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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae
Jeremiah 36

 

 

Verse 27-28

DISCOURSE: 1081

JEHOIAKIM BURNS THE SACKED ROLL

Jeremiah 36:27-28. Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, (after that the king had burned the roll, and the words which Baruch wrote at the mouth of Jeremiah,) saying, Take thee again another roll, and write in it all the former words that were in the first roll, which Jehoiakim the king of Judah hath burned.

TRUTH has peculiar force, when it is embodied, and exhibited in action. A speculative view of it may perhaps be derived as well from abstract statements; but its practical efficacy is exceedingly enhanced by a sight of it in actual operation. For instance: the enmity of the carnal mind against God is acknowledged by us in general terms; but we are more forcibly impressed with a conviction of it, when we behold such a display of it as is contained in the chapter before us. We should scarcely conceive that any man could deliberately commit such flagrant impiety, as that of which king Jehoiakim was guilty, in destroying those prophecies which he believed to have proceeded from Almighty God. It does not appear that Jehoiakim doubted of the inspiration of Jeremiah: yet, because he did not like the subject of his prophecies, he cut them in pieces, and burned them in the fire. His folly in this act was as great as his impiety: and we shall find it by no means an uninstructive event, whilst we take occasion from it to notice,

I. The enmity of man’s heart against the word of God—

It is not the act which we propose to dwell upon, but the disposition: the act was insulated, and peculiar to this wicked king; but the disposition is common to all mankind. The very same disposition may be, and frequently is, evinced in a variety of ways:

1. By denying the Divine authority of the Scriptures—

[Infidels pretend a want of evidence, as the ground of their rejecting the Holy Scriptures: but they wish the Scriptures not to be true, because they wish to hold fast those opinions and practices which the Scriptures condemn. Their own pride and conceit are gratified in finding objections to the Divine authority of the Bible: and they require such demonstrations of it as the subject itself does not admit of. They lay a very undue stress upon some difficulties which they cannot explain; and reject evidences, which would satisfy them on every other subject under heaven. The true ground therefore of their unbelief is, not that there is not evidence enough to satisfy a candid inquirer, but that “they love darkness rather than light; yea, they hate the light, and will not come to the light, lest their deeds should be reproved [Note: John 3:19-21.].”]

2. By explaining away all its fundamental truths—

[To reject the Bible altogether would, in the eyes of some, be a shocking impiety; but they will without hesitation discard every mystery contained in it. The doctrine of original sin, and of the total corruption of human nature, they will not admit; but will assert, that man is neither so depraved nor so weak as the Scripture represents him. They are equally adverse to the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith: they will have it, that, in bestowing salvation, God has respect to some goodness, either seen or foreseen, in the children of men; and that, in some degree at least, our good works must form the meritorious ground of our salvation. The influences of the Holy Spirit also are derided by them, as visionary and enthusiastic; and instead of looking to the Holy Spirit to guide them into all truth, and to sanctify them throughout, they persist in placing some confidence in their own wisdom and their own strength to accomplish the good work in their souls. And their whole study of the Holy Scriptures is directed to this end, to explain away what God has asserted, and to maintain their own errors in opposition to him. But in all this, there is the same disposition exercised as in the avowed infidel: and he must be ignorant indeed, who does not know, that in these pretended believers of the Scriptures there is generally found the most acrimonious hostility against the truth itself, and against all who maintain it.]

3. By entertaining doubts of its utility to the poor—

[Would to God that Papists alone had broached this impious sentiment! But, alas! it is found amongst Protestants also: nor are there wanting those who have given it as their decided opinion, that it would have been better for the world if St. Paul had never written one of his Epistles. To put the Scriptures into the hands of the poor, they think highly inexpedient; because they apprehend that the poor are more likely to be led into error by them, than into truth. But what a reflection is this upon God himself, who gave them by inspiration, and declared them to be “profitable for men’s instruction in righteousness [Note: 2 Timothy 3:16-17.]” and commanded every man to “search” them, in order to the finding of eternal life [Note: John 5:39.]! To soften down this impious notion, some would select a few parts to circulate among the poor, and would keep back the rest: in other words, they would do exactly what Jehoiakim did; they would cut out page after page, and suffer none to be read which was distasteful to their minds. Jehoiukim was afraid that his people would make a bud use of Jeremiah’s roll, and therefore he burned it: and these have the same fears about the greater part of the sacred volume; and therefore they would keep it out of the hands of the poor. The acts of the two are different; but their dispositions are the same.]

4. By setting its precepts at defiance—

[Strange as it may appear, there are many, who, whilst they believe the Scriptures to be from God, and assent to the doctrines contained in them, are yet determined to go on in sin: they know they are wrong, and perhaps intend at some future period to amend their doings; but proceed they will in their own ways, whatever may be the consequence. The world, the flesh, and the devil have such a hold upon them, that nothing can prevail upon them to seek after God. They despise alike the mercies and the judgments of their God; and say in their hearts, “As for the word that thou hast spoken to us in the name of the Lord, we will not regard it.” In short, they live in the very spirit of Jehoiakim; believing the word to be inspired, and yet “casting it behind them,” with a determination to fulfil their own desires in opposition to it.]

5. By reviling and persecuting those who embrace it—

[There is nothing that shews a more rooted aversion to the word of God than this. The next step to the destroying of Jeremiah’s roll was, to send for Jeremiah who dictated, and Baruch who wrote it, to destroy them also: for we cannot doubt but that if the Lord had not hidden thorn, the enraged monarch would have put them to death. And are not multitudes at this clay of the very same spirit? Are there not many who hate the faithful ministers of God’s word, and account them “the troublers of Israel,” and the greatest pests of society? Yes; at this day, as much as in the apostolic age, would Paul and his colleagues be regarded as “the filth of the world, and the offscouring of all things [Note: 1 Corinthians 4:13.].”

Nor are ministers alone thus treated: the same hatred extends to all who embrace the Gospel in sincerity, and walk according to its holy precepts: they, no less than their teachers, are called by all manner of opprobrious names, and that too solely on account of their fidelity to Christ. Precisely as Abel was hated by Cain for his piety, and Isaac was derided by Ishmael for his faith in God, “so now all who are born after the Spirit are persecuted by those who are born after the flesh [Note: Galatians 4:29.].” And what does this prove, but that faith itself, and piety too, yea and God himself also, are objects of hatred to the ungodly world; and that the language of their hearts is, “Prophesy not unto us right things; prophesy unto us smooth things; prophesy deceits: and make the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us [Note: Isaiah 30:9-11.].”]

That the same enmity which raged in the king of Judah against the word of God, exists in us, appears most clearly m the foregoing particulars. We now proceed to point out,

II. The folly of indulging it—

Justly is the indulgence of this spirit compared to the setting of thorns and briers in battle array against the devouring element of fire [Note: Isaiah 27:4.]. For,

1. We cannot change one declaration in all the Scriptures—

[We may dispute against every truth in the Bible; but we cannot alter one. We may deny all the scriptural representations of our guilt and helplessness, and of the necessity of being washed in the Redeemer’s blood, and renewed by his Spirit; and we may designate them by what terms we will; but they will still continue true: our sophistry may deceive both ourselves and others; but it cannot invalidate the truth of God, or induce him to deviate from one word that he has spoken. He will say to us, “What I have written, I have written;” and “sooner shall heaven and earth pass away, than one jot or tittle of my word shall fail.” If by disputing against the word of God, or even by casting it into the fire, we could put ourselves into a better situation with respect to it, there would be some excuse for us: but we may as well immure ourselves in a dungeon, and deny the existence of the sun: the sun would still shine, though we should not choose to see it; and would still cheer the hearts of those who felt its refreshing beams, though we excluded ourselves from any participation of its genial influence. So will all the great doctrines of the Gospel continue, though we should shut our eyes against them: “the Scripture cannot be broken;” nor “can our unbelief make the faith of God of no effect [Note: Romans 3:3.].” Every thing else is “as grass, which withereth and falleth away; but the word of the Lord endureth for ever: and this is the word which by the Gospel is preached unto you [Note: 1 Peter 1:24-25.].”]

2. We cannot prevent the execution of one threatening—

[We are very apt to deceive ourselves in relation to this; and to think, that our unbelief will be an excuse for our disobedience. But error is not innocent, especially when it is wilful: much less can it induce God to reverse all the judgments which he has denounced against sin and sinners. Let us look to fact. The antediluvians scoffed at Noah, and at all his warnings respecting the approaching deluge: but did the deluge not come? or did they escape when the time for executing the threatened judgment was arrived? “Ahab hated and imprisoned Micaiah for not speaking good concerning him, but evil;” and ordered him to be fed “with the bread of affliction and the water of affliction, till he should return from the war in peace.” But did he return in peace? Did he survive the battle, in which Micaiah had told him he should die? Did his determined opposition to the word of God screen him from the predicted vengeance? Thus will it be with all who disbelieve the sacred records; they will learn too late by their own experience, what they would not believe upon the testimony of God: dying in unregeneracy and unbelief, they will be excluded from the kingdom of heaven, and “the wrath of God will abide upon them [Note: John 3:3; John 3:36.].” O the folly and madness of plunging ourselves into everlasting misery, when, if we would but turn unto the Lord, we might secure the everlasting enjoyment of his kingdom and glory!]

3. We accumulate on our own heads the judgments which we despise—

[The contempt with which men treat the word of God is itself a great and grievous sin, and adds exceedingly to that load of guilt which we have contracted by all our other offences. How indignant was God with Saul on this account! “Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, the Lord hath rejected thee from being king [Note: 1 Samuel 15:23.].” In like manner, it was no slight expression of his displeasure which he used towards those who, in opposition to his commands, went down into Egypt; “They shall know,” says he, “whose word shall stand, mine or theirs [Note: Jeremiah 44:28.].” But more particularly mark God’s message to king Jehoiakim: to what an ignominious death he was doomed for his impiety; besides that, on the contents of this roll being again written, “there were added unto them many like words.” Let it be considered, that, whilst we are setting at nought the word of God, we are not only insuring, but increasing those very “judgments which we puff at,” and actually “treasure up wrath against the day of wrath.” Well does God say of all such persons, “Lo, they have rejected the word of the Lord; and what wisdom is in them [Note: Jeremiah 8:9.]?” Let these words then sink down into the ears of all that hear them: if ye persist in saying, “I shall have peace, though I walk after the imagination of my heart; the Lord’s anger will smoke against you, and he will blot out your name from under heaven [Note: Deuteronomy 29:19-20.].”]

If now we would know how to conduct ourselves in reference to the word of God, let us learn,

1. To tremble at the word ourselves—

[This is the disposition which God approves. He approved of it in king Josiah, under circumstances similar to those m the history before us [Note: 2 Kings 22:8; 2 Kings 22:10-11; 2 Kings 22:18-20.]; and he will look with complacency and delight on all who manifest it in their conduct [Note: Isaiah 66:2.]. O that there might be in all of us such a heart! for if we “receive the word with meekness, we shall find it able and effectual to save our souls,”]

2. To use all diligence in making it known to others—

[When Baruch had written the words from Jeremiah’s mouth, he went and read them in the ears of all the people. Then he read them also in the presence of the princes: and the princes went and read them to the king. All this was right: and we should do well to imitate this conduct. To those who possess not the word of God, we should carry it: and as now there are plans for diffusing that word throughout all the world, we should labour, each according to his ability, to advance that blessed work. Moreover we should read it to those who are not able to read; or, at least, should procure them instruction, that they may rend it for themselves. Nor should we be afraid to shew our veneration for it in the presence of kings and princes, or to suggest to them the necessity of attending to it themselves.]

3. To deal faithfully with those who pour contempt upon it—

[It is spoken to the reproach of these princes, that though they made intercession to the king not to burn the roll, they did not rend their clothes, either through a fear of God’s judgments, or through an abhorrence of his impiety. And truly, when we can see the contempt with which the Holy Scriptures are treated by all around us, and not weep for the dishonour done to God, or for the injury which men do to their own souls, we shew that we ourselves are far from valuing the Scriptures as we ought. “Rivers of tears ran down David’s cheeks,” when he observed how men transgressed the laws of God: and is there not the same occasion for us to weep? Do we believe indeed that every word of God is true, and feel no pity for those who are exposed to all the curses that are contained therein? O seek a compassionate regard for man, and a holy zeal for God! and let none ever be ashamed to attest this truth, that “the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil, is understanding [Note: Job 28:28.].”]

 


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Bibliography Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Jeremiah 36:4". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/shh/jeremiah-36.html. 1832.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, October 15th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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