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a Bible passage
When the Prophet is ordered to eat whatever he receives, this ought not to be extended to everything which he meets with, but, whatever may be the taste of the book, he is forbidden to refuse it: for its bitterness might possibly cause him to reject the threats of God. Lastly, the quality of the book is noted, because it contained nothing but the material for sorrow. He adds, that he opened his mouth, for the sake of obedience; by which he signifies that he was not curious or dainty in seeking to taste it, but that he took what was divinely offered him, without the slightest hesitation. Now he adds —
3. And he said unto me, Son of man, cause thy belly to eat, and fill thy bowels with this roll that I give thee. Then did I eat it; and it was in my mouth as honey for sweetness.
Ezekiel, as we have just seen, proceeds to say, that a book was given him to eat, because God’s servants ought to speak from the inmost affection of their heart. We know that many have a tongue sufficiently fluent, but use it only for ostentation: meanwhile, God treats their vanity as a laughing stock, because their labor is fruitless. Hence we must observe the passage of Paul already quoted, “the kingdom of God is with power.” (1 Corinthians 4:20.) But the efficacy of the Holy Spirit is not exerted unless when he who is called to teach applies his serious endeavors to attain to the discharge of his duty. For this reason, then, Ezekiel is commanded to eat the roll Next he says, it was as sweet as honey; and, but a little before, he said it was filled with curses: therefore, either he had put off all humanity, or ought to be grieved, when he found himself appointed to be the herald of God’s vengeance. But, in other places, we saw that the servants of God were endued with feelings of an opposite kind; for, as they were often rough and stern like their work, so they condoled with the miserable people: but, their grief did not hinder them from proceeding in the discharge of their duty. For this reason Ezekiel now says, the book was sweet, because he acquiesced in God’s commands, and although he pitied his own people, yet he acknowledged that it could not happen otherwise, and subscribed to the just judgment of God. Therefore, by the word sweetness, he signifies his acquiescence in embracing the office enjoined upon him, and he so obeyed God that he forgot all the material for sorrow in the book, because the justice of God prevailed and thus extinguished the feeling of too great humanity which might otherwise have delayed him. Jeremiah uses the same expression. (Jeremiah 15:16.) He says, that he found the words of God, and that they became to him gladness and joy of heart. For we saw, that he was only anxious but very sorrowful when he thought that utter destruction was impending over the people. But, as I have just said, these two things are not discordant: that Prophets should desire the safety of the people, and use their utmost endeavors to promote it, and yet manifest a firm constancy, and never hesitate, when necessity demands it, to condemn the people and to utter God’s threats which are enjoined ‘upon them. Thus shortly afterwards Jeremiah says, that he was filled with anger; thy words were found, says he, and I did eat them, and they afforded me joy and gladness of heart, because thy name has been called over me, O Jehovah God of hosts: that is, because I have been taught by the power of thy Spirit, and as I have been called to this office, so thou hast stretched forth thy hand unto me that I may fulfill thy commands with good faith and constancy: therefore thy words were my delight. Afterwards he adds, (Ezekiel 3:17,) neither have I sat in the council of scorners, nor have I exalted myself for the sake of throwing off the yoke; for since I perceived that thou must be obeyed, I was, as it were, overpowered, yet I did not sit with the scorners, but I sat alone, says he, because thou hast filled me with indignation. Hence we see, that in one person were two feelings very different and contrary in appearance, because he was filled with indignation, and yet received joy through the words of God.