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Jeremiah 26:11

11. Then spake the priests and the prophets unto the princes and to all the people, saying, This man is worthy to die; for he hath prophesied against this city, as ye have heard with your ears.

11. Et dixerunt sacerdotes et prophetae principibus et toti populo, dicendo, judicium mortis est viro huic, uia prophetavit contra urbem hanc quemadmodum audistis auribus vestris.

 

We hence conclude, that the people in assenting to the sentence of the priests and prophets, had done nothing according to their own judgment, but that all of every rank through a violent feeling condemned Jeremiah. And as the priests and prophets directed also their discourse to the people, it appears clear, that they were guided by them, so that they thoughtlessly and inconsiderately gave their consent; for it often happens in a mob that the people exclaim, “Be it so, be it so; amen, amen.” Jeremiah has indeed said, that he was condemned by the whole people; but it must be observed, that the people are like the sea, which of itself is calm and tranquil; but as soon as any wind arises, there is a great commotion, and waves dash one against another; so also it is with the people, who without being excited are quiet and peaceable; but a sedition is easily raised, when any one stirs up men who are thoughtless and changeable, and who, to retain the same simile, are fluid like water. This, then, is what Jeremiah now intimates.

But there is another thing to be noticed, — that the common people suffer themselves to be drawn in all directions; but they may also be easily restored, as it has been said, to a right mind. “When they see,” says Virgil, “a man remarkable for piety and good works, they become silent and attend with listening ears.” He there describes (Aeneid, 1) a popular commotion, which he compares to a tempest; and he rightly speaks of a tempest; but he added this simile according to common usage. The same thing is now set before us by the Prophet; the priests and prophets, who thought that they alone could boast of their power and speak with authority, in a manner constrained the people apparently to consent. The king’s counsellors being now present, the people became as it were mute; the priests perceived this, and we shall see by the issue that what the same poet mentions took place, “By his words he rules their hearts and softens their breasts.” For it became easy for the king’s counsellors even by a word to calm this foolish violence of the people. We shall indeed soon see, that they unhesitantly said, “There is no judgment of death against this man.” It is hence evident how easily ignorant men may be made inconsistent with themselves; but this is to be ascribed to their inconstancy; and noticed also ought to be what I have said, that there was no real consent, because there was no judgment exercised. The authority of the priests overpowered them; and then they servilely confessed what they saw pleased their princes, like an ass, who nods with his ears.

Now, when the subject is duly considered, it appears, that the priests and the prophets alone spoke both to the princes and to the whole people, that Jeremiah was guilty of death, 165165     The words literally are, “The judgment (or sentence) of death is to this man,” or, belongs “to this man,” that is, is deserved by him. They were now, it seems, before the court of justice, the princes sat as magistrates or judges; and this was the accusation brought by the priests and prophets; they had no power themselves of passing the sentence, they only declared him as worthy of death. — Ed. because he had prophesied against the city. We have said that they relied on those promises, which they absurdly applied for the purpose of confirming their own impiety, even that God had chosen that city that he might be there worshipped. It was a false principle, and whence proceeded their error? not from mere ignorance, but rather from presumption, for hypocrites are never deceived, except when they determine not to obey God, and as far as they can to reject his judgments. When, therefore, they are carried away by a perverse and wicked impulse, they ever find out some plausible pretext; but it is nothing but a disguise, as we clearly see from this narrative. It follows, —


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