16. And it came to pass at the end of seven days, that the word of the Lord came unto me, saying.
17. Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me.
17. Fili hominis, speculatorem posui3 to domui Israel: audies ergo ex ore meo sermones, et admonebis illos ex me.
Now the Prophet shows more clearly why he continued in silence for seven days, because, indeed, he had been appointed a teacher, but the time had not fully arrived in which he was to utter the commands of God. He waited, therefore until he should receive a distinct message. Hence he says, at the end of seven days I received a word from the Lord. Whence we gather, that he had been chosen before, and that the burden of an embassy was imposed upon him: meanwhile he stood, as it were, in suspense, because he did not distinctly understand what he was to say, and where he ought to begin. Hence it appears, that God acts by degrees towards his servants, so that he claims them for his own, then he shows them generally what duties and labors they have to discharge, and at length he sends them forth to the performance of their work, and the execution of their office. This we see was done in the case of our Prophet. For first he learned that he was chosen by God, afterwards he was admonished generally to behave himself courageously, and not to yield to any threats or terrors: at length God explained to him what commands he wished him to bear to the people. As yet God seems to speak but generally, but it is as if he announced that the time had come when the Prophet must gird himself to his work: hence he says, Son of man I have appointed thee a watchman of the house of Israel.
What Ezekiel heard belongs to all teachers of the Church, namely, that they are Divinely appointed and placed as on watch-towers, that they may keep watch for the common safety of all. It was the duty of those who have been appointed from the beginning ministers of the heavenly doctrine to be watchmen. And would that in the Papacy, as this name has been imposed on idols, dumb and blind and deaf, those who with swelling cheeks call themselves Bishops, had been admonished of their vocation. For we know that the word Bishop means the same as watchman. But when they were boasting themselves to be bishops, they were drowned in the darkness of gross ignorance: then also they were buried in their pleasure, as well as in sloth, for there is no more intelligence in these animals than in oxen or asses. Asses and oxen do spend their labor for the advantage of man, but these are not only destitute of all judgment and reason, but are altogether useless. But what I have said is to be remembered, when God chooses Prophets, that they are placed, as it were, on watch-towers, that they may keep watch for the safety of the whole Church. This ought now to have its force, that pastors may acknowledge themselves placed in stations whence they may be watchful: and this, indeed, is one point. Now this cannot be done unless they are endued with superior gifts and prevail in the grace of the Spirit above the commonalty. Nor is it sufficient that pastors should live as private men, but they ought to wait longer, as if they were placed on a lofty watchtower, which demands both diligence and a power of observation: this is a second point.
It is now added, thou shalt hear words from my mouth, and shalt announce them to the people from me. Here a general rule is prescribed to all Prophets and pastors of the Church, namely, that they should hear the word from the mouth of God: by which particle God wishes to exclude whatever men fabricate or invent for themselves. For it is evident, when God claimed to himself the right of speaking that he orders all men to be silent and not to offer anything of their own, and then, when he orders them to hear the word from his mouth, that he puts a bridle upon them that they should neither invent anything, nor hanker after their own devices, nor dare to conceive either more or less than the word: and, lastly, we see that whatever men offer of their ownselves, is here abolished, when God alone wishes to be heard, for he does not mingle himself here with others as in a crowd, as if he wished to be heard only in part. He assumes to himself, therefore, what we ought to attribute to his supreme command over all things, namely, that we should hang upon his lips. But if this was said to Ezekiel, how is it that men of no authority now dare to spread abroad their own fictions, as we see done in the Papacy? for what. is such a religion but a confused jumble of the numberless fictions of men? dray have heaped together, from many brains, an immense chaos of errors; 'for they wish us to adore as the oracles of God whatever foolish men have imagined. But who among them will boast himself superior to Ezekiel? nay, if they were all put together will they dare to assert that they can be compared with him alone? And if they dare, who will admit their arrogance? We see then, that Ezekiel with the other Prophets is reined in, that he should not say anything but what he has heard from God's mouth.
Now it follows, thou shalt admonish them from me. The word which the Prophet uses, signifies as well to admonish as to caution. There is no doubt that he means those admonitions by which men are roused to caution, lest they should perish through any error or thoughtlessness. Hence after God had subjected the Prophet to himself, and commanded him to be a disciple, he appointed him a teacher, because hearing was not sufficient, unless he who had been called to rule the Church should deliver out of his hand what he had received from God. God therefore commands his Prophet to speak, after he had ordered him to hear. But he adds, from me, that the people may understand that God alone is the author of instruction. False teachers, indeed, proudly assume the name of God, as we see in the Papacy that this axiom sounds through it, that the Church is ruled by the Holy Spirit immediately, and therefore that it cannot err: but these two things are to be read conjointly, namely, that he who is appointed a teacher should hear God speaking, and afterwards should admonish in the name of God himself, that is, should profess that he is the minister and witness of God, so that his teaching should not be thought his own. For those who affect the praise of ability, or learning, or eloquence, often obscure the name of God, and therefore although they professed that they had their teaching from God, yet afterwards they speak from themselves: that is, they puff themselves up with vain ostentation, so that the majesty of God does not appear, nor the efficacy of the Spirit in that profane method of teaching. Hence God afterwards imposed a law upon his Prophet, that he should utter nothing but what he had heard: now he adds another clause: that he should admonish the people; but he must admonish them not from himself, but must always have in his mouth that sacred name of God, and show that he is in reality sent from him. For after this manner spake Moses, What am I and my brother Aaron? (Numbers 16:11.) Here we see that Moses spake from God; that is, professed himself to be God's minister, when he bore witness that he was nothing, that he assumed nothing to himself, and acted in nothing by his own peculiar counsel or motion.
Grant, Almighty God, since thou condescendest to interest thyself in our salvation, and stirrest up thy servants to be to us instead of eyes, that we may know thy watchfulness over us lest we perish, -- grant, I pray thee, that we may be so roused by the holy admonitions which flow from thee through their ministry and service, that if we have turned aside from the right way we may speedily return to it, and so go forward in our course, and be endued with such perseverance, that we may at length arrive at the fruition of that blessed rest, which has been obtained for us by the blood of thy Son. Amen.
1 That is, "after seven days." -- Calvin.
2 Happened or occurred, for the same word is variously repeated. -- Calvin.
3 Or. appointed. -- Calvin.