(Calvin on Hosea, part 11) Lecture Eleventh. One thing escaped me in yesterday's lecture, on which I shall now briefly touch. It may be asked why the Prophet says, that the priest was to be robbed of his honour, who was not a true nor a legitimate priest; for there was among the Israelites, we know, no temple in which God was rightly worshipped. For though it was customary with them to profess the name of the true God, yet we are aware that all their pretenses were vain. Since the lord had chosen one sanctuary only at Jerusalem, it hence follows, that all the priests among the people of Israel were false. It could not then be that God had taken from them their honor. But it is nothing new for God to punish the ungodly, by taking from them what they seem to possess. The case is the same this day as to the Papacy; for they who vaunt themselves as being clergy and priests are mere apes: as, however, they retain the title, what the Prophet threatened to the false priests of his age may be justly said to them, that their shame shall be made manifest, so that they shall cease to boast of their dignity, by which they now deceive the simple and ignorant. We now then understand the Prophet's meaning: his meaning is the same as when he said before, "I will draw thee to the desert, and then the ephod shall cease, and the seraphim shall cease." There was, we know, no ephod which the Lord approved, except that alone which the legitimate priest did wear: but as there was emulation between the Israelites and the Jews, and as they who had departed from the true and pure worship of God, did yet boast that they worshipped the God of Abraham, the Lord here declares, that he would not suffer them to lurk under such masks. I now return to that passage of the Prophet, in which he says, "They shall eat and shall not be satisfied", and again, "They shall play the wanton and shall not increase; because Jehovah have they left off to attend to". The Prophet here again proclaims the judgment which was nigh the Israelites. And first, he says, "They shall eat and shall not be satisfied"; in which he alludes to the last verse. For the priests gaped for gain, and their only care was to satisfy their appetites. Since then their cupidity was insatiable, which was also the cause why they conceded sinful liberty to the people, he now says, "They shall eat and shall not be satisfied". The Prophet intimates further by these words, that men are not sustained by plenty or abundance of provisions, but rather by the blessing of God: for a person may devour much, yet the quantity, however large, may not satisfy him; and this we find to be often the case as to a voracious appetite; for in such an instance, the staff of bread is broken, that is, the Lord takes away support from bread, so that much eating does not satisfy. And this is the Prophet's meaning, when he says, "They shall eat and shall not be satisfied". The priests thought it a happy time with them, when they gathered great booty from every quarter; God on the contrary declares, that it would be empty and useless to them; for no satisfying effect would follow: however much they might greedily swallow up, they would not yet be satisfied. He afterwards adds, "They shall play the wanton and shall not increase"; that is, "However much they might give the reins to promiscuous lusts, I will not yet suffer them to propagate: so far shall they be from increasing or generating an offspring by lawful marriages, that were they everywhere to indulge in illicit intercourse, they would still continue barren." The Prophet here, in a word, testifies that the ungodly are deceived, when they think that they can obtain their wishes by wicked and unlawful means; for the Lord will frustrate their desires. The avaricious think, when they have much, that they are sufficiently defended against all want; and when penury presses on all others, they think themselves beyond the reach of danger. But the Lord derides this folly: "Gather, gather great heaps; but I will blow on your riches, that they may vanish, or at least yield you no advantage. So also strive to beget children; though one may marry ten wives, or everywhere play the wanton, he shall still remain childless." Thus we see that a just punishment is inflicted on profane men, when they indulge their own lusts: they indeed promise to themselves a happy issue; but God, on the other hand, pronounces upon them his curse. He then adds, "They have left Jehovah to attend", that is that they may not attend or serve him. Here the Prophet points out the source and the chief cause of all evils, and that is, because the Israelites had forsaken the true God and his worship. Though they indeed retained the name of God, and were wont, even boldly, to set up this plea against the Prophets, that they were the children of Abraham, and the chosen of the supreme God, he yet says that they were apostates. How so? Because whosoever keeps faith with God, keeps himself also under the tuition of his word, and wanders not after his own inventions; but the Israelites indulged themselves in any thing they pleased. Since then it is certain that they had shaken off the yoke of the law, it is no wonder that the Prophet says, that they had departed from the Lord. But we ought to notice the confirmation of this truth, that no one can continue to keep faith with God, except he observes his word and remains under its tuition. Let us now proceed - Hosea 4:11 Whoredom and wine and new wine take away the heart. The verb "lakach" means to take away; and this sense is also admissible that wine and wantonness take possession of the heart; but I take its simpler meaning, to take away. But it is not a general truth as most imagine, who regard it a proverbial saying, that wantonness and wine deprive men of their right mind and understanding: on the contrary, it is to be restricted, I doubt not, to the Israelites; as though the Prophet had said, that they were without a right mind, and like brute animals, because drunkenness and fornication had infatuated or fascinated them. But we may take both in a metaphorical sense; as fornication may be superstition, and so also drunkenness: yet it seems more suitable to the context to consider, that the Prophet here reproaches the Israelites for having petulantly cast aside every instruction through being too much given to their pleasures and too much cloyed. Since then the Israelites had been enriched with great plenty, God had given way to abominable indulgences, the Prophet says, that they were without sense: and this is commonly the case with such men. I will not therefore treat here more at large of drunkenness and fornication. It is indeed true, that when any one becomes addicted to wantonness, he loses both modesty and a right mind, and also that wine is as it were poisonous, for it is, as one has said, a mixed poison: and the earth, when it sees its own blood drank up intemperately, takes its revenge on men. These things are true; but let us see what the Prophet meant. Now, as I have said, he simply directs his discourse to the Israelites, and says, that they were sottish and senseless, because the Lord had dealt too liberally with them. For, as I have said, the kingdom of Israel was then very opulent, and full of all kinds of luxury. The Prophet then touches now distinctly on this very thing: "How comes it that ye are now so senseless, that there is not a particle of right understanding among you? Even because ye are given to excesses, because there is among you too large an abundance of all good things: hence it is, that all indulge their own lusts; and these take away your heart." In short, God means here that the Israelites abused his blessings, and that excesses blinded them. This is the meaning. Let us now go on - Hosea 4:12 My people ask counsel at their stocks, and their staff declareth unto them: for the spirit of whoredoms hath caused [them] to err, and they have gone a whoring from under their God. The Prophet calls here the Israelites the people of God, not to honor them, but rather to increase their sin; for the more heinous was the perfidy of the people, that having been chosen, they had afterwards forsaken their heavenly Father. Hence "my people": there is here an implied comparison between all other nations and the seed of Abraham, whom God had adopted; "This is, forsooth! the people whom I designed to be sacred to myself, whom of all nations in the world I have taken to myself: they are my heritage. Now this people, who ought to be mine, consult their own wood, and their staff answers them!" We hence see that it was a grievous and severe reprobation when the Lord reminded them of the invaluable kindness with which he had favored the children of Abraham. So at this day our guilt will be more grievous, if we continue not in the pure worship of God, since God has called us to himself and designed us to be his peculiar flock. The same thing that the Prophet brought against the Israelites may be also brought against the Papists; for as soon as infants are born among them, the Lord signs them with the sacred symbol of baptism; they are therefore in some sense the people of God. We see, at the same time, how gross and abominable are the superstitions which prevail among them: there are none more stupid than they are. Even the Turks and the Saracenes are wise when compared with them. How great, then, and how shameful is this baseness, that the Papists, who boast themselves to be the people of God, should go astray after their own mad follies! But the Prophet says the Israelites "consulted" their own wood, or inquired of wood. He no doubt accuses them here of having transferred the glory of the only true God to their own idols, or fictitious gods. They consult, he says, their own wood, and the "staff" answers them. He seems, in the second clauses to allude to the blind: as when a blind man asks his staff, so he says the Israelites asked counsel of their wood and staff. Some think that superstitions then practiced are here pointed out. The augurs we know used a staff; and it is probable that diviners in the East employed also a staff, or some such thing, in performing their incantations. Others explain these words allegorically, as though wood was false religion, and staff the ungodly prophets. But I am inclined to hold to simplicity. It then seems to me more probable, that the Israelites, as I have already stated, are here condemned for consulting wood or dead idols, instead of the only true God; and that it was the same thing as if a blind man was to ask counsel of his staff, though the staff be without any reason or sense. A staff is indeed useful, but for a different purpose. And thus the Prophet not only contemptuously, but also ironically, exposes to scorn the folly of those who consult their gods of wood and stone; for to do so will no more avail them than if one had a staff for his counselor. He then subjoins, "for the spirit of fornication has deceived them". Here again the Prophet aggravates their guilt, inasmuch as no common blame was to be ascribed to the Israelites; for they were, he says, wholly given to fornication "The spirit", then, "of fornication deceived them": it was the same as if one inflamed with lust ran headlong into evil; as we see to be the case with brutal men when carried away by a blind and shameful passion; for then every distinction between right and wrong disappears from their eyes - no choice is made, no shame is felt. As then such heat of lust is wont sometimes to seize men, that they distinguish nothing, so the Prophet says with the view of shaming the people the more, that they were like those given to fornication, who no longer exercise any judgment, who are restrained by no shame. "The spirit", then, "of fornication has deceived them": but as this similitude often meets us, I shall not dwell upon it. "They have played the wanton", he says, "that they may not obey the Lord". He does not say simply, 'from their God,' but 'from under' "mitachat"; "they have then played the wanton, that they might no more obey God", or continue under his government. We may hence learn what is our spiritual chastity, even when God rules us by his word, when we go not here and there and rashly follow our own superstitions. When we abide then under the government of our God, and with fixed eyes look on him, then we chastely preserve our faithfulness to him. But when we follow idols, we then play the wanton and depart from God. Let us now proceed - Hosea 4:13,14 They sacrifice upon the tops of the mountains, and burn incense upon the hills, under oaks and poplars and elms, because the shadow thereof [is] good: therefore your daughters shall commit whoredom, and your spouses shall commit adultery. I will not punish your daughters when they commit whoredom, nor your spouses when they commit adultery: for themselves are separated with whores, and they sacrifice with harlots: therefore the people [that] doth not understand shall fall. The Prophet shows here more clearly what was the fornication for which he had before condemned the people, - that they worshipped God under trees and on high places. This then is explanatory, for the Prophet defines what he before understood by the word, fornication; and this explanation was especially useful, nay, necessary. For men, we know, will not easily give way, particularly when they can adduce some color for their sins, as is the case with the superstitious: when the Lord condemns their perverted and vicious modes of worship, they instantly cry out, and boldly contend and say, "What! is this to be counted fornication, when we worship God?" For whatever they do from inconsiderate zeal is, they think, free from every blame. So the Papists of this day fix it as a matter beyond dispute that all their modes of worship are approved by God: for though nothing is grounded on his word, yet good intention (as they say) is to them more than a sufficient excuse. Hence they dare proudly to clamour against God, whenever he condemns their corruptions and abuses. Such presumption has doubtless prevailed from the beginning. The Prophet, therefore, deemed it needful openly and distinctly to show to the Israelites, that though they thought themselves to be worshipping God with pious zeal and good intention, they were yet committing fornication. "It is fornication," he says, "when ye sacrifice under trees." "What! has it not ever been a commendable service to offer sacrifices and to burn incense to God?" Such being the design of the Israelites, what was the reason that God was so angry with them? We may suppose them to have fallen into a mistake; yet why did not God bear with this foolish intention, when it was covered, as it has been stated, with honest and specious zeal? But God here sharply reproves the Israelites, however much they pretended a great zeal, and however much they covered their superstitions with the false title of God's worship: "It is nothing else," he says, "but fornication." "On tops of mountains", he says, "they sacrifice, and on hills they burn incense, under the oak and the poplar and the teil-tree", &c. It seemed apparently a laudable thing in the Israelites to build altars in many places; for frequent attendance at the temples might have stirred them up the more in God's worship. Such is the plea of the Papists for filling their temples with pictures; they say, "We are everywhere reminded of God wherever we turn our eyes; and this is very profitable." So also it might have seemed to the Israelites a pious work, to set up God's worship on hills and on tops of mountains and under every tall tree. But God repudiated the whole; he would not be in this manner worshipped: nay, we see that he was grievously displeased. He says, that the faith pledged to him was thus violated; he says, that the people basely committed fornication. Though the Prophet's doctrine is at this day by no means plausible in the world, so that hardly one in ten embraces it; we shall yet contend in vain with the Spirit of God: nothing then is better than to hear our judge; and he pronounces all fictitious modes of worship, however much adorned by a specious guise, to be adulteries and whoredoms. And we hence learn that good intention, with which the Papists so much please themselves, is the mother of all wantonness and of all filthiness. How so? Because it is a high offense against heaven to depart from the word of the Lord: for God had commanded sacrifices and incense to be nowhere offered to him but at Jerusalem. The Israelites transgressed this command. But obedience to God, as it is said in 1 Sam. 15, is of more value with him than all sacrifices. The Prophet also distinctly excludes a device in which the ungodly and hypocrites take great delight: "good:", he says, "was its shade"; that is, they pleased themselves with such devices. So Paul says that there is a show of wisdom in the inventions and ordinances of men, (Col. 2: 23.) Hence, when men undertake voluntary acts of worship, - which the Greeks call "etelotreskeias", superstitions, being nothing else than will-worship, - when men undertake this or that to do honor to God, there appears to them a show of wisdom, but before God it is abomination only. At this practice the Prophet evidently glances, when he says that the shade of the poplar, or of the oak, or of teil-tree, was good; for the ungodly and the hypocrites imagined their worship to be approved of God, and that they surpassed the Jews, who worshipped God only in one place: "Our land is full of altars, and memorials of God present themselves everywhere." But when they thought that they had gained the highest glory by their many altars, the Prophet says, that the shade indeed was good, but that it only pleased wantons, who would not acknowledge their baseness. He afterwards adds, "Therefore your daughters shall play the wanton, and your daughters-in-law shall become adulteresses: I will not visit your daughters and daughters-in-law". Some explain this passage as though the Prophet said, "While the parents were absent, their daughters and daughters-in-law played the wanton." The case is the same at this day; for there is no greater liberty in licentiousness than what prevails during vowed pilgrimages: for when any one wishes to indulge freely in wantonness, she makes a vow to undertake a pilgrimage: an adulterer is ready at hand who offers himself a companion. And again, when the husband is so foolish as to run here and there, he at the same time gives to his wife the opportunity of being licentious. And we know further, that when many women meet at unusual hours in churches, and have their private masses, there are there hidden corners, where they perpetrate all kinds of licentiousness. We know, indeed, that this is very common. But the Prophet's meaning is another: for God here denounces the punishment of which Paul speaks in the first chapter of the Romans, when he says, 'As men have transferred the glory of God to dead things, so God also gave them up to a reprobate mind,' that they might discern nothing, and abandon themselves to every thing shameful, and even prostitute their own bodies. Let us then know, that when just and due honor is not rendered to God, this vengeance deservedly follows, that men become covered with infamy. Why so? Because nothing is more equitable than that God should vindicate his own glory, when men corrupt and adulterate it: for why should then any honor remain to them? And why, on the contrary, should not God sink them at once in some extreme baseness? Let us then know, that this is a just punishment, when adulteries prevail, and when vagrant lusts promiscuously follow. He then who worships not God, shall have at home an adulterous wife, and filthy strumpets as his daughters, boldly playing the wanton, and he shall have also adulterous daughters-in-law: not that the Prophet speaks only of what would take place; but he shows that such would be the vengeance that God would take: 'Your daughters therefore shall play the wanton, and your daughters-in-law shall be adulteresses;' and "I will not punish your daughters and your daughters-in-law"; that is, "I will not correct them for their scandalous conduct; for I wish them to be exposed to infamy." For this truth must ever stand firm, 'Him who honors me, I will honor: and him who despises my name, I will make contemptible and ignominious,' (1 Sam. 2: 30.) God then declares that he will not visit these crimes, because he designed in this way to punish the ungodly, by whom his own worship had been corrupted. He says, "Because they with strumpets separate themselves". Some explain this verb "parad" as meaning, "They divide husbands from their wives:" but the Prophet, no doubt, means, that they separated themselves from God, in the same manner as a wife does, when she leaves her husband and gives herself up to an adulterer. The Prophet then uses the word allegorically, or at least metaphorically: and a reason is given, which they do not understand who take this passage as referring literally to adulteries; and their mistake is sufficiently proved to be so by the next clause, 'and with strumpets they sacrifice.' The separation then of which he speaks is this, that they sacrificed with strumpets; which they could not do without violating their faith pledged to God. We now apprehend the Prophet's real meaning: 'I will not punish,' he says, 'wantonness and adulteries in your families.' Why? "Because I would have you to be made infamous, for ye have first played the wanton." But there is a change of person; and this ought to be observed: for he ought to have carried on his discourse throughout in the second person, and to have said, "Because ye have separated with strumpets, and accompany harlots;" this is the way in which he ought to have spoken: but through excess, as it were, of indignation, he makes a change in his address, 'They,' he says, 'have played the wanton,' as though he deemed them unworthy of being spoken to. They have then played the wanton with strumpets. By "strumpets", he doubtless understands the corruptions by which God's worship had been perverted, even through wantonness: "they sacrifice", he says, "with strumpets", that is, they forsake the true God, and resort to whatever pollutions they please; and this is to play the wanton, as when a husband, leaving his wife, or when a wife, leaving her husband, abandon themselves to filthy lust. But it is nothing strange or unwonted for sins to be punished by other sins. What Paul teaches ought especially to be borne in mind, that God, as the avenger of his own glory, gives men up to a reprobate mind, and suffers them to be covered with many most disgraceful things; for he cannot bear with them, when they turn his glory to shame and his truth to a lie. He afterwards adds, "And the people, not understanding, shall stumble". They who take the verb "lavat as meaning, "to be perverted," understand it here in the sense of being "perplexed:" nor is this sense inappropriate. "The people then shall not understand and be perplexed;" that is, They shall not know the right way. But the word means also "to stumble," and still oftener "to fall;" and since this is the more received sense, I am disposed to embrace it: "The people" then, "not understanding, shall stumble". The Prophet here teaches, that the pretence of ignorance is of no weight before God, though hypocrites are wont to flee to this at last. When they find themselves without any excuse they run to this asylum, - "But I thought that I was doing right; I am deceived: but be it so, it is a pardonable mistake." The Prophet here declares these excuses to be vain and fallacious; for the people, who understand not, shall stumble and that deservedly: for how came this ignorance to be in the people of Israel, but that they, as it has been before said, willfully closed their eyes against the light? When, therefore, men thus willfully determine to be blind, it is no wonder that the Lord delivers them up to final destruction. But if they now flatter themselves by pretending, as I have already said, a mistake, the Lord will shake off this false confidence, and does now shake it off by his word. What then ought we to do? To learn knowledge from his word; for this is our wisdom and our understanding, as Moses says, in the fourth chapter of Deuteronomy. Prayer. Grant, Almighty God, that inasmuch as we are so disposed and inclined to all kinds of errors, to so many and so various forms of superstitions, and as Satan also ceases not to lay in wait for us, and spreads before us his many snares, - O grant, that we may be so preserved in obedience to thee by the teaching of thy word, that we may never turn here and there, either to the right hand or to the left, but continue in that pure worship, which thou hast prescribed, so that we may plainly testify that thou art indeed our Father by continuing under the protection of thy only-begotten Son, whom thou hast given to be our pastor and ruler to the end. Amen. Calvin on Hosea (continued in part 12...) --------------------------------------------------- file: pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-04: cvhos-11.txt .