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Ezekiel 16:51

51. Neither hath Samaria committed half of thy sins; but thou hast multiplied thine abominations more than they, and hast justified thy sisters in all thine abominations which thou hast done.

51. Et Samaria secundum dimidium scelerum tuorum non scelerate egit: et multiplicasti abominationes tuas prae illis, et justificasti sorores tuas in omnibus abominationibus tuis quas patrasti.

 

God now pronounces the same thing concerning Samaria, whom he had formerly called the younger sister. By Samaria, as we said, he means the Israelites, because that city was the head of the Kingdom of Israel: the ten tribes had been already driven into exile; and he says they were not half so wicked when compared with the Jews. This, at the first glance, may seem absurd; for we know that God’s worship was continued at Jerusalem when the Israelites rejected the law, and basely and openly turned aside to idolatry. Since, therefore, some sound piety flourished at Jerusalem when the Israelites wickedly revolted from God’s law, what can it mean by the Jews being censured as worse than they were? We must always come to the fountain which I have pointed out; for ingratitude has great influence in exaggerating men’s crimes. But another reason must also be remarked. The Jews had seen how severely God had avenged the superstitions of the kingdom of Israel: they were so far from repenting that they rather courted their alliance, as if for the very purpose of provoking God afresh. If we reflect upon these two points, the question will be solved as far as relates to the present passage. God says what is incredible to us, that the Jews were worse than the Israelites: but he asserts this, because ingratitude had rendered them less excusable; for God had retained them under his own charge when that wretched dispersion happened, and the ten tribes were all but absorbed. God’s candle was always shinning at Jerusalem, as it is said. (Exodus 27:20.) When, therefore, God had preserved for himself that small band as the very flower of the people, safe and sound, the revolt of this people was far more criminal than that of the ten tribes: for these tribes were drawn away from the worship of God by little and little, as is well known. For Jeroboam always set before himself one definite object — the worship of God as the liberator of the people, (1 Kings 12:) for the Israelites did not look on themselves as apostates, although they had degenerated from their fathers. But the Jews addicted themselves to gross superstitions, of which the Israelites at first were ashamed; and then they were warned by many penalties not to imitate their kinsmen: still, as we saw before, the temple was defiled by many pollution’s; for Ezekiel, in the eighth chapter, says that he saw there many defilement’s. Since then the Jews profited so badly, though God set his vengeance before their eyes, it is not surprising that they are said to have sinned grievously.

In conclusion, he adds, thou hast multiplied your abominations beyond them; and you have justified thy sisters in all the abominations which you have perpetrated. Here the word “justified” is to be received at first comparatively: it does not signify that the fault of others is extenuated by the wickedness of the Jews; but if the people wished to offer excuses, they might easily be convinced that both Sodom and the kingdom of Israel were just in comparison with the Jews. To justify is usually received for to absolve; and we must observe this when we treat of justification, since the papists always seize upon the quality, as if to be justified was in reality to be just. Hence they are unable to comprehend a doctrine sufficiently familiar to Scripture, and plain enough — that we are justified by faith: for they examine man, that they may find justice there, and do not ascend any higher: but to be justified by faith signifies nothing but to be absolved, though we are not just in ourselves; hence a justification by faith without us must be sought for, and hence we gather that it is not a quality. Hence Jerusalem justified her sisters, although Sodom and Samaria were found worse than herself. It follows —

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