CHAP. II. A Refutation of Bellarmin's Exposition of the Angel's Interpretation of the Vision, Rev. xvii.
AND now I cannot imagin what to add, or what can be desired fur∣ther, in confirmation of this Truth, than to shew how unsuccessfully that great and learned Champion of the Church of Rome, Cardinal Bellarmin, has en∣deavoured another manner of explica∣tion of this Vision, and Interpretation. This Learned Author then, to do the Popes a kindness, hath thus explained, Page 109(or, if you please, obscured) the An∣gel's meaning. John (saies he *) in the xviith Chapter of the Revelation descri∣beth a Beast with se∣ven Heads, and ten Horns, upon which Beast a certain Wo∣man sate: and he explains the Woman to be the great City which sitteth upon seven Hills, that is, Rome: the seven Heads to be those se∣ven Mountains, and also seven Kings, by which Number are understood all the Roman Emperours. He saith, that the ten Horns are ten Kings which shall reign together at the same time. And lest we should think that these should be Ro∣man Kings, he adds, that these Kings shall hate the Whore, and make her desolate, be∣cause Page 110they shall so divide the Roman Em∣pire among themselves, that they shall ut∣terly destroy it. Thus far Bellarmin.
But never was an Exposition in the World so huddled up together, as this is. The Angel tells us that the seven Heads are seven Kings: five, saies he, are fallen, one is, and the other is not yet come, and when he cometh he must conti∣nue a short space. And the Beast which was, and is not, he is the eighth King, and is of the seven, and goeth into Per∣dition. Now by this number of seven Kings, are understood saith Bellarmin, all the Roman Emperors; and * he accounts all those Roman Emperors, who have any ways enjoyed that Title from Julius Caesar's time to this present day; and God only knows how many such Emperors may come after. So that by his reckoning we cannot account all the Roman Emperors fewer in number than one hundred and thirty, I speak within compass. Now is it not very strange that seven Kings, should be put Page 111to signifie one hundred and thirty? For let us grant that seven, a certain number, may be put for an uncertain: yet who ever heard that so small a number as seven, hath bin put for so great a one, as hath bin the number of all the Roman Emperors? This therefore is one great Absurdity, but not comparable to those which follow.
For if by these seven Kings are meant all the Roman Emperors, then why does not the Cardinal proceed to shew us, which be those five that were fallen; which is the one that was; which the other that was not then come, who when he was come, should continue but a short space, and which is the Beast that was, and is not, who is said to be the eighth King, and yet to be of the seven? All which particulars of the Angel's Inter∣pretation the Cardinal has thought fit to smother in profound silence, lest the vanity and absurdity of his Exposi∣tion should be too apparent and con∣temtible.
For he acknowledgeth more than Page 112once, * That the Revelation was gi∣ven in Domitian's Reign. Whereup∣on it will follow, that if by the seven Kings are meant all the Roman Emperors, then by the five Kings that were fallen, must be meant those eleven Emperors that had reigned before Domitian; by the one, that then was, must be meant Domitian himself; by the other, Nerva, successour to Do∣mitian; and by the last King, who is the Beast that was, and is not, must be meant all the Roman Emperors, to the number at least of one hundred and seventeen. And is not this an admirable Exposition, which in the same breath as it were, makes seven to signifie one hundred and thirty, and yet five of those seven to signifie but eleven; one to signifie but one; and yet in the very next clause, one to signifie one hundred and seven∣teen? If this be to interpret Prophecies I wonder it should ever be thought dif∣ficult to interpret them. And if any Page 113Man can make sense of this Exposition, let him enjoy it for his pains. Certainly it was for meer shame that Bellarmin went no further in his application of these seven Kings; and if we had not minded more the truth then good man∣ners, we had not thus expos'd it to the World.
But I believe the Cardinal has com∣mitted a greater errour yet against his own Principles than possibly he might be aware of. For if the seven Kings typified by the seven Heads of the Beast, be set to signifie all the Roman Emperors, and if the present Emperors be of that number, (as he himself would have them) then are the present Roman Emperors typified by some one or other of the Heads. But of the Beast here mentioned, having seven Heads, and ten Horns, it is said that he was full of names of Blasphemy. And Rev. xiii. 1. it is said of the same Beast, that he had upon his Heads (not on any one, but on all of them, for there is none excepted) a name of Blasphemy. And Page 114therefore the present Roman Emperors, if they be any of those seven Kings, which are typified by the seven Heads, they also have this name of Blasphemy in common with the rest.
Neither will it here suffice to say, that it is only noted, that the Beast had up∣on his Heads a name of Blasphemy, but not that he had the same upon all his Heads; So that it will be true, if any of the Roman Emperors had it. This answer will not serve. For the Chri∣stian Emperors have reigned neer five times as long again, as the Heathen Em∣perors had done. And therefore there is no likelihood at all that the Spirit should say of the Heads in general, that they had the name of Blasphemy, with∣out distinguishing of them, if either he had understood by the seven Heads, the whole Order of the Roman Empe∣rours (as Bellarmin reckons them,) or if the present Emperors be not, and have not bin guilty of this Blasphemy in common with the Heathen Empe∣rors.Page 115
As for what the Cardinal adds con∣cerning the ten Horns, or ten Kings, which saith he, shall reign together at the same time, the Angel tells us more precisely that they should reign together with the Beast, or seventh and last Head. But Bellarmin having not thought fit to tell us which of the Roman Empe∣rors are this Beast, or seventh and last Head: he does not say as the Angel does, that the ten Horns should reign to∣gether with the Beast, but only that they should reign together at one time. And thus again he has very pitifully shuffled in the most meterial point of this Pro∣phesie. And this he has done, lest be∣cause he has expounded the seven Kings, to be all the Roman Emperors, we should suspect the present Roman Emperors to be that Antichristan Beast, whom the Angel calls the eighth and last of those Kings; for if six of them were come in St. John's time, and the other should con∣tinue but a little while; the eighth and last, who is the Antichristian Beast, must needs be come by this, or he is never to Page 116be look't for. Since therefore by the se∣ven Kings are meant all the Roman Em∣perors, and Domitian must be the sixth; Nerva must be the other, who was to continue but a short time; and all the Emperors succeeding Nerva, and by consequence the new Roman Empe∣rors, the Popes Creatures and Disci∣ples, must be the Antichristian Beast, or the eighth and last of those Kings.
As for what he adds, concerning the ten Horns, that they should not be Ro∣man Kings, because they should hate the Whore, (i.e. the City of Rome) and make her desolate: it is as unintelligible as the rest. For, does he mean that they shall not be Kings in Rome? Who ever said it? Or does he mean, that they should not possess each one his portion of the Roman Empire? Himself confesseth it Or lastly does he mean, that none o• them should be, or should be called a Ro∣man King? How does he prove it? He saies, they shall not be Roman Kings, be∣cause they shall hate the Whore, (i.e. the City of Rome) and make her desolate. But Page 117this they may do, though any one, or all of them should be, or (as Bellarmin himself expresses it) should be called Ro∣man Kings, when once they come to be enlightened, and to perceive how that adulterous City hath poisoned, and infected, and besotted them with her a∣bominable Cup of Spiritual Fornication.
As for what he further adds concern∣ing these ten Kings, proving that they should not be Roman Kings, because they shall so divide the Roman Em∣pire among them, as utterly to destroy it: which he gathers from what is said of them Rev. 17.16. These shall hate the Whore, and make her desolate: it is to be observed, that these ten Kings were not to bring this desolation upon that who∣rish City, till after that they had given their power unto the Beast, (who was to be the last Head or King in that City) and had made war with the Lamb, & the Lamb had overcome them. For till this, 'tis said, that God should put into their minds to fulfil his will, and to agree, and give their Kingdom to the Antichristian Beast;Page 118until by their warring with the Lamb, and being overcome by him, the words of God should be fulfilled, ver. 17. for so it had bin foretold of them, at v. 13. that they should have one mind, and should give their power and strength unto the Beast; that they should make War with the Lamb, and that the Lamb should over∣come them. And being thus worsted by the Lamb, when they should come to see their Errour, they should hate the Whorish City, the Metropolis of the Beast, that had seduc'd them, and in revenge of her impiety, should make her desolate, and naked, and should eat her flesh, and burn her with Fire. These ten Kings therefore might be Roman Kings for all their laying of that City deso∣late: because they should not do it, till after they had spy'd their Errour in confederating with her.
But lastly, If these ten Kings shall so divide the Roman Empire among them as utterly to destroy it; how can it then be said, that they should give their Power and Strength, and Kingdom to thePage 119Roman Emperors? For if by the seven Heads or Kings be meant (as Bellarmin tells us) all the Roman Emperors; then must the seventh of those Kings be some, or one at least, of the Roman Em∣perors. But it is manifest from, ver. 11. that the seventh of those Heads or Kings, is the Beast that was, and is not; to whom, it is said in the next verse but one, that the ten Kings should give their Power and Strength, (nay, and their Kingdom also, as is said a little af∣ter.) If then these ten Kings shall give their Power, and Strength, and King∣dom, to the Roman Emperors; how shall they so divide the Roman Empire among themselves, as utterly to destroy it? And thus much of the Cardinal's Exposition, which indeed is utterly mis∣becoming the Judgment of so great a Disputant: but we must pardon this, and many other such-like failings, to the weakness of his Cause. For certainly it cannot be ascribed to any other thing, that Bellarmin, a Man so learned, so ripe of Judgment, quick of Wit, and skilful Page 120in the Art that he profest, should be so utterly puzled and confounded in this Argument above all others (though in others also not a little) even to the gros∣sest and most palpable effects of Dotage and Stupidity.