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In our last Lecture were noticed these words of Amos — that a whole people tremble at the sound of a trumpet; he now seems to add a sentence wholly different, and says, No calamity happens, except through God. But he had before said what we already noticed respecting the sound of the trumpet, that the people might understand that nothing happens by accident, and that punishments are, for just reasons, inflicted by the Lord; and this he soon after confirms by saying, that God did nothing, without having first revealed his secret to his Prophets. The meaning then is that the people at Israel were extremely stupid for not having repented after so many warnings; nay, they remained still in their perverseness, though they had been constrained by the most powerful means.
We now then comprehend what the Prophet means; but that the whole subject may be made more clear, let us notice this intervening sentence, there is no evil in the city which God has not done. By these words the Prophet reminds us, that calamities happen not by chance, as the vulgar of mankind believe; for the words, “Prosperous or adverse fortunes” are, we know, in the mouths of all, as though God was idle in heaven, and took no care of human affairs. Hence, whatever happens, the world usually ascribes it to fortune. But the Prophet here shows that the government of this world is administered by God, and that nothing happens except through his power. He does not, indeed, treat here of sin: but the Prophet, according to the usual practice, calls whatever is adverse to us, רעה, roe, evil. Whatever, then, we naturally shun, is usually called an evil; and this mode of speaking Amos follows here, as God is said by Isaiah to have in his power night and day, light and darkness, good and evil, (Isaiah 45:7) When good and evil are spoken of there, it is certain that what is referred to is prosperity and adversity. So also here, the Prophet teaches that men are chastised by God whenever anything adverse happens to them, as though he said that fortune rules not, as the world imagines, and that things do not take place at random; but that God is at all times the judge of the world. In short, Amos wished to recall the people to an examination of their lives, as though he summoned them to the tribunal of God; and he showed by evident external tokens that God was justly offended with the Israelites: “Ye see that you are severely dealt with, do you think that God sleeps idly in heaven? Since nothing happens but by the will of God, he now designs to awaken you by treating you with so much sharpness and severity, so that you may know your vices.” We now then perceive the design of the Prophet in saying, that there was no evil in the city which God had not done.
In a similar manner, also, does God by Jeremiah sharply expostulate with the people, because they imputed slaughters in war, famine, and other evils, to fortune. When, therefore, any calamity happened, the Jews complained of bad fortune, as the world are wont to do. God was displeased and severely reproved this profane notion; for the government of the world was thus taken away from him: for, were any thing to take place against his will, so much would be abstracted from his power; and farther men would grow hardened in their sins; for however grievously he might punish them, they would not yet acknowledge his hand: they might indeed cry out under the strokes, and feel how severe his scourges were; but they would not regard the hand of the striker, which is the principal thing, as it is stated elsewhere, (Isaiah 9:13) Then the Prophet takes this as granted, that, whenever any calamity happens, men are extremely stupid, if they are not roused and reflect on their sins, and consider the tokens of God’s wrath, so as to flee to him, and confess themselves guilty and implore his mercy.
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