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Commentary On Hosea by Jean Calvin

Lecture Eleventh

One thing escaped me in yesterday's lecture, on which I shall now briefly touch. It may be asked why the Prophet says, that the priest was to be robbed of his honour, who was not a true nor a legitimate priest; for there was among the Israelites, we know, no temple in which God was rightly worshipped. For though it was customary with them to profess the name of the true God, yet we are aware that all their pretenses were vain. Since the lord had chosen one sanctuary only at Jerusalem, it hence follows, that all the priests among the people of Israel were false. It could not then be that God had taken from them their honor. But it is nothing new for God to punish the ungodly, by taking from them what they seem to possess.

The case is the same this day as to the Papacy; for they who vaunt themselves as being clergy and priests are mere apes: (merae larvae) as, however, they retain the title, what the Prophet threatened to the false priests of his age may be justly said to them, that their shame shall be made manifest, so that they shall cease to boast of their dignity, by which they now deceive the simple and ignorant.

We now then understand the Prophet's meaning: his meaning is the same as when he said before, |I will draw thee to the desert, and then the ephod shall cease, and the seraphim shall cease.| There was, we know, no ephod which the Lord approved, except that alone which the legitimate priest did wear: but as there was emulation between the Israelites and the Jews, and as they who had departed from the true and pure worship of God, did yet boast that they worshipped the God of Abraham, the Lord here declares, that he would not suffer them to lurk under such masks.

I now return to that passage of the Prophet, in which he says, They shall eat and shall not be satisfied, and again, They shall play the wanton and shall not increase; because Jehovah have they left off to attend to. The Prophet here again proclaims the judgment which was nigh the Israelites. And first, he says, They shall eat and shall not be satisfied; in which he alludes to the last verse. For the priests gaped for gain, and their only care was to satisfy their appetites. Since then their cupidity was insatiable, which was also the cause why they conceded sinful liberty to the people, he now says, They shall eat and shall not be satisfied. The Prophet intimates further by these words, that men are not sustained by plenty or abundance of provisions, but rather by the blessing of God: for a person may devour much, yet the quantity, however large, may not satisfy him; and this we find to be often the case as to a voracious appetite; for in such an instance, the staff of bread is broken, that is, the Lord takes away support from bread, so that much eating does not satisfy. And this is the Prophet's meaning, when he says, They shall eat and shall not be satisfied The priests thought it a happy time with them, when they gathered great booty from every quarter; God on the contrary declares, that it would be empty and useless to them; for no satisfying effect would follow: however much they might greedily swallow up, they would not yet be satisfied.

He afterwards adds, They shall play the wanton and shall not increase; that is, |However much they might give the reins to promiscuous lusts, I will not yet suffer them to propagate: so far shall they be from increasing or generating an offspring by lawful marriages, that were they everywhere to indulge in illicit intercourse, they would still continue barren.| The Prophet here, in a word, testifies that the ungodly are deceived, when they think that they can obtain their wishes by wicked and unlawful means; for the Lord will frustrate their desires. The avaricious think, when they have much, that they are sufficiently defended against all want; and when penury presses on all others, they think themselves beyond the reach of danger. But the Lord derides this folly: |Gather, gather great heaps; but I will blow on your riches, that they may vanish, or at least yield you no advantage. So also strive to beget children; though one may marry ten wives, or everywhere play the wanton, he shall still remain childless.| Thus we see that a just punishment is inflicted on profane men, when they indulge their own lusts: they indeed promise to themselves a happy issue; but God, on the other hand, pronounces upon them his curse.

He then adds, They have left Jehovah to attend, that is that they may not attend or serve him. Here the Prophet points out the source and the chief cause of all evils, and that is, because the Israelites had forsaken the true God and his worship. Though they indeed retained the name of God, and were wont, even boldly, to set up this plea against the Prophets, that they were the children of Abraham, and the chosen of the supreme God, he yet says that they were apostates. How so? Because whosoever keeps faith with God, keeps himself also under the tuition of his word, and wanders not after his own inventions; but the Israelites indulged themselves in any thing they pleased. Since then it is certain that they had shaken off the yoke of the law, it is no wonder that the Prophet says, that they had departed from the Lord. But we ought to notice the confirmation of this truth, that no one can continue to keep faith with God, except he observes his word and remains under its tuition. Let us now proceed --

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