15. All their wickedness is in Gilgal: for there I hated them: for the wickedness of their doings I will drive them out of mine house, I will love them no more: all their princes are revolters.
15. Omne malum eorum in Gilgal, quia illic odium concepi contra eos: super malitia (vel, propter malitiam) operum ipsorum, e domo mea ejiciam eos: non pergam amare eos: omnes principes eorum sunt defectores (perfidi.) Est autem elegans paranomasia in verbo Myrs et Myrrws, qua etiam utitur Isaias primo capite.
He says first, that all their evil was in Gilgal; though they thought that they had the best pretence for offering there their sacrifices to God's honour, because it had been from old times a sacred place. He had said before that they had multiplied to themselves altars to sin, and by these to give way to sins; he now repeats the same in other words, All their evil, he says, is in Gilgal; as though he said, "They indeed obtrude on me their sacrifices, which they offer in Gilgal, and think that they avail to excuse all their wickedness. I might, perhaps, forgive them, if they were given to plunder and cruelty, and were perfidious and fraudulent, provided pure worship had continued among them, and religion had not been so entirely adulterated; but as they have changed whatever I commanded in my law, and turned this celebrated place to be the seat of the basest impiety, so that it is become, as it were, a brothel, where religion is prostituted, it is hence evident, that the whole of their wickedness is in Gilgal."
It is certain that the people were also addicted to other crimes; but the word lk, cal, all, is to be taken for what is chief or principal. The Prophet speaks comparatively, not simply; as though he had said, that this corruption of offering sacrifices at Gilgal was more abominable in the sight of God than adulteries, or plunder, or frauds, or unjust violence, or any crime that prevailed among them. Their whole evil then was at Gilgal. But why the Prophet speaks thus, I have lately explained; and that is because superstitious men put forth their own devices, when God reproves them, "O! we have still many exercises of religion." They bring forward these by way of compensation. But the Lord shows that he is far more grievously offended with these superstitions, with which hypocrites cover themselves as with a shield, than with a life void of every appearance of religion: for "these," he says, "I conceived a hatred against them, on account of the wickedness of their works."
Here again the Prophet condemns what men think to be their special holiness. Who indeed can persuade hypocrites that their fictitious modes of worship are the greatest abominations? Nay, they even extol and imagine themselves to be like angels, and, as it were, cover all their wickedness with these disguises; as we see to be the case with the Papists who think, that when they obtrude on God their many masses and other devised forms, every sort of wickedness is redeemed. Since then hypocrites are thus wont to put on a disguise before God, and at the same time flatter themselves, the Prophet here declares that they are the more hated by God for this very wickedness, of daring to corrupt and adulterate his pure worship.
He then adds, I will eject them from my house. When God threatens to eject Israel from his house, it is the same as though he said, "I will wholly cast you away;" as when one cuts off a withered branch from a tree, or a diseased member from the body. It is indeed certain that the Israelites were then like bastards; for they were not worthy of any account or station in the Church, inasmuch as they had a strange temple and profane sacrifices; but as circumcision, and the priesthood in name, still remained among them, they boasted themselves to be the children of Abraham, and a holy people; hence the Prophet denounces here such a destruction, that it might appear that they in vain gloried in these superior distinctions, for God would expunge them from his catalogue. We now understand the design of the Prophet: but we shall, to-morrow, notice the remaining portion.
Grant, Almighty God, that inasmuch as thou hast freely embraced us in thy only-begotten Son, and made us, from being the sons and race of Adam, a holy and blessed seed, and as we have not hitherto ceased to alienate ourselves from the grace thou hast offered to us, -- O grant, that we may hereafter so return to a sound mind, as to cleave faithfully and with sincere affection of heart to thy Son, and so retain by this bond thy love, and be also retained in the grace of adoption, that thy name may be glorified by us as long as we sojourn in this world, until thou at length gatherest us into thy celestial kingdom, which has been purchased for us by the blood of thy Son. Amen.
We stated yesterday how God expels from his house those who ought to have been deemed to be already among such as are without: for hypocrites always invent coverings for themselves until the Lord himself openly shows to them their baseness. It is therefore necessary that what they seem to have, as Christ also declares respecting hypocrites, should be taken away from them, (Matthew 13:12.)
It then follows, -- I will not proceed on to love them. A question may be moved here -- why does God speak thus of his love? for he had already ceased to love that people, as it maybe fully gathered from facts. -- Though this saying may not be strictly correct, yet it is not unsuitable. Profane men, and those who are in love with worldly things estimate the love of God by present appearances. When the Lord feeds them well and plentifully, when they enjoy their pleasures, when they have no troubles to bear, they think themselves to be most acceptable to God. Such was the case with this people, as it has been already often stated, as long as the Lord suspended his vengeance; and this was especially the case under king Jeroboam the second, far we know that the Lord then spared and greatly favoured them. It was then a certain kind of love, when the Lord thus cherished them, God allured them to repentance by the sweetness of his goodness. But now, as he sees them to be growing harder and harder, he says, "I will not continue my love towards them; for I will now really show that I am angry with them, as I see that I have done nothing by my forbearance, which they do in a manner laugh to scorn." Thus we see that men are rejected by God nearly in the same way, when he exterminates them from his Church, as when he withdraws his blessing, which is, as it were, the pledge and symbol of his love.
The reason afterwards follows, Because heir princes are perfidious: and this is expressly mentioned, for it was needful that the origin of the evil should be stated. The Prophet then shows here that corruptions originated not with the common people, but with the princes. Now we know for what end God would have rank and dignity to exist among men, and that is, that there might be something like a bridle to restrain the waywardness of the multitude. When, therefore, princes become leaders to every wickedness, all things must then go on in the worst manner; for what ought to be a remedy becomes the cause of ruin. This, then, is what the Prophet meant in the first place. But by accusing the princes he does not absolve the people; but, as it has been said in another place, he insinuates that they must have been very blind, when they suffered themselves to be drawn into the ditch by the blind: for the people doubtless went astray of their own accord and willingly, though they had erring leaders; and though, as it has appeared elsewhere, they anxiously sought excuses for their errors. But we may hence learn how frivolous is the excuse of those who at this day exculpate themselves by the pretext of obeying princes and bishops; for the Lord here denounces punishment on the whole people, because the princes were perfidious. If it be so, we see that the whole body is involved, when wicked leaders rule and draw the people from the right way; yea, when they precipitate them into the same transgressions, and carry them along with them. When, therefore, there is such a confusion, universal punishment, which consumes all together, must follow. Let us proceed --