I was not able in my last lecture fully to explain the verse in which the Prophet says that he was commanded by the angel to cry again, that God had returned to Jerusalem in mercies. The design of the words is this, -- that though it was difficult to believe the restoration of Jerusalem, it was yet to be fully expected, for the Lord had so appointed. But he enlarges on what I have before stated; for the blessing of God is extended to the cities of Judah, though an express mention is made only of Jerusalem. Yet cities, he says, shall wear out through abundance of blessings; for so I think the verb tphvtsnh, tephutzne, is to be taken, as futs means to spread, and also to wear out, and to break. Some elicit a forced meaning, that cities would spread themselves; others, that they would be separated, that is, that security would be so great, that cities, though distant from one another, would be in no danger or fear. But the meaning of the Prophet is clear, unless we designedly pervert it in a matter so manifest and easy. The cities, he says, shall be worn out or wearied through abundance of blessings, or as we say, elles seront entassees; for where there is a great heap, there is crushing. He therefore says, that so great and so full would be the abundance of all things, that the corn would press down itself, and that the vessels would hardly contain the vintage. We now perceive what the Prophet means, -- that Jerusalem would yet be made complete, and also that other cities would be filled with all good things, because God would extend his favor to the whole people.
He then adds, Comfort Zion will yet Jehovah, and he will yet choose Jerusalem. The particle phvph, oud, yet, is repeated; for the suspension of favor, of which we have before spoken, might have somewhat prevented the faithful from realising the promise. As then God's favor was for a time hid, the angel declares, that such would be the change, that God's goodness and love towards his chosen people would again shine forth as in former days.
As to the word |chosen,| it must be observed, that it is applied, not in its strict sense, to the effect or the evidence of election; for God had chosen before the creation of the world whom he had designed to be his own. But he is said to choose whom he receives into favor, because their adoption seems obliterated in the eyes of men, when there appears no evidence of his paternal favor. As for instance, whenever we read that God had repudiated his own people, it is certain, as Paul says, that the calling of God is without repentance, (Romans 11:29:) nor does he declare this only of the secret election of each, but also of that general election, by which God had set apart the race of Abraham from the rest of the nations. At the same time many of Abraham's children were reprobates, as he instances in the case of Esau and of others: yet the election of God was unchangeable; and hence it was that there remained still some hope as to that people, that God would at length gather to himself a Church from the Jews as well as from the Gentiles, so that those who were then separated might be hereafter united together. Since then the calling of God is without repentance, ameta meletos, how is it that the Lord is often said to choose, and is also said to reject his chosen? These expressions refer to the outward appearance of things. God therefore will secure his own election to the end; but as we cannot otherwise perceive but that we are rejected by God when he turns away his face from us, he is said to choose again those whom he has repudiated, that is, when he really and by a clear evidence proves that he has not forgotten their first adoption, but that he continues unchangeable in his purpose.
We now then understand what the Prophet means. I have more fully dwelt on this point, because it is necessary to understand this great truth, -- that whatever blessings God confers on his own people proceed from eternal election, that this is a perpetual fountain, and yet that election is catachrestically applied to its evidences or effects, as also rejection is to be taken in the same sense for outward punishment, which seems at the first view to be an evidence of rejection, though it be not really so. Let us now proceed -