3. Which say, It is not near; let us build houses: this city is the caldron, and we be the flesh.
Here the Prophet explains what might be obscure through their perverseness. He brings forward, therefore, what the impious thought could be covered by many fallacies. For we know that hypocrites endeavor to fix their eyes on God, and when they scatter their own clouds before themselves, they think that he is blinded. For this reason Isaiah says, that God also is wise, (Isaiah 31:2,) and derides their cunning, since they think that they blind God's eyes whilst they conceal their sins with various coverings. Since, therefore, the obstinacy of these men was so great., the Prophet here strips off their mask; for they could be turned aside by perverse counsels to deny that they deserved anything of the kind. But the Prophet here cuts away their pretenses, because, in truth, their impiety was more than sufficiently evident, since they boast that the time is not yet at hand, and, therefore, that they might build houses at Jerusalem as in a time of ease and peace. As we saw in Jeremiah, the time of the last destruction was approaching; everything remaining in the city had now been destined to final ruin: and for this reason Jeremiah advised houses to be built in Chaldea and in foreign lands, since the captives must spend a long period there, even seventy years. (Jeremiah 29:5.) Since then the predicted time was now drawing on, it became extreme folly in the people to oppose themselves, and to treat God's threats as a laughing-stock, and to boast that it was a time for building. Now, therefore, we see what the Prophet blames and condemns in the five and twenty men who were princes of the people, namely, that they hardened the people in obstinate wickedness, and encouraged torpor, so that the Prophet's threats were unheeded. Since, therefore, they so stupified the people by their enticements, and took away all sense of repentance, they also set aside all fear of God's wrath which had been denounced against them. The Prophet condemns this depravity in their counsels.
But, in the second clause, this contempt appears more detestable when they say, that Jerusalem is the caldron, and they are the flesh. I do not doubt their allusion to Jeremiah; for in the first chapter the pot was shown, but the fire was from the north, (Jeremiah 1:13;) so then the Spirit wished to teach us, that the Chaldeans would come like a fire to consume Jerusalem, as if a pot is placed on a large and constant fire, even if it be full of water and flesh, yet its contents are consumed, and the juice of the flesh is dried up by too long cooking. God had demonstrated this by his servant Jeremiah: here the Jews deride and factiously elude what ought to strike them with no light fear, unless they had been too slothful: behold, say they, we are the flesh and Jerusalem is the caldron: So they seem to rate the Prophet Jeremiah, as if he were inconsistent, -- "What? do you threaten us with captivity? and meanwhile you say that this city will be the pot and the Chaldeans the fire. If God wishes to consume us, therefore let us remain within: thus we may build houses." Now we understand how they sought some appearance of inconsistency in the words of the Prophet: as reprobate and profane men always take up arguments by which they may diminish and extenuate all faith in heavenly doctrine, nay, even reduce it to nothing if they could. The Prophet, therefore, provides a remedy for this evil, as we have seen. But before he proceeds to it, he repeats their impious saying, that Jerusalem is a caldron, and the people flesh. They turned what had been said to a meaning directly contrary, for the Prophet said that they should burn since the Chaldeans would be like fire' but they said -- well, we shall be scorched, but that will be done lightly, so that we shall remain safe to a good old age. Hence we understand how diabolical was their audacity, who were so blinded by the just judgments of God, that they did not scruple petulantly to blame even God himself, and to make a laughingstock of the authority of his teaching. Thus we see in another way how faithfully Ezekiel had discharged his duty: he had been created a Prophet: he had not to discharge his office by himself, but was an assistant to Jeremiah. And we cannot otherwise discharge our duty to God and his Church unless we mutually extend our hands to each other, when ministers are mutually united and one studies to assist the other. Ezekiel now signifies this when he professes himself the ally and assistant of Jeremiah.
Grant, Almighty God, that as we know from thine ancient people how great our hardness is, unless we are inclined by thy Holy Spirit, nay, totally renewed into obedience to thy doctrine: that as often as we hear thy threatening, we may be seriously frightened, and that we may desire to return to true and perfect obedience, not by momentary but by permanent repentance, till at length we are gathered into that happy rest, which has been obtained for us through the blood of thine only-begotten Son. Amen.
Lecture Twenty eighth.
1 That is," Let us build." -- Calvin.
2 Or, "caldron." -- Calvin.
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