And the woman was arayed in purple & skarlet, and gilded with golde, and precious stones, and pearles, and had a cup of gold in her hand, full of abominations, and filthines of her fornication. And in her forehead was a name written, A mysterie, that great Babylon, that mother of whoredomes, and abominations of the earth. And I sawe ye woman drunken with the blood of Saintes, and with the blood of the Martyrs of Iesvs: and when I sawe her, I wondred with great marueile. -Rev 17:4-6 Geneva
Geneva Bible Commentary:
That harlot, the spiritual Babylon, which is Rome. She is described by her attire, profession, and deeds. In attire most glorious, triumphant, most rich, and most gorgeous. In profession the nourisher of all, in this verse and teaching her mysteries to all, (Rev 17:5) setting forth all things most magnificently: but indeed fatally besetting miserable men with her cup, and brings upon them a deadly giddiness.
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.
And on her forehead a name written – Whereas the saints have the name of God and the Lamb on their foreheads. Mystery – This very word was inscribed on the front of the Pope’s mitre, till some of the Reformers took public notice of it. Babylon the great – Benedict XIII., in his proclamation of the jubilee, A.D. 1725, explains this sufficiently. His words are, “To this holy city, famous for the memory of so many holy martyrs, run with religious alacrity. Hasten to the place which the Lord hath chose. Ascend to this new Jerusalem, whence the law of the Lord and the light of evangelical truth hath flowed forth into all nations, from the very first beginning of the church: the city most rightfully called ‘The Palace,’ placed for the pride of all ages, the city of the Lord, the Sion of the Holy One of Israel. This catholic and apostolical Roman church is the head of the world, the mother of all believers, the faithful interpreter of God and mistress of all churches.”
But God somewhat varies the style. The mother of harlots – The parent, ringleader, patroness, and nourisher of many daughters, that losely copy after her. And abominations – Of every kind, spiritual and fleshly. Of the earth – In all lands. In this respect she is indeed catholic or universal.