6. My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.
6. Preriit (perierunt ad verbum: sed quia m estnomen collectivum, ideo promiscuoe conjungitur utrique numero, populus meus absque scientia: quia tu scientiam repulisti, etiam rplellam te: ne sacerdotio fungaris mihi: et quia oblitus es legis Dei tui, obliviscar filiorum tuorum ego quoque.
Here the Prophet distinctly touches on the idleness of the priests, whom the Lord, as it is well known, had set over the people. For though it could not have availed to excuse the people, or to extenuate their fault, that the priests were idle; yet the Prophet justly inveighs against them for not having performed the duty allotted to them by God. But what is said applies not to the priests only; for God, at the same time, indirectly blames the voluntary blindness of the people. For how came it, that pure instruction prevailed not among the Israelites, except that the people especially wished that it should not? Their ignorance, then, as they say, was gross; as is the case with many ungodly men at this day, who not only love darkness, but also draw it around them on every side, that they may have some excuse for their ignorance.
God then does here, in the first place, attack the priests, but he includes also the whole people; for teaching prevailed not, as it ought to have done, among them. The Lord also reproaches the Israelites for their ingratitude; for he had kindled among them the light of celestial wisdom; inasmuch as the law, as it is well known, must have been sufficient to direct men in the right way. It was then as though God himself did shine forth from heaven, when he gave them his law. How, then, did the Israelites perish through ignorance? Even because they closed their eyes against the celestial light, because they deigned not to become teachable, so as to learn the wisdom of the eternal Father. We hence see that the guilt of the people, as it has been said, is not here extenuated, but that God, on the contrary, complains, that they had malignantly suppressed the teaching of the law: for the law was fit to guide them. The people perished without knowledge, because they would perish.
But the Prophet denounces vengeance on the priests, as well as on the whole people, Because knowledge hast thou rejected, he says, I also will thee reject, so that the priesthood thou shalt not discharge for me. This is specifically addressed to the priests: the Lord accuses them of having rejected knowledge. But knowledge, as Malachi says, was to be sought from their lips, (Malachi 2:7) and Moses also touches on the same point in Deuteronomy 33:10. It was then an extreme wickedness in the priests, as though they wished to subvert God's sacred order, when they sought the honor and the dignity of the office without the office itself: and such is the case with the Papists of the present day; they are satisfied with its dignity and its wealth. Mitred bishops are prelates, are chief priests; they vauntingly boast that they are the heads of the Church, and would be deemed equal with the Apostles: at the same time, who of them attends to his office? nay, they think that it would be in a manner a disgrace to give attention to their office and to God's call.
We now then see what the Prophet meant by saying, Because thou hast knowledge rejected, I also will thee reject, so that thou shalt not discharge for me the priesthood. In a word, he shows that the divorce, which the priests attempted to make, was absurd, and contrary to the nature of things, that it was monstrous, and in short impossible. Why? Because they wished to retain the title and its wealth, they wished to be deemed prelates of the Church, without knowledge: God allows not things joined together by a sacred knot to be thus torn asunder. |Dost thou then,| he says, |take to thyself the office without knowledge? Nay, as thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also take to myself the honor of the priesthood, which I previously conferred on thee.|
This is a remarkable passage, and by it we can check the furious boasting of the Papists, when they haughtily force upon us their hierarchy and the order, as they call it, of their clergy, that is, of their corrupt dregs: for God declares by his word, that it is impossible that there should be any priest without knowledge. And further, he would not have priests to be endued with knowledge only, and to be as it were mute; for he would have the treasure deposited with them to be communicated to the whole Church. God then, in speaking of sacerdotal knowledge, includes also preaching. Though one indeed be a literate, as there have been some in our age among the bishops and cardinals, -- though then there be such he is not yet to be classed among the learned; for, as it has been said, sacerdotal learning is the treasure of the whole Church. When therefore a boast is made of the priesthood, with no regard to the ministration of the word, it is a mere mockery; for teacher and priest are, as they say, almost convertible terms. We now perceive the meaning of the first clause.
It then follows, Because thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children. Some confine this latter clause to the priests, and think that it forms a part of the same context: but when any one weighs more fully the Prophet's words, he will find that this refers to the body of the people.
This Prophet is in his sentences often concise, and so his transitions are various and obscure: now he speaks in his own person, then he assumes the person of God; now he turns his discourse to the people, then he speaks in the third person; now he reproves the priests, then immediately he addresses the whole people. There seemed to be first a common denunciation, Thou shalt fall in the day, the Prophet in the night shall follow, and your mother shall perish.' The Prophet now, I doubt not, confirms the same judgment in other words: and, in the first place, he advances this proposition, that the priests were idle, and that the people quenched the light of celestial instruction; afterwards he denounces on the priests the judgment they deserved, I will cast thee away,' he says, from the priesthood;' now he comes to all the Israelites, and says, Thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children. Now this fault was doubtless what belonged to the whole people; there was no one exempt from this sin; and this forgetfulness was fitly ascribed to the whole people. For how it happened, that the priests had carelessly shaken off from their shoulders the burden of teaching the people? Even because the people were unwilling to have their ears annoyed: for the ungodly complain that God's servants are troublesome, when they daily cry against their vices. Hence the people gladly entered into a truce with their teachers, that they might not perform their office: thus the oblivion of God's law crept in.
As then the Prophet had denounced on the priests their punishment, so he now assures the whole people that God would bring a dreadful judgment on them all, that he would even blot out the whole race of Abraham, I will forget, he says, thy children. Why was this? The Lord had made a covenant with Abraham, which was to continue, and to be confirmed to his posterity: they departed from the true faith, they became spurious children; then God rightly testifies here, that he had a just cause why he should no longer count this degenerate people among the children of Abraham. How so? |For ye have forgotten my law,| he says: |had you remembered the law, I would also have kept my covenant with you: but I will no more remember my covenant, for you have violated it. Your children, therefore, deserve not to be under finch a covenant, inasmuch as ye are such a people.| It follows --