25. Then I spake unto them of the captivity all the things that the Lord had shewed me.
25. Et locutus sum captivitati cunctos sermones Iehovae, quos mihi ostenderat.1
The Prophet here confirms what he had said at the beginning, viz., that this vision was divinely presented and was not an empty and deceptive specter. This prophecy was difficult of belief, so that all doubt ought to be removed, lest any one should object that God was not the author of the vision. He says, therefore, that he was raised up by the Spirit of God and brought into Chaldea. We have already asserted, that the Prophet did not change his place, though I am unwilling to contend for this, if any one think otherwise. But still it appears to me, that when the Prophet remained in exile he saw Jerusalem and the other places about which he discourses, not humanly but by a prophetic spirit. As then he had been carried to Jerusalem by the Spirit, so was he brought back into exile. But Spirit is here opposed to nature, since we know that our prospect is limited within a definite space. Now if the least obstacle occur our sight will not pass over five or six paces. But when God's Spirit illuminates us, a new faculty begins to flourish in us, which is by no means to be estimated naturally. We now see in what sense Ezekiel says, that he was brought back into Chaldea by the Spirit of God, because he was in truth like a man in an ecstasy. For he had been carried out of himself, but now he is left in his ordinary state. And this is the meaning of these words, in a vision in the Spirit of God. For a vision is opposed to a reality. For if the Prophet had been brought back by a vision, it follows that he had not really been at Jerusalem so as to be brought back into Chaldea. Now he meets the question which may be moved, viz.: "What was the efficacy of the vision?" For the Prophet recalls us to the power of the Spirit which we must not measure by our rule. Since, therefore, the operation of the Spirit is incomprehensible, we need not wonder that the Prophet was carried to Jerusalem in a vision, and afterwards brought back into captivity. He adds that the vision departed from him, by which words he commends his own doctrine, and extols it beyond all mortal speeches, because he separates between what was human in himself and what was divine when he says, the vision departed from me. Hence the Prophet wishes himself to be considered as twofold: that is, as a private man, and but one of many, for in this capacity he had no authority as if he was to be heard in God's stead. But when the Spirit acted upon him, he wished to withdraw himself from the number of men, because he did not speak of himself, nor treat of anything human, or in a human manner, but the Spirit of God so flourished in him that he uttered nothing but what was celestial and divine.
Afterwards he says, that he spoke all those words to the captives, or exiles. This passage seems superfluous. For to what purpose had the Prophet been taught concerning the destruction of the city, the overthrow of the kingdom, and the ruin of the temple, unless to induce the Jews who still remained in the country to desist from their superstition? But we must remember that the Prophet had a hard contest with those exiles among whom he dwelt, as will more clearly appear in the next chapter. For as the Jews boasted that they remained safe, and laughed at the captives who had suffered themselves to be drawn away into a distant land, so the exiles were weary of their miseries. For their condition was very sorrowful when they saw themselves exposed to every reproach, and treated by the Chaldeans servilely and insultingly. Since, then, this was their condition, they roared among themselves and were indignant, since they had to bear the manners of the Prophets, and especially Jeremiah. Since, therefore, the captives repented of their lot, it was needful for the Prophet to restrain their contumely. And this is the meaning of the words that he related the words of Jehovah to the captives. Nor was this admonition less needful for the exiles, than for the Jews who as yet remained safe in the city. He says, the words which God caused him to see, improperly, but very appositely to the sense; for not only had God spoken, but he had placed the thing itself before the eyes of the Prophet. Hence we see why he says, that words had been shown to him that he might behold them. I have already said that this language is improper for words, because it applies to the sight, for eyes do not receive words, but cars. But here the Prophet signifies that it was not the naked and simple word of God, but clothed in an external symbol. Augustine says that a sacrament is a word made visible, and he speaks correctly; because in baptism God addresses our eyes, when he brings forward water as a symbol of our ablution and regeneration. In the Supper also he directs his speech to our eyes, since Christ shows his flesh to us as truly food, and his blood as truly drink, when bread and wine are set before us. For this reason also the Prophet now says, that he saw the word of God, because it was clothed in outward symbols. For God appeared to his Prophet, as I have said, and showed him the temple, and there erected a theater, as it were, in which he beheld the whole state of the city Jerusalem.2 Let us go on --
1 "Which he had made me see." -- Calvin
2 See Augustine's Homily on John, 89, bk. 19, com. Faust. Calvin, as well as other Commentators, often felt great difficulty in separating the human element from the divine, while interpreting the Prophets. He has expressed it feelingly while interpreting this last verse of the eleventh chapter. It is confessedly most difficult to draw the line rigidly between the direct agency of God and the subservient instrumentality of man. The spiritual teaching delivered by the Prophets evidently needed some visible and tangible means of conveyance to the outward senses of the recipients; but who shall mark off any palpable boundary between spirit and grace -- the mind of God, and the regenerated mind of the Prophet? If there are no harsh transitions and sudden breaks in the natural world, so in the spiritual and moral, the limits between the essentially divine and the clearly human are at present untraceable by mortal vision. As the revelations to Ezekiel were progressive, differing in immediate character and object, so together with them something extrinsic was needed, to become a suitable vehicle for the majesty and purity of the truth conveyed. Neither the Prophet nor his countrymen could bear the naked effulgence of the divine messages; they were too luminous and dazzling for their sin-burdened souls, and thus they needed a condescending adaptation to their many infirmities. The pure and colorless water of life, instinct though it be with the spirit of Deity, comes to us tinctured with the peculiarity of the earthen vessel through which it flows. Our attention ought often to be dragon to this while reading Ezekiel. The Almighty not only condescends to his infirmities, but to those of the captives among whom he dwelt, so that the pure light of prophetic manifestation becomes tinged in passing through a two-fold medium, before it reaches us, among "the isles of the Gentiles." And while we cannot give the reader any formal rules for testing the soundness of Calvin's interpretations, we must appeal to that sound mind, that cultivated scholarship, and that Christian tact, which is the result of experience, in discriminating between the chaff and the wheat. Ordinary faculties, chastened by severe and patient study, combined with holy and Christian views of Divine truth as a whole, will suffice for deciding on such abstruse questions with a sufficient degree of precision and correctness.
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