(Calvin on Hosea, part 37) Lecture Thirty-seventh. "Take with you words and turn to Jehovah and say to him, Take away all iniquity, and bring good, and we will pay thee the calves of our lips". We mentioned in our last lecture the sort of words the Prophet here bids the Israelites to take, while exhorting them to repent: for as they had been hitherto deaf and mute, he commands them to be not only attentive to the word of the Lord, but also prompt to respond, that there might be a mutual consent between the doctrine heard and their own confession. He now explains himself and says, "Take away all iniquity, and bring good". These are the words with which he bids them to come to God. He dictates to them the confession which the Lord requires. He first bids them to ask remission and the pardon of sins; for if a sinner desires to return into favour with God, and yet does not confess his guilt, he adopts a way the most strange. The very beginning must be a confession, such as the Prophet here describes. For the Israelites, by asking God to remit their sins, at the same time confessed themselves to be guilty before Him; yea, they condemned themselves that they might obtain gratuitous absolution. And emphatical is what they said, "Take away all iniquity". Thus they confessed themselves to be guilty not only of one sin, but also of many sins, for which God might justly punish them, had he not been propitious to them. In short, they acknowledge here their various and multiplied guilt. But they add, "Bring good". This sentence is commonly explained as if the Israelites said, that they had hitherto been barren and empty of good works, but that now being reconciled, they would be useful and profitable servants of God. But this sense seems not to me suitable to this place; for he afterwards subjoins the evidence of gratitude, "We shall pay the calves of our lips". He here speaks, I doubt not, of God's blessing, which flows from the gratuitous pardon of sins: for God does not simply receive us into favour, but also really shows that he is not in vain reconciled to us; for he adds the fruits of his paternal love, by favouring us with his kindness. As then the Prophet commanded the Israelites to bring words before God, so now he introduces them as praying that God would bring good: and Scripture is wont commonly to join these two together, - the favour of God, by which he freely remits sins, - and his blessing, which he grants to his children, after he has embraced them in his paternal love. Hence bring good; that is, "O Lord, first receive us into favour, and then prove in reality that thou art propitious to us, even by outward benefits." It now follows, "And we shall pay, or render, the calves of our lips". In this passage, the faithful confess that they have nothing with which they can pay God in return, when he has bountifully granted them all things, except that they will celebrate his goodness in their praises, and confess that they owe all things to him. This is then a remarkable passage; for it sets forth God's goodness towards men, and then it teaches that men can render no mutual compensation, but can only bring praises by which they celebrate God's goodness, and nothing more, as it is said in Ps. 116, 'What shall I repay the Lord for all the benefits which he has conferred on me? The cup of salvation will I take, and on the name of the Lord will I call.' There also the Prophet testifies that God is not liberal towards men because he expects or demands any thing from them, for what can they give? but that he still requires thanksgiving, and that he is content with the sacrifice of praise, as we find it also said in Ps. 50. But we learn the same thing from this passage, "O Lord, they says bring good"; that is, "Though we have in various ways exposed ourselves to thy judgement, having by our innumerable sins provoked thy wrath, yet let thy goodness surpass all our iniquities; having made us clean, bring also that good which has been hitherto, as it were, far away from us." For while God shows signs of his wrath, we are destitute of all his blessings. They therefore ask God, after restoring them to favour, to manifest to them his kindness. And what do they at last say? "O Lords we promise thee no compensation, for thou requires none, nor is it in our power to give any; but we will pay to thee the calves of the lips;" that is, "We will confess that we owe all things to thee; for it is only the sacrifice of praise that we can render thee, when thou hast loaded us with all kinds of blessings." And calves of the lips the Prophet fitly calls the praises which God requires as the chief sacrifice; for under the law, some offered calves when they paged their vows. But the Prophet shows that God regards not external sacrifices, but only those exercises which men perform in another way, even the sacrifices of thanksgiving. This then is the meaning of the metaphor; as though he said, "The calves which are wont to be offered are not the true sacrifices in which God delights, but tend rather to show that men are to offer praise to God." We now then perceive the meaning of this verse. It follows - Hosea 14:3 Asshur shall not save us; we will not ride upon horses: neither will we say any more to the work of our hands, [Ye are] our gods: for in thee the fatherless findeth mercy. This verse ought to be joined with the last, as the Israelites show here more clearly and fully in what they had sinned, and, at the same time, give proof of their repentance; for when they say, "The Assyrian shall not save us, we shall not mount on horses, we shall not say to the work of hands, Our gods", it is to be understood as a confession, that they had in these various ways roused against themselves the vengeance of God; for they had hoped for safety from the Assyrians, ran here and there, and had thus alienated themselves from God; they had also fled to statues and idols, and had transferred to dumb images the honour due to the only true God. We hence see, that though the faithful speak of future time, they yet indirectly confess that they had grievously sinned, had forsaken the only true God, and transferred their hopes to others, either to the Assyrians or to fictitious gods. But at the same time, they promise to be different in future; as though he said, that they would not only be grateful to God in celebrating his praises, but that their way of living would be also new, so as not to abuse the goodness of God. This is the substance of what is here said. By saying, "The Assyrian shall not save us", they doubtless condemned, as I have already stated, the false confidence with which they were before deluded, when they sought deliverance by means of the Assyrians. There is, indeed, no doubt, but that the Israelites were ever wont to pretend to trust in the name of God; but in thinking themselves lost without the succour of the Assyrians, they most certainly defrauded God of his just honour, and adorned men with spoils taken from him. For except we be convinced that God alone is sufficient for us, even when all earthly aids fail us, we do not place in him our hope of salvation; but, on the contrary, transfer to mortals what belongs alone to him. For this sacrilege the Israelites therefore condemn themselves, and, at the same time, show that the fruit of their repentance would be, to set their minds on God, so as not to be drawn here and there as before, or to think that they could be preserved through the help of men. Let us hence learn, that men turn not to God, except when they bid adieu to all creatures, and no longer fix their hopes on them. This is one thing. What follows, "On a horse we shall not mount", may be explained in two ways; - as though they said, that they would no longer be so mad as to be proud of their own power, or consider themselves safe because they were well furnished with horses and chariots; - but the clause may be more simply explained, as meaning, that they would not as before wander here and there to procure for themselves auxiliaries; "We shall not then mount a horse", but continue quiet in our country; and this sense seems more appropriate. I do not then think that the Prophet brings forward any new idea, but I read the two sentences conjointly, "The Assyrian shall not save us, we shall not then mount on a horse", that is, that we may ride in haste; for they had wearied themselves before with long journeys: as soon as any danger was at hand, they went away afar off into Assyria to seek help, when God commanded them to remain quiet. The meaning of this will be better understood by referring to other passages, which correspond with what is here said. God says by Isaiah, 'On horses mount not; but ye said, We will mount: then mount,' says he, (Isa. 30: 16.) Here is a striking intimation, that the Jews against God's will rode and hastened to seek aids. "I see you," he says, "to be very prompt and swift: then mount, but it shall be for the purpose of fleeing." We see what was the design of this reproof of the Prophet; it was to show that the Jews, who ought to have remained still and quiet, fled here and there for the sake of seeking assistance. So also in this place, when they would show the fruit of their repentance, they say, "We will not hereafter mount a horse, for the Lord, who promises to be our aid, is not to be sought as one far off: we will not then any more fatigue ourselves in vain." It seems to me that this is what is meant by the Prophet. Then he adds, "And we shall not say, Our gods, to the work of our hands". As they had spoken of the false trust they placed in men, so now they condemn their own superstition. And these are the two pests which are wont to bring destruction on men; for nothing is more ruinous than to transfer our hope from God; and this is done in two ways, either when men trust in their own strength, or pride themselves on human aids and despise God, as if they can be safe without him, - or when they give up themselves to false superstitions. Both these diseases ever prevail in the world, when men entangle themselves in their own superstitions, and form for themselves new gods, from whom they expect safety; as we see to be the case with those under the Papacy. God is almost of no account with them, Christ is not sufficient. For how comes it that they contrive so many patrons for themselves, that they devise so many guardianships, except that they despise the help of God, or so extenuate it, that they dare not to hope for salvation from him? We hence see that superstition draws men away from God, and becomes thus the cause of the worst destruction. But there are some, who are not thus given up to superstitions, but who derive a hope from their own velour or wisdom; for the children of this world are inflated with their own strength; and when princes have their armies prepared, when they have fortified cities, when they possess abundance of money, when they are strengthened by many compacts, they are blinded with false confidence. So then this verse teaches us, that these are two destructive pests, which commonly draw men away from real safety; and if then we would repent sincerely from the heart, we must purge our minds from these two evils, so that we may not ascribe any thing to our own strength or to earthly helps, nor form any idols to be in the place of God, but feel assured that God alone is a sufficient help to us. But it follows, "For in thee" will the fatherless find "mercy". Here the Israelites show that it is necessary for us to be depressed that we may remain dependent on God alone; for those are compared to the fatherless who are so humbled, that they cast away all vain hopes, and, conscious of their nakedness and want, recumb on God alone. Hence, that God's mercy may find a way open to come to us, we must become fatherless. Now what this metaphor means is well known to us. The fatherless, we know, are, first, destitute of aid, and, secondly, of wisdom; and they are also without strength. They are then dependent on the aid of another, and stand in need of direction; in short, their safety depends on the assistance of others. Thus, also, we are really fatherless, when we rely not on our own prudence, nor recumb on our own strength, nor think that we can be safe through the aids which come from the earth, but cast all our hopes and cares on God alone. This is one thing. "The fatherless" then shall find mercy "in thee"; that is, "When thou, Lord, dost so afflict us, that we become wholly cast down, then we shall find mercy in thee; and this mercy will be sufficient for us, so that we shall no more wander and be drawn aside by false devices, as it has hitherto been the case with us." When, therefore, they say, in God will the fatherless find mercy, they mean that the grace offered by the Lord will be sufficient, so that there will be no need any more of seeking aid from any other. We now understand what the Prophet means in this verse. It follows - Hosea 14:4 I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him. God here confirms what we have observed respecting his gratuitous reconciliation, nor is the repetition useless; for as men are disposed to entertain vain and false hopes, so nothing is more difficult than to preserve them in dependence on the one God, and to pacify their minds, so that they disturb not nor fret themselves, as experience teaches us all. For when we embrace the promises of free pardon, our flesh ever leads us to distrust, and we become harassed by various fancies. "What! can you or dare you promise with certainty to yourself that God will be propitious to you, when you know that for many reasons he is justly angry with you?" Since, then, we are so inclined to harbour distrust, the Prophet again confirms the truth which we have before noticed, which is, that God is ready to be reconciled, and that he desires nothing more than to receive and embrace his people. Hence he says, "I will heal their defections". The way of healing is by a gratuitous pardon. For though God, by regenerating us by his Spirit, heals our rebellion, that is, subdues us unto obedience, and removes from us our corruptions, which stimulate us to sin; yet in this place the Prophet no doubt declares in the person of God, that the Israelites would be saved from their defections, so that they might not come against them in judgement, nor be imputed to them. Let us know then that God is in two respects a physician while he is healing our sins: he cleanses us by his Spirit, and he abolishes and buries all our offences. But it is of the second kind of healing that the Prophet now speaks, when he says, I will heal their turnings away: and he employs a strong term, for he might have said, "your faults or errors" but he says, "your defections from God;" as though he said, "Though they have so grievously sinned, that by their crimes they have deserved hundred deaths, yet I will heal them from these their atrocious sins, and I will love them freely." The word "nedavah" may be explained either freely or bountifully. I will then love them bountifully, that is, with an abounding and not a common love; or I will love them freely, that is gratuitously. But they who render the words "I will love them of mine own accord," that is, not by constraint, pervert the sense of the Prophet; for how frigid is the expression, that God is not forced to love us; and what meaning can hence be elicited? But the Lord is said to love us freely, because he finds in us no cause of love, for we are unworthy of being regarded or viewed with any favour; but he shows himself liberal and beneficent in this very act of manifesting his love to the unworthy. We then perceive that the real meaning of the Prophet is this, that though the Israelites had in various ways provoked the wrath of God, and as it were designedly wished to perish, and to have him to be angry with them; yet the Lord promises to be propitious to them. In what way? Even in this, for he will give proof of his bounty, when he will thus gratuitously embrace them. We now see how God becomes a Father to us, and regards us as his children, even when he abolishes our sins, and also when he freely admits us to the enjoyment of his love. And this truth ought to be carefully observed; for the world ever imagines that they come to God, and bring something by which they can turn or incline him to love them. Nothing can be more inimical to our salvation than this vain fancy. Let us then learn from this passage, that God cannot be otherwise a Father to us than by becoming our physician and by healing our transgressions. But the order also is remarkable, for God puts love after healing. Why? Because, as he is just, it must be that he regards us with hatred as long as he imputes sins. It is then the beginning of love, when he cleanses us from our vices, and wipes away our spots. When therefore it is asked, how God loves men, the answer is, that he begins to love them by a gratuitous pardon; for while God imputes sins, it must be that men are hated by him. He then commences to love us, when he heals our diseases. It is not without reason that he adds, that "the fury" of God "is turned away from Israel". For the Prophet intended to add this as a seal to confirm what he taught; for men ever dispute with themselves when they hear that God is propitious to them. "How is this, that he heals thine infirmities? for hitherto thou hast found him to be angry with thee, and how art thou now persuaded that his wrath is pacified?" Hence the Prophet seals his testimony respecting God's love, when he says, that his wrath has now ceased. Turned away then is my fury. "Though hitherto I have by many proofs, manifested to thee my wrath, yet I now come to thee as one changed. Judge me not then by past time, for I am now pacified to thee, and my fury is from thee turned away." It follows - Hosea 14:5 I will be as the dew unto Israel: he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon. The Prophet now again repeats what he had said, that God, after restoring the people to favour, would be so beneficent, as to render apparent the fruit of reconciliation. Seeing that the Israelites had been afflicted, they ought to have imputed this to their own sins, they ought to have perceived by such proofs, the wrath of God. They had been so stupid as to have on the contrary imagined, that their adversities happened to them by chance. The Prophet had been much engaged in teaching this truth, that the Israelites would be ever miserable until they turned to God, and also, that all their affairs would be unhappy until they obtained pardon. He now speaks of a change, that God would not only by words show himself propitious to them, but would also give a proof by which the Israelites might know that they were now blessed, because they had been reconciled to God; for his blessing would be the fruit of his gratuitous love. Thus then ought this sentence, "I will be to Israel as the dew", to be connected: He intimates that they were before dry, because they had been deprived of God's favour. He compares them to a rose or lily: for when the fields or meadows are burnt up by the heat of the sun, and there is no dew distilling from heaven, all things wither. How then can lilies and roses flourish, except they derive moisture from heaven, and the dew refreshes the grounds that they may put forth their strength? The reason then for the similitude is this, because men become dry and destitute of all vigour, when God withdraws his favour. Why? Because God must, as it were, distil dew, otherwise, as it has been said, we become wholly barren and dry. I will be then as dew to Israel. And further, "He shall Flourish as the lily, and his roots he shall send forth". Some render "weyach", "and he will strike;" and "nachah" means to strike. Others render the words, "His branches will extend:" but the verb is in the singular number, and the noun, "roots," is in the plural. The Prophet then speaks of Israel, that he strikes his roots; but he means to fix in a metaphorical sense: he will then fix his roots. As when we strike, we fetch a blow, and extend our arms; so he will spread forth his roots as Libanus. This is the second effect of God's favour and blessing; which means, that the happiness of the people would be perpetual. With regard to the rose or lily, the meaning of the metaphor is, that God would suddenly, and as in a moment, vivify the Israelites, though they were like the dead. as in one night the lily rises, and unexpectedly also the rose; so sudden would be the change signified by this metaphor. But as the lilies and the roses soon wither, it was not enough to promise to Israel that their salvation would come suddenly; but it was needful to add this second clause, - that though they would be like lilies and roses, they yet would be also like tall trees, which have deep roots in the ground, by which they remain firm and for a long time flourish. We now then perceive the meaning of the Prophet. He mentions here the twofold effect of God's blessing as to the Israelites, - that their restoration would be sudden, as soon as God would distil like the dew his favour upon them, and also that this happiness would not be fading, but enduring and permanent. And the words may be rendered, "as Libanus", or as "those of Libanus": as Libanus he shall cast forth his roots, as the trees which grow there; or, he shall cast forth his roots as the trees which are in Libanus. But as to the sense there is no difference. It follows - Hosea 14:6,7 His branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the olive tree, and his smell as Lebanon. They that dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall revive [as] the corn, and grow as the vine: the scent thereof [shall be] as the wine of Lebanon. The Prophet goes on with the same subject, but joins the beginning of the first verse with the second clause of the former verse. He had said that the roots of the people would be deep when God should restore them. Now he adds, that their branches shall go on. He mentions here "to go on" metaphorically for extending far; for branches of trees seem to go on, when they extend and spread themselves far and wide. His branches, then, shall go on; which means, that a tree, after striking roots, remains not in the same state, but grows and spreads forth its branches in all directions. In short, God promises a daily increase to his blessing, after he has once begun to show himself bountiful to the people of Israel. "I will then be bountiful at the beginning; and further, he says, my blessing shall, as time passes, increase and be multiplied." He afterwards adds, "His comeliness shall be like the olive". The Prophet accumulates similitudes, that he might more fully confirm the people. And we certainly see that the minds of men grow faint, when they look for prosperity from this or that quarter; for there is hardly one in a hundred who is fully persuaded that when God is propitious, all things turn out well and happily: for men regard not the love of God when they wish things to be well with them, but wander here and there through the whole world; and now they seek prosperity from themselves, then from the earth, now from the air, then from the sea. Since then it is so difficult to impress this truth fully on the hearts of men, that the love of God is the fountain of all blessings, the Prophet has collected together a number of similitudes to confirm what he teaches. Then "his comeliness, he say, shall be like the olive"; and further, "his fragrance like that of Libanus": and odoriferous trees, we know, grow on Mount Libanus. But by these various similes the Prophet shows that the state of the people would be prosperous and happy as soon as they should be received by God into favour. He afterwards adds, "the dwellers under his shadow shall return"; but I defer this till to-morrow. Prayer. Grant, Almighty God, that as we are so miserable as soon as thou withdrawest thy favour from us, - O grant, that we may deeply feel this conviction, and thus learn to be humble before thee, and to hate our ownselves, and that we may not in the mean lime deceive ourselves by such allurements as commonly prevail, to put our hope in creatures or in this world, but raise our minds upwards to thee, and fix on thee our hearts, and never doubt, but that when thou embraces us with thy paternal love, nothing shall be wanting to us. And in the meantime, may we suppliantly flee to thy mercy, and with true and genuine confession, acknowledge this to be our only protection - that thou deign to receive us into favour, and to abolish our sins, into which we not only daily fall, but by which we also deserve eternal death, so that we may daily rise through thy free pardon, till at length our Redeemer Christ thy Son shall appear to us from heaven. Amen. Calvin on Hosea (continued in part 38...) --------------------------------------------------- file: pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-04: cvhos-37.txt .