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Jeremiah 23:16

16. Thus saith the LORD of hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the LORD.

16. Sic dicit Jehovah exercituum, Ne audiatis verba prophetarum, qui prophetant vobis; evanescere faciunt ipsi vobis, visionem cordis sui loquuntur, non ex ore Jehovae.

 

What is here said must have appeared very severe, and must have grievously offended the people; for Jeremiah forbade them to hear the teaching of the prophets. He indeed concedes to them the name of prophets, which was a sacred name; but yet he discredits them, and deprives them of all dignity. he speaks not of magicians or impostors, who were aliens to God’s people; he speaks not of Egyptians, or Chaldeans, or any like them, nor does he speak of the prophets of Samaria, but of those who daily appeared in the Temple and boasted that they were divinely chosen, endued with the spirit of revelation, and that they brought nothing but what God had committed to them. As then Jeremiah forbade them to hear these, some great perplexity must have necessarily seized the minds of all, especially of the simple, — “What does this mean? why does God suffer these unprincipled men to occupy a place in the Temple, and to exercise there the prophetic office, while at the same time they are cheats, perjurers, and impostors?”

In the same manner we see that many at this day are perplexed on account of the discords by which the Church is harassed, and as it were torn to pieces. We are constrained to contend with those who arrogate to themselves the name of the Catholic Church, who boast that they are bishops, vicars of Christ, successors of the Apostles. When therefore the ignorant see such hostile conflicts in the very bosom of the Church, they must necessarily be terrified, and such stumbling-block shakes dreadfully their faith. Hence this passage ought to be especially noticed; for though at first ignorant people may be disturbed by such a prohibition as this, yet every one who really fears God will exercise his mind, so that he may distinguish between false and true prophets; and God will never leave his chosen people destitute of the spirit of judgment and discernment, when teachers contend on both sides, and tumults nearly overthrow the Church; even then, as I have said, God will preserve his own elect, provided we piously and humbly strive to submit to his word; he will also guide us by his hand, so that we may not be deceived. Since then God had commanded Jeremiah to forbid the people to hear the false prophets, let us not at this day wonder, that faithful teachers who desire to maintain true doctrine and genuine piety, feel themselves constrained to oppose these men of titles who shelter themselves under the masked names of pastors, and prelates, and bishops, that they may delude the unwary and the ignorant; Hear not, he says, the words of the prophets who prophesy to you

He adds, They make you to be vain; that is, they infatuate you. 9595     The Sept. gives this version, “for they make a vain vision for themselves; from their heart they speak, and not from the mouth of the Lord.” Though the sense is given, yet it is not a correct version. The Vulg. and Syr. keep nearer to the original, and render the first clause “and they deceive you.” The words literally are, “Infatuating you are they.” The whole verse is as follows, —
   16. Thus saith Jehovah of hosts, Hearken not to the words of the prophets, Who prophesy unto you; Infatuating you are they; The vision of their own heart do they speak, And not from the mouth of Jehovah.

   The “And” in the last line is supplied in several copies, is given by the Sept. and the Syr. To render “from,” as Blayney does, “after the mouth,” etc., is no improvement. To speak “from the mouth of the Lord” is very striking. All the Versions retain the preposition “from,” and the Targ. gives “word” for “mouth.” — Ed.
But this would not have been sufficient, had he not added what more fully confirmed it. Hence Jeremiah says, that they brought forward the vision of their own hearts, and did not speak what came from God’s mouth. This is a mark which can never deceive us, except we willingly throw ourselves into the snares and intrigues of Satan, as many do who wilfully seek to be deceived, and even hunt for falsehoods; but whosoever applies his mind to the study of truth, can never be deceived, if by this mark, which is set before us, he distinguishes between prophets and prophets; for every one who speaks according to the mere suggestions of his own mind must be an impostor. No one then ought to be deemed a sound teacher, but he who speaks from God’s mouth.

But here a question may be raised, How can the common people understand that some speak from God’s mouth, and that others propound their own glosses? I answer, That the doctrine of the Law was then sufficient to guide the minds of the people, provided they closed not their eyes; and if the Law was sufficient at that time, God does now most surely give us a clearer light by his prophets, and especially by his Gospel. Since then God has once given us his testimony, every one ought to obey him as soon as he knows what is right, what he ought to follow, and what he ought to shun.

We now then see how useful this passage is; for there is nothing more miserable than for men to be tossed here and there, and to be led astray from the way of salvation. There is therefore nothing more desirable than to know this way with certainty, Now, God shews us the way here as by the finger; for he says that those who speak from his mouth can be heard with safety; but that others are to be rejected, how much soever they may boast of being prophets, and thus seek under the guise of authority to subject men’s minds captive to themselves. And this ought to suffice at this day to put an end to all controversies; for on this no doubt depends almost every question that is now agitated in the world. The Papists will have their own devices to be taken as oracles, and claim to be the Church; but we, on the other hand, say that perfect wisdom is alone to be found in the Law, in the Prophets, and in the Gospel. Were we then to attend to the mouth of God, it would be easy to settle all the disputes between us. It hence also follows, that the Papists are deceived because they deign not to ask at God’s mouth, but choose to become slaves to men and to their own falsehoods, rather than to inquire what pleases God; for he himself has spoken, and has not spoken hiddenly, neither doubtfully nor obscurely; for there is nothing more clear than his teaching, provided men do not become wilfully blind. He then adds, —


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