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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae
Jeremiah 3

 

 

Verse 11

DISCOURSE: 1032

COMPARATIVE CRIMINALITY

Jeremiah 3:11. And the Lord said unto me, The backsliding Israel hath justified herself more than treacherous Judah.

THE subject of comparative criminality is one on which we should enter with the greatest care, because it is rarely thought of but in a way of self-preference and self-complacency; and where these feelings are generated in the soul, the most incalculable injury has been sustained. We are told by St. Paul, that “they who measure themselves by themselves, and compare themselves among themselves, are not wise [Note: 2 Corinthians 10:12.].” Yet, for the purpose of augmenting our humiliation before God, we may, not unprofitably, consider our own superior guilt, as Israel of old were taught to do, when God spake to the prophet the words which we have just read. Both Israel and Judah had sinned grievously against him: Israel more openly; and Judah in somewhat of a more covert way: but God declared, that, notwithstanding all that might be thought to the contrary, the criminality of Judah exceeded that of Israel.

That we may learn how to judge ourselves, I shall first state, and then confirm, this decision of our God. Let me then,

I. State this decision of the Lord—

[Consider what was the state of the parties concerned. Israel, or the ten tribes, had cast off God, from the first moment that they became a nation: and they persisted in their idolatries, till they provoked God to give them up into the hands of their Assyrian enemies. As their injured husband, he gave them a bill of divorce, and would no longer acknowledge them under the relation of a spouse. Judah, on the contrary, had retained the worship of the True God; though they retained their idols, and paid divine honours unto Malcham [Note: Zephaniah 1:5.]. Because of their apparent superiority to Israel, they would scarcely so much as own their relation to her [Note: Ezekiel 33:26.]. But if their sins were somewhat less ostensible, they were committed with tenfold greater aggravations before God. Their advantages had been incomparably greater, because of the numbers of prophets that were sent to them, and the stated ordinances which they enjoyed, and the presence of God that was in the midst of them: and, inasmuch as these advantages were altogether despised amongst them, their guilt was the greater: so that it might well be said of Judah, “Israel hath justified herself more than treacherous Judah.” This judgment indeed was not exactly what Judah would have formed, nor what would approve itself, at first sight, to any amongst ourselves. We should have been ready to think that any religion was better than none; and that even the appearance of regard for God was better than an avowed contempt of him. This, however, was not God’s judgment respecting it: he decided rather against the form, which was destitute of the power of godliness; and declared that “backsliding Israel had justified herself more than treacherous Judah.”]

Now, this decision being of general importance, I will proceed to,

II. Confirm it—

It is generally thought that a profession of religion, even though it be insincere, is more pleasing to God than an open contempt of all religion. But God has determined otherwise; and has declared, that specious insincerity is worse than open profaneness, because,

1. It argues a deeper depravity of heart—

[Ungodly men persist in their impieties, without much reflection upon the guilt they contract, or the judgments they incur — — — They rush, for the most part, into sin, “like a horse into the battle.” But a man professing godliness shews that he has some sense of his duty, and some desire to secure his eternal interests. Hence, in him, sin finds a conflict which it finds not in others. In him “the spirit lusts against the flesh, as well as the flesh against the spirit.” He has somewhat of a conscience, which remonstrates against his evil ways: and he is constrained to stupify and sear his conscience, in order to obtain any release from the terrors with which he is assaulted in his prospects of a future judgment. He wishes indeed to save appearances, and to satisfy his own conscience: but this only proves the more fully the inveteracy of his lusts, which are able to prevail over such weighty considerations. He knows what sin deserves; and yet commits it: he knows what sin has brought on others; and yet ventures to indulge in it. His sin, therefore, notwithstanding his plausibility, is so much the more heinous, in proportion as it is committed against light and knowledge, against mercies and judgments, and against the motions of God’s Holy Spirit within him. In the passage before us, this is marked with very extraordinary force. Within the space of five verses, Israel is characterized four times as “backsliding;” and Judah no less than five times as “treacherous.” Now, in the estimation of all, a traitor is accounted worse than a rebel; and an adulterous wife more guilty than a licentious prostitute. The relation in which they stand to their Lord, the obligations which they owe him, and the professions which they make of their regard for his honour, greatly aggravate the wickedness which they contract: and exactly thus do the transgressions of a religious professor exceed in enormity those committed by a mere worldly character [Note: Amos 3:2.].]

2. It casts more dishonour upon God—

[A man who follows his own will, without restraint, does indeed cast off the yoke of God, and shews that he is determined to brave all the consequences of his transgression. But a religious professor says, in effect, to all around him, ‘I am God’s servant; and I render to him all the service he requires, and all that he deserves. I know my duty towards him; and I perform it.’ But what a shameful reflection does this cast on God! What! Does he require no more than this? Then he can never be considered as “glorious in holiness.” And does he deserve no more than this? Then surely he has but little excellency in himself, and has done but little for us. But what horrible impiety is there in such insinuations as these! I had almost said, that the greatest enormities, in one who is professedly ungodly, are light in comparison of those which such a professor commits: and without hesitation will I declare, that Sodom and Gomorrha, with all their abominations, shall fare better, in the day of judgment, than he [Note: Matthew 11:24.].]

3. It does more extensive injury to man—

[Who thinks of pouring contempt on God on account of the impieties of a profane character? But let a man, who makes a profession of religion, transgress, and immediately religion itself is condemned, and “the way of truth is evil spoken of” on his account; yea, and the very name of God himself also is blasphemed. If the faults of such an one be of a more venial kind, then the world plead his example, and think themselves at liberty to do, every day of their lives, what he has done occasionally under the influence of temptation: or, if his sins be more heinous, then all religious people are regarded as hypocrites for his sake; and the ungodly harden themselves in their wickedness, and account themselves quite as good as those who make a profession of religion. Truly, to cast such a stumbling-block before men is a fearful evil; and the certainty of such effects renders the sins of religious persons far more criminal than those who live altogether as without God in the world.]

Address—

1. Those who are careless about religion—

[You are ready to justify yourselves on this ground, that you make no profession of religion, and therefore are not hypocrites. But if we acknowledge that you are not so criminal as some others, yet look at the judgments executed on Israel, and see what you yourselves must expect. Truly, a bill of divorce is that which must be put into your bosom; and an eternal separation from your God will ensue — — — But see the invitation given you from the Lord [Note: ver. 12.] — — — and turn unto him whilst yet his arms are open to receive you — — —]

2. Those who make a profession of religion—

Take particular notice what Judah’s sin was: it was, that “she turned not to the Lord with her whole heart, but feignedly.” Now it is with your whole heart, that you must turn to God, if ever you would be approved by him. God said respecting Laodicea, “I would thou wert cold or hot: and because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.” Be not satisfied, then, with a lukewarm state: but give yourselves wholly to the Lord, and serve and glorify him with your whole hearts — — —]


Verses 12-15

DISCOURSE: 1033

GOD’S INVITATION TO HIS PEOPLE

Jeremiah 3:12-15. Go, and proclaim these words toward the north; and say, Return, thou backsliding Israel, saith the Lord, and I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you: for I am merciful, saith the Lord, and I will not keep anger for ever. Only acknowledge thine iniquity, that thou hast transgressed against the Lord thy God, and hast scattered thy ways to the strangers under every green tree, and ye have not obeyed my voice, saith the Lord. Turn, O backsliding children, saith the Lord; for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion: and I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.

IF we would see the Divine character exhibited in the brightest possible colours, we need go no further than to the passage before us, with the preceding and following context. Let any one read the second and third chapters, with the two first verses of the fourth chapter, and he will be perfectly amazed at the condescension and kindness of God; who, having expostulated with the Jews on account of their multiplied transgressions, urges them, by every argument that can be devised, to give up themselves unto him: and when no consideration that he can offer appears to affect them, he determines to take to him his great power, and, by an act of sovereign and Almighty grace, to constrain them to return unto him: “Thou shalt call me, My Father; and shalt not turn away from me [Note: ver. 19.].” In this way he prevails over them:

Behold, we come unto thee; for thou art the Lord our God [Note: ver. 22.].” No sooner does God behold this purpose formed in the minds of his rebellious people, than he says, “If thou wilt return, O Israel, return unto me.” But I shall confine myself to the passage which I have read; which is, in fact, an epitome of the whole: and I shall consider it,

I. As addressed to God’s ancient people—

They are here addressed as a “backsliding” people—

[This is a metaphor taken from oxen, which refuse to draw in the yoke that is put upon them [Note: Hosea 4:16.]. God had taken them to him as his people, and nourished them for his own; but they rebelled against him, and would never execute his commands [Note: Isaiah 1:2-3.].]

Yet he sends to them messages of mercy, and not of judgment—

[“Go,” says he to his chosen servants, “go, and proclaim to them these words; Return thou backsliding Israel, saith the Lord.” Well might he have cast them off utterly. But he delighteth in mercy, and “willeth not the death of any sinner, but rather that he turn from his wickedness and live.” By many prophets did he thus invite them to return [Note: 2 Chronicles 36:15.], whilst they even “wearied him” with their obstinacy [Note: Isaiah 43:24.].]

One thing only he requires; namely, that they shall humble themselves before him—

[“Only acknowledge thine iniquity.” This was indispensable. God could not, consistently with his own honour, receive them, whilst they continued to harden themselves in their wickedness. They must call to mind their offences, which had been of such enormous magnitude: they must spread them before the Lord with penitential sorrow, and implore mercy at his hands. This was all that God expected of them. To compensate for their wickedness was impossible; but to confess it, and to humble themselves on account of it, was necessary, before they could hope for pardon from their God.]

To prevail upon them, he urges the most affecting considerations:

1. The merciful disposition which, notwithstanding their iniquities, he felt towards them—

[God is indeed slow to anger, and “rich in mercy to all who call upon him.” When he proclaimed his name to Moses, this was the attribute by which he was to be chiefly known; “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin [Note: Exodus 34:6-7.].” Indeed this is the argument by which men are influenced, far more than by the terrors of God’s avenging wrath. These, though proper to be urged in their place, operate for the most part, like the storm which makes the traveller wrap his cloak the more closely round him; whereas mercy, like the sun, penetrates with a kindly and genial influence, and induces him willingly, and of his own accord, to cast it from him. By this, therefore, does God chiefly endeavour to reclaim his obstinately offending people.]

2. The relation under which, notwithstanding their departure from him, he still regarded them—

[He often calls himself “the Husband” of his ancient people [Note: Isaiah 54:5. Jeremiah 31:32. Hosea 2:19-20.]. And here he urges that relation as an inducement to them to comply with his merciful and gracious invitations. Amongst men, such transgressions as God’s people had committed must have issued in an irreversible divorce: but with God no such impediment existed: he could, consistently with his own honour, re-admit them to his embrace; and he declares himself willing and desirous to restore them to all the privileges and blessings of a most beloved spouse.]

3. The benefits which he was still ready to confer upon them—

[They, like sheep, had gone astray from him; and he sought them out with all diligence: and if the whole flock would return unto him, most gladly would he receive them all [Note: Ezekiel 34:12-14.]. But if only a small remnant of them would return; if only “one of a city, and two of a tribe,” would come; he would not, on that account, reject them. On the contrary, he would appoint over them “pastors, according to his heart, who should teed them with knowledge and understanding [Note: Jeremiah 23:3-4.].”

Now this, I conceive, marks particularly the aspect which this passage has on the future restoration of the Jews: for not only is Israel here united with Judah (which shews that the passage was not fully accomplished at their return from Babylon), but there were not, previous to our Lord’s advent, nor have there been at any time since, to the Jewish nation at large, any such stated pastors appointed as exist in the Christian Church: but, so far as they have returned to God through Christ, so far has this benefit been accorded to them: and so far as they shall yet be brought to Christ, they shall live in the enjoyment of it, and possess all the blessings that result from a stated and faithful ministry.]

Thus does God, by all these kind and affecting arguments, urge his ancient people to return unto him—

But the passage may also be considered,

II. As addressed to ourselves at this day—

Blameable as it is to overlook God’s ancient people in their own prophecies, or to pass them over as not deserving our attention, it would be still more blameable so to limit the prophecies to former ages, as to overlook their aspect on the Christian Church, and the still fuller accomplishment which they shall receive in the latter-day. The passage before us may doubtless be properly applied to us as well as to the Jews: for to us pertain,

1. The same duties—

[We have been “a backsliding people.” Who amongst us is not conscious that he has not put forth his strength in the service of his God? Our Lord has told us, that “his yoke is easy, and his burthen is light:” yet who amongst us has delighted to fulfil his will, and execute his commands? Say, Brethren, whether, instead of devoting yourselves wholly to the Lord, and living altogether for him, ye have not in many things transgressed against him, and manifested an insuperable reluctance to that holy and heavenly course which he has prescribed? — — —

To you, then, as God’s servant, I come; and, as commissioned by him, I “proclaim, in his sacred name, Return,” and yield up yourselves unfeignedly to him. Indeed ye must “return,” if ever ye would obtain mercy at his hands. Yes, ye must return in a way of penitential sorrow, confessing your sins, and humbling yourselves before him. Nor is it in a way of general humiliation only, but of particular confession. Many are the sins which all of us have committed; many which, though unknown to man, are known to God, and recorded against us in the book of his remembrance. He has seen us, when lying upon our bed: the darkness has been no darkness with him: he has seen the inmost recesses of our hearts, and has beheld our every thought and every desire. But, whether we have committed more flagrant transgressions or not, this is clear and undeniable, that “we have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God.” If we try ourselves by the requirements of his Law and of his Gospel, we shall see that, in instances without number, “we have sinned, and come short of the glory of God:” and, under a sense of our defects, we must abase ourselves before him, even as holy Job did, in dust and ashes — — —]

2. The Same encouragements—

To us does God send the same gracious invitations—

[To us, as well as to his ancient people, is he rich in mercy, and ready to forgive. Not one of us would he reject, if only we would come to him in his Son’s name [Note: John 6:37.]. No, Brethren, “his anger should not fall upon you,” even though your transgressions may have been ever so great, or ever so long continued in: on the contrary, he would act towards you the part of the father in the parable; and would, upon the very first approach of your hearts towards him, “run to meet you, and fall on your neck and kiss you, and clothe you in the best robe and kill the fatted calf, and make merry with you” — — —

And does he not stand in the relation of a husband to you? Yes, he does; and will still recognise you as his spouse, notwithstanding all your past unfaithfulness. You remember that our blessed Lord is frequently called “the Bridegroom” of his Church [Note: Matthew 9:15. John 3:29. Revelation 21:2; Revelation 21:9.]. St. Paul, when apparently setting forth the duties of husband and wife, declares that, in reality, “he spake of Christ and his Church [Note: Ephesians 5:32.].” Now, under this relation, does he desire to receive you, notwithstanding all that you have done amiss. I wish that every one of you could realize this figure. Conceive of a woman who had departed from her husband, and greatly dishonoured him by the most licentious habits. Suppose a friend of her husband commissioned to seek for her, and to inform her, with all imaginable tenderness, that her husband was willing to receive her again; that he would freely pardon all her misconduct, and never upbraid her with it even to his dying hour. What would be the feelings of a woman under those circumstances, especially if she was not wholly abandoned to her evil ways? Now such I would wish to be the feelings of every one amongst you, and such the interest in the message now delivered to you. I pray you, Brethren, consider this as the very case with you; and let the advice which you yourselves would give to a woman so circumstanced, be that which you will carry into effect on the present occasion — — —

With all needful benefits, too, shall you be loaded. What can a straying sheep need more, than to be brought in safety to the fold, and to be put under the care of a faithful shepherd that will supply its every want? Such are the benefits that shall be accorded to you. What, though there should be only “one or two” of you so disposed? Shall you, therefore, be disregarded by your God? No: your heavenly Shepherd will take you up in his arms, and “carry you home on his shoulders, rejoicing:” and he will appoint over you “pastors, according to his heart, to feed you with knowledge and understanding,” The benefit of a faithful ministry is by no means justly appreciated by the world at large. But to those who have been “brought home to Zion,” it is a mercy of inestimable value. Greatly does a stated ministry, where the pastor is really after God’s heart, tend to the edification and comfort of God’s faithful people; and you, Beloved, if you will truly return to God, shall find that the word preached to you from time to time shall “accomplish in you all the good pleasure of his goodness;” and prove “the power of God to the salvation of your souls” — — —]

Coming now back to the subject as first proposed, I would say unto you,

1. Be like-minded with God, in reference to his ancient people—

[See what tender regard God shewed towards them in the days of old: and the same anxiety does he still express for their welfare: for, as I have before observed, the message sent to them has respect to a period yet future, when they shall assuredly obey the call delivered to them. And if God, who has been so greatly offended by them, and whose only dear Son “they slew, and hanged on a tree;” if He, I say, yet regards them with such tender compassion, what ought ye to do, whom they have never offended, and who are in the same condemnation with them? In truth, the command of God is given to you, and to all who have access to them in their present dispersion; “Go, and proclaim to them” the mercy of their God: go, and invite them, by every tender consideration that is proposed to them in the inspired volume: and if ye say, ‘I cannot hope to prevail upon them;’ let it suffice if you can prevail on “one of a city, and two of a whole tribe.” You are not taught at first to expect the conversion of the whole nation; you are told only to look for them as “the gleanings of an olive-tree, two or three upon the top of the uppermost bough, four or five on the outmost fruitful branches thereof [Note: Isaiah 17:6.].” And if that satisfy God, shall it not satisfy you? Will ye not endeavour to get in the first-fruits, because ye are not yet privileged to reap the whole harvest? I say then, have compassion on them in their low estate: or, if ye have no pity for them, at least perform the office which is here assigned to you, of bringing back to Jehovah the wife that has forsaken him, and whom lie desires to restore to all her former honour and felicity — — — If ye say, ‘We cannot get access to them, to deliver these gracious tidings;’ let not that be any excuse for your indifference: for there are many who are at this moment employed in this very office; and if you exercise liberality to send them forth, there will be many others who will gladly go to them, and proclaim to them according to the message which is here put in their mouth. Too long have the Christian world neglected this duty: I pray you, arise to the discharge of it: and know, for your comfort, that the efforts already made, have prevailed to the full extent of the encouragement here afforded us — — —]

2. Be examples to them of all that you require at their hands—

[Do you bid them “return?” Let them see that you have returned, in deed and in truth, to the very bosom of your God. Do you bid them “acknowledge their iniquity?” Let them see you walking humbly with God; and “sowing daily in tears,” that you may be privileged at last to “reap in joy.” Above all, be ye as a wife that has returned to her husband. There is not an image in the world that so fitly marks the Christian’s state as this. It may be thought that the conduct of a loving and obedient wife, who lives only for her husband, is a proper pattern for a Christian towards his God and Saviour: but, lovely as that is, it comes far short of the Christian’s spirit: for, superadded to all the love and fidelity of a duteous wife, there must be in that a continual sense of all our past unfaithfulness. A wife so restored, would never for a moment forget what she had been, and what she had done, whilst separated from her husband: and every act of love on his part would only fill her with deeper self-lothing and self-abhorrence, for having ever so dishonoured one who deserved such different conduct at her hands. Now, get into this spirit; never exalting yourselves above the poor fallen Jew, or above the vilest of the human race. This is the walk that is most pleasing to God. This is the walk that will be ever accompanied with the most earnest efforts to honour God, and will lead to the highest possible attainments in every grace. So make your light to shine, before them, and they will see and know that “God is with you of a truth.”]


Verse 19

DISCOURSE: 1034

THE TRUE SOURCE OF SALVATION

Jeremiah 3:19. I said, How shall I put thee among the children, and give thee a pleasant land, a goodly heritage of the hosts of nations? And said, Thou shalt call me, My Father; and shalt not turn away from me.

IN many parts of the inspired volume, God is pleased to speak of himself after the manner of men; as though he were on some occasions reduced, as it were, to extremities, and at a loss how to act. Thus, by the prophet Hosea, he expresses himself as almost necessitated to cast off his people for their wickedness, but yet as not knowing how to bring his mind to execute on them so severe a judgment: “How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? How shall I deliver thee up, Israel? How shall I make thee as Ephraim? How shall I set thee as Zeboim,” even as those ill-fated cities that were destroyed together with Sodom and Gomorrha [Note: Hosea 11:8.]? So, on the other hand, by Jeremiah, he speaks as equally at a loss how to exercise towards them the mercy which he was inclined to bestow: “How shall I put thee among the children, and give thee a pleasant land, a goodly heritage of the hosts of nations?”

This, however applicable to the people amongst whom the prophet ministered, had, beyond all doubt, a reference to a period yet future, even to events that should take place in the latter day. Then will “the ark of the covenant,” that bright symbol of the Divine presence, be altogether forgotten by the Jews, and all the worship connected with it be utterly renounced; the people being desirous only to “worship God in spirit and in truth.” At that period they will have ceased to “walk after the imagination of their own evil heart;” and the ten tribes of Israel will partake with Judah in all the blessings accorded to them [Note: ver. 16–18.]. Hitherto these events have never occurred. But the time is fast approaching, when, in every particular they shall be fulfilled. True, it appears almost impossible that they should be realized: but God here declares, that they shall be accomplished in their season. In confirmation of this promise, I will shew,

I. How the obstructions to the restoration of the Jews shall be surmounted—

God himself appeals to them upon this very subject: “How shall I put thee among the children?”

[From the very beginning the Jews were a stiff-necked people. It was only for his own name sake that God did not again and again destroy them in the wilderness; and on many occasions also, after their establishment in the promised land. At last, God could no longer forbear: and therefore he gave up the ten tribes into the hands of the Assyrians, and the other two tribes into the hands of the Chaldeans. And after their restoration from Babylon, they still remained the same rebellious people, in every thing like their forefathers, except idolatry: and at last they filled up the measure of their iniquity in the murder of their Messiah. For all this wickedness they have now been scattered, these eighteen hundred years, over the face of the earth; and they are still as obdurate as ever. How, then, shall they be restored to the favour of their God? — — — The extent of their wickedness forbids it; and the honour of God, as the Moral Governor of the Universe, forbids it. Suppose an earthly prince were to select, for his attendants and most favoured servants, multitudes who had been long in rebellion against him, and had murdered his only dear Son, whom he had sent, not in a way of vindictive wrath, but in a way of love and mercy, to bring them back to their allegiance: suppose such an act of grace as this: What would be thought concerning it? Would not other potentates be ready to say, that it was an encouragement to all subjects to rebel against their governors, and to commit the greatest possible excesses? Would it not appear an excess of generosity, subversive of all moral government? If then amongst men, whose rights are so limited, this would be judged so replete with danger, how should it be that the great and glorious God should so relinquish all his own rights, and so requite those who have been the most forward to trample on them?]

But these obstacles, however formidable, shall be surmounted—

[God had before expressed his earnest desire for their restoration to him; “Wilt thou not at this time cry unto me, My Father, thou art the guide of my youth [Note: ver. 4.]?” And now he determines to effect it by his own Almighty power: “Thou shalt call me My Father; and shalt not turn away from me.” This will overcome every obstacle: for, “if God will work, who shall let it?” Vain was the resistance of Pharaoh: vain the obstructions of the sea, the wilderness, and the united nations of Canaan. As God spake the universe itself into existence;, so will he, in his own appointed time, form that “new creation” to which my text refers, when “all the nations” (of Jews certainly, and possibly, in part, of Gentiles also) “shall be gathered to Jerusalem [Note: ver. 17.];” and, together with all the tribes both of Israel and Judah [Note: ver. 18.], become one fold under one Shepherd [Note: Ezekiel 34:23 and John 10:16. with Isaiah 65:17-18.].”]

From hence we may see,

II. How alone the difficulties in the way of our salvation also can ever be overcome—

There are immense difficulties in the way of our salvation—

[The extent of our wickedness equals, and perhaps exceeds, that of the Jews. What evil was committed by them which does not also, to a fearful extent, obtain amongst us? — — — And if they crucified the Lord of Glory, have not we also “crucified him afresh [Note: Hebrews 6:6.]”, by our neglect of his Gospel, and our contempt of his salvation? — — — The Jews of our Lord’s day were more criminal than Tyre and Sidon; yea, and even than Sodom and Gomorrha; because they sinned against greater light than those idolatrous cities: and, when we reflect on the advantages which we enjoy, we have reason to fear that a still heavier condemnation will come on us, for our abuse of them — — — Indeed, it should seem almost impossible that a God of justice and holiness and truth should ever receive to his bosom those who have so “trodden under foot his dear Son, and done such despite to the Spirit of his grace [Note: Hebrews 10:29.] — — —]

But these shall be overcome, even as those which obstruct the restoration of the Jews—

[If we looked to ourselves only, our salvation would be altogether hopeless, But God directs us to look to Him, with whom nothing is impossible. He promises to interpose for us in a way of sovereign grace, and by the exercise of his Almighty power. His grace is his own: and he may dispense it to whomsoever he sees fit, according to the counsel of his own will. And he says, “Thou shalt call me, My Father;” and shalt participate all the blessings of my most favoured children — — — And he will, by the exercise of his Almighty power, effect this; for he has said, “Thou shalt not turn away from me;” that is, I will both restore thee to my favour, and keep thee, by my own power, unto everlasting salvation — — — Here, then, is our security; here is our hope. Nothing less than his merciful interposition can effect this work; and nothing shall ever be permitted to defeat his gracious purpose: “His counsel shall stand, and He will do all his will [Note: Isaiah 46:10.].”]

Address—

1. To those who question the possibility of their own salvation—

[I do not wonder that any should feel doubts on this head, when God himself seems almost at a loss to find how he shall effect it. But view God as a God of uncontrollable sovereignty and irresistible power, and you may at once dismiss all your fears, if only you cry mightily to him, and put your trust in him — — —]

2. To those who have entertained no such fears—

[How awfully must Satan have blinded your eyes, and hardened your hearts! You think salvation easy to be attained, and almost a matter of course. But you will be of a very different mind, if ever you come to see the greatness of your guilt, and the inveteracy of your corruptions. I tell you, Brethren, that nothing but the blood of God’s only dear Son could ever have atoned for your guilt; nor can any thing but the operation of the divine Spirit ever renew your depraved hearts: nor till you are made sensible of the difficulties of your salvation, will you have any well-grounded hope of being “numbered amongst the children of your God” — — —]

3. To those who profess to have been brought into the family of their God—

[You doubtless wish to be informed how you may “walk worthy of your high calling.” To you then I say, Obey your God in the two particulars which he here requires. “Go to him, as your Father in Christ Jesus;” and “walk before him as dear children;” committing to him your every care, and expecting from him a supply of all your wants — — — And let nothing prevail upon you to “turn away from him.” Be ready to sacrifice every earthly consideration, and to lay down even life itself, for him. Under all circumstances, my advice to you is, “Be stedfast, immoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord: and you may then be assured, that your labour shall not be in vain in the Lord.”]


Verse 22

DISCOURSE: 1035

INVITATION TO BACKSLIDERS

Jeremiah 3:22. Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings. Behold, we come unto thee; for thou art the Lord our God.

THOUGH the conversion of men is the result of God’s purpose, and solely the effect of his grace, yet it is wrought by rational means. He calls upon them as free agents, and enforces his exhortations with the most cogent motives. By these means he convinces their judgment, and makes them willing to comply with his solicitations. In the preceding context he had determined to effect his purpose by the constraining influence of his grace; nevertheless he does not omit the use of means, but repeats his former invitations with still stronger arguments than before. In this way he produces the change upon the reluctant soul, and makes it thankfully to embrace his proffered mercy.

In discoursing on the words before us, we shall consider,

I. The Lord’s address to the backsliders—

The persons addressed are either mere nominal Christians, or real Christians in a declining state—

[The term “backsliding” refers to an unruly heifer that either will not at all draw in its master’s yoke, or that performs its work unsteadily [Note: Hosea 4:16.]. In the former view, it comprehends all those who in name and profession are his, but in reality are altogether regardless of his will. Alas! How many are there of this description in every place! Who amongst us may not consider the text as addressed to himself in particular? Who has not cast off the yoke of God, and said, like Pharaoh, “I know not the Lord, neither will I obey his voice?” In the latter view, it may describe those who, having begun to serve the Lord, turn back again in some measure to the world and to sin. And where is there a child of God who must not acknowledge himself to have been, at some time, of this number, however diligently he be serving God at this moment? Who can say that he has invariably, from the very first, pursued the path of duty in one uniform tenour of conduct? Who has not often been conscious of secret declensions, and “backslidings of heart?”]

To both these descriptions of people does God address an earnest and impressive exhortation—

[God well knows the danger to which all are exposed when they have turned aside from him. Nor does he “will, in any instance, the death of a sinner, but rather that he should return and live.” Hence, instead of saying, as we might well expect, Depart from me, he invites us to return. He would have us not only to take his yoke upon us, but to draw in it with pleasure and delight. To enforce his exhortation, he adds a most encouraging promise. Well might he threaten us with the dreadful consequences of our transgression, and address himself only to our fears. But he is a God of infinite compassion, and would rather win us by love. Our backslidings have made a deadly wound in our souls, a wound which if not speedily closed, will destroy us for ever. Behold, what astonishing mercy! He promises to heal us: to heal the guilt of our sin by the blood of Jesus, and the power of it by his good Spirit! Such is his gracious declaration to us at this instant; and such is the encouragement which he affords to all who have departed from him.]

Having seen the condescension of God, we can be at no loss to determine,

II. The effect it should produce upon us—

If we have the smallest spark of ingenuousness within us, his goodness must of necessity produce,

1. A ready compliance with his will—

Such was the effect upon those addressed in the text. And, whenever the word is applied with power to our souls, the same effect will be visible on us. We shall no longer keep at a distance from God, but return to him with our whole hearts. Filled with astonishment at his forbearance towards us, and solicitous to experience the renewed expressions of his favour, we shall say, “Behold we come unto thee.” No pleasures of sin will be suffered to detain us from him. Having “tasted the gall and wormwood of a backslidden state, our souls will have them still in remembrance.” We shall determine with the Church of old, “I will return unto my first husband, for then it was better with me than now [Note: Hosea 2:7.].”

I call then on this whole assembly now to unite as with the voice of one man, saying, “Thou Lord art our God; and we come to thee” according to thy commandment; yea, “behold,” and bear witness to us this day, “We come unto thee; for thou art the Lord our God.”]

2. An unreserved surrender of ourselves to his service—

[The love of Christ has a constraining power, which, if not irresistibly, yet invincibly, impels us to live unto him. Let it once be “shed abroad in our hearts,” and we shall instantly exclaim with rapture, “My Lord, and my God.” “What have I to do any more with idols,” will be the natural effusion of our souls [Note: Hosea 14:8.]. We shall feel a holy indignation at the thought of having so long “provoked the Lord to jealousy;” and shall address him in the language of his repenting people, “Other lords besides thee have had dominion over us, but by thee only will we make mention of thy name [Note: Isaiah 26:13.].”]

Application—

1. To those who are deliberately resisting the will of God—

[While casting off the restraints of God’s law, and following the dictates of your own will, you conceive yourselves to be enjoying perfect liberty. But such liberty is the sorest bondage [Note: 2 Peter 2:19.]. A subjection to sin is a vassalage most abject in its nature, and most fatal in its consequences [Note: Romans 6:16.]. Would to God that the slaves of sin would reflect a moment what master they are serving, and what wages they are likely to receive! Soon would they then cast off the yoke which their own lusts have imposed, and seek for freedom in the service of their God. Awake, ye deluded sinners, and return to him, whose “yoke is easy, and whose burthen is light.”]

2. To those who, having begun to serve God, are drawing back from him—

[“Who hath bewitched,” who hath infatuated, your depraved hearts? “Hath God been a wilderness to you,” that you are tired of his service [Note: Jeremiah 2:5; Jeremiah 2:31.]? “Is there indeed no profit in serving him?” We will venture to put the matter to this issue. Are you as happy now in your departure from God, as you were when you were endeavouring to walk with him? Has your return to secret neglects and sinful indulgences been attended with a proportionate increase of peace and comfort? Sure we are, that none can truly affirm this to have been their experience. If your consciences be not altogether seared, your wounds are festering at this instant. Beware then lest God leave you to be “filled with your own ways [Note: Proverbs 14:14.].” That would be the greatest curse that can be inflicted on you. O return immediately to God i and he will heal your backslidings and love you freely [Note: Hosea 14:4.].]

3. To those who are maintaining a steadfast walk with God—

[Thrice happy souls! ye are highly favoured of the Lord. Say, Have ye not already the recompence in your own bosoms? Is not his service perfect freedom? Be thankful then to God who enables you so to live, Be fearful of any thing which may “grieve that Holy Spirit, by whom ye are sealed.” Watch against secret backslidings in their very first beginnings. Be more and more diligent in every good word and work. “Be steadfast, immoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord; and be assured that your labour shall not be in vain in the Lord.”]

 


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Bibliography Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Jeremiah 3:4". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/shh/jeremiah-3.html. 1832.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, August 23rd, 2019
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20
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