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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae
Jeremiah 51

 

 

Verse 5

DISCOURSE: 1088

GOD’S MERCY CONTRASTED WITH OUR SINFULNESS

Jeremiah 51:5. Israel hath not been forsaken, nor Judah of Ms God, of the Lord of Hosts; though their land was filled with sin against the Holy One of Israel.

THE peculiar people of God in their most afflictive circumstances have a sure prospect of a happy deliverance. But his enemies in their most prosperous state are only like beasts fattening for the slaughter. The Jews were reduced to the lowest ebb of misery in Babylon, on account of their multiplied iniquities: yet did God promise to restore them to their native land. On the contrary, the Babylonians, who were exalted to the highest pitch of grandeur, were in due time to be altogether extirpated. Both these events were foretold by the prophet in this and the preceding chapters: and, in the text, he appeals to the Jews that they had not been forsaken, notwithstanding the abundant cause they had afforded for an utter dereliction—

From these words we shall take occasion to consider,

I. The provocations we have given to God,

1. In our national capacity—

[All “sin,” of whatever kind, is properly and primarily “against the Holy One of Israel [Note: Psalms 51:4.].” Now there is no sin, whether against the first or second table of the law, which has not abounded in this land — — — Nor is there any rank or order of men, from the highest to the lowest, that have not yielded up themselves as willing servants to sin and Satan — — — Even the flock of Christ itself, both the pastors who watch over it, and the people who compose it, have contributed in no small degree to the tremendous mass of iniquity, that has incensed our God against us — — —]

2. In our individual capacity—

[Since a sight of others’ sins rarely begets any true humiliation in us, let each of us in particular search out his own. Let our thoughts, words, and actions be strictly scrutinized. Let those sins which are more immediately against God, be inquired into; our pride, our impenitence, our unbelief, our ingratitude for temporal blessings, and especially for the unspeakable gift of God’s dear Son; our obstinate resistance of God’s Holy Spirit, together with all our neglect of duties, or our coldness in the performance of them; let these be counted up, and be set in order before us; and the very best of men will see cause for the deepest humiliation; yea, we shall wonder that we have not long since been made like to Sodom and Gomorrha.]

Having taken a view of our sins, let us contrast with them,

II. The mercies God has vouchsafed to us—

Justly have we deserved to be entirely abandoned by our God—

[The history of the Jews shews us what we ourselves deserve. He himself bids us go to Shiloh, and see what he did to it for the wickedness of his people [Note: Jeremiah 7:12. with 1 Samuel 4:10-11.]. Indeed the whole of his dealings with them in their Assyrian and Babylonish captivity, and in their present dispersion, may teach us what we might well expect at his hands — — —]

But he has not dealt with us according to our desert—

[He has “not forsaken us” as a nation. In proof of this, we appeal to the comparative lightness of our troubles—the signal interpositions with which we have been favoured in the midst of our troubles—and lastly, the happy termination of them, by a seasonable restoration both of peace and plenty [Note: October 4, 1801, on a Thanksgiving for peace and plenty.].

Nor has he forsaken us as individuals. He is yet calling us by his word, and striving with us by his Spirit. And we behold amongst us the evident tokens of his presence, in that sinners are yet awakened to repentance, and saints are edified in faith and love.]

Address—

1. Let the long-suffering of God be gratefully acknowledged—

[We should “account the long-suffering of God to be salvation [Note: 2 Peter 3:15.].” Let us not, however, rest in carnal mirth; but let his temporal mercies to our land, and his spiritual mercies to our souls, call forth our liveliest gratitude and our devoutest praise.]

2. Let it also be practically improved—

[In the words immediately following our text, the prophet says, “Flee out of the midst of Babylon, and deliver every man his own soul.” It was the duty of the Jews to cast on their bondage as soon as God should open a way for their escape. Thus must we also cast off the servitude in which we have been detained, and go forth from amongst all the enemies of God. If we continue in sin, we must take our portion with the ungodly. But if we give up ourselves unreservedly to God, he will blot out our past iniquities in the blood of his Son, and make us partakers of an everlasting salvation.


Verse 10

DISCOURSE: 1089

DUTY OF ACKNOWLEDGING GOD’S MERCIES

Jeremiah 51:10. Come, and let us declare in Zion the work of the Lord our God!

THE prophets, whilst foretelling future events, are often transported in spirit to the period of which they speak; and are enabled to see, as it were, the events themselves actually passing before their eyes. Hence, if they speak of the rise or fall of kingdoms, they behold the armies marching to their destination, engaging in the conflict, and either conquering or conquered, according as the Governor of the universe has fore-ordained. This is peculiarly manifest in relation to the destruction of Babylon; which is more frequently and more fully predicted than any other event, except those which immediately relate to God’s chosen people [Note: See the thirteenth and fourteenth chapters of Isaiah throughout, and especially chap. 14:4–12.]. It is of that event that the prophet speaks in the chapter before us, as he has also done in the preceding chapter. Having said in the foregoing verses that God would “send fanners to Babylon, to fan,” to destroy her, though the event was not to take place for sixty years, yet he says, “This is the time of the Lord’s recompence;” and then exclaims, “Babylon is suddenly fallen and destroyed! howl ye for her!” He then speaks of the deliverance of the Jews from their captivity as already effected, and calls on them to declare in Zion the wonders which God had wrought for them: “The Lord hath brought forth our righteousness (that is, our deliverance): come, and let us declare in Zion the work of the Lord our God.”

It is not of future events that we are now called to speak, but of things accomplished, as it were, before our eyes, and of things that demand our most grateful acknowledgment.

Let us consider,

I. What is that work which we are now called to declare—

At no period of our history had we ever more reason to bless and adore our God than at this day [Note: This was preached on Jan. 13, 1813.]. The mercies vouchsafed to us have been exceeding great and numerous. We cannot enter into them indeed very fully; but we will suggest some distinct heads, under which they may be arranged for your own more easy and profitable contemplation of them. Consider them then as agricultural and commercial, political and religious. Consider,

1. The agricultural—

[Heavy was the pressure on all the lower orders of society, by reason of the dearness of provisions, throughout the last year: and, if the late harvest had been as unproductive as that which preceded it, their distress would have been at this hour exceeding great. But God in his mercy vouchsafed to us a very abundant harvest, so that now all may “eat and be satisfied, and bless the name of their God.” True it is, that other things still continue at a high price: but that very circumstance only shews us the more forcibly, how rich a mercy it is to have plenty of that which is “the staff of life.” In enumerating then the mercies for which we have now peculiar reason to be thankful, let us not be unmindful of that in which the great mass of the community are so deeply interested, and which is perhaps the first of all national blessings.]

2. Commercial—

[To abridge and to destroy our commerce has been the incessant labour of our enemies: and to such a state was it reduced, that it could scarcely be carried on to any extent, without involving; all the persons engaged in it in the guilt of perjury. The whole continent almost was closed against us: and whatever was surreptitiously introduced there, was subjected to such peril, as to prove a most serious discouragement to all commercial enterprise. But now, within these few weeks only, the whole continent is anxious to receive our goods: our manufactures are revived; our people, who during the last year were almost in a state of insurrection on account of the want of work, are employed; and a good prospect is opened to us of increased and permanent prosperity. This, whether viewed in its aspect on individuals or the nation at large, is another blessing, which ought on no account to be overlooked.]

3. Political—

[Who that looks back to the earlier period of the French Revolution, and recollects what sentiments of insubordination and sedition pervaded the land, must not be surprised at the change that has taken place in relation to those things? Formerly the cry of liberty and equality was raised in almost every place, to instigate the people to throw off all submission to the Government: and such was the delusion by which the minds of many were blinded, that thousands were panting to destroy the constitution, and to establish a democracy in its place. The same bloody scenes as took place in France were preparing for this land also; and so great and general was the infatuation, that many, even of religious characters, were ready to help forward the designs and efforts of those who sought our ruin. But now the excellence of our constitution is duly appreciated; the persons who were once ready to subvert it have now seen their error; and perhaps there is scarcely a man in the land who would not willingly die in its defence. Nor is this change peculiar to us: it is now seen in every part of Europe; and those very people who banished their former Rulers, and overturned fill their former establishments, are now desirous of returning to the state they have forsaken, and are actually fighting for the restoration of their former Governments. Thus has order taken the place of anarchy, and respect for constituted authorities banished from amongst us the demon of discontent.]

4. Religious—

[With a contempt for all ancient institutions, there went forth an utter disregard of Revealed Religion. Infidelity stalked abroad, as it were, at noon-day. It no longer blushed to shew its face, but obtruded itself upon the attention of all; and reviled, as enemies to sense and reason, all who dared to maintain the cause of God in the world. Philosophy forsooth was deemed a safer guide than the voice of inspiration; and the word of God itself was held up to ridicule, as a composition of falsehood and absurdity. How different is the state of things amongst us at this time! The Holy Scriptures are revered and honoured to a degree altogether unprecedented and unknown in this country. All ranks and orders of men amongst us not only receive the sacred volume as true, but stand forth to advocate its cause, and to extend the knowledge of it to every quarter of the globe. If we judged from the zeal exerted for the diffusion of the Holy Scriptures, we should be ready to think that the Millennial period were already come. But, though we cannot yet congratulate ourselves on such an extensive change as this, we nevertheless behold a most astonishing increase of true religion in the land. We are happy too to declare, that a similar spirit is rising in other lands; and that, “whilst God’s judgments have been poured out so awfully and so extensively upon the earth, the inhabitants thereof have been learning righteousness [Note: Isaiah 26:9.].”

These then are mercies which may well “be declared in Zion,” and which we are now called in a more especial manner to commemorate.]

Having drawn your attention to some of those mercies which deserve especial notice at this time, I proceed to shew,

II. In what manner we should declare them—

Since these mercies are so great and numerous, let us all unite in improving them as we ought to do:

1. Let us acknowledge God in them—

[Who is it that “hath wrought all these deliverances for us?” Is it our own hand, our own arm, that hath effected them? Who is it that gave us such a rich abundant harvest? We must be blind indeed, if we see not the hand of God in it [Note: Hosea 2:8. Psalms 65:9-13.] — — — Who is it that hath opened all the ports of the continent to our manufactures? Backward as men are to trace the operation of God in such things, there is scarcely a person in the land that does not say, “This is thine hand; and thou, Lord, hast done it [Note: Psalms 109:27; Psalms 44:3. Isaiah 45:7.]!” And must we not trace the revolution of sentiment to the same source? Who but God can “still the madness of the people?” It is he, and he alone, that “turneth the heart, whether of princes or of people, whithersoever he will [Note: Proverbs 21:1. Psalms 65:7.].” Above all, to whose agency must we refer that great work of dispelling the clouds of infidelity, and of making his light to shine into the hearts of men? Truly, none but He “who commanded the light to shine out of darkness” at the first creation of the world, is sufficient for these things [Note: 2 Corinthians 4:6; 2 Corinthians 5:5.]. In reference then to every thing that has been done for us, we must say, “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but to thy name be the praise!”]

2. We must adore him for them—

[It is not a cold and speculative acknowledgment only that we are called to make: our hearts should be warmed with a sense of God’s mercies: and our lips be devoutly occupied in his praise. The first effect indeed which they should have upon our minds is, to fill us with wonder and admiration of the Divine goodness [Note: Psalms 40:5.]: but when we have, as it were, recovered from the overwhelming sense of his goodness, then should we declare it, and publish it with all the powers of our souls. Look at David, when recounting the mercies God had vouchsafed to Israel [Note: Psalms 98:1-8.]: such is the language which well befits us on the present occasion; yea, we should “make our boast in God all the day long, and praise his name for ever and ever [Note: Psalms 44:7-8.].” In this way “we must declare his work, if we would wisely consider of his doing [Note: Psalms 64:9.].”]

3. Let us, by anticipation, bless God for the yet richer mercies which he has in reserve for us—

[We began with observing, that “the deliverance” from Babylon was yet distant, at least sixty years, though the prophet spoke of it as already accomplished. So may we look forward to the blessings which are made over to us by the sure word of promise, and may even now bless God for them as though they were already possessed. As Abraham rejoiced at the prospect of the day of Christ, just as if he had actually seen it with his eyes, so may we do, and so we ought to do, in reference to his future advent to reign on earth. Then will peace and plenty, and truth and righteousness, prevail throughout the world. Then shall men “beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks, and they will learn war no more.” Then “Judah will no more vex Ephraim, nor Ephraim envy Judah,” but all will “sit harmonious and contented under their own vine and fig-tree.” “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid:” nor shall any hurt or destroy in God’s holy mountain. Then, whilst plenty abounds in every place [Note: Amos 9:13-15.], “the knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth, as the waters cover the sea.” O what a day of wonders will that be! It is our privilege to look forward to it, and even to see it now, as it were, before our eyes. See how the prophet, who lived almost three thousand years ago, beheld it, and gloried in the sight [Note: Isaiah 49:12-13; Isaiah 60:1; Isaiah 60:4; Isaiah 60:8.]! and shall not we, who are almost on the very eve of that day? We have no doubt but that all these events, which have been taking place in the world these twenty years, are preparing the way for the promised advent of our Lord. Let us then anticipate it with joy and gratitude [Note: Isaiah 52:9-10.]: let us adore our God for giving such prospects to sinful man: and let us endeavour to hasten it forward by every possible exertion in the cause of Christ.]

 


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Bibliography Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Jeremiah 51:4". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/shh/jeremiah-51.html. 1832.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, August 19th, 2019
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20
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