Calvin, Commentary on Jonah, Part 3 (... continue from part 2) Lecture Seventy-fourth. We said in yesterday's lecture, that it was a proof of extreme fear, that the sailors and the rest cast lots; for this is not usually done, except men see themselves to be destitute of judgment and counsel. But it must at the same time be observed, that through error they cast lots: for they did not know, that if God intended to punish each of them, they were worthy even of heavier punishment. They would not indeed have thrown the blame on one man, if each had well considered what he deserved before God. When a calamity happens, it is the duty of every one to examine himself and his whole life before God: then every one, from the first to the last, must confess that he bears a just judgment. But when all demand together who is guilty before God, they thus exonerate themselves, as though they were innocent. And it is an evil that prevails at this day in the world, that every one is disposed to cast the blame on others and all would have themselves to be innocent before God; not that they can clear themselves of every fault, but they extenuate their sins, as though God could not justly pursue them with so much severity. As for instance, when any one perceives that he had in various ways done wrong, he will indeed confess in words that he is a sinner; but were any person to enumerate and bring forward each of his sins he would say, "This is a light offense, that is a venal sin; and the Lord deals not with us with so much strict justice, that he means to bring on us instantly extreme punishment." When there is a slight offense, it is immediately referred to by every one. Thus acted the sailors, of whom Jonah now speaks. Had any one asked, whether they were wholly without fault, every one, no doubt, would have confessed that he was a sinner before God; but yet they cast lots as though one only was exposed to God's judgment. How so? because they did not think that their own sins deserved so heavy a punishment. How much soever they might have offended, - and this they really felt and were convinced of, - they yet did not make so much of their sins as to think that they deserved any such judgment. This then is the reason why they come to the lot; it was, because every one seemed to himself to be blameless when he came to examine himself. This passage, then, shows what is even well known by common experience, - that men, though they know themselves to be guilty before God, yet extenuate their sins and promise themselves pardon, as though they could make an agreement with God, that he should not treat them with strict justice, but deal with them indulgently. Hence, then, is the hope of impunity, because we make light offenses of the most grievous sins. Thus we find under the Papacy, that various modes are devised, by which they absolve themselves before God and wipe away their stains: the sprinkling of holy water cleanses almost all sins; except a man be either an adulterer, or a murderer, or a sorcerer, or ten times perjured, he hardly thinks himself to be guilty of any crime. Then the expiations which they use, avail, as they think, to obliterate all iniquities. Whence is this error? Even because they consider God to be like themselves, and think not their sins to be so great abominations before God. But this is no new thing; for we see what happened in the time of Jonah; and from profane histories also we may learn, that this error possessed everywhere the minds of all. They had then daily expiations, as the Papists have their masses, their pilgrimages, their sprinklings of holy water, and similar playthings: but as under the Papacy there are reserved cases, so also in former times, when any one had killed a father or mother, when any one had committed incest, he stood in need of some extraordinary expiation; and if there was any one of great renown on the earth, they applied to him, that he might find out some new kind of expiation. An example of this error is set before us here, when they said, "let us cast lots". For except they thought that one only was guilty, and not and every one would have publicly confessed his sins, and would then have acknowledged that such was the mass of them as to be enough to fill heaven and earth; but this they did not. One man must have been the offender; but no one came forward with such a confession: hence they cast lots. It may now be inquired, whether this mode of seeking out the truth was lawful; as they knew not through whose fault the tempest arose, was it right to have recourse to lots? Some have been too superstitious in condemning lots; for they have plainly said, that all lots are wicked. Hence has come the name, lot-drawers; and they have thought that lot-drawers differ nothing from magicians and enchanters. This has proceeded from ignorance, for we know that the casting of lots has been sometimes allowed. And Solomon certainly speaks, as of a common rule, when he says of lots being cast into the bosom, and of the issue being from Jehovah (Prov. 16: 33.) Solomon speaks not there of the arts of magic but says that when lots are cast, the event is not by chance but by God s providence. And when Matthias was chosen in the place of Judas, it was done by lot, (Acts 1: 26.) Did the Apostles use this mode presumptuously? No, the Holy Spirit presided over this election. There is then no doubt but that God approved of that casting of lots. So also Joshua had recourse to the lot when the cause of God's displeasure was unknown, though it was evident that God was angry with the people. Joshua, being perplexed by what was unknown, did cast lots; and so Achan was discovered and his sacrilege. That lot no one will dare condemn. Then what I have said is clear enough, that those have been too superstitious who have condemned all casting of lots without exception. But we must yet remember that lots are not to be used indiscriminately. It is a part of the civil law, that when a common inheritance is divided, it is allowed to cast lots: as it belongs not to this or that person to choose, each must take the part which the lot determines. So again it is lawful to cast lot in great undertakings, when men are anywhere sent: and when there is a division of labour, to prevent jealousy when one wishes to choose a certain part for himself, the lot will remove all contentions. A lot of this kind is allowed both by the word of God, and by civil laws. But when any one adopts the lot without any reason, he is no doubt superstitious, and differs not much from the magician or the enchanter. As for instance, when one intends to go a journey, or to take anything in hand, if he throws into his hat a white and a black lot, and says, "I will see whether my going out today will be prosperous;" now this is of the devil; for Satan by such arts deludes wretched men. If then any one makes use of the lot without any just reason, he is, as I have said without excuse. But as to the other lots, such as we have now noticed, they ought not to be viewed as precedents. For though Joshua used the lot to bring to light the cause for which God was angry with his people, it is not yet right for us to imitate what he did; for Joshua was no doubt led by some peculiar influence to adopt this measure. So also as to Saul, when he cast lots, and his son Jonathan was discovered as the one who had tasted honey, it was an especial example. The same thing must be also said of the lot mentioned here; for as the sailors were trembling, and knew not the cause why the tempest arose, and the fear of shipwreck seized them, they had recourse to the lot. Were we continually to imitate such examples, such a liberty would not certainly be pleasing, to God, nor consistent with his word. We must therefore bear in mind, that there were some peculiar influences, whenever God's servants used the lot in doubtful and extreme cases. This then is shortly the answer to the question - Was it lawful for the sailors to cast lots, that they might find out the person on account of whom they were in so much danger? I now proceed to what follows - Jonah 1:8-10 8 Then said they unto him, Tell us, we pray thee, for whose cause this evil [is] upon us; What [is] thine occupation? and whence comest thou? what [is] thy country? and of what people [art] thou? 9 And he said unto them, I [am] an Hebrew; and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, which hath made the sea and the dry [land]. 10 Then were the men exceedingly afraid, and said unto him, Why hast thou done this? For the men knew that he fled from the presence of the LORD, because he had told them. After the lot fell on Jonah, they doubted not but that he was the guilty person, any more than if he had been a hundred times proved to be so: for why did they cast lots, except that they were persuaded that all doubt could thus be removed, and that what was hid could thus be brought to the light? As then this persuasion was fixed in their minds, that the truth was elicited, and was in a manner drawn out of darkness by the lot, they now inquire of Jonah what he had done: for they took this as allowed, that they had to endure the tempest on his account, and also, that he, by some detestable crime, had merited such a vengeance at Gods hand. We hence see that they cast lots, because they fully believed that they could not otherwise find out the crime on account of which they suffered, and also, that lots were directed by the hidden purpose of God: for how could a certain judgment be found by lot, except God directed it according to his own purpose, and overruled what seemed to be especially fortuitous? These principles then were held as certain in a manner by men who were heathens, - that God can draw out the truth, and bring it to the light, - and also, that he presides over lots, however fortuitous they may be thought to be. This was the reason why they now asked what Jonah had done. "Tell us, then, why has this evil happened to us, what is thy work?" &c. By work here I do not mean what is wrong, but a kind of life, or, as they say, a manner of living. They then asked how Jonah had hitherto employed himself, and what sort of life he followed. For it afterwards follows, "Tell us, whence comest thou, what is thy country, and from what people art thou?" They made inquiries, no doubt, on each particular in due order; but Jonah here briefly records the questions. I now come to his answer, "He said to them, I am an Hebrew; and I fear Jehovah the God of heaven, Who has created the sea and the dry land." Here Jonah seemed as yet to evade, yea, to disown his crime, for he professed himself to be the worshipper of the true God. Who would not have said, but that he wished here to escape by a subterfuge, as he set up his own piety to cover the crime before-mentioned? But all things are not here in the first verse related; for shortly after, it follows, that the sailors knew of Jonah's flight; and that he had himself told them, that he had disobeyed God's call and command. There is then no doubt but that Jonah honestly confessed his own sin, though he does not say so. But we know, that it is a mode of speaking common among the Hebrews to add in the last place what had been first said; and grammarians say, that it is "husteron proteron", (last first,) when anything is left out in its proper place and then added as an explanation. When therefore Jonah says that he was an Hebrew, and worshipper of the true God, - this tended to aggravate his fault or crime rather than to excuse it: for had he said only, that he was conscious of having done wrong in disobeying God, his crime would not have appeared so atrocious; but when he begins by sayings that known to him was the true God, the framer of heaven and earth, the God of Israel, who had made himself known by a law given and published, - when Jonah made this introduction, he thereby removed from himself all pretenses as to ignorance and misconception. He had been educated in the law, and had, from childhood, been taught who the true God was. He could not then have fallen through ignorance; and further, he did not, as the others, worship fictitious gods; he was an Israelite. As then he had been brought up in true religion, his sin was the more atrocious, inasmuch as he had fallen away from God, having despised his command, and, as it were, shaken off the yoke, and had become a fugitive. We now then perceive the reason why Jonah called himself here an Hebrew, and testified that he was the worshipper of the true God. First, by saying that he was an Hebrew, he distinguished the God of Abraham from the idols of the Gentiles: for the religion of the chosen people was well known in all places, though disapproved by universal consent; at the same time, the Cilicians and other Asiatics, and also the Grecians, and the Syrians in another quarter, - all these knew what the Israelites gloried in, - that the true God had appeared to their father Abraham, and then made with him a gratuitous covenant, and also had given the law by Moses; - all this was sufficiently known by report. Hence Jonah says now, that he was an Hebrew, as though he had said, that he had no concern with any fictitious god, but with the God of Abraham, who had formerly appeared to the holy Fathers, and who had also given a perpetual testimony of his will by Moses. We see then how emphatically he declared, that he was an Hebrew: secondly, he adds, I fear Jehovah the God of heaven. By the word fear is meant worship: for it is not to be taken here as often in other places, that is, in its strict meaning; but fear is to be understood for worship: "I am not given", he says, "to various superstitions, but I have been taught in true religion; God has made himself known to me from my childhood: I therefore do not worship any idol, as almost all other people, who invent gods for themselves; but I worship God, the creator of heaven and earth." He calls him the God of heaven, that is, who dwells alone as God in heaven. While the others thought heaven to be filled with a great number of gods, Jonah here sets up against them the one true God, as though he said, "Invent according to your own fancy innumerable gods, there is yet but one, who possesses the highest authority in heaven; for it is he who made the sea and the dry land." We now then apprehend what Jonah meant by these words: he shows here that it was no wonder that God pursued him with so much severity; for he had not committed a slight offense, but a fatal sin. We now see how much Jonah had profited since the Lord had begun severely to deal with him: for inasmuch as he was asleep yea, and insensible in his sin, he would have never repented had it not been for this violent remedy. But when the Lord roused him by his severity, he then not only confessed that he was guilty, or owned his guilt in a formal manner, (defunctorie - as ridding one's self of a business, carelessly;) but also willingly testified, as we see, before men who were heathens, that he was the guilty man, who had forsaken the true God, in whose worship he had been well instructed. This was the fruit of true penitence, and it was also the fruit of the chastisement which God had inflicted on him. If then we wish God to approve of our repentance, let us not seek evasions, as for the most part is the case; nor let us extenuate our sins, but by a free confession testify before the whole world what we have deserved. It then follows, that the men feared with great fear, and said, "Why hast thou done this? for they knew treat he had fled from the presence of Jehovah, for he had told them". And this is not unimportant - that the sailors feared with great fear: for Jonah means that they were not only moved by what he said, but also terrified, so that they gave to the true God his glory. We indeed know that superstitious men almost trifle with their own idols. They often entertain, it is true, strange fears, but afterwards they flatter themselves, and in a manner cajole their own hearts, so that they can pleasantly and sweetly smile at their own fancies. But Jonah, by saying here that they feared with great fear, means that they were so smitten, that they really perceived that the God of Israel was a righteous judge, and that he was not such as other nations fancied him to be, but that he was capable of affording dreadful examples whenever he intended to execute his vengeance. We hence see what Jonah means, when he speaks of great fear. At the same time, two things ought to be noticed, - that they feared, because it was easy for them to conclude from the Prophet's words, that the God of Israel was the only creator of heaven and earth, - and then, that it was a great fear, which, as I have said, must be considered as serious dread, since the fear which the unbelieving have soon vanishes. But with regard to the reproof which the sailors and other passengers gave to Jonah, the Lord returned to him this as a reward which he had deserved. He had fled from the presence of God; he had thus, as we have said taken away from God his supreme power: for what becomes of God's authority when any one of us rejects his commands and flees away from his presence? Since Jonah then sought to shun God, he was now placed before men. There were present heathens, and even barbarians, who rebuked him for his sin, who were his censors and judges. And the same thing we see happening often. For they who do not willingly obey God and his word, afterwards abandon themselves to many flagrant sins, and their baseness becomes evident to all. As, then, they cannot bear God to be their Master and Teacher, they are constrained to bear innumerable censors; for they are branded by the reproaches of the vulgar, they are pointed at every where by the finger, at length they are conducted to the gallows, and the executioner becomes their chief teacher. The case was similar, as we see, with Jonah: the pilot had before reproved his torpor, when he said, "Do thou also call on thy God; what meanest thou, 0 sleeper? thou liest down here like a log of wood, and yet thou sees us perplexed and in extreme danger." As, then, the pilot first so sharply inveighed against Jonah, and then all reproved him with one mouth, we certainly find that he was made subject to the condemnation of all, because he tried to deprive God of his supreme power. If at any time the same thing should happen to us, if God should subject us to the reproaches of men when we seek to avoid his judgment, let us not wonder. But as Jonah here calmly answers, and raises no clamour, and shows no bitterness, so let every one of us, in the true spirit of meekness, acknowledge our own sins; when charged with them, were even children our condemners, or were even the most contemptible of the people to rise up against us, let us patiently bear all this; and let us know that these kinds of censors befall us through the providence of God. It now follows - Jonah 1:11,12 Then said they unto him, What shall we do unto thee, that the sea may be calm unto us? for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous. And he said unto them, Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you: for I know that for my sake this great tempest [is] upon you. The sailors asked counsel of Jonah; and hence it appears that they were touched with so much fear as not to dare to do any thing to him. We hence see how much they had improved almost in an instant, since they spared an Israelite, because they acknowledged that among that people the true God was worshipped, the supreme King of heaven and earth: for, without a doubt, it was this fear that restrained them from throwing Jonah immediately into the sea. For since it was certain that through his fault God was displeased with them all, why was it that they did not save themselves by such an expiation? That they then delayed in so great a danger, and dared not to lay hold instantly on Jonah, was an evident proof that they were restrained, as I have said, by the fear of God. They therefore inquire what was to be done, "What shall we do to thee, that the sea may be still to us? for the sea was going", &c. By going Jonah means, that the sea was turbulent: for the sea is said to rest when it is calm, but when it is turbulent, then it is going, and has various movements and tossings. The sea, then, was going and very tempestuous. We hence see that God was not satisfied with the disgrace of Jonah, but he purposed to punish his offense still more. It was necessary that Jonah should be led to the punishment which he deserved, though afterwards, he was miraculously delivered from death, as we shall see in its proper place. Jonah then answers, "Take me, and throw me into the sea, and it will be still to you". It may be asked whether Jonah ought to have of his own accord offered himself to die; for it seemed to be an evidence of desperation. He might, indeed, have surrendered himself to their will; but here he did, as it were, stimulate them, "Throw me into the sea," he says; "for ye cannot otherwise pacify God than by punishing me." He seemed like a man in despair, when he would thus advance to death of his own accord. But Jonah no doubt knew that he was doomed to punishment by God. It is uncertain whether he then entertained a hope of deliverance, that is, whether he confidently relied at this time on the grace of God. But, however it may have been, we may yet conclude, that he gave himself up to death, because he knew and was fully persuaded that he was in a manner summoned by the evident voice of God. And thus there is no doubt but that he patiently submitted to the judgment which the Lord had allotted to him. Take me, then, and throw me into the sea. Then he adds, "The sea will be to you still". Here Jonah not only declares that God would be pacified by his death, because the lot had fallen upon him, but he also acknowledges that his death would suffice as an expiation, so that the tempest would subside: and then the reason follows - "I know, he says, that on my account is this great tempest come upon you". When he says that he knew this, he could not refer to the lot, for that knowledge was common to them all. But Jonah speaks here by the prophetic spirit: and he no doubt confirms what I have before referred to, - that the God of Israel was the supreme and only King of heaven and earth. This certainty of knowledge, then, of which Jonah speaks, must be referred to his own consciences and to the teaching of that religion in which he had been instructed. And now we may learn from these words a most useful instruction: Jonah does not here expostulate with God, nor contumeliously complain that God punished him too severely, but he willingly bears his charged guilt and his punishment, as he did before when he said, "I am the worshipper of the true God." How could he confess the true God, whose great displeasure he was then experiencing? But Jonah, we see, was so subdued, that he failed not to ascribe to God his just honor; though death was before his eyes, though God's wrath was burning, we yet see, that he gave to God, as we have said, the honor due to him. So the same thing is repeated in this place, "Behold, he says, I know that on my account has this great tempest happened". He who takes to himself all the blame, does not certainly murmur against God. It is then a true confession of repentance, when we acknowledge God, and willingly testify before men that he is just, though, according to the judgment of our flesh, he may deal violently with us. When however we give to him the praise due to his justice, we then really show our penitence; for unless God's wrath brings us down to this humble state of mind, we shall be always full of bitterness; and, however silent we may be for a time, our heart will be still perverse and rebellious. This humility, then, always follows repentance, - the sinner prostrates himself before God, and willingly admits his own sin, and tries not to escape by subterfuges. And it was no wonder that Jonah thus humbled himself; for we see that the sailors did the same: when they said that lots were to be cast, they added at the same time, "Come ye and let us cast lots, that we may know why this evil has happened to us." They did not accuse God, but constituted him the Judge; and thus they acknowledged that he inflicted a just punishment. And yet every one thought himself to have been innocent; for however conscience might have bitten them, still no one considered himself to have been guilty of so great a wickedness as to subject him to God's vengeance. Though, then, the sailors thought themselves exempt from any great sin, they yet did not contend with God, but allowed him to be their Judge. Since then they, who were so barbarous, confined themselves within these bounds of modesty, it was no wonder that Jonah, especially when he was roused and began to feel his guilt, and was also powerfully restrained by God's hand, - it was no wonder that he now confessed that he was guilty before God, and that he justly suffered a punishment so heavy and severe. We ought then to take special notice of this, - that he knew that on his account the storm happened or that the sea was so tempestuous against them all. The rest we defer until tomorrow. Prayer. Grant, Almighty God that as thou urgest us daily to repentance and each of us is also stung with the consciousness of his own sins, - 0 grant, that we may not grow stupid in our vices, nor deceive ourselves with empty flatteries, but that each of us may, on the contrary carefully examine his own life and then with one mouth and heart confess that we are all guilty not only of light offenses, but of such as deserve eternal death, and that no other relief remains for us but thine infinite mercy and that we may so seek to become partakers of that grace which has been once offered to us by thy Son, and is daily offered to us by his Gospel, that, relying on him as our Mediator, we may not cease to entertain hope even in the midst of thousand deaths, until we be gathered into that blessed life, which has been procured for us by the blood of thy only Son. Amen. Calvin, Commentary on Jonah, Part 3 (continued in part 4...) ---------------------------------------------------- file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-05: cvjon-03.txt .