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19

He will again have compassion upon us;

he will tread our iniquities under foot.

You will cast all our sins

into the depths of the sea.

20

You will show faithfulness to Jacob

and unswerving loyalty to Abraham,

as you have sworn to our ancestors

from the days of old.


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The Prophet now prescribes to the faithful a form of glorying, that they may boldly declare that God will be pacified towards them. Since then God loves mercy, he will return, he will have mercy on us The context here ought to be observed by us; for it would avail us but little to understand, I know not what, concerning God’s mercy, and to preach in general the free remission of sins, except we come to the application, that is, except each of the faithful believed that God, for his own sake, is merciful, as soon as he is called upon. This conclusion, then, is to be borne in mind, — “God forgives the remnant of his heritage, because he is by nature inclined to show mercy: he will therefore be merciful to us, for we are of the number of his people.” Except we lay hold on this conclusion, “He will therefore show mercy to us,” whatever we have heard or said respecting God’s goodness will vanish away.

This then is the true logic of religion, that is, when we are persuaded that God is reconcilable and easily pacified, because he is by nature inclined to mercy, and also, when we thus apply this doctrine to ourselves, or to our own peculiar benefit, — As God is by nature merciful, I shall therefore know and find him to be so. Until then we be thus persuaded, let us know that we have made but little progress in the school of God. And hence it appears very clear from this passage, that the Papacy is a horrible abyss; for no one under that system can have a firm footing, so as to be fully persuaded that God will be merciful to him; for all that they have are mere conjectures. But we see that the Prophet reasons very differently, God loves mercy; he will therefore have mercy on us: and then he adds, He will return; 202202     Grotius, Dathius, and Henderson, consider that this verb, placed before another, without a conjunction, expresses only a reiteration; and they render it adverbially, “again.” But, in this place, it would be better to give it its proper meaning; for as God is said to depart from his people, Hosea 9:12, so he may be said also to return. The Septuagint renders it επιστρεψει—He will return. Drusius reads, convertetur, scil. Ab ira suaHe will turn, that is, from his anger. Newcome’s version is, “He will turn again.” — Ed. and this is said lest the temporary wrath or severity of God should disquiet us. Though God then may not immediately shine on us with his favor, but, on the contrary, treat us sharply and roughly, yet the Prophet teaches us that we are to entertain good hope. — How so? He will return, or, as he said shortly before, He will not retain perpetually his wrath: for it is for a moment that he is angry with his Church; and he soon remembers mercy.

The Prophet now specifies what sort of mercy God shows to the faithful, For he will tread down our iniquities; he had said before that he passes by the wickedness of his elect people. He will then tread down our iniquities; and he will cast 203203     There is a mistake as to this verb; it is the second person, as are all the verbs which follow. The Prophet resumes here his address to God, which he commenced in the two first lines of the last verse. To show the difference between what he speaks to and what he speaks of God, the whole passage shall be here given, —
   18. What God is like thee!
Taking away iniquity, and passing over transgression!
Against the remnant of his heritage
He retains not forever his anger;
For a lover of mercy
is He;

   19. He will return, he will pity us,
He will subdue our iniquities:

Yea, thou wilt cast into the depths of the sea all their sins;
Thou wilt show faithfulness to Jacob, mercy to Abraham,
Which thou swarest to our fathers in the days of old.

   “Pity,” רטחם, is tender compassion; the noun in the plural number is used to designate the bowels. “Subdue,” or trample under foot, is rendered “cover” by Newcome, on the ground of this being the meaning of כבש in Chaldee. This wholly destroys the striking character of the passage. Our sins are here represented as our enemies; God subdues them; and then in the next line the simile is continued, they are to be drowned like Pharaoh and his hosts in the depths of the sea. Henderson’s remarks on this point are very excellent. “There is no ground,” he says, “for rejecting the radical idea of trampling under foot as enemies. Sin must ever be regarded as hostile to man. It is not only contrary to his interests, but it powerfully opposes and combats the moral principles of his nature, and the higher principles implanted by grace; and but for the counteracting energy of divine influence, must prove victorious. Without the subjugation of evil propensities, pardon would not be a blessing.” — Ed.
into the depth of the sea all their sins; that is our sins shall not come in remembrance before him. We hence learn what I have said before — that God cannot be worshipped sincerely and from the heart until this conviction be fixed and deeply rooted in our hearts, that God is merciful, not in general, but toward us, because we have been once adopted by him and are his heritage. And then were the greater part to fall away, we should not fail in our faith; for God preserves the remnant in a wonderful manner. And lastly, let us know, that whenever we flee to God for mercy, pardon is ever ready for us, not that we may indulge in sin, or take liberty to commit it, but that we may confess our faults and that our guilt may appear before our eyes: let us know, that the door is open to us; for God of his own good will presents himself to us as one ready to be reconciled.

It is also said, He will cast our sins into the depth of the sea. We hence learn that there is a full remission of sins, not half as the Papists imagine, for God, they say, remits the sin, but retains the punishment. How frivolous this is, the thing itself clearly proves. The language of the Prophet does however import this, that our sins are then remitted when the records of them are blotted out before God. It follows — for I will run over this verse, that I may today finish this Prophet —

The faithful confirm here the former truth, that God had deposited his covenant with them, which could not be made void: and hence also shines forth more clearly what I have said before, that the faithful do not learn by their own understanding what sort of Being God is, but embrace the mercy which he offers in his own word. Except God then speaks, we cannot form in our own minds any idea of his grace but what is uncertain and vanishing; but when he declares that he will be merciful to us, then every doubt is removed. This is now the course which the Prophet pursues.

He says, Thou wilt give truth to Jacob, mercy to Abraham, which thou hast sworn to our fathers; as though he said, “We do not presumptuously invent any thing out of our own minds, but receive what thou hast once testified to us; for thy will has been made known to us in thy word: relying then on thy favor, we are persuaded as to thy gratuitous pardon, though we are in many respects guilty before thee.” We now then understand the design of the Prophet.

As to the words, it is not necessary to dwell on them, for we have elsewhere explained this form of speaking. There are here two expressions by which the Prophet characterizes the covenant of God. Truth is mentioned, and mercy is mentioned. With respect to order, the mercy of God precedes; for he is not induced otherwise to adopt us than through his goodness alone: but as God of his own will has with so great kindness received us, so he is true and faithful in his covenant. If then we desire to know the character of God’s covenant, by which he formerly chose the Jews, and at this day adopts us as his people, these two things must be understood, that God freely offers himself to us, and that he is constant and true, he repents not, as Paul says, as to his covenant: The gifts and calling of God, he says, are without repentance, (Romans 11:29;) and he refers to the covenant, by which God adopted the children of Abraham.

He says now, Thou wilt give, that is, show in reality; for this, to give, is, as it were, to exhibit in effect or really. Thou will then give, that is, openly show, that thou hast not been in vain so kind to us and ours, in receiving them into favor. How so? Because the effect of thy goodness and truth appears to us.

Thou hast then sworn to our fathers from the days of old. The faithful take for granted that God had promised to the fathers that his covenant would be perpetual; for he did not only say to Abraham, I will be thy God, but he also added, and of thy seed for ever. Since, then, the faithful knew that the covenant of God was to be perpetual and inviolable, and also knew that it was to be continued from the fathers to their children, and that it was once promulgated for this end, that the fathers might deliver it as by the hand to their children; they therefore doubted not but that it would be perpetual. How so? for thou hast sworn to our fathers; that is, they knew that God not only promised, but that having interposed an oath, by which God designed to confirm that covenant, he greatly honored it, that it might be unhesitatingly received by the chosen people. As then the faithful knew that God in a manner bound himself to them, they confidently solicited him, really to show himself to be such as he had declared he would be to his own elect.




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