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Bible Commentaries

Simeon's Horae Homileticae

Jeremiah 13

Verse 11


Jeremiah 13:11. As the girdle cleareth to the loins of a man, so have I caused to cleave unto me the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah, saith the Lord; that they might be unto me for a people, and for a name, and for a praise, and for a glory: but they would not hear.

IT pleased God in former times frequently to instruct his people by signs, as being more calculated to awaken the attention of those who were but, as children, slow to understand the plainest declarations of his word. Sometimes those signs were represented to the prophets in visions: as when Ezekiel was taken up by the hair of his head, and earned to the north gate of the temple to see all the wickedness that was transacted in the sanctuary; the thing was done only in a vision [Note: Ezekiel 8:3.]. At other times the prophets actually did the things which were to be signs to the people; as when Ezekiel, for the space of three hundred and ninety days, reclined on his right side, with a representation of Jerusalem before him, to figure to the Jews the siege that should assuredly be formed against it by the Chaldeans [Note: Ezekiel 4:1-17. A most surprising account altogether! See also Ezekiel 12:2-12; Ezekiel 24:15-24.]. Whether the sign which Jeremiah was here directed to use was in a vision only, or in reality, commentators are not agreed. Certainly the going repeatedly several hundred miles only to carry a girdle to the Euphrates and bring it back again, seems a labour unlikely to be imposed upon him: but on the other hand, that very labour might tend the more powerfully to awaken the attention of the Jews to the subject which was thus emblematically represented to them: and it is safer, on the whole, to take literally the Scripture account in all cases where reason and common sense do not necessitate us to understand it figuratively [Note: Such an instance occurs, Jer 25:27].

The sign here used by the prophet was this. He took a girdle, and, after wearing it some time, carried it to the river Euphrates, and hid it there in the hole of a rock; and then, after a considerable lapse of time, he went and fetched it back again, and exhibited it to the people in its decayed state; declaring that they, notwithstanding their present strength and power, should ere long be reduced to the lowest ebb of misery by the Chaldeans; because when God had formed them for himself, they had refused to adhere to him, or to regard his overtures of love and mercy.
Such is the explanation given us by God himself in in the words of our text; which, whilst they elucidate the emblem used by the prophet, will naturally lead me to shew you,


The honour which God has designed for his people—

The primary use of a girdle is to bind up the garments around the loins—
[In conformity with this idea, God had caused his people to cleave to him, that they might be, as it were, in continual contact with him. This he had caused them to do, when he brought them out of Egypt, and made them altogether dependent on himself for direction, preservation, and support. In like manner he may be said to have caused us also to cleave to him, having in our very birth imposed on us a necessity to depend upon him for life, and breath, and all things; for “in him we live, and move, and have our being.” Our proper state is that of a little infant clinging to its mother, or, as our text expresses it, “a girdle cleaving to the loins of a man.” We should at all times be “taking hold of God by prayer [Note: Isaiah 64:7.],” and by faith uniting ourselves to him, so as to be one with him, and he with us. If this was the duty and privilege of the Jews, much more is it ours; because our God and Saviour has actually assumed our nature, and become bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh: nay more, by the fuller communication of his Spirit he “dwells in us,” and lives in us, and is “our very life [Note: Colossians 3:4.]” so that they who are joined unto him by faith are “one Spirit with him [Note: 1 Corinthians 6:17.].” This then, I say, is the honour which God designs for us: he would have us all renouncing every kind and degree of creature dependence, and to live as nigh to him and cleave as close to him, as a girdle to the loins of a man; yea, in spite of every opposition and discouragement, he would have us “cleave unto him with full purpose of hearts [Note: Acts 11:23.].”]

But a girdle is also of use for ornament—
[And to this our text has especial respect. The girdle of the high-priest was, as it is repeatedly called,“a curious girdle,” given him “or glory and for beauty [Note: Exodus 28:4; Exodus 28:8; Exodus 28:40.]” and our great High-Priest desires that we should be to him what that curious girdle was to Aaron. Vile and worthless as we are in ourselves, ho would form and fashion us anew, interweaving in our nature all the graces of his Spirit, and transforming us into the very image of our God in righteousness and true holiness. Surrounded by us, he would esteem himself more richly adorned than with the brightest jewels [Note: Malachi 3:17.], and more enriched than with all the treasures of the universe [Note: Exodus 19:5-6. with 1 Peter 2:9.]. It appears almost impious to say, that such ornaments would be a glory to our God and Saviour; yet we will venture to affirm that they would be regarded so by our Lord himself, who says, “All mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them [Note: John 17:10. See also John 15:8, and Isaiah 61:3.].” What a royal diadem is to an earthly monarch, that are we designed to be to the King of kings and Lord of lords [Note: Isaiah 62:3.] As Christ was “the image of the invisible God,” because God who is invisible in his own nature was visible in him [Note: Colossians 1:15.] so are we according to the measure of grace given unto us: we are to “shine as lights in the world, holding forth” in our whole deportment “the word of life [Note: Philippians 2:15-16.]” we are made his on purpose that we may “shew forth his virtues [Note: 1 Peter 2:9. See the marginal reading.];” we are to be “epistles of Christ, known and read of all men [Note: 2 Corinthians 3:3.];” and shewing in the whole of our spirit and temper what the will of the Lord is: we are to “have the same mind as was in him [Note: Philippians 2:5.],” and to “be changed into the same image from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord [Note: 2 Corinthians 3:18.].” This will surely become our state, if once we cleave, like a girdle, unto him; and all who see us shall be constrained to “glorify our Father who is in heaven [Note: Matthew 5:16.].”]

Who would conceive, that when such honour is offered unto man, there should be found a creature in the universe unwilling to accept it? Yet the sequel of our text leads us to shew,


The way in which this honour is contemned—

The melancholy testimony that was almost invariably borne against the Jews was, that “they would not hear [Note: Compare with the text, Jeremiah 6:16-17.]—

[See how they conducted themselves in relation to the very offer before us! “they refused to hear God’s words, and walked in the imagination of their own hearts, and worshipped and served other gods [Note: ver. 10.].”]

And what can be a more just description of ourselves?
[Unspeakable as the honour is which God desires to confer upon us, we will not seek it at his hands: we are, like those who were invited to the wedding-feast, all with one consent making excuses, and pleading the urgency of our worldly affairs as a reason for neglecting our spiritual concerns [Note: Luke 14:16-20.]. If we bow not down to stocks and stones, we “worship and serve the creature more than the Creator [Note: Romans 1:25.].” We have idols in our hearts; and to those we dedicate all our powers and faculties, whether of soul or body. We are justly characterized as “walking after the imagination of our own hearts [Note: See Isaiah 53:6.]:” each serves the god that suits him best. One follows all his vicious propensities, and seeks his happiness in sensual indulgence: another grasps after riches; another aspires after honour; another affects rather the more refined pleasures of science and philosophy: but all by nature, however differing in their particular pursuits, agree in this, that they “are of the world, and not of God;” and that they “seek honour from man, and not the honour that cometh of God only.” They need no exhortation to cleave unto worldly vanities; that they do naturally of themselves: and if we could point out to them how to come in closer contact with the objects of their ambition, and how to secure to themselves a larger measure of them, we should find them very attentive to our counsels. But when we exhort them to cleave only to the Lord, they have no ears to hear us, no disposition to regard us. In vain do we expatiate upon the honour which God designs for them; that appears to them no better than “a cunningly-devised fable,” or at best as a subject that may well be deferred to a more convenient season. “Though we call them to the Most High, none at all will exalt him [Note: Hosea 11:7.]” so that God may complain of us as he did of his people of old, “All the day long have I stretched out my hands to a rebellious and gainsaying people [Note: Romans 10:21.].”]


In a way of appeal—

[We may justly say to you, “What more could have been done for you than God has done [Note: Isaiah 5:3-4.]?” and wherefore do you so requite him? Judge, all of you, between God and your own souls, and say what such conduct merits at his hands. I will tell you in God’s name what you may assuredly expect. Behold the girdle when it was brought back from the river Euphrates, how “marred and worthless” it was [Note: ver. 7.]: see too how that emblematic judgment has been executed on the Jewish nation, not only in their Babylonish captivity, but in their present dispersion, where they are “a hissing and an astonishment” to all the rest of the world. So will God’s indignation against you be manifested on account of the contempt you pour upon him; according to that express declaration of his, “Them that honour me, I will honour; and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed.” As they who made light of his invitation were “not suffered even to taste of his supper [Note: Luke 14:24.],” so you shall never taste of that honour and happiness which he offers to you: and as they were shut out into outer darkness, so will you at the last day awake “to shame and everlasting contempt [Note: Daniel 12:2.].”]


In a way of encouragement—

[Nothing does God desire more, than to take even the vilest of mankind, and bind them to him as a girdle. Yes, there is not one so worthless, but he should be made a partaker of this honour, if only he would comply with the invitations of his God. O that every one of us might now obey his voice; and that he would “make us willing in the day of his power!” Would you see more clearly what God would do for you? This same prophet tells you without a figure, that “he will pardon all your iniquities” that ever you have committed, and so load you with his benefits, that all who behold you shall be filled with utter astonishment at his goodness to you [Note: Jeremiah 33:8-9.]. Only resist not his strivings with you, but “run after him when he draws you,” and beg him to “fulfil in you all the good pleasure of his goodness, even the work of faith with power: then shall the name of our Lord Jesus Christ be glorified in you, and ye shall be glorified in, and with him, according to the grace of our God, and the Lord Jesus Christ [Note: 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12.].”]

Verses 15-17

[Note: Preached February, 1801.]

Jeremiah 13:15-17. Hear ye, and give ear; be not proud: for the Lord hath spoken. Give glory to the Lord your God, before he cause darkness, and before your feet stumble upon the dark mountains, and, while ye look for light, he turn it into the shadow of death, and make it gross darkness. But if ye will not hear it, my soul shall weep in secret places for your pride; and mine eye shall weep sore, and run down with tears, because the Lord’s flock is carried away captive.

REPENTANCE is at all times a proper subject to be enforced; but more especially on a day professedly set apart for national humiliation. The words before us were addressed to the Jews when God was about to send them into captivity in Babylon: and they may well be considered as addressed to us, now that his hand is lifted up for the punishment, and, for aught we know, for the destruction of our land.
They manifestly contain the prophet’s exhortation; his arguments to enforce it; and his determination in case he should not be able to prevail on the people to repent.
But the occasion, and the text itself, call rather for exhortation than discussion. We shall therefore, though not without a due attention to the order of the words, proceed to urge upon you the great, the seasonable, the indispensable duty of repentance—
[Know then, that it is “God who speaketh.” The words delivered to you in his name, as far as they accord with his mind and will, are his words, and are to be received as though you heard them uttered by a voice from heaven [Note: 2 Corinthians 5:20. 1 Thessalonians 2:13.].

Hear ye, and give ear,” and let not the pride of your hearts obstruct your attention. Often has God spoken to you by the dispensations of his providence, and the declarations of his grace; yea, moreover, by the still small voice of conscience: but ye, the generality of you at least, have turned a deaf ear, and refused to hear the voice of the charmer, charm he never so wisely [Note: Job 33:14.]. But “be not proud,” Ye must hear at last, whether ye will or not. Let then your stout hearts be humbled; and receive with meekness the engrafted word [Note: James 1:21.].

In the name of God we say to you, Repent. “Give glory to the Lord your God.” It is by repentance only that you can do this [Note: Joshua 7:19. Revelation 16:9.]. Repentance glorifies all his perfections; his omniscience that sees your transgressions, his justice that punishes them, his mercy that pardons them, and his wisdom and goodness that have provided such a marvellous salvation for ruined man.

O glorify his omniscience: say, ‘Lord, thou art privy to all the secrets of my heart; thou knowest that I am inexpressibly vile [Note: Jeremiah 17:9. Job 40:4; Job 42:2; Job 42:6.].’

Glorify his justice; and acknowledge, that if he cut you off, and consign you to the lowest hell, you have no more than your just desert [Note: Matthew 22:12-13.Romans 3:4; Romans 3:4.Psalms 143:2; Psalms 143:2.].

Glorify his mercy; and plead it with him as the only, the all-sufficient ground of your hope and confidence [Note: Psalms 51:1.].

Glorify his wisdom and goodness, that have opened a way for your return to him through the incarnation and death of his only dear Son. Declare that you have no trust whatever but in the blood and righteousness of that almighty Saviour [Note: Philippians 3:8-9.].

To persist in impenitence is the certain way to bring down the heaviest judgments upon your souls. The darkness that hangs over the nation [Note: Joel 2:2-3. perhaps a true picture of our present state.], cannot be dispelled in any other way; much less can that with which God menaces your souls. O consider “the darkness, the gross darkness,” in which they are involved, who are shut up under judicial blindness and final obduracy [Note: Isaiah 6:9-10.]; or who, under the terrors of a guilty conscience, “stumble on the dark mountains” of unbelief, and, like the Jews (who thought they had clean escaped from their pursuers) are overtaken by the sword of vengeance [Note: This is the literal meaning of the text.], so that “while they look for light, it is turned into the shadow of death,” and they are plunged into “the blackness of darkness for evermore [Note: 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12. Jude, ver. 13.].”

But repentance may yet avert the storm, both from the nation, and from our own souls. Numberless are the declarations of God to this effect [Note: To nations, 2 Chronicles 7:14; and to individuals, Isaiah 55:7.] and numberless the instances wherein it has been verified [Note: Nineveh, the dying thief, &c.]. But let us remember what kind of repentance it is which will thus prevail: it is not a mere formal confession of sin with a partial reformation of the life, but such a repentance as glorifies all the perfections of the Deity; such a repentance as has an especial respect to Christ, who alone can procure our pardon, and in whom alone we can ever find acceptance with God.

Would to God that we might prevail with you, and that you were all, in good earnest, turning unto God! Could we once behold this, O how should we rejoice: and how would “the very angels in heaven rejoice” on your account! But, “if ye will not repent,” (as it is to be feared too many of you will not,) “my soul,” and the souls of all who are aware of your condition, “shall weep in secret places for your pride; yea, our eyes shall weep sore and run down with tears,” on account of your present and approaching bondage. The godly in all ages have wept over those who felt no concern for their own souls [Note: Psalms 119:136. Ezra 9:3; Ezra 10:6. 2 Peter 2:8. Romans 9:1-2; above all, Luke 19:41.]: and we trust that there are many, who will lay to heart the evils which ye are too proud to acknowledge, too obdurate to deplore. But we entreat you to consider, Is there one amongst us all, that is not a sinner before God [Note: 1 Kings 8:46. James 3:2.]? and does not the broken law denounce a curse against us [Note: Galatians 3:10.]? and if God be true, will not that curse be inflicted on the impenitent? Why then will ye not humble yourselves before an offended God, a merciful Redeemer? Alas! for your “pride,” and stoutness of heart! How lamentable is it, that you, who have been baptized into the name of Christ, and are therefore properly “the Lord’s flock,” should be so “carried captive” by your lusts, and by your great adversary, the devil [Note: 2 Timothy 2:26.]! O think, it is but a little time and your captivity will be complete; and, lost beyond a possibility of redemption, you will be bound in chains of everlasting darkness [Note: Jude, ver. 6.]. And is not here a cause for sorrow on your account? “O that mine head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night” for your unhappy state [Note: Jeremiah 9:1.]!

We will not, however, conclude, without once more entreating you to “give glory to the Lord your God;” that so “your light may rise in obscurity, and your darkness may be as the noon-day [Note: Isa 67:8; Isa 67:10.].”]

Verse 23


Jeremiah 13:23. Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? Then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.

OF any particular acts which we have done amiss, we have been conscious: they have, as it were, obtruded themselves upon our notice, and we could not turn our eyes from them: but of an evil principle operating within us, we have been strangely insensible; though, if we had been at all observant of our daily habits, we could not but have both seen and felt it. It is owing to this that we have, for the most part, so high a conceit of our own sufficiency for what is good. We imagine that we have but to make a resolution, and any change which we propose will take place of course: but experience shews, that our habits of sin are not so easily broken, nor our resolutions respecting holiness so easily carried into effect. The truth is, that “the Ethiopian may as soon change his skin, or the leopard his spots, as we, by any power of our own, get into a course of what is good, after having been so long and so habitually accustomed to do evil.”

From the words before us, I will take occasion to point out,


The power of sin, as inherent in our nature—

No wonder that we are entirely led captive by it: for,


It pervades all our faculties, whether of mind or body—

[Our understanding is blinded by it; our will is rendered perverse; our affections are made earthly and sensual; our conscience is stupefied; and our very memory is enfeebled with respect to every thing truly good. By it, also, is the whole of our body defiled. St. Paul, with a remarkable particularity, specifies the subjection of our several members to this evil principle, from head to foot [Note: Romans 3:12-15.]: so that what the prophet speaks of the Jewish people, may well be said of us: “From the sole of the foot even to the head there is no soundness in us; but wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores [Note: Isaiah 1:6.].” The whole man is corrupt; insomuch that “every imagination of the thoughts of our hearts is only evil continually [Note: Genesis 6:5.];” and “all our members are instruments of unrighteousness unto sin [Note: Romans 6:13.].”]


It finds in us nothing to counteract its influence—

[True indeed, man, in his fallen state, possesses both reason and conscience: but neither of these perform their office, in opposing the evil principle within us, any farther than to testify against such flagrant acts as may expose us to shame before men, I deny not, but that there are at times some secret stirrings in the mind, even at a very early period of life; some remonstrances against sin; and some intimations that we ought to serve our God, But these arise not from any remnant of good in our fallen nature: they are the fruits of divine grace, produced by the operation of the Spirit of God upon the soul; even of that blessed Spirit who wrought on Samuel, and John, and Timothy, from the very womb. The Scripture says expressly, that “in us, that is, in our flesh, dwelleth no good thing [Note: Romans 7:18.]:” we cannot so much as will what is good, and much less do it, unless God work within us to that end [Note: Philippians 2:13.]; “nor have we a sufficiency even to think a good thought [Note: 2 Corinthians 3:5.],” unless it be put into our hearts by the only Giver of all good. In reference to all spiritual exercises, reason and conscience are rather on the side of the corrupt principle; justifying, rather than condemning, the neglect of them; and substituting in their place such services as are altogether unworthy of Him who “claims to be worshipped in spirit and in truth.”]


It receives aid from every thing around us—

[“All that is in the world” is comprehended by the Apostle under these three designations; “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life [Note: 1 John 2:16.].” And what are these, but confederates of the evil principle within us, giving it continually fresh scope for exercise, and soliciting it in every possible way to enslave our souls? Every thing we see, every thing we hear, has a tendency to draw us from God, to gratify our corrupt nature, and to give to the evil principle within us an advantage against us to our destruction. Even the Saviour himself, whilst to God’s elect “he is made a sanctuary,” is, to those who are destitute of divine grace, “a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence, yea, as a gin and a snare, whereby multitudes stumble and fall, and are broken and snared, and taken [Note: Isaiah 8:14-15, with 1 Peter 2:7-8.].”]


It conceals its influence under specious names—

[There is not an evil which the corrupt principle does not lead us to palliate by some gentle name, whilst on vital godliness it invariably casts reproach. What will it not commend to us, under the idea of innocent amusement? and what will it not sanction, under the terms conviviality and good breeding? Covetousness, worldliness, ambition, yes, and licentiousness itself, all lose their hateful qualities under the less offensive terms of prudence, and honour, and youthful indiscretion.
Is it any wonder, then, that men are led captive by sin and Satan, and that godliness is in so great a degree banished from the world?]
But, to get a just notion of this evil principle, we must yet further mark,


Its power, as augmented and confirmed by evil habit—

Habit is to us as a second nature: and by it, sin is greatly augmented and confirmed.


Its odiousness is diminished—

[I have already said, that there are certain acts of sin which, notwithstanding their general approbation of it, men are agreed to stigmatize as evil; and into these, men do not plunge themselves, without some checks of conscience, and some remorse after they have fallen into the commission of them. And, if a person were warned that he was in danger of abandoning himself to these, he would be ready to reply, “Is thy servant a dog, that he should do this thing [Note: 2 Kings 8:13.]?” But we see to what lengths of wickedness men will proceed, when once these restraints are broken through; and how they will even come at last to “glory in their shame [Note: Philippians 3:18-19.].” Who that walk the streets with shameless impudence, or that addict themselves to theft and robbery till they bring themselves to an untimely end, would ever have believed, that sin, which, when first committed, caused in them a blush of conscious guilt, should ever be carried by them to such a fearful extent, and be familiarized to them as their inseparable companion?]


Its power is strengthened—

[It is of the very nature of habit to strengthen the principle that is called into action, whether it be good or bad. The mind, the memory, the judgment, are strengthened by exercise; as the bodily organs are also: and they acquire a facility in doing things which at first are difficult. And thus it is also with evil habits: a man may have so accustomed himself to anger, intemperance, impurity, or sloth, that he shall not be able to withstand the smallest temptation: every trifle will irritate him; every opportunity of indulgence ensnare him; “his eyes will be so full of adultery, that he cannot cease from sin [Note: 2 Peter 2:14.];” and “on his bed he shall become like a door upon its hinges,” that knows of no motion but from one side to another [Note: Proverbs 26:14.]. This is placed in a peculiarly strong point of view by our blessed Lord, who tells us that “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God [Note: Matthew 19:24.].” And wherefore is this? It is because his habits of indulgence have so enslaved him, that he cannot overcome them; nor can any thing but Omnipotence itself effect his deliverance [Note: Matthew 19:26.].]


Its opportunities for exercise are multiplied—

[Habit calls around us those persons and temptations that are most subservient to its indulgence. The man of pleasure moves in a round of gaiety and amusement. The man who is in the pursuit of wealth, is to be found, wherever his favourite object may be best accomplished. The man who affects pre-eminence and distinction, is ever prosecuting his plans by such methods as lie within his reach. Thus all put themselves in the very way of temptation, and of indulging the sin which most easily besets them. If they even fled from the occasions of sin, they would be in great danger: but when they accumulate to themselves occasions of falling, and lay continually stumbling-blocks in their own way, it is no wonder that they fall. For, “can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burnt? or can he walk upon hot coals, and his feet not be burnt [Note: Proverbs 6:27-28.]?” So if, instead of watching against temptation, we court it, and rush into it, and familiarize ourselves with it, there can be no hope but that we shall fall and perish. “A bird hasting to the snare, is not more sure of ruin than we [Note: Proverbs 7:22-23.].”]


The powers whereby it should be resisted are destroyed—

[We have before said, that against enormous wickedness there are some barriers, arising from conscience, and a desire of man’s applause. But by habits of sin, “the conscience becomes seared as with a hot iron,” and is rendered altogether incapable of discharging its proper office [Note: 1 Timothy 4:2.]. A fear of detection, or of God’s displeasure, may sometimes operate to restrain from great iniquity: but the mind may become altogether “hardened through the deceitfulness of sin [Note: Hebrews 3:13.],” till we resemble those of whom the prophet speaks in a preceding chapter: “Thou hast stricken them, but they have not grieved; thou hast consumed them, but they have refused to receive correction: they have made their faces harder than a rock: they have refused to return [Note: Jeremiah 5:3.].” What can be expected of such persons, but that they will “wax worse and worse [Note: 2 Timothy 3:13.],” and continue “treasuring up wrath,” till it shall come upon them to the uttermost?”]


Every thing that is good is put, by it, at an unapproachable distance—

[“How shall they do good that have been accustomed to do evil?” If “the putting off the old man” be so difficult, what hope is there of such persons “putting on the new [Note: Ephesians 4:22-24.]”? The loving, serving, honouring of God, are things which come not into the mind of one who is addicted to the commission of evil: in this sense, “God is not in all his thoughts [Note: Psalms 10:4.].” And if any man think that of himself he can turn unto the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and truth, let him first wash an Ethiopian white; and then he may hope to accomplish the task of converting his own soul, and of “creating himself anew after the Divine image, in righteousness and true holiness.”]

Learn then, beloved,

Your need of converting grace—

[You need it for the subjugation of sin, and much more for the implantation of holiness in your souls. Yes, indeed, Brethren, “you must be born again, and be made new creatures in Christ Jesus.” No power, but that which formed the universe at first, can ever make you what you ought to be; and what you must be, if over you would behold the face of God in peace — — —]


The difference between sin and grace, as affected by our habits—

[You have seen the terrible effect of habit in relation to sin. But it is far different in relation to grace: for though it is true that gracious habits render the exercise of grace more easy, they will never, in any degree, supersede the need of fear and watchfulness. Behold David, the man after God’s own heart: he catches but a glimpse of Bathsheba, and what becomes of all his gracious affections? See Peter, also, who was so bold that he would die with his Divine Master: a maiden does but point him out as a follower of his Lord, and he denies him with oaths and curses. The truth is, that habits of sin increase the corrupt bias that is in the soul, and render its departure from a right line more easy and more certain than it was before: but habits of grace are only like an augmenting of a man’s power to roll a stone up hill: but if he intermit his labour, whatever advance he may have made, the stone will instantly roll down, and he will have all his labour to begin again. “Let him, then, that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall [Note: 1 Corinthians 10:12.].” Still has the most eminent amongst us “the flesh lusting against the Spirit, as well as the Spirit lusting against the flesh [Note: Galatians 5:17.].” Yes, and still has the corrupt principle within him the force of “a law, which wars against the law of his mind, and brings him more or less into captivity to the law of sin which is in his members [Note: Romans 7:23.].” And this I say to humble you, and to put you on your guard. Yet, let not any of you be discouraged: for “the grace of Christ is amply sufficient for you,” if you will but seek it; “nor shall any temptation occur to you without a way to escape, that so “you may be able to bear it [Note: 1 Corinthians 10:13.].” Be weak, then, in yourselves, and “strong in the Lord [Note: Ephesians 6:10.]:” so shall “his strength be perfected in your weakness [Note: 2 Corinthians 12:9.],” and his name be glorified in your salvation.]

Verse 27


Jeremiah 13:27. Woe unto thee, O Jerusalem! Wilt thou not be made clean? When shall it once be?

THROUGHOUT all the sacred writings we behold the goodness and severity of God: sometimes the one attracts our notice, and sometimes the other; and in many places, as in that before us, we are struck with the union and combination of them both. Jerusalem was the city of the living God, the residence of his peculiar people; yet he denounces woe against them: but at the same time he declares, in very pathetic language, the ardent desires of his soul to exercise mercy towards them.
From these most affecting words we shall take occasion to shew,


The woes which impenitent sinners have reason to expect—

This is a painful, but necessary, subject of our inquiries—
The punishment that awaits sinners is most tremendous—
[The loss of heaven is one part of it: and who shall declare how great a loss this is? — — — The miseries of hell (which is the other part) are equally beyond the powers of language to describe, or of imagination to conceive — — —]
This, however, the impenitent have but too much reason to expect—
[“Woe unto thee!” says my text: and this is the voice of reason [Note: There must be a difference between the righteous and the wicked.] — — — of Scripture [Note: Against ten thousand passages to this effect, there is not one syllable that has an opposite aspect.] — — — of experience [Note: The union of sin and misery is felt by all. Where is there a sinner that is truly happy? See Isaiah 57:20-21.] — — — of the compassionate Saviour himself [Note: See how often woe is denounced, Matthew 23:13-16; Matthew 23:23; Matthew 23:25; Matthew 23:27; Matthew 23:29; Matthew 23:33.] — — — What stronger evidence can any man wish for? and how blind must he be that is not convinced by it!]

But however merited and awful these woes are, we see from the text,


How unwilling God is to inflict them—

He complains of men’s obstinacy in rejecting the overtures of his mercy—
[It is their sin only that exposes them to his displeasure: were that once removed, he would “rejoice over them to do them good.” And whence is it that they are not cleansed from it? Has not God provided such means for their cleansing, us should certainly be effectual, if only they were applied? Has he not opened a fountain to cleanse them from guilt [Note: Zechariah 13:1. 1 John 1:7. ]? — — — Has he not promised to sprinkle them with water that should purify and renew their very inmost souls [Note: Ezekiel 36:25-27.]? — — — Yes: but they are averse to that purification: they hate the very means by which it is to be attained, and the regimen whereby it is to be preserved — — — God would gladly effect the work for them, if only they would submit to it; but they will not [Note: Ezekiel 33:11.]. Hence those complaints so often uttered by the prophets [Note: Psalms 81:11-13.Jeremiah 7:23-26; Jeremiah 7:23-26.], and by Christ himself [Note: John 5:40. Matthew 23:37.] — — —]

He expresses also an impatient longing for an opportunity to bless their souls—
[Long has he waited to no purpose: yet still “he waiteth to be gracious unto us:” “he stands at the door of our hearts, and knocks.” His address to us is, “Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways i for why will we die, O house of Israel?” Every day appears to him an age [Note: Hosea 8:5.Jeremiah 15:6; Jeremiah 15:6. “I am weary with repenting.”]: he is at a loss, as it were, what to do, whether to give us up, or to use any further means [Note: Hosea 6:4; Hosea 11:8. Jeremiah 3:4; Jeremiah 3:19.]. The complaint in the text is scarcely less the language of despondency than of compassion; “When shall it once be?” It is us though he said, ‘My patience is almost exhausted: your return to me is the most earnest desire of my soul: but I fear I shall be forced, in spite of all my efforts to save you, to abandon you at last, and to execute the judgments which you so obstinately provoke.’]


Those who imagine that they have no need of cleansing—

[What child of man has not need to be cleansed from that taint which we inherit from our first parents [Note: Job 14:4; Job 15:14; Job 25:4.]? And who has not contracted much moral defilement by means of actual transgression? — — — Let none entertain such proud conceits. The best amongst us, no less than the worst, need to be washed in the blood of Christ, and be renewed by his Spirit; and, without this cleansing, must inevitably perish.]


Those who are unwilling to be cleansed—

[Many are unwilling to part with even the grossest lusts. What then must we say to them? Must we speak peace to them, instead of denouncing woes? If we were to do so, God would not confirm our word: so that we should only delude them to their ruin. But indeed they themselves would not be deluded by any such assertions: for, with whatever confidence they utter them themselves, they would not endure to hear them if uttered from the pulpit.
But it is not gross sin only that must be put away: we must be “cleansed also from secret faults:” whatever stops short of this, is ineffectual. The right hand, the right eye, must be sacrificed; and the whole heart be turned unto God — — —]


Those who desire the cleansing of their souls—

[It is of infinite importance that you seek this blessing aright. It is not in floods of tears that you are to be cleansed; though floods of tears are proper and desirable: it is the blood of Christ alone that can cleanse from the guilt of sin; and the Spirit of Christ alone that can cleanse from the power and pollution of sin. To apply these effectually, we must embrace the promises, and rest upon them, trusting in God to accomplish them to our souls. We must not first cleanse ourselves, and then embrace God’s promises of mercy; but first lay hold on the promises, and then, by virtue derived from them, proceed to “cleanse ourselves from all filthiness both of flesh and spirit [Note: 2 Corinthians 7:1. with Acts 15:9.].”]

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Bibliographical Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Jeremiah 13". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. 1832.