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Jeremiah 20:8-9

8. For since I spake, I cried out, I cried violence and spoil; because the word of the LORD was made a reproach unto me, and a derision, daily.

8. Quia ex quo locuutus sum, vociferor violentiam et vastationem clamo; quia fuit sermo Jehovae mihi in opprobrium et in contumeliam toto die (vel, quotidie, assiduè, ut dictum est.)

9. Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay.

9. Et dixi (itaque dixi, copula enim illativam valet) non recordabor et non loquar amplius in nomine ejus; et fuit in corde meo quasi ignis ardens, clausus in ossibus meis, et fatigatus sum ferendo et non potui.

 

The Prophet says here that he found no fruit from his labors, but on the contrary, he saw that all his efforts and endeavors had an opposite effect; for they exasperated all the Jews, inflamed their rage, and drove them into a greater licentiousness in sinning. Hence he says, that he purposed to give up the office assigned to him, but that by a secret impulse he was constrained to persevere, and that thus he was not at liberty to desist from the course which he had begun.

But the verse is variously explained; From the time I spoke, I cried violence aloud and proclaimed devastation Thus some take the words, as though Jeremiah said, that since he began to teach he uttered complaints; for he saw that he was violently assailed and was exposed to all kinds of wrongs: but this view appears to me too frigid. Others come nearer to the truth who consider him as saying, that he had not ceased to cry against outrages and plunders, when he saw that all kinds of wickedness prevailed among the people; as though he had said, “I could not mildly and peaceably teach them, for their disposition and temper prevented me, but their wickedness compelled me to treat them with severity, as all God’s servants ought wisely to consider what the state of the Church requires.” If indeed we should in tranquil times cry aloud, it would be mad affectation; and this is what is done by many, who without thought and without any reason always make a great cry; but when we see Satan reigning, we ought not then to withhold nor to act as in a truce; but as it is an open war it is necessary to cry aloud. They who take this view, then, understand that Jeremiah cried aloud, because he saw that the people were refractory, and also saw that things were so bad that they could not be restored to a right state without the greatest sharpness and vehemence.

But I rather think that the Prophet had another kind of trial, — that he brought down a greater vengeance of God by his cries, as though he had said, “To what purpose should I furnish God with weapons by my preaching? since I do nothing but increase his wrath, which will at length fulminate and consume the whole land together with the people.” He then says, that he cried violence and devastation aloud, for impiety itself is a sort of hostile violence by which God is provoked. The meaning is, that the Prophet saw no other fruit to his labor, but that men were rendered more insolent, and from being thieves became robbers, and from being disdainful became ruffians, so that they increasingly kindled God’s wrath, and more fully abandoned themselves. This was indeed a most severe and dangerous trial; it is therefore no wonder that the Prophet says, that it came to his mind to turn aside from his office as a teacher.

Now this passage is especially worthy of being observed; for not only teachers are influenced by this feeling, but all the godly without exception. For when we see that men are, as it were, made worse through God’s word, we begin to doubt whether it be expedient to bury every remembrance of God and to extinguish his word, rather than to increase the licentiousness of men, they being already inclined enough to commit sin. We indeed see at this day that the doctrine of the Gospel does not restore all to obedience; but many give themselves a more unbridled license, as though the yoke of discipline was wholly removed. There was some fear under the Papacy, there was some sort of obedience and subjection; and now the liberty of the Gospel, what is it to many but brute license, so that they sin with impunity and blend heaven and earth together. There are also others who, on observing so many controversies, do, under that pretext, throw aside every concern for religion, and every attention to it. There are some fanatics who allow themselves to doubt and even to deny the existence of God. As then we see that the effect of the truth is not such as might be wished, those who are otherwise firm must needs be shaken or made to totter. Therefore, this passage ought the more to be noticed; for Jeremiah confesses that he was sore troubled when he saw that the word of God was a derision, and hence he wished to withdraw from the course of his calling. Let us know that whenever such a thing comes into our minds we ought manfully to resist it; and, therefore, the two things here mentioned ought to be connected, for when he said, I will no more mention him, nor speak in his name, he added, but the word of God was like a burning fire

We hence see how God restrained his servant, lest he should fall headlong, or succumb under his temptation; for he would have been suddenly drawn in as it were into a deep gulf, had he not been preserved by God. Therefore, whenever temptations of this kind present themselves to us, let us pray God to restrain and to support us; or if we have already fallen, let us pray him to raise us up and to strengthen us by his Spirit.

But the way is shewn by which God aided his servant: The word of God became as a burning fire in his heart; and it was also closed up in his bones, so that he was led by an ardent zeal, and could not be himself without going onward in the course of his office. He concludes by saying, that he was wearied, or could hardly bear himself, with forbearing; as though he had said, that it was not in his power either to abstain from teaching or to do what God commanded; for a burning ardor forced him to go on; and yet he had no doubt in his view those despisers with whom he had to do. It is the same then as though he had said, that he had found out what it was to have the whole world against him, but that God prevailed. Now this was said, because profane men take occasion to be secure and indifferent, when they imagine that Prophets and teachers are unfeeling men, — “O, what do we care for fanatics, who do not possess common feelings? and it is no wonder, since they are stupid and insensible, that they are thus angry and violent, disregard all others, and feel nothing that is human.” As, then, they imagine that men are sticks, when they speak of God’s servants as being without discretion, the Prophet seems to say, “Surely ye are deceived, for I am not so much an iron, but that I am influenced by strong and many feelings; nay, I have learnt and I know how great is my weakness, nor do I dissemble but that I am subject to fear, to sorrow, and to other passions; but God has prevailed There is then no reason for you to think that I speak so boldly, because I feel nothing human; but I have done so after a hard struggle, after all those things came into my mind, which are calculated to weaken the courage of my heart; yet God stretched forth his hand to me, and not only so, but I was constrained, lest I should arrogate anything to myself, or boast of my heroic courage. I did not prevail, he says, but when I submitted myself to God and desired to give up my calling, I was constrained, and God dealt powerfully with me, for his word became as a burning fire in my heart, so that at length, through the strong influence of the Spirit, I was constrained to proceed in the discharge of my office.”

Therefore I said, I will mention him no more, nor speak in his name; not that the Prophet wished himself or others to forget God, but because he thought that he lost all his labor, and that he in vain made a stir, since he cried aloud without any benefit, and not only so, but he more and more exasperated the wicked; as an ulcer, the more it is pressed, the more putrid matter it emits; so the impiety of the people was more and more discovered, when the Prophet reproved sins which were before hid. 1212     The beginning of the eighth verse seems to be connected with the end of the seventh. Such appears to be the Syriac version. Then the remaining part of the eighth will coalesce with the ninth. This gives a consistency to the whole passage.
   I am become a derision every day; The whole of it are jeering me,

   8. Whenever I speak, cry against violence, Or, proclaim a devastation. Because the word of Jehovah was to me A reproach and a scoff every day,

   9. Therefore I said, “I will not mention it, Nor will I speak any more in his name;” But it became in my heart Like a burning fire, confined in my bones; And I was wearied with restraining and I could not.

    — Ed.

Let us now then learn by the example of the Prophet, that whenever Satan or our flesh raises an objection and says, that we ought to desist from preaching celestial truth because it produces not its proper and legitimate fruits, it is nevertheless a good odor before God, though fatal to the ungodly. Though then the truth of the Gospel proves the savor of death to many, yet our labor is not on that account of no value before God; for we know that we offer to God an acceptable sacrifice; and though our labor be useless as to men, it is yet fruitful as to the glory of God; and while we are the odor of death unto death to those who perish, yet to God, even in this respect, our labor is acceptable. (2 Corinthians 2:16)

Let us also beware lest we withdraw ourselves from God; but even when many things happen to impede our course, let us overcome them by the power of the Spirit. At the same time let us fear, lest through our sloth we bury our ardor of which the Prophet speaks. We see what happened to Jonah; he had so far fallen as to forsake entirely his office, by extinguishing, as much as he could, the judgment of God; and when he became a fugitive, he thought himself beyond danger, as though he was removed from God’s presence. (Jonah 1:3.) God indeed saw him, but yet his word was not in him as a burning fire. As then so great a man through his own sloth extinguished, as far as he could, the light of the Holy Spirit, how much more ought we to fear, lest the same thing should happen to us? Let us then rouse the sparks of this fervor, until it inflame us, so that we may faithfully devote ourselves altogether to the service of God; and if at any time we become slothful, let us stimulate ourselves, and may the power of the Holy Spirit be so revived, that we may to the end pursue the course of our office and never stand still, but assail even the whole world, knowing that God commands us and requires from us what others disapprove and condemn.


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