Here we have,
I. A doleful lamentation made by Babylon’s friends for her fall; and here observe,
1. Who are the mourners, namely, those who had been bewitched by her fornication, those who had been sharers in her sensual pleasures, and those who had been gainers by her wealth and trade—the kings and the merchants of the earth: the kings of the earth, whom she had flattered into idolatry by allowing them to be arbitrary and tyrannical over their subjects, while they were obsequious to her; and the merchants, that is, those who trafficked with her for indulgences, pardons, dispensations, and preferments; these will mourn, because by this craft they got their wealth.
2. What was the manner of their mourning. (1.) They stood afar off, they durst not come nigh her. Even Babylon’s friends will stand at a distance from her fall. Though they had been partakers with her in her sins, and in her sinful pleasures and profits, they were not willing to bear a share in her plagues. (2.) They made a grievous outcry: Alas! alas! that great city, Babylon, that mighty city! (3.) They wept, and cast dust upon their heads, Rev. 18:19. The pleasures of sin are but for a season, and they will end in dismal sorrow. All those who rejoice in the success of the church’s enemies will share with them in their downfall; and those who have most indulged themselves in pride and pleasure are the least able to bear calamities; their sorrows will be as excessive as their pleasure and jollity were before.
3. What was the cause of their mourning; not their sin, but their punishment. They did not lament their fall into idolatry, and luxury, and persecution, but their fall into ruin—the loss of their traffic and of their wealth and power. The spirit of antichrist is a worldly spirit, and their sorrow is a mere worldly sorrow; they did not lament for the anger of God, that had now fallen upon them, but for the loss of their outward comfort. We have a large schedule and inventory of the wealth and merchandise of this city, all which was suddenly lost (Rev. 18:12, 13), and lost irrecoverably (Rev. 18:14): All things which were dainty and goodly have departed from thee, and thou shalt find them no more at all. The church of God may fall for a time, but she shall rise again; but the fall of Babylon will be an utter overthrow, like that of Sodom and Gomorrah. Godly sorrow is some support under affliction, but mere worldly sorrow adds to the calamity.
II. An account of the joy and triumph there was both in heaven and earth at the irrecoverable fall of Babylon: while her own people were bewailing her, the servants of God were called to rejoice over her, Rev. 18:20. Here observe, 1. How universal this joy would be: heaven and earth, angels and saints, would join in it; that which is matter of rejoicing to the servants of God in this world is matter of rejoicing to the angels in heaven. 2. How just and reasonable; and that, (1.) Because the fall of Babylon was an act of God’s vindictive justice. God was then avenging his people’s cause. They had committed their cause to him to whom vengeance belongs, and now the year of recompence had come for the controversies of Zion; and, though they did not take pleasure in the miseries of any, yet they had reason to rejoice in the discoveries of the glorious justice of God. (2.) Because it was an irrecoverable ruin. This enemy should never molest them any more, and of this they were assured by a remarkable token (Rev. 18:21): An angel from heaven took up a stone like a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, “Thus shall Babylon be thrown down with violence, and be found no more at all; the place shall be no longer habitable by man, no work shall be done there, no comfort enjoyed, no light seen there, but utter darkness and desolation, as the reward of her great wickedness, first in deceiving the nations with her sorceries, and secondly in destroying and murdering those whom she could not deceive,” Rev. 18:24. Such abominable sins deserved so great a ruin.