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9But, as it is written,

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,

nor the human heart conceived,

what God has prepared for those who love him”—

10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.


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9. As it is written, “What eye hath not seen.” All are agreed that this passage is taken from Isaiah 64:4, and as the meaning is at first view plain and easy, interpreters do not give themselves much trouble in expounding it. On looking, however, more narrowly into it, two very great difficulties present themselves. The first is, that the words that are here quoted by Paul do not correspond with the words of the Prophet. The second is, that it seems as though Paul had perverted the Prophet’s declaration to a purpose quite foreign to his design.

First then as to the words; and as they may be taken in different senses, they are explained variously by interpreters. Some render the passage thus: “From the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived with their ears, and eye hath not seen any god beside Thee, who doth act in such a manner towards him that waiteth for him.” Others understand the discourse as addressed to God, in this manner: “Eye hath not seen, nor hath ear heard, O God, besides thee, the things which thou dost for those that wait for thee.” Literally, however, the Prophet’s meaning is: “From the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor have they perceived with the ears, hath not seen a god, (or O God,) besides thee, will do (or will prepare) for him that waiteth for him.” If we understand אלהים (God) to be in the accusative, the relative who must be supplied. This exposition, too, appears, at first view, to suit better with the Prophet’s context in respect of the verb that follows being used in the third person; 118118     “Assauoir, Fera, or Preparera;” — “Namely — He will do, or He will prepare.” but it is farther removed from Paul’s meaning, on which we ought to place more dependence than on any other consideration. For where shall we find a surer or more faithful interpreter than the Spirit of God of this authoritative declaration, which He himself dictated to Isaiah — in the exposition which He has furnished by the mouth of Paul. With the view of obviating, however, the calumnies of the wicked, I observe that the Hebrew idiom admits of our understanding the Prophets true meaning to be this: “O God, neither hath eye seen, nor hath ear heard: but thou alone knowest the things which thou art wont to do to those that wait for thee.” The sudden change of person forms no objection, as we know that it is so common in the writings of the Prophets, that it needs not be any hindrance in our way. If any one, however, prefers the former interpretation, he will have no occasion for charging either us or the Apostle with departing from the simple meaning of the words, for we supply less than they do, as they are under the necessity of adding a mark of comparison to the verb, rendering it thus: “who doth act in such a manner.”

As to what follows respecting the entering of these things into the heart of man, though the expression is not made use of by the Prophet, it does not differ materially from the clause besides thee For in ascribing this knowledge to God alone, he excludes from it not merely the bodily senses of men, but also the entire faculty of the understanding. While, therefore, the Prophet makes mention only of sight and hearing, he includes at the same time by implication all the faculties of the soul. And without doubt these are the two instruments by which we attain the knowledge of those things that find their way into the understanding. In using the expression them that love him, he has followed the Greek interpreters, who have translated it in this way from having been misled by the resemblance between one letter and another; 119119     The word made use of by Isaiah is מחכה, which is a part of the verb חכה, to wait for, and Calvin’s meaning most probably is, that the “Greek interpreters had (from the resemblance between ב and כ) been led into the mistake of supposing it to be a part of the verb חבב, to love, while the corresponding part of the latter verbמחובב, manifestly differs very widely from the word made use of by the Prophet. There appears, how ever, to have been an oversight, in this instance, on the part of Calvin, as the word in the Septuagint version is not the word made use of by the Apostleἀγαπῶσιν, “them that love” (him,) but (corresponding to the word made use of bythe Prophet ὑπομένουσιν, “them that wait for” (him.) It is not a little singular, that Clemens Romanus (Ep. ad Cor. Sect. 34.) quotes the words of Isaiah precisely as Paul quotes them, with the exception of the last clause, which he gives as follows: ὅσα ἡτοιμασε τοις ὑπομένουσιν αὐτὸν — “which he hath prepared for them that wait for him.” Some have supposed the citation to have been taken from one or other of the two Apocryphal books, entitled, “The Ascension of Esaiah,” and “The Apocalyps of Elias,” in both of which this passage was found, but, as is justly observed by Horne in his Introduction (volume 2,) “it is so near to the Hebrew here both in sense and words, that we cannot suppose it to be taken from any other source, nor in this case would the Apostle have introduced it with the formula of quotation — as it is written.” In accordance with Calvln’s remark, that “though the words are not the same, there is no real difference of meaning,” it is well observed by Poole in his Annotations, that “waiting for” God is “the certain product and effect of love to him.” — Ed but as that did not affect the point in hand, he did not choose to depart from the common reading, as we frequently have occasion to observe how closely he follows the received version. Though the words, therefore, are not the same, there is no real difference of meaning.

I come now to the subject-matter. The Prophet in that passage, when mentioning how signally God had on all occasions befriended his people in their emergencies, exclaims, that his acts of kindness to the pious surpass the comprehension of human intellect. “But what has this to do,” some one will say, “with spiritual doctrine, and the promises of eternal life, as to which Paul is here arguing?” There are three ways in which this question may be answered. There were no inconsistency in affirming that the Prophet, having made mention of earthly blessings, was in consequence of this led on to make a general statement, and even to extol that spiritual blessedness which is laid up in heaven for believers. I prefer, however, to understand him simply as referring to those gifts of God’s grace that are daily conferred upon believers. In these it becomes us always to observe their source, and not to confine our views to their present aspect. Now their source is that unmerited goodness of God, by which he has adopted us into the number of his sons. He, therefore, who would estimate these things aright, will not contemplate them in their naked aspect, but will clothe them with God’s fatherly love, as with a robe, and will thus be led forward from temporal favors to eternal life. It might also be maintained that the argument is from the less to the greater; for if man’s intellect is not competent to measure God’s earthly gifts, how much less will it reach the height of heaven? (John 3:12.) I have, however, already intimated which interpretation I prefer.

10. But God hath revealed them to us. Having shut up all mankind in blindness, and having taken away from the human intellect the power of attaining to a knowledge of God by its own resources, he now shows in what way believers are exempted from this blindness, — by the Lord’s honoring them with a special illumination of the Spirit. Hence the greater the bluntness of the human intellect for understanding the mysteries of God, and the greater the uncertainty under which it labors, so much the surer is our faith, which rests for its support on the revelation of God’s Spirit. In this, too, we recognize the unbounded goodness of God, who makes our defect contribute to our advantage.

For the Spirit searcheth all things This is added for the consolation of the pious, that they may rest more securely in the revelation which they have from the Spirit of God, as though he had said. “Let it suffice us to have the Spirit of God as a witness, for there is nothing in God that is too profound for him to reach.” For such is the import here of the word searcheth By the deep things you must understand — not secret judgments, which we are forbidden to search into, but the entire doctrine of salvation, which would have been to no purpose set before us in the Scriptures, were it not that God elevates our minds to it by his Spirit.




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