20. Moreover, you has taken thy sons and thy daughters, whom you has born unto me, and these has you sacrificed unto them to be devoured. Is this of thy whoredoms a small matter?
Here God blames them for another crime, that of sacrificing their offspring to idols. This was a very blind superstition, by which parents put off the sense of humanity. It is indeed a detestable prodigy when a father rejects his children, and has no regard or respect for them. Even philosophers place among the principles of nature those affections which they call natural affections.3 When, therefore, the affection of a father towards his children ceases, which is naturally implanted in all our hearts, then a man becomes a monster indeed. But not only did an inconsiderate fury seize upon the Jews, but, by slaying their own offspring, they thought that they obeyed God, as at this day the Papists are content with the name of good intentions, and do not think that any offering can be rejected if it be only daubed over with the title of either good intention or zeal for good. Such also was the confidence of the Jews; but, as I have said, we see that they were seized with a diabolic fury when they slew their sons and daughters. Abraham prepared to offer his son to God, but he had a clear command. (Genesis 22:9, 10, and Hebrews 11:19.)
Then we know that his obedience was founded on faith, because he was certainly persuaded, as the Apostle says, that a new offspring could spring up from the ashes of his son. Since, therefore, he extols the power of God as equal to this effect, he did not hesitate to slay his son. But since these wretches slew their sons without a command, they must be deservedly condemned for prodigious madness. The Prophet therefore now brings this crime before us: that they had taken, their sons and their daughters, and slew them to idols. He now adds, to consume them, since it is probable, and may be collected from various passages, that the sons were not always slain, but there were two kinds of offerings.4 Sometimes they either slew their sons or cast them alive into the fire and burnt them as victims. Sometimes they carried them round and passed them through the fire, so that they received them safe again. But God here shows that he treats of that barbarous and cruel offering, since they did not spare their sons.
In this sense he adds, that they slew their sons to eat them up, or consume them. But another exaggeration of their crime is mentioned, when God expostulates concerning the insult offered: thou, says he, hath slain thy sons and daughters, but they are mine also, for you barest them to me. Here God places himself in the position of a parent, because he had adopted the people as his own: the body of the people was as it were his spouse or wife. All their offspring were his sons, since, if God's treaty with the people was a marriage, all who sprung from the people ought to be esteemed his children. God therefore calls those his sons who were thus slain, just as if a husband should reproach his wife with depriving him of their common children. God therefore not only blames their cruelty and superstition, but adds also that he was deprived of his children. But this, as is well known, is a most atrocious kind of injury. For who does not prefer his own blood to either fields, or merchandise, or money? As children are more precious than all goods, so a father is more grievously injured if children are taken away, as God here pronounces that he had done: you had born them unto me, says he. Hence sacrilege was added to idolatry when you did deprive me of them. He will soon call them again his own in the same sense. A question arises here, how God reckons among his sons those who were complete strangers to him? He had said in the beginning of the chapter (Ezekiel 1:3) that the people derived their origin from the Amorites and Hittites, since they had declined from the piety of Abraham and the other fathers. Since then the Jews were cast off while they were in Egypt, and after that had been such breakers of the covenant as the Prophet had thus far shown, were they not aliens? Yes; but God here regards his covenant, which was inviolable and could not be rendered void by man's perfidy. The Jews, then, of whom the Prophet now speaks, could no longer bear children to God: for he said that the body of the people was like a foul harlot, who walks about and turns round and seeks vague and promiscuous meetings. Since it was so, the children whom such idolaters bore were spurious, instead of being worthy of such honor that God should call them his sons: this is true with respect to them, but as concerns the covenant, they are called sons of God. And this is worthy of observation, because in the Papacy such declension has grown up through many ages, that they have altogether denied God. Hence they have no connection with him, because they have corrupted his whole worship by their sacrilege, and their religion is vitiated in so many ways, that it differs in nothing from the corruption's of the heathen. And yet it is certain that a portion of God's covenant remains among them, because although they have cut themselves off from God and altogether abandoned him by their perfidy, yet God remains faithful. (Romans 3:3, 4.) Paul, when he speaks of the Jews, shows that God's covenant with them is not abolished, although the greater part of the people had utterly abandoned God. So also it must be said of the papists, since it was not in their power to blot out God's covenant entirely, although with regard to themselves, as I have said, they are without it; and show by their obstinacy that they are the sworn enemies of God. Hence it arises, that our baptism does not need renewal, because although the Devil has long reigned in the papacy, yet he could not altogether extinguish God's grace: nay, a Church is among them; for otherwise Paul's prophecy would have been false, when he says that Antichrist was seated in the temple of God. (2 Thessalonians 2:4.) If in the papacy there had been only Satan's dungeon or brothel, and no form of a Church had remained in it, this had been a proof that Antichrist did not sit in the temple of God. But this, as I have said, exaggerates their crime, and is very far from enabling them to erect their crests as they do. For when they thunder out with full cheeks -- "We are the Church of God," or, "The seat of the Church is with us," -- the solution is easy; the Church is indeed among them, that is, God has his Church there, but hidden and wonderfully preserved: but it does not follow that they are worthy of any honor; nay, they are more detestable, because they ought to bear sons and daughters to God: but they bear them for the Devil and for idols, as this passage teaches. It follows --
1 Or, "has slain them." -- Calvin.
2 Or rather, "to consume them." -- Calvin.
3 Calvin uses here the appropriate Greek word sto>rgh.
4 A passage in Dionysius Halicarnassus illustrates this idolatrous practice: "And after this, having ordered that fires should be made before the tents, he brings out the people to leap over the flames, for the purifying of their pollutions." -- Antiq. Romans Bk. 1, sect. 88, p. 72, and marg. 75. Edit. Hudson.
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