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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary
Jeremiah 31

 

 

Verses 1-40

CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES.—Vide on chap. 30. These two chapters form an unbroken prophecy, "a triumphal hymn of Israel's salvation." The former chapter pledges the recovery from captivity of both "Israel and Judah;" this addresses "all the families of Israel," then distinctively the ten tribes; and finally returns with separate assurances to Judah, then to Israel and Judah together.

Geographical References.—Jer . "Voice heard in Ramah," a city of Benjamin, near where Rachel, the mother of Joseph and Benjamin, was buried. Jer 31:38. "Hill Gareb, to Goath." "Gareb" means the hill of lepers, and must have been outside the old walls of Zion, towards the south-west. "The tower of Hanameel" was at the north-east corner of Jerusalem. Of "Goath" nothing is known; the Targum translates it cow-pool. Jer 31:40. "Valley of the dead bodies," &c.: i.e., the valley of Ben-hinnom.

Personal Allusion.—Jer . "Rahel weeping for her children." As the mother of Benjamin, Ephraim, and Manasseh, Rachel is here regarded figuratively as weeping for the scattered ten tribes of Israel.

Natural History.—Jer . "Vines upon the mountains of Samaria." The mountains of Samaria produced specially good vines; see Jud 9:27. Jer 31:12. "For wheat, and wine, and oil," &c. suggestive of the fertility and richness of the land of Canaan. Jer 31:29. "Eaten a sour grape." A proverb; see Eze 18:2.

Manners and Customs.—Jer . "Adorned with tabrets." Usual for the women to go forth with timbrels and dancing in times of public joy and festivity (Exo 15:20; Jud 11:34, &c.). Jer 31:19. "Smote upon my thigh:" an action indicating extreme astonishment and sorrow (Eze 21:12). It is represented as having this significance by several classic authors. Jer 31:24. "Husbandmen and they that go forth with flocks." Referring to the pastoral life of their ancestors, when every one was literally a "husbandman" and "shepherd" in consequence of the allotment of land which he was forbidden to alienate. They should return to a similar pastoral life of simplicity and security.

Literary Criticisms.—Jer . "The people left of the sword." This description points, not back to Israel in the wilderness of Sinai, for it would not describe their condition then, for they were not then "a people left of the sword;" but to Israel in captivity, after "the sword" of those who now carried them captive had ceased its destructive work. How then interpret "found grace in the wilderness"? what "wilderness"? Their Babylonish captivity may well be described as a wilderness condition. Or the allusion may be to the desert lying between Assyria and Palestine. And מָצָא may be taken as a prophetic future. And the words, "When I went to cause him to rest," do not really point to past time; for the verb, הָלוֹךְ, is the infinitive absolute, lit., a-going. It has, however, the force of an imperative: Let me go; or, "I will go to cause Israel to rest."

Jer . "Of old." Henderson urges that מֵרָחוֹק expresses here distance of time not of place; but most commentators prefer the latter: "from afar." See Jer 30:10. To a Jew's thoughts, God's dwelling was in Zion; and hence, when His mercy reached them in Assyrian exile, it came from afar (2Ch 6:20; 2Ch 6:38).

"With loving-kindness have I drawn thee." מָשַׁךְ is rendered as prolonged, continued (Psa ; Psa 109:12); "I have prolonged loving kindness to thee." But Hitzig, Fuerst, and Naegelsbach prefer rendering it respited: "in loving-kindness have I respited thee."

Jer . "Eat them as common things:" rather, "shall freely enjoy the fruit;" no injunction being placed upon the enjoyment. See Lev 19:25; Deu 20:6.

Jer . "Shout among the chief," &c.: rather, "shout because of the chief of the nations," i.e., Israel.

Jer . "A great company shall return thither:" no, hither. Not to exile, but to Palestine.

Jer . "A bullock unaccustomed:" lit., an untrained calf.

Jer . "A woman shall compass a man." Variously rendered. Dr. Payne, Dr. Wette, Umbreit, &c., The female shall protect the strong man. Eward, "The woman shall be changed into a man." Naegelsbaeh, "The woman shall turn the man," becoming the stronger of the two. Wordsworth, with the Fathers, see in these words a hint of the miraculous conception of Christ. But Henderson gives the sense that Jehovah would make the feeblest of them [the woman] more than a match for the most powerful of their foes.

HOMILIES AND OUTLINES ON CHAPTER 31

Jer . Theme: THE GOD OF FAMILIES. "At the same time will I be the God of all the families of Israel."

There is one solid Rock on which the hope and happiness of the moral universe may rest amidst all the vicissitudes of time; and that whatever dark appearances may surround the interests of the Church, like clouds which obscure the face of the heavens, the sun shall yet shine forth again with unquenched lustre and unabated strength. "The mountains may depart, the hills must be removed, but God's loving kindness never shall depart, the covenant of His peace can never be broken."

To this topic Jeremiah had recourse in the troublous times in which he lived, when he was called to deplore the fallen greatness of the Church, and to witness the dissolution and the breaking up of the Jewish state and monarchy. He looks back upon what God did for His Church in the captivity of Egypt, as the pledge and pattern of what He will do for it in the captivity of Babylon (Jer ). So David teaches us to argue from the same principles when he says, "Oh, how great is Thy goodness which Thou hast laid up for them that fear Thee, which Thou hast wrought for them that fear Thee." What is laid up in God's promises, and what is laid out for them in God's providences, form an equal ground of encouragement and hope. Paul in like manner ascends up before the springs of time: "Blessed be the God and Father, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings, according as He has chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world that we should be holy."

I. Some of the truths which this promise implies.

II. Some of the encouragements it presents.

III. Some of the duties it involves.

I. Some of the truths which this promise implies. "I will be the God of all the families of Israel." Not of the two tribes only, Judah and Benjamin, the royal tribes, but the ten tribes. Not of the house of Aaron only, and the families of Levi, but of all their families; not only of their state in general, but their particular families.

1. A deep interest in their welfare. That God takes a deep interest in family religion, and delights to see the succession of piety kept up in the dwelling-places of the righteous, is evident both by the tenor of His promises and by the train of His dispensations. No sight is more pleasing to man than that of a well-ordered family. The safety and well-being of a country must necessarily depend upon the moral training of the families of which it is composed. No less important is it to the well-being of the Church. Families are the nurseries of the Church. God therefore, in determining upon the stability of the Church, looks with watchful and tender eye upon the prosperity of families.

God delights to speak of Himself as standing in a domestic relation: "Like as a father." The image most frequently used: "If ye being evil … your heavenly Father," &c.

2. He calls your children His children. He makes distinguishing promises to them. The very first promise was made to Eve's offspring. The covenant with Abraham incorporated his children's name as well as his own: "I will be a God to thee and thy seed after thee." He promises to David, "Instead of the fathers, the children;" to Isaiah, "This is the covenant I make with thee: I will pour out My Spirit on thy seed."

3. Remember that Jesus Himself became a little child. He rose, not like Adam, in the fulness and meridian of His strength, but passed through the intermediate states of infancy and childhood. When the wise men came from afar "they saw the young Child and Mary His mother." He did this that He might consecrate the state of infancy as well as the state of manhood; and assure parents that He can sympathise with the weakness and infirmities of childhood and youth, as well as those of riper years. He was a lover of children (Mar ; Mat 18:3-14).

4. Do not omit to remark what a gracious aspect all this has upon the salvation of infants; and what comfort it affords those who have lost their offspring, that they are gathered to the fold of the Good Shepherd. In God's world there is no waste of existence. "Millions of infant souls compose the family above." David said, in reference to the loss of his child, "I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me." And if he reasoned thus under the darkness of that dispensation, surely our faith need not be less strong under the brightness of this. "If that which was done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is rather glorious."

II. This promise encourages Christian parents in their endeavours to train their offspring in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

Great duties devolve upon you; great anxieties perpetually occur in connection with your own responsibility; and great consolations are furnished in the Word of God.

1. No greater inducement can be furnished to avail yourselves of all means for their religious improvement than the thought that God sympathises with you both in the affections you cherish and in the difficulties with which you are surrounded. If it be true that God takes so deep an interest in the progress of religion in families—is concerned for the salvation of the young—if it be true that He builds up His Church chiefly from the families of His people, then it follows that great duties devolve on parents and heads of families, and it becomes them to seek the grace and blessing of God.

2. These promises should be earnestly pleaded in prayer, should encourage watchful effort. They are not given as a premium to indolence, but as an inducement to the faithful discharge of known duty.

3. God has made the love of parents to their children proverbially strong; for moral objects, that their interests for both worlds may be secured. There never was a Christian parent, touched with the love of God, who was not anxious for his children, anxious to lead them to the Saviour he loved and the heaven he sought; anxious that they who are partakers of all their hopes on earth should be partakers of all their joys in heaven.

4. Education is the great care with which you are entrusted. If negligent, on you as well as them the reproach and misery will fall. You may be regardless of your son's morals, but you may live and die miserable from his want of them.

Think of the happiness of meeting them in a future world. Guide them to Christ. Endear the Bible, and the Sabbath, and the Saviour to them.

Remember the temptations they are exposed to, and how many fall into the snares of the wicked.

III. Some of the duties this promise involves—

1. Prayer for early conversion of children.

2. Training of families in godliness and faith.

3. Public dedication of our children by baptism, to God.

4. Recognition of God's laws, and providence, and honour in all family plans.

5. Consecration by young persons of themselves to God.

6. Maintain domestic worship around the family altar.

7. Let families, in their entirety, come together to God's sanctuary, and be united in the fellowship of the Christian Church.

See Homilies on chap. Jer .

Jer . Theme: "SPARED THROUGH GRACE. "The people left of the sword found grace in the wilderness."

I. Spared, though others perished.

Many were cut off for their iniquities; some by the Amalekites (Exo ), some by the hands of their brethren (Exo 32:28).

The destroyed around us witness to our like deserts.

II. Spared through sovereign grace.

1. To God's praise. "The living, the living, they shall praise Thee, as we do this day."

2. Witnessing to His compassion and patience.

III. Spared to inherit favours.

1. Conducted by Him into the promised land of rest.

2. Spared to enjoy all the fulness of covenanted privilege.

3. Blessed with prolonged realisation of Divine goodness and bounty.

See Homilies on chap. Jer .

Jer . Theme: PROGRESS OF MAN'S SALVATION.

A condensed view of the origin, progress, and consummation of man's salvation.

I. The feeling with which God regards each of His people: "I have loved thee."

II. The kind of love with which God has regarded His people: "Everlasting love."

III. The visible operation and effect of this love: "I have drawn thee."

(a.) A change of position or state.

(b.) A change accomplished by God: "I have drawn thee."

(c.) A change not accomplished without resistance: "Drawn."

IV. The means which God employs in drawing His people: "Loving-kindness."—Rev. James Stewart, Aberdeen, 1862.

See Addenda: EVERLASTING LOVE.

Theme: DRAWN WITH EVERLASTING LOVE.

God has often "appeared" to man. In His visible creation He reveals Himself, lavishing the wealth, garniture, and beauty of nature upon a sinful race. In His daily providences He appears to man; fresh fountains of mercy spring up at my feet. But especially God appears in the mystery of grace and redemption, showing the fulness of His mercy in Christ Jesus.

Thus, in Creation we discern the print of His footsteps; in Providence we behold the operations of His gracious hand; but in Redemption we are allowed to see the very movements and purposes of His all-gracious heart.

I. View this love of God in its far-reaching compass and largeness. "Of old," as to time; but more correctly "from afar," as to place. God's love reaches out to the exiles far removed from Zion.

1. To the banished ones—captive and exiled—removed "afar."

2. To those estranged—spiritually at a distance, "alienated from the life of God," wilfully "afar."

3. To men everywhere. Gathers in all with a world-wide embrace.

II. View this love of God in its absolute directness and inalienable purpose. "Yea, I have loved thee."

1. Its positiveness. "Yea, I have" Not equivocal, and conjectural, or conditional.

2. Its intensity. "I have loved." Great-hearted affection.

3. Its personality. "I have loved thee." "The Lord knoweth them that are His."

4. Its conscious reality. God Himself felt and realised that He had loved Israel. It was a conscious passion to God Himself. He yearns with strong ardour over the objects of His great affection.

III. View this love of God in its ceaseless constancy. "With everlasting love."

1. In retrospect it is "everlasting." Not recent, but vastly remote in its origin.

2. In covenant fidelity it is "everlasting." Not vacillating, not insecure as was theirs!

3. Amid their changeful history it is "everlasting." Whether they were in Zion, or "afar" in exile; whether they as a nation maintained His worship, or became "lost" to their own identity and to their holy religion, He loved and would cherish them still.

4. Throughout all future ages it is "everlasting." God's nature is not "variable;" "the thoughts of His heart are to all generations."

IV. View this love of God in its gracious action and powerful attractiveness. "Therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee."

1. Hence, with God begins the work of alluring souls into reconciliation. It is not the sinner who commences; God's grace "draws" him, and thus he is "made willing," "made nigh."

2. The force which draws the soul is "love." As all the coin of the kingdom bears the image of the sovereign, so all the blessings of salvation bear the stamp of love. "With loving-kindness have I drawn thee."

3. When the heart rests in God's love, it finds its own love for Him to be the result of and response to His love for us. "We love Him because He first loved us."

4. All drawings of God should be yielded to with gratitude, wonder, alacrity, and joy.

Note—

(a.) This is a MOST TOUCHING AND SUBLIME ASSURANCE. When we look at ourselves we wonder that God can love us at all. And if His love had to be caused by anything in us, He could never find occasion for His love. But the love which God has for us comes not from us to Him, but from Him to us. He loves us, not because we are lovable, but because He is loving.

(b.) This "everlasting love" is A MOST STUPENDOUS THOUGHT TO GRASP. Before we had any objective existence; before we stood out as individuals of the human race, He loved us. The moment we were born into the world, that moment we began to live in the love of God.

The ray of light from a star has been running down the measureless path of space long, long centuries before earth was peopled by man; but before the wave (which made the starlight shine in the heavens) was started in the ether by the pulsations from that distant star, God was loving me. Oh, that vast eternity of love!

If that love was from everlasting, shall it not be to everlasting? Yes.

(c.) There is A PROPHETIC SWEEP OF HOPE IN THIS FACT. Can that end which had no beginning? Shall we fear that a fountain which flows perennially and freely can at some far-off age run dry? Ages have not exhausted it. It is "everlasting love." Surely this both wins and shall hold our love to God.

"Infinite Goodness! Thou art dear

To Thy poor creature's heart;

It blesses Thee that Thou art God,

That Thou art what Thou art."

Theme: EVERLASTING LOVE.

I. Sovereign in its character.

II. Costly in its manifestation.

III. Glorious in its results.

Jer . Theme: THE WATCHMEN'S CALL. "There shall be a day that the watchmen upon Mount Ephraim shall cry, "Arise ye, and let us go up to Zion unto the Lord our God."

I. God's heralds. "Watchmen," stationed on eminences (not on one mountain only, but the whole mountainous region of the ten tribes), see the auspicious hour, call to the alien and exile tribes. Type of the preacher of the Gospel:—(1.) Elevated above the people; (2.) Discerns their gracious opportunity; (3.) Summons the wanderers and outcasts home.

II. Reunion in Zion. The ten tribes are here called to go up to the annual feasts at Jerusalem, and there join with the tribes of Judah in keeping the appointed festivals of Zion. The schism between the twelve tribes was healed.

1. Those who were estranged one from the other become united in fraternity and fellowship in Zion. See Isa .

2. The sacred festivities and privileges of the Church of Christ cast all human divisions and differences into oblivion. Many members, but one body. Many nations, but one kingdom. The world gets back to unity again, away from its feuds and strifes, when it gets into and becomes the Church.

III. God sought. "Unto the Lord our God."

1. From whom we formerly revolted. Now again "our God;" accepted, desired, and sought.

2. In whom we again unite. "The Lord;" none but He. No rival deity; "God all in all." "All one in Christ Jesus."

Note—

Cowles remarks: "God's grace loves to triumph over the most inveterate prejudices. No words could represent a greater or more benign change in national feeling than these: Samaria saying, through her spiritual watchmen, Let us go up to Zion to worship, for our God is there."

Jer . Theme: RESTORATION OF THE JEWS. God's command that the males of all the twelve tribes should go up thrice a year to worship the Lord at Jerusalem.

We may conjecture what such a concourse will take place, in due season, from every quarter of the world.

In reference to the restoration of the Jews, we have here—

I. A command to us. God enjoins us—

1. To take an interest in the welfare of His people. "Sing with gladness for Jacob," &c. We ought to keep in view God's gracious designs respecting them, so as to have our hearts filled with joy in the contemplation of the blessings awaiting them.

2. To express that interest in every suitable way. "Publish it" to Jew and Gentile alike: "praise ye" God for it, and in fervent prayer seek God on their behalf. Say, "O Lord, save Thy people," &c.

II. A promise to them. This promise includes—

1. Their restoration to God (Jer ), however distant they are from Him, or however discouraging their circumstances. "A great company shall return thither."

2. The manner in which it shall be effected (Jer ). "With weeping," &c., as in Zec 12:10. Under gracious Divine leading: "I will cause them to walk by rivers," &c. He will guide them by His counsel, strengthen them by His grace, and comfort them by His Spirit, till He bring them in safety to His glory.

3. The pledge that it shall be surely accomplished. "For I am a Father to Israel," &c. When Moses urged Pharaoh to liberate Israel, he enforced his request by the plea that they were "God's firstborn." In this light He still regards them, and will prove Himself their "Father" (Jer , with Isa 54:9-10).

Application—

1. Look well to it that you are yourselves restored to God.

2. Endeavour to help forward the restoration of others.—C. Simeon, M.A.

Jer . Theme: PILGRIMS TO ZION.

"They shall come with weeping," &c.

The text unites the dispensation of God to His people with the affections which they cherish towards God. It refers to the deliverance of the Church from the captivity of Babylon, and to the feelings which they cherished on their return; and the same principles are developed in the experience of all who are born of God and bound for glory. Zion's pilgrims are distinguished—

I. By the various emotions which they cherish. "Come with weeping."

II. By the safe-conduct under which they journey: "I will lead them."

III. By the high alliance they are permitted to claim. "I am a father."

IV. By the prosperous issue of their eventful pilgrimage. "Sing in Zion."

I. The various emotions which they cannot but cherish. "Weeping and supplication" not unmixed with joy. The return from Babylon was a season of joy and congratulation, yet productive of mixed feeling—they came with weeping and supplication. Great events in life often produce opposite emotions. The moment of transition is a critical one—calls up many recollections of the past, many anticipations of the future. The prisoner has been known to sigh at leaving his dungeon; the bride trembles at the altar; the prince receives the crown not without emotion; the Christian takes upon him the vows of God under mingled impressions. Tears and prayers do well together. There is no entrance into the path of life but through the valley of weeping; and repentance characterises the Christian all his journey through. Tertullian said of himself that he was born to nothing but repentance. It was the saying of a godly minister that, if he were to die in the pulpit, he should like to die preaching repentance; and if out of the pulpit, he would wish to die practising repentance. This is always needful, and especially when we go to seal a covenant with God, or to seek the witness of the Spirit with ours. When did Jacob find God in Bethel but when he wept and made supplication? When did Mary meet with Christ but when she sought Him sorrowing? When did angels minister to Christ but after strong crying and tears in the garden? Behold the print of the footsteps of all the cloud of witnesses in this road. "They come."

They weep and pray under the—1. Consciousness of their sins. Unprofitable.

2. The remembrance of their captivity. Remembering affliction and misery.

3. The difficulties of their course. A rough journey, many impediments.

4. The sorrows of those with whom they are associated. Sympathy.

5. The mourning over those they have left behind in Babylon. It was only a remnant, two tribes at most came from Babylon. They were attached to Babylon, had many connections, and filled important posts there, and Zion in her ruins was forgotten. The Christian is not careless of the state of his relations and friends yet strangers to God. Bunyan makes it a heavy part of Christian's sorrow that he could not persuade his wife and children to travel with him.

It is to mourners that promises are made: "Come unto Me." The influences of the Spirit are quite as likely to produce contrition as joy.

II. The safe-conduct under which they journey. "I," says God, "will lead them;" or they would never attain their journey's end. "I will gather them;" or they would never be collected. "I will cause them to walk;" or they would never have the inclination. God brings us into the way of truth, God protects us in it, God furnishes us with adequate support, and God brings us to the termination of our career in peace. We may doubt as to the reality of our religion, but if we are conscious of possessing it we cannot doubt to whom we owe it. "Who hath saved us."

The guidance of mortal spirits into the paths of holiness and to the perfection of heavenly rest has been a favourite object with God from the beginning. He teaches "to walk in a strait way"—preserves from falling—going back—"keeps feet."

"By the rivers of water"—not without refreshment—not without happiness—not without a constant sense of obligation. It denotes both refreshment and supply, and these are granted where least expected, and to those who could not perform the journey without guidance and assistance not their own—"the blind and lame." Grace triumphs over all obstacles.

III. The high alliance they are permitted to claim. "I am a father." This wandering band, outcasts to the world, may call the Sovereign of the universe a Friend and Father. This title indicates the richness of God's condescension and the Principle whence salvavation flows.

IV. The happy issue of their eventful pilgrimage. "Height of Zion" (Jer ).

"Come to Zion." 1. Blissful. 2. Restful. 3. Fruitful.

Application—

1. Strangers to prayer and penitence are not on the path to heaven.

2. Those who trust their own resources may expect to wander, to faint, or to fall.—S. Thodey, 1825.

See Addenda: TEARS OF PENITENCE and also Homilies on chap. Jer .

Jer . Theme: GOD'S PROCLAMATION OF GRAND PURPOSES FOR HIS PEOPLE. Jehovah would have the nations know—

I. How He guards His people with fostering care. Though He chastises them—"scattered them"—yet He cherishes and fosters them with watchful care and purposes of restoration; and will suffer no harm or loss to them, for He "shepherds" them constantly.

II. How mightily He has wrought for His people's redemption.

Jer . "With outstretched arm," "travailing in the greatness of His strength, mighty to save."

1. Past rescues. These have proved God's almightiness and all-sufficiency.

2. Pledge of future redemption. No foe can "stay His hand."

III. How luxuriant are the blessings with which He will crown and enrich their future (Jer ).

1. Religious and ecclesiastical privileges. "To the heights of Zion."

2. Divine beneficence. "To the goodness of the Lord."

3. Abounding fulness of enjoyment, "Sing;" "for wheat," &c.

4. Sadness lost in blessedness. "Their soul as a watered garden;" and sorrow no more at all.

IV. How all-inclusive shall be these sacred delights of the Church.

1. Every sex and age shall have full share of holy bliss (Jer ).

2. Priests and people alike "satisfied" with the "goodness" of the Lord (Jer ). "Both he that soweth and they that reap shall rejoice together."

Jer . Theme: THE FUTURE OF BELIEVERS. "And their soul shall be as a watered garden; and they shall not sorrow any more." What is to be the future of the true Israel of God?

I. One of spiritual faultlessness and perfection. Beautiful as a "garden;" fertile, well graced, rich in fragrance and fruit.

II. One of boundless resources. Of joy, for they shall sorrow no more. Of satisfaction, for no inward lack shall give them distress. Of rest, amid the blessedness of happy employ.

III. One of vast possessions. So that their "soul" is filled with the treasures of spiritual good; filled as a "garden" stored with choicest blossoms, fragrant with richest perfume.

Jer . Theme: SOUL FERTILITY. "Their soul shall be as a watered garden."

This was really fulfilled in the Jews, who returned to Jerusalem after the miseries they had suffered in Babylon; many of whom (see Ezra and Nehemiah's records) were men of eminent piety and zeal for God. Having rebuilt the Temple, and thus opened "the wells of salvation," they drew thence the waters of consolation and spiritual life.

But in the Gospel times we see these words fulfilled in every pious soul when in a flourishing and prosperous state.

I. Thoughts suggested by a comparison of a pious soul with a garden.

1. A garden is a spot of ground upon which extraordinary cultivation is employed. Thus the souls of believers are "the garden of the Lord"—the objects of His peculiar care and cultivation (Isa ).

2. A garden is generally stored with productions of either a useful or ornamental order. So from the soul springs up every Christian virtue and heavenly grace which is either pleasing to God or useful to man (Isa ; Isa 55:13).

3. A garden does not arrive at its full perfection and glory at once. The Christian's course is progressive.

II. Consider those Divine influences by which this spiritual garden is watered.

1. The influences of the Spirit of God are imparted to every real Christian, and produce effects that resemble those which warm and refreshing showers produce upon a garden (Isa ). If these are withheld, how does the garden droop! It is the office of the Holy Spirit to "shed the love of God abroad in our hearts," &c.

2. These influences are enjoyed and conveyed to the soul by the means of God's Word and ordinances (Isa ). It is in the exercise of reading and hearing God's Word, and in prayer, that the communications of God's Spirit are enjoyed.

III. Mark how this happy state and those enriching influences are to be desired by every soul.

1. Till we attain these, we are in a desolate, wild condition (Heb ).

2. It is only by attaining this state that we can arrive at true happiness either here or hereafter (Heb ).

3. Unless we are in this state we cannot glorify God, nor be useful to our fellow-creatures, as we ought. When we are "fruitful in every good word and work," God is pleased with us, &c.

Learn: The need we have daily to ask for Divine influences.—Rev. J. Sewell, Thaxted, A.D. 1842.

Jer . Theme: GOD OUR COMFORTER. "And I will turn their mourning into joy, and will comfort them and make them rejoice from their sorrow."

In Greenland, when a stranger knocks at the door, he asks, Is God in this house? And if they answer "Yes," he enters.

Let me knock at the door of your hearts and inquire, Is God in this house? Are you frequent at His throne? Do you love and belong to Christ? Are you living in the daily exercise of faith and repentance? Do you sorrow for sin? Are you aspiring to heaven? If so, you are the persons to whom this promise is made.

I. The particular character which God here assumes. The Comforter. I "will comfort them."

Not only after it but "from" it. Their joy takes a lustre from previous sorrow, as the brightness of morning from the darkness of night.

1. This is a much-needed office, for there are many mourners. The voice of weeping is often heard in our land. Our earth teems with mourners who are seeking a sad asylum from the sorrows of life in the darkness and silence of the grave.

Many mourners here. Some under the afflictions of life; some under the disappointment of their hopes of happiness from the world; some under the baseness of deceitful friendship; some under the loss of near and dear connections; some under the straits and difficulties of a trying path; and some under the burden of sin.

Spiritual sorrows are specially referred to in the text. "They shall come with weeping." The Christian life begins with sorrow, ends with joy. Some "sorrow after a godly sort:" over evil habits; weakness of faith; decline of hope.

2. This is an office to which God only is equal. As when the sun is set none but God can cause it to rise again; so when hope is lost and comfort gone, none but God can restore it. Hence David prays, "Restore to me the joy," &c. Jeremiah could not do it. He could only speak the comfort to others which God spake to him; but God can convey the consolation direct to the heart.

God speak of Himself as "the Hope of Israel and the Consolation thereof." Jesus is described as "the Consolation of Israel." The Holy Spirit is "another Comforter." Thus all the Persons in the Godhead conspire in this most needed and most delightful work.

God only can do it, because He only knows what the trial is—how heavily it presses—and how to apply to the burdened spirit the needed relief.

All creatures might shrink from the task and say, "Am I in God's stead?"

3. This is an office which God delights to exercise. "He delighteth in mercy." It is His nature and property always to have mercy. It is not more natural for the sun to shine, or for the fountain to pour forth its streams, than for God to show compassion. He is "the Father of mercies," "the God of all consolation." "As one whom his mother comforteth," &c.

4. It is an office in which the Father of mercies has had large experience. All the tears wiped from human faces have been removed by His hand. All the hopes awakened in penitent bosoms have been inspired by His mercy.

II. Some of the methods He employs for this purpose. The instrumentality is various, the Agency is One. Sometimes by friends, sometimes ministers, sometimes ordinances, sometimes by strangers, sometimes by enemies. But God is the Source of all these streams. He "makes us rejoice from sorrow."

1. By the application to the mind of the sense of pardon and acceptance by Christ. Thus, by Nathan, He restored to David the joy of His salvation: "The Lord hath put away thy sin." Thus, by Isaiah, He comforted Hezekiah. Thus, by Ananias, He comforted Paul.

In various ways He enlarges our perception of the fulness and freeness of redeeming love, shows us His covenant, teaches us out of His law, enables us to apply the promises. "My thoughts are not your thoughts."

2. By the teaching and influence of His Spirit. We read of the "comfort of the Holy Ghost;" and we cannot doubt that that blessed Agent has direct access to the human mind, in stirring us up to prayer, in strengthening holy purposes and resolutions, in giving efficacy to religious ordinances and especially to the Word received and preached.

3. By the agency of His providence, in removing afflictions when their end is answered—as in bringing Israel out of Egypt and back from Babylon. So He can turn again our captivity, raise up friends, make our path straight, disperse the clouds.

4. By translating the soul from earth to heaven.

III. The course of conduct we should pursue.

1. Seek consolation by prayer.

2. Avoid whatever tends to bring the spirit to bondage.

3. Be comforting.

4. Cherish hope—happy thoughts.

Seek to be acquainted with higher rules of self-denial, and charity, and mortification of sin, than you have yet known. Beg of God to teach you what you know not of the spirituality of the law and exactness of the rule.

Jer . Theme: THE SATISFYING NATURE OF GOD'S GOODNESS. "And My people shall be satisfied with My goodness, saith the Lord."

Our subject contains a striking prediction of the ingathering of the Jews, and the joyous events which should distinguish the occasion. Among the rest this is one, that "they should be satisfied," &c. The text is capable of a general application, and belongs equally to all the household of faith and family of God. Let us, then, consider—

I. The character. "My people." God's people were not always such. "I have made you a people," &c. Once afar off, aliens, &c. They became God's people by the attractive power of the Gospel, by the influence of the grace and Spirit of God, by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. They repented of sin, and fled by faith to the hope set before men in the Gospel. Many are the distinguishing features of God's people.

1. They are separated from the world. Not "of the world," "Come out," &c. Thus, too, they are united to His Church. "We will go with you," &c. "This people," &c. They profess, and confess Christ before men.

2. They reflect the image of the Saviour; are "partakers of His nature and spirit; and hence are likeminded with Christ, renewed into His holy and blessed likeness.

3. They are obedient to Christ's authority. "As His sheep," &c. As His pupils, &c. They follow Christ, and hear His commandments to do them. They call Him Lord, and do the things, &c. "Whoso doeth the will of My Father."

II. The declaration. "Shall be satisfied," &c. Sin began by dissatisfaction. This is one of the constant exhibitions of evil in the world. The general inquiry is, "Who will show," &c. The soul in the midst of the riches, honours, pleasures, &c., is still unsatisfied; formed for an infinite good, God alone can meet its desires; but God is holy and just, and the soul trembles and flees. God's goodness, then, comes down to the capacities, &c., of the soul. The soul is satisfied with—

1. God's goodness in the dispensations of His grace. God's love in Jesus Christ, infinite and overflowing. The soul is melted by it, constrained, subdued, saved; exclaims with rapture, "Who loved me," &c.

2. God's goodness in the arrangements of His Providence. This is ever connected with the other. We are first reconciled, and then admire His doings, works, and ways. It is the same goodness in both providence and grace. It never fails nor changes. It is always "goodness," in adversity as well as prosperity, in sickness and health, in sorrow and joy. It is always rich, free, and adapted.

3. God's goodness in the consummation of glory. "I shall be satisfied when I awake with Thy likeness."

Application.—1. Are we the characters? 2. Have we the satisfaction? 3. It is our privilege.—J. Burns, D.D.

Jer . Theme: RACHEL'S LAMENTATION. "A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping: Rahel weeping for her children, and refused to be comforted for her children, because they were not."

I. A poetic figure representative of the woes of the exiled tribes of Israel. Jeremiah, foreseeing the coming captivity of his people and destruction of their national life, vividly and dramatically represents Rachel (as if stirred from her grave by the tearing of her children from their natal soil) weeping for her offspring about to be slain by the Chaldean sword. As the mother of Benjamin, Ephraim, and Manasseh, she is alluded to as if to her belonged all the ten tribes.

1. A mother's grief over her slaughtered sons.

2. Exile from Zion and God is an evil as dreadful as if they were slain. "They were not!" (chap. Jer ).

3 A mother's heart has no room for "comfort" when her children are perishing from life—and from the living God.

II. A prophetic vision of the massacre of the Bethlehem children at the Saviour's birth. Its primary fulfilment was the murder of Rachel's children by the Chaldeans. Its typical significance received realisation in Herod's slaughter of the Innocents (Mat ).

1. The inhumanity of man brings destruction on innocent victims and anguish upon tender hearts.

2. In God's foreseeing gaze, all deeds of outrage on those He loves (Israel and children) are kept in faithful record. "Whoso toucheth them toucheth the apple of His eye."

3. Out of events, woeful and cruel, purposes of good are divinely evolved. Rachel's children were carried into exile, yet God wrought redemption for His captive people. Bethlehem children were slaughtered by Herod, yet the Divine Babe was at hand, to become the Redeemer of humanity, and to fold all childhood life within His arms and raise children into eminence in His earthly and heavenly kingdom.

Jer . Theme: CONSOLATIONS AND HOPES. "Refrain thy voice from weeping: there is hope in thine end."

Two points in this connection: Rachel weeping for her sons, and Ephraim weeping for his sins; and to both classes the voice of sympathy and commiseration is addressed.

The history refers to the captivity. Rachel was the common mother of Benjamin and Ephraim—Benjamin representing here the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin, which were united into one under the house of David; and Ephraim the ten tribes, commonly called Israel. Rachel's tomb was in Ramah, confines of both, on the border of Judah or Benjamin—on the border of Ephraim or Israel.

By a beautiful figure, the sorrows of the captivity are described as raising Rachel out of her grave to weep for the desolations of her sons. At Ramah Nebuzaradan called a council of war, and brought before him the captives. It seems to have been the first halting-place in the journey to Babylon. Jeremiah was present and witnessed the grief of the mothers of Israel; and, with the eye and imagination of a poet, calls Rachel from her grave to join the general grief, and ministers to them support and consolation by the promise of their return. And as their grief (parent-like) was more for their children than themselves, so the promise particularly respects their restoration and return. "Thy children shall come again," if you do not; just as though the fathers fell in the wilderness, the children entered Canaan. "There is hope in thy posterity."

I. The consolations which the Gospel affords in this world.

II. The hopes which it furnishes for a better.

I. The consolations which the Gospel affords in this world.

1. It is a world of weeping, of disappointment, vicissitude, and trial; and afflictions are sent by God, not from severity and harshness, but to produce results nothing else could. It is the death of the sin, and not the death of the soul, God contemplates.

2. The Gospel only furnishes consolation. The world cannot. All the sounds of sympathy and tenderness come from another world. The only available consolation must bear this inscription, "Thus saith the Lord." I said, Rachel was described as weeping for her sons, and Ephraim for his sins: these two constitute the great divisions of the sorrows of life: worldly, spiritual.

i. Under worldly calamity, the Gospel provides consolation. Losses, crosses.

1. The God that sends the trial sends the support with it, and often proportions the consolation to the distress. When He sends Rachel into captivity He gives her a promise to carry in her bosom.

2. The doctrine of God's providence is a greater support, and especially when we view the system of Providence as part of the plan of grace.

3. The promises of grace afford consolation, and show how minutely observant of the interests of His children God is.

4. The Christian is assured that there shall be no more suffering of any kind under the Divine government than is absolutely necessary to the well-being of His people. "He doth not afflict," etc. While to the eye of bystanders the sufferer seems to have reached the extremity, an unseen Hand assuages the grief with unsuspected mitigations.

ii. Under spiritual distress. The sorrow for sin. "I have heard Ephraim," &c. No one else heard him or would have noticed him. But God did. Ephraim felt himself unobserved and alone. The sin that was heaviest upon his heart was the non-improvement of God's afflictive dispensations. We are first turned, and then repent.

Under these apprehensions the Gospel brings relief, by leading us to Christ, the sin-atoning Lamb. "Behold the Lamb;" "Who is a God like," &c. The Gospel proclaims pardon, reveals a full and ample relief.

II. The hopes the Gospel furnishes of a better life. "There is hope in thine end." As Israel was delivered from their captivity, so we shall be from ours. "The ransomed shall return." The Gospel ministers largely to hope. It tells us the hour of conflict is succeeded by eternity of triumph. Here we are in a state of exile and bondage.… Heaven is complete deliverance—

i. From the captivity of sin. Here we are often in bondage to the power of evil; there, sin shall have no more dominion. A state of perfect holiness and perfect love.

ii. From the captivity of Satan. Wicked are led captive. Christians are exposed to his temptations; feel the mark of chain and fetter. Christ conquered Satan for us on the cross, shall dispossess him finally at death.

iii. From the captivity of sorrow. All tears wiped away.

iv. From the captivity of death.—Anon.

Jer . Theme: DISCIPLINE. "I surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself thus: Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised, as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke; turn Thou me, and I shall be turned: for Thou art the Lord my God."

There are chastisements in life which cannot be classed amongst great afflictions. There are little checks, daily disappointments, irritations, defeats, and annoyances—shadows which chequer what else would be a sunny way—things which themselves cannot be treated with dignity, yet they tease and wear the heart.

I. Human life is established upon a disciplinary basis. There is a "yoke" everywhere—in sin, in repentance, in grace. No one can have everything just as he wants it. Man is made to feel that there is somebody in the world besides himself. He conceives a plan, and is laughed at for his pains; he tells his dream, and men suspect his vanity; he points out his high tower, and whilst his finger is lifted the mocking wind hurls the boasted masonry to the ground. So we are jostled, pulled back, and mortified. We are made to feel that our very life is a vapour, and that every respiration is but a compromise with death. We should ask ourselves the meaning of these things. Discipline touches the whole scheme: boy at school, going from home, bodily affliction, oversights and miscalculations, losses, &c.

II. The value of discipline depends upon its right acceptance. We may become desperate under it: "as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke." Men may mourn, complain, rebel; they start arguments against God; they justify themselves; they become lost in secondary agencies and incomplete details.

Then there is a better way. "Ephraim bemoaned himself," repented before God, and said, "Turn Thou me, and I shall be turned." In this state of mind see—(1.) Self-renunciation. (2.) Devout and joyful confidence in God's sovereignty and graciousness.

Application—

1. There is a yoke in sin. "The way of transgressors is hard."

2. There is a yoke in goodness. It is often difficult to be upright, noble, holy.

3. God helps the true yoke-bearer: "My yoke is easy." We must bear a yoke; say, shall it be the bad yoke, or the yoke of Jesus Christ?—Dr. Joseph Parker ("Pulpit Notes").

Jer . Theme: ON CHASTISEMENT RESULTING IN PENITENCE.

I. These words contain an acknowledgment. "Thou hast chastised me," &c.

1. This expression we conceive to denote the inefficacy of former corrections.

2. Though corrections are calculated to produce amendment, though such is their tendency and design, it is evident, from observation and experience, they often fail in accomplishing the effect.

3. Ephraim is here represented as reflecting upon it. (Proximate causes of the inefficacy of correction by itself).

4. Inattention to the hand of God, and, as a natural consequence, their neglecting to pass from the contemplation of their sufferings to their sins. Religion begins with consideration.

5. In the serious purpose of a religious life, formed under afflictive dispensations, too many depend entirely upon resolutions formed in their own strength.

To such purposes may be applied the beautiful image of Nahum: "And as the great grasshoppers, which camp in the hedges in the cold day, but when the sun ariseth they flee away, and their place is not known."

II. The prayer. "Turn thou me." This may be enforced by such arguments as these—

1. The plea of necessity. There is no other resource.

2. To entreat God to turn is not to ask an impossibility. The residue of the Spirit is with Him.

3. It is worthy of His interposition. The turning of the heart is a fit occasion on which Omnipotence may act.

4. The plea may be enforced by precedents. It implies no departure from His known methods.

5. We may force it by a reference to the Divine mercy.—Robert Hall.

Jer . Theme: EPHRAIM BEMOANING HIMSELF. Heathen described their fabled deity, Jove, as sitting far aloft, regardless of the common affairs of this lower world. Not such is Jehovah: "I have surely heard Ephraim!"

Conceive the nearness of God to every mourning soul. He is the greatest of Comforters, and also the most approachable. "He will regard the prayer of the destitute, and not despise their prayer." See here—

I. A sinner bemoaning himself.

1. He was bowed down with a peculiar grief. Not as Rachel "for her children;" for nothing outside of himself, but "bemoaning himself." Inward sorrow, true repentance.

2. Such godly sorrow is well-founded sorrow. Over guilt, outrage on God's goodness and grace, &c.

3. This sorrow is humble sorrow. Not excusing himself, or flattering himself, or making new resolutions; but "bemoaning himself." Self-abhorrence. "I have sinned!"

4. A thoughtful sorrow. For Ephraim reviews his past life: "Thou hast chastised me." What came of it? "I was chastised," and that was all! See, hence, that affliction, providences, &c., will not save your soul; you need effectual grace.

5. A hopeless, yet a hopeful, sorrow. Ephraim says, Lord, it is useless to chastise me, I only get worse; but do Thou turn me, and I shall be turned."

Then think of—

II. The Lord observing him. Some hide yourselves when pricked in your consciences. But the Lord finds you out. Mothers! how quickly you find out, even in the night, if your child is ill.

1. God heard all Ephraim had to say. It may be but a stammering cry; but broken prayers are the best prayers.

2. God delights in the broken heart and contrite spirit. "I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself." If He should not hear the music of heaven, He certainly would hear the prayers of penitents.

3. Our God is full of compassion. He gave Ephraim what he asked. "Ye shall not seek His face in vain."

III. The Lord working in His effectual grace.

1. The only turning in the world that is saving and divine, is the turning of the heart.

2. The Lord's way of turning men varies in each case—

(1.) A distinct sight of wrath to come stops a sinner.

(2.) Or the awakened conscience is led to see the real nature of sin.

(3.) The grand turning-point is a sight of Christ on the cross.

(4.) One of the most blessed ways by which God makes a sinner turn is He manifests His everlasting love to him.

(a.) Are you bemoaning yourself?

(b.) Breathe the prayer, "Turn me, O Lord."—C. H. Spurgeon, 1867.

Jer . Theme: TRUE REPENTANCE. "I surely heard Ephraim," &c.

I. What feeling it expresses on the part of the returning penitent.

1. Mark the depth and intensity of his penitential emotions.

2. His total absence of all attempts at self-justification.

3. The promptitude and decision with which he acts up to his own convictions (Jer ).

4. His concern to surrender himself to those Divine influences to which he already owed so much: "Turn Thou me."

II. What illustrations it exhibits of God's revealed character. It accords with other Scriptures: "I, even I, am He that blotteth out," &c.; "As I live, I have no pleasure," &c.

1. The essential and inherent compassion of the Divine nature.

2. His knowledge of the constitution of the human mind: attracted by kindness; repelled by severity.

3. His minute and condescending regard to the growth and progress of religious emotion. "I have heard."

4. His infinite readiness to receive and pardon the returning sinner.

5. He reinstates the penitent in those privileges which sin had forfeited.

Jer . Theme: A PENITENT'S REFLECTIONS AND GOD'S REFLECTIONS OVER HIM.

A wide difference between ostentation and true piety. The sincere penitent desires privacy. God here declares how acceptable is such repentance.

I. The reflections of a true penitent over himself.

1. The beginning of his repentance. He—

(1.) Reflects on his incorrigibleness in the ways of sin.

(2.) Pleads with God to turn and convert his soul.

2. The progress of his repentance.

(1.) He reflects upon the advancing distress of his soul. Amazed—"smote on thigh;" then "ashamed;" then "even confounded."

(2.) But he gives the glory of his advancement to God alone. It all resulted from the fact that "I was turned."

II. The reflections of God over a true penitent. The penitent finds no words too severe against himself; but—

1. God accounts no honour too great for such a person. He owns him to be "a dear and pleasant child."

2. He expresses His compassionate regard for him. "My bowels are troubled for him."

3. He grants him all he himself could desire. "I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the Lord."

Can God testify of us as of Ephraim? If not, we must expect shame and confusion (Mat ). If He can, happiness will be ours here and hereafter (Psa 126:5-6).—Claude's Simeon.

Jer . Theme: THE STUBBORN SINNER SUBMITTING HIMSELF TO GOD.

I. A description of the feelings and conduct of an obstinate, impenitent sinner while smarting under the rod of affliction. He is rebellious—till subdued.

II. The new views and feelings produced by affliction through Divine grace.

(a.) Convinced of guilt and sinfulness; (b) praying; (c) reflecting on the effects of Divine grace in his conversion.

III. A correcting and compassionate God watching the results, &c.

(a.) As a tender Father, mindful of His penitent child; (b.) Listening to his complaints and petitions; (c.) declaring His determination to pardon.—Payson.

See Addenda: CONFESSION.

With Jer , comp. Homilies on chap. Jer 3:21-25.

Notes on Jer .

i. "THOU HAST CHASTISED ME, AND I WAS CHASTISED." In the first clause the chastisement itself is meant; in the second, the beneficial effects of it—in teaching the penitent true wisdom.

ii. "AS A BULLOCK UNACCUSTOMED" (cf. "stiffnecked" Act ; Exo 32:9), an image from refractory oxen. Before my chastisement I needed the severe correction I received, as much as an untamed bullock needs the goad (cf. Act 9:5, where the same figure is used of Saul before he was converted).

iii. "TURN THOU ME, AND I SHALL BE TURNED" by Thy converting Spirit (Lam ).

But why does Ephraim pray for conversion, seeing that he is already converted? Because we are converted by progressive steps, and need the same power of God to carry forward, as to originate, our conversion (Joh ; Joh 6:65; cf. Isa 27:3; 1Pe 1:5; Php 1:6).

iv. "AFTER THAT I WAS TURNED I REPENTED." Repentance in the full sense follows, not precedes, our being turned to God by God (Zec ). Repentance is the tear that flows from the eye of faith turned to Jesus. Himself gives it; we give it not of ourselves, but must come to Him for it (Act 5:31).

v. "AFTER I WAS INSTRUCTED, I SMOTE UPON MY THIGH." Made to learn by chastisement. God's Spirit often works through the corrections of His providence. "Smote," &c. (Eze ): a token of remorse, shame, and grief because of past sin.

vi. "I DID BEAR THE REPROACH OF MY YOUTH." The punishments I bore were the just punishments of my scandalous wantonness against God in my youth; alluding to the idols set up at Dan and Bethel immediately after the ten tribes revolted from Judah. His sense of shame shows he no longer delights in his sin.—Jamieson.

Jer . Theme: GOD'S TENDER MEMORY OF THE SINNER. "Is Ephraim My dear son? is he a pleasant child? For since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still. Therefore my bowels are troubled for him: I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the Lord."

See Homily on chap. Jer : "AN UNFORGOTTEN PAST," pp. 41, 42, and Noticeable Topic, EARLY PIETY THE BEAUTY OF YOUTH, p. 50.

These questions—"Is Ephraim," &c.—imply that a negative reply might naturally follow. Oh! who could have imagined that, after all this undutifulness, the Father could still regard him as a "pleasant child"?

I. Our sin is enough to estrange the heart of God from us.

II. Yet the Divine heart is tenacious of its cherished child. "How can I give thee up?" "I do earnestly remember him still."

III. Human alienation from God is not oblivion with God. Ephraim might be indifferent to the God he had revolted from and wronged: "God not in all his thoughts;" but God could not forget—"I do earnestly remember." God cannot bury in forgetfulness the child He loves. He "so loved the world," &c.

IV. Infinite grace is intent upon the recovery of the alien child.

1. "My bowels are troubled." God's restless yearning for his return.

2. "I do earnestly remember." "While he was yet a great way off the father saw him."

3. "I will surely have mercy." Quick to relent the moment he repents. God is in no doubt as to how He will receive the sinner. "The father ran, and had compassion upon him, and kissed him."

Jer . Theme: SHEWING EXILES THE WAY HOME. "Set up way-marks."

Keep the lights burning. Lift up the cross! Preach the Gospel still. Declare the precious promises.

I. "Way-marks" would be needed. For they should return from exile.

It is a prophecy. Souls who go astray may return; many shall.

II. "Way-marks" would be helpful. For their long banishment might obliterate the path and obliterate their remembrance. For long absence from God does make the way of right difficult to find.

III. "Way-marks" would be remembrancers, testimonies that God promised their return; for, seeing these "way-marks," they would recall His promises and rejoice in His faithfulness and grace.

Jer . Theme: A RIGHTLY DIRECTED PURPOSE. "Set thine heart toward the highway."

I. There is but one way back to God. "I am the Way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh to the Father but by Me."

II. Misleading paths decoy the steps astray. "There is a way that seemeth right unto a man," &c.; ways of self-reform, sacramental efficacy, &c.

III. A heart intent upon the way marked out for our return to God.

Determined to tread it. Resolute to walk in none other. Earnest to be found therein quickly.

Jer . Theme: A NEW-CREATED WONDER: THE MIRACULOUS CONCEPTION OF CHRIST. "The Lord hath created a new thing in the earth: a woman shall compass a man."

For other interpretations of the words, see Lit Crit. supra.

The words naturally and easily read thus:—Why longer "go about" looking everywhere, anywhere for helpers, as if crying, "Who will show us any good?" leaning on any helpful contingencies which may perchance offer themselves? Stay your hopes on Jehovah; for He has not exhausted His wonderful resources for Israel and humanity. A new era approaches—of grace in Christ Jesus. A new creation shall mark that era—the Incarnation of Christ; when the Virgin Woman shall compass a Man, and give birth to "the Man Christ Jesus."

The ancient Jews acknowledged this interpretation, and applied the words determinately to the Messiah.

Augustine and most of the Christian fathers regarded the verse as predicting the event of the Virgin Mary compassing Christ in her womb.

i. The event was to be WHOLLY UNPRECEDENTED. "A new thing in the earth," and a special Divine "creation." Thus Mary "was found with child of the Holy Ghost" (Mat ). It was an event out of the ordinary course of nature.

ii. PROPHECY HARMONISED with the fact described. The first evangelical promise described Christ as "the Seed of the woman," not of man. So Isa , "A Virgin shall conceive."

iii. There is a SPECIFIC PERSONALITY in the words, "A woman—a man." Both distinct; not any "woman," not an ordinary "man;" but definite, solitary. The Hebrew rendered here "woman" means an individual, and is not the word for "woman" collectively and in plurality. So the Hebrew rendered "man" is properly "mighty MAN," the Geber; and Christ is called in Isa , El Gibbôr. (See also the word in Deu 10:17; Zec 13:7; and cf. Psa 45:3.).

iv. The LOCALISATION OF THE EVENT helps this interpretation. "A new thing in the earth;" literally, in "the land," viz., of Judah, where Christ's conception occurred (cf. Luk ; Luk 1:41).

v. An occult allusion to the SLAUGHTER OF THE INNOCENTS IN BETHLEHEM associates this prediction with the Incarnation. See on Jer .

vi. Such a Messianic promise more fully explains the LONGING OF THE EXILES TO RETURN TO THEIR LAND, because Emmanuel should be born there.

vii. The prophet's vision is through all these verses DIRECTED ON TO THE GOSPEL AGE, when "the new covenant" (Jer seq.) shall dawn upon the world, of which the Incarnate Christ should be the "Alpha and the Omega."

Jer . Comp. Homily on chap. Jer 3:17-18.

Jer . "Satiated the weary soul." Comp. Jer 31:14.

Jer . Theme: SWEET VISIONS OF HUMAN GOOD. "My sleep was sweet unto me." "My sleep"—my prophetic dream. It was a rare experience with Jeremiah to have visions so "sweet;" for usually his messages concerning "the Divine intent" were pensive and sad.

i. Happy outlooks for a woestricken world are sweetest to the Divine seer.

ii. There are gleams of day glory breaking the grim night of the world's distress.

iii. It is in God's purposes of grace, as distinct from man's conduct of sinfulness, that these glad visions of good are possible.

Jer . Theme: EATING SOUR GRAPES: PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY.

Popular sentiments, though crystallised into proverbs, may be misleading. Therefore "prove all things," &c. Both Ezekiel and Jeremiah mention this as a proverb in currency. See, with Jer , Eze 18:2-4.

A law on Sinai that God would "visit the sins of the fathers upon their children."

In distinction from the old covenant, a new dispensation was coming in which INDIVIDUAL RESPONSIBILITY should prevail as the law.

I. Facts in the Divine economy and procedure warranting this prevailing sentiment. "The fathers have eaten a sour grape, and the children's teeth are set on edge."

1. Man's inherited misery through Adam's fall (Rom ; Rom 5:18-19).

2. Great calamities were allowed to engulf the children in the ruin merited only by the fathers.

The Deluge; overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah; destruction of "families" of Corah, Dathan, and Abiram, together with themselves. So, for David's sin in numbering the people, 70,000 of his subjects were slain, himself spared. Manasseh (2Ki ; 2Ki 24:3-4). On the Jewish nation too (Mat 23:34)

3. In civil and social relations the conduct of governors and parents casts its results on the children.

II. A spirit of sinful repining which cast blame upon God. The Jews intended to—

1. Exonerate themselves for their misfortunes. They implied that for no sin of their own were they suffering.

2. Reflect on the wisdom and justice of God. But surely God punishes us less than our iniquities deserve (Ezr ). Even the lost souls must own God just (Rev 16:7). And the day of retribution will prove itself to be "a revelation of the righteous judgment of God" (Rom 2:5).

III. A new era announced of individual responsibility and judgment.

1. God declares what shall be His settled rule of procedure (Jer ). (1.) National and all-embracing judgments shall cease. (2.) Each soul shall stand on its own merits and bear its own responsibility.

2. This law of individuality is to be verified—(1.) In this life (Gal ); (2.) In the future world (Gal 6:7-8).

IV. The awful burden of inevitable personal guilt.

1. Every man must give account of himself, and meet his just condemnation. For—

2. There is none who can stand before God without sin. And

3. Every sinner shall die his due death (Jer ).

4. Can there be found no Sin-Bearer? Yes verily; Christ died "the Just for the unjust" (1Pe ); was "made sin for us" (2Co 5:21). And so we lose our individual curse in the atonement and substitution of Calvary.

Jer . Theme: SALVATION TAKEN INTO GOD'S OWN HANDS. "Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah; not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers, in the day that I took them by the hand, to bring them out of the land of Egypt, which my covenant they brake; though I was a husband unto them, saith the Lord; but this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel: After those days, saith the Lord, I will put My law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be My people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know Me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more."

It is useful to contemplate the duties devolving on us as agents, and the hopes arising from the agency of God. Our text refers to the latter. The old covenant was made with the Hebrews at Sinai, the covenant of grace under types; not an absolute but a conditional covenant, and in this it resembled the law. As a consequence, it is added, "which covenant they brake." But it pleased God to promise a new covenant. In this He shows His own agency on the heart, and takes salvation into His own hands to accomplish it Himself: "They shall be My people and I will be their God." Had a covenant of works been held out offering salvation upon perfect obedience, or a covenant offering pardon to man unassisted, none would have been saved. Both were tried, in Eden and at Sinai. The covenant made with Abraham still exists. Let us show—

I. According to the plan of grace revealed in the Gospel, GOD HAS TAKEN THE WORK OF SALVATION INTO HIS OWN HANDS.

II. THIS LAYS THE ONLY FOUNDATION FOR HOPE.

I. According to plan of grace in Gospel, God has taken the work of salvation into His own hands. The great design originated in the mind of God, it was His own choice and purpose, induced by a regard for His own glory and compassion for a sinful world. He organised the plan alone. Eternal ages before man was, the covenant of redemption between the Sacred Persons was formed, and all circumstances relating to the salvation of the world were settled. Man was then made, and fell; when an intimation of the purpose was made to him. Jesus Christ came in due time to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. He rose from the dead for our justification. All this was done by God independently of His creatures. The Holy Spirit was sent out to subdue as many as the Father had given Christ. Through human instrumentality the world was enlightened by the preaching of the Word. The creation, care, support, and enlargement of the Christian Church was undertaken by the Trinity. In like manner God takes the salvation of every believer individually into His own hands.

II. That God has taken the work of delivering His own people into His own hands, is the only foundation of human hope. This doctrine is sweet to the Christian, but opposed by the proud; for had not God contrived and executed this plan, no provision could have been made for the salvation of man; and, beset as he is from without and within, he can only find help from the God of his salvation.

1. The Christian who feels his own weakness, and discerns the power of his enemies, resorts to this truth as the only ground for hope. "The salvation of the righteous is of the Lord," and they feel that God can shield them from every enemy.

2. Those who would rather trust themselves than God, reject this truth; while the only encouragement for Christians to "work out their own salvation" is that "God worketh in them."

3. This doctrine also affords encouragement to the Church generally. While looking upon the many who know not God, we can be sustained by nothing but the trust that the work of saving men is God's work alone. In commending our loved ones to God, we feel peace in the knowledge that "God has taken their salvation into His own hands." Ministers of God's people, be content to leave their salvation there; it is His work and His cause. Pious and trembling ones, dwell upon this truth to your comfort; and to the unrenewed I would say, remember you are in God's hands. Return unto the Lord, for He will have mercy upon you, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.—Ancient MS.

Jer . "Which covenant they brake, although I was a husband unto them." Comp. Homily on chap. Jer 3:14.

Jer . The new covenant. Comp. Homily on chap. Jer 3:16.

Jer . Theme: Is THE OLD COVENANT ABANDONED? "Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers."

I. The covenant God made at the first with His people is not contradicted and destroyed by the new.

1. God had not changed His purpose, as if he had forgotten His faithfulness. The first covenant with Abraham was inviolable.

2. The law was a confirmation of, and based upon, that covenant. Consequently, God can make no new law inconsistent with the old.

3. Christians, under the new covenant, are partakers of that old and original Abrahamic covenant, are called "children of Abraham;" will be "gathered into Abraham's bosom;" and shall "come from the east and west," &c., "and sit down with Abraham," &c.

These considerations show that God never abrogated the covenant made with Abraham and confirmed by and to Moses.

II. In what sense God has made a "new covenant" with His people. Here premising that—

1. The substance, or doctrine, remains the same; for God in the Gospel brings forward nothing but what the law contains. But—

2. In the form, or expression of the doctrine, all is new. Thus Christ, as substitute; Holy Spirit's renewing grace; and the whole method of teaching men God's will: these are new.

(a.) Thus, God made a new covenant when He accomplished through His Son what had been foreshadowed forth under the law.

(b.) Further, it was a new thing that God, by the regeneration of the Holy Spirit, made the covenant, not only strike the ear, but penetrate the heart.

(c.) The outward mode of teaching is also new; for, comparing the law with the Gospel, we find that God speaks to us openly now, as it were face to face (2Co ); for the veil is removed, and God in the face of Christ presents Himself to be seen by us.—Arranged from Calvin.

Jer . Theme: "MY LAW IN THEIR HEARTS."

No longer a Sinaitic code of morals, external to man and enforced upon him; but an inner force, an inspiration of love, constraining the soul into sweet consent. The sermon on the mount is the old Mosaic law—but transfigured by love; speaking to the very heart of man in tones of mighty tenderness.

I. If God's commandments are to sway the whole being of a man, they must move the inmost affections.

1. "Laws," which only speak to the ear, and demand an unwilling attention, can affect men but feebly. But the voice of God is powerful in a soul when it finds its way inward to the affections, and speaks in tones which stir the keenest and strongest emotions.

2. The "new covenant" laws are voices of love from God, full of infinite tenderness and grace, and go deeper into the soul than commandments; they are more penetrating than a mother's words. God speaks to the heart in the Gospel.

3. These laws of love—"Thou shalt love the Lord," &c.; for "God is love"—which constitute the Gospel covenant, do rule the soul from within by the impulses and affections which they awaken. "We love Him, because He first loved us." His laws are impressed upon our very hearts.

II. If man's obedience to God is to be complete—the obedience of a willing soul, glad to obey—the inmost affections must move him thereto.

1. "Duty" is cold and hard as an inspiration to conduct. It awakens no enthusiasm, no delight, no eager volition in the soul. It enforces itself upon us, not awakens response within us.

2. But "laws" (interpreted and emphasised as they are in the life of Jesus—calling us to obedience for love of Him, and inspired with grandeur as they are in the cross of Christ—declaring the infinite importance to the sinner that he should not sin, but should obey and live)—laws of God thus enforced cast their pathos upon the heart of even the disobedient and stir to response.

3. The affections won by Christ's personally obedient example and substitutionary death for man's disobedience, prompt the soul to willing anxious concern to do the will of God with fervour and delight. His laws are obeyed from the heart.

III. Hence, love awakened within a soul is a grander force and a surer guarantee of full obedience to law than the sense of duty however majestically enforced.

1. The cross raised on Calvary is therefore a grander motive than the tables of stone given on Sinai.

2. Humanity can be drawn into allegiance to God more effectually and surely by the allurements of love than by the demands and threatenings of law.

3. The new covenant, therefore, supersedes the reign of penalty, with its appeals to duty and fear, by the reign of grace, in which the heart is won to glad obedience, inspired by gratitude and love.

Jer . Theme: UNIVERSAL KNOWLEDGE OF THE LORD. "And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord; for they shall all know Me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord."

1. Its primary application is to the enlightenment of Israel. They shall know Christ as the Lord (Isa ).

2. Its secondary reference is to all believers, who come to see Christ for themselves as their Saviour, Lord, and God (Joh ; 1Co 2:10; 1Jn 2:2; 1Jn 2:20).

3. Its widest meaning is the ingathering of all people to the "one faith" (Psa ).

I. By a Divine plan of instruction men shall be taught.

1. It is slow and feeble work this winning men by man's teaching.

2. Not that the office of teaching will cease under the Gospel dispensation.

3. But the Divine Spirit will become the world's Teacher, showing Christ to men.

4. And a purer light will by that Spirit shine in upon the human conscience, revealing to the sinner more clearly his state, his need, and the remedy of the cross.

II. With an all-embracing inclusiveness men shall be taught.

1. National barriers and distinctions shall no longer limit the spread of true religion. The Gospel shall be "unto all people."

2. Social and educational divisions shall be utterly disregarded in the Divine diffusion of light. "Things despised" will be equally blessed with Divine light—"the least of them" as "things mighty"—"the greatest of them." For "God is no respecter of persons."

3. Childhood shall gather under the lustre of Christian knowledge as much as maturity; for Christ shall enfold the lambs, and the "little ones" shall be in "the kingdom of heaven"—"the least of them."

III. Into a clearer knowledge of God men shall be led. "All shall know Me."

1. Sinai's revelations and Prophecy's dim teachings failed to reveal God fully to the soul. They were but faint gleamings (Exo ).

2. The Person of Christ—His life, teachings, character, and death—unveils God clearly to man (Joh ).

3. By the Spirit's illumination a familiar, happy, and satisfactory realisation of God is brought to each believing soul (1Jn ).

Jer . Theme: GOD'S GUARANTEE TO HIS CHURCH. In prophecy we see the purposes of God unfolded, and, comparing past and passing events, see God so ordering every incident for the fulfilment of His purposes. Note—

i. With what majesty and glory the Almighty describes Himself!

ii. With what solemnity He enforces His declarations, equivalent even to oaths!

iii. And all this in order to assure His people of His exhaustless and inalienable mercy!

I. Contemplate the grandeur of these assurances of Jehovah to His people.

1. In their historic reference to Israel literally.

(1.) Their imperishable security; they shall always be under His care. So that, while other nations have become obliterated, they shall never be. Though their sins provoked Him to utterly cast them off, they should be restored to His favour as of old.

(2.) God's infinite resources on their behalf. "The Lord, which giveth the sun," &c.; the almightiness of Jehovah; "the Lord of Hosts is His name."

(3.) The inviolability of God's covenant with them. If impossibilities can be, "the heavens be measured," &c., then this impossibility may happen, that God would sever His people from Himself, the people He betrothed in an everlasting covenant!

Note:—History confirms these ancient assurances of God to Israel. During their captivity in Babylon the nation kept its nationality intact, and were restored to Canaan. And even now, though for 1800 years Israel and Judah are scattered, God preserves them "a peculiar people;" and signs are not wanting that the "lost" ten tribes are still in distinct existence.

They are still "beloved for the fathers' sake;" and God's "gifts and calling are without repentance" (Isa ).

2. In their larger application to the Church of God spiritually.

(1.) Guarded by the unfailing care of the Lord. "The gates of hell shall not prevail;" "Not one of them shall be lost."

(2.) All the guarantees of Deity are pledged to its security. "My Father who gave them to Me is greater than all, and none shall pluck them out of My Father's hand: I and My Father are one!"

(3.) With inviolable fidelity Christ's people are bound to Him. Not a jot or tittle of His word shall fail: "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My word shall not pass away." "Lo, I am with you alway, even to the end of the world."

II. Ponder the value of these assurances of Jehovah to His people. To Israel indeed literally belongs these "covenants and promises;" yet Christians have a joint heritage in them; for Paul assures us that "God, willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath: that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before us" (Heb ).

1. By whom, then, may these assurances be appropriated? "All the promises of God are in Christ, Yea; and in Him, Amen, unto the glory of God by us." Only those who are "in Christ" themselves can "inherit the promises" which are assured in Him.

2. For what purposes should these assurances be appropriated? For our enduring consolation amid all distresses, persecutions, &c. (Rom ); yet not for delusive self-security and presumption. Unless we keep ourselves distinct from the world, as do the Jews as a nation, but distinct for our piety (2Co 6:17; Jas 1:27), we forfeit all part in the assurance that God will keep us perpetually before Him as His people.

3. In what spirit, then, should these assurances be appropriated? With faith in God's word (Joh ); with joyous hope (Rom 5:2); with lowly watchfulness (Rom 11:20).

Compare with the above Simeon's Outline, on which this is based.

Jer . Theme: THE REBUILDING OF JERUSALEM, BOTH LITERALLY AND SPIRITUALLY.

Wordsworth here points out—

I. The city is here said to be built to the Lord (Jer ). It is dedicated to Him. The Church ( κυριακή) is the house of the Lord. It is called by His name, consecrated to His glory and service. Its name is Jehovah Shammah, "The Lord is there" (Eze 48:35).

II. Taken in its literal sense, this prophecy foretels that Jerusalem shall be rebuilt in all its extent, from the tower of Hanameel, on the north-east (see Neh ; Neh 12:39) to the gate of the corner, on the north-west (2Ki 14:13; 2Ch 26:9). Comp. Zec 14:10. This was effected by Nehemiah.

III. But this was figurative of the greater rebuilding, when Jesus Christ built up the ruins of our fallen nature, and raised up the walls of the spiritual Jerusalem, His universal Church.

1. The names Hanameel and Gate of the Corner have a symbolical sense, suited to this fulfilment. "Hanameel" = graciously given by God. The building of the spiritual Jerusalem (so Jerome suggests) begins with the free grace of God (Tit ; Tit 3:4-8), and extends to the gate of the Corner, Christ being the elect "Corner-stone;" for He is the "Corner" in which the walls of both peoples—Jew and Gentile—meet in one, cemented together in Him (Psa 118:22; Isa 28:16; Mat 21:42; 1Pe 3:6).

2. Similarly the names "hill Gareb and Goath" have a symbolical significance. These names are nowhere found in Scripture, and have no actual localisation; the reason, therefore, for the choice of such names is that we should not look to the letter but to the spirit[!] Mystical names were thus sometimes used by prophets (Son ; Son 6:12; Jer 25:26; Eze 39:11, &c.)

But "Gareb" means a leper, and leprosy was a type of sin; while "Goath" is supposed by some to be the same as Golgotha or Calvary. Leprosy is the ban of death; but Christ by death "abolished death," whereas on Calvary was opened "the fountain for sin," and so sin and death found a remedy in Christ.

Thus the Christian Church, which has its origin and centre in Zion, extends its walls with a living and gracious energy to enfold the hill Gareb, and even Goath itself.

IV. Further, in Jer , it is affirmed that "the whole valley of the dead bodies"—the loathsome and idolatrous valley of Hinnom, and even "all the fields unto the brook Kidron"—to which all the abominations of idolatry were brought and burned (2Ki 23:4-6), i.e., all things most unclean by nature and by human corruption, will be purged from all impurity, and cleansed by the blood of Christ and the outpouring of the Spirit of holiness in the Christian Church, and so be made "holy unto the Lord" (Zec 14:20-21; Joe 3:17; Isa 52:1, &c.)

This has been fulfilled, and is in course of fulfilment in the transformation of heathen basilicas and temples (as the Pantheon of Rome and the Parthenon of Theseus at Athens) into Christian Churches, and the conversion of heathen cities and nations unto Christ. The cross of Christ stands in the Colosseum, where Christian martyrs were formerly cast to the lions; and it surmounts the obelisks of Egypt; and human nature, once the stronghold of Satan, has now become the shrine of Deity by the incarnation of the Son of God,—Wordsworth's Commentary.

Note.—Dr. Payne Smith remarks: "The main point in Jeremiah's description of the New Jerusalem is not its great extent, though it would have covered somewhat more space than the old city, and much more than Nehemiah included within his walls, but that it took in and consecrated spots which previously had been unclean. If we compare this with Zec , the conclusion seems evident that Jeremiah's words are to be spiritually understood. His city is one that renders what was before unclean ‘holy unto Jehovah.' (Comp. with this John's New Jerusalem, especially Rev 21:27.)"

Jer . THE PERPETUITY OF THE SPIRITUAL JERUSALEM. "It shall not be plucked up nor thrown down any more for ever."

Calvin comments: "The promise of perpetual favour is added; for it would not be sufficient to have God's mercy promised us for a short time. The city indeed was again destroyed by Titus, and at length wholly demolished by Adrian; but God gave some taste of His favour, in the external aspect of the city, till Christ came; but after Christ was manifested, the heavenly Jerusalem became the object to be sought, and then all types and shadows ceased.

"This promise pledges the perpetuity of the Church; for though God may permit it to be terribly shaken, and Satan and all the world may daily threaten its ruin, yet the Lord will preserve it to the end, so that it shall never perish."

ADDENDA TO CHAP. 31: ILLUSTRATIONS AND SUGGESTIVE EXTRACTS

Jer . EVERLASTING LOVE. A father, whose affluence was considerable, mourned over a reckless son, whose misconduct brought shame upon himself and family. From home the prodigal went into another country, and for years he was lost to his relatives. A chance occurring, he sent by a friend this message, should he meet his boy, "Your father loves you still." The bearer sought him long and in vain. At last he saw him enter a house of vice, and called him; and there, at a late hour of evening, he delivered this message. The dissolute gambler's heart was touched. The thought that his father still loved him, and wished to forgive him, broke the spell of Satan. He abandoned his profligacy and returned to his father. Oh! the power of such a message of inalienable love from God!

"Could we with ink the ocean fill,

Were the whole world of parchment made,

Were every single grass a quill,

And every man a scribe by trade:

To write the love

Of God above

Would drain the ocean dry,

Nor could the scroll

Contain the whole,

Though stretched from earth to sky."

"Not as the world loves doth God love. They love to-day and hate tomorrow, wearing their friends like flowers, which we may behold in their bosoms whilst they are fresh and sweet, but soon they wither and then are laid aside. Whereas the love of God to His people is everlasting, and He wears them as a signet upon His right hand, which He will never part with."—White.

Jer . TEARS OF PENITENCE. A saint's tears are better than a sinner's triumphs. Bernard saith, Lachrymœ pœnitentium sunt vinum angelorum: "The tears of penitents are the wine of angels."—Secker.

Jer . CONFESSION: "Bemoaning himself." If I am working beside a man, and I see that he tries to shirk his work upon me, I am angry with him. But if he says to me, "I am ill and cannot work," then the thought comes to me at once, "You shall not work; I will help you." And so, if a man says to us, "I know I did wrong, but I am weak; blame me as little as you can, but help me out as much as you can"—the very confession disarms us, and we think better of him than we did before. Therefore it is that God so exhorts us to confess our sins to Him.

—H. Ward Beecher.

"All-powerful is the penitential sigh

Of true contrition; like the placid wreaths

Of incense, wafted from the righteous shrine

Where Abel ministered, to the blest seat

Of Mercy, an accepted sacrifice,

Humiliation's conscious plaint ascends."

—Hayes.

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Jeremiah 31:4". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/phc/jeremiah-31.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, October 16th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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