12. And they went every one straight forward: whither the spirit was to go, they went; and they turned not when they went.
12. Et unum quodque ad contra faciem suam ambulabat; secundum quod erat illuc spiritus ad ambulandum,1 ambulabant, non revertebantur ambulando.
Here the Prophet repeats, that the movement of the living creatures was in each case directed towards, or in the direction of its face: and he will say the same again: nor is this repetition superfluous, since, as we said yesterday and must repeat again, mankind can scarcely' be induced to ascribe glory to the wisdom of God. For we are so stupid, that we think that God mingles all things inconsiderately, as if he were in the dark. Since, therefore, the actions of God appear to us distorted, it is needful to repeat this clause, viz., that angels proceed straight forward, that is, are constrained to obedience. For the son who wishes to imitate his father, and the servant his master, is often agitated and at a loss what to do. Since then, something always appears confused in creatures, the Prophet diligently enforces that angels proceed in the direction of their face, that is, they tend at once to their goal, and decline neither to one side or the other. What he announces with regard to angels, ought to be referred to God himself; because his intention was not to extol angelic wisdom, but he sets them before us as God's ministers, that we may perceive here one of the fundamental principles of our faith, viz., that God so regulates his actions, that nothing is with him either distorted or uncontrolled.
He adds, wheresoever there was spirit for proceeding, they proceeded.2 Spirit is here used in the sense of mind or will: we know that it is often put metaphorically for wind, and also for the human soul, but here the will ought to be understood, and so the Prophet alludes to that very motion by which angels are borne along when God uses their assistance. Since, therefore, the vigor and swiftness of angels is so great that they fly like the wind, the Prophet seems to allude to this likeness. And what David says in the 104th Psalm, "God makes the winds his ministers," the Apostle, in the first chapter of the Hebrews, aptly applies to the angels themselves. This analogy then, will stand very well, viz., that the angels proceeded wherever their will bore them; and yet by this word the Prophet points out that secret motion by which God bends his angels as he pleases. In the meantime, he confirms what we have lately seen, that angels are not rashly driven in every direction, but have a definite end, because God, who is the fountain of all wisdom, works through their means. He says again, they so proceed as not to return, that is, that they do not deviate from their course, for he afterwards says, they do turn backwards. But it is easy to reconcile these statements, because it only signifies that their course was not abrupt. While, therefore, they are proceeding in one direction, they go forward until they finish their allotted space, and then they return like lightning. For God does not so fit his angels for one single work, and that they should rest ever afterwards, but daily, nay, every moment, he exercises them in obedience. Since, then, the angels are continually occupied, it is not wonderful that the Prophet says, that they go and return, and yet not return, which is explained by their not receding until they have discharged their duty. Lastly, this vision has no other meaning than to inform the Prophet that God does not desert his works in the middle of their course, as he says in Psalm 138:8. Since, therefore, in the works of God, there is nothing unfinished or mutilated, the angels go forward, and finish their allotted space till the goal: they afterwards return like lightning, as he will shortly say. It follows: --
1 That is, as far as the spirit led them for walking. -- Calvin.
2 This rendering seems most in accordance with Calvin's Interpretation, and is evidently better than Newcome's, "whithersoever the Spirit was to go, they went." The French reads, "selon que l'esprit estoit pour cheminer, ils cheminoyent." -- Ed.
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