John Calvin, Commentary on Joel



Commentaries on the Twelve Minor Prophets by John Calvin.

Now first translated from the original Latin, by the Rev. John Owen,
vicar of Thrussington, Leicestershire.

Volume Second. Joel, Amos, Obadiah

W. M. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, 1950, Michigan.
Printed in the United States of America.


Table of Contents
Translator's Preface
The Commentaries of John Calvin on the Prophet Joel
Calvin's Preface to Joel
Commentaries on the Prophet Joel




Translator's Preface

This volume contains the Writings of three Prophets. Joel exercised
his office among the Jews; Amos, though a native of Judea, was yet
appointed a Prophet of The Ten Tribes; and Obadia's prophecy refers
only to Edom.
    
    The great master of Hebrew criticism, Bishop Lowth, speaking,
in his twenty-first Prelection, of Joel, says, that though he
differs much in style from Hosea, he is yet "equally poetical." He
represents him as "elegant, clear, diffuse, and flowing, and also
very sublime, severe, and fervid." Admitting the perspicuity of his
diction, and the clearness of his arrangements, he yet confesses
that the matter which he handles is sometimes obscure, especially
towards the end of his Prophecy.
    
    With regard to the style of Amos, the Bishop differs widely
from Jerome, who has characterized the Prophet as "unskilful in
speech, but not in knowledge," (imperitum sermone, set non in
scientia.) Lowth, on the contrary, regarded him as "not a whit
behind the very chiefest Prophets, being in elevation of sentiment
and nobleness of mind almost equal to the very firsts and hardly
inferior to any of them in splendor of diction and elegance of
composition."
    
    Of Obadia, nothing more is said by the Bishop than that he left
but a small monument of his genius, and that a considerable portion
of that is contained in the prophecy of Jeremiah. Of his composition
Dr Henderson says, "Its principal features are animation,
regularity, and perspicuity."
    
    There is especially one subject in connection with the present
Volume, which seems to require particular notice - The
interpretation of those prophecies which speak of the future
restoration of the Jews to their own land. Calvin viewed some
passages, as having been already accomplished in their return from
Babylon, which in the estimation of others are yet to be fulfilled;
while he interpreted those which evidently refer to what is future,
in such a way as clearly shows that he did not consider that the
Jews are to be restored again to their own country. That justice may
be done to him, we must know and bear in mind the principles by
which he was guided: for it is not to be supposed, that one so
versed in Scripture, who had studied it with so much labour, and
manifested, as it is commonly admitted, so much penetration and
discernment as an expounder, would have taken such a view of this
subject on slight grounds, without adopting a rule of
interpretation, which, according to what he thought, was
countenanced by Scriptural examples.
    
    It must first be observed, that Calvin, in common with others,
regarded the history as well erg the institutions of the people of
Israel, as in great measure typical of things under the Gospel.
Their temporal evils and blessings, their temporal oppressions and
deliverances, were intended to set forth the spiritual state and
condition of the Christian Church. The free choice of the people by
God, their Egyptian bondage, their passage through the wilderness
and their possession of the land of Canaan, were events symbolical
of things connected with that spiritual community afterwards formed
by the preaching of the Gospel; and of the same character was the
subsequent captivity of that people in Babylon, and their
restoration afterwards to their own land.
    
    The next thing to be noticed is, that Promises of Blessings
made to the people of Israel had in some instances a twofold
meaning, and had reference to two things - the one temporal and the
other spiritual. The restoration, for instance, from Babylon, was a
prelude of the restoration or redemption by Christ. It was not only
typical, but a kind of an initiative process, which was to be
completed, though in a sublimer sense, by the Savior of man. The
first was a restoration from temporal evils; the second was still a
restoration, but from evils of a spiritual kind. The performance of
the promise, in one case, was the commencement of a restorative
work, which was to be completed in the other: the temporal
restoration was eventually succeeded by that which is spiritual.
    
    But the most material point in interpreting the Prophecies is
The Language which is Used: rightly to understand this language
forms the main difficulty. There are Promises which, as admitted by
Calvin, look beyond the restoration from Babylon; and they are
couched in terms, which, if taken literally, most evidently show
that there is to be a second restoration. What is there, it may be
asked, which can justify a departure from the letter of the
promises? This is the chief question, on which the whole matter
depends. Calvin evidently thought that the literal sense cannot be
taken, as that would be inconsistent with the general character of
the ancient prophecies; for he considered that many of the
prophecies, which relate to the Church of the New Testament, were
conveyed in a language suitable to the institutions then existing,
and in consistency with the notions which then prevailed, as to
religion and divine worship. Hence the Temple, Mount Sion,
sacrifices, offerings, the priests, as well as the restoration of
the people to their own land, and their perpetual establishment in
it, are often spoken of in those very promises which incontestably
refer to the Gospel dispensation. Now, if in some cases, as
confessed by most, if not by all, the language is not to be taken
literally, but as representing the success, the extension and the
blessings of the Gospel, why should it be taken literally in other
similar cases? The possession of the land of Canaan was to the
people of Israel one of their chief blessings, and was a signal
token of the divine favor. Banishment from it was not only a
temporal loss, but involved also the loss of all their religious
privileges. Nothing, therefore, could have conveyed to their minds a
higher idea of redemption than the promise of restoration to their
own land, and a perpetual possession of it.
    
    The foregoing seem to have been the views by which Calvin was
guided in his interpretation: and the Editor must be allowed to
express his concurrence, though he is fully aware, that there have
been, and that there are still, many celebrated men of a contrary
opinion.
    
    There is another idea which Calvin suggests, in connection with
this subject. He regarded The Promises made in some instances by the
Prophets as to the future prosperity of the people of Israel, and
the perpetuity of their institutions and privileges, as Conditional,
even when no condition is expressed. Instances of the same kind are
to be found in the writings of Moses and of the earlier Prophets.
Promises of perpetuity are made, (as for instance, respecting the
priesthood,) and often unaccompanied by any conditions; and yet they
were conditional, as the event proved, and in accordance with the
tenor of the covenant under which the Israelites lived. The same
view may also be taken of such promises as are found in the later
Prophets, that is, such as bear on them a national stamp: they were
announced unconditionally; but as they included blessings which
belonged to the people as subjects of the Mosaic covenant, they were
necessarily conditional, dependent as to their accomplishment on
their obedience. Hence Jeremiah, who had himself announced promises
of this kind, says, that the time would come when God would
establish another covenant; and for this reason, because the people
of Israel had broken the former covenant.
    
    The Editor feels it to be his duty to say generally of Calvin's
Expositions that the more maturely he considers them, after having
compared them with those of others, both modern and ancient, the
more satisfied he is with them, and the more he admires the
acuteness and solid judgment they display. Perhaps no individual,
possessing his high qualifications, natural, acquired, and
spiritual, has ever, either in ancient or modern times, exercised
himself so much in the study of the Holy Scriptures, and produced
Comments so original and so valuable.
    
    What is remarkable in Calvin as an Expositor is his unvarying
attention to the context. This was his polar star, which enabled him
to steer clear and safe through many intricacies and ambiguities no
to the meaning of particular words, and even of sentences. His first
object seems to have been to ascertain the general drift of a
passage or of a chapter; and his next, to harmonize its several
parts. There are many words which have various meanings, and the
surest way of ascertaining their meaning in any given sentence, is
to inquire what comports with the context. There is indeed no other
way by which we can make a choice, when a word admits of different
senses. Probably no Commentator has ever paid so much attention to
this canon of interpretation as Calvin did. The ground on which he
almost at all times rejects a sense given by others to words or to
sentences is, that it does not suit the place, or, to adopt an
expression he frequently uses, that it does not square (non Quadrat)
with the passage.
    
    It has been often thought that more difficulty attends the
Hebrew language than other languages, owing to the variety of
meaning which belongs to some of its words. But this variety exists
quite as much, and indeed much more, in many other languages, and
even in our own. What enables us in numberless instances to
ascertain the meaning of a word, and even often of a sentence, is
what stands connected with it, that is, the context. It is what goes
before and comes after, not only in a sentence, but often in a long
passage, that explains the precise meaning of many words. To
transfer the meaning of a word from one passage to another, and to
say that because it has a certain meaning in one place, it must have
the same in another, (except the word has but one meaning,) is
certainly not the way to explain Scripture or any other writing. The
best expositor in this respect is no doubt the context.
    
    It is well known that these Lectures were delivered extempore,
and were taken down by some of those who heard them; and we have
them now as thus taken down, and afterwards corrected by Calvin.
This circumstance accounts for the occasional defect of order and
for occasional repetitions. But these drawbacks seem to have been
more than compensated by the freshness and vigor, the life and
animation which these spontaneous effusion of his mind exhibit. In
none of his other writings, as it appears to the Editor, has Calvin
shone forth with so much lustre as an able, clear, plain, and
animated an Expounder, as in these Lectures. There is a flow and
energy to be found in them not equaled in those productions which he
composed in private, and finished with more careful attention to
order and style. When the mind is well stored and the memory
retentive, as was the case in no ordinary degree with Calvin, a
public auditory has usually the effect of calling into action all
the powers of the mind; and, as frequently in the present instance,
the consequence is, that the finest and the most striking thoughts
are elicited, and are expressed in a language the most energetic,
calculated to produce the deepest impressions.

                                J.O.

Thrussington
November, 1846.









The Commentaries of John Calvin on the Prophet Joel






Calvin's Preface to Joel


I proceed now to explain The Prophet Joel. The time in which he
prophesied is uncertain. Some of the Jews imagine that he exercised
his office in the time of Joram, king of Israel, because a dreadful
famine then prevailed through the whole land, as it appears evident
from sacred history; and as the Prophet record a famine, they
suppose that his ministry must be referred to that time. Some think,
that he taught under Manasseh, but they bring no reason for this
opinion; it is, therefore, a mere conjecture. Others think that he
performed his office as a teacher not only under one king, but that
he taught, at the same time with Isaiah, under several kings.
    But as there is no certainty, it is better to leave the time in
which he taught undecided; and, as we shall see, this is of no great
importance. Not to know the time of Hosea would be to readers a
great loss for there are many parts which could not be explained
without a knowledge of history; but as to Joel there is, as I have
said, less need of this; for the import of his doctrine is evident,
though his time be obscure and uncertain. But we may conclude that
he taught at Jerusalem, or at least in the kingdom of Judah. As
Hosea was appointed a Prophet to the kingdom of Israel, so Joel had
another appointment; for he was to labour especially among the Jews
and not among the Ten Tribes: this deserves to be particularly
noticed.
    Now the sum of the Book is this: At the beginning, he reproves
the stupidity of the people, who, when severely smitten by God, did
not feel their evils, but on the contrary grew hardened under them:
this is one thing. Then he threatens far more grievous evils; as the
people became so insensible under all their punishments, that they
were not humbled, the Prophet declares that there were evils at hand
much worse than those they had hitherto experienced: this is the
second thing. Thirdly, he exhorts the people to repentance, and
shows that there was required no common evidence of repentance; for
they had not lightly offended God, but by their perverseness
provoked him to bring on them utter ruin: since, then, their
obstinacy had been so great, he bids them to come as suppliants with
tears, with sackcloth, with mourning, with ashes, that they might
obtain mercy; for they were unworthy of being regarded by the Lord,
except they thus submissively humbled themselves: this is the third
subject. The fourth part of the Book is taken up with promises; for
he prophesies of the Kingdom of Christ, and shows, that though now
all things seemed full of despair, yet God had not forgotten the
covenant he made with the fathers; and that therefore Christ would
come to gather the scattered remnants, yea, and to restore to life
his people, though they were now lost and dead.
    This is the sum and substance. But we shall see, as we proceed,
that the chapters have been absurdly and foolishly divided. He thus
begins -








Commentaries on the Prophet Joel




Chapter 1.

Lecture Thirty-eighth.

Joel 1:1-4
1 The word of the LORD that came to Joel the son of Pethuel.
2 Hear this, ye old men, and give ear, all ye inhabitants of the
land. Hath this been in your days, or even in the days of your
fathers?
3 Tell ye your children of it, and [let] your children [tell] their
children, and their children another generation.
4  That which the palmerworm hath left hath the locust eaten; and
that which the locust hath left hath the cankerworm eaten; and that
which the cankerworm hath left hath the caterpiller eaten.

    "The word of Jehovah which came to Joel, the son of Pethuel".
He names here his father; it is hence probable that he was a man
well known and of some celebrity. But who this Pethuel was, a11 now
are ignorant. And what the Hebrews hold as a general rule, that a
prophet is designated, whenever his father's name is added, appears
to me frivolous; and we see how bold they are in devising such
comments. When no reason for any thing appears to them, they invent
some fable, and allege it as a divine truth. When, therefore, they
are wont thus to trifle, I have no regard for what is held by them
as a rule. But yet it is probable, that when the Prophets are
mentioned as having sprung from this or that father, their fathers
were men of some note.
    Now what he declared by saying, that he delivered the word of
the Lord, is worthy of being observed; for he shows that he claimed
nothing for himself, as an individual, as though he wished to rule
by his own judgment, and to subject others to his own fancies; but
that he relates only what he had received from the Lord. And since
the Prophets claimed no authority for themselves, except as far as
they faithfully executed the office divinely committed to them, and
delivered, as it were from hand to hand, what the Lord commanded, we
may hence feel assured that no human doctrines ought to be admitted
into the Church. Why? Because as much as men trust in themselves, so
much they take away from the authority of God. This preface then
ought to be noticed, which almost all the Prophets use, namely, that
they brought nothing of their own or according to their own
judgment, but that they were faithful dispensers of the truth
intrusted to them by God.
    And the word is said to have been to Joel; not that God
intended that he alone should be his disciple, but because he
deposited this treasure with him, that he might be his minister to
the whole people. Paul also says the same thing, - that to the
ministers of the Gospel was committed a message for Christ, or in
Christ's name, to reconcile men to God, (2 Cor. 5: 20;) and in
another place he says, 'He has deposited with us this treasure as in
earthen vessels,' (2 Cor. 4: 7.) We now understand why Joel says,
that the word of the Lord was delivered to him, it was not that he
might be the only disciple; but as some teacher was necessary, Joel
was chosen to whom the Lord committed this office. Then the word of
God belongs indeed indiscriminately to all; and yet it is committed
to Prophets and other teachers; for they are, so to speak, as it
were trustees (depositarii - depositories.)
    As to the verb "hayah", there is no need of philosophizing so
acutely as Jerome does: "How was the word of the Lord made?" For he
feared lest Christ should be said to be made, as he is the word of
the Lord. These are trifles, the most puerile. He could not,
however, in any other way get rid of the difficulty but by saying
that the word is said to be made with respect to man whom God
addresses, and not with respect to God himself. All this, as ye must
see, is childish; for the Prophet says here only, that the word of
the Lord was sent to him, that is, that the Lord employed him as his
messenger to the whole people. But after having shown that he was a
fit minister of God, being furnished with his word, he speaks
authoritatively, for he represented the person of God.
    We now see what is the lawful authority which ought to be in
force in the Church, and which we ought to obey without dispute, and
to which all ought to submit. It is then only that this authority
exists, when God himself speaks by men, and the Holy Spirit employs
them as his instruments. For the Prophet brings not forward any
empty title; he does not say that he is a high priest of the tribe
of Levi, or of the first order, or of the family of Aaron. He
alleges no such thing, but says that the word of God was deposited
with him. Whosoever then demands to be heard in the Church, must of
necessity really prove that he is a preacher of God's word; and he
must not bring his own devices, nor blend with the word any thing
that proceeds from the judgment of his own flesh.
    But first the Prophet reproves the Jews for being so stupid as
not to consider that they were chastised by the hand of God, though
this was quite evident. Hence they pervert, in my judgment, the
meaning of the Prophet, who think that punishments are here
denounced which were as yet suspended; for they transfer all these
things to a future time. But I distinguish between this reproof and
the denunciations which afterwards follow. Here then the Prophet
reproaches the Jews, that having been so severely smitten, they did
not gain wisdom; and yet even fools, when the rod is applied to
their backs, know that they are punished. Since then the Jews were
so stupid, that when even chastised they did not understand that
they had to do with God, the Prophet justly reproves this madness.
"Hear", he says, "ye old men; give ear, all ye inhabitants of the
land, and declare this to your children". But the consideration of
this passage I shall put off till tomorrow.
    
Prayer.
    
Grant, Almighty God that as almost the whole world give such loose
reins to their licentiousness, that they hesitate not either to
despise or to regard as of no value thy sacred word - Grant, O Lord
that we may always retain such reverence as is justly due to it and
to thy holy oracles and be so moved whenever thou deignest to
address us that being truly humbled, we may be raised up by faith to
heaven, and by hope gradually attain that glory which is as yet hid
from us. And may we at the same time so submissively restrain
ourselves, as to make it our whole wisdom to obey thee and to do
thee service, until thou gatherest us into thy kingdom, where we
shall be partakers of thy glory, through Christ our Lord. Amen.


Lecture Thirty-ninth.

    "Hear this, ye old men; and give ear, all ye inhabitants of the
land: has this been in your days, and in the days of your fathers?
This declare to your children and your children to their children,
and their children to the next generation: the residue of the locust
has the chafer eaten, and the residue of the chafer has the
cankerworm eaten, and the residue of the cankerworm has the
caterpillar eaten." I have in the last Lecture already mentioned
what I think of this passage of the Prophet. Some think that a
future punishment is denounced; but the context sufficiently proves
that they mistake and pervert the real meaning of the Prophet; for,
on the contrary, he reproves here the hardness of the people, - that
they fell not their plagues. And as men are not easily moved by
God's judgments, the Prophet here declares that God had executed
such a vengeance as could not be regarded otherwise than miraculous;
as though he said, "God often punishes men, and it behaves them to
be attentive as soon as he raises up his finger. But common
punishments are wont to be unheeded; men soon forget those
punishments to which they have been accustomed. God has, however,
treated you in an unusual manner, having openly as it were put forth
his hand from heaven, and brought on you punishments nothing less
than miraculous. Ye must then be more than stupid, if ye perceive
not that you are smitten by God's hand." This is the true meaning of
the Prophet, and may be easily gathered from the words.
    "Hear, ye old men", he says. He expressly addresses the old,
because experience teaches men much; and the old, when they see any
thing new or unusual, must know, that it is not according to the
ordinary course of things. He who has past his fiftieth or sixtieth
year, and sees something new happening which he had never thought
of, doubtless acknowledges it as the unusual work of God. This is
the reason why the Prophet directs here his discourse to the old; as
though he said, "I will not terrify you about nothing; but let the
old hear, who have been accustomed for many years to many
revolutions; let them now answer me, whether in their whole life,
which has been an age on the earth, have they seen any such thing."
We now perceive the design of the Prophet; for he intended to awaken
the Jews that they might understand that God had put forth his hand
from heaven, and that it was impossible to ascribe what they had
seen with their eyes to chance or to earthly causes, but that it was
a miracle. And his object was to make the Jews at length ashamed of
their folly in not having hitherto been attentive to God's
punishments, and in having always flattered themselves, as though
God slept in heaven, when yet he so violently thundered against
them, and intended by an extraordinary course to move them, that
they might at last perceive that they were summoned to judgment.
    He afterwards adds, "And an ye inhabitants of the land". Had
the Prophet addressed only the old, some might seize on some pretext
for their ignorance; hence he addressed and from the least to the
greatest; and this he did, that the young might not exempt
themselves from blame in proceeding in their obstinacy and in thus
mocking God, when he called them to repentance. "Hear, he says, all
ye inhabitants of the land; has this been in your days or in the
days of your fathers?" He says first, has such a thing been in your
days, for doubtless what happens rarely deserves a greater
consideration. It is indeed true that foolish men are blind to the
daily works of God; as the favor of God in making his sun to rise
daily is but little thought of by us. This happens through our
ingratitude; but our ingratitude is doubled, and is much more base
and less excusable, when the Lord works in an unwonted manner, and
we yet with closed eves overlook what ought to be deemed a miracle.
This dullness the Prophet now reproves, "Has such a thing," he says,
"happened in your days, or in the days of your fathers? Ye can
recall to mind what your fathers have told you. It is certain that
for two ages no such thing has happened. Your torpidity then is
extreme, since ye neglect this judgment of God, which from its very
rareness ought to have awakened your minds."
    He then adds, "Tell it to your children, your children to their
children, their children to the next generation". In this verse the
Prophet shows that the matter deserved to be remembered, and was not
to be despised by posterity, even for many generations. It appears
now quite clear that the Prophet threatens not what was to be, as
some interpreters think; it would have been puerile: but, on the
contrary, he expostulates here with the Jews, because they were so
slothful and tardy in considering God's judgments; and especially as
it was a remarkable instance, when God employed not usual means, but
roused, and, as it were, terrified men by prodigies. Of this then
tell: for "'aleyha" means no other thing than 'tell or declare this
thing to your children;' and further, your children to their
children. When any thing new happens, it may be, that we are at
first moved with some wonder; but our feeling soon vanishes with the
novelty, and we disregard what at first caused great astonishment.
But the Prophet here showed, that such was the judgment of God of
which he speaks, that it ought not to have been overlooked, no, not
even by posterity. Let your children, he says, declare it to those
after them, and their children to the fourth generation: it was to
be always remembered.
    He adds what that judgment was, - that the hope of food had for
many years disappointed them. It often happened, we know, that
locusts devoured the standing corn; and then the chafers and the
palmer worms did the same: these were ordinary events. But when one
devastation happened, and another followed, and there was no end;
when there had been four barren years, suddenly produced by insects,
which devoured the growth of the earth; - this was certainly
unusual. Hence the Prophet says, that this could not have been
chance; for God intended to show to the Jews some extraordinary
portent, that even against their will they might observe his hand.
When any thing trifling happens, if it be rare, it will strike the
attention of men; for we often see that the world makes a great
noise about frivolous things. "But this wonder," says the Prophet,
"ought to have produced effect on you. What then will ye do, since
ye are starving, and the causes are evident; for God has cursed your
land, and brought these insects, which have consumed your food
before your eyes. Since it is so, it is surely the time for you to
repent; and you have been hitherto very regardless having overlooked
God's judgments, which have been so remarkable and so memorable."
Let us now proceed.

Joel 1:5
Awake, ye drunkards, and weep; and howl, all ye drinkers of wine,
because of the new wine; for it is cut off from your mouth.

    The Prophet adds this verse for the sake of amplifying; for
when God sees men either contemptuously laughing at or disregarding
his judgments, he derides them; and this mode the Prophet now
adopts. 'Ye drunkards,' he says, 'awake, and weep and howl.' In
these words he addresses, on the subject in hand, those who had
willfully closed their eyes to judgments so manifest. The Jews had
become torpid, and had covered themselves over as it were with
hardness; it was then necessary to draw them forth as by force into
the light. But the Prophet accosts the drunkards by name; and it is
probable that this vice was then very common among the people.
However that might be, the Prophet by mentioning this instance shows
more convincingly, that there was no pretence for passing by things,
and that the Jews could not excuse their indifference if they took
no notice; for the very drunkards, who had degenerated from the
state of men, did themselves feel the calamity, for the wine had
been cut off from their mouth. And this expression of the Prophet,
"Awake", ought to be noticed; for the drunkards, even while awake,
are asleep, and also spend a great portion of time in sleep. The
Prophet had this in view, that men, though not endued with great
knowledge, but even void of common sense, could no longer flatter
themselves; for the very drunkards, who had wholly suffocated their
senses, and had become thus estranged in their minds, did yet
perceive the judgment of God; though drowsiness held them bound,
they were yet constrained to awake at such a manifest punishment.
"What then does this ignorance mean, when ye see not that you are
smitten by God's hand?"
    To the same purpose are the words, "Weep and howl". Drunkards,
on the contrary, give themselves up to mirth, and intemperately
indulge themselves; and there is nothing more difficult than to make
them to feel sorrow; for wine so infatuates their senses, that they
continue to laugh in the greatest calamities. But the Prophet says,
Weep and howl, ye drunkards! What then ought sober men to do? He
then adds, "Cut off is the wine from your mouth". He says not, "The
use of wine is taken away frown you;" but he says, "from your
mouth". Though no one should think of vineyards or of winecellars or
of cups, yet they shall be forced, willing or unwilling, to feel the
judgment of God in their mouth and in their lips. This is what the
Prophet means. We then see how much he aggravates what he had said
before: and we must remember that his object was to strike shame
into the people, who had become thus torpid with regard to God's
judgments. As to the word "'asis", some render it new wine. "'asas"
is to press; and hence "'asis" is properly the wine that is pressed
in the wine-vat. New wine is not what is drawn out of the bottle,
but what is pressed out as it were by force. But the Prophet, I have
no doubt, includes here under one kind every sort of wine. Let us go
on.

Joel 1:6,7
For a nation is come up upon my land, strong, and without number,
whose teeth [are] the teeth of a lion, and he hath the cheek teeth
of a great lion.
He hath laid my vine waste, and barked my fig tree: he hath made it
clean bare, and cast [it] away; the branches thereof are made white.
    
    Of what some think, that punishment, not yet inflicted, is
denounced here on the people, I again repeat, I do not approve; but,
on the contrary, the Prophet, according to my view, records another
judgment of God, in order to show that God had not only in one way
warned the Jews of their sins, that he might restore them to a right
mind; but that he had tried all means to bring them to the right
way, though they proved to have been irreclaimable. After having
then spoke of the sterility of the fields and of other calamities,
he now adds that the Jews had been visited with war. Surely famine
ought to have touched them, especially when they saw that evils,
succeeding evils, had happened for several years contrary to the
usual course of things, so that they could not be imputed to chance.
But when God brought war upon them, when they were already worn out
with famine, must they not have been more than insane in mind, to
have continued astonied at God's judgments and not to repent? Then
the meaning of the Prophet is, that God had tried, by every means
possible, to find out whether the Jews were healable, and had given
them every opportunity to repent, but that they were wholly perverse
and untamable.
    Then he says, "Verily a nation came up". The particle "ki" is
not to be taken as a causative, but only as explanatory, "Verily, or
surely, he says, a nation came up"; though an inference also is not
amiss, if it be drawn from the beginning of the verse: 'Hear, ye old
men, and tell your children;' what shall we tell? even this, that a
nation, &c. But in this form also "ki" would be exegetical, and the
sense would be the same. This much as to the meaning of the passage.
    "A nation, then, came up over my land". God here justly claims
the land of Canaan as his own heritage, and does so designedly, that
the Jews might more clearly know that he was angry with them; for
their condition would not have been worse than that of other
nations, had not God resolved to punish them for their sins. There
is here then an implied comparison between Judea and other
countries, as though the Prophet said, "How comes it, that your land
is wasted by wars and many other calamities, while other countries
are at rest? This land is no doubt sacred to God, for he has chosen
it for himself, that he might rule in it; he has here his own
habitation: it then must be that there is some cause for God's
wrath, as your land is so miserably wasted, when other lands enjoy
tranquillity." We now perceive what the Prophet means. A nation, he
says, came up upon my land, and what then? God could surely have
prevented this; he could have defended his own land, of which he was
the keeper, and which was under his protection: how then had it
happened that enemies with impunity inundated this land, having
marched into it and utterly laid it waste, except that it had been
forsaken by the Lord himself?
    "A nation, he says, came up upon my land, strong and without
number"; and further, "who had the teeth of a lion, the jaw-bones of
a young lion". The nations had no strength which God could not in an
instant have broken down, nor had he need of mighty auxiliaries, for
he could by a nod only have reduced to nothing whatever men might
have attempted: when, therefore, the Assyrians so impetuously
assailed the Jews they were necessarily exposed to the wantonness of
their enemies, for they were unworthy of being protected, as
hitherto, by the hand of God.
    He afterwards adds, that "his vine had been exposed to
desolation and waste, his fig-tree to the stripping of the bark".
God speaks not here of his own vine, as in some other places, in
which he designates his Church by this term; but he calls everything
on earth his own, as he calls the whole race of Abraham his
children: and he thus reproaches the Jews for having reduced
themselves to such wretchedness through their own fault; for they
would have never been spoiled by their enemies, had not God, who was
wont to defend then, previously rejected them; for there was nothing
in their land which he did not claim as his own; as he had chosen
the people, so he had consecrated the land to himself. Whatsoever,
then, enlisted in Judea, was, as it were, sacred to God. Now when
both the vines and the fig-trees were exposed to the depredations of
the unbelieving, it was certain that God no longer ruled there. How
so? Even because the Jews had expelled him. He afterwards enlarges
on the same subject; for what follows, "By denuding he has denuded
it and cast it away", is not a mere narrative; the Prophet here
declares not simply what had taken place; but as we have already
said, adduces more proof, and tries to awaken the drowsy senses of
the people, yea, to arouse them from that lethargy by which the
minds of all had been seized; hence it is that he uses in his
teaching so many expressions. This is the reason why he says that
the vine and the fig-tree had been denuded, and also that the leaves
had been taken away, that the branches had been made bare and white;
so that there remained neither produce nor growth.
    Many interpreters join these three verses with the former, as
if the Prophet now expressed what he had said before of the palmer
worm, the chafer, and the locust; for they think that he spake
allegorically when he said that all the fruits of the land had been
consumed by the locusts and the chafers. They therefore add, that
these locusts, or chafers, or the palmer worms, were the Assyrians,
as well as the Persian and the Greeks, that is, Alexander of Macedon
and the Romans: but this is wholly a strained views so that there is
no need of a long argument; for any one may easily perceive that the
Prophet mentions another kind of punishments that he might in every
way render the Jews inexcusable who were not roused by judgments so
multiplied, but remained still obstinate in their vices. Let us now
proceed.

Joel 1:8
Lament like a virgin girded with sackcloth for the husband of her
youth.
    
    The Prophet now addresses the whole land. "Lament", he says;
not in an ordinary way, but like a widow, whose husband is dead,
whom she had married when young. The love, we know, of a young man
towards a young woman, and so of a young woman towards a young man,
is more tender than when a person in years marries an elderly woman.
This is the reason that the Prophet here mentions the husband of her
youth; he wished to set forth the heaviest lamentation, and hence he
says "The Jews ought not surely to be otherwise affected by so many
calamities, than a widow who has lost her husband while young, and
not arrived at maturity, but in the flower of his age." As then such
widows feel bitterly their loss, so the Prophet has adduced their
case.
    The Hebrews often call a husband "ba'al", because he is the
lord of his wife and has her under his protection. Literally it is,
"For the lord of her youth;" and hence it is, that they also called
their idols "ba'alim", as though they were as we have often said in
our comment on the Prophet Hosea, their patrons.
    The sum of the whole is, That the Jews could not have continued
in an unconcerned state, without being void of all reason and
discernment; for they were forced, willing or unwilling, to feel a
most grievous calamity. It is a monstrous thing, when a widow,
losing her husband when yet young, refrains from mourning. Now then,
since God had afflicted his land with so many evils, he wished to
bring on them, as it were, the grief of widowhood. It follows -

Joel 1:9
The meat offering and the drink offering is cut off from the house
of the LORD; the priests, the LORD's ministers, mourn.
    
    Here, in other words, the Prophet paints the calamity; for, as
it has been said, we see how great is the slowness of men to discern
God's judgments; and the Jews, we know, were not more attentive to
them than we are now. It was, therefore, needful to prick them with
various goads, as the Prophet now does, as though he said, "If ye
are not now concerned for want of food, if ye consider not even what
the very drunkards are constrained to feel, who perceive not the
evil at a distance, but taste it in their lips - if all these things
are of no account with you, do at least look on the temple of God,
which is now destitute of its ordinary services; for through the
sterility of your fields, through so great a scarcity, neither bread
nor wine is offered. Since then ye see that the worship of God has
ceased, how is it ye yourselves still remain? Why is it that ye
perceive not that God's fury is kindled against you? For surely
except God had been most grievously offended, he would at least have
had some regard for his own worship; he would not have suffered his
temple to remain without sacrifices."
    The Jews, we know, daily poured their libations, and offered
meat-offerings. When, therefore, Joel mentions "minchah" and
libation, he doubtless meant to show that the worship of God was
nearly abolished. But God would have never permitted such a thing,
had he not been grievously offended by the sins of men. Hence the
indifference, or rather the stupidity of the people, is more clearly
proved, inasmuch as they perceived not the signs of God's wrath made
evident even in the very temple. It follows -

Joel 1:10
The field is wasted, the land mourneth; for the corn is wasted: the
new wine is dried up, the oil languisheth.
    
    The Prophet goes on here with the same subject, and uses these
many words to give more effect to what he said; for he knew that he
addressed the deaf, who, by long habit, had so hardened themselves
that God could effect nothing, at least very little, by his word.
This is the reason why the Prophet so earnestly presses a subject so
evident. Should any one ask what need there was of so many
expressions, as it seems to be a needless use of words; I do indeed
allow that all that the Prophet wished to say might have been
expressed in one sentence, as there is here nothing intricate: but
it was not enough that what he said should be understood, except the
Jews applied it to themselves, and perceived that they had to do
with God; and to make this application they were not disposed. It is
not then without reason that the Prophet labors here, and enforces
the same thing in many words.
    Hence he says, "The field is wasted, and the land mourns; for
the corn has perished, for dried up has the wine, for destroyed has
been the oil". And by these words he intimates that they seeing saw
nothing; as though he said, "Let necessity extort mourning from you;
ye are indeed starving, all complain of want, all deplore the need
of bread and wine; and yet no one of you thinks whence this want is,
that it is from the hand of God. Ye feel it in your mouth, ye feel
it in your palate, ye feel it in your throat, ye feel it in your
stomach; but ye feel it not in your heart." In short, the Prophet
intimates that the Jews were void of right understanding; they
indeed deplored their famine, but they were like brute beasts, who,
when hungry, show signs of impatience. So the Jews mourned, because
their stomach disquieted them; but they knew not that the cause of
their want and famine was their sins. It afterwards follows -

Joel 1:11
Be ye ashamed, O ye husbandmen; howl, O ye vinedressers, for the
wheat and for the barley; because the harvest of the field is
perished.
    
    The Prophet says nothing new here, but only strengthens what he
had said before, and is not wordy without reason; for he intends
here not merely to teach, but also to produce an effect: And this is
the design of heavenly teaching; for God not only wishes that what
he says may be understood, but intends also to penetrate into our
hearts: and the word of God, we know, consists not of doctrine only,
but also of exhortations, and threatenings, and reproofs. This plan
then the Prophet now pursues: "Ye husband men, he says, be ashamed,
and ye vinedressers, howl; for perished has the harvest of the
field". The sum of the whole is, that the Jews, as we have already
said, could by no excuse cover their indifference; for their clamour
was everywhere heard, their complaints everywhere resounded, that
the land had become a waste, that they were themselves famished that
they were afflicted with many calamities; and yet no one
acknowledged that God, who visited them for their sins, was the
author. But what remains I shall put off until to-morrow.
    
Prayer.
    
Grant, Almighty God, that as thou invites us daily by various means
to repentance, and continues also to urge us, because thou sees our
extreme tardiness, - O grant that we may at length be awakened from
our indifference, and suffer us not to be inebriated by the charms
of Satan and the world; but by thy Spirit rouse us to real groaning,
that, being ashamed of ourselves, we may flee to thy mercy, and
doubt not but that thou wilt be propitious to us, provided with a
sincere heart we call on thee, and seek that reconciliation which
thou daily offerest to us by thy Gospel in the name of thy only
begotten Son. Amen.


Lecture Fortieth.

Joel 1:12
The vine is dried up, and the fig tree languisheth; the pomegranate
tree, the palm tree also, and the apple tree, [even] all the trees
of the field, are withered: because joy is withered away from the
sons of men.
    
    The Prophet now concludes his subjects which was, that as God
executed judgments so severe on the people, it was a wonder that
they remained stupefied, when thus reduces to extremities. "The
vine, he says, has dried up", and every kind of fruit; he adds the
fig-tree, afterwards the "romon", the pomegranate, (for so they
render it,) the palm, the apple-tree, and all trees. And this
sterility was a clear sign of God's wrath; and it would have been so
regarded, had not men either wholly deceived themselves, or had
become hardened against all punishments. Now this "anaistesia"
(insensibility) is as it were the very summit of evils; that is,
when men feel not their own calamities, or at least understand not
that they are inflicted by the hand of God. Let us now proceed -

Joel 1:13-15
13 Gird yourselves, and lament, ye priests: howl, ye ministers of
the altar: come, lie all night in sackcloth, ye ministers of my God:
for the meat offering and the drink offering is withholden from the
house of your God.
14 Sanctify ye a fast, call a solemn assembly, gather the elders
[and] all the inhabitants of the land [into] the house of the LORD
your God, and cry unto the LORD,
15 Alas for the day! for the day of the LORD [is] at hand, and as a
destruction from the Almighty shall it come.

    Now the Prophet begins to exhort the people to repentance.
Having represented them as grievously afflicted by the hand of God,
he now adds that a remedy was at hand, provided they solicited the
favor of God; and at the same tine he denounces a more grievous
punishment in future; for it would not have been enough that they
had been reminded of their calamities and evils, except they also
feared in time to come. Hence the Prophet, that he might the more
move them, says, that the hand of God was still stretched out, and
that there was something worse nigh at hand, except they of
themselves anticipated it. This is the purport of the whole. I now
come to the words.
    "Be girded, lament and howl, he says, ye priests, the ministers
of the altar". The verb "chigru" may be explained in two ways. Some
understand it thus "Gird yourselves with sackcloth;" for shortly
after he says "with sackcloth", or "in sackcloth". But we may take
it as simply meaning, gird yourselves, that is, Hasten; for this
metaphorical expression often occurs. As to the drift of the
passage, there is but little difference, whether we read, "Gird
yourselves with sackcloth," or, "Hasten." And he addresses the
priests, though a common and general exhortation to the whole people
afterwards follows. But as God made them the leaders of his people,
it behaved them to afford others an example. It is the common duty
of all the godly to pray for and to further the salvation of their
brethren; but it is a duty especially enjoined on the ministers of
the word and on pastors. So also, when God calls those to repentance
who preside over others, they ought to lead the way, and for two
reasons; - first, because they have not been in vain chosen by the
Lord for this end, that they might outshine others, and be as
luminaries; - secondly, because they who bear any public office
ought to feel a double guilty when the Lord visits public sins with
judgment. Private men indeed sin; but in pastors there is the blame
of negligence, and still more, When they deviate even the least from
the right way, a greater offense is given. Rightly then does the
Prophet begin with the priests, when he bids the whole people to
repent. And he not only bids them to put on sackcloth, but commands
them also, as we shall see, to proclaim a fast, and then to call an
assembly: "ye priests, he says, be girded, and put on sackcloth,
wail, howl, and pass the night in sackcloth"; and then he calls them
the ministers of the altar and the ministers of God, but in a
different sense; for the Prophet does not substitute the altar for
God, as he would thus have formed an idol; but they are called the
ministers of the altar, because they offered there sacrifices to
God. They are indeed with strict propriety the ministers of God; but
as the priests, when they sacrificed, stood in the presence of God,
and as the altar was to them as it were the way of access to him,
they are called the ministers of the altar. He calls them, at the
same time, the ministers of God, and, as it has been stated, they
are properly so called.
    But he says here "'elohai" (my God.) The "yod", my, is by some
omitted, as if it were a servile letter, but redundant. I, however,
doubt not but that the Prophet here mentions Him as his God; for he
thus intended to claim more authority for his doctrine. His concern
or his contest was with the whole people; and they, no doubt, in
their usual ways proudly opposed against him the name of God as
their shield. "What! are we not the very people of God?" Hence the
Prophet, in order to prove this presumption false, sets forth God as
being on his side. He therefore says, 'The ministers of my God.' Had
any one objected and said, that he was in common the God of the
whole people, the Prophet had a ready answer, - "I am specially sent
by Him, and sustain his person, and plead the cause which he has
committed to me: He is then my God and not yours." We now then see
the Prophet's meaning in this expression. He now adds, "for cut off
is offering and libation from the house of our God". He confesses
Him at the same time to be their God with reference to the
priesthood; for nothing, we know, was presumptuously invented by the
Jews, as the temple was built by Godly command, and sacrifices were
offered according to the rule of the law. He then ascribes to the
priesthood this honor, that God ruled in the temple; for God, as we
have already said, approved of that worship as having proceeded from
his word: and to this purpose is that saying of Christ, 'We know
what we worship.' But yet the priests did not rightly worship God;
for though their external rites were according to the command of
God, yet as their hearts were polluted, it is certain that whatever
they did was repudiated by God, until, being touched with the fear
of his judgment, they fled to his mercy, as the Prophet now exhorts
them to do.
    He afterwards adds, "sanctify a fast, call an assembly, gather
the old, all the inhabitants of the land". "Kadash" means to
sanctify and to prepare; but I have retained its proper meaning,
sanctify a fast; for the command had regard to the end, that is,
sanctification. Then "a fast proclaim" - for what purpose? That the
people might purge themselves from all their pollutions, and present
themselves pure and clean before God. "Call an assembly". It appears
that there was a solemn convocation whenever a fast was proclaimed
among the people: for it was not enough for each one privately at
home to abstain from food, except all confessed openly, with one
mouth and one consent, that they were guilty before God. Hence with
a fast was connected a solemn profession of repentance. The uses and
ends of a fast, we know, are various: but when the Prophet here
speaks of a solemn fast, he doubtless bids the people to come to it
suppliantly, as the guilty are wont to do, who would deprecate
punishment before a judge, that they may obtain mercy from him. In
the second chapter there will be much to say on fasting: I only wish
now briefly to touch on the subject.
    He afterwards bids "the old to be gathered", and then adds,
"All the inhabitants of the land". But he begins with the old, and
justly so, for the guilt of the old is always the heaviest. But this
word relates not to age as in a former instance. When he said
yesterday, 'Hear ye, the aged,' he addressed those who by long
experience had learnt in the world many things unknown to the young
or to men of middle age. But now the Prophet means by the old those
to whom was intrusted the public government; and as through their
slothfulness they had suffered the worship of God and all integrity
to fall into decay, rightly does the Prophet wish them to be leaders
and precursors to the people in their confession of repentance; and
further, it behaved them, on account of their office, as we have
said of the priests, to lead the way. Joel at the same time shows
that the whole people were implicated in guilt, so that none could
be excepted, for he bids them all to come with the elders.
    "Call" them, he says, "to the house of Jehovah your God, and
cry ye to Jehovah". We hence learn why he had spoken of fasting and
of sackcloth, even that they might humbly deprecate God's wrath; for
fasting of itself would have been useless, and to put on sackcloth,
we know, is in itself but an empty sign: but prayer is what the
Prophet sets here in the highest rank, and fasting is only an
appendage, and so is sackcloth. Whosoever then puts on sackcloth and
withholds prayer, is guilty of mockery; and no one can derive any
good from mere fasting; but when fasting and sackcloth are added to
prayer, and are as it were handmaids, then they are not uselessly
practiced. We may then observe, that the end of fasting and
sackcloth was no other, than that the priests together with the
whole people, might present themselves suppliantly before God, and
confess themselves worthy of destruction, and that they had no hope
except from his gratuitous mercy. This is the meaning.
    It now follows, "Alas the day! for nigh is the day of Jehovah".
Here the Prophet, as it was at first stated, threatens something
worse in future than what they had experienced. He has hitherto been
showing their torpidity; now he declares that they had not yet
suffered all their punishments, but that there was something worse
to be feared, except they turned seasonably to God. And he now
exclaims, as though the day of Jehovah was before his eyes, and he
calls it the day of Jehovah, because in that day God would
stretch-forth his hand to execute judgment; for while he tolerates
men or bears with their sins, he seems not to rule in the world. And
though this mode of speaking is common enough in Scripture, it ought
yet to be carefully noticed; for all seem not to understand that God
calls that his own day, when he will openly shine forth and appear
as the judge of the world: but as long as he spares us, his face
seems to be hidden from us; yea, he seems not to govern the world.
The Prophet therefore declares here that the day of the Lord was at
hand; for it cannot be, but that the Lord must at length rise up and
ascend his throne to punish men, though for a time he may connive at
them. But the interjection, expressive of grief, intimates that the
judgment, of which the Prophet speaks, was not to be despised, for
it would be dreadful; and he wished to strike terror into the Jews,
for they were too secure. And he says, "The day is nigh", that they
might not procrastinate, as they were wont to do, from day to day:
for though men be touched by God's judgments they yet even desire
time to be prolonged to them, and they come very tardily to God.
Hence the Prophet, that he might correct this their great
slothfulness, says that the day was nigh.
    He adds, "kashod mishadday yavo'" 'as a desolation from the
Almighty will it come.' The word "shadday" signifies a conqueror;
but it proceeds from the verb "shadad"; and this in Hebrew means "to
desolate," or "to destroy." The powerful and the conqueror is called
"shadday"; and hence they call God "shadday", on account of his
power. Some derive it from udder: then they call God "shadday" as
though Scripture gave him this name, because from him flows all
abundance of good things as from a fountain. But I rather refer this
name to his strength and power, for the Jews, we know, gloried in
the name of God as one armed to defend their safety. Whenever then
the Prophets said that God was "shadday", the people laid hold on
this as a ground for false confidence, "God is almighty, we are then
secure from all evils." But yet this confidence was not founded on
the promises: and it was, we know, an absurd and profane presumption
to have thus abused the name of God. Since then the Jews foolishly
pricked themselves on this, that God had adopted them for his
people, the prophet says here, "There will come a desolation from
the Almighty;" that is, "God is Almighty, but ye are greatly
deceived in thinking that your safety is secured by his power; for
he will, on the contrary, be opposed to you, inasmuch as ye have
provoked his wrath." It follows -

Joel 1:16,17
Is not the meat cut off before our eyes, [yea], joy and gladness
from the house of our God?
The seed is rotten under their clods, the garners are laid desolate,
the barns are broken down; for the corn is withered.
    
    He repeats the same thing as before, for he reproaches the Jews
for being so slow to consider that the hand of God was against them.
"Has not the meat, he says, been cut off before our eyes? joy and
exultation from the house of our God?" Here he chides the madness of
the Jews, that they perceived not things set before their eyes. He
therefore says that they were blind in the midst of light, and that
their sight was such, that seeing they saw nothing: they surely
ought to have felt distressed, when want reached the temple. For
since God had commanded the first-fruits to be offered to him, the
temple ought not by any means to have been without its sacrifices;
and though mortals perish a hundred times through famine and want,
yet God ought not to be defrauded of his right. When, therefore,
there was now no offering nor libation, how great was the stupidity
of the people not to feel this curse, which ought to have wounded
them more than if they had been consumed a hundred times by famine?
We see then the design of the Prophet's words, that is, to condemn
the Jews for their stupidity; for they considered not that a most
grievous judgment was brought on them, when the temple was deprived
of its usual sacrifices.
    He afterwards adds, that "joy and gladness" were taken away:
for God commanded the Jews to come to the temple to give thanks and
to acknowledge themselves blessed, because he had chosen his
habitation among them. Hence this expression is so often repeated by
Moses, 'Thou shalt rejoice before thy God;' for by saying this, God
intended to encourage the people the more to come cheerfully to the
temple; as though he said, "I certainly want not your presence, but
I wish by my presence to make you glad." But now when the worship of
God ceased, the Prophet says, that joy had been also abolished; for
the Jews could not cheerfully give thanks to God when his curse was
before their eyes, when they saw that he was their adversary, and
also when they were deprived of the ordinances of religion. We now
then perceive why the Prophet joins joy and gladness with oblations:
they were the symbols of thanksgiving.
    He shows the cause of the evil, "Rotted have the grains in the
very furrows". For they call seeds "perudot" from the act of
scattering. He then calls grains by this name, because they are
scattered; and he says that they rotted in the fields when they
ought to have germinated. He then adds, "The granaries halve become
desolated and the barns have been pulled down"; for there was no use
for them. Hence we conclude, that sterility had become most grievous
and perpetual; for if the people had been only afflicted by famine
for a few harvests or for one year, the Prophet would not have
spoken thus. The famine must then have been, as it has been already
stated for a long time. Let us now proceed -

Joel 1:18
How do the beasts groan! the herds of cattle are perplexed, because
they have no pasture; yea, the flocks of sheep are made desolate.
    
    The Prophet amplifies his reproof, that even oxen as well as
other animals felt the judgment of God. There is then here an
implied comparison between the feeling of brute animals and the
insensibility of the people, as though he said, "There is certainly
more intelligence and reason in oxen and other brute animals than in
you; for the herds groan, the flocks groan, but ye remain stupid and
confounded. What does this mean?" We then see that the Prophet here
compares the stupidity of the people with the feeling of animals, to
make them more ashamed.
    "How, he says, has the beast groaned?" The question serves to
show vehemence; for if he had said in the form of a narrative, that
the animals groaned, that the cattle were confounded, and that the
flocks perished, the Jews would have been less affected; but when he
exclaims and, moved with astonishment, speaks interrogatively, How
does the beast groan? he, no doubt, wished to produce an effect on
the Jews, that they might perceive the judgment of God, which they
had before passed by with their eyes closed, though it was quite
manifest. It follows -

Joel 1:19,20
O LORD, to thee will I cry: for the fire hath devoured the pastures
of the wilderness, and the flame hath burned all the trees of the
field.
The beasts of the field cry also unto thee: for the rivers of waters
are dried up, and the fire hath devoured the pastures of the
wilderness.
    
    When the Prophet saw that he succeeded less than he expected,
leaving the people, he speaks of what he would do himself, "I will
cry to thee, Jehovah". He had before bidden others to cry, and why
does he not now press the same thing? Because he saw that the Jews
were so deaf and listless as to make no account of all his
exhortations: he therefore says, "I will cry to thee, Jehovah; for
they are touched neither by shame nor by fear. Since they throw
aside every regard for their own safety, since they account as
nothing my exhortations I will leave them, and will cry to thee;"
which means this, - "I see, Lord, that all these calamities proceed
from thy hand; I will not howl as profane men do, but I will ascribe
them to thee; for I perceive thee to be acting as a judge in all the
evils which we suffer." Having then before declared that the Jews
were more tardy than brute animals and having reproached them for
feeling less acutely than oxen and sheep, the Prophet now says, that
though they all remained obstinate, he would yet do what a pious man
and a worshipper of God ought to do, I will cry to thee - Why?
Because the "fire has consumed the pastures, or the dwellings, of
the wilderness".
    He here again gives an awful record of God's judgments. Though
the heat may burn up whole regions, yet we know that pasture-lands
do not soon wither, especially on mountains; and of such cold
pastures he speaks here. We know that however great may be the
fertility of mountains, yet coolness prevails there, and that, in
the greatest drought, the mountainous regions are ever green. But
the Prophet tells us here of an unusual thing, that the dwellings of
the wilderness were burnt up. Some render "ne'ot" pastures; others,
dwellings: but as to the meaning, we may read either; for the
Prophet refers here to cold and humid regions, which never want
moisture in the greatest heats. Some render the word, the beautiful
or fair spots of the wilderness, but improperly. He doubtless means
pastures, or dwellings, or folds. "The fire then has consumed the
dwellings, or pastures of the wilderness". This was not usual; it
did not happen according to the ordinary course of nature: it then
follows that it was a miracle. This is the reason why the Prophet
says, that it was now time to cry to God; for it did not appear to
be fortuitous, that the heat had burnt up regions which were moist
and well watered. "The flame, he says hath burnt up all the trees of
the field".
    He afterwards adds "The beasts of the field will also cry" (for
the verb is in the plural number;) the beasts then will cry. The
Prophet expresses here more clearly what he had said before that
though the brute animals were void of reasons they yet felt God's
judgment, so that they constrained men by their example to feel
ashamed, for they cried to God: the beasts then of the field cry. He
ascribes crying to them, as it is elsewhere ascribed to the young
ravens. The young ravens, properly speaking, do not indeed call on
God; and yet the Psalmist says so, and that, because they confess,
by raising up their bills, that there is no supply for their want
except God supports them. So also the Prophet mentions here the
beasts as crying to God. It is indeed a figure of speech, called
personification; for this could not be properly said of beasts. But
when the beasts made a noise under the pressure of famine, was it
not such a calling on God as their nature admitted? As much then as
the nature of brute animals allows, they may be said to seek their
food from the Lord, when they send forth lamentable cries and
noises, and show that they are oppressed with famine and want. When,
therefore, the Prophet attributes crying to beasts, he at the same
time reproaches the Jews with their stupidity, that they did not
call on God. "What do you mean," he says. "See the brute animals;
they show to you what ought to be done; it is at least a teaching
that ought to have effect on you. If I and the other prophets have
lost all our labour, if God has in vain performed the office of a
teacher among you, let the very oxen at least be your teachers; to
whom indeed it is a shame to be disciples, but it is a greater shame
not to attend to what they teach you; for the oxen by their example
lead you to God."
    We now perceive how much vehemence there is in the Prophet's
words, when he says, Even the beasts of the field will cry to God;
"for the streams of waters have dried up, and the fire has consumed
the dwellings, or the pastures of the wilderness". He again teaches
what I have lately stated, that sterility proceeded from the evident
judgment of God, and that it ought to have struck dread into men,
for it was a sort of miracle. When, therefore the courses of waters
dried up on the mountains, how could it be deemed natural? "'Afikim"
mean courses of waters or valleys through which the waters run. The
Prophet here refers, no doubt, to those regions which, through the
abundance of water, always retain their fertility. When, therefore,
the very valleys were burnt up, they ought surely to own that
something wonderful had happened. On this account, he ascribes
crying to herds and brute animals, and not any sort of crying, but
that by which they called on God. What remains we shall defer till
to-morrow.
    
Prayer.
    
Grant, Almighty God, that as thou sees us to be surrounded with the
infirmity of our flesh, and so held by, and, as it were, overwhelmed
with, earthly cares, that we can hardly raise up our hearts and
minds to thee, - O grant, that being awaked by thy word and daily
warnings, we may at length feel our evils, and that we may not only
learn by the stripes thou inflictest on us, but also of our own
accord, summon ourselves to judgment, and examine our hearts, and
thus come to thy presence, being our own judges; so that we may
anticipate thy displeasure, and thus obtain that mercy which thou
best promised to all, who, turning only to thee, deprecate thy
wrath, and also hope for thy favour, through the name of one Lord
Jesus Christ. Amen.


Lecture Forty-first.

Chapter 2.

Joel 2:1-11
1 Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy
mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day
of the LORD cometh, for [it is] nigh at hand;
2 A day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick
darkness, as the morning spread upon the mountains: a great people
and a strong; there hath not been ever the like, neither shall be
any more after it, [even] to the years of many generations.
3 A fire devoureth before them; and behind them a flame burneth: the
land [is] as the garden of Eden before them, and behind them a
desolate wilderness; yea, and nothing shall escape them.
4 The appearance of them [is] as the appearance of horses; and as
horsemen, so shall they run.
5 Like the noise of chariots on the tops of mountains shall they
leap, like the noise of a flame of fire that devoureth the stubble,
as a strong people set in battle array.
6 Before their face the people shall be much pained: all faces shall
gather blackness.
7 They shall run like mighty men; they shall climb the wall like men
of war; and they shall march every one on his ways, and they shall
not break their ranks:
8 Neither shall one thrust another; they shall walk every one in his
path: and [when] they fall upon the sword, they shall not be
wounded.
9 They shall run to and fro in the city; they shall run upon the
wall, they shall climb up upon the houses; they shall enter in at
the windows like a thief.
10 The earth shall quake before them; the heavens shall tremble: the
sun and the moon shall be dark, and the stars shall withdraw their
shining:
11 And the LORD shall utter his voice before his army: for his camp
[is] very great: for [he is] strong that executeth his word: for the
day of the LORD [is] great and very terrible; and who can abide it?
    
    This chapter contains serious exhortations, mixed with
threatening; but the Prophet threatens for the purpose of correcting
the indifference of the people, whom we have seen to have been very
tardy to consider God's judgments. Now the reason why I wished to
join together these eleven verses was, because the design of the
Prophet in them is no other than to stir up by fear the minds of the
people. The object of the narrative then is, to make the people
sensible, that it was now no time for taking rest; for the Lord,
having long tolerated their wickedness, was now resolved to pour
upon them in full torrent his whole fiery. This is the sum of the
whole. Let us now come to the words.
    "Sound the trumpet, he says, in Zion; cry out in my holy
mountain; let all the inhabitants of the earth tremble". The Prophet
begins with an exhortation. We know, indeed that he alludes to the
usual custom sanctioned by the law; for as on festivals trumpets
were sounded to call the people, so also it was done when anything
extraordinary happened. Hence the Prophet addresses not each
individually; but as all had done wickedly, from the least to the
greatest, he bids the whole assembly to be called, that they might
in common own themselves to be guilty before God, and deprecate his
vengeance. It is the same as though the Prophet had said that there
was no one among the people who could exempt himself from blame, for
iniquity had prevailed through the whole body. But this passage
shows that when any judgment of God is impending, and tokens of it
appear, this remedy ought to be used, namely, that all must publicly
assemble and confess themselves worthy of punishments and at the
same time flee to the mercy of God. This, we know, was, as I have
already said, formerly enjoined on the people; and this practice has
not been abolished by the gospel. And it hence appears how much we
have departed from the right and lawful order of things; for at this
day it would be new and unusual to proclaim a fast. How so? Because
the greater part are become hardened; and as they know not commonly
what repentance is, so they understand not what the profession of
repentance means; for they understand not what sin is, what the
wrath of God is, what grace is. It is then no wonder that they are
so secure, and that when praying for pardon is mentioned, it is a
thing wholly unknown at this day. But though people in general are
thus stupid, it is yet our duty to learn from the Prophets what has
always been the actual mode of proceeding among the people of God,
and to labour as much as we can, that this may be known, so that
when there shall come an occasion for a public repentance, even the
most ignorant may understand that this practice has ever prevailed
in the Church of God, and that it did not prevail through
inconsiderate zeal of men, but through the will of God himself.
    But he bids "the inhabitants of the land to tremble". By these
words he intimates, that we are not to trifle with God by vain
ceremonies but to deal with him in earnest. When therefore, the
trumpets sound, our hearts ought to tremble; and thus the reality is
to be connected with the outward signs. And this ought to be
carefully noticed; for the world is ever disposed to have an eye to
some outward service, and thinks that a satisfaction is given to
God, when some external rite is observed. But we do nothing but mock
God, when we present him with ceremonies, while there is no
corresponding sincere feeling in the heart; and this is what we
shall find handled in another place.
    The Prophet now adds threatening, that he might stir up the
minds of the people: "For coming, he says, is the day of Jehovah for
nigh it is". By these words he first intimates that we are not to
wait until God strikes us, but that as soon as he shows signs of his
wrath, we ought to anticipate his judgment. When God then warns us
of his displeasure, we ought instantly to solicit pardon: nigh, he
says, is the day of Jehovah. What follows has a regard to the end
which we have mentioned; for the Prophet paints the terrible
judgment of God with the view of rousing minds wholly stupid and
indifferent.
    And then he says, "A day of darkness and of thick darkness, a
day of clouds and of obscurity, as the dawn which expands over the
mountains". By calling it a dark and gloomy day, he wished to show
that there would be no hope of deliverance; for, according to the
common usage of Scripture, we know that by light is designated a
cheerful and happy state, or the hope of deliverance from any
affliction: but the Prophet now extinguishes, as it were, every hope
in this world, when he declares that the day of Jehovah would be
dark, that is, without hope of restoration. This is his meaning.
When he says afterwards, "As the dawn which expands", &c., he
mentions this to signify the celerity with which it would come; for
we know how sudden is the rising of the dawn on the mountains: the
dawn spreads in a moment on the mountains, where darkness was
before. For the light penetrates not immediately either into valleys
or even into plains; but if any one looks at the summits of
mountains, he will see that the dawn rises quickly. It is then the
settle as though the Prophet said, "The day of the Lord is nigh, for
the Lord can suddenly stretch forth his hand, as the dawn spreads
over the mountains."
    He then mentions its character, "A people great and strong to
whom there has not been the like from the beginning, or from ages
and after whom there will be no more the like, to the years of a
generation and a generation. Here the Prophet specifies the kind of
judgment that would be, of which he had generally spoken before; and
he shows that what he had hitherto recorded of God's vengeance ought
not to be so understood as that God would descend openly and visibly
from heaven, but that the Assyrians would be the ministers and
executioners of his vengeance. In short, the Prophet shows here that
the coming of that people ought to have been as much dreaded as if
God had put forth his hand and executed on his people the vengeance
deserved by their sins. And by these words he teaches us, that men
gain nothing by being blind to the judgments of God; for God will
notwithstanding execute his works and use the instrumentality of
men; for men are the scourges by which he chastises his own people.
The Chaldeans and the Assyrians were unbelievers; yet God used them
for the purpose of correcting the Jews. this the Prophet now shows,
that is, that God was the avenger in these very Assyrians, for he
employed them as the ministers and executioners of his judgment. We
see at the same time that the Prophet describes here the terrible
wrath of God to shake off from the Jews their tardiness; for he saw
that they were not moved by all his threatening, and ever laid hold
on some new flattering pretenses. This is the reason why he gives
such a long description.
    "Before them", he says, "the fire will devour, and after them
the flame will burn". He means that the vengeance of God would be
such as would consume the whole people: for God has in various ways
begun to chastise the people, but, as we have seen, without any
advantage. The Prophet then says here that the last stroke remained,
and that the Lord would wholly destroy men so refractory, and whom
he could not hitherto restore to a sound mind by moderate
punishments. For he had in a measure spared them, though he had
treated them sharply and severely, and given them time to repent.
Hence, when the Prophet saw that they were wholly irreclaimable, he
says, that it now only remained that the Lord should at once utterly
consume them.
    He adds, "As the garden of Eden the land is before them, and
after them it is the land of solitude; and so (and also) there will
be no escape from them". Here the Prophet warns the Jews, that
though they inhabited a most pleasant country and one especially
fruitful, there was no reason for them to flatter themselves, for
God could convert the fairest lands into a waste. He therefore
compares Judea to the garden of Eden or to Paradise. But such also
was the state of Sodom, as Moses shows. What did it avail the
Sodomites that they dwelt as in Paradise, that they inhabited a rich
and fertile land, and thought themselves to be nourished as in the
bosom of God? So also now the Prophet says, "Though the land is like
Paradise, yet when the enemy shall march through it, a universal
waste shall follow, a scattering shall everywhere follow, there
shall be no cultivation, no pleasantness, no appearance of inhabited
land, for the enemy will destroy every thing." His purpose was to
prevent the Jews, by confiding in God's blessing, which they had
hitherto experienced, from heedlessly disregarding in future his
vengeance; for his wrath would in a moment consume and devour
whatever fruitfulness the land had hitherto possessed. This is the
meaning. He therefore concludes that there would be no escape from
these enemies, the Assyrians, because they would come armed with a
command to reduce to nothing the whole land.
    He afterwards adds many similitudes, which any one of himself
can sufficiently understand: "I shall not therefore be long in
explaining them, and many words would be superfluous. "As the
appearance of horses their appearance, and as horsemen, so will they
run". This verse sets forth again the suddenness of vengeance, as
though the Prophet had said, that long distance would be no
obstacle, for the Assyrians would quickly move and occupy Judea; for
distance deceived the Jews, and they thought that there would be a
long respite to them. Hence the Prophet here removes this vain
confidence, when he says that they would be like horses and
horsemen. He then adds, "Like the sound of chariots". They expound
"markavot", chariots, though the Hebrews rather think them to be
harnesses or saddles as we call them; but yet I prefer to view them
as chariots; for what the Prophet says, that they "shall leap on the
tops of mountains" like the sound of chariots, would not be suitably
applied to the trappings of horses. They then shall leap on tops of
mountains - but how? as chariots, that is, they shall come with
great force, or make a great and terrible noise. And he speaks of
the tops of mountains for there we know the noise is greater when
there is any commotion. The Prophet, therefore, does in every way
amplify God's vengeance, that he might awaken the Jews, who by their
indifference had too long provoked the Lord's wrath.
    "Like the sound, he says, of the flame of fire", or of a fiery
flame, "devouring the stubble". He compares the Assyrians to a
flame, which consumes all things; and he compares the Jews to
stubble, though they thought themselves fortified by many forces and
strongholds.
    At length he adds, "As a strong people, prepared for battle;
their face the people will dread, and all faces shall gather
blackness". By these words the Prophet intimates that the Assyrians
at their coming would be supplied with such power as would, by
report only, lay prostrate all people. But if the Assyrians should
be so formidable to all people, what could the Jews do? In short,
the Prophet here shows that the Jews would by no means be able to
resist enemies so powerful; for they would by their fame alone so
lay prostrate all people, that none would dare to rise up against
them. He then compares them to giants. "As giants, he says, they
will run here and there; as men of war they will climb the wall, and
man (that is, every one) in his ways shall walk". The Prophet heaps
together these various expressions, that the Jews might know that
they had to do with the irresistible hand of God, and that they
would in vain implore assistance here and there; for they could find
no relief in the whole world, when God executed his vengeance in so
formidable a manner. He says further, "they shall not stop their
goings", though some render the words, "They shall not inquire
respecting their ways;" for he had said before, "They shall proceed
in their ways:" then the meaning is, They shall not come like
strangers, who, when they journey through unknown regions, make
anxious inquiries, whether any be lying in wait, whether there be
any turnings in the road, whether the ways be difficult and
perplexed: "They shall not inquire", he says; they shall securely
proceed, as though the road was open to them, as though the whole
country was known to them. This part also serves to show celerity,
that the Jews might dread the vengeance of God the same as if it was
quite nigh them.
    He then adds, "A man shall not push his brother". By this mode
of speaking the Prophet means that they would come in perfect order,
so that the multitude would create no confusion, as it is mostly the
case: for it is very difficult for an army to march in regular order
without tumult, like two or three men walking together. For when a
hundred horsemen march together some commonly hinder others. When
therefore so large a number assemble together, it can hardly be
possible for them not to retard and impede one another. But the
Prophet declares that this would not be the case with the Assyrians,
for the Lord would direct their goings. Though then the Lord would
bring so large a multitude, it would yet be so well arranged and in
such order, that no one would push his companion, or be any
hindrance to him. A man, he says, shall in his way proceed, even
without any impediment.
    "And on swords they shall fall, and shall not be wounded": that
is, they shall not only be strong men of war, so that they shall
intrepidly face every kind of danger; but they shall also escape
unhurt from all weapons; though they may rush on swords like madmen
and show no care for themselves, they shall not yet be wounded. But
this may be taken in a still simpler way, "They shall not be
wounded" that is, as if they could not be wounded. And it seems to
me to be the genuine sense of the Prophet, that they would not
entertain any fear of death, so as cautiously to attack their
enemies, but would with impunity provoke death itself by casting
themselves on the very swords: they would not then fear any wound,
but dare to face swords as if they were wholly harmless to them.
Some render the word, "they shall not covet;" and then the word
means as if the Prophet had said, that they would not be covetous of
money. But this meaning can hardly suit this place; and we see that
the best sense seems to be, that they would heedlessly rush on
swords, as though they could not be wounded.
    It afterwards follows, "Through the city shall they march; over
the wall shall they run here and there; into houses shall they
climb; through the windows shall they enter like a thief". The
Prophet here shows that the Jews in vain trusted in their fortified
cities, for the enemies would easily penetrate into them. They shall
march, he says, through the city, that is, as though there were no
gates to it. The meaning then is, that though Judea abounded in
cities, which seemed impregnable and appeared sufficient to arrest
the course of enemies, as it had happened almost always, so that
great armies were forced to desist when any strong fortified city
stood in their way; yet the Prophet says that cities would be no
impediment to the Assyrians at their coming to Judea, for they would
march through the city, as along a plain road, where no gates are
closed against them. They shall then march through the midst of
cities as through a plain or open fields. To the same purpose is
what follows, They shall run here and there over the wall, he says.
These are indeed hyperbolical words; yet, when we consider how slow
men are to fear punishment, we must allow that the Prophet in these
expressions does not exceed moderation. They shall then run up and
down through the city; that is, "In vain you expect that there will
be to you any rest or quietness, for ye think that you sill be able
for a time to sustain the onsets of your enemies: This," he says,
"will by no means be the case, for they shall run here and there
over the wall, as though it were a plain. Besides, they shall climb
into the houses, and enter in through the windows, and do this as a
thief; that is, though there should be no hostile attack, yet they
shall stealthily and secretly penetrate into your houses: when there
will be a great tumult, when the whole regions shall meet in arms,
and when ye will think yourselves able to resist, they will then as
thieves quietly enter into your houses and come in through the
windows, and ye shall not be able to close up the passage against
them."
    Then he adds, "Before their face shall the earth tremble, and
in anguish shall be the heavens; the sun and the moon shall become
dark, and the stars shall withdraw their brightness". The Prophet
speaks here more hyperbolically; but we must ever remember that he
addressed men extremely stupid: it then behaved him to speak in an
unusual manner, that he might touch their feelings; for it avails
nothing to speak in all ordinary way to perverse men, especially to
those who have divested themselves of all shame, and whom Satan has
fascinated, so that they fear nothing and grieve at nothing. When
therefore each stupidity lays hold on the minds of men, God must
thunder that his word may be heard. As then the listlessness of the
people was monstrous, so it was necessary, so to speak, for the
Prophet to utter monstrous words. This is the reason why he now
says, "Before their face (namely, that of the enemies) shall the
land tremble"; and then he adds, "The heavens also shall be in
anguish"; not that the heavens would fear the Assyrians; but the
Prophet intimates that such would be the vengeance, that it would
terrify the whole world; and this he intimates, that the Jews might
cease to expect any subterfuges, for they flattered themselves, as
though they could fly on the clouds, or could find for themselves
some hiding-places or some corners at a distance. The Prophet gives
them to understand that the whole world would be full of horror,
when the Lord would come furnished with his army. He speaks also of
the sum and the moon; as though he said, "There will be no more any
hope of aid from created things; for the vital light itself shall
fail, when the Lord shall pour forth the flood of his fury: The sun
and the moon, he says, shall become dark; and the stars shall
withhold their brightness. Though then ye lift up your eyes, not
even a spark of light will there be to comfort you, for darkness on
every side will cover you; and ye shall know by heaven as well as by
earth that God is angry with you." Here, in short, he shuts up
against the Jews every avenue to hope; for not only the Assyrian
will rage on earth, but God will also give signs of vengeance from
heaven, so that the sun will be constrained to show such a sign, as
well as the moon and all the stars.
    He at last adds, "And Jehovah will utter his voice before his
army". The Prophet seems in this verse to anticipate whatever
objection men might adduce. "O! thou denounces on us great terrors,
and as if the Assyrians were not to be counted as men, as if no
other people were in the world, as if there was no other army, as if
there were no other forces, as if none else had courage; but if the
Assyrians are at this day formidable, they have yet neighbors who
can gather a force sufficient easily to oppose them." And Egypt was
then a populous country, and well fortified; and who would not have
said that the Egyptians were equal to the Assyrians? and the Jews
also thought themselves safe through a treaty with them. And then
there was Syria; and there were many kingdoms, with which the Jews
might have boasted that they were surrounded, so that no access to
them was open to the Assyrians; for however insufficient were the
people of Moab or the people of Amman, yet they were all joined
together, even Edom, and Ammon, and Moab: and then Tyrus and Sidon,
and the many neighboring kingdoms, might certainly have been
sufficient to resist the Assyrians. Now, that no one might object
all this, the Prophet shortly anticipates it by saying, that God
would be the leader of his army; as though he had said, "I have
already declared this to be the hand of God: for the Assyrians will
not come here of their own accord; that is, without being stirred up
by God: but as this truth has not as yet sufficiently moved your
feelings, know that God will be the leader of this army: God will
send forth his voice before his army." Here he distinctly calls the
Assyrians the attendants of God; they shall not then come as
soldiers hired by their own king, they shall not come as carrying on
war for an earthly king, but the Lord himself shall guide them, and
by his voice encourage them. By this expression the Prophet shows
that the Jews would not have a contest with one nation only, but
also with God himself and with all his celestial power.
    He therefore says, "God will utter his voice before his army;
for leery great will be his camp". He again repeats that the
multitude which was to execute the biddings of God would be so
great, that the Jews would seek forces in vain to resist it.
"Strong, he says, is he who executes his word". He expresses more
clearly what I have stated already, that though cupidity impelled
the Assyrians, that though they were intent on rapine and plunder,
yet they would not come merely through an impulse of their own, but
that the Lord would prepare them and use them as his instruments:
"Powerful, then, is he who does the word of God"; that is, who
executes his command; not that the Assyrians designed to show regard
to God or to offer to him their service, as the faithful do, who
willingly devote themselves to Him; but that the Lord by his secret
providence guided them and employed them to punish his own people.
    He afterwards adds in the last place, "For great will be the
day of Jehovah and terrible, and who will endure it?" In this clause
he shows that the vengeance would be such as would reduce the Jews
to nothing, and that it was now time to repent, and that if they
still turned a deaf ear to what the Prophet denounces, God would
punish their perverseness.
    Now with regard to what he says, that "strong" is he who does
the word of God, we have elsewhere reminded you that men serve God
in two ways, - they either execute his commands willingly, or are
led to do so by a blind impulse. The angels and the faithful perform
God's commands, because they are guided by the spirit of obedience;
but the wicked also, and the devil who is their head, fulfill God's
biddings; this, however, is not to be imputed to them as obedience,
for they are only led by their own wicked purposes, and seek to
destroy, as far as they can, the whole government of God; but they
are constrained, willing or unwilling, to obey God, not of their own
accord or willingly, as I have said, but the Lord turns all their
efforts to answer the end which he has decreed. Whatever, then,
Satan and the wicked attempt to do, they at the same time serve God
and obey his commands; and though they rage against God, he yet
holds them in by his bridle, and also so guides their attempts and
their purposes as to answer his own ends. In this sense, then, it
is, that Joel says, that the Assyrians would do the word of God; not
that it was their purpose to obey God, not that God had commanded
them anything, but he puts the word of the Lord here for his secret
purpose. As, then, the wicked perform no voluntary obedience to God,
but constrained, when they execute God's commands; so there is a
twofold command or word of God: there is the command by which he
teaches his own children and leads them to obey him; and there is
another, a hidden command, when he deigns not to address men, and
shows not what pleases him or what he means to do, but suffers them
to be led by their own sinful desires; in the meantime, he has his
own secret purpose, which by them he executes though without their
intention.
    
Prayer.
    
Grant, almighty God, that as thou invites us daily with so much
kindness and love, and makes known to us thy paternal goodwill,
which thou didst once show to us in Christ thy Son, - O grant, that,
being allured by thy goodness, we may surrender ourselves wholly to
thee, and become so teachable and submissive, that wherever thou
guidest us by thy Spirit thou mayest follow us with every blessing:
let us not, in the meantime, be deaf to thy warnings; and whenever
we deviate from the right way, grant that we may immediately awake
when thou warnest us, and return to the right path, and deign thou
also to embrace us and reconcile us to thyself through Christ our
Lord. Amen.


Lecture Forty-second.

Joel 2:12,13
Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye [even] to me with all
your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning:
And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD
your God: for he [is] gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of
great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil.

    The Prophet, having proclaimed the dreadful judgment which we
have noticed, now shows that he did not intend to terrify the people
without reason, but, on the contrary, to encourage them to
repentance; which he could not do without offering to them the hope
of pardon; for as we have said before, and as it may be collected
from the whole of Scripture, men cannot be restored to the right
ways except they entertain a hope of God's mercy inasmuch as he who
has been ungodly, when he despairs, wholly disregards himself,
observing no restraint. Hence the Prophet now represents God as
propitious and merciful, that he might thus kindly allure the people
to repentance.
    He says first, "And even now the Lord says, Turn ye to me." The
Prophet exhorts the people, not in his own name, but speaks in the
person of God himself. He might indeed have borne witness to the
favor which he proclaimed; but the discourse becomes more striking
by introducing God as the speaker. And there is a great importance
in the words, even now; for when one considers what we have noticed
in the beginning of the chapter, a prospect of relief could hardly
have been deemed possible. God had, indeed, in various ways, tried
to restore the people to the right way; but, as we have seen, the
greater part had become so void of feeling, that the scourges of God
were wholly ineffectual; there remained, then, nothing but the utter
destruction which the Prophet threatened them with at the beginning
of the second chapter. Yet, in this state of despair, he still sets
forth some hope of mercy, provided they turned to him; even now, he
says. The particles "wegam" are full of emphasis, "even now" that
is, "Though ye have too long abused God's forbearance, and with
regard to you, the opportunity is past, for ye have closed the door
against yourselves; yet even now, - which no one could have
expected, and indeed what ought to be thought incredible by
yourselves, - even now God waits for you, and invites you to
entertain hope of salvation." But it was necessary that these two
particles, even now, should be added; for it is not in the power of
men to fix for themselves, as they please, the season for mercy. God
here shows the acceptable time, as Isaiah says (Isa. 49: 8) to be,
when he has not yet rejected men, but when he offers to be
propitious. We must then remember that the Prophet gives not here
liberty to men to delay the time, as the profane and scorners are
wont to do, who trifle with God from day to day; but the Prophet
here shows that we must obey the voice of God, when he invites us,
as also Isaiah says, 'Behold now the time accepted, behold the day
of salvation: seek God now, for he is near; call on him while he may
be found.' So then, as I have reminded you, these two particles,
even now, are added, that men may be made attentive to the voice of
God when he invites them, that they may not delay till tomorrow, for
the Lord may then close the door, and repentance may be too late. We
at the same time see how indulgently God bears with men, since he
left a hope of pardon to a people so obstinate and almost past
recovery.
    "Even now, he says, turn ye to me with your whole heart". The
Prophet here reminds us that we must not act feignedly with God; for
men are ever disposed to trifle with him. We indeed see what almost
the whole world is wont to do. God graciously meets us and is ready
to receive us unto favor, though we have a hundred times alienated
ourselves from him; but we bring nothing but hypocrisy and disguise:
hence the Prophet declares here distinctly, that this dissimulation
does not please God, and that they can hide nothing, who only
pretend some sort of repentance by external signs, and that what is
required is the serious and sincere feeling of the heart. This is
what he means by the whole heart; not that perfect repentance can be
formed in men, but the whole or complete heart is opposed to a
divided heart: for men well understand that God is not ignorant; yet
they divide their heart, and when they bestow some portion on God,
they think that he is satisfied; and in the meantime there remains
an interior and some hidden perverseness, which separates them far
from God. This vice the Prophet now condemns, when he says, Turn
with the whole heart. He then shows that it is an hypocrisy
abominable to God, when men keep the greater part of their heart, as
it were, closed up, and think it enough, if only they bring, so to
speak, some volatile feeling.
    He afterwards adds, "fasting, and weeping, and mourning"; and
by these words he shows how grievously they had sinned; as though he
said, that they deserved not only one kind of destruction, but were
worthy of hundred deaths; that God therefore would not now be
content with any common repentance, and except they came suppliantly
and deeply felt their own guilt. It is indeed true, that we ought
daily and even constantly to sigh, because we continue almost every
hour to provoke God's wrath against us; but the Prophet here speaks
of solemn fasting, because the people had so grievously offended God
that there was required some extraordinary confession, such as he
here describes. "Come then to me with fasting, and weeping, and
wailing": that is "Show at length that you are guilty and
submissively deprecate the vengeance which ye have through your
wickedness deserved." He speaks like a judge, when he tells the
criminal, not to act dissemblingly, but simply to confess his fault.
The guilty are indeed wont to weave many excuses to avoid
punishment; but when the judge deems a man guilty, and he is
abundantly proved to be so, he says, "What good can you do? for
these your shuffling and subterfuges make your case worse: for now I
hold you bound, and you cannot escape by these shifts, and will only
the more provoke my displeasure. If then you wish me to show you
favor, own how grievously you have offended, and without any
coloring; confess now that you are worthy of death, and that nothing
else remains for you, except I mercifully pardon you: for if you try
to extenuate your crime, if you attempt by some excuse to seek
reprief, you will gain nothing." So now does the Lord deal with this
people: Turn to me, he says; first, sincerely; then with fasting,
with weeping, and with wailing; that is, "Let it appear that you
suppliantly deprecate the destruction which ye have deserved, for
moderate repentance will not do, inasmuch as ye are guilty before me
of so many crimes." We now apprehend the Prophet's meaning.
    He then subjoins, "Rend your heart, and not your garments, and
turn to Jehovah your God". The Prophet again repeats that we ought
to deal sincerely with God; for all those ceremonies, by which men
imagine that they discharge their duties, are mere mockeries, when
they are not preceded by a pure and sincere heart. But as they were
wont under mournful circumstances to rend their garments, he
therefore says, "God has become now insensible to these customs; for
with regard to men, ye are ceremonious enough, and more than enough:
ye indeed rend your garments, and thus draw pity from men, and yet
your heart remains whole, there is no rending, no opening; Rend then
your heart," that is, "Leave off thus to mock God, as ye have been
wont to do, and begin with your heart." It is indeed certain that
the orientals were given to many ceremonies; but the vice the
Prophet here condemns in the Jews is natural as it were to all men;
so that every one of us is inclined to hypocrisy, and has need of
having his attention drawn to the sincerity of the heart. We must
then remember that this truth is to be set forth at all times and to
all nations. Let any one search himself and he will find that he
labors under this evil, - that he would rather reed his garment than
his heart. And since the Jews usually observed this custom, the
Prophet does not without reason deride it, and say, that it was of
no account with God except they rent their hearts. But when he bids
them to rend their hearts and not their garments, though he seems to
repudiate that external practice, he does not yet distinctly condemn
it, but intimates that it was a lawful thing, provided the heart was
rent. Now this expression, Rend the heart, ought not to be deemed
harsh, for it is to be referred to the external practice: when they
rent the garments, they made themselves naked before God and put off
all ornaments; but he wished them to be displeased with themselves,
and rather to make bare the heart itself. The heart of hypocrites,
we know, is wrapped up, and they ever have recourse to hiding
places, that they may avoid the presence of God. Then the similitude
is most suitable, when the Prophet bids them to rend the heart.
Besides, the passage is clear enough, and needs not many remarks; it
means, that God regards the real feeling of the heart, as it is said
in Jer. 5; he is not content with ocular obedience, such as men
exhibit, but he would have us to deal with him in sincerity and
truth.
    Hence he repeats again, "Turn to Jehovah your God". Here the
Prophet shows, from what God is, that men foolishly and grossly
deceive themselves when they would please God with their ceremonies:
"What!", he says, "have you to do with a child?" For the import of
the words is this, - "When an offense against man is to be removed,
ye anxiously come to him: now when ye perceive that God is angry
with you, ye think that he will be propitious to you, if ye only
trifle with him; can God bear such a reproach?" We hence see what
the Prophet means when he says, Turn to Jehovah your God; that is,
"Remember that you have not to do with a block of wood or with a
stone, but with your God, who searches hearts, and whom mortals can
by no crafts deceive." The same is said by Jeremiah, 'Israel, if
thou turnest, turn to me,' (Jer. 4: 1;) that is, "Pretend not to
turn by circuitous courses and windings, but come in a direct way,
and with a real feeling of heart, for I am he who calls thee." So
also now the Prophet says, Turn to Jehovah your God.
    Then follows the promise of pardon, "For he is propitious and
merciful". We have already said that repentance is preached in vain,
except men entertain a hope of salvation; for they can never be
brought to fear God truly, unless they trust in him as their Father,
as it is stated in Ps. 130: 4, 'With thee is propitiation that thou
mayest be feared.' Hence, whenever the Prophets were anxious to
effect anything by their doctrine, while exhorting the people to
repentance, they joined to the invitation "Come," the second part,
"Ye shall not come in vain." This "Come," comprehends all
exhortations to repentance; "Ye shall not come in vain," includes
this testimony respecting God's grace, that He will never reject
miserable sinners, provided they return to him with the heart. The
Prophet then now engaged on this second head; God, he says, is
propitious and merciful. And this connection is to be observed by
us; for as Satan fills us with insensibility when God invites us, so
also he draws us away into despair when God denounces judgment, when
he shows that it is not time for sleep. "What good will you gain?"
Thus Satan by his craft disheartens us, that we may labour in vain,
when we seek to be reconciled to God. Hence, whenever Scripture
exhorts us to repentance, let us learn to join this second part,
"God invites us not in vain." If then we return to him, he will be
instantly inclined to grant forgiveness; for he wills not that
miserable men should labour in vain or be tormented. This is the
benefit of which the Prophet speaks when he says that God is
propitious and merciful.
    He afterwards adds, that "he is slow to wraths and abundant in
goodness". These testimonies respecting God occur often in other
places; and all the Prophets, as well as David, have borrowed these
declarations from Exod. 34; where the nature of God is described;
and He is said there to be propitious and merciful, slow to wrath,
and abundant in goodness. Though there is no need of dwelling longer
on these words, as we perceive the Prophet's design; yet more
extended remarks will not be superfluous since the Prophet so much
at large recommends the mercy of God. Though men too much indulge
themselves in security, yet when God calls them to himself, they are
not able to receive his favor; though he may testify twice or thrice
that he will be propitious to them, yet he cannot persuade them but
with great difficulty. This is the reason why the Prophet, after
having said that God is propitious and merciful, adds, that he is
slow to wrath, and abundant in goodness; it was, that the Jews might
overcome their distrust, and that however much despair might keep
them back, they might not yet hesitate to come to God, seeing that
he declares himself to be so merciful.
    He at last adds, "He will repent of the evil". The Prophet here
not only describes the nature of God, but goes further and says,
that God, who is by nature placable, will not remain fixed in his
purpose, when he sees people returning to him in sincerity; but that
he suffers himself to be turned to show favor, so as to remit the
punishment which he had previously denounced. And it is a mode of
speaking which often occurs in Scripture, that God repents of evil;
not that he really changes his purpose, but this is said according
to the apprehensions of men: for God is in himself immutable, and is
said to turn from his, purpose, when he remits to man the punishment
he has previously threatened. Whatever proceeds from God's mouth
ought to be regarded as an inviolable decree; and yet God often
threatens us conditionally, and though the condition be not
expressed it is nevertheless to be understood: but when he is
pacified to us and relaxes the punishment, which was in a manner
already decreed according to the external word, he is then said to
repent. And we know, that as we do not apprehend God such as he is,
he is therefore described to us in such a way as we can comprehend,
according to the measure of our infirmity. Hence God often puts on
the character of men, as though he were like them; and as this mode
of speaking is common, and we have spoken of it elsewhere, I now
pass it by more briefly. It follows -

Joel 2:14
Who knoweth [if] he will return and repent, and leave a blessing
behind him; [even] a meat offering and a drink offering unto the
LORD your God?
    
    The Prophet seems at first sight to leave men here perplexed
and doubtful; and yet in the last verse, as we have seen, he had
Offered a hope of favor, provided they sincerely repented. Hence the
Prophet seems not to pursue the same subject, but rather to vary it:
and we have already said, that all exhortations would be frigid,
nay, useless, by which God stirs us up to repentance, except he were
to testify that he is ready to be reconciled. Seeing then that the
Prophet here leaves the minds of men in suspense, he seems to
rescind what he has before alleged respecting God's mercy. But we
must understand that this is a mode of speaking which often occurs
in Scripture. For wherever God is set forth to us as one hardly
willing to pardon, it is done to rouse our slothfulness, and also to
shake off our negligence. We are at first torpid when God invites
us, except he applies his many goads; and then we act formally in
coming to him: it is hence needful that both these vices should be
corrected in us, - our torpor must be roused, - and those
self-complacences, in which we too much indulge ourselves, must be
shaken off. And this is the object of the Prophet; for he addresses,
as we have seen, men almost past recovery. If he had only said, God
is ready to pardon, if he had used this way of speaking, they would
have come negligently, and would not have been sufficiently touched
by the fear of God: hence the Prophet here, as it were, debates the
matter with them, "Even though we ought justly to despair of pardon,
(for we are unworthy of being received by God,) yet there is no
reason why we should despair; for who knows" which means "God is
placable and we must not despair."
    The Prophet then sets forth here the difficulty of obtaining
pardon, not to leave men in suspense, for this would be contrary to
his former doctrine; but to create in them a desire for the grace of
God, that they might by degrees gather courage, and yet not
immediately rise to confidence, but that they might come anxiously
to God, and with much deliberation, duly considering their offenses.
We now understand the purpose of the Prophet.
    But this will be easier understood by supposing two gradations
in repentance. Then the first step is, when men feel how grievously
they have offended. Here sorrow is not to be immediately removed
after the manner of impostors, who cajole the consciences of men, so
that they indulge themselves, and deceive themselves, with empty
self-flatteries. For the physician does not immediately ease pain,
but considers what is more necessary: it may be he will increase it,
for a thorough clearing may be needful. So also do the Prophets of
God, when they observe trembling consciences, they do not
immediately apply soothing consolations, but on the contrary show
that they ought not, as we have already said, to trifle with God,
and exhort them while willingly running to God, to set before them
his terrible judgment, that they may be more and more humbled. The
second step is, when the Prophets cheer the minds of men, and show
that God now willingly meets them, and desires nothing more than to
see men willing to be reconciled to him.
    The Prophet is now urging them to take the first step, when he
says, "Who knows whether the Lord will turn?" But some may object
and say, "Then the Prophet has spoken inconsistently; for first he
has described God as merciful, and has spoken of his goodness
without any reserve; and then he throws in a doubt: he seems here to
observe no consistency." I answer, that the Prophets of God do not
always very anxiously hold to what seems consistent in their
discourses; and farther, that the Prophet has not spoken here in
vain or inconsiderately; for he, in the first place, generally sets
forth God as merciful, and afterwards addresses particularly a
people who were almost past recovery, and says, "Though ye think
that it is all over with you as to your salvation, and ye deserve to
be rejected by God, yet ye ought not to continue in this state;
rather entertain a hope of pardon." This is what the Prophet had in
view; he throws in no doubt, so as to make the sinner uncertain,
whether or not he could obtain pardons; but as I have said, he
wished only to rouse torpidity, and also to shake off vain
self-flatteries.
    He then adds, "And leave after him a blessing". We here see
more clearly what I have already said, that the Prophet, considering
the state of those whom he addressed, states a difficulty; for the
Jews were not to escape temporary punishment, and the Prophet did
not intend to dismiss them in a secure state, as though God would
inflict on them no punishment; nay, he wished to bend their necks
that they might receive the strokes of God, and calmly submit to his
correction. But all hope might have been lost, when the Jews saw,
that though the Prophet had declared that God would be propitious,
they were yet not spared, but suffered severe punishment for their
sins, - "What does this mean? Has God then disappointed us? We hoped
that he would be propitious, and yet he ceases not to be angry with
us." Hence the Prophet now subjoins, "Who knows whether he will
leave behind him a blessing?"
    What is this - "behind him"? What does it mean? Even this, that
as God was to be a severe judge to punish the people's wickedness,
the Prophet now says, "Though God beats you with his rods, he can
yet relieve you by administering comfort. Ye indeed think that you
are beaten almost to death; but the Lord will temperate his wrath,
so that a blessing will follow these most grievous punishments." We
now, then, understand the purpose of the Prophet: for he does not
simply promise pardon to the Jews, but mitigates the dread of
punishment, that is, that though God would chastise them, he would
yet give place to mercy. Then God will leave behind him a blessing;
that is "These strokes shall not be incurable." And this admonition
is very necessary, whenever God deals severely with us; for when we
feel his wrath, we then think that there is no grace remaining. It
is then not without reason that the Prophet says, that God leaves
behind him a blessing; which means, that when he shall pass by us
with his rod, he will yet restrain his severity, so that some
blessing will remain.
    He afterwards adds, "minchah wasesech laYehovah Elohim", "an
offering and a libation, he says, to Jehovah your God". This has
been designedly added, that the Jews might entertain more hope. For
with regard to them, they had deserved to be wholly exterminated a
hundred times; yea, they deserved to pine away utterly through
famine: but the Prophet intimates here, that God would have a regard
for his own glory and his worship. "Though," he says, "we have
deserved to perish by famine, yet God will be moved by another
consideration, even this, - that there may be some offering, that
there may be some libation in the temple: since then God has chosen
us a people to himself, and has required the first-fruits to be
offered to him, and has consecrated for himself all our provision
and all our produce in the first-fruits, and also in the daily
offerings, though he has now resolved to consume us with famine and
want, yet that his worship may continue, he will make the land
fruitful to us, corn and wine will yet be produced for us," But the
Prophet does not mean that there would only be so much corn as would
be enough for offerings, or only so much wine as would be sufficient
for libations; but he means, as I have already said, that though God
would not provide for the safety of the people, he would yet have a
regard for his own glory. God required the corn and the wine to be
offered to him, not that he needed them, but because he consecrated
to himself our provision. As then he would have the food and
provisions, on which we live, to be sacred to him, he will not allow
them wholly to fail. "God will yet surely pity us, and he will pity
us, because he has deigned to choose us a people to himself, and so
to join us with himself, that he wishes to eat, as it were, with
us." For God seemed then to partake, as it were, of the same table
with his people; for the law required bread or the ears of corn, and
also wine, to be offered to God: not that he, as I have said, needed
such supports; but that he might show that he had all things in
common with his people. This communion then, or fellow-participation
of God with his chosen people, gave them more hope; and this is what
the Prophet had in view.
    
Prayer.
    
Grant, Almighty God, that as thou seest us so foolish in nourishing
our vices, and also so ensnared by the gratifications of the flesh,
that without being constrained we hardly return to thee, - O grant,
that we may feel the weight of thy wrath, and be so touched with the
dread of it, as to return gladly to thee, laying aside every
dissimulation, and devote ourselves so entirely to thy service, that
it may appear that we have from the heart repented, and that We have
not trifled with thee by an empty pretence, but have offered to thee
our hearts as a sacrifice, so that we and all our works might be
sacred offerings to thee through our whole life, that thy name may
be glorified in us through Christ our Lord. Amen.


Lecture Forty-third.

Joel 2:15-17
15 Blow the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn
assembly:
16 Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the
elders, gather the children, and those that suck the breasts: let
the bridegroom go forth of his chamber, and the bride out of her
closet.
17 Let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep between the
porch and the altar, and let them say, Spare thy people, O LORD, and
give not thine heritage to reproach, that the heathen should rule
over them: wherefore should they say among the people, Where [is]
their God?
    
    Here again the Prophet reminds them that there was need of deep
repentance; for not only individuals had transgressed, but the whole
people had become guilty before God; and we also know how many and
grievous their sins had been. There is no wonder then that the
Prophet requires a public profession of repentance.
    He bids them first to sound the trumpet in Zion. This custom,
as we have seen at the beginning of the chapter, was in common use
under the Law; they summoned their meetings by the sound of
trumpets. There is then no doubt but that the Prophet here refers to
an extraordinary meeting. They sounded the trumpets whenever they
called the people to the festivals. But it must have been unusual
for the Jews to proclaim a fast on account of God's heavy judgment,
which was to come on them unless it was prevented. He then shows the
purpose of this, bidding them to sanctify a fast. By this word
"kadash", he means a proclamation for a holy purpose. "Sanctify,
then a fast", that is, Proclaim a fast in the name of God.
    We slightly touched on the subject of fasting in the first
chapter, but deferred a fuller discussion to this place. Fasting, we
know, is not of itself a meritorious work, as the Papists imagine it
to be: there is, indeed, strictly speaking, no work meritorious. But
the Papists dream that fasting, in addition to its merit and worth,
is also by itself of much avail in the worship of God; and yet
fasting, when regarded in itself is an indifferent work. It is not
then approved by God, except for its end; it must be connected with
something else, otherwise it is a vain thing. Men, by private
fastings prepare themselves for the exercise of prayer, or they
mortify their own flesh, or seek a remedy for some hidden vices. Now
I do not call fasting temperance; for the children of God, we know,
ought through their whole life to be sober and temperate in their
habits; but fasting, I regard that to be, when something is
abstracted from our moderate allowance: and such a fast, when
practiced privately, is, as I have said, either a preparation for
the exercise of prayer, or a means to mortify the flesh, or a remedy
for some vices.
    But as to a public fast, it is a solemn confession of guilt,
when men suppliantly approach the throne of God, acknowledge
themselves worthy of death, and yet ask pardon for their sins.
Fasting then, with regard to God, is similar to black and mean
garments and a long beard before earthly judges. The criminal goes
not before the judge in a splendid dress, with all his fine things,
but casts away every thing that was before elegant in his
appearance, and by his uncombed hair and long beard he tries to
excite the compassion of his judge. There is, at the same time,
another reason for fasting; for when we have to do with men, we wish
to please their eyes and conciliate their favor; and he who fasts,
not only testifies openly that he is guilty, but he also reminds
himself of his guilt; for as we are not sufficiently touched by the
sense of God's wrath, those aids are useful which help to excite and
affect us. He then who fasts, excites himself the more to penitence.
    We now perceive the right use of fasting. But it is of public
fasting that the Prophet speaks here. For what purpose? That the
Jews, whom he had before summoned, might present themselves before
God's tribunal, and that they might come there, not with vain
excuses, but with humble prayer. This is the design of fasting. We
now see how foolishly the Papists have abused fasting; for they
think it to be a meritorious work; they imagine that God is honored
by abstinence from meat; they also mention those benefits of fasting
to which I have referred; but they join fasts with festivals, as if
there was some religion in abstaining from flesh or certain meats.
We now then perceive by what gross puerilities the Papists trifle
with God. We must then carefully notice the end in view, whenever
the Scripture speaks of fasting; for all things will be confounded,
except we lay hold on the principle which I have stated - that
fasting ought ever to be connected with its end. We shall now
proceed.
    "Proclaim, he says, a meeting". "'Atsarah" is not properly an
assembly, but the deed itself: hence also the word is transferred to
festivals. "Proclaim, then, a meeting, call the people, sanctify the
assembly". The word, sanctify, seems to be taken here in a sense
different from what it had been before. The people, in order to
engage in holy services, performed those rites, as it is well known,
by which they cleansed themselves from their pollutions. No one
entered the temple without washing; and no one offered a sacrifice
without abstaining from an intercourse with his wife. The Prophet
then alludes to these legal purgations when he says "Sanctify the
assembly".
    He afterwards adds, "Bring together the old, gather the young
sucking the breasts". With regard to the old, we have said before
that they are separately named, because they ought to have taken the
lead by their example; and further a greater guilt belonged to them,
for we know that it is a duty incumbent on the old to govern others,
and, as it were, to hold the reins. But when the old themselves
become dissolute, and restrain not the lusts of the young, they are
doubly culpable before God. It is no wonder then that the Prophet
bids here the old to be called; for it became them to be the leaders
of others in confessing their repentance. But what follows seems
strange. He would have the young, sucking the breasts, to be
assembled. Why are these brought in as involved in guilt? Besides,
the people were to own their repentance; and yet infants are without
understanding and knowledge; so that they could not humble
themselves before God. It must, then, have been a mockery and a vain
show; nay, the Prophet seems to encourage the people in hypocrisy by
bidding young infants to assemble together with men and women. To
this I answer, that children ought to have been brought together,
that those grown up and advanced in years might through them
perceive what they deserved; for the wrath of God, we know, reached
to the very infants, yea, and to brute animals: when God puts forth
his hand to punish any people, neither asses nor oxen are exempt
from the common scourge. Since, then, God's wrath comes upon brute
animals and upon young infants, it is no wonder that the Lord bids
all to come forth publicly and to make a confession of repentance;
and we see the same to have been the case with brute animals; and
when, if the Lord grants, we shall come to the Prophet Jonah, we
shall then speak on this subject. The Ninevites, when they
proclaimed a fast, not only abstained themselves from meat and
drink, but constrained also their oxen and horses to do the same.
Why? Because the very elements were involved, as it were, with them
in the same guilt: "Lord, we have polluted the earth; whatever we
possess we have also polluted by our sins; the oxen the horses, and
the asses, are in themselves innocent, but they have contracted
contagion from our vices: that we may therefore obtain mercy, we not
only offer ourselves suppliantly before thy face, but we bring also
our oxen and horses; for if thou exercises the fullest severity
against us, thou wilt destroy whatever is in our possession." So
also now, when the Prophet bids infants to be brought before God, it
is done on account of their parents. Infants were in themselves
innocent with regard to the crimes of which he speaks; but yet the
Lord could have justly destroyed the infants together with those of
advanced age. It is then no wonder that in order to pacify God's
wrath the very infants are summoned with the rest: but as I have
already said, the reason is on account of their parents, that the
parents themselves might perceive what they deserved before God, and
that they might the more abhor their sins by observing that God
would take vengeance on their children, except he was pacified. For
they ought to have reasoned from the less to the greater: "See, if
God exercises his own right towards us, there is destruction not
only hanging over us, but also over our children; if they are guilty
through our crimes, what can we say of ourselves, who are the
authors of these evils? The whole blame belongs to us; then severe
and dreadful will be God's vengeance on us, except we be reconciled
to him."
    We now then perceive why infants were called, together with
their parents; not that they might confess their penitence, as that
was not compatible with their age, but that their parents might be
more moved, and that such a sight might touch their feelings, and
that dread might also seize them on seeing that their children were
doomed to die with them for no other reason, but that by their
contagion and wickedness they had infected the whole land and
everything that the Lord had bestowed on them.
    He afterwards subjoins, "Let the bridegroom go from his closet,
or recess, and the bride from her chamber". It is the same as though
the Prophet had bidden every joy to cease among the people; for it
was of itself no evil to celebrate nuptials; but it behooved the
people to abstain from every rejoicing on seeing the wrath of God
now suspended over them. Hence, things in themselves lawful ought
for a time to be laid aside when God appears angry with us; for it
is no season for nuptials or for joyful feasts, when God's wrath is
kindled, when the darkness of death spreads all around. No wonder,
then, that the Prophet bids the bridegroom and the bride to come
forth from their chamber, that is, to cast aside every joy, and to
defer their nuptials to a more suitable time, and now to undergo
their delights, for the Lord appeared armed against all. It would
have been then to provoke, as it were, His wrath, to indulge
heedlessly in pleasures, when he wished not only to terrify, but
almost to frighten to death those who had sinned; for when the Lord
threatens vengeance, what else is indifference but a mockery of his
power? "I have called you to weeping and wailing; but ye have said,
'We will feast:' as I live, saith the Lord, this iniquity shall
never be blotted out." We see how extremely displeased the Lord
appears there to be with those who, having been called to weeping
and fasting, did yet indulge themselves in their pleasures; for
such, as I have said, altogether laugh to scorn the power of God.
The Prophet's exhortation ought then to be noticed, when he bids the
bridegroom and the bride to leave their nuptials, and to put on the
same mournful appearance as the rest of the people. He thus shook
off heedlessness from all, since God had appeared with tokens of his
wrath. This is the sum of the whole.
    Then it follows, "Between the court and the altar let the
priests, the ministers of Jehovah, weep". It was the priests'
office, we know, to pray in the name of the whole people; and now
the Prophet follows this order. It was not, indeed, peculiar to the
priests to pray and to ask pardon of God; but they prayed in the
name of all the people. The reason must be well known to us; for God
intended by these legal types to remind the Jews, that they could
not offer prayers to him, except through some mediator; the people
were unworthy to offer prayers by themselves. Hence the priest was,
as it were, the middle person. The whole of this is to be referred
to Christ; for by him we now pray; he is the Mediator who intercedes
for us. The people stood then afar off, we now dare to come nigh to
God; for the vail is rent, and through Christ we are all made
priests. Hence, we are allowed in familiar way and in confidence to
call God our Father: and yet without Christ's intercession, no
access to God would be open to us. This then was the reason for the
legal appointment. Hence the Prophet now says, "Let the priests
weep"; not that he wished the people in the meantime to neglect
their duty; but he expresses what had been prescribed by the law of
God; that is, that the priests should offer supplications in the
name of the people.
    And he says, "Between the court and the altar"; for the people
remained in the court, the priests themselves had a court by its
side which they called the sacerdotal court; but the people's court
was over against the sanctuary. Then the priest stood, as it were,
in the middle between God, that is, the ark of the covenant, and the
people: the people also were standing there. We now perceive that
what the Prophet meant was, that the people had the priests as their
mediators to offer prayers; and yet the confession of them all was
public. He calls the priests the ministers of Jehovah, as we have
before found. He thus designates their office; as though he had
said, that they were not more worthy than the rest of the people, as
though they excelled by their own virtue or merits; but that the
Lord had conferred this honor on the tribe of Levi by choosing them
to be his ministers. It was then on account of their office that
they came nearer to God, and not for any merit in their own works.
    He further adds, "Spare, Lord", or be propitious to, "thy
people; and give not thy heritage to reproach, that the Gentiles may
rule over them". Here the Prophet leaves nothing to the priests, but
to flee to God's mercy; as though he had said that now no plea
remained for the people, and that they were greatly deceived if they
pretended any excuse, and that their whole hope was in God's mercy.
He afterwards shows the ground on which they were to seek and to
hope for mercy; and he calls their attention to God's gratuitous
covenant, Give not thy heritage for a reproach to the Gentiles. By
these words he shows, that if the Jews depended on themselves, they
were past recovery; for they had so often and in such various ways
provoked God's wrath, that they could not hope for any pardon: they
had also been so obstinate that the door as it were had been closed
against them on account of their hardness. But the Prophet here
reminds them, that as they had been freely chosen by God as his
peculiar people, there remained for them a hope of deliverance, but
that it ought not to have been sought in any other way. We now then
understand the design of the Prophet, when he speaks of God's
heritage; as though he had said, that the people could now undertake
nothing to pacify God, had they not been God's heritage: "Give not
then thy heritage to reproach". He had in view the threatening,
which he had before mentioned; for it was an extreme kind of
vengeance, when the Lord determined to visit his people with utter
destruction; after having worn them out and consumed them by famine
and want, God resolved wholly to consume them by the sword of
enemies. It is then to this vengeance that he now alludes when he
says, "That the Gentiles may not rule over them". It is therefore
absurd, as many do, to connect with this the discourse concerning
the locusts: such a thing is wholly inconsistent with the design of
the Prophet.
    It is then added, "Why should they say among the people, Where
is their God?" The Prophet now adduces another reason, by which the
Jews might propitiate God, and that is, because his own glory is
concerned: this reason has indeed an affinity to the former, for God
could not expose his heritage to the reproaches of the Gentiles
without subjecting also his holy name to their blasphemies. But the
Prophet shows here more distinctly that God's glory would be subject
to reproach among the nations, if he dealt with the people according
to the full demands of justice; for the Gentiles would
contemptuously deride him, as though he could not save his people.
Hence in this second clause he reminds us, that when engaged in
seeking pardon, we ought to place before our eyes The glory of God,
that we ought not to seek our own salvation without remembering the
holy name of God, which ought of right to be preferred to all other
things. And at the same time he strengthens also the hope of the
people, when he teaches that the glory of God is connected with the
salvation of those who had sinned; as though he had said, "God, that
he may provide for his own glory, will have mercy on you." They must
then have come more willingly to God's presences when they saw that
their salvation was connected with the glory of God, and that they
would be saved that the name of God might be preserved safe and free
from blasphemies.
    We now then perceive what the Prophet meant in this verse: he
first strips the Jews of all confidence in works, showing that
nothing remained for them except they fled to God's free mercy. He
then shows that this mercy is folded on God's gratuitous covenant,
because they were his heritage. In the third place, he shows that
God would be merciful to them from a regard to his own glory, lest
he should expose it to the reproaches of the Gentiles, if he
exercised extreme severity towards his people. Let us now proceed -

Joel 2:18,19
Then will the LORD be jealous for his land, and pity his people.
Yea, the LORD will answer and say unto his people, Behold, I will
send you corn, and wine, and oil, and ye shall be satisfied
therewith: and I will no more make you a reproach among the heathen:

    The Prophet here again repeats, that prayers would not be in
vain, provided the Jews truly humbled themselves before God. Then
God, he says, will be jealous for his land and spare his people. He
confirms what I have already said that God would deal mercifully
with his people, because they were his heritage, that is because he
had chosen them for himself. For the title of heritage, whence does
it proceed except from the gratuitous covenant of God? for the Jews
were not more excellent than others, but election was the only
fountain from which the Jews had to draw any hope. We now then see
why these words, "God will be jealous for his land", are added; as
though he said "Though this land has been polluted by the wickedness
of men, yet God has consecrated it to himself: He will, therefore,
regard his own covenant, and thus turn away his face from looking on
their sins." "He will spare, he says, his people", that is, his
chosen people: for, as I have said, the Prophet no doubt ascribes
here the safety of the people, and the hope of their safety, to the
gratuitous election of God; for the jealousy of God is nothing else
but the vehemence and ardor of his paternal love. God could not,
indeed, express how ardently he loves those whom he has chosen
without borrowing, as it were, what belongs to men. For we know that
passions appertain not to him; but he is set forth as a father, who
burns with jealousy when he sees his son ill-treated; he
acknowledges his own blood, his bowels are excited, - or, as a
husband, who, on seeing dishonor done to his wife, is moved; and
though he had been a hundred times offended, he yet forgets every
offense; for he regards that sacred union between himself and his
wife. Such a character, then, does God assume, that he might the
better express how much and how intensely he loves his own elect.
Hence he says, "God will be jealous for his land". As he has
hitherto been inflamed with just wrath, so now a contrary feeling
will overcome the former; not that God is agitated by various
passions, as I have already said, but this mode of speaking
transferred from men, is adopted on account of our ignorance.
    He afterwards says, "God has answered and said to his people,
Behold, I will send to you corn, wine, and oil". The Prophet does
not here recite what had been done, but, on the contrary, declares,
that God in future would be reconciled to them; as though he said,
"I have hitherto been a herald of war, and bidden all to prepare
themselves for the coming evil: but now I am a messenger to proclaim
peace to you; if only you are resolved to turn to God, and to turn
unfeignedly, I do now testify to you that God will be propitious to
you; and as to your prayers know that they are already heard; that
is, know that as soon as they were conceived, they were heard by the
Lord." Hence he says, He "has answered"; that is "If, moved by my
exhortation, ye return with sincerity to God, he will meet you, nay,
he has already met you; he waits not until ye have done all that ye
ought to do; but when he bids you to come to his temple and to weep,
he at the same time wipes off your tears, he removes every cause of
sorrow and anxiety." God, then, has answered; that is, "I am to you
a certain and sufficient witness, that your prayers have been
already accepted before God, though, as I have before reminded you,
ye have not offered them."
    And, at the same time, he speaks of the effect, "Behold, I will
send to you corn, wine, and oil; and ye shall be satisfied". Here,
by the effects, he proves that God would be propitious; for want of
food was the first evidence of God's displeasure, to be followed by
the destruction which the Prophet had threatened. What does he say
now? God will restore to you abundance of corn, wine, and oil; and
he says further, "I will not give you to the Gentiles for a reproach
that they may rule over you".
    We now then apprehend the meaning of the Prophet; for he not
only promises that God would be placable but also declares that he
was already placable; and this he confirms by external tokens; for
God would immediately remove the sins of his wrath, and turn them
into blessings. Hence he says, 'He will give you abundance of corn,
wine, and oil, so as fully to satisfy you.' As they had perceived
that God was angry with them by the sterility of the land, and also
by its produce being consumed by chafers, by locusts, and other
animals or insects; so now the Lord would testify his love to them
by the abounding fruitfulness of every thing. And then he joins
another sentence, "I will not give you any more for a reproach to
the Gentiles". When he says, "any more," he intimates that they had
been before exposed to reproach; and we indeed know that they were
then suffering many evils; but there remained that destruction of
which we have heard. God does then here promise, that they should no
more be subject to the reproaches of the Gentiles provided they
repented; for the Prophet ever speaks conditionally. It now follows
-

Joel 2:20
But I will remove far off from you the northern [army], and will
drive him into a land barren and desolate, with his face toward the
east sea, and his hinder part toward the utmost sea, and his stink
shall come up, and his ill savour shall come up, because he has done
great things.
    
    In this verse he more fully confirms the Jews, that they might
not be afraid of reproach from the Gentiles. It may have been that
the Assyrians were now in readiness, prepared for war; it was then
difficult to free the Jews from every fear. The Prophet had said
generally that they would be no more subject to the mockeries of the
Gentiles; but yet fear could not but be felt by them. "We see the
Assyrians already armed; and what can we expect but to be devoured
by them? for we are not able to resist them." Anxiety then must have
constantly tormented the Jews, had he not distinctly and in express
words declared, "It is in God's power to drive away the Assyrians,
and to confound all their attempts." The Prophet, therefore, is now
on this subject. The "Northlander, he says, will I remove far from
you". The Chaldeans and the Assyrians, we know, were northward of
Judea. He then means here by the North those enemies, whose
preparations terrified the Jews. Hence he says, "I will drive them
from you, and drive them far into a land of desert and of drought".
By these words he intimates, that though furnished with the greatest
forces, and gaping for the land of Judea, and ready in their
cupidity to devour it, the Syrians would yet return home without
effecting anything; "I will cast them into a desert land". In vain,
he says, they covet your abundance, and desire to satisfy themselves
with the fertility of your land; for I will drive them and their
dread away.
    He then adds, "His face to the east sea, and his rear to the
hindmost sea"; that is, I will scatter them here and there, so that
his front shall be to one sea, (supposed to be the Salt Sea,) and
his extremity to the hinder most sea, which was doubtless the
Mediterranean: for the Salt Sea was east to the Jews, that is, it
lies, as it is well known, towards the east. We now perceive in part
what the Prophet means. But it must, at the same time, be added,
that the Prophet removes fear from the Jews, which occupied their
minds by observing the power of the Assyrians so great and
extensive. "What is to be done? though God is present with us, and
protects us by his help, yet how will he resist the Assyrians, for
that army will fill the land". "God will yet find means," says the
Prophet; "though the Assyrians should occupy the whole land, from
the Salt or the East Sea to the Meridian or Mediterranean Sea, yet
will God drive away this vast multitude: there is no reason then
that ye should fear." Hence the Prophet has designedly set forth how
terrible the Assyrian forces would be, that he might show that they
could not be resisted, unless the Lord should disperse them and
disappoint all their efforts. At last he adds, "And his ill savour
shall ascend: but I am not able to finish to-day.
    
Prayer.
    
Grant, Almighty God, that as we continue to excite thy wrath against
us, and are so insensible, though thou exhortest us daily to
repentance, - O grant, that what thy Prophet teaches may penetrate
into our hearts, and be like a sounding trumpet, that we may be
really and sincerely made humble before thee, and be so touched with
the sense of thy wrath, that we may learn to put off all the
depraved affections of our flesh, and not merely to deplore the sins
we have already committed: and do thou also look upon us in future,
that we may diligently walk in thy fear, and consecrate ourselves
wholly to thee; and as thou hast deigned to choose us for thine
inheritance, and gather us under thy Christ, may wc so live under
him as our leader, until we be at length gathered into thy celestial
kingdom to enjoy that happy rest, which thou hast promised to us,
and which thou promisest also daily, and which has been purchased by
the blood of the same, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.


Lecture Forty-fourth.
    
    Yesterday the Prophet spake of the northern enemy, and said
that it was in God's power to drive him far away, that he might not
hurt the people, that his vast army would not prevent the dispersion
of his power and enterprises. Now he adds this, which we could not
finish yesterday, "Ascend will his ill savour, and ascend will his
rottenness; for highly has he borne or exalted himself to do his
purpose". The Prophet expresses here more than in the former
sentence, and that is, that God would turn to reproach the whole
power of the Assyrian. The reason he subjoins deserves to be
noticed, 'He has highly exalted himself in his doings,' which means,
that he was elated with great pride, thinking he could do anything;
therefore he says, 'Ascend will his rottenness and ill savor.' This
contains a very striking allusion; for when men deliberate about
great things, it is the game as if they were to raise up themselves
on high; and we also observe that hither tend their designs, who are
engaged in difficult and arduous undertakings; for they are not
content with their lots but try to climb above the clouds. Since
then the design of all mortals is to rise aloft, when they seek for
themselves more than what is just, the Prophet, deriding this folly,
says, "Ascend will the ill savor of the Assyrian, as a bad smell
ascends from a putrid carcass. He thinks," he says, "that he can do
what he pleases, as though heaven and earth were under his control:
his power, enterprises forces and splendor, shall not ascend; but
his ill savor only shall ascend as from a dead carcass." Why so? "He
has mightily exalted himself," he says, "to do his purpose."
    He now understand the design of the Prophet: and hence this
useful instruction may be gathered, that God so checks the foolish
confidence of those who pride themselves on their own strength, that
he not only casts them down, but also turns their glory into shame,
so that nothing ascends from them but ill savor and the smell of
rottenness. Now follows what is of an opposite character: -

Joel 2:21
Fear not, O land; be glad and rejoice: for the LORD will do great
things.
    
    Here he shows that God would have his turn to exalt himself,
which the Assyrian presumptuously attempted to do. For God seems for
a time to lie still, when he withholds himself, when he puts not
forth his power, but waits to see the tendency of the insane
conspiracies and the Satanic madness of those who rise up against
him and his Church. But having for a time thus restrained himself,
he at length comes forth; and this is what the Prophet means when he
says, "God has highly exalted himself to do" his purpose. The
Assyrian first attempted this; but now the Lord in his turn will
raise up himself. God indeed could have done this before, but he
would not; and we see this to be his usual mode of proceeding, to
connive at the presumption of men, till the ripened time comes which
he has predetermined; and then he dissipates in a moment their
enterprises.
    God, then, has now nobly exalted himself; therefore "rejoice
and exult, O Land". But he says first, Fear not, O Land; and then,
Exult and rejoice. For it was necessary, in the first place, to
remove the fear with which the minds of all were now seized. The
Prophet, then, begins with consolation; for the Jews could have
hardly entertained any joy, except the fear that oppressed them was
first shaken off. Hence the Prophet maintains due order by saying,
"Fear not, O Land, but rather exult and rejoice." He afterwards
subjoins -

Joel 2:22
Be not afraid, ye beasts of the field: for the pastures of the
wilderness do spring, for the tree beareth her fruit, the fig tree
and the vine do yield their strength.

    Here the Prophet turns his address to the beasts; not that his
instruction suited them; but it was a more efficacious mode of
speaking, when he invited the very beasts to a participation of the
people's joy; for except the Jews had been made to know that God's
wrath was now nigh at hand, no consolation which the Prophet has
hitherto applied would have been of any weight with them. But now
since they perceived that God's wrath did not only suspend over
them, but extended much farther, even to the beasts, and since the
Lord would have mercy on them, so that his blessing would be
partaken in common by the beasts and brute animals, the address was
far more impressive. We hence see that the Prophet, for the best
reason, directed his discourse to the very beasts, though destitute
of mind and discernment. For in addressing brute animals he
addressed men with double force; that is, he impressed their minds
more effectually, so that they might seriously confess how great was
God's wrath, and also how great would be his blessing.
    "Beasts, he says, fear not". Then the beasts of the field ought
to have dreaded the judgment of God which he had before denounced;
for except God had been pacified to his people, the fire of his
wrath would have consumed the whole land, trees and pastures; so all
the beasts must have been famished. But now when God is reconciled
to his people, his blessing will smile on the brute animals. What
then is to be said of men? For God is properly propitious to them,
and not to brute animals. We hence see that the fruit of
reconciliation is made more evident, when it is in part extended to
the brute creation.
    He therefore says, "Fear not, ye beasts of the field: for the
pastures of the desert will grow, the trees will bring forth their
fruit". By these words the Prophet intimates, that had God's wrath
toward his people been implacable, the sterility of the land would
not have been improved. Now then whence came so sudden a change that
the pastures grew, that the trees produced their fruits, both the
fig-tree and the vine, except that God was pleased to bless the
land, after having received men into favor? We now then apprehend
the meaning of the Prophet, even this, - that the land would be made
by an angry God to execute his judgment, and that there would be no
remedy for the barrenness of the land until men propitiated God.
This is the sum of the whole. It now follows -

Joel 2:23
Be glad then, ye children of Zion, and rejoice in the LORD your God:
for he hath given you the former rain moderately, and he will cause
to come down for you the rain, the former rain, and the latter rain
in the first [month].

    He now exhorts the Jews also to rejoice, but in a way different
from that of the land and of the beasts. "Rejoice, he says, in your
God". For the beasts and the sheep, while rejoicing, cannot raise
their thoughts higher than to their food: hence, the joy of brute
animals, as they say, terminates in its object. But the Prophet sets
forth God before the Jews as the ground of their joy. We then see
how he distinguishes them from brute animals from the land and other
elements; for he not only bids them to rejoice in meat and drink, in
the abundance of provisions, but he also bids them to rejoice in the
Lord their God; and he says no more, "The land will yield its
strength, or the vines and fig-trees, or the trees, will produce
their fruit, and the pastures will grow;" no, he speaks not now in
this manner, but he says "God himself will give you rain:" for he
had to do with men, endued with understanding, yea, with those very
Jews who had been from their childhood taught in the law of God: he
speaks, not only of the land, not only of bread and wine, but of the
Giver himself.
    He then reminds them of God's blessing, and declares that God
would be so propitious to them as to pour down his grace upon them,
and act the part of a father and a guardian towards them. God then,
he says, will bring forth or give to you rain according to what is
necessary. Some translate "hamoreh" a teacher; and the meaning of
the word, we know, is doubtful. At the same time "moreh" is very
often taken for rain, and sometimes generally, and sometimes for a
particular kind of rain, as we shall presently see. Though then
"moreh" signifies a teacher, yet the context here seems not to allow
that sense. They who have thus taken it seem to have been led by
this one reason, - that it is absurd to set in the first place, and
as it were on a higher grade, those fading blessings which belong
only to the support and nourishment of the body. But this reason is
very foolish; for the Prophets, we know, lead children as it were by
initial principles to a higher doctrine. No wonder then that the
Prophet here affords them a taste of God's favor in blessings
belonging to the body; he afterwards ascends higher, as we shall
see: and this view is certainly what the context demands; for the
Prophet says at last, "I will hereafter pour my Spirit on all
flesh," &c. In these words the Prophet commends the favor of God,
which ought to be held as the most valuable: but he begins now with
temporal benefits, that he might lead by degrees, and by various
steps, a people, rude and weak, to something higher.
    Then the word, teacher, by no means suits this place; and we
must mark also what immediately follows. He introduces a word
derived from "moreh"; he afterwards adds "moreh" the second time,
which no doubt, means rain; all confess this, and confess it to be
taken for rain in the same verse. When all agree then on this point,
it seems somewhat strained to render it in the same verse a teacher
and also rain; especially since we find that the Prophet's object is
this, - to make the people to recognize God's blessing in outward
things. There is also another thing which has lead astray these
interpreters. There follows immediately the word "litsdakah",
according to what is just. When they join together these word,
"hamoreh litsdakah", they ask, What is the rain of righteousness?
They have hence thought that a teacher is here meant. But we know
that "mishpat" and "tsedakah" are often taken in Scripture for a
just measure, for equity. "God then will not deal with you unequally
as hitherto; but having been reconciled to you, he will reassume the
part of a father, and will also observe towards you a legitimate
order; for things have been on both sides in confusion, inasmuch as
ye have been carrying on war against God, and your wickedness has
subverted the whole order of nature. But now, God being pacified
towards you, there will be on both sides an equable state of things,
everything will be in a fitting condition; he will not deal with you
any more in an irregular manner." We now then perceive the real
meaning of the Prophets and see how frivolous are the reasons which
influenced these interpreters, who have rendered the words, "Teacher
of righteousness." I do not love strained expositions.
    Let us now return to the words of the Prophet: "He will give to
you, he says, rain according is what is fit"; then he adds, "He will
make to descend on you showering rain", (using another word;) and he
adds again the word "moreh", which, no doubt, means rain, and no one
denies this. But yet it seems that the word "geshem" has here a
specific meaning, and some think it to be a violent shower,
occasioned by a storm or tempest; and yet we may gather from many
parts of Scripture that the word means rain in general. Now "moreh"
seems here to be taken for the rain of September, which the Greeks
call "proimon"; and so they call "malkosh" "opsimon", or the latter
rain, as a common interpreter has rendered it. And the cultivated
land, we know, needs these two rains, that is, after sowing, and
when the fruit is ripening, - after sowing, that the ground by
receiving moisture may make the seed to grow; for it then wants
moisture to nourish the roots. Hence, the rain of September or
October, which is after sowing, is rightly called seasonable rain;
and the Greeks, as I have already said, call it "proimon"; and
James, following them, so calls it in the fifth chapter, 'He will
give you rain,' he says, 'both of the first time and the late rain,'
that is, of the month of March. For in those warm climates the
harvests we know, is earlier than with us. We here gather the corn
in July but they gather it there in May. The fruit then ripens with
them in March, when they need the late rain. And in the fifth
chapter of Jeremiah it appears quite evident, that "moreh", as in
this place, is called the rain, which comes down after sowing; for
God says there, 'I will give you,' &c., and first he uses the
general word "geshem", and then he adds the two kinds of rain, which
are also mentioned here; and afterwards he adds, 'In their time,'
that is, each rain in its time and season. - Then "moreh" has its
time, and "malkosh" also has its time; otherwise the words of the
prophet would not be consistent. We now see what the Prophet means.
Of the word "malkosh" we halve said something in the sixth chapter
of Hosea. Then the Prophet says now, that God would be so propitious
to the Jews, as to neglect no means of testifying his favor towards
them; for he would give them rain in the month of October and in the
month of March, to fertilize the ground after sowing, and before the
harvest or before the fruit came to maturity. Here then is promised
to the Jews that the land would be made fertile by natural means. It
now follows -

Joel 2:24
And the floors shall be full of wheat, and the fats shall overflow
with wine and oil.

    He goes on with the same subject in this verse, and shows the
effects of rain; for when the earth is irrigated and satiated with
sufficient moisture, it brings forth fruit, rich and plentiful. God
then will cause that the rains shall not be useless, for the floors
shall be full of wheat, and the fats shall overflow with wine as
well as oil. He afterwards adds -

Joel 2:25
And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the
cankerworm, and the caterpiller, and the palmerworm, my great army
which I sent among you.
    
    The Prophet confirms what he had previously said, and states
what is of an opposite character, - that God can as easily restore a
rich fruitfulness to the land as he had before rendered it barren by
sending devouring insects. "I will give you years", (for the other
years,) he says; and that the Jews might more fully understand that
all this was in God's hand, he expressly declares that the
cankerworms, the chafers, and the locusts, were his army and as it
were his hired army, whom he had employed as it seemed good to him.
The spoilers, then, which had destroyed the whole produce of the
land, were, as the Prophet declares, the messengers of God: it was
not, he says, by chance that the locusts, or the cankerworms, or the
chafers came; but God hired these soldiers, they were his forces and
his army to distress the whole people; then famine and want consumed
them. It is not then to no purpose that the Prophet mentions here
that these destructive insects were God's army; it is to show more
fully what is here promised; for God, who had by this army devoured
the whole increase of the land, can now easily restore plenty for
the barrenness of past years. Now, when any one lays down his arms,
the land is afterwards cultivated, and brings forth its usual fruit:
so the Lord also now shows, that the land had been barren, because
he had sent forth his army, which laid waste its whole produce. But
now, he says, when I shall restore you to favor, there will be no
army to devour your fruit: the land then will nourish you, for there
will be nothing to prevent you to receive its wonted produce.
    Had not the Jews been made assured that the land had been
sterile, because the locusts, and the chafers, and the cankerworms,
were the army which the Lord had prepared they might have ever
dreaded these spoilers: "Surely the locusts will spring up, the
chafers and the cankerworms will come, to devour all the fruit." The
Prophet shows that this happened not by chance: "Now then, when God
shall be reconciled to you, the land will yield its increase, and
nothing shall hinder you from enjoying its abundance."
    By calling this army "great", he shows that God has no need of
strong forces to subdue men; for when he prepares locusts and
insects, which are but little things, they snatch food from the
mouths of men and leave them in want; though no one puts forth a
sword against them, they yet pine away with hunger. The Prophet then
derides here the arrogance of men, and shows that God needs not do
much, when he intends to reduce them to nothing. Let us now proceed
-

Joel 2:26
And ye shall eat in plenty, and be satisfied, and praise the name of
the LORD your God, that hath dealt wondrously with you: and my
people shall never be ashamed.
    
    He now concludes what he has hitherto said of God's blessing.
As the Jews were starving while God was offended, so he promises
that when reconciled to him they should have abundance of produce
from the land: "Ye shall eat plentifully, he says, and satisfy
yourselves". But he mentions also their gratitude; for it was an
evidence of true repentance when they praised the name of God, whom
they understood to be the giver of their abundance; for he had
before proved that the land was under his power, when he consumed
its whole substance, so that none of it came to supply the wants of
man. Hence the Prophet exhorts them to give thanks, that they might
thus declare that they from the heart repented. "Ye shall then
praise the name of Jehovah your God". Why? "Because he will deal
with you wonderfully". He takes away here every plea for ignorance.
We know how difficult it is to lead men to do this act of religion,
for which we yet confess that we were born; for what is more natural
than to acknowledge God's bounty towards us, when we enjoy many
blessings? But yet, though God in various ways stimulates us, he
cannot draw from us genuine gratitude. This is the reason why the
Prophet now says, "God will deal with you wonderful}y: though ye are
stupid, God will yet by his power awaken you; for he will not deal
with you in a common way." He then mentions something miraculous,
that he might leave to the Jews no excuse, in case they considered
not God's bounty and perceived not in this change, first, what they
had deserved and then how merciful God had been to them: for this
change could not have been ascribed to chance; nor was it a common
thing, that when the Jews had been for four successive years nearly
consumed with wants and when the enemy was at hand, they should see
the land now fruitful, that they should see it freed from
destructive insects, that they should be also at peace, and not
disturbed by the dread of any foreign enemy. Since the Lord, then,
would beyond hope give them a serene instead of a turbulent sky,
should not such a wonderful change deeply affect them? This is what
the Prophet now means, - "As the Lord will deal with you
wonderfully, there will be no excuse for your torpidity, if ye will
not be diligent in praising his name."
    "Not ashamed, he says, shall my people be for ever". The Jews
are here reminded by implication of their former disgrace; for they
had been greatly confounded; though enemies touched them not, no,
not even with their finger, they yet died through famine; an enemy
was also prepared, as we have seen, to destroy them. They were
therefore frightened with dread, and also perplexed with their own
evils, by which God had almost worn them out. The Prophet says now,
"My people shall not be ashamed for ever", intimating that God would
at length relieve his people from their evils, that they might not,
as hitherto, be ashamed. He at last subjoins -

Joel 2:27
And ye shall know that I [am] in the midst of Israel, and [that] I
[am] the LORD your God, and none else: and my people shall never be
ashamed.
    
    He repeats the same sentence; and in the beginning of the verse
he unfolds what I have already said - that the miracle would be such
as to constrain the people to praise God. "Ye shall know that I am
in the midst of Israel": and this was the case, because God showed
not in an ordinary way his kindness to them, and especially because
it had been foretold, and also because this reason had been adduced
- that God was mindful of his covenant. The manner, then, in which
he dealt with them, and farther, the prediction itself, left to the
people no pretext for ignorance. Hence the Prophet now says, 'Ye
shall know that I am in the midst of Israel,' and still more, 'that
I am Jehovah your God.' By these words the Prophet reminds us, that
the deliverance of the people from their evils was to be wholly
ascribed to the gratuitous mercy of God; for we have already seen,
that things would have been past hope, had not this consolation been
added - 'Turn ye even now to me.' The Prophet therefore repeats,
that there would be no other reason why God would deal so kindly
with his people, and so mercifully spare them, but this - that he
dwelt in the midst of Israel: but whence was this dwelling, except
that God had gratuitously chosen this people? This indeed availed
much to raise up the people; for how could they have hoped that God
would be propitious to them, had they not been reminded of this
truth that God was dwelling in the midst of them? Not because they
were worthy, but because he deigned to come down to them.
    He afterwards adds, "And none else". By this sentence the
Prophet more sharply stimulates them to return immediately to God;
for if they deferred longer disappointment would be in delay. That
the Jews, then, might not, after their usual manner, procrastinate,
he says that there is no other God; and thus he shows that there was
no remedy for their evils, except they sought to be reconciled to
God. "There is then no God besides me, and I dwell in the midst of
thee." The Lord claims to himself every power, and then kindly
invites the people to himself, and for this reason, - because he
dwells in the midst of them. That the people, then, might not form
other expectations, God shows that all their hope was in him alone.
He farther shows, that salvation was not to be sought afar off,
provided the people had not forgotten the covenant, that God was
dwelling in the midst of them. But a higher doctrine follows -

Joel 2:28
And it shall come to pass afterward, [that] I will pour out my
spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall
prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see
visions:

    We have explained why the Prophet began with earthly blessings.
One may indeed think that this order is not regular; for Christ does
not in vain remind us, that the kingdom of God ought to be first
sought, and that other things shall be added in their place, (Matth.
6;) for food, and every thing that belongs to this frail life, are,
as it were, additions to the spiritual life. But the Prophet
designedly mentioned first the evidence of God's favor in outward
benefits; for we see how slow the perceptions of men are, and how
slothful they are in seeking spiritual life. As, then, men rise to
things above with so much difficulty, the Prophet makes use of the
best helps; and we must indeed be dealt with as we usually deal with
children. For as there is not so much discernment in them as to be
influenced by reasons, we set before them what is suitable to their
weak and simple comprehension; so the Prophet did; for he showed
first that God would be kind to the Jews in food for the body, and
having used this as a help, he then added, "Afterwards I will pour
my Spirit upon all flesh".
    By these words the Prophet reminds us, that people act absurdly
when they are satisfied with vanishing things, when they ask of God
nothing more excellent than to be pampered like brute animals; for
in what do the children of God differ from asses and dogs, except
they aspire after spiritual life? The Prophet, then, after having
set before them lower things, as though they were children, now
brings before them a more solid doctrine, (for thus they were to be
led,) and affords them a taste of the favor of God in its external
signs. "Ascend, then, now," he says, "to spiritual life: for the
fountain is one and the same; though when earthly benefits occupy
and engross your attention, ye no doubt pollute them. But God feeds
you, not to fill and pamper you; for he would not have you to be
like brute animals. Then know that your bodies are fed, and that God
gives support to you, that ye may aspire after spiritual life; for
he leads you to this as by the hand; be this then your object." We
now, then, understand why the Prophet did not at first speak of the
spiritual grace of God; but he comes to it now. He began with
temporal benefits, for it was needful that an untutored people
should be thus led by degrees, that on account of their infirmity,
sluggishness, and dullness, they might thus make better progress,
until they understood that God would for this end be a Father to
them.
    
Prayer.
    
Grant, Almighty God, that since we want so many aids while in this
frail life, and as it is a shadowy life, we cannot pass a moment,
except thou dost continually, and at all times, supply through thy
bounty what is needful, - O grant, that we may so profit by thy so
many benefits, that we may learn to raise our minds upwards, and
ever aspire after celestial life, to which by thy gospel thou
invites us so kindly and sweetly every day, that being gathered into
thy celestial kingdom, we may enjoy that perfect felicity, which has
been procured for us by the blood of thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.
Amen.


Lecture Forty-fifth.

    "And it shall be, that I shall afterwards pour my Spirit upon
all flesh, and prophesy shall your sons and your daughters and your
old men shall dreams dream, and your young men shall visions see".
We mentioned in our last lecture why the Prophet now at length
speaks of the spiritual grace of God, having before spoken of
earthly blessings. The order may seem indeed irregular; but it can
be easily accounted for. The Prophet said first that God, being
reconciled to the people, would openly manifest this by external
proofs, by restoring abundance of wine and corn; for the almost
wearing out of the people by famine and want, being the evidence of
God s vengeance, the Prophet made the testimony of reconciliation to
be in tokens of a contrary kind. But as the restoration of the
Church consists not either in the fruitfulness of the land, or in
the abundance of provisions, the Prophet now raises higher the
thoughts of the godly, and makes them to look for the spiritual
grace of God: hence he says, "I shall afterwards pour my Spirit upon
all flesh".
    The Prophet, no doubt, promises here something greater than
what the fathers under the Law had experienced. The gift of the
Spirit, we know, was enjoyed even by the ancients; but the Prophet
promises not what the faithful had before found; but, as we have
said, something greater: and this may easily be gathered from the
word here used, "pour out;" for "shafach" means not to distill, but
to pour forth in great abundance; and God did not pour out his Holy
Spirit so abundantly and so largely under the law as after the
manifestation of Christ. Since, then, the gift of the Spirit was
more copiously given to the Church after the advent of Christ, the
Prophet uses here an unwonted expression - that God would pour out
his Spirit.
    Another circumstance is added, "upon all flesh". Though the
Prophets, as we know, had formerly their colleges, yet they were but
few in number. As then the gift of prophecy was rare among the Jews,
the Prophets in order to show that God would deal more bountifully
to his new Church when restored, says, that he would pour out his
Spirit upon all flesh. He then intimates that all in common would be
partakers of the gift of the Spirit, and of its rich abundance,
while under the law a few had but a sparing taste of it. We now then
perceive the design of the Prophet; it was to make a manifest
difference between the state of the ancient people and the state of
the new Church, of the restoration of which he now speaks. The
comparison is, that God would not only endow a few with his Spirit,
but the whole mass of the people, and then that he would enrich his
faithful with all kinds of gifts, so that the Spirit would seem to
be poured forth in full abundance: "I will then pour out my Spirit
upon all flesh". We hence learn how absurdly the Greek interpreter
has rendered this, "I will pour out from my Spirit:" for he
diminishes this promise by saying, "From my Spirit," as though God
promised here some small portion of his Spirit; while, on the
contrary the Prophet speaks of abundance, and intended to express
it.
    It follows, "Prophesy shall your sons and your daughters". The
Prophet now proceeds to explain what he had said, unfolding at large
what he meant by the expression, "upon all flesh," which was this, -
that the whole people would prophesy, or that the gift of prophecy
would be common and prevail every where among all the Jews, in a new
and unusual manner. The ancients had also Prophets though in number
few; but now the Prophet extends this gift and favor to all orders:
Prophesy then shall your sons and your daughters, he says, so that
he does not exclude women.
    He afterwards mentions two kinds of prophesying, "Your old men
shall dreams dream, and your young men shall visions see." "Young
men" mean literally "chosen," "bachurim": but as in middle age
strength prevails most in man, those who possess vigor and judgment,
and as yet retain their strength, are called "chosen:" hence by
"chosen" he means those of mature age. When God manifested himself
to the Prophets, it was usually done, us know, by dreams and
visions, as it is said in the twelfth chapter of Numbers: this was,
as we may say, the ordinary method. The Prophet now refers to these
two modes of communication, and says, that the gift of prophecy
would be common to men and women, to the old and those of middle
age. We now perceive the import of this verse. There is then no
difference between dreams and visions, only the Prophet mentions
these two kinds, that readers might better understand, that what the
Prophet had stated before generally would be common to all.
    But I have already said that this prophecy must be referred to
the advent of Christ; for we know that what is here described was
not fulfilled until after Christ appeared in the world: and the
Prophet now preaches of the new restoration of the Church, which we
know, was suspended until the Gospel was proclaimed. Let us now then
see whether God, after Christ was revealed, performed what he had
spoken by his Prophet. Peter, in the second chapter of the Acts,
says, that this prophecy was fulfilled when the Spirit was sent. But
it may be objected, that all were not endued with the gift of
prophecy, even when God opened all the treasures of his grace; and
Paul says that they were not all prophets even when the Church
especially flourished; and experience proves the same. How then
could Peter say, that this - that God would pour out his Spirit upon
all flesh, was fulfilled? To give a reply to this is not difficult:
let us only remember, that the Prophet speaks comparatively, as the
Scripture is wont to do. He affirms not in express terms that all
would be partakers of this gift, but that in comparison with the
ancient Church, this gift would be as it were common, and that it
was so is well known: for if any one compares the ancient Church
with that abundance which God vouchsafed to his people after
Christ's advent, he will certainly find true what I say - that the
Spirit of God, who was given only to few under the law, was poured
out upon all flesh. True then is what the Prophet says, provided
this contrast is to be understood - that God was much more bountiful
towards his new Church than formerly towards the fathers: for the
Prophets then were not many, but they were many under the gospel.
    We must also remember that the Prophet hyperbolically extols
the grace of God; for such is our stupidity and dullness, that we
can never sufficiently comprehend the grace of God, except it is set
forth to us in hyperbolical language; nor is there indeed any excess
in the thing itself, if we take a right view of it: but as we hardly
understand the hundredth part of God's gifts, when he presents them
before our eyes, it was needful to add a commendation, calculated to
elevate our thoughts. The spirit of God is then constrained to speak
hyperbolically on account of our torpidity or rather carelessness.
We need not however to fear, lest our thoughts should go beyond the
words; for when God would carry us above the heavens, we can hardly
ascend two or three feet.
    We now then perceive why the Prophet mentions all flesh without
exception: first, there were more Prophets, as I have said, under
the gospel than under the law; hence, the comparison is very
suitable; - and, secondly the Prophet speaks not here of the public
office of teaching, for he calls those Prophets who had not been
called to teach, but who were endued with so much of the light of
truth, that they might be compared with the Prophets; and certainly
the knowledge which flourished in the primitive Church was such,
that the meanest were in many respects equal to the ancient
Prophets; for what did God confer on the ancient Prophets except the
power of foretelling something to come? It was a special gift, and
very limited. Besides these predictions are hardly worthy to be
compared with the celestial wisdom made known in the gospel. Faith
then after the coming of Christ, if rightly estimated according to
its value, far excels the gift of prophecy. And so the Prophet here,
not without reason, dignifies with so honorable name those who were
private men, and to whom was not intrusted the office of teaching
among the people, but who were only illuminated; for their light was
much superior to the gift of prophecy in many of those who lived
under the law. We now understand what the Prophet means when he
makes the Spirit of God to be common, without distinction, to all
the godly, so that they possess what excels the gift of prophesying.
    Now as to the two kinds of gifts mentioned here, it must be
observed, that the Prophet spoke according to what was commonly
known among the people: for as the Jews were accustomed to dreams
and visions, the Prophet therefore made use of these terms; and this
manner of speaking occurs often in the Prophets, and it ought to be
borne in mind by us. When they speak of the worship of God, they
mention sacrifices, 'They shall come and bring frankincense and
gold; they shall lead camels laden with the wealth of the land.' In
short, in their prophecies they raise altars and build a temple: and
yet no such things were seen after Christ appeared: for the Gentiles
came not to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices; nay, shortly after the
temple was destroyed, there was no altar among them, and the whole
legal worship ceased. What then is to be understood by such
expressions, as - that people shall come from all places to
sacrifice together? Even this - They set forth under a visible form
the spiritual worship of God. It is so in this place; as it was the
usual way among the ancients that God manifested himself by dreams
and visions to the Prophets, so he says, your old men shall dreams
dream, and your young men shall visions see: but the Prophet no
doubt sets forth under these forms of speech that light of knowledge
in which the new Church excelled after Christ appeared: he indeed
compares the light of faith to prophecy, as we have already stated;
but he accommodates his manner of speaking or his discourse to the
comprehension of his people, for he knew whom he addressed. All the
Prophets have followed the same rule; 'There shall be offered a
sacrifice,' says Malachi, 'from the rising to the setting of the
sun.' What is this sacrifice? The Papists take this for the mass;
"Then under the kingdom of Christ there is to be some sacrifice; and
we do not now offer to God sheep and calves; it therefore follows,
that there is to be the sacrifice of bread and wine:" and this is
said, as though the Prophet had thus refinedly philosophized on the
word, sacrifice, while he was teaching a rude people according to
what they could bear. But what he meant was, that the worship of God
would be universal among all nations. The same thing is intended by
Joel when he says, "I shall pour forth my Spirit upon all flesh:
your old men shall dreams dream, and your young men shall visions
see". We now see the whole meaning of the Prophet. Now it follows -

Joel 2:29
And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will
I pour out my spirit.
    
    As the particle "gam" amplifies in Hebrew, it seems singular
that the Prophet now limits to a few a gift common to all; for he
had previously said, "Upon all flesh will I pour out my Spirit;" and
now, "Upon servants and handmaids;" and he puts down "Also". If he
had simply said "Upon servants and handmaids will I pour out my
Spirit," there would have been no inconsistency, for it would have
been the explanation of his former statement; for we know that what
the Prophet says of all men must be taken with exception, inasmuch
as many who were unbelievers were without this gift, and even those
who before excelled in some sort of divine knowledge; we indeed know
that the Jews were blinded, and we also know that not all among the
common people were partakers of this excellent gift. There is no
doubt, therefore, but that this which is said of "all flesh," must
be limited to the Church. It would not, then, have appeared strange,
had the Prophet now added, "Upon servants and handmaids;" but the
particles "wegam", "and also," create difficulty: it is a way of
speaking to enlarge on what has been said, but here it seems not to
enlarge; for to pour out the Spirit upon a11 the people, is more
than to pour it out on servants and handmaids. The solution is
twofold: the particles "wegam" are sometimes to be taken
confirmatively. 'I have blessed him,' said Isaac of his son Jacob,
'and also blessed shall he be.' So in this place we may take the
words of the Prophet to be, "yea surely", being a repetition serving
to confirm what had been said: but I prefer another sense; for the
Prophet, I doubt not, meant here to add something more incredible
than what he had previously said, "Upon servants and maid-servants
will I pour out my Spirit," that is, even upon those who were before
Prophets; for they shall be enriched with a new gift, and shall gain
increasing knowledge after the restoration of the Church, which is
now approaching. We apprehend this to be the meaning of the Prophet.
He had promised the grace of the Spirit to the whole body of the
faithful, which appears, as I have said, from comparing the ancient
state with our own: but now, after having spoken of the mass or the
common people, he comes to the Prophets, who were superior to others
who before performed the office of teaching, who attained rank and
degree in the Church; these also shall gain accessions; that is, "My
Spirit shall not only be conspicuous in the ignorant and the common
people, but also in the Prophets themselves."
    Surely it is a greater thing when they are taught who were
before superior to others, and whom the Lord had set over the
Church, and when they appear as new men, after having received a
gift which the Lord had not previously conferred on them. When,
therefore, new light appears in such men, it is certainly a greater
thing than when the Spirit is poured out on the common people. We
now then see the Prophet's meaning as to the servants and the
handmaids.
    Ho then repeats, "In those days", intimating that so sudden and
incredible the change will be, that Prophets will seem to have been
before untaught men; for a much more excellent doctrine shall be
given them. Then God shall so pour out his Spirits that all the
ancient prophecies will appear obscure and of no value, compared
with the great and extraordinary light which Christ, the Sun of
Righteousness, will bring at his rising. And he mentions
"handmaids", for there were, we know, Prophetesses under the Law.
Let us now go on -

Joel 2:30,31
And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and
fire, and pillars of smoke.
The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood,
before the great and the terrible day of the LORD come.
    
    The Prophet seems here to contradict himself; for he had
hitherto promised that God would deal kindly and bountifully with
his people; and every thing he has said tended to elevate the
spirits of the people and fill them with joy: but now he seems again
to threaten them with God's wrath and to strike miserable men with
fear; who had not as yet a breathing time; for at the time the
Prophet spoke, the Jews, we know, were in the greatest sorrow. What
then is his purpose in adding a new cause of grief, as though they
had not sorrow and lamentation enough? But it is rather an
admonition than a threatening. The Prophet warns them of what would
be, lest the faithful should promise themselves some happy condition
in this world, and an exemption from all cares and troubles; for we
know how prone men are to self-indulgence. When God promises any
thing, they flatter themselves and harbor vain thoughts, as though
they were beyond the reach of harm, and free from every grief and
every evil. Such indulgence the flesh contrives for itself. Hence
the Prophet reminds us, that though God would bountifully feed his
Church, supply his people with food, and testify by external tokens
his paternal love, and though also he would pour out his Spirit, (a
token far more remarkable,) yet the faithful would continue to be
distressed with many troubles; for God designs not to deal too
delicately with his Church on earth; but when he gives tokens of his
kindness he at the same time mingles some exercises for patience,
lest the faithful should become self-indulgent or sleep on earthly
blessings, but that they may ever seek higher things.
    We now then understand the Prophet's design: he intends not to
threaten the faithful, but rather to warn them, lest they should
deceive themselves with empty dreams, or expect what is never to be,
that is, to enjoy a happy rest in this world. Besides, the Prophet
regards also another thing: we know indeed that men are hardly led
to seek the grace of God, except when they are, as it were, forcibly
drawn; hence spiritual life is neglected, and whatever belongs to
the celestial kingdom, when we have all kinds of supplies on earth.
The Prophet then commends here the spiritual grace of which he
speaks, for this reason, - that the condition of men would be
miserable, were not the Lord to exhilarate their minds and refresh
them with the comfort which we have already noticed.  - How so?
"There will be prodigies in heaven and on earth, the sun shall be
turned into darkness, and the moon into blood", and all things shall
be in disorder and in horrible darkness. What then would become of
men, were not God to shine on them by the grace of his Spirit, to
support them under such a confusion in heaven and on earth, and to
show himself to be their Father?
    We then see that this was added for the fuller commendation of
God's grace, that men might know, that they would be much more
miserable if God called them not to himself by the shining light of
his Spirit. And that this was the Prophet's design, we may learn
from the discourse of Christ, which he made to his disciples a short
time before his death. They asked what would be the sign of his
coming, when he reminded them of the destruction of the temple,
(Matth 24). They thought that he would immediately accomplish that
triumph of which they had heard, that they would be made
participators of that eternal beatitude of which Christ had so often
spoken to them. Christ then warned them not to be deluded with so
gross a notion. He spoke of the destruction of Jerusalem, and then
declared that all these things would be only the presages of evils -
"These," he says, "shall be only the preludes; for tumults will
arise, wars shall be, and all places will be full of calamities; in
a word, there will be an immense mass of all evils." As Christ then
corrected the mistake, with which the minds of the disciples were
imbued, so the Prophet here checks vain imaginations, lest the
faithful should think that Christ's kingdom would be earthly, and
fix their minds on corn and wine, on pleasures and quietness, on the
conveniences of the present life: "I will give you, he says,
prodigies in heaven and on earth blood, fire, and dark clouds; the
sun all be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before it
shall come - the day of Jehovah, great and terrible".
    We now see why the Prophet adds here this sad catalogue, and
how well these things harmonize together, - that God would testify
his paternal love by the manifestation of Christ, - and that he
would exhibit tokens of his wrath, which would fill the whole world
with anxiety and fear.
    What he says of blood and darkness is, no doubt, to be taken
metaphorically for a disordered state of things; for we know that
calamities are often compared to obscurity and darkness. It is the
same as though he said, "So great will be the succession of evils,
that the whole order of nature will seem to be subverted that the
very elements will put on a new form; the sun, which illuminates the
earth, will be turned into darkness, the moon into blood; the
calamities which shall come will take away every token of God's
kindness. Then nothing will remain, but that men, sunk, as it were,
in the deepest abyss of all evils, will seek some spark of grace
from God and never find it; for heaven will be dark, the earth will
be covered with thick darkness." We then see that the Prophet does
not express what would be, word for word, nor is he to be understood
as speaking, as they say, literally, but he uses a figurative mode
of speaking, by which he sets forth such a dreadful state of things,
that the very elements would put on a new appearance; for the sun
would not any more perform its office, and the moon would refuse its
light to the earth. As God, then, would take away all tokens of his
favor, so the Prophet, by blood, by darkness and by dark clouds,
sets forth metaphorically that sorrows by which the minds of men
would necessarily be possessed.
    Now if any one asks, why by the coming of Christ was God's
wrath more stirred up against men? for this may seem to be without
reason. To this I answer, that it was, as it were accidental: for if
Christ had been received as he ought to have been, if all embraced
him with due reverence, he would have certainly been the giver, not
only of spiritual grace, but also of earthly happiness. The felicity
of all, then, would have in every respect been made complete by the
coming of Christ, had not their wickedness and ingratitude kindled
up anew the wrath of God; and we see what a flood of evils burst
forth immediately after the preaching of the gospel. Now when we
consider how severely God afflicted his people formerly, we cannot
but say that much heavier have been the calamities inflicted on the
world since the manifestation of Christ, - whence this? Even because
the world's ingratitude had arrived to its highest point, as indeed
it is at this day: for the light of the gospel has gone forth again,
and God has exhibited himself to the world as a Father, and we see
how great is the wickedness and perversity of men in rejecting the
gifts of God; we see some contemptuously rejecting the Gospel, and
others impelled by satanic fury to resist the doctrine of Christ; we
see them making a boast of their blasphemies, and we see them
kindled with cruel rage and breathing slaughters against the
children of God; we see the world full of ungodly men and of the
despisers of God; we see an awful contempt of God's grace prevailing
everywhere: we see such an unbridled licentiousness in wickedness,
that it ought to make us ashamed of ourselves and weary of our life.
Since, then, the world is so ungrateful for such a favor, is it a
wonder that God should show more dreadful tokens of his vengeance?
For certainly at this day, when we closely examine the condition of
the world, we find that all are miserable, and even those who
applaud themselves, and whom the world admire as semigods. How can
it be otherwise? The common people, doubtless, groan under their
miseries, and that because God thus punishes the contempt of his
grace, which he has again offered to us, and which is so unworthily
rejected. Inasmuch, then, as so base an ingratitude on the part of
men has provoked God's wrath, it is no wonder that the sound of his
scourges is everywhere heard: for the servant who knows his lord's
will and does it not, is worthy, as Christ declares, of heavier
stripes, (Luke 12.) And what happens through the whole world is,
that after God has shone by his gospel, after Christ has everywhere
proclaimed reconciliation, they now openly fall away, and show that
they prefer having God angry than propitious to them: for when the
gospel is rejected, what else is it but to declare war against God,
and to scorn and not to receive the reconciliation which God is
ready to give, and of which he treats of his own accord with men?
    It is then no wonder that the Prophet says here, that the world
would be full of darkness after the appearance of Christ, who is the
Sun of Righteousness, and who has shone upon us with his salvation:
but it was, as it were, accidental, that God exhibited himself with
so much severity to the world, when yet it was the acceptable time,
when it was the day of salvation and of good-will; for the world
suffered not that to be fulfilled which God had promised to us by
the Prophet Joel, nor received the Spirit of adoption, when they
might have safely fled to God; nay, when God was ready to cherish
them in his own bosom. But since they were refractory and
untractable, it was necessary for God to visit such perverseness in
an unusual manner. It is no wonder then that the Prophet says, that
"in those days there shall be prodigies in heaven and on earth, for
the sun shall be turned into darkness, &c., before it shall come -
the day of Jehovah, great and terrible".
    It may be asked what day the Prophet refers to: for he has
hitherto spoken of the first coming of Christ; and there seems to be
some inconsistency in this place. I answer, that the Prophet
includes the whole kingdom of Christ, from the beginning to the end;
and this is well understood, and in other places we have stated that
the Prophets common speak in this manner: for when the discourse is
concerning Christ's kingdom, they sometimes refer to its
commencement only, and sometimes they speak of its termination; but
they often mark out by one delineation the whole course of the
kingdom of Christ, from its beginning to its end; and such is the
case here. The Prophet, by saying, 'After those days I will pour out
my Spirit,' no doubt meant that this, as we have explained, would be
fulfilled when Christ should commence his kingdom, and make it known
through the teaching of the gospel: Christ poured out then his
Spirit. But as the kingdom of Christ is not for a few days, or for a
short time, but continues its course to the end of the word, the
Prophet turns his attention to that day or that time, and says,
"There shall, in the meanwhile, be the greatest calamities: and
whosoever shall not flee to the grace of God shall be very
miserable; they shall never find rest nor comfort, nor the light of
life, for the world shall be sunk in darkness; and God shall take
away from the sun, the moon, the elements, and all other aids, the
tokens of his favor; and he will show himself everywhere to be angry
and offended with men." The Prophet further shows, that these evils
of which he speaks would not be for a few days or a few years, but
perpetual; 'Before,' he says, 'the day of Jehovah, great and
terrible, shall come.' In short, he means that all the scourges of
God, which he had hitherto mentioned, would be, as it were,
preparations to subdue the hearts of men, that they might with
reverence and submission receive Christ. As, therefore, men carry by
nature a high spirit, and cannot bend their neck to recede the yoke
of Christ, hence the Prophet says here that they were to be subdued
by severe scourges, when God would remove all evidences of his love,
and fill heaven and earth with dread. Thus, then, he would in a
manner change the hardness and contumacy which is innate in men,
that they might know that they had to do with God. And, at the same
time, the Prophet reminds them, that unless they were amended by
these scourges, something more dreadful remained for them, - the
Judge would at last come from heaven, not only to clothe the sun and
moon in darkness, but to turn life into death. It would, indeed, be
far better for the reprobate to die a hundred times than always to
live and thus to sustain eternal death in life itself.
    The Prophet then means, that men persisting in their obstinacy
shall meet with something more grievous and more ruinous than the
evils of this life, for they must all at last stand before the
tribunal of the celestial Judge: for the day of Jehovah, great and
terrible, will come. He refers, in this sentence, to unbelievers and
rebels against God; for when Christ shall come, he will be a
Redeemer to the godly; no day in their whole life will shine on them
so pleasantly; so far will this day be from bringing terror and fear
to them, that they are bidden, while expecting it, to lift up their
heads, which is a token of cheerfulness and joy. But as the Prophet
Joel's object was to humble the confident pride of the flesh, and as
he addressed the refractory and the rebellious, it is no wonder that
he sets before them what is terrific and dreadful.
    
Prayer.
    
Grant, Almighty God, that as we are now surrounded on every side by
so many miseries, and as our condition is such, that amidst groans
and continual sorrows, our life could be hardly sustained without
being supported by spiritual grace, - O grant, that we may learn to
look on the face of thine Anointed, and seek comfort from him, and
such a comfort as may not engross our minds, or at least not retain
us in the world, but raise our thoughts to heaven, and daily sell to
our hearts the testimony of our adoption, and that though many evils
must be borne by us in this world, we may yet continue to pursue our
course, and to fight and to strive with invincible perseverance,
until having at length finished all our struggles, we reach that
blessed rest, which has been obtained for us by the blood of thy
only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.


Lecture Forty-sixth.

Joel 2:32
And it shall come to pass, [that] whosoever shall call on the name
of the LORD shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem
shall be deliverance, as the LORD hath said, and in the remnant whom
the LORD shall call.
    
    We said yesterday that the Prophet denounced future calamities,
that he might thus stimulate men, distressed by many evils, to seek
God: we indeed know how tardy we are by nature, except the Lord
goads us continually. The subject, then, on which we discoursed
yesterday tended to show, that as so many and so grievous calamities
would press on the Jews, all would be miserable who fled not to God,
and that this consolation only would remain to them in their extreme
evils: but now the Prophet seasonably adds, "Whosoever shall call on
the name of the Lord shall be delivered". Having then stimulated men
to seek God, he now gives them firm assurance of being saved,
provided they in sincerity and from the heart fled to God.
    This is indeed a remarkable passage, for God declares that the
invocation of his name in a despairing condition is a sure port of
safety. What the Prophet had said was certainly dreadful, - that the
whole order of nature would be so changed, that no spark of light
would appear, and that all places would be filled with darkness.
What, therefore, he says now is the same as though he declared, that
if men called on the name of God, life would be found in the grave.
They who seem to be even in despair, and from whom God seems to have
taken away every hope of grace, provided they call on the name of
God, will be saved, as the Prophet declares, though they be in so
great a despair, and in so deep an abyss. This circumstance ought to
be carefully noticed; for if any one takes this sentence of the
Prophet by itself, though then it would not be frigid, it would not
yet be so striking; but when these two things are joined together, -
that God will be the judge of the world, who will not spare the
wickedness of men, but will execute dreadful vengeance, - and that
yet salvation will be given to all who will call on the name of the
Lord, we see how efficacious the promise is; for God offers life to
us in death, and light in the darkest grave.
    There is, therefore, great importance in the expression,
"wehayah", 'Then it shall be;' for the copulative is to be regarded
as an adverb of time, 'Then whosoever shall invoke the name of the
Lord,' &c. And he uses the word "deliver;" for it was needful to
show that the saved differ nothing from the lost. Had the Prophet
used the word "preserve," he would have spoken less distinctly; but
now when he promises deliverance, he bids us to set up this shield
against trials even the heaviest; for God possesses power
sufficiently great to deliver us, provided only we call on him.
    We now then understand what the Prophet had in view: He shows
that God would have us to call on him not only in prosperity, but
also in the extreme state of despair. It is the same as though God
had called to himself the dead, and declared that it was in his
power to restore life to them and bring them out of the grave. Since
then God invites here the lost and the dead, there is no reason why
even the heaviest distresses should preclude an access for us or for
our prayers; for we ought to break through all these obstacles. The
more grievous, then, our troubles are, the more confidence we ought
to entertain; for God offers his grace, not only to the miserable,
but also to those in utter despair. The Prophet did not threaten a
common evil to the Jews, but declared that by the coming of Christ
all things would be full of horror: after this denunciation he now
subjoins, 'Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be
delivered.'
    But as Paul cites this place in Rom. 10, and extends it to the
Gentiles, we must inquire in what sense he takes the testimony of
the Prophet. Paul means to prove that adoption was common to the
Gentiles, that it was lawful for them to flee to God, and familiarly
to invoke him as a Father: 'Whosoever,' he says, 'shall call on the
name of the Lord shall be saved.' He hence proves that the Gospel
ought to have been preached even to the Gentiles, as invocation
arises from faith: for except God shines on us by his word, we
cannot come to him; faith, then, is ever the mother of prayer. Paul
seems to lay stress on the universal particle, "Whosoever"; as
though he said, that Joel did not speak of the Jews only, but also
of the Gentiles, that he testified that God would indiscriminately,
and without exception, receive all who would seek him. But Paul
appears to misapply the Prophet's words; for Joel no doubt addresses
here the people, to whom he was appointed as a teacher and prophet.
What Paul then applies generally to all mankind seems not to have
been so intended by the Prophet. But to this there is an easy
answer; for the Prophets after having spoken of the kingdom of
Christ, had no doubt this truth in view, that the blessing in the
seed of Abraham had been promised to all nations; and when he
afterwards described the miserable state in which the whole world
would be, he certainly meant to rouse even the Gentiles, who had
been aliens from the Church, to seek God in common with his elect
people: the promise, then, which immediately follows, is also
addressed to the Gentiles, otherwise there would be no consistency
in the discourse of the Prophet. We therefore see that Paul most
fitly accommodates this place to his subject: for the main thing to
be held is this, that the blessing in Christ was promised not only
to the children of Abraham but also to all the Gentiles. When,
therefore, the Prophet describes the kingdom of Christ, it is no
wonder that he addresses the Jews and Gentiles in common: and then,
what he said of the state of the world, that it would be full of
horrible darkness, undoubtedly refers, not to the Jews only, but
also to the Gentiles. Why was this done, except to show that nothing
else remains for them but to flee to God? We then see that an access
is here opened to the Gentiles that they may with one consent call
on God together with the Jews.
    If there is promised salvation and deliverance to all who shall
call on the name of the Lord, it follows as Paul reasons that the
doctrine of the Gospel belongs to the Gentiles also; for their
mouths must have otherwise been closed, yea, and the mouths of us
all: had not God himself anticipated us by his word, and exhorted us
to pray, we must have been dumb. It would have been a great
presumption in us to present ourselves before God, except he had
given us confidence and promised to hear us. If then the liberty of
praying is common to all, it follows that the doctrine of salvation
is common to all. We must now also add, that as deliverance is
promised to all who shall call on the name of God, his own power is
taken from God, when salvation is sought in any other but in him
alone: and we know that this is an offering which he claims
exclusively for himself. If, then, we desire to be delivered, the
only remedy is, to call on the name of Jehovah.
    He afterwards adds, "For in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall
be deliverance, as Jehovah has promised". The Prophet here
intimates, that though the people might seem apparently to have been
destroyed, yet God would be mindful of his covenant so as to gather
the remnant. Such, indeed, was the slaughter of the people, that no
hope whatever, according to the flesh, remained; for they were
scattered through various parts of the world; there was no social
body, no distinct nation, no civil government, no worship of God.
Who, then, could have thought that the Church of God would survive?
Nay, the probability was, that after thirty or fifty years, the name
of Abraham and of his seed would have become wholly extinct; for
they had joined in one body with the Chaldees and the Assyrians.
That scattering then was, as it were, the death of the whole nation.
But God, by Joel, declares here, that there would yet be deliverance
in mount Zion and in Jerusalem; that is, "Though I shall for a time
exterminate this people, that the land may remain desolate, there
shall yet be a restoration, and I will again gather a certain body,
a Church, on mount Zion and in Jerusalem." This is the substance.
    We learn from this place, that however much God may afflict his
Church, it will yet be perpetuated in the world; for it can no more
be destroyed than the very truth of God, which is eternal and
immutable. God indeed promises, not only that the state of the
Church shall be perpetual, but that there will be, as long as the
sun and moon shall shine in heaven, some people on earth to call on
his name. Since it is so, it follows, that the Church cannot be
utterly subverted or wholly perish, however severely and heavily the
Lord may chastise it. However great then the scattering of the
Church may be, the Lord will yet gather members, that there may be a
people on earth to show, that he who is in heaven is true and
faithful to his promises. And this truth deserves a careful
attention; for when we see the Church scattered, immediately this
doubt creeps into our minds, "Does God intend wholly to destroy all
his people, - does he mean to exterminate all the seed of the
faithful?" Then let this passage be remembered, "In mount Zion there
will be deliverance," after the Lord shall have punished the profane
despisers of his name, who abused his patience, and falsely
professed his name.
    But he adds, "As Jehovah has promised", which serves for
confirmation; for the Prophet bids us here to regard God rather than
our own state. When indeed we believe our eyes, we cannot but think
sometimes that it is all over with the Church; for when God inflicts
heavy punishment on his servants, there seems to us no remedy; and
when we believe the diseases of the Church to be incurable, our
hearts immediately fail us, except God's promise comes to our minds.
Hence the Prophet recalls our thoughts to God, as though he had
said, "Judge not of the safety of the Church by sight, but stand and
rely on the word of God: he has spoken, he has said, that the Church
shall be perpetual." Let us plant our foot on this promise, and
never doubt but that the Lord will perform what he has declared.
    But it is subjoined by the Prophet as a sort of correction,
"And in the remnant whom Jehovah shall call": and it was necessary
to state this distinctly, lest hypocrites, as they usually do, abuse
what had been said. They who occupy high stations in the Church, and
pass in name for the children of God, swell, we know, with great
confidences and boldly trifle with God; for they think that he is
bound to them, when they make a show either of external badges or of
profession, in which they glory before men: they think this display
sufficient. We may indeed gather from many parts of Scripture, that
the Jews were inflated with this false presumption of the flesh,
that they imagined God to be bound to them. Hence the Prophet shows,
that he did not address all the Jews indiscriminately, because many
of them were spurious children of Abraham, and had become
degenerated. If then under this pretence alone they wished to lay
hold on the promise of salvation, the Prophet shows that they were
excluded from the Church of God, since they were not legitimate
children, after having departed from the faith and piety of their
father Abraham. He therefore mentions remnant: and by this word be
means, in short, that the whole multitude could not be saved, but
only a small number.
    When therefore we speak of the salvation of the Church, we
ought not to gather into one bundle all who profess themselves to be
the children of God; for we see that hardly one in a hundred worship
God in truth and without hypocrisy, for the greater part abuse his
name. We see, at this day, how dishonest is the boasting of the
Papists; for they think that the Church of God dwells among them,
and they scorn us because we are few. When we say that the Church of
God is to be known by the word and the pure administration of the
sacraments, "Indeed," they say, "could God have forsaken so many
people among whom the gospel has been preached?" They think that
after Christ has been once made known, his grace remains fixed, and
cannot by any means be taken away whatever may be the impiety of
men. Since then the Papists so shamefully lay claim to the name of
Church, because they are many in number, it is no wonder that the
Prophet, who had the same contest with the Jews and Israelites, had
here expressly mentioned a "remnant"; as though he said, "In vain do
the ungodly boast of God's name, since he regards them not as his
people." The same truth we observe in Psalm 15, and in Psalm 24;
where the citizens of the Church are described; they are not those
who pride themselves on external symbols, but who worship God with a
sincere heart, and deal honestly with their neighbors; such dwell on
the mountain of God. It was not a difficult thing for hypocrites to
thrust themselves into the sanctuary, and to present there their
sacrifices to God; but the Prophet shows that none are owned by God,
but those who have a sincere heart and pure hands. So also in this
place Joel says, that this Church indeed would be saved, but not the
vast multitude, - who then? the remnant only.
    But the clause which follows must be noticed, "Whom Jehovah
shall call". We have already seen that the Church of God consists
often of a very small number; for God counts not any his children,
but those who devote themselves sincerely and from the heart to his
service, as Paul says 'Whosoever calls on the name of God, let him
depart from iniquity;' and many such are not found in the world.
    But it is not enough to hold, that the Church of God is only in
the remnant; it must be also added that the remnant abide in God's
Church for no other reason but that the Lord has called them. Whence
then is it that there is a portion in the Church, which shall remain
safe, while the whole world seems to be doomed to destruction? It is
from the calling of God. And there is no doubt but that the Prophet
means by the word, call, gratuitous election. The Lord is indeed
often said to call men, when he invites them by the voice of his
gospel; but there is what surpasses that, a hidden call, when God
destines for himself those whom he purposes to save. There is then
an inward call, which dwells in the secret counsel of God; and then
follows the call, by which he makes us really the partakers of his
adoption. Now the Prophet means, that those who will be the remnant
shall not stand by their own power, but because they have been
called from above, that is, elected. But that the election of God is
not to be separated from the outward call, I allow; and yet this
order ought to be maintained, that God, before he testifies his
election to men, adopts them first to himself in his own secret
counsel. The meaning is, that calling is here opposed to all human
merits, and also to virtue and human efforts; as though he said,
"Men attain not this for themselves, that they continue a remnant
and are safe, when God visits the sins of the world; but they are
preserved by his grace alone, because they have been chosen." Paul
also speaks of the remnant in Rom. 11, and wisely considers that
passage, 'I have kept for myself seven thousand.'
    It is then God's peculiar province to keep those who fail not:
and hence Paul says that they are the remnant of grace; for if God's
mercy were taken away, there would be no remnant among the whole
human race. All, we indeed know, are worthy of death, without any
difference: it is therefore the election of God alone which makes
the difference between some and others. Thus we see that the
gratuitous goodness of God is extolled by the Prophet, when he says
that a remnant shall be saved, who shall be called by the Lord: for
it is not in the power of men to keep themselves unless they are
elected; and the gratuitous goodness of God is the security as it
were of their salvation. Now follows -


Chapter 3.

Joel 3:1-3
1 For, behold, in those days, and in that time, when I shall bring
again the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem,
2 I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down into the
valley of Jehoshaphat, and will plead with them there for my people
and [for] my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the
nations, and parted my land.
3 And they have cast lots for my people; and have given a boy for an
harlot, and sold a girl for wine, that they might drink.
    
    The Prophet confirms in these words what he had before taught
respecting the restoration of the Church; for it was a thing
difficult to be believed: when the body of the people was so
mutilated, when their name was obliterated, when all power was
abolished, when the worship of God also, together with the temple,
was subverted, when there was no more any form of a kingdom, or even
of any civil government, who could have thought that God had any
concern for a people in such a wretched condition? It is then no
wonder that the Prophet speaks so much at large of the restoration
of the Church; he did so, that he might more fully confirm what
would have otherwise been incredible.
    He therefore says, "Behold, in those days, and at that time, in
which I shall restore the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem, I shall
then make all Gentiles to come down into the valley of Jehoshaphat".
And the Prophet says this, because the Jews were then hated by all
people, and were the execration and the dregs of the whole world. As
many nations as were under heaven, so many were the enemies of the
Jews. A fall then inter despair was easy, when they saw the whole
world incensed against them: "Though God may wish to redeem us,
there are yet so many obstacles, that we must necessarily perish;
not only the Assyrians are enraged against us, but we have found
even greater hatred in our own neighbors." We, indeed, know that the
Moabites, the Ammonites, the Syrians, the Sidonians, the Idumeans,
the Philistines, and, in short, all in the surrounding countries,
were very hostile to the Jews. Seeing then every access to their
land was closed up to the Jews, it was difficult to entertain any
hope of deliverance, though God encouraged them. For this reason the
Prophet now says, that God would be the judge of the whole world,
and that it was in his purpose and power to call together all the
Gentiles, as though he said, "Let not the number and variety of
enemies frighten you: the Assyrians alone, I know, are not your
enemies, but also all your neighbors; but when I undertake the
defense of your cause, I shall be alone sufficient to protect you;
and however much all people may oppose, they shall not prevail. Then
believe that I shall be a sufficient defender, and shall deliver you
from the hand of all the nations." We now perceive the Prophet's
design when he declares, that God would come to the valley of
Jehoshaphat, and there call together all nations.
    But the Prophet says, "In those days, and at that time, when
the Lord shall restore the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem", &c.
This time the Jews limit to their return: they therefore think, that
when liberty to return was granted them by Cyrus and Darius, what
the Prophet declares here was then fulfilled; Christian doctors
apply this prediction to the coming of Christ; but both interpret
the words of the Prophet otherwise than the drift of the passage
requires. The Prophet, no doubt, speaks here of the deliverance we
have just noticed, and at the same time includes the kingdom of
Christ; and this, as we have seen in other parts, is very commonly
done. While then the prophets testify that God would be the redeemer
of his people, and promise deliverance from Babylonian exile, they
lead the faithful, as it were, by a continuous train or course, to
the kingdom of Christ. For what else was the Jewish restoration, but
a prelude of that true and real redemptions afterwards effected by
Christ? The Prophet then does not speak only of the coming of
Christ, or of the return of the Jews, but includes the whole of
redemption, which was only begun when the Lord restored his people
from the Babylonian exile; it will then go on from the first coming
of Christ to the last day; as though he said, "When God will redeem
his people, it will not be a short or momentary benefit, but he will
continue his favor until he shall visit with punishment all the
enemies of his Church." In a word, the Prophet here shows, that God
will not be a half Redeemer, but will continue to work until he
completes everything necessary for the happy state of his Church,
and makes it in every respect perfect. This is the import of the
whole.
    We also see that the Prophet Haggai speaks in the same manner
of the second temple, - that the glory of the second temple shall be
greater than that of the first, (Hag. 2.) He, however referred, no
doubts to the prophecy of Ezekiel; and Ezekiel speaks of the second
temple, which was to be built after the return of the people from
exile. Be it so, yet Ezekiel did not confine to four or five ages
what he said of the second temple: on the contrary he meant that the
favor of God would be continued to the coming of Christ: so also
Joel means here, when he says, "When God shall restore the captivity
of Judah and Jerusalem, he will then call together all the nations;
as though he said, "God will pour out not a small portion of grace,
but will become the complete Redeemer of his people; and when the
whole world shall rise against him, he will yet prevail; he will
undertake the cause of his Church, and will secure the salvation of
his people. Whosoever then will attempt to delay or hinder the
restoration of the Church, shall by no means succeed; for the Lord,
the defender of his people, will judge all nations."
    Let us now see why the Prophet particularly mentions the
"valley of Jehoshaphat". Many think that valley to be intended,
which was called the Valley of Blessing, where Jehoshaphat obtained
a signal and a memorable victory, when yet he was not provided with
large forces, and when many nations conspired against him. Though
Jehoshaphat fought against a large army with a few people, he yet
wonderfully succeeded; and the people there presented thanks to God,
and gave a name to the place. Hence, many think that this valley is
mentioned, that the Prophet might remind the Jews how wonderfully
they were saved; for their enemies had come for the very purpose of
destroying the whole of God's people, and thought that this was
wholly in their power. The memory then of this history must have
animated the minds of the godly with a good hope; for God then
undertook the cause of a small number against a vast multitude; yea,
against many and powerful nations. And this view seems to me
probable. Some place this valley of Jehoshaphat half way between the
Mount of Olives and the city; but how probable their conjecture is I
know not.
    Unquestionably, with regard to this passage, their opinion, in
my judgment, is the most correct, who think that there is here a
recalling to mind of God's favor, which may in all ages encourage
the faithful to entertain hope of their salvation. Some, however,
prefer to take the word as an appellative; and no doubt "yehoshafat"
means the judgment of God; and so they render it, "The valley of the
judgment of God." If this is approved I do not oppose. And,
doubtless, though it be a proper name, and the Prophet speak here of
that holy King, to encourage the Jews to follow his example, he yet
alludes, no doubt, to the judgment of God, or to the contest which
he would undertake for the sake of his people: for it immediately
follows "wenishpatti 'amim sham", "And I will contend with them
there:" and this verb is derived from "shafat". Hence also, if it be
the proper name of a place, and taken from that of the King, the
Prophet here meant, that its etymology should be considered; as
though he said, "God will call all nations to judgment, and for this
end, that he may dwell in the midst of his people, and really
testify and prove this."
    Some apply this passage to the last judgment, but in too
strained a manner. Hence also has arisen the figment, that the whole
world shall be assembled in the valley of Jehoshaphat: but the
world, we know, became infected with such delirious things, when the
light of sound doctrine was extinguished; and no wonder, that the
world should be fascinated with such gross comments, after it had so
profaned the worship of God.
    But with respect to the intention of the Prophets he, no doubt,
mentions here the valley of Jehoshaphat, that the Jews might
entertain the hope that God would be the guardian of their safety;
for he says everywhere that he would dwell among them, as we have
also seen in the last chapter, "And God will dwell in the midst of
you." So also now he means the same, "I will assemble all nations,
and make them to come down to the valley of Jehoshaphat"; that is,
though the land shall for a time be uncultivated and waste, yet the
Lord will gather his people, and show that he is the judge of the
whole world; he will raise a trophy in the land of Judah, which will
be nobler than if the people had ever been safe and entire: for how
much soever all nations may strive to destroy the remnant, as we
know they did, though few remained; yet God will sit in the valley
of Jehoshaphat, he will have there his own tribunal, that he may
keep his people, and defend them from all injuries. At the same
time, what I have before noticed must be borne in mind; for he names
here the valley of Jehoshaphat rather than Jerusalem, because of the
memorable deliverance they had there, when God discomfited so many
people, when great armies were in an instant destroyed and without
the aid of men. Since God then delivered his people at that time in
an especial manner through his incredible power, it is no wonder
that he records here the name of the valley of Jehoshaphat.
    I will contend, he says, with them there for my people, and for
my heritage, Israel. By these words the Prophet shows how precious
to God is the salvation of his chosen people; for it is no ordinary
thing for God to condescend to undertake their cause, as though he
himself were offended and wronged; and God contends, because he
would have all things in common with us. We now then, see the reason
of this contention, - even because God so regards the salvation of
his people, that he deems himself wronged in their person; as it is
said in another place, "He who toucheth you toucheth the apple of
mine eye". And to confirm his doctrine still more, the Prophet adds,
"For mine heritage, Israel". God calls Israel here his heritage, to
strengthen distressed minds, and also to comfort them; for if the
Jews had only fixed their minds on their own state, they could not
but think themselves unworthy of being regarded by God; for they
were deemed abominable by all nations; and we also know that they
were severely chastised for having departed from all godliness and
for having, as it were, wholly alienated themselves from God. Since,
then, they were like a corrupted body, they could not but despond in
their adversity: but the Prophet here comes to their assistance, and
brings forward the word heritage, as though he said, "God will
execute judgment for you, not that ye are worthy, but because he has
chosen you: for he will never forget the covenant which he made with
your father Abraham." We see, then, the reason he mentions heritage:
it was, that the Jews might not despair on account of their sins;
and at the same time he commends, as before, the gratuitous mercy of
God, as though he had said, "The reason for your redemption is no
other, but that God has allotted to himself the posterity of Abraham
and designed them to be his peculiar people." What remains we must
defer until to-morrow.

Prayer.

Grant, Almighty God, that as thou not only invites us continually by
the voice of thy Gospel to seek thee, but also offerest to us thy
Son as our Mediator, through whom an access to thee is open, that we
may find thee a propitious Father, - O grant, that relying on thy
kind invitation, we may through life exercise ourselves in prayer:
and as so many evils disturb us on all sides, and so many wants
distress and oppress us, may we be led more earnestly to call on
thee, and, in the meantime, be never wearied in this exercise of
prayer; that, being through life heard by thee, we may at length be
gathered to thy eternal kingdom, where we shall enjoy that salvation
Which thou hast promised to us, and of which also thou daily
testifiest to us by thy Gospel, and be for ever united to thy only
begotten Son, of whom we are how members; that we may be partakers
of all the blessings, which he has obtained for us by his death.
Amen.


Lecture Forty-seventh.

    We said in our yesterday's Lecture, that God proves the
singular love he has to his Church by condescending to undertake her
cause, and contend as a worldly man would do for his paternal
inheritance. He says, that "his heritage, Israel, had been dispersed
among the nations"; as though he said, that it was an intolerable
thing that enemies should, like robbers, thus divide his heritage.
He speaks first of the people, then of the land; for God, as it is
well known, consecrated the land to himself, and he would not have
it occupied by profane nations. There was then a twofold sacrilege,
- the people were carried away into distant lands, and others were
sent to inhabit and possess their land, which God had destined for
his children and elect people.
    There follows now another indignity still greater; for they
cast lot on God's people, - "On my people they have cast lot, and
prostituted a boy for a harlot, and a girl have they sold for wine,
that they might drink". By these words the Prophet enhances the
injury done them; for the Jews had been reproachfully treated. Some
measure of humanity is mostly shown when men are sold; but the
Prophet here complains in the person of God, that the Jews had been
exposed to sale, as though they were the off scourings of mankind,
and of no account. They have cast lots he says; and this was to show
contempt; and the Prophet expresses more clearly what he meant, and
says, that a boy had been given for a harlot, and a girl for wine.
Some consider the Prophet as saying, that boys were prostituted to
base and scandalous purposes; but I prefer another view, - that the
enemies sold them for a mean price to gratify their gluttony, or
their lust; as though the Prophet had said, that the Jews had to
endure a grievous reproach by being set to sale, as they say, and
that at the lowest price. He farther adds another kind of contempt;
for whatever price the enemies procured by selling, they spent it
either on harlot or on feasting. We hence see that a twofold injury
is here mentioned, - the Jews had been so despised as not to be
regarded as men, and had been sold not for the usual prices, but had
been disposed of in contempt by their enemies almost for nothing; -
and the other reproach was, that the price obtained for them was
afterwards spent on gluttony and whoredom: yet this people was
sacred to God. Now this contumelious treatment, the Prophet says,
God would not endure, but would avenge such a wrong as if done to
himself. This is then the meaning.
    But the reason which induces me thus to interpret the Prophet
is because he says that a girl was sold for wine, as the boy for a
harlot; and the construction of the Prophet's words is the same. It
is indeed certain that in the latter clause the Prophet meant
nothing else but that the price was wickedly spent for vile and
shameful purposes; then the former clause must be understood in the
same way. Let us proceed -

Joel 3:4-6
4 Yea, and what have ye to do with me, O Tyre, and Zidon, and all
the coasts of Palestine? will ye render me a recompence? and if ye
recompense me, swiftly [and] speedily will I return your recompence
upon your own head;
5 Because ye have taken my silver and my gold, and have carried into
your temples my goodly pleasant things:
6 The children also of Judah and the children of Jerusalem have ye
sold unto the Grecians, that ye might remove them far from their
border.
    
    God expostulates here with Tyre and Sidon, and other
neighboring nations, and shows that they vexed his people without
cause Had they been provoked some excuse might have been made; but
since they made war of their own accord, the wrong was doubled. This
is what God means these words. "What have ye to do with me, O Tyre
and Sidon?" He indeed continues the subject before explained: but he
speaks of the concern here as hid own; he seems not now to undertake
the protection of his own people, but detents his own cause. "What
have ye to do with me?" he says. God then interposes himself; as
though he said, that the Syrians and Sidonians were not only called
by him to judgment because they had unjustly wronged his people, and
brought many troubles on men deserving no such things; but he says
also, that he stood up in his own defense. "What have I to do with
you, O Syrians and Sidonians?" as we say in French, Qu'avons-nous a
desmeller? (what have we to decide?) Now the Prophet had this in
view, that the Syrians and Sidonians became voluntary enemies to the
Jews, when they had no dispute with them; and this, as we have said,
was less to be borne. "What then have ye to do with me, O Syrians
and Sidonians? Do I owe anything to you? Am I under any obligation
to you? Do ye repay me my recompense?" that is, "Can you boast of
any reason or just pretence for making, war on my people?" He then
means, that there had been no wrong done to the Syrians and
Sidonians, which they could now retaliate, but that they made an
attack through their own wickedness, and were only impelled by
avarice or cruelty thus to harass the miserable Jews: "Ye repay
not," he says, "a recompense to me; for ye cannot pretend that any
wrong has been done to you by me."
    "But if ye repay this to me, he says, I will swiftly return the
recompense on your head". "Gamal" means not only to repay, as the
Hebrew scholars ever render it, but also to confer, to bestow, as it
has been stated in another place. 'What shall I repay to the Lord
for all the things which he has recompensed to me?' This is the
common version; but it is an improper and inconsistent mode of
speaking. David no doubt refers to God's benefits; then it is, 'What
shall I repay for all the benefits which the Lord has bestowed on
me?' Then he who first does wrong, or bestows good, is said to
recompense; and this is the sense in this place. 'If ye,' he says,
'thus deal with me, "swiftly", "meherah" suddenly (for the word is
to be taken as an adverb,) will I return recompense on your head;'
that is, "Ye shall not be unpunished, since ye have acted so
unjustly with me and my people." We now perceive the whole meaning
of the Prophet: He enhances the crime of the Syrians and Sidonians,
because they willfully distressed the Jews, and joined themselves to
their foreign enemies, for the purpose of seizing on a part of the
spoil. As, then, vicinity softened not their minds, their inhumanity
was on this account more fully proved. But, as I have said, the Lord
here places himself between the two parties, to intimate, that he
performs his own proper office when he takes care of the safety of
his Church.
    He afterwards shows that this wickedness should not be
unpunished - "If ye deal thus with me, he says, I shall swiftly
(suddenly) return the recompense on your heads". This passage
contains a singular consolation; for God declares that whatever
evils the faithful endure belong to him, and also that he will not
suffer those under his protection and defense to be distressed with
impunity, but will quickly return recompense on the heads of those
who unjustly injure his heritage. We now understand the Prophet's
design: he doubtless intended to support the minds of the godly with
this thought, - that their afflictions are objects of concern with
God and that he will shortly be the avenger of them, however
necessary it may be that they should for a time be thus violently
and reproachfully treated by wicked men.
    Let us now proceed: He says that their silver and their gold
had been taken away by the Syrians and the Sidonians. All who were
the neighbors of that people, no doubt, derived gain from their
calamity, as is usually the case. They were at first ill disposed
towards them; there was then a new temptation; they gaped after
booty: and they showed themselves openly their enemies, when they
saw that there was hope of gain. Such was the case with the Syrians
and Sidonians. There is no doubt, but that they sedulously courted
the favor of the Assyrians, that they helped them with provisions
and other things, that they might partake of the spoil. It was,
therefore, no wonder that gold and silver was taken away by them,
for the carriage of them [to Assyria] would have been tedious: and,
as I have just hinted, it is usually the case, that conquerors
gratify those by whom they have been assisted. Many extend this
plunder generally to the whole wealth of the people; that is, that
the enemies plundered what gold and silver there was in Judea, and
that the Sidonians got a portion of it for themselves. But there
seems to have been a special complaint, that the sacred vessels of
the temple were taken away by the Syrians and Sidonians: I therefore
prefer to render the word, temples, rather than palaces. Some say,
'Ye have carried away my silver and my gold to your palaces.' Though
the word is capable of two meanings, yet the Prophet, I have no
doubt, refers here to the temples. The Syrians, then, and the
Sidonians profaned the silver and the gold of the temple by
dedicating them to their idols; they adorned their idols with spoils
taken from the only true God. This was the reason why God was so
exceedingly displeased. There was, indeed, a cause why God, as we
have said, contended for the whole nation of Israel: but it was a
far more heinous wrong to spoil the temple, and to strip it of its
ornaments, and then to adorn idols with its sacred vessels; for God
was thus treated with scorn; and in contempt of him, the Syrians and
Sidonians built, as it were, a trophy of victory in their own dens,
where they performed sacrilegious acts in worshipping fictitious
gods.
    "Ye have taken away, he says, my gold and silver, and my
desirable good things". God speaks here after the manner of men; for
it is certain that even under the law he stood in no need of gold or
silver, or of other precious things; he wished the temple to be
adorned with vessels and other valuable furniture for the sake of
the ignorant people; for the Jews could not have been preserved in
pure and right worship, had not God assisted their weak faith by
these helps. But yet, as obedience is acceptable to him, he says
that whatever was an ornament in the temple was a desirable thing to
him; while, at the same time, by speaking thus, he put on, as I have
said, a character not his own, as he has no need of such things, nor
is he delighted with them. We ought not, indeed, to imagine God to
be like a child, who takes delight in gold and silver and such
things; but what is said here was intended for the benefit of the
people, that they might know that God approved of that worship, for
it was according to his command. He therefore calls every thing that
was in the temple desirable, "Ye have, he says, carried away into
your temples my desirable good things".
    It follows, "And the children of Judah, and the children of
Jerusalem, have ye sold to the children of the Grecians". There is
here another complaint subjoined, - that the Syrians and Sidonians
had been sacrilegious towards God, that they had cruelly treated
God's afflicted people. In the last verse, God inveighed against the
Syrians, and Sidonians for having prostituted to their idols gold
and silver stolen from him; he now again returns to the Jews
themselves, who, he says, had been sold to the children of the
Grecians; that is, to people beyond the sea: for as Javan passed
into Europe, he includes under that name the nations beyond the sea.
And he says, that they sold the Jews to the Greeks that they might
drive them far from their own borders, so that there might be no
hope of return. Here the cruelty of the Syrians and Sidonians
becomes more evident; for they took care to drive those wretched men
far away, that no return to their country might be open to them, but
that they might be wholly expatriated.
    We now perceive what the Prophet had in view: He intended that
the faithful though trodden under foot by the nations, should yet
have allayed their grief by some consolation, and know that they
were not neglected by God; and that though he connived at their
evils for a time, he would yet be their defender, and would contend
for them as for his own heritage, because they had been so unjustly
treated. He afterwards adds -

Joel 3:7
Behold, I will raise them out of the place whither ye have sold
them, and will return your recompence upon your own head:
    
    The Prophet declares here more fully and expressly, that God
had not so deserted the Jews, but that he intended, in course of
time, to stretch forth his hand to them again. It was indeed a
temporary desertion: but it behaved the faithful in the meantime to
rely on this assurance, - that God purposed again to restore his
people: and of this the Prophet now speaks, "Behold, he says, I will
raise them from the place unto which ye have sold them"; as though
he said "Neither distance of place, nor the intervening sea, will
hinder me from restoring my people." As then the Syrians and
Sidonians thought that the Jews were precluded a return to their
country, because they were taken away into distant parts of the
world, God says that this would be no obstacle in his way to collect
again his Church.
    But it may he asked, When has this prediction been fulfilled?
as we indeed know that the Jews have never returned to their own
country: for shortly after their return from exile, they were in
various ways diminished; and at length the most grievous calamities
followed, which consumed the greatest part of the people. Since this
then has been the condition of that nation, we ought to inquire
whether Christ has collected the Jews, who had been far dispersed.
We indeed know that they were then especially scattered; for the
land of Judea never ceased to be distressed by continual wars until
Jerusalem was destroyed, and the people were almost wholly consumed.
Since then it has been so, when can we say that this prediction has
been fulfilled? Many explain the words allegorically, and say, that
the Prophet speaks of apostles and martyrs, who, through various
persecutions, were driven into different parts; but this is a
strained view. I therefore do not doubt, but that here he refers to
a spiritual gathering: and it is certain that God, since the
appearance of Christ, has joined together his Church by the bond of
faith; for not only that people have united together in one, but
also the Gentiles, who were before alienated from the Church, and
had no intercourse with it, have been collected into one body. We
hence see, that what the Prophet says has been spiritually
fulfilled; even the children of Judah and the children of Jerusalem
have been redeemed by the Lord, and restored again, not on foot or
by sea; for Jerusalem has been built everywhere as it is said in
Zechariah.
    "I will therefore gather them", he says; and he adds, I will
return recompense on your head". He again confirms what he said
before, - that though the ungodly should exult, while ruling over
the children of God, their cruelty would not be unpunished; for they
shall find that the Church is never neglected by God; though he may
subject it to various troubles, and exercise its patience, and even
chastise it, he will yet be ever its defender. It follows -

Joel 3:8
And I will sell your sons and your daughters into the hand of the
children of Judah, and they shall sell them to the Sabeans, to a
people far off: for the LORD hath spoken [it].
    
    The Prophet describes here a wonderful change: the Syrians and
Sidonians did sell the Jews; but who is to be the seller now? God
himself will take this office, - "I, he says, will sell your
children", as though he said, "The Jews shall subdue you and reduce
you to bondage," - by whose authority? "It shall be, as if they
bought you at my hands." He means that this servitude would be
legitimate; and thus he makes the Jews to be different from the
Syrians and Sidonians, who had been violent robbers, and unjustly
seized on what was not their own: and hence the manner of the sale
is thus described, - "I myself shall be the author of this change,
and the thing shall be done by my authority, as if I had interposed
my own name;" and the Jews themselves shall sell, he says, your sons
and your daughters to the Sabeans, a distant nation; that is, the
people of the East: for the Prophet, I doubt not, by mentioning a
part for the whole, meant here to designate Eastern nations, such as
the Persians and Medes; but he says, that the Tyrians and Sidonians
shall be driven to the meet distant countries; for the Sabeans were
very far distant from the Phoenician Sea, and were known as being
very nigh the Indians.
    But it may be asked here, When has God executed this judgment?
for the Jews never possessed such power as to be able to subdue
neighboring nations, and to sell them at pleasure to unknown
merchants. It would indeed be foolish and puerile to insist here on
a literal fulfillment: at the same time, I do not say, that the
Prophet speaks allegorically; for I am disposed to keep from
allegories, as there is in them nothing sound nor solid: but I must
yet say that there is a figurative language used here, when it is
said, that the Syrians and Sidonians shall be sold and driven here
and there into distant countries, and that this shall be done for
the sake of God's chosen people and his Church, as though the Jews
were to be the sellers. When God says, "I will sell," it is not
meant that he is to descend from heaven for the purpose of selling,
but that he will execute judgment on them; and then the second
clause, - that they shall be sold by the Jews, derives its meaning
from the first; and this cannot be a common sake, as if the Jews
were to receive a price and make a merchandise of them. But God
declares that the Jews would be the sellers, because in this manner
he signifies his vengeance for the wrong done to them; that is, by
selling them "to the Sabeans, a distant nation". We further know,
that the changes which then followed were such that God turned
upside down nearly the whole world; for he drove the Syrian and the
Sidonians to the most distant countries. No one could have thought
that this was done for the sake of the Jews, who were hated and
abominated by all. But yet God declares, that he would do this from
regard to his Church even sell the Syrians and the Sidonians, though
it was commonly unknown to men; for it was the hidden judgment of
God. But the faithful who had been already taught that God would do
this, were reminded by the event how precious to God is his
heritage, since he avenges those wrongs, the memory of which had
long before been buried. This then is the import of the whole. The
Prophet now subjoins -

Joel 3:9-11
9 Proclaim ye this among the Gentiles; Prepare war, wake up the
mighty men, let all the men of war draw near; let them come up:
10 Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruninghooks into
spears: let the weak say, I [am] strong.
11 Assemble yourselves, and come, all ye heathen, and gather
yourselves together round about: thither cause thy mighty ones to
come down, O LORD.
    
    Some think these words were announced lest the people, being
terrified by their evils, should become wholly dejected; and they
elicit this meaning, - that God placed this dreadful spectacle of
evils before their eyes, that the Jews might prepare and strengthen
themselves for enduring them; that though nations should everywhere
rise up, they might yet abide arm in the hope, that God would be the
defender of his own Church. But the Prophet, I doubt not, continues
the same discourse, and denounces war on the heathen nations, who
had molested the Church with so many troubles; "Publish this, he
says, among the nations, proclaim war, rouse the strong; let them
come, let them ascend": and we know how necessary it was by such
means to confirm what he had previously said: for the ungodly are
moved by no threats, nay, they laugh to scorn all God's judgments;
while the faithful yielding to their evils, can hardly raise up
their minds, even though God promises to be a helper to them.
Except, then, the matter had been set forth as painted before their
eyes they would not have experienced the power of consolation. Hence
the lively representation we see here was intended for this end, -
that the people, being led to view the whole event, might entertain
hope of their future salvation, while they now saw God collecting
his army, and mustering his forces to punish the enemies of his
Church. The faithful, then not only hearing by mere words that this
would be, but also seeing, as it were, with their eyes what the Lord
sets forth by a figure, and a lively representation, were more
effectually impressed and felt more assured that God would become at
length their deliverer.
    We now then see why the Prophet here bids war to be everywhere
announced and proclaimed, and also why he bids the strong to
assemble, and all warlike men to ascend; as though he said, "The
Lord will not disappoint you with empty words, but will come
provided with an army to save you. When ye hear, then, that he will
be the author of your salvation, think also that all nations are in
his power, and that the whole world can in a moment be roused up by
his rod, so that all its forces may from all quarters come together,
and all the power of the world meet in obedience to him. Know, then,
that being provided with his forces, he comes not to you naked, nor
feeds you with mere words, as they are wont to do who have no help
to give but words only: this is not what God does; for he can even
to-day execute what he has denounced; but he stays for the ripened
time. In the meanwhile, give him his honor, and know that there is
not wanting the means to protect you, if he wished; but he would
have you for a time to be subject to the cross and to tribulations
that he may at length avenge the wrongs done to you."
    It may be now asked who are the nations meant by the Prophet?
for he said before, that God would visit all nations with
punishment, whereas, there was then no nation in the world friendly
to the Jews. But in this there is nothing inconsistent; for God
caused all the enemies of the Church to assail one another on every
side, and to destroy themselves with mutual slaughters. Hence, when
he designed to take vengeance on the Tyrians and Sidonians, he
roused up the Persian and Medes; and when he purposed to punish the
Persian and Medes, he called the Greeks into Asia; and he had before
brought low the Assyrians. Thus he armed all nations, but each in
its turn; and one after the other underwent the punishment they
deserved. And so the expression of the Prophet must not be taken in
a too restricted sense, as though the Lord would at the same time
collect an army from the whole world, to punish the enemies of his
Church; but that he rouses the whole world, so that some suffer
punishment from others; and yet no enemy of the Church remains
unpunished. We now perceive the Prophet's objects in saying,
"Publish this among the nations"; that is, God will move dreadful
tumults through the whole world, and will do this for the sake of
his Church: for though he exposes his people to many miseries, he
will yet have the remnant, as we have before seen, to be saved.
    He afterwards adds, "Beat your plowshares into swords". When
Isaiah and Micah prophesied of the kingdom of Christ, they said,
'Beat your swords into pruninghooks, and your spears into
plowshares', (Isa.2, Mic.4.) This sentence is now inverted by Joel.
The words of Isaiah and Micah were intended figuratively to show
that the world would be at peace when Christ reconciled men to God,
and taught them to cultivate brotherly kindness. But the Prophet
says here, that there would be turbulent commotions everywhere, so
that there would be no use made of the plough or of the pruninghook;
husbandmen would cease from their labour, the land would remain
waste; for this is the case when a whole country is exposed to
violence; no one dares go out, all desert their fields, cultivation
is neglected. Hence the Prophet says, 'Turn your plowshares into
swords, and your pruninghooks into spears;' that is, field labour
will cease, and all will strenuously apply themselves to war. And
"let the weak say, I am strong", for there will then be no exemption
from war. Excuses, we know, availed formerly on the ground of age or
disease, when soldiers were collected; and if any one could have
pleaded disease, he was dismissed; but the Prophet says, that there
will be no exemption then; "God", he says, "will excuse none, he
will compel all to become warriors, he will even draw out all the
sick from their beds; all will be constrained to put on arms". It
hence appears how ardently the Lord loves his Church, since he
spares no nations and no people, and exempts none from punishment;
for all who have vexed the Church must necessarily receive their
recompense. Since then God so severely punishes the enemies of his
Church, he thereby gives a singular evidence of his paternal love to
us.
    At length he concludes, "There will Jehovah overthrow thy
mighty ones". Though the Prophet uses the singular number, "thy", he
no doubt refers to the whole earth; as though he said, "Whatever
enemies there may be to my people, I will cut them down, however
strong they may be." We now perceive that everything the Prophet has
hitherto said has been for this end - to show, that God takes care
of the safety of his Church, even in its heaviest afflictions, and
that he will be the avenger of wrongs, after having for a time tried
the patience of his people and chastised their faults - that there
will be a turn in the state of things, so that the condition of the
Church will be ever more desirable, even under its greatest evils,
than of those whom the Lord bears with and indulges, and on whom he
does not so quickly take vengeance.
    
Prayer.
    
Grant, Almighty God, that as we ara assailed on every side by
enemies, and as not only the wicked according to the flesh are
incensed against us, but Satan also musters his forces and contrives
in various ways to ruin us, - O grant, that we being furnished with
the courage thy Spirit bestows, may fight to the end under thy
guidance and never be wearied under any evils. And may we, at the
same time, be humbled under thy mighty hand when it pleases thee to
afflict us and so sustain all our troubles that with a courageous
mind we may strive for that victory which thou promises to us, and
that having completed all our struggles we may at length attain that
blessed rest which is reserved for us in heaven through Jesus Christ
our Lord. Amen.


Lecture Forty-eighth.

Joel 3:12
Let the heathen be wakened, and come up to the valley of
Jehoshaphat: for there will I sit to judge all the heathen round
about.
    
    The Prophet proceeds with the same subject, - that God will at
length become an avenger of the wrongs of his people, when they
shall be unjustly harassed by profane men. We indeed know that God
does not immediately succor his servants but rests as though he did
not regard their troubles; but this he does to try their patience;
and then at a suitable time he declares that he had not been
indifferent, but had noticed the evils done to them, and deferred
punishment until the wickedness of his enemies had been completed.
So he says now, that God will at length be the defender of his
people against all the nations assembled from every quarter in the
valley of Jehoshaphat. Of this valley we have said enough already.
But the chief thing is, that the afflictions of the Church shall not
go unpunished; for God at the right time will ascend his tribunal,
and cause all nations from every part of the earth to assemble and
to be there judged. Now it follows -

Joel 3:13
Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe: come, get you down;
for the press is full, the fats overflow; for their wickedness [is]
great.
    
    As God defers his judgments when miserable men groan under
their burdens, the Prophet uses a form of speech, which represents
God as not delaying, but, on the contrary, as hastening to judgment,
though this be not perceived by carnal minds; for these two things
well agree together - God waiting his opportunity as to the ungodly
and suspending the punishment they deserve - and yet quickly
accelerating their destruction; for he is said to defer with respect
to men, because one day with us is like a hundred years; and he is
said to hasten, because he knows the exact points of time. So he
says in this place, "Put forth the sickle, for the harvest has
ripened". He uses metaphorical words, but he afterwards expresses
without a figure what he means and says, that "their wickedness had
multiplied".
    But there are here two metaphors, the one taken from the
harvest, and the other from the vintage. The Prophet calls those
reapers who have been destined to execute his judgment; for God
makes use as it were of the hired work of men, and employs their
hands here and there as he wills. He afterwards adds another
metaphor, taken from the vintage, "Full, he says, are the presses
and the vats overflow"; and at last he expresses what they mean, -
that their wickedness had multiplied, that is, that it was
overflowing. God said to Abraham, that the wickedness of the
Canaanites was not then completed; and long was the space which he
mentioned for he said that after four hundred years he would take
vengeance on the enemies of his people: that was a long time; and
Abraham might have objected and said "Why should God rest for so
long a time?" The answer was this, - that their wickedness was not
as yet completed. But the Prophet says here, that their wickedness
had multiplied; he therefore gives to God's servants the hope of
near vengeance, as when the harvest approaches and the vintage is
nigh at hand; for then all have their minds refreshed with joy. Such
is the Prophet's design; to encourage the faithful in their hope and
expectation of a near deliverance, he declares that the iniquities
of their enemies had now reached their full measure, so that God was
now ready to execute on them his vengeance. This is the purport of
the whole. It follows -

Joel 3:14
Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the
LORD [is] near in the valley of decision.

    The Prophet confirms the same truth; but he multiplies words,
because the devastation of the Church might have taken away all hope
from God's servants; for who could have said that the Church could
be restored when it was so miserably wasted, yea, almost reduced to
nothing? For the people were so scattered that the name of Israel
was of no account. The people then had ceased to exist, for they had
lost their name; in short, the constitution of the Church was
dissolved, and all might have said, that the people were given up to
thousand modes of destruction, as all execrated the name of Israel.
Since it was so, whatever the Prophets said of the restoration of
the people might certainly have seemed incredible. The repetition
then is not superfluous, when the Prophet in various forms of words
testifies and affirms that God would abide faithful, and that,
though Israel should perish according to what men could see, yet God
had power enough to vivify the people when dead: hence the Prophet
speaks emphatically, "Nations! Nations! for he assumes here the
character of a herald, as indeed this office had been committed to
him, and shows that his predictions would not be fruitless, that he
declared not words which would vanish into air, but that whatever he
declared in God's name was full of power and energy. It might indeed
have appeared ridiculous in the Prophet to summon all nations since
his doctrine was laughed to scorn, even at Jerusalem. How could his
voice penetrate to the utmost borders of the world and be there
heard? Though hidden then was the power of this prediction, it yet
showed itself at last, and it was really made evident that the
Prophet spoke not in vain.
    Besides, he addresses the nations as though they could hear;
but he raises thus his voice, and nobly triumphs over all the wicked
for the sake of the godly, though the wicked then proudly ruled and
with high disdain: "They shall come," he says, "at length before
God's tribunal, though they now tread the Church under foot; yea,
the nations, the nations." He does not now mention the valley of
Jehoshaphat, but of concision. "Charuts" some take for a fixed
decree; but the word means a sledge or an instrument for threshing.
We know not the mode of threshing used by the Jews, but it is
evident from several passages that "charuts" was an instrument with
which they were wont to thresh; and I am inclined to adopt this
sense; for the Prophet had first called God's judgment a harvest,
then he compared it to presses. But if the word "concision" is more
approved, I object not; at the same time, I do not doubt but that
the Prophet alludes to threshing, as he ascribes to God his own
office, that of scattering nations, who seem now to have conspired
for the destruction of the Church. If any one considers it to mean a
fixed decree, or a cutting off, as it means in Isaiah, I make no
objection; for many give this interpretation. I have, however,
explained what I most approve.
    As to the drift of the subject, there is no ambiguity; the
meaning of the Prophet is, - that God will so punish all the
ungodly, that he will cut down and scatter them all, as when the
corn is threshed on the floor.
    At last he adds, that "nigh was the day of Jehovah in the
valley of the sledge". He intimates, that though God as yet connived
at their wickedness, yet the day was coming on, unknown indeed to
men, and that he would come at length to that valley, that is, that
he would inflict such punishment as would prove that he was the
protector of his people. Of this valley we have spoken already; and
no doubt he has throughout a reference to it, otherwise he would not
have used a suitable language, when he said, "Ascend into the
valley". But what is to ascend into the valley? for, on the
contrary, he ought to have spoken of descending. But he compares
Judea with other parts of the world; and it is, as it is well known
elevated in its situation. Then the higher situation of Judea well
agrees with the ascent of which the Prophet speaks. But he ever
means that God would so punish the nations as to make it evident
that he did this in favor of his Church, as we shall soon see more
clearly. But he says -

Joel 3:15
The sun and the moon shall be darkened, and the stars shall withdraw
their shining.
    
    I have already explained this verse in chapter 2: the Prophet,
as we then stated, describes in these words the terrible judgment of
God, in order to shake off the indifference of men, who carelessly
hear and despise all threatening, except the Lord storms their
hearts. These figurative expressions then are intended to awaken the
ungodly, and to make them know that it is a serious matter when the
Lord proclaims his judgment. Let us now go on with the passage -

Joel 3:16
The LORD also shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from
Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake: but the LORD
[will be] the hope of his people, and the strength of the children
of Israel.
    
    The Prophet explains here more clearly his object, or the end
for which he had hitherto spoken of God's judgment; for what we have
heard served only to spread terror: but now the Prophet shows that
his purpose was to console the faithful, and to give some relief to
their troubles and sorrows. This is the reason why he introduces God
as roaring from Zion and crying from Jerusalem. Roaring is ascribed
to God, inasmuch as he compares himself in another place to a lion,
when representing himself as the faithful protector of the salvation
of his people: "I will be," he says, "like the lion, who suffers not
the prey to be taken from him, but boldly defends it with all the
fierceness he possesses: so also will I do, I will not suffer my
people to be taken from me." In this sense does the Prophet now say,
that "God will roar from Zion". God had been for a time despised;
for the nations had prevailed against his chosen people, and
plundered them at their pleasure; and God then exercised not his
power. Since God had been for a time still, the Prophet says now,
that he will not always conceal himself, but that he will undertake
the defense of his people, and be like a lion; for he will rise up
in dreadful violence against all his enemies.
    "And tremble, he says, shall the heaven and the earth". As
almost the whole world was opposed to his elect people, the Prophet
carefully dwells on this point, that nothing might hinder the
faithful from looking for the redemption promised to them: "Though
the heaven and the earth," he says, "raise oppositions God will yet
prevail by his wonderful power. Tremble, he says, shall all the
elements; what, then, will men do? Though they muster all their
forces, and try all means, can they close up the way against the
Lord, that he may not deliver his people?" We now understand the
Prophet's design in speaking of the shaking of heaven and earth.
    He at last adds, "God will be a hope to his people, and
strength to the children of Israel". In this part he gives a
sufficient proof of what I have stated, - that he denounces extreme
vengeance on the nations for the sake of his Church; for the Lord
will at length pity his people, though they may seem to have
perished before he succors them. However past hope then the people
may be in their own estimation and in that of all others, yet God
will again raise up the expectation of all the godly, who shall
remain, and will inspire them with new courage. He speaks in general
of the children of Israel; but what he says belongs only to the
remnant, of which the Prophet had lately spoken; for not all, we
know, who derive their origin from the fathers according to the
flesh, were true Israelites. The Prophet refers here to the true
Church; and hence Israel ought to be taken for the genuine and
legitimate children of Abraham; as Christ, in the person of
Nathanael, calls those true Israelites who imitated the faith of
their father Abraham. I shall to-day finish this Prophet; I do not
therefore dwell much on every sentence. It now follows -

Joel 3:17
So shall ye know that I [am] the LORD your God dwelling in Zion, my
holy mountain: then shall Jerusalem be holy, and there shall no
strangers pass through her any more.
    
    This is a confirmation of the preceding doctrine, "ye shall
know", he says, that I am "your God". The Prophet intimates that the
favor of God had been so hidden during the afflictions of the
people, that they could not but think that they were forsaken by
God. His word ought indeed to be sufficient for us in the greatest
evils; for though God may cast us into the deepest gulfs, yet when
he shines upon us by his word, it ought to be a consolation
abundantly available to sustain our souls. But yet, unless God
really appears, we are confounded, and ask where is his power. For
this reason the Prophet now says, that the faithful shall at length
"know", that is, really know him as their God.
    There is a twofold knowledge, - the knowledge of faith,
received from his word, - and the knowledge of experience, as we
say, derived from actual enjoyment. The faithful ever acknowledge
that salvation is laid up for them in God; but sometimes they
stagger and suffer grievous torments in their minds, and are tossed
here and there. However it may be with them, they certainly do not
by actual enjoyment know God to be their Father. The Prophet
therefore now treats of real knowledge, when he says, that they
shall know that they have a God, - how are they to know this? By
experience. Now this passage teaches us, that though God should not
put forth his hand manifestly to help us, we ought yet to entertain
good hope of his favor; for the Prophet spoke for this end, - that
the godly might, before the event or the accomplishment of the
prophecy should come, look to God and cast on him all their cares.
Then the faithful, before they had real knowledge, knew God to be
their Father, and hence hesitated not to flee to him though what the
Prophet testified had not yet been visibly accomplished.
    "Dwelling in Zion, the mountain of my holiness": This has been
designedly added, that the faithful might know, that God made not a
covenant in vain with Abraham, that mount Zion had not in vain been
chosen, that they might there call on God; for we must have our
attention called to the promises, otherwise all doctrine will become
frigid. Now we know that all the promises have been founded on a
covenant, that is, because God had adopted the people, and
afterwards deposited his covenant in the hand of David, and then he
designated mount Zion as his sanctuary. Since, then, all the
promises flow from this fountain, it was necessary to call the
attention of the Jews to the covenant: and this is the reason why
the Prophet says now that God dwells in Zion; for otherwise this
doctrine would no doubt only lead to superstition. God, indeed, we
know, cannot be included within the circumference of any place, much
less could he be confined to the narrow limits of the temple; but he
dwelt on mount Zion on account of his own law, because he made a
covenant with Abraham, and afterwards with David.
    It then follows, "And Jerusalem shall be holy,, and aliens
shall not pass through it any more". While he declares that
Jerusalem shall be holy, he exempts it at the same time from
profanation. We know that it is a common mode of speaking in
Scripture, and what often occurs, that God's heritage is holy, and
also, that they profaned it. Hence, when the people were exposed as
a prey to the pleasure of their enemies, the heritage of God became
forsaken and polluted, profane men trod Jerusalem as it were under
foot. But now the Prophet exempts the holy city from this pollution,
as though he said, "The Lord will not allow his people to be thus
miserably harassed, and will show that this city has been chosen by
him, and that he has in it his dwelling. "Aliens then shall no more
pass through it" - Why? For it is first the holy city of God, and
then, of his Church.
    But as this promise extends to the whole kingdom of Christ, God
doubtless makes here a general promise, that he will be the
protector of his Church, that it may not be subject to the will of
enemies; and yet we see that it often happens otherwise. But this
ought to be imputed to our sins, for we make the breaches. God
would, indeed be a wall and a rampart to us, as it is said
elsewhere, (Isa. 26;) but we betray his Church by our sins. Hence
aliens occupy a place in it: Ye we see at this day; for Antichrist,
as it has been foretold, has now for ages exercised dominion in
God's sanctuary. Since it is so, we ought to mourn at seeing God's
holy Church profaned. Let us yet know, that God will take care to
gather his elect, and to cleanse them from every pollution and
defilement. It follows -

Joel 3:18,19
And it shall come to pass in that day, [that] the mountains shall
drop down new wine, and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the
rivers of Judah shall flow with waters, and a fountain shall come
forth of the house of the LORD, and shall water the valley of
Shittim.
Egypt shall be a desolation, and Edom shall be a desolate
wilderness, for the violence [against] the children of Judah,
because they have shed innocent blood in their land.

    The Prophet here declares that God will be so bountiful to his
people, that no good things will be wanting to them either in
abundance or variety. When God then shall restore his Church, it
will abound, he says, in every kind of blessing: for this is the
meaning of this language, "Distill new wine shall the mountains, and
the hills shall make milk to run down; and all rivers also shall
have abundant waters, and a fountain shall arise from the house of
Judah to irrigate the valley of Shittim". We now perceive the design
of Joel. But we must remember that when the Prophets so splendidly
extol the blessings of God, they intend not to fill the minds of the
godly with thoughts about eating and drinking; but profane men lay
hold on such passages as though the Lord intended to gratify their
appetite. We know, indeed, that God's children differ much from
swine: hence God fills not the faithful with earthly things, for
this would not be useful for their salvation. At the same time, he
thus enlarges on his blessings, that we may know that no happiness
shall in any way be wanting to us, when God shall be propitious to
us. We hence see that our Prophet so speaks of God's earthly
blessings, that he fills not the minds of the godly with these
things but desires to raise them above, as though he said, that the
Israelites would in every way be happy, after having in the first
place been reconciled to God. For whence came their miseries and
distresses of every kind, but from their sins? Since, then, all
troubles, all evils, are signs of God's wrath and alienation, it is
no wonder that the Lord, when he declares that he will be propitious
to them, adds also the proofs of his paternal love, as he does here:
and we know that it was necessary for that rude people, while under
the elements of the Law, to be thus instructed; for they could not
as yet take solid food, as we know that the ancients under the Law
were like children. But it is enough for us to understand the design
of the Holy Spirit, namely, that God will satisfy his people with
the abundance of all good things, as far as it will be for their
benefit. Since God now calls us directly to heaven, and raises our
minds to the spiritual life, what Paul says ought to be sufficient,
- that to godliness is given the hope, not only of future life, but
also of that which is present, (1 Tim. 4;) for God will bless us on
the earth, but it will be, as we have already observed, according to
the measure of our infirmity.
    The "valley of Shittim" was nigh the borders of the Moabites,
as we learn from Num. 25 and Jos. 2. Now when the Prophet says, that
waters, flowing from the holy fountains would irrigate the valley of
Shittim, it is the same as though he said, that the blessing of God
in Judea would be so abundant, as to diffuse itself far and wide,
even to desert valleys.
    But he afterwards joins, that the Egyptians and Idumeans would
be sterile and dry in the midst of this great abundance of
blessings, for they were professed enemies to the Church. Hence God
in this verse declares that they shall not be partakers of his
bounty; that though all Judea would be irrigated, though it would
abound in honeys milk, and wine, yet these would remain barren and
empty; "Mizraim, then, shall be a solitude, Edom shall be a desert
of solitude". Why? "Because of the troubles, he says,  brought on
the children of Judah". God again confirms this truth, that he has
such a concern for his Church, that he will avenge wrongs done to
it. God, then, does not always come to our help when we are unjustly
oppressed, though he has taken us under his protection; but he
suffers us for a time to endure our evils; and yet the end will
show, that we have been ever dear to him and precious in his sight.
So he says now, that for the "harassments" which the Egyptians and
Idumeans occasioned to the children of Judah, they shall be
destitute, notwithstanding the abundance of all good things.
    "Because they shed, he says, innocent blood in their (or, in
their own) land". If we refer this to Egypt and Idumea, the sense
will be, that they had not protected fugitives, but, on the
contrary, cruelly slew them, as though they had been sworn enemies.
Many, we know, during times of distress, fled to Egypt and Idumea,
to seek refuge there. As, then, the Egyptians had been so inhuman
towards the distressed, the Prophet threatens them with vengeance.
But I prefer to view what is said as having been done in Judea;
"they have then shed innocent Blood", that is, in Judea itself. As
God had consecrated this land to himself to pollute it with unjust
slaughters was a more atrocious crime. Forasmuch then as the
Egyptians and Idumeans thus treated the Jews, and slew them in their
own country in a base manner, though they were abiding quietly at
home, it is no wonder that God declares, that he would be the
avenger of these wrongs. It follows -

Joel 3:20
But Judah shall dwell for ever, and Jerusalem from generation to
generation.
    
    God here testifies that his redemption would not be for a short
time, but that its fruit would be for a long, period, yea,
perpetual: for it would be but a small thing for the Church to be
redeemed, except God kept it safe under his own power. This second
thing the Prophet now adds, - that "Judah shall always remain" safe,
and that "Jerusalem shall be" for a continued succession of ages.
The ungodly, we know, sometimes flourish for a time, though before
God they are already doomed to destruction. But the Prophet here
declares, that the fruit of the redemption he promises will be
eternal: for God is not led to deliver his Church only for a moment,
but he will follow it with perpetual favor, and remain constant in
his purpose and ever like himself; he is therefore the eternal and
faithful protector of his people. The last verse follows -

Joel 3:21
For I will cleanse their blood [that] I have not cleansed: for the
LORD dwelleth in Zion.
    
    The beginning of the verse is in various ways explained. Some
make a stop after "cleanse" thus, "I will cleanse, yet their blood I
will not cleanse;" as though God had said, that he would forgive
heathen nations all their other wrongs, but could not forgive them
the great cruelty they had exercised against his elect. So the sense
would be, "Avarice may be borne, I could pass by robberies; but,
since they slew my people, I am in this case wholly unforgiving."
Hence, according to this view, God shows how precious to him is the
life of his saints, inasmuch as he says, that he will not be
pacified towards those ungodly men who have shed innocent blood. But
this sense seems rather too forced. Others render thus, "Their blood
will I cleanse, and will not cleanse," that is, "I will cleanse the
Jews from their defilements, but I will not use extreme severity;"
as he says also in Isaiah 48, 'I will not refine thee as gold or
silver, for thou wouldest turn all into dross.' They hence think
that God promises here such a cleansing of the Church, as that he
would not use extreme rigor, but moderate his cleansing, as it is
needful with regard to our defilements, of which we are all so full.
    But this sense seems to me more simple, - that God would
cleanse the blood which he had not cleansed; as though he said, "I
have not hitherto cleansed the pollutions of my people; they are
then become, as it were, putrid in their sins; but now I will begin
to purify all their wickedness, that they may shine pure before me."
There is a relative understood as is often the case in Hebrew. But
"nakah" is taken in Jer. 30, in another sense, that God will
exterminate his Church: but we cannot in this place elicit any other
meaning than that God will cleanse his Church from pollutions; for
the Prophet, no doubt, means the defilements of which the people
were full. They will not, then, be able to enjoy the favor of God
while lying in their filth. Now God, in promising to be a Redeemer,
comes to the very fountain and the first thing, - that he will wash
away their filth; for how could God be the Redeemer of the people,
except he blotted out their sins? For as long as he imputes sins to
us, he must necessarily be angry with us, we must be necessarily
altogether alienated from him and deprived of his blessing. He then
does not say in vain that he will be a purifier; for when pollutions
are cleansed, there follows another thing, which we have already
noticed as to this, future redemption, and with this -
    He at last concludes and says "And Jehovah shall dwell in
Zion". The Prophet recalls again the attention of the people to the
covenant; as though he said, "God has willingly and bountifully
promised all that has been mentioned, not because the people have
deserved this, but because God has deigned long ago to adopt the
children of Abraham, and has chosen mount Zion as his habitation."
He shows then this to be the reason why God was now inclined to
mercy, and would save a people, who had a hundred times destroyed
themselves by their sins.

Prayer.

Grant, Almighty God, that as we have, in this world, to fight
continually, not only with one kind of enemies, but with numberless
enemies, and not only with flesh and blood, but also with the devil,
the prince of darkness, - O grant, that, being armed with thy power,
we may persevere in this contest; and when thou afflictest us for
our sins, may we learn to humble ourselves, and so submit to thy
authority, that we may hope for the redemption promised to us; and
though tokens of thy displeasure may often appear to us, may we yet
ever raise up our minds by hope to heaven, and from thence look for
thy only begotten Son, until, coming as the Judge of the world, he
gathers us and brings us to the fruition of that blessed and eternal
life, which he has obtained for us by his own blood. Amen.





    End of the Commentaries on Joel.