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Ezekiel 20:18-19

18. But I said unto their children in the wilderness, Walk ye not in the statutes of your fathers, neither observe their judgments, nor defile yourselves with their idols:

18. Et dixi ad filios ipsorum in deserto, In decretis, 271271     Or, “statutes.” — Calvin. patrum vestrorum ne ambuletis, et indicia ipsorum ne servetis: et in idolis 272272     Or, “pollution’s.” — Calvin. ipsorum ne polluamini.

19. I am the LORD your God; walk in my statutes, and keep my judgments, and do them;

19. Ego Iehovah Deus vester, in decretis meis ambulate, et judicia mea servate, et facite ea.


After God has shown that the obstinate wickedness of the people was such that they profited by neither rigor nor clemency, he now says that the sons were altogether like their fathers. For when he says that he turned his discourse to their sons, he obliquely indicates that he was so broken down by their disgust, that he is unwilling to address the deaf. I said, therefore, to their sons: why not to themselves? because they had become obdurate in their impiety, and gave no hope of repentance. Since then God had experienced their utmost obstinacy, he says that he turned his discourse to their sons; Do not walk in the statutes of your fathers, and do not observe their judgments. Here God does not speak of bad examples and of plain and palpable crimes, but he uses words seemingly favorable — judgments and statutes. If he had simply said that their fathers were wicked, and hence the sons must take care not to imitate them, that would have been ordinary teaching; but by adaptation he uses honorable expressions, namely, my statutes and judgments. Meanwhile he forbids their posterity to conform to the statutes and laws of their fathers, meaning to their ceremonies and rites. Lest any should object that those statutes were to be observed which tend to a right end, he adds, that you pollute not yourselves with their filth and defilements. Here the former language of accommodation is removed, and God as it were wipes away the coloring, that it may be clearly apparent that those statutes and precepts differed in nothing from thefts, robberies, and adulteries: this is the Prophet’s meaning.

Besides, this passage is worthy of notice, because we may learn from it how frivolous is the excuse of those who boast of their fathers, and arrogantly predict that they will be pardoned if they conform themselves to their example. For God not only forbids us to imitate the gross and open wickedness of our parents, but their laws, statutes, and ceremonies, and whatever is apparently plausible, and seems to the common sense of mankind worthy of praise. And thus the foolishness of the papists is detected, who think that they lie safely concealed under the shield of Ajax, when they boast to us of the examples of their fathers, and the value of antiquity: we clearly see how plainly God’s Spirit refutes them when he pronounces that they must obey his statutes and precepts, and not listen to open wickedness only, but not even to good intentions, as they say, and devotions, and the traditions of the fathers. But what is the worship of God in the papacy in these days but a confused jumble, which they have thrown together from numberless fictions? for whoever will examine all their trifling, will find them fabricated by the will of man; and they are not ashamed to oppose the traditions of their fathers to the word of God. Now, therefore, we see the whole papacy laid prostrate, and all the remarkable traditions of the fathers in which they boast, when the Prophet says, walk you not in the statutes of your fathers. But since antiquity deserves some reverence, it would be gross and barbarous promiscuously to reject all the examples of the fathers: hence we need prudence and selection here, and God’s Spirit suggests this to us when he adds pollution’s or idols. Hence the traditions of the fathers must be examined; and it is a mark of prudent discretion to observe what they contain, and whence they proceed. If we discover that they have no other tendency than to the pure worship of God, we may embrace them; but if they draw us away from the pure and simple worship of God, if they infect true and sincere religion by their own mixtures, we must utterly reject them.

Let us proceed then. I, says he, am Jehovah your God; walk you in my statutes, and observe my judgments. God confirms the former sentence, and at the same time provides a remedy for all corruption’s when he says, walk you in my precepts, because I am your God: for by these words he claims as peculiarly his own what men commonly arrogate to themselves. They do not dare, indeed, to despoil God of his authority, but they carry themselves as his allies, and infect his law with their commentaries, as if it was not sufficient for complete and solid wisdom. Here, therefore, God pronounces himself to be the only lawgiver. If, therefore, I am your God, walk you in. my statutes. Hence it follows, that we indirectly deny God when we turn aside even a little from his law. The passage is remarkable, if we only estimate the Prophet’s language aright. For the two clauses must be read together, because I am your God, therefore walk you in precepts, and thus show that you are my people. But if they are not content with God’s precepts only, but mingle human comments with them, God indirectly teaches that he is not acknowledged, since they deprive him of a portion of his rights; for if God is one, he also is the only lawgiver. It follows —

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