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Lecture One Hundred and Sixty-Eighth

WE explained yesterday what is meant by not making a consummation. The meaning is, that sometimes God’s vengeance is such towards his Church, that it seems to be consumed, while yet some hidden hope remains, for God raises his own as it were from death. We said, that in this sense is to be understood what Jeremiah now promises to the chosen people: for God makes a distinction between the Israelites and strangers; for on account of the covenant he had made with them, he would spare them, so that some hope remained, though the Church itself seemed for a time to be lost.

And he explains himself in other words, I will chastise thee, he says, in judgment; for to chastise in judgment is to exercise moderation, so that rigor may not issue in destruction. In the tenth chapter, Jeremiah says the same, “Chastise me, O Jehovah, but in judgment, and not in thine anger.” The Prophet, then, in the person of the faithful submitted himself to the scourges of God, because it was useful for them to be corrected, for had the Lord spared them, they would have abused his indulgence, and have become thus putrid in their vices. Hence the Prophet offered himself to be chastised by God, but deprecated his anger, which he set in opposition to judgment. The word judgment, in Hebrew, is taken in various senses; but in that passage, as I explained there, it means due measure, or moderation. When God punishes the unbelieving, he cannot be charged with extreme severity, for he is ever just and regards a due measure. But, as I have already said, judgment means not only rectitude, but also the paternal love of God, when he moderates punishment, so as to render it medicinal and salutary to his elect. Hence he promises to punish his Church moderately, not only because he is just, but also because he mercifully spares his own, and regards what they can bear, and what is useful for them.

Now this passage ought to be especially noticed, from which we may derive great consolation; for we are here taught that punishments inflicted on us are temporary, and that God prescribes limits to them, such as he knows to be best for us: for whence comes despair which overwhelms the unbelieving, except that being sunk in the deep, they know not that God will be merciful to them, but apprehend nothing but his wrath? Hence then it comes that they have no comfort in their evils and sorrows. Whenever, then, excessive anxiety lays hold on us, or our evils drive us into despair, let us learn to flee to this consolation, even that the punishments by which we are chastised are only for a time.

He afterwards adds, And cutting off I will not cut thee off There are some who give another rendering, “I will not make thee innocent:“ and in this sense the verb נקה, nuke, is sometimes to be taken; but it is not suitable to the context here, unless the copulative be rendered as an adversative, “Though I shall not make thee innocent, I shall yet chastise thee with paternal moderation.” As this, however, seems forced, I doubt not but that the Prophet means, that chastisement would be moderated, because God would not wholly cut off his chosen people, according to the exposition I gave on the thirtieth chapter of this book; and thus the Prophet confirms what I have already said, that God spares his children, because he purifies them by afflictions, as gold is melted and purified by fire, so that punishment does not issue in their destruction. Now follows the forty-seventh chapter:

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