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The Vision of the Scroll


He said to me: O mortal, stand up on your feet, and I will speak with you. 2And when he spoke to me, a spirit entered into me and set me on my feet; and I heard him speaking to me. 3He said to me, Mortal, I am sending you to the people of Israel, to a nation of rebels who have rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have transgressed against me to this very day. 4The descendants are impudent and stubborn. I am sending you to them, and you shall say to them, “Thus says the Lord G od.” 5Whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house), they shall know that there has been a prophet among them. 6And you, O mortal, do not be afraid of them, and do not be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns surround you and you live among scorpions; do not be afraid of their words, and do not be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious house. 7You shall speak my words to them, whether they hear or refuse to hear; for they are a rebellious house.

8 But you, mortal, hear what I say to you; do not be rebellious like that rebellious house; open your mouth and eat what I give you. 9I looked, and a hand was stretched out to me, and a written scroll was in it. 10He spread it before me; it had writing on the front and on the back, and written on it were words of lamentation and mourning and woe.

Here God again commands his servant to break forth boldly, even if the people deny him all approach through their malice and wickedness. But because we often fail through terror; God arms his Prophet with impregnable confidence against the threats of the people, and then against all discourses of every sort. He brings forward no other reason than they are a rebellious house, or a rebellious and perverse nation. For we said, though at the first glance it might seem cold, yet it suffices to animate the servants of God to know that he commands nothing rashly, and when they acknowledge that God is pleased by their spending their breath upon the deaf, yet they do not cease to discharge their duty, although they fatigue themselves in vain as far as the world is concerned. But now when this thought is added, that God will take care of his own servants, it doubles their confidence and good spirits. Thus it happens, that all threats and terrors being despised, they discharge their duty boldly. For this reason he now says, thou, son of man, do not be afraid of them, nor be terrified at their words By “words,” I do not understand simply threats but calumnies by which we know the servants of God to be oppressed. For hypocrites rise up with great confidence and complain of the injury done to them, and then presumptuously take upon themselves the name of God, as at this time the Papists not only vomit out threats by which they disturb us, but haughtily boast themselves to be the Church, and confirm this by perpetual succession; then they say that the Church never is without the Holy Spirit, and hence it cannot happen that God should ever desert them. We see, therefore, that the domestic enemies of God not only use threats against his servants, but at the same time bring many false pretenses by which they load the true and faithful Prophets with envy and hatred. But, however such calumnies have some appearance of truth when its enemies unjustly press us, God orders us to proceed with unconquered fortitude. Be not afraid, therefore, he says, of either them, or their words And since the same phrase is repeated shortly afterwards, hence we infer that it has no common meaning. It is therefore worthy of observation, that God once, yea twice, pronounces that we ought not to fear their words who boast themselves to be the Church of God, and doubt not petulantly to render that sacred name a laughing-stock by their use of it. Since, therefore, God allows us to despise language of this kind, there is no reason why the Papists of this day should daunt us, when, with inflated cheeks, they thunder out the name of the Church and the Apostolic authority; for just honor is not attributed to God, unless every lofty thing in the world is compelled to obey him, so that the doctrine alone may shine forth which comes direct from the mouth of God.

Now he adjoins, because, (or although, for this causal particle may be resolved adversatively,) however rebellious they may be, and like thorns, however thou mayest dwell among scorpions, yet do not fear their words, and do not be broken down by their appearance, חתת, chetheth, signifies to be rubbed and broken, and it is here transferred to the mind, and is to be metaphorically understood for being broken in spirit, as if it had been said, be thou intrepid in receiving all threats and calumnies, because they are a rebellious house This passage teaches us that none are fit to undertake the prophetic office, unless those who are armed with fortitude and perseverance whatever may happen, so that they do not fear any threats, nor hesitate or vacillate when oppressed by unjust calamities. So Paul says, (2 Corinthians 6:8,) that he persevered through both evil report and good report, although he was unworthily slandered by the wicked. Whoever, therefore, wishes to prepare himself faithfully for undertaking the office of a teacher, should be endued with such constancy that he may oppose, as it were, an iron front to all calumnies and curses, threats and terrors.

We cannot doubt but that the Israelites were much enraged when they heard themselves called thorns and scorpions. But they ought to be thus stung, since if they had been attacking a mortal man only, they would conduct themselves far more petulantly. But when God pronounces them scorpions and thorns, and they see the Prophet performing commands of this kind fearlessly and without hesitation, they are necessarily impelled to either fury or silence. But when they have striven to the very last in their obstinacy and hardness, yet God at length causes them to yield through shame, because truth has prevailed, of which the Prophet was a minister endued with such great fortitude of mind. We also perceive from this passage, that the Prophets often spoke with great asperity when the wickedness of those with whom they had to deal required it: yet they were not hurried away into any excess, or carried forward with intemperance against their adversaries. But they could not in any other way vindicate their doctrine against the wicked, who, impelled by a diabolical fury, strove with even God himself. We must hold, therefore, that although they were cruel and severe in language, yet they breathed pure humanity from the heart. For our Prophet was not a barbarous man, who excited by indignation, vomited out coarse reproaches against his own people, but the Spirit of God dictated, as we see, what might seem too severe to soft and delicate ears.

Again he repeats what he had said, with but the change of a few words, yet the meaning is the same, that the Prophet should not desist in the midst of his course, if he saw that he did not obtain what he wished and hoped for. For when we apply ourselves to what God commands, we ought to be of good cheer, and expect that some fruit of our labor may appear. We may, therefore, indulge both hopes and wishes, but if it should turn out otherwise than we anticipated, yet we ought to leave the result in the hands of God, and to proceed even to the goal in the discharge of our duty. To this end this sentence tends: thou, says he, shalt utter my words, or pronounce my words, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear: that is, even if you sing a song to the deaf, according to the proverb, yet you shall not cease to utter my words: and he adds the reason, because they are a rebellious house. God admonishes his servant beforehand, that there was no reason why he should turn back although he should see no fruit of his labors, because he ought to determine this in his mind, although they have no ears yet he must speak in God’s name. It is certain, as we mentioned yesterday, that there were some, though few in number, to whom his teaching was useful, but he treats here of the people at large. We must learn, therefore, when God calls us to the office of teaching, not to regard the conduct of mankind. For if it please God to exercise us while we strive with the rebellious and refractory, yet God’s word must be uttered, because he commands it. It follows —

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