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Lecture Sixth

Among the calamities of Jerusalem which the Prophet deplores, he mentions this as one, that there was no law or doctrine. The Chaldee Paraphraser thought that the reference is to punishment, but he perverts the words of the Prophet. There follows afterwards an amplification; after having said, there is no law, he adds, her prophets also have not found a vision from Jehovah. There is then no doubt but that the Prophet means that among the miseries of the people this was the greatest, that they were without doctrine or teaching, and without prophets. The word תורה, ture, is indeed used often by way of excellency to designate the law, but it signifies also doctrine or instruction; and the meaning here is the same, as though the Prophet had said, that the Jews had been so forsaken by God, that they found no consolation in their evils. This may be better understood by a similar complaint in the Psalms:

“Our signs we see not, there is not a Prophet any more, there is no more any one who understands.” (Psalm 74:9.)

The faithful there say, that they were in a hopeless state, because God shewed them no signs of his favor; and signs were given when God appeared propitious to them. Now, as God had testified that there would be always faithful teachers to guide the people, they therefore complained that there was no Prophet, that there was no one any more who had a vision. And so in this place the Prophet says, that there was no law, and that the prophets were without a vision, even because God, as though wearied, had given up the care of the people: for his paternal favor could not have been better known than by this evidence, that he sent them prophets; and it is certain that all prophecies ceased when the people were driven into exile.

A long time after, Daniel began to exhort the faithful to hope for a return; and on this account it is said by Isaiah,

“Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, will our God say.”
(Isaiah 40:1.)

There Isaiah indicates that there would be a temporary silence; for all the prophets would be mute, that the people might lie in a hopeless state, and for this reason, because they had long abused God’s patience, and had disregarded that singular blessing, when God manifested by his servants that he was solicitous for their well-being and safety, as he had often said, that he rose up early and extended his hand to them by the prophets. As, then, the gift of prophecy was to the people a sure pledge not only of God’s favor, but also of the solicitude which he entertained for them; so when he withheld prophets from the people, he departed from them, having forsaken as it were his station among them. 156156     “No law.” Gataker understood this to refer to the fact, that the law written on the tables of stone, deposited in the temple, was lost, having been destroyed by the Chaldeans. Others say, “no law” was observed respecting God’s worship, the temple having been destroyed. The law, moral, ceremonial and judicial, was given to Israel, and formed the condition on which they were to inherit the land. When banished, because they kept not the law, they had in exile as it were no law; the covenant respecting the land, dependent on the law, was during the exile made void or suspended. — Ed.

We now then understand what the Prophet meant by saying, that there was no doctrine any more, and that the prophets of Jerusalem found no vision any more from Jehovah; for God, after his word had been long profaned, became silent, and deigned not for a time to open his sacred mouth, because he had seen that he had been treated with derision.

Now this passage teaches us, that nothing is more desirable in evils, and that there is no better remedy, than to have God’s promise, that he will at length be merciful to us. For when any promise of God is set before us, it is like a small light kindled in darkness. Though then our misery were like a thick darkness, yet when God shews some token of favor by his promises, that ought to be sufficient to give us hope and joy. On the other hand, when no promises of God occur to us, it is a sure token of reprobation, unless that he sometimes thus tries us, as we read here. But the faithful also themselves, when they perceive no evidence of God’s paternal favor in his promises, are as it were in a hopeless state, and sunk in the lowest depths. Hence it is then only that we arise from death to life, and find support so as not to be overwhelmed with despair, when God is pleased to speak to us. It now follows, —


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