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Lecture twenty first.
We yesterday began to expound the Prophet’s language when he denounced what the Jews little feared, that a time would come when God would deprive them of their Prophets. Since therefore God was accustomed to rule his people by counselors, and priests, and prophets, hence he says, counsel should perish from the elders, and the law from the priests. As to the Prophets, he says, the Jews would enquire of them in vain the will of God. The result is, since God always governed his people, there would be miserable dispersion, because no more teaching should shine forth, but they would be immersed in the darkness of ignorance. But this was the most grievous threat, because in extreme evils it is no common consolation to have God shining upon us by his word. For by this we are stirred up to patience, then our sorrows are mitigated when we taste some hope of pardon, and God bears witness that he will be propitious to us. But when this comfort is withdrawn, we are easily overwhelmed by even the smallest evils. Yet God sustains us by his word in the deepest afflictions as upon a vast sea, and as long as his teaching remains to us we have as it were a chart of guidance which will bring us safely into harbor. But when God nowhere appears, the lightest trial buries us in the deepest abyss. So this was the sign of God’s fearful vengeance when the gift of prophecy was extinct among the Jews, and the priests and elders had no counsel. For we know how mightily they boasted that were powerful in wisdom. For while Jeremiah blames them, (Jeremiah 18:18,) we see that they rose up against him, relying on this confidence, that the law could not pass away from the priests, nor prudence from the wise men and counselors, nor yet a vision or utterance from the prophets. “Come ye, let us take counsel against Jeremiah, and let us strike him with the tongue; for counsel shall not perish,” etc. Being excited by this diabolical fury they dared to raise their crests against God, and boldly claimed for themselves what God here denounces that he would take from them: for the vision they asserted must remain with the prophets and the teaching of the law with the priests. But we see that God averts that perverse boasting when he denounces that there should be no counsel to the old men, no teaching with the priests, and no vision among the prophets. And hence also we gather that we can this day refute the Papists by the same argument. For in the strength of what weapons do they so proudly rage against the clear and certain doctrine of the law and the gospel? Namely, that they are the representative Church, as if they openly declared to God that his doctrine could not possibly perish from their priests. I omit to notice that this priesthood is not from God, since priests are created for sacrificing Christ, and that without any command. But suppose we grant them to be ordinary pastors of the Church, of what advantage is that title when God deprived of all light of doctrine the Levitical priests, who were created by him and not by human suffrages?
Let us learn therefore from this passage, that the gift of prophecy and all teaching is God’s peculiar gift: let us learn that this gift is withdrawn when God wishes to exact punishment for man’s ingratitude. For if the doctrine is received less reverently than becomes us, and God himself is despised, as is often the case, he throws men into darkness, and causes them to err through blindness, and deprives them of the least spark of light. when the priests themselves forget their office God infatuates them, as we see has happened in the Papacy. Nothing is more to be despised than those beasts, and yet they claim to themselves the spirit of revelation. But God repays them the just reward of their madness, because they have ruled tyrannically, and so have utterly abused the sacred name of pastors: then because they have mingled their fictions with the law and the gospel, and so have corrupted all purity of doctrine by their comments. God therefore has revenged their pride, as we see; but when God shows us the way of life by his servants, and shines upon us with heavenly doctrine, let us not blindly wander in darkness, let us know that this inestimable treasure is not to be despised, lest we should be deprived of it. It follows —
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