Jeremiah 2
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
or Divine delight turned by his people's ingratitude into Divine distress.

I. GOD GREATLY DELIGHTS IN HIS PEOPLE'S LOVE. See the similitude he employs: "the love of thine espousals." It is difficult for us to recall any period in the history of Israel when such high praise as this was merited by them. For it is of their love to God rather than of his to them - though there was never any doubt about that-that the prophet is here speaking. But when was Israel's love at all of such devoted and intense order as to deserve to be thus spoken of? It is difficult to say. And he that knows his own heart will be slow to credit himself with any such ardent affection as is spoken of here. The explanation of such language is found in that joyous appreciation by God of all movements of our hearts towards him which leads him to speak of our poor offerings as if they were altogether worthy and good. Cf. "Lord, when saw we thee and hungred, or athirst," etc.? (Matthew 25:44); also our Lord's estimate of the widow's two mites; the cup of cold water given in his Name, etc. Still, whilst the believer is compelled to confess that his Lord's loving estimate of his poor service and affection is an exaggerated one, it is one which is nevertheless founded upon a very blessed fact. There is such a thing as the child of God's "first love," when our delight in God was intense, real, abiding; when prayer and service were prompt and frequent and delightful. Then we were content to leave the world, and to go out into the dreary wilderness if but our God led the way. Then there was not, as now there too often is, a wide separation between our religious and our common life; but, as ver. 3 tells, we ourselves and all we had were counted as holy unto the Lord. We sought that in whatsoever we did we might do all unto the glory of God. Now, such service is a delight to the heart of God. We are shown, therefore, that we can add to or diminish the joy of God. Such power have we. And the Divine appreciation of such service is shown by his anger towards those that in anywise hurt his servants. "All that devour him," etc. (ver. 3). The Book of the Revelation is one long and awful declaration of how the Lord God will avenge his saints.

II. BUT THIS DIVINE DELIGHT HAS BECOME DIVINE DISTRESS. The remembrance has become bitter. The cause of this change is by reason of his people having forsaken him. As is the joy of God at men's hearts yielding to him, so is his grief at their unfaithfulness. The heart of God is no figure of speech, but a reality. It rejoices in our love, it mourns over our sin. And this all the more because of the aggravation attending such forsaking him. For:

1. It is in violation of solemn vows and pledges of fidelity which, we have given him. The yielding of the soul up to God is likened unto the espousal of the soul to God. At the time we made our surrender we joyfully confessed, "Thy vows are upon me, O God: O my soul, thou hast said unto the Lord, Thou art my Lord." Now, to go back from God is to violate all these sacred vows.

2. And whatever departures from God have taken place, they have been without any provocation whatsoever. Ver. 5, "What iniquity have your fathers found in me?" etc. Has he been hard with us, or impatient, or unready to answer prayer, or faithless to his promise? Can any who have forsaken God charge him so?

3. And such forsaking of God has been an act of base and shameful ingratitude (cf. ver. 6). God had brought Israel up out of the land of Egypt, etc. And he had brought them into a plentiful country, but they had polluted it, etc. (ver. 7). All men are under a vast debt of gratitude to God, even the heathen - so St. Paul teaches us - who never heard his Name. But how much more vast is the debt of those who have "tasted that the Lord is gracious," and known his redeeming love, and who yet "turn back and walk no more with him!"

4. Such departures from God are characterized by most unheard-of and monstrous foolishness. The prophet in contemplating it (ver. 12) calls on the heavens to be astonished, etc. For such conduct was unheard of (cf. vers. 10, 11). Idolatrous nations remained true to their gods, though they were no gods; but Israel, etc. Too often is it that the professed people of God are put to shame by those who make no such profession at all. And it was as monstrous as it was unheard of (cf. ver. 13). It was as if any should abandon the waters of some bright, pure running fountain for the muddy mixture of a tank or cistern, which at the best is almost repulsive to one accustomed to the fountains of living water. And the folly of such exchange is even exceeded, for not only was it this foul cistern for which the living fountains had been forsaken, but even these very cisterns were flawed and fractured so that they could "hold no water." The force of folly could no further go. And men do the like of this still. As, e.g., when they forsake the faith of the Father in heaven for the creed of the materialist, the agnostic, the atheist; when they choose rather the peace of mind which contemplation of their own correctness of conduct can afford instead of the joyful assurance of sin forgiven and acceptance with God, gained through Jesus Christ our Lord; when, in the controversy that is ever going on between God and the world, they decide for the world; when, reliance is placed on a religion of sacraments, professions and forms of worship, instead of that sincere surrender of the heart to God, that spiritual religion which alone is of worth in his sight; when the lot of the people of God is rejected in order that the pleasures of sin may be enjoyed for a season, and in many other such ways.

5. And the sin is of such desperate character. For see (ver. 8) how it has mounted up and overwhelmed those who from their profession and calling we should have thought would have been above it. The ministers of religion, the priests, pastors, teachers, have all been swept away by the torrent of sin. When these whose lives are given to prayer, to the study of God's holy Word, and to that sacred ministry which should be a bulwark and defense, not only for those for whom, but also for those by whom, it is exercised; when these are seen to be involved in the common corruption, then the case of such a Church, community, or nation is hopeless indeed. See, too, the insensibility that such sin causes. In ver. 2 Jeremiah is bidden "Go and cry in the ears of Jerusalem." As you would bend down your face to the ear of one in whom the sense of hearing was all but dead, and would place your lips close to his ear, and by loud, clear utterance strive to make him hear, so had it become necessary by reason of the insensibility which their sin had caused, to deal with those to whom the prophet wrote. It is one of the awful judgments- that overtake the hardened and impenitent, that whereas once they would not hear the voice of God, they at length find they cannot. Oh, then, let the prayer of us all be "From hardness of heart, and contempt of thy Word and commandment, good Lord, deliver us" - C.

Desertion rather than apostasy is the word by which to describe the offence charged against Israel in this chapter. Apostasy from principle is too abstract and unemotional a way of putting the thing. The spectacle presented to us is that of one person deserting another in the basest and most ungrateful way. It is a desertion without excuse, aggravated by every circumstance which can aggravate it. And now Jehovah sends his servant to bring the reality of this desertion distinctly before the nation. And suitably enough he sends him to "cry in the ears of Jerusalem." Whatever is sounded forth in the capital by a man who has had the words of God put in his mouth may be expected to go to the ends of the land.

I. THE WHOLE NATION IS SPOKEN TO. God has the power to look at human life in the light of a unity which the individual man is scarcely able to conceive. Here he looks not only at the living generation of those who had sprung from Jacob, but all backward through the past; each generation is, as it were, a year in the life of one who still lives, and is able to look back on things that happened centuries ago as events of his own youth. Thus not only is it true that one generation goes and another comes, while God abides forever, but it is also true that while one generation goes and another comes, Israel abides forever. Israel is spoken to as a full-grown man might be spoken to, exhorted in the midst of backsliding and unworthy habits to look back on the far different promise of his youth.

II. THE NATION IS SPOKEN TO AS SUSTAINING A MOST ENDEARING RELATION TO GOD. Even as a husband loves and cherishes his wife; so God has loved and cherished Israel. He looks back into the past, and he sees a great fall. The youth of Israel, according to his present view of it, was a time of love and devotion. No doubt there were murmurings and rebellions; and indeed, when we think of some of the things that Israel did during the leadership of Moses, the words of God seem exaggerated in speaking of the kindness of Israel's youth and the love of its espousals. But then we must bear in mind that we know only in a very imperfect way what is recorded, whereas God saw all, and to him the enthusiasm of the people on certain memorable occasions was very significant. He remembered all those events in which Israel rose to the height of its better self, and indicated the possibilities that might be expected from it. Such events now stand forth like sunny heights in memory. They are reasons why God should not allow his people quietly to depart, farther and further, into the alienations of idolatry. This is what makes the present attempt at restoration so full of interest, that it is an attempt to bring back the erring spouse to her

III. The nation is viewed in the light of A PAST IN WHICH JEHOVAH HAD MADE GREAT PROMISES AND ENTERTAINED GREAT EXPECTATIONS WITH REGARD TO ISRAEL'S FUTURE. They were reckoned a holy nation. They were as firstfruits of the whole earth, to which he attached an especial value. Levi he brought in sacred nearness to himself in lieu of the firstborn of Israel. It is one of Christ's distinctions that he has become the firstfruits of them that slept; and so here there was a nation which was the first to step out from long-accustomed idolatry. The glory of Abraham's faith in the unseen was still, as it were, resting on Israel in the wilderness. Jehovah told the people where to go; he gave them bread, water, and defense against enemies, in a land of peculiar desolation and danger. Promises for the future were given in the most effective way by distinguished services rendered in the present. When at last the Israelites settled down in Canaan, it might have been said to them, "May you not Be sure that he who has freely, amply, and just at the right time, supplied your every need, will also, in all the generations to come, whatever their peculiar experiences, do the same thing?" God had taken his people into the deepest darkness, and put out every earth-enkindled light, just that he might manifest in greater glory and attractiveness that light which is the portion of all unwavering believers in himself. Thus the past of Israel glorified the Cod of Israel; and at the same time, it not only disgraced Israel itself, but had in it such elements of God's favor and assiduity as made the national desertion of him a great mystery.

IV. OBSERVE HOW COMPLETELY IT IS BROUGHT OUT THAT THE DESERTION IS A NATIONAL ACT. The priests appointed mediators in offering and atonement between Jehovah and his people; the expounders of the Law, whose business it was to keep ever manifest the difference between right and wrong; the shepherds, such, for instance, as every father at the head of his household, providing and guiding; the prophets, who should have been the messengers of Jehovah; - all these, far away from their right place, are found in the very forefront of iniquity. Jehovah is not only ignored; he is almost treated as if he were unknown. The people carelessly let their superiors think for them. When the priest in the parable went by on the other side, the inferior would have thought it presumption to have acted differently. - Y.

A remarkable passage: to be taken in its evident meaning, and not to be explained away. What a loving use to make of the past faithfulness and attachment of his people! He would remind them of them, that they may repent and return.

I. IT IS FULL OF INTEREST TO HIM. TO those who feel intense love for others, it is exceedingly grateful to find their love reciprocated. High, pure, disinterested love, like that of God for men, never receives equal return; but what it does elicit it prizes beyond all its intrinsic value. The parent thinks more of the child's love for him than the child of the parent's.

1. It spoke of trust. There is no fear or selfishness in love Divine love awakens. The wilderness could not daunt the simple hearts of faithful Israel. They were willing to take God at his word, and to look for the ]and of promise. So with respect to Christ.

2. It spoke of gratitude. He had saved them from Egypt's bondage, and made them his own freemen. No service was too arduous; no trial too severe. Jesus has saved us from sin and its consequences; we owe to him a deeper gratitude.

3. It spoke of an affection that was its own reward. There was delight in the presence and communion of God. Worship was rapture. The chief interest of life was spiritual and Divine. The life of Israel was separated and sanctified to God. Love that could manifest itself thus was a sign and guarantee that the love of God had not been in vain.

II. ITS FAILINGS ARE CONDONED BY ITS GENUINENESS. No mention is made of their murmurings, their disobedience, and unbelief. Where the true spirit of Divine love is exhibited God can forgive defects, etc. To him it is enough for the present that we do our best, and are true and earnest. So at the first signs of repentance he is willing to forget all our offences. What is good and real in men, is of infinitely more value to him than we can imagine, and for the sake of that he is willing to cover the guilty past. This is all the more precious a trait in the Divine character that it does not spring from ignorance of us. He knows us altogether, our secret thoughts, our down-sitting and our uprising. The readiness of God so to forgive and to overvalue past love and trust on the part of his people, ought to fill us with compunction and shame. We ought to ask, "Was this our love?" "Lord, when saw we thee an hungred," etc.?

III. THOUGH TRANSIENT, IT ELICITS AN ETERNAL ATTACHMENT AND LEAVES AN UNDYING MEMORY. "I remember." It ought to be a strong motive to the Christian to think that his-little works of faith and labors of love are so highly prized, and so long remembered. "For thy works' sake." Who would not rather charge the memory of God with such gracious memories, that "heap up wrath against the day of wrath?" - M.

We have here a picture of the idyllic days of the soul's first love for God. The emphasis is on the sentiment - its depth, reality, and attractiveness. It is spoken of as something in which' God delights; as in the odor of a rose, the beauty of a landscape, or the pleasant melody of a song.

I. IT IS ATTRACTIVE. For its spontaneity; its spirit of self-sacrifice; and its absoluteness.

II. IT IS IMMEDIATE IN ITS INFLUENCE. UPON CHARACTER AND LIFE. Generous sacrifice. Dominance of spiritual aims and interests. Personal holiness.

III. IT IS FULL OF PROMISE. Not only what it is, but what it may become. In one sense the bud is more valuable than the leaf, or flower, or knit. It has the interest of growth and the future about it. Israel's best gifts, then, were to God but "first fruits." God only knows what capacity of spiritual progress and enlargement is ours; and he alone can tell the influence and importance of his people's faithfulness. - M.

A great problem in morals. Pharaoh's "heart is hardened," and yet his guilt remains. Nations are raised up to punish Israel for unfaithfulness, yet they "offend" in doing this very thing.

I. WHEREIN THE GUILT OF INSTRUMENTS OF DIVINE VENGEANCE MAY CONSIST. At least two explanations of this are to be found:

1. In the distinction between the formal and the material character of actions. The essential evil or good of an action is in the intention, the subjective conditions that originate and give character to it. It is subjective, not actualized; or its actualization in one of several forms or directions is indifferent. Towards any of these the Divine power may direct the impulse and tendency; or they may be shut up to them through the unconscious influence of providence, working in wider cycles.

2. In the overdoing or aggravation of the appointed task.

II. WHAT IT IS THAT AGGRAVATES THE GUILT OF THE WICKED INSTRUMENT OF DIVINE WRATH. It is the character of God's people, and the relation they boar to him. They have been "holiness unto the Lord." In so far as this character is interfered with or injured by the instruments of vengeance, the latter shall be the more guilty. In so far, too, as hatred for this character, either as past or present, in God's people has actuated the vengeance inflicted, the avengers "shall offend." (Cf. for a similar sentiment, Matthew 18:6.) The Divine Being declares his personal attachment to those he has chosen, and his identification with them. To injure them is to injure him. They also represent, even in their apostasy, the stock from which salvation is to come, and the world's spiritual future. - M.

The chosen nation is arraigned in all its generations and in all its orders. It is a universal and continuous crime; and it ran parallel with a succession of unheard-of mercies, deliverances, and favors. In these respects it corresponds to the sin of God's people in every age - forgetfulness of past mercy, abuse of present blessings, the corruption and perverseness of those who were entrusted with Divine mysteries and sacred offices.

I. JEHOVAH APPEALS TO HIS CHARACTER AND DEALINGS IN THE PAST IN DISPROOF OF THERE BEING ANY EXCUSE IN THEM FOR THE SIN OF HIS PEOPLE. Inquiry is challenged. History is rehearsed. So it always has been. The reason for the sins, etc., of God's people is in themselves and not in God. God is just, and all the allegations and murmurs of unbelieving and disobedient Israel are lies. So the excuses Christians often give for their faults and offences are already answered in advance. We have received from him nothing but good. His help and protection were at our disposal; but we forsook him, and sinned against both him and ourselves.

II. THE ENORMITY OF THE OFFENCE IS THEN SET FORTH. The recital is marked by simplicity, symmetry, force, and point. It contains the undeniable commonplaces of history and experience, but the artist's power is shown in the grouping and perspective.

1. It is ancient and hereditary. The fathers, the children, and the children's children. Just as they could not go back to a time when God had not cared for them and blessed them, so they could not discover a time when they or their forefathers had not shown unbelief and ingratitude. It is pertinent to ask in such a case, "Must there not be some hereditary and original taint in the sinners themselves?" What will men do with the actual existence of depravity? How will they explain its miserable entail? Human history in every age is marked by persistent wickedness; Christianity suggests an explanation of this. It is for objectors to substitute a better.

2. It consists in ingratitude, unbelief, and the service of false gods. The Exodus with all its marvels and mercies, the blessings that surrounded them in the present, go for naught. They are forgotten or ignored. And idols, which are but vanity, are sought after to such an extent that their worshippers "are like unto them." This is the history of religious defection in every age. Forgetfulness of God, ingratitude, and the overwhelming influence of worldly interests and concerns, and the lusts of our own sinful nature, work the same ruin in us. How many idols does the modern world, the modern Church not set up?

3. It is marked by the abuse of blessings and the breach of sacred trusts. When men are rendered worthless by their sinful practices, they cannot appreciate the good things of God. Divine bounty is wasted, and blessings are abused. Sacred things are desecrated. Those who ought to be leaders and examples are worse than others. The priest who, if any one, ought to know the "secret place," "the holy of holies," of the Most High, is asking where he is. The lawyers are the greatest law-breakers. The pastors, who ought to guide and feed, are become "blind mouths." And the prophets are false. Corruptio optimi pessima. How hard is the heart that has once known God! "If the light that is in you be darkness, how great is that darkness!" The backslider, the child of holy parents, etc., who shall estimate their wickedness?

III. FOR ALL THESE THINGS MEN WILL BE BROUGHT INTO JUDGMENT. The assurance is very terrible: "I will yet plead with" (i.e. reckon with or plead against) "you... and with your children's children will I plead." This is the same Jehovah who "keepeth mercy for thousands" but "visiteth the iniquity of the fathers upon the children." There is a solidarity in Israel, Christendom, and the race, which will be brought to light in that day. "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God," and to bear our offences in the company of transgressors and the universal connection of the world's sin. "But as in Adam all have died, so in Christ shall all be made alive." Jesus is set forth as the Head and Representative of the humanity he redeems. Let us seek oneness with him through faith. - M.

A magnificent apostrophe. Yet this is no mere rhetoric. There is a terrible reality in the phenomenon to which attention is directed. Chittim, the general name of the islands and coast of the eastern Mediterranean, stands for the extreme west; and Kedar, the general name of the Arabs of the desert for the extreme east of the "world," with which the prophet and his hearers were familiar. Our "from China to Peru" would represent its meaning to us.

I. THE CONSIDERATIONS THAT MAKE IT MARVELLOUS. The people themselves were but dimly conscious of the strangeness of their apostasy. The prophet seeks to rouse their better nature by the most striking comparisons and illustrations.

1. He compares it with the general fixedness of heathen systems. A tendency to subdivide and stereotype life in the family, society, and the state is shown by idolatry. Idolatries reflect and pamper human desires and ideas, and enter into the whole constitution of the people. They undermine the moral life and spiritual strength, and flourish upon the decay they have made. Their victims are helpless because they are moribund or dead. The words of Isaiah are justified in such a case; "from the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it," etc. This is the reason of the perpetuation of error and superstition; but the fact is there all the same, and it is in striking contrast to the vacillation and apostasy of God's people. That which only appears to be good is clung to with reverence and tenacity from age to age. That which is acknowledged to be best, and in part realized to be so, is east aside repeatedly.

2. Look too at the character of him who is forsaken. He has already told them a little of God's doings (vers. 5-7). Now it is sufficient to describe him as the "Glory" of Israel. The heavens, which look at everything all the world over, are to wonder and to be horror-struck at this unheard-of ingratitude and folly.

3. Disadvantage and dissatisfaction must evidently result. The action of the apostate is twofold - negative and positive. Describe the figure. How great the labor of worldliness; and its disappointment!

II. How SUCH CONDUCT CAN BE ACCOUNTED FOR. If it were the result of genuine and honest experience, it might be fatal to the claims of Jehovah. But it is explained by:

1. The influence of the near and sensible. The physical side of our nature is more developed than the spiritual. Our need appeals to us first and most strongly on that side. Abraham, who pleaded for Sodom, lied for Sarah. Jacob, the dreamer of Bethel, is the craven at Penuel. How unaccountable the yielding of the man of God to the false prophet (1 Kings 13.)! After David's signal escapes and deliverances, he yet said in his heart, "I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul. There is nothing better for me than that I should speedily escape into the land of the Philistines." Elijah, after all his miracles and testimonies, sighs out, "Let me die." Peter, upon whoso witness Christ was to found his Church, is addressed as he is ready to sink at the vessel's side, "O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?" Paul, who had withstood them "that seemed to be pillars," quails beneath the "thorn in the flesh."

2. The demands made by true religion. Self has to be denied. The whole carnal life is condemned. Diligence is insisted upon. We have to "pray without ceasing," to labor and not faint. We have to "press toward the mark for the prize." Patience is demanded, and the Christian profession commits us to indefinite sacrifice. - M.

From humiliating contrast of the present conduct of Israel with what might have been reasonably expected from the peculiar experiences of the past, God now turns to make a contrast more humiliating still with heathen nations. The request to look back is succeeded by a request to look round. Search through every nation, inquire in every idol temple, watch the religious life of idolaters, and everywhere you will see a fidelity which puts the apostate children of Israel to shame. The heathen gods themselves Jehovah has indeed put to shame, notably the gods of Egypt and Philistia; but in spite of all, the heathen are still clinging to the falsehoods in which they have been taught to believe. Their fanatical devotion is, indeed, a pitiable thing, but even in the midst of all that is pitiable, God can find something to be used for good. This very fidelity to what is so false and degrading may be used to point a keen reproach to those who owe but do not pay allegiance to Jehovah. There is thus suggested as a topic the UNCONSCIOUS REBUKES WHICH THE WORLD GIVES TO THE CHURCH. The heathendom on which Jehovah bade his people look has long passed away. In spite of the fidelity here indicated, the temples have fallen into ruin and the idols are utterly vanished. Nay, more; increasing signs come in from year to year, that all heathendom is gradually dissolving, so that, in one sense, Jehovah's words may be said no longer to apply. But we know that, in the spirit of the words, they continue to apply only too forcibly. It is but the form of the idol that passes away; the reality is the same. Thus he who calls himself and wishes to be thought a believer in Christ, does well to look out and see what he can gather by way of spiritual instruction and rebuke from the world. The world has much to teach us if we would only learn. Jesus himself gave the New Testament parallel when he spoke of the children of the world being wiser in their generation than the children of light. And though we should be very foolish to pay any attention to the world, when it puts on the air of a wiseacre and talks with the utmost self-conceit of things it does not understand, there is all the more reason why we should learn all we can by our own divinely directed observation. How the world rebukes us, for instance, every time we see men of science searching after truth! Think of the patient attention given day after day with the telescope, the microscope, and all the apparatus of the experimentalist in physics. Think of the perils and privations of the traveler in tropic and in arctic zones. Think of the unwearied hunting of facts, for possibly a whole lifetime, in order to turn some hypothesis into an established truth. And we also have truth to attain. Jesus and his apostles often spoke of truth which we have to make our own; understanding it, believing it, and making it part of our experience. But that truth assuredly is not to be won without effort. The question may well be asked if such differences would continue to exist among Christians as do exist, provided they only set themselves in reality and humility to discover all that may be known on the subject-matter of their convictions. A man of science, for instance, would not grudge the labor needed to learn another language, if he felt that an increase of knowledge would prove the result to be worth the labor. But how many Christians can be found who have any notion that it might be worth their while to learn the Greek Testament for themselves instead of depending upon even the best of translations? Again, the world rebukes us as we consider the enthusiasm of terrestrial citizenship. There is much for the Christian to learn as he contemplates the spirit breaking forth in many men at the thought of the land that gave them birth. How the feelings of such men glow to fever heat with the exhibition of a national flag, the singing of a national anthem, or the mention of great military and naval triumphs, with the names of the captains who achieved them! Then think of what is better still, the unwearied labors of social reformers, simply from love to their country, to lessen crime, vice, disease, and ignorance. In view of all this deep attachment to the land where the natural man has sprung into existence and is sustained, may not Christ well ask his people, if the heavenly πολιτεία into which they have been introduced by the second birth, is as dear to them? Then, what a rebuke comes to us as we look at the efforts of commercial enterprise. What toil there is here! what daring investments of capital! what quick combinations of the many to attain what cannot be done by the one I what formation of business habits so as to make easy and regular what would otherwise be difficult, perhaps impossible I And yet it is all done to get that wealth on which the Scriptures have so many warning words to speak. As these gods of the nations were no gods, so the wealth men think so much of is really no wealth at all. We are not to look towards the goal of their desires, nor follow in their steps. But as earnestly as they look towards the goal of an earthly fortune, we should look towards that of a heavenly one. As we stand among men clinging to riches which they cannot keep, and clinging none the less firmly because the riches are hollow, let us bear in mind how easy it is for us who are but sinful mortals also to be deluded away into neglect of the true riches. - Y.

I. THERE IS SUGGESTED HERE AN INCONCEIVABLE ACT OF FOLLY. It is a thing which could be believed of no one in his sound senses that he would leave a fountain of living water, knowing it to be such, and enjoying the use of it; and be contented with a cistern such as is here described. A fountain is that from which he benefits without any trouble; it is a pure gift of grace, and all he has to do is to take up his habitation by it. Why, then, should he leave a fountain for a cistern, even if the cistern were ready-made? Still less credible is it that he should take the trouble to make a cistern. And the incredibility reaches its height when we are asked to suppose him doing all this with the end of possessing a broken cistern that can hold no water. Such broken cisterns the people of Israel seem to have known only too well. Dr. Thomson says there are thousands such in Upper Galilee, which, though dug in hard rock and apparently sound, are all dry in winter; at best they are an uncertain source of supply, and the water, when collected, is bad in color and taste, and full of worms. The whole action, then, of the character here indicated is scarcely conceivable, unless as the expression of fear in a diseased mind. In somewhat of this way we have heard of men acting, who, after having made great fortunes, have become victims to the horrid delusion that they are paupers, and must make some sort of provision against utter destitution. So we might imagine the victim of delusion, with fountains all round him, still insisting upon having some sort of cistern provided. Note, moreover, that the aspect of folly becomes more decided when we consider that it is water which is treated in this way. The water which is offered so freely and continuously in the fountain is a thing which man needs, and yet it is for the supply of that which is a great and may be a painful need that he is represented as depending on broken cisterns which with great toil he has constructed for himself.

II. THERE IS MENTIONED AN INDISPUTABLE ACT OF DESERTION. Israelites, stung to wrath by a charge of folly, might reply that they had not left a living fountain for broken cisterns. This, however, was but denying the application of a figure; the historical fact which the prophet had connected with the figure they could not possibly deny. Assuredly they had forsaken God. Not simply that at this time they were without him, but, having once been with him, they had now left him. Had' he not taken them up when they were in the weakness, dependence, and waywardness of national infancy? Had they not received all their supplies from him, and gathered strength and prestige under the shelter of his providence? They owed the land in which they lived, and the wealth they had heaped up, to the fulfillment of his promises, and yet they were now worshipping idols. Their worship was not a momentary outbreak like the worship of the golden calf, soon after leaving Egypt, and when they had so long been living in the midst of idolaters. It was a steady settling down into the worst excesses of an obscene and cruel worship, after long centuries during which the Mosaic institutions had been in a place of acknowledged authority. What extenuations there may have been for this apostasy are not to be considered here. The thing insisted upon is the simple undeniable fact of the apostasy itself.

III. THIS DESERTION OF JEHOVAH IS DIVINELY ASSERTED TO BE AN ACT OF THE GROSSEST FOLLY. We have noticed the figure under which this act is set forth; and if Israel meant to get clear of a humiliating charge, it was only by denying that God was indeed a fountain of living water. The figure, therefore, resolves itself into a sort of logical dilemma; and the fact is clearly shown that in spiritual affairs men are capable of a folly which, in natural affairs, they are as far from as possible. Man holds within him a strange duality of contradictions. In some directions he may show the greatest powers of comprehension, insight, foresight; may advance with all the resources of nature well in hand. But in other directions he may stumble like a blind man, while around him on every hand are piled up the gracious gifts of a loving and forgiving God. There is no special disgrace to any individual in admitting what a fool he may be in spiritual things. In this respect, at all events, he is not a fool above other fools. He may see many of the wise, noble, and mighty of earth who have lived and died in apparent neglect as to the concerns of eternity and the relation of Christ to them. Men toil to make securities and satisfactions for themselves, but if they only clearly saw that they are doing no better than making broken cisterns, their toils would be relinquished the next moment. It is but too sadly plain how many neglect the revelations, offers, and promises of God; but who can doubt that if they could only really see him to be the true Fountain of living waters, the neglect would come to an end at once? - Y.

This is the sum and substance of the charge the prophet was called to bring against Israel. Idolatry was their destroying sin, the root of all their discords and miseries. It involved the renunciation of their allegiance to the God of their fathers, and in this their conduct was without a parallel. No instance of such apostasy could be found elsewhere. Those whom God had chosen to be witnesses for him before all the world were put to shame in this respect by the very heathen whom it was their mission to enlighten and bless. But we may regard this as the condemnation of the whole human race. "They have forsaken," etc. Note the view we get here -

I. OF THE BEING OF GOD AND THE RELATION HE SUSTAINS TOWARDS US. "The Fountain of living waters "(see also Jeremiah 17:13; Psalm 36:9).

1. He is emphatically the Living One. The grand distinction of the Bible is that it reveals "the living God." The Name Jehovah, the mysterious and incommunicable Name, was expressive of this. "And God said to Moses, I AM THAT I AM," etc. (Exodus 3:14). Absolute existence - essential, independent, necessary being - is the idea it conveys. The knowledge of such a spiritual Being, of a personality kindred with our own but absolutely exempt from its limitations, is our supreme need. David did but utter forth the insatiable longing of our nature for its true home, its only possible resting-place, when he cried, "My soul thirsteth for God, yea, for the living God." We want, not mere vague impressions of infinitude and eternity, but an Infinite and Eternal One in whom we may trust. Not mere abstract ideas of truth, and beauty, and righteousness, and love, but One of whom these are the unchanging attributes, and to whom, in the frailty of our nature, we can fly for refuge. "Our heart and our flesh cry out for the living God."

2. He is the Giver and Sustainer of all other forms of spirit-life. The "Fountain" of life; all other existences are dependent upon him. "The Father of spirits;" "we also are his offspring;" "in him we live and move and have our being." Whether our spirit-life once given can ever become extinct again may be a matter of doubt and controversy, but certainly it cannot be regarded as absolute and necessary existence. Though God may have endowed our nature with his own immortality, we do not possess immortality in the sense in which he does. "He only hath immortality." Ours is not self-existent being; it is dependent on him from whom it came - an outflow of the "Fountain" of life.

3. He is the Source of all that nourishes, enriches, and gladdens this dependent creature-life - "the Fountain of living waters." "Living waters" are the Divine satisfactions of the human soul. The Scriptures abound with similar figurative representations (Genesis 2:10; Zechariah 14:8; John 4:14; Revelation 22:1, 17). Every age has had its witness to the truth that man's real satisfactions are only to be found in God. In Christ that witness is perfected, that truth verified. "This is the record," etc. (1 John 5:11, 12). Here are the conditions of infinite blessedness for every one of us. To be separated from God in Christ, to turn away from him, is to perish, to doom yourself to the pangs of an insatiable hunger and a quenchless thirst. "This is life eternal, that they might know thee," etc. (John 17:3). This is death eternal - not to know him, to refuse the knowledge of him, to dream that you can live without him.

II. THE FOLLY AND EXCEEDING SINFULNESS OF SIN., The "two evils" here spoken of are but two forms, two sides, of one and the same thing. There is the self-willed departure from God, and there is the endeavor in that to lead a self-determined and self-sufficient life.

1. They have forsaken me. All sin is a forsaking of God. Adam turned his back on God when he listened to the voice of the tempter. The prophet rebukes here the shameful idolatries of the people. Think what idolatry means. It has, no doubt, its fairer side, in which it is seen to be the ignorant but still honest expression of the religious sentiment in men - the blind "feeling after God if haply they may find him." But think how it arose, and what its issues have been. St. Paul tells us how it was born of the corruption of man's nature, and has ever since been the Satanic means of deepening that corruption (see Romans 1:20, et seq.). So is it with every sinful life. It begins with a more or less intentional and deliberate renunciation of God. The exact point of departure may not be very definitely marked; but as the life unfolds itself, the fact that this is its true meaning becomes more manifest. How marvelous a picture of this dread reality of moral life does our Lord's parable of the prodigal supply! Such is the history of prodigal souls. Happy are they who "come to themselves" before it is too late to return to the forsaken home of the Father.

2. The dream of a self-determined and self-contained life. "They have hewed them out cisterns" of their own, which shall render them, as they think, independent of the "Fountain of living waters." Here is the idea of a proud endeavor to find in one's self and one's own self-willed way all necessary good. But it is altogether vain. The cisterns are miserably shallow, and they are "broken." It is true of every man, indeed, that his satisfactions must spring from what he finds within rather than from his earthly surroundings; but then he is "satisfied from himself" only because he has learnt to link himself with the Divine Source of all blessedness - the living God.

"Here would we end our quest;
Alone are found in thee
The life of perfect love, the rest
Of immortality." W.

The prophet has in his mind what was God's original thought for Israel, the Divine ideal concerning him; and along with that the mournful and utter contrast of his actual condition. An indignant "No" is the answer which rises to the prophet's lips as the questions, "Is Israel a slave? Is he a home born slave?" are asked. He thinks of God's words (Exodus 4:22). But then there stares him in the face the most distressing but yet most unanswerable fact that Israel has become altogether such an one. "He is spoiled; the young lions roar over him," etc. (ver. 15). Applying the story of Israel to ourselves, we learn -

I. THE DIGNITY AND GLORY WHICH GOD DESIGNED FOR HIS REDEEMED. They were to be as his sons (cf. John 1:12, and parallels). Think of the ideas which we associate with the relationship of sons. Take the story of Abraham and Isaac as setting forth in human form what these relationships are. What affection, what confidence, what sympathy, what affluence, what honor, were Isaac's because he was Abraham's son! All that appertained to him no doubt manifested his happy consciousness of the place he held in his father's love. His looks, his tones, his dress, his demeanor, the respect paid to him, the freedom of his intercourse with Abraham, the influence he had with him, wall made manifest his honored and his happy position. Now, all that which was Isaac's because he was Abraham's son, God purposes should be ours because we are his. Were the Divine ideal fulfilled, all that appertains to us would reveal the terms on which we stand towards God. Our look, our voice, our demeanor, our freedom from care, the general brightness of our life, - all would show our happy consciousness that we were the "sons" of our Father in heaven. The delight that Isaac had in Abraham, the delight that children have in their parents (Proverbs 17:6), above all, as the supreme example of true sonship, the delight that Jesus had in God, we should increasingly realize. Such is God's ideal for his redeemed.

II. THE SAD CONTRAST WHICH ACTUAL FACTS TOO OFTEN PRESENT TO THIS IDEAL. This contrast Jeremiah presents in a series of vivid similitudes.

1. Israel is "spoiled." That is, he who had been a beloved son, happy, honored, and free in his father's affluent home, is made a prey of, bound, beaten, abused, carried off as a slave.

2. Next he is likened to some unhappy traveler who, passing by a lion's lair, has fallen a victim. The beast's talons are fastened in his quivering flesh as he lies prostrate on the ground, and its fierce, exultant yells over him make the forest ring again.

3. The next is that of a wasted land, the desolated homesteads, the stripped fields, the torn-down vineyards, the flocks and herds all driven away.

4. The next, that of once goodly cities, their buildings now a heap of smoldering ruins.

5. And last, that of mocked and insulted captives in Egypt. Their captors have inflicted on them the indignity, so terrible in the eyes of a Hebrew, of shaving off their hair; the words "broken the crown of thy head" rather meaning "shorn the crown of thy head." Now, all these pictures which would call up vivid ideas of humiliation and suffering before the minds of Israel, the prophet suggests in these several sentences, in order to show the Contrast between what God proposed for Israel at the first, and that to which he had now fallen. But that which was true of Israel is true now, once and again, of those who should have continued as God's sons. Does not that verse "Where is the happiness I knew?" etc., and the whole tone of that well-known hymn, describe a spiritual condition all too common? Our very familiarity with it shows how often there has been the sad experience of which it tells. One reason why we love the Psalms so much is that they clothe our own thoughts in the very words we need; they say what our hearts have often said, and not least do they thus speak for us when, as they so often do, they confess the smart, the shame, the pain, and the manifold distress which our sin has brought upon us.

III. THE CAUSE OF ITS CONTRAST. (Ver. 17.) Did not thy forsaking of Jehovah thy God procure thee this? Let conscience confess if this he not the true explanation of ver. 19. Let us beware of explaining away the true cause, and sheltering our sin beneath some convenient excuse.


1. There must be the clear perception of its true cause. Ver. 19, "Know therefore and see that," etc. To further this most salutary knowledge was the reason of so many distresses coming upon Israel, and for the same reason God will not suffer sin to be only pleasant, nor the cup of iniquity to be free from bitterness. To the riot and gaiety of the prodigal in the "far country," God added on the poverty, the swine-feeding, the rags and wretchedness, the husks for food, and the desertion by all his so-called friends, - all that misery that he might "come to himself," which whilst his riches and riot lasted he never would. And this is God's way still. He would have us know and see that it is an evil thing and bitter to forsake the Lord.

2. And when this has been thus known and seen, would we regain what we have lost, we must have done "with the way of Egypt and the waters of Sihor," that is, we must resolutely abandon those forbidden ways in which we have hitherto been walking. Ver. 18 is an earnest expostulation with such as have wandered flora God. It seems to say to such, "What hast thou to do to be going after the world's sinful ways, or to be looking for help from her Sihor-like, her foul dark, waters? Oh, have not her ways harmed thee sufficiently already? will not the burnt child dread the fire? Wilt thou again belie thy name, and live rather as the devil's slave than as God's child? Was the one sorrow and shame which thy sin heaped upon thy Savior not sufficient, that thou must crucify the Son of God afresh, and put him anew to open shame? Shall the dove vie with the vulture in greed for foul food, or the lamb find satisfaction in the trough of the swine? As soon shouldest thou, child of God, love sin and its evil ways." Let us remember for our great comfort, when well-nigh despairing of deliverance from the dread power of sin, that Christ has as certainly promised to deliver us from this, the power of sin, as he has from its guilt. The earnest look of trust to him, pleading his promise herein, - this repeated day by day, and especially when we know that "sin is nigh," will break its mastery, and win for us the freedom we need. - C.

This was the tendency of Israel when her faith grew weak. It is shown even now by those who trust to the arm of flesh, and who seek worldly alliances for the Church. We ought to be deterred from this when we consider -






Note -


1. Their sin of outrageous character. It is spoken of as in ver. 20, because it so commonly involved the grossest fleshly sins, and because it involved shameful denial of God. Cf. ver. 27, "Saying to a stock, Thou art my father," etc. And it was chargeable with numerous and shameful murders (ver. 30). Killing the prophets of God; ver. 34, "In thy skirts is found the blood of the souls of the poor innocents," etc.

2. Of long standing. Ver. 20, "Of old time thou hast broken thy yoke" (see exegesis for true translation), "and saidst, I will not serve."

3. In no wise chargeable to God. Ver. 21, "Yet I had planted thee a noble vine," etc.

4. Was ingrained into their very nature (ver. 22). All manner of endeavor had been made to cleanse away the defilement, but its stain remained in them still.

5. Was fiercely and determinately pursued after (vers. 23, 24, 33; see exegesis). They "worked all uncleanness with greediness."

6. And this in spite of all that might have taught them better.

(1) Warnings (ver. 25, where they are entreated to have done with such wickedness).

(2) Miserable results of their idolatry in the past (vers. 26-28).

(3) Divine chastisements (ver. 30).

(4) God's great mercy in the past (ver. 31). God had not been to them as a wilderness.

(5) The honor and glory God was ready to place upon them (ver. 32), like as a husband would adorn his bride with jewels.

7. And their sin is aggravated by

(1) their shameless assertion of innocence (vers. 23, 35);

(2) their persistence in sin (ver 36), "gadding about to change their way," going from one idolatry to another, one heathen alliance to another.

II. THE MISERABLE DEFENSE OFFERED. It consisted simply in denial (vers. 23, 35). It augmented their guilt and condemnation (ver. 37).


1. It shows us the terrible nature of sin.

(1) The lengths it will go.

(2) The gracious Barriers it will break through.

(3) The condemnation it will surely meet.

2. It bids us not trust to any early advantages. Israel was planted "a noble vine, wholly a right seed,"

3. The folly and guilt of denying our sin (cf. 1 John 1:8, "If we say that we have no sin,:' etc.).

4. The needs be there is for us all of the pardoning and preserving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. - C.


(1) conscience is aroused; or

(2) the Word of God is too plainly against him; or

(3) Divine providence threatens ominously; or

(4) like Felix, he trembles as some Paul preaches.


1. He partially abandons known sin, as Pharaoh, Nineveh, Israel. at time of Josiah's reformation, Herod.

2. Multiplies religious services.

3. Is ready with good resolves.

4. There is some stir of religious feeling. Tears are shed, the emotional nature is excited, and there is some temporary tenderness of conscience. Added to all this there may be:

5. Self-inflicted punishments, bodily mortifications. Such is the washing with nitre and the taking of much soap which the prophet describes.

III. ITS USELESSNESS. The stain of the iniquity is there still (ver. 22). How powerfully is this confessed in the great tragedy of ' Macbeth'! After his dread crime, the conscience-stricken wretch thus speaks -

"How is't with me, when every noise appals me?
What hands are here? Ha! they pluck out mine eyes!
Will all great Neptune's ocean wash this blood
Clean from my hand? No; this my hand will rather
The multitudinous seas incarnadine,
Making the green - one red."

IV. THE TRUE CLEANSING WHICH IT SUGGESTS AND INVITES US TO. Isaiah 1:18, "Come now, and let us reason together," etc. - C.

I. IN WHAT IT CONSISTS. The persuading the sinner that "there is no hope."

II. ITS TERRIBLE CHARACTER. It leads the sinner to excuse himself in his sin by the false belief that he is delivered to do all his abominations. It encourages him to go on in his sin (cf. ver. 25), instead of resolutely breaking away from it

III. How MEN FALL INTO IT. By letting sin become the habit of their lives; the constant repetition of separate sinful acts forges the chain of habit, which it is hard indeed for any to break through.


1. By prayerful pondering of the many proofs which show that this suggestion of Satan, that "there is no hope," is one of his own lies. These proofs are to be found in the plain statements, and in the many examples of the Word of God, which tell of God's grace to the very chief of sinners. They are to be found also in the recorded biographies and observed lives of many of the people of God. And also in our own experience of God in the past.

2. By then and there committing our souls into the hands of the Lord Jesus Christ for pardon, for restoration, and for safe keeping for the future.

3. By renewing this self-surrender day by day, and especially when we are conscious that danger is near. So shall we be able to say, "My soul is escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowler." - C.

I. ITS DEGRADING INFLUENCE. It violates all morality. Is repeatedly affronted by the discoveries which are made of its wickedness and folly. It affects the whole nation from the highest and the best. The reason is debased and set at naught.

II. CALAMITY IS THE TEST OF ITS PRETENSIONS. Whilst things go well with the idolater he forgets God or consciously dishonors him. But when he is overtaken with the consequences of his evil deeds he is not ashamed to call upon God. The unreasonableness and inconsistency of this conduct are no barrier to it. Beneath the unbelief and worldliness of men there is a tacit belief in the goodness and power of God. In prosperity they are idolaters, in adversity they find their way back to the God they had despised. This is the universal and permanent inconsistency of the world life. - M.

There is, as Paul tells us (2 Corinthians 7.), a godly sorrow and a sorrow of the world; a godly sorrow working out a repentance never to be regretted, and a sorrow of the world which works out death. So there is a shame and humiliation which is profitable in the right way and to the highest degree, when a man comes into all the horrors of self-discovery, and is ready to declare himself, feeling it no exaggeration, as the chief of sinners. Such a shame is indeed the highest of blessings, since it gives something like a complete understanding of what human nature owes to the cleansing blood of Christ, and to the renewing power of the Spirit. But there is also shame and humiliation such as the jailer at Philippi felt when he suspected his prisoners were gone, and degradation was impending over him at the hand of his masters. It is to such a shame that our attention is directed here. The shame of a thief, not for the wrong he has done, but because he is detected in the doing of it. Israel, we see, is being dealt with in very plain language. Already the nation which God had so favored, and from which he had expected so much, has been spoken of as lower than an idolater. And now it is likened to the thief in the moment when his knavery is discovered. Consider, then, as here suggested -

I. WHY THE SINNER SHOULD BE ASHAMED. The thief, of course, ought to be ashamed, and ashamed whether he is caught or not. He ought to come into such a state of mind as to acknowledge his offence and make restitution, even when otherwise his offence might remain undiscovered. He should be ashamed because he has done wrong; because he has broken a commandment of God; because he lives on what has been won by the industry and toil of his neighbors; because, in addition, he is robbing his neighbors of what benefit should have come to them from his own industry and toil. Some have enough to make them bow their heads in despair of ever being able to make restitution; and it is just when we thus begin to estimate the sense of shame that should fill the thoughts of the thief that we also come to have a clear idea of what a universal feeling amongst mankind shame should be. "The thief should be thoroughly ashamed of himself, you say, in all possible ways. True, he ought. But now take to mind the home-pressing words of the apostle, "Wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things" (Romans 2:1). Nay, there may be more to be said for the thief than for thee. Only too often he has a bad start, and no real chance of getting out of bad associations. He may get so hemmed in with temptations as to find it very difficult to resist. And in any case, the thief has no more cause to Be ashamed of his theft than any other sinner for his own particular mode of self-indulgence. God does not draw the distinctions which we are compelled to do, between wrongs that are crimes and wrongs that are not crimes. His distinctions are made on altogether different principles - principles which abide. If the thief has wronged his neighbor in one way, be sure of this, that you have wronged him in another. If the thief has sinned against God in one way, you have sinned against him in another. You may go through the world without the slightest fear of anything leaping to the light such as will bring the detective's tap upon your shoulder, and nevertheless you have yet to be bowed in unspeakable bitterness of shame because you have been defrauding God and missing the great end of life. What is wanted is that all of us should come to ourselves - being guided by that unerring Spirit which guides into all truth, and self being revealed by the light of the cross and of eternity.

II. WHY THE SINNER ACTUALLY IS ASHAMED. Discovery is what he dreads; discovery puts him in utter confusion. Discovery is disgrace and ruin, so far as his future relation to men is concerned. Henceforth he passes into a suspected and avoided class; he has test the mark of respectability and confidence. The sad thing is that, in the eyes of a large part of mankind, discovery seems to make all the difference. One may do a great deal of wrong with social impunity, if only there is cleverness enough to keep on the hither boundary of what is reckoned criminal. Those who are most serenely indifferent to the Law of God will fall into all sorts of sins, real and far-reaching evils, rather than transgress a certain social code. It is not so long ago since the duel ceased to be a part of the social code of England; and what a curious standard of honor was involved in such a practice! There are countries still where a man is disgraced if he refuses to fight; if he fights and kills his man it is reckoned no shame at all. The most immoral and debauched of men are yet curiously sensitive to what they choose to consider points of honor. People will plunge over head and ears into debt, and run into the wildest extravagance, that they may flourish a little longer in the social splendor which they know they have not the honest means to maintain. They feel it is a greater disgrace to sink in the world than to he unable to pay their debts. How needful it is for the Christian to take up all positions which he feels to be right - right according to the Divine will, no matter how much he may be exposed to the reproach of folly, Quixotism, and fanaticism I Let us pray that we may ever have a godly shame when the light of heaven is thrown on us, and we are contrasted with God in his holiness and Jesus in his perfect manhood. Let us equally pray that we may never Be ashamed of Jesus. It is a harder thing than many seem to think, even though they are constantly acknowledging in hymn and prayer what they owe to Jesus in the way of gratitude and service. - Y.

The multiplicity of idols contrasts with the unity of the true God. It involves inconsistency, spiritual confusion, etc. But here the argument is -




The spiritual benefits of pain, calamity, etc., are contingent for the most part upon their being received in a right way - as from God, and not by accident. They are intended to discover our sins to us, and to lead us to the love and righteousness of God. Where this result is not effected, "chastisement is not accepted."




We do not know to which particular charge this reply is given. Perhaps the key is contained in 2 Kings 23:26. An external reformation was considered enough in the reign of Josiah, and it was assumed that the anger of God was thereby turned away. The prophet assures them that this was a mistake, and more than this, a sin in itself.




Why gaddest thou about so much to change thy way? etc.



1. Hope of larger gain.

2. Prospects of increased pleasure.

3. Disappointment with the way that has hitherto been tried.

4. Conscience will not be quiet in continuing the present way, etc.

III. BUT IT IS ALL OF NO AVAIL. The same wretched result is reached whichever way is taken (vers. 36, 37).


The people of Israel are set forth, even within the limits of this one chapter, as having multiplied and extended their confidences; and yet it could not be said that they were prospering. Men with the religious element in their nature strongly clamoring for satisfaction, had turned to the gods of neighboring nations, and multiplied these objects of worship until it could be said, "According to the number of thy cities are thy gods, O Judah." God compares them to thirsty people who, with a copious fountain in their midst, work and toil to make cisterns, only to find that the end of their labor is in broken cisterns which can hold no water. And then, when their broken cisterns had proved quite unavailing, they fly to drink of Nile and of Euphrates. Evidently their confidence had not prospered, and a continuance and increase of adversity was threatened, the cause of it all being that their confidences were such as God, in his righteousness and majesty, must inevitably reject. Consider -

I. WHY THIS QUESTION AS TO THE SUFFICIENCY OF HUMAN CONFIDENCES IS SO IMPORTANT. The answer is that men cannot do without confidences. The events of a single day of life might be registered in such an aspect as to show what a confiding creature man is. Faith has become so much a habit with him as to be almost a second nature. Hence, even in the great concerns of life, we find many reposing trust with very little inquiry. Looking at others, we find their lives proving the need of confidence by the very frequency of doubt and irresolution in them. They are ever asking the question, yet never quite able to answer it, "What is the best thing for me to do?" And then, as so often happens, the end of hesitation and perplexity is, that they seem to have no choice at all, and go submissively towards the confidence that happens to be most inviting at the moment. Seeing, therefore, that we are compelled to have confidences, it is of the first importance to discover in what sort of confidences prosperity will alone be found.

II. MANY ACTUAL CONFIDENCES OF MEN PROVE FAILURES IN THE END. They approach men invitingly, they seem to stand well in the judgment of past generations, they may be the objects of very general approval, and yet, when they are searched into, when the truth concerning them is got from the bottom of the proverbial well, that truth is seen to Be well expressed in the words which say men have not prospered in them. There is, for instance, a very plausible appearance of prosperity in worldly wealth. Many fail to acquire it, and when they acquire it, fail to keep it; but this is held to come in the majority of cases from some fault in the man, and not in the stability of his possessions. To say that a possession is as safe as the Bank of England is to utter the strongest conviction as to its stability and security; and yet such confidences fail because they are not enough for the whole man. It is just one of the perils of wealth that man should let his whole heart rest upon it; should come to let the comforts, occupations, and hopes of life depend upon external possessions. There is failure also when men put confidence in self, confidence in present views of life, present feelings, present vigor of body and mind, in natural qualities, such as shrewdness, self-control, presence of mind, and in habits of attention, industry, and promptitude, that have been cultivated. What manifest failure also often comes from too much confidence in the judgment of man! The counsels of the wisest, most experienced, most successful of men, must be listened to with discretion.

III. THE REASON WHY SUCH CONFIDENCES DO NOT BRING PROSPERITY IS MADE PLAIN. They are not confidences after God's own heart. They are an ungodly waste of affections and energies given for higher purposes and more durable occupations. The practical lesson is that we should reject all confidences if we are not made quite certain that God approves them. Blessed is that man who has found his way, it may be through many losses and agonizing pains, to the truth that the unseen is more trustworthy than the seen, the eternal than the temporal. One who has thus risen into the sphere of Divine realities may have his confidences rejected and despised of men. What do these rejections matter? He who has firm hold of God himself need not to care for contemptuous words. The hard words of worldly men cannot destroy spiritual prosperity. - Y.

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