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THE WORD OF GOD PRECIOUS
Jeremiah 15:16. Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart.
THE commission given to the prophets was often of a very painful nature; to harden, rather than convert, their countrymen; and to denounce judgments, rather than to proclaim mercy [Note: Isaiah 6:9-12.]. Of this kind was the commission given to Jeremiah [Note: ver. 1–4, 13, 14.]: and for executing it, he was grievously persecuted and oppressed. Yet, notwithstanding the nature of his message, and the consequences resulting from a faithful delivery of it, he rejoiced in being honoured with an embassy from the King of kings; assured that, whatever might be the final result either to his countrymen or himself, God would be glorified. But when the prophets were sent only to denounce judgments, they knew that there was a secret reserve in the mind of God for the exercise of mercy, in case the people who were thus menaced should repent. When Jonah was sent to Nineveh to declare explicitly that in forty days the whole city should be overthrown, he had a secret suspicion, which in the event was verified, that God would, in case they repented, exercise mercy towards them. And in like manner, Jeremiah had a hope, that the faithful execution of his office, even though it should be unavailing to the generality, would be productive of good to some; and therefore on that account God’s word, which he was sent to publish, “was unto him the joy and rejoicing of his heart.” Under the Gospel dispensation, ministers are sent, not so much to thunder out anathemas against the rebellious world, as to proclaim to them “glad tidings of great joy.” And the scope of the inspired writings, as now collected into one volume, is to encourage the desponding, and to give rest to the heavy-laden. Well therefore may all, whether ministers or people, when they take the sacred volume into their hands, say, “Thy word was found, and I did eat it; and it was unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart.”
In order to elucidate these words, we shall shew,
How the word of God should be received—
In the days of Josiah the word of God had been lost: and, when it was found, it was received with avidity, as a gift from heaven [Note: 2 Chronicles 34:14-18.]. We do not however conceive that any similar event is referred to in the passage before us. The true light will be cast on our text, if we consult a parallel passage in the Prophet Ezekiel, where it was said to Trim, “Son of man, eat that thou findest; eat this roll, and go speak unto the house of Israel:” and then he ate it, and it was in his “mouth as honey for sweetness [Note: Ezekiel 3:1-3.].” In both the passages the word is compared to food, which is to be eaten and digested as the proper nutriment of the soul. This image is just; since, like common food, the word,
Is necessary for all—
[Who can live without it? Who can have any just knowledge of God without it, or have any conception how sinful man can obtain mercy at the hands of his offended God? The greatest philosophers of Greece and Rome were entirely in the dark on all subjects connected with the soul; nor could unenlighted reason ever have explored those mysteries which the inspired volume alone has revealed to man. Even at this present day, notwithstanding the light of revelation, the great and learned amongst ourselves are still ignorant of divine truth, if they have not been taught of God by the effectual application of his word to their souls. It is by the word that the knowledge of salvation is still communicated to every one of us: and we must all study it for ourselves, receiving its testimony with a believing heart, and submitting both our reason and our passions to its enlightening and sanctifying influence.]
It is suitable to all—
[In the sacred oracles there is “milk for babes, and strong meat” for those of an adult age [Note: Compare Hebrews 6:13-14. with 1Pe 2:2 and Colossians 3:16.]. The fundamental truths are written there so plainly, that “he who runs may read them:” and so clearly do they mark out the path to heaven, that “the way-faring man, though a fool, cannot err therein,” if only he receive its directions with an humble and contrite spirit. On the other hand, there are in the inspired volume mysteries which no finite intelligence can fully comprehend. Not only may the greatest proficients in sacred literature be always advancing in knowledge, but the very angels themselves acquire more enlarged views of the manifold wisdom of God, from the revelation that is made of it in the Holy Scriptures [Note: 1 Peter 1:12. with Ephesians 3:10.]. Moreover, so infinitely diversified is the instruction to be gathered from the sacred volume, that we can be in no situation in which it does not contain the directions and encouragements most suited to our case.]
It is sufficient for all—
[“The Holy Scriptures are able to make us wise unto salvation, through faith in Christ Jesus.” We need no acquaintance with any other book, nor with any other subject which is not contained in that volume. Other books doubtless are useful, and knowledge of many other subjects is desirable; but nothing is necessary for salvation which is not contained in the Holy Scriptures, and easily to be learned from them. A strange idea is maintained by some, that the Scriptures are unintelligible to the poor and illiterate; and that they are more likely to mislead them, than to guide them aright. But what a reflection is this on God himself, as having imparted to us a book altogether unsuited to the end for which it was given! But there is no ground for any such reflection. There are doubtless in the Scriptures some things hard to be understood, and which an unstable person may wrest to his own destruction: but we again affirm, that all which is necessary to be known is easily to be gathered from the word of God; and that, if it be “received with meekness as an engrafted word, it is able,” and shall be effectual, “to save the soul [Note: James 1:21.]”.]
Let us now proceed to consider,
What effect it will produce—
As the roll, when eaten by Ezekiel, was as honey in his mouth, so to Jeremiah “the word was the joy and rejoicing of his heart.” In a man that is impenitent and unbelieving, we acknowledge that the word is calculated to inspire terror: but to one that is of a penitent and contrite spirit, it speaks nothing but peace and joy. This is the proper effect of every part of the inspired volume; of,
[O, how wonderful are these! What an exhibition does the Scripture give us of God’s character, and of the way which he has provided for the salvation of sinful men! What a stupendous mystery does it reveal, of the incarnation and death of his co-equal, co-eternal Son! of Christ “bearing our sins in his body on the tree,” and “being made sin for us, that we may be made the righteousness of God in him!” Can such tidings as these reach the ears of a guilty and condemned sinner, and not fill him with joy? Can the voice of pardon reach the cell of a condemned criminal, and be received with indifference? or, if the offers of a free and full salvation, were now to be sent to the regions of the damned, would they excite no joyous emotions among the unhappy sufferers? If there be any, to whom the Gospel comes, that do not rejoice in the glad tidings, it is because they know not their lost estate, nor have any desire after reconciliation with their offended God. To those who know their guilty and undone state, the declarations of mercy sounding forth in the Gospel are “dearer than thousands of silver and gold.”]
[It may be thought, that, because these are so strict and holy, they can afford no joy to any: but the very reverse is the case; for the true believer will say with David, “Thy word is very pure; therefore thy servant loveth it [Note: Psalms 119:140.].” A redeemed soul is asking, “What shall I render unto the Lord for all the benefits that he hath done unto me?” and in the precepts he sees what God requires of him, and how he may bring glory to the God of his salvation. He sees that an attention to these will perfect his nature, and transform him into the Divine image: hence “he esteems them concerning all things to be right [Note: Psalms 119:128.];” and “because they are right, they rejoice his heart,” and are accounted by him “sweeter than honey, and the honey-comb [Note: Psalms 19:8; Psalms 19:10.]”]
[These are justly called by the Apostle “exceeding great and precious,” more especially because “by them we are made partakers of a divine nature [Note: 2 Peter 1:4.],” and are enabled to cleanse ourselves from all filthiness both of the flesh and spirit, and to perfect holiness in the fear of God [Note: 2 Corinthians 7:1.].” Who can declare a thousandth part of the joy which a weary and heavy-laden sinner experiences in applying to his soul the promises of the Gospel? With what avidity does he devour them! They are like the first ripe fig which in the early spring a traveller sees, and devours, ere any one, however near to him, has time to claim it [Note: Isaiah 28:4.]: and the man who knows not this by his own sweet experience, has yet “to learn what be the very first principles of the oracles of God.”]
[These to the believer are scarcely less precious than the promises themselves. It was one great excellence of the Scriptures in the estimation of David, that “by them he was warned [Note: Psalms 19:11.].” He regarded them as a mariner his chart, by which he is warned of the rocks and quicksands on which he will infallibly be wrecked, if he deviate from his proper course. Is there a seaman, who, when in imminent danger, is instructed by that faithful monitor to avoid destruction, will not adore his God for the warning that taught him to escape it? So it is with all who truly fear God: they love to be warned: they desire to be put upon their guard: they are afraid of turning aside in any respect, or of relaxing their efforts in the path of duty. Like Paul, they contemplate the danger of a relapse as an incentive to fresh exertions, and “keep their body under, and bring it into subjection, lest, after having preached to others, they themselves should be cast-aways [Note: 1 Corinthians 9:27.].” In a word, the believer views the threatenings, as the angels who took Lot and his daughters by the hand, and, by representations of their danger, accelerated their escape from the devouring element: he acquiesces in them as “just and holy;” and by their quickening influence he finds them to be “good.”]
May we not then Learn from hence,
What enemies to their own souls they are who neglect the Holy Scriptures!
[Notwithstanding the Scriptures are “the wells of salvation, from whence we are privileged to draw water with joy,” the greater part even of the Christian world pay but little attention to them: any other book of science or amusement is preferred before them, and, unless in a formal cursory way, they are never read at all. Now what folly is this! What man in his senses, when navigating his ship amongst rocks and quicksands, neglects to consult his chart? Yet, as if there were no dangers in the Christian’s way, or no great evil to be incurred by negligence, the generality are quite indifferent about that book which alone can conduct us safely to a better world. But lot it not be so amongst you: “Search the Scriptures, in which ye think, yea and know assuredly, ye have eternal life.” “Search them daily,” as the Bereans did: “search them as for hid treasure;” and lift up your hearts to God for the teachings of his good Spirit, “to guide you into all truth.” “He will open your understandings to understand them,” and will work effectually by them to your salvation. They are the rod of God’s strength, and the sword of his Spirit: and if you read them in humility and faith, you shall rind them “quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow; and they shall discover to you the very thoughts and intents of your hearts [Note: Hebrews 4:12.].” If you will not sit thus at the feet of Jesus and learn of him, it is in vain for you to number yourselves among his disciples; but if you will come to him, you need not be discouraged at your weakness or ignorance; for he says, “Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls.”]
What an unspeakable blessing is the Bible Society!
[Though the Scriptures are not with us, as among the Papists, locked up in a language not generally understood, yet by the cost of a Bible it has been to a great extent kept out of the possession of the poor. True it is, that they who have known the value of the Bible would procure it at any rate: but those who were unacquainted with its treasures have found it too costly for them to purchase. But now he that is able to pay only a part, may have it for that part; and they who can really pay nothing, may have it for nothing. Now therefore the poor may well say, “Thy word is found: yes, it is found; and I will eat it.” O that there were in all of us such a heart! and that we were all determined henceforth to feed upon its precious truths; and that, like Job, we “esteemed it more than our necessary food [Note: Job 23:12.]!” Now God is sending it to all of us, the poorest as well as the richest, exactly as he did the manna in the wilderness: he sends it home to our very houses, and invites us to live upon it. The king upon the throne has no richer food; and the poorest amongst us has now a free access to it, so that he may “eat that which is good, and let his soul delight itself in fatness [Note: Isaiah 55:2.].” Let us bless God then, who has put it into the hearts of so many to provide for us such ample supplies of this invaluable treasure: and let us all, according to our ability, labour to promote the designs of a Society, which is the most honourable to God, and most useful to man, that ever existed upon the face of the earth.]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Jeremiah 15". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany