The prayer which John Calvin was wont to use at the beginning of his lectures:
May the Lord grant, that we may engage in contemplating the mysteries of his heavenly wisdom with really increasing devotion, to his glory and to our edification. Amen.
I have undertaken to expound The Twelve Minor Prophets. They have been long ago joined together, and their writings have been reduced to one volume; and for this reason, lest by being extant singly in our hands, they should, as it often happens, disappear in course of time on account of their brevity.
Then the Twelve Minor Prophets form but one volume. The first of them is Hosea, who was specifically destined for the kingdom of Israel: Micah and Isaiah prophesied at the same time among the Jews. But it ought to be noticed, that this Prophet was a teacher in the kingdom of Israel, as Isaiah and Micah were in the kingdom of Judah. The Lord doubtless intended to employ him in that part; for had he prophesied among the Jews, he would not have complimented them; since the state of things was then very corrupt, not only in Judea, but also at Jerusalem, though the palace and sanctuary of God were there. We see how sharply and severely Isaiah and Micah reproved the people; and the style of our Prophet would have been the same had the Lord employed his service among the Jews: but he followed his own call. He knew what the Lord had intrusted to him; he faithfully discharged his own office. The same was the case with the Prophet Amos: for the Prophet Amos sharply inveighs against the Israelites, and seems to spare the Jews; and he taught at the same time with Hosea.
We see, then, in what respect these four differ: Isaiah and Micah address their reproofs to the kingdom of Judah; and Hosea and Amos only assail the kingdom of Israel, and seem to spare the Jews. Each of them undertook what God had committed to his charge; and so each confined himself within the limits of his own call and office. For if we, who are called to instruct the Church, close our eyes to the sins which prevail in it, and neglect those whom the Lord has appointed to be taught by us, we confound all order; since they who are appointed to other places must attend to those to whom they have been sent by the Lord's call.
We now, then, see to whom this whole book of Hosea belongs, -- that is, to the kingdom of Israel.
But with regard to the Prophets, this is true of them all, as we have sometimes said, that they are interpreters of the law. And this is the sum of the law, that God designs to rule by his own authority the people whom he has adopted. But the law has two parts, -- a promise of salvation and eternal life, and a rule for a godly and holy living. To these is added a third part, -- that men, not responding to their call, are to be restored to the fear of God by threatening and reproofs. The Prophets do further teach what the law has commanded respecting the true and pure worship of God, respecting love; in short, they instruct the people in a holy and godly life, and then offer to them the favor of the Lord. And as there is no hope of reconciliation with God except through a Mediator, they ever set forth the Messiah, whom the Lord had long before promised.
As to the third part, which includes threats and reproofs, it was peculiar to the Prophets; for they point out times, and denounce this or that judgement of God: |The Lord will punish you in this way, and will punish you at such a time.| The Prophets, then, do not simply call men to God's tribunal, but specify also certain kinds of punishment, and also in the same way they declare prophecies respecting the Lord's grace and his redemption. But on this I only briefly touch; for it will be better to notice each point as we proceed.
I now return to Hosea. I have said that his ministry belonged especially to the kingdom of Israel; for then the whole worship of God was there polluted, nor had corruption lately begun; but they were so obstinate in their superstitions, that there was no hope of repentance. We indeed know, that as soon as Jeroboam withdrew the ten tribes from their allegiance to Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, fictitious worship was set up: and Jeroboam seemed to have wisely contrived that artifice, that the people might not return to the house of David; but at the same time he brought on himself and the whole people the vengeance of God. And those who came after him followed the same impiety. When such perverseness became intolerable, God resolved to put forth his power, and to give some signal proof of his displeasure, that the people might at length repent. Hence Jehu was by God's command anointed King of Israel, that he might destroy all the posterity of Ahab: but he also soon relapsed into the same idolatry. He executed God's judgement, he pretended great zeal; but his hypocrisy soon came to light, for he embraced false and perverted worship; and his followers were nothing better even down to Jeroboam, under whom Hosea prophesied; but of this we shall speak in considering the inscription of the book.