11. Because Ephraim hath made many altars to sin, altars shall be unto him to sin.
11. Quia multiplicavit Ephraim altaria ad peccandum, erunt ei altaria ad peccandum.
The Prophet here again inveighs against the idolatry of the people, which was, however, counted then the best religion; for the Israelites, as it has been said were become hardened in their superstitions, and had long before fallen away from the pure and lawful worship of God. And we know, that where error has once prevailed, it attains firmness by length of time: hence the Israelites had become hardened in their perverted and fictitious worship. They thought that they did the most meritorious deed whenever they sacrificed, while at the same time, they provoked in this way the wrath of God more and more against themselves. And as they had become thus hardened, the Prophet says, that they multiplied for themselves altars for the purpose of sinning, and that there would be altars for them to sin. It was (as I have already said) most difficult to persuade theme that their altars were for the purpose of sinnings and that the more attentive they were in worshipping God, the more grievously they sinned.
We see how Papists of this day glory in their abominations. It is certain that they do nothing but what is accursed before God; for there reigns among them every kind of filthiness, and there is no purity whatever: they therefore continue to offend God as it were designedly. Put at the same time it is their highest holiness to multiply altars: the same also was the prevailing error in the Prophet's time. This was the reason why he said, that altars were multiplied in order to sin. Who at this day can persuade the Papists, that many chapels as they build, are so many sins by which they provoke the wrath of God? But the faithful ought to be content, not with one altar, (for there is now no need of an altar,) but they ought to be content with a common table. The Papists, on the contrary, build altars to themselves without end, where they sacrifice; and they think that God is thus bound to them as by so many chains: as many chapels as are under the papacy are, they think, so many holds for God, (dei carceres,) and that God is there held inclosed. But if any one should say, that so many fiends (Diabolos) dwell in such places, we know how furiously angry they would be.
It is then no superfluous repetition, when the Prophet says, that altars were multiplied in order to sin; and then, that altars would be for sin: for in the second clause, he speaks of the punishment which God would inflict on superstitious men. In the first clause, he shows that their good intentions were frivolous, and that they were greatly deceived, when at their pleasure they devised for themselves various forms of worship. This is one thing. Then it follows, There shall then be to them altars to sin; as they would not willingly repent, nor embrace salutary admonitions, God would at last really show how much he valued what they called their good intentions; for now a dreadful vengeance was at hand, which would prove to them, that in increasing altars, they did nothing else but increase sins. It then follows --