(Calvin on Hosea, part 10) Lecture Tenth. Hosea 4:4 Yet let no man strive, nor reprove another: for thy people [are] as they that strive with the priest. The Prophet here deplores the extreme wickedness of the people, that they would bear no admonitions, like those who, being past hope, reject every advice, admit no physicians, and dislike all remedies: and it is a proof of irreclaimable wickedness, when men close their ears and harden their hearts against all salutary counsels. Hence the Prophet intimates, that, together with their great and many corruptions, there was such waywardness, that no one dared to reprove the public vices. He adds this reason, "For the people are as chiders of the priest", or, they really contend with the priest: for some take "caph", in this place, not as expressive of likeness, but as explaining and affirming what is said, 'They altogether strive with the priest.' But I prefer the former sense, which is, that the Prophet calls all the people the censors of their pastors: and we see that froward men become thus insolent when they are reproved; for instantly such an objection as this is made by them, "Am I to be treated like a child? Have I not attained sufficient knowledge to understand how I ought to live?" We daily meet with many such men, who proudly boast of their knowledge, as though they were superior to all Prophets and teachers. And no doubt the ungodly make a show of wit and acuteness in opposing sound doctrine: and then it appears that they have learnt more than what one would have thought, - for what end? only that they may contend with God. Let us now return to the Prophet's words. "But", he says: "ach" is not to be taken here as in many places for "verily:" but it denotes exception, "In the meantime". "But", or, in the meantime, "let no one" chide and reprove another. In a word, the Prophet complains, that while all kinds of wickedness abounded among the people, there was no liberty to teach and to admonish, but that all were so refractory, that they would not bear to hear the word; and that as soon as any one touched their vices, there were great doctors, as they say, ready to reply. And he enlarges on the subject by saying, that they "were as chiders of the priest"; for he declares, that they who, with impunity, conducted themselves so wantonly against God, were not yet content in being so wayward as to repel all reproofs, but also willfully rose up against their own teachers: and, as I have already said, common observation sufficiently proves, that all profane despisers of God are inflated with such confidence, that they dare to attack others. Some conjecture, in this instance, that the priest was so base, as to become liable to universal reprobation; but this conjecture is of no weight, and frigid: for the Prophet here did not draw his pen against a single individual, but, on the contrary, sharply reproved, as we have said, the perverseness of the people, that no one would hearken to a reprover. Let us then know that their diseases were then incurable, when the people became hardened against salutary counsels, and could not bear to be any more reproved. It follows - Hosea 4:5 Therefore shalt thou fall in the day, and the prophet also shall fall with thee in the night, and I will destroy thy mother. The copulative is to be taken here for an illative, "Fall, therefore, shalt thou". Here God denounces vengeance on refractory men; as though he said, "As ye pay no regard to my authority, when by words I reprove you, I will not now deal with you in this way; but I will visit you for this contempt of my word." And thus God is wont to do: he first tries men, or he makes the trial, whether they can be brought to repentance; he severely reproves them, and expostulates with them: but having tried all means by words, he then comes to the last remedy, by exercising his power; for, as it has been said, he deigns no longer to contend with men. Hence the Lord, when he saw that his Prophets were despised, and that their whole teaching was a matter of sport, determined, as it appears from this passage, that the people should shortly be destroyed. Some render "hayom", to-day, and think that a short time is denoted: but as the Prophet immediately subjoins, "And fall together shall the Prophet with thee", "laylah", "in the night", I explain it thus, - that the people would be destroyed together, and then that the Prophets, even those who, in a great measure, brought such vengeance on the people, would be drawn also into the same ruin. Fall shalt thou then in the day, and fall in the night shall the Prophet, that is, "The same destruction shall at the same time include all: but if ruin should not immediately take away the Prophets, they shall not yet escape my hand; they shall follow in their turn." Hence the Prophet joins day and night together in a continued order; as though he said, "I will destroy them all from the first to the last, and no one shall rescue himself from punishment; and if they think that those shall be unpunished who shall be later led to vengeance, they are mistaken; for as the night follows the day, so also some will draw others after them into the same ruin." Yet at the same time the Prophet, I doubt not, means by this metaphor, "the day", that tranquil and joyous time during which the people indulged their pride. He then means that the punishment he predicted would be sudden: for except the ungodly see the hand of God near, they ever, as it has been observed before, laugh to scorn all threatening. God then says that he would punish the people "in the day", even at mid-day, while the sun was shining; and that when the dusk should come, the Prophets would also follow in their turn. It is evident enough that Hosea speaks not here of God's true and faithful ministers, but of impostors, who deceived the people by their blandishments, as it is usually the case: for as soon as any Prophet sincerely wished to discharge his office for God, there came forth flatterers before the public, - "This man is too rigid, and makes a wrong use of God's name, by denouncing so grievous a punishment; we are God's people." Such, then, were the Prophets, we must remember, who are here referred to; for few were those who then faithfully discharged their office; and there was a great number of those who were indulgent to the people and to their vices. It is afterwards added, "I will also consume thy mother". The term, mother, is to be taken here for the Church, on account of which the Israelites, we know, were wont to exult against God; as the Papists do at this day, who boast of their mother church, which, as they say, is their shield of Ajax. When any one points out their corruptions, they instantly flee to this protection, - "What! Are we not the Church of God?" Hence when the Prophet saw that the Israelites made a wrong use of this falsely-assumed title, he said, 'I will also destroy your mother,' that is, "This your boasting, and the dignity of Abraham's race, and the sacred name of Church, will not prevent God from taking dreadful vengeance on you all; for he will tear from the roots and abolish the very name of your mother; he will disperse that smoke of which you boast, inasmuch as you hide your crimes under the title of Church." It follows - Hosea 4:6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children. Here the Prophet distinctly touches on the idleness of the priests, whom the Lord, as it is well known, had set over the people. For though it could not have availed to excuse the people, or to extenuate their fault, that the priests were idle; yet the Prophet justly inveighs against them for not having performed the duty allotted to them by God. But what is said applies not to the priests only; for God, at the same time, indirectly blames the voluntary blindness of the people. For how came it, that pure instruction prevailed not among the Israelites, except that the people especially wished that it should not? Their ignorance, then, as they say, was gross; as is the case with many ungodly men at this day, who not only love darkness, but also draw it around them on every side, that they may have some excuse for their ignorance. God then does here, in the first place, attack the priests, but he includes also the whole people; for teaching prevailed not, as it ought to have done, among them. The Lord also reproaches the Israelites for their ingratitude; for he had kindled among them the light of celestial wisdom; inasmuch as the law, as it is well known, must have been sufficient to direct men in the right way. It was then as though God himself did shine forth from heaven, when he gave them his law. How, then, did the Israelites perish through ignorance? Even because they closed their eyes against the celestial light, because they deigned not to become teachable, so as to learn the wisdom of the eternal Father. We hence see that the guilt of the people, as it has been said, is not here extenuated, but that God, on the contrary, complains, that they had malignantly suppressed the teaching of the law: for the law was fit to guide them. The people perished without knowledge, because they would perish. But the Prophet denounces vengeance on the priests, as well as on the whole people, "Because knowledge hast thou rejected", he says, "I also will thee reject, so that the priesthood thou shalt not discharge for me". This is specifically addressed to the priests: the Lord accuses them of having rejected knowledge. But knowledge, as Malachi says, was to be sought from their lips, (Mal. 2: 7;) and Moses also touches on the same point in Deut. 33: 10. It was then an extreme wickedness in the priests, as though they wished to subvert God's sacred order, when they sought the honor and the dignity of the office without the office itself: and such is the case with the Papists of the present day; they are satisfied with its dignity and its wealth. Mitred bishops are prelates, are chief priests; they vauntingly boast that they are the heads of the Church, and would be deemed equal with the Apostles: at the same time, who of them attends to his office? nay, they think that it would be in a manner a disgrace to give attention to their office and to God's call. We now then see what the Prophet meant by saying, "Because thou hast knowledge rejected, I also will thee reject, so that thou shalt not discharge for me the priesthood". In a word, he shows that the divorce, which the priests attempted to make, was absurd, and contrary to the nature of things, that it was monstrous, and in short impossible. Why? Because they wished to retain the title and its wealth, they wished to be deemed prelates of the Church, without knowledge: God allows not things joined together by a sacred knot to be thus torn asunder. "Dost thou then," he says, "take to thyself the office without knowledge? Nay, as thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also take to myself the honor of the priesthood, which I previously conferred on thee." This is a remarkable passage, and by it we can check the furious boasting of the Papists, when they haughtily force upon us their hierarchy and the order, as they call it, of their clergy, that is, of their corrupt dregs: for God declares by his word, that it is impossible that there should be any priest without knowledge. And further, he would not have priests to be endued with knowledge only, and to be as it were mute; for he would have the treasure deposited with them to be communicated to the whole Church. God then, in speaking of sacerdotal knowledge, includes also preaching. Though one indeed be a literate, as there have been some in our age among the bishops and cardinals, - though then there be such he is not yet to be classed among the learned; for, as it has been said, sacerdotal learning is the treasure of the whole Church. When therefore a boast is made of the priesthood, with no regard to the ministration of the word, it is a mere mockery; for teacher and priest are, as they say, almost convertible terms. We now perceive the meaning of the first clause. It then follows, "Because thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children". Some confine this latter clause to the priests, and think that it forms a part of the same context: but when any one weighs more fully the Prophet's words, he will find that this refers to the body of the people. This Prophet is in his sentences often concise, and so his transitions are various and obscure: now he speaks in his own person, then he assumes the person of God; now he turns his discourse to the people, then he speaks in the third person; now he reproves the priests, then immediately he addresses the whole people. There seemed to be first a common denunciation, 'Thou shalt fall in the day, the Prophet in the night shall follow, and your mother shall perish.' The Prophet now, I doubt not, confirms the same judgment in other words: and, in the first place, he advances this proposition, that the priests were idle, and that the people quenched the light of celestial instruction; afterwards he denounces on the priests the judgment they deserved, 'I will cast thee away,' he says, 'from the priesthood;' now he comes to all the Israelites, and says, "Thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children". Now this fault was doubtless what belonged to the whole people; there was no one exempt from this sin; and this forgetfulness was fitly ascribed to the whole people. For how it happened, that the priests had carelessly shaken off from their shoulders the burden of teaching the people? Even because the people were unwilling to have their ears annoyed: for the ungodly complain that God's servants are troublesome, when they daily cry against their vices. Hence the people gladly entered into a truce with their teachers, that they might not perform their office: thus the oblivion of God's law crept in. As then the Prophet had denounced on the priests their punishment, so he now assures the whole people that God would bring a dreadful judgment on them all, that he would even blot out the whole race of Abraham, "I will forget", he says, "thy children". Why was this? The Lord had made a covenant with Abraham, which was to continue, and to be confirmed to his posterity: they departed from the true faith, they became spurious children; then God rightly testifies here, that he had a just cause why he should no longer count this degenerate people among the children of Abraham. How so? "For ye have forgotten my law," he says: "had you remembered the law, I would also have kept my covenant with you: but I will no more remember my covenant, for you have violated it. Your children, therefore, deserve not to be under finch a covenant, inasmuch as ye are such a people." It follows - Hosea 4:7 As they were increased, so they sinned against me: [therefore] will I change their glory into shame. Here the Prophet amplifies the wickedness and impiety of the people, by adding this circumstance, that they the more perversely wantoned against God, the more bountiful he was to them, yea, when he poured upon them riches in full exuberance. Such a complaint we have before noticed: but the Prophets, we know, did not speak only once of the same thing; when they saw that they effected nothing, that the contempt of God still prevailed, they found it necessary to repeat often what they had previously said. Here then the Prophet accuses the Israelites of having shamefully abused the indulgence of God, of having allowed themselves greater liberty in sinning, when God so kindly and liberally dealt with them. Some confine this to the priests, and think the meaning to be, that they sinned more against God since he increased the Levitical tribe and added to their wealth: but the Prophet, I doubt not, meant to include the whole people. He, indeed, in the last verse, separated the crimes of the priests from those of the people, though in the beginning he advanced a general propositions: he now returns to that statement, which is, that all, from the highest to the lowest, acted impiously and wickedly against God. Now we know that the Israelites had increased in number as well as in wealth; for they were prosperous, as it has been stated, under the second Jeroboam; and thought themselves then extremely happy, because they were filled with every abundance. Hence God shows now that they had become worse and less excusable, for they were grown thus wanton, like a horse well-fed, when he kicks against his own master, - a comparison which even Moses uses in his song, (Deut. 32: 19.) We now see what the Prophet means. Hence, when he says, "kerubam", "according to their multiplying", I explain this not simply of men nor of wealth, but of every kind of blessing: for the Lord here, in a word, accuses the people of ingratitude, because the more kind and liberal he was to them, the more obstinately bent they were on sinning. He afterwards subjoins, "Their glory will I turn to shame". He here denounces God's judgment on proud men, which they feared not: for men, we know, are blinded by prosperity. And it is the worst kind of drunkenness, when we seem to ourselves to be happy; for then we allow ourselves every thing that is contrary to God, and are deaf to all instruction, and are, in short, wholly intractable. But the Prophet says, "I will commute this glory into shame", which means, "There is no reason for them to trust in themselves, and foolishly to impose on themselves, by fixing their eyes on their present splendor; for it is in my power," the Lord says, "to change their glory." We then see that the Prophet meant here to shake off from the Israelites their vain confidence; for they were wont to set up against God their riches, their glory, their power, their horses and chariots. "This is your glorying; but in my hand and power is adversity and prosperity; yea," the Lord says, "on me alone depends the changing of glory into shame." But at the same time, the Prophet intimates, that it could not be that God would thus prostitute his blessings to unworthy men as to swine: for it is a kind of profanation, when men are thus proud against God, while he bears with them, while he spares them. This combination then applies to all who abuse God's kindness; for the Lord intends not that his favor should be thus profaned. It follows - Hosea 4:8 They eat up the sin of my people, and they set their heart on their iniquity. This verse has given occasion to many interpreters to think that all the particulars we have noticed ought to be restricted to the priests alone: but there is no sufficient reason for this. We have already said, that the Prophet is wont frequently to pass from the people to the priests: but as a heavier guilt belonged to the priests, he very often inveighs against them, as he does in this place, "They eat", he says, "the sin of my people, and lift up to their iniquity his soul", that is, 'every one lifts up his own soul,' or, 'they lift up the soul of the sinner by iniquity;' for the pronoun applies to the priests as well as to the people. The number is changed: for he says, "yochelu" and "yis'u" in the plural number, "They will eat the sin, and shall lift up", &c., in the third person; and then "his soul"; it may be, their own; it is, however, a pronoun in the singular number: hence a change of number is necessary. We are then at liberty to choose, whether the Prophet says this of the people or of the priests: and as we have said, it may apply to both, but in a different sense. We may understand him as saying, that the priests lifted up their souls to the iniquity of the people, because they anxiously wished the people to be given to many vices, for they hoped thereby to gain much prey, as the case is, when any one expects a reward from robbers: he is glad to hear that they become rich, for he considers their riches to be for his gain. So it was with the priests, who gaped for lucre; they thought that they were going on well, when the people brought many sacrifices. And this is usually the case, when the doctrine of the law is adulterated, and when the ungodly think that this alone remains for them, - to satisfy God with sacrifices, and similar expiations. Then, if we apply the passage to the priests, the lifting up of the soul is the lust for gain. But if we prefer to apply the words to sinners themselves, the sense is, 'Upon their iniquity they lift up their soul,' that is, the guilty raise up themselves by false comforts, and extenuate their vices; or, by their own flatteries, bury and entirely smother every remnant of God's fear. Then, according to this second sense, to lift up the soul is to deceive, and to take away all doubts by vain comforts, or to remove every sorrow, and to erase every guilt by a false notion. I come now to the meaning of the whole. Though the Prophet here accuses the priests, yet he involves, no doubt, the whole people, and deservedly, in the same guilt: for how was it that the priests expected gain from sacrifices? Even because the doctrine of the law was subverted. God had instituted sacrifices for this end, that whosoever sinned, being reminded of his guilt, might mourn for his sin, and further, that by witnessing that sad spectacle, his conscience might be more wounded: when he saw the innocent animal slain at the altar, he ought to have dreaded God's judgment. Besides, God also intended to exercise the faith of all, in order that they might flee to the expiation which was to be made by the promised Mediator. And at the same time, the penalty which God then laid on sinners, ought to have been as a bridle to restrain them. In a word, the sacrifices had, in every way, this as their object, - to keep the people from being so ready or so prone to sin. But what did the ungodly do? They even mocked God, and thought that they had fully done their duty, when they offered an ox or a lamb; and afterwards they freely indulged themselves in their sins. So gross a folly has been even laughed to scorn by heathen writers. Even Plato has so spoken of such sacrifices, as to show that those who would by such trifles make a bargain with God, are altogether ungodly: and certainly he so speaks in his second book on the Commonwealth, as though he meant to describe the Papacy. For he speaks of purgatory, he speaks of satisfactions; and every thing the Papists of this day bring forward, Plato in that book distinctly sets forth as being altogether sottish and absurd. But yet in all ages this assurance has prevailed, that men have thought themselves delivered from God's hand, when they offered some sacrifice: it is, as they imagine, a compensation. Hence the Prophet now complains of this perversion, "They eat", he says, (for he speaks of a continued act,) "the sins of my people, and to iniquity they lift up the heart of each"; that is, When all sin, one after the other, each one is readily absolved, because he brings a gift to the priests. It is the same thing as though the Prophet said, "There is a collusion between them, between the priests and the people." How so? Because the priests were the associates of robbers, and gladly seized on what was brought: and so they carried on no war, as they ought to have done, with vices, but on the contrary urged only the necessity of sacrifices: and it was enough, if men brought things plentifully to the temple. The people also themselves showed their contempt of God; for they imagined, that provided they made satisfaction by their ceremonial performances, they would be exempt from punishment. Thus then there was an ungodly compact between the priests and the people: the Lord was mocked in the midst of them. We now then understand the real meaning of the Prophet: and thus I prefer the latter exposition as to 'the lifting up of the soul,' which is, that the priests lifted up the soul of each, by relieving their consciences, by soothing words of flattery, and by promising life, as Ezekiel says, to souls doomed to die, (Ezek. 13: 19.) It now follows - Hosea 4:9,10 And there shall be, like people, like priest: and I will punish them for their ways, and reward them their doings. For they shall eat, and not have enough: they shall commit whoredom, and shall not increase: because they have left off to take heed to the LORD. The Prophet here again denounces on both a common punishment, as neither was free from guilt. "As the people", he says, "so shall be the priest"; that is "I will spare neither the one nor the other; for the priest has abused the honor conferred on him; for though divinely appointed over the Church for this purpose, to preserve the people in piety and holy life, he has yet broken through and violated every right principle: and then the people themselves wished to have such teachers, that is, such as were mute. I will therefore now" the Lord says, "inflict punishment on them all alike. As the people then, so shall the priest be." Some go farther, and say, that it means that God would rob the priests of their honor, that they might differ nothing from the people; which is indeed true: but then they think that the Prophet threatens not others as well as the priests; which is not true. For though God, when he punishes the priests and the people for the contempt of his law, blots out the honor of the priesthood, and so abolishes it as to produce an equality between the great and the despised; yet the Prophet declares here, no doubt, that God would become the vindicator of his law against other sinners as well as against the priests. This subject expands wider than what they mean. The rest we must defer till to-morrow. Prayer. Grant, Almighty God, that, since thou hast hitherto so kindly invited us to thyself, and daily invites us, and often interposes also thy threatening to rouse our inattention, and since we have been inattentive to thy reproofs, as well as to thy paternal kindness, - O grant, that we may not, to the last, proceed in this our wickedness, and thus provoke the vengeance thou here denounces on men past recovery; but that we may anticipate thy wrath by true repentance, and be humbled under thy hand, yea, be thy word, that thou mayest receive us into favor, and nourish us in thy paternal bosom, through Christ our Lord. Amen. Calvin on Hosea (continued in part 11...) --------------------------------------------------- file: pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-04: cvhos-10.txt .