20. Their children also shall be as aforetime, and their congregation shall be established before me, and I will punish all that oppress them.
20. Et erunt filii ejus sicut ab initio, et coetus ejus coram facie mea stabilietur (vel, dirigetur, nam
This abundance of words which the Prophet employs is by no means useless; for we ought always to remember how hard were their temptations when no token of God's favor appeared for seventy years. It was hence necessary to sustain minds overwhelmed with evils by many supports, so that they might not wholly faint; and he adds promises to promises, that the Jews might see as it were a spark of light from the deep abyss. And hence, also, we may gather a useful admonition: Though the Lord may favor us today, so that we are not exercised by very grievous trials, yet every one knows by his own experience, how prone we are to despond; and then when we once begin to faint, how difficult it is to be raised up to the confidence of hope. Let us then learn to join promises to promises, so that if one will not suffice, another may.
He now says that their children would be as from the beginning. Some give this refined explanation, that the children of the Church would be as from the beginning, that is, before the Law; for the covenant of grace was made by God with Abraham before the Law was proclaimed: they hence think that the abrogation of the Law is here denoted, as though he had said, that the Church would be free when Christ came, and that the servile yoke of the Law would then be removed. But this kind of refinement I cannot approve; for I do not think that such a notion ever entered into the mind of the Prophet. I have then no doubt but that the reference here is to the kingdom of David, as though the Prophet had said, that the state of the Church would be no less prosperous and happy under Christ than formerly under David. Were any one to object and say, that Christ's kingdom is much more happy than that of David: this I grant; but the prophets ever compare the kingdom of Christ with the kingdom of David, and they were content with this way of teaching, as it exceeded the hope of the people; for the Jews thought it not credible that they could ever attain their ancient renown. When, therefore, he says here, that the children of Judah would be as at the beginning, there is no doubt with me but that he had a regard to that promise, which declares that the seed of David would be for ever on his throne, as long as the sun and moon shone in the heavens. (Psalm 89:37)
The meaning is, that though the kingdom would through a dreadful ruin become extinct, together with all its dignity, the Jews would yet, through Christ, recover what they had lost through their sins, ingratitude, and perverseness.
He afterwards adds,
A useful doctrine may be hence deduced: The Church was in such a manner perpetual, that its condition was yet variable; for it often seemed good to God to break off the course of his favor before the coming of Christ. What then happened we may accommodate to our own time. As, then, the Prophet says here, that the children of the Church would
1 It would be better to observe the order of the original, "And his assembling before me shall be confirmed," or according, to the Vulg. and Syr., "shall continue." The reference is to the assembling at the stated festivals. The verb means to be confirmed, to be fixed, to be made certain; so that "continue" conveys the right idea: the assembling was to be made fixed, so as to become permanent; and it is said to be before God, in order to distinguish it from any other kind of assembling· -- Ed.
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