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8. Sin and Punishment

At that time, saith the Lord, they shall bring out the bones of the kings of Judah, and the bones of his princes, and the bones of the priests, and the bones of the prophets, and the bones of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, out of their graves: 2And they shall spread them before the sun, and the moon, and all the host of heaven, whom they have loved, and whom they have served, and after whom they have walked, and whom they have sought, and whom they have worshipped: they shall not be gathered, nor be buried; they shall be for dung upon the face of the earth. 3And death shall be chosen rather than life by all the residue of them that remain of this evil family, which remain in all the places whither I have driven them, saith the Lord of hosts.

4Moreover thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord; Shall they fall, and not arise? shall he turn away, and not return? 5Why then is this people of Jerusalem slidden back by a perpetual backsliding? they hold fast deceit, they refuse to return. 6I hearkened and heard, but they spake not aright: no man repented him of his wickedness, saying, What have I done? every one turned to his course, as the horse rusheth into the battle. 7Yea, the stork in the heaven knoweth her appointed times; and the turtle and the crane and the swallow observe the time of their coming; but my people know not the judgment of the Lord. 8How do ye say, We are wise, and the law of the Lord is with us? Lo, certainly in vain made he it; the pen of the scribes is in vain. 9The wise men are ashamed, they are dismayed and taken: lo, they have rejected the word of the Lord; and what wisdom is in them? 10Therefore will I give their wives unto others, and their fields to them that shall inherit them: for every one from the least even unto the greatest is given to covetousness, from the prophet even unto the priest every one dealeth falsely. 11For they have healed the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace. 12Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush: therefore shall they fall among them that fall: in the time of their visitation they shall be cast down, saith the Lord.

13I will surely consume them, saith the Lord: there shall be no grapes on the vine, nor figs on the fig tree, and the leaf shall fade; and the things that I have given them shall pass away from them. 14Why do we sit still? assemble yourselves, and let us enter into the defenced cities, and let us be silent there: for the Lord our God hath put us to silence, and given us water of gall to drink, because we have sinned against the Lord. 15We looked for peace, but no good came; and for a time of health, and behold trouble! 16The snorting of his horses was heard from Dan: the whole land trembled at the sound of the neighing of his strong ones; for they are come, and have devoured the land, and all that is in it; the city, and those that dwell therein. 17For, behold, I will send serpents, cockatrices, among you, which will not be charmed, and they shall bite you, saith the Lord.

18 When I would comfort myself against sorrow, my heart is faint in me. 19Behold the voice of the cry of the daughter of my people because of them that dwell in a far country: Is not the Lord in Zion? is not her king in her? Why have they provoked me to anger with their graven images, and with strange vanities? 20The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved. 21For the hurt of the daughter of my people am I hurt; I am black; astonishment hath taken hold on me. 22 Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there? why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?

These words may be considered as spoken by God himself, — that he from heaven examined the state of the people; but it is more suitable to regard them as spoken by the Prophet; for he was placed, as it were, in a watch — tower in order to observe how the people acted towards God. He now testifies, that having seen their pursuits and their doings, he saw nothing that was right. The people ought to have been more touched by these words. We indeed know how ready we are naturally to lay hold on any pretences, when we wish to continue quiet in our dregs. So the greater part are wont to object and say, “O, indeed, thou reprovest me, but inconsiderately; for thou knowest not what is in my heart.” Hence the Prophet says, that he had carefully examined what sort of people they were, and that he spoke of what was well known to him, and fully seen by him, —

I have heard, he says, and attended; but they speak not rightly He means, that so far were the Jews from repenting truly and sincerely, that they did not even with their mouths profess to do so. It is less to confess sins than really to amend; but the Prophet says, that they did not even say what was right. It hence follows, that they were very far from having any serious thoughts of repentance, since they were so wanton with their tongues, or at least afforded no evidence of sorrow.

He then adds, that there was no one who repented, saying, etc. This clause is explanatory, for Jeremiah proves here more clearly that they did not speak rightly, for they did not say, What have I done? But he says first, that there was no one who repented of his wickedness He afterwards shews, that what is first necessary for repentance is, that the sinner should call himself to an account; for as long as we rest secure in our sins, it is impossible for us to repent, It is hence necessary that every one should examine himself, so as to call himself to an account, and in a manner to summon himself before God’s tribunal. We then see that men can never be brought to repentance, except they set their own evils before their eyes, so as to feel ashamed, and to ask themselves, as it were in great fear, What have we done? for this question is an evidence of terror. Many, we know, formally own their sins; but this is useless, for afterwards such an acknowledgement vanishes without producing any benefit. Then real repentance necessarily requires that the sinner should not only be displeased with himself, should not only be ashamed, but that he should also be filled with terror at his own sins; for this is what is meant by the inquiry, What have I done? for it implies astonishment.

We now perceive the meaning of the Prophet’s words: he says, that he did not inconsiderately reprove the people, but that he found such perversity in them that no one spoke rightly, that no one repented, because they did not consider what they were, nor examined their own lives, but slept securely in their sins.

He pursues the same subject when he says, that all turned to their own courses, that is, to their own lusts. But by the word “courses” the Prophet means impetuous movements; as though he had said, that the Jews were so precipitant in following their lusts, that they in a manner ran headlong after them; and he compares them to horses rushing into battle. We know with what impetuosity horses advance when they hasten to battle; for they seem to fly, to cut the air, and to dig the ground with their hoofs. Thus the comparison is exceedingly suitable, when the Prophet says that the Jews were so impetuous in pursuing their lusts, that they rushed on, not less precipitantly than war — horses when advancing to battle. It now follows —

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