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obedience, I warn; I tell the consequences it may be; I press home with diligence those warnings; all are unheeded, the calamity comes, bad, or worse, than 1 foretold: how ready is the heart then to triumph in its own faithfulness, and the poor victim of his own rashness is left to himself, while in a kind of triumph I tell him, " 'tis all deserved.” The heart of Jeremiah could say: “But if ye will not hear it, my
weep places for your pride, and mine eyes shall weep sore and run down with tears, because the Lord's flock is carried away captive.” Such hearts, such ministry are needed
It is in the book of this prophet, that we have the history of that part of Israel which was not removed out of the land. Jeremiah's service did not close even when the city was taken, and the wall broken down. The heart that—like this prophet's—is true to God and His people, will always have something to do. The special place he held was to seek to draw the people into repentance, to warn; he was unheeded, and the judgments of God reached home. No sooner had the captives been borne away, than quite another field of duty rose before him; and one would have supposed that what had just happened would have made him a welcome guest in the house of the poor deserted Israelites. In chapter xlii. we see this new labour that Jeremiah found. The destroying flood had swept away all he had formerly been among, the kings, the priests, the princes, the temple, the vessels: the glory of Israel had departed. How often have we seen, that when services have been apparently disowned, the servant retires. When we have been labouring for an object, we find suddenly all dashed from our hands, like a goodly vessel before the world and to ourselves; our labour is in vain, and the heart faints and grows weary. Never was a more complete failure than that that was before the eye of the prophet. His heart alone remained whole amidst it all; he was ready for fresh service. The remnant muster to him; their confession seems honest, their hearts seem true. “Let, we beseech thee, our supplication be accepted before thee, and pray
for us unto the Lord thy God, even for all this remnant (for we are left but a few of many, as thine eyes do behold us): That the Lord thy God may shew us the way wherein we may walk, and the thing that we may do” (chap. xlii. 2, 3). Jeremiah had had experience of the human heart; ready to act as aforetime, he says, “ whatsoever thing the Lord shall answer you, I will declare it to you.” After ten days the answer was given to the same company (verse 9, to the end of the chapter). The leaning of the hearts of the people was towards Egypt. There is something in Egypt, with all its bond. age, that the heart naturally clings to. The remnant, wearied with the struggles they had passed through, sought for rest to the flesh. iWould God we had died in Egypt !" every now and then oozes from the hearts of Israel. There is something in Egypt to attract all our hearts, something that flesh values; and no wonder, when we can
say, “No; but we will go into the land of Egypt, where we shall see no war, nor hear the sound of the trumpet, nor have hunger of bread.” This repose of death the Lord keep us from! The disappointed heart is in danger of turning back here. When the people came to Jeremiah, their words were, " That the Lord thy God may shew
wherein we may walk, and the thing we may do.” God had provision for this time of need. There never was a time when the Lord would not bless them that trust in Him—there never was a place, however desolate or forlorn, where God could not meet His afflicted ones. His word was, “ If ye will still abide in this land, then will I build you, and not pull you down, and I will plant you, and not pluck you up; for I repent me of the evil I have done unto you. Be not afraid of the king of Babylon,” etc.
" And I will shew mercies unto you,
have mercy upon you, and cause you to return to your own land.”
The prophet's words are despised; and notwithstanding the threats if they returned to Egypt, they are soon gone, once more to contend against the judgments of God. Once more Jeremiah finds himself despised. Unable to keep them by promises of blessing, or to deter them from going into Egypt by threats of judgment, the power of unbelief has set in so strongly, that spite of the warnings,
that He may
Johanan, the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces, swept the land, and along with the rest Jeremiah himself, into the land of Egypt. But even here we find him with a word from God. The people, once back in Egypt, were soon burning incense unto other gods. When once we get into a current, it will carry us far beyond our intentions. This remnant hoped to reach Egypt, that they might no more see war, or hear the sound of the trumpet, or suffer hunger; but they went into all the idolatry of that people. How often have we seen the same in principle. In all the periods of Israel we shall not find a more hardened state than that into which the remnant sunk; see their reply to Jeremiah, chap. xliv. 15—19. Here we appear to lose the prophet; and might he not say, “Surely I have laboured in vain; I have spent my strength for nought.”
I think we may lose blessing, if we do not follow on in the track of God's grace to His people; and if we do, we must keep side by side with Jeremiah. Others had their service away in Babylon. God remembered His own there; but in following with this prophet, we learn the inexhaustible grace there is in God, where there is a heart to trust in Him, while we see, at the same time, the evils of the human heart becoming greater and greater as that goodness is put forth.
What varied scenes did this man of God pass through, from the time when with joy he partook of the passover in the days of Josiah, till he saw the utter desolation, which he so pathetically describes in his Lamentations Oh for hearts like his ! “Mine eye runneth down with rivers of water, for the destruction of the daughter of my people.”
As we have before observed, those who beforetime had served their generation by the will of God, saw around them the fruits of their labours. In none of them, however, do we see the same measure of tenderness of heart. God had reserved Jeremiah for his day, and had given him the heart for his work—a heart sorely tried, but one that could weep for Israel's woes. This prophet was the expression of God's heart towards Israel too. “How can I give thee up, Ephraim?” was Jehovah's language; and his prophet was there as the proof of God's grace. In looking back on the history of the Church of God, we see a constant raising up of one after another to step in to meet the Church's wants. The Spirit of God acts according to his knowledge of present needs. Sometimes instruments (not marked either for correctness of knowledge, or even purity of walk, I mean when judged by the word as to their associations) have been much used of God. In the latter days of Christendom, I doubt not, but that however lavish the hand of God may be in giving hearts like those of Jeremiah, to meet the wants of his saints, the apostasy will be so dark, that labour therein, even of the most devoted character, will scarce leave a trace of itself. The nearer we draw to the end, will, on the one hand, be the arduousness of service; and on the other, the profitlessness of it, too, to human eye.
Till the righteousness was accomplished in Christ, it could not be declared "life and incorruption were brought to light through the gospel”—and this because the question of
responsibility is settled in Christ. First, the atonement made : then, He becomes the source of life. In this He acts by the Spirit. The whole source of life of the saints, is now to be based upon the knowledge of God's righteousness thus declared-hence, of old, they went on their way rejoicing immediately on conversion. Here also is our standard of conduct and fruits.
The counsels of God about Christ, were not merely that he should be the Head of creation, and that the tabernacle of God should be with men, but to set Him up as the glorified man: and the bride with him. Thus Christ brings glory to God, even out of man's sin. Souls are now associated with Him, on the basis of the glory according to which he was raised from the dead: all this in the midst of a sinful world : and in bodies in which the spirit of God in us can sympathise with the groaning through sin. Our very weakness thus being made, in one sense, an advantage. And this is the Church.
I DESIRE to call attention to portions of Ezekiel, Daniel, Ezra, and Nehemiah; namely, the ninth chapters of each of these books. Humiliation is ours on account of failure -manifold, multiplied failure: confession naturally flows from a humbled people ; these portions strikingly show the acceptability to God of confession from such. They also show, each one of them, some truth peculiar to itself, in addition to the point common to them all.
After looking at them, we may turn, a little more generally, to the testimony of Scripture upon this subject. It is one, I conceive, which is very closely connected with the glory of God, as with the peace and safety of our own souls in such a day as this. If walking with God and led by the Spirit of Christ, in a day of profession great and wide-spread, consciousness of our own failure in testimony for God ought to have humbled us, and demands confession from us.
EZEKIEL IX. IT pleased God to set Himself once in headship to a people upon earth. Jehovah was supreme in government as King, and was pleased also to avow Himself as the God, of the nation Israel. National religion was then Divine. Jehovah had taken a nation, as such, to Himself, and had His place of worship there as the avowed God of that nation. They failed at the very outset, in making a calf and in feasting before it; and so forfeited, at once, all claim to the blessings of the relationship. God, however, was pleased to try whether they would enjoy the blessing, as the free gift of Himself as Head, spite of the failure. Their history shows how they would not do so—and how, even, all the judgments which their continued wilfulnesses brought upon them, were ineffectual to awaken them to an abiding