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Lecture Thirty Ninth.

WE saw in the last lecture with what intention God permits so much license to the false prophets to deceive the people. For men would desire to throw the fault of their errors on God, if he did not meet their rashness. But God has pronounced in this place, that his judgment is just, since the exiles as well as the Jews remaining in the city were equally blind. Hence we must understand that there was no cause for excuse when God’s hand was against an impious and wicked people. He now adds, that he would be an avenger in destroying the false prophets from the midst of the people. This seems at first sight not to be in accordance with justice, that God should impel and precipitate men into error, and then exact punishment of them: and as I have said, men think themselves free from blame, if God blinds them, casts them into a reprobate state of mind, and even hurries them into impious desires. But I have already remarked that those act erroneously who estimate God’s judgment by their own notions. For how small is the measure of our intelligence: for God’s judgments are a profound abyss. (Psalm 36:6.) Nothing therefore remains, except waiting for that day in which we shall see face to face the things which we now behold darkly and obscurely, as Paul says. (1 Corinthians 13:12.) Whatever may be the sense, God does rightly in deceiving the false prophets by way of punishing an impious people; and when he summons the false prophets to judgment, that also is free from blame. But if men are restive through their own rashness and audacity, God will free himself from all their calumnies. Wherefore let us diligently mark this passage where God pronounces that he is the deceiver; because however Satan may plot by his lies to abolish the truth, yet he can accomplish nothing unless God permit him, as we have already explained at full length. But when false prophets are dragged to punishment, they have no cause of expostulation with God and they profit nothing by their complaints, since their own consciences condemn them. They cannot object that they were compelled or drawn violently aside by God, since of their own accord and by their own efforts they endeavored to deliver wretched men to destruction by their lies. Since this is the case, God justly extends his hands to punish them, as he now says. But let us proceed to the next verse.

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