COMMENTARIES

ON THE

BOOK OF THE PROPHET JEREMIAH

BY JOHN CALVIN.

TRANSLATED FROM THE LATIN, AND EDITED

BY THE REV. JOHN OWEN,

VICAR OF THRUSSINGTON, LEICESTERSHIRE.

 


CHAPTER 9

<240901>Jeremiah 9:1

1. Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!

1. Quis ponet caput meum aquas, et oculum meum fontem lachrymarum? et deflebo die et nocte (hoc est, dies et noctes) interfectos filiae populi mei.

 

He follows the same subject. During times of tranquillity, when nothing but joyful voices were heard among the Jews, he bewails, as one in the greatest grief, the miseries of the people; and being not satisfied with this, he says, Who will set, or make, my head waters, and my eye a fountain of tears? He intimates by these words, that the ruin would be so dreadful that it could not be bewailed by a moderate or usual lamentation, inasmuch as God’s vengeance would exceed common bounds, and fill men with more dread than other calamities.

The meaning is, that the destruction of the people would be so monstrous that it could not be sufficiently bewailed. It hence appears how hardened the Jews had become; for doubtless the Prophet had no delight in such comparisons, as though he wished rhetorically to embellish his discourse; but as he saw that their hearts were inflexible, and that a common way of speaking would be despised, or would have no weight and authority, he was constrained to use such similitudes. And at this day, there is no less insensibility in those who despise God; for however Prophets may thunder, while God spares and indulges them, they promise to themselves perpetual quietness. Hence it is, that they ridicule and insult both God and his servants, as though they were too harshly treated. As then, the same impiety prevails now in the world as formerly, we may hence learn what vehemence they ought to use whom God calls to the same office of teaching. Plain teaching, then, will ever be deemed frigid in the world, except it, be accompanied with sharp goads, such as we find employed here by the Prophet fB1 He adds —

<240902>Jeremiah 9:2

2. Oh that I had in the wilderness a lodging place of wayfaring men, that I might leave my people, and go from them! for they be all adulterers, an assembly of treacherous men.

2. Quis statuet me in deserto, in diversorio (alii, tugurium, vertunt; sed nescio an reperiatur ˆwlm in hoc sensu) viatorum? et relinquam populum meum et discedam ab illis; quia omnes adulteri, conventus transgressorum (vel, perfidorum; nam ydgb sunt perfidi et apostatoe, ut alibi vidimus.)

 

Here the Prophet entertains another wish: He had before wished that his head were waters, that he might shed tears, and he had wished his eyes to be the fountains of tears; but now, after having duly considered the wickedness of the people, he puts off every feeling of humanity, and as one incensed, he desires to move elsewhere, and wholly to leave the people; for their impiety had so prevailed that he could no longer live among them. It is indeed certain that the Prophet had no common grief, when he perceived that God’s dreadful vengeance was not far distant: it is also certain that he was moved and constrained by their detestable conduct to desire to be removed elsewhere. But he speaks not only for his own sake; for he regards his own nation, and expresses his feelings, that he might more effectually touch their hearts. We must then understand, that so great was the sympathy of the Prophet, that he was not satisfied with shedding tears, but that he wished that his whole head would flow into fearn It appears, also, that he was so moved with idignation, that he wished wholly to leave his own people. But, as I have said, his object was to try whether he could restore them to the right way.

He then shews, in this verse, that the Jews had become so detestable, that all the true servants of God wished to be removed far away from them: Who then will set me in the desert? He seeks not for himself another country; he desires not to dwell in a pleasant situation, or that some commodious asylum should be offered to him? but he desires to be placed in the desert, or in the lodging of travelers. He speaks not of those lodgings or inns, which were in villages and towns; but of a lodging in the desert; according to what is the case, when a long and tedious journey is made through forests, some sheds are formed, that when a traveler is over — taken by the darkness of night, he might be protected by some covering, and not He down in the open air. It is of this kind of lodging that the Prophet speaks: then he no doubt means a shed; but as to the word, we may retain, as I have said, its proper meaning. What is meant is, that to dwell in the desert alllong wild beasts was better than to be among that abominable people. By expressing this wish he inflamed no doubt the fury of the whole people, or at least of most of them; but it was necessary thus forcibly to address them: as they submitted to no kind and wholesome warnings and counsels, they were to be forcibly stimulated and urged by such reproofs as these.

I will leave my people. This had an emphatic, bearing; for delightful to every one is his native soil, and it is also delightful to dwell among one’s own people. As then the Prophet wished to be removed into the desert,, and to leave his own people, all his relatives and the nation from which he sprang, and to depart frora them, it follows that they nmst have come to extremities.

And the reason is added, For all are adulterers. I take the word ypanm menaphim, adulterers, in a metaphorical sense, as meaning all those who had departed from God, and abandoned themselves to ungodly superstitions, or those who had become so vitiated and corrupt as to retain no integrity. He does not then call them adulterers, because they were given to whoredoms, but because they were immersed in all kinds of defilements. He afterwards calls them an assembly of apostates, or of perfidious men. The word rx[, otsar, means to prohibit, to restrain: hence the noun trx[ ostaret, means a summoned assembly, when, according to an oath or laws, men are forced to meet; and after the assembly is proclaimed, they dare not depart. Then the Prophet by this word points out the consent and union that existed among that people, as though he had said, that they no less clave to their sins, that if by a solemn rite or authority or ordinance they had been summoned together and were prohibited to depart. We hence see that he condemns the impious consent that was among the people, and also their pertinacity; for they could by no means be restored to a right mind. And for this reason he calls them also ydgb begadim, transgressors; for by this word the Hebrews mean, not every kind of sinners, but those who are wholly wicked: and hence the prophets, when, they speak of apostates and revolters, ever call them ydgb, begadim, as in this passage. fB2 I shall not proceed farther.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that since thou hast been pleased that the prophetic writings should be preserved for our use, that they may continually excite us to repentance, and that since thou stiffest up daily those who urge us by their exhortations, and draw us, as it were by force, to repent, — O grant, that there may not be in us such perverseness as we see existed in thine ancient people; but that we may render ourselves teachable, and be so moved by thy threatenings, as to anticipate thy judgment, lest we, mistaking thy forbearance, should at length be visited with that dread, described to us by thy servant Jeremiah, but that we may, on the contrary, find thee to the end to be not only a reconcilable but also a most merciful Father, until we shall at last enjoy a fuller knowledge of thy goodness in thy celestial kingdom, through Jesus Christ our Lord. — Amen.


LECTURE THIRTy-FIFTH

<240903>Jeremiah 9:3

3. And they bend their tongues like their bow for lies; but they are not valiant for the truth upon the earth; for they proceed from evil to evil, and they know not me, saith the Lord.

3. Et jaculati sunt lingua (quidam vertunt, Et jaculare fecerunt; alii, intenderunt linguas suas) arcum suum ad mendacia (alii vertunt, arcum mendacii; sed male;) et non ad veritatem roborati sunt (aut, invaluerunt) in terra; quia a malo ad malum egressi sunt, et me non cognoscunt, dicit Jehova.

 

Jeremiah confirms what he had said of the near destruction of the people; for, as we have said, the Jews ridiculed threatenings while they thought themselves far from every danger. But the Prophet shews, from the nature of God himself, that they must necessarily perish in a short time; for since God is the judge of the world, and as they were continually advancing in impiety and wickedness, they could no longer be tolerated. This is the meaning.

He first says, that they stretched their tongues as a bow for falsehoods. The verb ˚rd, darek, means to walk, and often occurs in this sense; but; it means also to stretch, to bend, and is frequently applied to bows. As it is here in Hiphil, some take it in a transitive sense. It ought in this case to have y, iod; but such defect is often found in other places. This sense is the most suitable; that is, that they shot with their tongues falsehood as with a bow. Others improperly construe rq, shikor, in the genitive case, as though he had said, “the bow of falsehood, but this gives no meaning; and therefore “the bow of falsehood” cannot be admitted here. The sense is, that they shot falsehood with their tongue as with a bow, or that they made their tongue to go to falsehood, or that they stretched their tongue like a bow for falsehood. If the last rendering be approved, — that they stretched their tongue, etc., then the Prophet compares their tongues to bows and falsehoods to arrows. As to the subject itself, there is no difference, whether we read that they shot lies with their tongues, or that they stretched their tongues for lies: for the Prophet simply means that their tongues, as he will hereafter tell us, were so pointed that they pierced one another with slanders and falsehoods, as though one stretched a bow and shot an arrow. He then intimates, that all their words were deadly, for they were intent on slanders and falsehoods, so that there was no intercourse without a mortal wound.

He then adds, that they were not strong for the truth. Some read, “They have been strong, but not for the truth;” others, “They have been strong as to the truth,” or for the truth: but I think that the Prophet’s meaning is different, — that having checked the truth, they took more liberty for themselves, as though he had said that they triumphed when all faithfulness and rectitude were destroyed; for by the word, hnwma amune, the Prophet no doubt means that fidelity by which men ought to carry on their concerns one with another. Since, then, there was no uprightness among them, he says, that they marched forth as victorious when they trod under foot what was just and right. It is indeed a proof of extreme impiety, when men, trampling upon faithfulness and equity, allow themselves every kind of licentiousness. Some give this explanation, — that they ruled, not through their faithfulness or virtues, for they had crept into and obtained honors by wicked and deceitful arts. And it. is indeed certain that the Prophet directs his discourse, not against the common people, but against the chief men, who had attained their power by frauds. But I am satisfied with the view that I have already given, — that they had become strong because there was no truth, as when we say that the blind rule in darkness, when everything is in confusion. The meaning is, that they were not only given up to their sins, but that they also triumphed over fidelity and justice, by allowing themselves every liberty, as there was no one who dared to say a word to restrain them. He says, that they thus became strong through the whole land; for he sets forth here the deplorable state of the people in general; as though he had said, “There is no hope of deliverance left, for truth and faithfulness are everywhere oppressed.” fB3

An explanation follows, — that they proceeded from evil to evil; that is, they obstinately went on in their evil doings; for to go forth means the same as to pass. They then passed from evil to evil; that is, when they had done one evil, no repentance entered their hearts, so as to turn back; but they continued their wickedness, and aceunrelated evils on evils. We now then understand what the Prophet means; for he sets forth their pertinacity in evil deeds, and at the same time shews that there was no evidence of amendment, for they passed from one bad deed to another like it.

And me have they not known, saith Jehovah. He shews here what is the source of all evils; they had cast aside every knowledge and every thought of God. We indeed know that when God is really known, his fear must necessarily influence our hearts; and the knowledge of God begets reverence and a regard for religion. It is indeed true, that God is somewhat known by even the ungodly and the wicked, and that they have some notions respecting him; but it is no more than an empty knowledge. When indeed we are fully persuaded that God is the judge of the world, and when we have also a knowledge of his goodness and paternal favor, we necessarily fear him and spontaneously and willingly worship and serve him. Ignorance of God, then, is a kind of madness which carries men headlong to every sort of impiety. On this account, God complains that he was not known by the people, for the fear of him was not in them. It follows —

<240904>Jeremiah 9:4

4. Take ye heed every one of his neighbor, and trust ye not in any brother: for every brother will utterly supplant, and every neighbor will walk with slanders.

4. Et vir a socio suo cavete (hoc est, caveat; ad verbum, custodiat se; caveat igitur sibi quisque a socio,) et super omni fratre (ad verbum) ne confidatis (hoc est, nemo confidat proprio fratre;) quia omnis frater supplantando supplantat, et omnis socius fraudulenter incedit.

 

In this verse the Prophet describes the extreme wickedness of the people. For though sometimes thefts, robberies, frauds, slaughters, perjuries, sorceries prevail, yet some regard for near relations remains; but it is monstrous when all relative affections are destroyed. As then, even in the most wicked, there remain some natural affections, called storgoe by philosophers, it follows, that men depart wholly from nature and become wild beasts, when these no longer exist. This is the import of what is here said.

There is a similar passage in <330705>Micah 7:5, 6. The idea is there indeed more fully expanded; for the Prophet adds,

“From her who sleeps in thy bosom guard the doors of thy mouth; for the son lies in wait for his father, and the daughter delivers up her mother to death; and the chief enemies of man are his own domestics.”

The prophets then mainly agree in shewing, that there was no humanity left among flmm; for the son, forgetful of his duty, rose up against his father, and every one was perfidious towards his own friend, and a brother spared not his own brother.

Let a man then guard himself. This is not an admonition, as though the Prophet exhorted men to be wary; but he only shews that there was no fidelity; for every one was perfidious and unfaithful towards his own friend, and even a brother acted unjustly towards his own brother. It hence follows, that the Jews are charged with being natural monsters; for they were deservedly objects of detestation, when they cast aside every care for their own blood, and as far as they could, destroyed everything like humanity. He says that brothers by supplanting supplanted, that is, craftily deceived and circumvented their own brothers. The verb bq[ okob, is to be taken mttaphorically; it is derived from the heel of the foot, and means to oppress the simple by secret arts. He says also, that all friends acted fraudulently. Of this kind of speaking we have spoken on <240628>Jeremiah 6:28; for we found there the same complaint; and the Prophet then said the Jews were like iron and brass, because they had hardened themselves so as to be capable of any cruelty. This sort of speaking often occurs, when the word lykr, rekil, is connected with the verb ˚lh elak; and they who are the most learned in the language say, that this word is never found in Scripture but in connection with the verb to go or to walk. They hence conclude that some particular person is meant, that is, one who goes about veiled or deceitfully, and rambles and runs here and there, that he may find some opportunity of deceiving and cheating. It cannot be taken here for slandering, as we have also stated on chapter the sixth: it is too unmeaning. It is found indeed in this sense in <031916>Leviticus 19:16,

“Go not about a slanderer among thy people;”

where some render it a whisperer. But the Prophet no doubt condemns here the frauds and deceitful crafts, by which they deceived and cheated one another: for lkr, recal signifies a merchant; and as it is often the case that traders act cunningly and practice crafty artifices, the Hebrews call that man lykr racal, fraudulent and wickedly crafty, whose object is to deceive and cheat. And we see that this is the meaning in this place, as it designates those who circumvented one another: for the Prophet says, that they were foolish who trusted in brothers or friends; and he gives the reason, because brothers supplanted one another, and friends went about fraudulently. It follows —

<240905>Jeremiah 9:5

5. And they will deceive every one his neighbor, and will not speak the truth: they have taught their tongue to speak lies, and weary themselves to commit iniquity.

5. Et vir proximo sue (socio) mentitur (hoc est, quisque; nam ya ponitur indefinite apud Hebroeos pro nota universali; quisque ergo proximum suum circumvenit, nempe mendacio; nam lth significat mentiri,) et veritatem non loquitur; docuerunt linguas suas loqui mendacium (hoc est, linguas suas formarunt ad mendacia,) male agere fatigati sunt (hoc est, male agendo fatigantur.)

 

Jeremiah goes on with the same subject. He says that fidelity had so disappeared among the Jews, that every one endeavored to deceive his neighbor. Hence it followed, that they were withhout any shame. Some sense of shame at least remains among men, when they have to do with their own friends; for though they may be wholly given to gain, and to indulge in falsehoods, yet when they transact business with friends, they retain some regard for equity, and shame checks their wickedness: but when there is no difference made between friends and strangers, it follows that their character is become altogether brutal. This is what the Prophet meant.

And he adds, that they spoke not the truth. He now says that they were liars, not in this or that particular business; but that they were perfidious and deceitful in everything. This clause then is not to be limited to some special acts of fraud; but it is the same as though he had said, that they knew not what truth was, or what it was to act with good faith and to speak honestly to their neighhours; for they were wholly imbued with deceits, and no truth could come out of their mouth.

And for the same purpose he says, that they had taught their tongues to speak falsehood. The expression in this clause is stronger; for he means that they were wholly given to deceit, as by long use they had formed their tongues for this work. The tongue ought to be the representative of the mind, according to the old saying; for why was the tongue formed, but in order that men may communicate with one another? For the thoughts are hidden, and they come forth when we speak with each other. But the Prophet says that the order of nature was by them inverted, for they had taught their tongues to lie. We also hence learn that they had no fidelity whatever; for their very tongues had been taught to deceive: as when one by practice has learnt anything, it is what he does readily; so when the tongues are formed by continual use and inured to lying, they can do nothing else.

He says at last, that they wearied themselves with evil deeds. This is indeed an hyperbolical language; but yet the Prophet very fitly sets forth the deplorable state of the people, — that they practiced the doing of evil even to weariness. As when any one is seized with some foolish lust, he spares no labor and does himself much harm, but feels not his wearied state as long as he is engaged, for his ardor dementares him: so he says now, that they were wearied in doing evil. When a hunter pursues the game, he undergoes much more labor than any common workman, or any husbandman. We see that even kings and courtiers, while hunting, are so blinded, that they see no danger nor feel any weariness. So we find that men given to pleasure, when lust draws them here and there, feel no concern for the greatest weariness. According to this sense then the Prophet says, that they were wearied in doing evil, as though he had said, that they were so devoted to wickedness, that the pleasure of doing evil wholly blinded them and made them mad. fB4

We now perceive the Prophet’s meaning: He confirms, as I have said, what he had stated before. He had threatened the people with utter ruin; they were secure and heedless, and despised all his denuncitations. He now shews, from God’s nature and office, that ruin was nigh them, though they feared it not and thought themselves abundantly safe. But if God be the judge of the world, as it will be hereafter proved, how is it possible for him to connive perpetually at so great wickedness? And to shew this he also adds —

<240906>Jeremiah 9:6

6. Thine habitation is in the midst of deceit; through deceit they refuse to know me, saith the Lord.

6. Tu habitas in dolo (hoc est, inter homines dolosos; nam subaudiendum est nomen, quemadmodum soepe alibi vidimus genitivum casum poni pro epitheto, et subaudiri nomen substantivum; Tu igitur habitas inter homines dolosos;) in dolo renuunt cognoscere me, dicit Jehova.

 

The Prophet here introduces God as the speaker, that the Jews might know that they had not to do with mortal man. For they might, according to their usual perverseness, have raised this objection, “Thou indeed severely condemnest us, and treatest us reproachfully; but who has made thee our judge?” Lest then they should think that the words which he had hitherto declared, were the words of man, he interposes the authority of God, Thou, he says, dwellest in the midst of a deceitful people.

But we must observe that this admonition to the Prophet was necessary for two reasons. For when God searches the minds and hearts of men by his word, ministers of the word are necessary to exercise this jurisdiction, men endued with wisdom, understanding, and prudence. The word, says the apostle, is like a two — edged sword, or it is one that cuts on both sides, for it penetrates into the hearts and thoughts of man and into their very marrow. (<580412>Hebrews 4:12.) We also know what Paul says,

“When an unbeliever comes into your assembly, his conscience is searched; so that he will be constrained to fall down and to give glory to God.” (<461424>1 Corinthians 14:24, 25.)

To the same purpose is this saying of Christ,

“When the Spirit is come, He will judge the world,”
(<431608>John 16:8)

for by the Spirit He means the preaching of the Gospel. It is then necessary that the ministers of the word, in order that they may faithfully and profitably perform their office, should be taught to understand the deceits and subterfuges by which men are wont to deceive. As then there are many hidden things in the hearts of men, he who would effectually teach must know that the innermost recesses of the heart must be probed and searched. The Prophet had heard from God that the people, over whom He was appointed, were fallacious and filled with guiles and frauds: Thou, He says, dwellest in the midst of a deceitful people; as though he had said, “Thou hast to do with dishonest men, who not only openly betray their wickedness, but also deceive when they pretend any repentance or profess obedience to God: that they may not therefore weaken or cajole thy resolution by their deceptions, settle it in thy mind that thou wilt have to contend with their wiles.” This is one reason.

There is another reason; for as God’s servants ought to know their wiles, which they are bidden to reprove, so there is need of courage and perseverance, lest hypocrisy should dishearten them: for such a thought as this may occur to the minds of God’s servants, “What shall I do? for hidden to me are the thoughts of men: now the truth ought to penetrate into the whole soul; but I know not what lies hid within in any one.” Thus pious teachers might be weakened in their efforts and disheartened, or wholly discouraged, unless God supported them. It was then for this reason that Jeremiah was expressly told, that He had to do with a deceitful and false people. fB5

He afterwards adds, Through guile they refuse to know me. God had before complained, that he was not known by the people; but he now exaggerates their crime by saying, that they craftily evaded every light, as though he had said, that they could not plead ignorance or any levity; for through guile, says God, they refuse to know me. As they wholly flattered themselves with deceptions, they designedly extinguished, as far as they could, the light. By guile then he means that obstinate craftiness by which the people cast aside every in:struction. It afterwards follows —

<240907>Jeremiah 9:7

7. Therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts, Behold, I will melt them, and try them: for how shall I do for the daughter of my people?

7. Propterea sic dicit Jehova exercituum, Ecce ego examinabo eos (vel, conflabo; ad verbum, examinans, vel, conflans,) et probabo eos; nam quomodo agerem cum filia (ad verbum, a facie filiae) populi mei?

 

Jeremiah, speaking in God’s name, concludes that the chastisement, of which he had spoken, was necessary; And what I have already said appears more clearly from this verse, — that he brings to light their sins, that they might know that they could not escape God’s hand, who is a just avenger of wickedness; for they had extremely provoked him by their petulance and obstinacy.

I will try or melt them, he says, and I will prove them. As they put on a false color, he says that there was a trial needful, as when any one shews copper or any other metal for gold, he is disproved by trial. Any impostor might otherwise sell dross for silver: the spurious metal, that is passed as gold or silver, must be proved; it must be cast into the fire and melted. As then the Jews thought that they had honest pretences to cover their baseness, God gives this answer, that he had yet a way to discover their deceitfulness, and as it were tells them, “The goldsmith, when any one brings dross for silver, or copper for gold, has a furnace, and he tries it; so will I try and melt you; for you think that you can dazzle ray eyes by false pretences: this will avail you nothing.” In short, God intimates that he had means ready at hand to discover their deceitfulness, and that thus their hypocrisy would be of no advantage to them, as his judgments would be like a furnace. As then stubble or wood, cast into the furnace, is immediately burnt, so hypocrites cannot endure God’s judgment. They indeed at first exhibit some brightness, until God tries them; but their deceits must eventually be discovered; and they themselves will be consumed when they come to be really proved. This is the meaning.

And the reason is added, For how should I do with the daughter of my people? This may be applied to Jeremiah himself; but it would be a strained meaning. He then continues, I have no doubt, to speak in God’s name; How then should I do, or act, with the daughter of my people? God speaks here as one deliberating; and thus he more fully proves the Jews guilty; for since he admits them as judges or counsellors, they could give no other reply. We hence see that this question is very emphatic; for the Prophet intimates, that except the Jews were beyond measure stupid, they could no longer flatter themselves in their sins, so as to demand to be otherwise treated by God, as they had in so many ways and with s.uch perversity procured vengeance for themselves. fB6

But we hence learn that it is right that judgment should begin at the house of God, as it is elsewhere said. (<600417>1 Peter 4:17.) God indeed will not pass by anytliing without punishing it: hence the heathens must at last stand before his tribunal. But as he is nearer to his Church, their impiety, who profess themselves to be as it were his domestics, is less tolerable, as though he had said, “I have chosen you to be my peculiar people, and have taken you under my care and protection; when ye become intractable, what remains for me to do, but to try you, as ye act so unfaithfully towards me.” It follows —

<240908>Jeremiah 9:8

8. Their tongue is as an arrow shot out; it speaketh deceit; one speaketh peacably to his neighbor with his mouth, but in heart he layeth his wait.

8. Sagitta tracta (ut quidam vertunt; alii, occidens) lingua eorum; mendacium loquitur; os ejus pacem ad proximum loquetur, et in medio sui (hoc est, intra viscera sua, intus) ponet insidias.

 

The Prophet again complains of the deceitfulness of their tongues; and he compares them to deadly, or drawn out arrows. Gold is said to be drawn out, when refined by repeated meltings; so also arrows, when sharpened, are more piercing. The Prophet then says, that their tongues were like deadly or sharpened arrows: how so? because they ever spoke guile, by either slandering or circumventing others. But the expression is general; and the Prophet no doubt meant to include all modes of deceiving.

For it afterwards follows, With the mouth they speak peace; that is, every one professed friendship, and his words were honey; and yet within he did set up, or concealed intrigues. Here in other words he sets forth their perfidy; for the tongue and the heart differed. They shewed by the tongue what was different from the sentiment of the heart. Hence he says, that they set up treacheries in the midst of them, or in their hearts, while they spoke peace with the mouth, that is, pretended brotherly kindness. fB7 At last he repeats again what he had said before, (<240509>Jeremiah 5:9) —

<240909>Jeremiah 9:9

9. Shall I not visit them for these things? saith the Lord: shall not my soul be avenged on such a nation as this?

9. An super hoc non visitabo eos, dicit Jehova? an in gente quae talis est (quae est sicut haec) non se ulciscetur anima mea?

 

We have already met with this verse; it will therefore be enough briefly to refer to what it contains. God shews here, that except he denied himself he must necessarily punish the Jews. How so? He takes it as granted that he is the judge of the world: he had said that the Jews were not only become wicked in one thing, but were so given up to all kinds of wickedness, that they wearied themselves; what then was to be done? God would not have acted in a manner worthy of himself, nor preserved consistency, had he not punished such men; for he must have changed his nature, had he not hated such a perverse nation. But he speaks after the manner of men when he mentions vengeance; for we know that no passions belong to God, as it has been often stated: but as he hates wickedness, so he is said to execute vengeance, when he appears as a judge and chastises those by whom he has been provoked to wrath.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that as we cease not by our sins to provoke thee more and more, we may at least be warned by thy threatenings and the words of thy prophets, and may not continue obstinate in evil nor pertinaciously resist thy will, but that we may on the contrary learn to anticipate thy judgment and thus receive thy corrections, so that our sins may be hated by us, and that we may become judges of ourselves, in order that we may obtain pardon, and that having obtained it we may not doubt ever to call on thee as our Father, until thou at length gatherest us unto that blessed inheritance, which has been procured for us by the blood of thine only Son. — Amen.


Lecture Thirty-Sixth

<240910>Jeremiah 9:10

10. For the mountains will I take up a weeping and wailing, and for the habitations of the wilderness a lamentation, because they are burned up, so that none can pass through them; neither can men hear the voice of the cattle: both the fowl of the heavens and the beast are fled; they are gone.

10. Super montes tollam (vel assumam) fletum et lamentationem, et super pascua (vel, loca amoena; alii vertunt, tuguria) deserti planctum; quia vastata sunt (alii vertunt, incensa;) ita non sit vir transiens, et non audiunt vocem pecudum; ab ave coelorum (hoc est, ab avibus) usque ad bestiam migrarunt, abierunt.

 

The Prophet had exhorted others to lament and to bewail. He now comes forth as though none had ears to attend to his admonition. As then he himself undertakes to mourn and to lament, he no doubt indirectly condemns the insensibility of the whole people. He saw by the spirit of prophecy, that all the rest thought what he said incredible and therefore fabulous. For though the kingdom of Judah was at that time much wasted, and the kingdom of Israel wholly fallen, they yet continued secure and heedless when they ought to have expected God’s vengeance every day, and even every hour. Since then there was such insensibility in the people, the Prophet here prepares himself for lamentation and mourning.

I will take up, he says, mourning and lamentation for the mountains. The words may be explained, “I will take up mourning, which shall ascend as far as the mountains;” but the cause of mourning seems rather to be intended; for it immediately follows, and weeping for the pastures of the desert. Had not this clause been added, the former meaning might be taken, that is, that mourning would be so loud as to penetrate into the mountains or ascend into the highest parts. But as Jeremiah connects the two clauses, for the mountains, and for the pastures of the desert, the other meaning is much more appropriate, — that the confidence of the people was very absurd, as they thougilt themselves beyond danger, dwelling as they did on the plains; for the enemies, he says, shall leave nothing untouched; they shall come to the mountains and to the pastures of the desert. It hence follows, that they were foolish who promised themselves quietness on the plains, where the enemy could easily come.

We now then understand the Prophet’s meaning: he sets here his own fear and solicitude in contrast with the stupor of the whole people. I will raise, he says, weeping and lamentation for the mountains: but others remained secure and thoughtless in their pleasures. He then shews, that while they were blind, his eyes were open, and he saw the coming ruin which was now at hand. And he sets the mountains and pastures of the desert in opposition to the level country. For when a country is laid waste, we know that still a retreat is sought on mountains; for enemies dread ambushes there, and access is not easy where the roads are narrow. Then the Prophet says, that even the mountains would not be beyond the reach of danger, for the enemies would march there: he says the same of the pastures of the desert. We hence learn how absurd was their confidence who thought themselves safe because they inhabited the plain country, which was the most accessible.

As to the word twan naut, it comes from hwn hue, which means to dwell. fB8 He then takes twan haut, as signifying pleasant places, or pastures. Some render it sheds or cottages. David uses the same word in <192302>Psalm 23:2, in speaking of God’s favor to him, who was pleased to become his shepherd:

“He makes me to lie down,” he says, “in pleasant places.”

But the Prophet no doubt means pastures here. And he calls them the pastures of the desert. The word rbdm midbar, we know, is taken to designate not only waste and sterile places, but also a mountainous country. Though then the richest pastures were on mountains, yet the Jews were wont to call them deserts: there is therefore nothing absurd in saying, the pleasant places or pastures of the desert. But we must bear in mind the contrast, of which I have reminded you: for he intended to condemn the foolish confidence of the people, who thought that they were dwelling in safety, when yet they were exposed to enemies, and had no means to repel or retard their progress.

Because they are laid waste, He says. This word may be taken in another sense, “burnt up;” but it is not suitable here. He says then that these places are laid waste, so that no one passed through. He means that mountains would not only be without inhabitants, but would be so deserted and solitary that there would be none passing over them. There would then be none to frequent them. It hence follows, that there would be no inhabitants, He then adds, that no voice of cattle was heard; as though he had said, that their enemies would take away as their spoil whatever should be found there: for the wealth of mountains consists in cattle; for there is neither sowing nor reaping there; but inhabitants of mountains get their living and whatever is necessary to support life, from flesh and skin and milk and cheese. When therefore the Prophet declares that there would be no voice of cattle, it is the same as though he had said, that the mountains would become altogether uninhabited, for their enemies would take away all the cattle found there.

He then adds, From the bird of the heavens to the earthly beast they shall migrate and depart. fB9 Here he seems again indirectly to reprove the insensibility of the people, as though he had said, that the birds would feel it to be the judgment of God, while yet men were wholly insensible; and that there would be a similar feeling in brute animals; as though he had said, that there would be more understanding in birds and animals than in the Jews, who had not only been created in the image of God, but had also been enlightened as to the truth of salvation; for shine among them did the truth of God in the law. Hence the Prophet shews that this stupidity was most shameful; for they were as stupid as if they had no thought and no understanding, while yet birds acknowledged the vengeance of God, and brute animals were terrified by it. We now perceive the meaning of the Prophet. It follows —

<240911>Jeremiah 9:11

11. And I will make Jerusalem heaps, and a den of dragons; and I will make the cities of Judah desolate, without an inhabitant.

11. Et ponam Jerusalem in acervos, in locum draconum; et urbes Jehudah ponam vastitatem, ut non sit habitator.

 

The Prophet comes now toJerusalem and the neighhouring cities. He said before, that ruin would reach the mountains and the farthest recesses; but he says now, I will turn Jerusalem into heaps. This seemed incredible, for it was a well fortified city, and also full of inhabitants to defend it: we know besides that the Jews were in confederacy with the kingdom of Egypt. This denunciation then was extremely unwelcome to the Jews. But though they thought themselves hitherto safe, yet the Prophet set before their eyes their final destruction. They indeed regarded it as a fable; but they found too late, that the despisers of God gain no advantage in hardening themselves against his threatenings. We shall meet with this verse again; I shall therefore now pass over it lightly.

He says, that it would be hereafter a place for dragons; as though he had said, that it would be no longer inhabited. He declares the same respecting the cities of Judah, — that they would all be a waste. We hence see how courageous and persevering a mind was Jeremiah endued with, that he dared to preach thus in the midst of the city, and to set himself in opposition to the king and his counsellors, and to the whole people, who wished to be soothed with flatteries, and who had been thus treated by the false prophets. As then Jeremiah was thus bold, as a celestial herald, to denounce on them this dreadful calamity, we hence learn that he was endued with the power of God, and that he did not speak as one commissioned by men; for had he not been sustained by God’s power, he must have been a hundred times disheartened, nor would he have dared to speak a word. This invincible courage seals his doctrine; ibr we hence with certainty learn, that it proceeded from God, because the wonderful power of the ttoly Spirit was evident. He afterwards adds —

<240912>Jeremiah 9:12

12. who is the wise man, that may understand this? and who is he to whom the mouth of the Lord hath spoken, that he may declare it, for what the land perisheth and is burned up like a wilderness, that none passeth through?

12. Quis vir prudens ut intelligat hoc? (ad verbum, et intelligens,) et ad quem loquutum est os Jehovae, ut annunciet quare perierit terra, vastata sit instar deserti, ut nemo transeat? (rb[ ylbm absque transeunte, ad verbum.)

 

Here the Prophet reproves more sharply the insensibility of the people, because none attended to the judgments of God; for though they were apparent, no one considered them. The question arose from astonishment; for it was like something dreadfully monstrous, that so few among the people knew that God would be the punisher of crimes so apparent to all. Had they a particle of understanding, they must have known that a dreadful calamity was nigh at hand, since they continued in so many ways to provoke God. And now that the labor of the Prophet, after having said what ought to have roused them all, had been all in vain; was not this doubly monstrous? For he had spent a long time, and had never ceased to cry; and yet all were deaf, nay, his teaching was treated with contempt.

Hence is his astonishment, when he says, Who is a wise man? he intimates that there was hardly one in a hundred whom the fear of God influenced. It must then be remembered, that the Prophet complains of the few number of those who perceived:, that it could not be but that God would shortly put forth his hand to punish the wickedness which then everywhere prevailed. But yet he exhorts all the faithful children of God to disregard the nmltitude, and to gather courage, and to make more account of God’s word than of the contumacy of them all. There are then two things in this sentence; for the question means, that few could be found among the people who were wise, and who applied their minds and thoughts to consider the miserable state of the people; but, on the other hand, he intimates that it is true wisdom in God’s faithful servants, not to despond, and not to follow the nmltitude. He then intimates that they are alone truly wise who consider God’s judgments before He openly executes them. There is a similar sentence in Psalm 107: 43; for the Prophet, after having spoken of God’s judgments, which are visible through the whole world, exclaims,

“Who is a wise man, that he may understand these things?”

as though he had said, that though the works of God, which evidence both his goodness and his judgment, might indeed be observed in every part of the world, yet that all were blind. The Prophet then by this exclamation reprobates the insensibility of men, who overlook God’s judgments, though they are apparent before their eyes. So also the same thing is meant in this place, Who is a wise man? But we must further notice the second thing, to which I have referred, namely, that all the faithful are here encouraged, as the Prophet teaches us, that this is the rule of wisdom, — to open our eyes to see God’s judgments, which are hid from the world: while others are drawn away by their lusts or sunk in their stupor, the Prophet teaches us, that we are wise, when we duly consider, as I have already said, what the Lord has made known to us in his word. Hence it follows, that all the wise men of this world are foolish, who so harden themselves, that they do not perceive in God’s word what is yet open to their eyes. Who then is a wise man, and he will understand these things?

He afterwards adds, To whom has the mouth of Jehovah spoken to declare this? He complains here that there were no prophets. He said, at the beginning of the verse, that there were none wise, because all heedlessly despised the threatenings and judgments of God: now in the second place he adds, there were none to arouse the careless people who were asleep in their sins. But by this sentence he claims authority for himself; for though he was without associates and assistants, he yet intimates that his teaching was not, on that account of less value: “Be it,” he says, (for he speaks by way of concession,) “be it, that there is no prophet to recall the people from their sins, to exhort them to repent, to terrify the ungodly: however this may be, yet the Lord has appointed me to teach and to exhort the people.” We hence see that the Prophet claims for himself full and complete authority, though he alone denounced God’s vengeance. Many indeed then boasted that they were prophets; but they were only false flatterers. When the Prophet saw that many abused the name, and did not perform the office faithfully and sincerely, he set himself in opposition to them all; as though he had said, “It is enough that the Lord has commanded me to do this; I therefore denounce on you this calamity, which ye heedlessly disregard, because false teachers deeeive you by their mischievous adulations.”

Who will declare, he says, why the land is to perish, and to be laid waste like the desert, so that there should be no inhabitant? We may apply this to two periods. For when Jeremiah spoke, the kingdom was yet standing, and, as I have said, the Jews were not so subdued as to humble themselves before God: they were therefore still indulging themselves in their sins. Now whence did this indulgence proceed, except from their prosperous condition? Yet the Prophet says that the land had perished, and justly so; but he says this, because he did not judge of the people’s state according to what it appeared then to be, but according to the judgment which he saw by the prophetic spirit was impending over them. And we may extend this farther; as though Jeremiah had said, “When God shall have so chastised this people, that there may be as it were a visible monument of celestial wrath; there shall yet be then no prophets to remind them whence these evils have proceeded.” This indeed we know was the case, when the city was partly burnt and partly demolished, and the temple pulled down: the contumacy of the people was so great, that their hearts were stone, and their minds iron. There was then a monstrous hardness in that calamity. They indeed cried for their evils; but no one perceived that God was executing what he had denounced for so many years. For Jeremiah, as we have said, exercised his office of teaching for a long time: but before he began, Isaiah had already been were out; and before Isaiah, Micah had prophesied. Though, however, threatenings had been renewed daily for a hundred years, and terrors had been announced, yet there was no one who attended. fB10

This passage, then, may be thus explained, — That when threatenings should appear by the effect not to have been announced in vain, yet the people would even then be insensible, for no one would attend to nor consider God’s judgment: they would all indeed feel their evils, but no one would regard the hand of him who smote them, as it is said in another place. (<230913>Isaiah 9:13.) Either meaning may be allowed; but, as I think, the Prophet here deplores the hardness and contumacy of the people at that time; as though he had said, that there were none who considered God’s judgments, and that there was no prophet to rouse those who were torpid. But yet, as it has been stated, he thus intimates, that he had sufficient authority, though he had no associate or assistant; for he had been chosen by God, and had been sent to carry this message. It follows —

<240913>Jeremiah 9:13-15

13. And the Lord saith, Because they have forsaken my law which I set before them, and have not obeyed my voice, neither walked therein;

13. Et dixit Jehova, Quia dereliquerunt legem meam, quam posui coram ipsis (ad faciem ipsorum, ad verbum,) et non audierunt vocem meam, et non ambulaverunt in ea (hoc est, secundum ipsam;)

14. But have walked after the imagination of their own heart, and after Baalim, which their fathers taught them:

14. Et ambulaverunt post cogitationes (vel, post contumaciam; nam utroque modo vertunt hoc nomen, post cogitationes ergo) cordis sui, et post Baalim, quos docuerunt patres ipsorum:

15. Therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will feed them, even this people, with wormwood, and give them water of gall to drink.

15. Propterea sic dicit Jehova exercituum, Deus Israel, Ecce ego cibans (cibabo) populum hunc ameritudine, et potabo aquis veneni (vel, venenatis; alii vertunt, aquis fellis; nam ar utrumque significat.)

 

Jeremiah now confirms what I have stated, and more fully explains it, — that though no teacher or a disciple was found in the land, yet there was sufficient power in God’s word alone, and that his judgment depended not on the will or the perceptions of men. After having then complained that all were foolish, and that there were no prophets to reprove their security and indifference, he adds, Thus saith Jehovah. Here he sets God in opposition to all men, to the king and his courtiers, as well as to the common people. Who then is a wise man? as though He looked around him; and there was no man who considered. he was then in suspense; and afterwards he said, “There is no prophet to rouse them from their usual stupor.” He remained still in suspense; and then he turned to God and said, “But Jehovah has spoken;” that is, “Be it, that they are like brute beasts, though they arrogate to themselves great wisdom; nevertheless God speaks, and we ought to be satisfied. We ought then to be silent, and to make no stir; though no one approves, though no one attends to God speaking, there is yet sufficient authority and power in his voice alone.” We now then more fully understand the Prophet’s design: He had said that all men were stupid, and that there was no prophet; and now, on the other hand, he shews that God was not silent nor asleep.

Thus saith Jehovah, Because this people have forsaken my law, etc. He shews that the cause of all evils was a departure from God’s law. No one was willing to confess this, and all the prophets were silent; yet Jeremiah says here, that the cause was to be asked of God why he so grievously afflicted the people. But he takes as granted what was most true, that God was not without reason displeased with the chosen people. It hence then follows, that they were apost, ates, and had forsaken the law: God would not have otherwise so severely punished them. Though then no one perceived the cause of their evils, though no one shewed it, yet God himself ought to have been attended to, who said, that they had forsaken the law.

He then adds, Which l have set before their face. Here he takes away every pretense for ignorance; for they might have objected and said, that the doctrine of the law was obscure, and that they were deceived through want of knowledge. The Prophet anticipates this objection by saying, that the law was set before them; that is, that they were abundantly taught what was right, what pleased God; so that they now in vain and even falsely pleaded ignorance; for they went astray wilfully by closing their eyes against clear light., For this is what he means by saying that the law was set before their face: and it is what Moses often repeats,

“Behold, I have set before thee,”
(<051132>Deuteronomy 11:32, and elsewhere:)

and this he said, that the people might not seek for themselves vain excuses for ignorance, as they were wont to do.

But while we are not to overlook this circumstance, we may yet hence learn this general truth, — that the law of God is not so obscure but that we may learn from it what is right. When, therefore, Moses is quoted, and the prophets are added as interpreters, there is no ground for us to evade, or to make the excuse, that the truth is too hidden or profound; for the law is set before our face, that, the will of God may be made known to us. Whosoever then can read and hear what God has revealed once to the world by Moses and the prophets is inexcusable; for we are taught here, and in other places, that it is a mere perverseness in all who hear the law, when they do not obey: I have set the law, he says, before their face.

And he adds, And they have not hearkened to my voice, and have not walked in it. He defines what it is not to hearken to his voice: for even hypocrites pretend to hear, and nod with their ears like asses; but as they obey not God when he speaks, it is evident that they are deaf. Hence He says that they walked not in his voice, fB11 that is, that they obeyed not his voice. He hence concludes that they were deaf; for their life ought to have testified that they had heard the voice of God speaking to them.

He then adds, And they have walked after the hardiness, or obstinacy, or imaginations, of their own heart. fB12 He opposes the imaginations, or hardness of the heart, to the voice of God, as we find in other places, where contrary things are stilted, that is, what men’s minds devise, and what God shews by his word to be right; for there is no less contrariety between the rule of right living and the imaginations of men, than there is between fire and water. Let us therefore know, that our life cannot be rightly formed except we renounce our own imaginations, and simply obey the voice of God: for as soon as we yield the least to our own imaginations, we necessarily turn aside from the right way, which God has made known to us in his word. This contrast, then, between the law of God and the imaginations or the obduracy of men ought to be carefully noticed.

He then more clearly explains how they had sinned, and after Baalim. fB13 The Prophet here adds nothing new; but by specifying one thing he shews how the Jews followed their own imaginations, by giving themselves up to profane superstitions. What indeed must happen to men, when they forsake God, and allow themselves to follow their own thoughts? what but error and superstition, yea, the abyss of all errors? In short, the Prophet in this clause intended to cut off every occasion for subterfuges; for the Jews, like hypocrites, who sophistically deal with God, might have made this evasion, and said, “Why dost thou object to us our imaginations? what are these imaginations?” Baalim, he says, “Ye have devised idols far yourselves in addition to the only true God; it is hence quite evident, that having forsaken God’s word, ye have followed your own imaginations.” He adds to Baalim, as their fathers have taught them: the relative ra, asher, is to be taken for k caph, as. fB14 I shall speak of this clause tomorrow.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that as thou hast not only testified what is right by the Law and the Prophets, in order that we may form our life in obedience to thy will, but hast also made more fully known to us by thy Gospel what is perfect righteousness, — O grant, that being ruled by thy Spirit, we may surrender ourselves altogether to thee, and so acquiesce in thy Word alone, that we may not deviate either to the right hand or to the left, but allow thee alone to be wise, and that acknowledging our folly and vanity, we may suffer ourselves to be taught by thy Word, so that we may really prove that we are truly obedient to thee, until having at length completed the course of this life, we shall reach that heavenly rest which has been obtained for us by the blood of thine only-begotten Son. — Amen.


Lecture Thirty-Seventh

We explained yesterday what the Prophet said respecting the Jews, that though no one considered the reason why God so severely afflicted them, yet they could not escape in this way, and that they in vain set up the shield of iglnorance, for God had often declared that he abominated their superstitions. Though then they were all blind, and no. prophet shewed to them the cause of their evils, yet Jeremiah said, that this alone was sufficient — that God had spoken, and would again speak to them. He said that they were not submissive to God’s authority, but walked after the hardness of their own heart, and after Baalim. He added, that they had been thus taught by their fathers. By this clause he exaggerated their sin; for they did not then begin for the first time to sin, but became obstinate in their vices.

We may learn from this passage how foolishly the Papists now glory in imitating the fathers: for they think that examples stand for laws; nay, they hesitate not to oppose. God’s authority by what has been done by men. But we see that such an excuse is not only frivolous, but that thereby the crime is doubled; for more excusable is. the ignorance of one year, or of a short time, than when there is a long obstinate persistency in it, and when children, after having embraced abominations, received from their fathers, hand them down to their posterity.

He at length concludes that God would take vengeance, but speaks in a figurativle language, I will feed them with bitterness. The word hn[l lone, is rendered “wormwood;” but as this is a wholesome herb, I prefer to render it “bitterness.” fB15 It is never found in a good sense, and therefore unsuitable to the nature of wormwood, which is often mentioned by Moses: and the other prophets (<051918>Deuteronomy 19:18; <053232>Deuteronomy 32:32; <580215>Hebrews 2:15.) Hence I am inclined to adopt a general term, “bitterness.” He then adds, I will give them poisonous waters to drink; fB16 as though God had said that he would execute a dreadful vengeance, so that it would appear in the meat and drink given them, which yet were remarkable testimonies of his paternal kindness towards them: for we cannot eat a crumb of bread nor drink a drop of water, except God’s goodness, and the care which he takes for our safety, shines upon us. Hence is that awful imprecation in <196922>Psalm 69:22, 23,

“Turned let their table be into an offense.”

David also complained, when describing the barbarous cruelty of his enemies, that they gave him gall to drink: and we shall hereafter see what Jeremiah says; for in speaking. of his enemies, he says that they had conspired to put him to death, and said,

“Let us set wood for his bread.” (<241119>Jeremiah 11:19)

By these words then Jeremiah intended to express the dreadful vengeance of God; for he would not onty deprive the Jews of his benefits, but also turn their bread into poison, and their water into bitterness.

We now then perceive the Prophet’s meaning; and at the same time we must observe the expression, the God of Israel. The foolish boasting, that they were the descendants of Abraham, and that they were a holy people, chosen by God, always deluded the Jews. In order then to check their glorying, the Prophet says, float the God who spoke to them was the God whose name they falsely professed, and that he was the God who had chosen the children of Abraham as his peculiar people. It follows —

<240916>Jeremiah 9:16

16. I will scatter them also among the heathen, whom neither they nor their fathers have known; and I will send a sword after them, til I have consumed them.

16. Et dispergam eos inter gentes, quas non noverunt ipsi, neque patres eorum, et mittam post eos gladium, donec consumpsero ipsos.

 

As he had said that the Jews were following what theyhad received from their fathers,so he says now that God would scatter them among nations,which had been unknown to them and to their fathers. He then alludes to their mischievous tradition; for the fathers had imbued their children with ungodly errors, and had withdrawn them from God, that their doctrine might become altogether familiar to them. There is then a contrast to be noticed between the knowledge with which the fathers had inebriated their children, and their ignorance of the language of the nations.

And then as he had said, that they were walking after the hardness of their own heart and after Baalim, he says, I will send a sword after them. We hence see that the Prophet in both clauses alludes to the defection of which he had spoken. And he adds, Until I shall have consumed them; and this is added, that they might not promise themselves a temporary or a moderate chastisement. Jeremiah then declares, that as they had abused God’s forbearance, destruction was nigh them, and that God would contimle to consume them, until he had wholly destroyed them. It follows —

<240917>Jeremiah 9:17-18

17. Thus saith the Lord of hosts, Consider ye, and call for the mourning women, that they may come; and send for cunning women, that they may come:

17. Sic dicit Jehova exercituum, Attendite et votate lamentatrices, ut veniant, et ad peritas mittite ut veniant:

18. And let them make haste, and take up a wailing for us, that our eyes may run down with tears, and our eyelids gush out with waters.

18. Et festinent et tollant super nos luctum, et descendant oculi nostri in lachrymas, (alii vertunt, descendant cum lachrymis, vel, emittant lachrymas,) et palpebrae nostrae defluant in aquas.

 

In this passage, as in many others, the Prophet endeavors by a striking representation really to touch the hearts of his people, for he saw that they were extremely refractory, insensible, and secure. Since then the threatenings of God were either wholly despised, or had not sufficiently moved the hearts of the people, it was necessary to set forth God’s judgments as present. Therefore the Prophet gives a striking description of what takes place in times of mourning. At the same time he seems to condemn indirectly the Jews for not knowing, through God’s word, that there was a calamity at hand: for God’s word ought indeed to be like a mirror, by which men ought to see God’s goodness in his promises and also his judgment in his threatenings. As then all prophecies were deemed as fables by the people, it was not without some degree of derision that he addressed them in this manner, —

Hearken ye, and call for mourners, that they may come. An absurd and a foolish custom has prevailed almost in all ages to hire women as mourners, whom they called proeficoe; they were employed to mourn for others. Heirs no doubt hired these foolish women, in order to shew their reigned piety; they spoke in praise of the dead, and shewed how great a loss was their death. The Prophet does not commend this custom; and we ought to know that Scripture often takes similes from the vices of men, as from filth and dirt. If then any one concludes from these winds of Jeremiah, that lamentations at funerals are not to be condemned, this would be foolish and puerile. The Prophet, on the contrary, does here reprove the Jews, because they heedlessly disregarded all God’s threatenings, and were at the same time soft and tender at those foolish exhibitions, and all mourned at the sight of those women who were hired to lament; as the case is at this time, when a faithful teacher reprobates the prevailing folly of the Papists. For when the unprincipled men, who occupy the pulpits under the Papacy, speak with weeping, though they produce not a syllable from God’s word, but add some spectacle or phantom, by producing the image of the Cross or some like thing, they touch the feelings of the vulgar and cause weeping, according to what actors do on the stage. As then the Papists are seized as it were with an insane feeling, when their deceivers thus gesticulate, so a faithful teacher may say to them, “Let any one come and set before your eyes the image of a dead man, or say, that you must all shortly die and be like the earcase shewn to you, and ye will cry and weep; and yet ye will sot consider how dreadful God’s judgment is, which I declare to you: I shew to you faithfully from the law, from the prophets, and from the Gospel; how dreadful is God’s vengeance, and set before you what ye deserve; yet none of you are moved; but my doctrine is a mockery to you, and also my reproofs and threatenings: go then to your prophets, who shew you pictures and the like trumperies.” So the Prophet says now, “I see that I can do you no good; the Lord will therefore give you no teachers but women.” Of what sort? Even such, he says, as lament, or are hired to mourn.

We now then perceive why the Prophet speaks of hired women. Attend ye, he says; and why? They ought indeed to have been attentive to or to understand (for ˆb ben, means properly to understand, and in Hithpael it signifies to consider) his words; but as he saw that he was ridiculed or despised, and that all the threatenings which proceeded from God were esteemed as fables, he now says, Consider ye and call for your lamenters: — as I see such perverseness in you, be taught at least by those women who are commonly invited to lament, and who sell their tears!” Send, he says, for the skilfu1, that they may come. By these words he intended more clearly to express, that the calamity which the people feared not was not far distant.

Let them, he says, take up for us a wailing, and let our eyes come down to tears, and let our eyelids flow down into waters. These are hyperbolical words, and yet they do not exceed the intensehess of the coming vengeance: for it was not in vain that he said at the begSnning of the chapter, “Who will make my head waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears?” As then the greatness of the calamity could be expressed by no words, the Prophet was constrained to adopt these hyperbolical expressions: Let them then take up for us a wailing, that our eyes may come down to tears: and this he said, because he saw that he was heard with dry eyes, and that the people disregarded what had been denounced:, when yet all ought to have been smitten with fear, from the least to the greatest. As then the Prophet saw that their contempt was so brutal, he says, that when lainenters came, there would then be the time for wailing, not indeed the seasonable time; but it is the same as though he had said, that the Jews would then find out how insensible they had been, in not having in due time considered the judgment of God. fB17 It follows —

<240919>Jeremiah 9:19

19. For a voice of wailing is heard out of Zion, How are we spoiled! we are greatly confounded, because we have forsaken the land, because our dwellings have cast us out.

19. Quia vox luctus audita est ex Sion, Quomodo perditi (aut, vastati) sumus? pudefacti valde? quia dereliquimus terram, quia projecerunt habitacula nostra (quidam subaudirent, projecerunt nos.)

 

We have said before, that when Jeremiah addressed the people in these words, they were still in a tolerably good condition, so that the king had confidence in his own resources; and his counsellors also thought that some aid would come to them from Egypt, and the people were likewise deceived. But the Prophet speaks of future events and points out as by the finger the evils which were as yet concealed from the view; for he could not otherwise teach with any authority, as he had to do with men of iron hearts. As then he saw that his teaching had no effect, and was wholly disregarded by men so slothful, he felt it necessary to form his style so as to touch their feelings.

On this account he says, that a voice was heard, a voice of wailing from Sion; where yet all exulted with joy. Then he adds, How have we been destroyed! and made greatly ashamed! The Jews thought this a fable, until they found by experience that they had been extremely hard and obstinate: but this really happened. Though they were then indulging in their pleasures, he yet proclaims lamentations to them, as though they were already destroyed: A voice, he says, has been heard, as though the Jews were bewailing the calamity, respecting which they thought the Prophet was fabling, for no danger was yet apparent.

But in order, as I have said, to condemn the hardness of their hearts, he represents them in another character, as bewailing their ruinous condition, and saying, We have left the land; in which however they thought their dwelling would be perpetual; for they boasted that they could never be excluded, as it had been declared,

“This is my rest for ever, here will I dwell, for I have chosen it.”
(
<19D214>Psalm 132:14.)

As then God had testified that it would be a quiet habitation to his people, they thought that they were fortified by a triple wall and rampart, and that the city was altogether unassailable. But Jeremiah represents them as saying, that they had left their own land, that is, that they had been drawn and driven into exile. Then he adds, because they have cast us out. This seems to refer to their enemies who had cast them out, that is, pulled down their dwellings. Some take dwellings to be the nominative case to the verb, “Our dwellings have cast us out.” fB18 But the first meaning reads better: I therefore consider the sense to be simply this, — that they were cast out and that their houses were destroyed by their enemies. It follows —

<240920>Jeremiah 9:20-21

20. Yet hear the word of the Lord, O ye women, and let your ear receive the word of his mouth, and teach your daughters wailing, and every one her neighbor lamentation:

20. Itaque audite mulieres sermonem Jehovae, et percipiant aures vestrae sermonem oris ejus, et docete filias vestras luctum, et unaquaeque (mulier, ad verbum) sociam (vel, propinquam) suam planctum:

21. For death is come up into our windows, and is entered into our palaces, to cut off the children from without, and the young men from the streets.

21. Quia ascendit mors in fenestras nostras, intravit in palatia nostra ad excidendum infantem e platea (e via publica) electos (hoc est adolescentes, etiam in flore oetatis et vigore) in compitis.

 

He proceeds with the same subject, but adopts another figure. He then somewhat changes the comparison; for he had bidden them before to hire women to excite to mourning by fictitious tears, but he now addresses women in general; as though he had said, that such would be the mourning, that hired lamentations would not be sufficient, for the calamity would touch all hearts, and that mercenary wailing would not be real. Hear, he says, ye women.

Why he addresses women may be accounted for in two ways: the softness of women more easily leads them to weep; there may be also here an indirect condemnation of the men, that they were deaf and so hardened that no threatenings terrified them. But the first seems to be the most suitable reason here, provided we still understand that real mourning is opposed to reigned mourning. Then Jeremiah passes from the particular to the general; that is, after having spoken of hired women, he now includes all women; for lamentation would prevail in every city, and also in every house: Hear then, ye women, the word of Jehovah.

And he adds, and let your ears receive the word of his mouth. He mentions on the one hand the mouth of God, and on the other the ears of women. It seems indeed a redundancy, but the repetition is not superfluous. Had he said only, “Let your ears hear the word of his mouth,” there would have been a redundancy; but he spoke before only of the word of God, and hear ye; now he adds, the mouth of God, and the ears of women. The Prophet no doubt intended to rebuke that hardness which we have often noticed. The word of God was deemed of no moment; hence he says, the mouth of God: as though he had said, “God speaks with you as it were from mouth to mouth: for though he employs my labor, I am yet but his instrument; so that you may easily find out that I declare nothing presumptuously, but faithfully deliver what I have received from him.” We hence see how emphatical is this repetition, which may seem at first sight to be superfluous. The same emphasis belongs to the ears of women; it is as though he had said, that they had been hitherto extremely indifferent, and that it was time for their ears to be attentive.

He adds, And teach your daughters; as though he had said, that such would be the wailing, that it would reach not only the old and the middle-aged, but even young girls, as yet rude and ignorant. And let every one, he says, teach her neighbor lamentation. In short, the meaning is, that no women, old or young, would be exempt from this mourning, as all would be implicated in a common sorrow; for God’s judgment would reach every age, sex, and order of men, and would also penetrate into every house.

And by way of explanation he adds, For death has ascended into our windows. There is here a kind of derision; for the Jews, as it has been said, had falsely promised to themselves a perpetual impunity; and therefore the Prophet adopts here a most suitable comparison. For as they sleep securely, who with closed doors seem to themselves to be beyond the reach of danger; so the Jews at that time despised God and all his judgments, as though the doors of their houses were closed. Hence the Prophet says, that death had entered in through the windows; and he thus derides their folly for thinking that they could escape the hand of God, because their gates were shut, as though. God’s power could not ascend above the clouds nor enter through their windows, when the doors were closed. In short, he intimates that the doors would not be opened by God; for though he might not be disposed to break them, he could yet immediately ascend into the windows. We now apprehend the Prophet’s design in saying, that death had entered through the windows.

And what he adds respecting palaces bears the same import; as though he had said, “Were our houses even fortified, and were they not. only commodious habitations, but made like citadels, yet God could not be excluded; for his power can penetrate through the highest and the thickest walls, so that a palace is to him like the weakest and frailest cottage.” We hence see that by this comparison he checks that foolisll confidence by which the Jews had deceived themselves, and by which they were as yet inebriated. Death then has ascended into our windows, etc.

He then adds, To cut off the young, or children, from the public ways, and the youths from the streets. fB19 By these words he sets forth the dreadfulness of the calamity; for the youths would not be able to defend themselves by their own strength; for by yrwjb, bechurim, he means the most robust. Even these would not be able to repel the onset of their enemies; though in the flower of their age, yet their rigor, however strong, would not protect them, nor would children and infants be spared. We see that two things are here set forth by the Prophet, — that the assaults of their enemies would be so violent, that young men would in vain resist them, as their vigor would avail them nothing, — and then that such would be the cruelty of their enemies, that no regard would be shewn for age, for they would put to death even infants newly born. It follows —

<240922>Jeremiah 9:22

22. Speak, Thus saith the Lord, Even the carcases of men shall fall as dung upon the open field, and as the handful after the harvest-man, and none shall gather them.

22. Loquere, Sic dicit Jehova, Cadet cadaver hominis, tanquam stercus in superficie agri, et tanquam manipulus a tergo messoris, et nemo colligens.

 

Though Jeremiah continues the same subject, he yet introduces a preface, — that he had been commanded to declare what he says here; for on account of the strangeness of the event, the prophecy seemed incredible. He might, indeed, have proceeded with the subject, and omitted the words, Thus saith Jehovah,” and have begun thus: “Fall shall the carcase of man,” etc. But, as I have said, this prophecy seemed to the greatest part as worthless, as though it was a fable: it was therefore necessary to introduce these words, — that he came forth furnished with God’s command; and he at the same time shews that he introduced nothing of his own, but that God himself spoke. We now perceive why these few words were introduced. fB20

He afterwards says, that the carcases of men would be cast forth as dung. He speaks by way of reproach, as though he had said, that all would without honor be laid prostrate by their enemies. And he adds a similitude, They shall fall, he says, on the face of the field, that is, everywhere through all the fields shall they fall as dung, which is cast forth, and which excites nausea by its sight and by its odor. Thus the Prophet here denotes foetor and a deformed sight by the comparison of dung: yet we know with what pride were they then filled. This threatening then was to them very disagreeable; but as they flattered themselves in their vices, it was the more necessary to treat them roughly; for thus ought hypocrites to be dealt with, who indulge their own delusions: the more boldly they rise up against God, the more violently ought they to be east down, so that they may at length humble themselves under the mighty hand of God.

He adds another comparison, As a handful, etc. Jerome renders it “hay.” If dym[ omid, were found elsewhere in this sense, I would willingly adopt this meaning; but I rather think that it means those ears of corn which are not gathered while the reapers collect their handfuls. They do not, indeed, leave complete handfuls, nor east them away; but it happens, through carelessness, that a few ears escape them. Then the Prophet says, that the Jews would be like those ears of corn which the reapers pass by and leave behind; and there is no one afterwards to gather them: and those ears of corn which thus remain in the field either rot of themselves, or are devoured by cattle or wild beasts. He then means, that there would be no residue of the people, for all, from the least to the greatest, would be given up to destruction.

This is the meaning; and at the same time he expresses contempt; for when reapers do not collect the whole produce of the field, there are still the poor, who gather the ears of corn; but when they are trodden under foot, and when there is no one to gather them, it betokens contempt; and this is what the Prophet intended to express. It now follows —

<240923>Jeremiah 9:23-24

23. Thus saith the Lord, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches:

23. Sic dicit Jehova, Ne glorietur sapiens in sapientia sua, et ne glorietur fortis in fortitudine sua; ne glorietur dives in divitiis suis:

24: But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord which exercise loving-kindness, judgement, and righteousness, in the earth; for in these things I delight, saith the Lord.

24. Sed in hoc glorietur qui gloriatur cognoscendo et sciendo me, quod ego sum Jehova, faciens misericordiam, (vel, clementiam) judicium et justitiam in terra; quia in his complacuit mihi, dicit Jehova.

 

This is a remarkable passage, and often found in the mouth of men, as other notable sentences, which are known as proverbial sayings: but yet few rightly consider how these words are connected with the previous context. Hence there are many who are satisfied with a simple explanation, as though it were a subject abruptly introduced, and as though the Prophet commenced something new; and they confine themselves to those words: and thus they misrepresent the meaning of the Prophet, or at least diminish much of the force of what is taught.

The Prophet no doubt has a regard to what has gone before. He saw, as I have often said, that he addressed the deaf; for the Jews were so swollen with false confidence, that the word of God was regarded worthless by them. As then some were proud for their riches, and others thought themselves more prudent than that they could by any means be taken, and others thought themselves so fortified by wealth and power, that they could easily resist any evil, — as then the minds of all were possessed with so much pride, the Prophet, in order to confirm what he had said, declares here that men foolishly gloried, while they set up their riches, or their strength, or their wisdom, in opposition to God; for all these things would vanish away like smoke.

We now then perceive why the Prophet forbids here any to glory except in God alone, and how the passage ought not to be deemed as abrupt, but connected with what he said, when he denounced destruction on the Jews, which yet they dreaded not, because they were filled with this ungodly and foolish conceit, — that they had more than a sufficient protection in their own strength, or riches, or wisdom. The rest to-morrow.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that since thou settest before our eyes so many evils and vices by which we have provoked thine anger against us, and yet givest us the hope of pardon if we repent, — O grant us a teachable spirit, that we may with becoming meekness attend to thy threatenings, and be in such a way territlcd by them as not yet to despair of the mercy offered to us, but seek it through thy Son: and as he has once for all pacified thee by shedding his blood, so cleanse thou us also by thy Spirit from all our pollutions, until we at length stand immaculate before thee in that day when Christ shall appear for the salvation of all his people. — Amen.


Lecture Thirty-Eighth

We began yesterday to explain what the Prophet means, when he forbids men to glory either in wisdom, or in strength, or in riches. The meaning is, that all are greatly deceived who think themselves blessed while alienated from God. We have also noticed the reason why he speaks of wisdom, strength, and riches, even this, — because it is a vice innate in all mortals to be proud of their own excellency. Whatever we think valuable ought to be acknowledged as received from God. If then all the excellency we have is God’s gift, it is very strange that we do not learn humility when God thus binds us to himself; but that, on the contrary, we abuse his bounty by making it the occasion of pride. This ingratitude has nevertheless ever prevailed in the world. This then is the reason why the Prophet here reduces to nothing all the boastings of the world. There were among the Jews some rich, others excelled in wisdom, and others in power: thus it happened, that heavenly truth was of no value in their esteem. As then some trusted in their riches and not. in God, and others in their wisdom, and others in their valor, the Prophet here declares that all the glory they arrogated on account of God’s temporal gifts, was all nothing. It remained then for the Jews to consider, that all such confidences would avail nothing against God’s judgment.

But we may hence learn a general truth; and Paul no doubt had a regard to this passage in <460131>1 Corinthians 1:31. He teaches us there, that God chooses what is foolish in the world, that he might thus shame the wisdom of the world, and that he chooses what is weak, that he might upset the strength of the world; and then he adds, That whosoever glories must glory in God alone. He doubtless took this passage from the Prophet; and yet he does not only speak there of strength of body, nor of riches, nor of worldly wisdom; but includes also righteousness, and whatever is deemed valuable or honorable among men. His object, then is to annihilate every glory that belongs to the flesh, that the mercy of God alone may shine forth. Hence I said, that though the Prophet mentions only three things, yet a generaal doctrine may hence be suitably drawn; for what is said of wisdom, strength, and riches, may and ought to be applied to that false conceit of righteousness with which hypocrites swell. We shall now consider the words.

Thus saith Jehovah, Let not the wise glory, etc. fB21 By way of concession he calls those wise who were without the fear of God, which yet we know is the beginning of wisdom. (<19B110>Psalm 111:10; <200107>Proverbs 1:7.) But the Prophet speaks according to the common opinion; and the meaning may be thus given, “Let; not him who seenas wise to himself glory in his own wisdom:” and so the other words may be understood. It is then added, But let him who glories, glory in this, etc. It appears from the second verse, that men are not so stripped of all glory, that they may be down in disgrace; but that they may seek a better glory, for God detights not in the degradation of men. But as they arrogate to themselves more than what is right, and even inebriate themselves with delusions, he strips them naked, that after having known that all they think they have, either from nature, or from themselves, or from other creatures, is a mere phantom, they may seek true glory.

He afterwards adds, In understanding and knowing me. Though by these two word the Prophet means the same thing, yet they are not used without a design; for as men despised the knowledge of God, it was necessary to remind them, that to know God is the chief part of perfect wisdom. He therefore intended to correct the mischievous error under which almost the whole world labors; for while all attend to wxrious pursuits, the knowledge of God is neglected. We see with what ardor every one pursues his own fancies, while hardly one in a hundred deigns to spend half an hour in the day in seeking the knowledge of God. And there is also another evil, a false opinion, which proceeds from pride, — that to know God is a common thing. We hence perceive why the Prophet has employed these two words to designate the same thing; it was to rouse more fully the attention of men; for he saw that almost all were torpid and indifferent on a subject which is justly entitled to the labor of a whole life; nay, were a hundred lives given us, this one thing would be sufficient to engage our attention. But, as it has been said, what ought to be preferred to all other things is despised and neglected.

He afterwards adds, That I am Jehovah, who doeth judgment. By calling himself Jehovah, he doubtless excludes all those devices which then engaged the attention of the Jews; for the whole land was corrupted by so many superstitions, that the name of the only true God was unknown. They all, indeed, professed to worship the God of Abraham, who had delivered to them his law by the hand of Moses; but as many errors were mingled with the true doctrine, God was deprived of his own honor. It was, then, God’s will that he should be so known as to appear alone supreme, and to be alone as it were kept in view. But the explanation which follows ought to be carefully observed; for had he said only, “Let every one who glories, glory in the knowledge of me, that I am Jehovah,” it would, indeed, have been a plain truth, but not sufficiently persplcuous or evident; for the minds of men might have been in suspense, and they might have said, “What does this mean? or, why is it, that God regards the knowledge of himself to be so important? They might also have supposed that it was quite enough to confess him to be the only true God. Hence God here reminds the Jews of his own divine perfections, that they might really know that he is God, and that they might not ascribe to him an empty name. It was for this reason that I have said, that these words, who doeth mercy and judgement and justice, ought to be carefully observed.

We see at this day, under the Papacy, that the name of God is presumptuously gloried in: there is no one who is not ready boldly to declare that he worships the one true God, and yet they profane his name; for they afterwards rob God, and bestow the spoils on the dead. This passage then teaches us, that the name of God of itself would be of no importance, if stripped of his power and perfections. Hence we have then only the true knowledge of God, when we not only acknowledge him to be the creator of the world, but when we also fully believe that the world is governed by him, and when we further understand the way in which he governs it, that is, by doing mercy and judgment and justice.

Now, the first thing respecting God is, that we should acknowledge him to be beneficient and bountiful; for what would become of us without the mercy of God? Therefore the true and right knowledge of God begins here, that is, when we know him to be merciful towards us. For what would it avail us to know that God is just, except we had a previous knowledge of his mercy and gratuitous goodness? We cannot know God without knowing ourselves. These two things are connected. Now, if any examines himself, what will he find but what will make him to despair? Thus, whenever God is thought of, we feel a dread, and despair in a manner swallows us up. In short, all avoid God, except the sweetness of his grace allures them. Why? Because, as I have said, there is nothing but what brings misery to us, and a cause of dread. Hence Jeremiah, while bidding men to glory in the knowledge of God, has not in vain given the first and the highest place to his mercy.

He afterwards adds, Judgement and justice. When these two words are joined together, they denote perfect government; that is, that God defends his faithful people, aids the miserable, and delivers them when unjustly oppressed; and also that he restrains the wicked, and suffers them not to injure the innocent at their pleasure. These then are the things which the Scripture everywhere means by the two words, judgment and justice. The justice of God is not to be taken according to what is commonly understood by it; and they speak incorrectly who represent God’s justice as in opposition to his mercy: hence the common proverb, “I appeal from justice to mercy.” The Scripture speaks otherwise; for justice is to be taken for that faithful protection of God, by which he defends and preserves his own people; and judgment, for the rigor which he exercises against the transgressors of his law.

But, as I have already said, judgment and justice, when found together, are to be taken for that legitimate government, by which God so regulates the affairs of the world, that there is nothing but what is just and right: and hence is confirmed more fully what I have already stated, that he not only speaks generally, but intends also to remove the evils which then stood in the way, and prevented the Jews from rightly receiving either promises or threatenings; for a false glory inebriated them all, inasmuch as one thought his riches to be like an invincible fortress; another, his wisdom; and the third, his strength. As then they were full of vain pride, and thus despised God and his heavenly truth, it was necessary to bring them to order, and even wholly to strip them, that they might know that they were not to glory in anything but in the knowledge of God.

Now, the knowledge mentioned here produces two fruits, even faith and fear; for if we are fully, persuaded that there is propitiation with God, as it is said in <19D004>Psalm 130:4 we recumb on him, and hesitate not to flee to him, and to place our salvation in his hand. This is one thing. Then faith brings fear, as it is said in the psalm referred to,

“There is propitiation with thee, that thou mayest be feared.”

But the Prophet here distinctly refers to these two things; for God, by expressing his will to be known as being merciful, doubtless encourages us to exercise faith, so that we may call on him witIx tranquil minds, and not doubt but he is propitious to us; for he looks not on what we are, in order to repay to us wlmt we deserve, but deals graciously with us according to his mercy: and by saying that he doeth judgment and justice, he intimates, that these two things ought to dispose and turn our hearts to fear and reverence. At the same time, when God declares that he doeth justice, He supplies us with a reason for confidence; for he thus promises to be the guardian of our salvation: for, as I have said, his justice is not to render to every one his just reward, but is to be extended further, and is to be taken for his faithfulness. As then God never forsakes his own people, but aids them in due time, and restrains the wicked, he is on this account called just: we hence can then more securely, and with quieter minds, recumb on him, when we know that his justice is such, that he will never leave us destitute of help whenever necessary.

He afterwards adds, For in these I delight, saith Jehovah. This refers to men; as though God had said, that he hated all who pass by the knowledge of his mercy, judgment, and justice, and become ferocious and elated with a vain hope on account of riches, or of strength, or of wisdom, according to what is said in <19E710>Psalm 147:10,

“The strength of a horse pleases not God, nor is he delighted with the legs of a man;”

as though he had said, that God hates that confidence by which men presumptuously extol themselves, while they think their life and their safety to be in their own hand. So also, in this passage, there is a contrast to be understood between the knowledge of God’s mercy, judgment, and justice, and the wisdom, strength, riches, and the foolish glorying, by which men are inflated, when they seek in these their happiness. fB22

We now also more clearly see what I have before said, — that not only condemned in these words is the boasting of human power, and the glowing in wisdom and in wealth, but that men are wholly stripped of all the confidence they place in themselves, or seek from the world, in order that the knowledge of God alone may be deemed enough for obtaining perfect happiness. For the Prophet shews, with sufficient clearness, that all men without God are miserable: it hence follows, that they are not otherwise happy but in him. Then the way and manner is to be added. How are we made happy in God? Even by knowing his mercy towards us, and then by delivering up ourselves to his defense and protection, and by suffering ourselves to be ruled by him, and by obeying also his law, because we fear his judgment. This passage might indeed be more fully handled; but it is enough for me, according to my custom, to point out the main things. It now follows —

 

<240925>Jeremiah 9:25-26

25. Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will punish all them which are circumcised with the uncircumcised;

25. Ecce dies veniunt, dicit Jehova, ut visitem (ad verbum, et visitabo) super omnem circumcisum in praeputio.

26. Egypt, and Judah, and Edom, and the children of Ammon, and Moab, and all that are in the utmost corners, that dwell in the wilderness: for all these nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in the heart.

26. Super Egyptium (vel, super Egyptum; tam de terra quam de hominibus potest accipi) et super Jehudah, et super Edom, et super omnes filios Amon, et super Moab, et super omnes finitos in angulo (alii vertunt, attonsos comam, sed nulla ratio apparet) habitantes in deserto; quia omnes gentes incircumcisae (vel, praeputiatae) et tota domus Israel praeputiati sunt corde (vel, incircumcisi.)

 

The Prophet, after having removed the obstacle which he saw hindered the Jews from reverently receiving the truth of God, now speaks more sharply, and performs the office of a herald in denouncing the vengeance which was at hand: Behold, he says, come shall the days, in which I will visit all the uncircumcised in uncircumcision.

This passage admits of two meanings. Some interpreters take as distinct these two words, lwm mul, the circumcised, hlr[b, beorle, in uncircumcision; as though Jeremiah had said, “I will visit the Jews, who are circumcised, as well as the heathen nations, who are uncircumcised,” Others read them jointly, — that God threatens vengeance on the Jews and Gentiles, because they were circumcised, and still retained uncircumcision. The passage may however be thus suitably explained, — that there was a mixture, which corrupted the sacredness of circumcision, and made it like the uncircumcision of the Gentiles; as though it were thus expressed, “I will visit the circumcised with the uncircumcision,” that is, promiscuously and without any difference, as we say in our language, Pele mele. For it follows afterwards, that all were uncircumcised in heart; that is, all the Jews. We hence see that the Prophet makes circumcision and uncireumcision the same, and that he intended to render profane the sacred symbol of adoption;but he had reference to the Jews, who, being degenerated, thus adulterated God’s covenant, and at the same time violated circumcision, so that in differed nothing from uncircumcision. I therefore think, that the Jews are classed with the Gentiles, so that he ascribes even to them uncircumcision: I will then visit all the circumcised with the uncircumcision; that is, the circumcision of each is vain, and is like uncircumcision.

However this may be, the Prophet here denounces ruin, not only on the Jews, but also on the Egyptians and on other neighboring nations; but he yet speaks to his own people, for his word was not destined for the Egyptians, nor for the Idumeans and the Moabites. But as the Jews were wont to have recourse to the Egyptians, when any danger arose from the Assyrians and Chaldeans, the Prophet here connects the Egyptians with the Jews, and for the same reason, the other nations. We indeed know that the Idumeans and the Moabites were most hostile enemies to the Jews; but as the state of things changed, they were at one time their enemies, at another their friends; and when they saw that the Chaldeans extended their power, they saw also that they were exposed to plunder, and hence it happened that they willingly helped the Jews. Since then the Hebrews hoped that their neighbors on every side would aid them, the Prophet says that a visitation was nigh them all: and hence is confirmed what I have already said; for he distinguishes not the Jews from the Egyptians and other nations; but, on the contrary, as they had made alliances with them, he intends to unite them in one body: I will visit, he says, the circumcised with the uncircumcision. For the Jews did not bear in mind that God was the protector of their safety, and that they had been set apart by him from other nations. He names the circumcised together with the uncircumcision, because the Egyptians, the Idumeans, the Ammonites, and the Moabites, were deemed circumcised on account of the covenant they had made with the Jews; and the Jews were deemed uncircumcised, because they had forsaken God, and thus profarted themselves.

It is indeed true that the Idumeans were circumcised, for they were the descendants of Esau, and had no doubt retained this external symbol; but their circumcision was altogether a mockery, as Esau had departed from the Church of God. The circumcision of the elect people was in itself efficacious; but as they had alike fallen into superstitions, they were like the uncircumcised, according to what Paul says, — that the letter of the circumcision, that is, the external rite, was nothing. We hence see that there is no common propriety in the Prophet’s words, when he denounces vengeance on the Jews as well as on the Egyptians, and names the circumcised with the uneircumcision; for the latter had uncircumcision, the former circumcision, and thus they had blended profane and sacred things together, so that there was nothing pure or uncorrupted: and hence he mentions Egypt, Judah, Edom, the children of Ammon, and Moab. We have before stated why he enumerated all these nations; he did so, because they expected help from one another, so that they all despised God.

He afterwards adds, And all the extreme ones in a corner. The word ≈q, kots, means the end; hence they take yxwxq, kotsutsim, here for extremities: and hap pae, signifies a corner, and an end. We might then, if propriety of language would bear it, render the words thus, “the cornered in the corner.” But the meaning is by no means ambiguous, which is, that though the Moabites and others had hidden recesses, they could not be exempt from the calamity. God’s vengeance shall come, says Jeremiah, into their farthest corners, where they think that they dwell in safety. And what follows is explanatory, the inhabitants of the wilderness, or, those who dwell in the wilderness. He thus shews what he meant by hap yxwxq kotsutsi pae, the extremities, of the corner. For when people inhabit remote places, they regard themselves on that account safer, being secure in their hiding — places: this confidence the Prophet derides; and he says that punishment would reach them also. fB23

He then adds, For all the nations are uncircumcised, and the whole house of Israel is uncircumcised in heart. By saying, that all nations were uncircumcised, he doubtless includes the Israelites, and thus by way of reproach he takes away from the chosen people their peculiar distinction; as though he had said, that Israel was so mixed with the nations, that they only made a part of them: the Jews would have otherwise denied, that they deserved to be classed with the Gentiles; but the Prophet deprives them of every excuse, and says that they were but one nation, having no difference: All these nations then are uncircumcised. And so h He, before ywg guim, nations, may be taken as a demonstrative pronoun, and not a relative, “All these nations.” He had spoken not only of the Egyptians and the Idumeans and of other neighboring nations, but had also mentioned Judah. He then says, “All these nations are uncircumcised:” and as I have already said, he condemns Israel, because they differed nothing from the nations, though God had consecrated them to himself; for there was an entire mingling, which made them all equal.

But as some objection might still be alleged, he says, the Jews are uncircumcised in heart. He had indeed already included them in the nations; but it was necessary to insist more on this point, for circumcision might have been pleaded by them. Hence the Prophet says, that though they had the visible symbol in the flesh, they were yet uncircumcised in heart, and ought therefore to be classed with the nations. We see how sharply he reproves them: though he separates them from other nations, he yet shews that they justly deserved to be numbered with them; for God cares not for the external symbol, but regards the chief thing, the circumcision of the heart.

It is a common thing with Moses and the Prophets to call an unrenewed heart, uncircumcision, and to say that the people are uncircumcised in heart: for circumcision, while an evidence of free salvation in Christ, at the same time initiated the Jews into the worship and service of God, and proved the necessity of a new life; it was in short a sign both of repentance and of faith. When, therefore, the Jews presented only the sign, they were justly derided by Moses and the prophets; for they seemed as though they sought to pacify God by a thing of nought, without regarding the end. The same is the case now when we boast of baptism alone, and are at the same time destitute of repentance and faith: our boasting is absurd and ridiculous. And hence Paul calls the external rite, when the sign is separated from its reality and substance, the letter of the circumcision; and on the other hand he calls that the true circumcision, which is in secret and in the spirit. We may also say the same of baptism, — that the literal baptism avails hypocrites nothing, for they receive only the naked sign: and therefore we must come to the spirit of baptism, to the thing itself; for the interior power is renovation, when our old man is crucified in us, and when we rise again with Christ into newness of life.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that as thou hast revealed to us in thy Gospel how guilty and miserable we are, we may learn to loathe ourselves, ard so He down confounded and despairing on account of the sins and guilt we have contracted, as yet to know that true glory is offered to us, and that we can be made partakers of it, if by true faith we embrace thy only-begotten Son, in whom is offered to us perfect righteousness and salvation: And grant also that we may so cleave to Christ, and so receive by faith his blessings, that we may be able, not only before the world, but also against Satan and death itself, to glory in thee, that thou alone art just and wise and strong; and may thy strength and justice and wisdom shine forth upon us in our iniquity and ignorance and infirmity, until we shall at length reach that ruiness of glory, which has been prepared for us in heaven by Christ our Lord. — Amen.


Lecture Thirty-Ninth

CHAPTER 10

<241001>Jeremiah 10:1-2

1. Hear ye the word which the Lord speaketh unto you, O house of Israel;

1. Audite verbum quod loquitur (sermonem quem profert) Jehova ad vos, domus Israel:

2. Thus saith the Lord, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them.

2. Sic dicit Jehova, Viam gentium ne didiceritis, et a signis coelorum ne metuatis; quoniam metuunt ab illis gentes.

 

Jeremiah enters here on a new subject. Though he had, no doubt, taught this truth often, yet I consider it as distinct from what has gone before; for he begins here a new attack on those superstitions to which the Jews were then extremely addicted. He exhorts them first to hear the word of Jehovah; for they had so hardened themselves in the errors which they had derived from the Gentiles, and the contagion had so prevailed, that they could not be easily drawn away from them. This, then, is the reason why he used a sort of preface, and said, Hear ye the word of Jehovah, which he speaks to you, O house of Israel. fB24

He then mentions the error in which the Chaldeans and the Egyptians were involved; for they were, we know, very attentive observers of the stars. And this is expressly stated, because the Jews despised God’s judgments, and greatly feared what were foolishly divined. For when any one, by looking at the stars, threatened them with some calamity, they were immediately terrified; but when God denounced on them, as with the sound of a trumpet, a calamity by his Prophets, they were not at all moved. But it will be better to examine the very words of the Prophet, as then we shall more plainly see the drift of the whole.

Learn not, he says, the way of the nations. The Hebrew grammarians take la, al ta at. fB25 Way, we know, is everywhere taken for all those customs and habits by which human life is regulated, He then forbids them to pay attention to the rules of life observed by the Gentiles. And one thing he specifies, Be not terrified by celestial signs. He afterwards shews how vain were the practices of the Gentiles; being devoted to idols, they worshipped them in the place of God, though framed by the skill of man. But there are other words added, For the heathens are terrified by them. There is a threefold exposition of this clause. Some take yk, ki, properly a causative, in the sense of k, caph, which denotes likeness, “as the Gentiles are terrified by them.” Others regard it as an adversative, “though,” and yk, ki, has often this meaning. There are also others who give this explanation, “For it is the case with the Gentiles, that they are terrified by them;” as though God had said, that it was extremely absurd in the Jews to be terrified by celestial signs, for they ought to have left this folly, or rather madness, to the Gentiles, as God regarded them as wholly blind. Let us now come to the subject.

Learn not, he says, the way of the Gentiles. This is a general precept. The law was to the Jews a rule which was sure, and prescribed to them the limits of duty; they ought, therefore, to have followed what God taught them in his law, and not to have turned aside either to the right hand or to the left, according to what Moses also had said. But as human minds are always wanton, they were very desirous of knowing what the Gentiles observed; but whenever this wantonness possesses men’s minds, they necessarily blend darkness with light. It was then, for this reason, that Jeremiah reminded them, that nothing was to be learnt from the Gentiles; as though he had said, “Ye ought to be satisfied with the simple doctrine of the law; for unless ye are content with having God as your teacher, ye will necessarily go astray: unless, then, ye seek wilfully to err, keep the way which is pointed out to you in the law, and turn not aside to the rites and practices of the Gentiles.”

After having given them a general command not to turn aside from the plain doctrine of the law, he specifies one thing in particular, Be not terrified by celestial signs, that is, “Do not suppose that prosperity or adversity depends on the position or aspect of the stars.” There seems, however, to be here some inconsistency, for he mentions the stars as signs; it hence follows that something is intimated by their position; and Moses also says, that the sun and moon, and all the stars, (and especially the planets,) would be for signs. There are, at the same time, in the firmament, twelve signs by which astrologers especially make their calculations. Since then God has, from the beginning of the creation, appointed what they call the fixed stars in the firmament, as well as the planets, to be for signs, the Prophet seems not to have done right in forbidding the Jews to fear such signs; for these signs in the heavens are not the vain fictions of men, but what God has created and appointed; and we have already stated that the stars are not called signs through the foolish conceit of men, but this character was given them by God himself when they were first created; and if the stars presage to us either prosperity or adversity, it follows that they ought to be dreaded by us.

But the Prophet here does not use the word signs in its proper meaning; for he refers not to its true origin, but accommodates himself to the notions which then prevailed; fB26 and we must bear in mind what I have already said, that the Egyptians and Chaldeans were much given to that astrology, which is called at this day judiciary. The word itself may be allowed; but it has been long ago profaned by wicked and unprincipled men, whose object has been to make gain by mere falsehoods. There is no doubt but that the Egyptians and the Chaldeans were true astrologers, and understood the art, which in itself is praiseworthy; for to observe the stars, what else is it, but to contemplate that wonderful workmanship, in which the power, as well as the wisdom and goodness of God, shines forth? And, indeed, astrology may justly be called the alphabet of theology; for no one can with a right mind come to the contemplation of the celestial framework, without being enraptured with admiration at the display of God’s wisdom, as well as of his power and goodness. I have no doubt, then, but that the Chaldeans and the Egyptians had learned that art, which in itself is not only to be approved, but is also most useful, and contains not only the most delightful speculations, but ought also to contribute much towards exciting in the hearts of men a high reverence for God. Hence Moses was instructed from his childhood in that art, and also Daniel among the Chaldeans. (<440722>Acts 7:22; <270117>Daniel 1:17, 20.) Moses learned astrology as understood by the Egyptians, and Daniel as known by the Chaldeans; but the art among them was at that time much adulterated; for they had mingled, as I have already said, foolish divinations with the true and genuine science.

As then the Prophet’s meaning seems evident, the truth remains fixed, that the sun, and moon, and other planets, and the fixed stars in the firmament, are for signs. But we must notice also here the purpose for which God intended the sun and moon to be signs. His purpose was, that the lunar course should complete one month, and that the solar course should complete one year. And then the twelve signs were designed to answer another purpose: for when the sun is in Cancer it has not the same power and influence as when it is in Virgo; and it differs as to the other signs. In short, as to the order of nature, the stars, the planets, as well as the fixed stars, are to us for signs. We number the years by the solar course, and the months by the lunar; and then the sun, with respect to the twelve signs, introduces the spring, then the summer, then the autumn, and lastly the winter. There are other purposes; but we include in one sentence whatever can be said of the celestial signs, when we say, that they have a reference to the order of nature. Whosoever, then, seeks to make more of these signs, confounds the order established by God, as the Chaldeans formerly did, and also the Egyptians, when they sought to ascend higher than reason warranted: they tried to conjecture by the position of the stars what would be the fates of all nations; and then they dared to come down to the cases of individuals. Hence arose the casters of nativities. Then they first began more anxiously to philosophize, that the sun, when in a certain sign, portends the death of an only son, and happy events to another. But these are things, as we have said, which are beyond the usual order of nature. That there is to be, for instance, summer and winter, this is natural and common; but that there is to be war between one nation and another, this is not by the usual order of things, nor takes place according to what nature appoints, but through the ambition and avarice of men. The hidden providence of God, indeed, rules; but we speak of causes, which ought to be understood by us, and which can be comprehended by us, for they are within the reach of our understanding. It must at the same time be observed, that the course of the stars is in itself of no moment; for we see that God varies the seasons: there is not the same state of weather; we have no winters and no summers exactly alike; there is no year which is not dissimilar to the former; and the third which follows, differs from the second.

We hence, then, learn that God has so formed and ordered the sun, and the moon, and all the stars, that he himself still governs and changes the seasons as it pleases him. In this way we account for sterilities, and pestilences, and other things of this kind. When the air seems temperate, pestilence prevails, the year is less fruitful, and men are famished, and no cause appears. Then this diversity in nature itself shews that God has not resigned his power to the stars, but that he so works by them, that he still holds the reins of government, and that he, according to his own will, rules the world in a way different from what even the acutest can divine by the stars. Yet this is no reason why we should deny to them the office which I have mentioned. But they who exceed the limits fixed by God, and seek to form conjectures respecting war in this country and peace in that countrymthey who thus seek to learn from the stars what is beyond the order of nature, blend heaven and earth together. The Prophet, no doubt, intended to condemn this madness when he forbade the Jews to attend to the celestial signs so as to dread them.

But the reason also must be noticed, why the Prophet so severely condemned that fear which prevailed among the Gentiles: it was for this, because when the opinion prevailed that all events depended on the stars, the fearof God was removed, and nothing was ascribed to his judgments, faith was extinguished, and prayer to God, and all the ordinances of religion, were reduced to nothing. For all the astrologers, who falsely assume so honorable a name, yea those unprincipled men, who add to their impostures the name of judiciary astrology, hold and maintain, that a judgment respecting man’s life ought to be formed by the horoscope, as though the fortune of every one depended on the stars. When, therefore, any one is born at a certain hour, this or that condition, according to them, awaits him. Thus they imagine that there is a fate, or some necessity, which holds a man bound to the influence of the sun, moon, and stars: for he was born when the sun was in the tail of that sign or in the head of another; his birth portends such and such fortune; he will live but a short time, or he will live long. Thus they judge. And they go still farther, and pronounce on every occurrence, “Such will be the issue of this expedition; this during the year will be unhappily undertaken, but that will succeed.” Afterwards, when nativity is not taken into an account, they subject the whole human race to the uncontrollable influence of the stars: “See, if you undertake this business on such a day, you will succeed; but if you begin before mid-day, the issue will be unsuccessful.” Thus they divine concerning the whole life of man with regard to each of his actions: but God never intended the stars to be signs for such purposes.

Now, as I have said, it hence follows that God does not rule, and that thus faith is extinguished, and all the exercises of religion are reduced to nothing. For whosoever is persuaded that he is bound by necessity, because the horoscope is of such a character, he must necessarily die at such an hour, and necessarily die of a certain kind of death, — will any one who has this conviction call on God? will he commend his life to his keeping? And then, when any adversity happens, who will bear it as a punishment for his sins? Will he acknowledge that he is called to judgment by God? And if he should prosper, will he be led to sing praises to God?

We hence see that this divination extinguishes all religion; for there will be no faith, there will be no recognition of punishment, no acknowledgment of God’s blessings, and no concern for sin, whenever this diabolical error possesses our minds, — that we are subject to the stars, that such and such is our nativity, and that the stars portend some kind of death every day and every moment. This, then, is what is especially intended by the Prophet in forbidding the Jews to be terrified by the celestial signs; for the Chaldeans, no doubt, prophesied that they should have a new empire; and thus they frightened the miserable Jews: “It is all over with us, for the astrologers among the Chaldeans have so spoken; and on the other hand the Egyptians see also that this has been foreshewn by the position of the stars.” Thus it happened that the Jews became, as it were, wholly lifeless. Nor did they remember what God had so often, and for so many years, threatened by his Prophets to do, in case they continued to provoke his wrath. Of God’s judgment they made no account; and yet the persuasion, that the Chaldeans announced a judgment by the stars, and that there would be some convulsion, filled them with terror and amazement. Hence the Prophet, in order to lead them to repentance, as well as to faith, which are the two essentials of religion, and include in them the perfection of true wisdom, speaks thus to them in effect, “Fear not the stars, but fear God.” For there is implied a contrast between God and the stars; as though he had said, “When any adversity happens to you, know that you are chastised by God’s hand, who is a just avenger of sins.” This was to teach them repentance; it was to shew them that they justly suffered, because they had been perverse in their wickedness. Then follows the other fact, that though the stars threatened calamity and destruction, they were to flee to God’s mercy and never doubt of their safety, provided he was propitious to them. We now then understand the Prophet’s object in telling them not to fear the stars.

More things might be said, but! study brevity as far as I can; and I trust that I have briefly included what is sufficient for the understanding of this passage. There are many, I know, at this day foolishly curious, and hence wish some account to be made of judiciary astrology; and this delirium has taken possession of some pious men and really learned: but we see what God here declares by his servant. And I wonder that some are thus credulous as to the stars, who yet speak with extreme subtlety on free-will. They would have the events of things fortuitous, they would have it that men act freely in both ways, and they hate and abhor fate; and yet they confine God as it were in a prison, and would have the stars to rule. This is to me a prodigy, not a sign. But all these things I leave. Let the plain doctrine of the Prophet be deemed sufficient by us, when he says, that we are not to be terrified by signs, for it belongs to the Gentiles to be thus terrified; for I am disposed to take this meaning, — that the Prophet says that this was a kind of blindness which belonged to them: “Leave,” he says, “this folly to the Gentiles; it is no wonder that they labor under so many errors and delusions, for celestial truth has never shone upon them; but it becomes you to fear God and to rely on his mercy.” It follows —

<241003>Jeremiah 10:3

3. For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest (the work of the hands of the workman) with the axe.

3. Quoniam statuta populorum vanitas est: nam lignum a sylva scindit, opus manuum artificis dolabra (vel, in securi; nam ponitur b, quoe est nota instrumenti apud Hebroeos.)

 

The Prophet seems to break off his subject, and even to reason inconclusively; for he had said in the last verse, “Learn not the rites of the Gentiles, and fear not the celestial signs;” and he now adds, Because the rites of the Gentiles are vanity; for wood they cut down from the forest. He seems then, as though forgetting himself, to have passed off to idols. But we must observe, that the Jews were influenced by that ancient opinion, that the Chaldeans and the Egyptians were alone wise, and that they had acquired a fame of this kind among all nations. We find also that heathen writers, when speaking of the origin of the sciences, trace them up to the Chaldeans and the Egyptians; for with them, it is said, have originated astrology and all the liberal sciences. The Jews then, no doubt, allowed so much authority to the Chaldeans and the Egyptians, that their minds, being possessed by that prejudice, could discern nothing aright. The Prophet then shakes off from them this stupidity, and shews how foolish they were, who yet would have themselves to be alone deemed wise, and regarded others, compared with themselves, as barbarous and ignorant. We now then see why the Prophet connects idolatry with that false and spurious astrology which he had mentioned.

He says, Laws: the word, twqj, chekut, means strictly, statutes. The word, qj chek, signifies to decree, or to write; and hence decrees are called twqj, chekut. The word Law is general; and one of those which are special and often occurs in Scripture, is the statute. Some render it “Edict;” and the verb means to publish by edict. But this word is often applied to ceremonies and rites. He then says, that the rites of the nations were vanity.

He then proves this, Because they cut for themselves trees from the forest; and after having polished them by art, they think them to be gods. How detestable was this madness, to think that a tree, cut from the forest, was a god, as soon as it assumed a certain form or shape! As then a madness, so great and so monstrous, prevailed among the Chaldeans and the Egyptians, what right knowledge or judgment could have been in them? The Jews then were very foolish in thinking that they were very clear — sighted. “They are,” he says, “brute animals; for it is wholly contrary to reason to suppose that a god can be made from a dead piece of wood. When, therefore, the Chaldeans and the Egyptians amaze and astonish you through the influence of a false opinion, derived from nothing, that they are alone wise, do ye not see that ye are doubly and trebly mad? for where is their wisdom, when they thus make gods from trunks of trees?”

We now then perceive the design of the Prophet: but as these circumstances have not been considered by interpreters, they have only elicited a frigid doctrine and gathered some general thoughts. But when any one rightly and carefully examines the design of the Prophet, he will find how important is what he teaches; and no one can otherwise rightly understand what Jeremiah means.

A tree then does one cut, etc.: he uses the singular number. fB27 He then adds, the work of the hands of the artificer by the ax. He shews that nature itself is changed through the false imagination of men; for as soon as it takes a new form, it seems to be no longer a tree. The tree, while it grows, when it produces fruit, is not worshipped as God; but when it is cut down, the dead and dry trunk is substituted in the place of God: for what reason? even because the ax has been applied. Some render it “hatchet,” hache, ou doloire, which is the same; for there is no ambiguity in the meaning: they cut down trees from the forests; and then after the tree was formed by the ax and worked by the hands of the artificer, what follows was done to it —

<241004>Jeremiah 10:4-5

4. They deck it with silver and with gold; the fasten it with nails and with the hammers, that it move not.

4. Argento et auro pulchrificant (hoc est, exornant) illud; clavis et malleis fortificant (hoc est, bene defigunt;) et non movebitur (hoc est, ut non moveatur.)

5. They are upright as the palm-tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good.

5. Sicuti palma aequalis (hoc est, stat effigies illa aequalis tanquam palma, id est, assurgit in rectitudinem;) et non loquuntur; et tollendo tolluntur, quia non ambulabunt (hoc est, non possunt ambulare:) ne timeatis ab illis; quia non male faciunt, atque etiam bene facere non penes ipsos.

 

He goes on with the same subject, and borrows his words from the forty — fourth chapter of Isaiah (Isaiah 44); for the passage is wholly similar. Jeremiah, being later, was induced to take the words from his predecessor, that his own nation might be more impressed, on finding that the same thing was said by two Prophets, and that thus they had two witnesses.

He then says that these wise men, who filled the Jews with wonder and astonishment, adorned their images, or statues, with silver and gold, and afterward fixed them with nails and with hammers, that they might not move. Some refer the last word to the metal, “that the pieces might not come off,” as the verb sometimes means to depart. But the simpler meaning is, that the statues were fixed by nails and hammers, that they might not be moved. Then the Prophet adds by way of concession, They are indeed erect as the palm-trees; and thus there appears in them something remarkable: but they speak not; and then, being raised they are raised, that is, they cannot move themselves; for they cannot walk. Then he says, Be not afraid of them; for they do no evil, nor is it in their power to do good.

We now see what the Prophet meant to teach us, — that the wisdom of the Chaldeans, and also of the Egyptians, was celebrated throughout the world, and also so blinded the Jews, or so enraptured, them, that they thought that nothing proceeded from them but what deserved to be known and esteemed. In order therefore to remove and demolish this false notion, he shews that they were beyond measure foolish; for what could have been more sottish than to think that the nature of a tree is changed as soon as it receives a new form? How? By the hand of the artificer. Can it be in the power of man to make a god at his will? This is a folly which heathen authors have derided. Horace has this sentence: —

“When the workman was uncertain whether to make a bench or Priapus, He chose rather to make a god.” fB27A

That poet, as he dared not generally to condemn the madness which then prevailed, indirectly shewed how shameful it was to make a log of wood a god, because the workman had given it a form. The very richest worshipped a wooden god, while he despised the artificer! He who would not have condescended to give the workman a cup of water, yet prostrated himself befbre the god which the workman had made! This then is what our Prophet now says, “Behold, with silver and gold do they adorn trunks of trees; they indeed stood up, for they are erect statues;” and he compares them to palm-trees, because they stood high: and he says, “but they speak not; they are raised up, for they have no life; hence fear them not:” and then he adds, “They cannot do evil, and it is not in their power to do good.”

The Prophet seems to speak improperly when he says that they were not gods, because they could do no evil; for it is wholly contrary to the nature of the only true God to do evil: but the Prophet, according to what is common, uses the word for the infliction of punishment. God, then, is said to do evil, not because he does harm to any one, not because he does wrong to any mortals, but because he chastises them for their sins. And it is a way of speaking derived from the common judgment of man, for we call those things evils which are afflictions to us; for famine, diseases, poverty, cold, heat, disgrace, and things of this kind, are called afflictions or adversities. Now, the Prophet says, that the idols of the Gentiles, or their fictitious gods, do no evil, that is, they have no power to inflict punishment on men. And this is taken from Isaiah. God uses there a twofold argument, while claiming divinity to himself alone: he says,

“I alone am he who foresees and predicts future things;”

and hence I am God alone; and then he says,

“I alone am he who do good and evil;”

hence I alone am God. (<234522>Isaiah 45:22; <234803>Isaiah 48:3, 5.) He says, that he doeth evil, because he is the Judge of the world. We hence see that this expression is not to be taken in a bad sense, but, as I have said, it is to be taken in a sense used by men; for we consider and call those punishments, with which God visits us, evils. It follows —

<241006>Jeremiah 10:6

6. Forasmuch as there is none like unto thee, O Lord; thou art great, and thy name is great in might.

6. A non fB28 (vel, ab eo quod non, hoc est, ab ultimis temporibus non) sicut tu Jehova reperietur; magnus tu, et magnum nomen tuum in fortitudine.

 

As the truth respecting the gods of the heathens, that they are mere figments, would be useless and of no moment, were not the knowledge of the, true God added, the Prophet now introduces God himself. And there is another reason; for no one could know that these wooden and stony gods are of no account, were not the truth respecting the true God to shine forth. Whosoever does not understand that there is a God, and does not know who or what he is, can never be really influenced by this truth, that the gods of the heathens are demons, and that all their superstitions are sacrilegious.

We now then perceive why the Prophet turns to the true God: it was, that the brightness of God’s glory might dissipate the darkness in which the Gentiles were involved, and also, that true religion might really influence the hearts of men, so that by acknowledging the one true God, to whose power we ought to submit, they might not only despise and repudiate all idols, but also hate and abhor them. The rest to-morrow.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that since thou hast made heaven and earth for our sake, and hast testified by thy servant Moses, that the sun, as well as the moon, to which foolish heathens ascribe divinity, are to be serviceable to us, and that we are to use them as though they were our servants, — O grant that we may, by thy so many blessings, have our minds raised upwards and contemplate thy true glory, so that we may faithfully worship thee only, and surre~der ourselves so entirely to thee, that while we enjoy the benefits derived from all the stars, and also from the earth, we may know that we are bound to thee by so many favors, in order that we may be more and more roused to attend to what is just and right, and thus endeavor to glorify on earth thy name, that we may at length enjoy that blessed glory which has been provided for us by Christ our Lord. — Amen.


Lecture Fortieth

We began yesterday to explain the sixth verse, in which Jeremiah says, From no time has there been found any like the true God, for he is great, and great is his name in power. This sentence appears, indeed, unmeaning or very common as to its idea, in negativing the notion that there has been any in all the ages like to God: but as the world by its figments has ever obscured the glory of the true God, there is in this sentence what is of great importance, for it says that God possesses his own peculiar dignity, and shines far above all fictitious deities. The same view is to be taken of the second clause, Thou art great. Who will not concede greatness to God? yet he is deprived of it by most; for when any one devises for himself a god, he robs the true God of his own greatness, and makes him as it were one like many other gods. If we bear in mind how men depreciate God’s glory, it is easy for us to see, that he is not uselessly called here great, as he is in many other places. But I only touch here on these things briefly, as I have elsewhere discussed them more at large.

He says that God’s name is great in power; for idols had a celebrated name among all nations, but had no power. Though many things have been related of their idols by the Grecians and Italians, as well as by the Orientals, yet it is certain that no proof has been given to shew that they worshipped true gods. Hence the Prophet.declares here that greatness belbngs to God alone, as his power has been made known, and has fully manifested his own peculiar glory. It now follows —

<241007>Jeremiah 10:7

7. Who would not fear thee, O King of nations? for to thee doth it appertain: forasmuch as among all the wise men of the nations, and in all their kingdoms, there is none like unto thee.

7. Quis non timebit to rex gentium? quia tibi convenit; nam inter omnes sapientes gentium et in omnibus regnis eorum, a nullo tempore similis tibi, (vel, sicut tu, ad verbum.)

 

The Prophet exclaims, Who will not fear thee? This question is very emphatical, as though he indignantly rebuked the stupidity of all those who acknowledged not the only true God, as if he had said, “Whence is it that thou art not feared throughout the whole world? Surely were there a spark of right knowledge in men, they would acknowledge thee as the only true God, and having found this truth, would submit to thy power. When, therefore, men invent for themselves various gods, and when every one is led here and there without any judgment, it is a monstrous thing; for when the subject is pressed on the attention of the rudest, they confess that there, is some supreme deity, and are at length constrained to allow that there is but one true God; whence then is it that there is such a multitude and variety of gods in the world? How is it that they who hold this principle — that God ought to be worshipped — fall away, and adopt many gods, and never can determine who the true God is, or how he is to be worshipped?” We now understand the object of the Prophet in exclaiming, as through astonishment, Who will not fear thee, the King of nations?

We know that the true God was then despised by the heathens; and we also know that his law was regarded with contempt, and even els an abomination: What then does this question mean? even what I have already stated: The Prophet indignantly says, that it was a monstrous thing, bordering on madness, that men paid no regard to the only true God, but went astray after their own foolish devices. And he calls him the King of the nations, not that the nations submitted to his authority, but because he manifested evidences of his power everywhere, which might have induced the rudest to shew him reverence, were they not extremely stupid. We then see that this is not said to the honor of the nations, but on the contrary, that their ingratitude might be exposed to shame in not honoring God, who manifested his power among them.

Then follows what confirms this: For to thee it belongs; for among all the wise of the nations, and in all their kingdoms, from no time has there been one like to thee. He says that it belongs to God, that is, that all the world should fear him. Some render htay iate, as a noun, and take it as signifying “honor;” and others render it “government,” or authority; but this cannot be received. He then says, it belongs to God. What? Some say, “glory or dominion belongs to thee.” But it must be referred to the beginning of the verse: there is here a figure called Zeugma, and the meaning is, God deserves this, that is, to be feared by all. H.e then speaks of fear, and says that it belongs to God. What is meant is, that the glory of God shines so much as to be sufficient to arrest and engage all the thoughts of men, and that they are therefore extremely stupid when they pass by and forsake him, and turn to their own devices, and invent gods according to their own fancies. fB29

The Prophet then confirms what we have already said — that all men who worship not nor fear the only true God are detestable beings, because so much of his glory shines forth, that renders all bound to acknowledge him. It then follows, that those who are carried away into various superstitions are to the last degree stupid and brutish; for God renders his glory conspicuous everywhere, so that it ought to engage and occupy the thoughts of all men; and it would do so were they not led away by their own vanity.

We hence also learn that the pretext of ignorance made by unbelievers is wholly vain. There are those who on the first view seem to be excusable for their error, as they have not been taught, and never understood who the true God is; but yet there is in them the blame of neglect as well as of wickedness, for they wilfully neglect and despise the only true God. As then the unbelieving take delight in their errors, they are to be held guilty. And this is what the Prophet means by saying that God was worthy of glory — the glory of being feared by all: and this he more fully confirms when he says, “Among all the wise, and in all kingdoms,” that is, among all the princes who seemed to excel in wisdom in governing the world, “no other God could be found throughout all the ages.”

He repeats again the word ˆyam main, of which we spoke yesterday. fB30 It is the same as though the Prophet had said, “Let all the wise men and philosophers come forth, let ,all those counsellors who assume great wisdom appear, and let them adduce whatever they can allege; doubtless God will ever defend his own glory against all their frivolous arguments, so that they must depart confounded; nor shall they be able, however willing they may be, to bring any solid objection against him.” By these words, then, the Prophet intimates that it is vain to boast of philosophic reasons, and that the counsels of princes, who esteem themselves very acute in civil affairs, will be adduced in vain; for all will be covered with shame, and be constrained to be silent, when God makes known his glory. Indeed the glory of God appears everywhere so conspicuously, that the rudest ought to perceive it, that the wise, who fly above the heavens as philosophers, who search all the secrets of nature, do not understand what is, as they say, abroad in the open air; for God manifests himself to the simple, and even to children. We now perceive the design of the Prophet, when he says, From no times has been found any like to God, not only among the vulgar or common men, but among the wise, and princes, and kings’ counsellors.He afterwards adds —

<241008>Jeremiah 10:8

8. But they are altogether brutish and foolish; the stock is a doctrine of vanities.

8. Et in uno stulti sunt et fatui sunt; eruditio vanitatum lignum est.

 

The Prophet shews here, in one sentence, that the wisest in the whole world could be proved guilty of the greatest madness, or of a twofold folly, because they willingly worshipped the trunks of trees, and they worshipped stones; for Under one kind he includes the other. There is no one, he says, however intelligent, who does not approve of the superstitions of the people, who does not bend the knee before a wood or a stone. There have been, indeed, a few in the world who ridiculed such sottishhess, but no one dared openly to condemn it, and no one introduced anything better. And even the Platonics hold that the Greeks had not without reason invented gods like men; and they say that there was not so much judgment among the barbarians as to form such ideas of the gods as were suitable to their nature. However this may have been, it is evident that the grossest superstitions of the nations were ever approved by all their wise men.

The Prophet then shews that there was no need of a long discussion to discover the vanity of the wise; In one, in one thing, he says; and there is emphasis in this word, when he says, In one thing they are foolish and fatuitous; for there is to be understood a contrast, as though he had said, “I will not here join together many heads of accusation against them to expose their folly, one thing is sufficient; this one sentence is enough to condemn them, — that wood is the teaching of vanities.” fB31 We have stated what the Prophet means,meven that all the wise, who together with the vulgar worshipped gods made of wood and stone, were very foolish: but we must notice the import of the expression, The teaching of vanities is the wood. It is, as we have said, an instance of a part being put for the whole; for under “wood” Jeremiah includes statues of stone, and others made of different materials; as though he had said, “Every form or effigy, representing a god, is the teaching of vanities.” He takes this as granted; and yet there had been, as we have lately stated, a great and fierce contention among the wise men on this subject; but the Prophet deigned not to contend or seriously to dispute with them, for the thing itself was sufficiently evident, that is, that nothing can be more absurd than to worship the trunk of a tree or a stone.

Now we may from this passage draw a general truth, — that when men seek to represent God under any visible form, they give way to the delusions and impostures of Satan. Well known is that sentence of Gregory to Serenus, the Bishop of Marseilles, when that good man cast down the images which he saw led to ungodly worship, and purged the churches of Marseilles from such pollutions: Gregory, though a pious man, yet wrote very foolishly — that Serenus acted rightly and wisely in forbidding images to be worshipped, but that he yet acted inconsiderately by emptying the churches of them; for “they are,” he said, “the books of the simple:” this is the conclusion of his epistle. And it is ever in the mouth of Papists — that images are the books of the simple. At the same time I would they retained this truth avowed by Gregory,uthat they ought not to be worshipped. They worship and adore them, as it is well known, in the place of God. But as I have already said, that answer of Gregory was puerile and foolish: for we hear what the Prophet says, — that in wood and stone and in every outward representation there is vanity, as Habakkuk also in the second chapter, where He speaks of idols, calls an idol the teacher of vanity. Every statue, every image, by which foolish men seek to represent God, is a teacher of falsehood. So our Prophet says, — that the teaching of vanities is found in all statues, because God is thus misrepresented; for what can be in a wood or stone that is like the infinite power of God, or his incomprehensible essence and majesty? Men, therefore, offer a serious affront to God when they thus deform him, as Paul also in <450125>Romans 1:25, says, — that the truth was thus changed into falsehood, that is, when he is supposed to have anything like to what external and dead figures have; as the same Paul further reasons in <441729>Acts 17:29, when he says, Do ye think that God is like to wood or stone, to silver or gold? And his argument was at that time suitable; for he had to do with heafilens: he did not refer to the law, though he might have quoted a passage in Deuteronomy, where God reminded the people that he so appeared to them that they saw no similitude; and he might have referred to the testimonies of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and of the other Prophets; but as he addressed heathens, even the Athenians, he says, “One of your poets has said, that we are the offspring of God:” if we are then, He says, the offspring of God, do ye not draw God down from his celestial throne, when ye seek to delineate him according to your fancies, and suppose that he lies hid in wood or stone, in silver and gold? For some life appears at least in men, they are endued with mind and intelligence, and so far they bear some likeness to God: but a dead wood and stone, which are void of sense, — gold also and silver, which are metals without reason, which have no life, — what affinity, He says, can these have to God? This subject might be more copiously handled; but I merely explain what the Prophet means, and also shew the import of his doctrine, and how it may be applied for general instruction. It now follows —

<241009>Jeremiah 10:9

9. Silver spread into plates is brought from Tarshish, and gold fromUphaz, the work of the workman, and of the hands of the founder: blue and purple is their clothing; they are all the work of cunning men.

9. Argentum percussum (vel, diductum, hoc est, malleo sic contusum, ut redactum sit in laminas; hoc enim significat verbum [qr percutere, et ita contundere, ut res diducatur vel protrahatur: argentum ergo laminatum, ut ita loquar, vel, malleo contusum) e Tharsis affertur, et aurum ex Ophas, opus artificis et manus conflatoris; hyacinthus et purpura, vestes eorum; opus sapientum omnes!

 

The Prophet, anticipating what might be said, refers to the splendor and pomp of idols, and declares that all was frivolous and extremely puerile. Whence was it that the world shewed so much honor to idols, except that their pomp dazzled the eyes of men? The devil has also by this artifice ever deluded the unbelieving; for he has exhibited in idols something that involved men’s minds in darkness.

The Prophet then assails these foolish imaginations, and says, Silver is brought from Tharsis, that is, from Cilicia; for so the Scripture designates that transmarine country, which lies opposed to Judea; and we know that Cilicia was over against Judea; for the Mediterranean Sea intervenes between Syria and Cilicia; and the sea of Tharsis is what they call that part which extended towards Cilicia and Asia Minor. The Prophet then says; that it was brought from a far country. Well, he says, the fact is so; and then it is added that gold was brought from Uphaz. Some have explained this last word wrongly, by saying that it means pure or fine gold; but it appears from this place and many others, that it is the name of a country, that is, Persia, or one not far from Persia: it was at least a country eastward of Judea. He then says, gold is brought from Uphaz; and he mentions the workmanship, the work of the artificer; that is, it is not silver and gold in its rude state; but they are so elegantly wrought, that they readily attract the eyes of men. Then he adds the hands (he speaks in the plural number) of the melter; that is, the silver and gold were melted and were made to assume a certain form; and then art was employed, which gave an increased polish to these forms which came out of the furnace. He afterwards says, The hyacinth and purple are their vestments; that is, it is not enough to have the precious metal, and that cast into an elegant and lovely form, but it must be clothed in purple and hyacinth. He says in the last place, that the work was that of the wise; that is, skillful men were chosen, who could in the most perfect manner give expression to every lineament; in short, nothing was left undone. fB32

But the Prophet, though he concedes generally to the unbelieving that they added whatever could add beauty to their idols, yet declares that they were mere trumperies: they are puppets, he says; for man, who is a mortal, cannot make a god: and then, what can art and the toil and labor of man do in this respect? can he change the nature of things? can he make a god from wood and stone? and when a vestment covers the idol of gold or of silver, can it raise it above the heavens, that it may attain a new divinity? We hence see that the Prophet mentions all that was done, that he might taunt the heathens and ridicule their fatuitous trifles; for in their idols there was nothing real, nothing that could be dependd upon. He then subjoins —

<241010>Jeremiah 10:10

10. But the Lord is the true God, he is the living God, and an everlasting King: at his wrath the earth shall tremble, and the nations shall not be able to abide his indignation.

10 Atqui Iehova Deus veritas (qui vertunt, Deus veritatis, non observant syntax in Hebraicam; dixisset enim yhla hwhy tma; Iehova ergo Dens veritas,) ipse Deus vita, et rex seculorum; a furore ejus contremiscet terra, et non sustinebunt gentes iram ejus.

 

The Prophet here exults and triumphs in the name of his God, as though he had overcome and put to flight the erroneous notions of the heathens: for he had spoken, as it appears, contemptuously of their gross errors, and shewed that the wise men of the world were extremely sottish, who were so charmed with wood and stone. He now highly extols the glory of God, and says, But Jehovah is God; that is, let the nations worship their gods, let them recite fables as to their power, and falsely ascribe to them many miracles; but Jehovah, he says, is God. When all things are faithfully examined, it will appear evident that He is the only true God, and all the gods of the heathens will of themselves vanish into nothing. This then is the meaning of the Prophet, as though he had said, God himself is sumcient to put to flight all the errors of the heathens, when his majesty appears; for so great is its brightness that it will reduce to nothing whatever the world admires.

He then adds truth. He sets truth here in opposition to vanities. He had said that wood was the teaching of vanities; he now says, God is eternal truth; that is, he has no need of adventitious ornaments; they mask, he says, the idols of the heathens, they are clothed and adorned; but these things have nothing real in them: Jehovah is God the truth; that is, God borrows nothing from anything else, but is satisfied with himself, and his power possesses of itself sufficient authority. God then is truth, and God, he says, is life. After having said that God has real and solid glory in himself, he adds another proof, taken from what is known to men, even that God is life; for though God is in himself incomprehen:sible, yet he not only sets before our eyes evidences of his glow, but he also renders himself in a manner the object of feeling, as Paul says in <441417>Acts 14:17. What he means is, that though men were blind, they could yet by feeling find out God. Though the blind have no sight, yet they can find their way by feeling; they go round a hall or a room, and by feeling find the door; and when they wish to enter into a room, they find the door by the same means. But there is no need, says Paul, for us to depart from ourselves; for whosoever will examine himself will find God within; for in him we live and move and have our being. (<441728>Acts 17:28.) Were we then to object and say, that God is incomprehensible, and that we cannot ascend to the height of his glory, doubtless there is life in us, and as we have life, we have an evidence of his divinity; for who is so devoid of reason as to say that he lives through himself? Since then men live not of themselves, but obtain life as a favor from another, it follows that God dwells in them. fB33

Now, then, the Prophet, after having spoken of God’s essence, descends to what is more evident. And doubtless it is a real knowledge of God, not when we speculate in the air as philosophers do, but when we know by experience that there is one true God — how? because we exist. We exist not of ourselves, but in and through another, and that is, through the one true God. It hence follows that human life is a clear proof of one supreme God. God then is life and the King of ages. For as the world has also been made, as years succeed years, and as there is in this revolution variety and yet such perfect order, who does not see in all this the glory of God? Now, then, we also perceive why the Prophet calls God the King of ages.

He then adds, Through his fury tremble will the earth, and the nations will not sustain his wrath. As he could not succeed with the heathens, He warns liere the Jews not to provoke the wrath of God, who will be the Judge of the whole world, and will destroy the unbelievers, however blind in darkness they may be. He then warns the Jews not to close their eyes to the glory, which had been more fully open to them. But the Gentiles might by the works of nature have known God, and were inexcusable; yet, the knowledge of him was made plain to the Jews by the law. For this reason Jeremiah says, “Even though unbelievers now boldly despise God, yet when he shall appear as the Judge of the world, the whole earth must of necessity tremble, and will not be able to bear his presence, though they now proudly reproach true religion.”

But it was not without reason that the Prophet took so much pains on this subject; for the ten tribes had been driven into exile, and the Assyrians and Chaldeans triumphed over God himself, as though he had been overcome, inasmuch as he did not defend the kingdom of Israel, which was under his care and protection; and the miserable Israelites could not but despond when they found themselves so distressed, and cruelly treated and oppressed by the most shameless tyranny; for what could they have thought, but that they had not been the objects of God’s care, and that his promises were vain, or that he possessed no sufficient power to preserve them? It is, then, for this reason that the Prophet now so highly extols the power and glory of God, that is, that their calamities might not deject them and lay prostrate the faith of those who thought that they were forsaken.

And this will be more evident from the following verse, where the Prophet uses the Chaldee language; and this is the only verse in the whole book written in Chaldee; and the Chaldee differs much from the Hebrew. We have seen before that Daniel wrote in Chaldee, when he spoke of things pertaining to the Chaldeans; but when he addressed his own people and announced prophecies, belonging especially to the Church of God, he wrote in Hebrew. Hence the book of Daniel is written in Hebrew, except in those parts which he wished to be understood by the Chaldeans; and so does the Prophet in this place.

<241011>Jeremiah 10:11

11. Thus shall ye say unto them, The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, even they shall perish from the earth, and from under these heavens.

11. Sic (secundum hoc) dicetis illis (inquit) Dii (prorsus diverso modo loquitur quam ante, et proximo etiam versu loquitur; dii ergo) qui coelum et terram non fecerunt, pereant e terra et de sub coelis istis.

 

Now, the reason why he bids the Israelites to speak in the Chaldee language is, because they had been led into exile, and were mingled with the Assyrians and Chaldeans. He then required from those despised exiles an open and a bold confession, as though he had said, “Even though ye are now in the most miserable bondage, and though the Chaldeans disdainfully oppress you, as if ye were slaves, yet proclaim the glory of God and shrink not from an open confession of your religion, and say to them, in contempt of all their idols, perish must your gods from the earth and from under heaven, for they have not made heaven nor the earth.” We now understand the meaning of the Prophet. But the rest I shall defer until tomorrow.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that since thou hast exhibited thy glory to be seen by us, not only in the heavens and the earth, but also ill the law, in the Prophets, and in the Gospel, and hast so plainly made thyself known to us in thine only — begotten Son, that ignorance can be no excuse, — O grant that we may make progress in this knowledge by which thou kindly invitest to thyself, and may so constantly cleave to thee, that none of the errors of the world may draw us aside; but may we stand firm in thy word, which cannot deceive us, until we shall at length come to that celestial blessedness, when we shall enjoy thee face to face in thy glory, having been made fully conformable to thine image in Christ Jesus our Lord. — Amen.


Lecture Forty-First

We began yesterday to explain the declaration of the Prophet, in which he exhorted the Israelites to constancy, though scattered among the Chaldeans. Their condition was then miserable, because we know that it was that of bondage, and conquerors ruled in a very petulant manner, when a people were subdued by war; but they had been led into exile for the very purpose of degrading them. The Prophet therefore animates them here, that they might not be dejected, but continue in the pure worship of God, and faithfully profess his name.

What he said to them was, May those gods, who created not the heaven and the earth, perish from the earth and from under heaven. He assumed this principle — that no one ought to be counted God but he who is the creator and maker of heaven and earth; and who could say that gods of wood and stone had created the world? for wood, as well as stone, is a corruptible material. All the statues, which were created gods, had received their form and shape from mortal men. It is hence manifest, that to ascribe divinity to thenl was not only false, but foolish and monstrous. This, then, is the reason why he says, “May the gods who made not the heaven and earth perish.” The verb is indeed in the future tense; but we know that the future is often to be taken as an optative in Hebrew. If, ]lowever, any one prefers to retain this tense, “Perish shall the gods who made not the heaven and the earth,” I shall not contend with him; yet the other view is what I approve, that the Israelites were to imprecate destruction on all idols. fB34

Now that he uses the Chaldee language, is what deserves, as we said yesterday, to be observed; they had then to do with the Chaldeans, who insultingly triumphed over the true God, thinking that they were his conquerors; and they triumphed over him, as though he had been overcome by their swords. Then the Prophet bids the Israelites, boldly and courageously, to proclaim the name and the glory of the true God. Doubtless this could not have been done without immediate danger of death; but it was their duty, as God’s true servants, to prefer his glory to their own lives, in opposing the fury of the enemies who then ruled over them, and who had led them to remote countries.

We see how much God makes of the confession of faith; and the whole Scripture shews that this sacrifice is especially approved by him. Hence also it appears how foolishly they talk who say that they cherish faith secretly in their hearts, though they may hide from the world their real sentiments. We see how frigid, nay, how foolish is this excuse, while they seek, by a perfidious silence, to save their own life and to remain in peace with the ungodly. They who at this day live under the Papacy, think that they justly exempt themselves by such an excuse as this — that they ought not rashly to endanger their lives, as facts prove that such is the rage of the enemies of the gospel, that were any to confess the truth, they would be immediately led to punishment, But we may compare the condition of the ancient people with our own; certainly ours is better than that of the ten tribes, who lived in a foreign land and were treated as slaves. As then the Chaldeans watched them, did they not find the sword daily and constantly ready to be used against them? And yet God bids them to close their eyes to their danger and faithfully to profess what they believed, yea, to detest the idols, which was still more displeasing to the Chaldeans; for he bids them to say, “The God whom we worship made himself known to Abraham our father, and we worship him, because we have found him to be a Redeemer and a constant preserver of our safety:” and this is not the only thing that the Prophet bids them to say, but also, “May your gods perish.” This was certainly enough to kindle rage in the Chaldeans, even if they had been men of temperate millds; but as they were elated with pride on account of their victory and hated the Jews, such a declaration must have been intolerable to them. What, then, call the Nicodemites of this day say, who indulge their own delusions? for they think it enough if they deny not God in their hearts; and yet being frightened with danger, they either pretend to deny him, or openly shew that they consent to errors.

In short, we see that there is no true religion in the hearts of men, except a confession is made, for there ought to be a consent between the heart and the tongue. But some one may object and say, Is it necessary for the faithful to cry through cross — ways and the streets of the city, “There is but one true God?” I answer, that all have not been chosen to the prophetic office, in order to preach everywhere; but it is commanded to all without exception, to detest idols, where they see the glory of God reproachfully traduced by enemies; for the Prophet meant, that they were to make this answer to the reproaches of those who then took the occasion insultingly to rise up against the true God. It now follows: —

<241012>Jeremiah 10:12-13

12. He hath made the earth by his power, he hath established the world by his wisdom, and hath stretched out the heavens by his discretion.

12. Faciens terram in virtute sua, disponens orbem in sapientia sua, et in sua intelligentia extendit coelos.

13. When he uttereth his voice, there is a multitude of waters in the heavens, and he causeth the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth; he maketh lightnings with rain, and bringeth forth the wind out of his treasures.

13. Ad vocem dando sonitum aquarum (vel potius copiam aquarum) in coelis; et ascendere faciens elevationes ab extremitate terrae, fulgura ad pluviam creans (faciens, ut prius,) et educens ventum e thesauris suis.

 

Jeremiah speaks now again in Hebrew, for he on purpose spoke in Chaldee, to shew that the ungodly were not to be given way to, if they blasphemed and wantonly derided the holy name of God. But as it is necessary that the confession of the mouth should proceed from faith, as fruit from the root, the Prophet here reminds the Israelites that there is but one true God; for, besides him who created the earth, set in order the world, and extended the heavens, there is no other to be found. Since, then, this cannot be said except of one, it follows that all the deities which the world devises for itself, are false and mere inventions of Satan, by which he deludes mankind. And doubtless no one can courageously oppose such errors, except he who believes in the one true God. We know that there were formerly some among the philosophers who jocularly and facetiously ridiculed the delirious notions of the vulgar; but no one in earnest undertook this cause, nor could they take upon themselves the defense of God’s glory, for he was unknown to them. It is therefore necessary, as I have said, that we should be really and truly grounded in the faith before the building can be carried on; for the profession, by which we ascribe glory to God, is, as it were, the superstructure, but faith, concealed within the heart, is the foundation.

We now then understand the Prophet’s design in saying, that there is but one, who made the earth. He speaks indeed concisely; but what tie says has more force, when he does not mention God’s name, but sets before us his power, as though he had said, “There is one, there is one, who has created the earth; there is one, who has set in order the world and extended the heavens; as these things cannot be ascribed to many, it follows that men are very absurd in imagining that there are various gods.”

He says that God created the earth by his power. He alludes to the solid state of the earth. The philosophers indeed hold that the earth stands naturally in the middle of creation, as it is the heaviest element; and the reason they give that the earth is suspended in mid-air, is, because the center of the world attracts what is most heavy; and these things indeed they wisely discuss. Yet we must go further: for the center of the earth is not the main part of creation; it hence follows that the earth has been suspended in the air, because it has so pleased God. When, therefore, the Prophet commends God’s power in fixing the earth, he refers to its firm state.

He then adds, There is one who hath by his wisdom set the world in order. He does not indeed say that He is one, but this is what is implied. Though the term lbt, tabel, is taken for the earth, it has yet a wider meaning. The Prophet, I have no doubt, includes in it at least the sea. And we know that the Spirit has not spoken in the Law and the Prophets with rigorous exactness, but in a style suited to the common capacities of men. He says then that the world was set in order by God’s wisdom: for it is wonderful how the waters mingle with the earth, and yet retain their own habitation, and are restrained from covering the earth: in the earth also itself there is amazing variety; we see in one part mountains, in another small hills; there are meadows, forests, and fields for corn. Indeed, man’s industry contributes to this variety; but we see how God hath fitted the earth for different purposes, here then shines forth the wonderful wisdom of God. When again he speaks of the heavens, he says, that they have been expanded by God’s knowledge, He indeed employs various expressions, but he means the same thing, — that God’s singular wisdom may be seen in the earth and in the heavens.

Some connect the following verse and explain the verb hfn nuthe, differently, — that God extends the heavens when he covers them with clouds; for the verb wtt, tatu, which means the same thing, follows: but the infinite mood is often to be taken for the preterite. As then this is a strained explanation, and too far-fetched, I reject it. The Prophet, no doubt, speaks of the original formation of the heavens: for when God covers the heavens with clouds, their true form does not appear; besides, the meaning of the verb is perverted, when taken to express the obscuring of the heavens by clouds. They who will impartially examine the passage, will be ready to admit, that the Prophet speaks of the expanding of the heavens. So the Scripture everywhere sets forth God’s wisdom as displayed by this wonderfill workmanship; and the heaven is said to have been expanded over the earth, so that it covers it around. (<19A406>Psalm 104:6.)

Now, though Jeremiah mentions only the word “heavens,” yet he includes the wonders which appear in them, such as that the sun performs its daily course — that it changes its track daily — that the planets have two motions — that they appear in different parts — and that the sun seems now to ascend and then to descend. In short, Jeremiah here extols all the secrets of astrology, when he says, that the heavens have been expanded by God, and expanded with singular and incomparable wisdom. Though, then, he only briefly touches on this wonderful workmanship of God, yet he would have us carefully to dwell on it in our meditations; for all errors and all fancies will soon vanish, when we duly consider the power and wisdom of God, as manifested in the creation of the heavens and of the earth, and in the order observable in the world.

The Prophet then descends to the other works of God, to those which are changeable, for there is in nature a perpetual constancy as to the heavens and the earth; and there are many things subject to changes; as when God darkens the air, when he raises winds, when he pours down rain. These things happen not according to the settled order of the world of which he had spoken. We see then that the Prophet has hitherto referred to the fixed and regular government of the world, to what had been done at the creation. But now, as I have said, he sets before us things of another kind, — that God gives or sends forth, by his voice, abundance of waters from the heavens. Some render ˆwmh emun, “sound;” but it is, on the contrary, to be taken for “multitude,” or abundance. Moreover, he takes “voice” for thunder: for though it often rains without thunder, yet when God thunders from heaven, there is a sudden change, which not only disturbs the air, but also fills us with dread. As then in this sudden and unexpected change the power of God more strikingly appears, the Prophet says, At his voice he gives abundance of waters.

He then says, he makes elevations to ascend; for we see that vapours arise from the earth and ascend upwards. Philosophers shew how this happens: but yet the power of God cannot be excluded, when we say that anything is done according to nature. For we hence more clearly see what the Prophet means, that is, that God has so set in order the world, that when he causes vapours to ascend, he shews that he rules in the heavens and on the earth. And he adds, from the extremity of the earth: for we see that vapors rise at a distance and immediately spread over our heads. Is not this wonderful? And were we not accustomed to such a thing, it could not but fill us with admiration. The Prophet then rouses men here from their torpor, that they may learn to consider what is presented to their view. He goes on and says, creating or making lightnings for the rain, or with the rain: for l, lamed, is taken by some, as though he had said, that lightnings are mingled with rain: and doubtless we see that these things, fire and rain, are contrary to one another; yet fire generates water, and it dwells also in the midst of a mass of waters: it rains, and yet the air is at the same time kindled with lightnings. Since then God thus mingles contrary things, and makes fire the origin and the cause of rain, is it not so wonderful that it is sufficient, to move the very stones? How great then must be the stupidity of men, when they attend not to so conspicuous a work of God, in which they may see the glory of his wisdom as well as of his power!

He then says, that God brings forth the wind from his treasures. He calls hidden places the treasures of God; for whence the winds except from the caverns of the earth? Since, then, the earth, where it is hollow, generates winds, rightly does the Prophet say, that they were the bidden treasures of God. The philosophers also find out the cause why the winds arise from the earth; for the sun attracts vapors and exhalations; from vapors are formed clouds, snows, and rains, according to the fixed order of the middle region of the air. From the exhalations also are formed the thunders, lightnings, the comets also, and the winds; for the exhalations differ from the vapours only in their lightness and rarity, the vapors being thicker and heavier. Then from vapor arises rain; but the exhalation is lighter, and not so thick; hence the exhalations generate thunders as well as winds, according to the heat they contain. How, then, is it that the same exhalation now breaks forth into wind, then into lightnings? It is according to the measure of its heat; when it is dense it rises into the air; but the winds vanish and thus disturb the lower part of the world. These are the things said by philosophers; but the chief thing in philosophy is to have regard to God, who brings the winds out of his treasures, for he keeps them hidden. We wonder that the wind rises suddenly when it is quite calm; who ought not to acknowledge that winds are formed, and are sent here and there at God’s pleasure? And hence in <19A404>Psalm 104:4, they are called the swift messengers of God,

“who makes spirits his messengers.”

It follows: —

<241014>Jeremiah 10:14

14. Every man is brutish in his knowledge; every founder is confounded by the graven image: for his molten image is falsehood, and there is no breath in them.

14. Stultus est omnis homo a scientia (vertunt alii, praescientia; sed perperam, meo judicio,) pudefactus est omnis conflator a sculptili; quia mendacium conflatile, et non est spiritus in illis.

 

Some too refinedly explain the beginning of this verse — that their own subtlety or wisdom, which they arrogate, infatuates men, according to what Paul says, that men become vain in their minds, when they form an idea of God according to their own imagination. (<450121>Romans 1:21.) But the Prophet speaks more plainly, for he says, that all artificers were foolish. The word lrnowledge is not to be taken here for knowledge of truth, but for the knowledge of artificers, whether carpenters or blacksmiths, or those who either melted or grayed or formed gods of wood, stone, and silver, as we may learn from the second clause of the verse. There is no difficulty as to what is meant, if we duly consider the words of the Prophet; he expresses the same thing in two ways; foolish, he says, are all our artificers; then he specifies one sort, every founder or melter, etc. We hence see that the Prophet does not use the word knowledge according to its strict meaning, but extends it to skill in workmanship. fB35

But when he says that the artizans were foolish, he connects with them, no doubt, all the worshippers of false gods; but he reprobates their knowledge, who applied whatever skill and knowledge they had to so vain a purpose. Bellold, he says, the worker in gold, and every other artificer, think that they are very ingenious when they elegantly form an idol; they spend all their wits on so vain a thing; what is this but folly? But they think that they make a god by their own hands; yet they cannot change the nature of gold and silver. It is the form only that they add; but this form contains no life. Hence he subjoins, There is no spirit in them. He had said before, that they who formed the graven image would be ashamed, or convicted of folly; for he had called them foolish and brutish. Now, r[b, bor, in Hiphil, means to be foolish; but the noun means a brute animal. Hence he reproachfully compares these illustrious artizans, who gained repute by the elegant forms they gave to their gods, to asses, and oxen, and other brute animals. Some render ˚sn , nusak, “covering;” but it signifies, I doubt not, a molten image; for he repeats what he had said, that the founders would be ashamed of the graven image. In short, He says, that the molten image was falsehood, for there was in, them no spirit. He changes the number, but the meaning is evident.

We have seen before that idols were said to be the teaching of vanities; for they were extremely deceived, and became wholly foolish, who ascribed the glory of God to wood and stone. The heathens might say, that they had never thought such a thing; but facies proved that they were liars and made only vain pretences; for why did they place confidence in their idols? — why did they bow down before them? — why did they address to them prayers and supplications? They then believed that God was present in the visible form. Now the Prophet says, that this was the teaching of vanities; because they who made a figure or image of God thought that he was like to gold and silver, and that he had some affinity to dead elements, destitute of reason and understanding. For the same purpose he now adds, that the molten image is falsehood; why? because the truth of God is turned into falsehood, as Paul says, (<450125>Romans 1:25.)

It is, therefore, a monstrous absurdity when men imagine that wood or stone is an image of God; for there is no similarity, nor can such a thing enter into man’s mind without a grievous and an atrocious indignity being offered to God. The reason also is to be noticed, For there is no spirit in them. God, so to speak, is the life of all things living; now, to call a dead thing an image of God, a thing in which there is no mind nor life, is it not to turn light into darkness? This reason, then, ought to be remembered by us; and it is a sufficient refutation of all such errors, when the Prophet says, that there is no spirit in idols, that is, in wood, stone, gold, and silver, and that they are therefore a He; for God will not have himself to be compared to dead things, without mind and life. He then adds —

<241015>Jeremiah 10:15

15. They are vanity, and the work of errors: in the time of their visitation they shall perish.

15. Vanitas sunt, opus illusionum; in tempore visitationis ipsorum peribunt.

 

He confirms the same thing. What he called before falsehood, rq, shikor, he calls now vanity, lbh ebel. They are vanity, he says. He had said that they were falsehood, which means, that men were grossly deceived when they sought the presence of God in dead things, now he says, that they were vanity, and also the work of illusions; but some render the last word “mockeries,” taking it in a passive sense; and hence the Chaldee interpreter renders it, “a thing worthy of ridicule and laughter.” fB36 But I prefer to take it for imposture or deception. Jacob said to his mother, “I shall be found in the eyes of my father a deceiver;” but some render the word there “a mocker.” But Jacob, on the contrary, meant that he should be found out as one of no credit, or acting in guile, as though he had said, “I shall be an impostor, and rny father will flnd out the fraud.” So also in this place, he calls idols the work of deceptions, by which men infatuated themselves. He does not then teach us here that idols deserved to be ridiculed, but he refers to the madness of those who imagined that they were gods, for he had before called them vanity and falsehood; and there is no doubt but that in these various ways he repeats and confirms the same thing.

He afterwards adds, In the time of their visitation they shall perish. The pronoun “their” may be applied to idols or to the Chaldeans: when the time of visitation shall come; that is, when God shall punish the enemies of his Church, then their idols shall perish: or, when the time shall come for God to visit the idols, they shall perish. Either sense may be admitted; and indeed as to the subject in hand, there is no difference.

The Israelites might have objected and said, “How is it then that false gods, whom men have devised for themselves, are worshipped, and are in great esteem and highly regarded? How does God suffer and overlook this?” The Israelites might have raised an objection of this kind. Therefore the Prophet answers them, They shall perish; but it shall be at the time of visitation. fB37 It is an exhortation to patience, that the faithful might not despond or be weakened in their hopes, though they saw silver gods carried on men’s shoulders, though they saw wood and stone set on elevated places, and incense burnt to them and sacrifices offered to them. Though then they saw idols in such esteem, they were not yet to despair or fall away from true religion, for the time of visitation was to be looked for, when God would execute his judgment on the false gods as well as on their worshippets. We now understand why he speaks of visitation. It follows —

<241016>Jeremiah 10:16

16. The Portion of Jacob is not like them: for he is the former of all things; and Israel is the rod of his inheritance: The Lord of hosts is his name.

16. Non sicuti illi portio Iacob, quia creator omnium est; et Israel virga haereditatis, ejus, Iehova exercituum nomen ejus.

 

We have said before, that superstitions cannot be from the heart and boldly rejected, except the true God be known; for the heathens, even when they disapproved of the opinions of the vulgar, yet reasoned on both sides, and knew nothing certain, and had no sure faith. It is, therefore, necessary that we should have previously a knowledge of the true God. Hence the Prophets, whenever they spoke of idols, spoke also of the true God; for it would have been to little purpose to condemn these follies, except they represented God in his own real dignity. For this reason the Prophet says again, that God, who is the portion of Israel, is not like idols.

He calls God the portion of Israel, that he might preserve the people in the pure truth of the law which they had learnt, and with which they had been favored; and thus he draws away the attention of the Israelites from all the inventions of men or of the heathens. The portion then of Israel is not like idolshow so? For he is the former of all things, that is, the creator of heaven and earth. Then he says, Israel is the rod of his inheritance. fB38 Rod may be taken for a measuring rod; and I think it ought to be so taken, for he mentions inheritance: for he took the comparison from common practice; as men are wont to measure fields and possessions by a rod. He therefore says, Israel is the rod, that is, the measuring rod of his inheritance. He concludes by saying, Jehovah of hosts is his name.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that as thou hast been pleased to shew thyself so plainly to us, and as thou art pleased to confirm us in thy truth, — O grant that we may not turn aside either to the right hand or to the left, but depend entirely on thy word, and so cleave to thee that no errors of the world may draw us aside: may we constantly persevere in that faith which we have learnt from thy Law and thy Prophets, and especially from thy gospel, where thou hast made thyself more clearly known to us, through Christ Jesus, until we shall at length enjoy thy full and perfect glory, when we shall be transformed into it in that inheritance, which has been purchased for us by the blood of thy only-begotten Son. — Amen.


Lecture Forty-Second

<241017>Jeremiah 10:17-18

17. Gather up thy wares out of the land, O inhabitant of the fortress:

17. Collige e terra merces tuas, quae habitas in munitione:

18. For thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will sling out the inhabitants of the land at this once, and will distress them, that they may find it so.

18. Quia sic dicit Iehova, Ecce ego funda projiciens habitatores terrae vice hac, et coarctabo eos (vel, faciam ut obsideant eos) ut inveniant.

 

The first verse which we have recited, the Rabbins think, is addressed to the Chaldeans, but in my view very incorrectly. Jeremiah had indeed said that all the nations who devised gods of stone and of other corruptible materials, were very foolish; but we have seen for what purpose he said this, even to confirm the Israelites, who were captives, and in addition to the disgrace of exile were greatly hated by the Chaldeans and the Assyrians; it was, I say, to confirm them, lest they should depart from the true worship of God, but constantly defend the honor of their God, from whom they expected restoration. It is, therefore, absurd for the Rabbins to explain this verse of the Chaldeans; for the two verses ought to be connected, gather thy merchandise, because thus saith Jehovah. It is then strange that these interpreters apply the second verse to the Israelites, while they read the first by itself, as though they were not connected: yet a reason is given why he bids all wages to be gathered.

But the meaning is simply this, — that the whole country would be exposed to the will of their enemies, that they might plunder it: as then devastation was nigh at hand, the Prophet bids those in fortified places to gather their wages, or to gather a gathering, (we shall hereafter speak of this expression.) Now, we have already stated in several places, that the Prophets ironically touched on the torpidity of the people; for plain truth would have had no effect, except it was urged on them as it were vehemently The Prophet then undertakes the character of a man, who brings warlike tidings, as we shall more clearly see presently. But in this place, as in some other places, he declares that nowhere in Judea would there be safety, except in fortresses; which yet would not be able to resist the attacks of enemies, as we shall hereafter see.

As to the words, some give this rendering, “gather thy humiliation,” as [nk cano, means to be humble; but they apply the words to Babylon, as though the Prophet had said, “Now cease to subdue the remaining nations.” Thus they take the verb sa asaph, in the sense of contraction, when some moderation is observed. But I have already said that this verse cannot refer to Babylon or to the Chaldeans. As then the Prophet addresses the Jews, and speaks of their effects, or of their merchandise, or precious things, which were wont to be gathered and laid up; as though he had said, “Gather thy gathering;” for the word [nk cano, means also to collect or to gather: and this is a suitable meaning, it being taken afterwards for doing business. But as to the subject itself there is no obscurity; for the Prophet shews that in a short time the whole of Judea would be laid waste by enemies; and as it was to be exposed to plunder, what is usual was to be done, that is, to gather whatever was valuable into fortified cities. In short, the Prophet here declares that war and ruin would come on the Jews, which would extend through the whole land; for by land he means the country, as distinguished from fortified towns.

Then follows the reason, For thus saith Jehovah, Behold, I will with a sling cast out the inhabitants of the land. Land here is to be taken in another sense, even for the whole country. Wherever then the Jews dwelt, the Lord, says the Prophet, will draw them forth, yea, east them out as with a sling. We now then see that the vengeance which the Jews despised is denounced on them, because they remained securely in their own delusions; and what still more provoked God’s wrath, they regarded all that Jeremiah said of his judgment as a fable. But he compares their violent exile to slinging, and represents the Lord as the slinger. We know that when a sling is flung and a stone is cast, the motion is very violent. Such a casting away is then what God here threatens the people with, — that he would violently throw them here and there, like stones when cast by a sling.

And he says at this term or time, in order that the Jews might know that their calamity would be like a sudden storm. For they had often been subject to the assaults of enemies; but at one time they had delivered themselves, at another the Chaldeans and Assyrians had been constrained to turn aside to other quarters; or they had been miraculously delivered by God’s aid. They hoped that it would be the same always; and they thought also that by protracting the war they could disappoint their enemies, as they had often done; and further still, they expected aid from various quarters. Hence the Prophet says, that they would be so taken away, that God would at once cast them all out of the land, and east them out as it were in one day: at this time they, will I fling out the inhabitants of the land.

Then he says, And I will straiten them. Some render the verb transitively, as it is in Hiphil, “I will cause them to be besieged by their enemies,” and then, “that their enemies may find them.” But this seems forced. Others more correctly give this explanation of the last clause, “that they may find,” that is, as true, what had been so often foretold them. For, as we have said, the Prophets and their threatenings had been despised, as the Jews had hardened themselves in their impiety: therefore this interpretation may be allowed. But I prefer a more general meaning,that they may find, even what they had sought; for they had in many and various ways provoked the wrath of God: it was therefore right that they should at last find that which they had by their perverse doings procured for themselves, according to what is said in <235710>Isaiah 57:10,

“They shall find the fruit of their own ways.”

The Jews sought nothing less than the calamity which Jeremiah denounced on them: but they had really long sought it; for it was right that they should receive the wages due to their wickedness. Then it is, that they may find, that is, the reward of their own works. fB39 It follows —

<241019>Jeremiah 10:19

19. Woe is me for my hurt! my wound is grievous: but I said, Truly this is a grief, and I must bear it.

19. Hei mihi super contritione mea; dolore plena est percussio mea: et ego dixi, Certe (vel, utique) haec plaga mea, et feram eam.

 

The Prophet here no doubt speaks in the name of the whole people; for he saw that no one was moved by threatenings, though very grievous and severe; and this mode of speaking must be sufficiently known to us, for it is commonly used by all the prophets. They first, addressed the people; but when they saw that they produced no effect, in order to shew their indignation, they speak of themselves as in the presence of God: thus they rebuked the hardness and torpidity of men. So now does Jeremiah speak, Woe to me for my bruising! He did not grieve on his own account; but, as I have said, he represents the grief which the whole people ought to have felt, which yet they did not feel at all. As then they were so stupid, and proudly derided God and his threatenings, the Prophet shews to them, as it were in a mirror, what grievous and bitter lamentation awaited them.

We must then bear in mind that the Prophet speaks not here according to the feeling which the people had, for they were so stupified that they felt nothing; but that he speaks of what they ought to have felt, as though he had said, — “Were there in them a particle of wisdom, they would all most surely bewail their approaching calamity, before God begins to make his judgment to fall on their heads; but no one is moved: I shall therefore weep alone, but it is on your account.” There is yet no doubt but he intended to try in every way whether God’s threatenings would penetrate into their hearts.

He says that his smiting was full of pain; and then adds, And I said, Surely it is my stroke, and I will bear it. As I have already said, he does not relate what the Jews said or thought, but what would have been the case with them had they the smallest portion of wisdom. Some connect this with the following verse, as though the Prophet had said that he thought himself able to bear his grief, but was deceived, as he was at length constrained to succumb. But this is an incorrect view, and the passage runs better otherwise. The Prophet here reminds his own people with what feeling they ought to have regarded the fact, that God was angry with them; for he no doubt indirectly condemns their sottishness, because God’s hand was put forth to chastise them, and yet they disregarded the hand of him who smote them. He then relates what they ought to have thought and felt, when God shewed tokens of his wrath, — that they ought to have acknowledged that it was their own stroke, and that it was therefore to be borne: for it is the best preparation for repentance when the sinner acknowledges that he is justly smitten, and when he willingly receives the yoke. When, therefore, any one proceeds thus far, his conversion is half effected.

The Prophet then teaches us here that the only remedy which remained for the Jews was to be fully convinced that they deserved the punishment which they endured, and then patiently to submit to God’s judgment, according to what a dutiful son does who suffers himself to be chastised when he offends. The word is used in another sense in <197710>Psalm 77:10,

“To die is my lot.”

The Prophet has ylj, cheli, here; but there it is ytwlj cheluti. That passage is indeed variously explained; but it seenis to be an expression of despair, when it is said, “To die is my lot;” that is, it is all over with me. But the Prophet here shews that it was the beginning of repentance, when the Jews confessed that they deserved their stroke; for no doubt there is here a comparison made between sin and its punishment, as though the Prophet had said, “We have thus deserved, and God allots to us the reward due to our sins.” It is one thing, — to give glory to God, by confessing that he inflicts due punishment; but it is not sufficient unless patience be added, — I will bear it; that is, I will submit to God. For there are many who, when convinced of their sins, do yet complain against their judge, and also raise a clamor. Hence the Prophet joins together these two things, — the confession of sin and patience; so that they who experience the severity of God quietly submit to him as long as He exercises towards them the office of a judge. fB40 He afterwards adds —

<241020>Jeremiah 10:20

20. My tabernacle is spoiled, and all my cords are broken: my children are gone forth of me, and they are not: there is none to stretch forth my tent any more, and to set up my curtains.

20. Tabernaculum meum vastatum est (vel, dirutum) et omnes funes mei rupti sunt; filii mei egressi sunt a me (particula yn tantundem valet ac ynmm,) et nulli sunt (hoc est, nulli restant amplius:) nemo qui extendat amplius tabernaculum meum, et erigat (vel, disponat) cortinas meas.

 

This metaphor may have been taken from shepherds, and it seems suitable here; yet the prophets often compare the Church to a tent. Though indeed it is said elsewhere that the Church is built on the holy mountains, (<198701>Psalm 87:1) and great firmness is ascribed to it, yet, as to its external condition, it may justly be said to be like a tent, for there is no fixed residence for God’s children on earth, for they are often constrained to ehange their place; and hence Paul speaks of the faithful as unsettled. (<460411>1 Corinthians 4:11.) But as, in the next verse, mention is made of shepherds, the Prophet seems here to refer to the tents of shepherds. Though indeed he takes hereafter the similitude more generally, or in a wider sense, yet there is no reason why he should not allude to the shepherds of whom he afterwards speaks, and yet retain the metaphor which so often occurs in all the prophets.

He then says that his tent was pulled down, and that all his cords were broken. Some take the tent for the city of Jerusalem, but this is a strained view, and unsuitable. We have already said that the Prophet speaks here in the name of the whole people; and it is the same as though he compared the people to a man dwelling with his family in a tent. He adds, My children are gone forth from me. The people then complain that they were deprived of all their children; nor was this all, but they were scattered here and there, which was worse than if they had been taken away by death. He afterwards says, And there is no one to extend my tent, and to set up my curtains. Jeremiah shews that the people would be so bereaved as to have none to bring them any assistance, though in much want of it.

No one then thought that such a thing would take place, and Jeremiah was held in contempt, and some raged against him, and yet He shewed what would be. And that what he said might be more forcible, and produce a stronger effect, he speaks in their name, like a poet in a play, who describes a miser, and mentions things suitable to his character, making use of such words and actions, so that he cannot but see, as it were in a mirror, his own disposition and conduct. So also the Prophet does here; for when He saw that the stupid people could not be moved by the simple truth, he told them what they all ought to have felt in their liearts, and to have testified by their mouths, — that they were solitary, deserted by all who belonged to them, and that there was no one to bring them any help. fB41 But he pursues, as we have said, the same metaphor. It follows —

<241021>Jeremiah 10:21

21. For the pastors are become brutish, and have not sought the Lord: therefore they shall not prosper, and all their flocks shall be scattered.

21. Quia infatuati sunt pastores, et Jehovam non inquisierunt; propterea non egerunt prospere (alii, non intellexerunt,) et omnis pascua eorum (hoc est, quicquid in pascuis eorum erat) fuit destructum.

 

In the first place, he assigns a cause for the dreadful devastation of which he had spoken, and that was, because the shepherds were without thought and understanding. He still, as we see, goes on with his metaphor. Some confine this to the kings of Israel; but I do not agree with them: for I include under the name shepherds, the priests and the prophets as wen as the king and his counsellors. But Jeremiah did not mean to exempt the people from fault, when He, in an especial manner, accused the shepherds; but he only mentioned the origin and the primary cause of evils, — that the kings, the prophets, and the priests were blind, and thus destroyed the flock of God. We have observed elsewhere the same mode of speaking; and yet the prophets did not intend to extenuate the vices of the people, nor to absolve the lower orders. But as it mostly happens that the lower ranks, and those in humble stations, rely much on the chief men who occupy places of authority, it was necessary that the prophets should notice this evil: and we also know how nmch pride and arrogance there is in kings and priests, and in all those who elljoy any honor or dignity; for they think themselves exempt from the restraint of laws, and will not be reproved, as though they were sacred persons. It was, therefore, for this reason, that the Prophet reproved such with so much vehemence and severity. Hence, he says, The shepherds are infatuated.

The people, indeed, at that time repudiated the prophets, as the case is now under the Papacy. For even when the truth of God is dearly and perspicuously set forth, there are many who set up this shield, — that they believe their bishops, prelates, and kings, and others of a similar kind. When, therefore, Jeremiah saw that the pure truth of God was subverted by vain splendor, he found it necessary to expose the disguise, and, so to speak, to pull off the mask. It was, then, for this reason, that he said that the shepherds were infatuated. If the prophets were under this necessity, what ought to be done by us at this day, when we see that all those who unblushingly boast that they are the representatives of the Church are sheer impostors, and draw miserable souls into destruction? What else, I pray, ought to be done by us, but what we learn was done by the prophets? And how foolishly and childishly do the Papal bishops prattle, when they would have themselves exempted from all reproofs, because power and government is in their own hands! For they cannot surely assume to themselves more than what belonged formerly to the Levitical priests; for God had chosen them, and all the priests under the law might have justly boasted that they were appointed by divine authority: yet we see that they were reproved, and were said to be infatuated. The Pope and his bishops have not been appointed by God, nor have they any evidence of their calling. Though, then, they arrogate all things to themselves, and seem to do so by divine right, yet they cannot be deemed superior to the ancient priests: they must, therefore, become subject to the judgment which God denounces here by the mouth of his Prophet.

He gives a reason why they were infatuated, because they sought not Jehovah. We hence see, on the other hand, that true wisdom is to seek God. When, therefore, there is no care taken to seek God, however acute men may be, they must necessarily be altogether infatuated: and it was for this reason that Jeremiah called them who had not sought God foolish or fatuitous. This passage teaches us, that the only way of governing rightly is, when they who rule strive to give glory to God, and regard him in all their thoughts and actions: but when they act otherwise, they must necessarily play the feel and become infatuated, however wise they may appear to be.

Hence he says, they have not prospered. The verb lk, shical, means to understand, and also to prosper. I see no reason for rendering it here, “they have not understood” or acted wisely; for it seems frigid, nor do I see what sense can be elicited. But the Prophet may be considered to have justly said, that neither the kings and their counsellors, nor the priests and the prophets ruled with any success, because they sought not God; and that as they had no care for true religion, they were become infatuated. fB42 And what follows confirms this view, And all that was in their pastures, etc.; for the Prophet seems here to add to his general statement a particular thing, and thus to prove that the government was unhappily conducted, being under the curse of God, because true religion had been neglected. He then adds this special thing, — that the pastures had been deserted, that is, that the flock in the pastures had been wholly scattered. It follows —

<241022>Jeremiah 10:22

22. Behold, the noise of the bruit is come, and a great commotion out of the north country, to make the cities of Judah desolate, and a den of dragons.

22. Vox rumoris, ecce venit, et strepitus (vel, tumultus) magnus (commotio, alii vertunt) e terra Aquilonis, ad ponendas urbes Jehudah in vastationem, domicilium draconum.

 

Jeremiah shews in this verse that prophetic doctrine was useless to an obstinate people; for there is a contrast, no doubt, to be understood betweenthe voice of God, which had constantly resounded in Judea, and the tumultuous clamours of enemies; for the prophets, one after another, had reproved the people, but without effect. Now, then, as they were deaf to God’s voice, the Prophet declares that new teachers were now come who would address them in another way, and in an unusual manner. The voice then of rumor is heard; “ye would not hear me and other servants of God; but a voice of rumor comes from the north: the Chaldeans shall be your teachers; I send you to their school, since I have spent my labor for many years in vain, as all those have done who before me diligently sought to lead you to the right way, whom God employed, and who faithfully endeavored to secure your safety; but they were no more attended to than I am, and therefore they ceased to teach you. I now turn you over to the Chaldeans; they shall teach you.” This is the simple meaning.

The voice of rumor, he says, or literally, of hearing, h[wm, shimuoe, comes; that is, the voice which shall be heard, for they had closed their ears to the prophetic warnings; and a great tumult or commotion from the land of the north. We now then see that the Chaldeans are set in opposition to the prophets, who had labored in vain among the Jews; as though Jeremiah had said that the Jews would, willing or unwilling, be made to attend to this tumultuous noise; and he says that it would be for the purpose of turning the cities of Judah to desolation and an habitation of dragons. fB43 It follows —

<241023>Jeremiah 10:23

23. O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.

23. Novi, Jehova, quod non sit penes hominem via ejus, non sit penes virum ambulantem, ut dirigat grassum suum.

 

The Jews confine this to Sennacherib, who had, according to his own will, at one time resolved to attack the Ammonites, at another the Moabites, and to reduce them under his own power; but had been induced by a sudden impulse to go to Judea. But this is frivolous. The Prophet, I doubt not, referred to the Jews, who had for a long time been accustomed to dismiss every fear, as though they were able by their own counsels to consult in the best way for the public good: for we know, that whenever any danger was apprehended from the Assyrians, they usually fled for aid to Egypt or to Chaldea. Thus, then, they provided for themselves, so tlmt they thought that they took good care of their affairs, while they had recourse to this or that expedient; and then, when the prophets denounced on them the vengeance of God, they usually regarded only their then present state, as though God could not; in one instant vibrate his lightnings from the rising to the setting sun.

Since then this security produced torpor and obstinacy, the Prophet in this passage justly exclaims, I know, Jehovah, that his way is not in man’s power; nor is it in the power of a person walking to direct his steps. fB44

We now perceive what the Prophet had in view; and this is ever to be remembered — that if we desire to read what has been written with profit, we must consider the meaning intended by the Holy Spirit, and then the purpose for which he has spoken. When we understand these things, then it is easy to make the application to other things: but he who does not weigh the end in view, ever wanders here and there, and though he may say many things, he yet does not reach the chief point. fB45 But we must observe that the Prophet, as he had done before, spoke as though he had God alone as his witness, for he saw that his own people were so hardened, that he addressed his words to them in vain: he therefore turned to God, which was a proof that he despaired as to the disposition of the people, as though he had said, “I shall have nothing to do with this perverse people any more; for I have already found out by my experience that their perverseness is untameable. I am now therefore constrained, O Lord, to address thee as though I were alone in the world.” This is the reason why he spoke to God himself. We shall defer the rest fill to-morrow.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that as we are in like manner at this day so torpid, that we are not moved by thy threatenings, nor do the kind and friendly warnings, by which thou invitest us to thyself, prevail with us, — O grant that we may at length learn to attend to the truth, in whatever form thou settest it before us, and that we may be teachable and obedient, when thou only invitest us, and that if we become hardened, we may be also touched by thy threatenings, and not tempt thy patience, but suffer ourselves to be brought under thy yoke, and so submit to thee, that thou mayest through our whole life rule over us, and shew to us thy paternal love, so that, after having faithfully served thee in this world, we may come at length into that blessed rest which is prepared for us in heaven by Christ our Lord. — Amen.


Lecture Forty-Third

We stated yesterday why the Prophet exclaimed, that man’s way is not in his own power: for as the sentence is brought in abruptly, it is made to signify different things. But I have briefly shewed that the Prophet condemns the security of his own people, because they thought that they were beyond the reach of danger, as they hoped for aid from neighboring nations in league with them, or because they supposed that they had sufficient help and protection in their own resources. Hence the Prophet derides this foolish confidence, and says, that his way is not in the power of man, and that it is not in the power of man while walking to direct his steps.

It must be farther noticed, that he treats not here of counsels, but that though men wisely guided their affairs, the Prophet denies that the issue is in their own hands or at their own will: and hence he expressly speaks of a man walking. He concedes that men walk, but yet he intimates that they cannot move a foot, except they receive strength from God. We now then perceive what the Prophet had in view.

We may hence gather a general truth — that men greatly deceive themselves, when they think that fortune or the issue of events is in their own hands: for though they may consult most wisely, yet things will turn out unsuccessfully, unless God blesses their counsels. And this is what we ought carefully to notice, because we see how presumptuously men promise themselves this and that; and this presumption can hardly be arrested while men arrogate to themselves what belongs peculiarly to God alone. There are many warnings given in Scripture in order to check this rashness; but almost all proceed in their own course, and cannot, be induced to allow themselves to be ruled by God. James condemns this madness fB46 when he says, that men resolve what they would for a long time do: the merchant determines on a long voyage, not only for three or four months, but for many years; another undertakes war; another ventures to take this or that business in hand; in short, there is no end to such instances. The Holy Spirit has by this one passage checked the boldness of those who claim for themselves more than they ought: but the greater part, as I have already said, think that the event is in their own power. On this account Solomon says, fB47 that man deliberates, but that it is God who governs the tongue. He had said in the former clause, that it is man who sets in order his ways; but he said this ironically, as it is what most believe; fortwhen they undertake anything, they are not so solicitous about the event, but they always promise to themselves more than what they have a right to do. Men, he says, set in order or arrange their ways, but God governs the tongue; that is, they cannot speak a word unless the Lord lets loose the bridle of their tongues; and yet we know that many things are vainly said by men, for they are never accomplished. Since then the voice itself is not in the power of man, but depends on the will of God, what ought we to think of the issue?

We now then see the truth which may be learnt from this passage, — that men deceive themselves when they dare to undertake this or that business, and promise themselves a happy issue. But we must farther observe, that not only events are at the disposal of God, but counsels also; for God directs the hearts and minds of men as it seemeth him good. But all things are not said in every passage. The Prophet does not here avowedly speak of what men can do, but grants this to them — that they consult, that they decide; yet he teaches us that the execution is not in their own power.

Some foolishly elicit from this passage, that something belongs to man, that he possesses some power of free-will. There seems indeed to be here something plausible at the first view. Jeremiah says, that his way is not in man’s power, and that it is not in the power of him who walks to direct his steps; he then, it is said, has left something to manm he walks; it hence follows that free — will is not reduced to nothing, but that a defect is proved, for man of himself has no sufficient power unless he is helped from above. These are only puerile trifles; for, as we have said, the Prophet does not shew here what are the powers of free-will, and what power man has to deliberate, but he takes this as granted; yet the children of this world, though they seem to themselves to be very acute in all things, and take their own counsels, and rely on their own resources, are yet deceived, because God can in one moment dissipate all their hopes, as the events of things are wholly in his power. It is therefore by way of concession that he says that man walks, according to what Paul says in <450916>Romans 9:16, though in that passage he ascends higher; yet in saying, that it is not of him who wills nor of him who runs, he seems to concede to men the power of willing and running. But there is to be understood here a species of irony; for we know that men can never be stripped of that vain and deceptive conceit which fills them, while they think that they can obtain righteousness by their own strength. They dare not, indeed, actually to boast that they are the authors of their own salvation, and that righteousness is within their own power, but they wish to be associates with God. Though they admit him as a partner, they yet wish to divide with him. This is the folly which Paul ridicules; and he says, that it is not of him who wills, or of him who runs, but of God only who shews mercy; that is, that man’s salvation is alone from the mercy of God, and that it is not from the toil and running of man.

When the Pelagians sought by this cavil to evade the sentence of Paul, “It is not of him who wills and runs,” deducing hence, that man has some liberty to will and to run, Augustine said wisely, “If it be so, then, on the other hand, we may infer, that it is not of God who shews mercy, but of him who wills and runs.” fB48 How so? If men co-operate in half with God, and if there is a concurrence of human power with the grace and aid of the Holy Spirit, and if this sentence, “It is not of him who wills, or of him who runs,” is true according to the sense given to it, so we may also say, that it is not only of God who shews mercy, but also of him who wills and runs. Why? Because the mercy of God is not sufficient if it is to be aided by man’s power. But this is extremely absurd, and there is no one who does not abhor the thought, that man’s salvation is not from God’s mercy, but from their willing and running. It then follows, that all human power, and all lab ours, are wholly excluded by these words of Paul.

Now, the Prophet does not speak of eternal salvation, but only of the actions of the present life. As then the Israelites thought that they had sufficient protection in their own wisdom, in their own power, in their own nmnbers, and also in their confederacies with other nations, the Prophet says, that they were deceived, for they arrogated to themselves the ruling power, which belongs to God alone; for what men commonly call fortune is nothing else but God’s providence. Since then God by his hidden counsel governs the affairs of men, it follows that all events, prosperous or adverse, are at his will. Whatever, then, men may consult, determine, and attempt, they yet can execute nothing, for God gives such an issue as he pleases.

We now see what the Prophet speaks of, and also see that he touches not on the powers of free-will; for he does not refer here to man’s will, but only shews that after men have arranged their affairs in the best manner, all their counsels, strivings, and toils come to nothing, and that God disappoints their confidence, because they dare rashly to promise to themselves more than what is right. It now follows —

<241024>Jeremiah 10:24

24. O Lord, correct me, but with judgment; not in thine anger, lest thou bring me to nothing.

24. Castiga me, Jehova, tantummodo in judicio, non in ira tua, ne imminuas me.

 

The Prophet again indirectly reproves and condemns the stupor of the people, because he saw that all his threatenings were despised. They had indeed been often punished, and they thought that they had escaped; and though an extreme calamity was approaching, they yet supposed that God was far from them; and thus they cherished their own delusions. Hence the Prophet alone personates the whole people, and undertakes a common and public lamentation. Chastise me, Jehovah, he says, but in judgment. The Prophet doubtless is not here solicitous about his own safety only, nor does he plead his own private cause, but he supplicates for the whole people.

But why does he speak of himself alone? Because he personated, as I have already said, the whole community, and thus reproved them for their insensibility, because they were not more attentive to the approaching judgment of God. In short, the Prophet here teaches them how they must all have felt, were they not wholly blinded and, as it were, given up to a reprobate mind;. and thus he shews, that the only thing that remained for them was suppliantly to ask pardon from God, and that they were not wholly to refuse all chastisement, but to supplicate forgiveness only in part, even that God would not exercise such severity as altogether to consume them. In this way he shews how atrocious were the sins of the people; for they were not simply and unreservedly to ask God to pardon them, but only to moderate his vengeance. When any one sins lightly, he may flee to God’s mercy, and say, “Lord, forgive me!” but they who have accumulated evils on evils, and after having been often warned have not repented, as though they purposely sought to arm God against themselves and to their own ruin, — can such seek entire exemption from all punishment? This would not be meet nor reasonable.

The Prophet then shews here briefly, that the Jews had so far advanced in wickedness that God would not wholly forgive them, and that they were not to seek pardon without any chastisement, but only to ask of God, as I have said, to moderate his severity. David did the same thing, though he pleaded his own cause only, and not that of the people. He deprecated God’s wrath and indignation; he sought not to be so forgiven as to feel no chastisement; but as he dreaded God’s wrath he wished it to be in a measure averted. And hence, in another place, he thanks God that he had been lightly smitten by his hand,

“Chastising, the Lord has chastised me,
but doomed me not to death.” (<19B818>Psalm 118:18)

But this ought to be especially observed as to the words of Jeremiah, — that the people ought not to have asked pardon unless they submitted to God’s chastisement, for they had most grievously and perversely sinned.

We may hence also gather a general truth: the real character and nature of repentance is, to submit to God’s judgment and to suffer with a resigned mind his chastisement, provided it be paternal. For when God deals with us according to strict justice, all hope of salvation is extinguished, so that it cannot be that we shall from the heart repent. Let us then know that this is necessary in repentance — that he who has offended God should present himself willingly, and of his own accord, before his tribunal and bear his chastisement. For they who are so delicate and tender, that they cannot endure any of his scourges, seem to be still refractory and rebellious. Wherever, then, there is the true feeling of penitence, there is this submission connected with it, — that God should chastise him who has offended. But a moderation is needed, according to the promise,

“I will chastise them, but with the hand of man; for my mercy will I not take away from them.” (<100714>2 Samuel 7:14;
<198933>Psalm 89:33, 35)

This was God’s promise to Solomon; but we know that it belongs to all the members of Christ. Though then God indiscriminately punishes the sins of the whole world, there is yet a great difference between the elect and the reprobate, for God grants this privilege to his elect, — that he chastises them paternally as his children, while he deals with the reprobate as a severe judge, so that all the punishments which they endure are fatal, as they cannot see anything but God’s wrath in their judgments. The elect also have ever a reason for consolation, for they know God to be their Father; and though they may at first shun his wrath, and being smitten with terror, seek some hiding places, yet having afterwards a taste of his kindness and mercy they take courage; and thus their punishments, though much more grievous than those endured by the reprobate, are yet not fatal to them, for God turns them to remedies. We now then see what is the use and benefit of what the Prophet teaches, when he says, Chastise me, Jehovah, but only in judgment.

Judgment is to be taken here for moderation. The word fpm meshepheth, has indeed various meanings: but it is to be regarded here as signifying a measured portion; not that God ever exceeds due limits in inflicting punishment, but because men faint when he exercises rigor, as then there appears to them no hope of pardon. When God therefore executes only the office of a Judge, men must necessarily faint altogether: so Jeremiah means, that there would be no measured dealing, that is, that God’s judgment would not be endurable, except he dealt mercifully with him. fB49 There is also set in opposition to this another clause, not in fury, or, not in wrath. Here then the want of moderation or excess is not opposed to a measured proportion, but the wrath of God. We also know that no passions belong to God; but, when God’s wrath or rigour appears, men must necessarily not only be terrified, but be also reduced to nothing: and yet in many places we read that` God is angry with his elect and the whole Church: but, this is to be referred to the outward appearance; for it is certain that the punishments with which God visits his own children are evidences of his paternal love, as in this way he promotes their salvation. Hence the Apostle says, that they are bastards whom God does not favor with any correction. (<581208>Hebrews 12:8.) But yet as to the outward appearance, the punishments which God inflicts on his elect differ nothing from those by which he manifests his wrath, and which he executes on the reprobate. Therefore it is by a sort of impropriety in language that punishments are always said to be evidences and signs of God’s wrath, and that God is said to be angry with his Church. But the Prophet speaks here strictly correct when he sets God’s wrath in opposition to his judgment, that. is, to that moderation which he exercises towards his elect, when he withholds his hand, which would otherwise overwhelm them in an instant.

Hence he subjoins, Lest thou shouldest diminish them. By diminishing he means destruction: as in many other places. It could not be otherwise but that God should diminish us, were he only to touch us with the end of his finger, as we know how dreadful is his power: nor is there any need for him to thunder from heaven, but were he only to shew an angry countenance, it would be all over with us. But the Prophet takes diminution here for demolition. We hence see that he so subjects himself and the whole people to God’s chastisement as yet to seek some moderation; for otherwise God’s rigor would have consumed them all, from the least to the greatest, according to what is also said by Isaiah,

“I have tried thee, but not as gold and silver, for thou wouldest have been consumed.” (<234810>Isaiah 48:10)

God then so deals with miserable sinners, that he regards what they can bear, and not what they deserve. This is simply what the Prophet means. fB50

But we may hence learn, that there is no one who can bear the strict rigour of God; and that therefore our only asylum is his mercy; not that he may pardon us altogether: for it is good for us to be chastised by his hand; but that he may chastise us only according to his paternal kindness. It follows —

<241025>Jeremiah 10:25

25. Pour out thy fury upon the heathen that know thee not, and upon the families that call not on thy name: for they have eaten up Jacob, and devoured him, and consumed him, and have made his habitation desolate.

25. Effunde iram tuam super gentes, quae te non noverunt, et super cognationes (vel, familias) quae nomen tuum non invocaverunt; quia comederunt Jacob, comederunt inquam ipsum, et consumpserunt eum, et tabernacula ejus vastarunt.

 

The Prophet confirms his prayer by this reason — that God had sufficient ground for executing his vengeance on the wicked and ungodly heathens who were alienated from him; and there is no doubt but that he had respect to the promise to which we have referred; for the Prophet knew that what had been said once to David was promised to the whole Church throughout all ages. Hence He reminds God, as it were, of the difference which he had made between domestics and foreigners; as though he had said, “O Lord, though it is right and also useful for our salvation to be chastised by thy hand, yet thou dost not indiscriminately visit with vengeance the sins of men; for thou hast promised paternally to chastise thy children: but as to aliens, thou art their judge, so that they may be wholly destroyed. Now then, O Lord, shew that this has not been said in vain; and as thou hast been pleased to adopt us as thy peculiar people, forgive us according to thy paternal kindness.” Hence we see that the Prophet did not inconsiderately pour forth his prayer into the air, but had a regard to God’s promise, and referred to that difference which God himself was pleased to make between his Church and unbelievers.

He then says, Pour forth thy wrath on the nations who know not thee: and he exaggerates what he says by adding, that Jacob had been devoured by these heathen nations as by wild beasts; as though he had said, “We have indeed sinned, O Lord; but (lost thou shew thyself to be the Judge of the world for our destruction, and yet sparest the Egyptians, the Assyrians, and the Chaldeans, who have so cruelly distressed us, yea, who have not only torn us, but have also wholly devoured us? (For he uses the word devour twice; and then he adds, They have consumed him; and lastly, His tents have they laid waste.) Since then they have so atrociously raged against thy people, are they to go unpunished, when thou castest us down, who are thine? Even had we given thee ever so great a cause for punishing us, still thine adoption should avail us; and thou mightest in the meantime execute thy judgment on the heathen nations.”

There is no doubt but that the Prophet, or whoever he was who composed the seventy-ninth Psalm, borrowed the words used here, for it is there said,

“Pour forth thy wrath on the nations who know not thee, and on the kingdoms which have not called on thy name; for they have consumed Jacob and his inheritance.” (<197906>Psalm 79:6, 7)

It may be that Jeremiah himself wrote that Psalm, after having been driven into Egypt, when that city had been destroyed. It was, however, suitable to the time when dreadful scattering had happened; for the Psalm seems to have been composed for the benefit of the miserable, and as it were of the lost Church. It is yet more probable that it was written under the tyranny of Antiochus, or at the time when the cruelty of God’s enemies raged against his people. However this may be, the author of that Psalm wished to repeat what is contained here.

It may now be asked, Whether it is right to pray for evils on the ungodly and wicked, while we are doubtful and uncertain as to their final doom. For as God has not made it known how he purposes to deal at last with them, the rule of charity ought on the contrary to turn us another way, — that we are to hope for their salvation and to pray God to forgive them: but the Prophet; consigns them only to destruction; and he speaks not according to his own private feeling, but dictates a prayer which all the faithful were to use. To this I answer, — that we are not to denounce a sentence on this or that man individually, and that our prejudging would be presumptuous, were we to consign individuals to eternal death and to pray for evil on them: but we may use this form of prayer generally with regard to the obstinate enemies of God, so as still to refer to him the certainty of the issue; and yet we are not to mix in one mass all those whom we know to be now ungodly, for this, as I have said, would be presumptuous It would then be more becoming in us to pray for the good of all and to wish their salvation, and, as far as we can, to promote it. Yet when we thus entertain love towards every individual, we may still so pray in general, that God would lay prostrate, consume, scatter, and reduce to nothing his enemies. There is then no doubt but that the Prophet here turns his own thoughts to God’s judgment, as though He had said, “Lord, it was thy work to make a distinction between domestics and aliens; it has pleased thee to adopt this people; what now remains, but that thou shouldest deal mercifully with them, inasmuch as thou sustainest towards them the character of a Father? As to the heathen nations, as they are aliens to thee and belong not to thy flock, destruction awaits them; let them therefore perish.”

Now the Prophet in thus speaking of heathen nations, does not anticipate God’s judgment so as to restrain him from doing what he pleased: but he only mentions, as I have already said, what he derived from God’s word, — that some are elected, and that others are reprobates. He infers God’s election from his vocation or his covenant; and, on the other hand, he regards all those reprobate on whom God has not been pleased to bestow the privilege of his paternal favor.

The question then is now solved: and hence it appears how it is lawful for us to pray for the destruction of the reprobate, and of those who despise God, — that our prayers ought not to anticipate God’s judgment, — and that we are not to determine as to individuals, but only remember this distinction — that God acts as a Father towards his elect, and as a judge towards the reprobate.

Pour forth then thy wrath: as he had subjected himself and the whole people to God’s chastisements, so he says, Pour forth thy wrath; that is, deal with them with strict justice; but yet moderate thy wrath towards us, lest like the deluge it should swallow us up; for the word “pour forth” conveys this meaning. By saying, on the nations which know not thee, which have not called on thy name, he uses words which ought to be carefully noticed; for we are by them taught that the beginning of religion is the knowledge of God. He then mentions the fruit or the effect, which is invocation or prayer. These two things are connected together: but we must bear in mind the order also; for God cannot be invoked, except the knowledge of him previously shines on us. Indeed all everywhere call on God; even the unbelieving commonly cry on him when urged by danger; but they do not rightly address their prayers to him, nor offer them as legitimate sacrifices. How so? How can they call on him,” says Paul, “in whom they have not believed?” Hence it is necessary, as I have said, that God himself should shew us the way before we can rightly pray: and therefore where there is no knowledge of God, there can be no way of praying to him. But when God has once given us light, then there is a way of access open to us. Invocation then is ever the fruit of faith, as it is an evidence of religion; for all who call not on God, and that seriously, prove that they have never known anything of religion. If then we desire to pray aright, we must first learn what is God’s will towards us: we must also know that we then only advance as we ought in the attainment of salvation, when we flee to God and exercise ourselves in prayer.

He lastly adds, For they have consumed Jacob, they have consumed him, they have consumed him, fB51 and his tents have they laid waste. Two things are to be observed here: we see how sad and miserable was the state of the Church; for he says not that the Israelites had suffered many wrongs, or had been treated violently and reproachfully, but that they had been devoured by the nations, and he repeats this twice; and then he adds, that they had been consumed, and that their tents had been laid waste. Since then we see how cruelly afflicted were God’s children formerly, let us not wonder if the Church at this day be exposed to the most grievous calamities, and let us not be frightened as though it was something new and unusual; but as the same thing happened formerly to our fathers, let us bear such trials with a submissive mind. The other thing to be observed is, — that as the Prophet was not here led to pray by the impulse of his flesh, but by the guidance of the Spirit, we may hence with certainty conclude, that though the enemies of the Church triumph at this day, and think that they have everything in their own power, while they cruelly treat the innocent, they shall at length be punished; for the Spirit who guided the tongue of the Prophet intended this form of prayer to be unto us like a promise, so that we may feel assured that the more atrociously the ungodly rage against God’s children, the heavier punishment is nigh them as the wages of their cruelty. They indeed devour, at this day, like wild beasts; but God will sooner or later put forth his hand, and shew how precious to him is the blood of his people.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that since we are so torpid in our sins, except thou rousest us, that we profit not by the severe warnings by which thou didst formerly stimulate thine ancient people, and since we have also been already warned by many signs of thy wrath to seek repentance with increasing assiduity, — O grant that we may earnestly persevere in this course, and so submit to thee, that with patient and calm minds we may bear thy corrections: and may we in the meantime be fully assured that thou wilt ever be our Father, and never hesitate, even in death itself, to flee to thy mercy, until thou pourest forth thy wrath on the ungodly and the profane despisers of thy name, and shewest such compassion towards us, that we may know that thou hast not in vain promised that thy chastisements would ever be kind and paternal, in visiting the sins of those who hope in thee, through Christ our Lord. — Amen.


Lecture Forty-Fourth

CHAPTER 11

<241101>Jeremiah 11:1-5

1. The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying,

1. Sermo qui directus fuit ad Jeremiah a Jehova, dicendo,

2. Hear ye the words of this covenant, and speak unto the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem;

2. Audite verba (sermones) foe-deris hujus, et dicite viro Jehudah (viris Jehudah, enallage est numeri) et habitatoribus Jerusalem;

3. And say thou unto them, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Cursed be the man that obeyeth not the words of this covenant,

3. Et dices ad cos, Sic dicit Jehova, Deus Israel, Maledictus vir qui non audierit verba foederis hujus;

4. Which I commanded your fathers in the day that I brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, from the iron furnace, saying, Obey my voice, and do them, according to all which I command you: so shall ye be my people, and I will be your God;

4. Quae (vel, quod foedus) mandavi patribus vestris die quo eduxi eos e terra Egypti, e fornace ferrea, dicendo, Audite vocem meam, et facite ea quae (hoc est, quaecunque) praecipio (relativum sine antecedente; seeundum omnia quae praecepi vobis) et eritis mihi in populum, et ego ero vobis in Deum; (cohoerent hoecomnia inter se, ideo non disjungo)

5. That I may perform the oath which I have sworn unto your fathers, to give them a land flowing with milk and honey, as it is this day. Then answered I, and said, So be it, O Lord.

5. Ut statuam (vel, stabiliam; alii vertunt, suscitem, sed improprie) jusjurandum quodjuravipatribus vestris ad dandum illis terrain afltuentem lacte et roelie, secundum diem hanc: et respondi et dixi, Amen, Jehova.

 

Here the Prophet teaches us, that the Jews, though they continued to profess God’s holy name, were yet wholly perfidious, and had departed altogether from the law. The import of this discourse is, that the Jews gloried in the name of God, and yet were violaters of his covenant, for they had broken their faith pledged to God, and wholly cast aside the doctrine of the law. The Jews, no doubt, were often greatly exasperated against Jeremiah, as though he was pleading his own cause: it was therefore necessary to set before them their departure from the law, so that they might feel assured that their contention was not with Jeremiah but with Moses, and with God himself, the author of the law. They were doubtless exasperated with his doctrine; but Jeremiah could not spare them when he saw that they were so perverse.

We may understand this better by an example: Though the Papists at this day openly repudiate everything adduced from the law, and the prophets, and the gospel, yet they dissemble on this point, and even affirm that they receive whatever proceeds from God. As they then shuffle and do so shamelessly, he who seeks to restore the pure worship of God and true religion, may deal with them in the same manner. As for instance, when any one of God’s servants meets the Papists, he may thus address them: — “Let not the dispute be now between us individually, but hear what God commanded formerly by Moses, and what he has more fully confirmed by his prophets, and at last by his only — begotten Son and his apostles; so that it is not right to do anything any longer against his word: now then attend to the law and the prophets.”

We now understand what was God’s design in bidding his servant Jeremiah to speak these words. For, except we duly consider the unfaithfulness of that people, we shall feel surprised that the word covenant is so often mentioned, and it will appear unmeaning to us. But the Prophet, as I have said, when he saw that the Jews by their cavils made evasions, could not deal with them in any other way than by shewing that, they had violated God’s covenant and had thus become apostates, having wholly departed from the law. And he says that this was commanded them by God: nor is there doubt but that God not only suggested this to his servant, but dictated also to him the way and manner of speaking.

Rightly then does Jeremiah begin by saying, that this word was given to him. By using the plural number in the second verse, he no doubt shews that he had a few assistants remaining, whom God addressed in connection with him, that they might unite together in delivering his message. For though there were very few good men, yet Jeremiah was not wholly deprived of colleagues, who assented to and confirmed his doctrine. Baruch was one of them, and there were a few like him. These, then, God addresses in the second verse, when he says, Hear ye the words of this coveant, and say ye fC1 to the men of Judah and to the citizens of Jerusalem. Jeremiah indeed knew, and also those who were with him, that they brought forward nothing but what was in the law: but however conscious they were of their own sincerity, and could testify before God and his angels that they drew nothing from puddles but from a pure fountain, yet God intended to strengthen them against the contumacy of the people; for they had this objection ready at hand, “Ye indeed boast that whatever it pleases you to bring forward, is the word of God; but this we deny.” Since then the prophets had to undergo such a contest, it seemed good to God to strengthen their hands, that they might first be themselves assured, and then become fit and bold witnesses of his truth to others, having good authority, as it was derived from the law itself, and not from the devices of men.

And we see to whom God intended this to be proclaimed, even to the men of Judah and to the citizens of Jerusalem. The ten tribes, as it has elsewhere appeared, were now driven into exile; and here was the flower, as it were, of the chosen people; and having survived so many calamities, they thought that they had been preserved by Divine power, because religion and God’s worship prevailed among them. Thus they were inebriated with false notions and self — flatteries. Hence the Prophet, and those who were with him, are expressly bidden to declare, what we shall hereafter notice, to the citizens of Jerusalem and to the inhabitants of the land who remained, and thought that they were the chosen of God and would continue safe, even if all others were to perish.

The Prophet afterwards shews more clearly that the command was especially given to him, for he uses the singular number, Thou shalt say to them. Nor is it inconsistent that at first he joined others with himself; for God might have united the suffrages of the few who wished the restoration of pure religion among the people, while yet Jeremiah, who was superior to the rest, sustained the chief part. There is no doubt but that others were anxious by their consent to confirm his doctrine: but there was no emulation among them; and though he excelled them, he yet winingly admitted into a connection with himself all those whom he found to be united with him in so good and holy a cause. God then, in the last verse, spoke of them in common, for he wished all his servants to add their testimony to that of his Prophet; but now he addresses the Prophet alone, for his authority was greater.

It follows, Thus saith Jehovah, the God of Israel, cursed the man who does not hearken to the words of this covenant. As often as the word covenant is mentioned, Jeremiah no doubt cuts off every pretext for all those evasions to which the Jews, according to what we have said, had recourse: for they never winingly allowed that they took away anytiling from the law, though they yet despised Jeremiah, who was its true and faithful interpreter, who had blended with it nothing of his own, but only applied what had been taught by Moses to the condition of the people at that time. There is then to be understood an implied contrast between the word covenant and the doctrine of Jeremiah; not that there was any difference or contrariety, or that Jeremiah had anything apart from the law, but that he formed his discourse so as to suit the condition of the people. And there is a kind of concession, as though he had said, “I do not now demand to be heard by you, but hear only the law itself: I have hitherto brought forward nothing but what God has commanded; and I have taught nothing at variance with Moses; there has been nothing additional in my doctrine: but as I cannot convince you of this, I now give over speaking to you; Moses himself speaks, hear him.”

By adding the pronoun demonstrative, “Hear ye the words of this covenant,” it is the same as though he had openly shewed them as by his finger, so that there was no room for any doubt. fC2 He then upbraided them by pointing out the covenant, as though he had said, “What avails you to feign and to pretend that what we say is ambiguous, and to hold it as uncertain whether we are or not the servants of God? whether we speak by his Spirit? whether he himself has sent us? The thing is clear; this is the covenant.” We now perceive the force of this pronoun.

But in referring to the curse, his purpose, no doubt, was to bend the stubbornness of the people. Had the Jews been teachable and submissive, God would have used a milder strain, and allured them by words of kindness and love: but as he had to do with perverse minds, he was under the necessity of addressing them in this manner, in order to strike them with terror, and to render them more attentive, and also to make them to hear with more reverence, as they usually treated with contempt what he had spoken before. We hence see why he began with mentioning a curse. God followed in the law another order; for he first introduced the rule of life, and added also promises to render the people wining to obey; and then he subjoined the curses. But Jeremiah here begins by saying, Cursed are all those who hear not the words of this covenant. Why was this done? Even because he had already found out the hardness and the obstinate wickedness of the people. He then does not propound a simple doctrine, but before all things he sets before them the curse of God; as though he had said, “It is very strange that you have not hitherto been moved, since God’s curse has been so often denounced on you: as then ye are so stupid, before I begin to speak of God’s commands, his curse shall be mentioned to awaken your torpidity.”

But we learn from the Prophet’s words that he alluded to the form prescribed in the law: for after Moses rehearsed all the precepts, he added, “Cursed is every one who turns aside to foreign gods;” and he commanded the people to respond, Amen; and, “Cursed is every one who curses father and mother,” and he bade them to respond, Amen; and after having narrated all the precepts, he added, “Cursed is every one who fulfils not all the words of this law,” and the people responded, Amen. (<052715>Deuteronomy 27:15, 16, 26) The same form does Jeremiah now adopt when he says,

“Declare then to the people, that they are all accursed who obey not my precepts;”

and then the Prophet adds, I answered and said, Amen, O Jehovah. But it must be observed, that the Prophet here personates as before the whole people; as though he had said, “I subscribe to God’s judgment, even though ye should be all gainsayers, as ye really are. Though then ye think that ye can escape from God’s hand, as though it were easy to elude the curse which is pronounced in his law, yet I subscribe with my own name, and answer before God, Amen, O Jehovah.

But we must notice also the other words, Cursed, he says, is every one who hears not the words of this covenant. To hear, in this place, and in many other places, is to be taken for obeying. He then speaks of the words or of the covenant itself; for the expression may be taken in either sense, as God had made a covenant with the Jews and at the same time expressed words. I am inclined to consider the covenant itself as intended. God then says that he had made a covenant with them. There is yet a fuller explanation, The words which I commanded your fathers, he says, in the day when I brought them up from the land of Egypt, God shews here by a circumstance as to the time how inexcusable the Jews were; for he says that he gave the law to their fathers at the very time when they were extricated from death; as they were drawn out of the grave, as it were, when God made them a passage through the Red Sea. That redemption ought to have made such a deep impression as to convince them wholly to devote themselves to God; yea,, the memory of such a benefit ought to have been deeply fixed in their hearts.

We hence see how aggravated here is the sin of ingratitude; for the law was given to the Israelites when they had before their eyes the many deaths to which they had been exposed, and from which the Lord had miraculously delivered them. For the same reason also he mentions their miserable state as an iron furnace, according to what we find in the third chapter of Exodus and in many other places, he then compares their Egyptian bondage to a furnace; for the Jews were then like wood and straw in a burning furnace; and he calls the furnace iron, as it could melt and reduce to nothing things harder than wood, evcn gold or silver or any other metal. In short, the deplorable state of the people is here set forth; and the Prophet, by the comparison, magnifies the favor shewn to them — that God, beyond all hope, had delivered them from death. Since then the authority of the law was sanctioned by so great a benefit, it became evident how much was the impiety of the people, and how unbecoming and wicked their ingratitude; for they did not winingly suffer God’s yoke to be laid on them.

He says that God commanded these things. This expression, as I have said, is to be applied to the words of the law, and not to the covenant. But the Prophet speaks indiscriminately, now of the covenant, then of the things it embraces, that is, of all the precepts it includes. In other words, he expresses how inexcusable was the sin of the people; for God, in substance, required of them no other thing but to hear his voice: and what can be more just than that they who have been redeemed should obey the voice of their deliverer? and what could have been more detestable and monstrous than for the Israelites to refuse what God had a right to demand? We now then perceive the design of the Prophet in saying, that God commanded this only to his redeemed people, even to hear his voice, and to do what he commanded. fC3

He further adds a promise, which ought to have softened their stony hearts, Ye shall be, he says, to me a people, and I will be to you a God. God might have positively required of the Jews what is implanted in all by nature; for they who have never been taught acknowledge that God ought to be worshipped; and the right way of worshipping him is when we obey his precepts. God then might have thus commanded them according to his supreme aufilority. The commands of kings, as it is said, are brief, for they are no soothing expressions, nor do they reason, nor employ any persuasive language. How much greater is the authority of God, who can intimate by a nod what he pleases and what he demands? But as though he descended from his high station, he seeks by promises to attach people to himself, so that they may winingly obey him. Thus God recommends his law by manifesting his favor, and does not merely assert his own authority. Since then God thus kindly addresses his people, and promises so great a reward to obedience, how base and abominable is the contumacy of men when they repudiate his law. Hence the Prophet shews here more clearly why he began by saying, Cursed is every one who obeys not, etc.: for kindness had profited nothing; friendly and tender words, the paternal invitation of God, produced no effect; as though he had said, “God could not, doubtless, have treated you more gently and kindly than by reminding you in a paternal manner of your duty, and by adding promises sufficient to soften even the hardest hearts; but as this has been done without effect, what now remains for God to do but to thunder and announce only his curses?”

We now understand what the Prophet had in view. But it may be here objected, — that all this was useless and without any benefit, for the Jews could not have undertaken the yoke of the law, until it was inscribed on their hearts. To this I answer, that of this very thing they were here at the same time reminded: for though the teaching of the letter could do nothing but condemn the people, and hence it is said by Paul to be what brings death, (<470306>2 Corinthians 3:6) yet the faithful knew that the Spirit of regeneration would not be denied them, if they sought it of God. Then, in the first place, it was their fault that the law was not inscribed on their hearts; and, in the second place, a free promise of forgiveness was added; for why were those sacrifices and expiations under the law, and so many ceremonies, which had respect to their reconciliation to God, but in order that the people might feel assured that God would be propitious and appeasable to them, though they could not satisfy the law? This teaching then was not useless as to the faithful; for God, when he required from the Israelites what they ought to have done, was at the time ready to inscribe the law on their hearts, and also to forgive their sins. But when through obstinate wickedness they rejected the whole law, the Prophet justly declares here that the curse of God was on them; because they basely rejected God’s promises, by which he testified his paternal kindness towards them.

He adds, That I may establish the oath which I have sworn to your fathers, to give them a land abounding in milk and honey, according to what it is at this day. Here he does not refer to the chief part of their happiness; but only the land of Canaan is mentioned as the pledge or the earnest of God’s favor; for his promise had regard to something much higher than to the land of Canaan. God had indeed promised this as an inheritance to the Israelites: but when he says, that he would be their God and they his people, the promise of eternal life and of celestial glory is included, according to what is said elsewhere, that he is not the God of the dead but of the living. (<402231>Matthew 22:31) And we must ever bear in mind what is said by the Prophet Habakkuk,

“Thou art our God, we shall not die.” (<350112>Habakkuk 1:12)

God then promised to the Israelites something far greater than the possession of the land, when he said, that he would be their God. But that land was a symbol, an earnest and a pledge of his paternal favor. All these things well agree together.

And to the same purpose is what the Prophet adds, that God had formerly sworn to their fathers, that he would give them that land by an hereditary right: and this promise had been fulfined to their posterity. Were any to lay hold on this only, — that God’s favor was seen in the land of Canaan, because they had obtained it through the expulsion of the heathens by God’s kindness, the view would be frigid, and the Prophet would diminish much from that promise which far exceeds all that man can conceive. Hence, as I have said, in speaking of the land of Canaan, he accommodates himself no doubt to the comprehension of a rude and ignorant people, and mentions the earnest and the pledge, that they alight see by their eyes, exhibited to them even in this world and in this frail life some evidence of that favor, which far surpasses all that can be desired in the world.

Now, when he says, That I may establish fC4 the oath which I have sworn to your fathers, God doubtless shews that though the Jews should obey him, they had not yet deserved by their obedience the inheritance promised before they were born. God then here proves that it was through his gratuitous kindness that; they became heirs of the land. How so? because they were not created when God sware to Abraham that he would give that land to him and to his posterity. As then the promise had been given long before, it follows that it could not be ascribed to the merits of the people, that they had at length in due time obtained the land. As to the oath, God by referring to it extols his favor; for he not only promised the land for an heritage to the children of Abraham, but he also added an oath, that the covenant might appear more sure. But the Prophet at the same time intimates, that they, if ungrateful to God, might justly be deprived of the promised inheritance; as though he had said, “There is no ground for you to expostulate with God, as though he defrauded you, were he to cast you out of the land; for God himself does not disinherit you, but your own wickedness; and ye are now unworthy, for God regards you not as his children.” While then the Prophet takes away every ground for boasting, that the Jews might not think that they possessed the land as a reward for their merits, he also reminds them that they might be justly deprived of their land, and that on account of their own fault, as they rendered not to God the service they owed to him. Hence he says, that I might establish the oath which I have sworn to your fathers.

A land, he says, flowing with milk and honey: this mode of speaking was often adopted by Moses, (<020308>Exodus 3:8, <020317>Exodus 3:17; <021305>Exodus 13:5; <023303>Exodus 33:3; <032024>Leviticus 20:24) The land was no doubt from the beginning very fertile; but it is probable that it became more fruitful after the people entered into it, for it was in a manner renewed; and it was God’s design to shew in a visible manner how great; Was the efficacy of his covenant. It was not then to no purpose that Moses said so often that it was a land flowing with milk and honey.

He afterwards adds, According as it is at this day. He produces witnesses; as though he had said, “God has dealt faithfully with you, for he has performed the faith pledged to your fathers, and has fulfined his oath: but now since ye have polluted this land, and the memory of God’s favor is as it were buried among you, and ye even tread under your feet his law — since then such great impiety averts his blessing from you, what remains for him to do, but to drive you away into exile?” We hence see that there is here to be understood an implied threatening, when he says that God had performed what he had promised to the fathers, and promised with this condition — that they were to obey his commands.

We have already spoken of the Prophet’s answer. When he answered, Amen, he did not wait for what the people would say; for the greater part no doubt made a clamor and sought to make shifts with God. So great was their effrontery, that they often rose up insolently against the Prophets. Then as he knew that they were so refractory, he subscribed to the curse in his own name. It follows —

<241106>Jeremiah 11:6-8

6. Then the Lord said unto me, Proclaim all these words in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem, saying, hear ye the words of this covenant, amid do them.

6, Ex dixit Jehova ad me, clama (hoc est, clamosa voce promulga) verba haec in urbibus Jehudah et in compitis Jerusalem dicendo, Audite verba foederis hujus et facite ca.

7. For I earnestly protested unto your fathers, in the day that I brought them up out of the land of Egypt, even unto this day, rising early and protesting, saying, Obey my voice.

7. Quia contestando contestatus sum patribus vestris dic qua feci ascendere eos e terra Egypti usque ad diem hanc, mane surgendo et contestando et dicendo, Audite vocem meam:

8. Yet they obeyed not, nor inclined their ear, but walked every one in the imagination of their evil heart: therefore I will bring upon them all the words of this covenant, which I commanded them to do; but they did them not.

8. Et non audierunt et non inclinarunt aurem suam; et ambularunt quisque post pravitatem cordis sui mali: et (ideo, copula hic inative accipitur) venire feci (hoc est, immisi) super eos omnia verba foederis hujus, quod mandavi ut facerent; et non fecerunt.

 

Here the Prophet explains more clearly why he had been commanded to promulgate the words of the covenant: for the greater part of the people were no doubt ready boldly to object and say, “What dost thou mean? Are not we the disciples of Moses? Thou, forsooth! thinkest that thou hast to do with a barbarous people. Have we not been from our childhood taught the law of God? Is it not daily enjoined on us? We are sufficiently instructed in this doctrine of which thou pretendest that we are ignorant. Be gone hence; and go either to the Chaldeans or to the Assyrians or to the Egyptians; for we understand what the law teaches.”

There is then no doubt but that Jeremiah had been repulsed by this kind of insolence: he therefore shews that he had a just cause to set before them the law of God; for so great an oblivion had prevailed, that they did not know what God had formerly taught in his law: and besides, they and their fathers had been always rebellious, so that they had ever need of being taught, according to what is said by Isaiah, that the people were to be treated like children and taught, A, A; B, B, and that though the same things were repeated, they yet stopped at the rudiments and never made any progress. (<232810>Isaiah 28:10, 13) As then Isaiah reproached the people with tardiness in learning the law, so Jeremiah shews now that they were not to think it strange that God commanded his law to be proclaimed to them, because it had been hitherto despised by them. The rest we shall defer.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that ,since thou hast been pleased daily to invite us to thyself with so ranch benignity and kindness, we may not with deaf ears turn aside from the doctrine which is set forth for our salvation, but that we may attend to it and persevere also in that obedience which thou justly requirest from us, so that we may make increasing progress in true religion, and so form the whole course of our life according to thy righteous law, that we may fight as good soldiers to thee in this world, until we shall at length come to that blessed rest, which is prepared for us in heaven, through Christ our Lord. — Amen.


Lecture Forty-Fifth

We observed in the last Lecture the complaint which God made against his people, — that, he had tried every means to reconcile them to himself, but all in vain. But there is great weight and emphasis in these words, — that by protesting he protested, etc.; as though he subjected himself to the judgment of a third party; for we are wont to protest against those who do not winingly come before the tribunal of a judge. God then takes this figure from the common practice of men, and says that he protested, and that not only once, but repeatedly. He afterwards adds that he had done this not only in one age, but from the time their fathers came forth from bondage to that day. It was then extreme perverseness, when God ceased not to call them to himself, and yet spoke to the deaf. But what follows is still more emphatical, — that he rose early: for to take this transitively as some do, is what I do not approve. God then says, that he was so solicitous about their welfare, that he rose early to call them. There is no doubt but that God applies here to himself what properly belonged to his Prophets, as he also concedes to his servants what rightly belongs to him, and what cannot be applied to men, except by way of concession.

But God does here extol the authority of his word, when he says that he rose early; and at the same time he amplifies their ingratitude, inasmuch as they had despised him, when they saw that he, like the head of a family, provided for their welfare. We hence then learn how much God values his word; for he testifies that there is no difference between him and his servants, whose labors he employs in teaching his ChurJeremiah We also hence learn how inexcusable is our wickedness when we reject God speaking thus familiarly to us. We now then perceive the import of this passage. But it may, in the third place, be observed, that God’s name is in vain pretended, except when he himself speaks. The Papists of this day would have whatever they say, according to their own fancies, to be received without any dispute; but God shews in this place that he is not offended except when he is himself despised; and he at the same time declares that he is so connected with his prophets, that they bring nothing of their own, nor anything else except what proceeds from him.

He now adds, that this only he required from his chosen people, to obey his voice. The justness of this precept shews how base and wicked was the impiety of the people; and God also shews that they had not the pretext of error or of ignorance; for the only way of evading was to pretend that they wished no other thing than to render to God the worship due to him; but the rule he had prescribed in his law was such as could not be mistaken. It hence follows that they wilfully went astray after superstitions, for they were sufficiently taught in the law what God approved. This then is the reason why he so often repeats that he required nothing from the children of Abraham except to hear his voice.

It afterwards follows, Yet they heard not, and bent not, or inclined not their ear. Here the Prophet does not accuse a few men of perverseness, but says that, from the time they had been redeemed, they had been rebellious against God: and he exaggerates their sin by saying that they inclined not their ear; for this was no doubt added for the sake of emphasis, as though the Prophet had said, — that it was only their own fault that the right way was not quite evident to them, for they deigned not to give ear to God. Now, it is a proof of extreme contempt, when we not only repudiate what God says to us, and refuse to obey his authority and advice, but when we close up every avenue, and, as Tar as we can, forbid him to speak to us; this is surely an extremity of insolence. It may indeed be, that one will hear another speaking, and yet will not do what he says; he still will shew some courtesy, lest a complaint of inattention be made; but it is an intolerable barbarity when we do not listen to the words of another. God here complains that the Israelites had not only been disobedient to him, after having been instructed, but that they had been so refractory, that they insolently rejected all the words of the prophets; which was not only a proof of base impiety, but also of barbarous perverseness. We now then understand what the Prophet means.

He says, that they walked every one in the wickedness of his own evil heart. fC5 As he had before shewn that they had been in due time warned, it is clear that they followed not through mistake their impious superstitions, but because they rejected the true worship of God, and hearkened not to the teaching of the prophets. By saying that they walked every one, etc., the Prophet doubtless intended to include them all as it were in one bundle; as though he had said, that they had not been drawn away by a sudden impulse, as it is often the case when an agitation is made by a few, and when the most follow, being driven as it were by a storm, and think not what they do; for thus some terror often seizes on the minds of the many, so that they go here and there without knowing where they are going. But the Prophet here teaches us that every one followed his own counsel; as though he had said that the worship of God had not been thus rejected by the influence of the multitude, but that each one had his own object, and had concocted the wickedness and the great sin of rejecting God. There is then more meaning and force in this way of speaking, than if he had said that they all walked in the wickedness of their own hearts. He further shews that they were all, from the least to the greatest, implicated, as they say, in the same impiety.

He afterwards adds, that God had brought upon them the words, that is, the threatenings of the covenant. By the words of the covenant he means not here the doctrine or precepts of the law. He indeed mentioned before the words of the covenant for the commands of God; but now, on finding that he had to do with refractory men, who were not capable of receiving any doctrine, he comes to threatenings. But God prescribes first in his law what he wins to be done, and then adds not only kind invitations, but also what is alluring, in order to conciliate the minds of men: but when there is no attention to obedience, and no care for it, he then comes to threatenings. Though the Prophet had omitted the promises, he had yet spoken previously of the law itself; but he says now that God had executed what he had denounced on them.

He further says, Which I have commanded to be done; and they did them not. There seems indeed to be a confusion here; for by the words of this covenant, he no doubt means threatenings, as I have stated: then he immediately adds, which I have commanded to be done, and they did them not. But, as I have already reminded you, the Prophet had previously, with sufficient clearness, taught them that the rule of a godly and holy life was set forth in the law; but he now refers especially to threatenings. It is then not strange that he speaks thus indistinctly, for the people had in a manner perverted the law. There were indeed in the law these two distinct things — doctrine, or a rule of life; and threatenings, which were added as stimulants to rouse the sloth of men, or rather to subdue their perverseness. But as the Israelite,and the Jews had not attended to the voice of God, the Prophet here blends threatenings with precepts. fC6

We now understand what the Prophet means in this passage, when he says that he was sent by God to cry, Hear ye the words of this covenant; for they were forgetful of true religion; and such was their oblivion and impious’ contempt of the whole law, that they had need of being taught its first rudiments. This is one thing. He then shews how solicitous God had been about their welfare, so that he had not neglected any of the duties of the best of fathers, and that yet his labor had been all in vain; for they had not only been led away by their own lusts, but their inward wickedness had closed their ears, so that they deigned not to listen to God’s voice; and this had not been in one age only, but from the time they came out of Egypt to that day. It hence follows that they were justly punished, for God had tried all means before he had recourse to severity; but since he had adopted all kinds of ways to reform them, and all in vain, the only thing that remained was to punish them as men past all remedy. This is the import of the whole. He now adds —

<241109>Jeremiah 11:9-10

9. And the Lord said unto me, A conspiracy is found among the men of Judah, and among the inhabitants of Jerusalem.

9. Et dixit Jehova ad me, inventa est conspiratio (ad verbum, colligatio; nam rq significat proprie ligare vel connectere, sed metaphorica est significatio cum transfertur ad conspirationem) in viro (hoc est, in viris) Jehudah et in civibus Jerusalem.

10. They are turned back to the iniquities of their forefathers, which refused to hear my words; and they went after other gods to serve them: the house of Israel and the house of Judah have broken my covenant, which I made with their fathers.

10. Reversi sunt ad iniquitates patrum suorum superiorum (qui ante fuerunt) qui noluerunt audire verba mea; et ipsi ambularunt post deos alienos, ut servirent ipsis; dissoluerunt domus Israel et domus Jehudah foedus meum, quod pepigeram cum patribus ipsorum.

 

Here the Prophet joins closer battle with the men of his age, and says, that they were worse than their fathers; for this is the meaning of the word, banding or joining together. For when the Israelites concurred in a body in ungodly superstitions, it was more excusable at the beginning, for they had not yet struck deep roots in true religion; but when God by his prophets had endeavored many times, and in various ways, to restore them to the right way, and when his diligence and assiduous efforts had proved fruitless, it was an evidence of confirmed and hopeless obstinacy. He then says, that this had been discovered; for this is what he means by saying, that it had been found out. This verb is often used in Scripture in another sense, but it means here the same, as though he had said, that the conspiracy of the people had been discovered or proved, as it is said of thieves when found out, that they are caught in the very act. So God says here, that it was no matter of dispute whether the people had designedly and from sheer wickedness perverted his true and lawful worship; the conspiracy, fC7 he says, is sufficiently notorious.

We then understand the meaning of the Prophet to be, — that not a part of the people was implicated in impiety, but that all, from the least to the greatest, were together defiled, and that this was done, not by some foolish impulse of the moment, but designedly, for they banded together; and further, that this was sufficiently evident, so that they could no longer contend as to the fact, for their wickedness was sufficiently manifest.

And he says between Judah and Israel. fC8 There is here implied a sharp reproof; for we know that these two kingdoms had not only entertained a hidden grudge, but fiercely contended with one another, Since then the discord had been such between the ten tribes and the tribe of Judah, that it was as it were an insane hatred, so that they wished wholly to destroy one another, for the Jews sent for the Egyptians when the Israelites had called!o arms the Syrians and the Assyrians for the destruction of Judah. Since then they so inimically treated one another for so many ages, what did this now mean? What a monstrous thing it was, that they conspired together to subvert the worship of God, to overturn everything true in religion, and to set up their own idols! We now then perceive the meaning of the Prophet; he intimates, that they had in all other things been enemies, and that they only united in this one thing, that is, in carrying on war against God, in subverting his worship, and rendering void his law. We hence see what the Spirit of God had in view in saying, that a conspiracy was found out; which was, that the Prophet might not use many words, as though the matter was doubtful! God then bids him positively to declare this fact, like at scribe who records the sentence of a judge; and thus God shews that he dealt with the Jews, as men deal with those who are condemned.

He also adds, that they had returned, etc. He shews for what purpose they had conspired, even to return to the vices of their fathers, who had been before them. Some render the word “ancestors;” but the meaning of the Prophet is not thus sufficiently expressed, for what he means is, that the Israelites had been refractory from the very beginning, so that God could never subdue their wayward dispositions. It must however be observed, that he speaks not of the most ancient, as ynrh, erashnim are the ancient who were before them; fC9 but as there had been a continued succession or series of impiety, the Prophet calls them here, the former fathers, who had first begun to shake off the yoke of God even to that day. And he again mentions what we have before noticed, that they were unwining to hear. Though ignorance does not wholly clear or absolve us, it yet extenuates a crime; but God shews that the Israelites had been disobedient from the beginning. Though he had by Moses sufficiently taught them, we yet find that they often rose up against Moses. If we inquire of their origin, it appears to have been marked with resolute impiety; they were unwining to obey God.

He then adds, that they walked after alien gods that they might serve them. There is ever an implied contrast between God and idols. God had given them evidences enough of his power and glory, and we may justly say, that he had sufficiently proved himself to he the only true God. How then was it that the; Israelites had given the preference to fictitious gods? Doubtless no unwining error could have been pretended. We hence see that they had rejected the true God and wilfully followed their own devices. He then says, that they might serve them. But God had already bound them to himself, as he had redeemed them; when, therefore, they devoted themselves to alien gods, was not their ingratitude thus most fully proved?

He at length subjoins, by way of explanation, Therefore the house of Israel and the house of Judah have dissolved my covenant. He confirms what I have just said, — that they had not erred because the way was unknown, but because they were refractory and untameable in their disposition, and would not bear to hear God, thought he kindly shewed to them what they were to do. But the word covenant expresses more than this, — that God had not only delivered them his precepts by Moses, but had also adopted them as his own people, and at the same time pledged his faith to them,

“I shall be your God, be ye my people,” (<241104>Jeremiah 11:4)

Since then God had so kindly allured them to himself, how monstrous was their rebellion, When they refused to hear his voice! With reference to this the word tyrb, berit, is used; for God had not only delivered to them a rule of life, but also adopted them as his people, that they might be obedient to him.

By saying that he made a covenant with their fathers, he refers to that time when he brought the people out of Egypt, for then was the race of Abraham united. They were indeed twelve distinct tribes; but there was one head over the people, there was one priesthood, and they formed afterwards one kingdom. God then shews, that though the ten tribes made for themselves in after time another king, and the tribe of Judah was then divided, and there were in this separation some special causes of enmity, they yet had always been of the same disposition, and proved how like their fathers they were, as though he i had said, “They were formerly one people, they are now two, yet they have conspired together; their iniquity is the same, in this they are united; and there is among them a binding together.” It follows —

<241111>Jeremiah 11:11

11. Therefore thus saith the Lord, Behold,I will bring evil upon them, which they shall not be able to escape; and though they shall cry unto me, I will not hearken unto them.

11. Propterea sic dicit Jehova, Ecce ego inducam (inducens, vel, induco) super eos malum, a quo non poterunt exire (hoc est, se explicare; ad verbum, quod non poterunt exire ab ipso) et clamabunt ad me et non audiam eos.

 

The Prophet now denounces on them a calamity; for it is probable that for many years he had been as their teacher threatening them, but all in vain. Hence he now confirms what we have before observed, — that their impious conspiracy was fully known and proved, so flint they were not now to be called or drawn before the judge’s tribunal, as they had so openly procured for themselves their own ruin.

He then says, that God was, as it were, armed to take vengeance; I will bring, he says, upon them an evil from which they shall not be able to go away. fC10Then he adds, and they shall cry to me, but I will not hear them. By this latter clause he shews that no hope remained, as they could get no pardon from God, for he would no longer be entreated by them. The import of the whole is, — that they were so given up to destruction, that it was in vain for them to expect God’s mercy. God had indeed often promised in his law that he would be reconciled to them; but the Prophet says now that every hope was cut off, because they had rejected God’s covenant. Hence, whatever God had promised respecting his kindness and mercy, belonged to them no longer.

Let us now learn also how to accommodate this doctrine to ourselves. And, first, we may remark, that there is a great difference between us, who have been plainly, and for a long time, taught what is the true and lawful worship of God, and those miserable people who were blind in darkness; hence much more atrocious is our sin and worthy of much heavier punishment. Then we may also add this, — that though God may for a time bear with us, the whole time of his forbearance will have to be accounted for. There is no day in which God does not accuse us; and thus he rises early, and thus he shews us what concern he has for our salvation; but if we remain asleep in our sloth, a threatening this day is suspended over our heads, and especially when we consider that God comes nearer, as it were, to us than to his ancient people. And hence we may also learn how much less tolerable is our ingratitude. It ought, therefore, to be carefully noticed, that God is armed against those before whom he has set his word, not only for one day but for many years, when he has found that he has labored in vain; and that when he is offended with their obstinate wickedness, there is no more any remedy.

But it may be asked here, How is it that God declares here that he would not be propitious to the Israelites, though they even cried to him, when. yet this promise so often occurs,

“Call on me, and I will hear thee?” (<190101>Psalm 1:15)

Though God does not everywhere use such words, yet in many places he makes this promise. But still it may appear inconsistent that he closes up the door of mercy against those who flee to his mercy. But in the next verse he shews what this cry would be; for had they from the heart repented, doubtless his pardon would never have been denied: but we shall presently see that these cries would be rambling, vagrant, and confused; so that they would not direct their prayers to God, nor observe the way which is made known to us all; for they would cry Without repentance and faith, according to what follows; for the Prophet says —

<241112>Jeremiah 11:12

12. Then shall the cities of Judah, and inhabitants of Jerusalem, go and cry unto the gods unto whom they offer incense; but they shall not save them at all in the time of their trouble.

12. Et ibunt urbes Jehudah et cives Jerusalem et clamabunt ad deos quibus ipsi fecerunt suffitum; et servando non servabunt eos in tempore afflictionis.

 

The Prophet then shews in these words that they were not touched by a true and sincere feeling of repentance who cried thus indiscriminately to God and to idols. fC11

But another question may be here raised, How could they flee to God and to foreign gods too? The ready answer is this, that the unbelieving, in a turbulent state of mind, turn here and there, so that they lay hold of nothing certain, or sure and fixed. This we see in the Papists — they cry to God and at the same time to a great number of gods. Let us therefore know, that there is in all the unbelieving a spirit, as it were, of giddiness, which turns them into different expedients, so that now they call on God, then they flee to their idols. Men naturally are led to God when any distress holds them bound; hence they call on God: but afterwards, being not satisfied with him alone, they betake themselves to their own devices, and heap together, as I have said, a vast multitude of gods. Since then we see this to be done under the Papacy in our day, we need not wonder that it was done formerly, and that the Jews were on this account condemned.

The Prophet now addresses the Jews only; he had before spoken of the Israelites, but he now speaks especially to his own people, Go shall the cities of Judah and the citizens of Jerusalem, etc. What shall they do? They shall cry to their gods. We hence see that their prayers were rambling, as though they poured them unto the air: therefore God could not have heard them. For whenever God promises to be propitious and appeasable he requires faith and repentance: but there was in this people an impious wantonness, and no faith, for they were entangled in their own superstitions.

The meaning is, that the Jews, when oppressed by calamities, would make their prayers to the true God, but without understanding, without any discrimination, but on the contrary, in a confused state of mind: and that this would be sufficiently evident, for they would at the same time seek the aid of various idols, but that they would gain no help, either from God or from their idols; and why? because they would be unworthy to be heard by God, as they would not call on him in a right spirit, not with faith and repentance; and their idols would not be able to bring them any help. It hence follows that they would be altogether in a hopeless state.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that since thou hast been pleased, in so kind a manner, according to thy paternal kindness, to invite us to thyself, we may not be refractory, but winingly and quietly submit ourselves to thee, and not wait until thou shakest us with terror, and shewest us signs of thy wrath; hut may we anticipate thy dreadful judgment, and thus always go on, so as to have no other object in view but to glorify thy name through the whole course of our life, until we shall at length be made partakers of that glory which thine only!begotten Son has obtained for us. — Amen.


Lecture Forty-Sixth

<241113>Jeremiah 11:13

13. For according to the number of thy cities were thy gods, O Judah; and according to the number of the streets of Jerusalem have ye set up altars to that shameful thing, even altars to burn incense unto Baal.

13. Quia pro numero urbium tuaram fuerunt dii tui, Jehudah; et pro numero platearum, Jerusalem, posuistis altaria in opprobrium, altaria ad offerendum suffitum Baal.

 

The Prophet shews here that the dews were not only polluted with one kind of superstition, but that they sought for themselves fictitious gods from all quarters, so that the land was fined and, as it were, deluged with innumerable superstitions. He says, that in proportion to the number of cities were the gods in the kingdom of Judah, and that in every city, in proportion to the number of streets, altars were built, that they might burn incense to Baal.

There seems, however, to be some inconsistency in the words; for if they all worshipped Baal, where could be found the multitude of gods which the Prophet condemns? It then follows, that there was everywhere the same form of superstition, or that they did not in every place burn incense to Baal. But from this place and from others we may gather that this is a common name; for though all idols had their distinctive names, yet this name was applied indiscriminately, and all idols had it in common. For what does Baal mean but a patron, or an inferior god, who procured the favor of the supreme God? The prophets often use the word in the plural number, and call the lesser or inferior gods Baalim, who were regarded as mediators or angels; and farther, they often mean all kinds of idols by Baal. There is to be understood here a figure, by which a part is taken for the whole; for the Prophet intended by the word to include all those gods which the Jews had devised for themselves, though their names were different.

But what the Prophet condemned in the people was, as we see, daily practiced. For there is no end, when men once depart ever so little from the pure worship of the only true God: for when anything is blended with it, one error immediately produces another; so various errors will cumulate, tin men fall into a labyrinth from which there is no exit. This is clearly seen under the Papacy. At first Satan, by spurious pretences, led men away from the simple worship of God and his pure doctrine; and as there is in all an inbred curiosity, every one had a desire to add something of his own. Hence then it happened that so great a mass of errors and superstitions has prevailed. It is nothing strange, then, that the Prophet condemned the Jews, not only for having departed from the true and lawful worship of God, but also for having as many idols as cities, and for having so many forms of worship as there were streets in their cities. And we hence also learn that all the superstitions among the whole people had the same root; for though they differed in particulars, they all yet proceeded from the same principle; for every one wished to have his own God. It hence happened, that every city had its patron, and every family also devised a god for itself; for no one was satisfied with the common worship. It is then wholly necessary that we should faithfully worship the one true God; otherwise the Devil will immediately bring in strange gods and a mixed multitude of gods: so that it hence evidently appears, that we thus justly suffer for our impious levity in forsaking the fountain of living waters.

He says that altars were built for reproach fC12 This may be referred to God, because they offered to God a heinous effrontery in setting up their profane altars in opposition to that one true altar which God had commanded to be built for him in the temple. But this is a strained interpretation. It is more suitable to refer this to the people, because they erected altars for themselves to their own shame, as though he had said that the Jews were themselves the authors of all their evils, so that they ought to consider them as due to their impiety, being the punishments inflicted by the Lord. It is the same as though he had said, “God will indeed chastise you, as ye are worthy of being so treated, but ascribe the whole fault to yourselves; for the altars, raised by your own hands, will be to you for reproach and shame.”

He at length adds, To offer incense to Baal. They sought doubtless the favor of the supreme God; but as they devised for themselves patrons, as mediators between them and God, according to the Platonic figment, which has prevailed in all ages, the Prophet here declares that their gods were as many as their cities, and even as many as their streets; for God does not admit those sophistical subtleties by which hypocrites seek to escape; for whenever his glory is transferred to others, he complains that new gods are introduced. fC13 It follows —

<241114>Jeremiah 11:14

14. Therefore pray not thou for this people, neither lift up a cry or prayer for them: for I will not hear them in the time that they cry unto me for their trouble.

14. Et tu ne ores pro populo hoc, et ne tollas pro ipsis clamorem et precationem; quia ego non audiens (non audiam) in tempore quo clamabunt ad me pro (vel, super) malo suo (super afflictione sua)

 

That the Jews might understand that a sore calamity was nigh, and that God would not be appeasable, the Prophet himself is forbidden to intercede for them. There is no doubt but that even when he reproved the people in the severest strain, he made supplications to God for them; for he sustained a twofold character: when he went forth as the herald of celestial vengeance, he thundered against the ungodly and the despisers of God; but at the same time he humbly supplicated pardon in behalf of lost and miserable men; for had he not been solicitous for the salvation of the people, had he not diligently prayed, it would not have been necessary to prohibit him to pray. It hence appears that the Prophet was diligent in these two things, that he severely reproved the people according to God’s command, and that he also was a suppliant in seeking God’s favor to the unworthy. This is one thing.

Now then that God prohibits Jeremiah to pray, this was not done for his sake only, but he had a regard also to the whole people, that they might know that a sentence was pronounced on them, and that there was no hope left. We hence see that God positively declares that it was his purpose to destroy the people, and that therefore there was no room for prayer.

But it may be asked, Whether the Prophet, by going on in praying, offended God? for we shall see that he was still so anxious for the welfare of the people that he ceased not to pray: and what is said of Jeremiah is true also of all the other prophets; and the faithful have ever prayed for pardon, though the state of things had been brought to an extremity. But we must observe, that God, when he thus issues a simple prohibition, often stimulates the prayers of his people, according to what we read of Samuel; for though he knew from God’s own mouth that Saul was rejected, he yet from love ceased not to seek his good and to intercede God for him. (<091535>1 Samuel 15:35; <091601>1 Samuel 16:1) But the prophets doubtless paid regard to God’s counsel in this case: yet as God did not speak for the sake of Jeremiah, but of the people, the Prophet is not to be charged with rashness or presumption, or foolish obstinacy or inconsiderate zeal, for having afterwards prayed; for he knew that this was not so much for his sake as on account of the people.

But there is another thing to be observed, — that Jeremiah was not forbidden to pray for the remnant, that is, for the elect, and for the seed from which the Church was afterwards to arise; but he was forbidden to pray for the whole body of the people: and no doubt he felt assured from that time that no remedy could be applied, and that the people would be driven into exile. This then is to be understood of the whole mass of the people; Jeremiah might still pray for the elect, and also for the new Church, that is, for the renewal of the Church: he was not indeed to pray that the Lord would not execute the vengeance which had been already decreed, for that could not be turned aside by any prayers.

We now then understand the meaning of this passage, — that Jeremiah prayed daily for all men, and also for the renewal of the Church; but that he was to look for the calamity of exile as a certain thing, for this had been fixed by God.

As to the words, Raise not for them a cry or a prayer, we have said elsewhere that there are two ways of speaking, which though different in some respects, are yet the same in meaning — to raise up and to cast a prayer. Hence the saints are said sometimes to cast their prayers: “Let my prayer be cast in thy presence.”’For no one is rightly prepared to call on God, except he is cast down in himself and laid prostrate. Hence the prayers of the saints are said to be cast on account of their humility; they are also said to be raised up on account of the fervor of their zeal, and also on account of their confidence. And that he repeats the same thing in different words is not without a meaning; for it is the same as though he had.said, “Thou wilt do nothing by beseeching, praying, interceding and supplicating.” God then confirms by these several words that he would not hereafter be reconciled to the people.

It follows, For I will not hear them at the time when they shall cry to me. There seems not to be a suitable reason given here, for God might have conceded to the Prophet what had not been denied to the ungodly and the rebellious: but he simply means that he would be a severe Judge in executing punishment, so that there would be no room for mercy: I will not then hear them; that is, “If even they cry, I will not hear them, (it is an argument from the greater to the less) much less then will I hear thee for them.” But why was not God propitious to his servant? To this I answer, that God is more ready to shew mercy when any one himself calls on him, than when he is supplicated by others. The meaning is, that whether they themselves prayed or employed others to pray for them, God would not be reconciled to them.

What might be objected here has been elsewhere answered; for if they had from the heart and sincerely prayed, God would have no doubt heard them; for that promise never disappoints any,

“Nigh is God to all who call upon him;” (<19E518>Psalm 145:18)

but it is added, “in truth.” As then hypocrites are here spoken of who poured forth rambling and false prayers, and blended the worship of the true God with that of their own idols, it is no wonder that. God rejected their prayers, for our prayers are sanctified by faith and repentance. When, therefore, unbelief prevails, and when the heart cleaves perversely to wickedness, our prayers are polluted and presumptuous; for then the name of God is profaned. It is therefore not strange that God rejects those who call on him hypocritically. fC14 It follows —

<241115>Jeremiah 11:15

15. What hath my beloved to do in mine house, seeing she hath wrought lewdness with many, and the holy flesh is passed from thee? when thou doest evil, then thou rejoicest.

15. Quid dilecto meo in domo men? dum facit ipsa abominationem cum multis; et cato sanctuarii transierunt abs to; quia dum male fecisti, tunc gloriaris.

 

As the words are concise; this passage is in various ways perverted by interpreters: brevity is commonly obscure. But the explanation almost universally received is this, — that the Prophet in this sense, think also that the Temple is called his house, on account of his concern for religion, for which he was very zealous. As then he had preferred God’s Temple to all earthly things, they think that he thus spoke, What has my beloved to do in mine house? But Jonathan much more correctly applies the words to God; and doubtless, whoever wisely considers the Prophet’s words will wonder that so many learned men have been mistaken on a point by no means doubtful. God then, no doubt, speaks here; and he calls his people beloved on account of their adoption.

But the expression is ironical: we cannot think otherwise when we consider how great was the impiety of the people, and how unworthy they were of such an honor on account of their ingratitude. It is yet not strange that they were called beloved, as in other places, for they had been chosen by God. They were in a similar way called “upright” in the song of Moses; and yet Moses, in that very song, declared how wickedly they had departed from their God. (<053215>Deuteronomy 32:15) But he called them “upright” in reference to God; for though men do not answer to their vocation, yet the counsel of God remains firm, and can never be changed by the wickedness of men. Though then all had then become apostates, yet God did not suffer his covenant to be abolished, Hence Paul, in speaking of the Jews, in <451128>Romans 11:28, when almost all had become the bitterest enemies to the gospel, and had, through their unfaithfulness, wholly forfeited their privileges, so as to become aliens, yet says that they were beloved on account of their fathers:

“For you,” he says, “they are indeed for a time enemies;”

which means, that God designed to give their place to the Gentiles, and to adopt them; and yet that, on account of his covenant, they remain, and will remain beloved, that is, with regard to the first adoption.

I shall quote no other similar passages, for it is enough to understand the real meaning of the term: What then has my beloved to do in my house? which means, “Why do the Jews now pretend to come to the Temple to sacrifice to me? Why do they profess themselves to be my people? What have they to do with my house?” that is, “What have they to do with anything like holiness?” Hence he indirectly touches the Jews in two ways, — that they bad precluded themselves from the advantage of offering sacrifices in the temple, — and that it was an increase of their crime, that while they were God’s friends, that is, when he bestowed on them his favor, and embraced them as a father his own children, they yet carried on war with him as his avowed enemies, according to what is elsewhere said,

“Ah!I will take vengeance on mine enemies.” (<230124>Isaiah 1:24)

We now see that this meaning is the most suitable. God shews that his temple was polluted by the Jews, when they thoughtlessly rushed there to offer their sacrifices; What have you, he says, to do with my house? Nearly the same thing is said in the first chapter of Isaiah; for God there contemptuously reproves the Jews because they trod the pavement of his temple: “I truly do not owe you anything; ye indeed come to my courts, but for what purpose? Ye only wear out the pavement of my temple: Stay then at home, and think not that I am bound to you because ye come to the temple.” So also in this place, What has my beloved to do with my house? He concedes to them the title Beloved, as though he had said, “Ye are, it is true, beloved, and ye think that God is bound to you; for, relying on the covenant which I made with your father Abraham, ye always continue to make this boasting — ‘We are the people of God and his heritage; we are a holy nation and a royal priesthood’ — Beloved ye are,” he says, “but what have you to do with my Temple?”

Then he adds, For she has done abomination with many. The gender is here changed, for the relative is feminine: but this mode of speaking is everywhere common, as the people are represented to us under the character of a woman. Then he in effect says, “Behold the daughter of my people hath done abomination with many.” The Jews were not to enter the Temple except they remained as it were fixed in its pure worship; for as it was the only true Temple, and had in it the only true altar, so they ought to have worshipped none but the only true God, and also to have observed one rule only in worshipping him. But he says here that they had done abomination; and thus he charged them with those impious devices, those spurious forms of worship which they had adopted, and thus departed from what had been prescribed to them; for abomination is set here in opposition to the law. He says further, that they did this with many. We hence see that the gate of the Temple was closed against them, for the Temple could not be separated from the law, nor yet from God, to whom it was dedicated. The Jews, having forsaken the law, and adopted innumerable idols, thrust themselves into the Temple; and hence we see the reason why God complains that they still came to the Temple: “As then they have done abomination, and done it with many, they have no more anything to do with my law.” The Temple was a visible image of the one true God, and also the holy receptacle of his law. They despised the law, and gloried in innumerable gods: they sought thus to blend the sanctity of the Temple with a multitude of gods, and with their own depravations and devices.

He says afterwards, that the flesh of the sanctuary had passed away from them: The flesh of the sanctuary have passed away. Some apply this to all the faithful, according to that saying,

“Silent before God let all flesh be,” (<350220>Habakkuk 2:20)

but this is forced, and without meaning. He speaks no doubt of sacrifices, and says, that the flesh of the sanctuary, that is, sacrifices, had departed from the people. They no doubt still offered sacrifices very regularly; but God did not accept their sacrifices, because they had corrupted his true worship. This then is the reason why he says that the flesh of the sanctuary had departed from the people, as in other places he denies that it was offered to him. At the same time the Jews wished sacrifices to be regarded as offered to him, and doubtless they boldly referred to them in opposition to the prophets. But God did not accept them, though they sought thus to render him as it were a debtor. “It is not to me,” he says, “that ye offer your sacrifices, but to idols.” So also in this place he says, The flesh of the sanctuary is taken away from them; for their sacrifices had become polluted. They were then nothing but putrid carcases; for victims, ought to have been offered in the Temple; but they had polluted the Temple, so that it had become a den of robbers, and like a dunghin, in short, a brothel, as Scripture speaks elsewhere. There was then now, doubtless, no flesh of the sanctuary; fC15 that is, no lawful sacrifice, such as God approved.

Let us then know that hypocrites, as soon as they depart from the true worship of God, do nothing that can avail them, though they may busy themselves much, and even weary themselves in worshipping God, for all that they offer is abominable. If then we desire to render to God such services as he will accept and approve, let us regard this truth — that obedience is more valued by him than all sacrifices. (<091522>1 Samuel 15:22)

He adds another complaint, — that when they did evil, they gloried in it. And there is a causal particle introduced, Because, he says, thou gloriest when thou hast done evil. The Prophet no doubt means, that they had by no means a right to contend, because they had not only corrupted true religion, but were also proud of their superstitions, and despised God, and set up their own devices against his law. But it was an intolerable thing for men to attempt to subject God to their own will, or rather to their own fancies. Indeed, the faithful do not so purely and so perfectly sacrifice to God, but that some vices are mixed with their offerings; but God nevertheless receives what they offer, though there be some mixture of defilement. How so? Because they acquiesce not in their own performances, but, on the contrary, aspire after purity, though they do not attain it; but when hypocrites exalt themselves against God, and proudly despise his teaching, and prefer their own inventions, and dare even to set up these against his authority, it is doubtless a diabolical presumption, such as contaminates what would otherwise be most holy. fC16 It follows —

<241116>Jeremiah 11:16-17

16. The Lord called thy name, A green olive — tree, fair, and of goodly fruit: with the noise of a great tumult he hath kindled fire upon it, and the branches of it are broken.

16. Olivam viridem, pulchram fructu, forma, vocavit Jehova nomen tuum; ad vocem sermonis (alii vertunt, tumultus) magni accendit (accendere fecit) super eam, et fracti sunt rami ejus (alii vertunt transitive, et fregerunt ramos ejus)

17. For the Lord of hosts, that planted thee, hath pronounced evil against thee, for the evil of the house of Israel, and of the house of Judah, which they have done against themselves, to provoke me to anger, in offering incense unto Baal.

17. Nam Jehovah (copula enim hic accipitur vice causalis; quia Jehova) exercituum, quite plantavit, loquutus est (vel, pronunciavit) super to malum propter malitiam domus Israel et domus Jehudah, quam fecerunt sibi ad provocandum me, ad faciendum suffitum Baal.

 

The Prophet says first that the Jews had indeed been for a time like a fruitful and a fair olive; then he adds, that this beauty would not prevent God from breaking its branches and entirely eradicating it. He afterwards confirms this declaration, and says, For God who had planted it, can also root it up whenever it pleases him. This is the import of the two verses.

The Prophet no doubt derides here the vain confidence by which he knew the Jews were deceived: for they were so inebriated with their privileges that they dared to despise the very giver of them. Hence the Prophet thus addressed them, “Do ye think that so many vices will be unpunished? Ye omit nothing to kindle God’s wrath against you, — ye have polluted his Temple, ye have corrupted the whole of Divine worship, ye have despised the law; and can you think that the Lord will perpetually spare you?” But when the prophets thus assailed them, they had this answer, “What! will God leave his own Temple, concerning which he has sworn, This is my rest for ever? Is not this the Holy Land? And is not this also his heritage and his rest? And further, are we not his flock? Are we not his children? Are we not a holy people?” What then the Jews were wont arrogantly to claim, the Prophet concedes to them. “So,” he says, “ye are a green olive, a fair and tall olive, a fruitful olive; all this I grant; but cannot God kindle a fire to burn the branches and to reduce to nothing the whole tree?” We now then understand the design of the Prophet.

But the next verse must be joined, For Jehovah of hosts, who hath planted thee, etc.; as though he had said, “Your beauty and whatever that is valuable in you, is it from you? Surely, all your dignity and excellency have proceeded from the gratuitous kindness of God: know ye then that nothing comes from you, but from God and from his good pleasure. Then Jehovah, who has planted you, can, when he pleases, pull up by the roots a tree which he has himself planted.”

He says that it was a green olive, fair in fruit and form. How so? Because God had favored them with much honor. This similitude is found in many other places, but yet it is various as to its meaning. It might indeed with regard to God’s dealings be applied to the whole people; but as hypocrites deserved to be spoiled and stripped of their privileges, so that which was offered to all in common, could only be really applied to the faithful, according to what David says,

“I am a fruitful olive in the house of God.” (<195208>Psalm 52:8)

He then no doubt separated himself from hypocrites, as though he had said, “Even hypocrites seek to have a place in God’s Temple, and are as it were tall trees, but they are unfruitful: I shall then be a green olive in the house of God; but they will wither.” But the Prophet, as I have said, compares the Jews to a green olive on account of their adoption and the free favor shewn to them; for God had raised them unto a high state of excellency and honor.

But after having thus spoken by way of concession, he then adds, At the sound of a great tumult, or of a great word, he will kindle his fire upon it, and broken shall be its branches. Some, as I have said, render the last clause, “and they have broken its branches.” As to what is intended, there is nothing dubious; but if we take the verb in an active sense, something must be understood, that is, that enemies, who will be like fire, shall break its branches. fC17 Then follows what I have said to be a confirmation, — that Jehovah, who had planted it, had spoken of or pronounced an evil, or a calamity against it. He thus shews that there was no reason for them to trust in their present beauty; for they had it not from themselves, but possessed it only at the will of another; for God who had planted them, could also destroy them. But on this subject more shall be said.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that as thou hast deigned to gather us into thy Church, we may never turn aside in the least from the purity of thy worship, but always regard what pleases thee, and learn to direct our doings and our thoughts in obedience to thy truth, and worship thee so purely both in spirit and in external forms, that thy name may be glorified by us, and that we may especially retain that purity which thou everywhere commendest to ,is, so that we may be indeed the members of thy only — begotten Son; and that as he has sanctified himself on our account, we may also through his Spirit be made partakers of the same sanctification, until he at length will gather us into his celestial kingdom, which he has obtained for us by his own blood. — Amen.


Lecture Forty-Seventh

We mentioned yesterday why the Prophet reminded the Jews, that they had been planted by God; it was, that they might know that they did not stand through their own power, and that they had their roots elsewhere, even in the good pleasure of God. The import of the whole is, that whenever God pleased they would instantly perish; for they stood not through their own power, but only through his favor: and this is what he confirms elsewhere, by comparing God to a potter and the people to vessels of clay. Similar is the argument which Quintilian quotes from the Medea of Ovid, “I was able to save thee, and dost thou ask whether I can destroy thee?” As then the Jews, relying on their long tranquinity and on their forces, thought themselves beyond the reach of danger, the Prophet ridicules this confidence; he shews how vain it was, for God had planted them, and so he could easily root them up again.

But this metaphor is very common in Scripture: yet the comparison is the more suitable when the Church is said to have been planted by God; for as a tree draws juice and strength from a hidden root, so the faithful draw their life from the hidden election of God: but this refers to the hope of eternal life. The same is meant by Christ in <401513>Matthew 15:13, when he says,

“Every planting,” that is, every tree, “which my Father hath not planted shall be rooted up.”

He then says, that the elect alone are planted by God, for they have their roots in the hidden life of God. But this is also extended much farther, even to the external state of the Church, according to what is said in <194402>Psalm 44:2,

“Thou hast rooted out the nations, and planted our fathers;”

as we find also in the eightieth Psalm and in other places. As God then plants his own elect, so also in gathering an external Church to himself, he is said to plant it: but they who are thus planted may be again rooted up, as the Prophet here testifies; while secret election cannot be changed.

We must then observe this difference, — that God’s children have their roots in his eternal election, respecting which there can be no repentance and no change. But the external state of the Church is also compared to a planting: yet they who flourish for a time and are full of leaves and seem also to produce some fruit, are rooted up by God’s hand, when they become degenerate. And this mode of speaking is to be taken sometimes still more generally, according to what we shall see in the next chapter, and also in other parts of Scripture.

The Prophet says that God had spoken concerning the wickedness of Israel. This refers to what had been taught: for though the Jews had already in part felt the just judgment of God, yet they still continued in safety. He then says that ruin was nigh them, for God had announced it by his servants. And he adds, that it was on account of the wickedness fC18of both kingdoms; and this was said in order to dissipate all their complaints; for we know that men are ever ready to clamor whenever God chastises them, as though they wished to contend with him. But the Prophet shews here, that God would deal thus severely with the Jews, because they had never ceased to provoke his wrath by their evil deeds. Hence he says, that they had done it for themselves. Some render the words, “And it shall therefore happen to them.” But there seems to be much more force in the Prophet’s words, when we say, that they had done evil for themselves, that is, to their own ruin. He adds, To provoke me, that is, their object; is to provoke me. In short, God intimates, that he would justly punish the Jews, because they had procured evil for themselves; and at the same time he points out the fountain of evil, for they had designedly provoked God by offering incense to Baal. It follows —

<241118>Jeremiah 11:18

18. And the Lord hath given me knowledge of it, and I know it: then thou shewedst me their doings.

18. Et Jehova ostendit mihi (cognoscere me fecit) et cognovi; tunc patefecisti mihi opera (vel, instituta) ipsorum.

 

We know that they were all very wicked; and though they were proved guilty, yet they were not wining to yield, to acknowledge and confess their fault; but they raged against God and rose up against the prophets. And as they dared not to vomit forth their blasphemies against God, they assailed his servants and wished to appear as though their contest was with them. And this is not the vice only of one age, but we find that it prevails at this day; for when we boldly reprove hidden vices, immediately the profane make a clamor and say, “What! these divine; but who has made these things known to them? Have they this oracle from heaven?” As though, indeed, neither the word of God nor his Spirit can shew their power, except when children become judges! But the ungodly rise up against God’s servants for this end, that they may with impunity do this and that, and everything, except what may draw them before an earthly tribunal, and be proved by clear and many evidences.

For this reason the Prophet says, that made known, to him had been the vices of his own nation; as though he had said, “I see that you will be ready to raise an objection, as ye are wont proudly to resist all reproofs and threatenings, as though you contended only with men; but I testify to you now beforehand, that I bring nothing of my own, nor divine of myself what any one of you thinks within: but know ye that God, who knoweth the heart, has committed to me my office. He has then appointed me to be the herald of his vengeance, he has appointed me as a herald to denounce war on you. So I do not come nor act in my own name: there is, then, no reason for you to deceive yourselves, according to your usual manner, as though I presumptuously reproved you, when yet your vices are concealed, it being peculiar to God to know what is hid in the hearts of men. The recesses of the heart are indeed intricate, and great darkness is within; but God sees more dearly than men. Cease then to make this objection which ye are wont to raise against me, that I am presumptuous in bringing forth to light what lies hid in darkness, for God has appointed me to bring these commands to you: as he knows the heart, and as nothing escapes him, and as he penetrates into our thoughts and feelings, so he has also designed by his word which he has put in my mouth to render public what ye think is concealed.”

We now see the design of the Prophet: but some take a different view, that God had made known to his servant Jeremiah the impious conspiracy of which he afterwards speaks, and thus connect the two verses. But I doubt not that the Prophet intended here to shew what and how much weight belonged to his doctrine, the credit and authority of which the Jews thought of detracting by boastfully alleging that he, a mortal man, assumed too much, and announced uncertain divinations. Hence, to repel such calum — nies, he wished to testify that he threatened them not inconsiderately, nor spoke what he supposed or conjectured, when he exposed their sins, but that he only declared faith. — fully what had been enjoined by God and revealed also by the Holy Spirit. This is what is meant. fC19 It afterwards follows —

<241119>Jeremiah 11:19

19. But I was like a lamb or an ox that is brought to the slaughter; and I knew not that they had devised devices against me, saying, Let us destroy the tree with the fruit thereof, and let us cut him off from the land of the living, that his name may be no more remembered.

19. Ego autem quasi agnus, bos ductus ad immolandum (ad mactandum) et non cognovi quod contra me cogitarent cogitationes (hoc est, inirent consilia, nempe) corrumpamus ligno panera ejus (ad verbum est, corrumpamus lignum in pane; sed dicemus post de sensu verborum) et excidamus eum e terra vivorum, et nomen ejus non memoretur amplius.

 

The Prophet adds here, as I think, that he did not retaliate private wrongs: for the Jews might, under this pretext, have rejected his doctrine, and have said, that he was moved by anger to treat them sharply and severely. And doubtless, whosoever allows his own reelings to prevail in the least degree, cannot teach in sincerity; for he who prepares himself for the prophetic office, ought to put off all the affections of the flesh, and to manifest a pure, and, so to speak, a limpid zeal, and also a calm mind, so that he may seek nothing, and have no object but the glory of God and the salvation of those to whom he is sent a teacher. Whosoever then is under the influence of private feelings cannot act otherwise than violently, so that he cannot either faithfully or profitably discharge the office of a prophet or a teacher.

Hence the Prophet now adds, in the second place, that he did not plead his own cause, nor had respect, as they say, to his own person; for he knew not what the Jews had devised against him. They who join the two verses think that they have some reason for doing so, as they suppose that the Prophet now expresses more fully what he had before briefly touched upon: but if any maturely considers the whole passage, he will easily see that Jeremiah had another object in view, and that was, to secure authority to his doctrine. The Jews probably employed two ways to discredit the holy Prophet: “O, thou divinest! — the same thing, as we have said, is done now by many.” He therefore summons the Jews here before God’s tribunal, and shews that it was nothing strange, that he brought to light what they thought to be hidden, because it had been revealed to him by the Spirit of God. Even Christ said the same,

“The Spirit, when he comes, shall judge the world.”
(<431608>John 16:8)

The Spirit did not appear except in the doctrine of the Apostles; but he exercised by the Apostles his own functions. The Apostle also seems to have this in view in <580412>Hebrews 4:12, when he says, that the word of God is like a two — edged sword, which penetrates into the inmost thoughts and hidden feelings, even to the marrow and bones, so as to distinguish between thoughts and feelings.

Then the Prophet, in the first place, shews that it was nothing strange that he ascended above all human judgments, for he was endued with the authority of the Holy Spirit. And he adds, in the second place, that he was not influenced by carnal feelings, but by a pure zeal for God, for he knew not their wicked designs; and he says that he was like a lamb and an ox, or a calf. There is here no conjunction, and hence some join the two words, “And I am like a lamb a year old:” for the Hebrews, they say, call a lamb a year old bk, cabesh, and then a ram; but this is, in my view, a forced meaning, and a copulative or a disjunctive may be supposed to be understood. I am then as a lamb or as a calf, which is led to the slaughter (to be sacrificed or kined) Here the Prophet intimates that he was not violent, as angry men are wont to be, who are excited either by indignation or great grief. He then testifies that he was moved by no such feeling, for he differed nothing from a lamb or a calf that is led to the slaughter. fC20

For the sake of amplifying, he adds, I knew not that they devised devices against me, that is, this did not come to my mind. The Prophet, indeed, might have suspected or even have known this; but as he disregarded himself, and even his own life, he testifies here that he had acted with so much simplicity as not to regard what they planned and contrived.

He then adds, Let us spoil wood in his bread. They think rightly, according to my judgment, who consider that there is here a change of case; for it ought rather to be, “Let us spoil with wood his bread:” for that exposition is too unmeaning, “Let us spoil or destroy wood,” as though they spoke of a thing of no value: for what has this to do with the subject? On the contrary, if we retain, as they say, the letter, the Prophet might think that wood would be spoiled in bread, as it would become rotten: but wood in bread, except by becoming rotten, would do no harm. But doubtless the Prophet speaks here metaphorically, as David does in <196922>Psalm 69:22, when he says,

“They have put gall in my bread, and vinegar in my drink.”

Jeremiah also, in <250315>Lamentations 3:15, complains that his food was mingled with poison. Similitudes of this kind often occur; for when the very food of man is corrupted, there is no more any support for life. The meaning then is, that his enemies had acted cruelly towards the Prophet, as they sought in every way to destroy him, even by poison.

Some take wood for poison, but I know not whether that can be done. They indeed imagine that a poisonous wood is what is here meant; but this is too refined. I take the meaning to be simply this, as though they had said, “Let us spoil with wood his food,” that is, “Let us give him wood instead of bread; and this, by its hardness, will hurt his teeth, ulcerate his throat, and cannot be digested so as to become nourishment.” To spoil this bread with wood is to cause the wood to spoil the food either by its hardness or by its putridity. In this sense there is nothing ambiguous.

The ancients perverted this passage in the most childish manner when they applied it to the body of Christ. The Papists too, at this day, boast wonderfully of this allegory, though they make the most absurd use of it; for they seek to prove by it that bread is converted, or, as they say, transubstantiated into the body of Christ; and they quote Origen and Irenaeus, and others like them: “Behold, explained is that passage of Jeremiah, let us send wood for his bread, (such is the meaning of the Vulgate) for the body of Christ has been crucified;” and then they add, “For he said, ‘Take and eat, this is my body.’”We see how extremely absurd this is; and it must appear ridiculous even to children. But so great is the dishonesty and wantonness of the Papists, that they cast off all shame, and only boastfully pretend the authority of the ancients; and whatever Origen may have foolishly and falsely said, they will have it to be regarded as something oracular, provided their errors are thereby confirmed. But if we grant that the Prophet was a type of Christ, what has this to do with the similitude of his body, since he speaks here only of food? It is as though he had said, that his aliment was corrupted, as it were, with poison, and that he was so cruelly treated by his enemies, that they sought to destroy him by the means of his food. fC21

It then follows, Let us cut him off from the land of the living. This kind of speaking often occurs: the land or region of the living means the state of the present life. He at last adds, That his name may not be in remembrance any more. In short, the Prophet meant in these words to set forth the extreme savageness with which his enemies were inflamed; for they were not content with intrigues or with open violence, but wished to destroy him by poison, and wholly to obliterate his name. it follows —

<241120>Jeremiah 11:20

20. But, O Lord of hosts, that judgest righteously, that triest the reins and the heart, let me see thy vengeance on them; for unto thee have I revealed my cause.

20. Et, Jehova exercituum, judicans justintam, (ant, judex justitiae) scrutans (vel, inquirens) renes et cor, videam ultionem tuam de ipsis; quia tibi revelavi causam meam, (litem meam, ad verbum)

 

Here the Prophet, after having found that the impiety of the people was so great that he was speaking to the deaf, turns his address to God: O Jehovah of hosts, he says, who art a great Judge, who searchest the reins and the heart, may I see thy vengeance on them. The Prophet seems here inconsistent with himself;, for he had before declared that he was like a lamb or a calf, as though he had offered, as they say, his life a wining sacrifice; but here he seems like one made suddenly angry, and he prays for God’s vengeance. These things appear indeed to be very different; for if he had offered himself a victim, why did he not wait calmly for the event; why is he inflamed with so much displeasure? why does he thus imprecate on them the vengeance of God? But these things will well agree together, if we distinguish between private feeling and that pure and discreet zeal by which the meekness of truth can never be disturbed. For though the Prophet disregarded his own life, and was not moved by private wrongs, he was nevertheless not a log of wood; but zeal for God did eat up his heart, according to what is said in common of all the members of Christ,

“Zeal for thine house hath eaten me, and the reproaches of those who upbraided thee have fallen on me.” (<196909>Psalm 69:9; <430217>John 2:17; <451503>Romans 15:3)

The Prophet then had previously freed himself from all suspicion by saying that he was prepared for the slaughter, as though he were a lamb or a calf; but he now shews that he was, notwithstanding, not destitute of zeal for God. Here then he gives vent to this new fervor when he says, “O Jehovah, who searchest the reins and the heart, may I see thy vengeance on them.”

The Prophet, no doubt, was free from every carnal feeling, and pronounced what we read through the influence of the Spirit. Since then the Holy Spirit dictated this prayer to the holy man, he might still have offered himself a voluntary sacrifice, while yet he justly appealed to God’s tribunal to take vengeance on the impiety of a reprobate people; for he did not indiscriminately include them all, but imprecated God’s judgment on the abandoned and irreclaimable.

It is indeed true, that we may regard the Prophet as predicting what he knew would happen to his people: and some give this explanation; they consider it as a prediction only and no prayer. But they are terrified without reason at the appearance of inconsistency, as they think it inconsistent in the Prophet to desire the perdition of his own people: for he might have wished it through the influ ence of that zeal, as I have said, which the Holy Spirit had kindled in his heart, and according to the words which the same Spirit had dictated.

He calls God the Judge of righteousness; and he so called him, that he might wipe away and dissipate the disguises in which the Jews exulted when they sought to prove their own cause. By this then he intimates that they gained no — thing by their evasions, for these would vanish like smoke when they came before God’s tribunal. He, in short, means that they could not stand before the judgment of God. He then adds, that God searches the reins and the heart. He says this, not only that he might testify his own integrity, as some suppose, but that he might rouse hypocrites. For he intimates that they stood safe before men, as they concealed their wickedness, but that when they came before God’s tribunal another kind of account must then be given; for God would prove and try them, as the word ˆjb, bechen, signifies: he would search the ruins and the heart, that is, their most inward feelings; For the Scripture means by reins all the hidden feelings or affections.

He says, For to thee have I made known my judgment. The Prophet, no doubt, appeals here to God’s tribunal, because he saw that he was destitute of every patronage — he saw that all were against him. Few pious men indeed were left, as we have elsewhere seen; but the Prophet speaks here of the mass of the people. As then there was no one among the people who did not then openly oppose God, so that there was no defender of equity and justice, he turns to God and says, “I have made known my cause to thee;” as though he had said, “O Lord, thou knowest what my cause is, and I do not act dissemblingly; for I serve thee faithfully and sincerely, as thou knowest. Since it is so, may I see thy vengeance on them.” fC22

Now, we are taught in this passage, that even were the whole world united to suppress the light of truth, Prophets and teachers ought not to despond, nor to rely on the judgment of men, for that is a false and deceptive balance; but that they ought to persevere in the discharge of their office, and to be satisfied with this alone — that they render their office approved of God, and exercise it as in his presence. We may also learn, that the ungodly and hypocrites in vain make shifts and evasions, while they try to elude the authority of the Prophets; for they will at length be led before God’s tribunal. When therefore we find teachers rightly and sincerely discharging their office, let us know that we cannot possibly escape the judgment of God except we submit to their teaching. And Prophets and pastors themselves ought to learn from this passage, that though the whole world, as I have already said, were opposed to them, they ought not yet to cease from their perseverance, nor be changeable, but to consider it enough that God approves of their cause. It afterwards follows —

<241121>Jeremiah 11:21-23

21. Therefore thus saith the Lord of the men of Anathoth, that seek thy life, saying, Prophesy not in the name of the Lord, that thou die not by our hand:

21. Propterea sic dicit Jehova ad viros Anathoth, qui qumrunt anitaare tuam, dieendo, Ne prophetes in horninc Jehow, et non morieris in manu nostra, (hoc est, ne moriaris manu nostra)

22. Therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts, Behold, I will punish them: the young men shall die by the sword; their sons and their daughters shall die by famine:

22. Propterea sic dicit Jehova exercituum, Ecce ego vlsitans (visitabo) super eos; adolescentes eorum monentur gladio, filii eorum et filiae eorum morientur fame:

23. And there shall be no remnant of them: for I will bring evil upon the men of Anathoth, even the year of their visitation.

23. Et residuum non erit ipsis, (hoc est, nihil erit ipsis residuum) quia re hire faciam malum super homines Anathoth anno visitationis ipsorum (alii vertunt, annum, sod male, meo judicio)

 

The Prophet here expressly denounces vengeance on his own people: for we have seen at the beginning of this book that he belonged to the town of Anathoth. Now it appears from this passage, that the holy man had not only to contend with the king and his courtiers, and the priests, who were at Jerusalem; but that when he betook himself to a corner to live quietly with his own people, he had even there no friend, but that all persecuted him as an enemy. We hence see how miserable was the condition of the Prophet; for he had no rest, even when he sought retirement and fled to his own country. That he was not safe even there, is a proof to us how hardly God exercised and tried him for the many years in which he performed his prophetic office.

As the citizens of Anathoth had grievously sinned, so he denounces on them an especial calamity. It is indeed certain that the Prophet was not kindly received at Jerusalem; nay, he met there, as we shall hereafter see, with enemies the most cruel: but when he hoped for some rest and relaxation in his own country, he was even there received as we find here. This is the reason why God commanded him to threaten the citizens of Anathoth with destruction. I cannot finish the whole today.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that as thou remindest us in thy word of our many vices and sins, we may learn to direct our eyes and thoughts to thee, and never think that we have to do with a mortal being, but that we may anticipate thy judgment: and may we learn so to examine all our thoughts and try our feelings, that no hypocrisy may deceive us, and that we may not sleep in our sins; but that being really and truly awakened, we may humble ourselves before thee, and so seek thy pardon, that when we he down in true repentance, thou mayest absolve us in thy mercy, through the virtue of that sacrifice by which thine only — begotten Son has once for all reconciled us to thee. — Amen.


Lecture Forty-Eighth

CHAPTER 12

<241201>Jeremiah 12:1

1. Righteous art thou, O Lord, when I plead with thee; yet let me talk with thee of thy judgments: Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper? wherefore are all they happy that deal very treacherously?

1. Justus es, Jehova, si contendam teeurn (st litigem, vel, quando litigabo) tamen judicia loquar teeurn (hoe est, disceptabojure teeurn:) Quousque via impiorum prosperabitur (re/, feliciter babebit) quieti sunt omnes transgredientes transgresstone?

 

The minds of the faithful, we know, have often been greatly tried and even shaken, on seeing all things happening successfully and prosperously to the despisers of God. We find this complaint expressed at large in <197301>Psalm 73. The Prophet there confesses that he had well — nigh fallen, as he had been treading in a slippery place; he saw that God favored the wicked; at least, from the appearance of things, he could form no other judgment, but that they were loved and cherished by God. We know also that the ungodly become thus hardened, according to what is related of Dionysius, who said that God favored the sacrilegious; for he had sailed in safety after having plundered temples, and committed robberies in many places; thus he laughed to scorn the forbearance of God. And hence Solomon says, That when all things are in a state of confusion in the world, men’s minds are led to despise God, as they think that all things happen on the earth by chance, and that God has no care for mankind. (Ecclesiastes 9) But with regard to the faithful, as I have already said, when they see the ungodly proceeding in all wickedness and evil deeds with impunity, and claiming the world to themselves, while God is, as it were, conniving at them, their minds cannot be otherwise than grievously distressed. And this is the view which interpreters take of this passage; that is, that he was disturbed with the prosperous condition of the wicked, and expostulated with God, as Habakkuk seems to have done at the beginning of the first chapter; but he appears to me to have something higher in view.

We have said elsewhere, that when the Prophets saw that they spent their labor in vain on the deaf and the intractable, they turned their addresses to God as in despair. I hence doubt not but that it was a sign of indignation when the Prophet addressed God, having as it were given up men, inasmuch as he saw that he spoke to the deaf without any benefit. Here then he rouses the minds of the people, that they might know at length that he could not convince them that they were doomed to ruin by God. For when Jeremiah spoke to them, all his threatenlugs were scorned and laughed at; hence he now addresses God himself, as though he had said, that he would have nothing more to do with them, as he had labored wholly in vain. This then seems to have been the object of the Prophet.

But lest the ungodly should have an occasion for calumniating, he intended so to regulate his discourse as to give them no ground for cavining. Hence he makes this preface, — that God is, or would be just, though he contended with him. This order ought to be carefully observed; for when we give way in the least to our passions, we are immediately carried away, and we cannot restrain ourselves within proper limits and continue in a right course. As soon then as those thoughts, which may draw us away frc, in the fear of God, and lessen the reverence due to him, creep in, we ought to fortify our minds and to set up mounds, lest the devil should draw us on farther than we wish to go. For instance, when any one in the present day sees things in disorder in the world, he begins to reason thus freely with himself, “What does this mean? How is it that God suffers licentiousness to prevail so long? Why is it thathe thus conceals himself?” As soon then as these thoughts creep in, if we possess the true principle of religion, we shall try to restrain these wanderings, and to bring ourselves to the right way; but this will be no easy matter; for as soon as we pass over the boundaries, there is no restraint, no limitation. Hence the Prophet wisely begins by saying, Thou art just, though I contend with thee. It is not only for the sake of others he speaks thus, but also to restrain in time his own feelings and not to allow himself more than what is right. We must still remember what I have said, — that the Prophet here directs his words to God, in order that the Jews might know that they were left as it were without hope, and were unworthy that he should spend any more labor on them.

He says, And yet I will speak judgments with thee; that is, I will dispute according to the limits of what is right and just. Some indeed take judgments for punishments, as though the Prophet wished the people to be punished; but of this I do not approve, for it is a strained view. To speak judgments, means nothing else than to discuss a point in law, to plead according to law, as it is commonly said. By saying, “I will legally contend,” he does not throw off the restraint which he has before put on himself, but asks it as a matter of indulgence to set before God what might seem just and right to all. ‘David, or the Prophet who was the author of that psalm which we have already quoted, (<197301>Psalm 73) even when he expressed his own feelings and ingenuously confessed his own infirmity, yet made a preface similar to what is found here. But he there speaks as it were abruptly, “Yet thou art just;” he uses the same word ˚a, ak, as Jeremiah does; but here it is put in the last clause, and there at the beginning of the sentence, “Yet good is God to Israel, even to those who are upright in heart.” The Prophet no doubt was agitated and distracted in various ways, but he afterwards restrained himself. But it was otherwise with Jeremiah; for he does not confess here that he was tried, as almost all the faithful are wont to be; but as I have already said, he advisedly, and by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, addressed his words to God; for he intended to rouse the Jews, that they might understand that they were rejected, and rejected as unworthy of having their salvation cared for any longer.

By saying then, Yet will I plead with thee, he doubtless intended to touch the Jews to the quick, as they were so extremely stupid. “Behold,” he says, “I will yet contend with God, whether he will forgive you?” We now see the real meaning of the Prophet; for the Jews in vain brought forward their own prosperity as a proof that God was propitious to them; for this was nothing else than to abuse his forbearance. Jeremiah intended in short to shew, that though God might pass by them for a time, yet the wicked ought not on this account to flatter themselves, for his indulgence is no proof of his love; but, on the contrary, as we shall see, a heavier vengeance is accumulated, when the ungodly increasingly harden themselves while God is treating them with indulgence. This then is the reason why the Prophet says, that he would plead with God; he had regard more to men than to God. He yet does not set up the judgments of men against the absolute power of God, as the sophists under the Papacy do, who ascribe such absolute power to God as perverts all judgment and all order; this is nothing less than sacrilege.

Now the Prophet does not call God to an account, as though there was no rule by which he regulated his works and governed the world. But by judgments he means, as I have said, what God had declared in his law; for it is written,

“Cursed is every one who continueth not,” etc.,
(
<052726>Deuteronomy 27:26; <480310>Galatians 3:10)

Now then as the Jews were transgressors of the law, nay, as they ceased not to provoke God to wrath by their vices, they ought surely, according to the ordinary course of justice, to have been immediately destroyed. Hence the Prophet says here, I will plead with thee; that is, “Hadst thou dealt with this people as they deserved, they must have been often reduced to nothing.” At the same time he had no doubt, as we have said, respecting the rectitude of the divine judgment; only he had regard to those men who flattered themselves, and securely indulged themselves in their vices, because God diid not immediately execute those punishments with which he threatens the transgressors of his law. fC23

Hence he says, How long shall the way of the wicked prosper? for secure are all they who by transgression transgress; that is, who are not only tainted with small vices, but who are extremely wicked. They then who openly rejected all religion and all care for righteousness, how was it that they were secure and that their way prospered? We now then more clearly understand what I have stated, — that the Prophet turned his words to God, that he might more effectually rouse the stupid, so that they might know that they were in a manner summoned by this expostulation before the celestial tribunal. It now follows, —

<241202>Jeremiah 12:2

2. Thou hast planted them; yea, they have taken root: they grow; yea, they bring forth fruit: thou art near in their mouth,and far from their reins.

2. Plantasti eos, etiam radieem egerunt; prodierunt, etiam fecerunt frueturn (produxerunt fructum:) prope es in ore ipsorum, et procul es a renibus ipsorum (hoc est, ab intimo affectu, renes enim alibi dixinms accipi pro affectibus arcanis)

 

When the happiness of the wicked disturbs our minds, two false thoughts occur to us, — either that this world is ruled by chance and not governed by God’s providence, or that God does not perform the office of a good and righteous judge when he suffers light to be so blended with darkness. But the Prophet here takes it as granted, that the world is governed by God’s providence; he therefore does not touch the false notion, which yet harasses pious minds, that fortune governs the world. Well known are these words, “I am disposed to think that there are no gods.” fC24 It was thought there were no gods who ruled the world, because he died who deserved a longer life. And the wisest heathens have thus spoken, “I see fortune, which yet no reason governs; I see fortune, which prevails more than reason in these matters.” fC25 But the Prophet, who was far removed from these profane notions, held this truth,mthat the world is governed by God; and he now asks, How it was that God exercised so long a forbearance? The ungodly, the thoughtless, and inconsiderate might have said that this forbearance was far too scanty. But the Prophet, as I have said, clearly describes what the Jews deserved.

Then he says, that they had been planted by God; for they could not have prospered had not God blessed them. The metaphor of planting, as we have before seen, often occurs, but in a different sense. When the celestial life is the subject, God is said to have planted his own elect, because their salvation is sure. He is said also to have planted his people in the land which he had given to them as an heritage. Now, when he speaks of the reprobate, the Prophet says that they had been planted by God, and for these reasons, because they flourished, because they produced leaves, and because they brought forth some fruit. In short, as Scripture, for various reasons, compares men to trees, so it employs the word planting in a corresponding sense. The Prophet indeed says that the ungodly are supported by God, and this is certain; for were not God to deal kindly with them for a time, they could not but instantly perish. Hence their prosperity is a proof of God’s indulgence. But the Prophet expresses his wonder at this, not so much through his own private feeling, as for the purpose of shewing to the Jews that it was a strange thing that they were tolerated so long by God, as they had a hundred times deserved to be wholly destroyed.

Yea, he says, they have taken root. By this metaphor he means their continued happiness. He says also, that they had advanced aloft; that is, were raised high and increased. fC26 He then adds, that they had brought forth fruit. The fruit of which he speaks was nothing else than their offspring; as though he had said, that the ungodly were not only prosperous to the end of life, but that they also propagated their kind, so that they had children surviving them, so that their families became celebrated. But the import of the whole is this, — that God not only endured the ungodly for a time, but extended his indulgence to many ages, so that their descendants continued in the same wealth, dignity, and power, with their dead fathers.

He afterwards adds, Thou indeed art nigh in their mouth, but thou art far from their reins. Jeremiah no doubt intended to anticipate them; for he knew that the Jews would have objections in readiness, — “What art thou, who summonest us here before God’s tribunal, and who pleadest with God that he may not too patiently bear with us? Are not we his servants? Do we not daily offer sacrifices in the Temple? Are we not circumcised? Do we not bear in our bodies the sign of our adoption? Do we not possess a kingdom and a priesthood? Now, these are pledges of God’s paternal love towards us, But thou wouldest have thyself to be more just than God himself. Can God deny himself? He has bound his faithfulness to us by the sign of circumcision, by the Temple, by the kingdom, by the priesthood, and by the sacrifices; and when we do anything amiss, then our sins are expiated by sacrifices and washings, and other rites.”

As then the Prophet knew that the Jews were wont thus loquaciously and perversely to defend their own cause, he says, “O, I see what they will say to me, even that which they are wont to say; for the common burden of their song is, that they are the children of Abraham, that. they sacrifice, and have other ways of pacifying God, and then that they possess a priesthood and a kingdom. These things,” he says, “are well known to me: but, O Lord, thou knowest that they are mere words; thou knowest that they act fallaciously, and that they do nothing but declare what is false when they pretend these vain shifts and evasions; for thou knowest the heart, (kardiognw>sthv;) thou therefore understandest that there is nothing right or sincere in their mouth; for their reins are far from thee, and thou also art far from their reins.” We hence also perceive with more certainty the truth of what I have stated, — that the Prophet here pleads with God, in order that the Jews might know that they could in no way be absolved when they came before God’s tribunal. It, follows —

<241203>Jeremiah 12:3

3. But thou, O Lord, knowest me: thou hast seen me, and tried mine heart toward thee: pull them out like sheep for the slaughter, and prepare them for the day of slaughter.

3. Et tu, Jehova, cognoscis me (cognovisti me), videbis me (vides me), et probasti cor meum tecum (hoc est, probasti quale sit cor meum apud to, vel, coram to:) extrahe eos tanquam oves ad mactationem, et praepara eos ad diem occisionis.

 

The Prophet is not here solicitous about himself, but, on the contrary, undertakes the defense of his own office, as though he had said that, he faithfully discharged the office committed to him by God. Though then the Jews, and even the citizens of Anathoth, his own people, unjustly persecuted him, yet he was not excited by private wrongs; and though he disregarded these entirely, he yet could not give up the defense of his office. He then does not speak here of his own private feelings, but only claims for himself faithfulness and sincerity before God in performing his office as a teacher; as though he had said that he executed what God had commanded him to do, and that therefore the Jews contended not with a mortal being, but with God himself.

Hence he says, But thou, Jehovah, knowest me and seest me, and triest my heart towards thee; that is, thou knowest how sincerely I serve thee, and endeavor to fulfin my vocation, and thus to obey thy command. He afterwards glories over them as a conqueror, and says, Draw them forth as sheep for the day of sacrificing, prepare them for slaughter. Here no doubt the Prophet intended not only to touch, but sharply to wound the Jews, in order that they might know that they had been hitherto secure to no purpose, and to their own ruin, because God had spared them. They who consider that the Prophet was himself troubled, because he saw that God was propitious and kind to the ungodly, think that, with reference to himself, he took comfort from this, — that the judgment of God was nigh at hand; but I doubt not but that the Prophet had regard to the Jews, as I have already reminded you. When, therefore, he saw that they were torpid in their delusions, he intended to rouse their sensibilities by saying, “I see how it is, O Lord; thou dost indeed concede thyself; but what else is thy purpose but that they should be fattened for the day of slaughter?”

He says, first, Thou wilt draw them out: others read, “Thou wilt lead them forth,” and quote a passage in <072008>Judges 20:82, where qtn nutak, is taken in this sense. The word properly means to draw out with force, as when a tree is pulled up, or when any one is drawn out against his will; and this is the sense most suitable to the present passage. Thou wilt then draw them out; that is, thou wilt suddenly draw them out to slaughter. He then intimates that there was no reason for the Jews to be dormant in their prosperity, for God could in a moment act against them; and as the pain of one in labor is sudden, so also, when the wicked say, Peace and security, their ruin will come suddenly upon them. (<520503>1 Thessalonians 5:3) This then is what the Prophet now means: but he goes on in his way of teaching; for he does not address men as they were all deaf, but speaks to God himself, that his doctrine might be more effectual: Thou then wilt draw them out, and do thou prepare them; for it is a prayer: do thou then prepare them for the day of slaughter. fC27

The last expression ought especially to be noticed. The Prophet indeed seems here in an excited feeling to imprecate ruin on the people; but there is no doubt but that he was here discharging the duty of his office, for he was the herald of God’s vengeance. IIe therefore asks God to execute what he had commanded him to denounce on the people. He had often promulgated what God had resolved to do to them, but he had moved no one: he now then asks God to fulfin what he had foretold the Jews — that they should shortly perish, because they refused to repent.

We may also learn from this passage, — that when the ungodly accumulate wealth, they are in a manner fattened. When oxen plough, and sheep are fed that they may bear wool and bring forth young, they are not fed that they may grow fat, and a moderate quantity of food will suffice them; but when any one intends to prepare sheep or oxen for the slaughter, he fattens them. So then the feeding of them is nothing else than the fattening of them; and the fattening of them is a preparation for their slaughter. I have therefore said that a very useful doctrine is included in this form of speaking; for when we see that plenty of wealth and power abound with the ungodly and the despisers of God, we see that they are in a manner thus fined with good things, that they may grow fat: — it is fattening or cramming. Let us then not bear it in that they are thus covered with their own fatness, for they are prepared for the day of slaughter. It follows —

<241204>Jeremiah 12:4

4. How long shall the land mourn, and the herbs of every field wither, for the wickedness of them that dwell therein? the beasts are consumed, and the birds; because they said, He shall not see our last end.

4. Quousque lugebit terra.et herba omnis agri arescet prae malitia habitantium in ea? defecit bestiae (hoc est, consumptae sunt besiae) et avis (hoe est, aves, est enallage numeri tam in verbo quam in nomine;) quia dixerunt, Non videbit novissimum nostrum (vel, finem nostrum)

 

Jeremiah confirms the former sentence and more strongly reproves the Jews, who still continued obstinately to despise what he had said: “What do you mean, he says? for God’s judgment appears as to brute beasts and birds; and what have birds and sheep and oxen deserved? Ye know that there is no fault in miserable animals, and yet the curse of God is through them set before you; ye see that God is offended with brute animals, but the fault is doubtless in you. And will God spare you, when he has already begun, and long ago begun to inflict punishment on innocent animals? how can he hear with you to the end, who are full of so many and the most atrocious sins?” This then is a confirmation of his former doctrine.

And hence we also learn that he did not speak for his own sake, nor express his own private feelings, but that he defended the doctrine which he had announced, that the Jews might know that God was angry with them, and that they were not to expect that he would always conceal himself, though he for a time connived at them.

How long, he says, shall the land mourn? or, How long should the land mourn? for thus it ought to be rendered; and should every herb become dry? “What!” he says, “is not God’s judgment visible in herbs and flocks and beasts and birds? Since it is so, and the whole fault is in you, shall ye be spared? Will God pour forth his whole wrath on herbs, on sheep, and on cattle? and shall you be at the same time exempted from his judgment?”

And more clearly still does he express his meaning, when he says, Because they have said, He shall not see our end. Here the Prophet briefly shews that the wrath of God was seen in herbs as well as in brute animals, because he was despised by the people. Since then evil proceeded from them, should it not return on their own heads? It could not surely be otherwise. But he speaks expressly of the end; for the Jews were so stupified by their prosperity, that they thought that God was no longer adverse to them: “Ha! what have we to do with God? we are already beyond the reach of danger.” As then they thus perversely rejected God, he upbraids them with the thought, that they were to give no account to God. It is not indeed probable that they openly, or with a full mouth, as they say, vomited forth such a blasphemy; but we know that Scripture often speaks in this manner, “God shall not see;” “God will not look on Jacob.” Though the ungodly did not speak so insolently, yet they no doubt thought thati they could set up many hinderances to prevent God’s hand from reaching them. Hence Jeremiah, according to the usual manner of Scripture, justly lays this to their charge, — that they thought that they were now as it were unknown to God and beyond the reach of his care, so that he would not see their end; in other words, that they had no concern with God, because they were on all sides so well fortified, that the hand of God could not reach them. fC28

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that though the same hardness is inbred in us as in thine ancient people, we may not become rooted in it; but do thou rouse us by thy Spirit, that we may suffer ourselves to be gently governed by thyi word, and be so touched by thy threatenings, that we may not defer the time whenever thou an — nouncest to us thy judgment, but strive to be immediately reconciled to thee: and as there is no other way of being reconciled except through thine only — begotten Son, may we in true faith embrace the favor which thou offerest to us in thy gospel, and also devote ourselves wholly to thee, being truly penitent of our sins; and as we ought to make progress to the end of life, may we strive more and more to put off all the lusts of our flesh, until we shall at length be made partakers of that glory which thine only — begotten Son has prepared for us. — Amen.


Lecture Forty-Ninth

<241205>Jeremiah 12:5

5. If thou hast run with the foot — men, and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses? and if in the land of peace, wherein thou trustedst, they wearied thee, then how wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan?

5. Quia (vel, si) eumpeditibus (significat proprie pedes, sed translative significat etiam pedites; si ergo cum peditibus) cucurristi et fatigarunt te, quomodo miscebis te equitibus? et in terra pacis tu confisus es, quid facies (vel, quomodo facies, vel faceres) in altitudine Jordanis?

 

Many think that God here checks the boldness of Jeremiah, as though he had exceeded the limits of moderation when he contended with God, as we have seen, because he patiently endured the reprobate and did not immediately punish them. Hence they elicit this meaning from rite words, “Thou hast hitherto been contending with mortals, and hast confessed that thou didst maintain an unequal contest; dost thou dare now to assail me, who am far greater than the whole world? Footmen have wearied thee, who walk on earth; but thou engagest now with horsemen, that is, with me.”

But I have already shewn that the Prophet did not undertake this cause presumptuously, nor was he carried away by blind zeal when he disputed with God, but that he thus spoke through a divine fervor: he was indeed influenced by God, in order that he might by this mode of speaking more fully rouse an obstinate people. There was therefore no need to check hint; for his object was no other than to shew by a lively representation, that God would be the Judge of the Jews, who had despised his teaching and esteemed it as nothing.

Some think that a comparison is made between the citizens of Anathoth and the citizens of Jerusalem: they hence suppose that Jeremiah is encouraged, lest he should succumb under the temptations which awaited him; as though it was said, “Thy citizens or thy people are like footmen; thou seest now how much they have wearied thee, for thou canst not bear their insolence: what then will become of thee, when thou comest to Jerusalem? for as there is more power there, so there is more arrogance; thou wilt have to contend with the king and his court, with the priests and with the people, who are blinded by their own splendor: horsemen will be there, and thou wilt have all equestrian contest. Thou mayest hence see how thou art to prepare thyself; for these things are only the beginnings, and yet thou complainest of them.”

But when I maturely weigh all things, I come to another opinion, which both Jerome snd Jonathan fC29 have suggested, and yet obscurely, and so confusedly that the meaning cannot be correctly understood, and especially for this reason, because they did not state the exposition which we have hitherto given; hence the meaning of what they have said does not seem suitable. But the Prophet, I doubt not, here reproves the people and condemns their presumption, because they thought themselves furnished with so many defences that they despised the judgment of God. I regard then this verse as spoken in the person of God, for hitherto Jeremiah has been the accuser, and arraigned the whole people as guilty before God, and was also the herald of his judgment. Now that what he says might have more weight, God himself comes forth and says, Thou hast hitherto run with footmen, and thou hast been wearied, how will it be when thou comest to an equestrian contest? he intimates by these words that a much greater outrage was at hand than what the Jews had already experienced. Their country had been oppressed, their city had been exposed to extreme peril, there had been as it were a pedestrian conflict; but God now intimates that a heavier storm was nigh at hand, for horsemen would assail them, because the Chaldeans and the Assyrians were to come with much greater violence to lay waste the whole country and to destroy the city itself.

This then is not addressed to the Prophet, but to the people; as though it was said, that the Jews had but a slight contest with the Assyrians, and yet were conquered and oppressed by many calamities; but that they would have now to fight more seriously, as a greater violence was impending over them: how then, he says, canst thou contend with horsemen?  fC30

He then adds, In the land of peace thou trustest, and how wilt thou do in the rising of Jordan? The land of peace is commonly taken for the town of Anathoth, where the Prophet ought to have enjoyed a quiet life, as he lived there among his relations and friends. The rising of Jordan is also taken as signifying violent waves; but this has nothing to do with the subject. Were I to approve of this view, I would rather take the rising of Jordan as meaning its fountain, for we know that Jordan rose from Mount Lebanon, north of Jerusalem: so then would I interpret the words, and the explanation would be plausible. But as I feel assured that the words are not addressed to the Prophet, but to the people, I doubt not but that the land of peace is the land open to plunder, that is, not protected. As that is called the land of war, which is surrounded by alefences, and fortified by towers, moats, and ramparts; so that is called the land of peace, which is not capable of repelling enemies. The Prophet derided the Jews, because they swelled with so much arrogance, though they possessed no fortresses: “Ye are,” he says, “in the land of peace, having no means to carry on war, and possessing no forces to resist your enemies: as then ye swell with so much pride in your penury and want, what would become of you, were you in the rising of Jordan? that is, were your cities on the banks of Jordan, where it widely spreads, so as to prevent any access?” Rising here means height or largeness: for ˆwag gaun, signifies pride, and metaphorically it means the highest or chief glory. “What wouldest thou do,” he says, “in the largeness of Jordan? that is, were that river a defense to you against enemies? for there is nothing that can hinder your enemies from coming to your gates, from breaking down your walls by warlike instruments; and ye glory: how great is your madness, for ye do not consider how weak you are?” We hence see that in the whole of this verse the foolish boastings of the people are beaten down; for they were proud without a cause, as they were destitute of all defences and auxiliaries. This then is what I consider to be the real meaning. fC31 It afterwards follows —

<241206>Jeremiah 12:6

6. For even thy brethren, and the house of thy father, even they have dealt treacherously with thee; yea, they have called a multitude after thee: believe them not, though they speak fair words unto thee.

6. Certe etiam fratres tui et domus patris tui, etiam ipsi perfide agunt in te, etiam ipsi clamant post te plena voce (vel, turmatim, alm enim varie exponitur;) ne confides ipsis, etiam si loquantur ad te (hoc est, tecum) bona (id est, amice tecum loquantur.)

 

Here God addresses his Prophet, in order to confirm the whole of what we have observed. Jeremiah’s object was, as we have said, to set forth the judgment of God: he therefore undertook the part of art accuser, and shewed how intolerable was the impiety of the whole people. He afterwards shewed that he was a conqueror in the cause. And now God himself speaks: he first indeed reproves the people and condemns their insane presumption; and then he addresses the Prophet himself, as though he had said, “Thou hast faithfully pleaded my cause, and as thine own people are all perfidious, there is no reason for thee to doubt but that I will be thy defender.”

The Prophet no doubt was commanded to preach and to write in God’s name; and yet he had regard to the people, who would have hardened themselves against his preaching, had he not more fully set forth the dreadful judgment of God. Hence he says, Surely even thy brethren and the house of thy father, etc.: it is an amplification, when he says, that not only the citizens of Jerusalem and the whole people had conspired against the Prophet, but also his own relations and friends; Even thy brethren, he says, and the house of thy father, even these, etc. We see how emphatically God speaks; and there is an imp~ied comparison between the citizens of Anathoth and the rest of the Jews, for they dealt not with a brother and one of themselves with any more courtesy than those not related to him. He repeats for the third time, Even these have cried after thee; that is, “They have so inimically persecuted thee, that even when thou hast yielded to their fury they were not pacified.” For to cry after one is all evidence of settled hatred; for when an enemy stands his ground and offers resistance, it is no wonder that we assail him; but when he turns his back and allows that he is conquered, and declines fighting, it seems that we are burning with a furious hatred, when we follow him and draw him to figlit against his will, even when he of his own accord avoids a contest. It was to set forth this blind fury that God said that they cried after Jeremiah. fC32

He adds the word alm, mela, which some render “with a full voice;” others, “in a troop,” or, “in a mass.” Either sense may be admitted; I will not therefore dwell on the point; for it makes but little difference whether we say that they followed the Prophet with loud clamor, or that they in a troop conspired against him.

He afterwards subjoins, Even though they speak to thee good things, that is, though they pretend to be friends and profess peace, yet trust them not. God intimates by these words, that though the citizens of Anathoth did not openly rage against Jeremiah, they were yet full of perfidy: in short, he means that they were either wolves or foxes, for they fought against the Prophet, now by fraud, then openly. We hence see that God here condemns the people, and shews his approbation of what had been previously said by Jeremiah. He afterwards subjoins —

<241207>Jeremiah 12:7

7. I have forsaken mine house, I have left mine heritage; I have given the dearly beloved of my soul into the hand of her enemies.

7. Reliqui domurn meam, deserui haereditatem meam, posui dilectionem (aut, desiderium) animae meae in manum inimicorum ejus.

 

He confirms what I have already stated; he testifies that the people were either openly furious or acting perfidiously and deceitfully; nor has it been the object hitherto merely to say that wrong had been done to the Prophet, but regard has been had to what he taught.

He now adds, Forsaken have I my house and left my heritage. God here declares that it was all over with the people. They were inebriated with vain confidence, relying on the covenant which God had made. with their fathers, and thought that God was bound to them. Thus they wished to treat God with contempt according ,o their own humor, and at the same time to allow themselves every kind of licentiousness. The Prophet makes here many concessions, as though he had said, “Ye are the house of God; ye are his heritage, ye are his beloved, ye are his portion and his richest portion; but all this will not prevent him to become your Judge, and at length to treat you with rigorous justice, and to vindicate himself.” We now perceive the meaning of the Prophet. But as I have before said, the words have more weight having been spoken by God, than if Jeremiah himself had said them. God then, as though sitting for judgment, declares thus to the Jews, Forsaken have I my house. The Temple was indeed commended in high terms; but the whole country also was on account of the Temple regarded as the habitation of God; for Judah was overshadowed by the Temple, and was secure and safe under its shadow. This word then is to be extended to the whole land and people, when God says, “Forsaken have I nay house;” that is, “Though I have hitherto chosen for myself an habitation among the Jews, yet I now leave them.” He then adds, Left have I my heritage. (The verbs bz[ oseb, and fn nuthesh, have nearly the same meaning; the one is to forsake, and the other is to leave) This distinction was a great honor to the Jews; and hence, how much soever they kindled God’s wrath against themselves, they yet, thought that they were safe as it were by privilege, inasmuch as they were the heritage of God. The Prophet. concedes to them this distinction, but shews how vain it was, for God had departed from them.

He then says, Given have I the desire or the love of my soul, fC33etc. The word twdydy, ididut, may be rendered love; but in Latin we may render it darling, (delitias:) the darling then of my soul have I put in the land of her enemies; for the pronoun is in the feminine gender. We hence see what is the subject here; for God intended to deprive the Jews of their vain confidence, and thus to humble and subdue them, so that they might know that no empty and vain titles would be of any help to them. These titles or distinctions he indeed concedes to them, but not without some degree of irony; for he at the same time shews that all this in which they gloried would avail them nothing when God executed on them his vengeance. But further, this passage contains an implied reproof to the Jews for their ingratitude, inasmuch as they were not retained in their obedience to God by benefits so remarkable; for how great was the honor of being called the heritage and the house of God, and even the beloved of his soul? They had deserved no such honor. As then God had manifested towards them such incomparable love, as he had rendered himself more than a father to them, was it not a wickedness in every way inexcusable, not to respond to so great a love, and that gratuitous, and also to so great a liberality? for what more could God have done than to call thenl the darling of his soul?

We hence see that the sin of the people is greatly amplified by these distinctions, on account of which they yet fostered their pride; as though he had said, “These words indeed are ready on your tongues, — that ye are God’s heritage, and sanctuary, and his love; but ye are for this very reason the more abominable, because ye respond not to God’s love and bountiful dealings: He has favored you with incredible love, he has raised you to very great honor, and yet ye despise him and perversely resist his teaching, nor can ye bear him to govern you.” We now then see what instruction may be gathered from these words. It follows —

<241208>Jeremiah 12:8

8. Mine heritage is unto me as a lion in the forest; it crieth out against me: therefore have I hated it.

8. Fuit mihi haereditas mea quasi leo in sylva; edidit contra me vocem suam; propterea odio ipsam habui.

 

God now shews the reason why he resolved to cast away the people; for it might appear at the first view very inconsistent, that God’s covenant, which he had made with Abraham and his seed, should become void. Hence he shews here that he was not too rigid in heavily punishing the Jews, and that he could not be accused of levity or inconstancy in rejecting or repudiating them.

Mine heritage, he says, has become like a lion in the forest; that is, they have not only acted insolently towards me, but they have even dared furiously to attack me, like a lion who roars against men in the forest. God then here complains of their contempt, and then he declares how furious was their impiety: for the Jews, as though seized by the rage of a wild beast, dared to make a violent attack on him. And the words, as they are connected, render the sin the more atrocious, My heritage, he says, has become to me as a lion in the forest: one’s heritage and patrimony, we know, is his delight; and then, they who possess small tenements live much more quietly than those who occupy large ones. God now shews that he was in his own heritage as though he was in a vast and wild forest, and also, that the fields which ought to have been his delight, and also his vineyards and meadows, were become places of the greatest horror, as though a lion were roaring and raging against unhappy men.

He says further, that it had sent forth its voice. By these words he accuses the people of extreme wantonness; and such is to be found in the world at this day; for how audaciously do the Papists vomit forth their blasphemies against God? The unprincipled and the dregs of society hesitate not with a full mouth to be insolent towards God; and courtiers also and epicures, and those who admire themselves for their splendor and wealth, with what haughtiness do they rise up against; him; and how disdainfully do they reject every truth that is set before them! We therefore in this miserable age experience the very same thing which the Prophet deplores in the men of his own time, — that they raised their voices against God himself.

He therefore comes to this conclusion, — that he hated his own heritage. “Since then,” he says, “the Jews are become to me as lions in a forest, since they have rendered themselves a horror instead of a delight to me, what am I to do with them? Can I treat them as my patrimony and heritage? But they have put me to flight by their treachery, yea, by their diabolical fury. It is therefore nothing strange that I hate them, though they have been my heritage.” Thus the Prophet shews, that it availed the Jews nothing that they had been of old adopted, since they had repudiated themselves and had become alienated from God their Father.

Let us also hence learn, that whatever honor hypocrites at this day possess in the Church, they yet boast in vain; for though they may for a time be counted as the heritage of God, they are at the same time hated by God, inasmuch as they are within full of wickedness and of perverseness towards him; and then, when urged and pressed, they hesitate not to vomit forth their insolence. It follows: —

<241209>Jeremiah 12:9

9. Mine heritage is unto me as a speckled bird; the birds round about are against her: come ye, assemble all the beasts of the field, come to devour.

9. An avis picta (vel, tineta, aut, colorata) hrereditas mea mihi? an avis in circuitu super earn? Venite, colligite vos (alii transitive acdipiunt, congregate omnes bestias, sed subaudiendum est, congregate vos) omnes bestiae agri (hoc est, onmes bestiae agrestes) venite ad devorandum ipsam.

 

The beginning of this verse is variously explained, Some think that a kind of bird is here meant, which has various colors, one variegated, which excites all other birds against itself; but this is without meaning. Others are of the opinion, and the greater part too, that birds tinged with blood were against his heritage. They hence thus explain the words, “Is a bird, tinged,” that is; with blood, “my heritage,” that is, about my heritage; “is there a bird around it? They consider both clauses to be of the same meaning; and hence they think that the same thing is repeated in different words, that birds were flying against the Jews, like those which are drawn by the smell of carcases, and which come in great numbers, that each may have a part; and then, wild beasts follow them. But I approve of neither of these explanations; nor indeed have they even the appearance of being correct.

I therefore think that the people are now compared to foreign birds, as they were before to lions; as though he had said, — “I had chosen this people for myself, that they might be my friends, as birds which are wont to be gathered into their own cages, as sheep into their own folds, and as oxen, and other animals which are tamed, keep within their own enclosures. So when I gathered this people, I thought that they would be to me like domesticated sheep; but now they are like speckled birds; that is, like wild birds, or birds of the wood.” For I have no doubt but that by a speckled or colored bird is to be understood a strange bird, which by its novel appearance excites the attention of men. Is then a variegated bird, or a bird of the wood, become mine heritage? Questions, we know, were often used by the Hebrews; and the Prophet here simply affirms the fact; and as God had said before, that his heritage was become like a lion in the forest, so he adds now, that his heritage was like a speckled bird. A question has much more power and force than a simple declaration; for God assumes here the character of one in astonishment, — “What does this mean, that my heritage should become to me like some bird from the wood, or a foreign bird?” He then adds, All birds then shall be around and all beasts of the field. fC34

We now see how fitly the words of the Prophet run; God had complained that his heritage was like a lion in the forest, and also like a wild and foreign bird; and now he says, Then all birds wiIl fly to the prey and all the beasts of the field; as though he had said, — “Since they have dared to act thus wantonly, and have dared to assail my servants like wild beasts, and have also become wild birds which cannot be tamed, I will shew what they will gain by their ferocity; for I will now send for all the birds of the air, and the wild beasts of the wood:, that they may fly together quickly, and that they may come together to the prey.” That we must thus understand the Prophet’s meaning, we learn from the very words; for God not only says, “A speckled bird has mine heritage become,” but he adds, to me, as he had before said, that his heritage had become to him as a lion, so he says now, Is not mine heritage become to me? etc. This pronoun then ought to be carefully noticed; for we hence learn, as I have said already, that the intractable disposition of the people is here condemned, for they could by no means be tamed.

But the latter clause ought also to be especially observed; for it imports as much as though God had said, “As then your wickedness is such that ye are to me lions and wild birds, take your course; but I will yet check this your barbarous and untameable ferocity; for I have under my command all the birds of the air and all the wild beasts of the field; let them then come together to this one bird, and to this one beast. Ye are but one bird; ye are indeed terrible at the first view, for ye are worse than all the hawks; but ye are only one bird, and around you shall come all birds, which shall make war on you. Ye are as one lion in a forest, or one boar, or one wolf; but all the savage beasts of the wood shall come together against you, and shall come together to devour you.”

This place deserves special notice; for we hence learn how foolishly men deceive themselves when they oppose God and perversely shake off his yoke, and suffer not, themselves to be corrected by his word; they are lions, they are savage birds; but the Lord can easily destroy them, for all birds and all wild beasts are ready to obey him; and hence it follows: —

<241210>Jeremiah 12:10

10. Many pastors have destroyed my vineyard, they have trodden my portion under foot, they have made my pleasant portion a desolate wilderness.

10. Pastores nmlti perdiderunt vitem mean.a, calcarunt (aut, vastarunt, utrunque enim significat wssb, sed hic verbum quadratum, perdiderunt ergo) portionem mearn, dederunt portionem desiderii mei in desertum vastitatis.

 

He explains by another comparison what we have just observed; he calls those pastors or shepherds whom he had before compared to wild beasts; for by saying, “Come ye, all the wild beasts of the wood,” he doubtless meant the same as those of whom he now speaks; and yet he calls them pastors. But he touched the Jews to the quick, for they could not bear him to discharge the office of a pastor towards them. God ought to have been the pastor of his chosen people; but they were wild beasts. “Forsaken them have I,” he says, “for they were wholly unworthy. What now then? Other pastors shall come, but those of a very different character, being fiercer and more cruel than wolves or any savage wild beasts.” Though then the Prophet blends various comparisons, we yet see that he handles the same subject; we also see why he thus changes his expressions, for there is a meaning in every word he uses. It is indeed certain that those also are called pastors who would come as leaders or chiefs from Assyria and Chaldea; but there is no doubt here an implied antithesis, such as I have referred to, as though he had said, “I have hitherto been a shepherd to you, and was wining to continue to be so perpetually; but as ye can no longer bear me, other shepherds shall come, who will treat you according to their own will and disposition.”

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that as thou hast not only been pleased to offer thyself to be our Shepherd, but hast also set over us thine only — begotten Son, that he might gather us into his own fold, and as he sweetly invites us daily by his voice to continue collected under his power and government, — O grant that we may suffer ourselves to be governed by him, and never be like wild and untameable beasts, but so obey his voice, that wherever he may call us we may be ready to follow, and thus proceed through the whole course of our life, until we shall at length reach the goal which is set before us, and be thence led to the fruition of that eternal inheritance and glory which thine only — begotten Son has obtained for us by his own blood. — Amen.


Lecture Fiftieth

We began yesterday to explain what the Prophet declared that the Jews would be laid waste by shepherds; and we said, that there is implied in this expression what is ironical; for they caught to have allowed themselves to be governed by God, who was wining to discharge towards them the office of a shepherd; but as they had refused to receive such a favor, they had deserved to be given over by God to the Assyrians and Chaldeans, who are also called shepherds. As, however, there is mention made of vineyard, the Prophet alludes to the shepherds of sheep or cattle: for when any one brings his herd or his flock to a vineyard it is no small evil. Hence also this allusion is not unsuitable. However this may be, the Prophet intimates, that as they would not bear the yoke of God, such shepherds would come as they deserved.

He again repeats what we have before observed, that this people had not only been God’s vineyard, rk carem, but also his portion or his heritage, and even a portion of desire: for God designed that it. should be often testified, that no bounty towards the Jews had been omitted by him, in order that their ingratitude might appear less excusable. As then God had manifested so much love towards them as to call them the desire of his soul and a desirable heritage, what wickedness it was not to acknowledge such an incomparable kindness? It now follows —

<241211>Jeremiah 12:11

11. They have made it desolate, and being desolate it mourneth unto me; the whole land is made desolate, because no man layeth it to heart.

11. Posuit vastitatem, luxit super me (vel, ad me) vastata ( vel, vastatio, quidam adjective accipiunt, quidam volunt esse nomen substantivum, sed proprie hmm secundum grammaticam est vastatio, sed appositive loco participii capitur, quemadmodum continuo post subjicit,) vastata est omnis terra; quia (vel, tametsi) nemo posuit super cor (hoc est, nemo animum adjecit, quemadmodum alibi vidimus.)

 

There is a change of number in the verb shem; but there is no obscurity: for the Prophet means, that the Jews would be exposed to the outrage of all, so that every one would plunder and lay waste the land. He does not then speak only of all their enemies or of the whole army; but he also declares that every one would be their master, so as to vex, scatter, devour, and wholly to destroy them at his pleasure: in short, he sets forth the atrocity of their punishment, — that the whole land would not only be spoiled by the united army, but also by every individual in it. fC35

He then adds that the land was in mourning before him. The Prophet seems to me to touch here the torpor of his own nation, because there was no one who had any regard for God; nay, they laughed at the judgments which were nigh at hand, and of which he had often spoken. Hence God says, that they would at length come to him when calamities oppressed them and caused them to mourn. “As then in peaceable times,” he says, “they are unwining to come to me, but are so refractory and untameable, that I can effect nothing by so many warnings, they shall come,” he says, “but in another state of mind, even in extreme mourning .”

He afterwards adds, No one lays on the heart. What this means we have elsewhere explained. But the particle yk, ki, which is properly a causative, may be here rendered as an adversative. If we take it in its first and most proper sense, then a reason is here given why the Jews would be brought to a most grievous mourning, even because they had despised all the prophets, and wholly disregarded as a fable what they had so often heard from God’s mouth: and this is the view taken by most interpreters. But it may be also taken as an adversative, as in many other places, — “Though no one lays on the heart;” and thus it will be a complaint as to their perverse stupor, inasmuch as, when smitten by God’s hand, they did not perceive that they were punished for their sins, not that they were wholly insensible as to their evils. But what avails it to cry and to howl, as God’s Spirit speaks elsewhere, except, the hand of the smiter be perceived? The Jews then ought, had a spark of wisdom been in them, to have considered their sins, to have prayed for forgiveness, and to have repented, and also to have embraced the favor promised to them. But when they perversely added sins to sins, God justly expostulated with them, because they did not attend to the signs of his wrath, by which they ought not only to have been taught, but also subdued. It follows —

<241212>Jeremiah 12:12

12. The spoilers are come upon all high places through the wilderness: for the sword of the Lord shall devour from the one end of the land even to the other end of the land: no flesh shall have peace.

12. Super omnes oras (vel, quomodo alii vertunt, super omnia loca excelsa, yp, uno verbo dicere licebit, prominentias; accipitur etiam pro rupibus; sed loquitur de finibus extremis; ergo super fines extremos) in desertum venerunt perditores; quid gladius Jehovae voravit a fine terrae usque ad finem terrae; non est pax universae carni.

 

Jeremiah here proceeds farther — that no corner of the land would be exempt from the attacks of enemies. Desert is not put here for solitude not inhabited, but for high places; and as such places fbr the most part are fit for pastures, there is no doubt but that he means here secluded places. It is, however, sufficient for our present purpose to consider, that the desert; here is put in opposition to the level parts of the country. When, therefore, the enemies had rambled through the plains, the Prophet says, that no recesses, however hidden, would be safe; for there also the violence of the enemies would penetrate. And this is what he states more clearly at the end of the verse when he says that there would be no peace to any flesh: for he intimates, no doubt, that all, from the least to the greatest, would be rendered miserablei as God’s vengeance would reach every one without exception; and he says this, because those who sought hiding — places might have hoped to escape, thinking that the enemy would be satisfied with a limited victory; but the Prophet declares, that God’s wrath would so burn as to consume all, and to leave no part of the land without involving in ruin the rich and the poor, the country people and the citizens.

After having then threatened the plains, which were more open and accessible, he now adds, that neither the mountains nor the hins would escape the outrage of their enemies; and at the same time he reminds them that God would be the author of all their calamities; for had he only spoken of the Chaldeans, the Jews would not have thought that they were given up to punishment by God on account of their sins: it would have therefore been without any good effect had they thought that they had a contest only with the Chaldeans. Hence he calls their attention to God’s judgment, and shews, that though ambition, avarice, and cruelty instigated and influenced their enemies, they were yet conducted by a divine power, because the Jews had for a long time provoked against themselves the vengeance of God. He, in short, intimates that the Chaldeans would fight for God and do his work, as he would be the chief commander in the war; and this he intimates lest the Jews should think that such great calamities happened to them by chance: hence he says, The sword of Jehovah hath devoured, etc. He indeed speaks of future things; but he uses the past tense, which is commonly done by the prophets. fC36 It now follows —

<241213>Jeremiah 12:13

13. They have sown wheat, but shall reap thorns: they have put themselves to pain, but shall not profit; and they shall be ashamed of your revenues, because of the fierce anger of the Lord.

13. Seminarunt triticum et spinas messuerunt; haereditatem adepti sunt (vel, fatigati sunt) nec profecerunt; et confusi sunt a proventibus vestris, a furore (vel, excandescentia, potius) irae Jehovae.

 

Most interpreters understand this of the prophets, that they had been disappointed, after having faithfully cultivated the field of God and sown good seed, that thorns only had sprung up, and briars only had grown: but this is a strained exposition. The Prophet, I doubt not, sets forth the curse of God, which the people were soon to experience. I indeed readily admit, that when he speaks of sowing and reaping, the expression is metaphorical; but I have no doubt but that the Jews are said to sow in seeking aids here and there, in strengthening themselves by confederacies, and in devising means to repel dangers.

Hence he says, by way of concession, that they had sown wheat; for they had recourse to false counsels: but he speaks according to what they themselves thought; for they imagined that they were safe when they found that the Egyptians were ready to help them; and when they procured assistance from various quarters, they considered that they were acting wisely, and. thus they flattered themselves with a prosperous issue. The Prophet now laughs to scorn this vain confidence: but yet in words he allows that they were going on successfully: as a husbandman, while sowing, expects that he will have a good harvest, so also the Jews thought that they would have good fruit after having thus sown. But the Prophet says that they would be disappointed; for instead of wheat briars and thorns would grow, so that the issue would not answer their expectations. Thus the words of the Prophet would well harmonize: but to explain the passage of the prophets would by no means be suitable, as it will hereafter appear more clearly.

He then says that they had sown wheat (he uses the plural number) and reaped thorns. He intimates that they hoped for a good harvest, for they sowed wheat, as they thought; that is, they wisely, or rather astutely, provided for themselves, as they left undone nothing that was necessary for their safety; but they reaped, or shall reap thorns; for he speaks of what was future. He means that God would frustrate their expectation; for their sowing, from which they promised themselves so much, would prove fruitless.

He then adds, that they had obtained an inheritance, or had endured grief, but were not enriched. Some render the first clause a little more harshly, that “they were riJeremiah” But I readily excuse its harshness, if it suits the place: then the meaning would be, — that they tormented themselves with continual labors, and thus became rich; for we know that they who are extremely anxious about anything wear out themselves, and become in a manner their own executioners; and this would not be unsuitable to this place. However, a different view may be taken, — that the Prophet uses the expression, that they had obtained an heritage, not in its ordinary sense, as signifying, not that God gave them the land of Canaan as their hereditary possession, or that they had accumulated wealth, but that they had thus increased in their own esteem, because they had the Egyptians as their friends, and looked for help to the neighboring nations, and because they thought that they could by various stratagems prevent the Chaldeans from coming nigh them. Their heritage then was, that they were able to collect from various quarters such assistance as would render them safe, and repel all dangers. God then allows that they had obtained an heritage; but what then, he says? All this will not avail them, nor shall they be thereby enriched. He, in short, intimates that they would be thus deceived by trusting in helps so laboriously and sedulously acquired; for the aids in which they proudly trusted would vanish away, as well as all their counsels and designs; in a word, the vain attempts by which they thought to secure everything for themselves are laughed to scorn.

He adds, for the same purpose, that they were confounded on account of their produce. They who understand this of the prophets read thus, “they were ashamed,” that is, “of their own labors;” but this is wholly foreign to the subject. He then continues in the same strain, — that the Jews were ashamed when they found the issue contrary to what they expected. He mentions “produce:” the noun conms from ab ba, which means to come or to enter; it has also other meanings. But the Hebrews call it produce, because it comes every year. He says then, that they were ashamed of their produce, because they received no fruit such as they expected. Thus Jeremiah carries on the same metaphor: they had sown, but thorns were found instead of wheat; they also obtained for themselves an heritage, or they wearied themselves with labor, but it was useless: they further promised to themselves a great and rich produce, but it came to nothing. We now then understand the meaning of the words.

But we must at the same time consider what the Prophet had in view. Doubtless he intended to shake off from the Jews that arrogance by which they blinded themselves, as though he had said, — “I see that I effect but little; for the Egyptians, who are to come to your aid, are as yet strong; ye think that they are prepared to oppose the Assyrians and Chaldeans, and ye have also other confederacies. As then ye are thus well fortified, ye consider yourselves to be cut of the reach of danger; but the Lord will make you ashamed of this your presumption, for all your produce or provision will come to nothing.” The produce, we know, was the successful issue with which they flattered themselves, so that they thought that nothing would do them harm. This then is the meaning of the Prophet. fC37

He adds, Through the burning of the wrath of Jehovah. They could not have been otherwise awakened, except they were made to think that God was angry with them. The Prophet then says, though the whole world might laugh him to scorn, that nothing would avail them, inasmuch as God fought against them. We must at the same time notice the change of person, They have been ashamed of your produce. Some have on this account applied the verb, wb, beshu, “they have been ashamed,” to the prophets; but it is an anomaly often found, and it is in this place very emphatical. Had he said, in the third person, “They were ashamed of their fruits,” it would have been less calculated to rouse their minds; but having previously spoken in disdain of the Jews, as he knew them to be deaf, he now, as he proceeds, turns his discourse to them, and says that they were ashamed; yes, he says, “Ye were ashamed of your fruits.” It is therefore a kind of modification; but it is only used that the Prophet might more sharply touch their feelings; for they had need of this kind of speaking, as a plain discourse would have produced no effect. It follows —

<241214>Jeremiah 12:14

14. Thus saith the Lord against all mine evil neighbors, that touch the inheritance which I have caused my people Israel to inherit; Behold, I will pluck them out of their land, and pluck out the house of Judah from among them.

14. Sic dicit Jehova, Super omnes vicinos meos malos qui tangunt haereditatem meam, quam haereditare obtinui, populum meum Israel; ecce ego evellam ipsos e terra ipsorum, et demum Jehudah evellam e medio ipsorum.

 

The Prophet now begins to mitigate what might have beyond measure exasperated the minds of the people; and this he did, not so much for the sake of the people in general, as for the sake of the elect, a few of whom still remained. We have indeed seen that it was all over with the body of the people; for it had been said to Jeremiah,

“Pray not for them, for I will not hear them,”
(<241114>Jeremiah 11:14)

The Prophet then knew the immutable purpose of God as to the mass of the people. Nor did he intend here to soften what might have appeared grievous in what he had taught. But as we have said elsewhere, and indeed often repeated, the prophets used reproofs only as to the whole community, and then spoke as it were apart to the elect; for there ever was a remnant among that people, inasmuch as God never suffered his covenant to be made void. As then the Church was still existing, the Prophet had regard to the hidden seed, and therefore blended consolation with those grievous and dreadful predictions which we have noticed.

This is the reason why he now says that God would be the avenger of that cruelty which their neighbors had exercised towards the Jews. For this temptation might have greatly disturbed the minds of the godly, — “What means this, that God rages so violently against us, while he spares the heathens? Have the Moabites, or the Ammonites, or the Idumeans, deserved nothing? Why then does God bear with them, while he deals so severely with us?” The Prophet then meets this objection, and says, that punishment was nigh those nations, and such as they deserved, and that for the sake of the chosen people. If indeed he had only said that the Moabites and the Idumeans, and the rest, would be summoned before God’s tribunal, that they in their turn might be punished, it would have given no relief to the miserable Jews; for it would have been a very empty consolation to have only so many associates in their misery: but the Prophet also adds, that God would be thus propitious to his elect; for it was a sign of his paternal favor, when he inflicted punishment on all those neighhors by whom they had been so cruelly treated.

He begins by saying, Thus saith Jehovah; and he says, against all my evil neighbors, etc. He speaks here in the person of God, who calls the Moabites and the Idumeans, as well as others, his neighbors, because he had chosen the land of Canaan as an habitation for himself; for it was, as it appears often from the prophets, an evidence above all other things of God’s favor, that he dwelt among that people. He was not indeed confined either to the Temple or to the land of Canaan; but he had taken the people under his safeguard and protection, as though he had his hands extended for the purpose of defending them all. We now see why he calls the nations near to the Jews his evil neighbors: for though the Jews deserved extreme evils, yet that promise remained valid,

“He who touches you, touches the apple of my eye.” (<380208>Zechariah 2:8)

Then he adds, who touch my heritage. Here he speaks not ironically as before, but regards simply his own election, as though he had said, — “Whatever the Jews may be, I will yet be consistent with myself, and my covenant shall not fall to the ground; for my faithfulness shall surpass their perfidy.” We must yet bear in mind what I have already stated, — that the whole of this is to be confined to the elect, who were few in number and were hid like twenty or a hundred grains in a large heap of chaff As then the Prophet addresses here especially the elect of God, it is no wonder that he calls them God’s heritage, not for the sake of upbraiding them., as he had done before, but because God really loved them and would have them to be saved. There is another thing to be noticed, — that God had in view the Idumeans as well as the Ammonites, Sidonians, and Tyrians, who had unjustly oppressed his people. The Ammonites and the Moabites were by kindred connected, for they both derived their origin from Lot, the nephew of Abraham. As to the Idumeans, they were the descendants of Esau, all of the same family; and they knew that the Jews had been chosen by God. Hence God here shews that he himself was injured, when such wrongs were done to his people.

We hence see why God calls here Israel his heritage; which, he says, by heritage I have possessed. Here he takes away from the neighboring nations every handle for evasion; as though he had said, — “Though the Jews have sinned, yet these are not their judges; nor have they any right to punish them for their unfaithfulness: it has been my will to choose them for mine heritage.” We thus see that these words are emphatical, their import being, that God would punish the wrongs done to his people, because his own majesty was insulted, inasmuch as no regard was shewn to his adoption: nor had the heathells any right to inquire whether the Jews were worthy or not; for it had pleased God to take them under his protection. fC38

He then adds, Behold, I will pluck them up from their land, and the house of Judah will I pluck up from the midst of them. He mentions here two kinds of plucking up. He says first, that he would by force expel the Idumeans and drive them far into exile; for this is the meaning, when he says, I will pluck them up, as tn nutash, is to draw out by force. The word is often found in the prophets, especially in reference to the Church,

“I have planted and will pluck up,” (<244504>Jeremiah 45:4:)

We have also seen the following,

“I have set thee to plant and to pluck up,” (<240110>Jeremiah 1:10)

this was to shew the power of prophetic truth. And he says here, “I will pluck up,” or eradicate them, as some render it; but as this word (eradicabo) is not Latin, let us retain evellam — I will pluck up; only you must understand that what it properly means is, to draw up by the roots, and that by force: I will pluck up, he says, the Idumeans, the Ammonites, the Moabites, and all other neighboring nations, from their land, because they have violated mine heritage, even the people chosen by me: therefore they themselves shall be driven into remote exile and into captivity, according to what is said elsewhere,

“Remember the children of Edom, who said in the day of Jerusalem,” etc., (<19D707>Psalm 137:7)

and we shall hereafter see that this was fulfined; for the Prophet will presently speak of all these nations, in order that the Jews might perceive that God’s judgment would extend to all parts of the earth. But here the Prophet briefly threatens these nations with vengeance, that he might alleviate the sorrow of the small portion which remained. For as we have said, the body of the people was without hope, as God had given them up, according to what they deserved, to final destruction.

But as God ever reserved a remnant, the Prophet says in this place, The house of Judah will I pluck up from the midst of them: for some had fled to the Moabites and to others, and some had indeed been taken captives and were held in bondage. The Jews, as we know, had been miserably plundered, and some of them had been exposed to sale by these nations. Hence God here promises that he would be at length entreated by his people, so as to gather the remnant from the Moabites as well as from the Idumeans and other heathen nations. This second plucking up is therefore to be taken in a good sense; for the Prophet promises deliverance here to God’s elect: and yet he suitably employs the same word, in order to set forth the cruelty of these nations, who would have never winingly given them up, had not God by force rescued from their tyranny the innocent Israelites — that is, innocent with regard to them. “I will,” he says, “draw them out by force;” as though he had said, — “However obstinate may be the cruelty of all these nations, by whom my people shall be taken captive, I will yet be stronger than they, so that I shall bring forth the captives, though they who consider them as perpetual slaves may resist with all their power.”

And this also have we found in our time; for how hard was our bondage under the Papacy? and was not also its tyranny almost unconquerable? But God put forth his power and drew forth a few from under its cruel domination. In the same manner he promised formerly to the remnant of his people, that he would be so merciful to them as to rescue them from the yoke of tyranny. It follows —

<241215>Jeremiah 12:15

15. And it shall come to pass, after that I have plucked them out, I will return, and have compassion on them, and will bring them again, every man to his heritage, and every man to his land.

15. Et erit postquam extraxero illos, revertar et miserebor ipsorum, et redire ipsos faciam (vel, reducam) unumquenque ad haereditem suam, et unumquenque ad terram suam.

 

God does not only promise mercy here to the Jews, but also to heathen nations, of whom he would be the Judge, to punish them for the sake of his people. And that this passage is to be extended to aliens is evident from the context; for the Prophet immediately adds, “And it shall be, that when they shall learn the ways of my people, to swear in my name, Live does Jehovah, as they have taught my people to swear by Baal, then shall they be built in the midst of my people.” We hence see that God would not only shew mercy to the remnant of his elect people, but also to their enemies.

If it be objected, — that thus God’s favor, manifested towards the children of Abraham, was obscured, the answer is, — that this availed much to confirm the hope of the faithful; for they had not only to look for their own salvation, but also for that of their enemies, whom God would gather together with them. Thus God rendered double his favor to the Israelites. The Prophet also in this place confirms in a striking manner the confidence of the faithful; for he says that God would be merciful even to their enemies for their sake, as they would be saved in common with themselves. We now then understand the object of the Prophet, when he declares, that God, after having drawn out the Gentiles from their own countries, would again be merciful to them, so as to restore every one of them to their own inheritance and to their own place.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that as at this day such a dreadful scattering terrifies us on every side, we may learn to raise up our eyes above the world and to hope for that which is now hidden from us, even that in executing thy judgments on the Church as well as on aliens, thou wilt be so merciful to the whole world, as that we may be gathered into the unity of faith: and may we labor to devote ourselves wholly to thy service and cultivate brotherly concord among ourselves: until we shall at length enjoy that eternal inheritance, which has been obtained for us by the blood of thine only — begotten Son. — Amen.


Lecture Fifty-First

We said in our last Lecture that God here promises pardon and salvation to alien nations, provided they repented, and that he did this, that he might more fully confirm his promises to his elect people. We indeed know that all nations were then excluded from the covenant of God: as, then, he would extend his mercy even to them, the Jews might with some confidence entertain hope, since they were already as it were near to God, he having adopted them as his peculiar people and heritage.

And this is what may be easily gathered from the context; for God declares that he would draw forth his own elect from these nations; and then he adds, that he would proceed still further, that he would even receive into favor those who had been previously his enemies. Hence he says, After 1 shall draw them out, I will return, fC39 and shew mercy to them. He speaks this of aliens: And I will restore them, he says, every one to his heritage and to his own land. It now follows —

<241216>Jeremiah 12:16

16. And it shall come to pass, if they will diligently learn the ways of my people, to swear by my name, The Lord liveth; (as they taught my people to swear by Baal) then shall they be built in the midst of my people.

16. Et accidet, Si discendo didicerint vias populi mei ad jurandum per nomen meum, vivit Jehova, sicuti docuerunt populum meum jurare (ad verbum, ad jurandum) per Baal, tunc aedificabuntur in medio populi mei.

 

We see that this refers to the Gentiles, who were previously aliens to the grace of God; nay, they entertained the most dire hatred towards his chosen people. In short, God declares that he would be merciful and propitious to these miserable nations, of whose salvation no hope was entertained, for they had been rejected by him, and they had oftell and long, and in various ways, provoked his vengeance; and though he speaks of neighbors, as we have seen, yet this prediction belongs generally to the whole world, and was at length fulfined in the call of the Gentiles; for God then gathered a Church indiscriminately both from the Jews and the Gentiles.

But a condition is here laid down — If the Gentiles, who had hitherto opposed the true worship of God, received his law. We indeed know how much hated was true religion, especially by the neighboring nations; for their hatred was increased, because they saw that their superstitions were condenmed by this one people. As then they had been greatly incensed against God and the pure doctrine of his law, he now requires a change in them; If they will learn, he says, the ways of my people. By the ways of his people he understands what he had commanded. The people of Israel had indeed often departed from true religion; but God here refers to himself rather than to their perverse conduct, for the law had not been abolished by the wickedness and ingratitude of his people. We hence see that, by the ways of his people, we are not to understand those glosses which the Jews had devised, but the law itself, which God had delivered to them. The authority of men, therefore, cannot be hence established, as though they had power to frame a religion for themselves; but God means only that by his good pleasure alone the Jews had been taught what was right. In short, Jeremiah understands the ways of the people passively, not those which the people had contrived for themselves, but such as they had received from above.

It is then added, That they may swear in my name. The expression is a part for the whole, for in it is included the whole worship and service of God. Swearing, as we have said elsewhere, is a part of God’s worship and of true religion, for we profess that we ourselves and our life are in God’s hand when we swear by his name; and we also refer judgment to him, and own that he is really God, inasmuch as he knows our hearts and judges of hidden things. All these things are included in swearing. It is therefore no wonder that, in this place and in many other places, the whole of religion is designated by this expression, according to what is said elsewhere,

“Swear shall they all in my name, Live do I, saith Jehovah; to me shall bend every knee, and by me shall every tongue swear.”
(
<234523>Isaiah 45:23)

And as by the altar, in another place, is meant the worship of God, so here by swearing. The meaning is, — that if the Gentiles became so changed as to submit their neck to the yoke of the law, and allow themselves to be ruled by God, they would be made partakers of the mercy which the Jews had before enjoyed.

Then follows the common form of swearing, Live does Jehovah. So the Scripture speaks everywhere; and by these words men do not merely testify that they swear by the life of God, but they also ascribe eternity to him, as though it was said, “God alone exists:” for no life is anywhere to be found but in God. Men, indeed, and brute animals, and even trees, are said to live; but in trees there is only vigor without the senses, in brutes the senses without reason and understanding; but in men the life is light; yet they live not by or of themselves, but they derive life from God, according to what we see on the earth, on which light shines; but we know that there is really no light where we dwell but what descends and is conveyed to us by the rays of the sun. In the same manner it may be said that life dwells in men, being conveyed to them by the hidden power of God. Nor do angels, properly speaking, live of themselves. We hence see the meaning of the words, Live does Jehovah. The eternity of God is hereby set forth; he is also owned as the Judge of the world; and further, whatever he claims for himself, men thus testify that it is justly and by right his due.

It afterwards follows, As they taught my people to swear by Baal. The corruptions of heathens had greatly prevailed among the chosen people; and the greater part, when they saw that the nations prospered, had cast aside every care for true worship and sincere religion. As then the Jews had been so much given to the superstitions of the heathens, the Prophet says, speaking in God’s name, — “If the Gentiles, who have hitherto taught my people to swear by Baal, who have drawn them away to their own idolatries and fictitious and false forms of worship, begin now to swear by my name, faithfully to worship me alone, they shall be built in the midst of my people.” The metaphor of building is very common; but in this place God intimates no more than that the Gentiles would become a part of his flock, when they cast away their superstitions, and embraced the pure worship prescribed in the law. Nor is this to be applied to any particular place, as some have frigidly explained it, but “in the midst of the people,” is the same as though he had said, — “I will count those nations my people, as a part of my Church,” according to what is said in the Psalms, — that though the Tyrians and Sidonians, and Egyptians, and others who had been hostile nations, were born here and there, yet they would boast that they were all born at Jerusalem when God owned them as members of his own people. (<19D803>Psalm 138:3, 4) fC40 It follows —

<241217>Jeremiah 12:17

17. But if they will not obey, I will utterly pluck up and destroy that nation, saith the Lord.

17. Quod si non audierint, tunc evellam (copula etiam hic accipitur pro adverbio temporis) gentem illam, evellendo et perdendo, dicit Jehova.

 

As he had shewn that there was a sure hope of salvation to his own people, when the Gentiles would embrace his mercy, so he now threatens the Gentiles with destruction in case they repented not; for he had promised to be merciful to the Gentiles conditionally, and said, — “If they learn the ways of my people, if they submit to my authority:” but now he says, if they will not hear, etc. We hence see that God here threatens extreme vengeance to the Gentiles if they subjected not themselves to his yoke, so as to render obedience to him. His object, no doubt, was to terrify the Jews as well as the nations; for as the Gentiles could not with impunity despise God, though unknown to them, how inexcusable would the Jews be, who had from their infancy imbibed the true knowledge of the law, if, after the manner of the Gentiles, they were perverse and intractable?

We in short see that God, on one side, sweetly allured the Jews to render a wining obedience to his law, and, on the other, he threatened them; for as he could by no means bear with the perverseness of the Gentiles, much less could the Jews hope to escape punishment. This is the import of the passage. Now follows another prophecy —


CHAPTER 13

<241301>Jeremiah 13:1-9

1. Thus saith the Lord unto me, Go and get thee a linen girdle and put it upon thy loins, and put it not in water.

1. Sic dicit Jehova mihi, Vade et compara tibi cingulum lineum, et pone illud super renes tuos, et in aquas ne inferas illud.

2. So I got a girdle, according to the word of the Lord, and put it on my loins,

2. Et comparavi mihi cingulum (paravi, ad verbum) sicuti mandave-rat Jehova, et posui (vel, applicavi) illud ad renes meos.

3. And the word of the Lord came unto me the second time, saying,

3. Et factus est sermo Jehovae ad me secundo, dicendo,

4. Take the girdle that thou hast got, which is upon thy loins, and arise, go to Euphrates, and hide it there in a hole of the rock.

4. Tolle cingulum quod comparasti, quod est super renes tuos, et surge, proficiscere (vel, surgens proficiscere) ad Euphratem, et absconde illic in foramine petrae.

5. So I went, and hid it by Euphrates, as the Lord commanded me.

5. Et profectus sum et abscondi Euphrate, quemadmodum praeceperat Jehova mihi.

6. And it came to pass after many days, that the Lord said unto me, Arise, go to Euphrates, and take the girdle from thence, which I commanded thee to hide there,

6. Et accidit post finem (a fine ad verbum) dierum multorum, et dixit (hoc est, ut diceret) Jehova mihi, Surge et proficiscere ad Euphratem, et tolle illinc cingulum, de quo praecepi tibi ut absconderes illic.

7. Then I went to Euphrates, and digged, and took the girdle from the place where I had hid it; and, behold, the girdle was marred, it was profitable for nothing.

7. Et profectus sum ad Euphratem, et fodi et sustuli cingulum e loco ubi illic absconderam; et ecce corruptum erat cingulum, non proderat ad omne (hoc est, ad quicquam)

8. Then the word of the Lord came unto me, saying,

8. Et factus est sermo Jehovae ad me, dicendo,

9. Thus saith the Lord, After this manner will I mar the pride of Judah, and the great pride of Jerusalem.

9. Sic dicit Jehova, In hune modum corrumpam excellentiam Jehudah et excellentiam Jerusalem magnam (vel, altitudinem)

 

I have said that there is here a new prophecy; for the Prophet is said to buy for himself a girdle or a belt, or, according to some, a truss or breeches; and as mention is made of linen, this opinion may be probable; but rwza, asur, means not only the breeches which they then wore, but also a girdle or belt, according to what Isaiah says, when, speaking figuratively of Christ’s kingdom, that faithfulness would be the girdle of his loins. (<231105>Isaiah 11:5) It, may here, however, be taken for breeches as well as for a girdle. fC41

As to the matter in hand, it makes no great difference. The Prophet then is bidden to buy for himself a linen girdle or a linen breeches, and he is also bidden to go to Euphrates, and to hide the girdle in a hole. He is again bidden to go the second time to Euphrates, and to draw the girdle from the hole, and he found it marred. The application follows; for God declares that he would thus deal with the Jews; though he had had them as a belt, he would yet cast them away. As he had adorned them, so he designed them to be an ornament to him; for the glory of God shines forth in his ChurJeremiah The Jews then, as Isaiah says, were a crown of glory and a royal diadem in God’s hand. (<236203>Isaiah 62:3) Hence he compares them here most fitly to a belt or a girdle. Though then their condition was honorable, yet God threatens that he would cast them away; so that, being hidden, they might contract rottenness in a cavern of the Euphrates, that is, in Assyria and Chaldea. This is the meaning of the prophecy.

But no doubt a vision is here narrated, and not a real transaction, as some think, who regard Jeremiah as having gone there; but what can be imagined more absurd? He was, we know, continually engaged in his office of a teacher among his own people. Had he undertaken so long a journey, and that twice, it would have taken him some months. Hence contentious must he be, who urges the words of the Prophet, and holds that he must have gone to the Euphrates and hidden there his girdle. We know that this form of speaking is common and often used by the prophets: they narrate visions as facts.

We must also observe, that God might have spoken plainly and without any similitude; but as they were not only ignorant, but also stupid, it was found necessary to reprove their torpidity by an external symbol. This was the reason why God confirmed the doctrine of his Prophet by an external representation. Had God said, “Ye have been to me hitherto as a belt, ye were my ornament and my glory, not indeed through your merit or worthiness, but because I have united you to myself, that ye might be a holy people and a priestly kingdom; but now I am constrained to cast you away; and as a person throws from him and casts a girdle into some hole, so that after a long time he finds it rotten, so it will be with you, after having been hidden a long time beyond Euphrates; ye shall there contract rottenness, which will mar you altogether, so that your appearance will be very different, when a remnant of you shall come from thence:” This indeed might have been sufficient; but in that state of security and dullness in which we know the Jews were, such a simple statement would not have so effectually penetrated into their hearts, as when this symbol was presented to them. The Prophet, therefore, says, that he was girded with a belt, that the belt was hid in a hole near Euphrates, and that there it became marred; and then he adds, so shall it be done to you. This statement, as I have said, more sharply touched the Jews, so that they saw that the judgment of God was at hand.

With regard to the similitude of girdle or breeches, we know how proudly the Jews gloried in the thought that God was bound to them; and he would have really been so, had they been in return faithful to him: but as they had become so disobedient and ungrateful, how could God be bound to them? He had indeed chosen them to be a people to himself, but this condition was added, that they were to be as a chaste wife, as he had become, according to what we have seen, a husband to them. But they had prostituted themselves and had become shamefully polluted with idols. As then they had perfidiously departed from their marriage engagement, was not God freed from his obligations? according to what is said by Isaiah,

“There is no need to give you a bill of divorcement, for your mother is an adulteress.” (<230101>Isaiah 1:1)

The Prophet then, in this place, meant in a few words to shake off from the Jews those vain boastings in which they indulged, when they said that they were God’s people and the holy seed of Abraham. “True,” he says, “and I will concede more to you, that you were to God even as a belt, by which men usually adorn themselves; but God adopted you, that you might serve him chastely and faithfully; but now, as ye have made void his covenant, he will cast away this belt, which is a disgrace to him and not an ornament, and will throw it into a cavern where it will rot.” Such is the view we are to take of this belt, as we shall hereafter see more clearly.

The Prophet, by saying that he went to the Euphrates, confirms what he had narrated: he did not indeed mean that he actually went there, but his object was to give the Jews a vivid representation. It is then what Rhetorians call a scene presented to the view; though the place is not changed, yet the thing is set before the eyes by a lively description. fC42 Thus the Prophet, as the Jews were deaf, exhibited to their view what they would not hear. This is the reason why he says that he went. For the same purpose is what follows, that at the end of many days God had bidden him to take out the girdle. Here also is signified the length of the exile. As to the hole in a rock, what is meant is disgrace; for without honor and esteem the Jews lived in banishment, in the same manner as though they were cast into a cavern. Hence by the hole is signified their ignoble and base condition, that they were like persons removed from the sight of all men and from the common light of day. By the end of many days, is meant, as I have said, the length of their exile, for in a short time they would not have become putrified, and except indeed this had been distinctly expressed, they would have never been convinced of the grievousness of the calamity which was nigh them. Hence he says that the days would be many, so that they might contract putridity while hidden in the hole.

As to the application of the Prophecy, the Prophet then distinctly describes it; but he sets forth with sufficient clearness the main point, when he says, Thus will I mar the stateliness (altitudinem, the altitude or height) of Judah and the great stateliness of Jerusalem. Other interpreters unanimously render the word, pride; but as ˆwag gaun, may be taken in two senses, it means here, I have no doubt, excellency, and this will appear more fully from what follows. fC43 The word then signifies here that dignity with which God had favored the seed of Abraham, when he intended them to be an ornament to himself. So it is said in <021507>Exodus 15:7,

“In thy greatness thou wilt destroy the nations.”

And in Isaiah he says,

“I will make thee the excellency of ages.” (<236015>Isaiah 60:15)

There no doubt it is to be taken in a good sense. And these things harmonize together, — that God had prepared the Jews for himself as a belt, and then that he cast them from him into a cavern, where they would be for a time without any light and without any glory.

The import of this clause then is, “Though the dignity of Judah and Jerusalem has been great, (for the people whom God had adopted were renowned according to what is said in <050401>Deuteronomy 4) though then the stateliness of Judah and Jerusalem has been great, yet I will mar it.” We see how the Prophet takes from the Jews that false confidence by which they deceived themselves. They might indeed have gloried in God, had they acted truly and from the heart: but when they arrogated all things to themselves, and deprived God of his authority, whose subjects they were, how great was their vanity and folly, and how ridiculous always to profess his sacred name, and to say, We are God’s people? for he was no God to them, as they esteemed him as nothing; nay, they disdainfully and reproachfully rejected his yoke. We hence see that the word ˆwag gaun, is to be taken here in a good sense. The Prophet at the same time reproachfully taunts them, that they abused the name of God and falsely pretended to be his people and heritage. The rest we cannot finish; we shall go on with the subject to-morrow.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that as so many of the people who have been gathered by thee, that they might be the body of thine only-begotten Son, have fallen away, and have by their ingratitude alienated themselves from the hope of eternal salvation, — O grant, that they may again at this day be united together, and hold with us the true unity of faith, so that with one heart and one mouth we may profess thee as our God and Father, and so learn to swear by thy name, that we may acknowledge thee as our Judge, and ascribe to thee all power over us, until we shall at length enjoy that eternal inheritance, into the hope of which thou hast called us and daily invitest; us, through Christ Jesus our Lord. — Amen.


Lecture Fifty-Second

<241310>Jeremiah 13:10

10. This evil people, which refuse to hear my words, which walk in the imagination of their heart, and walk after other gods, to serve them, and to worship them, shall even be as this girdle, which is good for nothing,

10. Populus hic malus fC44 renuentes audire verba mea, ambulantes in pravitate cordis sui; et ambulant post deos alienos ut serviant ipsis et adorent ipsos; eterunt (collectivum nomen populi est singulare) tanquam baltheus hic, quiad nihilum prodest (qui ad quiquam non est utilis)

 

The Prophet said, according to what we observed yesterday, that the people would be like the belt which he had hidden in a hole and found putrified: but now the cause is expressed why God had resolved to treat them with so much severity. He then says that he would be an avenger, because the Jews had refused to obey his voice, and preferred their own inventions in walking after the hardness, or the wickedness of their own heart. We hence see that the cause of this calamity was, that the people had rejected the teaching of the prophets. This indeed was far more grievous than if they had fallen away through mistake or ignorance, as we often see that men go miserably astray when the teaching of the truth is taken away. But when God shews the way, and prescribes what is right, when by his servants he exhorts his people, it is an inexcusable hardness if men repudiate such a kindness. But as this subject has been elsewhere largely treated, I shall only touch on it now briefly.

We see then that God threatens his people with extreme calamity, because they would not. bear to be taught by his prophets. Then he adds, that they had walked after the wickedness of their own heart, and had walked after foreign gods. He in the first place complains that they had been so refractory as to prefer to obey their own impious inclinations than to be ruled by good and salutary counsels. But it was necessary to specify their crime; for had the Prophet only spoken of their hardness, they might have had their objections ready at hand; but when he said that they had walked after foreign gods, there was no longer any room for evasion. The word to walk has a reference to a way. This metaphor has indeed a relation to something else; for men are not wont to take a course without going somewhere, we must therefore have some end in view when we walk along any way. Now, there is to be understood here a contrast, that the people despised the way pointed out to them by God, and that they had preferred to follow their own errors. God was ready to guide the Jews; by his own law; but they chose rather, as I have said, to abandon themselves to their own errors, as it were designedly.

He says, that they had walked after alien gods, that they might serve them, and prostrate themselves before them; for such is the meaning of the last verb. The Prophet no doubt repeats the same thing, for to serve is not only to obey, but also to worship. And hence is refuted that folly of the Papists, who imagine that worship (duliam) is not inconsistent with true religion; for they say that service (latriam) is due only to God, but that worship may be given to angels, to statues, or to dead men, as though God, forsooth! in condemning superstitions, did not use the word db[ obed, to serve. It hence follows that it is extremely ridiculous to devise two sorts of worship, one peculiar to God, and another common to angels as well as to men and dead idols. We now understand the import of this verse: the Prophet draws this conclusion, that the Jews would become like a useless or a putrefied belt. It afterwards follows —

<241311>Jeremiah 13:11

11. For as the girdle cleaveth to the loins of a man, so have I caused to cleave unto me the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah, saith the Lord; that they might be unto me for a people, and for a name, and for a praise, and for a glory: but they would not hear.

11. Quia sicut adhaeret (vel, conjunctus est) baltheus renibus viri, sic conjunxeram (vel, conjunxi) mihi totam domuni Israel, et totam domum Jehudah, dicit Jehova, ut esset mihi in populum et in nomen et in laudem et in decus; et non audierunt.

 

He confirms what we noticed yesterday, — that the Jews entertained a foolish confidence, and promised themselves perpetual happiness, because God had chosen them as his people. This indeed would have been a perpetual glory to them, had they not violated their pledged faith; but their defection rendered void God’s covenant as far as they were concerned: for though God never suffered his faithfulness to fail, however false and perfidious they were, yet the adoption from which they had departed availed them nothing. But as they thought it an unalienable defense, the Prophet again repeats that they had been indeed adorned with singular gifts, but that, as they had not remained faithful, they would be deprived of them.

He indeed says, by way of concession, As a belt cleaves to the loins of man, so also have I joined to myself the house of Israel; for given to them is what they claimed. But at the same time, he reminds them that they only swelled with wind; for the less tolerable was their impiety, because they were so ungrateful to God. What, indeed, could have been more base or less excusable, than when those whom God had favored with so much honor rejected his bounty? Jeremiah then concedes to them what they proudly boasted of; but he retorts it on their own heads, and shews how they deserved a heavier judgment, as they had despised so many of God’s blessings.

We said yesterday that. the people is elsewhere compared to a crown and a diadem, as though God had declared that nothing was more precious to him than the children of Abraham. But the same thing is now expressed in other words, — that he had prepared them for himself as a girdle, that they might be his people. This was indeed a great dignity; but what follows exceeds it, — that they might be to me a name, that is, that I might be celebrated by them; for it was his will to be called the God of Israel. What likeness there is between God and men! And yet, as though descending from his celestial glory, he united to himself the seed of Abraham, that he might also bind them to himself. The election of God was therefore like a bond of mutual union, so that he might not be separated from his people. Hence he says that they had been thus joined to him, that they might be for a name, and also for a praise and glory. fC45 Though these words are nearly of the same meaning, yet no doubt they are put together for the sake of amplification. God, therefore, intended to exaggerate more fully the sin of the people, by saying that he had done so much for them, in order that he might be celebrated by them, and that his praise and his glory might dwell among them.

He at last adds, They have not heard. Had God only commanded what he might have justly required, not to obey his authority would have been an inexcusable wickedness in the people; but as he had so freely offered himself and all other things to them, what a base and detestable ingratitude it was in them to reject blessings so many and so valuable? We hence see that the mouths of the Jews are here completely closed, so that they could not expostulate with God, and complain that he was too rigid, for they had in an extreme degree provoked his wrath, having not only rejected his yoke, but also refused his offered favors. It follows —

<241312>Jeremiah 13:12-14

12 Therefore thou shalt speak unto them this word; Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Every bottle shall be filled with wine: and they shall say unto thee, Do we not certainly know that every bottle shall be filled with wine?

12. Dices etiam illis (hoc est, annuntiabis) hunc sermonem, Sic dicit Jehova, Deus Israel, Omnis lagena (alii vertunt, utrem, sed hoc loco parum interest, omnis ergo lagena) implebitur vino: et dicent tibi, An non sciendo scimus (hoc est, An nesciendo non scimus) quod omnis lagena implebitur vino?

13. Then shalt thou say unto them, Thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will fill all the inhabitants of this land, even the kings that sit upon David’s throne, and the priests, and the prophets, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, with drunkenness.

13. Tunc dices illis, Sic dicit Jehova, Ecce ego implens (vel, impleo) omnes habitatores terrae hujus, et omnes reges qui sedent pro Davidae super solium ejus, et sacerdotes et prophetas, et omnes incolas Jerosolymae ebrietate.

14. And I will dash them one against another, even the fathers and the sons together, saith the Lord: I will not pity, nor spare, nor have mercy, but destroy them.

14. Et collidam eos (alii vertunt, dispergam; proprie significat violenter disjicere; hic apte reddetur collidere; collidam ergo) quenque ad fratrem suum et patres et filios simul, dicit Jehova; non parcam et non ero propitius, (idem significant, sunt synonyma) et non miserabor a perdendo (hoc est, quin perdam) ipsos.

 

The Prophet denounces here by another similitude the vengeance of God, for he says that all would be filled with drunkenness: but he is bidden at first simply to set before them the metaphor, Every bottle, or flagon, he says, shall be filled with wine. The word lbr, ubel, means a bladder; but the word bottle is more suitable here. fC46 Bladders were wont in those countries to be filled with water and with wine, as the custom is still in the east; as we see at this day that oil is put in bladders and thus carried, so bladders are commonly used there to carry water and wine; but as it is added, I will dash them against one another, it is better to use the word bottles, or flagons.

This general statement might have appeared to be of no weight; for what instruction does this contain, “Every bottle shall be filled with wine?” It is like what one might say, — that a tankard is made to carry wine, and that bowls are made for drinking: this is well known, even to children. And then it might have been said that this was unworthy of a prophet. “Eh! what dost thou say? Thou sayest that bottles are the receptacles of wine, even as a hat is made to cover the head, or clothes to keep off the cold; but thou seemest to mock us with childish trifles.” We also find that the Prophet’s address was thus objected to, for they contemptuously and proudly answered, “What! do we not know that bottles are prepared for the purpose of preserving wine? But what dost thou mean? Thou boastest of the inspiration of the Holy Spirit: how strange is this? Thou art, like an angel come down from heaven; thou pretendest the name of God, and professest to have the authority of a prophet; now, what does this mean, that bottles are filled with wine?” But it was God’s particular object thus to rouse the people, who were asleep in their delusions, and who were also by no means attentive to spiritual instruction. It was then his purpose to shew, by the most trifling, and as it were by frivolous things, that they were not possessed of so much clear-sightedness as to perceive even that which was most evident. They indeed, all knew that bottles were made for wine; but they did not understand that they were the bottles, or were like bottles. We have indeed said that they were inflated with so much arrogance that they seemed like hard rocks; and hence was their contempt of all threatenings, because they did not consider what they were. The Prophet then says that they were like bottles; though God had indeed chosen them for an excellent use, yet, forgetful of their frailty, they had marred their own excellency, so that they were no longer of any use, except that God would inebriate them with giddiness and also with calamities.

We hence see why God had commanded a general truth to be here announced which was received with indifference and contempt; it was, that an opportunity might be given to the Prophet to touch to the quick those stupid men to whom their own state was wholly unknown. It had been said that they were like mountains, because they had as their foundation the free election of God; but as they had in them no firmness and no constancy of faith, but had decayed, their glory had as it were melted away; and though they still retained an outward appearance, yet they were like brittle vessels; and so their fragility is here better expressed by the Prophet than if, in a plain sentence, he had said, “As a bottle is filled with wine, so will the Lord fill you with drunkenness.” Had he thus spoken, there would not have been so much force in the prediction; but when they answered with disdain, “This is known even to children,” they were then told what more sensibly touched them, — that they were like bottles. fC47

It may now be asked, What was this drunkenness which the Prophet announces? It may be understood in two ways, — either that God would give them up to a reprobate mind, — or that he would make them drunk with evils and calamities; for when God deprives men of a right mind, it is to prepare them for extreme vengeance. But the Prophet seems to have something further in view — that this people would be given up to the most grievous evils, which would wholly fill them with amazement. Yet it appears from the context that the former evil is intended here; for he says, I will dash them one against another, every one against his brother, even the fathers and sons together; and thus they were all to be broken as it were in pieces. God then not only points out the calamity which was nigh the Jews, but also the manner of it; that is, that every one would draw his own brethren to ruin, as though they inflicted wounds on one another. But God says first generally, I will fill all the inhabitants of the land with drunkenness, and then he explains the effect, such as I have stated.

But he afterwards speaks of the whole people, including the kings, priests, and prophets, so that he excepts no order of men, however honorable; and this express mention of different orders was altogether necessary, for kings thought that they ought not to have been blended with the common people. The priests also regarded themselves as sacred, and a similar pride possessed the false prophets. But Jeremiah includes them all, without exception, in the same bundle, as though he had said, — “The majesty of kings shall not deliver them from God’s judgment, nor shall the priests be safe on account of their dignity, nor shall it avail the false prophets to boast of that noble and illustrious office which they discharge.” This prediction was no doubt regarded as very unjust; for we know with what high commendations God had spoken of the kingdom of David. As to the priesthood, we also know that it was a type of the priesthood of Christ, and also that the whole tribe of Levi was counted sacred to God. It could not therefore be but that Jeremiah must have greatly exasperated the minds of all by thus threatening kings as well as priests.

But we hence gather, — that there is nothing so high and so illustrious on earth, which ought not to be made to submit, when the power and glory of God, and the authority of celestial truth, are to be vindicated. Whatever then is precious and excellent in the world must come to nothing, if it derogates even in the least degree from the glory of God or from the authority of his truth: and yet kings and priests dared to oppose the word of God. No wonder then, that the Prophet should thrust them down from their elevations and compare them to bottles: he thus treads under foot that frail glory by which they sought to obscure God himself. And as the name of David was, as it were, sacred among that people, in order to shake off this vain confidence, the Prophet says, — “Though kings sit on the throne of David and be his successors and posterity, yet God will not spare them.” fC48 And hence also it appears how foolishly the Papal clergy at this day bring forward against us their privileges and their dignity. Doubtless, whatever these unprincipled men may claim for themselves, they cannot yet make themselves equal to the Levitical priests: and yet we see that it availed them nothing, that God had set them apart for himself, because they had abused their power. There is, therefore, no reason for the Pope and his clergy, the very filth of the world, to be at this day so proud. We now perceive the design of the words, when mention is made of kings, priests, and prophets.

It must, however, be observed, that, he does not speak here of faithful prophets, but of those who wore the mask, while yet they brought nothing but chaff instead of wheat, as we shall hereafter see. He then uses the word prophets in an improper sense, for he applies it to false teachers, as we do at this day, when we speak of those savages who boast that they are bishops and prelates and governors: we indeed concede to them these titles, but it does not follow that they justly deserve to be counted bishops, though they are so called. In the same way then does Jeremiah speak here of those who were called prophets, who yet were wholly unworthy of the office.

He then speaks of the collision to which we have referred, — I will cause them to tear or break one another in pieces. Some render the word “scatter;” but scattering does by no means comport with the words, every one, against his brother, etc. fC49 We hence see that the meaning is much more suitable when we render the words, I will dash them, every one against his brother, and then, even the fathers and the sons together; so that they might tear one another by a mutual conflict. And hence, as I have said, Jeremiah not only foretells the destruction of the people, but also points out the manner of it; for they would become so void of common prudence, that they would willfully destroy one another, as though they were given up to mutual slaughter. They gloried, we know, in their number, but the Prophet shews that this would be no protection to them, but, on the contrary, the cause of their ruin; for the Lord would so blind them, that they would fight with one another, and thus perish without any foreign enemy.

He then adds, I will not spare, I will not spare, fC50 I will not have mercy. He repeats three times that he would not be propitious to them. It would have been sufficient to declare this once, were they so teachable and attentive as really to consider the threatenings announced to them; but being so torpid as they were, it was necessary to repeat the same thing often; not as though there was anything ambiguous or obscure in the message itself, but because hardly any vehemence was sufficient to rouse hearts so obstinate. We hence see why the Prophet repeated the same thing so often. He, however, does not employ words uselessly: whenever God repeats the promises of his favor, he does not utter words heedlessly and without reason; but since he sees that there is in us so much dulness, that one promise is not sufficient, he confirms it by repetitions; so also when he sees that men, owing to their stupidity, cannot be moved nor terrified by his threatenings, he repeats them, that they may have more weight. He in short declares, that it was all over with that people, so that he does not now call the wicked and the rebellious to repentance, but speaks to them as to men past remedy. This is the meaning.

And he adds, Until I shall consume them. fC51 This refers to the whole body of the people. God, in the meantime, still preserved, in a wonderful manner and by hidden means, a remnant, as it has appeared elsewhere: but yet God took that vengeance, which is here denounced on the people as a body; for it was as it were a general death, when they were all driven into exile and everywhere scattered. Now as the Lord in so great a ruin never forgot his covenant, but some seed still remained safe and secure; so what is said here, I will not have mercy until I shall consume them, is not inconsistent with the promise of mercy elsewhere given, when he declares that he is long-suffering and plenteous in mercy. (<041418>Numbers 14:18; <19A308>Psalm 103:8) Though God then destroyed his people in so dreadful a manner, yet he did not divest himself of his own nature, nor cast away his mercy; but he executed his judgments on the reprobate in a way so wonderful, that he yet lost nothing of his eternal mercy and remained still faithful as to his election. It follows —

<241315>Jeremiah 13:15-16

15 Hear ye, and give ear; be not proud: for the Lord hath spoken.

15 Audite et auscultate; ne elevemini, quia Jehova loquutus est.

16 Give glory to the Lord your God, before he cause darkness, and before your feet stumble upon the dark mountains, and, while ye look for light, he turn it into the shadow of death, and make it gross darkness.

16. Date Jehovae Deo vestro gloriam priusquam obtenebrescere faciat, et priusquam offendant pedes vestri ad montes tenebrarum, speretisque lucem, et ponat in umbram mortis et in caliginem.

 

The Prophet shews here more fully what we have stated, — that so refractory was the temper of those with whom he had to do, that it was necessary to use various means to subdue them. And it was not in vain that he added this exhortation, which manifests indignation; nor was it without displeasure that he required a hearing, Hear ye, and give ear; be not lifted up, for the Lord is he who speaks. Then we may hence gather, either that Jeremiah was derided, or that his words were disregarded by the Jews; for this is intimated by the words, For Jehovah has spoken; fC52 for were they of themselves persuaded, that he announced what God had commanded him, these words would have been used to no purpose. But we shall elsewhere see, that he was deemed an impostor, and that he was assailed by many reproofs and curses.

He therefore defends here his calling from their calumnies and reproaches, when he says, that God had spoken; for by these words he affirms that he brought nothing of his own, but spoke as it were from the mouth of God, or, which is the same thing, that he was the instrument of the Holy Spirit; and he said this, in order that they might know that they in vain contended with him, as the contest was between them and God. And on this account he says, Hear ye, and give ear; for he saw that they were deaf and torpid, and had need of many stimulants. He at the same time points out the cause ,and the source of evil by saying, Be ye not lifted up. fC53 The cause then of their contumacy was pride, for they dared to quarrel with God. So also the main principle of obedience is humility, that is, when men acknowledge that they are nothing and ascribe to God what is due to him.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that as we are by nature frail vessels, and our frailty is such that we of ourselves melt away, and when we become stronger we cannot stand by our own power, — O grant, that being supported by thy power, we may indeed rejoice in the perpetuity of our salvation, not indeed relying on any earthly protection, but because thou hast been pleased to choose us as thy people: and may we at the same time so pursue the course of our life, that we may not by our perfidy exclude thy grace from us, but give place to thee, that we may be more and more enriched by those gifts which pertain to the hope of a future life, until we shall at length come to that full and perfect happiness, in thy celestial kingdom, which is laid up for us by Christ our Lord. — Amen.


Lecture Fifty-Third

<241316>Jeremiah 13:16

16 Give glory to the Lord your God, before he cause darkness, and before your feet stumble upon the dark mountains, and, while ye look for light, he turn it into the shadow of death, and make it gross darkness.

16. Date Jehovae Deo vestro gloriam priusquam obtenebrescere faciat, et priusquam offendant pedes vestri ad montes tenebrarum, speretisque lucem, et ponat in umbram mortis et in caliginem.

 

Jeremiah pursues the subject, which we began to explain yesterday, for he saw that the Jews were but little moved by what he taught them. He bid them. to regard what he said as coming from God, and told them that they could by no means succeed by their pride. For the same purpose he now adds, Give glory to Jehovah your God. To give glory to God is elsewhere taken for confessing the truth in his name; for when Joshua abjured Achan, he used these words, “Give glory to God, my son;” that is, As I have set God before you as a judge, beware lest you should think that if you lie you can escape his judgment. (<060719>Joshua 7:19) But here, to give glory to God, is the same as to ascribe to him what properly belongs to him, or to acknowledge his power so as to be submissive to his word: for if we deny faith to the prophets; we rob God of his glory, as we thus disown his power, and, as far as we can, diminish his glory. How indeed can we ascribe glory to God except by acknowledging him to be the fountain of all wisdom, justice, and power, and especially by trembling at his sacred word? Whosoever then does not fear and reverence God, whosoever does not believe his word, he robs him of his glory. We hence see that all the unbelieving, though they may testify the contrary by their mouths, are yet in reality enemies to God’s glory and deprive him of it.

This subject ought to be carefully noticed; for all ought to dread such a sacrilege as this, and yet there is no one who takes sufficient heed in this respect. We then see what instruction this expression conveys; it is as though he had said, that the Jews had hitherto acted contemptuously towards God, for they trembled not before him, as they had no faith in his word: and that it was now time for him to set God before them as their Judge, and also for them to know that they ought to have believed whatever God declared to them by his servants.

He says, Before he introduces darkness. Others render it by a single word, “Before it grows dark,” but as the verb is in Hiphil, it ought to be taken in a causative sense. Some consider the word sun to be understood, but without reason; for the sun is not said to send darkness by its setting. But the Prophet removes all ambiguity by the words which immediately follow in the second clause, And turn light to the shadow of death, and turn it to thick darkness. In these words the Prophet no doubt refers to God, so that the word God, used at the beginning of the verse, is to be understood here. fC54

Before God, he then says, sends darkness, and before your feet stumble on the mountains of obscurity. The word n, neshiph, means the evening and the twilight; it means also the obscure light before the rising of the sun; but it is often taken for the whole night. We can render the words, “the mountains of density.” But the word, no doubt, means here obscurity. Some think that mountains are to be here taken metaphorically for Egypt; for the Jews were wont to flee there in their troubles. But there are safer recesses on mountains than on the plains; yet I know not whether this sense will be very suitable here. On the contrary, I prefer to regard the words as preceded by k, caph, a particle of likeness, which is often understood, and the meaning would be thus suitable, “Before your feet stumble as on obscure mountains:” for there is more light on level grounds than on mountains, for darkness often fills narrow passes: the sun cannot penetrate there; and also the evening does not come on so soon on plains as in the recesses of mountains; for the Prophet refers not to the summits but to the narrow valleys, which receive not the oblique rays of the sun but for a few hours. But what if we give this rendering? “Before your feet stumble at the mountains of darkness;” for la, al, has the meaning of at, fC55 as though the Prophet had said, that the darkness would be so thick that they could not discern mountains opposite them. As in the twilight or in darkness a traveler stumbles at the smallest stones, so also, when the darkness is very thick, even mountains are not perceived. It thus often happens that a person stumbles at mountains, and finds by his feet and his hands a stumblingblock before he perceives it by his eyes. As to myself, I wholly think that this is the right explanation, Before then your feet stumble at the dark mountains.

He afterwards adds, When ye hope for light, he turns it to the shadow of death. The word twmlx, tsalmut, as I have said elsewhere, is thought by grammarians to be composed of lx tsal, “shadow,” and of twm mut, which means “death ;” and they render it “fatal darkness.” Then what he says is, “Before God turns light to darkness, turns it to thick darkness, give to him his glory.” And. hence we perceive more clearly what I have already referred to, that the verb ˚yjy, icheshik, “will cause darkness,” ought to be applied to God.

But the sum of the whole is this, that they could anticipate God’s judgment by admitting him in time as their Judge, and also by receiving his word with more reverence than they had previously done. At the same time he declares that their hope was vain if they promised themselves light. But we must know that light is here to be taken metaphorically, as in many other places, and darkness also, its opposite, is to be so taken. Darkness means adversities, and light, peace and prosperity. The Prophet then says that the Jews deceived themselves, if they thought that their happiness would be perpetual, if they despised God and his prophets; and why? because it would have been the same as to disarm or to deprive him of his power, as though he was not the Judge of the world. He in short shews, that there was nigh at hand a most dreadful vengeance, except the Jews in time anticipated it and submitted themselves to God. It now follows —

<241317>Jeremiah 13:17

17 But if ye will not hear it, my soul shall weep in secret places for your pride; and mine eye shall weep sore, and run down with tears, because the Lord’s flock is carried away captive.

17 Quod si non audieritis hoc, in areanis (hoc est, in secreto) lugebit anima mea a facie superbia (hoc est, propter superbiam) et lachrymando lachrymabitur, et descendet oculus meus in lachrymas (de hac locutione vidimut cap. 9; diffluet ergo oculus meus in lachrymae; ad verbum, et descendet oculus meus lachryma) quoniam abductus est (captus est) grex Jehovae.

 

The Prophet had indirectly threatened them; but yet there was some hope of pardon, provided the Jews anticipated God’s judgment in time and humbled themselves before him. He now declares more clearly that a most certain destruction was nigh at hand, If ye will not hear, he says, weep will my soul in secret. But much weight is in what the Prophet intimates, that he would cease to address them, as though he had said, “I have not hitherto left off to exhort you, for God has so commanded me; but there will be no remedy, if ye as usual harden yourselves against what I teach you. There remains then nothing now for me, except to hide myself in some secret place and there to mourn; for my prophetic office among you is at an end, as ye are unworthy of such a favor from God.”

He does not state simply, If ye will not hear, but he adds a pronoun, this, If ye will not hear this, or it: for the Jews might have raised an objection and said, that they were not disobedient to God, and had prophets among them, as it appeared yesterday; for there were those who deceived them by their flatteries. The Prophet then does not speak indistinctly, for that would have had no effect; but he expressly declares that they were to hear what he had said in the last verse: “Except then,” he says, “ye give glory to God, I will leave you or bid you farewell, and will hide myself in some corner, and there bewail your miseries.” When the Prophet said that nothing remained for him but weeping, he intimated that it was all over with them, and that their salvation was hopeless. The sum of the whole is, that they were not to be always favored with that which they were now despising, that is, to be warned by God’s servants; for if they continued to despise all the prophets, God would withdraw such a favor from them.

The Prophet at the same time shows with what feelings he exercised his prophetic office; for though he knew that he was to perform, the part of an herald, and boldly to denounce on the Jews the calamity which we have observed; he yet ever felt so much pity in his soul, that he bewailed that perverseness which would prove their ruin. The Prophet then connected the two feelings together, so that with a bold and intrepid spirit he denounced vengeance on the Jews, and at the same time he felt commiseration and sympathy.

He then mentions the cause, For taken captive is the flock of Jehovah. Jeremiah might have had indeed a regard also for his own blood. When, therefore, he saw the nation from which he himself sprung miserably perishing, he could not but mourn for their ruin: but he had an especial regard to the favor of God, as was the case also with Paul, (<450902>Romans 9:2, 4, 5) for though he refers to his descent from the Israelites, and assigns this as a reason why he wished to be an anathema from Christ on their account, there were yet other reasons why he spoke highly of them; for he afterwards adds, that the covenant was theirs, that they derived their origin from the fathers, that from them Christ came according to the flesh, who is God, blessed for ever. Paul then so honored and valued the benefits with which the Jews were adorned, that he wished as it were to die for their salvation, and even wished to be an anathema from Christ. There is not the least doubt but Jeremiah for a similar reason adds now, that he would seek retirement or some hidden place where he might bewail the destruction of his people, for it was the flock of Jehovah. fC56 We hence see that it was God’s covenant that made him to shed tears, for he saw that in a manner it failed through the fault of the people. It follows —

<241318>Jeremiah 13:18

18 Say unto the king and to the queen, Humble yourselves, sit down: for your principalities shall come down, even the crown of your glory.

18 Dic regi et dominae, humiliamini (descendite) sedete (hoc est, jacete) quia descendet a capitibus vestris corona decoris vestri (alii vertunt, sescendet altitudines vestrae, pro altitudo vestra; et appositive legunt quod sequitur, corona decoris vestri)

 

The Prophet is here bidden to address his discourse directly to King Jehoiakim and his mother; for the term lady is not to be taken for the queen, the wife of Jehoiakim, but for his mother, who was then his associate in the kingdom, and possessed great authority.  fC57 And there is no doubt but that God thus intended to rouse more fully the community in general; that is, by shewing that he would not spare, no, not the king nor the queen. But we may hence also learn what has already been observed, that the truth announced by the prophets is superior to all the greatness of the world. For it was said before to Jeremiah, “Reprove mountains and rebuke hills;” fC58 and still farther,

“Behold, I have set thee over kingdoms and nations, to pull down and to pluck up,” etc., (<240110>Jeremiah 1:10)

This ought to be carefully noticed; for kings and those who are eminent in the world, think that they are not only, by a singular privilege, exempt from all laws, but also free from every obligation to observe modesty and to avoid shame. Hence it is, that they from their elevation despise God and his prophets. Here God shews, that he supplied the prophets with his word for this end, — that they might close their eyes to all the splendor of the world, and shew no respect of persons, but pull down every height, and bring to order everything that is elevated in this world. Paul also teaches us, that ministers of the gospel are endued with this power;

“Given to us,” he says, “is power against every height that exalteth itself against Christ.” (<471005>2 Corinthians 10:5)

And hence we must observe, that all who are chosen to the office of teaching, cannot faithfully discharge their duty except they boldly, and with intrepid spirit, dare to reprove both kings and queens; for the word of God is not to be restricted to the common people or men in humble life, but it subjects to itself all, from the least to the greatest. This prophecy was no doubt very bitter to the king as well as to the common people; but it behooved Jeremiah to discharge faithfully his office; and this was also necessary, for the king Jehoiakim and his mother thought that they could not possibly be dethroned.

He therefore bids them to descend and to lie down; that is, he bids them to forget their ancient greatness. He does not simply exhort them to repent, but shews, that as they had been so refractory in their pride, the punishment of disgrace was nigh at hand, for the Lord would with a strong hand lay them prostrate. It is not then an exhortation that the Prophet gives; but he only foretells what they little thought of, — that they in vain flattered themselves, for the Lord would in a short time expose them to reproach by casting them down.

And this is evident from what is added, For descend shall the crown of your honor; that is, it shall be taken away from your highnesses, or from your eminencies, or from your heads; for the word har, rashe, means sometimes the head. fC59 But some think that it means here eminencies, and that “the magnificent crown” is put here in apposition.

I have omitted, if I mistake not, to notice one thing; that is, the pride mentioned by the Prophet; except ye hear, weep will my soul in secret on account of pride. Interpreters render it “your pride;” that is, the pride with which the Jews were filled; but I am inclined to take a different view, that the Prophet speaks here of the pride or the great power of those enemies whom the Jews then did not in any degree fear. “Since then,” says the Prophet, “ye are so secure, I will retire and weep by myself, and my soul by mourning shall mourn, yea, my eye shall flow down with tears, on account of the pride of the enemies, who are now so much despised by you;” Let us now proceed —

<241319>Jeremiah 13:19

19 The cities of the south shall be shut up, and none shall open them: Judah shall be carried away captive all of it, it shall be wholly carried away captive.

19 Urbes Austri clausae sunt, et nemo qui aperiat; traductus est (vel, transmigravit) Jehudah totus, translatus est perfecte (perfectione, hoc est, in totum abductus est in captivitatem)

 

By the cities of the south, almost all understand the cities of the tribe of Judah, whose portion was towards the south; and by the cities being shut up, they consider that what is meant is, that they would be forsaken; for they say, that cities are open when they are frequented. But I am con- strained here also to take another view. I take the cities of the south to have been those of Egypt; for we know that the Jews looked there for a refuge, whenever they were attacked by the Assyrians or the Chaldeans. Since then they thought that Egypt would be to them a sort of an asylum, the Prophet declares that all these cities would be closed against them, and that there would be no one to open them; as though he had said, “The Lord will drive you out, and will prevent you to take refuge there.”

He would doubtless have spoken more clearly had he meant the cities of Judah; and besides, as he was at Jerusalem, this way of speaking must have been ambiguous, and even improper; and we shall find him presently speaking of the Assyrians as being in the north. He now then warns them, that Egypt would be closed against them, though they at the same time expected that they would be safe there, and that an easily-borne exile was in their power. As then they foolishly trusted that they would be received by the Egyptians, the Prophet says, that the gates would be closed, and that there would be no one to open them. It then follows, carried away wholly has been Judah, carried away completely; fC60 that is, “Ye shall all be led away into Assyria and Babylon;” which is the north country, according to what afterwards follows, —

<241320>Jeremiah 13:20

20 Lift up your eyes, and behold them that come from the north: where is the flock that was given thee, thy beautiful flock?

20 Levate oculos vestros, et aspicite venientesab aquilone: ubigrex qui datus fuerat tibi? Oves decoris tui?

 

We here see that Egypt and Chaldea are set in opposition, the one to the other; as though the Prophet had said, “Whenever anything is said to you about the Chaldeans, ye turn your eyes to Egypt, as though that would be a quiet residence for you; but God will prevent you from having any escape there. Now see, see your enemies who are coming from another quarter, even from Chaldea. Lift up then your eyes.” As they were so very intent on their present ease, he bids them to lift up their eyes, that they might see farther than they were wont to do.

He then says, Where is the flock which had been given to thee? and the sheep of thy glory? It is through pity that the Prophet thus speaks; for he saw by the Spirit the whole land deserted, and in wonder he asks, “What does this mean, that the flock is scattered which had been given to thee?” He addresses the people under the character of a woman, as he does often in other places. fC61 In short, he confirms what he had said before, — that he would go to some secret place, if the people were not influenced by his doctrine, and that he would there by himself deplore their calamity; but he employs other words, and at the same time intimates, that he alone had eyes to see, as others were blind, for God had even taken from them understanding and discernment. The Prophet then shews here that he saw the dreadful desolation that was soon to come; and therefore as one astonished he asks, Where is the flock with which God had enriched the land? and further he asks, Where are the sheep which possessed a magnificent honor or beauty? It follows —

<241321>Jeremiah 13:21

21 What wilt thou say when he shall punish thee? for thou hast taught them to be captains, and as chief over thee: shall not sorrows take thee, as a woman in travail?

21 Quid dices, cum visitaverit super to? Et tu (hoc est, atqui tu) docuisti (hoc est, assuefecisti) illos super to duces in caput: annon dolores apprehendent to tanquam mulierem parturientem?

 

As the Prophet observed that the Jews were in no way moved, he addressed them still further, and set before them what seemed then incredible, even the calamity, from which they thought they were able easily to defend themselves by means of their auxiliaries.

He then adds, What wilt thou then say? For the false teachers made a clamor, and whenever Jeremiah began to speak, they violently assailed him, and the common people also wantonly barked at him. As then they thus petulantly resisted God and his truths, the Prophet intimates that the time would come when they should become mute through shame: What wilt thou say then? he says, “Ye are now very talkative, and God cannot obtain a hearing from you; but he will check your wantonness, when the enemy shall distress you.” It is the same as though he had said, “It will not be the time then for your loquacity, for the Lord will constrain you to be silent.”

Some refer to God what follows, When, he shall visit you; but it ought on the contrary to be applied to the Chaldeans; for he immediately adds, But thou hast accustomed them, etc. There is indeed a change or an anomaly of number, but this is common in the prophets. When he uses the singular, the head of the army is referred to, but afterwards the whole forces are included. What then wilt thou say, when the enemy shall visit thee? He then adds, But then, etc.; that is, “If thou seekest to cast blame on others, when the Assyrians and the Chaldeans shall overwhelm thee, thou wilt attempt it in vain? for thou hast opened a passage for them, and hast accustomed them to be thy leaders over thy head.” For the Assyrians had a long time before been sent for by the Israelites; and the Jews also had formed confederacies with the Chaldeans against the Assyrians, before these monarchies were united. As then they had called them in as auxiliaries, they had accustomed them to rule, and, as it were, had set them over themselves. The case was similar to that of the Turks at this day, were they to pass over to these parts and exercise their authority; for it might be asked the French kings and their counsellors, “Whose fault it is that the Turks come to us so easily? It is because ye have prepared for them the way by sea, because ye have bribed them, and your ports have been opened to them; and yet they have wilfully exercised the greatest cruelty towards your subjects. All these things have proceeded from yourselves; ye are therefore the authors of all these evils.” So also now the Prophet upbraids the Jews, because they had accustomed the Chaldeans to be their leaders; and as they had set them over their own heads, he says to them, that it was no wonder that they were now so troublesome and grievous to them. fC62

He afterwards says, Shall not sorrows lay hold on thee as on a woman in travail? By this comparison he intimates, that the Jews gained nothing by their vain hopes; for when they should say, peace and security, destruction, such as they by no means expected, would suddenly come upon them. This similitude we know often occurs, and it is a very apt one; for a woman with child may be very cheerful and quietly enjoying herself, and yet a sudden pain may seize her. So also it will be with the wicked; they cannot now bear to hear anything sad or alarming, and they drive from them every fear as far as possible; but the more they harden themselves, the heavier is God’s vengeance which follows them, and which will overtake them suddenly and unexpectedly. As then it was incredible to the Jews, that the Chaldeans would soon come to lay waste their land, he says to them, “Surely sorrows will take hold on you, though you look not for them. Though a woman with child thinks not of her coming pain, yet it comes suddenly and cannot be driven away; so you will gain nothing by heedlessly promising to yourselves continual peace and quietness.” I cannot finish what follows today if I go on farther; I shall therefore put it off to the next Lecture.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that as we are so slothful to hear thee, yea, inasmuch as our minds are taken up with so many vanities so that we deceive ourselves, — O grant, that thy Holy Spirit may so illuminate us, that we may not despise thy threatenings, but may learn to anticipate in time thy judgment, and thus obtain pardon; that being mindful of thy mercy, we may pursue the course of our calling, until we shall at length be received into that blessed rest, which has been obtained for us by thy only-begotten Son. — Amen.


Lecture Fifty-Fourth

<241322>Jeremiah 13:22

22 And if thou say in thine heart, Wherefore come these things upon me? For the greatness of thine iniquity are thy skirts discovered, and thy heels made bare.

22 Quod si dixeris in corde suc, cur (vel, ut quid) haec mala acciderunt mihi (occurrerunt mihi?) in multitudine (hoc est, propter multitudinem) iniquitatis tuae discoopertae sunt fimbriae tuae, et nudati calces tui (vel, plantae tuae nudatae sunt)

 

The Prophet again declares that God’s judgment would be just, which he had previously foretold; for hypocrites, we know, do not cease to quarrel with God, except they are often proved guilty; and it is always their object, where they cannot wholly excuse themselves, to extenuate in some measure their fault. The Prophet therefore here removes every pretense for evasion, and declares that they were wholly worthy of such a reward.

But his manner of speaking ought to be noticed, If thou wilt say in thine heart, etc. Hypocrites do not only claim for themselves righteousness before the world, but they also deceive themselves, and the devil so dementates them with a false persuasion, that they seek to be counted just before God. This then is what the Prophet sets forth when he says, If thou wilt say in thine heart, Why have these evils happened to me? fC63 that is, if thou seekest by secret murmuring to contend with God, the answer is ready, — Because of the multitude of thine iniquity, discovered are thy skirts, and thy heels are denuded.” The multitude of iniquity he calls that perverse wickedness which prevailed among the Jews; for they had not ceased for a long time to provoke the wrath of God. Had they only once sinned, or had been guilty of one kind of sin, there would have been some hope of pardon, at least God would not have executed a punishment so severe; but as there had been an uninterrupted course of sinning, the Prophet shews that it would not be right to spare them any longer.

As to the simile, it is a form of speaking often used by the prophets, that is, to denude the soles of the feet, and to discover the skirts. We know that; men clothe themselves, not only to preserve them from cold. but that they also cover the body for the sake of modesty: there is therefore a twofold use of garments, the one occasioned by necessity, and the other by decency. As then clothes are partly made for this end — to cover what could not be decently shewn or left bare without shame, the prophets use this mode of speaking when they have in view to shew that one is exposed to public reproaJeremiah fC64 It afterwards follows —

<241323>Jeremiah 13:23

23 Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.

23 An mutabit (sic proprie vertitur) Ethiopa pellem suam, et pardus maculas suas (aut, varietates, nam nomen hoc duplicatum deducitur a rbj, quod significat congregare, significat etiam livorem, accipitur vero hic pro maculis) etiam tu poteris ad benefaciendum, doctus ad malum?

 

God declares in this verse, that the people were so hardened in their wickedness, that there was no hope of their repentance. This is the sum of what is said. But it was a very bitter reproof for the Prophet to say that his own nation were past hope — that they had so entirely given themselves up to their vices that they were no longer healable.

But he uses a comparison, — Can the Ethiopian, fC65 he says, change his skin? Blackness is inherent in the skin of the Ethiopians, as it is well known. Were they then to wash themselves a hundred times daily, they could not put off their blackness. The same also must be said of leopards or panthers, and we know that these animals are besprinkled with spots. Such then is the spotted character of the leopard or panther, fC66 that whatever might be done to him he would still retain his color. We now then see what the Prophet means — that the Jews were so corrupted by long habit that they could not repent, for the devil had so enslaved them that they were not in their right mind; they no longer had any discernment, and could not discriminate between good and evil.

Learned men in our age do not wisely refer to this passage, when they seek to prove that there is no free-will in man; for it is not simply the nature of man that is spoken of here, but the habit that is contracted by long practice. Aristotle, a strong advocate of free will, confesses that it is not in man’s power to do right, when he is so immersed in his own vices as to have lost a free choice, (7. Lib. Ethicon) and this also is what experience proves. We hence see that this passage is improperly adduced to prove a sentiment which is yet true, and fully confirmed by many passages of Scripture.

Jeremiah, then, does not here refer to man’s nature as he is when he comes from the womb; but he condemns the Jews for contracting such a habit by long practice. As, then, they had hardened themselves in doing evil, he says that they could not repent, that wickedness had become inherent, or firmly fixed in their hearts, like the blackness which is inherent in the skin of the Ethiopians, or the spots which belong to the leopards or panthers.

We may at the same time gather from this passage a useful doctrine — that men become so corrupt, by sinful habits and sinful indulgence, that the devil takes away from them every desire and care for acting rightly, so that, in a word, they become wholly irreclaimable, as we see to be the case with regard to bodily diseases; for a chronic disease, in most instances, so corrupts what is sound and healthy in the body, that it becomes by degrees incurable. When, therefore, the body is thus infected for a long time, there is no hope of a cure. Life may indeed be prolonged, but not without continual languor. Now, as to spiritual diseases it is also true, that when putridity has pervaded the inward parts, it is impossible for any one to repent. And yet it must be observed, that we do not speak here of the power of God, but only shew, that all those who harden themselves in their vices, as far as their power is concerned, are incurable, and past all remedy. Yet God can deliver, even from the lowest depths, such as have a hundred times past all recovery. But here, as I have already said, the Prophet does not refer to God’s power, but only condemns his own nation, that they might not complain that God treated them with too much severity.

The meaning then is, that they ought not to have thought it strange that God left them no hope; for they became past recovery, through their own perverseness, as they could not adopt another course of life after having so long accustomed themselves to everything that was evil: Wilt thou also, he says, be able to do good? that is, wilt thou apply thy mind to what is just, who hast been accustomed to evil, or who hast hitherto learnt nothing but to do evil? fC67 We now perceive the design of the Prophet — that they unreasonably sought pardon of God, who had contracted such hardness by a long course of sinning that they were become incurable. It afterwards follows —

<241324>Jeremiah 13:24

24 Therefore will I scatter them as the stubble that passeth away by the wind of the wilderness.

24 Et dispergam (vel, dissipabo) eos quasi stipulam transeuntem ad ventum deserti.

 

This is an inference which Jeremiah draws from the last verse. As long as there is any hope of repentance, there is also room for mercy; God often declares that he is long-suffering. Then the most wicked might object and say, that God is too rigid, because he waits not until they return to a sound mind. Now the Prophet had said that it was all over with the people: here therefore he meets the objection, and shews that extreme calamity was justly brought on them by God, because the Jews had obstinately hardened themselves in their vices and wickedness.

After having shewn, therefore, that corruption was inherent in them, as blackness in the skin of an Ethiopian, and as spots in panthers, he now comes to this conclusion — I will scatter them as stubble which passes away by the wind of the desert. This scattering denotes their exile; as though he had said, “I will banish them, that they may know that they are deprived of the inheritance in which they place their safety and their happiness.” For the Jews gloried in this only — that they were God’s people, because the Temple was built among them, and because they dwelt in the land promised to them. They then thought that God was in a manner tied to them, while they possessed that inheritance. Hence Jeremiah declares, that they would become like stubble carried away by the wind.

He mentions the wind of the desert, that is, the wind of the south, which was the most violent in that country. The south wind, as we know, was also pestilential; the air also was more disturbed by the south wind than by any other, for it raised storms and tempests. Therefore the Scripture, in setting forth any turbulent movement, often adopts this similitude. Some think that Jeremiah alludes to the Egyptians; but I see no reason to seek out any refined explanation, when this mode of speaking is commonly adopted. Then by this similitude of south wind God intimates the great power of his vengeance; as though he had said, “Even if the Jews think that they have a firm standing in the promised land, they are wholly deceived, for God will with irresistible force expel them.” And he compares them to stubble, while yet they boasted that they were like trees planted in that land; and we have before seen that they had been planted as it were by the hand of God; but they wanted the living root of piety, they were therefore to be driven far away like stubble. fC68

Let us then learn from this passage not to abuse the patience of God: for though he may suspend for a time the punishment we deserve, yet when he sees that we go on in our wickedness, he will come to extreme measures, and will deal with us without mercy as those who are past remedy. It follows —

<241325>Jeremiah 13:25

25. This is thy lot, the portion of thy measures from me, saith the Lord; because thou hast forgotten me, and trusted in falsehood.

25. Haec sors tua, portio mensurarum tuarum a me, dicit Jehova; quia oblita es mei, et confisa in mendacio.

 

The Prophet no doubt wished to strip the Jews of their vain confidence, through which they acted arrogantly and presumptuously towards God, while yet they professed his name and claimed his favor. They said that they had obtained that land by an hereditary right, because it had been promised to their father Abraham. This indeed was true. They also said, that the land was God’s rest; and they derived this from the prophets. They said farther that God was their heritage; and this also was true. But since they had wickedly profaned God’s name, he takes from them these false boastings, and says, This is thy lot. But still they said, When God divided the nations, his lot fell on Israel, for so says Moses. (<053208>Deuteronomy 32:8) As then they were wont to say, that God afterwards deceived them, the Prophet here on the other hand reminds them, that they foolishly confided in that lot, because God had rejected them, and did not acknowledge them now as his children, as they were become degenerate and perfidious. This, he says, is thy lot. fC69

We see that there is to be understood here a contrast: God was the lot of the people, and they were also the lot of God, according to the passages to which we have referred. They were the heritage of God, and they boasted that God was their heritage; the land was a symbol and a pledge of this heritage. The Prophet now says: “This lot shall be to thee the portion of thy measures from me.” He alludes to an ancient custom; for they were wont to divide fields and meadows by lines, as they afterwards used poles; and we call such measures in the present day perches (perticas.)

We now then understand what the Prophet means; for he intimates that the Jews vainly and presumptuously and foolishly boasted, that God was their heritage; for he owned them not now as his children: and he also declares that another lot was prepared for them, far different from that of heritage, — that God would banish them from the promised land, which they had polluted by their vices. Thus we see that we ought not presumptuously and falsely to pretend or profess the name of God; for though he has been pleased to choose us as his people, it is yet required of us to be faithful to him; and if we forsake him, the same reward for our impiety will no doubt await us as Jeremiah threatens here to his own nation. Let us then so use the favor of God and of Christ, and all the blessings which are offered to us by the gospel, that we may not have to fear that vengeance which happened to the Jews.

He adds the reason, Because thou hast forgotten me and trusted in falsehood. fC70 By falsehood the Prophet means not only the superstitions in which the Jews involved themselves, but also the false counsels which they adopted, when at one time they had recourse to the Egyptians, at another to some other ungodly nations, in order to get aids in opposition to the will of God. For wherever there was any danger, they thought they had a remedy at hand by having the favor and help of the Egyptians, or of the Assyrians, or of the Chaldeans. In the word falsehood, then, the Prophet includes those perverse designs which they formed, when they sought to defend themselves against God, who would have protected them by his power, had it not been necessary to punish them for their sins. What Jeremiah then condemned in the people was, that they placed their trust in falsehood, that is, that they souglint here and there vain helps, and at the same time disregarded God; nay, they thought themselves safer when God was displeased with them: and hence he says, Thou hast forgotten me. For the Jews could not have sought deliverance from the Egyptians or from other heathen nations, or from their idols, without having first rejected God; for if this truth had been really fixed in their minds, — that God cared for their safety, they would no doubt have been satisfied with his protection. Their ingratitude was therefore very manifest in thus adopting vain and impious hopes; for they thus dishonored God, and distrusted his power, as though he was not sufficient to preserve them. It now follows—

<241326>Jeremiah 13:26

26. Therefore will I discover thy skirts upon thy face, that thy shame may appear.

26. Et etiam ego nudabo, (vel, discooperiam) fimbrias tuas in faciem tuam (super faciem tuam,) et aspicietur ignominia tua (potest etiam in proeterito tempore exponi hic versus; sed quoniam vaticinium est, ideo non insisto curiose in verbis aut in syllabis, sed sensum duntaxat respicio; quamquam non male etiam conveniet, si vertamus in tempore proeterito, quasi propheta de re jam facta disserat.)

 

He continues the same subject, — that God did not deal with his people with so much severity without the most just cause; for it could not be expected that he should treat them with more gentleness, since they rejected him and had recourse to vain confidences. I also, he says; for the particle g, gam, denotes something mutual, as though he had said, “I also will have my turn; for I have it in my power to avenge myself: I will retaliate,” he seems to say, “this thine ingratitude; for as thou hast despised me, so will I expose thee to reproach and shame.” For God was shamefully despised by the Jews, when they substituted the Egyptians and their idols in his place: they could not have done him more dishonor than by transferring his glory to the ungodly and to their own figments. We hence see that there is an emphasis in the particle also, I will also make bare, or discover, thy skirts on thy face; that is, I will cast thy skirts on thy face. fC71

This mode of speaking often occurs in the Prophets; and as I have elsewhere explained, it means the uncovering of the uncomely parts: it is as though a vile woman was condemned to bear the disgrace of being stripped of her garments and exposed to the public, that all might abhor a spectacle so base and disgraceful. God, as we have before seen, assumed the character of a husband to his people: as then he had been so shamefully despised, he now says, that he had in readiness the punishment of casting the skirts of his people over their faces, that their reproach or baseness might appear by exposing their uncomely parts. It then follows —

<241327>Jeremiah 13:27

27. I have seen thy adulteries, and the lewdness of thy whoredom, and thine abominations on the hills in the fields. Woe unto thee, O Jerusalem! wilt thou not be made clean? when shall it once be?

27. Adulteria tua et hinnitus tuos, cogitationem scortationis tuae super montes in agro vidi, abominationes tuas: vae tibi Jerusalem; non mundaberis posthac? quousque adhuc?

 

Here the Prophet explains at large what I have before stated, — that the people were justly punished by God, though very grievously, because they had provoked God, not at one time only, but for a long time, and had obstinately persisted in their evil courses. Moreover, as their sins were various, the Prophet does not mention them all here; for we have seen elsewhere, that they were not only given to superstitions, but also to whoredoms, drunkenness, plunders, and outrages; but here he only speaks of their superstitions, — that having rejected God, they followed their own idols. For by adulteries he no doubt means idolatries; and he does not speak here of whoredom, which yet prevailed greatly among the people; but he only condemns them for having fallen away into ungodly and false forms of worship. To the same thing must be referred what follows, thy neighings; for by this comparison, we know, is set forth elsewhere, by way of reproach, that furious ardor with which the Jews followed their own inventions. The word indeed sometimes means exultation; for the verb lhx, tsel, is to exult; but here, as in Jeremiah 5 it signifies neighing.

He then says, Thy adulteries and thy neighings, etc. Now this is far more shameful than if he had said thy lusts, for by this comparison we know their crime was enhanced, because they were not merely inflamed by a violent natural lust, such as adulterers feel towards strumpets, but they were like horses or bulls: Thy adulteries then and thy neighings; and he adds, the thought of thy whoredom, etc. The word tmz, zamet, is to be taken here for thought, and this is its proper meaning. It is indeed taken sometimes in a bad sense; but the Prophet, I have no doubt, meant here to wipe off a color with which the Jews painted themselves; for they said that they intended to worship God, while they accumulated rites which were not. prescribed in the law. The Prophet therefore condemns them here as being within full of unchastity, as though he had said, “I do not only accuse you of open acts of wickedness, but ye burn also within with lust, for impiety has taken such hold on all your thoughts, that God has no place at all in you; ye are like an unchaste woman, who thinks of nothing but of her filthy lovers, and goes after her adulterers: ye are thus wholly given up to your whoredoms.

Some read the words by themselves and put them in the nominative case, Thy adulteries and thy neighings, and the thought of thy whoredom on the mountains;” and then they add, “In the field have I seen thine abominations.” But I prefer to take the whole together, and thus to include all as being governed by the verb ytyar, I have seen; “Thy adulteries and thy neighings, the thought of thy whoredom on the mountains in the field have I seen, even thy abominations.” The last word is to be taken in apposition with the former words. But the Prophet introduces God here as the speaker, that the Jews might not seek evasions and excuse themselves. He therefore shews that God, whose proper office it is to examine and search the hearts of men, is the fit Judge. fC72

He mentions hills and field. Altars, we know, were then built on hills, for they thought that God would be better worshipped in groves; and hence there was no place, no wood, and even no tree, but that they imagined there was something divine in it. This is the reason why the Prophet says, that their abominations were seen by God on the hills as well as on the plains. And he adds fields, as though he had said, that the hills did not suffice them for their false worship, by which they profaned the true worship of God, but that the level fields were filled with their abominations.

We now then perceive the meaning of what is here said, that the Jews in vain tried to escape by evasions, since God declares that he had seen them; as though he had said, “Cease to produce your excuses, for I will allow nothing of what ye may bring forward, as the whole is already well known by me.” And he declares their doings to be abominations, and also adulteries and neighings.

At length he adds, Woe to thee, Jerusalem! The Prophet here confirms what we have before observed, that the Jews had no just ground of complaint, for they had provoked God extremely. Hence the particle woe intimates that they were now justly given up to destruction. And then he says, Will they never repent? But this last part is variously explained; and I know not whether it can today be fully expounded. I will however briefly glance at the meaning.

Jerome seems to have read yrja, achri, “after me,” “Wilt thou not then return after me?” as though God here intended to exhort the Jews to return at length to him, as he was ready to be reconciled to them. But as it is simply yrja, achri, and he may have read without the points, I do not wish to depart from what is commonly received. There is further a difficulty in the words which follow, for interpreters vary as to the import of the words d[ ytm, mati od, “how long yet?” In whatever sense we may take the words, they are sufficient to confute the opinion of Jerome, which I had forgotten to mention, because the malediction in that case would be improper and without meaning, “Woe to thee, Jerusalem, wilt thou not be made clean after me?” for what can this mean? It is therefore necessary so to read as to include all the words in the sentence, “Wilt thou not hereafter or at length be made clean?” Some, however, read the words affirmatively, “Thou shalt not be cleansed hereafter,” as though it was said, “Thou shalt not be cleansed until I first drive thee into exile.” But this meaning is too refined, as I think. I therefore take the words in their simple form, Wilt thou not at length be made clean? how long yet? as though God again reproved the hardness of the people, as indeed he did reprove it. Hence he says, “Wilt thou not at length be made clean?” for I take yrja, achri, as meaning “at length.” Then follows an amplification, d[ytm, mati od, “how long yet?” fC73 that is, “Wilt thou never make an end? and can I not at length obtain this from thee, since I have so often exhorted thee, and since thou seest that I make no end of exhorting thee? how long yet shall thy obstinacy continue, so that I cannot subdue thee by my salutary admonitions?” This is the meaning.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that as thou hast once cleansed us by the blood of thine only-begotten Son, to the end that we might worship thee in true sincerity of heart, and that we might also strive to regulate our whole life according to the rule of righteousness, — O grant that we, being mindful of our vocation, may labor to render ourselves approved by thee, so that thy name may through us be glorified, and that casting far away from us all pollutions, we may retain the simple worship of thee, and preserve ourselves within the limits of thy word, so that we may not be led astray after vanities and the sinful superstitions of this world, but advance towards the mark which thou hast been pleased to set before us, until we shall be at length gathered into that celestial kingdom in which we shall enjoy that inheritance which thine only-begotten Son has provided for us. — Amen.


Lecture Fifty-Fifth

CHAPTER 14

<241401>Jeremiah 14:1

1. The word of the Lord that carne to Jeremiah concerning the dearth.

1. Quod fuit verbum Jehovte ad Jeremiam super verbis prohibitionum.

 

Though the Prophet does not distinctly express that what had not yet happened was divinely revealed to him, yet it may be easily gathered that it was a prophecy with reference to what was future. Of this sterility nothing is recorded in sacred history: there is, however, no doubt but God had in an unusual manner afflicted the Jews, as previously in the days of Ahab. As then a drought was near at hand which would cause great scarcity, his purpose was to forewarn the Jews of it before the time, that they might know that the dryness did not happen by chance, but was an evidence of God’s vengeance. And we know that whenever any adversity happens, the causes of it are sought in the world, so that hardly any one regards the hand of him who smites. But when there is a year of sterility, we consult astrology, and think that it is owing to the influence of the stars: thus God’s judgment is overlooked. As then men contrive so many expedients by which they throw aside the consideration of Divine judgment, it was necessary that the Prophet should speak of the sterility mentioned here before it happened, and point it out as it were by the finger, though it was yet not made manifest.

He therefore says that the word of God came to him respecting the words of restraints. fC74 Though rbd, deber, signifies a thing or a business or concern, yet, what seems here to be intended is the contrast between rbd, deber, the word of God, and yrbd deberim, the words of men; for he says, twrxbh yrbd l[ ol deberi ebetserut, because the Jews, as it is usual, would have many words of different kinds among themselves respecting the sterility: when anything uncommon or unexpected happens, every one has his own opinion. But the Prophet sets up the word of Jehovah in opposition to the words of men; as though he had said, “They will inquire here and there as to the causes of the scarcity; there will yet be but one cause, and that is, God is punishing them for their wickedness.”

He calls sterility prohibitions or restraints: for though God could in an instant destroy and mar whatever has come to maturity, yet, in order to shew that all the elements are ready to obey him, he restrains the heavens whenever he pleases; and hence he says,

“In that day the heavens will hear the earth, and the earth will hear the corn, and the corn will hear men.” (<280221>Hosea 2:21, 22)

For as this order of things is set before us, it cannot be otherwise but that, whenever we are hungry, our eyes turn to the corn and bread; but corn does not come except the earth be fruitful; and the earth cannot of itself bring forth anything, and except it de:rives moisture and strength from the heavens. So also, on the other hand, he says,

“I will make for you the heaven brass and the earth iron.” fC75 (<032619>Leviticus 26:19)

We hence see the reason for this word, prohibitions, by which the Prophet designates the dryness of the heavens and the sterility of the earth; for the earth in a manner opens to us its bowels when it brings forth food for our nourishment; and the heavens also pour forth rain, by which the earth is irrigated. So also God prohibits or restrains the heavens and the earth, and closes up his bounty, so as to prevent it to come to us. It now follows —

<241402>Jeremiah 14:2-3

2. Judah mourneth, and the gates thereof languish; they are black unto the ground; and the cry of Jerusalem is gone up.

2. Luxit Jehudab et portae ejus debilitatae sunt, (vel, dissipatae sunt;) obtenebrati sunt in terra (refernut quidam ad portas, sed malo ad homines referre;) et clamor Jerusalem ascendit.

3. And their nobles have sent their little ones to the waters: they came to the pits, and found no water; they returned with their vessels empty; they were ashamed and confounded, and covered their heads.

3. Et proceres coturn (hoc est, qui pollent dignitate) miserunt minores (hoc est, homines plebeios et mercenarios) ad aquas; venerunt ad cisternas, non invenerunt aquas; reversi sunt cum vasis inanibus (vel, reversa sunt vasa eorum vacua;) confusi sunt, et erubuerunt, et operuerunt caput suum.

 

The Prophet intimates in these words, that so great would be the scarcity as to appear to be a manifest and remarkable evidence of God’s vengeance; for when God punishes us in a common way, we for the most part refer the event to some fortuitous circumstances, and the devil also ever retains our minds in the consideration of secondary causes. Hence the Prophet declares here that an event so unusual could not be ascribed to natural causes, as that the earth should become so sterile, but thai; it was the extraordinary judgment of God. This is the reason wily he employs so many figurative expressions. He might indeed have said, in one sentence, that there would be in the land a most grievous famine; but hardly one in a hundred would have been moved by words so simply expressed. Therefore the Prophet, in order to arouse their stupor, uses terms the most forcible.

Hence he says, Mourned has Judah. Though he speaks of what was future, yet, according to his own usual manner and that of others, he uses the past time in order to shew the certainty of what he said. He then declares that there would be mourning in Judah. He afterwards says, His gates have been weakened, or scattered. In mentioning gates, he takes a part for the whole, for he means the cities: but as judgments were wont to be administered at the gates, and as men often assembled there, he says that the gates would be reduced to solitude, so that hardly any one would appear there. He in the third place adds, They have become darkened to the ground, or, in plainer words, they became overwhelmed with grief; but the proper meaning of the word is to become darkened: and he says, to the ground, as though he said that they would be so cast down as to he in the dust, and would not dare to raise up their heads, nor would be able to do so, being worn down by want and famine. We hence see what he means, even this, — that the scarcity would be so great that men would be down on the ground, and in a manner seek darkness for themselves, as it is the case with us when we flee as it were from the light and he on the ground; for we then shew that we cannot enjoy the light, it being disagreeable to us: and hence we see more clearly what I have stated, — that the Prophet uses very strong terms to produce an impression on the Jews, that they might know that the earth was so sterile, not through any natural or common cause, but through the judgment of God. fC76

He afterwards adds, The cry of Jerusalem has ascended. Here he sets forth their despair: for in doubtful matters we are wont to deliberate and to devise remedies; but when we are destitute of any counsel or advice, and when no hope appears, we then break out into crying. We hence see that it was an evidence of despair when the cry of Jerusalem ascended; for they would not be able to complain and to disburden their cares and griefs by pouring them into the bosoms of one another, but all of them would cry and howl.

It is then added, Their chiefs will send the common people to the waters. The Prophet’s object was again to point out something extraordinary, — that the great, possessing authority, would constrain and compel the common sort to draw water. They have sent them, he says, that is, by authority; they who could command others sent them to the waters. fC77 They came, he says, to the cisterns. By the word ybg gabim, he means deep ditches, or pits; but some render them cisterns. With regard to the subject in hand, it signifies not; for the Prophet no doubt meant that they would come to the deepest wells or pits, as it is usually done ia a great drought; for many springs become often dry, and pits also, situated in high places; but in valleys some water remains, and there it may be had: there are also some wells ever full of water, where its abundance never fails. It was therefore the Prophet’s design to refer to such wells. They came, he says, to the wells, where they thought they could find a sufficient supply; but he adds, They found no waters; they returned with their empty vessels. fC78

We now perceive what I have said, — that the Prophet here reproves the Jews for their stupidity in not understanding that God was angry with them when the order of nature, which ought ever to continue the same, thus failed. Droughts indeed often happen when there are no waters in most places; but when no well supplies any water, when there is not a drop of water to be found in the most favorable places, then indeed it ought to be concluded that God’s curse is on the people, who find nothing to drink; for in nothing does God deal more bountifully with the world than in the supply of water. We do not speak now of wine; but we see fountains everywhere pouring forth waters, and rivers also flow through countries: moreover, pits are dug through the labors of men; there are also cisterns in which the rain is preserved in places that are commonly dry: but when in cisterns no water remains, and when the fountains themselves refuse any supply, we may hence surely know that it is the special judgment of God; and this is what Jeremiah intended here to shew; and therefore he says that they were confounded and ashamed, and that they covered their head. It now follows —

<241404>Jeremiah 14:4

4. Because the ground is chapt, for there was no rain in the earth, the plowmen were ashamed, they covered their heads.

4. Propter terram afflictam (contritam, vel, scissam; cum enim verbum hoc proprie significat conterere, non dubito, quin Propheta hic terram vel pulverulentam vel concisam signifcat,) quia non fuit pluvia in terra, confusi sunt agricolae (vel, pudefacti sunt, repetit illud verbum wb) et cooperuerunt caput suum (etiam eandem dictionem repetit.)

 

The Prophet had said, that though the whole common people were sent to the waters, yet none would be found. He now adds the same firing respecting the husbandmen. Ashamed, he says, shall be the husbandmen, for the ground shall be turned into dust, and God will pound it small. When the heavens supply moisture, the earth retains thus its solid character; but in a great heat we see the earth dissolving into dust, as though it was pounded in a mortar.

So he says, On account of the chapt ground, because there is no rain, ashamed shall be the husbandmen, and they shall cover their heads; for sorrow shall not only seize on them, but also fin them with such shame as to make them to shun the light and the sight of men. These things were intended for the same purpose, even to make the Jews to know that they were not by chance deprived of water, but because God had cursed their land, so that it yielded them no water even for the common wants of nature. It follows —

<241405>Jeremiah 14:5-6

5. Yea, the hind also calved in the field, and forsook it, because there was no grass.

5. Quin etiam cerva in agro peperit et deseruit (nempe, foetum suum,) quia non fuit herba.

6. And the wild asses did stand in the high places, they snuffed up the wind like dragons; their eyes did fail, because there was no grass.

6. Et onagri steterunt super excelsa (diximus de hoc nomine, super labia, vel, eminentias, vel, rupes,) traxerunt (vel, hauserunt) ventum sicut serpentes; defecerunt oculi eorum, quia non fuit herba (utitur alio nomine, posuerat ad prius, nunc ponit b[ sed eodem sensu.)

 

Jeremiah now comes to animals: he said before, that men would be visited with thirst, and then that the ground would become dry, so theft husbandmen would be ashamed; he now says that the wild asses and the hinds would become partakers of this scarcity. The hind, he says, has brought forth in the field, which was not usual; but he says that such would be the drought, that the hinds would come forth to the plains. The hinds, we know, wander in solitary places and there seek their food, and do not thus expose themselves; for they have a natural timidity, which keeps them from encountering danger. But he says that hinds, big with young, shall be constrained by famine to come to the fields and bring forth there, and then flee away: and yet they prefer their young to their own life. But the Prophet here shews that there would be something extraordinary in that vengeance of God, which was nigh the Jews, in order that they might know that the heavens and the earth and all the elements were armed against them by God, for they had so deserved. But he says, Bring forth shall the hind, and then he adds, and will forsake its young: but why will it bring forth in the field? even because it will not find grass in the mountains, and in the woods, and in the usual places.

The same thing is said of the wild asses, And the wild asses, he says, stood on the rocks: and yet this animal, we know, can endure want for a long Lime. But the Prophet, as I have said, intended to shew that there would be in this scarcity some remarkable evidences of God’s vengeance. Stood then did the wild asses on the rocks, and thence drew in wind like serpents: for great is the heat of serpents; on account of inward burning they are constrained to draw in wind to allay the heat within. The Prophet says, that wild asses were like serpents, for they were burning with long famine, so that they were seeking food in the wind itself, or by respiration. He then adds, Failed have their eyes, for there was no grass. fC79

We now understand the object of this prediction: It was God’s purpose not only to foretell the Jews what was soon to be, but also to point out, as it were, by the finger, his vengeance, that they might not have recourse, as usual, to secondary causes, but that they might know that they suffered punishment for their sins; for the scarcity would be so extraordinary as far to exceed what was usual. It now follows —

<241407>Jeremiah 14:7

7. O Lord, though our iniquities testify against us, do thou it for thy name’s sake: for our backslidings are many; we have sinned against thee.

7. Si iniquitates nostrae testificantur contra nos, Jehova, fac propter nomen tuum; quia multiplicatae sunt aversiones nostrae, in te scelerate egimus.

 

The Prophet, no doubt, intended here to exhort the Jews by his own example to seek pardon; nor does he so assume the character of others, as though he was free himself from guilt; for he was not more righteous than Daniel, who, as we find, testified that he confessed before God, not only the sins of the people, but also his own sins. (<270904>Daniel 9:4, 5) And Jeremiah, though not one of God’s despisers, nor of the profane, who had provoked God’s wrath, was yet one of the people; and here he connects himself with them; and he did this in sincerity and not in dissimulation. But he might have prayed silently at home; why then did he make public his prayer? What was his purpose in consigning it to writing? It was that he might rouse the people, as I have already said, by his example, so that they might flee as suppliants to God’s mercy, and seek forgiveness for their sins. This then was the Prophet’s object. Thus we see that the prophecy concerning the scarcity and the famine was announced, that the people might through repentance escape the wrath of God; for we know that when God has even taken his sword he may possibly be pacified, as he is in his nature merciful: and besides, the design of all such predictions is, that men, conscious of their sins, may by faith and repentance escape the destruction that awaits them. We now then understand the design of the Prophet in this passage.

He says first, Even though our iniquities testify, etc. The verb hn[, one, properly means to answer; but it means also to testify, as in this place. O Jehovah, fC80 he says, there is no reason now to contend with thee, or to expostulate, or to ask why thou denlest so severely with us; let all such excuses be dismissed, for our sins testify against us; that is, “Were there no angels nor men to accuse us, our own conscience is sufficient to condemn us.” But when do our iniquities testify against us? Even when we know that we are exposed to God’s judgment and are held guilty by him. As to the reprobate, their iniquities cry to heaven, as it is said of Sodom. (<011820>Genesis 18:20, 21) But the Prophet seems here to express something more, — that the Jews could not make evasions, but must confess that they were worthy of death.

For he says, For thy name’s sake deal with us. We see that the Prophet first condemns himself and the whole people; as though he had said, “If thou, Lord, summonest us to plead our own cause, we can expect nothing better than to be condemned by our own mouths, for our iniquities are sufficient to condemn us. What then remains for us?” The Prophet takes it as granted that there was but one remedy, — that God would save his people for his own name’s sake; as though he had said, “In ourselves we find nothing but reasons for condemnation; seek then in thyself a reason for forgiving us: for as long as thou regardest us, thou must necessarily hate us and be thus a rigid Judge; cease then to seek anything in us or to call us to an account, but seek from thyself a reason for sparing us.” He then adds, For multiplied have our defections, and against thee have we done wickedly. fC81 By these words the Prophet shews that he did not formally, like hypocrites, confess sins, but really acknowledged that the Jews would have been found in various ways guilty had God dealt with them according to justice.

As we now perceive the import of the words, let us learn from this passage, that there is no other way of being reconciled to God than by having him to be propitious to us for his name’s sake. And by this truth is refuted everything that has been invented by the Papists, not less foolishly than rashly, respecting their own satisfactions. They indeed know that they stand in need of God’s mercy; for no one is so blinded under the Papacy, who does not feel the secret misgivings of his own conscience: so the saintlings, who lay claim to angelic perfection, are yet self — convicted, and are by necessity urged to seek pardon; but in the mean time they obtrude on God their satisfactions and works of supererogation, by which they compensate for their sins, and thus deliver themselves from the hand of God. Now this is a remarkable passage to confute such a diabolical delirium, for the Prophet brings forward the name of God; as though he had said, “This is the only way by which we can return to God’s favor and obtain reconciliation with him, even by having him to deal with us for his name’s sake, so that he may seek the cause of his mercy in himself, for in us he can find none.” If Jeremiah said this of himself, and not feignedly, what madness is it for us to arrogate so much to ourselves, as to bring anything before God by which he may be induced to shew mercy? Let us then know that God forgives our sins, not from a regard to any compensation, but only on account of a sufficient reason within himself, that he may glorify his own name. Now follows a clearer explanation and a confirmation of this verse.

<241408>Jeremiah 14:8-9

8. O the Hope ot: Israel, the Savior thereof in time of trouble, why shouldest thou be as a stranger in the land, and as a wayfaring man that turneth aside to tarry for a night?

8. Spes Israel (vel, expectatio; hwq est expectare,) servator ejus in tempore angustiae (vel, tribulationis,) cur eris quasi peregrinus in terra? quasi viator divertens ad pernoctandum?

9. Why shouldest thou be as a man astonied, as a mighty man that cannot save? yet thou, O Lord, art in the midst of us, and we are called by thy name; leave us not.

9. Quare eris vir territus? quasi gigas qui non potest servare? atqui (copula enim valet hic adversativum) tu in medio nostri Jehova, et nomen tuum super nos invocatum est, ne deseras nos.

 

I have said that the former verse is confirmed by these words; for since the Prophet mentions to God his own name, we must consider the cause of the confidence with which he was supported, which was even this, — because God had chosen that people, and promised that they should be to him a peculiar people. It is then on the ground of that covenant that the Prophet now prays God to glorify his name; such a prayer could not have been made for heathen nations. We hence perceive how the Prophet dared so to introduce God’s name, as to say, Deal with us for thy name’s sake.

He calls God, in the next place, the hope of Israel; not that the Israelites relied on him as they ought to have done, for the ten tribes had long before revolted from him, and so great a corruption had also prevailed in Judah, that hardly one in a thousand could be deemed faithful. Hope then among the people had become extinct; but the Prophet here regards the perpetuity of the covenant, as though he had said, “Even though we are unworthy to be protected by thee, yet as thou hast promised to be always ready to bring us help, thou art our hope. In short, the word hope or expectation, is to be referred to God’s promise, and to the constancy of his faithfulness, and not to the faithfulness of men, which did not exist, at least it was very small and in very few.

To the same purpose he adds, His Savior in time of trouble. He had in view the many proofs by which God had manifested his power in the preservation of the faithful. And he expressly mentions trouble or distress, as though he had said, that the aid of God had been known by evidences sufficiently clear; for had the people never wanted his help, his favor would have been less evident; but as they had been often reduced to great straits, the bounty and the power of God had become more manifest by delivering them from extreme dangers.

It is then added, Why shouldest thou be as a stranger in the land? as a traveler, who turns aside for a short time in his journey to pass the night? Here must be noticed a contrast between a stranger and one that is stationary, spoken of afterwards. God would have his name to be invoked in Judea; it was therefore necessary that his favor should continue there; and hence he called the land his rest, and he had also promised by Moses that he would ever be in the midst of his people. The Prophet no doubt had taken from the law what he relates here, Thou art in the midst of us, Jehovah, thy name is called on us. He therefore reasons from what seemed inconsistent, that he might obtain pardon from God; for if he was inexorable, his covenant would have failed and perished, which would have been unreasonable, and could not indeed have been possible. Hence he says, “Lord, why shouldest thou be as a stranger and as a traveler, who seeks only a lodging for one night, and then goes forward?” God had promised, as I have already said, that he would rest perpetually in the land, that he would be a God to the people; it, was not then consistent with the covenant that God should pass as a stranger through the land. As he had then formerly defended the Jews, and made them safe and secure even in the greatest dangers, so the Prophet now says, that it was right that he should he consistent with himself and continue ever the same.

As to the words which follow, Why shouldest thou be as a man astonished or terrified? I take “terrified” for an uncultivated person, as we say in our language, homme savage. fC82 It is then added, As a giant who cannot save; that is, a strong helper, but of no skin, who possesses great strength, but fails, because he is rendered useless by his own bulk. And so the Prophet says, that it would be a strange thing, that God should be as a strong man, anxious to bring help and yet should do nothing.

After having said these things, he subjoins the contrast to which I have referred, But thou art in the midst of us, Jehovah, thy name is called on us, forsake us not. We now see that the Prophet dismisses all other reasons and betakes himself to God’s gratuitous covenant only, and recumbs on his mercy. Thou art, he says, in the midst of us. God had bound himself by his own compact, for no one else could have bound him. Then he says, Thy name is called on us. Could the people boast of anything of their own in being thus called? By no means; but that they were so called depended on a gratuitous covenant. As then the Prophet did cast away every merit in works, and every trust in satisfactions, there remained nothing for him but the promise of God, which was itself founded on the free good pleasure of God. Let us hence learn, whenever we pray to God, not to bring forward our own satisfactions, which are nothing but filthy things, abominable to God, but to allege only his own name and promise, even the covenant, which he has made with us in his only — begotten Son, and confirmed by his blood.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that since we are taught by the Teacher whom thou hast set over us, to seek our daily bread from thee, we may know that whenever thou chastisest us with scarcity, we are justly visited by thy hand; and shouldest thou at any time deal severely with us, may we never cease to implore thy mercy, and feel assured that thou wilt ever be merciful and propitious to us, provided we decline not from the way which thou hast pointed out to us, even that thy Son will reconcile us to thee, and that his blood is our only satisfaction; and may we not look to anything else, even in seeing our salvation, but that thy name may be more and more glorified through Jesus Christ our Lord. — Amen.


Lecture Fifty-Sixth

<241410>Jeremiah 14:10

10. Thus saith the Lord unto this people, Thus have they loved to wander, they have not refrained their feet; therefore the Lord doth not accept them: he will now remember their iniquity, and visit their sins.

10. Sic dicit Jehovah.ad populum hunc (vel, de populo hoc; l utrunque significat,) Sicut dilexerunt ad va gandum (hoc est, sicut amarunt vagari,) pedes suos non cohibuerunt, ideo Jehova non placuit sibi in illis; nunc recordabitur iniquitatum eorum, et visitabit peccata ipsorum.

 

The Prophet goes on with the same subject; but he reproves the Jews more severely and shews what their sins were. He says then that they were given to inconstancy; but by saying, “to wander,” [wnl lenuo, which means to move here and there, he no doubt mentions this inconstancy as a contrast to that quiemess and rest, of which Isaiah speaks, when he says,

“Behold the Lord hath commanded, In returning and in confidence shall be your strength, in quietness and tranquinity.”
(<233015>Isaiah 30:15)

He then wished the Jews to adopt different counsels, and not to run here and there when any danger was at hand, but to wait until he, according to his promise, came to their aid. Hence Jeremiah now accuses them of inconstancy, because they would not rely on God’s help and remain firm in their purpose, but run here and there for vain helps; besides a diabolical frenzy led them after idols, as Isaiah says in another place,

“Thou hast wearied thyself in thy ways and without profit,”
(
<234713>Isaiah 47:13)

This fact is often mentioned by the prophets, — that they were like roving strumpets who seek paramours everywhere; for their confederacies with the Egyptians and the Chaldeans cost them much, and yet they spared no expenses. They might have waited quietly for the aid of God, which had been promised; but they did not.

We now then perceive the meaning of the Prophet when he says, that they loved to wander, fC83 or to move here and there, and that they restrained not their feet. At the first view, indeed, this seems to have been but a small offense; but if we consider its source, that they distrusted God and his power, and placed their safety in the Egyptians, or the Chaldeans, it will appear to have been a shameful and an intolerable sacrilege. Unbelief, then, is here condemned; for the Jews looked around for foreign aids, and made no account of God.

Now this passage, is worthy of being especially noticed, for unbelief is here painted to the life. It is indeed true that even the children of God are not so tranquil in their minds that they never fear, that they are never solicitous or anxious, that they dread no danger; but yet, though the faithful are disturbed by many inquietudes, cares, anxieties, and fears, still God ever preserves them; and the firmness of their faith within continues, though it may happen that they are apparently not only shaken, but even stagger and fall. But God gives to the unbelieving their just reward, who derogate from his power, while they place their safety on men or on idols, for they never find where they may safely stand. They therefore weary themselves without any advantage. On this account he says, Therefore Jehovah will not be pleased with them, that is, God will not give them courage: nay, he says, he will now remember their iniquities and visit their sins. In short, he teaches us, that so grievous was the wickedness of that people, that there was no place for the mercy of God. He afterwards adds —

<241411>Jeremiah 14:11-12

11. Then said the Lord unto me, Pray not for this people for their good.

11. Et dixit mihi Jehovah, Ne ores in gratiam populi hujus in bonum, (hoc est, ut benefaciam.)

12. When they fast, I will not hear their cry; and when they offer burnt — offering and an oblation, I will not accept them: but I will consume them by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence.

12. Quum jejunaverint, ego non exaudiam ad clamorem eorum, et quum obtulerint sacrificium et oblationem, ego non habebo gratum (idem est verbum, in illis non placebit mihi, non placabor, non ero propitius;) quoniam in gladio, in fame, et peste ego consumam eos.

 

God first forbids the Prophet to pray for the people, as we have before seen, (<240716>Jeremiah 7:16; <241114>Jeremiah 11:14) But we must remember what I have said before, that this prohibition is to be understood as to their exile; for as God had already decreed that the people should be banished from the promised land, the Prophet was forbidden to pray, inasmuch as that decree was immutable. It is not, therefore, a general prohibition, as though the Prophet was not allowed to ask God’s forgiveness in behalf of the whole people, or at least in behalf of the godly who still remained. The Prophet might indeed pray in a certain way for the whole people, that is, that God, being satisfied with their temporal punishment, would at length spare the miserable with regard to eternal life: he might have also prayed for the remnant; for he knew that there was some seed remaining, though hidden; nay, he was himself one of the people, and he not only knew that some true servants of God were still remaining, but he had also some friends of his own, whose piety was sufficiently known to him. God, therefore, did not strictly exclude all his prayers, but every prayer with regard to the exile which was soon to be undergone by the people.

Except we bear in mind this.circumstance, the prohibition might seem strange; for we know that it is one of the first duties of love to be solicitous for one another before God, and thus to pray for the wellbeing of our brethren. (<590516>James 5:16) It is not then the purpose of God to deprive the Prophet of this holy and praiseworthy feeling, which is necessarily connected with true religion; but his design was to shew, that it was now in vain to implore him for the remission of that punishment which had been determined.

We hence see first, that under the name of people every individual was not included, for some seed remained; and we farther see that this prohibition extended not to eternal life, but on the contrary to temporal punishment. And the demonstrative pronoun this indicates contempt or disdain, as though he had said, “What! why shouldest thou pray for a people wholly unworthy of mercy; let them perish as they deserve.” So when he says, for goodhbwfl lethube, it ought also to be referred to their exile, by which he intimates, “Hope not that what has been once fixed by me respecting this people can be changed by any prayers; they must therefore suffer the punishment which they have deserved, for I will banish them from the land.”

He afterwards adds, Even when they fast, I will not hear their cry, and when they present a sacrifice and an oblation, I will not be pleased with them. He doubtless touches the hypocrites, who, though void of all sincerity, yet professed to be the true worshippers of God, and by sacrifices and fastings and other external rites wished to prove themselves to be so. He therefore says that he would not be propitious or appeasable, though they fasted, and prayed, and offered all kinds of sacrifices. The words, as I have said, were especially addressed to hypocrites; for we know that that declaration remains unchangeablesthat God is nigh to all those who call on him in sincerity. (<19E518>Psalm 145:18) Whosoever, then, calls on God with a true heart, infallibly obtains his favor; for in another place it is ascribed to God as a thing necessarily belonging to him, that he hears prayers. Whenever then God is invoked, he cannot divest himself of what essentially appertains to himshis readiness to hear prayer. But here he intimates that there was no sincerity in the people; for even when they fasted and prayed, and offered sacrifices, they did not truly worship him; for, as it was said before, they could no more put off the wickedness which adhered to their marrow than the Ethiopian could change his skin or the panther his spots, (<241323>Jeremiah 13:23) He then shews, in this place, that though they wearied themselves, in pacifying God by an external profession, they did nothing but act falsely, and that therefore their efforts would be all in vain; for they profaned the name of God when they thus grossly dissembled with him. This is the meaning.

Fasting is expressly mentioned, and it hence appears, that when there is nothing wanting as to outward appearance, God still ever regards faith, as we have seen in the fifth chapter. Hence God values not what is highly esteemed by men, and excites their feelings: why? because he regards the faith of the heart, and faith is taken for integrity. So then God abominates a double and a false heart; and the greater the fervor hypocrites display in external rites, the more they provoke him.

We pray to God daily, it may be said, and yet we do not fast daily. It is indeed true that prayer is more intent when we fast; but yet God requires not daily fastings, while he enjoins prayer both in the morning and in the evening, yea, he would have us to implore his grace continually. (<520517>1 Thessalonians 5:17) But when fasting is joined to prayer, then prayer becomes more earnest; as it is usually the case when there is any danger, or when there appears any evidence of God’s wrath, or when we labor under any heavy affliction; for we then not only pray but we also fast that we may be more free and more at liberty to pray. Besides, fasting is also an evidence that we are deprecating the wrath of God, while we confess that we are guilty before him; and thus also they who pray stimulate themselves the more to sorrow and to other penitential feelings. It is therefore the same as though he had said, “Even if they pray in no common manner and every day, and add fasting, so that greater fervor may appear in their prayers and extraordinary attention, yet I will not hear their cries, even because their heart is false.”

We further gather from this passage that fasting is not in itself a religious duty or exercise, but that it refers to another end. Except then they who fast have a regard to what is thereby intended — that there may be a greater alacrity in Prayer — that it may be an evidence of humility in confessing their sins — and that they may also strive to subdue all their lusts — except these things be regarded, fasting becomes a frivolous exercise, nay, a profanation of God’s worship, it being only superstitious. We hence see that fastings are not only without benefit except when prayers are added, and those objects which I have stated are regarded, but that they provoke the wrath of God as all superstitions do, for his worship is polluted.

But under the Papacy the reason given for fastings is, that they merit the favor of God. The Papists seek to pacify him by fasting as by a sort of satisfaction; they will have fasting to be a work of merit. I will not now speak of the numberless trifles which also pollute their fasting; but let us suppose that they are not superstitious in their choice of meats, in their hours, and in other childish follies, which are mere trumperies, nay, mockeries also to God — let us suppose them to be free from all these vices, yet the intention, as they call it, is nothing else but a diabolical error, for they determine that fasting is a work of merit and of satisfaction, and a kind of expiation. Let us then know, that though Jeremiah speaks of hypocrites, yet he briefly points out the design of fasting by mentioning prayer. So also Christ, when recommending fasting, makes mention of prayer. (<401721>Matthew 17:21; <410929>Mark 9:29) The same is done by Paul. (<460705>1 Corinthians 7:5) But it ought to be noticed here, that though hypocrites joined before men prayer with fasting, they were yet rejected, for there was no sincerity in their hearts, but only an outward profession, a mere disguise. But God, as we have, seen, regards the heart, and sincerity alone pleases him.

The same thing is said of sacrificing, When they present sacrifices, or burnt — offerings, and an oblation, hjnm, meneche, that is, the daily offerings, I will not hear them, or, as he says in the second clause, I will not be pleased with them. Sacrifice without prayers were no doubt vain and worthless, for as pr ayers were not acceptable to God without a sacrifice, so when sacrifice was without prayers it was only a vain shew these two things are then united as by an indissoluble:not, to offer sacrifices and to pray. Prayers, as I have said, cannot be acceptable to God without a sacrifice; for what can proceed from mortal man but what is abominable before God? Our prayers must therefore be sanctified in order that they please God; and the only way of sanctification is through the sacrifice of Christ. When they offered sacrifices under the law they also joined prayers; and by this ceremony they who made any request professed themselves unworthy except a sacrifice was offered. The Prophet then mentions here what God had commanded under the law, but he shews that hypocrites separated the principal thing from the external signs. God indeed neither disregards nor rejects signs, but when what they signify is separated from them, there is then an intolerable profanation. Let us then know, that though nothing may be wanting in the external worship, yet whatever we seek to do is abominable to God except it be accompanied with sincerity of heart.

But I will consume them, fC84 he says, with the sword, and with famine, and with pestilence. I render the particle yk ki, “but.” He refers here to three modes of destruction, that the Jews might surely know that they were to perish, according to what is said elsewhere, “He who escapes from the sword shall perish by the famine, and he who survives the famine shall perish by the pestilence.” God shews, in short, that he was armed with various kinds of punishment, so that they who had so provoked him as wholly to lose the hope of pardon, could by no escapes deliver themselves from destruction. God might indeed have consumed the Jews by one punishment, he might have also threatened them in general terms without specifying anything, but as the unbelieving ever promise themselves some way of escape, so his purpose was to hold them bound in every way, that they might know that they were shut up on every side, and that no way of escape could be found. This is the meaning. It follows —

<241413>Jeremiah 14:13

13. Then said I, Ah, Lord God! behold, the prophets say unto them, Ye shall not see the sword, neither shall ye have famine; but I will give you assured peace in this place.

13. Et dixi, O, ho, Domine Jehovah; ecce prophetae dicunt illis,:Non videbitis gladium, et fames non erit vobis; quoniam pacem veritatis (id est, stabilem) dabo vobis in hoc loco.

 

The Prophet no doubt relates what he had expressed in prayer to God; but yet he has a reference to the people. He then prayed in the manner he now relates; but he renders public the prayers he offered by himself and without a witness, in order that he might restore the Jews from their impiety. Now Jeremiah’s colloquy with God availed not a little to touch the Jews; for as though they themselves had been present, he set before them what he had heard from God’s mouth. We now then understand why he made known his secret prayers; it was not for the sake of boasting, but for the sake of doing good to the Jews. It was then his object to consult their benefit, when he declared to them what he had previously poured forth without any witness into the bosom of his God.

And I said, Ah, Lord Jehovah! He uses an expression of grief, Ah! and thus he shews what concern he felt for his people, being not less anxious on account of their ruin than on account of his own. It may yet be an expression of astonishment, as though the Prophet was fined with surprise, “What can this be, O Lord?” And doubtless an expression of astonishment is not unsuitable, so that the Jews might feel horrified together with him, when they saw that they had been led astray by the false prophecies, by which they had been deceived. He then says, “How is this, O Lord? for the prophets say to them, etc. fC85

Here the word, prophets, is emphatic, as though he had said, They are not thus mad wilfully in promising to themselves peace, contrary to thy will, but these prophets who profess and boast of thy name, these are the authors of this so gross a security; for they say, Ye shall not see the sword, famine shall not happen to you; nay, I will give you, etc. Here they assume the person of God; for it is not said, “God shall give you sure peace,” but “I will give you,” etc. We hence see that the Prophet here expresses his horror, while he compares false prophecies with the oracle which he had received from the mouth of God. The prophets, he declares, say, etc. They assumed an honorable title, and one connected with the power and authority of God himself. “Even the prophets then, who seem endued with the authority of heaven, and seem to have been sent by thee, as though they were angels, — even these promise men peace, not in a common manner, but in a way the most imposing, as though they had thine authority, and brought from thy mouth their fallacies, I will give you.”

We now then understand the design of the Prophet; for it was necessary to shake off from the Jews that false confidence, by which the false prophets, who pretended to have been sent from above, and boasted that they were God’s servants, the agents of the Holy Spirit, had inebriated them. As then it was necessary to take away from the Jews this confidence, the cause of their ruin, because they hardened themselves in contempt of God, and despised all his threatenings; he therefore says, “What! the false prophets speak thus, I will give you sure peace fC86 in this place.”

We hence learn that Jeremiah had almost a continual contest; for the fiercest antagonists immediately presented themselves, whenever he threatened the people either with exile or with famine, or with any other judgment of God. “What! be secure, for God has chosen this place where he is worshipped. It cannot be that he will banish his Church from its quiet rest. There is no reason then to fear that he will ever suffer this kingdom to perish or his Temple to be destroyed.” Hence the complaint of the Prophet, not that he himself was affected by such falsehoods, but he regarded the good of the people, and sought to recover those who were as yet healable from these deceptions. Hence it follows —

<241414>Jeremiah 14:14

14. Then the Lord said unto me, The prophets prophesy lies in my name: I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, neither spake unto them: they prophesy unto you a false vision and divination, and a thing of nought, and the deceit of their heart.

14. Et dixit Jehova mihi, Mendacium prophetae prophetant in nomine meo; non misi eos, et non praecepi illis, et non loquutus sum cum illis: visionem mendacii (hoc est, mendacem) et divinationem et vanitatem (vel, rem nihili) et fraudem cordis sui ipsi prophetant vobis.

 

We now see more clearly why the Prophet related his own complaint, and also his astonishment, of which God alone had been the witness, and that was, that the people might be more attentive to his warning. For had he only said, “The prophets deceive you, and God would have this to be made known to you,” his address would not have been so powerful, as when this question precedes, “Lord God, what is this? the prophets promise peace to this people, and forbid them to fear pestilence and war.” As then the Prophet had set forth this according to his own view and the common view of the whole people, the answer, as I have said, becomes more forcible, and more easily penetrates into the mind. God then gives this answer, Falsehood do the prophets prophesy in my name.

In my name, is emphatical; for God reminds us, that we ought to beware of every appearance of falsehood, that we ought not easily and rashly, and without discrimination, to believe all prophecies; for not everything boasted of as being divine is really so. We then see that this is a remarkable passage; for God reminds us, that we ought to exercise judgment as to prophecies, so that we may not be inconsiderately led away by anything brought forward under the pretext of his name. He would have us therefore wisely to distinguish between things; and hence I have said that this passage deserves to be specially noticed the Papists at this day vainly boast of their titles, and say that they are the real Church, that they are the pastors, and that the Church of God is the pinar of the truth; and thus they astonish and confound the simple, so that every discrimination is taken away, and whatever it pleases them to determine is to be received as an oracle. But God shews here, by the mouth of Jeremiah, that we are not rashly to believe every kind of prophecy. In my name, he says, the prophets prophesy, as though he had said, “My name is often impiously profaned by men. As then there are many who pass themselves as my servants and prophets, and who also occupy a place of dignity and exercise the ordinary office, yea, as there is such depravity in men, that they are not ashamed to abuse my name, wisdom and discretion ought to be exercised.” This is the first thing; for God intimates, that it is not enough for men to claim the prophetic office, except they also prove that they are true and faithful prophets.

He afterwards adds, I have not sent them, nor have I commanded them, neither have I spoken to them; a vision of falsehood, etc. He here takes away authority from the false prophets; for he had not sent them, nor commanded them to speak, nor spoken to them. The latter clause is more general than the rest: but these three things ought to be carefully noticed, for they serve to distinguish true from false prophets. It was then God’s purpose to mention here certain marks by which the difference between true and false prophets may be known.

He says first, that they were not sent, for they obtruded themselves. Hence a call is necessary, for God would not have disorder and confusion in his ChurJeremiah It is indeed true that the call of Jeremiah was extraordinary; for when the state of the Church was rightly formed, the chief priest was the teacher of religion and true doctrine, who was now the adversary of God’s faithful servant. There were indeed some, like Amos, who were taken from the common people; yet there were none more fit for the prophetic office than the priests, for they were, as Malachi says, the messengers of the God of hosts. (<390204>Malachi 2:4, 7) But when they became degenerate, God, in order to reproach them, raised up other prophets from obscure vinages and from the common people. It was then sometimes an interior call only; but when the Church was duly formed, a regular outward call was also necessary. However this may have been, it is certain that such as were not called by God, falsely and wickedly pretended to have his authority, being both without the outward call and without the guidance of the Holy Spirit. This is the first thing.

It then follows, I have not commanded them. Here is the second mark of distinction; for God testifies that no credit is due to the prophets, except as far as they faithfully deliver, as it were from hand to hand, what has been committed to them. If then a prophet mingles anything of his own, he is proved to be false and is not worthy of any credit. Let us hence know, that prophets are not endued with any other power, but to deliver faithfully what has been committed to them from above.

But the third mark, which is added, is still more clear: God says, that he had not spoken to them; for he thus intimates that no voice but his ought to be heard in the ChurJeremiah Why then does he bid honor and reverence to be payed to his prophets? Even because they bring nothing but what he has delivered. We hence see how God allows men no power of their own to rule in his Church; but he will have obedience to be rendered to himself, so that their duty is faithfully to declare what he has committed to them. Therefore as to the command, it refers to what was particular; but when he says, I have not spoken to them, what was general is intended; it is the same as though he had said, that it was not lawful nor right for prophets and teachers to bring forward anything but what they had received from beaven.

Hence he concludes, that they spoke falsehood and impostures, and divination and vanity, and the deceit of their own heart. fC87 We hence see that as soon as men depart even in the smallest degree from God’s word, they cannot preach anything but falsehoods, wmities, impostures, errors, and deceits: and all who thoughtlessly give credit to men, without considering whether they have been sent by God, and faithfully deliver what he has committed to them, wilfully perish. But on this subject more shall be said.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that as thou dealest so kindly with us as daily to shew to us our sins and to exhort us to repent, and teachest us that thou art ready to give us forgiveness, — O grant, that we may not be of a refractory mind, nor flee away from thee, while thou so kindly invitest us to thyself, but learn seasonably to repent, and be touched with the fear of thy judgment, so that we may truly and from the heart seek that reconciliation, which has been procured for us by the blood of thine only — begotten Son; and as we can bring nothing of our own, may we submissively humble ourselves before thee, and also by faith embrace the gift of thine only — begotten Son. — Amen.


Lecture Fifty-Seventh

<241415>Jeremiah 14:15-16

15. Therefore thus saith the Lord concerning the prophets that prophesy in my name, and I sent them not, yet they say, Sword and famine shall not be in this land; By sword and famine shall those prophets be consumed.

15. Propterea sic dicit Jehova super prophetas, qui prophetant in nomine meo, et ego non misi eos, et dicunt, Gladius et fames non erit in terra hac; in gladio et fame consumentur prophetae illi:

16. And the people to whom they prophesy shall be cast out in the streets of Jerusalem, because of the famine and the sword; and they shall have none to bury them; them, their wives, nor their sons, nor their daughters: for I will pour their wickedness upon them.

16. Et populo cui ipsi prophetarunt (illis, est supervacuum) erunt projecti in compitis Jerusalem a facie famis et gladii (hoc est, coram fame et gladio vel praelio) et non erit qui sepeliat eos, ipsi, uxores eorum, et filii eorum, et filiae eorum, et effundam super eos malum ipsorum.

 

Jeremiah, after having declared to the false prophets, that as they had by their flatteries deceived the people, they would have to suffer the punishment they had deserved, turns now his address to the people themselves. God might, however, have seemed to deal with them rather hardly, that he inflicted so severe a punishment on men who had been deceived; but the answer to this is evident; for it is certain that except the world winingly sought falsehoods, the power of the devil to deceive would not be so great. When men therefore are led astray by impostures, it happens through their own fault, inasmuch as they are more ready to embrace vanity than to submit to God and his word. And we must remember that saying of Paul, that all the reprobate are blinded and given up to a reprobate mind, because they wilfully seek falsehood, and will not obey the truth. (<450128>Romans 1:28) And on this account God declares that he tries the hearts of men, whenever false prophets come abroad; for every one who really fears God shall by no means be led away by the deceits of Satan and of impostors. Hence, whenever men are too credulous and readily embrace deceptions, it is certain that their hypocrisy is thus justly punished by God. And it was well known to the Prophet, that the Jews ever wished for such prophets as soothed their ears and promised them an abundant harvest and a fruitful vintage. (<330211>Micah 2:11) As then they had itching ears, a liberty was justly given to Satan to deluge the whole land with falsehood; and so indeed it happened. There is then no wonder that the Lord was so severe in chastising the people; for they had not been deceived except through their own fault. The same thing happens at this day. Though we are touched with pity when we see the ministers of Satan prevail in deceiving the common people: yet we must remember that a reward is rendered by heaven for the impiety of men, who either extinguish or smother the light of God as much as they can, and seek to plunge into darkness.

This then was the reason why God so severely visited the Jews, who had been deceived by false teachers: it was owing to their previous impiety and ingratitude. And on this account also he adds at the end of the verse, I will pour forth upon them their wickedness. Some think that the word h[r, roe, may denote punishment as well as wickedness, as ˆw[, oun, also is taken for both. But the Prophet seems to give a reason why God had resolved to execute so dreadful a judgment on the Jews; and the reason was, because they were worthy of such a reward. I am therefore inclined to render the word wickedness, as though he had said, “A dreadful calamity indeed awaits this people; but that they may not complain of my severity, they shall receive the reward of their own wickedness.” However this may be, the Prophet no doubt wished here to close the mouths of the Jews, that they might not proceed in their evasions, as though God treated them with too little kindness. Hence then it appears, that God does not heedlessly execute his vengeance on the innocent; but that the teachers and the whole people, who approved of them, were involved in the same punishment. fC88

And he says, They shall be cast out in the streets of Jerusalem by the famine and the sword, or on account of the famine and the sword. They shall then all of them, that is, their carcases, be cast out; for their carcases are evidently meant, as he immediately adds, and no one shall bury them; and he mentions their wives and children. And these had no excuse for themselves, for we have seen in the seventh chapter that this charge was brought against them, rothat the children gathered wood, that the parents kindled the fire, and that the women kneaded the dough to make cakes for their idols. The Prophet then intimates, that no one would escape, because they were all implicated in the same wickedness, some more and some less, but so far, however, that the children were not to go unpunished, because they followed their fathers, nor the wives, because they followed the example of their husbands. It follows —

<241417>Jeremiah 14:17

17. Therefore thou shalt say this word unto them, Let mine eyes run down with tears night and day, and let them not cease: for the virgin daughter of my people is broken with a great breach, with a very grievous blow.

17. Dices igitur ( copula enim loco illativoe particuloe sumitur) ad eos verbum hoc, (hoc est, annunciabis illis hoc verbum) Deducent oculi mei lachrymam (vertunt alii, descendent oculi mei in lachrymam; Hebraicum nomen est singulare) nocte et die, et non quiescent; quoniam contritione magna contrita est virgo, filia populi mei, plaga aegra (vel, acerba) valde.

 

God shews here again how tardy, yea, how stupid the people were, whom no threatenings could induce to return to a right mind. When, therefore, they daringly neglected all threatenings, God bids a sad spectacle to be presented to them, justly calculated to fin them with fear and shame; he bids his Prophet to speak rims to them, “Behold, I shall be wholly dissolved into tears, and that on your account.” The Prophet, no doubt, wept sincerely when he saw his own people wilfully drawing upon themselves the wrath of God and their final dest, ruction; nor could he divest himself of his humane feelings: but he speaks not here only of his own solicitude, but God himself bids him thus to speak, in order that the Jews might be ashamed of their carelessness, as they ridiculed or despised, with dry eyes, the calamity which was nigh them, and the Prophet alone wept for them. We have spoken of this in the ninth chapter and in other places. There indeed the Prophet wished that his eyes were fountains of tears; but his object was, no doubt, not only to shew his concern for his own nation, but also thus to try whether they could be turned to repentance, their hardness being so great: and in this place the same thing is shewn still more clearly; for God bids the Prophet to weep, not in secret, but to declare this to the whole people, Behold, my eyes come down into tears, and there shall be no rest, no cessation.

We now perceive the design of the Holy Spirit; for as the obstinacy of the people was so great that they shed no tears, though God often terrified them with the most dreadful threatenings, it was necessary that this coming calamity should be set before their eyes, in the person of Jeremiah, as in a mirror, in order that they might at length learn to fear. Whenever such passages occur, let us remember that at this day also men are equally stupid, so that they ought not to be less sharply urged, and that, God in the gospel adds vehemence and sharp goads to the truth; for such is not only the sloth of our hearts, but also their hardness, that it is necessary to constrain those who will not suffer themselves to be drawn and led.

Some render the words, “Descend shall tears from mine eyes;” but more correct is the other version, “Mine eyes shall descend into, tears,” as b, beth, is to be prefixed to h[md damoe, or l lamed; and it is added, night and day, because the daughter of my people is broken with a great breaJeremiah As yet the Jews were indeed existing as a nation; but the Prophet gives here a striking representation, as though the scene was present, that they might know that a sudden destruction was at hand, though they as yet trusted in their own auxiliaries; nor indeed could they have been led to fear God in any degree until, their quietness was disturbed. fC89

He calls them the virgin daughter of his people, not for honor’s sake, but because God had hitherto spared the Jews. Virgin is sometimes taken in a good sense; for God, when speaking of the holy marriage, by which he had bound the Jews to himself, compares his people to a virgin. But the daughter of Babylon is also often called a virgin, because the Chaldeans, through long peace, had accustomed themselves to delicacies. So also in this place the Prophet, by way of concession, says that his own nation were soft and tender, because they had been borne with through the indulgence of God. But as in war virgins are exposed to violations, and the lust of men rages without shame and beyond all limits, so God intended here to set forth the fierceness of his vengeance; as though he had said, “Now indeed ye are tender and delicate young women, but in a short time your condition will be changed; nor is there any reason why the constant happiness which ye have hitherto enjoyed should deceive you.”

And for the same purpose he adds, that the smiting would be very bitter. It was indeed necessary by many words to exaggerate that vengeance, of which the people made no account. It now follows —

<241418>Jeremiah 14:18

18. If I go forth into the field, then behold the slain with the sword! and if I enter inlto the city, then behold them that are sick with famine! yea, both the prophet and the priest go about into a land that they know not.

18. Si exiero in agrum, ecce (copula enim redundat) occisi gladio; et si ingressus fuero in urbem, ecce dolentes fame (alii volunt esse nomen substantivum, dolores famis, vel, aegritudines;) quia tam propheta quam sacerdos circumeunt ad terram, et nesciunt (alii vertunt, quam nesciunt.)

 

He confirms the same thing in other words, not on account of the obscurity of what he had said, but because he knew that he was speaking to the deaf, or that such was their sloth, that they needed many goads. He says, in short, that there would be in the city no defense for the people to shield them from the punishment that was at hand, and that if they went into the fields the whole land would be covered with enemies, who would destroy them. This is the sum of the whole.

But he speaks as though he saw the event with his eyes, If I go out into the field, he says, their carcases meet me; for the enemy destroys with his drawn sword all who venture to go forth. Then he says, If I go into the city, there famine kins those whom the enemy has not reached. fC90 As he had said before, “Behold, all were east forth in the streets of Jerusalem because of the famine and the sword.” But what he had said of the streets of Jerusalem he extends now to the fields; as though he had said, that there would be no place of rest to the Jews; for if they attempted to flee away, they met with the swords of enemies, and if they sought hiding — places, the famine would meet them, so that they would perish without being destroyed by any enemy.

The prophet, he says, as well as the priest shall wander, shall go round to the land and know not. Some explain the last part of the verse as though the Prophet had said, When both the prophets and the priests shall be driven into exile, after many wanderings, they shall not understand that exile is a punishment due to their sins. They therefore take the words, w[dy alw vela idou, and they shall not know, in a general sense, as though the Prophet here condemned that brutal blindness which possessed the minds of the people, nay, even of the priests, who did not consider that God punished them for their sins. Others explain the words more simply, — that they would go round to the land, that is, that they would come to Chaldea by various windings and by long circuits, and would come to a land they knew not, that is, which was before unknown to them. But I know not whether this was the meaning of the Prophet. Certainly a third view seems more suitable to me, though it has none in its favor, that is, that the priests and prophets would go round to seek subterfuges, as they would be destitute of all means of escape, not knowing what to do; and they shall not know, that is, they shall find that a sound mind is by God taken from them, because they had demented others. Hence I doubt not but that the Prophet had especially denounced this punishment on the wicked priests and the false prophets, because they thought that they would have some way of escape; but they would be mistaken; for their own conceit would at length disappoint them; and when they thought of this and of that, God would bring to nothing their crafty ways. And they were worthy of such a punishment, because they had fascinated the wretched people with their lies; and we also know that they were proud of their own crafts and wiles. The Prophet therefore derides this false confidence and says, They shall go round through the land and shall not understand, that is, all their counsels and plans shall be, without any fruit or benefit, though they may be long in forming them. fC91 It follows —

<241419>Jeremiah 14:19

19. Hast thou utterly rejected Judah? hath thy soul loathed Zion? why hast thou smitten us, and there is no healing for us? we looked for peace, and there is no good; and for the time of healing, and behold trouble!

19. An abjiciendo abjecisti Jehudah? an in Sion (an Sion, b redundat) abominata est anima tua? quare percussisti nos, et nulla nobis medela? expectando pacem (id est, expectavimus pacem) et nihil boni (vel, non bonum) et tempus medelae (idem est verbum,) et ecce terror.

 

The Prophet now turns to prayer and to complaints, that by his example he might at length rouse the people to lamentation, in order that they might humbly implore God’s forgiveness, and sincerely confess their sins and be displeased with themselves. At the same time he indirectly reproves that hardness of which we have before spoken. As then he effected nothing by teaching, he changed his manner of speaking, and leaving the people he addressed God, according to what we have before noticed.

He then asks, Repudiating hast thou repudiated Judah? Has thy soul abominated Sion? fC92 Jeremiah seems to reason here from what is inconsistent, as though he had said, “Is it possible that thou hast rejected the tribe of Judah and Mount Sion?” For God had promised that he should ever have a lamp at Jerusalem. The ten tribes had already been overthrown, and their kingdom had not only been distressed, but wholly demolished: still there remained a seed, because the tribe of Judah continued, which was as it were the flower of the whole people; and from him the salvation of the world was to proceed. Hence the Prophet does here, as it were, expostulate with God, as though he had said, “Thou hast chosen the tribe of Judah for this end, that it might be safe perpetually; thou hast also commanded the Temple to be built on Mount Sion for thy name; thou hast said that it would be thy rest for ever: hadst thou then by rejecting rejected the tribe of Judah? does thy soul abominate Mount Sion?

There seems, however, to be a kind of irony implied: for though Jeremiah prayed sincerely, he yet intended to remind the people how foolishly they promised themselves impunity as to their sins, because God had his habitation in the Temple, and because Jerusalem was as it were his royal palace. It is indeed evident that the Prophet recalled to mind the promises of God; but yet he wished briefly to shew, that though God should apparently destroy the remnant, and suffer the Temple to be demolished, he would be still faithful to his promises. In asking therefore these questions, as in astonishment, he had partly a regard to God, and partly also he reminded the people, that though God delivered the body of the people to destruction, he would yet be faithful and constant in what he had promised.

He then says, Why hast thou smitten us, and there is no healing? There is no doubt but that the Prophet in this place also wished to turn God to mercy for this reason, because he had promised to be merciful to the posterity of David, though sometimes he punished them for their sins; for there was this remarkable promise,

“If his children shall offend and violate my covenant, I will smite them with a rod and chastise their iniquities; yet my mercy will I not take from them.” (<100714>2 Samuel 7:14; <198931>Psalm 89:31-33)

And to the same purpose is what he said in <241024>Jeremiah 10:24,

“Chastise me, O Lord, but in judgment,”

that is, moderately, “lest thou bring me to nothing.” There the Prophet, as we have said, reminded God of his covenant; and he does the same here, Why hast thou smitten, so that there is no healing? For the punishment which God inflicts on his Church would be, as he declares, a kind of medicine; but when there is no hope of healing, God seems to render void what he had promised. Hence Jeremiah goes on in drawing his argument from what is inconsistent, as though he had said, that it was not possible that God should so severely smite his people as not to allow a place for forgiveness, but that he would at length be intreated and heal the wound inflicted.

We have expected peace, and there is no good; and the time of healing, and behold trouble, or terror. fC93 This latter part of the verse confirms what I just stated, that the Prophet had partly a reference to God in this mode of prayer, and that he partly reproved the Jews, because they thought, being deceived by false confidence, that they were beyond the reach of danger, inasmuch as God had consecrated Jerusalem, that his name might be there called upon, and that the Temple might be his perpetual habitation. As then he saw that his nation were inebriated, as it were, with this foolish notion, he intended briefly to shew to them that God would Ilave an unknown way by which he would retain his faithfulness, and yet punish the ungodly and the transgressors; for by saying, “We expected peace, and there is no good,” he certainly does not commend the fidelity of the people; for relying on God’s promises, they sought comfort in evils, and hoped that God would at length be exorable and propitious. The word expecting is not to be taken in a good sense; but he on the contrary reproves the Jews, because they put too much faith in false prophets. We hence see that he condemns that false expectation by which they had been deceived. Hence also we learn what has been before stated, that the Jews foolishly promised to themselves impunity, because God had chosen his habitation among them; for he shews that God had not in vain threatened their ruin by his servants. This then is also the meaning when he says, We expected the time of healing, and behold terror. It now follows —

<241420>Jeremiah 14:20

20. We acknowledge, O Lord, our wickedness, and the iniquity of our fathers; for we have sinned against thee.

20. Cognoscimus, Jehova, scelus nostrum, et iniquitatem patrum nostrorum; quoniam scelerate egimus in te (wnafj, quanquam [r et afj idem fere sunt, tamen simpliciter concludit, quod scelerate egerint adversus Deum.)

 

The Prophet here prescribes no doubt to the Jews the way of appeasing God. He before uttered a prayer, partly in order to reprove the people for their wicked obstinacy, and partly to shew to the godly and the elect that there remained some hope. But now he uses a simple form of prayer, when he says, O Lord, we know, etc. Hardly one in a thousand then did know; but the Prophet does not assume the character of the whole people; and why not? He doubtless knew that the faithful among the people were very few; but he dictates for posterity a right form of prayer, so that they might iu exile know that this one thing only remained for them — to confess their sins, as otherwise they could not obtain pardon.

He therefore says, We know our wickedness and the iniquity of our fathers; for we have done wickedly against thee. We have already explained the Prophet’s meaning in these few words, — that when God puts forth his hand against us, there is no hope of salvation, except we repent. But confession is here put for repentance. Hypocrites are indeed very free in confessing their sins; but the Prophet speaks here of real confession; and by stating a part for the whole, everything included in repentance, as I have said, is intended. But the object here is to shew, that they were humbly to seek forgiveness, which could not be done, except they condemned themselves before God, and thus anticipated his judgment.

He speaks of the iniquity of the fathers, not that the faithful seek associates, here and there, for the sake of extenuating their guilt; but it was an aggravation of their sins, when they confessed that they were not only guilty themselves before God, but that they had brought from the womb what was, as it were, hereditary, so that they deserved death because they were the descendants of ungodly parents. Whilst hypocrites allege the examples of fathers, they think themselves thus absolved, or at least not so culpable, because they had learnt what they practice from their childhood, because a bad education had led them astray. But the faithful are of a far different mind; for they confess themselves worthy of God’s vengeance, though he inquired not into the wickedness of their fathers; and they think also that God acts justly, when he executes vengeance on account of their fathers’ sins, being thus worthy of a twofold vengeance.

We now then understand what the Prophet means; and hence we learn how foolishly the Papists set up this shield against God; that is, by having the word fathers often on their lips; for they ought on the contrary to confess the wickedness and iniquities of their fathers, according to what is more fully enlarged upon in the ninth chapter of Daniel (<270901>Daniel 9), where he confesses that he himself and the fathers and kings had done wickedly. And in these words we may also notice, that it was not some slight fault that Jeremiah refers to when he said, “We acknowledge our iniquity and the iniquity of our fathers;” he mentions first the iniquity of the living; then the iniquity of their fathers, and adds, in the third place, “We have acted wickedly against thee.” We hence see that he did not formally acknowledge some slight faults, but he confesses most plainly, that they were all ungodly and transgressors of God’s law, and were worthy, not merely of a moderate chastisement, but of dreadful perdition, as they had thus provoked the wrath of God. fC94

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that though we have been once reconciled to thee, and reconciliation has been testified to us in thy gospel, we yet cease not daily to provoke thy wrath, — O grant, that we may at least groan, and undissemblingly so condemn our vices, that we may be touched with real and deep sorrow, and thus learn to flee, not only once in our life, but every moment, to thy mercy, that thou mayest be reconciled to us, and not deal with us according to our merits; but since thou hast been once pleased to embrace us with paternal love, for the sake of thy only — begotten Son, continue this favor to us, until having at length been cleansed from all filth and pollution, we shall become partakers of thy celestial glory, through Christ our Lord. — Amen.


Lecture Fifty-Eighth

<241421>Jeremiah 14:21

21. Do not abhor us, for thy name’s sake; do not disgrace the throne of thy glory: remember, break not thy covenant with us.

21. Ne rejicias propter nomen tuum, ne rejieias (lbn significat interdum respuere, floccipendere, significat etiam projicere, et eadem est fere signicatio alterius verbi ≈an, significat enim projicere, et pro nihilo ducere et vilipendere; ne ergo projicias vel vilipendas) solium gloriae tuae; recordare, ne irritum facias (alii vertunt, dissolvas) foedus tuum nobiscum.

 

Jeremiah goes on with the same prayer; and he made it from love, and also for the purpose of encouraging the faithful, who remained among the people, to seek forgiveness; for he undertakes here to represent the true Church, which was then very small. All indeed boasted that they were the children of God, and gloried in the covenant made with Abraham; but hardly one in a thousand called on God in truth and from the heart. The Prophet then represented the common feeling of a very small number; and yet he proceeded, as I have said, with his prayer.

Hence he says, Reject not, overthrow not, the throne of thy glory; or the meaning of the two verbs may be the same, which seems to me more probable. fC95 But the Prophet joined together two verbs, not so much for the sake of ornament as rhetoricians do, as for the purpose of expressing the intenseness of his concern and anxiety; for he saw that the kingdom of Judah was in extreme danger. He then did not in an ordinary way try to turn aside God’s vengeance, but he hastened as one to extinguish a fire; for the obtaining of pardon was difficult.

He calls Jerusalem the throne of God’s glory, because God had chosen that city where he was to be worshipped, not that he was confined to the Temple, but because the memorial of his name was there, according to what had been usually said, especially by Moses. (<022024>Exodus 20:24) Nor was the ark a vain Symbol of his covenant, for God really dwelt there; for the presence of his power and grace was evidenced by the clearest proofs. But as this mode of speaking is often found in the Prophets, it was sufficient for Jeremiah briefly to notice the subject. God indeed, as it is well known, fins heaven and earth, but he gives symbols of his presence wherever he pleases; and as it was his will to be worshipped in the Temple, it is called iris throne, and it is elsewhere called his footstool; for the Scripture describes the same thing in various ways. The Temple is often called the rest of God, his dwelling, his sanctuary, the place of his habitation; it is also called his footstool,

“We will worship at his footstool.” (<19D207>Psalm 132:7)

But these various forms are used for the same purpose, though they are apparently different; for where the Temple is called the habitation of God, his palace or his throne, the presence of his power is set forth, as though God dwelt as a friend among his worshippers; but when it is called his footstool, it is for the purpose of checking a superstition which might have crept in; for God raises the minds of the godly higher, lest they should think that his presence is confined to any place.

We then perceive what the Scripture intends and what it means, whenever it calls Jerusalem or the Temple the throne or the house of God.

But we nmst carefully notice what is here mentioned by the Prophet, For thy name’s sake. We know that whenever the saints pray to be heard for the sake of God’s name, they cast aside every confidence in their own worthiness and righteousness. Whosoever then pleads God’s name, in order to obtain what he asks, renounces all other things, and fully confesses that he is unworthy to find God propitious to him; for this form of speaking necessarily implies a contrast. As then the Prophet flees to God’s name as his only refuge, there is included in the words a confession, such as we have before noticed, — that the Jews, inasmuch as they had acted wickedly towards God, were unworthy of any mercy; nor could they pacify him by any of their own satisfactions, nor have anytiling by which they could obtain his favor. This then is the meaning; and as this doctrine has been elsewhere more fully handled, it; seems to me sufficient briefly to shew the design of the Prophet.

He calls it the throne of glory, to intimate that God’s name would be unknown and unnoticed, or even despised and exposed to reproaches, if he did not spare the people whom he had chosen. The genitive case is used in Hebrew, we know, instead of an adjective; and to enlarge on the subject is useless, as this is one of its primary elements. The Prophet then in calling the Temple the glorious throne of God, in which his majesty shone forth, in a manner reminds God himself not to expose his name to reproaches; for instantly the ungoldly, according to their evil dispositions, would vomit forth their blasphemies; and thus God’s name would be reproached.

He afterwards adds, Remember, make not void, thy covenant with us. Here also the Prophet strengthens his prayer by calling to mind the covenant: for it might have been said, that the Jews had nothing to do with the holy name of God, with his glory, or with his throne; and doubtless they were worthy of being wholly forsaken by God. As then they had divorced themselves from God, and were wholly destitute of all holiness, the Prophet here brings before God his covenant, as though he had said, “I have already prayed thee to regard thine own glory and to spare thine own throne, as thou hast favored the place with so much honor as to reign among us: now, though our impiety is so great that thou mayest justly cast us away yet thou didst not make a covenant with Mount Sion, or with the stones of the Temple, or with material things, but with us; render not void then this thy covenant.”

We hence see that there is great emphasis in the words of the Prophet, when he implores God not to make void, or not to undo, the covenant, which he had made with the people. For though God would have continued true and faithful, had he obliterated the name of the whole people, yet it was necessary that his goodness should contend with their wickedness, his fidelity with their perfidiousness, inasmuch as the covenant of God did not depend on the people’s faithfulness or integrity. It was, as it may be said, a mutual stipulation; for God made a covenant with Abraham on this condition — that he should walk perfectly with him: this is indeed true; and the same stipulation was in force in the time of the Prophets. Yet at the same time Jeremiah assumed this principle — that the grace of God cannot be wholly obliterated; for he had chosen the race of Abraham, from whom the Redeemer was at length to be born. But Jeremiah intended to extend God’s grace still farther, according to what has been already said, and we shall again presently see the same thing. However this may be, he had a just reason for praying, “Undo not thy covenant with us.” But God had hidden means of accomplishing his purpose; for he did, according to the common apprehension of men, abolish the covenant by which the Jews thought him to be bound to them; and yet he remained true; for his truth shone forth at length from darkness, after the time of exile was completed. It now follows —

<241422>Jeremiah 14:22

22. Are there any among the vanities of the Gentiles that can cause rain? or can the heavens give showers? Art thou not he, O Lord our God? therefore we will wait upon thee; for thou hast made all these things.

22. An in idolis (vel, vanitatibus) gentium, qui pluere faciat? et an coeli dabunt pluviam (vel, et an ex coelis dabunt pluviam) an non tu ipse Jehova Deus noster? et speravimus in te (expectavimus ad te:) quoniam tu fecisti omnia haec.

 

In order to conciliate the favor of God, Jeremiah says here, that with him is the only remedy in extremities; and it is the same as though by avowing despair he wished to turn God to mercy; as if he had said, “What will become of us, except thou shewest thyself propitious? for if thou remainest implacable, the Gentiles have their gods from whom they seek safety; but with us it is a fixed principle to hope for and to seek salvation from thee alone.” Now this argument must have been of great weight; not that God had need of being reminded, but he allows a familiar dealing with himself. For if we wish stoically to dispute, even our prayers are superfluous; for why do we pray God to help us? Does he not himself see what we want? Is he not ready enough to bring us help? But these are delirious things, wholly contrary to the true and genuine feeling of piety. As then we flee to God, whenever necessity urges us, so also we remind him, like a son who unburdens all his feelings in the bosom of his father. Thus in prayer the faithful reason and expostulate with God, and bring forward all those things by which he may be pacified towards them; in short, they deal with him after the manner of men, as though they would persuade him concerning that which yet has been decreed before the creation of the world: but as the eternal counsel of God is hid from us, we ought in this respect to act wisely and according to the measure of our faith.

However this may be, the Prophet, according to the common practice of the godly, seeks to conciliate the favor of God by this argument, — that unless God dealt mercifully with his people and in his paternal kindness forgave them, it was all over with them, as though he had said, “O Lord, thou alone art he, from whom we can hope for salvation; if now we are repudiated by thee, there remains for us no refuge: wilt thou send thy people to the idols and the inventions of the heathens? but we have looked for thee alone; thou then seest that there remains for us no hope of salvation but from thy mercy.”

But the Prophet here testifies in the name of the faithful, that when extremities oppress the miserable, they cannot obtain any help from the idols of the heathens. Can they give rain, he says? He states here a part for the whole; for he means that the idols of the heathens have no power whatever. Hence to give rain is to be taken for everything necessary to sustain mankind, either to bring help, or to supply the necessaries of life, or to bestow abundance of blessings. Paul also, in speaking of God’s power, refers to rain, (<441417>Acts 14:17) and Isaiah often uses this kind of speaking, (<230506>Isaiah 5:6)

He then says, Are there any among the vanities of the heathens? etc. He here condemns and reproaches all superstitions; for he does not call them the gods of the heathens, though this word is often used by the prophets, but the vanities of the heathens. Are there any, he says, who can cause it to rain? and can the heavens give rain? I may give a more free rendering, “Can they from heaven give rain?” for it seems not to me so suitable to apply this to the heavens. If, however, the common rendering is more approved, let every one have his own judgment; but if the heavens are spoken of, the argument is from the less to the greater; “Not even the heavens give rain; how then can vanities? how can the devices of men do this, which only proceed from their foolish brains? Can they give rain? For doubtless there is some implanted power in the heavens? but man, were he to devise for himself a thousand gods, cannot yet form one drop of rain, and cause it to come down from heaven. Since, then, the heavens do not of themselves give rain, but at the command of God, how can the idols of the heathens and their vain inventions send rain for us from heaven?” The object of the Prophet is now sufficiently evident, which was to shew, that, if God rejected the people, and resolved to punish their sins with the utmost rigor, and in an implacable manner, their salvation was hopeless; for it was not their purpose to flee to idols.

Art not thou, he says, Jehovah himself, or alone? Art not thou Jehovah himself, and our ,God? fC96 He first mentions the name Jehovah, by which is meant the eternal majesty and power of God; and then he joins another sentence, — that he was their God, to remind him of his covenant. Then it is added, We have looked to thee, for thou hast made all these things.

Here many, in my judgment, are mistaken, for they apply “these things” to the heavens and the earth, and to all the elements, as though the Prophet declared that God was the creator of the world, and that therefore all things are under his control. But I have no doubt but that he speaks of those punishments which God had already inflicted on the people, and had resolved soon to inflict; for he does not speak here of God’s power, whiich shines forth in the workmanship of the world; but he says, “We have looked to thee, for thou hast made all these things;” that is, from thee alone salvation will come to us: for thou who hast inflicted the wound canst alone heal, according to what is said in another place,

“God kills and brings to life, he leads to the grave and restores.”
(<090206>1 Samuel 2:6)

It is then the same as though the Prophet had said, “We, O Lord, do now flee to thy mercy, for no one but thou alone can help us, as thou art he who has punished our sins. Since then thou hast been our Judge, thou also canst alone deliver us now from our calamities; and no one can resist thee, since the highest power is thine alone. Let all the gods of the heathens unite, yea, all the elements and all creatures, for the purpose of serving us, yet what will all that they can do avail us? As then thou hast made all these things, that is, as these things have not happened to us by chance, but are the effects of thy just vengeance — as thou hast been judge in inflicting these punishments, be now our Physician and Father; as thou hast heavily afflicted us, so now bring comfort and heal those evils which we justly suffer, and indeed through thy judgment.” We now understand the real meaning of the Prophet.

And hence may be learned a useful doctrine, — that there is no reason why punishments, which are signs of God’s wrath, should discourage us so as to prevent us from venturing to seek pardon from him; but, on the contrary, a form of prayer is here prescribed for us; for if we are convinced that we have been chastised by God’s hand, we are on this very account encouraged to hope for salvation; for it belongs to him who wounds to heal, and to him who kins to restore to life. Now follows —


CHAPTER 15

<241501>Jeremiah 15:1-2

l. Then said the Lord unto me, Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my mind could not be toward this people: Cast them out of my sight, and let them go forth.

1. Et dixit Jehova ad me, Si steterint Moses et Samuel coram facie mea, non est anima (id est cor meum) ad populum hunc; emitte a facie mea et exeant.

2. And it shall come to pass, if they say unto thee, Whither shall we go forth? then thou shalt tell them, Thus saith the Lord, Such as are for death, to death; and such as are for the sword, to the sword; and such as are for the famine, to the famine; and such as are for the captivity, to the captivity.

2. Et erit, si dixerint tibi, Quo exibimus? (vel, egrediemur) tunc dices illis, Sic dicit Jehova, Qui ad mortem, ad mortem, et qui ad gladium, ad gladium, et qui ad famem, ad famem, et qui ad captivitatem, ad captivitatem.

 

God again repeats what we have before observed, — that as the impieties and sins of the people had arrived at the highest pitch, there was no more room for pardon or for mercy: and though God seems to have rejected altogether the prayer of his servant, we are not yet to think that it was without any benefit. Jeremiah wished indeed to deliver the whole people from destruction; but he did not thus pray inconsiderately and uselessly; for he distinguished between the titular church, as they say, and the chosen seed, for he knew that many were become the degenerated children of Abraham: nor was he unacquainted with what is said in the Psalms,

“Who shall dwell in thy tabernacle, and who shall stand on the mount of thy holiness? He who is innocent as to his hands, and is of a pure heart.” (<191501>Psalm 15:1, 2)

The Prophet there distinctly shews that hypocrites glory in vain, because they had a free entrance into the Temple, and sacrificed together with the faithful; for a clean heart and pure hands are required. Jeremiah no doubt fully understood this.

Though then he extended his solicitude to the whole body of the people, he yet knew that there was a chosen seed. So at this day, when we pray, we ought, according to the rule of charity, to include all, for we cannot fix on those whom God has chosen or whom he has rejected; and thus we ought, as far as we can, to promote the salvation of all; and yet we know, as a general truth, that many are reprobate for whom our prayers will avail nothing; we know this, and yet we cannot point out any one as by the finger. So then the prayer of Jeremiah was not useless; but in its very form, as they say, it was not heard, for he wished the whole people to be saved; but as God had resolved to destroy the ungodly, such as were beyond the reach of hope on account of their untamable obstinacy, Jeremiah obtained only in part what he prayed for, — that God would preserve his Church, which then was in a manner hidden.

But it is now said, If stand before me did Moses and Samuel, fC97 my soul would not be towards this people. The meaning is, that though all intercessors came forth in their behalf, they could do nothing, for God had rejected them. Moses and Samuel are here mentioned, but in another place Job and Daniel are named, and for the same reason. (<261414>Ezekiel 14:14) Moses is mentioned here, because we find that he offered himself, and wished to be, an anathema for his people.

“Blot me out of the book of life, or spare this people.” (<023232>Exodus 32:32)

As then God’s wrath had been so often pacified by Moses, he is here mentioned; for when it was all over with the people, he delivered them as it were from eternal death, and this was well and commonly known to the Jews. As to Samuel, we know how celebrated he was, and that God had been often pacified by him for the preservation of the whole people; but at length, when he prayed for Saul, God did indeed restrain his immoderate zeal, and forbade him to pray any more, (<091601>1 Samuel 16:1) and yet he ceased not to pray. As then there was so great a fervor in Samuel, that he in a manner struggled with God, he is here joined with Moses: “If, then, stand before me did these two, my soul, or my heart, would be alienated from this people, for I shall be no more pacified towards them.”

But he speaks of the perverse multitude, which had so often wilfully sought their own destruction; for, as it has appeared elsewhere, the people had never been rejected; and yet we must distinguish between the chaff and the wheat. Judea was, as it were, the threshing — floor of God, on which there was a great heap of chaff, for the multitude had departed from true religion; and there were a few grains found hid in the rubbish. Hence the heart of God was not towards the people, that is, towards the degenerated children of Abraham, who were proud only of their name, while they were covenant — breakers; for they had long ago forsaken the true worship of God and all integrity. Therefore the heart of God was not towards them. At the same time he preserved, in a wonderful and in a hidden manner, a remnant.

Now this passage teaches us what James also mentions, that the prayer of the righteous avails much with God; and he brings forward the example of Elijah, who closed heaven by his prayer, so that it rained not for a long time; and who afterwards opened heaven by his prayer, so as to obtain rain from God. (<590516>James 5:16-18) He hence infers that the prayers of the righteous avail much, not only when they pray for themselves, but also when they pray for others; for Elijah had no particular regard for himself, but his object was to gain relief for the whole people. It is indeed certain that the intercession of the saints is highly appreciated by God; and hence it is that we are bidden winingly and freely to make known to one another our necessities, so that we may mutually help and pray for one another. But we must at the same time observe, that they who think themselves to be commended to God by others in their prayers, ought not on that account to become more secure; for it is certain, that as the prayers of the faithful avail the members of Christ, so they do no good to the ungodly and the hypocrites. Nor does God indeed bid us to acquiesce in the confidence, that others pray for us, but bids every one to pray, and also to join their prayers with those of all the members of the ChurJeremiah Whosoever then desires to profit by the prayers of the saints must also pray himself.

It is true, I allow, that the prayers of the saints sometimes benefit even the ungodly and aliens; for it was not in vain that Christ prayed,

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” (<422334>Luke 23:34)

nor did Stephen pray in vain when he offered up a similar prayer,
(<440760>Acts 7:60) and I am disposed to agree with what Augustine says, that Paul, among others, was the effect of Stephen’s prayer. (Serm. 1, de Sanctis) But I am speaking now of what we must do when we find that we are helped by the prayers of the saints, that is, that we are strenuously to perform our part, and strive to shew for our brethren the same solicitude and care as we expect from them. It is then certain beyond a doubt, that each is not only heard when he prays for himself, but that the prayers of the saints avail in behalf of others.

But extremely ridiculous are the Papists, who apply this passage to dead saints: Moses and Samuel, they say, were dead, when God declared what is here said; it is then true that they prayed. The inference is worthy of such teachers, which is as good as the braying of an ass. There is here a supposition made, as though God did say, “If Moses and Samuel were now alive and interceded for them, I would yet remain implacable.” But Ezekiel mentions Daniel, who was then living, and he names also Job. We hence see that he makes no distinction between the dead and the living. Therefore the Papists are extremely foolish and stupid when they thus idly prate that the dead pray for the living, on the ground of what is here said of Moses and Samuel. It is not then worth while to refute this ignorant assertion, as it vanishes almost of itself: a brief warning, lest ally one should be deluded by such a cavil, is sufficient. fC98

He afterwards bids the Prophet to east away the people; cast them away, or banish them, he says, from my presence. He doubtless speaks here in a strong manner, “Let them be gone from me.” But yet God shews what he had commanded his Prophet; as though he had said, “Fulfil thou thine office, remember what burden I have laid on thee.” Jeremiah had been ordered to denounce exile on the people? he was the herald of divine vengeance. As then he sustained this office, it was his duty to execute the commission which God had given him. We now then apprehend what these words mean, cast them away. fC99

But we must again notice here what we have before seen, — that God commends the efficacy of prophetic doctrine, according to what has been said,

“I set thee over nations and kingdoms, to plant and to root up, to build and to destroy,” (<240110>Jeremiah 1:10)

Then God intimates, that so great a power would be in the mouth of his servant, that though the Jews mocked at his predictions, as if they were vain threatenings to frighten children, they would yet be like thunderbolts; so that Jeremiah would drive away the people, as though he was furnished with a large army and great forces, according to what Paul declares, — that he had power given him to cast down every height that exalted itself against Christ. (<471005>2 Corinthians 10:5) As then God claims so great an authority for his prophetic doctrine, when threatening the unbelieving with punishment, let us know that the same extends to all the promises of salvation. Therefore, whenever God offers grace to us by the gospel, and testifies that he will be propitious to us, let us know that heaven is in a manner open to us; and let us not seek any other ground of assurance than his own testimony: and why? because as to the prophets was given the power of binding and loosing, so now the same power is given to the Church, that is, to invite all to be saved who are as yet healable, and to denounce eternal ruin on the reprobate and the obstinate in their wickedness, according to what is said by Christ,

“Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (<401619>Matthew 16:19; 18:18)

For he gave his Apostles the power not only of binding, but also of loosing. And Paul, after having spoken in high terms of the former power, adds,

“When your obedience shall be accomplished,”
(<471006>2 Corinthians 10:6)

as though he had said, that the gospel was not preached only for this end, to pronounce death on the reprobate, but that it was also a pledge of salvation to all the elect, to them who embraced by true faith the promises offered to them.

He now confirms the previous sentence, If they shall say, Whither shall we go forth? then shalt thou say to them, Those for death, to death; those for the sword, to the sword; those for the famine, to the famine; those for exile, to exile; as though he had said, “In vain do they complain of their own miseries.” For God, no doubt, had in view the clamorous complaints which prevailed everywhere among the people on account of their very heavy calamities. Thus indeed were hypocrites wont to do; for whenever God spared them, they haughtily insulted the prophets, and boastingly alleged their subsidies and fortresses; but when God’s hand pressed hard on them, they became very eloquent in their complaints: “Alas! how far will God go at length? is there to be never an end? and what does all this mean? why does he so severely afflict us? and why does he not at least relieve us in some measure from our ntiseries?” As then the hypocrites were so querulous in their calamities, God anticipates all these expostulations, and says, “If they say to thee, ‘Where shall we flee?’ say to them, ‘Either to death, or to famine, or to the sword, or to exile;’ it is all one with God, and it matters not; for there is no hope of mercy for you any longer, since God has rejected you: know then that it is all over with you, for there is no deliverance for you from God: either the sword, or famine, or some other kind of death will overtake you; ye are in every way past hope.”

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that since thou art graciously pleased to exhort us to repent, and withholdest thine hand, yea, and allowest us the opportunity to repent, — O grant, that we may not obstinately provoke against ourselves thy extreme vengeance, but render ourselves obedient to thee, so that thou mayest not only hear others praying for us, but that our own prayers may also obtain pardon from thee, espedally through the intercession of Christ, thine only — begotten Son, who has once for all reconciled thee to us, and whose perpetual intercession is to continue to reconcile us to thee, until we shall appear at length before thee with all our spots and filth wholly washed away, and be made partakers of that glory which has been obtained for us by Christ our Lord. — Amen.


Lecture Fifty-Ninth

<241503>Jeremiah 15:3

3. And I will appoint over them four kinds, saith the Lord; the sword to slay, and the dogs to tear, and the fowls of the heaven, and the beasts of the earth, to devour and destroy.

3. Et praeliciam super eos quatuor familias, dicit Jehova, gladium ad occidendum, et canes ad trahendum, et avem coelorum et bestiam terrae, ad comedendum et perdendum.

 

Jeremiah proceeds with the same subject. He said yesterday that the people were no longer cared for by God, and so that nothing remained for them but in various ways to perish, and that the last punishment would be exile. He now confirms the same thing, and says, that God would prepare against them ravenous birds as well as wild beasts, the sword and dogs fC100 as though he had said, that all animals would be hostile to them, and be the executioners of God’s vengeance.

Some render the verb dqp, pekod, to visit, but improperly, as I think; for they must give this version, “I will visit four families upon them;” but there is no sense in this, nor can any sense be elicited from it. The meaning most suitable here is to set over, fC101 “I will set over them four kinds;” which he calls “four families.” And there is to be understood here a contrast: as they thought it hard to obey God, they were now to have over them dogs and wild beasts, and the birds of the air, and the sword. The meaning is, that there would be no end to God’s vengeance, and to various punishments, until the Jews were wholly destroyed. He further intimates, that he would have in readiness many to execute his wrath, as he had all creatures under his control. As then he would employ in his service dogs, and birds, and animals, as well as men, it behoved the Jews to feel assured that they in vain had recourse to this or that refuge. We indeed know that men impiously confine the power of God, both with regard to their salvation and the punishment of their sins, for when he passes by any evil they think that they have escaped, and promise themselves impunity, as though God indeed were not able every moment to inflict many and various scourges. This then is the reason why the Prophet speaks here of four kinds of judgments. It follows —

<241504>Jeremiah 15:4

4. And I will cause them to be removed into all kingdoms of the earth, because of Manasseh the son of Hezekiah king of Judah, for that which he did in Jerusalem.

4. Et ponam eos in commotionem omnibus regnis terrae propter Manasse, filium Ezechiae, regem Jehudah, (vel, regis Jehudah, parum interest,) propter ea quae fecit in Jerusalem.

 

Jeremiah speaks now of exile. He had hitherto spoken of the sword and famine, and mentioned also other punishments, that their carcases would be dragged about by dogs, and also devoured by wild beasts and ravenous birds; but he now refers to one kind of punishment only — that God would drive them into exile. And he seems to have taken these words from Moses, for so he speaks in <052801>Deuteronomy 28, except that w, vau, is placed before [, ain, in the word “commotion,” but such a change is common. In other respects there is a perfect agreement.

I will set them, he says, for a commotion to all the kingdoms of the earth; that is, I will cause them to wander in constant fear and trembling. He amplifies the grievousness of exile by the circumstance that they should have no safe rest. They who leave their country for exile do at least find some corner where they take breath; but God declares that the Jews would be everywhere unsettled and wanderers, so that no place would receive them. And hence God’s vengeance became more fully manifest, for these miserable men never found an asylum when scattered through various countries. Though they had habitations in those parts allotted to them by the king of Babylon, they were yet everywhere without any rest. It was not therefore in vain that Moses threatened them with such a punishment, nor was it to no purpose that Jeremiah repeated what had been said by Moses. fC102

He adds the cause, On account of Manasseh. But Manasseh was now dead, why then did God transfer the vengeance which he merited to posterity? And this seems inconsistent with another passage found in Ezekiel,

“The soul that sinneth it shall die.” (<261808>Ezekiel 18:8)

But doubtless God justly punished the wickedness of the people even after the death of that ungodly king, for they ceased not to accumulate evils on evils; as however their impiety appeared especially at that time, he particularly noticed it, that the Jews might understand that they had been long worthy of destruction, and that punishment was not delayed except through the great mercy of God, who had not immediately treated them as they deserved. The Prophet therefore commends the long forbearance of God because their ruin was suspended until that time. And, on the other hand, he shews that they were not so severely treated but that they were worthy of greater and more atrocious punishment; for such had been their obstinacy that they did all they could to draw upon themselves destruction many times.

But another question arises: Manasseh pretended repentance, and God seemed to have forgiven him and the whole people, (<112101>2 Kings 21:<143312>2 Chronicles 33:12) why does he now declare that he would take vengeance on sins which had been already buried? But the answer is evident, for the Jews from that time had been in no way better. As then they had continued to pursue the same sinful courses with Manasseh, it was right that they should at length be rewarded as they deserved; for, had they become really changed, there would have been a change in God’s dealings with them, but inasmuch as their impiety had ever remained the same, and as they gave themselves up to the same vices, a heavier judgment was nigh them, and justly so, because they had abused God’s forbearance, who had spared the king as well as themselves on the condition of receiving the pardon offered to them. But since they had hardened themselves, it was riglit to take such account of their ingratitude and perverseness as to treat them with greater severity.

Farther, Manasseh is called the son of Hezekiah, and that for the purpose of enhancing his crime. For as religion had been reformed in the time of Hezekiah, and as that pious king, with great labor and toil, exerted all his powers to restore the true worship of God, it was the duty of Manasseh to follow his example. But he not only built altars to idols, and polluted the whole land with superstitions, but also defiled the very Temple of God. It was thus a horrible, and wholly a diabolical madness in the son, when the right way of worshipping God had been delivered unto him, to be of such a reprobate mind as immediately to overthrow what his father with great labor has so faithfully established. This then was the reason why Jeremiah mentioned to his dishonor the name of his father. And hence we learn that they are worthy of a heavier punishment, who have been religiously brought up from their childhood, and become afterwards degenerated, who, having had pious and godly parents, afterwards abandon themselves to every wickedness. Hence a heavier judgment awaits those who depart from the examples of godly fathers. And this we gather from the very words of the Prophet, who here, by way of reproach, calls Manasseh the son of Hezekiah, which yet would have been to his honor, had he been like his father and followed his piety.

And at the same time there is no doubt but that the Prophet indirectly condemns the whole people; for we know how great opposition pious Hezekiah met with, and how he contended for the faithful worship of God, as though he had been among the Assyrians or the Egyptians. But the perverseness of the people appeared then extreme, when he was put in jeopardy as to the kingdom, because he endeavored to cleanse the land of Judah from its filth and pollutions; their impiety and ingratitude then shewed, and openly discovered themselves. Afterwards Manasseh overturned as it were in an instant the worship of God, and they all, with great exultation, went immediately after superstition. We hence see that the mouths of the Jews were thus closed, so that they could not object and say, that they obeyed the command of their king; for they winingly followed wicked superstitions. They assented to the king of their own accord, while yet they hardly, and with great unwiningness, were led to obey when God’s worship was restored in the time of Hezekiah.

But Manasseh added cruelties to superstitions; for we know that he not only covered the streets of the city with blood, but made it also to flow in streams, as sacred history relates. As, then, the Prophets were so cruelly treated in the time of Manasseh, and as he was not the sole author of this barbarity, but the true servants of God were persecuted to death by the consent of the people, it was hence evident that it was the crime of the whole community. And hence he mentions Jerusalem, in order that the Jews might know that the holy city, in which they gloried, had been for a long time the den of robbers, and that the Temple of God had been polluted by wicked superstitions, and even the whole city by unlawful and barbarous slaughters. It now follows —

<241505>Jeremiah 15:5-6

5. For who shall have pity upon thee, O Jerusalem? or who shall bemoan thee? or who shall go aside to ask how thou doest?

5. Nam quis parcet tibi Jerusalem (vel, quis miserebitur tui? sed lmj proprie est ignoscere vel parcere; hic tamen accipitur pro indulgere vel misereri: quis ergo miserebitur tui Jerusalem?) et quis consolabitur te? et quis locum mutabit ad inquirendum de pace tibi? (hoc est, tua: jungamus et alterum versum:)

6. Thou hast forsaken me, saith the Lord, thou art gone backward: therefore will I stretch out my hand against thee, and destroy thee; I am weary with repenting.

6. Tu reliquisti me, dieit Jehova; retrorsum abiisti; ideo extendam manum meam super te et perdam to: fatigatus sum poenitendo.

 

The Prophet shews here that the severe punishment of which he had spoken could not be deemed unjust, according to what those men thought who were querulous, and ever expostulated with God, and charged him with too much rigour. Lest, then, the Jews should complain, the Prophet says briefly, that all the evils which were nigh at hand were fully due, and so deserved, that they could find no pity, even among men. We know that the worst of men, when the Lord punishes them, have some to condole with them. There is no one so wicked that relatives do not favor him, and that some do not console him. But the Prophet shews that the Jews were not only inexcusable before God, but that they were undeserving of any sympathy from men.

He first says, Who will pity thee? and then, Who will console with thee? The verb. dwn, nud, means properly to give comfort by words, as when relatives, and friends, and neighbors meet together for the purpose of mourning; they hear lamentations, and join in them. But he says that no one would perform this office towards Jerusalem. He adds, in the third place, And who will turn aside? or, strictly, change place — Who will change place to enquire? or, as some render it, to pray. The verb la shal, means properly to ask, and hence sometimes to pray. So, many give this meaning, that there would be no one to pray for the Jews. But if we consider the construction of the sentence, we shall see that the Prophet speaks of that duty of kindness which men cultivate and observe towards one another, by enquiring of their welfare, — “Are all things well with thee?” How dost thou do? Are all things well with thee and thine?” When we thus enquire of the state of any one we shew some concern for him, for love is always solicitous for the welfare of others. The Prophet then says, “Who will turn aside to thee to enquire of thy welfare?” that is, that he may know how thou art, and what is thy state and condition.

We hence see that the Jews are here divested of every complaint, for the whole world would acknowledge them to be unworthy of any commisen~tion. But the Prophet does not mean that all would act cruelly towards Jerusalem, but rather shews, that such were their crimes that there was no room for courtesy, or for those acts of kindness which men of themselves perform towards one another. fC103

Then follows the reasonFor thou hast forsaken me, saith Jehovah. Since, then, God had been rejected by the Jews, did not such a defection bring its deserved reward, when they were deprived of every human aid? He afterwards adds, Backward hast thou gone. He intimates that there was a continuance in their wicked defection; for they not only forgot God for a time, but departed far from him, so as to become wholly alienated.

It then followsAnd I will stretch out, etc.; that is, “therefore will I stretch out,” etc.; for the copulative is to be taken here as an inative. This may be viewed as in the past or the future tense; for God had in a measure already afflicted the people; but heavier judgments awaited them. I am inclined to regard it as a prediction of what was to come, as it immediately follows, I am weary with repenting, that is, “I have so often repented that I cannot possibly be induced now to forgive; for I see that I have been so often deceived, that I camlot hear to be deceived any longer.” Some, indeed, give this version, — “I am weary with consoling myself,” and jn nuchem ,means both; but the other sense seems to me the most suitable. I doubt not then but that the Prophet means repentance. We indeed know that God changes not his purpose; for men repent because their expectation often disappoints them, when things happen otherwise than they had thought; but no such thing can happen to God; and he is said to repent according to our apprehensions. God then repents of his severity whenever he mitigates it towards his people, whenever he withdraws his hand from executing his vengeance, whenever he forgives sins. And this had been often done to the Jews; but they had made a mock of such mercy, and the oftener God spared them the more audaciously did they provoke his wrath. Hence he says, “I am weary with repenting so often;” that is, that he had so often spared them and suspended his judgment. fC104

In short, he deprives the Jews of every excuse, and shews that they acted impiously when they murmured against God, for they allowed no place to his mercy; nay, whenever they found him recentliable they abused his forbearance with extreme indignity and perverseness. It follows —

<241507>Jeremiah 15:7

7. And I will fan them with a fan in the gates of the land; I will bereave them of children, I will destroy my people, since they return not from their ways.

7. Et ventilabo ventilabro ipsos in omnibus portis terrae, (id est, per omnes portas;) orbavi, perdidi populum meum; viis suis non recesserunt (vel, non reversi sunt, vel, non sunt conversi.)

 

He confirms here the same truth. The verb which I have rendered in the future may be rendered in the past tense, but I still think it to be a prediction of what was to come. But as to what follows, I have bereaved, I have destroyed, it must, I have no doubt, be referred to time past.

He then says, I will fan or scatter them, for the verb. hrz zare, means to scatter, but as with a fan follows, (the word is derived from the same root) I wish to retain the repetition. Then it is, I will fan them with a fan through all the gates of the earth. Many give the meaning, “through the cities,” which I do not approve, as it seems a frigid explanation. On the contrary the Prophet means by “the gates of the earth,” all countries, for the Jews thought that they should be always safe and quiet in their own cities. By taking a part for the whole, gates do indeed, as it appears elsewhere, signify cities; but as the Jews trusted in their own defences, and thought that they could never be drawn out from these quiet nests, the word gates is in a striking manner transferred to signify any kind of exit; I will fan you, says God, but where? through all gates of the earth, or through all countries and through all deserts; wherever there is a region open for you there you must pass through. Ye are wont to pass in and out through your gates, and ye have there your quiet homes, but there shall be hereafter to you other cities, other gates, even all countries and all deserts, all ways, and, in short, every sort of passage. fC105

Then follows, I have bereaved, I have destroyed my people; they have not returned from their own ways. Here no doubt he condemns the Jews for their sottishhess, because they had not repented after having been warned by grievous judgments, which God had executed partly on them and partly on their brethren. For the kingdom of Israel had been cut off: when they saw the ten tribes driven into exile ought they not to have been terrified by such an example? Hence also another Prophet says,

“There is no one who mourns for the bruising of Joseph.” (<300606>Amos 6:6)

God had set before their eyes a sad and dreadful spectacle; they ought then to have acknowledged in the destruction of Israel what they themselves deserved, and to have turned to God. It is then this extreme hardness that God upbraids them with, for though he had bereaved his people, the ten tribes, and destroyed them, and though also the kingdom of Judah had been in a great measure depressed, yet they returned not from their own ways. It hence appeared more fully evident that they deserved the severest judgments, as they were become wholly irreclaimable. He then adds —

<241508>Jeremiah 15:8

8. Their widows are increased to me above the sand of the seas: I have brought upon them, against the mother of the young men, a spoiler at noon — day: I have caused him to fall upon it suddenly, and terrors upon the city.

8. Multiplicatae sunt mihi viduae ejus supra arenam maris, (prae arena maris;) immisi illis (venire feci illis) super matrem juvenis (id est, super turmam, vel, multitudinem juvenum) vastatorem in meridie; et projeci (cadere feci, ad verbum) super ipsam repente tumultum et terrores, (quanquam de his vocibus postea erit aliquid dicendum.)

 

He says first, Multiplied have been his widows; because the men had been almost all kined, in battle. If the Prophet is the speaker, the particle yl li, is redundant, but if the words be referred to God, we know that the people were in such a way under the government of God that he calls the widows his, as he calls the children his who were born Israelites. But in this there is no great importance, only that if we consider God to be speaker the sense will be this, “Behold, it is by no means unknown to me how numerous his widows are: as then I am merciful I have not heedlessly and without reason suffered such slaughters among the people.” The Prophet intended to shew that so great was the obstinacy of the Jews that they struggled against all the judgments of God; and it is a proof of dreadful impiety when men rush on heedlessly and pay no attention to any punishments. And this is what the Prophet means when he says that the widows were multiplied. And he adds, More than the sand of the sea. This was surely a strange thing; so many slaughters were presented to their view that their great perverseness might become more evident, and yet he says that they were not moved.

What follows must be applied to God, I have made to come to them, on the troop of youths, a waster. fC106 This is an explanation of the former clause, as though he had said, “The reason why there are so many widows is, because God has destroyed all the men.” As the Jews might have ascribed this to their enemies, God declares that he was the author of all the slaughters which they had suffered. He then shews that these slaughters were not fortuitous as men suppose who think that fortune prevails mostly in war, for they do not ascribe so much to the wisdom and valor of men as to fortune, being ignorant of the Providence of God. Here then God shews that the whole of the flower of the people had been indeed cut off by the swords of enemies, but that the Chaldeans or the Assyrians had not come of their own accord, or by an impulse of their own, but by a hidden impulse, and that of God, who had resolved to punish that irreclaimable people. This then is the reason why God not only speaks of a waster, but also intimates that the enemies were impelled by his influence, and carried on the war as it were under his banner, authority, and guidance.

He says, at mid-day, even when the Jews might have exercised greater watchfulness. But he shews that he was against them, for they were not taken by the craft of their enemies, as had often been the case, nor were they surprised by secret designs, but their enemies attacked them openly and boldly, even at the time when many of their cities were fortified, and the people thought that they had sufficient defences. As the enemies then dared to assail them in the middle of the day, (for such is the meaning of the Hebrew word) and during the clearest light, it was certainly a fuller proof of God’s vengeance; for under such a circumstance the contrivance and counsel of men were not so evident, but the hand of God, which he stretched forth from heaven as it were in an open and visible manner.

He afterwards adds, And I have cast, or caused to fall, upon them suddenly; some say, the city; others, the enemy; and ry[ oir, means a city, and sometimes an enemy; but another explanation seems more probable, that God had sent on them a tumult and terrors, for the word ry[, oir, conms from the verb rw[, our, which signifies to excite. It may therefore be taken for tumult, and this sense I prefer, for they who render the word city, are constrained to adopt a forced and far-fetched explanation, “To fall have I made suddenly the city,” that is, cities, “upon them.” There is first a change of number, and then, to fall have I made cities, that is, the ruins of cities, upon them, seems an unnatural phrase; but the sense would be most suitable were we to render the word tumult, for what immediately follows is, and terrors. Some however render the word twlhb, belut, adverbially suddenly, and consider that the same thing is said twice. He had said just before, “I have cast upon her suddenly;” but now he says, “hastenings.” Such is the version, but not suitable, for the two words ry[ oir, and twlhb, belut, are joined together. I therefore give this simple explanation — that the Jews were suddenly smitten with despair because they thought that their enemies were afar off, and that they had to apprehend no danger. Then it is, suddenly have I sent upon them a tumult and terrors. fC107 He then adds —

<241509>Jeremiah 15:9

9. She that hath born seven languisheth: she hath given up the ghost; her sun is gone down while it was yet day; she hath been ashamed and confounded: and the residue of them will I deliver to the sword before their enemies, saith the Lord.

9. Debilitata est quae peperit septem, et expiravit anima ejus (alii vetrunt, afflicta fuit, sed hpn significat sufflare; viderut autem hic metaphorice poni pro expirare: expiravit ergo anima ejus;) ingressus est sol ejus (hoc est, occidit sol) in adhuc die (id est, cum adhuc esset dies;) confusa est et erubuit: et reliquias ipsorum gladio dabo (ad gladium exportam) coram inimicis ipsorum, dicit Jehova.

 

He proceeds with his narrative; he says, that fruitful women had been weakened, not as we see to be often the case, for by frequent child — bearing we know the strength of women is diminished; but here he speaks of the strength which mothers derive from their children; for a numerous offspring is the support of mothers. She then who has many children seems strong, as she is by so many shields defended. As then mothers were wont to place much dependence on their offspring, he says that they were weakened as to their strength when they were bereaved of all their children, as though they had been barren.

He afterwards adds, that the soul, the people, had expired; for he speaks not here of women, but of the whole people. For it afterwards follows, Set hath her sun while it was yet day; that is, when prosperity seemed certain, God suddenly involved them in adversity, and as it were surrounded them with darkness, when they thought that prosperous fortune was slhining on them. He at last says, that they were confounded and ashamed; and at the same time he declares, that he would give all who remained to the sword before their enemies; as though he had said, “They have not yet suffered all the punishment allotted to them, for they are not subdued, though I have heavily and severely chastised them; as then they are incurable, the sword shall destroy the remainder; for my vengeance shall not cease to pursue them, until I shall utterly consume them. fC108

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that we may not by our hardness so provoke thy judgment against us, as to constrain thee with an armed hand to assail us; but may we through a meek and submissive spirit be so influenced by thy threatenings as to anticipate that vengeance, by which we see that all the reprobate and the perverse have been visited; and may we so endeavor by true repentance to obtain thy favor, that we may receive thy daily blessings and benefits, until we shall at length come to the full and real enjoyment of all those blessings, which have been laid up for us in thy celestial kingdom, through Christ, our Lord. — Amen.


Lecture Sixtieth

<241510>Jeremiah 15:10

10. Woe is me, my mother, that thou hast born me a man of strife and a man of contention to the whole earth! have neither lent on usury, nor men have lent to me on usury; yet every one of them doth curse me.

10. Hei mihi! mater, mea, quod genueris me virum rixae et virum litis toti terrae: non foeneratus sum et non foenerati sunt mecum; quisque maledicit mihi.

 

The Prophet, when he saw that his labor availed nothing, or was not so fruitful as he wished, no doubt felt somewhat like a man, and shewed his own weakness. It must however be observed, that he was so restrained by the secret power of the Holy Spirit, that he did not break forth intemperately, as is the case with many; but, he kept the right end so in view, that his sorrows had ever a regard to his object, even to render his labor useful to the people. A clear example of which is seen in these words.

But he addresses his mother, as though he counted his own life a curse; what does this mean? “Why,” he says, “hast thou begotten me, my mother? Woe to me, that I have been born a man of strife and of contention!” We learn from these words, that the Prophet was not so composed and calm in his mind, but that he felt angry when he saw that he effected less than he wished; and yet it is evident from the context, that all this was expressed for the benefit of the public, even that the Jews might know, that their hardness of heart in despising God’s devoted servant, yea, in maliciously opposing him, would not turn out to their benefit. This is the purport of the whole.

He calls himself a man of strife, not only because he was constrained to contend with the people, for this he had in common with all prophets. God does not send them to flatter or to please the world; they must therefore contend with the world, for no one is brought to a right state, so as to undertake the yoke of God winingly and submissively, until he is proved guilty. Hence men will never obey God, they will never submit to his word, until they know that they are in a manner condemned; and for this reason have I said, that this evil is common to all prophets, — that they have to contend with the world. But Jeremiah calls himself a man of strife and contention, because he was slanderously spoken of throughout Judea, as one who through his moroseness drove the whole people to contentions and strifes. This then is to be referred to the false judgments formed by the people; for there was hardly any one who did not say that he was a turbulent man, and that if he was removed, there would have been tranquinity in the city and throughout the whole land. The same objection is at this day made by the enemies of the truth and godliness; they say, that we needlessly create disturbances, and that if we were quiet, there would be the most delightful peace throughout the whole world, and that dissensions and strifes arise only from us, that we are the fans by which the whole world is kindled into contentions. It was then for this reason that Jeremiah complained that he was born a man of strife and contention; not that he was contentious — not that that he gave any occasion to the people to speak so slanderously of him; for the subject here is not respecting the character of the Prophet, as he knew that his courage was approved by God; but as he saw that he was urged and charged with these false accusations, he calls himself a man of strife and a man of contention; the last word is from ˆd, den, which means to contend.

But as to the exclamation respecting his mother, I have already reminded you that it was an evidence of an intemperate feeling; for had he spoken in a composed state of mind, what had he to do with his mother, so as to make her an associate in the evil he complains of? He indeed seems to ascribe a part of the blame to his mother, because she had given him birth. Now this appears unreasonable. But it may at the same time be easily gathered, that the Prophet was not led away by so great a vehemence, except for the sake of promoting the public good, and that it was for this end that he uttered his complaint; for it was not his purpose to condemn his mother, though at the first view it appears so; but though she was innocent, he still shews that he was unjustly loaded with such calumnies, as that he was a man of strife and contention; as though he had said, “Enquire of my mother, who hath begotten me, whether I was contentious from the womb? has my mother been the cause why ye say that I am a turbulent man and the author of strifes? Doubtless nothing can be imputed to my mother; and I am as innocent as she is.” We now then see that the Prophet indirectly condemns the wickedness of the people, because they calumniated him, as though he moved tumults and strifes through the whole land; and this he more fully confirms by the words which follow: —

I have not given on usury, nor have they borrowed of me on usury; fC109 yet every one curses me. He shews here that it was not for a private reason that he was hated by the whole people and loaded with calumnies: for whence come hatreds, and strifes, and complaints, and quarrels, and contentions among men, except through unfair dealing in their intercourse with one another? When, therefore, every one is bent on his own private advantage, he in bears anything to be taken from him. It is indeed a rare thing in the world, that they who carry on business with one another are really friends, and that they wholly approve of each other’s conduct; for, as I have already said, covetousness so prevails, that justice and equity disappear among most men. Hence the Prophet says, that he had not lent on usury. Under one kind he includes all transactions of life, as though he had said, Je n’ay point traffique, I have had no contention about money affairs, for I have neither lent nor borrowed money, so that I have had no contention with the people on a private concern, nor have they quarrelled with me as though I had injured them or defrauded them, as though they had suffered any loss on my account: yet they all curse me.” fC110

We see that the Prophet here testifies that he had not incurred the displeasure of the people through his own fault, or on account of any private concern, but because he had faithfully discharged his duty to God and to his ChurJeremiah He then brings against the people a most awful accusation, that they carried on war, not with a mortal man, but rather with God himself. We now understand what the Prophet had in view.

But all faithful teachers are here reminded, that if they perform their office strenuously and wisely, they will surely be loaded with many calumnies, and be called tumultuous, or morose, or disturbers of the peace. They ought then to be fortified against such stumbling — blocks, so that they may persevere in the course of their calling. They ought at the same time to take heed lest they create enemies through any private concerns. For when the pastors of the Church abstain from every public business, yet when they contend, as they ought with the world, all immediately cry out that they are contentious and turbulent; but if the other be added, if they quarrel with this or that man about worldly things, then it cannot be but that the word of God will be evil spoken of through their fault. Hence great care ought to be taken that those who sustain the office of public teaching should not engage in worldly business, and be thus exposed to the necessity of contending about worldly things: they have enough to do, and more than enough, in the warfare in which the Lord has engaged them.

Now when the Prophet says that they all cursed him, it was a sad instance of impiety; for he speaks not of heathens but of the seed of Abraham. There was no Church then in the world but at Jerusalem, and yet the Prophet was regarded there as contentious and a man of strife. It ought not then to appear strange to us, that not only professed enemies of Christ load us with reproaches, but that they also curse us who deem themselves to be members of the ChurJeremiah It now follows —

<241511>Jeremiah 15:11

11. The Lord said, Verily it shall be well with thy remnant; verily I will cause the enemy to entreat thee well in the time of evil, and in the time of affliction.

11. Et dixit Jehova, si non reliquiae tuae in bonum, si non occurrere fecero tibi in tempore mali, et in tempore afflictionis (vel, angustim) hostem.

 

God at the beginning of this verse no doubt intimates that he would be propitious to his servant, and grant him what he asked. We then conclude that the Prophet’s prayer was heard; and hence also becomes manifest what I have stated, that the Prophet was not so led away by the force of grief, but that he chiefly regarded the benefit of the people. God then was so propitious to his request, that he said that it would be well with his remnant, that what remained would be blessed.

Interpreters differ as to the second clause: some apply what is said to the people, I will make the enemy to meet thee in the time of evil, and in the time of trouble: and so they take this view, that God at the beginning of the verse answers the Prophet, and intimates that his request was accepted, so that there would be a better and happier end than what then appeared; and they think that God then turns his discourse to the people, “With regard to you, I will make the enemy to meet you in the day of affliction.” But this explanation seems forced. I prefer to regard the whole verse as addressed to the Prophet. God promises first that his remnant would be prosperous; and by remnant he means the remaining time or the end of life, as though he had said, “I will at length have pity on thee, so that the things which cause thee the greatest grief shall turn into joy: thine end then shall be more prosperous than thou thinkest.” Then the words which follow confirm the previous sentence: for the Prophet might have objected and said, “Then either the people shall be delivered from all trouble, or I shall not escape a part of the calamity.” To this God replies and says, “Thou and others nmst suffer many things, but I will make the enemy to meet thee, that is, I will make the enemy to be propitious to thee, and even of his own accord to anticipate thee.

Interpreters differ still farther respecting the verb yt[gph epegoti; some regard it in a transitive sense, “To meet thee will I make the enemy;” others render the sentence thus, “I will meet the enemy for thee,” or, “I will cause the enemy to ask for thee.” The verb, [gp pego, means sometimes to meet, either in a good or bad sense; as when one goes as an enemy against another, he is said to meet him; or, when one offers help and shews kindness to another, he is said to meet him. But the word has another meaning, and signifies sometimes to ask, and so some take it here, “I will cause the enemy to ask for thee.” But this is far — fetched: God did not send messengers to pacify the Babylonians towards his servant Jeremiah. I prefer to render the words thus, “I will meet the enemy for thee,” or, “I will cause the enemy to meet thee;” that is, “I will pacify him by my secret influence, so that he will of himself spare thee and treat thee kindly.” And we know that it so happened; for Jeremiah was loosed from his chains and was allowed his liberty, so that he was permitted to go wherever he wished. As then the enemies treated him with so nmch kindness, it appears evident that what God had before promised was fulfined.

As to the main thing intended, there is no ambiguity in the words: God promised that the latter end of Jeremiah would be happy, and that though he was to suffer somewhat in the common calamity of the whole people, yet the enemy would treat him kindly, so that his condition would be better and more desirable than that of others. fC111

But why did Jeremiah make this public? why did he give this description? why did he commit it to writing? even that the Jews might understand that they who harassed him, when he had done them no injury, dealt unjustly with him. They had indeed been excited by him, but it was through what his office required, for he could not deny obedience to God. Jeremiah then made public what God only knew before, that he might produce an impression on them, provided any hope of repentance yet remained. And for the same reason also was the promise of God added; for the Jews ought to have been terrified, when they saw that such an end was promised by God to the Prophet; for what must have happened to them, except the curse of God to the utter-most? We hence see, that in the complaint of the Prophet, and in the answer given by God, the salvation of the people was regarded; for the complaint contains a most severe reproof and the answer of God threatens a most dreadful judgment to the rebellious people. It follows —

<241512>Jeremiah 15:12

12. Shall iron break the northern iron and the steel?

12. An conteret ferrum ferrum ab aquilone et aes (vel, chalybem?)

 

This verse also has been taken in different ways by interpreters: some take the word iron, when repeated in a different case, “Will iron break iron?” but others think the subject wanting in the clause, and consider people to be understood, “Will the Jews break the iron, even the iron from the north, and not only the iron but the brass also, or, the the brass mixed with iron?” There is in reality no difference, but in words only. If we read, “Will the iron break the iron from the north?” the meaning will be, “Though there be great hardness in you, can it yet break that which is in the Assyrians? but ye are not equal to them: make your strength as great as you please, still the Chaldeans will be harder to break you; for if ye are iron, they are brass or steel, and so it will not be possible for you to sustain their violent attacks.”

As the meaning of the Prophet is sufficiently evident, I will not insist on words, though the rendering I most approve is this, “Will iron break the iron (the repetition is emphatical) from the north and the brass?”

We here also see that the design of the holy man was, to divest the Jews of that false confidence in which they boasted: for how was it, that they were so refractory, except that they did not dread any misfortune? As then they were secure, predictions had but little weight with them. Hence the Prophet, in order to beat down this ferocity, says, that there would be greater hardness in the Chaldeans, for they would be like iron, yea, and steel also. fC112 It follows —

<241513>Jeremiah 15:13

13. Thy substance and thy treasures will I give to the spoil without price, and that for all thy sins, even in all thy borders.

13. Opes tuas et thesauros tuos in direptionem dabo, non in permutatione (hoc est, absque pretio,) et propter omne scelus tuum, et propter omnem finem tuum (vel, terminum tuum, in omnibus terminis tuis, ad verbum; sicuti etiam in omnibus sceleribus.)

 

But, there is a difference among interpreters as to the word lwbg gebul. I indeed allow that it means a border: but Jeremiah, as I think, when he intended to state things that are different, made use of different forms of speech; but as the construction is the same, I see not how the word can mean the borders of the land. I hence think that it is to be taken here metaphorically for counsels; as though he had said, “On account of all thy wicked deeds and on account of all thy ends, that is, of all thy counsels, I will make thy wealth and thy treasures a plunder.” For true is that saying of the heathen poet,

There is something where thou goest and to which thou levellest thy bow.113

When we undertake any buiness, we have some end in view. Then the Prophet calls their adulteries, frauds, rapines, violencies and murders, wicked deeds; but he calls their counsels, borders, such counsels as they craftily took, by which they manifested their depravity and baseness.

Then, in the first place, he declares that God would be a just avenger against their wicked deeds, and against all the ends which the Jews had proposed to themselves; and at the same time he points out and mentions the kind of punishment they were to have, — that the Lord would give for a plunder all their wealth and treasures, and that without exchanging; some read, “without price,” and consider the meaning to be, — that the Jews would be so worthless, that no one would buy them: but this is too refined. I doubt not but that the Prophet intimates, that whatever the Jews possessed would become a prey to their enemies, so that it would be taken away from them without any price or bartering; as though he had said, “Your enemies will freely plunder all that you have without any permission from you, and will regard as their own, even by the right of victory, whatever ye think you have so laid up as never to be taken away.” fC114 He afterwards adds —

<241514>Jeremiah 15:14

14. And I will make thee to pass with thine enemies into a land which thou knowest not: for a fire is kindled in mine anger, which shall burn upon you.

14. Et transire faciam ad hostem in terram quam non cognoscis; quia ignis ascensus est in ira mea (alii vertunt, in nare; ypa significat utrunque) super vos ardebit.

 

He pursues the same subject. He had said, that they would be exposed as a prey to their enemies, so that all their wealth would be plundered with impunity: he now adds, I will deliver you to the enemy, that is, I will give you into the hands of your enemies, that they may remove you ejsewhere. He afterwards mentions a circumstance, which must have rendered exile much worse; for when any one changes his place and is not led to a distance, the evil is more tolerable; but when any one is carried beyond the sea, or into distant lands, there is a much greater cause for sorrow, as there is no hope of return to one’s own country. Then despair increases the grief. Add to this, that not to hear of one’s native Iand, as though we were in another world, is also a bitter trial.

The Prophet then adds, Because fire has been kindled in my wrath, and against you it shall burn. He means that God would be implacable until they were consumed; for his wrath had been kindled on account of their perverse wickedness.

Now all these things were foretold to them, that they might know that God would execute a just vengeance by making the Chaldeans their conquerors: for they might have thought that this happened by chance, according to what has been said by heathen writers, that the events of war are uncertain, that Mars is indifferent (Cicero in Epist) Thus they ascribe to chance whatever happens through God’s providence. That the Jews then might know that they were chastised by God’s hand and by his just vengeance, it was necessary that this should have been declared to them: and therefore he speaks now of the Chaldeans and then of God himself, whose agents the Chaldeans were, for they were guided by his hand. He said before, “Will iron break the iron from the north?” This we, have explained of the Chaldeans: but now he turns to God himself, the author of the calamity brought on the Jews: for the Chaldeans could have done nothing, except through his guidance and direction.

Hence he says, I will cause them to pass over to the enemy, even to a land which they know not. And the reason which follows ought to have availed to check all their complaints. We indeed know how clamorous the Jews were, for they often accused God of cruelty, as it appears from many passages. The Prophet then, in order to restrain them, says, that the fire of God’s wrath had been kindled, and that it could not be extinguished, but would burn on them, that is, would entirely consume them. At the same time he condemns their obstinacy, for they allowed no place to God’s mercy, though often warned. They might indeed have pacified him, had they repented. Hence the Prophet here condemns their sottishhess; for they increased their judgment by a continued progress in their evil ways. He afterwards adds —

<241515>Jeremiah 15:15

15. O Lord, thou knowest: remember me, and visit me, and revenge me of my persecutors; take me not away in thy long-suffering: know that for thy sake I have suffered rebuke.

15. Tu nosti, Jehova; recordare mei, et visita me, et ulciscere me a persecutoribus meis, ne in prorogatione (vel, protractione) irae tuae tollas me; cognosce sustinuisse me (id est, quod sustinuerim) propter to opprobrium.

 

The Prophet again turns to God, to shew that he had to do with the deaf. This breaking off in the Prophet’s discourse has much more force than if he had pursued regularly his subject. Had he spoken calmly and in uniform order to the people, his address would have been less forcible, than by speaking to them as it were angrily and by severely reproving them, and then immediately by turning from them and addressing God as though bidding adieu to men. Of this we have spoken elsewhere, but it is well to remind you of what we have before noticed. We now perceive the design of the Prophet, in thus abruptly turning from the people to God, and then again from God to the people, even because he indignantly bore the loss of his labor, when the ears of almost all were closed, and when they had become so hardened that they had no fear of God, nor any regard for his teaching. As then the Prophet indignantly bore so great a wickedness, he could not but speak in a hasty manner.

According to this strain, he now says, Thou knowest, Jehovah; remember me, and visit me, and avenge me of mine enemies. The Prophet, however, seems here to have been more angry than he ought to have been, for revenge is a passion unbecoming the children of God. How was it, then, that the Prophet was so indignant against the people that he desired revenge? We have said elsewhere that the prophets, though freed from every carnal feeling, might yet have justly prayed for vengeance on the reprobate. We must distinguish between private and public feelings, and also between the passions of the flesh, which keep within no limits, and the zeal of the Spirit. It is certain that the Prophet had no regard to himself when he thus spoke; but he dismissed every regard for himself, and had regard only to the cause of God: for inconsiderate zeal often creeps in, so that we wish all to be condemned of whom we do not approve; and such was the excessive zeal of the disciples, when they said,

“Lord, bid fire to descend from heaven to consume them, as was done by Elias.” (<420954>Luke 9:54)

But it is necessary not only to be moved by a pious zeal, but also to be guided by a right judgment: and this second requisite was possessed by the Prophet; for he did not let loose the reins to his own zeal, but subjected himself to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Since, then, these two things were united, — a right zeal, to the exclusion of any private feeling, — and the spirit of wisdom and a right judgment, it was lawful to ask for vengeance on the reprobate, as the Prophet does.

There is further no doubt but that he pitied the people; but he was in a manner freed from the influence of human feelings, and had put off whatever might have disturbed him and led him away from moderation. Though, then, the Prophet was thus emancipated and freed from every kind of perturbation, there is yet no doubt but that he prayed for final judgment on the reprobate; and yet, if there were any healable, he doubtless wished them to be saved, and also prayed anxiously for them.

In short, whenever the prophets were carried away by such a fervor as this, we must understand that they were fined by the Spirit of Christ; and we must know that, when they were thus fined, their whole zeal was directed against the reprobate, while they were at the same time endeavoring to gather together all that could be saved: and the same was the case with David; when he fervently implored destruction on his enemies, he no doubt sustained the person of Christ, as he was fined by his Spirit. (<193504>Psalm 35:4-6) Hence he turned and levelled all his vehemence against the reprobate; but, when there was any hope of salvation, David also, in the spirit of kindness, prayed for the restoration of those who seemed to have already perished. Now, then, when the Prophet says, “Thou knowest, Jehovah; remember me, and visit, me, and avenge me of my persecutors,” he doubtless does not mean all his persecutors, but those who had been given up and devoted to destruction, and whom he himself knew to be reprobates. fC115

He afterwards shews what he meant by these words — remember me, and visit me; for he says, Take me not away by deferring. So they render the passage, “Whilst thou bearest with the impiety of this people, and for a time suspendest thy vengeance, let not thy wrath take me away.” The word ˚ra arek, means to defer, to protract, and also to prolong, to extend, and to continue. Hence this meaning is not unsuitable, “Take me not away in the protraction of thy wrath;” that is, “By protracting thy wrath, not only for one day, but for a long time, take me not away, involve me not in the same destruction with the reprobate.” David also prayed for the same thing,

“When thou destroyest the wicked, involve me not with them.” (<192609>Psalm 26:9)

The sum of the whole is, that the Prophet asks a favor for himself, that God would make a difference between him and the reprobate while he was protracting his wrath; that is, while he was not only taking vengeance on the impiety of the people for a short time, but also while he was adding calamities to calamities, and accumulating evils on evils, and while thus his fire burned for a long time, until the whole land was consumed: and this is the meaning which I prefer, though all the interpreters agree in another. fC116

It must further be noticed that the Prophet, in this prayer, did not so much consult his own advantage as the good of the people, — that they might at length dread the dreadful judgment which was at hand. We have already stated how supine a security prevailed throughout Judea; and they also hoped, that if any calamity happened it would be for a short time, so that, having endured it, they might again live in pleasure and quietness. Hence the Prophet speaks of the protraction of God’s wrath, in order that they might know, as I have already said, that the fire which had been kindled could not be extinguished until they all perished.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that as we cease not by our sins daily to provoke thy wrath against us, and are also ungrateful to thee and disobedient to thy heavenly doctrine, — O grant that we may at length know what we have hitherto deserved, and become so displeased with our vices, that being really and from the heart turned to thee, we may above all things seek to be reconciled to thee and received into favor, so that thou mayest rule us by thy Holy Spirit, and confirm us in true obedience and godliness, until we shall at length enjoy that eternal felicity which has been prepared for us in heaven by Christ our Lord. — Amen.


Lecture Sixty-First

<241516>Jeremiah 15:16

16. Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O Lord God of hosts.

16. Inventi sunt sermones tui, et comedi eos, et fuit sermo tuus mihi in gaudium et laetitiam cordis mei; quia invocatum est nomen tuum super me, Jehova Deus exereituum.

 

The Prophet had said in the last verse that he was loaded with reproach on God’s account; for in his intercourse with his own people he did not incur their hatred for any private affair, but for his faithfulness in the discharge of his duty: hence arose their reproaches and slanders. He now confirms the same thing in other words, and at the same time explains what might have appeared obscure on account of the brief statement which he had made. This verse, then, is explanatory; for the Prophet shews what he meant by saying that he was burdened with reproaches and calumnies on account of God’s name.

Found, he says, by me have been thy words, and I did eat them, and they turned to me for joy of heart. Hence then it was that he was hated by the whole people, because he labored to obey from the heart and in sincerity the command of God, and to perform the office committed to him. But by saying that words had been found, he refers to his calling, as though he had said that he had not sought them as ambitious men are wont to do. We indeed see, with regard to many, that they busy themselves about many things, while they might be at ease and be troublesome to none; but a foolish ambition impels them to seek offices for themselves, and thus they excite against themselves the hatred of many. The Prophet therefore testifies here, that he did not ambitiously seek his office, but that it had been conferred on him from above. We may also take the word in another sense — that the Prophet felt assured that God had sent him; for the word, to find, is often thus taken in Scripture; that is, when anything is perceived and known it is said to be found. But the former view is what I approve, for it is more simple. Then the Prophet says that he was called and made a Prophet, when he expected no such thing; for when he in no way intruded himself, God met him, and in a manner anticipated him: and this we have seen in the first chapter; for he said, for the sake of excusing himself,

“Ah! Lord, I cannot speak.” (<240108>Jeremiah 1:8)

We hence see that the Prophet sought to decline the office rather than to desire it as a vocation of honor. So he now rightly declares that God’s words had been found by him, that is, that they had been gratuitously bestowed on him, according to what the Lord says by Isaiah,

“I have been found by them who sought me not, and I have manifested myself to them who asked not for me.” (<236501>Isaiah 65:1; <451020>Romans 10:20)

This indeed is to be applied to all; but as to the meaning of the term, to find, we see how suitable it is. the Prophet then did not hunt for this honor, nor did he desire any such thing, but the favor of God anticipated him.

He afterwards adds, I did eat them. He here testifies that he from the heart, and with a sincere feeling, submitted to God’s command. We indeed know that many prattle about heavenly mysteries, and have the words of God on their tongues; but the Prophet says that he had eaten the words of God; that is, that he brought forth nothing from the tip of his tongue, as the proverb is, but spoke from the bottom of his heart, while engaged in the work of his calling. Well known and sufficiently common in Scripture is the metaphor of eating. When we are said to eat Christ, (<402626>Matthew 26:26) the reference no doubt is to the union we have with him, because we are one body and one spirit. So also we are said to eat the word of God, not when we only taste and immediately spew it out again, as fastidious men do, but when we receive inwardly and digest what the Lord sets before us. For celestial truth is compared to food, and we know by the experience of faith how fit the comparison is. Since then celestial truth is good to feed spiritually our souls, we are justly said to eat it when we do not reject it, but greedily receive it, and so really chew and digest it that it becomes our nourishment. This then is what is meant by the Prophet; for he did not act a fable on the stage when teaching the people, but performed in real earnest the office committed to him, not like an actor, is the case is with many who boast themselves to be ministers of the word, but he was a faithful and true minister of God. He then says, that the word of God had been to him the joy and gladness of his heart; that is, that he delighted in that word, like David, who compares it to honey. (<191911>Psalm 19:11; <19B9103>Psalm 119:103) The same manner of speaking is used by Ezekiel,(<260208>Ezekiel 2:8 and <260301>Ezekiel 3:1-3;) for the Prophet is there bidden to eat the volume presented to him; and then he says that it was to him like honey in sweetness, for he embraced the truth with ardent desire, and made privately such a proficiency in the school of God, that his labors became afterwards publicly useful. We hence see how similar was the case with Jeremiah and Ezekiel; for they not only recited, as is commonly done by those who seek to please the ear, what they had been taught, but they became the disciples of the holy Spirit before they became teachers to the people. fC117

It may however be asked, how could the word of God be so sweet and pleasant to the Prophet, when yet it was so full of bitterness; for we have seen elsewhere that many tears were shed by the holy man, and he had expressed a wish that his eyes would flow, as though they were fountains of water. How then could these things agree — the grief and sorrow which the holy man felt for God’s judgments, and the joy and gladness which he now mentions? We have said elsewhere that these two feelings, though apparently repugnant, were connected together in the Prophets; they as men deplored and mourned for the ruin of the people, and yet, through the power of the Spirit, they performed their office, and approved of the just vengeance of God. Thus then the word of God became joy to the Prophet, not that he was not touched by a deep feeling for the destruction of the people, but that he rose above all human feelings, so as fully to approve of God’s judgments. Hosea says the same thing —

“Right are the ways of the Lord; the just will walk in them, but the ungodly will stumble and fall.” (<281409>Hosea 14:9)

The Prophet indeed speaks thus, not of the word itself, but of its execution; but yet the design is the same; for the Prophet Hosea checks the wantonness of the people, because they complained that God was too rigid and severe. Right, he says, are the ways of the Lord; the just will walk in them, that is, they will consent to God, and acknowledge that he acts rightly, even when he punishes for sins; but the ungodly will stumble, according to what the Lord says in another place —

“Are my ways perverse and not rather yours?”
(<261825>Ezekiel 18:25)

For they said that the Lord’s ways were crooked, because they, being soft and delicate, could not endure those severe rebukes, which their own wickedness forced from the holy Prophets. God answers them, and says, that his ways were not crooked, nor thorny, nor tortuous, but that the fault was in the people themselves.

We now then understand the real meaning of this passage. The Prophet knew that nothing was better than to receive whatever proceeded from God; and he testifies that he found sweetness in God’s word.

He afterwards adds, Because on me is called thy name, O Jehovah, God of hosts. This mode of speaking occurs often in Scripture, but in a different sense. The name of God is indeed called indiscriminately on all, who are deemed his people. As it was formerly given to the whole seed of Abraham, so it is at this day conferred on all who are consecrated to his name by holy baptism, and who boast themselves to be Christians and the sons of the Church; and this belongs even to the Papists. We are called by his name, because he has favored us with his peculiar grace, for the purity of true and lawful worship exists among us; errors have been removed and his simple truth remains; yet many hypocrites are mixed with the elect of God, so that in a true and well ordered church, the reprobate are called by the name of God; but the elect alone are truly called by his name, as Paul says,

“Let every one who calls on the name
of the Lord depart from iniquity,” (<550219>2 Timothy 2:19)

There is in this case a mutual connection; for to call on the name of the Lord, and to have his name called on any one, amounts to the same thing. We hence see that the name of God is only truly and really called on those, who not only boast that they are the faithful, but who have been also regenerated by the Holy Spirit.

But the Prophet here refers to his office when he says, that the name of God was called on him; for he had been chosen to his office of teaching; he was not only dignified with the title, but was really approved by God. We now then perceive in what sense he says that God’s name was called on him, even because God had laid his hand on him and resolved to employ him in the work of teaching the people. But there are many mercenaries in the Church, and though they do not openly corrupt or adulterate the truth of God, they yet, as Paul says, preach it for gain, (<470217>2 Corinthians 2:17) It must be observed, that God’s name was called on Jeremiah, because he was known to God as being true and faithful; and he had not only proved himself to be so to men, but he had been chosen by God to be his faithful messenger. fC118

There is emphasis in the words, O Jehovah, the God of hosts; for the Prophet no doubt refers here to the glory of God, that he might with an elevated mind look down, as it were, on so many adversaries, who proudly despised him, as it was difficult to carry on war with the whole people. This then was the reason why he spoke of God’s glory in terms so magnificent, by saying, O Jehovah, the God of hosts. It follows: —

<241517>Jeremiah 15:17

17. I sat not in the assembly of the mockers, nor rejoiced; I sat alone, because of thy hand: for thou hast filled me with indignation.

17. Non sedi in consilio (vel coetu) derisorum, neque exultavi; propter manum tuam seorsum sedi; quia indignatione replevisti me.

 

Here the Prophet more fully declares, that he was hated by the whole people because he pleased God. He indeed inveighs against the impiety of those who then bore rule; he does not here so much reprove the common people as the chief men, who exercised authority and administered justice; for when he speaks of the assembly of the ungodly, he no doubt refers to wicked rulers, as the word dws, sud, which means a secret, means also a council. And David (or whosoever was the author of the sixty-ninth Psalm) says, not that he was a sport to the vulgar, but that he was derided by those who sat in the gate, (<196912>Psalm 69:12) which means, that he was reproachfully treated by wicked judges, who possessed the chief authority. So also in this place, Jeremiah says, that he did not sit in the council of mockers. It is not the same word as in the first Psalm; and dws, sud, is sometimes taken in a good sense, but here in a bad sense; for Jeremiah speaks of the profane despisers of God, who ridiculed everything that was announced in the name of God. fC119

Now it was necessary for the holy man thus to exasperate these impious men, for they were in favor, credit, and authority with the people; and we know that they who were in power do in a manner dazzle the eyes of the vulgar with their splendor. As they then thus deceived the simple, the Prophet removed the mask, and exclaimed, that he did not sit in their council nor exulted with them. In denying that he was connected with them, he intimates what their conduct and manners were. He therefore shews, that whatever their dignity might be, they were still the impious despisers of God, and were only mockers. The same is the case with us at this day, we are under the necessity directly to expose those masked rulers, who are inflated with their own power and fascinate the people; for buffoons in tippling-houses and taverns do not so wantonly mock God as those courtiers, who, while consulting respecting the state of the whole earth, and deciding on the affairs of all kingdoms, seem as though they themselves possessed all the power of God; and we also know that they are profane mockers. Hardly any piety or reverence for God is to be found in the courts of princes; nay, especially at their councils, the devil reigns, as it were, without control. We are therefore constrained often to speak very strongly against such unprincipled men, who falsely assume the name of God, and by this pretense deceive the common people. By this necessity was Jeremiah constrained to declare, that he had not been in the assembly of such men.

He then adds, On account of thine hand (from the presence of thine hand) I sat apart, because with indignation hast thou filled me. Here Jeremiah confesses that he had departed from the people; but he did so, because he could not have otherwise obeyed God. Some consider hand to mean prophecy, and others, a stroke; and so it is often taken metaphorically; but I am disposed to take it for command, “On account of thy hand;” that is, because I attended to what thou hast commanded, nor had I any other object but to obey thee. Hence, On account of thine hand, because I regarded thee and wished wholly to submit to thy will, I sat apart.

This passage is especially deserving of notice; for the Prophet was at Jerusalem among the priests, and was one of them, as we found at the beginning of this book. Though then he was a priest, he was constrained to separate himself and to renounce all connection with his colleagues and brethren. As then this was the case with the holy Prophet, why do the Papists try to frighten us by objecting to us our separation, as though:it were a most heinous crime? they call us apostates, because we have departed from their assemblies; truly if Jeremiah was an apostate, we need not be ashamed to follow his example, since he was approved by God, though he separated from the whole people, and also from the ungodly priests. Let us at this day openly and boldly confess that we have separated. There is then a separation between us, and one indeed irreconcilable; and accursed were we, if we sought an union with the Papists. We are therefore constrained plainly and openly to repudiate them, and to move heaven and earth rather than to agree with them. We see that there is a rule here prescribed to us by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of Jeremiah. To refute then the ealumnies of those who object to us our separation, this very passage is sufficient.

“I sat apart,” and true it, was so; but no one can say this at this day; for the Lord has gathered to himself many teachers and many disciples. They then who now profess the gospel do not sit apart as Jeremiah. But though all had forsakert him, he yet hesitated not to separate himself from all. But were it necessary for every one of us to become separated and to live apart, were God to scatter each of us through all the regions of the world, so that no one were to strengthen and encourage another, yet we should still stand firm, under the conviction that we sat apart on account of God’s hand. Let the Papists then complain as they please, that we are proud, and that we disturb the peace of the whole world, provided we have this answer to give, — That we sit apart on account of God’s hand, because we seek to obey God and to follow his call: we can therefore boldly and safely despise and scorn all the reproaches with which they falsely load us.

He afterwards adds, For thou hast filled me with idignation. fC120 He confirms what he said in the last verse, — that he had eaten the word of God, that he had not been slightly moved, but had been inflamed with zeal for God: for we cannot really execute the commission given to us unless we be fined with indignation, that is, unless zeal for God burns inwardly, for the prophetic office requires such a fervor. He then adds —

<241518>Jeremiah 15:18

18. Why is my pain perpetual, and my wound incurable, which refuseth to be healed? wilt thou be altogether unto me as a liar, and as waters that fail?

18. Ut quid erit dolor meus fortis, (vel, durus) et plaga mea aegra (aut, valida, aut, insanabilis, doloris plena; dicemus postea de voce,) renuit curari? (hoc est, non admittit remedium:) eris mihi sicut mendacium aquarum non fidelium. (alli vetrunt, eris mihi mendax, aquae infideles, hoc est, tanquam aquae infideles.)

 

Before we proceed, we shall shortly refer to the meaning of the passage. Jeremiah has before shewn that he possessed an heroic courage in despising all the splendor of the world, and in regarding as nothing those proud men who boasted that they were the rulers of the Church: but he now confesses his infirmity; and there is no doubt but that he was often agitated by different thoughts and feelings; and this necessarily happens to us, because the flesh always fights against the spirit. For though the Prophet announced nothing human when he declared the truth of God, yet he was not wholly exempt from sorrow and fear and other feelings of the flesh. For we must always distinguish, when we speak of the prophets and the apostles, between the truth, which was pure, free from every imperfection, and their own persons, as they commonly say, or themselves. Nor were, they so perfectly renewed but that some remnant of the flesh still continued in them. So then Jeremiah was in himself disturbed with anxiety and fear, and affected with weariness, and wished to shake off the burden which he felt so heavy on his shoulders. He was then subject to these feelings, that is, as to himself; yet his doctrine was free from every defect, for the Holy Spirit guided his mind, his thoughts, and his tongue, so that there was in it nothing human. The Prophet then has hitherto testified that he was called from above, and that he had cordially undertaken the office deputed to him by God, and had faithfully obeyed him: but now he comes to himself, and confesses that he was agitated by many thoughts, which betokened the infirmity of the flesh, and were not free from blame. This then is the meaning.

He says, Why is my grief strong, or hard? He intimates that his grief could not be eased by any soothing remedy. He alludes to ulcers, which by their hardness repel all emollients. And for the same purpose he adds, And my wound weak, as some render it, for it is from na anesh, to be feeble; and hence is wna anush, which means man; and it expresses his weakness, as da adam, shews his origin, and ya aish, intimates his strength and courage. Others render the words, “and my wound full of pain;” and others, “strong,” as he had before called his grief strong. He afterwards thus explains what he meant by the terms he used, It refuses to be healed. There is no doubt, as I have already intimated, but that the Prophet here honestly expresses the perturbations of his own mind, and shews that he in a manner vacinated; the wickedness of the people was so great, that he could not so perseveringly execute his office as he ought to have done. fC121

He adds, Thou wilt be to me as the deception of inconstant waters. I wonder why some render the words, “Thou wilt be to me deceptive as inconstant waters.” The word may indeed be an adjective, but it is doubtless to be rendered as a substantive, “Thou wilt be to me as the deception,” and then, “of unfaithful waters.” that is, of such as flow not continually: for faithful or constant waters are those which never fail; as the Latins call a fountain inexhaustible whose spring never dries; so the Hebrews call a fountain faithful or constant which never fails either in summer or in drought. On the contrary, they call waters unfaithful which become dry, as when a well, which has no perennial veins, is made dry by great heat; and such also is often the case with large streams. fC122

We now see the import of this comparison: but the words are apparently very singular; for the Prophet expostulates with God as though he had been deceived by him, “Thou wilt be to me,” he says, “as a vain hope, and as deceptive waters, which fail during great heat, when they are mostly wanted.” If we take the words as they appear to mean, they seem to border on blasphemy; for God had not without reason testified before, that he is the Fountain of living water; and he had condemned the Jews for having dug for themselves broken cisterns, and for having forsaken him, the Fountain of living water. Such, no doubt, had He been found by all who trusted in him. What then does Jeremiah mean here by saying, that God was to him as a vain hope, and as waters which continue not to flow? The Prophet, no doubt, referred to others rather than to himself; for his faith had never been shaken nor removed from his heart. He then knew that he could never be deceived; for relying on God’s word he greatly magnified his calling, not only before the world, but also with regard to himself: and his glorytug, which we have already seen, did not proceed except from the inward feeling of his heart. The Prophet then was ever fully confident, because he relied on God, that he could not be made ashamed; but here, as I have said, he had regard to others. And we have already seen similar passages, and the like expressions will hereafter follow.

There is no doubt but that it was often exultingly alleged that the Prophet was a deceiver: “Let him go on and set before us the words of his God; it has already appeared that his boasting is vain in saying that he has hitherto spoken as a prophet.” Since then the ungodly thus harassed the Prophet, he might have justly complained that God was not to him like perennial springs, because they all thought that he was deceived. And we must always bear in mind what I said yesterday, — that the Prophet does not speak here for his own sake, but raffler that he might reprove the impiety of the people. It therefore follows —

<241519>Jeremiah 15:19

19. Therefore thus saith the Lord, If thou return, then will I bring thee again, and thou shalt stand before me; and if thou take forth the precious from the vile, thou shalt be as my mouth: let them return unto thee; but return not thou unto them.

19. Propterea sic dixit Jehova,, Si conversus fueris, ego quoque convertam te; coram facie mea stabis [hoc est, ut stes coram me) et si separaveris (eduxeris ad verbum, hoc est, si discreveris)pretiosum a vili, tanquam os meum eris: convertantur ipsi ad te, et tu non convertaris ad eos.

 

From this answer of God we may gather more clearly the design of the Prophet, for his purpose was, in order more fully to prove the people guilty, to set before their eyes as it were his own perverseness. Had he spoken only according to the heroic elevation of his own mind, so as not to appear touched by any human feeling, they might have derided him as hardhearted or a fanatic, for so we find that the proud of this world speak and think of the faithful servants of Christ. They call them melancholy, they consider them as unfeeling, and as they neither dread death, nor are drawn away by the allurements of this life, they think that all this proceeds from brutal savageness. Had then the Prophet only performed the duties of his office, the ungodly might have derided his insensibility, but he wished to set forth his own infirmity, his sorrows, his fears, and his anxieties, that he might thus lead the Jews to view things aright. This answer of God ought then to be connected with the complaint of the Prophet, and we may hence learn the meaning of the whole.

God gives this answer, If thou wilt be turned, I will turn thee, that thou mayest stand before me. It is the same as though he had said, that he was reproved by the Lord because he fluctuated amidst the commotions of the people. A similar passage is found in the eighth chapter of Isaiah. The Lord there exhorts his Prophet to separate himself from the people, and not to connect himself with those who might have often easily disturbed him, because they continued not in his word; then he says,

“Seal my law for my disciples, sign the testimony,”
(<230812>Isaiah 8:12, 16)

as though he had said, “Have now nothing to do with so perverse a people.” So also now the Lord speaks, If thou wilt be turned, that is, if thou wilt not be guided by the false judgments of the people, nor heed what they say of thee, but boldly despise them and persevere in thy separation from them, I will turn thee, that is, I will by my spirit so strengthen thee, that they may perceive at length that thou art my faithful servant. Then he adds, that thou mayest stand before me. We hence see more plainly what is the meaning of the word “turn” in the second clause, even that the Prophet would render his office approved of God, however clamorous the Jews might be; though they even rose up tumulmously against him, yet he says, thou shalt stand before me. There is implied here a contrast in the word “stand,” for though the Prophet should be most violently assailed by the false words of men, yet God would support and sustain him. The rest we defer until to-morrow.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that since thou hast at this day plainly made known to us thy will through the gospel of thy Son, so that we may by an unshaken faith embrace what is therein set forth to us, — O grant, that we may learn to be satisfied with thee alone, and to aequiesce in thy truth, and to renounce the whole world, so that we may never be moved by any threats and terrors, nor vacinate when the ungodly seem so proudly disposed to withdraw confidence in thee; but may we render to thee all due honor, so as not only to obey thee but also to perform the offices committed to us, and never to hesitate so to provoke the whole world against us, that howsoever hard our warfare may be we may firmly persevere in the course of thy holy calling, and may thus at length enjoy that triumph, which Christ thy only-begotten Son hath procured for us. — Amen.


Lecture Sixty-Second

We began yesterday to explain the passage in which God exhorts the Prophet to be courageous. He indeed uses the word to “turn,” but it is the same as though he had said, that it was not wise in him to vacinate, for he ought not to have turned aside by any means from the performance of his office, though the Jews obstinately resisted him. The sum of the whole then is, “If thou turnest thyself I will also restore thee, that thou mayest stand before me.”

It then follows, If thou wilt distinguish the precious from the worthless, thou shalt be as my mouth. God now expresses what sort of turning he required from his servant, even freely to condemn what was vicious, and boldly to defend what was right, though the whole would oppose him. God then indirectly refers to that fear of Jeremiah by which he was so shaken that he knew not what to do. hence God reproves his Prophet, and shows that he could not otherwise stand than by distinguishing between the precious and the worthless. Thus all flattery was to be excluded. God then forbids his Prophet to deal gently with the people, or to be influenced by favor so as to spare their vices, and not to defend what was right with that courage which became him.

In these words is briefly comprehended the duty of a true Prophet, even to turn his eyes from men, to heed neither favor nor hatred, but to fix his attention only on the truth, not only to approve of what is right, but also to defend it at the peril of his life, and further, not to spare vices, but freely to reprove them.

What is added, Thou shalt be as my mouth, some interpret as though it was said, “Happen to thee shall everything that I have promised,” or, “my promise shall not disappoint thee,” but this seems to be far-fetched. I therefore take this plain meaning, “I will own thee as a true and faithful servant, if only thou distinguishest what is just from what is unjust, if thou continuest to fight for the truth, and freely reprovest and condemnest vices.” The import of the passage is, that those only are deemed by God to be the faithful pastors of the Church, who are not influenced by respect of persons, who do not turn to this or to that side, but rightly judge and according to the law of God; for by the law is the difference to be made between the precious and the worthless, as we are no fit judges but as far as we agree with what God has said. The law then is alone that by which we can distinguish the precious from the worthless.

They who keep to this rule, do justly condemn some and approve of others, because they are only God’s heralds, and bring nothing of their own. It hence follows, on the other hand, that those are not God’s instruments or ministers, nor are worthy of any honor, who so pervert vices and virtues as to say that light is darkness and that darkness is light. We may, in short, conclude from this passage, that a vocation or a title is not sufficient, except, they who are called faithfully discharge their duty to God. It hence follows, that all those who either ambitiously seek the favor of men, or are indulgent to their vices, and by flatteries nourish their corruptions, are impostors: for how much soever they may boast that they are God’s servants, yet he himself declares that they are not to be so accounted.

He then adds, Let them be turned to thee, but be not thou turned to them, or, thou shalt not be turned to them; but the verbs, being in the future tense, are to be taken as imperatives. He now confirms the previous doctrine, — that he ought not to be submissive to them or to flatter them, but to subdue their perverse minds until they received the yoke of God. The meaning of the words is this, — that the Prophets were sent for this end — not to gratify men, or to soothe them by obsequiousness, but to continue firm and constant in executing their office and to turn refractory men to him, and not to concede anything to them. And doubtless, except this course be pursued, the majesty of God must give place to the humours and fancies of men: for we know how great is the pride of almost the whole world, and also their love of pleasure, so that no one can willingly bear to be reproved. As then the greater part of mankind are so proud and self-indulgent, were the word of God to bend to the humor of this or of that man, what would become of it? there would certainly remain in celestial truth no dignity and no majesty.

We now see why this clause was added: for the precious could not be rightly and justly distinguished from the worthless, except the Prophets continued firm in the course of their calling, and carried on war with the perverseness of men. It is therefore necessary that all faithful teachers in the Church should so conduct themselves, as not to concede to the vices of men nor to cherish their fancies, but to constrain them to undertake the yoke of God. Paul, however, seems to have followed a different course, for he says to the Galatians,

“Be ye as I am, for I am as you are.” (<480412>Galatians 4:12)

As then he had endeavored to conform to what they did, and to bear their infirmities, he exhorts them to do the same in return. But it is certain that Paul acted not differently from Jeremiah or other servants of God: and the answer is evident; for Paul in the same Epistle testifies, that if he pleased men, he could not be the servant of Christ, (<480110>Galatians 1:10) He then did not hunt for the farours of men, nor turned aside in the least from the course of his duty to render himself obsequious to men; but he could forgive their infirmities, or bear them, so that he might thereby turn them to himself, or rather restore them to the service of God. For when God thus speaks, Be not thou turned to them, he means not Jeremiah personally, but refers to his doctrine. The meaning is, that the truth of God ought not to bend to the will of men; for God changes not, and so his word admits of no change. Whatever then men may expect, this rule must remain fixed and inviolable, that they must submit to God, and that he must be the sovereign, and reduce to submission whatever height or excellency or pride there may be in the world. fC123 It then follows —

<241520>Jeremiah 15:20

20. And I will make thee unto this people a fenced brazen wall; and they shall fight against thee, but they shall not prevail against thee: for I am with thee to save thee, and to deliver thee, saith the Lord.

20. Et posui te huic populo in murum aeneum (aeris, ad verbum) munitum: ergo pugnabunt contra te, sed non praevalebunt tibi; quia tecum ego sum ad servandum te et ad liberandum te, dicit Jehova.

 

As Jeremiah might have objected and said, that the burden was too heavy for him, if he only attempted to break down the contumacy of the people, for he was alone, and we have seen how great was the ferocity and also the cruelty of his adversaries, — as he might have shunned his commission, it being too much for his strength, hence God comes to his aid and bids him to take courage, for he was fortified by a help from heaven, I have set thee, he says, for a brazen fortified wall to this people. The word for “fortified” is from rxb, betsar; were it hrxb betsare, derived from rwx tsur, to besiege, it would much better suit this place. I know not whether the passage has been corrupted: however, I will not depart from the common reading. As then interpreters agree in this, I will change nothing; and indeed the difference is not very material. fC124

We see then what God meant by these words: As the Prophet was almost alone, and God had bidden him to contend with many and powerful enemies, he promises to stand on his side; as though he had said, — “Though thou art defenceless and unarmed, and they are furnished with wealth and great power, thou shalt yet be like a well-fortified city; thou shalt indeed be impregnable, notwithstanding all their assaults and whatever they may attempt against thee.”

But God proceeds lay degrees; for he first declares that his Prophet would be like a brazen and a fortified wall, that is, like an invincible city: for by stating a part for the whole, a wall means a city that is impregnable. It then follows, They indeed will fight against thee. This warning was very necessary; for Jeremiah was doubtless willing to serve God in exercising authority over teachable and humble men, and in gently inducing them to render obedience to God; but he is reminded here that he would have many hard contests with a rebellious people, They will fight, he says, against thee. We see how God does not promise ease to Jeremiah, nor gives him a hope of a better lot in future; but, on the centrary, he exhorts him to fight; and why? because the people would not bear the yoke of God, but kindled into rage against him. But another promise follows, They shall not prevail against thee, or overcome thee.

It was indeed necessary for Jeremiah of his own self to disturb the Jews; for nothing would have been more agreeable to them than his silence; and the object of all their attempts was to drive him to despair. But it is not without reason that they are said to fight with him; for it is contrary to nature for men to resist God and to set themselves against him when he invites them to himself; for what can be more natural than for the whole world to hasten to God? It is then something monstrous for men to oppose God, nay, furiously to rise up against hhn, when he kindly calls them to himself. Hence it is that God here makes the Jews the authors of all this disturbance. For since they loaded the Prophet with the most wicked calumnies, as we have seen, and said, that he was a turbulent man and confounded all things by his morosity, God here shews, on the other hand, that all the commotions and the rightings ought to be attributed to them, because they ought to have obediently received the doctrine set before them.

But though this was said only once to Jeremiah, yet the condition of all God’s servants is here set before us as in a mirror; for they cannot perform what God commands them without having to encounter many and grievous assaults; for the world is never so prepared to obey God, but the greater part furiously resists, and, as far as it can, stifles the word of God and checks his ministers.

He states the reason, For I am with thee to save thee and to deliver thee. fC125 By these words God exhorts his Prophet to prayer; for we know how dangerous is self-security to all the children of God, and especially to teachers. As then they have at all times need of God’s aid, they are to be exhorted to have recourse to solitude and prayer. This is the import of the words which God uses, I am with thee; as though he had said, “Thou indeed wilt not stand by thyself, or through thine own painstaking, nor wilt thou be a conqueror by carrying on war thyself; but thou must learn to flee to me.” It afterwards follows —

<241521>Jeremiah 15:21

21. And I will deliver thee out of the hand of the wicked, and I will redeem thee out of the hand of the terrible.

21. Et liberabo te e manuimpiorum (sceleratorum,) et eruam te e manu (est aliud nomen, sed eodem sensu capitur) fortium.

 

This verse contains nothing new, but is a confirmation of the promise which we have seen. God had promised to be with the Prophet; he now shews that there was sufficient strength in his hand to deliver him. How much soever then the Jews might oppose him, God declares here that he alone would be sufficient to break them down. We hence see that there is more expressed in these words than in what he had said before, I will be with thee to deliver thee; he now shews the act itself as by the finger. I will deliver thee. He had promised his aid; he now says, that his aid would be strong enough to deliver him from the hands of his enemies.

He says first, from the hand of the wicked, that the Jews might know that all their disguises would avail them nothing, for they were condemned by the mouth of God. In the second place, he calls them strong, that the Prophet might not be terrified by their power, as was usually the case. For it is very difficult for us not to be disturbed, when we are assailed on every side, and when threats and dangers are in our way. God then here reminds Jeremiah in time, that he would have to fight with the strong and valiant, but that all their strength in opposing him would be unavailing, for divine aid would be much stronger. Now follows —


CHAPTER 16

<241601>Jeremiah 16:1-4

1. The word of the Lord came also unto me, saying,

1. Et fuit sermo Jehovae ad me, dicendo,

2. Thou shalt not take thee a wife, neither shalt thou have sons or daughters in this place.

2. Non accipies tibi uxorem, et non erunt tibi filii et filiae in hoc loco;

3. For thus saith the Lord concerning the sons and concerning the daughters that are born in this place, and concerning their mothers that bare them, and concerning their fathers that begat them in this land;

3. Quia sic dicit Jehova super filios et super filias, qui nascentur in loco hoc, et super matres, quae pepererint illos, et super patres, qui genuerint illos in terra hac;

4. They shall die of grievous deaths; they shall not be lamented, neither shall they be buried; but they shall be as dung upon the face of the earth: and they shall be consumed by the sword, and by famine; and their carcases shall be meat for the fowls of heaven, and for the beasts of the earth.

4. Mortibus aegritudinum (vel, agrotationum) morientur, non plangentur, et non sepelientur; in stercus (id est, pro stercore) super faciem terrae erunt, et in gladio et fame consumentur (id est, per gladium et famem,) et erit cadaver eorum in cibum volucri coelorum et bestiae terrae

 

This is a new discourse, which yet is not unlike many others, except in this particular, that the Prophet was not to marry a wife nor beget children in the land. But as to the general subject, he repeats now what he had often said before and confirmed in many places. But the prohibition to marry was full of meaning; it was to shew that the people were wholly given up to destruction. The law of man’s creation, we know, was this,

“Increase and multiply.” (<010122>Genesis 1:22; <010817>Genesis 8:17; <010901>Genesis 9:1, 7)

As then mankind are perpetuated by marriage, here on the contrary God shews that that land was unworthy of this common and even general blessing enjoyed by the whole race of man. It is the same as if he had said, “They indeed as yet live, but a quick destruction awaits them, for I will deprive them of the universal favor which I have hitherto shewed to all mankind.”

Marriage is the preservation of the human race: Take not to thee a wife and beget no children. We hence see that in the person of Jeremiah God intended to shew the Jews that they deserved to be exterminated from the earth. This is the import of this prophecy.

It may however be asked, whether the Prophet was unmarried? But this has nothing to do with the subject, for he received this command in a vision; and though he might not have been unmarried, he might still have proclaimed this prophecy, that God had forbidden him to marry and to beget children. At the same time, I think it were probable that the Prophet. was not married, for as he walked naked, and as he carried on his neck a yoke, so also his celibacy might have been intended to be, as it were, a living representation, in order to produce an effect on the Jews. But, as I have already said, we need not contend about this matter. Every one then is at liberty to judge as he pleases, only I suggest what I deem most probable.

But the reason why God forbad his Prophet to marry, follows, because they were all consigned to destruction. We hence learn that celibacy is not here commended, as some foolish men have imagined from what is here said; but it is the same as though God had said, “There is no reason for any one to set his mind on begetting an offspring, or to think that this would be to his advantage: whosoever is wise will abstain from raarriage, as he has death before his eyes, and is as it were near to his grave.” The destruction then of the whole people, and the desolation and solitude of the whole land, are the things which God in these words sets forth.

At the same time, they are not threatened with a common kind of death, for he says that they were to die by the deaths of sicknesses. He then denounces on them continual languor, which would cause them to pine away with the greatest pain: sudden death would have been more tolerable; and hence David says, while complaining of the prosperity of the ungodly, that there

“were no bands in their death.” (<197304>Psalm 73:4)

And the same thing is found in the book of Job, that

“in a moment of time they descend to the grave,”

that is, that they flourish and prosper during life, and then die without any pain. (<182101>Job 21:1.3) Hence Julius Caesar, shortly before he was killed, called this kind a happy death, (eujqanasi>an,) for he thought it a happy thing to expire suddenly. And this is what is implanted in men by nature. Therefore Jeremiah, in order to amplify God’s vengeance, says that they would die by the deaths of sicknesses; fC126 that is, that they would be worn out by daily pains, and pine away until they died.

He adds, They shall not be lamented nor buried. We have seen elsewhere, and we shall hereafter see, (<242201>Jeremiah 22) that it is a proof of a curse when the dead are not buried, and when no one laments their death: for it is the common duty of humanity for relations and friends who survive, to mourn for the dead and to bury them. But the Prophet seems to mean also something further. I do not indeed exclude this, that God would deprive them of the honor of sepukure and of mourning; but he seems also to intimate, that the destruction of men would be so great that there would be none to perform these offices of humanity. For we lament the dead when leisure is allowed us; but when many are slain in war they are not individually lamented, and then their carcases he confused, and one grave is not sufficient for such a number. The Prophet there means, that so great would be the slaughter in Judea, that none would be buried, that none would be lamented. The verb which he uses means properly to lament, which is more than to weep: and we have said elsewhere, that in those countries there were more ceremonies than with us; for all the orientals were much given to various gesticulations; and hence they were not satisfied with tears, but they added lamentation, as though they were in despair.

But the Prophet speaks according to the customs of the age, without approving of this excess of grief. As they were wont not simply to bewail the dead, but also to shew their grief by lamentation, he says, “Their offices shall now cease, for there will not be graves enough for so many thousands: and then if any one wish to mourn, where would he begin?” We also know that men’s hearts become hardened, when many thus die through pestilence or war. The import of the whole is, that God’s wrath would not be moderate, for he would in a manner empty the land by driving them all away, so that there would be none remaining. God did indeed preserve the elect, though as it were by a miracle; and he afterwards preserved them in exile as in a grave, when they were removed from their own country.

He then adds, That they would be as dung on the face of the land. He speaks reproachfully of their carcasses, as though he had said, “They shall be the putridity of the land.” As then they had by their faith contaminated the land during life, God declares that after death they would become foetid like dung. Hence we learn, as I have before said, that it was an evidence of God’s curse, when carcases were left unburied; for as God has created us in his own image, so in death he would have some evidence of the dignity and excellency with which he has favored us beyond brute animals, still to remain. We however know that temporal punishments happen even to the faithful, but they are turned to their good, for the Psalmist complains that the bodies of the godly were cast forth and became food to the birds of heaven. (<197902>Psalm 79:2) Though this is true, yet these two things are by no means inconsistent, that it is a sign of God’s wrath when the dead are not buried, and that a temporal punishment does no harm to God’s elect; for all evils, as it is well known, turn out to them for good.

It is added, By the sword and by famine shall they be consumed; that is, some shall perish by the sword, and some by famine, according to what, we have before seen,

“Those for the sword, to the sword;
those for the famine, to the famine.” (<241502>Jeremiah 15:2)

Then he mentions what we have already referred to, Their carcases shall be for food to the beasts of the earth and to the birds of heaven. fC127 He here intimates, that it would be a manifest sign of his vengeance, when the Jews pined away in their miseries, when the sword consumed some of them, and famine destroyed others, and not only so, but when another curse after death followed them, for the Lord would inflict judgment on their carcases by not allowing them to be buried. How this is to be understood I have already stated; for God’s judgments as to the reprobate are evident; but when the godly and the righteous fall under similar punishment, God turns to good what seems in itself to be the sign of a curse. Though famine is a sign of a curse, and also the sword, yet we know that many of God’s children perish by famine and by the sword. But in temporal punishments this modification is ever to be remembered, — that God shews himself to be a righteous Judge as to the ungodly and wicked; — and that while he humbles his own people, he is not yet angry with them, but consults their benefit, so that what is in itself adverse to them is turned to their advantage.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that as thou anticipatest us by thy word, so that we may not experience thy eternal severity, — O grant, that we may become teachable, and be so displeased with our vices, that we may not provoke more and more thy vengeance, but hasten to seek reconciliation with thee, and that relying on the Mediator whom thou hast given us, we may flee to thy mercy, until having been cleansed from all our filth, we shall at length be received into thy celestial kingdom, and there appear before thee in that parity from which we are as yet very distant, and shall enjoy that glory which thine only-begotten Son has obtained for us by his own blood. — Amen.


Lecture Sixty-Third

<241605>Jeremiah 16:5

5. For thus saith the Lord, Enter not into the house of mourning, neither go to lament nor bemoan them: for I have taken away my peace from this people, saith the Lord, even loving-kindness and mercies.

5. Quia sic dicit Jehova, Ne ingrediaris domum luctus, et ne eas ad plangendum, et ne movearis propter illos; quia abstuli pacem meam a populo hoc, dicit Jehova, clementiam et miserationes.

 

As Jeremiah was forbidden at the beginning of the chapter to take a wife, for a dreadful devastation of the whole land was very nigh; so now God confirms what he had previously said, that so great would be the slaughter, that none would be found to perform the common office of lamenting the dead: at the same time he intimates now something more grievous, — that they who perished would be unworthy of any kind office. As he had said before, “Their carcases shall be cast to the “beasts of the earth and to the birds of heaven;” so now in this place he intimates, that their deaths would be so ignominious, that they would be deprived of the honor of a grave, and would be buried, as it is said in another place, like asses.

But when God forbids his Prophet to mourn, we are not to understand that he refers to excess of grief, as when God intends to moderate grief, when he takes away from us our parents, or our relatives, or our friends; for the subject here is not the private feeling of Jeremiah. God only declares that the land would be so desolate that hardly one would survive to mourn for the dead.

He says, Enter not into the house of mourning. Some render hzrm, merezach, a funeral feast; and it is probable, nay, it may be gathered from the context, that such feasts were made when any one was dead. fC128 And the same custom we see has been observed by other nations, but for a different purpose. When the Romans celebrated a funeral feast, their object was to shake off grief, and in a manner to convert the dead into gods. Hence Cicero condemns Vatinius, because he came clothed in black to the feast of Q. Arius, (Orat. pro L. Mur.) and elsewhere he says, that Tuberonis was laughed at and everywhere repulsed, because he covered the beds with goat’s skins, when Q. Maximus made a feast at the death of his uncle Africanus. Then these feasts were among the Romans full of rejoicing; but among the Jews, as it appears, when they lamented the dead, who were their relatives, they invited children and widows, in order that there might be some relief to their sorrow.

However this may be, God intimates by this figurative language, that the Jews, when they perished in great numbers, would be deprived of that common practice, because they were unworthy of having any survivors to bewail them.

Neither go, he says, to lament, nor be moved on their account. fC129 and why? For I have taken away my peace from this people, that is, all prosperity; for under the term, peace, the Jews included whatever was desirable. God then says, that he had taken away peace from them, and his peace, because he had pronounced that wicked nation accursed. He then adds, that he had taken away his kindness and his mercies. fC130 For the Prophet might have raised an objection and said, that this was not consistent with the nature of God, who testifies that he is ready to shew mercy; but God meets this objection and intimates, that there was now no place for kindness and mercy, for the impiety of the people had become past all hope. It follows —

<241606>Jeremiah 16:6-7

6. Both the great and the small shall die in this land: they shall not be buried, neither shall men lament for them, nor cut themselves, nor make themselves bald for them:

6. Et morientur magni et parvi in terra hac; non sepelient eos, et non plangent super eos, et non incidet se quisquam, et non fiet calvitium illis;

7. Neither shall men tear themselves for them in mourning, to comfort them for the dead; neither shall men give them the cup of consolation to drink for their father or for their mother.

7. Et non eomplodent (vel, extendent) illis (quidam legentes XXX pro XXX vertunt, non frangent panem; XXX significat frangere, et interdum dividere, vel ostendere, vel dispergere: non dubium est quin Propheta, sicut alio loco vidimus intelligat complosionem manuum, vel contorsionem, ubi in vehementi luctu ita brachia huc et illuc projiciuntur, deinde comploduntur manus: hunc gestum hoc quoque loco exprimit cum dicit, Et non frangent, vel, non complodent manus) ad consolandum (hoc est, ad unumquenque consolandum) super mortuo, et non propinabunt illis calicem consolationum super patre suo et super matre sua.

 

He pursues the same subject: he says that all would die indiscriminately, the common people as well as the chief men, that none would be exempt from destruction; for God would make a great slaughter, both of the lower orders and also of the higher, who excelled in wealth, in honor, and dignity; Die shall the great and the small. It often happens in changes that the great are punished; and sometimes the case is that the common people perish, while the nobles are spared: but God declares, that such would be the destruction, that their enemies would make no difference between the common people and the higher ranks, and that if they escaped the hands of their enemies, the pestilence or the famine would prove their ruin.

He adds, They shall not bury them, nor beat their breast for them; and then, they shall not eat themselves, nor make themselves bald for them. fC131 This is not mentioned by the Prophet to commend what the people did; nor did he consider that in this respect they observed the command of the law; for God had forbidden them to imitate the corrupt customs of the heathens. (<032101>Leviticus 21:1) We have already said, that the orientals were much given to external ceremonies, so that there was no moderation in their lamentations: therefore God intended to correct this excess. But the Prophet here has no respect to the command, that the Jews were to moderate their grief, — what then? He meant to shew, as I have already reminded you, that the slaughters would be so great, that they — would cause hardness and insensibility, being so immense as to stun the feelings of men. When any one dies, friends and neighbors meet, and shew respect to his memory; but when pestilence prevails, or when all perish by famine, the greater part become hardened and unmindful of themselves and others, and the offices of humanity are no longer observed. God then shews, that such would be the devastation of the land, that the Jews, as though callous and hardened, would no longer lament for one another. In short, he shews, that together with these dreadful slaughters, such insensibility and hardness would prevail among the Jews, that no husband would think of his wife, and no father of his children; but that all of them would be so astonied by their own evils as to become like the wild beasts.

He says further, They shall not cut themselves nor pull off their hairs, as they had used to do. These things are mentioned, as they were commonly done; it cannot be hence concluded, that they were approved by God; for God’s design was not to pronounce a judgment on their lamentation, on the tearing off of the hair, or on their incisions. It is indeed certain that these practices proceeded from the impetuous feelings of men, and were tokens of impatience; but as I have said, God does not speak here of what was lawful, but of what men were wont to do.

As to that part, where he says, that he had taken away his kindness and his mercies, he does not mean that he had changed his nature, but his object was to cut off occasion from all who might complain; for men, we know, wilenever God’s hand presses hard on them, to make them to deplore rightly their miseries, are stifficiently ready to say, that God visits them with too much severity. He therefore shews that they were unworthy of kindness and mercies. At the same time he reminded them that there was no reason for hypocrites to entertain any hope, because Scripture so often commends the kindness of God and his mercy; for since they accumulated sins on sins, God could not do otherwise than come to an extremity with them.

With regard to the seventh verse, fC132 we may learn from it what I have already referred to, — that the Jews made funeral feasts, that children and widows might receive some relief to their sorrow; for the Prophet calls it the cup of consolations, when friends kindly attended; they had also some ridiculous gesticulations; for no doubt laughter was often excited by mourners among the Jews. But we see that men vied with one another in lamenting for the dead; for it was deemed a shame not to shew grief at the death of their friends. When tears did not flow, when the nearest relations did not howl for the dead, they thought them inhuman; hence it was, that there was much dissimulation in their mourning; and it was foolishly regarded an alleviation to extend the cup of consolation. But as I have said before, the Prophet here did not point out what was right, but borrowed his words from what was commonly practiced. It follows —

<241608>Jeremiah 16:8

8. Thou shalt not also go into the house of feasting, to sit with them to eat and to drink.

8. Et domum convivii ne ingrediaris, ut sedeas cum ipsis ad edendum et ad bibendum.

 

Here the Prophet refers to other feasts, where hilarity prevailed. The meaning then is, — that the people were given up to destruction, so that nothing was better than to depart from them as far as possible. So Jeremiah is prohibited from going at all to them, so that he might not be their associate either in joy or in sorrow; as though he had said, — ‘Have no more anything to do with this people; if they lament their dead, leave them, for they are unworthy of any act of kindness; and if they make joyful feasts, be far from them, for every intercourse with them is accursed.” We now then understand why the Prophet spoke of grief, lamentation and mourning, and then mentioned joy. He afterwards adds, —

<241609>Jeremiah 16:9

9. For thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will cause to cease out of this place in your eyes, and in your days, the voice of mirth, and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride.

9. Quoniam sic dixit Jehova exercituum, Deus Israel, Ecce ego auferens ab hoc loco, coram oculis vestris, et in diebus vestris, vocem gaudii et vocem laetitiae, vocem sponsi et vocem sponsae.

 

This verse contains a reason for the preceding, — that every connection with that people would be accursed. Yet he states one thing more expressly, — that the time was come in which they were already deprived of all joy; for the ungodly, even when God most awfully threatens them, strengthen themselves in their security, hence God intended to give them some presage, that they might before the time know that the saddest calamities were at hand, by which every joy and gladness were to be taken away.

He then says, that the God of hosts and the God of Israel had spoken. He at the same time deprived them of all hope, though he called himself the God of Israel. Hypocrites were wont either to despise the power of God, or to abuse his goodness. Had not God checked them, they would have deemed as nothing what the prophets threatened; and how so? Because they depreciated, as far as they could, the power of God. Hence God says, that he is the God of hosts. But when they could not in their pride and haughtiness throw down, as it were the power of God, then they betook themselves to another asylum; they promised to themselves that he would deal indulgently with them; and thus they deceived themselves. Hence, on the other hand, God calls himself here the God of Israel, in order that they might know, that it was of no avail to them, that he had adopted the seed of Abraham; for they were not the children of Abraham, but aliens, as they had departed from his piety and faith. This served as a preface.

Now when he says, ynnh, enni, Behold me, he shews that the Jews had no reason to put off the time, and to indulge avain confidence; for vengeance was already come. Behold me, he says, he thus comes forth and testifies that he is already prepared to execute his judgment. Behold me,, he says, taking away from this place, before your eyes, and in your days, etc.; their destruction would happen in a short time and before their eyes. I am taking away, he says, the voice of joy and the voice of gladness, fC133 the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride. Here by stating a part for the whole, he intimates that they would become like the dead rather than the living; for the continuance of the human race is preserved by marriage, as in the offspring mankind are as it were born again, who would otherwise perish daily. Since then there was no more time left for marriages, it was a token of final destruction. This is what the Prophet intimates, when he says, that God would cause the voice of the bridegroom and of the bride to cease, so that there would be no more any congratulations. It follows, —

<241610>Jeremiah 16:10-13

10. And it shall come to pass, when thou shalt shew this people all these words, and they shall say unto thee, Wherefore hath the Lord pronounced all this great evil against us? or what is our iniquity? or what is our sin that we have committed against the Lord our God.

10. Et erit quum annuntiaveris populo huic omnia verba haec, tunc dicent (vel, si diceret) tibi, Cur loquutus est Jehova super nos omne malum hoe magnum? et quae iniquitas nostra? et quod scelus nostrum, quo scelerate egimus adversus Jehovam Deum nostrum?

11. Then shalt thou say unto them, Because your fathers have forsaken me, saith the Lord, and have walked after other gods, and have served them, and have worshipped them, and have forsaken me, and have not kept my law:

11. Tunc dices illis, Quia dereliquerunt me patres vestri, dicit Jehova, et profecti sunt post deos alienos, et servierunt illis, et adoraverunt illos (vel, sese inflexerunt coram illis,) et me reliquerunt et legem meam non servarunt;

12. And ye have done worse than your fathers; (for, behold, ye walk every one after the imagination of his evil heart, that they may not hearken unto me)

12. Et vos deteriores fuistis (deterius egistis) ad faciendum, (vel, perpetrandum) quam patres vestri, et ecce vos profecti estis quisque post pravitatem cordis sui mall, et absque audire me (hoe est, ita ut non audieritis me:)

13. Therefore will I cast you out of this land into a land that ye know not, neither ye nor your fathers; and there shall ye serve other gods day and night, where I will not shew you favor.

13. Et expellam vos e terra hae ad terram quam non novistis vos et patres vestri, et servietis inie diis alienis die ae nocte; quia non dabo vobis gratiam.

 

He shews here what we have seen elsewhere, — that the people flattered themselves in their vices, so that they could not be turned by any admonitions, nor be led by any means to repentance. It was a great blindness, nay, even madness, not to examine themselves, when they were smitten by the hand of God; for conscience ought to have been to them like a thousand witnesses, immediately condemning them; but hardly any one was found who examined his own life; and then, though God proved them guilty, hardly one in a hundred winingly and humbly submitted to his judgment; but the greater part murmured and made a clamor, whenever they felt the scourges of God. This evil, as Jeremiah shews, prevailed among the people; and he shewed the same in the fifth chapter.

Hence it is that God says, When thou shalt declare these words to this people, and they shall say, Wherefore has Jehovah spoken all this great evil against us; what is our iniquity? what is our sin, that he so rages against us, as though we had acted wickedly against him? God no doubt intended to obviate in time what that perverse people might have said, for he knew that they possessed an untameable disposition. As then he knew that they would be so refractory as to receive no reproof, he confirms his own Prophet, as though he had said, “There is no reason for their perverseness to discourage thee; for they will immediately oppose thee, and treat thee as one doing them a grievous wrong; they will expostulate with thee and deny that they ought to be deemed guilty of so great crimes; if then they will thus petulantly cast aside thy threatenings, there is no reason for thee to be disheartened, for thou shalt have an answer ready for them.”

We now see how hypocrites gained nothing, either by their evasions, or by wantonly rising against God and his Prophets. At the same time all teachers are reminded here of their duty, not to vacinate when they have to do with proud and intractable men. As it appeared elsewhere, where God commanded his Prophet to put on a brazen front, that he might boldly encounter all the insults of the people; (<240118>Jeremiah 1:18) the same is the case here, they shall say to thee, that is, when thou threatenest them, they will not winingly give way, but they will contend as though thou didst accuse them unjustly, for they will say, “What is our sin? what is our iniquity? what is the wickedness which we have committed against Jehovah our God, that he should declare this great evil against us?” Thus we see that hypocrites vent their rage not only against God’s servants, but against God himself, not indeed that they profess openly and plainly to do so. But what is the effect when they cannot bear to be corrected by God’s hand, but resist and shew that they do not endure correction with a resigned mind? do they not sufficiently prove that they rebel against God?

But Jeremiah here graphically describes the character of those who struggled with God, for they dared not wholly to deny that they were wicked, but they extenuated as far as they could their sin, like Cain, who ventured not to assert that he was innocent, for he was conscious of having done wrong; and the voice of God, “Where is thy brother?” strengthened the voice of conscience, but in the meantime he ceased not to utter this complaint,

“Greater is my punishment than I can bear.”
(<010409>Genesis 4:9, 13)

So also Jeremiah introduces the people as speaking, “O, what is our iniquity? and what is the sin which we have committed against Jehovah our God, that he should speak this great evil against us?” They say not that they were wholly without fault, they only object that the atrocity of their sins was not so great as to cause God to be so angry with them, and to visit them with so grievous a punishment. They then exaggerated the punishment, that they might obtain some covering for themselves; and yet they did not say that they were innocent or free from every fault, but they speak of their iniquities and sins as though they had said, “We indeed confess that there is something which God may reprehend, but we do not acknowledge such a mass of sins and iniquities as to cause him thus to thunder against us.”

But he then says, Thou shalt answer them, Because your fathers forsook me; they went after foreign gods, served and worshipped them; and me they forsook and my law they kept not, and ye have done worse. fC134 God in the first place accused their fathers, not that punishment ought to have fallen on their children, except they followed the wickedness of their fathers, but the men of that age fully deserved to be visited with the judgment their fathers merited. Besides well known is that declaration, that God reckons the iniquities of the fathers to their children; (<022005>Exodus 20:5; <023407>Exodus 34:7; <050509>Deuteronomy 5:9) and he acts thus justly, for he might justly execute vengeance for sins on the whole human race, according to what Christ says,

“On you shall come the blood of all the godly, from righteous Abel to Zachariah the son of Barachiah.” (<402335>Matthew 23:35; <421151>Luke 11:51)

Thus then the Scripture often declares, that children shall be punished with their fathers, because God will at one time or another require an account of all sins, and thus will make amends for his long forbearance, for as he waits for men and kindly invites them through his patience to repent, so when he sees no hope he inflicts all his scourges. It is hence no wonder that children are more grievously punished after iniquity has prevailed for many ages.

We hence see that these two things are not inconsistent — that God connects the punishment of children with that of their fathers, and that he does not punish the innocent. We indeed see this fulfilled,

“The soul that sinneth it shall die; the children shall not bear the iniquity of their fathers, nor the father the iniquity of his child,” (<261804>Ezekiel 18:4, 20)

for God never blends children with their fathers except they be their associates in wickedness. But yet there is nothing to prevent God to punish children for the sins of their fathers, especially when they continually rush headlong into worse sins, when the children, as we shall hereafter see, exceed their fathers in all kinds of wickedness.

We further learn from this passage, that they bring forward a vain pretense who allege against us the examples of the Fathers, as we see to be done now by those under the Papacy; for the shield they boldly set up against us is this, that they imitate the examples of the fathers. But God declares here that they were worthy of double punishment who repented not when they saw that their fathers had been ungodly and transgressors of the law.

Let us now notice the sins which God mentions: he says, that they had forsaken him. That people could not make any excuse for going astray, like the unhappy heathens, to whom no Prophet had been sent, and no law had been given. Hence the heathens had some excuse more than the Jews. The truth indeed respecting all was, that they were all apostates, for God had bound the human race to himself, and all they who followed superstitions were justly charged with the sin of apostasy; there was yet a greater atrocity of wickedness in the Jewish people, for God had set before them his law, they had been brought up as it were in his school, they knew what true religion was, they were able to distinguish the true God from fictitious gods. We now then see the meaning of the expression, They have forsaken me: and it is twice repeated, because it was necessary thus to prove the Jews guilty, that their mouths might be stopped; for we have seen that they were to be thus roused from their insensibility, inasmuch as they would have never yielded nor acknowledged their sins, were they not constrained.

He says further, that they went after foreign gods, served them, and worshipped them. Now this statement enhances again their sins, for the Jews preferred their own inventions to the true God, who had by so many signs and testimonies manifested his glory and made known his power among them. As then God had abundantly testified his power, it was by no means an endurable ingratitude in them to follow strange gods, of whom they had only heard. The heathens indeed vainly boasted of their idols, and spread abroad many fables to allure unhappy men to false and corrupt worship, but the Jews knew who the true God was. To believe the fables of the heathens, rather than the law and their own experience, was not this the basest impiety? This then was the reason why God complained that foreign gods were worshipped by them.

Then he adds, They served and worshipped them. The verb to serve is often used by the Hebrews to express worship, as we have stated elsewhere; and thus is refuted the folly of the Papists who deny that they are idolaters, because they worship pictures and statues with dulla, that is, with service, if we may so render it, and not with latria, as though Scripture in condemning idolatry never used this verb. But God condemns here the Jews because they served strange gods, because they gave credit to the false and vain fictions of the heathens; and then he adds the outward action, that they prostrated themselves before their idols.

At the end of this verse he shews how he had been forsaken, even because they kept not his law. He then confirms what I have already stated, that there was on this account a worse apostasy among the Jews, for they had knowingly and wilfully forsaken the fountain of living water, as we have seen in the second chapter: hence simple ignorance is not what is here reprehended, as though they had sinned through error or want of knowledge, but they had rejected the worship of God as it were designedly. The rest I shall defer till to-morrow.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that as we in various ways daily provoke thy wrath against us, and thou ceasest not to exhort us to repent, — O grant, that we may be pliant and obedient and not despise thy kind invitations, while thou settest before us the hope of thy mercy, nor make light of thy threatenings; but that we may so profit by thy word as to endeavor to anticipate thy judgments; and may we also, being allured by the sweetness of thy grace, consecrate ourselves wholly to thee, that thus thy wrath may be turned away from us, and that we may become receivers of that grace which thou offerest to all who truly and from the heart repent, and who desire to have thee propitious to them in Christ Jesus our Lord. — Amen.


Lecture Sixty-Fourth

I was constrained yesterday to leave unfinished the words of the Prophet. He said that the children were worse than their fathers, and gave the reason, Because they followed the wickedness of their evil heart, and hearkened not to God. He seems to have said before the same thing of the fathers: it might then be asked, Why does he say that the children had done worse than their fathers, and pronounce their sins worse? Now we have already seen that sins became worse before God, when the children strengthened themselves in wickedness by following the examples of their fathers. We must also notice, that not only the law had been set before them, but that also Prophets had been often sent to them, who added their reproofs: and this is what Jeremiah seems to have expressed at the end of the verse, by saying that they hearkened not, though daily spoken to by the Prophets. It was then their obstinacy that God so severely punished: they had imitated their wicked fathers, and then they not only had despised, but also through their obstinate wickedness had rejected all the warnings which the Prophets gave them.

Then follows a commination, I will eject you, he says, or remove you, from this land to a land which ye know not, nor your fathers, for they had followed unknown gods, and went after inventions of their own and of others. God now declares that he would be the vindicator of his own glory, by driving them to a land unknown to them and to their fathers. He immediately adds, There shall ye serve other gods day and night. We must take notice of this kind of punishment, for nothing could have happened worse to the Jews than to be constrained to adopt false and corrupt forms of worship, as it was a denial of God and of true religion. As this appears at the first view hard, some mitigate it, as though the worship of strange gods would be that servitude into which they were reduced when they became subject to idolators: but this is too remote. I therefore do not doubt but that God abandoned them, because they had violated true and pure worship, and had gone after the many abominations of the heathens; and thus he shews that they were worthy to be thus dealt with, who had in every way contaminated themselves, and as it were plunged themselves into the depth of every thing abominable: and it is certainly probable that they were led by constraint into ungodly ceremonies, when the Chaldeans had the power to treat them, as they usually did, as slaves, without any measure of humanity. It is then hence a probable conjecture that they were drawn to superstitions, and that interminably; so that they were not only forced to worship false gods, but were also constrained to do so by way of sport, as they daily triumphed over them as their conquerors.

And he confirms this clause by what follows, For I will not, etc., for the relative ra asher, is here to be taken for a causative particle, For I will not shew you favor, or mercy; that is, I will not turn the hearts of your enemies so as to be propitious or kind to you. fC135 By these words God shews that he would not only punish them by subjecting them to their enemies, or by suffering them to be driven into exile; but that there would be an additional punishment by rendering their enemies cruel to them; for God can either tame the ferocity of men, or, when he pleases, can rouse them to greater rage and cruelty, when it is his purpose to use them as scourges.

We now then understand the whole design of what the Prophet says, that the Jews who had refused to worship God in their own land would be led away to Chaldea, where they would be constrained, wining or unwining, to worship strange gods, and that without end or limits. It now follows —

<241614>Jeremiah 16:14-15

14. Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that it shall no more be said, The Lord liveth, that brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt;

14. Propterea ecce dies veniunt, dicit Jehova, et non dicetur amplius (hoc est, quibus non dicetur amplius) vivit Jehova, qui eduxit (ascendere fecit, ad verbum) filios Israel e terra Egypti;

15. But, The Lord liveth, that brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north, and from all the lands whither he had driven them: and I will bring them again into their land that I gave unto their fathers.

15. Quin potius, vivit Jehova, qui ascendere fecit filios Israel e terra Aquilonis, et ex omnibus regionibus, ad quas expulerat eos; et reducam ad terram eorum quam dedi patribus vestris.

 

Jeremiah seems here to promise a return to the Jews; and so the passage is commonly expounded, as though a consolation is interposed, in which the faithful alone are concerned. But I consider the passage as mixed, that the Prophet, in part, speaks in severe terms of the dreadful exile which he foretells, and that he in part blends some consolation; but the latter subject seems to me to he indirectly referred to by the Prophet. I therefore think this to be an amplification of what he had said. This is to be kept in mind. He had said, “I will expel you from this land, and will send you to a land unknown to you and to your fathers.” Now follows a circumstance which increased the grievousness of exile: they knew how cruel was that servitude from which God had delivered their fathers. Their condition was worse than hundred deaths, when they were driven to their servile works; and also, when all justice was denied them, and when their offspring were from the womb put to death. As then they knew how cruelly their fathers had been treated by the Egyptians, the comparison he states more fully shewed what a dreadful punishment awaited them, for their redemption would be much more incredible.

We now perceive what the Prophet meant, as though he had said, “Ye know from what your fathers came forth, even from a brazen furnace, as it is said elsewhere, and as it were from the depth of death, so that that redemption ought to be remembered to the end of the world; but God will now cast you into an abyss deeper than that of Egypt from which your fathers were delivered; and when from thence he will redeem you, it will be a miracle far more wonderful to your posterity, so that it will almost extinguish, or at least obscure the memory of the first redemption: It will not then be said any more, Live does Jehovah, who brought the children of Israel from Egypt, for that Egyptian captivity was far more endurable than what this latter shall be; for ye shall be plunged as it were into the infernal regions; and when God shall rescue you from thence, it will be a work far more wonderful.” This I consider to be the real meaning of the Prophet. fC136

Yet his object was at the same time indirectly to give them some hope of their future redemption; but this he did not do avowedly. We ought then to regard what the Prophet had in view, even to strike the Jews, as I have said, with terror, so that they might know that there was an evil nigh at hand more grievous than what their fathers suffered in Egypt, who yet had been most cruelly oppressed. Then their former liberation would be rendered obscure and not celebrated as before, though it was nevertheless an evidence of the wonderful power of God.

But, it will be rather said, Live does Jehovah, for he has brought his people from the land of the north; and for this reason, because there will be less hope remaining for you, when the Chaldeans shall subdue and scatter you like a body torn asunder, and when the name of Israel shall be extinguished, when the worship of God shall be subverted and the Temple destroyed. When therefore all things shall appear to be past remedy, this captivity shall be much more dreadful than that by which your fathers had been oppressed. Therefore, when God restores you, it will be a miracle much more remarkable. And that the Prophet took occasion to give thom some hope of God’s favor, may be gathered from the end of the verse, when he says, And I will make them to return to their own land: but the copulative ought to be rendered as a conditional particle, as though he had said, When I shall restore them to their own land which I gave to their fathers. It now follows —

<241616>Jeremiah 16:16

16. Behold, I will send for many fishers, saith the Lord, and they shall fish them; and after will I send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from every mountain, and from every hin, and out of the holes of the rocks.

16. Ecce ego mitto ad piscatores multos, dicit Jehova, et piscabuntur; et sic (post haec) mittam ad multos venatores, et venabuntur eos de super omni monte, (hoc est, ex omni monte,) et omni colle, et foraminibus (vel, cavernis) rapium.

 

Some explain this of the apostles; but it is wholly foreign to the subject: they think that Jeremiah pursues here what he had begun to speak of; for they doubt not but that he had been speaking in the last verse of a future but a near deliverance, in order to raise the children of God into a cheerful confidence. But I have already rejected this meaning, for their exposition is not well founded. But if it be conceded that the Prophet had prophesied of the liberation of the people, it does not follow that God goes on with the same subject, for he immediately returns to threatenings, as ye will see; and the allegory also is too remote when he speaks of hunters and fishers; and as mention is made of ‘hills and mountains, it appears still more clearly that the Prophet is threatening the Jews, and not promising them any alleviation in their miseries. I therefore connect all these things together in a plain manner; for, having said that the evil which the Jews would shortly have to endure would be more grievous than the Egyptian bondage, he now adds a reason as a confirmation, —

Behold, he says, I will send to them many fishers, that they may gather them together on every side. He mentions fishers, as they would draw the children of Israel from every quarter to their nets. He then compares the Chaldeans to fishers, who would so proceed through the whole land as to leave none except some of the most ignoble, whom also they afterwards took away; and to fishers he adds hunters. Some understand by fishers armed enemies, who by the sword slew the conquered; and they consider that the hunters were those who were disposed to spare the life of the many, and to drive them into exile; but this appears too refined. Simple is the view which I have stated, that the Chaldeans were called fishers, because they would empty the whole land of its inhabitants, and that they were called hunters, because the Jews, having been scattered here and there, and become fugitives, would yet be found out in the recesses of hins and rocks.

The two similitudes are exceedingly suitable; for the Prophet shews that the Chaldeans would not have much trouble in taking the Jews, inasmuch as fishers only spread their nets; they do not arm themselves against fishes, nor is there any need; and then all the fish they take they easily take possession of them, for there is no resistance. Thus, then, he shews that the Chaldeans would gain an easy victory, for they would take the Jews as fishes which are drawn into nets. This is one thing. Then, in the second place, he says, that if they betook themselves into recesses of mountains, that if they hid themselves in caverns or holes, their enemies would be like hunters who follow the wild beasts in forests and in other unfrequented places; no brambles, nor thorns, nor any obstructions prevent them from advancing, being led on by a strong impulse; so in like manner no recesses of mountains would be concealed from the Chaldeans, no caverns where the Jews might hide themselves, for they would all be taken. We hence see that he confirms by two similitudes, what he had said in a preceding verse. He afterwards adds —

<241617>Jeremiah 16:17

17. For mine eyes are upon all their ways: they are not hid from my face, neither is their iniquity hid from mine eyes.

17. Quia oculi mei super omnes vias ipsorum; non absconditae sunt a facie mea, et non sunt occultae iniquitates e regione oculorum meorum, (coram oculis meis; ad verbum est, de coram oculis meis.)

 

The Prophet now shews that the grievous calamity of which he had spoken would be a just reward for the wickedness of the people; for we know that the prophets were endued with the Spirit of God not merely that they might foretell things to come — for that would have been very jejune; but a doctrine was connected with their predictions. Hence the prophets not only foretold what God would do, but at the same time added the causes. There is then now added a doctrine as a seasoning to the prophecy; for the Prophet says that the destructiorl of the Jews was at hand, because they had long greatly provoked the wrath of God. As there is no end to the evasions of hypocrites, according to what we observed yesterday, God here reminds them of his judgment, as though he had said, “This one thing is sufficient, he knows their iniquities, and he is a fit judge; so they contend in vain, and try in vain, to excuse or to extenuate their fault.”

Hence he says that the eyes of God were on all their ways: and he mentions all their ways, because they had not offended only once, or in one way, but they had added sins to sins. Nor are they hid, he says: the Prophet presses the matter on their attention; for had he allowed their false pretences, they would have made no end of excuses. He therefore says that their ways were not hid, nor their iniquities concealed from the eyes of God. Now follows a confirmation —

<241618>Jeremiah 16:18

18. And first I will recompense their iniquity and their sin double; because they have defiled my land, they have filled mine inheritance with the carcases of their detestable and abominable things.

18. Et rependam ab initio duplum iniquitatum eorum et scelerum eorum; quia polluerunt (super polluere ipsos) terram meam in cadaveribus abominationum suarum, et suis inquinamentis replerunt haereditatem meam.

 

Jeremiah introduces here nothing new, but proceeds with the subject we observed in the last verse, — that God would not deal with so much severity with the Jews, because extreme rigor was pleasing to him, or because he had forgotten his own nature or the covenant which he had made with Abraham, but because the Jews had become extremely obstinate in their wickedness. As, then, he had said that the eyes of God were on all their ways, so now he adds that he would recompense them as they deserved.

But every word ought to be considered: He says hnwar rashune, which I render “From the beginning.” Some render it more obscurely, “at first,” — I will first recompense them. The word means formerly, and refers to time. The Prophet then, I have no doubt, means what I have already referred to, — that God would punish the fathers and their children, and would thus gather into one mass their old iniquities. We have quoted from the law that God would recompense unto the bosom of children the sins of their fathers; and we have also quoted that declaration of Christ,

“Come upon you shall righteous blood from Abel to Zachariah, the son of Barachiah.” (<402335>Matthew 23:35; <421151>Luke 11:51)

The Prophet now repeats the same thing, — that God, in allotting to the Jews their reward, would collect together as it were all the iniquities which had been as it were long buried, so that he would include the fathers and their children in one bundle, and gather together all their sins, in order that he might consume them as it were in one heap. In this way I explain the term “From the beginning.” fC137

He then adds, The double of their iniquities and their sins. The Prophet does not mean that there would be an excess of severity, as though God would not rightly consider what men deserved; but “double” signifies a just and complete measure, according to what is said in <234002>Isaiah 40:2,

“The Lord hath recompensed double for all her sins;”

that is, sufficiently and more, (satis superque) as the Latins say. There God assumes the character of a father, and, according to his great kindness, says that the Jews had been more than sufficiently punished. So also in this place, in speaking of punishment, he calls that double, not what would exceed the limits of justice, but because God would shew himself differently to them from what he had done before, when he patiently bore with them; as though he had said, “I will to the utmost punish them; for there will be no remission, no lenity,no mercy.” We hence see that what is here designed is only extreme rigor, which yet was just and right; for had God punished a hundred times more severely even those who seemed to have sinned lightly, his justice could not have been questioned as though he had acted cruelly. Since, the Jews, then, had in so many ways, and for so long a time, and so grievously sinned, God could not have been thought too severe, when he rendered to them their reward; and he calls it double because he omitted nothing in order to carry it to the utmost severity. Probably he alludes also to the enemies as being ministers of his vengeance, whose cruelty would be more atrocious than the Jews thought, who imagined some slight remedies for slight sins, as we say, Il n’y faudra plus retourner, or, tote outre.

He mentions sins and iniquities, for Jeremiah had introduced them before as speaking thus, “What is our iniquity? and what is our sin?” Though they could not wholly exculpate themselves, they yet continued to allege some pretences, that they might not appear to be altogether wicked. But here God declares that they were wholly wicked and ungodly; and he adds a confirmation, that they had polluted the land with the carcases of their abominations. The Prophet mentions a particular thing, for had he spoken generally, the Jews would have raised a clamor and said, that they were not conscious of being so wicked. That he might then bring the matter home to them, he shews as it were by the finger that their sin was by no means excusable, for they had polluted the land of God with their superstitions; they have polluted, he says, my land. He exaggerates their crime by saying, that they polluted the holy land. The earth indeed is God’s and its fullness. (<192401>Psalm 24:1) Hence it might be said justly of the whole world, that the land of God is polluted when men act on it an ungodly part. But here God distinguishes Canaan from other countries, because it was dedicated as it were to his name. As God then had set apart that land for himself, that he might be there worshipped, he says, they have polluted my land.

And he adds, With the carcases of their abominations. It is probable that he calls their sacrifices carcases. For though in appearance their superstitions bore a likeness to the true and lawful worship of God, yet we know that the sacrifices which God had commanded were seasoned by his word as with salt; they were therefore of good odor and fragrance before God. As to the sacrifices offered to idols, they were foetid carcases, they were mere rottenness, yet the ceremony was altogether alike. But God does not regard the external form, for obedience is better before him than all sacrifices. (<091522>1 Samuel 15:22) We hence see that there is to be understood a contrast between the carcases and the sweet odor which lawful sacrifices possessed. For as sacrifices, rightly offered according to the rule of the law, pleased God and were said to be of sweet savor so the victims superstitiously offered having no command of God in their favor, were called filthy carcases.

And he says further, With their defilements have they filled mine inheritance. The land of Canaan is called the inheritance of God in the same sense in which the land is before called his land. But in this second clause something more is expressed, as it is the usual manner of Scripture to amplify. It was indeed a grievous thing that the land dedicated to God should be polluted; but when he says, This is mine inheritance, that is, the, land which I have chosen to dwell in with my people, that it might be to me as it were a kind of an earthly habitation, and that this land was fined with defilements, it was a thing altogether intolerable. We now then see that the Jews were so bridled and checked that they in vain attempted to escape, or thought to gain anything by evasions, for their impiety was intolerable and deserved to be most severely punished by God. I will not proceed further, for it is a new discourse.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that as thou hast not given to thy servants a small corner only of the earth to dwell in, but hast designed to extend thy kingdom to the utmost borders of the earth, and to dwell with us, wherever we be, by thine onIy-begotten Son, — O grant, that we may offer ourselves as sacrifices to thee, and labor also so to regulate our life according to thy word that thy name may be glorified in and by us, till we shall become at length partakers of that celestial and eternal glory, which has been provided for us by Christ our Lord — Amen.


Lecture Sixty-Fifth

<241619>Jeremiah 16:19

19. O Lord, my strength, and my fortress, and my refuge in the day of affliction, the Gentiles shall come unto thee from the ends of the earth, and shall say, Surely our fathers have inherited lies, vanity, and things wherein there is no profit.

19. Jehova, robur meum et munitio mea, et refugium in die angustiae, (vel, afflictionis) ad te Gentes venient e finibus terrae ac dicent, Certe mendacium possederunt patres nostri, vanitas (vanitatem) et nihil in ipsis utile.

 

What the Prophet has said hitherto might appear contrary to the promises of God, and wholly subversive of the covenant which he had made with Abraham. God had chosen to himself one people from the whole world, now when this people were trodden under foot what could the most perfect of the faithful suppose but that that covenant was rendered void, since God had resolved to destroy the Jews and to obliterate their name? This was then a most grievous trial, and sufficient, to shake the strongest minds. The Prophet therefore now returns to the subject, and obviates this temptation; and seeing men in despair he turns to God, and speaks of the calling of the Gentiles, which was sufficient wholly to remove that stumbling — block, which I have mentioned respecting the apostasy and ruin of the chosen people. We now perceive the Prophet’s meaning.

When any one reads the whole chapter, he may think that Jeremiah abruptly turns to address God; but what I have stated ought to be borne in mind, for his purpose was to fortify himself and the faithful against the thought I have mentioned, which would have otherwise shaken the faith of them all. And he shews what is best to be done in a troubled and dark state of things, for Satan hunts for nothing more than to involve us in various and intricate disputes, and he is an acute disputant, yea, and a sophist; we are also very ready to receive what he may suggest, and thus it happens that the thoughts which we either attain ourselves or too readily receive when offered by the artifice of Satan, often overwhelm us. There is then no better remedy than to break off such disputes and to turn our eyes and all our thoughts to God. This the Prophet did when he said, O Jehovah, to thee shall the Gentiles come.

We now see that Jeremiah sets the conversion of the Gentiles in opposition to the destruction which he had before denounced; for the truth of God and his mercy were so connected with the salvation of the chosen people, that their destruction seemed to obliterate them. Therefore the Prophet sets forth in opposition to this the conversion of the Gentiles, as though he had said, “Though the race of Abraham perishes, yet God’s covenant fails not, nor is there any diminution of his grace, for he will convert all the Gentiles to himself.” If any one objects and says, that though the Gentiles be converted, yet the covenant of God could not have been valid and perpetual, except the posterity of Abraham were heirs of that grace which God had promised to him. To this there is a ready answer, for when God turned the Gentiles to himself he was mindful of his promise, so as to gather a Church to himself both from the Jews and the Gentiles, as we also know that Christ came to proclaim peace to those afar off and to them who were nigh, according to what Paul teaches. (<490217>Ephesians 2:17) Jeremiah then includes in the calling of the Gentiles what is said elsewhere,

“A remnant according to the election of grace.”
(<450905>Romans 9:5)

It is an argument from the greater to the less; “God will not retain a few men only, but will gather to himself those who now seem dispersed through the whole world; much more then shall all those of the race of Abraham, who are chosen by God, be saved; and though the great body of the people perish, yet the Lord, who knows his own people, will not suffer them to perish even in the worst state of things.”

But as the struggle was difficult, he calls God his strength, and fortress, and refuge. He says yz[mw yz[ ozi vemozi, ma force et forteresse, for the two words come from the same root, and we cannot in Latin thus fitly translate them. He then calls God his strength and his fortress, but both words are derived from a verb which means to be strong. He then adds, my refuge in the day of affliction. We here see that God according to circumstances is adorned with names, such as are fit to give us confidence, and as it were to arm us for the purpose of sustaining all the assaults of temptations, for there was not sufficient force and power in that plain declaration, “O Jehovah, the Gentiles shall come to thee,” but as the Prophet was reduced to the greatest straits, and, as I have said, his faith nmst have been greatly tried, he calls God his strength, his fortress, and his refuge in the day of affliction; as though he had said, “Now is the time when I find how necessary is thy protection, thy strength, thy power; for though my present miseries, and the approaching ruin dishearten me, yet thou wilt be to me a refuge.”

But he says, that the Gentiles would come from the ends of the earth. fC138 A contrast is to be observed here also; for the Jews at first worshipped God, as it were in an obscure corner; but he says, “When that land shall cast out its inhabitants, all nations shall come, not only from neighboring countries, but also from the extremities of the earth.” He adds, that the Gentiles would say, surely falsehood leave our fathers possessed; it was vanity, there was nothing profitable in them. To possess, here means the same as to inherit; for we know that one’s own inheritance is valuable to him; and men are as it were fixed in their farms and fields. As then the Gentiles, before they were enlightened, thought their chief happiness to be in their superstitions, the Prophet says here, by way of concession, that they possessed falsehood, as though it was said, “Our fathers thought themselves blessed and happy when they worshipped idols and their own inventions.” It was therefore their heritage, that is, they thought nothing better or more to be desired than to embrace their idols and their errors; but it was falsehood, he says, that is, when they thought that they had a glorious inheritance it was only a foolish imagination; it was, in short, vanity, and there was nothing useful or profitable in them. This confession proves the conversion of the Gentiles by external evidences. When we offend God, not only secretly, but also by bad examples, repentance requires confession. Hence the Prophet shews a change in the Gentiles, for they would of themselves acknowledge that their fathers had been deceived by superstitions; for while they thought that they were acting rightly, they were only under the influence of inusions and fascinations.

But it is not to be doubted but that the Prophet here indirectly condemns the Jews, because they had not departed from the sins of their fathers, though they had been often admonished. The Gentiles then shall come, and the ignorance of their fathers shall not prevent them from confessing that they and their fathers were guilty before God. Since then the hinderance which from deliberate wickedness held fast the Jews, would not prevail with the Gentiles, it appeared evident how great was the contumacy of the people, who could not be persuaded to forsake the bad examples of their fathers. We now understand what the Prophet means, and for what purpose he introduced this prayer. It follows —

<241620>Jeremiah 16:20

20. Shall a man make gods unto himself, and they are no gods?

20. An faciet sibi homo deos? et ipsi non sunt dii.

 

Some frigidly explain this verse, as though the Prophet said that men are doubly foolish, who form for themselves gods from wood, stone, gold, or silver, because they cannot change their nature; for whatever men may imagine, the stone remains a stone, the wood remains wood. The sense then they elicit from the Prophet’s words is this — that they are not gods who are devised by the foolish imaginations of men. But the Prophet reasons differently, — “Can he who is not God make a god?” that is, “can he who is created be the creator?” No one can give, according to the common proverb, what he has not; and there is in man no divine power. We indeed see what our condition is; there is nothing more frail and perishable: as man then is all vanity, and has in him nothing solid, can he create a god for himself? This is the Prophet’s argument: it is drawn from what is absurd, in order that men might at length acknowledge, not only their presumption, but their monstrous madness. For when any one is asked as to his condition, he must necessarily confess that he is a creature, and that he is also, as the ancients have said, all ephemeral animal, that his life is like a shadow. Since then men are constrained, by the real state of things, to make such a confession, how comes it that they dare to form gods for themselves? God does not create a god, he creates men; he has created angels, he has created the heavens and the earth, but yet he does not put forth his power to create a new god. Now man, what is he? nothing but vanity; and yet he will create a god though he is no God. fC139

There is no doubt but that the Prophet here, as with new rigor, boldly attacks the Jews. For it seems evident that, when this temptation assailed him — “What can this mean t what will at length happen when God rejects the race of Abraham whom he had chosen?” he turned to God: but now, having recovered confidence, he inveighs against the ungodly, and says, can man create gods for himself while yet he is not a god? The change in the number ought not to be deemed strange; for when there is an indefinite declaration the nmnber is often changed, both in Greek and Latin. If some particular person was intended, the Prophet would not have said, And they themselves are not gods; but as he speaks of mankind generally and indefinitely, the sentence reads better when he says, “Shall man make a god? and they,” that is men, “are not gods.” This remark I have added, because it is probable, that those who consider idols to be intended in the last clause have been led astray by the change that is made in the number. It follows, —

<241621>Jeremiah 16:21

21. Therefore, behold, I will this once cause them to know, I will cause them to know mine hand and my might; and they shall know that my nameis The Lord.

21. Propterea ecce ego cognoscere faciam ipsos hac vice, ostendam ipsis (cognoscere ipsos faciam) manum meam et potentiam meam; et cognoscent quod nomen meum Jehova.

 

The Prophet again threatens the Jews, because their impiety was inexcusable, especially when attended with so great an obstinacy, he therefore says that God was already present as a judge: Behold I, he says — the demonstrative particle shews the near approach of vengeance — I will shew at this time: the words are emphatical, for God indirectly intimates that the Babylonian exile would be an extraordinary event, far exceeding every other which had preceded it. At this time, he says — that is, if ye have hitherto been tardy and insensible, or, if the punishments I have already inflicted have not been sufficiently severe — I will at this time shew to them my hand and my power; and they shall know that my name is Jehovah. fC140

This way of speaking often occurs in Scripture; but God here, no doubt, reproves the false sentiments with which the Jews were imbued, and by which they were led astray from true religion — for they had devised for themselves many gods; hence he says, They shall know that my name is Jehovah</