John Calvin, Commentary on Jonah

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 Third. Jonah, Micah, Nahum

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

Printed in the United States of America


Translator's Preface
Preface by the Author
Chapter 1.
Chapter 2.
Chapter 3.
Chapter 4.

Translator's Preface

Contained in this Volume, as in the last, are the Writings of three
Prophets: and they are explained and elucidated in the Author's
peculiar manner; every sentence being dissected and examined, and
the meaning ascertained according to the context, without the
introduction of any extraneous matters. The main object throughout
seems to have been to exhibit the genuine sense and design of the
Sacred Writers.
    The Book of Jonah is a plain narrative, and no part is supposed
to have been written in the style of poetry except the prayer in the
second chapter.
    Some things in this Book have furnished Infidels with
objections, and have induced some learned men, bearing at least the
name of believers, to indulge in inventions. To satiety Infidels or
themselves, they have endeavored to prove, that this Book is either
an historical allegory, or a parable, or a dream, or a moral
fiction, or something else still more absurd and extravagant. But
all these are mere vagrant conjectures, wholly groundless, rendered
plausible only by a show of learning, and calculated to do tenfold
more mischief than all the sneers and cavils of Infidels. The Bible
is a Book of Miracles as well as of Prophecies; and an attempt to
divest it of its Miracles is an attempt to divest it of one of its
distinctive properties. Its Prophecies, which are continued
Miracles, capable in many instances of ocular demonstration, attest
those Miracles which were confined to certain times and occasions,
as these were also in some cases performed for the purpose of
gaining credit at the time to what was predicted. But there are no
Miracles recorded in Scripture, which involve as much exercise of
divine power as the fulfillment of Prophecies, though less visible
in its operation.
    The fact that Miracles of some sort form a part of the records
of false religions and of superstitious times, is no reason for
disbelieving the Miracles of Scripture. Almost all errors are
imitations of truth, and superstition is man's substitute for true
Religion. The existence of a false coin is no evidence that there is
no genuine coin, but, on the contrary, proves that it exists.
Independently of the general character of the Miracles recorded in
Scripture, what has been just stated, their connection with
indubitable Prophecies is an argument in their favor, which neither
heathen nor Christian superstition is capable of adducing. Both must
stand or fall together. If the truth of Prophecies be allowed, then
the reality of Miracles cannot with any reason be denied. They are
so connected together, that they cannot possibly be separated.
    Learned men, being driven back, as it were, by manifest and
palpable absurdities, have sometimes resiliated beyond the limits of
reason and truth; being disgusted, and justly so, by Heathen and
Popish Miracles, they have often been imperceptibly led to doubt all
Miracles, as when we are frequently deceived, we are tempted to
conclude that there is no such a thing as honesty in the world. And
hence has arisen the attempt to obliterate Miracles from Scripture;
and various hypotheses have been suggested, and supported in some
instances by no small measure of ingenuity and learning: but it is
an attempt which ought in the strongest manner to be deprecated and
condemned as being nothing less than a sacrilege, the robbing of
God's Word of one of its peculiar characteristics, even of that by
which God has visibly proved his supreme power; for by reversing and
changing those laws of nature, which at the creation he had fixed
and established, he has given a manifest demonstration of his
Omnipotence and Sovereignty. He has made it known to the world by
Miracles, that He who has constructed the wonderful mechanism of
nature, can alter, change, and reconstruct it whenever He pleases.
     "The opinion," says Dr Henderson "which has been most
generally entertained is that which accords to the Book a strictly
historical character; in other words which affirms that it is a
relation of facts which actually took place in the life and
experience of the Prophet. Nor can I view it in any other light
while I hold fast an enlightened belief in the divine authority of
the Books composing the Canon of the Old Testament, and place
implicit reliance on the authority of the Son of God. Into the fixed
and definite character of the Canon I need not here enter, having
fully discussed the subject elsewhere; but assuming that all the
Books contained in it possess the divine sanction, the test to which
I would bring the question, and by which, in my opinion, our
decision must be mainly formed, is the unqualified manner in which
the personal existence, miraculous fate, and public ministry of
Jonah are spoken of by our Lord. He not only explicitly recognizes
the prophetic office of the son of Amittai, ("Jona tou profetou",)
just as he does that of Elisha, Isaiah, and Daniel, but represents
his being in the belly of the fish as a real miracle, ("to
semeion",) grounds upon it, as a fact, the certainty of the future
analogous fact in his own history; assumes the actual execution of
the commission of the Prophet at Nineveh; positively asserting that
the inhabitants of that city repented at his preaching; and
concludes by declaring respecting himself, "Behold! a greater than
Jonah is here," (Matth. 12: 39-41; 16: 4.) Now is it conceivable
that all these historical circumstances would have been placed in
this prominent light, if the person of the Prophet, and the brief
details of his narrative, had been purely fictitious? On the same
principle that the historical bearing of the reference in this case
is rejected, may not that to the Queen of Sheba, which follows in
the connection, be set aside, and the portion in the First Book of
Kings, in which the circumstances of her visit to Solomon are
recorded, be converted into an allegory, a moral fiction, or a
popular tradition? The two cases, as adduced by our Lord, are
altogether parallel; and the same may be affirmed of the allusion to
Tyre and Simon, and that to Sodom in the preceding chapter."
    This reasoning is conclusive on the subject, and cannot be
fairly evaded. Our learned author adds another consideration: -
    "Certainly in no other instance in which our Savior adduces
passages out of the Old Testament for the purpose of illustrating or
confirming his doctrines, can it be shown that any point or
circumstance is thus employed which is not historically true. He
uniformly quotes and reasons upon them as containing accounts of
universally admitted facts, stamps them as such with the high
sanction of his own authority, and transmits them for the confident
belief of mankind in all future ages."
    That the preservation of Jonah in the bowels of the fish was an
impossibility according to the course and nature of things, as they
now exist, is quite evident: but it was no greater reversion of
nature than the parting of the Red Sea, or the dividing of the
streams of Jordan, or the sustentation of life in Moses during his
stay on the Mount for forty days. The laws of nature were equally
suspended in all these instances; and to deny to Him, who made these
laws to be what they are, the power of changing them, is an
inconsistency which no reason can justify.
    The next Prophet is Micah;; and his Book is especially
interesting on account of the prediction it contains of the
birth-place of our Savior, and also of the establishment of his
Kingdom, and the spread of his Gospel. The prophecy recorded in the
fourth chapter is one of the most splendid in all the Writings of
the Prophets. We find the same in the second chapter of Isaiah; but
it is fuller and given more at large by Micah. The idea of borrowing
seems not compatible with the fact, that each declares that what
they delivered was conveyed to them by a vision: and there is
nothing unreasonable in the thought, that the Divine Spirit
communicated the very same things, to a certain extent, to two
individual Prophets; and the fact that more, on the same subject,
was revealed to one than to the other, seems to favor the notion,
that the whole was communicated to each separately.
    It is a subject worthy of being noticed, - that it was not the
practice of the Prophets to refer to the testimony of one another or
even expressly to the commandments included in the Law of Moses.
Isaiah indeed once said, "To the Law and to the Testimony." Though
the sins which generally prevailed were distinctly condemned in the
Law, especially the idolatry which was so common, they yet never
quoted the commandments, and brought them to bear on the reigning
corruptions. This may appear singular: but the way to account for it
seems to be this, - that the Prophets' authority was the same with
that of Moses: Their communications proceeded from the same Author;
and there was no necessity to confirm what they said by referring to
what the Law sanctioned. The same God, who gave the Law by Moses,
sent his messages to the people by his Prophets. And hence arises a
strong, though, as it were, an incidental, proof of the Divine
character of what they have written.
    The style of Micah much resembles, in some respects, the style
of Hosea. His transitions are sometimes abrupt, and the sudden
change of persons is not infrequent. Lowth in his Prelections
describes him as "being brief in words, sententious, concise,
pointed, sometimes bordering on the obscurity of Hosea, - in many
parts lofty and fervid, and highly poetical." Marckius says, that
"his diction is elegant, not very unlike that of Isaiah."
Henderson's account is more extensive, but on the whole just, as
well as discriminating, - "His style is concise, yet perspicuous,
nervous, vehement, and energetic; and, in many instances, equals
that of Isaiah in boldness and sublimity. He is rich and beautiful
in the varied use of tropical language, indulges in paranomasias,
preserves a pure and classical diction, is regular in the formation
of parallelisms, and exhibits a roundness in the construction of his
periods, which is not surpassed by his more celebrated contemporary.
Both in administering threatenings and communicating promises he
evinces great tenderness, and shows that his mind was deeply
affected by the subjects of which he treats. In his appeals he is
lofty and energetic. His description of the character of Jehovah,
chap. 7: 18-20, is unrivaled by any contained elsewhere in
    "Some of his prophecies," says Newcome, "are distinct and
illustrious ones, as 2: 12, 13; 3: 12; 4: 1-4, 10; 5: 2, 3, 4; 6:
13; 7: 8-10. We may justly admire the beauty and elegance of his
manner, - 2: 12, 13; 4: 1, 2, 3, and particularly the two first
lines of verse 4; his animation, - 1: 5, lines 3, 4; 2: 7, 10, line
1; 4: 9; his strength of expression, - 1: 6, 8; 2: 3, lines 3, 4; 3:
2, 3, 12; 7: 1, 2, 4, line 1, 19, line 2; his pathos, - 1: 16; 2: 4;
his sublimity, - 1: 2, 3, 4; 3: 6, 12; 4: 12, lines 3, 13; 5: 8; 6:
1, 9-16; 7: 16, 17."
    The three first chapters are throughout comminatory, in which
judgments are denounced on both nations, the Jews and the
Israelites, and in which are also enumerated the various evils which
prevailed, idolatry as the chief, and its accompanying sins -
injustice, oppression, and cruelty. - The fourth and the fifth
chapters are of an opposite character, being prophetic of blessings,
appertaining more especially to the Kingdom of Christ, while at the
same time the previous sufferings and trials of the Church are
graphically described. - In the sixth chapter the people are
summoned to a trial; the Lord had a controversy with them. Being
proved guilty of ingratitude, ignorance, injustice, and idolatry,
they are threatened with awful judgments. - In the seventh and last
chapter the Prophet bewails the paucity of good men, deplores the
faithlessness and perfidy of the people, turns to the Lord,
entertains hope, foretells the restoration of the Church and the
fall of its enemies, and ends with a rapturous exclamation, having
been evidently favored with a glimpse of the rich and abundant
mercies which God had in reserve for his people.
    The Prophet Nahum has but one subject - the Fall of Nineveh -
and he keeps to his subject without diverging to any other. In
mentioning the sins of Nineveh, the first thing he states is a
wicked design against the Lord, referring no doubt to the purpose
formed of entirely destroying the Kingdom of Judah. In describing
afterwards the vices of the people of Nineveh, he especially
mentions their rapaciousness, deceit, injustice, oppression, and
barbarous cruelty, and compares Nineveh to the den of lions.
    The special design of the Prophet in the description he gives,
at the beginning of the first chapter, of the character of the
Almighty, was to delineate him as He is to his enemies, as the God
of vengeance, who vindicates his own honor, and defends his own
cause against profane and rebellious opponents. He only makes a
transient allusion to his goodness towards his people. The other
subject was that which was suitable to his purpose. He was going to
denounce irrevocable judgment on God's adversaries; he therefore
described Him as the God of vengeance: and the extremely awful
character here presented to us by one who spoke, as he was inspired
from above, ought to be well weighed and seriously considered,
especially by all those who are not become God's friends, but still
continue his enemies.
    The second chapter contains a vivid description of the fierce
assailants of Nineveh, of their success, of the plunder of the city,
and of the captivity of its people, with an exultation over the den
of lions. To prevent, as it were, any hope of escape, the Prophet,
in the third chapter, gives, according to Calvin, and many other
commentators, a graphic view of the ransack of the city, as though
he were an eye-witness; then he states the reasons for this dreadful
overthrow, reminds the Ninevites of what had happened to another
powerful and well fortified city, shows the uselessness of
resistance, and declares the doom of the city to be irrevocable and
irremediable. How wonderfully exact has been the fulfillment of this
Prophecy! Who can contemplate it without acknowledging that He who
spoke by the Prophets is the supreme, who rules and overrules all
the events of time?
    The style of Nahum has been admired by all critics. Lowth says
that "no one of the minor Prophets seems to equal the sublimity, the
vehemence and the boldness of Nahum: besides, his Prophecy is a
complete and finished poem; his exordium is magnificent, and indeed
majestic; the preparation for the destruction of Nineveh, and the
description of its ruin, and its greatness, are expressed in most
vivid colors, and possess admirable perspicuity and fulness."
    This volume contains a very interesting portion of The Minor
Prophets. The History of Jonah is in many respects very instructive.
The Prophecies of Micah are some of the most remarkable in the Old
Testament. Nahum exhibits in language the most awful the vengeance
of the Almighty against the enemies of his Church. And readers will
find that our Commentator continues to exercise his talents in that
capacity with his wonted vigor, penetration, and judgment. An
impartial consideration of his labors cannot fail to impress our
minds with veneration for his character, and especially with
gratitude to the only Giver of all good for having so richly endued
his servant, and for having employed him in services so conducive to
the interest of true religion. Such was the respect in which he was
held by Bishop Horsley, whose learning and acuteness were not of an
ordinary kind, that in quoting his comment on a portion of the
eighteenth chapter of Isaiah, he calls him "The venerable Calvin."
                                        J. O.

The Commentaries of John Calvin on the Prophet Jonah

Preface by the Author

At what time Jonah discharged the office of a Teacher, we may in
some measure learn from 2 Kings 14; for it is certain that he is the
person there mentioned in Sacred history, as he is expressly called
the son of Amittai. It is said there that Jeroboam, the son of
Joash, had enlarged the borders of his kingdom, from the entrance
into Hamath to the sea of the desert, according to the word of
Jonah, the servant of God, the son of Amittai, who came from Gath.
It was then at that time, or shortly before, that Jonah prophesied.
And it is certain that he was not only sent to the Ninevites, but
that he also was counted a Teacher among the people of Israel. And
the beginning also of his Book seems to intimate what I have said, -
that he was an ordinary Prophet among the people of Israel, for it
begins with a copulative, And the Word of the Lord came to Jonah.
Though the Holy Spirit does in other places speak sometimes in this
manner, yet I doubt not but that Jonah intimates that he was
recalled from the discharge of his ordinary office, and had a new
charge committed to him, - to denounce, as we shall see, on the
Ninevites a near destruction.
    We must now then understand, that Jonah taught among the people
of Israel, but that he received a command to go to the Ninevites. Of
this command we shall take notice in its proper place; but it is
right that we should know that he was not then only made a Prophet,
when he was given as a Teacher to the Ninevites, but that he was
sent to the Ninevites after having for some time employed his labors
for God and his Church.
    This Book is partly historical and partly didactic. For Jonah
relates what happened to him after he had attempted to avoid the
call of God, and what was the issue of his prophecy: this is one
thing. But at the same time he mentions the kind of doctrine which
he was commanded to proclaim, and he also writes a Song of
Thanksgiving. This last part contains doctrines and is not a mere
    I come now to the words.

Commentaries on the Prophet Jonah

Chapter 1.

Lecture Seventy-second.

Jonah 1:1,2
Now the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying,
Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their
wickedness is come up before me.

    As I have before observed, Jonah seems here indirectly to
intimate, that he had been previously called to the office of a
teacher; for it is the same as though he had said, that he framed
this history as a part of his ordinary function. The word of God
then was not for the first time communicated to Jonah, when he was
sent to Nineveh; but it pleased God, when he was already a Prophet,
to employ him among other nations. It might have been then, that he
was sent to Nineveh, that the Lord, being wearied with the obstinacy
of his own people, might afford an example of pious docility on the
part of a heathen and uncircumcised nation, in order to render the
Israelites more inexcusable. They made a profession of true
religion, they boasted that they were a holy people; circumcision
was also to them a symbol and a pledge of God's covenant; yet they
despised all the Prophets, so that their teaching among them was
wholly useless. It is then probable that this Prophet was taken away
from them, that the Ninevites by their example might increase the
sin of Israel, for in three days they turned to God, after Jonah had
preached to them: but among the Israelites and their kindred he had,
during a long time, effected nothing, when yet his authority had
been sufficiently ratified, and thus, as we have already said, in
their favor: for Jonah had predicted, that the kingdom of Israel
would as yet stand; and however much they deserved to perish, yet
the Lord fulfilled what he had promised by the mouth at his servant.
They ought then to have embraced his doctrine, not only because it
was divine, but especially because the Lord had been pleased to show
his love to them.
    I do not indeed doubt, but that the ingratitude of the people
was in this manner arraigned, since the Ninevites repented at the
preaching of Jonah, and that for a short time, while the Israelites
ever hardened themselves in their obstinacy. And hence some have
refinedly expounded that passage in Matth. 12:, 'This perverse
generation seeketh a sign, and a sign shall not be given to it,
except the sign of Jonah the Prophet,' as though this intimated,
that the Gospel was to be preached to the Gentiles, inasmuch as
Jonah was taken away from his own nation, and was given as a teacher
to foreign and heathen nations. They therefore suppose, that we are
to understand this as a prophecy respecting the future call of the
Gentiles, as though Christ had said, that he would hereafter go to
the Gentiles, after having found the wickedness of the chosen people
past recovery. But as Christ expressly applies this comparison, we
ought not to draw his words here and there. He indeed confines the
similitude to one particular thing, that is, "As Jonah had been
three days in the whale's bowels, so also he would be three days in
the bowels of the earth;" as though he had said, that in this he
would be like to Jonah, for he would be a Prophet brought to life
again. And this was said designedly by Christ, because he saw that
he was despised by the Jews, and that his labors were in vain:
"Since ye now hear me not, and regard me as nothing, know that I
shall be hereafter a new Prophet, even after my resurrection; so at
length I shall begin to speak more effectually both to the Jews and
to the Gentiles, as Jonah converted Nineveh, after having returned
again to life." This then is the simple meaning of the passage.
Hence Jonah was not a type of Christ, because he was sent away unto
the Gentiles, but because he returned to life again, after having
for some time exercised his office as a Prophet among the people of
Israel. They then who say that his going forth was a token of the
call of the Gentiles, adduce indeed what is plausible, but it seems
to be supported by no solid reason; for it was in fact an
extraordinary thing. God, then, had not as yet openly showed what he
would do at the coming of Christ. When Naaman the Syrian was
converted to the faith, (2 Kings 5: 15,) and a few others, God
changed nothing in his ordinary proceedings: for there ever existed
the special call of the race of Abraham, and religion was ever
confined within the ancient limits; and it remained ever true, that
God had not done to other nations as he had to the Jews, for he had
revealed to them his judgments, (Pa 147: 20.) It was therefore God's
will that the adoption of the race of Abraham should continue
unaltered to the conning of Christ, so that the Jews might excel all
other nations, and differ from them through a gratuitous privilege,
as the holy and elect people of God.
    Those who adopt the contrary opinion say, that the Ninevites
were converted to the Lord without circumcision. This is true; but I
know not whether that was a true and legitimate conversion, which is
hereafter mentioned; and of this, the Lord being willing, I shall
again speak more fully: but it seems more probable, that they were
induced by the reproofs and threatening of the Prophet, suppliantly
to deprecate the impending wrath of God: hence God once forgave
them; what took place afterwards does not clearly appear. It is
certainly not probable that the whole city was converted to the
Lord: for soon after that city became exceedingly hostile both to
the Israelites and the Jews; and the Church of God was by the
Ninevites continually harassed with slaughters. Since it was so,
there is certainly no reason to think, that they had really and from
the heart repented. But I put off a full discussion of this subject
until we come to another passage. Let us go on now with our text.
    "Arise, go to Nineveh, to that great city". Nineveh is called a
great city, and not without reason; for it was in circumference, as
heathen writers say, 400 stadia: and we shall see that Jonah was
three whole days in going through the squares and streets of the
city. It hence follows, that it was a very large city, and this all
allow. Profane writers call it Ninus, and say that it is a name
derived from its founder; for it was Ninus, the son of Betas, who
built it. But more correct is their opinion, who think that "Ninweh"
is a Hebrew word: and hence what Herodotus and Diodorus, and others
of the same class, say, is certainly fabulous, both as to the origin
of the city and as to the whole progress of the kingdom, and their
legends can easily be disproved by testimonies from holy Scripture.
It is at the same time admitted by all, that Nineveh was a very
large and a well fortified city. Babylon was afterwards built by
Semiramis, who had been the wife of Betas: after her husband's death
she wished to show that she also excelled in mind and industry, and
that she had wisdom above her sex. But with regard to the founder of
Nineveh, it is certain that the city was first built by Asshur:
whether it was enlarged by Ninus, I know not: this, then, I leave as
uncertain; for I wish not to contend about what is doubtful. But it
is certain, from what Moses has said, that the founder of this city
was Asshur, (Gen. 10: 11.)
    As to the largeness of the city, even if profane writers had
not said a word, the testimony of Jonah ought to be sufficient to
us. Now, since he is bidden to go and proceed to Nineveh, the Lord
gives him some hope of success. He indeed wrought effectually by the
hand of his servant, Nahum; who, though he continued at home, yet
prophesied against the Ninevites; but with a different view, and for
another end. For as the people were then miserably distressed, and
saw the kingdom or monarchy of Assyria in a flourishing state, they
must have despaired, had not some solace been afforded them. Hence
Nahum showed that God would be a judge against the Ninevites; that
though he for a time favoured and spared them, there was yet
impending over them the dreadful judgment of which he speaks. Nahum,
then, was not given as a teacher to the Ninevites, but was only a
proclaimer, that the Jews might strengthen their faith by this
comfort - that they were not wholly rejected by the Lord, as he
would some time avenge their wrongs. The case with Jonah was
different: for he was sent to the city itself, to exhort the
Ninevites to repent. Now the Lord, by speaking expressly of the
largeness of the city, intended thus to prepare him with firmness,
lest he should be frightened by the splendor, wealth, and power of
that city: for we know how difficult it is to take in hand great and
arduous undertakings, especially when we feel ourselves destitute of
strength. When we have to do with many and powerful adversaries, we
are not only debilitated, but our courage wholly vanishes away.
Lest, then, the greatness of Nineveh should fill Jonah with terror,
he is here prepared and armed with firmness. "Go then to Nineveh,
and let not the power of that monarchy prevent thee to fulfill what
I command thee; which is, to show to the Ninevites their sins, and
to denounce on them destruction, if they repent not."
    We now then understand why Nineveh was called a great city: for
had it not been for the reason just stated, it would not have been
necessary that this should have been said to Jonah. The Israelites,
I doubt not, knew well that it was a large city, and also possessed
of strength and of a large number of men: but the Lord intended to
set before his servant what might have been a hindrance to him in
the discharge of his office; Go then to this great city. In short,
God designed in this way to try Jonah, whether he would prefer his
command to all the hindrances of this world. And it is a genuine
proof of obedience when we simply obey God, however numerous the
obstacles which may meet us and may be suggested to our minds, and
though no escape may appear to us; yea, when we follow God, as it
were with closed eyes, wherever he may lead us, and doubt not but
that he will add strength to us, and stretch forth also his hand,
whenever need may require, to remove all our difficulties. It was
then the Lord's purpose to deal thus with Jonah; as though he had
said to him, "remember who I am, and be content with my authority;
for I have ready at hand all resources; when any thing stands in
your way, rely on my power, and execute what I command thee." This
is the import of the passage. Whenever then God demands any service
from us, and we at the same time see that what the discharge of our
duty demands is either difficult or apparently impossible, let this
come to our minds, - that there is not anything in the whole world
which ought not to give way to God's command: we shall then gather
courage and confidence, nor will anything be able to call us away
from our duty and a right course, though the whole world were
fighting against God.
    It now follows, "Cry against her; for ascended has their
wickedness before my presence". Cry, he says, against her: it was an
unpleasant undertaking to cry out against her immediately at the
beginning. We indeed know that men take pride in their power: and as
there was then but one monarchy in the world, the seat of which was
at Nineveh, a teacher could hardly expect to obtain a patient
hearing, though he excelled in gracefulness of manner, and had
acquired reputation, and brought an agreeable message. But Jonah was
a foreigner, one unknown, and destitute of authority; and still
more, he was immediately to denounce destruction on the Ninevites,
to cry aloud, to reprove, to make a vehement proclamation, to
threaten. How difficult was all this? We hence see how hard a
command it was when God charged his Prophet to cry against Nineveh.
    It is now added, "For their wickedness has ascended to me". By
this clause God strengthens his servant Jonah; as though he said,
"Thou wilt not, as an individual, have to contend with them, but I
constitute thee as my herald, to summon them to my tribunal." And no
doubt it must have served much to animate Jonah, that he had not to
deal with the Ninevites as an individual, but as the messenger of
God: and it might also have had an influence on their minds, to
know, that though no mortal inflicted punishment for their crimes,
they yet could not escape the vengeance of God. This then is the
reason why the Lord here declares that he would be the judge of
Nineveh. And at the same time he reminds us, that though the
Ninevites felicitated themselves, and also gained the plaudits of
the whole world on account of their power, yet all this was of no
moment, because their wickedness and iniquity had ascended into
heaven. When therefore we are reproved, there is no reason that we
should turn our eyes here and there towards men; we ought instantly
to present ourselves to the scrutiny of God; nay, we ought ourselves
to take in hand that voluntary examination which God requires. By so
doing, we shall not feed our vices by foolishly deceiving ourselves,
as hypocrites do, who ever look around them to the right hand and to
the left, and never raise up their thoughts to heaven. Let us go on

Jonah 1:3
But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the
LORD, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish:
so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them
unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.
    Jonah now relates how he sought hiding-places, that he might
withdraw himself from the service of God; not that he deceived
himself with such a gross notion, as that he would be no longer
under the power of God, after having passed over the sea; but he
intended to shun, as it were, the light of the present life, by
proceeding to a foreign country. He was, no doubt, not only in a
disturbed state of mind, when he formed such a purpose, but was
utterly confused.
    It may be asked, why Jonah thus avoided the command of God. The
Jews, indulging in frigid trifles in divine things, say that he
feared lest, when he came to Nineveh, he should be deprived of the
prophetic spirit, as though he were not in the same danger by
passing over the sea: this is very frivolous and puerile. And
further, they blend things of no weight, when reasons sufficiently
important present themselves to us.
    It was first a new and unusual thing for Prophets to be drawn
away from the chosen people, and sent to heathen nations. When Peter
was sent to Cornelius, (Acts 10: 17,) though he had been instructed
as to the future call of the Gentiles, he yet doubted, he hesitated
until he was driven as it were forcibly by a vision. What then must
have come to the mind of Jonah? If only on account of one man the
mind of Peter was disquieted, so as to think it an illusion, when he
was sent a teacher to Cornelius, what must Jonah have thought, when
he was sent to a city so populous? Hence novelty, doubtless, must
have violently shaken the courage of the holy Prophet, and induced
him to retake himself elsewhere, as one destitute of understanding.
Again, doubt might have had an influence on him: for how could he
have hoped that a people, who were notorious for their
licentiousness, would be converted? He had indeed before an
experience of the hardness of the chosen people. He had been
faithfully engaged in his office, he had omitted nothing to confirm
the worship of God and true religion among the people of Israel: but
he had effected but little; and yet the Jews had been called from
the womb. What then could he hope, when the Lord removed him to
Nineveh? for unbridled licentiousness ruled there; there was also
there extreme blindness, they had no knowledge of divine worship; in
a word, they were sunk in extreme darkness, and the devil in every
way reigned there. Doubt then must have broken down the spirit of
Jonah, so that he disobeyed the command of God. Still further, the
weakness of the flesh must have hindered him from following his
legitimate call: "What then? even this, - I must go to the chief
city of that monarchy, which at this day treads under its feet the
whole earth; I must go there, a man obscure and despised; and then I
must proclaim a message that will excite the greatest hatred, and
instantly kindle the minds of men into rage; and what must I say to
the Ninevites? 'Ye are wicked men, God can no longer endure your
impiety; there is, therefore, a dreadful vengeance near at hand.'
How shall I be received?" Jonah then, being still surrounded by the
infirmities of the flesh, must have given way to fear, which
dislodged the love of obedience.
    And I have no doubt, in my own mind, but that Jonah discussed
these things within himself, for he was not a log of wood. And
doubtless it was not to no purpose, as I have already said, that he
mentions that the city was great. God indeed sought to remove what
might prove an hindrance, but Jonah, on the other hand, reasoned
thus, - "I see that I am to have a fierce contest; nay, that such a
number of people will fall on me, enough to overwhelm me a hundred
times, as the Lord has not in vain foretold me that the city is
great." And though he might have had some hope, if they had been
chastised, that they would give God his due honor; yet he confesses,
that this hindrance came to his mind, which prevented him to proceed
in the course of his calling. Hence doubt, as well as the fear of
the flesh made Jonah to stumble, and novelty also, as I have already
said, must have perplexed him; so that he preferred to go down, as
it were, to the grave, than to undertake an office which apparently
had no reason in its favor. For why were the Prophets sent, except
to effect something by their labour, and to bring forth some fruit?
but of this Jonah had no hope. Some authority was also allowed the
Prophets, at least they were allowed the liberty of teaching; but
Jonah thought that all entrance was closed up against him: and still
more, Jonah thought that he was opposing the covenant of the Lord,
who had chosen one people only; and he also thought that he was, as
it were, fixed to his own land, when he was appointed a Teacher in
his own country; he therefore could not remove elsewhere without
feeling a great repugnance.
    I hence think, that Jonah disobeyed the command of God, partly
because the weakness of the flesh was an hindrance, partly because
of the novelty of the message, and partly because he despaired of
fruit, or of success to his teaching.
    But he doubtless grievously transgressed: for the first rule,
as to all our actions, is to follow the call of God. Though one may
excel in heroic virtues, yet all his virtues are mere fumes, which
shine before the eyes of men, except the object be to obey God. The
call of God then, as I have said, holds the first place as to the
conduct of men; and unless we lay this foundation, we do like him
who would build a house in the air. Disordered then will be the
whole course of our life, except God presides over and guides us,
and raises up over us, as it were, his own banners. As then Jonah
subverted the first and the only firm foundation of a right conduct,
what could have remained for him? There is then no reason for us to
extenuate his fault, for he could not have sinned more grievously
than by forsaking God, in having refused to obey his call: it was,
as it were to shake off the yoke; and this he confesses himself.
    They therefore very childishly write who wish to be his
apologists, since he twice condemns himself - "Jonah rose up to flee
from the presence of Jehovah - to go unto Tarshish from the presence
of Jehovah". Why does he the second time repeat, from the presence
of Jehovah? He meant, no doubt, to express here more distinctly his
fault: and the repetition is indeed very emphatical: and it also
proves clearly that it was not a slight offense, when Jonah retook
himself elsewhere when he was sent to Nineveh. He could not indeed
have departed from the Lord, for God fills heaven and earth; and, as
I have said already, he was not fascinated by so gross an error as
to think, that when he became a fugitive, he was beyond the reach of
God's hand. What then is to flee from the face of Jehovah, except it
be that which he here confesses, that he fled from the presence of
God, as though he wished, like runaway servants, to reject the
government of God? Since then Jonah was carried away by this violent
temptation, there is no reason why we should now try, by some vain
and frivolous pretenses, to excuse his sin. This is one thing.
    With regard to the word "Tharsis", or Tharsisa, I doubt not but
that it means Cilicia. There are those who think that it is the city
Tarsus; but they are mistaken, for it is the name of a country. They
are also mistaken who translate it, Sea; for Jonah intended not only
to go to sea, but also to pass over into Cilicia, which is opposite
to the Syrian Sea. But the Jews called that the Sea of Tarshish, as
it appears from many passages, because there was very frequent
sailing to that place. As then that transmarine country was more
known to them than any other, and as they carried there their
merchandise, and in their turn purchased their goods, they called
that the Sea of Tarshish, as it is well known, as being near it.
    Jonah then intended to flee into Cilicia, when the Lord would
have sent him to Nineveh. It is said that he rose up to flee, and
then, that he went down to Joppa, that he found there a ship, which
was passing over to Tarshish, that he paid the fare, that he went
down into the ship, to go with them into Cilicia: now by all those
expressions Jonah intimates that he was wholly fixed in his purpose,
and that it was necessary that he should have been brought back by a
strong hand; for he was touched by no repentance during his journey.
Many things may indeed come to our minds when the call of God
appears to us too burdensome. There is none of us, when service is
to be performed to God, who does not roll this and that in his mind:
"What will be the issue? how wilt thou reach the place where thou
expectest to be? See what dangers await thee." For Satan always
comes forth, whenever we resolve to obey God; but we are to struggle
in this case, and then repel what we see to be contrary to our
calling. But Jonah shows that he was obstinately fixed in his
purpose of fleeing: for he not only intended to go into Tarshish,
but he actually went down to the city Joppa, which was nigh to
Judea; and, therefore some think that Tarshish was Africa; but this
is strained. Others divine it to be Thunetus or Carthage, as though
indeed these cities were built at that time; but men are very bold
in dreaming. But what need of giving a new meaning to this word
against the most common usage of Scriptures when it is evident
enough that Tarshish is Cilicia?
    Now, when Jonah went down to Joppa, it was evident that he
intended immediately to migrate from the land of Judah, and to pass
over the sea: but by saying that he paid the fare, that he went down
into the ship, that he might go, - by this gradual progress, he sets
before us, as I have said, more fully his own perverseness; so that
he admits that he not only resolutely purposed to reject the call of
God, but that he also confirmed himself in it: and though there were
many things to be done, which might have sometimes forced him to
stand still, he yet constantly followed where his perverse and blind
impulse led him. There is no doubts then, but that Jonah, in these
distinct words sets himself forth as a fugitive, not only by one
act, but by many acts.
    Now, as to his flight, we must bear in mind what I have before
said - that all flee away from the presence of God, who do not
willingly obey his commandments; not that they can depart farther
from him, but they seek, as far as they can, to confine God within
narrow limits, and to exempt themselves from being subject to his
power. No one indeed openly confesses this; yet the fact itself
shows, that no one withdraws himself from obedience to God's
commands without seeking to diminish and, as it were, to take from
him his power, so that he may no longer rule. Whosoever, then, do
not willingly subject themselves to God, it is the same as though
they would turn their backs on him and reject his authority that
they may no more be under his power and dominion.
    It is deserving of notice, that as Jonah represents himself as
guilty before the whole world, so he intended by his example to show
how great and detestable a sin it is, not to submit to the commands
of God, and not to undertake whatever he enjoins, but to evade his
authority. That he might then enhance the atrocity of his sin, he
shows by his own example that we cannot rebel against God, without
seeking, under some pretence or another to thrust him from his
throne, and, at the same time, to confine him within certain limits
that he may not include heaven and earth within his empire.


Grant, Almighty God, that as thou hast not sent a Jonah to us, when
alienated from every hope of salvation, but hast given thy Son to be
our Teacher, clearly to show to us the way of salvation, and not
only to call us to repentance by threatening and terrors, but also
kindly to allure us to the hope of eternal life, and to be a pledge
of thy paternal love, - O grant, that we may not reject so
remarkable a favor offered to us, but willingly and from the heart
obey thee; and though the condition which thou settest before us in
thy Gospel may seem hard, and though the bearing of the cross is
bitter to our flesh, yet may we never shun to obey thee, but present
ourselves to thee as a sacrifice; and having overcome all the
hindrances of this world, may we thus proceed in the course of our
holy calling, until we be at length gathered into thy celestial
kingdom, under the guidance of Christ thy Son, our Lord. Amen.

Lecture Seventy-third

Jonah 1:4
But the LORD sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a
mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken.

    Jonah declares here how he had been, as it were, by force
brought back by the Lord, when he tried to flee away from his
presence. He then says that a tempest arose in the sea; but he at
the same time tells us, that this tempest did not arise by chance,
as ungodly men are wont to say, who ascribe everything that happens
to fortune. God, he says, sent a strong wind on the sea. Some give
this renderings "God raised up," deriving the verb from "natal"; but
others derive it more correctly from "tul", and we shall presently
meet with the same word in the fifth verse. Now as to what took
place, he says that there was so great a tempest, that the ship was
not far from being broken. When he says, 'The ship thought to be
broken' the expression corresponds with the idiom of our language,
la navire cuidoit perir. But some take the ship for the passengers
or the sailors; but this is strained; and we know that our common
language agrees in many of its phrases with the Hebrew.
    Jonah then meant, that a tempest arose, not by chance, but by
the certain purpose of God, so that being overtaken on the sea, he
acknowledged that he had been deceived when he thought that he could
flee away from God's presence by passing over the sea. Though indeed
the Prophet speaks here only of one tempest, we may yet hence
generally gather, that no storms, nor any changes in the air, which
produce rain or stir up tempests on the sea, happen by chance, but
that heaven and earth are so regulated by a Divine power, that
nothing takes place without being foreseen and decreed. But if any
one objects, and says that it does not harmonize with reason, that,
for the fault of one man, so many suffered shipwreck, or were tossed
here and there by the storm: the ready answer to this is, - that
though God had a regard only, in a special manner, to the case of
Jonah, yet there were hidden reasons why he night justly involve
others in the same danger. It is probable that many were then
sailing; it was not one ship only that was on that sea, since there
were so many harbors and so many islands. But though the Lord may
involve many men in the same punishment, when he especially intends
to pursue only one man, yet there is never wanting a reason why he
might not call before his tribunal any one of us, even such as
appear the most innocent. And the Lord works wonderfully, while
ruling over men. It would be therefore preposterous to measure his
operations by our wisdom; for God can so punish one man, as to
humble some at the same time, and to chastise others for their
various sins, and also to try their patience. Thus then is the mouth
of ungodly men stopped, that they may not clamour against God, when
he so executes his judgments as not to comport with the judgment of
our flesh. But this point I shall presently discuss more at large:
there are indeed everywhere in Scripture, instances in which God
inflicted punishment on a whole people, when yet one man only had
sinned. But when some murmur and plead that they are innocent, there
is ever to be found a reason why God cannot be viewed as dealing
cruelly with them; nay, were he pleased, he might justly treat them
with much greater severity: in a word, though God may appear to deal
severely with men, he yet really spares them, and treats them with
indulgence. Let us now proceed -

Jonah 1:5
Then the mariners were afraid, and cried every man unto his god, and
cast forth the wares that [were] in the ship into the sea, to
lighten [it] of them. But Jonah was gone down into the sides of the
ship; and he lay, and was fast asleep.
    This narrative, in which Jonah relates in order so many
circumstances, is not without its use; for, as we shall presently
see, he intended to set forth his own insensibility, and to lay it
before us as painted before our eyes: and the comparison, which is
implied in the circumstances, greatly illustrates the supine and
almost brutal security of Jonah.
    He says first that the mariners were afraid, and then, that
each cried, that is, to his god and that they cast out into the sea
the lading of the ship. As then they were all so concerned, was it
not marvelous that Jonah, on whose account the sea was stormy, was
asleep? Others were busy, they ran here and there in the ship, and
spoiled themselves of their goods, that they might reach the shore
in safety: they indeed chose to strip themselves of all they had
rather than to perish; they also cried to their gods. Jonah cared
for nothing, nay, he lay asleep: but whence came such a carelessness
as this, except that he was not only become torpid, but that he
seemed also to have been deprived of all reason and common feeling?
There is no doubt then but that Jonah, in order to show this to have
been the case, has here enumerated so many circumstances.
    He says that the "mariners were afraid". We indeed know that
sailors are not usually frightened by small or common storms; for
they are a hardy race of men, and they are the less afraid, because
they daily see various commotions in the air. When, therefore, he
says that the sailors were afraid, we hence gather that it was not a
moderate tempest, for such does not thus terrify men accustomed by
long expert once to all sorts of storms: they, then, who had been
previously hardened, were disquieted with fear. He afterwards adds,
that they cried, each of them to his god. Jonah certainly ought not
to have slept so soundly, but that he might rouse himself at almost
any moment, for he carried in his heart his own executioner, as he
knew that he was a fugitive: for we have said before, that it was
not a slight offense for Jonah to withdraw himself from the presence
of God; he despised his call, and, as far as he could, cast off the
yoke, so as not to obey God. Seeing, then, that Jonah was ill at
ease with himself, ought he not to have trembled, even while asleep?
But while others cried to their false gods, he either despised, or
at least neglected the true God, to whom he knew he was disobedient,
and against whom he rebelled. This is the point of the comparison,
or of the antithesis. But we at the same time see, how in dangers
men are constrained to call on God. Though, indeed, there is a
certain impression by nature on the hearts of men as to God, so that
every one, willing or unwilling, is conscious that there is some
Supreme Being; we yet by our wickedness smother this light, which
ought to shine within us. We indeed gladly cast away all cares and
anxieties; for we wish to live at ease, and tranquillity is the
chief good of men. Hence it comes, that all desire to live without
fear and without care; and hence we all naturally seek quietness.
Yet this quietness generates contempt. Hence then it is, that hardly
any religion appears in the world, when God leaves us in an
undisturbed condition. Fear constrains us, however unwilling, to
come to God. False indeed is what is said, that fear is the cause of
religion, and that it was the first reason why men thought that
there were gods: this notion is indeed wholly inconsistent with
common sense and experience. But religion, which has become nearly
extinct, or at least covered over in the hearts of men, is stirred
up by dangers. Of this Jonah gives a remarkable instance, when he
says that the sailors cried, each of them to his god. We know how
barbarous is this race of men; they are disposed to shake off every
sense of religion; they indeed drive away every fear, and deride God
himself as long as they may. Hence that they cried to God, it was no
doubt what necessity forced them to do. And here we may learn, how
useful it is for us to be disquieted by fear; for while we are safe,
torpidity, as it is well known, soon creeps over us. Since, then,
hardly any one of himself comes to God, we have need of goads; and
God sharply pricks us, when he brings any danger, so as to constrain
us to tremble. But in this way, as I have already said, he
stimulates us; for we see that all would go astray, and even perish
in their thoughtlessness, were he not to draw them back, even
against their own will.
    But Jonah does not simply say, that each cried to God, but he
adds, "to his own god". As, then, this passage teaches, that men are
constrained by necessity to seek God, we also, on the other hand, it
shows, that men go astray in seeking God, except they are directed
by celestial truth, and also by the Spirit of God. There is then
some right desire in men, but it goes astray; for none will keep the
right way except the Lord directs them, as it has been said, both by
his word and his Spirit. Both these particulars we learn from the
words of the Prophet: The sailors feared; men hardy and almost
iron-hearted, who, like the Cyclops, despised God, - these, he says,
were afraid; and they also cried to God; but they did not cry by the
guidance of faith; hence it was, that every one cried to his own
    When we read this, let it first come to our minds that there is
no hope until God constrains us, as it were, by force; but we ought
to anticipate extreme necessity by seeking him willingly. For what
did it avail the sailors and other passengers, to call once on God?
It is indeed probable that, shortly after, they relapsed into their
former ungodly indifference; after having been freed from their
danger, they probably despised God, and all religion was regarded by
them with contempt. And so it commonly happens as to ungodly men,
who never obey God except when they are constrained. Let therefore
every one of us offer himself willingly to God, even now when we are
in no danger, and enjoy full quietness. For if we think, that any
pretext for thoughtlessness, or for error, or for ignorance, will
serve as an excuse, we are greatly deceived; for no excuse can be
admitted, since experience teaches us, that there is naturally
implanted in all some knowledge of God, and that these truths are
engraven on our hearts, that God governs our life, - that he alone
can remove us by death, - that it is his peculiar office to aid and
help us. For how was it that these sailors cried? Had they any new
teacher who preached to them about religion, and who regularly
taught them that God was the deliverer of mankind? By no means: but
these truths, as I have said, had been by nature impressed on their
hearts. While the sea was tranquil, none of them called on their
god; but danger roused them from their drowsiness. But it is hence
sufficiently evident, that whatever excuses they may pretend, who
ascribe not to God his glory, they are all frivolous; for there is
no need of any law, there is no need of any Scripture, in short,
there is no need of any teaching, to enable men to know, that this
life is in the hand of God, that deliverance is to be sought from
him alone, and that nothing, as we have said, ought to be looked for
from any other quarter: for invocation proves that men have this
conviction respecting God; and invocation comes from nothing else
but from some hidden instinct, and indeed from the guidance and
teaching of nature. This is one thing.
    But let us also learn from this passage, that when God is
sought by us, we ought not to trust to our own understanding; for we
shall in that case immediately go astray. God then must be
supplicated to guide us by his word, otherwise every one will fall
off into his own superstitions; as we here see, that each cried to
his own god. The Prophet also reminds us that multiplicity of gods
is no modern invention; for mankind, since the fall of Adam, have
ever been prone to falsehood and vanity. We know how much corruption
must occupy our minds, when every one invents for himself hideous
and monstrous things. Since it is so, there is no wonder that
superstitions have ever prevailed in the world; for the wit of man
is the workshop of all errors. And hence also we may learn what I
have lately touched upon, - that nothing is worse for us than to
follow the impulses of our flesh; for every one of himself advances
in the way of error, even without being pushed on by another; and at
the same time, as is commonly the case, men draw on one another.
    He now adds, that the "wares were cast out", that is, the
lading of the ship; and we know that this is the last resource in
shipwrecks; for men, to save their lives, will deprive themselves
willingly of all their goods. We hence see how precious is life to
man; for he will not hesitate to strip himself of all he has, that
he may not lose his life. We indeed shun want, and many seek death
because extreme poverty is intolerable to them; but when they come
to some great danger, men ever prefer their life to all their
possessions; for what are the good things of this world, but certain
additions to our life? But Jonah tells us for another purpose that
the ship was lightened, even for this, - that we may know that the
tempest was no ordinary commotion, but that the sailors,
apprehensive of approaching death, adopted this as the last
    Another clause follows: "Jonah had gone down into the sides, or
the side, of the ship". Jonah no doubt sought a retreat before the
storm arose. As soon then as they sailed from the harbor, Jonah
withdrew to some remote corner, that he might sleep there. But this
was no excusable insensibility on his part, as he knew that he was a
fugitive from the presence of God: he ought then to have been
agitated by unceasing terrors; nay, he ought to have been to himself
the taxer of anxiety. But it often so happens, that when any one has
sought hiding-places, he brings on himself a stupor almost brutal;
he thinks of nothing, he cares for nothing, he is anxious for
nothing. Such then was the insensibility which possessed the soul of
Jonah, when he went down to some recess in the ship, that he might
there indulge himself in sleep. Since it thus happened to the holy
Prophet, who of us ought not to fear for himself? Let us hence learn
to remind ourselves often of God's tribunal; and when our minds are
seized with torpor, let us learn to stimulate and examine ourselves,
lest God's judgment overwhelm us while asleep. For what prevented
ruin from wholly swallowing up Jonah, except the mercy of God, who
pitied his servant, and watched for his safety even while he was
asleep? Had not the Lord then exercised such care over Jonah, he
must have perished.
    We hence see that the Lord often cares for his people when they
care not for themselves, and that he watches while they are asleep:
but this ought not to serve to nourish our self-indulgence; for
every one of us is already more indulgent to himself than he ought
to be: but, on the contrary, this example of Jonah, whom we see to
have been so near destruction, ought to excite and urge us, that
when any of us has gone astray from his calling he may not lie
secure in that state, but, on the contrary, run back immediately to
God. And if God be not able to draw us back to himself without some
violent means, let us at least follow in this respect the example of
Jonah, which we shall in its own place notice. It follows -

Jonah 1:6
So the shipmaster came to him, and said unto him, What meanest thou,
O sleeper? arise, call upon thy God, if so be that God will think
upon us, that we perish not.
    Jonah relates here how he was reproved by the pilot or master
of the ship, inasmuch as he alone slept, while all the rest were in
anxiety and fear. "What meanest thou, fast sleeper?" The pilot no
doubt upbraids Jonah for his sleepiness, and reproves him for being
almost void of all thought and reflection. "What meanest thou,
sleeper", he says; "when thou sees all the rest smitten with alarm,
how canst thou sleep? Is not this unnatural? Rise, then, and call on
thy God."
    We see that where there is no rule of faith a liberty is
commonly taken, so that every one goes astray here and there. Whence
was it, that the pilot said to Jonah, Call on thy God, and that he
did not confine him to any certain rule? Because it had been
customary in all ages for men to be satisfied with some general
apprehension of God; and then every one according to his own fancy
formed a god for himself: nor could it have been otherwise, as I
have said, while men were not restrained by any sacred bond. All
agree as to this truth, that there is some God, and also that no
dead idol can do anything, but that the world is governed by the
providence and power of God, and further, that safety is to be
sought from him. All this, has been received by the common consent
of all; but when we come to particulars, then every one is in the
dark; how God is to be sought they know not. Hence every one takes
his own liberty: "For the sake of appeasing God I will then try
this; this shall be my mode of securing his favor; the Lord will
regard this service acceptable; in this way shall all my iniquity be
expiated, that I may obtain favor with God." Thus each invents for
themselves some tortuous way to come to God; and then every one
forms a god peculiar to himself. There can therefore be no stability
nor consistency in men, unless they are joined together by some
bond, even by some certain rule of religion, so that they may not
vacillate, and not be in doubt as to what is right to be done, but
be assured and certainly persuaded, that there is but one true God,
and know what sort of God he is, and then understand the way by
which he is to be sought.
    We then learn from this passage, that there is an awful license
taken in fictitious religions, and that all who are carried away by
their fancy are involved in a labyrinth, so that men do nothing but
weary and torment themselves in vain, when they seek God without
understanding the right way. They indeed run with all their might,
but they go farther and farther from God. But that they, at the same
time, form in their minds an idea of some God, and that they agree
on this great principle, is sufficiently evident from the second
clause of this verse, "If so be that God will be Propitious to us."
Here the pilot confines not his discourse to the God of Jonah, but
speaks simply of a God; for though the world by their differences
divide God, and Jonah worshipped a God different from the rest, and,
in short, there was almost an endless number of gods among the
passengers, yet the pilot says, If so be that God, &c.: now then he
acknowledges some Supreme God, though each of them had his own god.
We hence see that what I have said is most true, - that this general
truth has ever been received with the consent of all, - that the
world is preserved by the providence of God, and hence that the life
and safety of men are in his hand. But as they are very far removed
from God, and not only creep slowly, but are also more inclined to
turn to the earth than to look up to heaven, and are uncertain and
ever change, so they seek gods which are nigh to them, and when they
find none, they hesitate not to invent them.
    We have elsewhere seen that the Holy Spirit uses this form of
speaking, "If so be", when no doubt, but difficulty alone is
intended. It is however probable, that the pilot in this case was
perplexed and doubtful, as it is usual with ungodly men, and that he
could determine nothing certain as to any help from God; and as his
mind was thus doubtful, he says, that every means of relief were to
be tried. And here, as in a mirror, we may see how miserable is the
condition of all those who call not on God in pure faith: they
indeed cry to God, for the impulse of nature thus leads them; but
they know not whether they will obtain any thing by their cries:
they repeat their prayers; but they know not whether they pass off
into air or really come to God. The pilot owns, that his mind was
thus doubtful, If so be that God will be propitious to us, call thou
also on thy God. Had he been so surely convinced, as to call on the
true God, he would have certainly found it to have been no doubtful
relief. However, that nothing might be left untried, he exhorted
Jonah, that if he had a God, to call upon him. We hence see, that
there are strange windings, when we do not understand the right way.
Men would rather run here and there, a hundred times, through earth
and heaven, than come to God, except where his word shines. How so?
because when they make the attempt, an insane impulse drives them in
different ways; and thus they are led here and there: "It may be,
that this may be useful to me; as that way has not succeeded, I will
try another." God then thus punishes all the unbelieving, who obey
not his word; for to the right way they do not keep: He indeed shows
how great a madness it is, when men give loose reins to their
imaginations, and do not submit to celestial truth.
    As to the words, interpreters translate them in different ways.
Some say, "If so be that God will think of us;" others "If so be
that God will favor us." "Ashat" is properly to shine; but when put
as here in the conjugation Hithpael, it means to render one's self
clear or bright: and it is a metaphor very common in Scriptures that
the face of God is cloudy or dark, when he is not propitious to us;
and again, God is said to make bright his face and to appear serene
to us, when he really shows himself kind and gracious to us. As then
this mode of speaking altogether suits this place, I wonder that
some seek extraneous interpretations.
    He afterwards adds, "Lest we perish". Here the pilot clearly
owns, that he thought the life of man to be in the power of God; for
he concluded, that they must perish unless the Lord brought aid.
Imprinted then in the minds of all is this notion or "prolepsis",
that is, preconception, that when God is angry or adverse, we are
miserable, and that near destruction impends over us; and another
conviction is found to be in the hearts of men, - that as soon as
the Lord looks on us, his favor and goodwill brings to us immediate
safety. The Holy Spirit does not speak here, but a heathen, and we
know too how great is the impiety of sailors, and yet he declares
this by the impulse of nature, and there is here no feigning; for
God, as I have already said, extorts by necessity a confession from
the unbelieving, which they would gladly avoid.
    Now what excuse can we have, if we think our safety to be in
our own hands, if we depend not wholly on God, and if we neglect him
in prosperity, as though we could be safe without his help? These
words then, spoken by the sailor, ought to be weighed by us, 'If so
be that God's face may appear bright to us, and that we perish not.'
It now follows -

Jonah 1:7
And they said every one to his fellow, Come, and let us cast lots,
that we may know for whose cause this evil [is] upon us. So they
cast lots, and the lot fell upon Jonah.
    Jonah did not without reason mention this, - that the
passengers consulted together about casting lots; for we hence
learn, that it was no ordinary tempest: it appeared then to be a
token of God's wrath. For, if strong wind arose, it would not have
been so strange, for such had been often the case; and if a tempest
followed, it would not have been a thing unusual. It must then have
been something more dreadful, as it filled men's minds with alarms
so that they were conscious that God was present as an avenger: and
we know, that it is not common with ungodly men to recognize the
vengeance of Gods except in extreme dangers; but when God executes
punishment on sins in an unusual manner, then men begin to
acknowledge God's vengeance.
    This very thing, Jonah now bears witness to, "They said then
each to his friend, Come, let us cast lots". Was it not an
accustomed thing for them to cast lots whenever a tempest arose? By
no means. They had recourse, no doubt, to this expedient, because
they knew, that God had not raised up that tempest without some very
great and very serious cause. This is one thing: but I cannot now
pursue the subjects, I must therefore defer it until tomorrow.


Grant, Almighty God, that though we are here disquieted in the midst
of so many tossings, we may yet learn with tranquil minds to recumb
on thy grace and promise, by which thou testifiest that thou wilt be
ever near us, and not wait until by a strong hand thou drawest us to
thyself, but that we may be, on the contrary, ever attentive to thy
providence: may we know that our life not only depends on a thread,
but also vanishes like the smoke, unless thou protectest it, so that
we may recumb wholly on thy power; and may we also, while in a
cheerful and quiet state, so call on thee, that relying on thy
protection we may live in safety, and at the same time be careful,
lest torpor, which draws away our minds and thoughts from meditating
on the divine life, should creep over us, but may we, on the
contrary, so earnestly seek thee, morning and evening, and at all
times, that we may through life advance towards the mark thou hast
set before us, until we at length reach that heavenly kingdom, which
Christ thy Son has obtained for us by his own blood. Amen

Lecture Seventy-fourth.
    We said in yesterday's lecture, that it was a proof of extreme
fear, that the sailors and the rest cast lots; for this is not
usually done, except men see themselves to be destitute of judgment
and counsel.
    But it must at the same time be observed, that through error
they cast lots: for they did not know, that if God intended to
punish each of them, they were worthy even of heavier punishment.
They would not indeed have thrown the blame on one man, if each had
well considered what he deserved before God. When a calamity
happens, it is the duty of every one to examine himself and his
whole life before God: then every one, from the first to the last,
must confess that he bears a just judgment. But when all demand
together who is guilty before God, they thus exonerate themselves,
as though they were innocent. And it is an evil that prevails at
this day in the world, that every one is disposed to cast the blame
on others and all would have themselves to be innocent before God;
not that they can clear themselves of every fault, but they
extenuate their sins, as though God could not justly pursue them
with so much severity. As for instance, when any one perceives that
he had in various ways done wrong, he will indeed confess in words
that he is a sinner; but were any person to enumerate and bring
forward each of his sins he would say, "This is a light offense,
that is a venal sin; and the Lord deals not with us with so much
strict justice, that he means to bring on us instantly extreme
punishment." When there is a slight offense, it is immediately
referred to by every one. Thus acted the sailors, of whom Jonah now
speaks. Had any one asked, whether they were wholly without fault,
every one, no doubt, would have confessed that he was a sinner
before God; but yet they cast lots as though one only was exposed to
God's judgment. How so? because they did not think that their own
sins deserved so heavy a punishment. How much soever they might have
offended, - and this they really felt and were convinced of, - they
yet did not make so much of their sins as to think that they
deserved any such judgment. This then is the reason why they come to
the lot; it was, because every one seemed to himself to be blameless
when he came to examine himself.
    This passage, then, shows what is even well known by common
experience, - that men, though they know themselves to be guilty
before God, yet extenuate their sins and promise themselves pardon,
as though they could make an agreement with God, that he should not
treat them with strict justice, but deal with them indulgently.
Hence, then, is the hope of impunity, because we make light offenses
of the most grievous sins. Thus we find under the Papacy, that
various modes are devised, by which they absolve themselves before
God and wipe away their stains: the sprinkling of holy water
cleanses almost all sins; except a man be either an adulterer, or a
murderer, or a sorcerer, or ten times perjured, he hardly thinks
himself to be guilty of any crime. Then the expiations which they
use, avail, as they think, to obliterate all iniquities. Whence is
this error? Even because they consider God to be like themselves,
and think not their sins to be so great abominations before God. But
this is no new thing; for we see what happened in the time of Jonah;
and from profane histories also we may learn, that this error
possessed everywhere the minds of all. They had then daily
expiations, as the Papists have their masses, their pilgrimages,
their sprinklings of holy water, and similar playthings: but as
under the Papacy there are reserved cases, so also in former times,
when any one had killed a father or mother, when any one had
committed incest, he stood in need of some extraordinary expiation;
and if there was any one of great renown on the earth, they applied
to him, that he might find out some new kind of expiation. An
example of this error is set before us here, when they said, "let us
cast lots". For except they thought that one only was guilty, and
not and every one would have publicly confessed his sins, and would
then have acknowledged that such was the mass of them as to be
enough to fill heaven and earth; but this they did not. One man must
have been the offender; but no one came forward with such a
confession: hence they cast lots.
    It may now be inquired, whether this mode of seeking out the
truth was lawful; as they knew not through whose fault the tempest
arose, was it right to have recourse to lots? Some have been too
superstitious in condemning lots; for they have plainly said, that
all lots are wicked. Hence has come the name, lot-drawers; and they
have thought that lot-drawers differ nothing from magicians and
enchanters. This has proceeded from ignorance, for we know that the
casting of lots has been sometimes allowed. And Solomon certainly
speaks, as of a common rule, when he says of lots being cast into
the bosom, and of the issue being from Jehovah (Prov. 16: 33.)
Solomon speaks not there of the arts of magic but says that when
lots are cast, the event is not by chance but by God s providence.
And when Matthias was chosen in the place of Judas, it was done by
lot, (Acts 1: 26.) Did the Apostles use this mode presumptuously?
No, the Holy Spirit presided over this election. There is then no
doubt but that God approved of that casting of lots. So also Joshua
had recourse to the lot when the cause of God's displeasure was
unknown, though it was evident that God was angry with the people.
Joshua, being perplexed by what was unknown, did cast lots; and so
Achan was discovered and his sacrilege. That lot no one will dare
condemn. Then what I have said is clear enough, that those have been
too superstitious who have condemned all casting of lots without
exception. But we must yet remember that lots are not to be used
indiscriminately. It is a part of the civil law, that when a common
inheritance is divided, it is allowed to cast lots: as it belongs
not to this or that person to choose, each must take the part which
the lot determines. So again it is lawful to cast lot in great
undertakings, when men are anywhere sent: and when there is a
division of labour, to prevent jealousy when one wishes to choose a
certain part for himself, the lot will remove all contentions. A lot
of this kind is allowed both by the word of God, and by civil laws.
But when any one adopts the lot without any reason, he is no doubt
superstitious, and differs not much from the magician or the
enchanter. As for instance, when one intends to go a journey, or to
take anything in hand, if he throws into his hat a white and a black
lot, and says, "I will see whether my going out today will be
prosperous;" now this is of the devil; for Satan by such arts
deludes wretched men. If then any one makes use of the lot without
any just reason, he is, as I have said without excuse.
    But as to the other lots, such as we have now noticed, they
ought not to be viewed as precedents. For though Joshua used the lot
to bring to light the cause for which God was angry with his people,
it is not yet right for us to imitate what he did; for Joshua was no
doubt led by some peculiar influence to adopt this measure. So also
as to Saul, when he cast lots, and his son Jonathan was discovered
as the one who had tasted honey, it was an especial example. The
same thing must be also said of the lot mentioned here; for as the
sailors were trembling, and knew not the cause why the tempest
arose, and the fear of shipwreck seized them, they had recourse to
the lot. Were we continually to imitate such examples, such a
liberty would not certainly be pleasing, to God, nor consistent with
his word. We must therefore bear in mind, that there were some
peculiar influences, whenever God's servants used the lot in
doubtful and extreme cases. This then is shortly the answer to the
question - Was it lawful for the sailors to cast lots, that they
might find out the person on account of whom they were in so much
danger? I now proceed to what follows -

Jonah 1:8-10
8 Then said they unto him, Tell us, we pray thee, for whose cause
this evil [is] upon us; What [is] thine occupation? and whence
comest thou? what [is] thy country? and of what people [art] thou?
9 And he said unto them, I [am] an Hebrew; and I fear the LORD, the
God of heaven, which hath made the sea and the dry [land].
10 Then were the men exceedingly afraid, and said unto him, Why hast
thou done this? For the men knew that he fled from the presence of
the LORD, because he had told them.
    After the lot fell on Jonah, they doubted not but that he was
the guilty person, any more than if he had been a hundred times
proved to be so: for why did they cast lots, except that they were
persuaded that all doubt could thus be removed, and that what was
hid could thus be brought to the light? As then this persuasion was
fixed in their minds, that the truth was elicited, and was in a
manner drawn out of darkness by the lot, they now inquire of Jonah
what he had done: for they took this as allowed, that they had to
endure the tempest on his account, and also, that he, by some
detestable crime, had merited such a vengeance at Gods hand. We
hence see that they cast lots, because they fully believed that they
could not otherwise find out the crime on account of which they
suffered, and also, that lots were directed by the hidden purpose of
God: for how could a certain judgment be found by lot, except God
directed it according to his own purpose, and overruled what seemed
to be especially fortuitous? These principles then were held as
certain in a manner by men who were heathens, - that God can draw
out the truth, and bring it to the light, - and also, that he
presides over lots, however fortuitous they may be thought to be.
    This was the reason why they now asked what Jonah had done.
"Tell us, then, why has this evil happened to us, what is thy work?"
&c. By work here I do not mean what is wrong, but a kind of life,
or, as they say, a manner of living. They then asked how Jonah had
hitherto employed himself, and what sort of life he followed. For it
afterwards follows, "Tell us, whence comest thou, what is thy
country, and from what people art thou?" They made inquiries, no
doubt, on each particular in due order; but Jonah here briefly
records the questions.
    I now come to his answer, "He said to them, I am an Hebrew; and
I fear Jehovah the God of heaven, Who has created the sea and the
dry land." Here Jonah seemed as yet to evade, yea, to disown his
crime, for he professed himself to be the worshipper of the true
God. Who would not have said, but that he wished here to escape by a
subterfuge, as he set up his own piety to cover the crime
before-mentioned? But all things are not here in the first verse
related; for shortly after, it follows, that the sailors knew of
Jonah's flight; and that he had himself told them, that he had
disobeyed God's call and command. There is then no doubt but that
Jonah honestly confessed his own sin, though he does not say so. But
we know, that it is a mode of speaking common among the Hebrews to
add in the last place what had been first said; and grammarians say,
that it is "husteron proteron", (last first,) when anything is left
out in its proper place and then added as an explanation. When
therefore Jonah says that he was an Hebrew, and worshipper of the
true God, - this tended to aggravate his fault or crime rather than
to excuse it: for had he said only, that he was conscious of having
done wrong in disobeying God, his crime would not have appeared so
atrocious; but when he begins by sayings that known to him was the
true God, the framer of heaven and earth, the God of Israel, who had
made himself known by a law given and published, - when Jonah made
this introduction, he thereby removed from himself all pretenses as
to ignorance and misconception. He had been educated in the law, and
had, from childhood, been taught who the true God was. He could not
then have fallen through ignorance; and further, he did not, as the
others, worship fictitious gods; he was an Israelite. As then he had
been brought up in true religion, his sin was the more atrocious,
inasmuch as he had fallen away from God, having despised his
command, and, as it were, shaken off the yoke, and had become a
    We now then perceive the reason why Jonah called himself here
an Hebrew, and testified that he was the worshipper of the true God.
First, by saying that he was an Hebrew, he distinguished the God of
Abraham from the idols of the Gentiles: for the religion of the
chosen people was well known in all places, though disapproved by
universal consent; at the same time, the Cilicians and other
Asiatics, and also the Grecians, and the Syrians in another quarter,
- all these knew what the Israelites gloried in, - that the true God
had appeared to their father Abraham, and then made with him a
gratuitous covenant, and also had given the law by Moses; - all this
was sufficiently known by report. Hence Jonah says now, that he was
an Hebrew, as though he had said, that he had no concern with any
fictitious god, but with the God of Abraham, who had formerly
appeared to the holy Fathers, and who had also given a perpetual
testimony of his will by Moses. We see then how emphatically he
declared, that he was an Hebrew: secondly, he adds, I fear Jehovah
the God of heaven. By the word fear is meant worship: for it is not
to be taken here as often in other places, that is, in its strict
meaning; but fear is to be understood for worship: "I am not given",
he says, "to various superstitions, but I have been taught in true
religion; God has made himself known to me from my childhood: I
therefore do not worship any idol, as almost all other people, who
invent gods for themselves; but I worship God, the creator of heaven
and earth." He calls him the God of heaven, that is, who dwells
alone as God in heaven. While the others thought heaven to be filled
with a great number of gods, Jonah here sets up against them the one
true God, as though he said, "Invent according to your own fancy
innumerable gods, there is yet but one, who possesses the highest
authority in heaven; for it is he who made the sea and the dry
    We now then apprehend what Jonah meant by these words: he shows
here that it was no wonder that God pursued him with so much
severity; for he had not committed a slight offense, but a fatal
sin. We now see how much Jonah had profited since the Lord had begun
severely to deal with him: for inasmuch as he was asleep yea, and
insensible in his sin, he would have never repented had it not been
for this violent remedy. But when the Lord roused him by his
severity, he then not only confessed that he was guilty, or owned
his guilt in a formal manner, (defunctorie - as ridding one's self
of a business, carelessly;) but also willingly testified, as we see,
before men who were heathens, that he was the guilty man, who had
forsaken the true God, in whose worship he had been well instructed.
This was the fruit of true penitence, and it was also the fruit of
the chastisement which God had inflicted on him. If then we wish God
to approve of our repentance, let us not seek evasions, as for the
most part is the case; nor let us extenuate our sins, but by a free
confession testify before the whole world what we have deserved.
    It then follows, that the men feared with great fear, and said,
"Why hast thou done this? for they knew treat he had fled from the
presence of Jehovah, for he had told them". And this is not
unimportant - that the sailors feared with great fear: for Jonah
means that they were not only moved by what he said, but also
terrified, so that they gave to the true God his glory. We indeed
know that superstitious men almost trifle with their own idols. They
often entertain, it is true, strange fears, but afterwards they
flatter themselves, and in a manner cajole their own hearts, so that
they can pleasantly and sweetly smile at their own fancies. But
Jonah, by saying here that they feared with great fear, means that
they were so smitten, that they really perceived that the God of
Israel was a righteous judge, and that he was not such as other
nations fancied him to be, but that he was capable of affording
dreadful examples whenever he intended to execute his vengeance. We
hence see what Jonah means, when he speaks of great fear. At the
same time, two things ought to be noticed, - that they feared,
because it was easy for them to conclude from the Prophet's words,
that the God of Israel was the only creator of heaven and earth, -
and then, that it was a great fear, which, as I have said, must be
considered as serious dread, since the fear which the unbelieving
have soon vanishes.
    But with regard to the reproof which the sailors and other
passengers gave to Jonah, the Lord returned to him this as a reward
which he had deserved. He had fled from the presence of God; he had
thus, as we have said taken away from God his supreme power: for
what becomes of God's authority when any one of us rejects his
commands and flees away from his presence? Since Jonah then sought
to shun God, he was now placed before men. There were present
heathens, and even barbarians, who rebuked him for his sin, who were
his censors and judges. And the same thing we see happening often.
For they who do not willingly obey God and his word, afterwards
abandon themselves to many flagrant sins, and their baseness becomes
evident to all. As, then, they cannot bear God to be their Master
and Teacher, they are constrained to bear innumerable censors; for
they are branded by the reproaches of the vulgar, they are pointed
at every where by the finger, at length they are conducted to the
gallows, and the executioner becomes their chief teacher. The case
was similar, as we see, with Jonah: the pilot had before reproved
his torpor, when he said, "Do thou also call on thy God; what
meanest thou, 0 sleeper? thou liest down here like a log of wood,
and yet thou sees us perplexed and in extreme danger." As, then, the
pilot first so sharply inveighed against Jonah, and then all
reproved him with one mouth, we certainly find that he was made
subject to the condemnation of all, because he tried to deprive God
of his supreme power. If at any time the same thing should happen to
us, if God should subject us to the reproaches of men when we seek
to avoid his judgment, let us not wonder. But as Jonah here calmly
answers, and raises no clamour, and shows no bitterness, so let
every one of us, in the true spirit of meekness, acknowledge our own
sins; when charged with them, were even children our condemners, or
were even the most contemptible of the people to rise up against us,
let us patiently bear all this; and let us know that these kinds of
censors befall us through the providence of God. It now follows -

Jonah 1:11,12
Then said they unto him, What shall we do unto thee, that the sea
may be calm unto us? for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous.
And he said unto them, Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea;
so shall the sea be calm unto you: for I know that for my sake this
great tempest [is] upon you.
    The sailors asked counsel of Jonah; and hence it appears that
they were touched with so much fear as not to dare to do any thing
to him. We hence see how much they had improved almost in an
instant, since they spared an Israelite, because they acknowledged
that among that people the true God was worshipped, the supreme King
of heaven and earth: for, without a doubt, it was this fear that
restrained them from throwing Jonah immediately into the sea. For
since it was certain that through his fault God was displeased with
them all, why was it that they did not save themselves by such an
expiation? That they then delayed in so great a danger, and dared
not to lay hold instantly on Jonah, was an evident proof that they
were restrained, as I have said, by the fear of God.
    They therefore inquire what was to be done, "What shall we do
to thee, that the sea may be still to us? for the sea was going",
&c. By going Jonah means, that the sea was turbulent: for the sea is
said to rest when it is calm, but when it is turbulent, then it is
going, and has various movements and tossings. The sea, then, was
going and very tempestuous. We hence see that God was not satisfied
with the disgrace of Jonah, but he purposed to punish his offense
still more. It was necessary that Jonah should be led to the
punishment which he deserved, though afterwards, he was miraculously
delivered from death, as we shall see in its proper place.
    Jonah then answers, "Take me, and throw me into the sea, and it
will be still to you". It may be asked whether Jonah ought to have
of his own accord offered himself to die; for it seemed to be an
evidence of desperation. He might, indeed, have surrendered himself
to their will; but here he did, as it were, stimulate them, "Throw
me into the sea," he says; "for ye cannot otherwise pacify God than
by punishing me." He seemed like a man in despair, when he would
thus advance to death of his own accord. But Jonah no doubt knew
that he was doomed to punishment by God. It is uncertain whether he
then entertained a hope of deliverance, that is, whether he
confidently relied at this time on the grace of God. But, however it
may have been, we may yet conclude, that he gave himself up to
death, because he knew and was fully persuaded that he was in a
manner summoned by the evident voice of God. And thus there is no
doubt but that he patiently submitted to the judgment which the Lord
had allotted to him. Take me, then, and throw me into the sea.
    Then he adds, "The sea will be to you still". Here Jonah not
only declares that God would be pacified by his death, because the
lot had fallen upon him, but he also acknowledges that his death
would suffice as an expiation, so that the tempest would subside:
and then the reason follows - "I know, he says, that on my account
is this great tempest come upon you". When he says that he knew
this, he could not refer to the lot, for that knowledge was common
to them all. But Jonah speaks here by the prophetic spirit: and he
no doubt confirms what I have before referred to, - that the God of
Israel was the supreme and only King of heaven and earth. This
certainty of knowledge, then, of which Jonah speaks, must be
referred to his own consciences and to the teaching of that religion
in which he had been instructed.
    And now we may learn from these words a most useful
instruction: Jonah does not here expostulate with God, nor
contumeliously complain that God punished him too severely, but he
willingly bears his charged guilt and his punishment, as he did
before when he said, "I am the worshipper of the true God." How
could he confess the true God, whose great displeasure he was then
experiencing? But Jonah, we see, was so subdued, that he failed not
to ascribe to God his just honor; though death was before his eyes,
though God's wrath was burning, we yet see, that he gave to God, as
we have said, the honor due to him. So the same thing is repeated in
this place, "Behold, he says, I know that on my account has this
great tempest happened". He who takes to himself all the blame, does
not certainly murmur against God. It is then a true confession of
repentance, when we acknowledge God, and willingly testify before
men that he is just, though, according to the judgment of our flesh,
he may deal violently with us. When however we give to him the
praise due to his justice, we then really show our penitence; for
unless God's wrath brings us down to this humble state of mind, we
shall be always full of bitterness; and, however silent we may be
for a time, our heart will be still perverse and rebellious. This
humility, then, always follows repentance, - the sinner prostrates
himself before God, and willingly admits his own sin, and tries not
to escape by subterfuges.
    And it was no wonder that Jonah thus humbled himself; for we
see that the sailors did the same: when they said that lots were to
be cast, they added at the same time, "Come ye and let us cast lots,
that we may know why this evil has happened to us." They did not
accuse God, but constituted him the Judge; and thus they
acknowledged that he inflicted a just punishment. And yet every one
thought himself to have been innocent; for however conscience might
have bitten them, still no one considered himself to have been
guilty of so great a wickedness as to subject him to God's
vengeance. Though, then, the sailors thought themselves exempt from
any great sin, they yet did not contend with God, but allowed him to
be their Judge. Since then they, who were so barbarous, confined
themselves within these bounds of modesty, it was no wonder that
Jonah, especially when he was roused and began to feel his guilt,
and was also powerfully restrained by God's hand, - it was no wonder
that he now confessed that he was guilty before God, and that he
justly suffered a punishment so heavy and severe. We ought then to
take special notice of this, - that he knew that on his account the
storm happened or that the sea was so tempestuous against them all.
The rest we defer until tomorrow.


Grant, Almighty God that as thou urgest us daily to repentance and
each of us is also stung with the consciousness of his own sins, - 0
grant, that we may not grow stupid in our vices, nor deceive
ourselves with empty flatteries, but that each of us may, on the
contrary carefully examine his own life and then with one mouth and
heart confess that we are all guilty not only of light offenses, but
of such as deserve eternal death, and that no other relief remains
for us but thine infinite mercy and that we may so seek to become
partakers of that grace which has been once offered to us by thy
Son, and is daily offered to us by his Gospel, that, relying on him
as our Mediator, we may not cease to entertain hope even in the
midst of thousand deaths, until we be gathered into that blessed
life, which has been procured for us by the blood of thy only Son.

Lecture Seventy-fifth.

Jonah 1:13,14
Nevertheless the men rowed hard to bring [it] to the land; but they
could not: for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous against them.
Wherefore they cried unto the LORD, and said, We beseech thee, O
LORD, we beseech thee, let us not perish for this man's life, and
lay not upon us innocent blood: for thou, O LORD, hast done as it
pleased thee.

    This verse shows that the sailors and the rest were more
inclined to mercy, when they saw that the holy Prophet was willing
to undergo the punishment which he had deserved. When therefore, he
confessed that he was guilty, and refused not to be punished, they
became anxious to spare his life, though they were heathens, and
also for the most part barbarians: and as each of them could not but
be frightened with his immediate danger, the wonder is increased,
that they had such regard for the life of one who alone was in
fault, and who had now freely confessed this. But the Lord so turned
their hearts, that they now saw more clearly how grievous a sin it
was to flee away from the call of God, and not to yield obedience,
as we have before observed, to his command. Many think that this is
a light offense, and readily indulge themselves in it: but it is not
in the power of men to weigh sins; the balance is deceitful when men
estimate their sins according to their own judgment. Let us then
learn to ascribe to God his own honor, - that he alone is Judge, and
is far above us, and can alone determine how grievous or how slight
any sin is. But common sense, except when men willfully deceive
themselves by vain flatteries, clearly teaches this, - that it is no
light offense when we evade the command of God; for, as we have
stated, men do thus take away from God his supreme authority; and
what is left to God, when he governs not the creatures whom he has
formed, and whom he sustains by his power? The Lord, then, designed
to show here, that his displeasure could not be otherwise pacified
than by drowning Jonah in the sea; though, as we shall presently
see, he had something greater in view. But, in the meantime, this is
worthy of being observed, - that the Lord intended to make Jonah an
example, that all may now know that he is not to be trifled with,
but that he ought to be obeyed as soon as he commands any thing.
    The word which the Prophet uses has been variously explained by
interpreters. "Chatar" is properly, to dig; so that some think it to
be a metaphorical expression, as rowers seem to dig the sea; and
this sense is not unsuitable. Others carry the metaphor still
higher, - that the sailors searched out or sought means by which
they might drive the ship to land. But the other metaphor, as being
less remote, is more to be approved. The Latins call it to toil,
when the rowers not only apply gently their oars, but when they make
a greater effort. The sailors, then, toiled to bring back the ship.
But for what purpose? To spare the life of the man who had already
confessed that he was guilty before God, and that the storm, which
threatened them all with a shipwreck, had arisen through his fault:
but he says that they could not, for the sea was tempestuous, as we
have already seen in our yesterday's lecture.
    I come now to the second verse. "They cried, he says, to
Jehovah and said, We beseech, Jehovah, let us not perish, we pray,
on account of the life of this man, and give not", that is, lay not,
"innocent blood upon us". The Prophet now expresses more fully why
the sailors toiled so much to return to port, or to reach some
shore, - they were already persuaded that Jonah was a worshipper of
the true God, and not only this, but that he was a Prophet, inasmuch
as he had told them, as we have seen, that he had fled from the
presence of God, because he feared to execute the command which we
have noticed. It was therefore pious fear that restrained the
sailors, knowing, as they did, that Jonah was the servant of the
true God. They, at the same time, saw, that Jonah was already
standing for his sin before God's tribunal, and that punishment was
demanded. This they saw; but yet they wished to preserve his life.
    Now this place shows, that there is by nature implanted in all
an abhorrence of cruelty; for however brutal and sanguinary many men
may be, they yet cannot divest themselves of this feeling, - that
the effusion of human blood is hateful. Many, at the same time,
harden themselves; but they apply a searing iron: they cannot shake
off horror, nay, they feel that they are detested by God and by men,
when they thus shed innocent blood. Hence it was that the sailors,
who in other respects hardly retained a drop of humanity, fled as
suppliants to God, when the case was about the death of man; and
they said, "'annah Jehovah", 'We beseech Jehovah:' and the
expression is repeated; which shows that the sailors earnestly
prayed that the Lord would not impute this as a sin to them.
    We hence see that though these men had never known the doctrine
of the law, they were yet so taught by nature that they knew that
the blood of man is dear and precious in the sight of God. And as to
us, we ought not only to imitate these sailors, but to go far beyond
them: for not only ought the law of nature to prevail among us, but
also the law of God; for we hear what God had formerly pronounced
with his own mouth, 'Whosoever sheddeth man's blood, shed shall his
blood be,' (Gen. 9: 6.) And we know also the reason why God
undertakes to protect the life of men, and that is, because they
have been created in his image. Whosoever then uses violence against
the life of man, destroys, as far as he can the image of the eternal
God. Since it is so, ought not violence and cruelty to be regarded
by us with double horror? We ought also to learn another thing from
this doctrine: God proves by this remarkable testimony what paternal
feeling he manifests towards us by taking our life under his own
guardianship and protection; and he even proves that we are really
the objects of his care, inasmuch as he will execute punishment and
vengeance when any one unjustly injures us. We then see that this
doctrine on the one side restrains us, that we may not attempt
anything against the lives of our brethren; and, on the other side,
it assures us of the paternal love of God, so that being allured by
his kindness we may learn to deliver up ourselves wholly to his
    I now come to the last clause of the verse, "For thou, Jehovah,
hast done as it has pleased thee". The sailors clearly prove here
that they did not willingly shed innocent blood. How then can these
two things agree, - that the blood was innocent, and that they were
blameless? They adopted this excuse, - that they obeyed God's
decree, that they did nothing rashly or according to their own
inclinations, but followed what the Lord had prescribed: though,
indeed, God had not spoken, yet what he required was really evident;
for as God demanded an expiation by the death of Jonah, so he
designed to continue the tempest until he was thrown into the deep.
These things the sailors now put forward. But we must notice, that
they did not cast the blame on God, as blasphemers are wont to do,
who, while they seek to exempt themselves from blame, find fault
with God, or at least put him in their own place: "Why then," they
say, "does he sit as a judge to condemn us for that of which he is
himself the author, since he has so decreed?" At this day there are
many fanatics who thus speak, who obliterate all the difference
between good and evil, as if lust were to them the law. They at the
same time make a covert of God's providence. Jonah wished not that
such a thing should be thought of the sailors; but as they well
understood that God governed the world justly, though his counsels
be secret and cannot be comprehended by us, - as, then, they were
thus convinced, they thus strengthened themselves; and though they
gave to God the praise due to his justice, they at the same time
trembled lest they should be guilty of innocent blood.
    We now then see how reverently these men spoke of God, and that
so much religious fear possessed them, that they did not rob God of
his praise, "Thou Jehovah", they said, "hast done as it has pleased
thee". Do they here accuse God of tyranny, as though he confounded
all things without any cause or reason? By no means. They took this
principle as granted, - that the will of God is right and just, yea,
that whatever God has decreed is beyond doubt just. Being then thus
persuaded, they took the will of God as the rule for acting rightly:
"As thou, Jehovah, hast done as it seemed good to thee, so we are
blameless." But at the same time it is proper also to add, that the
sailors do not vainly talk here of the secret providence of God in
order to impute murder to him, as ungodly men and profane cavilers
do at this day: but as the Lord made known his purpose to them, they
show that the storm and the tempest could not be otherwise calmed
and quieted than by drowning Jonah: they therefore took this
knowledge of God's purpose as a certain rule to follow. At the same
time they fled, as I have said, to God, and supplicated his mercy,
lest in a matter so perplexed and difficult he should involve them
in the same punishment, as they were constrained to shed innocent
blood. We now then apprehend the meaning of this passage. Now it
follows -

Jonah 1:15
So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea: and the sea
ceased from her raging.
    Jonah shows here that the tempest arose through his fault; for
the issue proved this with certainty. The sailors had not only cast
lots, but after Jonah was thrown into the sea the storm calmed, and
the sea became still, - this sudden change sufficiently proved that
Jonah was the only cause why they were so nearly shipwrecked. For if
the sea had not calmed immediately, but after some interval of time,
it might have been ascribed to chance: but as the sea instantly
rested, it could not be otherwise said than that Jonah was condemned
by the judgment of God. He was indeed cast into the sea by the hands
of men; but God so presided, that nothing could be ascribed to men,
but that they executed the judgment which the Lord had openly
demanded and required from them. This, then, is the import of this
verse. He now adds -

Jonah 1:16
Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice
unto the LORD, and made vows.

    Jonah now declares what fruit followed; and first, he says,
that the sailors feared the true God. He uses here the proper name
of God, Jehovah; for, as we have already seen, they were addicted to
their own superstitions, as each of them cried to his own god: but
it was a false notion; for they went astray after their own
superstitions. The Prophet now points out the difference, - that
they began to fear the true God. At the same time it may have been,
that they afterwards relapsed into their own errors; yet it ought
not to be overlooked that the Lord constrained them to entertain
such a fear. The Hebrews, as it has been already said, sometimes
take fear in a general sense, as meaning worship. It is said in 2
Kings 17:, of the new inhabitants of the land of Canaan, who had
been removed from Persia, that they "feared God," that is, that they
imitated the legal rite in sacrifices while worshipping God. But
there is an addition in this place, which shows that the meaning is
more restricted, for it is said to have been a great fear. Then
Jonah means that the sailors and the passengers were not only
touched with the fear of God, but that they also had the impression
that the God of Israel was the supreme King of heaven and earth,
that he held all things under his hand and government. This fear no
doubt led them to true knowledge so as to know that they were
previously deluded, and that whatever the world had invented was
mere delusion, and that the gods devised by the fancies of men were
nothing else but mere idols. We now then perceive what Jonah means.
    But we must here say somewhat more at large of the fear of God.
When the Scripture speaks of the fear of God, it sometimes means the
outward worship, and sometimes true piety. When it designates the
outward worship, it is no great thing; for hypocrites usually
perform their ceremonies, and thus testify that they worship God:
but yet, as they obey not God with sincerity of heart, nor bring
faith and repentance, they do nothing but trifle. But the fear of
God is often taken for true piety; and then it is called the
beginning or the chief point of wisdom, or even wisdom itself, as it
is in Job 29: 28. The fear of God, then, or that pious regard by
which the faithful willingly submit themselves to God, is the chief
part of wisdom.
    But it also often happens that men are touched by servile fear,
so as to have a desire to satisfy God, while, at the same time, they
have even a wish to draw him down from his throne. This servile fear
is full of perverseness; for they, at the same time, champ the
bridle, as they cannot exempt themselves from his power and
authority. Such was this fear of which Jonah speaks; for all those
whom he mentions were not suddenly so changed as to devote
themselves to the true God: they had not indeed made such a progress
as this; it was not such real and thorough conversion of the soul as
changed them into new men. How, then, is it said that they feared?
even because the Lord extorted from them a confession at the time:
it may have been that some of them afterwards made a greater
progress; but I speak now generally of the whole. Because then it is
said that they feared God, we are not hence to conclude that they
really repented, so as to become wholly devoted to the God of
Israel. But yet they were constrained to know and to confess that
the God of Israel was the only and the true God. How so? because
that dreadful judgment filled them with terror, so that they
perceived that he alone was God who had heaven and earth under his
    We now then see how that fear is to be viewed, of which Jonah
speaks. If they afterwards made no farther progress, it only served
to condemn them, that these sailors, having perceived by a sure
evidence who the only true God was, mingled with the worship of him
their wicked and ungodly superstitions, as many do even in our day.
The Papists hold this truth in common with us, - that there is one
true God, the framer of heaven and earth, yea, they come still
nearer, and say that the only-begotten Son of God is our Redeemer;
but yet we see how they contaminate the whole worship of God, and
turn his truth to a lie; for they blend the worship of God with that
of idols, so that there is nothing pure among them. But this main
truth is however of great service, when the Lord stretches forth his
hand to miserable men; for if there was no conviction of this under
the Papacy that the word of God is to be believed, and that Christ
the Son of God is the King and Head of the Church, we must have had
to employ against them a long circuitous argument; but now an access
to them is easy: when we bring against them the Law, and the
Prophets, and the Gospel, they are restrained by some measure of
reverence, and dare not to reject the authority of the Supreme God.
We then see, that this fear is in itself of no great value, if men
remain fixed in their own mire; but when it is the Lords purpose
afterwards to call them, this fear opens for them the door to true
godliness. So it may have been, as I have said, that some of these
sailors and passengers had afterwards made better progress. But this
fear of itself could have done nothing more than to convict them, so
that no excuse could avail theta before God's tribunal; for a proof
had been given them, by which they might know that there was no
other God than He who was then worshipped by the chosen people.
    He afterwards adds that they sacrificed a sacrifice to Jehovah.
They were accustomed before to offer sacrifices to their idols; but
now they testified that they worshipped the God of Israel; for this
is what sacrifices signify. But it must at the same time be observed
that they thereby expressed this confession, that God confirmed the
truth of his word. When, therefore, they perceived that this whole
affair was ordered by the will of God, they were constrained to bear
witness that he was the true God: this was the end and design of
    It may, However, be inquired, whether that sacrifice pleased
God. It is certain that whenever men bring forward their own
devices, whatever is otherwise worthy of approbation in what they
do, it cannot but be corrupted and vitiated by such a mixture; for
God, as it is well known, allows of no associate. And we must
remember that which is said in Ezekiel, 'Go ye, sacrifice to the
devil, and not to me!' God there repudiates all the sacrifices which
were wont to be offered by the people of Israel, because
superstitions were blended with them. God then shows that such a
mixture is so disapproved by him, that he chooses rather that the
superstitious should wholly give themselves up to the devils than
that his holy name should be thus profaned. Hence this sacrifice of
itself was not lawful, nor could it have pleased God; but it was, so
to speak, by accident and extrinsically that this sacrifice pleased
God, - because he designed thus to make known his glory. Though,
then, he repudiated the sailors themselves, yet it was his will that
this act should bear a testimony to his glory: as, for instance, a
deed is often vicious with regard to men, and yet in an accidental
way it tends to set forth the glory of God.
    And this ought to be carefully borne in mind: there is at this
day a dispute, yea a fierce contest, about good works: and the
Sophists ever deceive themselves by false reasoning; for they
suppose that works morally good are either preparatory to the
obtaining of grace, or meritorious towards attaining eternal life.
When they speak of works morally good, they refer only to the
outward deeds; they regard not the fountain or motive, nor even the
end. When the heart of man is impure, unquestionably the work which
thence flows is also ever impure, and is an abomination before God.
When the end also is wrong, when it is not man's purpose to worship
God in sincerity of heart, the deed, however splendid it may appear,
is filth in the presence of God. Hence the Sophists are greatly
deceived, and are very childish, when they say, that works morally
good please God, and are preparatory to grace and meritorious of
salvation. But can this be, that a work does not please God, and yet
avails to set forth his glory? I answer, that these two things are
perfectly consistent, and are in no way so contrary that they cannot
be easily reconciled. For God by accident, as I have said,
accommodates to his own glory what is in itself vicious; I say, in
itself, that is, with respect to men. Thus even under the Papacy the
Christian name serves to the glory of God, for there ever remains
some remnant. And how has it happened, that at this time the light
of the Gospel has shone forth, and that true religion has been
restored at least in many places? Even because the Lord has never
suffered true religion to be extinguished, though it has been
corrupted: for baptism under the Papacy, the very name of Christ as
well as of the Church, and the very form of religion - all these
have become wholly useless; but they have accidentally, as I have
said, been of great service. When, therefore, we regard the priests
as well as the people, we find nothing but a perverted worship of
God; they presumptuously and indiscriminately add their own
superstitions and devices to the word of God, and there is nothing
pure among them. Since then they thus blend together heaven and
earth, they do nothing but provoke God's wrath against themselves.
    We now then understand why Jonah says that the sailors and
passengers offered sacrifices. We must, at the same time, remember
what I have lately said, that sacrifice was, as it were, a symbol of
Divine worship: for even from the beginning this notion prevailed
among all, that sacrifices were to be offered to none but to God;
and heathens in all ages had no other opinion of sacrifices, but
that they thus manifested their piety towards their gods. Since then
sacrifices have been from the beginning offered to God alone, it
follows, that they at this day are wholly inexcusable who join
associates to God, and offer their sacrifices to mortals or to
angels. How can this be borne in Christians, since heathens have
ever confessed that they regarded those as gods to whom they were
wont to offer their sacrifices? Now then, since God declares that
the chief sacrifice to him is invocations as we read in Ps. 1, the
whole of religion under the Papacy must be perverted, as they pray
not only to God but even to creatures: for they hesitate not to flee
to Peter or to Paul, yea, to their own saints, real and fictitious,
in the same manner as to the only true God. Inasmuch, then, as they
rob God of this chief right, we see that they tread under foot the
whole of religion by this sacrilege. Since, then, heathen men
testified that they worshipped Jehovah, the God of Israel, by their
external sacrifice, let us learn at this day not to transfer the
rightful honor of God to creatures; but let this honor of being
alone prayed to, be wholly and entirely reserved for him; for this,
as we have said is the chief and the most valuable sacrifice which
he demands and approves.
    But Jonah also adds, that the sailors vowed vows to God. This
is a part of thanksgiving; for we know that the object, not only of
the holy fathers, but also of the superstitious, in making vows, has
ever been this - to bind themselves to God, and also to express
their gratitude, and to make it evident, that they owed to him both
their life and every favor bestowed on them. This then has in all
ages been the reason for making, vows. When, therefore the sailors
vowed a vow to God, they renounced their own idols. They cried
before to their gods; but now they understand that they had cried in
vain, and without any benefit, as they had to no purpose uttered
their cries in the air. Now then they made their vows to the only
true God; for they knew that their lives were in his hand.
    And here we may easily learn how foolishly the Sophists of our
day heap together all passages of Scripture which make any mention
of vows; for they think that we are to be overwhelmed by that term
alone, when we condemn their false vows. But no one of us has ever
denied or does deny, that it is lawful to vows provided it be done
according to what the Law and the Gospel prescribes. What we hold
is, - that men are not thoughtlessly to obtrude on God what comes
uppermost, but that they are to vow what he approves, and also, that
they regard a right and just end in vowing, even to testify their
gratitude to God. But in common vows which are made, there are the
grossest errors, as also in the whole of the Papal worship; for they
vow this and that to God indiscriminately, and regard not what the
Lord requires or approves: one, on certain days, abstains from meat;
another combs not his head: and a third trots away on some
pilgrimage. All these things, we know, are rejected by God. And
further, when they vow nothing but what God approves, it is yet done
for a wrong purpose: for they seek in this way to bind God to
themselves, and the diabolical conceit of merits ever possesses
their minds. And, lastly, they consider not what they can do; they
vow perpetual celibacy when at the same time incontinence burns
them; and thus we see that, like the giants, they fight with God
himself; and, in the meantime, they allow themselves an unbridled
liberty as to whatever they vow.
    Let us then know, that whenever the Scripture speaks of vows,
we are to take for granted these two principles, - that vows as they
appertain to the worship of God, ought not to be taken without any
discretion, according to men's fancy, but ought to be regulated and
guided by God's rule, so that men may bring nothing to God, except
what they know to be approved by his word, - and then, that they are
to keep in view the right end, even to show by this symbol their
gratitude to God, to testify that they are preserved by his
kindness, as was the case with these sailors, who made a vow because
they thought that none but God was their deliverer; and so they
testified, that when they came safe to shore, they would make it
known that the God of Israel had showed mercy to them. It follows -

Jonah 1:17
Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And
Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
    What the Prophet here briefly relates ought to be carefully
weighed by us. It is easily passed over, when we read in a few words
that Jonah was swallowed up by a fish, and that he was there three
days and three nights: but though Jonah neither amplified or
illustrated in a rhetorical manner what is overlooked by us, nor
adopted any display of words, but spoke of the event as though it
were an ordinary thing, we yet see what the event itself really was:
Jonah was cast into the sea. He had been previously not only a
worshipper of the true God, but also a Prophet, and had no doubt
faithfully discharged his office; for God would not have resolved to
send him to Nineveh, had he not conferred on him suitable gifts; and
he knew him to be qualified for undertaking a burden so great and so
important. As Jonah then had faithfully endeavored to serve God, and
to devote himself to him through the whole of his past life, now
that he is cast into the sea as one unworthy of the common light,
that he is cut off from the society of men, and that he seems
unworthy of undergoing a common or an ordinary punishment, but is
exiled, as it were, from the world, so as to be deprived of light
and air, as parricides, to whom formerly, as it is well-known, this
punishment was allotted - as then Jonah saw that he was thus dealt
with, what must have been the state of his mind?
    Now that he tells us that he was three whole days in the inside
of the fish, it is certain that the Lord had so awakened him that he
must have endured continual uneasiness. He was asleep before he was
swallowed by the fish; but the Lord drew him, as it were, by force
to his tribunal, and he must have suffered a continual execution. He
must have every moment entertained such thoughts as these, "Why does
he now thus deal with thee? God does not indeed slay thee at once,
but intends to expose thee to innumerable deaths." We see what Job
says, that when he died he would be at rest and free from all evils,
(Job 14: 6.) Jonah no doubt continually boiled with grief, because
he knew that God was opposed to and displeased with him: he
doubtless said to himself, "Thou hast to do, not with men, but with
God himself, who now pursues thee, because thou hast become a
fugitive from his presence." As Jonah then must have necessarily
thus thought within himself of God's wrath, his case must have been
harder than hundred deaths, as it had been with Job and with many
others, who made it their chief petition that they might die. Now as
he was not slain but languished in continual torments, it is certain
that no one of us can comprehend, much less convey in words what
must have come into the mind of Jonah during these three days. But I
cannot now discuss what remains; I must therefore defer it to the
next lecture.

Grant, Almighty God, that as thou settest before us this day thy
holy Prophet as an awful example of thy wrath against all who are
rebellious and disobedient to thee, - O grant, that we may learn so
to subject all our thoughts and affections to thy word, that we may
not reject any thing that pleases thee, but so learn both to live
and to die to thee, that we may ever regard thy will, and undertake
nothing but what thou hast testified is approved by thee, so that we
may fight under thy banners, and through life obey thy word, until
at length we reach that blessed rest which has been obtained for us
by the blood of thy only begotten Son, and is laid up for us in
heaven through the hope of his Gospel. Amen.

    In yesterday's lecture we began to explain the last verse of
the first chapter, in which Jonah said, that "a fish was prepared by
the Lord". We stated that it could not have been otherwise but that
Jonah, when he was in the inside of the fish, must have felt the
most grievous agonies, as though he had been doomed to perpetual
death, as long as he was deprived of the enjoyment of God's favor:
and this fact will be further explained when his song comes under
our consideration.
    But now there is a question to be considered and that is
whether God created a fish to receive Jonah. The expression, that
God prepared a fish seems indeed to mean this; for if the fish had
already been swimming in the sea, the Prophet might have adopted
another mode of speaking and said, that the Lord caused the fish to
meet him or that God had sent a fish; for so the Scripture usually
speaks: but a fish is said to have been prepared. This doubt may be
thus removed, - that though God may not have created the fish, he
had yet prepared him for this purpose; for we know that it was not
according to the course of nature that the fish swallowed Jonah, and
also, that he was preserved uninjured in his inside for three days
and three nights. I therefore refer what is said here, that a fish
was prepared, to the preservation of Jonah: for it is certain that
there are some fishes which can swallow men whole and entire. And
William Rondelet, who has written a book on the fishes of the sea,
concludes that in all probability it must have been the Lamia. He
himself saw that fish, and he says that it has a belly so capacious
and, mouth so wide, that it can easily swallow up a man; and he says
that a man in armour has sometimes been found in the inside of the
Lamia. Therefore, as I have said, either a whale, or a Lamia, or a
fish unknown to us, may be able to swallow up a man whole and
entire; but he who is thus devoured cannot live in the inside of a
fish. Hence Jonah, that he might mark it out as a miracle, says that
the fish was prepared by the Lord; for he was received into the
inside of the fish as though it were into an hospital; and though he
had no rest there, yet he was as safe as to his body, as though he
were walking on land. Since then the Lord, contrary to the order of
nature, preserved there his Prophet, it is no wonder that he says
that the fish was prepared by the Lord. I come now to the second

Chapter 2.

Jonah 2:1,2
Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish's belly,
And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and he
heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, [and] thou heardest my
    When Jonah says that he "prayed from the bowels of the fish",
he shows first with what courage of mind he was endued. He had then
put on a new heart; for when he was at liberty he thought that he
could in a manner escape from God, he became a fugitive from the
Lord: but now while inclosed within narrow bounds, he begins to
pray, and of his own accord sets himself in God's presence.
    This is a change worthy of being noticed: and hence we may
learn how much it profits us to be drawn back often as it were by
cords, or to be held tied up with fetters because when we are free
we go astray here and there beyond all limits. Jonah, when he was at
liberty, became, as we have seen, wanton; but now finding himself
restrained by the mighty hand of God, he receives a new mind, and
prays from the bowels of the fish. But how was it that he directed
his petitions then to God, by whose hand he saw that he was so
heavily pressed? For God most rigidly handled him; Jonah was in a
manner doomed to eternal ruin; the bowels of the fish, as we shall
hereafter see, were indeed to him as it were hell or the grave. But
in this state of despair Jonah even gathered courage, and was able
to retake himself directly to God. It was a wonderful and almost
incredible example of faith. Let us then learn to weigh well what is
here said; for when the Lord heavily afflicts us, it is then a
legitimate and seasonable time for prayer. But we know that the
greater part despond, and do not usually offer their prayers freely
to God, except their minds be in a calm state; and yet God then
especially invites us to himself when we are reduced to extremities.
Let this, then, which Jonah declares of himself, come to our minds,
- that he cried to God from hell itself: and, at the same time, he
assures us that his prayer proceeded from true faith; for he does
not simply say that he prayed to Jehovah, but he adds that he was
his God; and he speaks with a serious and deeply-reflective mind.
Though Jonah then was not only like one dead, but also on the
confines of perdition, he yet believed that God would be merciful if
he fled to him. We hence see that Jonah prayed not at random, as
hypocrites are wont to take God's name in their mouths when they are
in distress, but he prayed in earnest; for he was persuaded that God
would be propitious to him.
    But we must remember that his prayer was not composed in the
words which are here related; but Jonah, while in the bowels of the
fish, dwelt on these thoughts in his mind. Hence he relates in this
song how he thought and felt; and we shall see that he was then in a
state of distraction, as our minds must necessarily be tossed here
and there by temptations. For the servants of God do not gain the
victory without great struggle. We must fight, and indeed
strenuously, that we may conquer. Jonah then in this song shows that
he was agitated with great trouble and hard contests: yet this
conviction was firmly fixed in his heart, - that God was to be
sought, and would not be sought in vain, as he is ever ready to
bring help to his people whenever they cry to him.
    Then he says, "I cried, when I had trouble, to Jehovah, and he
answered me". Jonah no doubt relates now, after having come forth
from the bowels of the fish, what had happened to him, and he gives
thanks to the Lord. This verse then contains two parts, - that Jonah
in his trouble fled to God, - and the latter part contains
thanksgiving for having been miraculously delivered beyond what
flesh could have thought. "I cried, he says, in my distress, to
Jehovah; I cried out from the bowels of hell, thou hast heard my
voice". Jonah, as we shall hereafter see, directed his prayers to
God not without great struggle; he contended with many difficulties;
but however great the impediments in his way, he still persevered
and ceased not from praying. He now tells us that he had not prayed
in vain; and, that he might amplify the grace of God, he says, from
the bowels of the grave. He mentioned distress in the first clause;
but here he more clearly expresses how remarkable and extraordinary
had been the kindness of God, that he came forth safe from the
bowels of the fish, which were like the bowels of the grave.
"She'ol", derived from corruption, is called the grave by the
Hebrews, and the Latin translator has almost everywhere rendered it
hell, (infernum;) and "she'ol" is also sometimes taken for hell,
that is, the state of the reprobate, because they know that they are
condemned by God: it is, however, taken more frequently for the
grave; and I am disposed to retain this sense, - that the fish was
like the grave. But he means that he was so shut up in the grave,
that there was no escape open to him.
    What are the bowels of the grave? Even the inside or the recess
of the grave itself. When Jonah was in this state, he says, that he
was heard by the Lord. It may be proper to repeat again what I have
already slightly touched, - that Jonah was not so oppressed, though
under the heaviest trial, but that his petitions came forth to God.
He prayed as it were from hell, and not simply prayed, for he, at
the same time, sets forth his vehemence and ardor by saying, that he
cried and cried aloud. Distress, no doubt, extorted from Jonah these
urgent entreaties. However this might have been, he did not howl, as
the unbelieving are wont to do, who feel their own evils and
bitterly complain; and yet they pour forth vain howlings. Jonah here
shows himself to be different from them by saying, that he cried and
cried aloud to God. It now follows -

Jonah 2:3
For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and
the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed
over me.
    In this verse are set forth his difficulties: for Jonah, for
the sake of amplifying, refers to his condition. It was a great
thing that he cried to God from the bowels of the fish; but it was
far more difficult for him to raise up his mind in prayer, when he
knew or thought God to be angry with him: for had he been thrown
into extreme evils, he might yet call upon God; but as it came to
his mind that all the evil he suffered was inflicted by God, because
he tried to shun his call, how was it possible for him to penetrate
into heaven when such an obstacle stood in his way? We hence see the
design of these words, "But thou hadst cast me into the gulf, into
the heart of the sea; the flood surrounded me, all thy billows and
waves passed over me.
    In short, Jonah shows here what dreadful temptations presented
themselves to him while he was endeavoring to offer up prayers. It
came first to his mind that God was his most inveterate enemy. For
Jonah did not then think of the sailors and the rest who had cast
him into the sea; but his mind was fixed on God: this is the reason
why he says, "THOU, Lord, hadst cast me into the deep, into the
heart of the sea"; and then, "THY billows, THY weaves." He does not
here regard the nature of the sea; but he bestows, as I have already
said, all his thoughts on God, and acknowledges that he had to do
with him; as though he said, "Thou Lord, in pursuing me, drivest me
away; but to thee do I come: thou showest by dreadful proofs that
thou art offended with me, but yet I seek thee; so far is it that
these terrors drive me to a distance from thee, that now, being
subdued as it were by thy goads, I come willingly to thee; for
nowhere else is there for me any hope of deliverance." We now then
see how much avails the contrast, when Jonah sets the terrible
punishment which he endured in opposition to his prayer. Let us now
proceed -

Jonah 2:4
Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again
toward thy holy temple.

    In the first clause of this verse Jonah confirms again what I
have said, - that when he sought to pray, not only the door was
closed against him, but there were mountains, as it were,
intervening, so that he could not breathe a prayer to God: for he
did not so much think of the state in which he was; nay, but he
chiefly considered his own case, how he had provoked the wrath of
God. Hence he says, "I have said, I am cast away from the sight of
thine eyes". Some give this frigid exposition, that he had been only
expelled from his own country, that he might not behold the temple.
But I have no doubt but that Jonah tells us here that he suffered
extreme agonies, as though every hope of pardon had been cut off
from him: "What! shall I yet hope that God will be propitious? It is
not to be hoped." This then is the casting away of which he speaks:
for it is said that God casts us away, when he allows us no access
to him. Hence Jonah thought that he was wholly alienated from God.
Were any to object and say, that then his faith must have been
extinct; the obvious answer is, - that in the struggle of faith
there are internal conflicts; one thought is suggested, and then
another of an opposite character meets it; there would indeed be no
trial of our faith, except there were such internal conflicts; for
when, with appeased minds, we can feel assured that God is
propitious to us, what is the trial of faith? But when the flesh
tells us that God is opposed to us, and that there is no more hope
of pardon, faith at length sets up its shield, and repels this onset
of temptation, and entertains hope of pardon: whenever God for a
time appears implacable, then faith indeed is tried. Such then was
the condition of Jonah; for, according to the judgment of the flesh,
he thought that he was utterly cast away by God, so that he came to
him in vain. Jonah, then, having not yet put off flesh and blood,
could not immediately lay hold on the grace of God, but difficulties
met him in his course.
    The latter clause is differently explained by interpreters.
Some take it negatively, "I shall no more look towards the temple of
thy holiness:" but the words admit not of this explanation. "'Ach"
means in Hebrew, truly, nevertheless; and it means also, certainly;
and sometimes it is taken dubitatively, perhaps. The greater part of
expounders render the clause thus, "But I shall see the temple of
thy holiness;" as though Jonah here reproved his own distrust, which
he had just expressed, as the case is with the faithful, who
immediately check themselves, when they are tempted to entertain any
doubt: "What! dost thou then cast away hope, when yet God will be
reconciled to thee if thou wilt come to him?" Hence interpreters
think that it is a sort of correction, as though Jonah here changed
his mind, and retracted what he had previously taken up, as a false
principle derived from the judgment of the flesh. He had said then
that he had been cast away from the presence of the Lord; but now,
according to these expositors, he repels that temptation, "But I
shall see thy holy temple; though I seem now to be rejected by thee,
thou wilt at last receive me into favor." We may, however, explain
this clause, consistently with the former, in this way, At least,
or, but, I would again see, &c., as an expression of a wish. The
future then may be taken for the optative mood, as we know that the
Hebrews are wont thus to use the future tense, either when they pray
or express a wish. This meaning then best agrees with the passage,
that Jonah as yet doubtingly prays, At least, or, but, I would
again, O Lord, see the temple of thy holiness. But since the former
explanation which I have mentioned is probable, I do not contend for
this. However this may be, we find that Jonah did not wholly
despair, though the judgment of the flesh would drive him to
despair; for he immediately turned his address to God. For they who
murmur against God, on the contrary, speak in the third person,
turning themselves, as it were, away from him: but Jonah here sets
God before his eyes, I have been cast away, he says, from the sight
of thine eyes. He does not remonstrate here with God, but shows that
he was seeking God still, though he thought that he was cast far
    Then he adds, "I would at least see again the temple of thy
holiness". And by speaking of the temple, he no doubt set the temple
before him as an encouragement to his faith. As then he had been
cast away, he gathers everything that might avail to raise up and
confirm his hope. He had indeed been circumcised, he had been a
worshipper of God from his childhood, he had been educated in the
Law, he had exercised himself in offering sacrifices: under the name
of temple he now includes briefly all these things. We hence see
that he thus encouraged himself to entertain good hope in his
extreme necessity. And this is a useful admonition; for when every
access to God seems closed up against us, nothing is more useful
than to recall to mind, that he has adopted us from our very
infancy, that he has also testified his favor by many tokens,
especially that he has called us by his Gospel into a fellowship
with his only-begotten Son, who is life and salvation; and then,
that he has confirmed his favor both by Baptism and the Supper.
When, therefore, these things come to our minds, we may be able by
faith to break through all impediments. Let us go on -

Jonah 2:5,6
The waters compassed me about, [even] to the soul: the depth closed
me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head.
I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars
[was] about me for ever: yet hast thou brought up my life from
corruption, O LORD my God.
    Here in many words Jonah relates how many things had happened
to him, which were calculated to overwhelm his mind with terror and
to drive him far from God, and to take away every desire for prayer.
But we must ever bear in mind what we have already stated, - that he
had to do with God: and this ought to be well considered by us. The
case was the same with David, when he says in Ps. 39, 'Thou hast yet
done it;' for, after having complained of his enemies, he turned his
mind to God: "What then do I? what do I gain by these complaints?
for men alone do not vex me; thou, God, he says, hast done this." So
it was with Jonah; he ever set before him the wrath of God, for he
knew that such a calamity had not happened to him but on account of
his sins.
    He therefore says that he was by waters beset, and then, that
he was surrounded by the deep; but at length he adds, that God made
his life to ascend, &c. All these circumstances tend to show that
Jonah could not have raised up his mind to God except through an
extraordinary miracle, as his life was in so many ways oppressed.
When he says that he was "beset with waters even to the soul", I
understand it to have been to the peril of his life; for other
explanations seem frigid and strained. And the Hebrews says that to
be pressed to the soul, is to be in danger of one's life; as the
Latins, meaning the same thing, say that the heart, or the inside,
or the bowels, are wounded. So also in this place the same thing is
meant, 'The waters beset me even to the soul,' and then, 'the abyss
surrounds me.' Some render "suf", sedge; others sea-weed; others
bulrush: but the sense amounts to the same thing. No doubt "suf" is
a species of sedge; and some think that the Red Sea was thus called,
because it is full of sedges or bulrushes. They think also that
bulrushes are thus called, because they soon putrefy. But what Jonah
means is certain and that is, that weed enveloped his head, or that
weed grew around his head: but to refer this to the head of the
fish, as some do, is improper: Jonah speaks metaphorically when he
says that he was entangled in the sedge, inasmuch as there is no
hope when any one is rolled in the sedge at the bottom of the sea.
How, indeed, can he escape from drowning who is thus held, as it
were, tied up? It is then to be understood metaphorically; for Jonah
meant that he was so sunk that he could not swim, except through the
ineffable power of God.
    According to the same sense he says, "I descended to the roots
of the mountains". But he speaks of promontories, which were nigh
the sea; as though he had said, that he was not cast into the midst
of the sea, but that he had so sunk as to be fixed in the deep under
the roots of mountains. All these things have the same designs which
was to show that no deliverance could be hoped for, except God
stretched forth his hand from heaven, and indeed in a manner new and
    He says that the earth with its bars was around him. He means
by this kind of speaking, that he was so shut up, as if the whole
earth had been like a door. We know what sort of bars are those of
the earth, when we ascribe bars to it: for when any door is fastened
with bolts, we know how small a portion it is. But when we suppose
the earth itself to be like a door, what kind of things must the
bolts be? It is the same thing then as though Jonah had said, that
he was so hindered from the vital light, as if the earth had been
set against him to prevent his coming forth to behold the sun: the
earth, then, was set against me, and that for ever.
    He afterwards comes to thanksgiving, "And thou Jehovah, my God,
hast made my life to ascend from the grave". Jonah, after having
given a long description, for the purpose of showing that he was not
once put to death, but that he had been overwhelmed with many and
various deaths, now adds his gratitude to the Lord for having
delivered him, Thou, he says, hast made my life to ascend from the
grave, O Jehovah. He again confirms what I have once said, - that he
did not pour forth empty prayers, but that he prayed with an earnest
feeling, and in faith: for he would not have called him his God,
except he was persuaded of his paternal love, so as to be able to
expect from him a certain salvation. Thou, then, Jehovah, my God, he
says; he does not say, "Thou hast delivered me," but, "Thou hast
brought forth my life from the grave." Then Jonah, brought to life
again, testifies here that he was not only delivered by God's aid
from the greatest danger, but that he had, by a certain kind of
resurrection, been raised from the dead. This is the meaning of this
mode of speaking, when he says that his life had been brought forth
from the grave, or from corruption itself. It follows -

Jonah 2:7
When my soul fainted within me I remembered the LORD: and my prayer
came in unto thee, into thine holy temple.
    Here Jonah comprehends in one verse what he had previously
said, - that he had been distressed with the heaviest troubles, but
that he had not yet been so cast down in his mind, as that he had no
prospect of God's favor to encourage him to pray. He indeed first
confesses that he had suffered some kind of fainting, and that he
had been harassed by anxious and perplexing thoughts, so as not to
be able by his own efforts to disengage himself.
    As to the word "'ataf", it means in Hebrew to hide, to cover;
but in Niphal and Hithpael (in which conjugation it is found here)
it signifies to fail: but its former meaning might still be suitably
retained here; then it would be, 'My soul hid or rolled up itself,'
as it is in Ps. 102, 'The prayer of the afflicted, when he rolled up
himself in his distress.' They who render it, "he multiplied
prayers," have no reason to support them. I therefore doubt not but
that Jonah here means, either that he had been overcome by a swoon,
or that he had been so perplexed as not to be able without a violent
struggle to raise up his mind to God. However it may have been, he
intended by this word to express the anxiety of his mind. While then
we are tossed about by divers thoughts, and remain, as it were,
bound up in a hopeless condition, then our soul may be said to roll
or to fold up itself within us. When therefore the soul rolls up
itself, all the thoughts of man in perplexity recoil on himself. We
may indeed seek to disburden ourselves while we toss about various
purposes, but whatever we strive to turn away from us, soon comes
back on our own head; thus our soul recoils upon us. We now perceive
what Jonah meant by this clause, "When my soul infolded itself", or
failed within me, "I remembered, he says, Jehovah". We hence learn
that Jonah became not a conqueror without the greatest difficulties,
not until his soul, as we have said, had fainted: this is one thing.
Then we learn, also, that he was not so oppressed with distresses
but that he at length sought God by prayer. Jonah therefore retained
this truth, that God was to be sought, however severely and sharply
he treated him for a time; for the remembering, of which he speaks,
proceeded from faith. The ungodly also remember Jehovah, but they
dread him, for they look on him as a judge; and whenever a mention
is made of God, they expect nothing but destruction: but Jonah
applied the remembrance of God to another purpose, even as a solace
to ease his cares and his anxieties.
    For it immediate]y follows, "that his prayer had penetrated
unto God, or entered before him." We then see that Jonah so
remembered his God, that by faith he knew that he would be
propitious to him; and hence was his disposition to pray. But by
saying that his prayer entered into his temple, he no doubt alludes
to a custom under the law; for the Jews were wont to turn themselves
towards the temple whenever they prayed: nor was this a
superstitious ceremony; for we know that they were instructed in the
doctrine which invited them to the sanctuary and the ark of the
covenant. Since then this was the custom under the law, Jonah says
that his prayer entered into the temple of God; for that was a
visible symbol, through which the Jews might understand that God was
near to them; not that they by a false imagination bound God to
external signs, but because they knew that these helps Had not in
vain been given to them. So then Jonah not only remembered his God,
but called also to mind the signs and symbols in which he had
exercised his faith, as we have just said through the whole course
of his life; for they who view him as referring to heaven, depart
wholly from what the Prophet meant. We indeed know that the temple
sometimes means heaven; but this sense suits not this place. Then
Jonah meant that though he was far away from the temple, God was yet
near to him; for he had not ceased to pray to that God who had
revealed himself by the law which he gave, and who had expressed his
will to be worshipped at Jerusalem, and also had been pleased to
appoint the ark as the symbol of his presence, that the Jews might,
with an assured faith, call upon him, and that they might not doubt
but that he dwelt in the midst of them, inasmuch as he had there his
visible habitation.
Grant, Almighty God, that as thou hast once given us such an
evidence of thy infinite power in thy servant Jonah, whose mind,
when he was almost sunk down into hell, thou hadst yet raised up to
thyself, and hadst so supported with firm constancy, that he ceased
not to pray and to call on thee, - O grant, that in the trials by
which we must be daily exercised, we may raise upwards our minds to
thee, and never cease to think that thou art near us; and that when
the signs of thy wrath appear, and when our sins thrust themselves
before our eyes, to drive us to despair, may we still constantly
struggle, and never surrender the hope of thy mercy, until having
finished all our contests, we may at length freely and fully give
thanks to thee, and praise thy infinite goodness, such as we daily
experience that being conducted through continual trials, we may at
last come into that blessed rest which is laid up for us in heaven,
through Christ one Lord. Amen.

Lecture Seventy-seventh

Jonah 2:8,9
They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy.
But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I
will pay [that] that I have vowed. Salvation [is] of the LORD.
    Here Jonah says first, that men miserably go astray, when they
turn aside to vain superstitions, for they rob themselves of the
chief good: for he calls whatever help or aid that is necessary for
salvation, the mercy of men. The sense then is that as soon as men
depart from God, they depart from life and salvation, and that
nothing is retained by them, for they willfully cast aside whatever
good that can be hoped and desired. Some elicit a contrary meaning,
that the superstitious, when they return to a sound mind, relinquish
their own reproach; for "chesed" sometimes means reproach. They then
think that the way of true penitence is here described, - that when
God restores men from their straying to the right way, he gives them
at the same time a sound mind, so that they rid themselves from all
their vices. This is indeed true, but it is too strained a meaning.
Others confine this to the sailors who vowed sacrifices to God; as
though Jonah had said, that they would soon relapse to their own
follies, and bid adieu to God, who in his mercy had delivered them
from shipwreck; so they explain their mercy to be God; but this is
also too forced an explanation.
    I doubt not, therefore, but that Jonah here sets his own
religion in opposition to his false intentions of men; for it
immediately follows, "But I with the voice of praise will sacrifice
to thee". Jonah, then, having before confessed that he would be
thankful to God, now pours contempt on all those inventions which
men foolishly contrive for themselves, and through which they
withdraw themselves from the only true God, and from the sincere
worship of him. For he calls all those devices, by which men deceive
themselves, "the vanities of falsehood;" for it is certain that they
are mere fallacies which men invent for themselves without the
authority of God's Word; for truth is one and simple, which God has
revealed to us in his world. Whosoever then turns aside the least,
either on this or on that side, seeks, as it were designedly, some
imposture or another, by which he ruins himself. They then who
follow such vanities, says Jonah, forsake their own mercy, that is
they reject all happiness: for no aid and no help can be expected
from any other quarter than from the only true God.
    But this passage deserves a careful notice; for we hence learn
what value to attach to all superstitions, to all those opinions of
men, when they attempt to set up religion according to their own
will: for Jonah calls them lying or fallacious vanities. There is
then but one true religion, the religion which God has taught us in
his word. We must also notice, that men in vain weary themselves
when they follow their own inventions; for the more strenuously they
run, the farther they recede from the right way, as Augustine has
well observed. But Jonah here adopts a higher principle, - that God
alone possesses in himself all fulness of blessings: whosoever then
truly and sincerely seeks God, will find in him whatever can be
wished for salvation. But God is not to be sought but by obedience
and faith: whosoever then dare to give themselves loose reins, so as
to follow this or that without the warrant of God's word, recede
from God, and, at the same time, deprive themselves of all good
things. The superstitious do indeed think that they gain much when
they toil in their own inventions; but we see what the Holy Spirit
declares by the mouth of Jonah. The Lord says the same by Jeremiah
"They have forsaken me, the fountain of living water, and cisterns
have they digged for themselves," (Jer. 2: 13.) There the Lord
complains of his chosen people, who had gone astray after wicked
superstitions. Hence, when men wander beyond the word of God, they
in a manner renounce God, or say adieu to him; and thus they deprive
themselves of all good things; for without God there is no salvation
and no help to be found.
    Jonah therefore rightly adds, But I, "with the voice of praise,
will sacrifice to thee"; as though he said "While men as it were
banish themselves from God, by giving themselves up to errors, I
will sacrifice to thee and to thee alone, O Lord." And this ought to
be observed by us; for as our minds are prone to falsehood and
vanity, any new superstition will easily lay hold so us, except we
be restrained by this bond, except we be fully persuaded, - that
true salvation dwells in God alone, and every aid and help that can
be expected by us: but when this conviction is really and thoroughly
fixed in our hearts, then true religion cannot be easily lost by us:
though Satan should on every side spread his allurements, we shall
yet continue in the true and right worship of God. And the more
carefully it behaves us to consider this passage, because Jonah no
doubt meant here to strengthen himself in the right path of
religion; for he knew that like all mortals he was prone to what was
false; he therefore encouraged himself to persevere: and this he
does, when he declares that whatever superstition men devise, is a
deprivation of the chief good, even of life and salvation. It will
hence follow, that we shall abominate every error when we are fully
persuaded that we forsake the true God whenever we obey not his
word, and that we at the same time cast away salvation, and every
thing good that can be desired. Then Jonah says, I will sacrifice to
thee with the voice of praise.
    It must be noticed here farther, that the worship of God
especially consists in praises, as it is said in Ps. 1: for there
God shows that he regards as nothing all sacrifices, except they
answer this end - to set forth the praise of his name. It was indeed
his will that sacrifices should be offered to him under the law; but
it was for the end just stated: for God cares not for calves and
oxen, for goats and lambs; but his will was that he should be
acknowledged as the Giver of all blessings. Hence he says there,
'Sacrifice to me the sacrifice of praise.' So also Jonah now says,
'I will offer to thee the sacrifice of praise,' and he might have
said with still more simplicity, "Lord, I ascribe to thee my
preserved life." But if this was the case under the shadows of the
law, how much more ought we to attend to this, that is, - to strive
to worship God, not in a gross manner, but spiritually, and to
testify that our life proceeds from him, that it is in his hand,
that we owe all things to him, and, in a word, that he is the Source
and Author of salvation, and not only of salvation, but also of
wisdom, of righteousness, of power?
    And he afterwards mentions his vows, "I will pay, he says, my
vows". We have stated elsewhere in what light we are to consider
vows. The holy Fathers did not vow to God, as the Papists of this
day are wont to do, who seek to pacify God by their frivolous
practices; one abstains for a certain time from meat, another puts
on sackcloth, another undertakes a pilgrimage, and another obtrudes
on God some new ceremony. There was nothing of this kind in the vows
of the holy Fathers; but a vow was the mere act of thanksgiving, or
a testimony of gratitude: and so Jonah joins his vows here with the
sacrifice of praise. We hence learn that they were not two different
things; but he repeats the same thing twice. Jonah, then, had
declared his vow to God for no other purpose but to testify his
    And hence he adds, "To Jehovah is", or belongs, "salvation";
that is, to save is the prerogative of God alone; Jehovah is here in
the dative case, for prefixed to it is "lamed". It is then to
Jehovah that salvation belongs; the work of saving appertains to no
other but to the Supreme God. Since it is so, we see how absurd and
insane men are, when they transfer praises to another, as every one
does who invents an idol for himself. As, then, there is but the one
true God who saves, it behaves us to ascribe to him alone all our
praises, that we may not deprive him of his right. This is the
import of the whole. It follows -

Jonah 2:10
And the LORD spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the
dry [land].
    The deliverance of Jonah is here in few words described; but
how attentively ought we to consider the event? It was an incredible
miracle, that Jonah should have continued alive and safe in the
bowels of the fish for three days. For how was it that he was not a
thousand times smothered or drowned by waters? We know that fish
continually draw in water: Jonah could not certainly respire while
in the fish; and the life of man without breathing can hardly
continue for a minute. Jonah, then, must have been preserved beyond
the power of nature. Then how could it have been that the fish
should cast forth Jonah on the shore, except God by his unsearchable
power had drawn the fish there? Again, who could have supernaturally
opened its bowels and its mouth? His coming forth, then, was in
every way miraculous, yea, it was attended with many miracles.
    But Jonah, that he might the more extol the infinite power of
God, adopted the word "said". Hence we learn that nothing is hard to
God, for he could by a nod only effect so great a thing as surpasses
all our conceptions. If Jonah had said that he was delivered by
God's kindness and favor, it would have been much less emphatical,
than when he adopts a word which expresses a command, "And Jehovah
spake, or said, to the fish".
    But as this deliverance of Jonah is an image of the
resurrection, this is an extraordinary passage, and worthy of being
especially noticed; for the Holy Spirit carries our minds to that
power by which the world was formed and is still wonderfully
preserved. That we may then, without hesitation and doubt, be
convinced of the restoration which God promises to us, let us
remember that the world was by him created out of nothing by his
word and bidding, and is still thus sustained. But if this general
truth is not sufficient, let this history of Jonah come to our
minds, - that God commanded a fish to cast forth Jonah: for how was
it that Jonah escaped safe and was delivered? Even because it so
pleased God, because the Lord commanded; and this word at this day
retains the same efficacy. By that power then, by which he works all
things, we also shall one day be raised up from the dead. Now
follows -

Chapter 3.

Jonah 3
And the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the second time, saying,
Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the
preaching that I bid thee.
    There is here set before us a remarkable proof of God's grace,
- that he was pleased to bestow on Jonah his former dignity and
honor. He was indeed unworthy of the common light, but God not only
restored him to life, but favored him again with the office and
honor of a prophet. This, as I have said, Jonah obtained through the
wonderful and singular favor of God. As he had previously fled, and
by disobedience deprived himself in a manner of all God's favor, the
recovery of his prophetic office was certainly not obtained through
his own merit.
    It must, in the first place, be observed, that this phrase,
"The word of Jehovah came the second time", ought to be noticed; for
the word of God comes to men in different ways. God indeed addresses
each of us individually; but he spoke to his Prophets in a special
manner; for he designed them to be witnesses and heralds of his
will. Hence, whenever God sets a man in some peculiar office, his
word is said to come to him: as the word of God is addressed to
magistrates because they are commanded to exercise the power
committed to them; so also the word of God ever came to the
Prophets, because it was not lawful for them to thrust in themselves
without being called.
    The command now follows, "Arise, go to Nineveh, to that great
city, and preach there the preaching which I command thee." God
again repeats what we have observed at the be ginning, - that
Nineveh was a great city, that Jonah might provide himself with an
invincible courage of mind, and come there well prepared: for it
often happens, that many boldly undertake an office, but soon fail,
because difficulties had not been sufficiently foreseen by them.
Hence, when men find more hardships than they thought of at the
beginning, they nearly faint, at least they despond. The Lord,
therefore, expressly foretold Jonah how difficult would be his
employment; as though he said, "I send thee, a man unknown, and of
no rank, and a stranger, to denounce ruin on men, not a few in
number, but on a vast multitude, and to carry on a contest with the
noblest city, and so populous, that it may seem to be a region of
    We now then understand why this character of the city was
added; it was, that Jonah might gird up himself for the contest,
that he might not afterwards fail in the middle of his course. This
fear indeed frightened him at the beginning, so that he shunned the
call of God; but he is not now moved in any degree by the greatness
of the city, but resolutely follows where the Lord leads. We hence
see, that faith, when once it gains the ascendancy in our hearts,
surmounts all obstacles and despises all the greatness of the world;
for it is immediately added -

Jonah 3:3
So Jonah arose, and went unto Nineveh, according to the word of the
LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceeding great city of three days'

    Jonah, by saying that he went to Nineveh according to God's
command, proves in the first place, as I have said, how great was
the power and energy of his faith; for though Jonah had considered
the greatness and pride of the city, he seems to have forgotten that
he was an obscure man, alone, and unarmed; but he had laid hold on
weapons capable of destroying all the power of the world, for he
knew that he was sent from above. His conviction was, that God was
on his side; and he knew that God had called him. Hence then it was,
that with a high and intrepid mind he looked down on all the
splendor of the city Nineveh. Hence John does not without reason
say, that the victory, by which we overcome the world, proceeds from
faith, (1 John 5: 4.) Jonah also proves, at the same time, how much
he had improved under God's scourges. He had been severely
chastised; but we know that most of the unbelieving grow hardened
under the rod, and vomit forth their rage against God; Jonah, on the
contrary, shows here that chastisement had been useful to him for he
was subdued and led to obey God.
    "He went, then, according to the command of Jehovah"; that is,
nothing else did he regard but to render obedience to God, and to
suffer himself to be wholly ruled by him. We hence learn how well
God provides for us and for our salvation, when he corrects our
perverseness; though sharp may be our chastisements, yet as this
benefit follows we know that nothing is better for us than to be
humbled under God's hand, as David says in Ps. 119. This change
then, "he went", is to us a remarkable example; and this is what the
Lord has ever in view whenever he roughly handles us; for he cannot
otherwise subdue either the haughtiness or the rebellion, or the
slowness and indolence of our flesh. We must now also take notice
how Jonah attained so much strength; it was, because he had found by
experience in the bowels of the fish, that even amidst thousand
deaths there is enough in God's protection to secure our safety. As
then he had by experience known that the issues of death are at the
will and in the hand of God, he is not now touched with fear so as
to shun God's command, even were the whole world to rise up against
him. Hence the more any one has found the kindness of God, the more
courageously he ought to proceed in the discharge of his office, and
confidently to commit to God his life and his safety, and resolutely
to surmount all the perils of the world.
    He then says, "that Nineveh was a great city, even a journey of
three days". Some toil much in untying a knot, which at last is no
knot at all; for it seems to them strange that one city should be in
compass about thirty leagues according to our measure. When they
conceive this as being impossible, then they invent some means to
avoid the difficulty, - that no one could visit the whole city so as
to go through all the alleys, all the streets, and all the public
places, except in three days; nay, they add, that this is not to be
understood as though one ran or quickly passed through the city, but
as though he walked leisurely and made a stay in public places: but
these are mere puerilities. And if we believe profane writers,
Nineveh must have been a great city, as Jonah declares here: for
they say that its area was about four hundred stadia; and we know
what space four hundred stadia include. A stadium is one hundred and
twenty-five paces; hence eight stadia make a mile. Now if any one
will count he will find that there are twelve miles in a hundred
stadia; there will then be in four hundred stadia forty-eight miles.
This account well agrees with the testimony of Jonah. And then
Diodorus and Herodotus say that there were 1500 towers around the
city. Since it was so, it could not certainly be a smaller city than
what it is represented here by Jonah. Though these things may seem
to exceed what is commonly believed, writers have not yet reported
them without some foundation: for however false are found to be many
things in Diodorus and Herodotus, yet as to Babylon and Nineveh they
could not have dared to say what was untrue; for the first was then
standing and known to many; and the ruins of the other were still
existing, though it had been for some time destroyed. We shall
farther see about the end of the book that this city was large, and
so populous, that there were there 120,000 children. If any one
receives not this testimony, let him feed on the lies of the devil.
But since there were so many children there, what else can we say
but that the circumference of the city was very great?
    But this seems inconsistent with what immediately follows; for
Jonah says, that when he entered the city, he performed a journey in
the city for one day and preached. The answer is this, - that as
soon as he entered the city, and began to proclaim the command of
God, some conversions immediately followed: so Jonah does not mean
that he went through the city in one day. He then in the first day
converted a part of the city; he afterwards continued to exhort each
one to repentance: thus the conversion of the whole city followed;
but not in the second or the third day, as it may be easily
gathered. Let us now proceed to what remains -

Jonah 3:4
And Jonah began to enter into the city a day's journey, and he
cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.

    Jonah here relates what had briefly been said before, - that he
went to Nineveh according to the command of God. He shows then how
faithfully he executed the duty enjoined on him, and thus obeyed the
word of God. Hence Jonah came and began to enter the city and to
preach on the first day. This promptness proves clearly how
tractable Jonah had become, and how much he endeavored to obey God
in discharging his office: for had there been still a timidity in
his heart, he would have inspected the city, as careful and timid
men are wont to do, who inquire what is the condition of the place,
what are the dispositions of the people, and which is the easiest
access to them, and what is the best way, and where is the least
danger. If Jonah then had been still entangled by carnal thoughts he
would have waited two or three days, and then have began to exercise
his office as a Prophet. This he did not, but entered the city and I
cried. We now then see how prompt he was in his obedience, who had
before attempted to pass over the sea: he now takes hardly a moment
to breathe, but he begins at the very entrance to testify that he
had come in obedience to God.
    We hence see with what emphasis these words ought to be read.
The narrative is indeed very simple; Jonah uses here no rhetorical
ornaments, nor does he set forth his entrance with any fine display
of words. Jonah, he says, entered into the city. He who is not well
versed in Scripture might say that this is frigid: but when we weigh
the circumstances, we see that this simple way of speaking possesses
more force and power than all the displays of orators.
    He entered then the city "a day's journey, and cried and said",
&c. By saying that he cried, he again proves the courage of his
soul; for he did not creep in privately, as men are wont to do,
advancing cautiously when dangers are apprehended. He says that he
cried: then this freedom shows that Jonah was divested of all fear,
and endued with such boldness of spirit, that he raised himself up
above all the hindrances of the world. And we ought, in the
meantime, to remember how disliked must have been his message: for
he did not gently lead the Ninevites to God, but threatened them
with destruction, and seemed to have given them no hope of pardon.
Jonah might have thought that his voice, as one says, would have to
return to his own throat, "Can I denounce ruin on this populous
city, without being instantly crushed? Will not the first man that
meets me stone me to death?" Thus might Jonah have thought within
himself. No fear was, however, able to prevent him from doing his
duty as a faithful servant, for he had been evidently strengthened
by the Lord. But it will be better to join the following verse -

Jonah 3:5
So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and
put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of
    One thing, escaped me in the third verse: Jonah said that
Nineveh was a city "great to God". This form of speech is common in
Scripture: for the Hebrews call that Divine, whatever it be, that is
superior or excellent: so they say, the cedars of God, the mountains
of God, the fields of God, when they are superior in height or in
any other respect. Hence a city is called the city of God, when it
is beyond others renowned. I wished briefly to allude to this
subject, because some, with too much refinement and even puerility
says that it was called the city of God, because it was the object
of God's care, and in which he intended to exhibit a remarkable
instance of conversion. But, as I have said, this is to be taken as
the usual mode of speaking in similar cases.
    I now return to the text: Jonah says, that the citizens of
Nineveh believed God. We hence gather that the preaching of Jonah
was not so concise but that he introduced his discourse by declaring
that he was God's Prophet, and that he did not proclaim these
commands without authority; and we also gather that Jonah so
denounced ruin, that at the same time he showed God to be the
avenger of sins that he reproved the Ninevites, and, as it were,
summoned them to God's tribunal, making known to them their guilt;
for had he spoken only of punishment, it could not certainly have
been otherwise, but that the Ninevites must have rebelled furiously
against God; but by showing to them their guilt, he led them to
acknowledge that the threatened punishment was just, and thus he
prepared them for humility and penitence. Both these things may be
collected from this expression of Jonah, that the Ninevites believed
God; for were they not persuaded that the command came from heaven,
what was their faith? Let us then know, that Jonah had so spoken of
his vocation, that the Ninevites felt assured that he was a
celestial herald: hence was their faith: and further, the Ninevites
would never have so believed as to put on sackcloth, had they not
been reminded of their sins. There is, therefore, no doubt but that
Jonah, while crying against Nineveh, at the same time made known how
wickedly the men lived, and how grievous were their offenses against
God. Hence then it was that they put on sackcloth, and suppliantly
fled to God's mercy: they understood that they were deservedly
summoned to judgment on account of their wicked lives.
    But it may be asked, how came the Ninevites to believe God, as
no hope of salvation was given them? for there can be no faith
without an acquaintance with the paternal kindness of God; whosoever
regards God as angry with him must necessarily despair. Since then
Jonah gave them no knowledge of God's mercy, he must have greatly
terrified the Ninevites, and not have called them to faith. The
answer is, that the expression is to be taken as including a part
for the whole; for there is no perfect faith when men, being called
to repentance, do suppliantly humble themselves before God; but yet
it is a part of faith; for the Apostle says, in Heb. 11, that Noah
through faith feared; he deduces the fear which Noah entertained on
account of the oracular word he received, from faith, showing
thereby that it was faith in part, and pointing out the source from
which it proceeded. At the same time, the mind of the holy Patriarch
must have been moved by other things besides threatening, when he
built an ark for himself, as the means of safety. We may thus, by
taking a part for the whole, explain this, place, - that the
Ninevites believed God; for as they knew that God required the
deserved punishment, they submitted to him, and, at the same time,
solicited pardon: but the Ninevites, no doubt, derived from the
words of Jonah something more than mere terror: for had they only
apprehended this - that they were guilty before God, and were justly
summoned to punishment, they would have been confounded and stunned
with dread, and could never have been encouraged to seek
forgiveness. Inasmuch then as they suppliantly prostrated themselves
before God, they must certainly have conceived some hope of grace.
They were not, therefore, so touched with penitence and the fear of
God, but that they had some knowledge of divine grace: thus they
believed God; for though they were aware that they were most worthy
of death, they yet despaired not, but retook themselves to prayer.
Since then we see that the Ninevites sought this, remedy, we must
feel assured that they derived more advantage from the preaching of
Jonah than the mere knowledge that they were guilty before God: this
ought certainly to be understood. But we shall speak more on the
subject in our next lecture.
Grant, Almighty God, that as there is so much timidity in us, that
none of us is prepared to follow where thou mayest call us, we may
be so instructed by the example of thy servant Jonah, as to obey
thee in every thing, and that though Satan and the world may oppose
us with all their terrors, we may yet be strengthened by a reliance
on thy power and protection, which thou hast promised to us, and may
go on in the course of our vocation, and never turn aside, but thus
contend against all the hindrances of this world, until we reach
that celestial kingdom, where we shall enjoy thee and Christ thy
only begotten Son, who is our strength and our salvation: and may
thy Spirit quicken us, and strengthen all our faculties, that we may
obey thee, and that at length thy name may be glorified in us, and
that we may finally become partakers of that glory to which thou
invites us through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Lecture Seventy-eighth

Jonah 3:6-8
6 For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his
throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered [him] with
sackcloth, and sat in ashes.
7 And he caused [it] to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh
by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man
nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor
drink water:
8 But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily
unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from
the violence that [is] in their hands.
    It is uncertain whether Jonah had preached for some days in the
city before it was known to the king. This is indeed the common
opinion; for interpreters so expound the verse, which says that word
was brought to the king, as though the king himself knew, that the
whole city was in commotion through the preaching of Jonah: but the
words admit of a different sense, that is that the preaching of
Jonah immediately reached the king; and I am disposed to take this
view, as Jonah seems here to explain how the Ninevites were led to
put on sackcloth. He had before spoken briefly on the subject, but
he now explains what took place more fully; and we know that it was
commonly the manner of the Hebrews - to relate the chief points in
few words, and then to add an explanation. As then Jonah had said in
the last verse that the Ninevites had put on sackcloth, and
proclaimed a fast, so he now seems to express more distinctly how
this happened, that is, through the royal edict. And it is by no
means probable that a fast was proclaimed in the royal city by the
mere consent of the people, as the king and his counselors were
there present. Inasmuch then as it appears more reasonable that the
edict respecting the fast had proceeded from the king, I am
therefore inclined so to connect the two verses, as that the first
briefly mentions the fruit which followed the preaching of Jonah,
and that the second is added as an explanation, for it gives a
fuller account of what took place.
    Jonah then now says, that a fast was proclaimed by the
Ninevites, for the king and his council had so appointed: and I
regard the verb "wayiga'" as being in the pluperfect tense, "When
word had come to the king"; for Jonah now states the reason why the
Ninevites proclaimed a fast; it was because the king had been
apprised of the preaching of Jonah, and had called together his
counselors. It was then a public edict, and not any movement among
the people, capriciously made, as it sometimes happens. He says,
that it was an edict published by the authority of the king and his
council, or his nobles. At the same time, some take "ta'am", as
meaning reason or approbation. "Ta'am" means to taste, and Jonah
afterwards uses the verb in this sense; but it is to be taken here
in a metaphorical sense for counsel; And I think this meaning is
more suitable to this passage. I come now to the subject.
    It is worthy of being noticed, that the king of so splendid a
city, nay, at that time the greatest monarch, should have rendered
himself so submissive to the exhortation of Jonah: for we see how
proud kings are; as they think themselves exempt from the common lot
of men, so they carry themselves above all laws. Hence it comes,
that they will have all things to be lawful for them; and while they
give loose reins to their lusts they cannot bear to be admonished,
even by their equals. But Jonah was a stranger and of a humble
condition: that he therefore so touched the heart of the king, must
be ascribed to the hidden power of God, which he puts forth through
his word whenever he pleases. God does not indeed work alike by the
preaching of his word, he does not always keep to the same course;
but, when he pleases, he so efficaciously touches the hearts of men,
that the success of his word exceeds all expectation, as in the
memorable example presented to us here. Who could have said that a
heathen king, who had ever lived according to his own will, who had
no feeling as to true and genuine religion, would have been thus in
an instant subdued? For he put aside his royal dress, laid himself
in the dust, and clothed himself in sackcloth. We hence see that God
not only spoke by the mouth of Jonah, but added power to his word.
    We must also bear in mind what Christ says, that the men of
Nineveh would rise up in judgment against that generation, as they
had repented at the preaching of Jonah; and "Behold," he said, "a
greater than Jonah is here," (Matth. 12: 41.) Christ, at this day,
proclaims the voice of his Gospel; for though he is not here in a
visible form among us, he yet speaks by his ministers. If we despise
his doctrine, how can our obstinacy and hardness be excused, since
the Ninevites, who had no knowledge of the true doctrine of
religion, who were imbued with no religious principles, were so
suddenly converted by the preaching of Jonah? And that their
repentance was sincere we may conclude from this circumstance - that
the preaching of Jonah was severe, for he denounced destruction on a
most powerful city; this might have instantly inflamed the king's
mind with rage and fury; and that he was calmly humbled, was
certainly a proof of no common change. We have then here a
remarkable instance of penitence, - that the king should have so
forgotten himself and his dignity, as to throw aside his splendid
dress, to put on sackcloth, and to lie down on ashes.
    But as to fasting and sackcloth, it is very true, as we have
observed in our remarks on Joel, that repentance consists not in
these external things: for God cares not for outward rites, and all
those things which are resplendent in the sight of men are worthless
before him; what indeed he requires, is sincerity of heart. Hence
what Jonah here says of fasting, and other outward performances,
ought to be referred to their legitimate end, - that the Ninevites
intended thus to show that they were justly summoned as guilty
before God's tribunal, and also, that they humbly deprecated the
wrath of their judge. Fasting then and sackcloth were only an
external profession of repentance. Were any one to fast all his
life, and to put on sackcloth, and to scatter dust on himself, and
not to connect with all this a sincerity of heart, he would do
nothing but mock God. Hence these outward performances are, in
themselves, of small or of no value, except when preceded by an
interior feeling of heart, and men be on this account led to
manifest such outward evidences. Whenever then Scripture mentions
fasting, and ashes, and sackcloth, we must bear in mind that these
things are set before us as the outward signs of repentance which
when not genuine do nothing else but provoke the wrath of God; but
when true, they are approved of God on account of the end in view,
and not that they avail, of themselves, to pacify his wrath, or to
expiate sins.
    If now any one asks whether penitence is always to be
accompanied with fasting, ashes, and sackcloth, the answer is at
hand, - that the faithful ought through their whole life to repent:
for except everyone of us continually strives to renounce himself
and his former life, he has not yet learned what it is to serve God;
for we must ever contend with the flesh. But though there is a
continual exercise of repentance, yet fasting is not required of us
always. It then follows that fasting is a public and solemn
testimony of repentance, when there appears to be some extraordinary
evidence of God's wrath. Thus have we seen that the Jews were by
Joel called to lie in ashes, and to put on sackcloth because God had
come forth, as it were, armed against them; and all the Prophets had
declared that destruction was nigh the people. In the same manner
the Ninevites, when terrified by this dreadful edict, put on
sackcloth proclaimed a fasts because this was usually done in
extremities. We now then perceive why the king, having himself put
on sackcloth, enjoined on the whole people both fasting and other
tokens of repentance.
    But it seems strange, and even ridiculous, that the king should
bid animals, as well as men, to make a confession of repentance; for
penitence is a change in man, when he returns to God after having
been alienated from him: this cannot comport with the character of
brute animals. Then the king of Nineveh acted foolishly and contrary
to all reason in connecting animals with men when he spoke of
repentance. But, in answer to this, we must bear in mind what I have
before said - that destruction had been denounced, not only on men,
but also on the whole city, even on the buildings: for as God
created the whole world for the sake of men, so also his wrath, when
excited against men, includes the beasts, and trees, and every thing
in heaven and on earth. But the question is not yet solved; for
though God may punish animals on account of men's sins, yet neither
oxen nor sheep can pacify the wrath of God. To this I answer - that
this was done for the sake of men: for it would have been ridiculous
in the king to prohibit food and drink to animals, except he had a
regard to men themselves. But his object was to set before the
Ninevites, as in a mirror or picture, what they deserved. The same
was done under the law; for, whenever they slew victims, they were
reminded of their own sins; for it ought to have come to their
minds, that the sheep or any other animal sacrificed was innocent,
and that it stood at the altar in his stead who had sinned. They
therefore saw in the ox, or the lamb, or the goat, a striking emblem
of their own condemnation. So also the Ninevites, when they
constrained the oxen, the assess and other animals, to fast, were
reminded of what grievous and severe punishment they were worthy:
inasmuch as innocent animals suffered punishment together with them.
We hence see that no expiation was sought for by the king, when he
enjoined a fast on brute animals, but that, on the contrary, men
were roused by such means seriously to acknowledge the wrath of God,
and to entertain greater fear, that they might be more truly humbled
before him, and be displeased with themselves, and be thus more
disposed and better prepared and moulded to seek pardon.
    We now then see that this must be considered as intended to
terrify the consciences of men, that they, who had long flattered
themselves, might by such a remedy be roused from their
insensibility. The same was the intention of different washings
under the law, the cleansing of garments and of vessels; it was,
that the people might know that every thing they touched was
polluted by their filth. And this ought to be especially observed;
for the Papists, wedded as they are to external rites, lay hold on
anything said in Scripture about fasting, and ashes, and sackcloth,
and think that the whole of religion consists in these outward
observances: but bodily exercise, as Paul says, profiteth but
littler (1 Tim. 4: 8.) Therefore this rule ought ever to be our
guide - that fasting and such things are in themselves of no value,
but must be estimated only by the end in view. So then, when the
animals were constrained by the Ninevites to suffer want, the men
themselves, being reminded of their guilt, learned what it was to
dread God's wrath; and on this account it was that fasting was
approved by God.
    Now, if any one objects and says that nothing ought to be done
in the worship of God beyond what his word warrants, the answer is -
that the king of Nineveh had not appointed any kind of expiation,
neither did he intend that they should thus worship God, but
regarded only the end which I have mentioned; and that end fully
harmonizes with the word of God and his command. Hence the king of
Nineveh attempted nothing that was inconsistent with the word of
God, since he had in every thing this in view - that he and his
people might go humbly before God's tribunal, and with real
penitential feelings solicit his forgiveness. This then is an answer
sufficiently plain.
    When therefore Jonah afterwards subjoins, that the king
commanded both the people and the beasts to put on sackcloth, let us
know, that if any one now were to take this as an example, he would
be nothing else but a mountebank; for this reason ought ever to be
remembered, - that the king sought aids by which he might lead
himself and his people to true repentance. But the disposition of
man is prone to imitate what is evil: for we are all very like apes;
we ought therefore always to consider by what spirit those were
actuated whom we wish to imitate, lest we should be contented with
the outward form and neglect the main things.
    Jonah afterwards adds, "And they cried mightily to God". This
must be confined to men; for it could not have been applied to brute
animals. Men then, as well as the beasts, abstained from meat and
drink, and they cried to God. This crying could not have proceeded
except from fear and a religious feeling: hence, as I have said,
this cannot be applied indiscriminately to the beasts as well as to
men. But it deserves to be noticed, that the king of Nineveh
commanded the people to cry mightily to God; for we hence learn that
they were really frightened, inasmuch as he speaks not here of
ordinary crying, but he adds mightily, as when we say, with all our
power, or as we say in French, A force, or, fort et ferme. Jonah
then expresses something uncommon and extraordinary, when he tells
us that it was contained in the king's edict, that men should cry
mightily to God; for it was the same as though he said, "Let all men
now awake and shake off their indifference; for every one of us have
hitherto greatly indulged ourselves in our vices: it is now time
that fear should possess our minds, and also constrain us to
deprecate the wrath of God." And it is also worthy of being
observed, that the king proposes no other remedy, but that the
people should have recourse to prayer. It might indeed have been,
that Jonah exhorted the Ninevites to resort to this duty of
religion, &c. We may, however, undeniably conclude that it is a
feeling implanted in us by nature, that when we are pressed by
adversities, we implore the favor of God. This then is the only
remedy in afflictions and distresses, to pray to God. But when we,
taught by the Law and by the Gospel, use not this remedy, whenever
God warns us and exhorts us to repentance, what shadow of excuse can
we have, since heathens, even those who understood not a syllable of
true religion, yet prayed to God, and the king himself commanded
this with the consent of his nobles? Hence this edict of the king
ought to fill us with more shame than if one adduced the same
doctrine only from the word of God: for though the authority of that
king is not the same with that of God, yet when that miserable and
blind prince acknowledged through the dictates of nature, that God
is to be pacified by prayer, what excuse, as I have said, can remain
for us?
    But Jonah shows more clearly afterwards, that it was no feigned
repentance when the Ninevites put on sackcloth, and abstained also
from meat and drink; for it follows in the kings edict, "And let
every one turn from his own wicked ways and from the plunder which
is in their hands. Here the heathen king shows for what purpose and
with what design he had given orders respecting fasting and other
things; it was done that the Ninevites might thus more effectually
stimulate themselves to fear God; for he here exhorts them to turn
from their evil way. By "way" the Scripture usually means the whole
course or manner of man's life; it was as though he said, "Let every
one of you change his disposition and his conduct; let us all become
new creatures." And this is true penitence, the conversion of man to
God; and this the heathen king meant. The more shameful then is
their dullness who seek to pacify God by frivolous devices, as the
Papists do; for while they obtrude on God trifles, I know not what,
they think that these are so many expiations, and they tenaciously
contend for them. They need no other judge than this heathen king,
who shows that true penitence is wholly different, that it then only
takes place when men become changed in mind and heart, and wholly
turn to a better course of life.
    "Let every one then turn, he says, from his evil way, and from
the plunder which is in their hand". One kind of evil is here
subjoined, a part being stated for the whole, for plunders were not
the only things which stood in need of amendment among the
Ninevites, as it is probable that they were polluted by other vices
and corruptions. In a city so large, drunkenness probably prevailed,
as well as luxury, and pride, and ambition, and also lusts. It
cannot indeed be doubted, but that Nineveh was filled with
innumerable vices: but the king, by mentioning a part for the whole,
points out here the principal vice, when he says, Let every one turn
from his evil way, and from his rapacity. It was the same as though
he had said that the principal virtue is equity or justice, that is,
when men deal with one another without doing any hurt or injury: and
well would it be were this doctrine to prevail at this day among all
those who falsely assume the Christian name. For the Papists, though
they accumulate expiations, pass by charity; and in the whole course
of life equity has hardly any place. Let them then learn, from the
mouth of a heathen king, what God principally requires from men, and
approves of in their life, even to abstain from plunder and from the
doing of any injury. We now then perceive why rapacity was
especially mentioned. But we must bear in mind that the king, as yet
a novice, and hardly in a slight degree imbued with the elements of
religion, through hearing what Jonah preached, gave orders to his
people according to the measure of his faith and knowledge: but if
he made such progress in so short a time, what excuse can we
pretend, whose ears have been stunned by continual preaching for
twenty or thirty years, if we yet come short of the novitiate of
this king? These circumstances ought then to be carefully observed
by us. Let us now proceed -

Jonah 3:9
Who can tell [if] God will turn and repent, and turn away from his
fierce anger, that we perish not?
    The mind and design of the king are here more distinctly
stated, - that he thus endeavored to reconcile himself and the
people to God. Some give a rendering somewhat different, "He who
knows will turn and be led by penitence," &c.; they read not
interrogatively; but this rendering cannot stand. There is in the
meaning of the Prophet nothing ambiguous, for he introduces the king
here as expressing a doubt, Who knows whether God will be reconciled
to us? We hence see that the king was not overwhelmed with despair
for he still thought of a remedy; and this is the purport of the
    But this may seem contrary to the nature of faith; and then if
it be opposed to faith, it follows that it must be inconsistent with
repentance; for faith and repentance are connected together, as we
have observed in other places; as no one can willingly submit to
God, except he has previously known his goodness, and entertained a
hope of salvation; for he who is touched only with fear avoids God's
presence; and then despair prevails, and perverseness follows. How
then was it that the king of Nineveh had seriously and
undissemblingly repented, while yet he spoke doubtfully of the favor
of God? To this I answer, that it was a measure of doubt, which was
yet connected with faith, even that which does not directly reject
the promise of God, but has other hindrances: as for instance, when
any ones cast down with fear, afterwards receives courage from the
hope of pardon and salvation set before him, he is not yet
immediately freed from all fear; for as long as he looks on his
sins, and is entangled by various thoughts, he vacillates, he
fluctuates. There is, therefore, no doubt but that the king of
Nineveh entertained hope of deliverance; but at the same time his
mind was perplexed, both on account of the sermon of Jonah and on
account of the consciousness of his own sins: there were then two
obstacles, which deprived the king's mind of certainty, or at least
prevented him from apprehending immediately the mercy of God, and
from perceiving with a calm mind that God would be gracious to him.
The first obstacle was the awful message, - that Nineveh would be
destroyed in forty days. For though Jonah, as we have said, might
have added something more, yet the denunciation was distinct and
express, and tended to cast down the minds of all. The king then had
to struggle, in order to overcome this obstacle, and to resist this
declaration of Jonah as far as it was found to be without any
comfort. And then the king, while considering his own sins, could
not but vacillate for some time. But yet we see that he strove to
emerge, though he had these obstacles before his eyes, for he says,
Who knows whether God will turn from the fury of his wrath, and
repent? We hence see that the king was in a hard struggle; for
though Jonah seemed to have closed the door and to shut out the king
from any hope of deliverance, and though his own conscience held him
fast bound, he yet perseveres and encourages himself; in short, he
aspires to the hope of pardon.
    And it must be further noticed, that this form of expression
expresses a difficulty rather than a mistrust. The king then here
asks, as it were doubtingly, "Who knows whether God will turn?" for
it was a difficult thing to be believed, that God, after a long
forbearance, would spare the wicked city. Hence the king expresses
it as a difficulty; and such an interrogation was no proof of the
absence of faith. A similar expression is found in Joel, "Who
knows," &c.? We then stated several things in explaining that
passage: but it is enough here briefly to state, that the king here
does not betray a mistrust, but sets forth a difficulty. And it was
an evidence of humility that he acknowledged himself and his people
to be sunk as it were, in the lowest hell, and yet ceased not to
entertain some hope: for it is a strong proof of hope, when we still
entertain it, though this be contrary to the whole order of nature,
and wholly inconsistent with human reason. We now then see the
meaning of the words. Of the repentance of God we shall speak
hereafter, either to-morrow or the day after.
    "Lest we perish", he says. We see how a heathen king thought of
redeeming himself from destruction' it was by having God pacified.
As soon then as any danger threatens us, let us bear this in mind,
that no deliverance can be found except the Lord receives us into
favor; such was the conviction of the king of Nineveh, for he
concluded that all things would be well as soon as God should be
propitious. We hence see how much this new and untrained disciple
had improved; for he understood that men cannot escape miseries
until God be pacified towards them, and that when men return into
favor with him, though they ought to have perished a hundred times
before, they yet shall be delivered and made safe; for the grace or
the favor of God is the fountain of life and salvation, and of all
blessings. It afterwards follows -

Jonah 3:10
And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and
God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto
them; and he did [it] not.
    Jonah now says, that the Ninevites obtained pardon through
their repentance: and this is an example worthy of being observed;
for we hence learn for what purpose God daily urges us to
repentance, and that is, because he desires to be reconciled to us,
and that we should be reconciled to him. The reason then why so many
reproofs and threatening resound in our ears, whenever we come to
hear the word of God, is this, - that as God seeks to recover us
from destruction he speaks sharply to us: in short, whatever the
Scripture contains on repentance and the judgment of God ought to be
wholly applied for this purpose - to induce us to return into favor
with him; for he is ready to be reconciled, and is ever prepared to
embrace those who without dissimulation turn to him. We then
understand by this example that God has no other object in view,
whenever he sharply constrains us, than that he may be reconciled to
us, provided only we be our own judges, and thus anticipate his
wrath by genuine sorrow of heart, provided we solicit the pardon of
our guilt and sin, and loathe ourselves, and confess that we are
worthy of perdition.
    But Jonah seems to ascribe their deliverance to their
repentance, and also to their works: for he says that the Ninevites
obtained pardon, because God looked on their works.
    We must first see what works he means, that no one may snatch
at a single word, as hypocrites are wont to do; and this, as we have
said, is very commonly the case under the Papacy. God had respect to
their works - what works? not sackcloth, not ashes, not fasting; for
Jonah does not now mention these; but he had respect to their works
- because they turned from their evil way. We hence see that God was
not pacified by outward rites only, by the external profession of
repentance, but that he rather looked on the true and important
change which had taken place in the Ninevites, for they had become
renewed. These then were their works, even the fruits of repentance.
And such a change of life could not have taken place, had not the
Ninevites been really moved by a sense of God's wrath. The fear of
God then had preceded; and this fear could not have been without
faith. We hence see that he chiefly speaks here not of external
works, but of the renovation of men.
    But if any one objects and says that still this view does not
prevent us from thinking that good works reconcile us to God, and
that they thus procure our salvation: to this I answer - that the
question here is not about the procuring cause of forgiveness. It is
certain that God was freely pacified towards the Ninevites, as he
freely restores his favor daily to us. Jonah then did not mean that
satisfactions availed before God, as though the Ninevites made
compensations for their former sins. The words mean no such thing;
but he shows it as a fact which followed, that God was pacified,
because the Ninevites repented. But we are to learn from other parts
of Scripture how God becomes gracious to us, and how we obtain
pardon with him, and whether this comes to us for our merits and
repentance or whether God himself forgives us freely. Since the
whole Scripture testifies that pardon is gratuitously given us, and
that God cannot be otherwise propitious to us than by not imputing
sins, there is no need, with regard to the present passage,
anxiously to inquire why God looked on the works of the Ninevites,
so as not to destroy them: for this is said merely as a consequence.
Jonah then does not here point out the cause, but only declares that
God was pacified towards the Ninevites, as soon as they repented.
But we shall speak more on this subject.
Grant, Almighty God, that as we are loaded with so many vices, and
so many sins, yea, and scandalous crimes break out daily among us, -
O grant, that we may not be hardened against so many exhortations,
by which thou invites us to thyself, but that being made contrite in
spirit, whenever thou denounces on us thy wrath, we may be really
humbled, and so place ourselves before thy tribunal, that we may, by
a true confession and genuine fear, anticipate the judgment which
would otherwise have been prepared for us; and that in the meantime
relying on Christ our Mediator, we may entertain such a hope of
pardon as may raise us up to thee, and not doubt but that thou art
ready to embrace us, when we shall be moved by a true and real
feeling of fear and penitence, since it is a proof of thy favor,
when thou art pleased to anticipate us, and by thy Spirit testifies
that thou art a Father to us; and, in a word, may we be so cast down
in ourselves, as to raise up our hope even to heaven, through Jesus
Christ one Lord. Amen.

Lecture Seventy-ninth.

    We stated yesterday how God remitted to the Ninevites the
punishment which he had threatened by the mouth of Jonah, and that
the remission both of the punishment and of the guilt was
gratuitous. For whenever God sets forth pardon to sinners, the
condition of repentance is at the same time added: it does not yet
follow that repentance is the procuring cause of obtaining pardon;
for God offers it freely, nor is he otherwise induced than by his
own mere bounty. But as he would not have men to abuse his
indulgence and forbearance, he lays down this condition, - that they
must repent of their former life and change for the better. So then
he regards the works of those who testify that they hate sin, and
who, with a sincere and real desire, flee to His mercy; and no man
from the heart desires God to be propitious to him, but he who
loathes himself on account of his sin. This is the reason why Isaiah
also says, that God would be merciful to the remnants of his people,
even because every one would turn away from his iniquity. God does
not certainly mean by these words that repentance, as already
stated, is the cause of our salvation; but he requires a change for
the better, for no one will really seek grace, except he loathes
himself on account of his sins.
    Now as to what Jonah adds, that God was led to repent, it is a
mode of speaking that ought to be sufficiently known to us. Strictly
speaking, no repentance can belong to God: and it ought not to be
ascribed to his secret and hidden counsel. God then is in himself
ever the same, and consistent with himself; but he is said to
repent, when a regard is had to the comprehension of men: for as we
conceive God to be angry, whenever he summons us to his tribunal,
and shows to us our sins; so also we conceive him to be placable,
when he offers the hope of pardon. But it is according to our
perceptions that there is any change, when God forgets his wrath, as
though he had put on a new character. As then we cannot otherwise be
terrified, that we may be humbled before God and repent, except he
sets forth before us his wrath, the Scripture accommodates itself to
the grossness of our understanding. But, on the other hand, we
cannot confidently call on God, unless we feel assured that he is
placable. We hence see that some kind of change appears to us,
whenever God either threatens or gives hope of pardon and
reconciliation: and to this must be referred this mode of speaking
which Jonah adopts, when he says that God repented.
    We hence see that there is a twofold view of God, - as he sets
himself forth in his word, - and as he is as to his hidden counsel.
With regard to his secret counsel, I have already said that God is
always like himself, and is subject to none of our feelings: but
with regard to the teaching of his word, it is accommodated to our
capacities. God is now angry with us, and then, as though he were
pacified, he offers pardon, and is propitious to us. Such is the
repentance of God.
    Let us then remember that it proceeds from his word, that God
is said to repent; for the Ninevites could form no other opinion but
that it was God's decree that they were to be destroyed, - how so?
because he had so testified by his word. But when they rose up to an
assurance of deliverance, they then found that a change had taken
place, that is, according to the knowledge of their own faith: and
the feelings both of fear and of joy proceeded from the word: for
when God denounced his wrath, it was necessary for the wretched men
to be terrified; but when he invited them to a state of safety by
proposing reconciliation to them, he then put on a new character;
and thus they ascribed a new feeling to God. This is the meaning.
Let us now proceed -

Chapter 4.

Jonah 4:1
But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry.
    Jerome commends this grief of Jonah, and compares it to the
holy zeal of Paul when he wished himself to be an anathema for his
brethren, (Rom. 9: 3:) for he denies that he grieved because God had
showed mercy to so illustrious a city; but because the conversion of
the Gentiles was a certain presage of the destruction of the chosen
people. As then Jonah perceived as in a mirror the near ruin of
Israel, he on this account grieved, if we believe Jerome: but this
notion is extremely frivolous; for, immediately after, God reproved
Jonah. What then will the foolish and puerile apology of Jerome
avail the Prophet, since God has declared that he acted perversely
in grieving? Nay, the dullness of Jerome is thus become evident;
(thus indeed do I speak of a man, who, though learned and laborious,
has yet deprived himself of that praise, which otherwise he might
have justly earned.) His wayward disposition everywhere betrayed
itself; and he is evidently disproved in this very context, where
Jonah shows clearly that the cause of his grief was another, even
this, - that he was unwilling to be deemed a false or a lying
prophet: hence was his great grief and his bitterness. And this we
see, had God not expressed his mind, was unjust and inconsistent
with every reason.
    We may then conclude that Jonah was influenced by false zeal
when he could not with resignation bear that the city of Nineveh
should have been delivered from destruction: and he also himself
amplifies the greatness of his sin. He might have said, in one word,
that it displeased Jonah; but not satisfied with this simple form,
he adds, that he felt great displeasure or grief; and he afterwards
adds, that he was very angry. Though the beginning may not have been
wrong, yet excess was sinful. But he confesses that there was
excess, and want of moderation in his grief: since then he accuses
himself in plain words what good is it, by false and invented
pretenses, to cover what we clearly see cannot be excused? But that
it may be more evident why the deliverance of the city of Nineveh
displeased Jonah, let us go on with the context -

Jonah 4:2
And he prayed unto the LORD, and said, I pray thee, O LORD, [was]
not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled
before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou [art] a gracious God, and
merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee
of the evil.
    It seems by no means befitting that Jonah should have said here
that he prayed; for prayer ought to be calm; but he confesses that
his mind was in a state of excitement. As then anger was burning
within the Prophet, how could he come before God and utter a
suitable prayer? And further, what is the end of praying, but to
confess that whatever good is to be obtained resides in God, and is
to be sought humbly from him? But Jonah here, on the contrary,
expostulates and clamors against God; for he seems in a manner to be
contending that he had a just reason for his flight, and also that
God ought not to have pardoned the Ninevites. He then accuses God,
that he might free himself from every blame. But all this is foreign
and remote from what is required in prayer. How then must we
understand this passage, in which he says that he prayed? My answer
is - that the faithful often in a disturbed state of mind approach
God with a desire to pray, and that their prayers are not wholly
rejected, though they are not altogether approved and accepted. And
hence also it appears more evident how the works of the godly are
regarded by God, though they are sprinkled with many stains.
Whenever the Papists read that any work has pleased God, they
imagine that all was perfection and cleanness: but there is no work
which is not infected with some pollution, unless it be purified by
a free pardon. This I say is evident to us in this prayer, which was
not so rejected by God, as though it retained not the character of
prayer: and yet it is certain that Jonah was by no means rightly
influenced when he prayed so clamorously, finding fault, as it were,
with God, and retaining still some portion of his own obstinacy; for
he boasted of his flight. But this flight, as we have stated, was a
proof of manifest rebellion, since, by shaking off the yoke, he
despised the call of God.
    We must therefore acknowledge that there was some piety in this
prayer of Jonah, as well as many faults. It was an act of piety that
he addressed his complaints to God. For though hypocrites may pray
to God, they yet are wholly averse to him, and freely give vent to
their bitterness against God: but Jonah, while he here complains,
and observes no moderation, but is carried away by a blind and
perverse impulse, is yet prepared to submit to God, as we shall
hereafter see. This is the reason why he says that he prayed: for he
would not have been ashamed to confess any grievous sin of which he
might have been conscious. He did not then extenuate his fault by
using the word prayer as hypocrites are wont to do, who ever set up
some pretenses or veils when they seek to cover their own baseness:
such was not the object of Jonah. When therefore he says that he
prayed, he declares generally that he did not so speak against God,
but that he still retained some seed of piety and obedience in his
heart. Jonah then prayed. Hence it follows, as I have before stated,
that many of the prayers of the saints are sinful, which, when tried
by the right rule, deserve to be rejected. But the Lord, according
to his own mercy, pardons their defects so that these confused and
turbulent prayers yet retain their title and honor.
    Now he says, "I pray thee, Jehovah is not this what I said?"
Here Jonah openly declares why he bore so ill the deliverance of
Nineveh from destruction, because he was thus found to have been
false and lying. But it may seem strange that the Prophet had more
regard for his own reputation than for the glory of God; for in this
especially shines forth the glory of God, that he is reconcilable as
soon as men return to the right way, and that he offers himself to
them as a father. Ought then Jonah to have preferred his own honor
to the glory of God? I answer, - that the Prophet was not so devoted
to himself, but that a concern for the glory of God held the first
place in his soul; this is certain. For he connected, and justly so,
his own ministry with the glory of God; as it proceeded from his
authority. When Jonah entered Nineveh, he cried not as a private
man, but avowed that he was sent by God. Now if the preaching of
Jonah is found to be false, reproach will recoil on the author of
his call, even on God. Jonah then no doubt could not bear that the
name of God should be exposed to the reproaches of the Gentiles, as
though he had spoken dissemblingly, now opening hell, then heaven:
and there is nothing so contrary to the glory of God as such a
dissimulation. We hence see why Jonah was seized with so much grief;
he did not regard himself; but as he saw that an occasion would be
given to ungodly blasphemers, if God changed his purpose, or if he
did not appear consistent with his word, he felt much grieved.
    But however specious this reason may be, we yet learn of how
much avail are good intentions with God. Whatever good intention can
be imagined, it was certainly a good intention in Jonah, worthy of
some praise, that he preferred dying a hundred times rather than to
hear these reproachful blasphemies - that the word of God was a mere
sport, that his threatening were no better than fables, that God
made this and that pretence, and transformed himself into various
characters. This was certainly the very best intention, if it be
estimated by our judgment. But we shall presently see that it was
condemned by the mouth of God himself. Let us hence learn not to
arrogate to ourselves judgment in matters which exceed our
capacities, but to subject our minds to God, and to seek of him the
spirit of wisdom. For whence was it that Jonah so fretted against
God, except that he burned with a desire for his glory? But his zeal
was inconsiderate, for he would be himself the judge and arbitrator,
while, on the contrary, he ought to have subjected himself
altogether to God. And the same rule ought to be observed also by
us. When we see many things happening through a Divine
interposition, that is, through the secret providence of God, and
things which expose his name to the blasphemies of the ungodly, we
ought indeed to feel grief; but in the meantime let us ask of the
Lord to turn at length these shameful reproaches to his own glory;
and let us by no means raise an uproar, as many do, who immediately
begin to contend with God, when things are otherwise ordered than
what they wish or think to be useful. Let us learn by the example of
Jonah not to measure God's judgments by our own wisdom, but to wait
until he turns darkness into light. And at the same time let us
learn to obey his commands, to follow his call without any
disputing: though heaven and earth oppose us, though many things
occur which may tend to avert us from the right course, let us yet
continue in this resolution, - that nothing is better for us than to
obey God, and to go on in the way which he points out to us.
    But by saying that he "hastened to go to Tarshish", he does not
altogether excuse his flight; but he now more clearly explains, that
he did not shun trouble or labour, that he did not run away from a
contest or danger, but that he only avoided his call, because he
felt a concern for the glory of God. The import, then, of Jonah's
words is, - that he makes God here, as it were, his witness and
judge, that he did not withdraw himself from obedience to God
through fear of danger, or through idleness, or through a rebellious
spirit, or through any other evil motive, but only because he was
unwilling that his holy name should be profaned, and would not of
his own accord be the minister of that preaching, which would be the
occasion of opening the mouth of ungodly and profane men, and of
making them to laugh at God himself. "Since then I cannot hope," he
says, "for any other issue to my preaching than to make the Gentiles
to deride God, yea, and to revile his holy name, as though he were
false and deceitful, I chose rather to flee to Tarshish." Then Jonah
does not here altogether clear himself; for otherwise that
chastisement, by which he ought to have been thoroughly subdued,
must have failed in its effect. He had been lately restored from the
deep, and shall we say that he now so extols himself against God,
that he wishes to appear wholly free from every blame? This
certainly would be very strange: but, as I have said, he declares to
God, that he fled at the beginning for no other reason, but because
he did not expect any good fruit from his preaching, but, on the
contrary, feared what now seemed to take place, - that God's name
would be ridiculed.
    For he immediately adds, "For I know that thou art a God full
of grace, and merciful, slow to wrath", &c. It is a wonder that
Jonah withdrew from his lawful call; for he knew that God was
merciful, and there is no stronger stimulant than this to stir us
on, when God is pleased to use our labour: and we know that no one
can with alacrity render service to God except he be allured by his
paternal kindness. Hence no one will be a willing Prophet or
Teacher, except he is persuaded that God is merciful. Jonah then
seems here to reason very absurdly when he says, that he withdrew
himself from his office, because he knew that God was merciful. But
how did he know this? By the law of God; for the passage is taken
from Exod. 33, where is described that remarkable and memorable
vision, in which God offered to Moses a view of himself: and there
was then exhibited to the holy Prophet, as it were, a living
representation of God, and there is no passage in the law which
expresses God's nature more to the life; for God was then pleased to
make himself known in a familiar way to his servant.
    As then Jonah had been instructed in the doctrine of the law,
how could he discharge the office of a Prophet among his own people?
And why did not this knowledge discourage his mind, when he was
called to the office of a Teacher? It is then certain that this
ought to be confined to the sort of preaching, such as we have
before explained. Jonah would not have shrunk from God's command,
had he been sent to the Ninevites to teach what he had been ordered
to do among the chosen people. Had then a message been committed to
Jonah, to set forth a gracious and merciful God to the Ninevites, he
would not have hesitated a moment to offer his service. But as this
express threatening, "Nineveh shall be destroyed," was given him in
charge, he became confounded, and sought at length to flee away
rather than to execute such a command. Why so? Because he thus
reasoned with himself, "I am to denounce a near ruin on the
Ninevites; why does God command me to do this, except to invite
these wretched men to repentance? Now if they repent, will not God
be instantly ready to forgive them? He would otherwise deny his own
nature: God cannot be unlike himself, he cannot put off that
disposition of which he has once testified to Moses. Since God,
then, is reconcilable, if the Ninevites will return to the right way
and flee to him, he will instantly embrace them: thus I shall be
found to be false in my preaching."
    We now then perceive how this passage of Jonah is to be
understood, when he says that he fled beyond the sea, at least that
he attempted to do so, because he knew that God was gracious; for he
would not have deprived God of his service, had not this contrariety
disturbed and discouraged his mind, "What! I shall go there as God's
ambassador, in a short time I shall be discovered to be a liar: will
not this reproach be cast on the name of God himself? It is
therefore better for me to be silent, than that God, the founder of
my call, should be ridiculed." We see that Jonah had a distinct
regard to that sort of preaching which we have already referred to.
And it hence appears that Jonah gave to the Ninevites more than he
thought; for he supposed that he was sent by God, only that the
Ninevites might know that they were to be destroyed: but he brought
deliverance to them; and this indeed he partly suspected or knew
before; for he retained this truth - that God cannot divest himself
of his mercy, for he remains ever the same. But when he went forth
to execute the duty enjoined on him he certainly had nothing to
expect but the entire ruin of the city Nineveh. God in the meantime
employed his ministry for a better end and purpose. There is indeed
no doubt but that he exhorted the Ninevites to repentance; but his
own heart was as it were closed up, so that he could not allow them
the mercy of God. We hence see that Jonah was seized with
perplexities, so that he could not offer deliverance to the
Ninevites, and it was yet offered them by God through his
    We now then understand how God often works by his servants; for
he leads them as the blind by his own hand where they think not.
Thus, when he stirs up any one of us, we are sometimes "oligopistoi"
- very weak in faith; we think that our labour will be useless and
without any fruit, or at least attended with small success. But the
Lord will let us see what we could not have expected. Such was the
case with Jonah; for when he came to Nineveh, he had no other object
but to testify respecting the destruction of the city; but the Lord
was pleased to make him the minister of salvation. God then honored
with remarkable success the teaching of Jonah, while he was unworthy
of so great an honor; for, as we have already said, he closed up in
a manner every access to the blessing of God. We now then apprehend
the meaning of this passage, in which Jonah says that he fled from
the call of God, because he knew that God was ready to be gracious
and merciful.
    I come now to the great things which are said of God. "Chanun"
properly means a disposition to show favor, as though it was said
that God is gratuitously benevolent; we express the same in our
language by the terms, benin, gratieux, debonnaire. God then assumes
to himself this character; and then he says, merciful; and he adds
this that we may know that he is always ready to receive us, if
indeed we come to him as to the fountain of goodness and mercy. But
the words which follow express more clearly his mercy, and show how
God is merciful, - even because he is abundant in compassion and
slow to wrath. God then is inclined to kindness; and though men on
whom he looks are unworthy, he is yet merciful; and this he
expresses by the word "rachum".
    It is at the same time necessary to add these two sentences
that he is abundant in compassion and slow to wrath, - why so? For
we ever seek in ourselves some cause for God's favor; when we desire
God to be kind to us, we inquire in ourselves why he ought to favor
us: and when we find nothing, all the faith we before had respecting
God's grace at once vanishes. The Lord therefore does here recall us
to himself, and testifies that he is kind and merciful, inasmuch as
he is abundant in compassion; as though he said, "I have in myself a
sufficient reason, why I should be accessible to you, and why I
should receive you and show you favor." Hence the goodness of God
alone ought to be regarded by us, when we desire his mercy, and when
we have need of pardon. It is as though he had said, that he is not
influenced by any regard for our worthiness, and that it is not for
merits that he is disposed to mercy when we have sinned, and that he
receives us into favor; but that he does all this because his
goodness is infinite and inexhaustible. And it is also added, that
he is slow to wrath. This slowness to wrath proves that God provides
for the salvation of mankind, even when he is provoked by their
sins. Though miserable men provoke God daily against themselves, he
yet continues to have a regard for their salvation. He is therefore
slow to wrath, which means, that the Lord does not immediately
execute such punishment as they deserve who thus provoke him. We now
then see what is the import of these words.
    Let us now return to this - that Jonah thrust himself from his
office, because he knew that God was slow to wrath, and merciful,
and full of grace: he even had recourse to this reasoning, "Either
God will change his nature, or spare the Ninevites if they repent:
and it may be that they will repent; and then my preaching will be
found to be false; for God will not deny himself, but will afford an
example of his goodness and mercy in forgiving this people." We may
again remark, that we act perversely, when we follow without
discrimination our own zeal: it is indeed a blind fervor which then
hurries us on. Though then a thousand inconsistencies meet us when
God commands any thing, our eyes ought to be closed to them, and we
ought ever to follow the course of our calling; for he will so
regulate all events, that all things shall redound to his glory. It
is not for us in such a case to be over-wise; but the best way is,
to leave in God's hand the issue of things. It becomes us indeed to
fear and to feel concerned; but our anxiety ought, at the same time,
to be in submission to God, so that it is enough for us to pray.
This is the import of the whole.
    Now as to what he says that God "repents of the evil", we have
already explained this: it means, that though God has already raised
his hand, he will yet withdraw it, as soon as he sees any repentance
in men; for evil here is to be taken for punishment. The Lord then,
though he might justly inflict extreme punishment on men, yet
suspends his judgment, and when they come to him in true penitence
he is instantly pacified. This is God's repentance; he is said to
repent when he freely forgives whatever punishment or evil men have
deserved whenever they loathe themselves. It now follows -

Jonah 4:3
Therefore now, O LORD, take, I beseech thee, my life from me; for
[it is] better for me to die than to live.

    We here see how angry Jonah was in his zeal: for this prayer
cannot certainly be ascribed to his faith, as some think, who say
that Jonah took a flight as it were in his soul to heaven, when he
made this prayer, as though he dreaded not death, but having been
divested of all fear, being free and disengaged, he presented
himself to God. I do not think that the mind of Jonah was so heroic.
There is indeed no doubt, as I have already said, but that he still
retained some seed of piety; and this, I said, is sufficiently
proved by the word prayer; for if Jonah had burst out in the strain
of one in despair, it would not have been a prayer. Since then he
prayed by thus speaking, it follows that it was not the cry of
despair, but of too much displeasure, which Jonah did not restrain.
In short, this prayer proceeded from a pious and holy zeal; but
Jonah sinned as to its measure or excess; for he had in a manner
forgotten himself, when he preferred death to life.
    "Thou Jehovah, he says, take me away". He was first not free
from blame in hastily wishing to die; for it is not in our power to
quit this world; but we ought with submissive minds to continue in
it as long as God keeps us in the station in which we are placed.
whosoever, then, hastens to death with so great an ardor no doubt
offends God. Paul knew that death was desirable in his case,
(Philip. 1: 22;) but when he understood that his labour would be
useful to the Church, he was contented with his lot, and preferred
the will of God to his own will; and thus he was prepared both to
live and to die, as it seemed good to God. It was otherwise with
Jonah, "Now," he says, "take away my life." This was one fault; but
the other was, - that he wished to die, because God spared the
Ninevites. Though he was touched with some grief, he ought not yet
to have gone so far as this, or rather to rush on, so as to desire
death on account of the weariness of his life.
    But we hence learn to what extremes men are carried, when once
they give loose reins to inconsiderate zeal. The holy Prophet Jonah,
who had been lately tamed and subdued by so heavy a chastisements is
now seized and carried away by a desire to die, - and why? because
he thought that it was hard that he denounced destruction on the
Ninevites, and that still their city remained safe. This example
ought to check us, that we express not too boldly our opinion
respecting the doings of God, but, on the contrary, hold our
thoughts captive, lest any presumption of this kind be manifested by
us; for there is none of us who does not condemn Jonah, as also he
condemned himself; for he does not here narrate his own praise, but
means to show how foolishly he had judged of God's work. Jonah then
confesses his own folly; and therefore his experience is to us an
evidence that there is nothing more preposterous than for us to
settle this or that according to our own wisdom, since this is alone
true wisdom, to submit ourselves wholly to the will of God.
    Now if any one raises a question here, - whether it is lawful
to desire death; the answer may be briefly this, - that death is not
to be desired on account of the weariness of life; this is one
thing: and by the weariness of life I understand that state of mind,
when either poverty, or want, or disgrace, or any such thing,
renders life hateful to us: but if any, through weariness on account
of his sins and hatred to them, regrets his delay on earth, and can
adopt the language of Paul, "Miserable am I, who will free me from
the body of this death!" (Rom. 7: 24,) - he entertains a holy and
pious wish, provided the submission, to which I have referred, be
added so that this feeling may not break forth in opposition to the
will of God; but that he who has such a desire may still suffer
himself to be detained by his hand as long as he pleases. And
further, when any one wishes to die, because he fears for himself as
to the future, or dreads to undergo any evil, he also struggles
against God; and such was the fault of Jonah; for he says that death
was better to him than life, - and why? because the Lord had spared
the Ninevites. We hence see how he was blinded, yea, carried away by
a mad impulse to desire death.
    Let us then learn so to love this life as to be prepared to lay
it down whenever the Lord pleases: let us also learn to desire
death, but so as to live to the Lord, and to proceed in the race set
before use until he himself lead us to its end. Now follows the
reproof of God -

Jonah 4:4
Then said the LORD, Doest thou well to be angry?
    There is no doubt but that God by thus reproving Jonah condemns
his intemperate warmth. But since God alone is a fit judge of man's
conduct, there is no reason for us to boast that we are influenced
by good intentions; for there is nothing more fallacious than our
own balances. When therefore we weigh facts, deeds, and thoughts by
our own judgment, we deceive ourselves. Were any disposed
rhetorically to defend the conduct of Jonah, he might certainly
muster up many specious pretenses; and were any one inclined to
adduce excuses for Jonah, he might be made to appear to us
altogether innocent: but though the whole world absolved him, what
would it avail, since he was condemned by the mouth of God himself,
who alone, as I have already stated, is the judge? We ought then to
feel assured, that Jonah had done foolishly, even if no reason was
apparent to us; for the authority of the Supreme Judge ought to be
more than sufficient.
    Now God expressly condemns his wrath. Had Jonah modestly
expostulated, and unburdened his griefs into the bosom of God, it
would have been excusable; though his ardor would not have been free
from blame, it might yet have been borne with. But now, when he is
angry, it is past endurance; for wrath, as one says, is but short
madness; and then it blinds the perceptions of men, it disturbs all
the faculties of the soul. God then does not here in a slight manner
condemn Jonah, but he shows how grievously he had fallen by allowing
himself to become thus angry. We must at the same time remember,
that Jonah had sinned not only by giving way to anger; he might have
sinned, as we have said, without being angry. But God by this
circumstance - that he thus became turbulent, enhances his sin. And
it is certainly a most unseemly thing, when a mean creature rises up
against God, and in a boisterous spirit contends with him: this is
monstrous; and Jonah was in this state of mind.
    We hence see why an express mention is made of his anger, - God
thus intended to bring conviction home to Jonah, that he might no
more seek evasions. Had he simply said, "Why! how is it that thou
dost not leave to me the supreme right of judging? If such is my
will, why dost not thou submissively acknowledge that what I do is
rightly done? Is it thy privilege to be so wise, as to dictate laws
to me, or to correct my decisions?" - had the Lord thus spoken,
there might have remained still some excuse; Jonah might have said,
"Lord, I cannot restrain my grief, when I see thy name so profaned
by unseemly reproaches; can I witness this with a calm mind?" He
might thus have still sought some coverings for his grief; but when
the Lord brought forward his anger, he must have been necessarily
silenced; for what could be found to excuse Jonah, when he thus
perversely rebelled, as I have said, against God, his Judge and
Maker? We now then understand why God expressly declares that Jonah
did not do well in being thus angry.
    But I wonder how it came into Jerome's mind to say that Jonah
is not here reproved by the Lord, but that something of an
indifferent kind is mentioned. He was indeed a person who was by
nature a sophister, (cavillator - a caviler;) and thus he wantonly
trifled with the work of falsifying Scripture; he made no conscience
of perverting passages of holy writ. As, for instance, when he
writes about marriage, he says that they do not ill who marry, and
yet that they do not well. What a sophistry is this, and how vapid!
So also on this place, "God," he says, "does not condemn Jonah,
neither did he intend to reprove his sin; but, on the contrary,
Jonah brings before us here the person of Christ, who sought death
that the whole world might be saved; for when alive he could not do
good to his own nation, he could not save his own kindred; he
therefore preferred to devote himself and his life for the
redemption of the world." These are mere puerilities; and thus the
whole meaning of this passage, as we clearly see, is distorted. But
the question is more emphatical than if God had simply said, "Thou
hast sinned by being thus angry;" for an affirmative sentence has
not so much force as that which is in the form of a question.
    God then not only declares as a Judge that Jonah had not done
well, but he also draws from him his own confession, as though he
said, "Though thou art a judge in thine own cause, thou can't not
yet make a cover for thy passion, for thou art beyond measure
angry." For when he says "lach", with, or, in thyself, he reminds
Jonah to examine his own heart, as though he said, "Look on thyself
as in a mirror: thou wilt see what a boisterous sea is thy soul,
being seized as thou art by so mad a rage." We now then perceive not
only the plain sense of the passage, but also the emphasis, which is
contained in the questions which Jerome has turned to a meaning
wholly contrary. I will not proceed farther; for what remains will
be sufficient for to-morrow's lecture.
Grant, Almighty God, that as thou sees us implicated in so many
errors, that we often fall through want of thought, and as thou also
sees that the violent emotions of our flesh wholly blind whatever
reason and judgment there is in us, - O grant, that we may learn to
give up ourselves altogether to obey thee, and so honor thy wisdom
as never to contend with thee, though all things may happen contrary
to our wishes, but patiently to wait for such an issue as it may
please thee to grant; and may we never be disturbed by any of the
hindrances which Satan may throw in our way, but ever go on towards
the mark which thou hast set before us, and never turn aside from
thee, until, having gone through all dangers and overcome all
impediments, we shall at length reach that blessed rest, which has
been obtained for us by the blood of thy Son. Amen.

Lecture Eightieth.

Jonah 4:5
So Jonah went out of the city, and sat on the east side of the city,
and there made him a booth, and sat under it in the shadow, till he
might see what would become of the city.
    It may be here doubted whether Jonah had waited till the forty
days had passed, and whether that time had arrived; for if we say
that he went out of the city before the fortieth day, another
question arises, how could he have known what would be? for we have
not yet found that he had been informed by any oracular
communication. But the words which we have noticed intimate that it
was then known by the event itself, that God had spared the city
from destruction; for in the last lecture it was said, that God had
repented of the evil he had declared and had not done it. It hence
appears that Jonah had not gone out of the city until the forty days
had passed. But there comes again another question, what need had he
to sit near the city, for it was evident enough that the purpose of
God had changed, or at least that the sentence Jonah had pronounced
was changed? he ought not then to have seated himself near the city
as though he was doubtful.
    But I am inclined to adopt the conjecture, that Jonah went out
after the fortieth day, for the words seem to countenance it. With
regard to the question, why he yet doubted the event, when time
seemed to have proved it, the answer may be readily given: though
indeed the forty days had passed, yet Jonah stood as it were
perplexed, because he could not as yet feel assured that what he had
before proclaimed according to God's command would be without its
effect. I therefore doubt not but that Jonah was held perplexed by
this thought, "Thou hast declared nothing rashly; how can it then
be, that what God wished to be proclaimed by his own command and in
his own name, should be now in vain, with no corresponding effect?"
Since then Jonah had respect to God's command, he could not
immediately extricate himself from his doubts. This then was the
cause why he sat waiting: it was, because he thought that though
God's vengeance was suspended, his preaching would not yet be in
vain, but that the ruin of the city was at hand. This therefore was
the reason why he still waited after the prefixed time, as though
the event was still doubtful.
    Now that this may be more evident, let us bear in mind that the
purpose of God was hidden, so that Jonah understood not all the
parts of his vocation. God, then, when he threatened ruin to the
Ninevites, designed to speak conditionally: for what could have been
the benefit of the word, unless this condition was added, - that the
Ninevites, if they repented, should be saved? There would otherwise
have been no need of a Prophet; the Lord might have executed the
judgment which the Ninevites deserved, had he not intended to regard
their salvation. If any one objects by saying that a preacher was
sent to render them inexcusable, - this would have been unusual; for
God had executed all his other judgments without any previous
denunciation, I mean, with regard to heathen nations: it was the
peculiar privilege of the Church that the Prophets ever denounced
the punishments which were at hand; but to other nations God made it
known that he was their Judge, though he did not send Prophets to
warn them. There was then included a condition, with regard to God's
purpose, when he commanded the Ninevites to be terrified by so
express a declaration. But Jonah was, so to speak, too literal a
teacher; for he did not include what he ought to have done, - that
there was room for repentance, and that the city would be saved, if
the Ninevites repented of their wickedness. Since then Jonah had
learned only one half of his office, it is no wonder that his mind
was still in doubt, and could not feel assured as to the issue; for
he had nothing but the event, God had not yet made known to him what
he would do. Let us now proceed -

Jonah 4:6-8
6 And the LORD God prepared a gourd, and made [it] to come up over
Jonah, that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from
his grief. So Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd.
7  But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and
it smote the gourd that it withered.
8  And it came to pass, when the sun did arise, that God prepared a
vehement east wind; and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, that he
fainted, and wished in himself to die, and said, [It is] better for
me to die than to live.
    Before I proceed to treat on the contents of these verses, I
will say a few things on the word "kikayon"; for there were formerly
some disputes respecting this word. Some render it, a gourd; others
think it to have been a cucumber. Free conjectures are commonly made
respecting obscure and unknown things. However, the first rendering
has been the received one: and Augustine says, that a tumult arose
in some church, when the Bishop rend the new interpretation of
Jerome, who said that it was the ivy. Those men were certainly
thoughtless and foolish who were so offended for a matter so
trifling; for they ought to have more carefully inquired which
version was the best and most correct. And Augustine did not act so
very wisely in this affair; for superstition so possessed him, that
he was unwilling that the received version of the Old Testament
should be changed. He indeed willingly allowed Jerome to translate
the New Testament from the Greek original; but he would not have the
Old Testament to be touched; for he entertained a suspicion of the
Jews, - that as they were the most inveterate enemies of the faith,
they would have tried to falsify the Law and the Prophets. As then
Augustine had this suspicion, he preferred retaining the common
version. And Jerome relates that he was traduced at Rome, because he
had rendered it ivy instead of gourd; but he answered Augustine in a
very severe and almost an angry manner; and he inveighed in high
displeasure against some Cornelius and another by the name of
Asinius Polio, who had accused him at Rome as one guilty of
sacrilege, because he had changed this word. I cannot allege in
excuse, that they peevishly rejected what was probable. But as to
the thing itself, I would rather retain in this place the word
gourd, or cucumber, than to cause any disturbance by a thing of no
moment. Jerome himself confesses, that it was not ivy; for he says,
that it was a kind of a shrub, and that it grows everywhere in
Syria; he says that it was a shrub supported by its own stem, which
is not the case with ivy; for the ivy, except it cleaves to a wall
or to a tree, creeps on the ground. It could not then have been the
ivy; and he ought not to have so translated it. He excuses himself
and says, that if he had put down the Hebrew word, many would have
dreamt it to have been a beast or a serpent. He therefore wished to
put down something that was known. But he might also have caused
many doubts: "Why! ivy is said to have ascended over the head of
Jonah, and to have afforded him a shade; how could this have been?"
Now I wonder why Jerome says in one place that the shrub was called
in his time Cicion in the Syrian language; and he says in another
place in his Commentaries, that it was called in the same language
Elkeroa; which we see to be wholly different from the word
"kikayon". Now when he answered Augustine I doubt not but that he
dissembled; for he knew that Augustine did not understand Hebrew: he
therefore trifled with him as with a child, because he was ignorant.
It seems to have been a new gloss, I know not what, invented at the
time for his own convenience: I doubt not but that he at the moment
formed the word, as there is some affinity between "kikayon" and
cicion. However it may have been, whether it was a gourd or a shrub,
it is not necessary to dispute much how it could have grown so soon
into so great a size. Jerome says, that it was a shrub with many
leaves, and that it grew to the size of a vine. Be it so; but this
shrub grows not in one day, nor in two, nor in three days.
    It must have therefore been something extraordinary. Neither
the ivy, nor the gourd, nor any shrub, nor any tree, could have
grown so quickly as to afford a cover to the head of Jonah: nor did
this shrub alone give shelter to Jonah's head; for it is more
probable, that it was derived also from the booth which he had made
for himself. Jonah then not only sheltered himself under the shrub,
but had the booth as an additional cover, when he was not
sufficiently defended from the heat of the sun. Hence God added this
shrub to the shade afforded by the booth: for in those regions, as
we know, the sun is very hot; and further, it was, as we shall see,
an extraordinary heat.
    I wished to say thus much of the word ivy; and I have spoken
more than I intended; but as there have been contentions formerly on
the subject, I wished to notice what may be satisfactory even to
curious readers. I come now to what is contained in this passage.
    Jonah tells us that a gourds or a cucumber, or an ivy, was
prepared by the Lord. There is no doubt but that this shrub grew in
a manner unusual, that it might be a cover to the booth of Jonah. So
I view the passage. But God, we know, approaches nature, whenever he
does anything beyond what nature is: this is not indeed always the
case; but we generally find that God so works, as that he exceeds
the course of nature, and yet from nature he does not wholly depart.
For when in the desert he intended to collect together a great
quantity of quails, that he might give meat to the people, he raised
wind from the east, (Num. 11: 31.) How often the winds blew without
bringing such an abundance of birds? It was therefore a miracle: but
yet God did not wholly cast aside the assistance of nature; hence he
made use of the wind; and yet the wind could not of itself bring
these birds. So also in this place, God had chosen, I have no doubt,
a herb, which soon ascended to a great height, and yet far surpassed
the usual course of nature. In this sense, then, it is that God is
said to have prepared the "kikayon" and to have made it to ascend
over Jonah's head, that it might be for a shade to his head and free
him from his distress.
    But it is said afterwards that a worm was prepared. We see here
also, that what seemed to happen by chance was yet directed by the
hidden providence of God. Should any one say, that what is here
narrated does not commonly happen, but what once happened; to this I
answer, - that though God then designed to exhibit a wonderful
example, worthy of being remembered, it is yet ever true that the
gnawing even of worms are directed by the counsel of God, so that
neither a herb nor a tree withers independently of his purpose. The
same truth is declared by Christ when he says, that without the
Father's appointment the sparrows fall not on the ground, (Matth.
10: 29.) Thus much as to the worm.
    It is now added, "that when the sun arose the day following, a
wind was prepared". We here learn the same thing, - that winds do
not of themselves rise, or by chance, but are stirred up by a Divine
power. There may indeed be found causes in nature why now the air is
tranquil, and then it is disturbed by winds; but God's purpose
regulates all these intermediate causes; so that this is ever true -
that nature is not some blind impulse, but a law settled by the will
of God. God then ever regulates by his own counsel and hand whatever
happens. The only difference is, that his works which flow in the
usual course have the name of nature; and they are miracles and
retain not the name of nature, when God changes their wonted course;
but yet they all proceed from God as their author. Therefore with
regard to this wind, we must understand that it was not usual or
common; and yet that winds are daily no less stirred up by God's
providence than this wind of which Jonah speaks. But God wrought
then, so to speak, beyond the usual course of nature, though he
daily preserves the regular order of nature itself.
    Let us now see why this whole narrative has been set down.
Jonah confesses that he rejoiced with great joy, when he was
sheltered from the extreme heat of the sun: but when the shrub
withered, he was touched with so much grief that he wished to die.
There is nothing superfluous here; for Jonah shows, with regard to
his joy and his grief, how tender he was and how susceptible of
both. Jonah here confesses his own sensibility, first by saying that
he greatly rejoiced, and then by saying that he was so much grieved
for the withered shrub, that through weariness of life he instantly
desired death. There is then here an ingenuous confession of
weakness; for Jonah in a very simple manner has mentioned both his
joy and his grief. But he has distinctly expressed the vehemence of
both feelings, that we might know that he was led away by his strong
emotions, so that in the least things he was either inflamed with
anger, or elated with joy beyond any bounds. This then was the case
with him in his grief as well as in his joy. But he does not say
that he prayed as before; but he adopts the word "sha'al", which
signifies to desire or wish. He desired, it is said, for his soul
that he might die. It is hence probable that Jonah was so
overwhelmed with grief that he did not lift up his heart to God; and
yet we see that he was not neglected by God: for it immediately
follows -

Jonah 4:9
And God said to Jonah, Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd?
And he said, I do well to be angry, [even] unto death.
    We see here that God had concealed himself for a time, but did
not yet forsake his servant. He often looks on us from behind; that
is, though we think that he has forgotten us, he yet observes how we
go on, that he may in due time afford help: and hence it is that he
recovers and raises up the falling, before we perceive that he is
near. This was his manner with Jonah, when he began to address him:
for, as we have said, grief had so oppressed the mind of the holy
Prophets that it could no longer be raised up to God. Hence he
desired to die; and still God did not forsake him. This was no
common example of the invaluable mercy of God, with which he favors
his own people, even when they precipitate themselves into ruin:
such was the case with Jonah, who rushed headlong into a state of
despair, and cared not for any remedy. God then did not wait until
he was sought, but anticipated miserable Jonah, who was now seeking
destruction to himself
    He says, "Doest thou well that thou art thus angry for the
gourd?" As though he had said, that he was too violently disturbed
for a matter so trifling. And we must ever bear that in mind, of
which we spoke more fully yesterday, - that God did not merely
reprove his servant, because he did not patiently bear the withering
of the gourd - what then? but because he became angry; for in anger
there is ever an excess. Since then Jonah was thus grieved beyond
measure, and without any restraint, it was justly condemned by God
as a fault. I will now not repeat what I said yesterday respecting
the enhancing of the crime, inasmuch as Jonah not only murmured on
account of the withering of the shrub, but also disregarded himself,
and boiled over with displeasure beyond all due limits.
    And the answer of Jonah confirms this, "I do well, he says, in
being angry even to death". We here see how obstinately the holy
Prophet repelled the admonition of God, by which he ought to have
been restored to a right mind. He was not ignorant that God spoke.
Why then was he not smitten with shame? Why was he not moved by the
authority of the speaker, so as immediately to repress the
fierceness of his mind? But thus it commonly happens, when the minds
of men are once blinded by some wrong feeling; though the Lord may
thunder and fulminate from heaven, they will not hear, at least they
will not cease violently to resist, as Jonah does here. Since then
we find such an example of perverseness in this holy man, how much
more ought every one of us to fear? Let us hence learn to repress in
time our feelings, and instantly at the beginning to bridle them,
lest if they should burst forth to a greater extent, we become at
last altogether obstinate. I do well, he says, in being angry even
to death. God charged his servant Jonah with the vice of anger;
Jonah now indulges himself in his own madness, so that he says that
desperation is not a vice: "I do not sin," he says, "though I am
despairing; though I abandon myself to death as with mad fury, I do
not yet sin."
    Who could have thought that the holy Prophet could have been
brought into this state of mind? But let us be reminded, as I have
already said, by this remarkable example, how furious and
unreasonable are the passions of our flesh. There is, therefore,
nothing better than to restrain them, before they gather more
strength than they ought; for when any one feeds his vices, this
obstinacy and hardness always follow. But to be angry, or to be in a
fume even to death, is to feel such a weariness of life, as to give
ourselves up of our own accord to death. It was not indeed the
design of Jonah to lay violent hands on himself; but though he
abstained from violence, he yet, as to the purpose of his mind,
procured death to himself; for he submitted not to God, but was
carried away by a blind impulse, so that he wished to throw away his
life. It now follows -

Jonah 4:10,11
Then said the LORD, Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which
thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow; which came up in a
night, and perished in a night:
And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more
than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their
right hand and their left hand; and [also] much cattle?
    Here God explains the design he had in suddenly raising up the
gourd, and then in causing it to perish or wither through the
gnawing of a worm; it was to teach Jonah that misconduct towards the
Ninevites was very inhuman. Though we find that the holy Prophet had
become a prey to dreadful feelings, yet God, by this exhibition,
does in a manner remind him of his folly; for, under the
representation of a gourd, he shows how unkindly he desired the
destruction of so populous a city as Nineveh.
    Yet this comparison may appear ill suited for the purpose.
Jonah felt sorry for the gourd, but he only regarded himself: hence
he was displeased, because the relief with which he was pleased was
taken away from him. As then this inconvenience had driven Jonah to
anger, the similitude may not seem appropriate when God thus
reasons, "Thou wouldest spare the gourd, should I not spare this
great city?" Nay, but he was not concerned for the gourd itself: if
all the gourds of the world withered, he would not have been touched
with any grief; but as he felt the greatest danger being scorched by
the extreme heat of the sun, it was on this account that he was
angry. To this I answer, - that though Jonah consulted his own
advantage, yet this similitude is most suitable: for God preserves
men for the purpose for which he has designed them. Jonah grieved
for the withering of the gourd, because he was deprived of its
shade: and God does not create men in vain; it is then no wonder
that he wishes them to be saved. We hence see that Jonah was not
unsuitably taught by this representation, how inhumanely he
conducted himself towards the Ninevites. He was certainly but one
individual; since then he made such an account of himself and the
gourd only, how was it that he cast aside all care for so great and
so populous a city? Ought not this to have come to his mind, that it
was no wonder that God, the Creator and Father, had a care for so
many thousands of men? Though indeed the Ninevites were alienated
from God, yet as they were men, God, as he is the Father of the
whole human race, acknowledged them as his own, at least to such an
extent as to give them the common light of day, and other blessings
of earthly life. We now then understand the import of this
comparison: "Thou wouldest spare," he says, "the gourd, and should I
not spare this great city?"
    It hence appears how frivolous is the gloss of Jerome, - that
Jonah was not angry on account of the deliverance of the city, but
because he saw that his own nation would, through its means, be
destroyed: for God repeats again that Jonah's feeling was quite
different, - that he bore with indignity the deliverance of the city
from ruin. And less to be endured it is still, that Jerome excuses
Jonah by saying that he nobly and courageously answered God, that he
had not sinned in being angry even to death. That man dared, without
any shame or discernment, to invent a pretence that he might excuse
so disgraceful an obstinacy. But it is enough for us to understand
the real meaning of the Prophet. Here then he shows, according to
God's representation, that his cruelty was justly condemned for
having anxiously desired the destruction of a populous city.
    But we ought to notice all the parts of the similitudes when he
says, "Thou wouldest have spared", &c. There is an emphasis in the
pronoun "'attah"; for God compares himself with Jonah; "Who art
thou? Doubtless a mortal man is not so inclined to mercy as I am.
But thou takest to thyself this right - to desire to spare the
gourd, even thou who art made of clay. Now this gourd is not thy
work, thou hast not laboured for it, it has not proceeded from thy
culture or toil; and further, thou hast not raised it up, and
further still, it was the daughter of a night, and in one night it
perished; it was an evanescent shrub or herb. If then thou regardest
the nature of the gourd, if thou regardest thyself, and joinest
together all the other circumstances, thou wilt find no reason for
thy hot displeasure. But should not I, who am God, in whose hand are
all things, whose prerogative and whose constant practice it is
mercifully to bear with men - should not I spare them, though they
were worthy of destruction? and should not I spare a great city? The
matter here is not concerning a little plant, but a large number of
people. And, in the last place, it is a city, in which there are a
hundred and twenty thousand men who know not how to distinguish
between their right hand and the left."
    We now then see how emphatical are all the parts of this
comparison. And though God's design was to reprove the foolish and
sinful grief of Jonah, we may yet further collect a general
instruction by reasoning in this manner, "We feel for one another,
and so nature inclines us, and yet we are wicked and cruel. If then
men are inclined to mercy through some hidden impulse of nature,
what may not be hoped from the inconceivable goodness of God, who is
the Creator of the whole world, and the Father of us all? and will
not he, who is the fountain of all goodness and mercy spare us?"
    Now as to the number, Jonah mentions here twelve times ten
thousand men, and that is as we have said, one hundred and twenty
thousand. God shows here how paternally he cares for mankind. Every
one of us is cherished by him with singular care: but yet he records
here a large number, that it might be more manifest that he so much
regards mankind that he will not inconsiderately fulminate against
any one nation. And what he adds, that they could not distinguish
between the right hand and the left, is to be referred, I have no
doubt, to their age; and this opinion has been almost universally
received. Some one, however has expressed a fear lest the city
should be made too large by allowing such a number of men: he has,
therefore, promiscuously included the old, as well as those of
middle age and infants. He says that these could not distinguish
between the right hand and the left, because they had not been
taught in the school of God, nor understood the difference between
right and wrong; for the unbelieving, as we know, went astray in
their errors. But this view is too strained; and besides, there is
no reason for this comment; for that city, we know, was not only
like some great cities, many of which are at this day in Europe, but
it surpassed most of the principal cities at this day. We know that
in Paris there are more than four hundred thousand souls: the same
is the case with other cities. I therefore reject this comment, as
though Jonah was here speaking of all the Ninevites. But God, on the
contrary, intended to show, that though there was the justest reason
for destroying entirely the whole city, there were yet other reasons
which justified the suspension of so dreadful a vengeance; for many
infants were there who had not, by their own transgressions,
deserved such a destruction.
    God then shows here to Jonah that he had been carried away by
his own merciless zeal. Though his zeal, as it has been said, arose
from a good principle, yet Jonah was influenced by a feeling far too
vehement. This God proved, by sparing so many infants hitherto
innocent. And to infants he adds the brute animals. Oxen were
certainly superior to shrubs. If Jonah justly grieved for one
withering shrub, it was far more deplorable and cruel for so many
innocent animals to perish. We hence see how apposite are all the
parts of this similitude, to make Jonah to loathe his folly, and to
be ashamed of it; for he had attempted to frustrate the secret
purpose of God, and in a manner to overrule it by his own will, so
that the Ninevites might not be spared, who yet labored by true
repentance to anticipate the divine judgment.
Grant, Almighty God, that as thou hast, in various ways, testified,
and daily continues to testify, how dear and precious to thee are
mankind, and as we enjoy daily so many and so remarkable proofs of
thy goodness and favor, - O grant, that we may learn to rely wholly
on thy goodness, many examples of which thou settest before us, and
which thou wouldest have us continually to experience, that we may
not only pass through our earthly course, but also confidently
aspire to the hope of that blessed and celestial life which is laid
up for us in heaven, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

End of the commentaries on Jonah.