others, yet we observe how they treated all other rites as worthless. They considered Jupiter as the supreme deity. But what was Jupiter to them in his own country? Did they value him a single farthing, or the Olympian deity? Nay, they derided both his worshippers and himself. What then really was their supreme god? why the glow of the Capitol; without the additional title of Lord of the Capitol, he was nobody at all. That title distinguished him as specially bound to themselves. For This reason the Prophet calls This Roman Jupiter a god of bulwarks, or of powers. The Romans could never be persuaded that any other Jupiter or Juno were worthy of worship; they relied upon their own inherent strength, considered themselves of more importance than the gods, and claimed Jupiter as theirs alone. Because his seat was in their capital, he was more to them than a hundred heavenly rulers, for their pride had centered the whole power of the deity in their own capital. They thought themselves beyond the reach of all changes of fortune, and such was their audacity, that every one fashioned new deities according to his pleasure. There was a temple dedicated to fortune on horseback; for this gratified the vanity of the general who had made good use of it is cavalry, and obtained a victory by their means; and in building a temple to equestrian fortune, he wished the multitude to esteem himself as a deity. Then Jupiter Stator was a god, and why? because this pleased somebody else; and thus Rome became full of temples. One erected an image of fortune, another of virtue, a third of prudence, and a fourth of any other divinity, and every one dared to set up his own idols according to his fancy, till Rome was completely filled with them. In this way Romulus was deified; and what claim had he to this honor? If any one object here -- other nations did the same -- we admit it, but we also know in what a foolish, brutal, and barbarous state of antiquity they continued. But; the Romans, as I have already intimated, were not instigated to this manufacture of idols by either error or superstition, but by an arrogant vanity which elevated themselves to the first rank among mankind, and claimed superiority over all deities. For instance, they allowed a temple to be erected to themselves in Asia, and sacrifices to be offered, and the name of deity to be applied to them. What pride is here! Is this a proof of belief in the existence of either one god or many? Rome is surely the only deity, -- and she must be reverently worshipped before all others!
We observe then how the expression of this verse is very applicable to the Romans; they worshipped the god of bulwarks, meaning, they claimed a divine power as their own, and only granted to their gods what they thought useful for their own purposes. With the view of claiming certain virtues as their own, they invented all kinds of deities according to their taste. I omit the testimony of Plutarch as not quite applicable to the present subject. He says in his problems, it was unlawful to utter the name of any deity under whose protection and guardianship the Roman State was placed. He tells us how Valerius Soranus was carried off for foolishly uttering that deity's name, whether male or female. These are his very words. And he adds as the reason, their practice of using magical incantations in worshipping their unknown divinity. Again, we know in what remarkable honor they esteemed "the good goddess." The male sex were entirely ignorant of her nature, and none but females entered the house of the high priest, and there celebrated her orgies. And for what purpose? What was that "good goddess?" Surely there always existed this god of bulwarks, since the Romans acknowledged no deity but their own selves. They erected altars to themselves, and sacrificed all kinds of victims to their own success and good fortune; and in this way they reduced all deities within their own sway, while they offered them only the specious and deceptive picture of reverence. There is nothing forced in the expression of the angel, -- he will pay no attention to the gods of his fathers; meaning, he will not follow the usual custom of all nations in retaining superstitious ceremonies with error and ignorance. For although the Greeks were very acute, yet they did not dare to make any movement, or propose any discussions on religious matters. One thing we know to be fixed among them, to worship the gods which had been handed down by their fathers. But the Romans dared to insult all religious with freedom and petulance, and to promote atheism as far as they possibly could. Therefore the angel says, he should pay attention to the god of his fathers. And why? They will have regard to themselves, and acknowledge no deity except their own confidence in their peculiar fortitude. I interpret the phrase, the desire of women, as denoting by that figure of speech which puts apart for the whole, the barbarity of their manners. The love of women is a scriptural phrase for very peculiar affection; and God has instilled this mutual affection into the sexes to cause them to remain united together as long as they retain any spark of humanity. Thus David is said to have loved Jonathan beyond or surpassing the love of women. (2 Samuel 1:26.):No fault is there found with this agreement, otherwise the love of David towards Jonathan would be marked with disgrace. We know how sacred his feelings were towards him, but "the love of women" is here used par excellence, implying the exceeding strength of this affection. As therefore God has appointed this very stringent bond of affection between the sexes as a natural bond of union throughout the human race, it is not surprising if all the duties of humanity are comprehended under this word by a figure of speech. It is just as if the angel had said; this king of whom he prophesies should be impious and sacrilegious, in thus daring to despise all deities; then he should be so evil, as to be utterly devoid of every feeling of charity. We observe then how completely the Romans were without natural affection, loving neither their wives nor the female sex. I need not refer to even a few examples by which this assertion may be proved. But throughout the whole nation such extreme barbarity existed, that it ought really to fill us with horror. None can obtain an adequate idea of this, without becoming thoroughly versed in their histories; but whoever will study their exploits, will behold as in a mirror the angel's meaning. This king, then, should cultivate neither piety nor humanity.
And he shall not pay attention to other gods, because he shall magnify himself against them all. The cause is here assigned why this king should be a gross despiser of all deities, and fierce and barbarous against all mortals, because he should magnify himself above them all. That pride so blinded the Romans, as to cause them to forget both piety and humanity; and so this intolerable self-confidence of theirs was the reason why they paid no honor to any deity, and trampled all mortals under foot. Humility is certainly the beginning of all true piety; and this seed of religion is implanted in the heart of man, causing them whether they will or not to acknowledge some deity. But the Romans were so puffed up by self-consequence, as to exalt themselves above every object of adoration, and to treat all religions with contemptuous scorn; and in thus despising all celestial beings, they necessarily looked down on all mankind, which was literally and notoriously the fact. Now, the second clause is opposed to this, He shall worship or honor the god of fortitude's. He had previously used this word of the Temple, but this explanation does not seem suitable here, because the angel had before expressed the unity of God, while he now enumerates many gods. But the angel uses the word "fortitude's," or "munitions," for that perverse confidence by which the Romans were puffed up, and were induced to treat both God and men as nothing hi comparison to themselves. How then did these two points agree -- the contempt of all deities among the Romans, and yet the existence of some worship? First, they despised all tradition respecting the gods, but afterwards they raised themselves above every celestial object, and becoming ashamed of their barbarous impiety, they pretended to honor their deities. But where did they seek those deities, as Jupiter for instance, to whom all the tribe of them were subject? why, in their own capitol. Their deities were the offspring of their own imaginations, and nothing was esteemed divine but what pleased themselves. Hence it is said, He shall honor him in his own place. Here the angel removes all doubt, by mentioning the place in which this god of fortitude's should be honored. The Romans venerated other deities wherever they met with them, but this was mere outward pretense. Without doubt they limited Jupiter to his own capitol and city; and whatever they professed respecting other divinities, there was no true religion in them, because they adored themselves in preference to those fictitious beings. Hence he shall worship the god of ramparts in his place, and shall honor a strange god whom his fathers knew not. 2
Again, He shall honor him in gold, and silver, and precious stones, and all desirable things; meaning, he shall worship his own deity magnificently and with remarkable pomp. And we know how the riches of the whole world were heaped together to ornament their temples. For as soon as any one purposed to erect any temple, he was compelled to seize all things in every direction, and so to spoil all provinces to enrich their own temples. Rome, too, did not originate this splendor for the sake of superstition, but only to raise itself and to become the admiration of all nations; and thus we observe how well this prophecy is explained by the course of subsequent events. Some nations, in truth, were superstitious in the worship of their idols, but the Romans were superior to all the rest. When first they became masters of Sicily, we know what an amount of wealth they abstracted from a single city. For if ever any temples were adorned with great and copious splendor and much riches, surely they would confess the extreme excellence of those of Sicily. But Marcellus stripped almost all temples to enrich Rome and to ornament the shrines of their false deities. And why so? Was it because Jupiter, and Juno, and Apollo, and Mercury, were better at Rome than elsewhere? By no means; but because he wished to enrich the city, and to turn all sorts of deities into a laughingstock, and to lead them in triumph, to shew that there was no other deity or excellence except at Rome, the mistress of the world. He afterwards adds, He shall perform. Here, again, the angel seems to speak of prosperity. Without doubt he would here supply courage to the pious, who would otherwise vacillate and become backsliders when they observed such continued and incredible success, in a nation so impious and sacrilegious, and remarkable for such barbarous cruelty. Hence he states how the Romans should obtain their ends in whatever they attempted, if their fortitude should prevail, as if it were their deity. Although they should despise all deities, and only fabricate a god for themselves through a spirit of ambition; yet even this should bring them success. This is now called a foreign deity. Scripture uses this word to distinguish between fictitious idols and the one true God. The angel seems to say nothing which applies especially to the Romans. For the Athenians and Spartans, the Persians and the Asiatics, as well as all other nations, worshipped strange gods. What, then, is the meaning of the name? for clearly the angel did not speak after the ordinary manner. He calls him strange, as he was not handed down from one to another; for while they boasted vainly in their veneration of the idols received from their ancestors, together with all their sacred institutions and their inviolable rites, yet they inwardly derided them, and did not esteem them worth a straw, but only wished to retain some fallacious form of religion through a sense of shame. We remember the saying of Cato concerning the augurs, "I wonder when one meets another how he can refrain from laughing!" thus shewing how he ridiculed them. If any one had asked Cato either in the senate or privately, What think you of the augurs and all our religion? he would reply, "Ah! let the whole world perish before the augurs; for these constitute the very safety of the people and of the whole republic: we received them from our ancestors, therefore let us keep them for ever!" Thus that crafty fellow would have spoken, and thus also would all others. But while they prated thus to each other, they were not ashamed to deny the existence of a Deity, and so to ridicule whatever had been believed from the very beginning, as entirely to reduce to nothing the traditions received from their forefathers. It does not surprise us to find the angel speaking of a strange god which was worshipped at Rome, not, as I have said, through superstition or mistake, but only to prevent their barbarity from becoming abominable throughout the world. That God, says he, whom he had acknowledged: great weight is attached to this word. The angel means, that the whole divinity rested on the opinion and will of the sovereign people, because it was agreeable to its inclination, and promoted its private interest. As the plan of worshipping any gods would be approved, and they would pride themselves in their own pleasure, they should boast with great confidence, that there could be no piety but at Rome. But why so? Because they acknowledge strange gods, and determine and decree the form of worship which was to be preserved. The angel thus places the whole of the religion of Rome in lust, and shews them to be impure despisers of God.
He afterwards says, He shall multiply the glory. This may be referred to God, but I rather approve of a different interpretation. The Romans should acquire great wealth for themselves, and should increase wonderfully in opulence, in the magnitude of their empire, and in all other sources of strength. Therefore they shall multiply the glory, meaning, they shall acquire new territories, and increase their power, and accumulate a multitude of treasures. This explanation fits in very well with the close of the verse, where he adds, he shall make them rule far and wide. This is a portion of that glory which this king shall heap upon himself, for he should be superior to the kings over many lands, and should distribute the booty which he had acquired, and that, too, for a price. He says, therefore, he shall make them rule over many; for the relative is without a subject, which is a frequent practice of the Hebrews. Whom, then, should the Roman king, or the Roman empire, thus cause to have dominion? Whoever rendered them any assistance should receive his reward from a stranger, as we know Eumenes to have been enriched by the booty and spoil of Antiochus. The provinces also were distributed according to their will. The island was given up to the Rhodians, while a kingdom was wrested from another, and the AEtolians enlarged their dominions. As each party labored hard for their benefit, and incurred large expenses, so the Romans conferred riches upon them. After conquering Antiochus, they became the more liberal towards Attalus and Eumenes, and thus they became masters of the greater part of Asia. Again, when they had deprived Nabis, the tyrant of Sparta, of the greater part of his territories, those who had taken care to gratify the Romans, were favored with the spoils they had seized from him. We have another instance in the favor's conferred upon Massinissa after the conquest of Carthage; for after being expelled from his own kingdom, his dominion extended far and wide throughout the continent of Africa: after being deprived of his paternal sovereignty, he had not a spot in the world on which to plant his foot until they bestowed upon him what they had seized from the Carthaginians. And how did they manage this? They shall divide the soil for a price, says the angel; thus obliquely reproving the cunning of the senate and Roman people, because they did not give away these ample dominions gratuitously; they would willingly have devoured whatever they had acquired, but they found it better policy to sell them than to retain them. They did not sell at any fixed price -- for the word "price" here need not be restricted to a definite sum of money -- but displayed their avarice, and sold and distributed for the sake of gain, just as much as if all these territories had been immediately reduced into provinces of their empire. They had need of great resources; it was objectionable to continue their garrison in perpetuity in the cities of Greece, and hence they proclaim perfect freedom through them all. But what sort of liberty was this? Each state might choose its senate according to the pleasure of the Romans, and thus as each acquired rank and honor in his own nation, he would become attached and enslaved to the Roman people. And then, in this condition of affairs, if any war should spring up, they sought aid from these friends and allies. For had they been only confederate, the Romans would never have dared to exact so much from each tributary state. Let us take the case of the Carthaginians. After being reduced by many exaction's to the lowest pitch of poverty, yet when the Romans made war against Philip and Macedon, and against Antiochus, they demanded ships from these allies. They demanded besides, as a subsidy, an immense quantity of gold, silver, provisions, garments, and armor, till at length these wretched Carthaginians, whose very life-blood the Romans had drained, still sent for the war whatever gold they had remaining, and all they could scrape together. Thus Philip king of Macedon is compelled to destroy himself, by plunging his own sword into his body; for every state of Greece was forced to contribute its own portion of the expenses of the war.
We perceive, then, how the lands were divided for a price, each with regard to its own utility, not by fixing a certain defined money value, but according to the standard of political expediency. And what kind of bargaining did they afterwards mutually execute? We have an instance of it in the prevalence of proscription among the Romans, by which they turned their rapacity against their own vitals. They had previously confiscated the goods of their enemies. Philip, for instance, was forced to pay a large sum of money to repurchase the name of king and the portion of territory which remained his own. Antiochus and the Carthaginians were subject to the same hardship. The Romans, in short, never conquered any one without exhausting both the monarch and his dominions to satisfy their insatiable avarice and cupidity. We now perceive how they divided the lands for a price, holding all kings in subjection to themselves, and bestowing largesses upon one from the property of another.
We now perceive the angel's meaning throughout this verse, The King should be so powerful as to bestow dominion on whomsoever he pleased in many and ample territories, but not gratuitously. We have had examples of some despoiled of their royal dignity and power, and of others restored to the authority of which they had been deprived. Lucullus, for instance, chose to eject one king from his dominions, while another general restored him to his possessions. A single Roman citizen could thus create a great monarch; and thus it often happened. Claudius proposed to the people to proscribe the king of Cyprus, although he was of the royal race; his father had been the friend and ally of the Roman people, he had committed no crime against the Roman empire, and there was no reason for declaring war against him. Meanwhile he remained in security at home, while none of those ceremonies by which war is usually declared took place. He was proscribed in the market-place by a few vagabonds, and Cato is immediately sent to ravage the whole island. He took possession of it for the Romans, and this wretched man is compelled to cast himself into the sea in a fit of despair. We observe, then, how his prediction of the angel was by no means in vain; the Roman proconsuls distributed kingdoms and provinces, but yet for a price, for they seized everything in the world, and drew all riches, all treasures, and every particle of value into the whirlpool of their unsatisfied covetousness. We shall put off the remainder.
Grant, Almighty God, as in all ages the blindness of mankind has been so great as to lead them to worship thee erroneously and superstitiously, and since they manifest such duplicity and pride as to despise thy name, and also the very idols which they have fashioned for themselves: Grant, I pray thee, that true piety may be deeply rooted in our hearts. May the fear of thy name be so engraven within us, that we may be sincerely and unreservedly devoted to thee. May each of us heartily desire to glorify thy name, and may we endeavor to lead our brethren in the same course. Do thou purge us more and more from all dissimulation, until at length we arrive at that perfect purity which is laid up for us in heaven, through Jesus Christ our Lord. -- Amen.