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Ezekiel 16:61

61. Then thou shalt remember thy ways, and be ashamed, when thou shalt receive thy sisters, thine elder and thy younger: and I will give them unto thee for daughters, but not by thy covenant.

61. Et recordaberis viarum tuarum, et pudefies cum tu assumes sorores tuas majores prae te, et cum minoribus prae te: et dabo ipsas tibi in filias: et non a foedere tuo.

 

As God, then, shows that he would not be merciful to the Jews for any other reason than through being mindful of his covenant, so now, in return, he informs us what he requires from them, namely, that they should begin to acknowledge how basely they had abjured their pledged fidelity — how unworthily they had despised his law — how impiously obstinate they had been against all his prophets in deriding their threats, and in being stupid under manifest penalties. But this passage is worthy of notice, since we gather that none are capable of obtaining God’s mercy except those who are dissatisfied with themselves, and, being ashamed and confounded, betake themselves to his mercy. In fine, we see that God’s grace does not profit the obstinate at all: it is offered to all in common; but none receive it except those who condemn themselves, and bear in mind their crimes, so that they are forgotten before God. If, therefore, we wish our sins to be buried before God, we must remember them ourselves; if we wish our iniquities to be blotted out before God and the angels, we must disgrace ourselves; that is, we must blush and be ashamed of our baseness whenever we transgress and provoke God’s wrath. Hence we here see that the whole contents of the Gospel are shortly summed up; for the Gospel contains nothing else but repentance and faith, as is well known. Concerning faith, Ezekiel has proclaimed that God, mindful of his covenant, will become reconciled to the lost; but he now adds an exhortation that they should acknowledge their faults: but we know that the shame of which the Prophet speaks is the fruit or part of repentance, as is evident from Paul’s description of penitence in the seventh chapter of his second epistle to the Corinthians, (2 Corinthians 7:9-11.) But we shall have yet to speak on this subject, so that I now hasten forwards, because what I have hitherto taught cannot be understood until we come to the end of the verse. He says, when you shall receive thy sisters, as well the elder as the younger; for he does not speak here of Sodom and Samaria alone,, but of all nations; for all the nations may properly be called sisters, for all the world was corrupt. Since, therefore, they were all alike in vices, their union was like that of relationship. For this reason he says, that when the Jews shall return to favor, they shall then have a great multitude with them, who shall receive their own sisters; that is, shall collect from all sides an immense multitude, so that all shall be assembled in obedience to God, and shall be partakers of the same covenant. If any one object that this has never been fulfilled, the answer is at hand, that the prophets speak of the calling of the Gentiles in two ways. They sometimes proclaim it so as to declare that the Jews and Israelites are the leaders of all the others, so as to confer upon them the favor and patronage of God. In that day seven men shall lay hold of the skirt of a single Jew, and shall say, Lead us to your God, (Zechariah 8:23;) and this was the legitimate order, that the Jews, as first-born, should join others in alliance to themselves, and thus unite all into one body and one Church: but because the Jews were cut off through their ingratitude, the prophets make mention of another calling, that the Gentiles should succeed in the place of the ungrateful people, as Paul says that the natural branches were cut off, and that we were grafted in who belonged to the unfruitful tree. (Romans 11:16-19.) The Prophet adds this former reason, that the Jews should receive their sisters, both elder and younger, since they should collect God’s Church from all nations; and this has been partly fulfilled. For whence came the Gospel except from this fountain? as it had been foretold, A law shall go out from Zion, and God’s word from Jerusalem. (Isaiah 2:3; Micah 4:2.) Again, in the 110th Psalm, (Psalm 110:1,) Thy scepter shall go forth from Zion; that is, the kingdom of Christ shall be propagated throughout the whole world: because, therefore, salvation flowed from the Jews, and the Gospel emanated from thence, what is here promised was partly fulfilled, namely, that other people were received by the Jews.

He now subjoins, I will give them to thee for daughters: for if the Jews had not, by their ingratitude, rejected the honor of which God had reckoned them worthy, they had always been the first-born in the Church. Then the Gentiles would have been, as it were, under a mother, since they were “the primitive Church“ (according to the language of the day,) and thus they would have obtained the degree of mother among all nations. Therefore God here deservedly pronounces that he would give them, all nations for daughters, to be added to the Jews, when the Gentiles were grafted into the same body of the Church by faith in the Gospel. But he adds, not from thy covenant. Some refer this to ceremonies, since, when the Gentiles were adopted, they still remained free from the ceremonies of the law; but that is cold. Others compare this passage with Jeremiah: I will establish a new covenant with you, not such as I established with your fathers, which they rendered vain; but this is the covenant which I will make with you, etc. (Jeremiah 31:31-33.) Since, then, it is here said, the covenant shall not be according to the covenant of the people, this is said with truth, because it will be a New Testament. But such expounders are partly right, but not wholly so; for a contrast must be understood between the people’s covenant and God’s. He had said just before, I will be mindful of my covenant: he now says, not of thine. Hence he reconciles what seemed opposites, namely, that he would be mindful of his own agreement, and yet it had been dissipated, broken, and abolished. He shows that it was fixed on his own side, as they say, but vain on the people’s side. I will be reconciled, then, but not through thy covenant; for there was now no covenant, as Hosea says — Not my people, not beloved. (Hosea 1:9.) All the progeny of Abraham were not God’s people, nor all their daughters beloved: but although the covenant was vain through the people’s perfidy, yet God overcame their malice, and so he again erected his own covenant towards them. And when he says, I will establish a covenant, we may explain it, I will set it up again, or restore it afresh: for we said that the New Testament was so distinguished from the Old, that it was founded upon it. For what is proposed to us in Christ, unless what God had promised in the law? and therefore Christ is called the end of the law, and elsewhere its spirit: for if the law be separated from Christ, it is like a dead letter: Christ alone gives it life. Since, therefore, God at this day exhibits to us nothing in his only-begotten Son but what he had formerly promised in the law, it follows that his covenant is set up again, and so perpetually established; and yet this is not man’s part. Wherefore? For men had so revolted from the faith, that God was free; nay, the covenant itself had no force, and lost its effect through their perfidy: for it is easy to collect the points in which the New and Old Testaments are alike, and those, in which they differ. They have this similarity, that God to this day confirms to us what he had formerly promised to Abraham, and in no other sense could Abraham be called the Father of the Faithful.

Since, therefore, Abraham is at this time the father of all the faithful, it, follows that our safety is not to be thought otherwise than in that covenant which God established with Abraham; but afterwards the same covenant was ratified by the hand of Moses. A difference must now be briefly remarked from a passage in Jeremiah, (Jeremiah 31:32,) namely, because the ancient covenant was abolished through the fault of man, there was reed of a better remedy, which is there shown to be twofold, namely, that God should bury men’s sins, and inscribe his law on their hearts: that also was done in Abraham’s time. Abraham believed in God: faith was always the gift of the Holy Spirit; therefore God inscribed his covenant in Abraham’s heart. (Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:3; Ephesians 2:8.) He inscribed his law on the heart of Moses and on the rest of the faithful. This is true: but at first that inner grace was more obscure under the law, and then it was an additional benefit. It could not therefore be ascribed to the law that God regenerated his own elect, because the spirit of regeneration was from Christ, and therefore from the Gospel and the new covenant. But yet we must remember what I have said, that the faithful under the ancient covenant were gifted and endowed with a spirit of regeneration. As far as relates to the remission of sins, it was still more obscure: for cattle were sacrificed, which could not acquire salvation for miserable men, nor blot out their sins. Therefore, if the law is regarded in itself, the promise in the new covenant will not be found in it: I will not remember thy sins: yet to this day God is propitious to us, because he promised to Abraham that all nations should be blest in his seed. (Jeremiah 31:34; Genesis 12:3, and Genesis 18:18.) We see then that the difference which Jeremiah points out was really true; and yet the new covenant so flowed from the old, that it was almost the same in substance, while distinguished in form.

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