10. And they shall bear the punishment of their iniquity: the punishment of the prophet shall be even as the punishment of him that seeketh unto him
10. Et ferent iniquitatem suam, sicut iniquitas sciscitantis sic iniquitas Prophetae erit.
Here what Ezekiel had partially touched upon is more clearly taught. For he had said, that at length false prophets should meet with punishment, but he now joins the whole people with them, and at the same time repels the empty pretenses by which men are always willing to conceal their fault. For when he mentions their iniquity by name, it is the same as forbidding them to turn their back any more. In this way, then, God removes all the cavils to which men usually resort, since they never pursue these tortuous paths without being conscious of their iniquity. For when God says that he is a searcher of hearts, he brings openly before us the secret feelings of mankind. As long as hypocrites have to deal with men, they easily delude them: and then they put on various disguises, by which they throw off the blame from themselves. But when God addresses them, his language necessarily penetrates to their hidden thoughts. Now therefore we understand the force of the words which God uses, they shall bear their iniquity
He now adds, the iniquity of the inquirer shall be like that of the prophet. We have said that the sacred name of prophet is improperly transferred to impostors: but God often speaks thus by concession, and in this way a stumbling block occurs by which the weak are disturbed. For when they hear that deceivers, who not only obscure God's word but pervert it, proudly boast in their title, they are moved, and not without reason. For divine things ought seriously to move us to reverence, since prophets are organs of the Holy Spirit. Hence that man is worthy of such honor that no man ought to despise one who is reckoned a prophet. But because God tries his own people and blinds the reprobate, as we have said, when he sends them false prophets, in order that the faith of the pious should not faint when they hear that sacred name profaned, he says by concession -- well, they shall be called prophets -- but he does not mean that those shall be truly and really esteemed such who falsely claim to themselves that glory. Now let us come to the next clause, the iniquity of the inquirer shall be like that of the prophet. We have already spoken of the iniquity of those who, being led captive by the lies of Satan, endeavor to pervert both the worship and the pure doctrine of God. Since therefore they propose to contend with God, their iniquity is by no means excusable. But another question may arise concerning the people, which, although we have solved it before, yet it may be expedient to repeat it. He says, then, that those who had been deceived by the false prophets would be subject to punishment, that they may sustain the same penalty. This seems hard, as I have said: but the Prophet had previously taught that the people would be justly involved in the same punishment with the impostors, because they erred knowingly and willingly. For if they had cordially devoted themselves to God, and had suffered themselves to be ruled by his Spirit, and by the teaching of the law, they had doubtless been freed from all error. For God takes care of his own people, though he does not defend them from the insults of the ungodly, yet he fortifies them by the foresight and fortitude of his Spirit. Those who are deceived, receive the just reward of either their sloth or pride or ingratitude. For many scarcely deigned to inquire what the will of God was: others looked down as from an eminence on whatever was uttered in God's name: for through self-confidence they receive with difficulty any instruction but their own. Since then they were so unteachable, they are worthy of the reward which I have mentioned. Others again are ungrateful to God: for they stifle his instructions and the knowledge of heavenly things, and contaminate and pollute what is sacred; so that God justly joins the disciples with their masters when he revenges sacrilege as we see, since all sacred teaching is overthrown.
But Ezekiel expresses more when he says, that the people had inquired. For they had counselors, who thereby gave a direct approbation to their employment. If they had been teachable they would not have betaken themselves so eagerly to the false prophets: hence the greater their diligence in this direction, the more their crime was apparent, since they purposely rejected God and his servants, by transferring themselves to the false prophets. We now understand the meaning of this sentence. It only remains that each of us should apply what is here said to his own profit. The Papists think themselves to be twice or thrice absolved if they have been deceived in any quarter. But, on the other hand, Christ exclaims -- If the blind lead the blind, it is not surprising if both fall into the ditch. (Matthew 15:14.) The reason is here expressed, because however those who are deceived show their simplicity, it is by no means doubtful that they flee from the light and desire the darkness by a crooked and perverse craving. Hence it happens that the iniquity of the inquirer is like that of the prophet.