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Lecture Twenty-sixth

We stated yesterday how God expels from his house those who ought to have been deemed to be already among such as are without: for hypocrites always invent coverings for themselves until the Lord himself openly shows to them their baseness. It is therefore necessary that what they seem to have, as Christ also declares respecting hypocrites, should be taken away from them, (Matthew 13:12.)

It then follows, — I will not proceed on to love them A question may be moved here — why does God speak thus of his love? for he had already ceased to love that people, as it maybe fully gathered from facts. — Though this saying may not be strictly correct, yet it is not unsuitable. Profane men, and those who are in love with worldly things estimate the love of God by present appearances. When the Lord feeds them well and plentifully, when they enjoy their pleasures, when they have no troubles to bear, they think themselves to be most acceptable to God. Such was the case with this people, as it has been already often stated, as long as the Lord suspended his vengeance; and this was especially the case under king Jeroboam the second, for we know that the Lord then spared and greatly favoured them. It was then a certain kind of love, when the Lord thus cherished them, God allured them to repentance by the sweetness of his goodness. But now, as he sees them to be growing harder and harder, he says, “I will not continue my love towards them; for I will now really show that I am angry with them, as I see that I have done nothing by my forbearance, which they do in a manner laugh to scorn.” Thus we see that men are rejected by God nearly in the same way, when he exterminates them from his Church, as when he withdraws his blessing, which is, as it were, the pledge and symbol of his love.

The reason afterwards follows, Because their princes are perfidious: and this is expressly mentioned, for it was needful that the origin of the evil should be stated. The Prophet then shows here that corruptions originated not with the common people, but with the princes. Now we know for what end God would have rank and dignity to exist among men, and that is, that there might be something like a bridle to restrain the waywardness of the multitude. When, therefore, princes become leaders to every wickedness, all things must then go on in the worst manner; for what ought to be a remedy becomes the cause of ruin. This, then, is what the Prophet meant in the first place. But by accusing the princes he does not absolve the people; but, as it has been said in another place, he insinuates that they must have been very blind, when they suffered themselves to be drawn into the ditch by the blind: for the people doubtless went astray of their own accord and willingly, though they had erring leaders; and though, as it has appeared elsewhere, they anxiously sought excuses for their errors. But we may hence learn how frivolous is the excuse of those who at this day exculpate themselves by the pretext of obeying princes and bishops; for the Lord here denounces punishment on the whole people, because the princes were perfidious. If it be so, we see that the whole body is involved, when wicked leaders rule and draw the people from the right way; yea, when they precipitate them into the same transgressions, and carry them along with them. When, therefore, there is such a confusion, universal punishment, which consumes all together, must follow. Let us proceed —

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