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Commentary On Jeremiah And Lamentations Volume 1 by Jean Calvin

Jeremiah 5:9

9. Shall I not visit for these things? saith the Lord: and shall not my soul be avenged on such a nation as this?

9. An non super his (vel, super hoc) visitabo (vel, non visitarem,) dicit Jehova? et an in gente quae talis est (quae secundum hanc) non se ulciscetur anima mea?

God again holds, as it were, a conference with them, and for this purpose, -- that he might check all their complaints and close their mouths, lest they should object and say, that they were too severely treated. That this objection then might be removed, God repeats that he could not pardon such atrocious sins. And this principle is adopted, that it was impossible not to punish such wicked men who would not repent. For since God is the Judge of the world, he can no more surrender his judgment than his essence. As, then, the majesty of God and his office of a Judge are inseparably connected, the Prophet concludes, that what the Jews thought was impossible, that is, that they could escape unpunished, and yet continue to provoke God, as it were, by open war, with their dreadful sins: Should I not then visit for this, saith Jehovah?

Here is introduced the name of Jehovah. An earthly judge may pardon the ungodly and the worst of men; but this cannot be done by God; for whenever God pardons, he leads sinners to repentance: so that he never suffers sins to be unpunished. For he who repents becomes his own judge, and thus anticipates God's judgment. Where then there is true conversion, God shews no indulgence to sins. But when persistency in sins is such, that they who are warned despise all instruction, it is impossible that God should forgive; as in that case he would renounce his own glory, which can never be. Should I not then visit for this, saith Jehovah?

And on such a nation as this should not vengeance my soul take? God speaks here after the manner of men, for he seeks no vengeance; and when he speaks of his soul, even this is not strictly suitable to him; but there is here nothing obscure; for what is meant is, that he is at enmity with wickedness, as it is said in Psalm 5:5, that he cannot bear iniquity. Since it is so, it follows that he must either be thrust from his celestial throne, or punishment must be inflicted on the wicked, who remain perverse and set no end nor bounds to their sins. Whenever then delusion creeps over us and Satan seeks by his allurements to lead us to forget God's judgment, let this come to our minds -- that God would not be God, except he were to punish sins. It is then necessary that he should punish sins or be displeased with us: but, as it has been said, he cannot be inconsistent with himself or dissimilar in his nature, since no change can take place in him. Either then his hand is stretched out to punish our sins, or his judgment must be anticipated by us. And how can this be done? By learning to bring sentence against ourselves, by becoming displeased with our sins.

When therefore our conversion will be of this kind, then God will be merciful to us; and thus he will not pardon our sins, as though he approved of them, or as though he did not exercise his office as a judge. But as I have said, what is here taught is rightly addressed to those who are either refractory, or whom Satan renders so stupid and forgetful, that they call not themselves to an account; in short, what is here said will render the ungodly, who go on in their perverseness, inexcusable, or it will awake those who are healable, that they may judge themselves, and not wait until God stretches forth his hand to execute extreme punishment.

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