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Lecture Ninety-seventh

In the last lecture I repeated the tenth verse of the last chapter, in which the prophet adds, as a cause of the greatest joy, that the enemies of the Church shall see granted, to their great mortification, the wonderful favor of which the Prophet had been speaking. But he describes these enemies, under the character of an envious woman, as the Church of God is also compared to a woman: and this mode of speaking is common in Scripture. He then calls Jerusalem his rival, or Babylon, or some city of his enemies.

And he says, Covered shall she be with shame We know that the ungodly grow insolent when fortune smiles on them: hence in prosperity they keep within no bounds, for they think that God is under their feet. If prosperity most commonly has the effect of making the godly to forget God and even themselves, it is no wonder that the unbelieving become more and more hardened, when God is indulgent to them. With regard then to such a pride, the Prophet now says, When my enemy shall see, shame shall cover her; that is, she will not continue in her usual manner, to elate herself with her own boastings: nay, she will be compelled for shame to hide herself; for she will see that she had been greatly deceived, in thinking that I should be wholly ruined.

He afterwards adds, Who said to me, Where is Jehovah thy God? The Church of God in her turn triumphs here over the unbelieving, having been delivered by divine power; nor does she do this for her own sake, but because the ungodly expose the holy name of God to reproach, which is very common: for whenever God afflicts his people, the unbelieving immediately raise their crests, and pour forth their blasphemies against God, when yet they ought, on the contrary, to humble themselves under his hand. But since God executes his judgments on the faithful, what can be expected by his ungodly despisers? If God’s vengeance be manifested in a dreadful manner with regard to the green tree, what will become of the dry wood? And the ungodly are like the dry wood. But as they are blind as to God’s judgments, they petulantly deride his name, whenever they see the Church afflicted, as though adversities were not the evidences of God’s displeasure: for he chastises his own children, to show that he is the judge of the world. But, as I have already said, the ungodly so harden themselves in their stupor, that they are wholly thoughtless. The faithful, therefore, after having found God to be their deliverer, do here undertake his cause; they do not regard themselves nor their own character, but defend the righteousness of God. Such is this triumphant language, Who said, Where is now Jehovah thy God? “I can really show that I worship the true God, who deserts not his people in extreme necessity: after he has assisted me, my enemy, who dared to rise up against God, now seeks hiding-places.”

She shall now, he says, be trodden under foot as the mire of the streets; and my eyes shall see her. What the Prophet declares in the name of the Church, that the unbelieving shall be like mire, is connected with the promise, which we already noticed; for God so appears as the deliverer of his Church, as not to leave its enemies unpunished. God then, while he aids his own people, leads the ungodly to punishment. Hence the Church, while embracing the deliverance offered to her, at the same time sees the near ruin, which impends on all the despisers of God. But what is stated, See shall my eyes, ought not to be so taken, as though the faithful exult with carnal joy, when they see the ungodly suffering the punishment which they have deserved; for the word to see is to be taken metaphorically, as signifying a pleasant and joyful sight, according to what it means in many other places; and as it is a phrase which often occurs, its meaning must be well known. See then shall my eyes, that is, “I shall enjoy to look on that calamity, which now impends over all the ungodly.” But, as I have already said, carnal joy is not what is here intended, which intemperately exults, but that pure joy which the faithful experience on seeing the grace of God displayed and also his judgment. But this joy cannot enter into our hearts until they be cleansed from unruly passions; for we are ever excessive in fear and sorrow, as well as in hope and joy, except the Lord holds us in, as it were, with a bridle. We shall therefore be only then capable of this spiritual joy, of which the Prophet speaks, when we shall put off all disordered feelings, and God shall subdue us by his Spirit: then only shall we be able to retain moderation in our joy. The Prophet proceeds —

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