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Lecture Seventeenth.

In the last lecture I only recited the ninth verse, but did not explain it; for the Lord says, he would afterwards make some part of Israel a remnant, since he hoped they would profit by the chastisement: then, says he, the remnant will remember me. By these words he obliquely reproves the sluggishness of the ten tribes, who could never be brought to any sense of God’s anger, unless by experiencing it. For there is an opposition between remembrance and forgetfulness, since he says they would remember after they were afflicted, he signifies that during their prosperity they were drowned in negligence and contempt. We may learn from this that God’s chastisements are very useful to us, because when he indulges us we abuse his kindness, and flatter ourselves so as to become hardened in sin. It is necessary, therefore, nay, even useful, that those who indulge themselves in their vices, should be chastised, and although the Lord can recall us to himself in other ways, yet our weakness is so great that we always grow torpid in our sins, until his chastisements draw us back to life. Besides, we must also observe, that; all are not permitted to become wise again, even when chastised by God. And the Prophet does not speak generally, but marks out the survivors, or those who shall have been preserved. פליטיכם, phlitikem, says he, that is, those of you who shall be saved; but this was only a small portion, as we have seen. Now as the difference is sought for between the few permitted to escape, and the multitude which perished, none other will be found, except because it pleased God to preserve a seed. All were worthy of death; he consumed almost the whole body of the people; he wished a small number to remain safe. We see, therefore, that the safety of those of whom the Prophet now speaks flowed from the mere mercy of God. Besides, what I have said must be borne in mind — that none repented but those to whom it was given; whence it follows, that repentance is a singular gift of God. And we see that many plunge into a worse state, nay, even rage against God when he chastises them: first they roar, then they are outrageous, then they rush on to unbridled madness, so that they would be prepared to wage war with God, if they could penetrate as far as the heavens. Since therefore chastisements are common to the elect and the reprobate, and yet some go on to rage more and more against God, it follows that it is not permitted to all to repent when God admonishes them, cites them to his tribunal, and demands punishment for their sins when they displease him.

This therefore is the reason why the Prophet restricts this promise to those who should be saved out of the whole people. He had said they should be preserved, because God was unwilling to extinguish the whole Church, that he might not destroy his covenant, which ought to be perpetual and inviolable. He says among the Gentiles, among whom, or where, they were captives Here also the Prophet signifies that exile would be useful to the Israelites, because as long as God suffered them to possess the Holy Land, they provoked him as if on purpose. Since, therefore, they so polluted God’s worship in the Holy Land, he ought long ago to have destroyed them. And the Prophet signifies this when he says, among the nations where they were captives they would then return to a sound mind, though they had been obstinate in the region assigned them by God. It follows that he was broken down, or worn down, through their heart There may be a double sense of the words. The first is, that God was at length conquered by their wickedness, after he had found that he did not profit by bearing them patiently. For when he sees that his favor becomes a laughing-stock, he is the more angry, and deservedly so. Thus, therefore, this passage may be conveniently explained, that God was broken on account of the adulterous heart of the Israelites; because when he had long suffered them to sin with impunity, yet when he saw no end to it, being conquered, as it were, by their obstinacy, he descends to punish them. But we may also refer this to pardon, because they will acknowledge that God is broken through their heart, because he wishes to pardon them. For he is said to be broken who voluntarily forgives injuries; and since there are many tender and kind, who willingly pardon their enemies for even the greatest crimes. And this explanation is in some degree suitable, because the sinner cannot really remember God, without perceiving some taste of his goodness, so that he hopes he will be propitious to him. Yet the first sense seems more suitable, that the Israelites will begin to remember when they were dragged into exile, that just punishment awaited them, because God had borne with them patiently, and had not treated them at once with the utmost rigor, but when compelled, he descended at length to take vengeance, after he was broken down or worn down by their desperate wickedness. Now, therefore, we understand the Prophet’s intention. Hence also we gather, that those who seriously repent do not acknowledge their fault lightly, but think within themselves in what ways, and how long, and how perversely, they have provoked God’s wrath. The Prophet expresses this by the word breaking. God, therefore, did not treat the Israelites so harshly, while he was offended by their wickedness, but at length he was broken by their hardness.

He says, Through their adulterous heart which departed from me, and through their adulterous eyes after their idols This image occurs everywhere throughout the Prophets; and because I have often explained it, I now pass it slightly by. For the superstitious are said to commit whoredom with their idols, that all idolatry may be rendered more detestable. For those who adulterate the worship of God by their fictions, yet think that they offer an acceptable obedience. Since, therefore, the blind and unbelieving so please themselves by their corruptions, hence Scripture compares them to adulterers. The name of devotion among the Papists is at this time so plausible that it buries all the light of sound doctrine. For by this one word they reject whatever is offered them in the law and the gospel: and so also concerning “good intentions” as they call them. Since, therefore, the incredulous so intoxicate themselves with their own comments, God distinctly mentions fornicators, and says, that all who recede from the pure rule of the law contaminate themselves with debaucheries. At the same time, as I have often said, the prophets allude to a sacred and spiritual marriage in which God has bound himself to his Church. For chastity of soul means the pure worship of God. When, therefore, men fall off from that sincerity, it is just as if a woman should desert her husband and follow adulterers. Now that the Prophet may express this mad desire more clearly, he adds eyes to the heart. By these words he understands furious lust, not only because they were devoted to their idols with all their heart, but they were drawn that way by their eyes, as if their eyes had been torches to inflame their mind. He retains, however, his own image, because adulterers by their wandering glances generate the flames of lust, and so their heart is set on fire. For this reason therefore he says, they were adulterous both in eye and heart

Afterwards he adds, and they shall become ashamed, or shall be cut off in their faces, that is, before their face: others translate, they shall feel nausea, which seems rather too rough. But because the word קט, ket, signifies to spew out, those who use a word of abomination render the Prophet’s sense faithfully. They shall be therefore, says he, an abomination to themselves Those who translate it, They shall be cut off,” also receive the word metaphorically; for he who suffers so much shame that he scarcely dares to look on heaven and men, is said to be cut off. But others translate, they shall contend or quarrel before their eyes. But since that signification is rarer, I scarcely dare subscribe to their opinion, especially when the best sense is, that they should be abominable to themselves. Therefore, they shall be rejected before their face, that is, they shall not wait till men condemn them or until others reprove their perverse worship, but they shall willingly abominate themselves. Now the Prophet shows that their penitence is real, because it may happen that a person may feel that he has some dealing with God, and yet not be truly humbled: just as Cain was compelled to tremble at the sight of God, yet was always like himself. (Genesis 4:9.) So it usually happens to all the wicked. The acknowledgment of this judgment of God is indeed some portion of repentance, but only half: wherefore the Prophet, that he may show the Israelites that they would remember God not without fruits when his hand was upon them, adds, that they should be abominable to themselves. This displeasure is then the second part of repentance. He says, for the evils which they have done in all their abominations The Prophet expresses more clearly, that the veil by which the eyes of the Israelites had been so long covered should be removed when they returned to God. For escape from punishment causes men to connive at their sins, as if a veil had been placed over their eyes, and they imagine that what God not only rejects but even detests is honorable. But when God by the infliction of punishment forces the wretched to perceive this, and no longer to put light for darkness and darkness for light, then they begin to be displeased with themselves. Now it follows —

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