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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae
Jeremiah 8

 

 

Verses 4-8

DISCOURSE: 1041

EXPOSTULATION WITH THE IMPENITENT

Jeremiah 8:4-8. Thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord; Shall they fall, and not arise? Shall he turn away, and not return? Why then is this people of Jerusalem slidden back by a perpetual backsliding? They hold fast deceit, they refuse, to return. I hearkened and heard; but they spake not aright; no man repented him of his wickedness, saying, What hare I done? Every one turned to his course, as the horse rusheth into the battle. Yea, the stork in the heaven knoweth her appointed times; and the turtle, and the crane, and the swallow, observe the time of their coming; but my people know not the judgment of the Lord. How do ye say, We are wise, and the law of the Lord is with us? Lo, certainly in vain made he it; the pen of the scribes is in vain.

WHATEVER difference civilization may produce in the external habits of men, it makes no change in the dispositions of their minds towards God. The advantages of religious instruction may rectify their sentiments in many things, and raise the standard of morals among them; but Divine grace alone can reach their hearts or dispose them to devote themselves to the service of their Maker. Hence the unregenerate amongst us are, in their general character, the same as they have been in all ages, and under all the different dispensations of religion. Papists and Protestants, Jews and Christians, differ only in name, and in a few outward observances: their hearts are all alike; and the same warnings and exhortations may be fitly addressed to them.

The Prophet Jeremiah was commanded to expostulate with the Jews upon their wickedness, their impenitence, their folly, and their presumption. On these same topics we would address ourselves to you. We shall not however make a formal division of our discourse, or mark our transition from one part of it to another, but shall prosecute our subject in the precise order of the words before us.

Permit me then to observe to you, that,

Men will endeavour to remedy any misfortune that has happened to them—

[“If a man have fallen, he will rise again;” he will not be contented to lie where he is, in a state of stupid indifference, but will exert himself to regain the posture that is better suited to his nature and pursuits. “If a man turn out of the way,” when prosecuting a journey of great importance, “will he not, us soon as he finds his error, return,” and get into the right path? No one can doubt what his conduct would be on such an occasion, Such is the conduct of all men in relation to temporal matters.]

But they do not act thus in reference to their souls—

[It is undeniable, that, we “have slidden back” from God, “like a backsliding heifer” that will not submit to the yoke [Note: Hosea 4:16.] — — — Of this we cannot but be convinced, seeing that we violate his law in unnumbered instances, and neither can, nor will, endure its restraints [Note: Romans 8:7.]. But, “having fallen, do we strive to arise; having turned aside, do we endeavour to return?” On the contrary, have not our “backslidings been perpetual,” without any serious endeavours to amend our ways? Had our deviations from duty been only occasional, and under the influence of some violent temptation, or had they been intermitted, with seasons of penitence and contrition, there would be something hopeful in our case: but we have been contented to continue in our devious paths, and to lie wallowing in the mire of sin.

We have even laboured to persuade ourselves that we were not so faulty as God’s word represented us, We have gladly embraced any principle, that might justify this opinion; and satisfied ourselves with any excuse, that might keep us from self-reproach. When our delusions have been pointed out, and the vanity of our excuses plainly shewn, we still have “held fast deceit,” and have taken refuge again in the same lies, just as if they had never been at all exposed. The invitations and promises which have been held forth to us in the name of God, have produced no salutary effect: we have “pulled away the shoulder,” and “refused to return,” and “made our faces harder than a rock [Note: Jeremiah 5:3.].”

But, notwithstanding our obstinacy,]

God is ever looking wishfully for our return—

[“He looks down from heaven, to see if there be any that will understand and seek after him [Note: Psalms 14:2.].” “He willeth not the death of any man, but rather that he should come to repentance and live [Note: 2 Peter 3:9.].” He even swears that this is the state of his mind towards us [Note: Ezekiel 33:11.]. He “hearkens” with more than parental anxiety ‘Cannot I hear some acknowledgment amongst them; cannot I hear so much as one groan, or one sigh? O that I could! O that they would suffer me to exercise mercy towards them [Note: Jeremiah 3:4; Jeremiah 3:13; Jeremiah 13:27 and Hosea 11:8.]! Would they but “speak aright,” and condemn themselves for their iniquities, I would soon shew them how gracious and merciful I am.’ Thus does God listen, as it were, in hopes that some will repent and turn unto him;]

But scarce any will repent of their wickedness, or even consider their ways—

[We hope that impenitence is not quite so universal amongst us, as among those whom the prophet addressed. We cannot quite adopt his complaint, and say that “no man” repents. We trust there are some amongst us, who have “called their ways to remembrance,” and sought for mercy in God’s appointed way [Note: This must be amplified, or not, according to the state of the persons addressed.] — — — But certainly there are very few that will turn their thoughts inward, or seriously ask themselves, “What have I done?” Reflection is painful to the generality; and, instead of cherishing it, and setting apart seasons on purpose for it, the greater part do all they can to stifle it; they run to pleasure, to company, to business, in order to shake out of their minds all painful recollections. In all the concerns of time, they will examine carefully enough, whether they have prospered or not: nor would they be averse, in a journey through woods and forests, to compare their steps with the directory that had been given them, and to inquire occasionally whether they were in the right path. But in the concerns of their souls they harbour no doubts; they go on even in direct opposition to the strongest evidence s and take for granted that they are right, when, if they would make the smallest inquiry, they could not but find that they are in the most fatal error.]

Too many amongst us seem even to glory in their sins—

[The image by which this truth is represented in the text, is as just and beautiful as any that can be conceived. Look at the description given of the war-horse in the book of Job: “He paweth in the valley, and rejoiceth in his strength: he goeth forth to meet the armed men. He mocketh at fear, and is not affrighted; neither turneth he back from the sword. The quiver rattleth against him, the glittering spear and the shield. He swalloweth the ground with fierceness and rage; neither believeth he that it is the sound of the trumpet. He saith among the trumpets, Ha, ha; and he smelleth the battle afar off, the thunder of the captains and the shouting [Note: Job 39:21-25.].” What a lively representation is this of sinful man! he heareth of God’s judgments, but laugheth at them: ho in a measure feels them; and is only stirred up by them to a more resolute defiance of them, Destructive as his sin is, he “makes a mock at it,” and accounts it sport: and, whatever his ways have been, whether those of a proud self-righteousness, or open profaneness, he “turns to his course, as the horse rusheth into the battle.”]

In these respects they act a more irrational part than even the brute creation—

[“The stork, the turtle, the crane, the swallow, observe” invariably the approach of summer or of winter; and adopt measures either to escape the impending calamities, or to secure the blessings which God has prepared for them, They loiter not till the season for action is past, but avail themselves of the first intimations which they receive, to avoid the evil, and obtain the good. But sinful men possess not that wisdom; they “know not the judgment of the Lord;” God tells them of approaching blessings, but they labour not to possess them: he warns them also of approaching miseries, but they use no means to escape them: though they feel in themselves, and behold in all around them, striking intimations of the way in which God will ultimately proceed with men, they take not one step to avert his wrath, or to conciliate his favour.]

To complete the whole, they persuade themselves that they are safe and happy—

[They call their own ways wisdom, and the conduct of those who differ from them, folly. Surprising! “We are wise!” Would they account any one wise that should pursue a similar conduct in reference to the things of this world? Would it be wise in a merchant never to inquire into the state of his affairs? Would it be wise in a person to reject wholesome food, and to eat nothing but what was sure to bring upon him disorders and death? Yet the folly of such persons would not be worthy to be compared with that which the inconsiderate world are guilty of, in reference to their everlasting concerns. And strange it is to say, that they will even quote the word of God, as countenancing their ways; and, without once considering the true import of the passages they adduce, they will cry, “The law of the Lord is with us [Note: They will quote Proverbs 3:17 and Micah 6:8.].” But let them bring forth their strong reasons; let them shew us from the word of God, that no “difference shall be put between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth the Lord and him that serveth him not:” let them prove to us, that a course of sin and impenitence, and an unconcern about our future state, are innocent, or at most only trifling faults, which will not be regarded in the day of judgment. Let them shew us these things from the word of God; and then we are prepared to say, “In vain has God made it, and the pen of the scribes (who have either recorded or expounded it) is in vain.” Certainly, if they succeed in that attempt, the Bible is the most worthless book in the universe; for men could live in sin and neglect God, without any book to direct or encourage them in such ways.]

That our expostulation may not fall to the ground, we entreat you to listen to a few words of salutary advice—

1. Consider your ways—

[This is a reasonable duty; and can do you no harm: if your conduct have been conformable with the will of God, you will have great comfort in ascertaining that it has been so: if, on the contrary, it has been such as God decidedly condemns, you will have an opportunity of altering it before it be too late — — —]

2. Renounce your sins—

[This must be connected with the former, and indeed must result from it [Note: Ezekiel 18:28.]. You cannot but know that there has been much amiss, both in your heart and life: search it out therefore, and, whatever it may be, put it from you: if it be useful as a right hand, or precious as a right eye, spare it not, but cast it uttterly away. Attempt not to justify or extenuate it; but acknowledge your criminality and danger; and cast overboard the goods that would sink the ship — — —]

3. Obey the Gospel—

[Sinful as your state has been, the Gospel proposes to you an infallible remedy: it sets forth a Saviour; and invites you to come to him. Obey the call: come to him, who bought you with his blood: and accept the salvation which he freely offers to the chief of sinners — — — At the same time “Be wise indeed, and let the word of the Lord be truly with you.” Let “the glorious Gospel of the blessed God” be indeed the one ground of your hope, and the one rule of your conduct. Let the light which it exhibits be desired by you; and let all “your deeds be brought to it, that it may be manifest that they are wrought in God.”]


Verse 11

DISCOURSE: 1042

HEALING OUR WOUNDS SLIGHTLY

Jeremiah 8:11. They have healed the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace.

THERE were, amongst the Jews, false prophets, who accommodated themselves to the corrupt taste of their hearers, who said to them, “Prophesy unto us smooth things; prophesy deceits.” In particular, they assured the people that the judgments denounced against them by Isaiah, Jeremiah, and others, should never come upon them; that the king of Babylon should never succeed in his efforts against Jerusalem; and that, though they should still continue to walk after the imagination of their own evil hearts they had nothing to fear [Note: Jeremiah 23:17.]. Thus they lulled the people asleep in their sins, “promising them peace, when in reality there was no peace;” but the heaviest judgments of Almighty God were impending over them [Note: Ezekiel 13:10-16.].

Such prophets have existed at all periods of the Church, “with lies making the heart of the righteous sad, whom God has not made sad; and strengthening the hands of the wicked, that he should not return from his wicked way, by promising him life [Note: Ezekiel 13:22. with Deuteronomy 29:19-20.].”

But whilst we lament the effect of such delusive ministrations, and refer all persons to the written word, as the only true standard of sound doctrine; we would not forget, that men love to deceive themselves, and, by indulging vain conceits of their own, in opposition to the written word, to silence the convictions of conscience, and to “speak peace to themselves, when there is no peace.” For the benefit of such persons, we will endeavour to shew,

I. What need we all have of healing—

Sin has infected all the powers of our souls — — — This melancholy truth is,

1. Asserted in the Scriptures—

[“God made man upright; but he has sought out many inventions [Note: Ecclesiastes 7:29.].” His very heart is corrupt [Note: Jeremiah 17:9.]; so that “every imagination of it is evil, and only evil, continually [Note: Genesis 6:5.].” The extent of his depravity can scarcely be overstated: as the Apostle clearly shews [Note: Romans 3:9-18.] — — — and the description given of the Jewish people may be well applied to every people, yea, and to every individual also in the whole world: “The whole head is sick, and the whole heart is faint: from the sole of the foot even to the head there is no soundness in us; but wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores [Note: Isaiah 1:5-6.].”]

2. Confirmed by experience—

[Who is there amongst us that must not confess this to be his own state? Who does not find darkness in his understanding, rebellion in his will, sensuality in his affections? Who is there that does not perceive a partiality in his conscience, and, as far as spiritual things are concerned, a forgetfulness in his memory; so that, in all his faculties, he is unlike what he was when he came out of his Creator’s hands? That there are some traces of his original excellence, I willingly admit. There is in some persons a measure of benevolence towards man: but towards God there is in all the same rooted indisposition and enmity: “The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be [Note: Romans 8:7.].”]

But, as many think themselves healed whilst yet they are in a perishing condition, I will proceed to shew,

II. Who they are that heal their wounds slightly—

Of these there are many classes: many “speak peace to themselves, when there is no peace.” Amongst these are,

1. They who rely on the uncovenanted mercy of God—

[Many have an idea that God it too merciful to inflict on men the judgment he has denounced against sin: and on this presumption they dismiss all fear of future punishment, As for the justice or holiness of the Deity, they altogether overlook them; supposing that their claims may be superseded without any difficulty, and that truth itself also may be violated without any dishonour done to God, But all this is a delusion, which will betray them to their ruin, God is merciful, no doubt; yea, merciful beyond all conception: but then his mercy flows only in that channel which he himself has prepared, even through the Son of his love: and to expect it in any way that is inconsistent with the Divine attributes, is fatally to deceive our own souls.]

2. They who take refuge in a round of duties—

[It is common for persons, when convinced of sin, to engage in religious duties, with a hope of making thereby their peace with God, They will begin to read the Scriptures in private, and to attend on divine ordinances in public, and exercise a greater measure of benevolence to their fellow-creatures; trusting that God will accept their services, and for the sake of them will pardon their past transgressions, But this is only to “heal their wounds slightly;” for there are two things necessary to their perfect restoration; the one is, to make an atonement for sin; the other is, to get their souls renewed after the Divine image: but neither of these can ever be effected by any exertions of their own, The attainments of the Apostle Paul, eminent as they were, could not stand in the place of Christ, either before his conversion or afterwards: and therefore he desired “to be found in Christ; not having his own righteousness, but the righteousness which is of God by faith in Christ [Note: Philippians 3:9.].” Much more, therefore, must we renounce all hope of acceptance with God through any works of our own; and seek salvation by Christ alone, if ever we would “behold the face of God in peace,”]

3. They who rest in a faith that is unproductive of good works—

[True it is, that we must be saved by faith alone: and equally true it is, that faith does not save us, because it produce! good works. It saves us simply as apprehending Christ, in and through whom we are reconciled to God. But the faith which apprehends Christ aright, will work; it will “work by love,” and “purify the heart,” and “overcome the world;” and if the faith which we possess do not operate in this way, it is dead, and of no more efficacy for our salvation than the faith of devils, The only faith which will be of real service to us, is that which unites us unto Christ, as branches to the vine; and enables us, by virtue derived from him, to bring forth fruit to his glory.]

Yet, as there is a perfect remedy, it becomes me to state,

III. How we may have them healed effectually—

The Lord Jesus Christ has provided a remedy for sin—

[He has, by his own obedience unto death, atoned for sin, and “brought in an everlasting righteousness” for his believing people. Hear the blessed tidings brought to us by the Prophet Isaiah: “He was wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed [Note: Isaiah 53:5.].” Stupendous thought! We healed by stripes! by stripes inflicted on Jehovah’s fellow! What a mystery is this I how utterly incomprehensible! Well does the Apostle say, “How unsearchable are God’s judgments, and his ways past finding out [Note: Romans 11:33.]!”]

That remedy, applied by faith, shall be effectual for all who trust in it—

[The man who believes in Christ, has all his guilt purged away; so that “though his sins may have been as crimson, they shall be as wool; though they have been as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow. [Note: Isaiah 1:18.]” Nor is this all: the man who believes in him, shall receive out of his fulness such a supply of grace as shall be effectual for the restoration of his soul to the Divine “image, in righteousness and true holiness.” The declaration of an inspired Apostle is, that “We, beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. [Note: 2 Corinthians 3:18.]” Thus, by this simple remedy, shall our guilt be removed; and, at the same time, the corruption of our nature, like the waters of Jericho, be healed by the salt of divine grace infused into the soul. [Note: 2 Kings 2:19-22.] If any be not healed, it is not for want of a Physician s but because, with the balm of Gilead in their hands, they will not apply if. [Note: ver. 22.]]

Address—

1. Those who feel not their need of healing—

[Many, who are sensible that our nature is imperfect, have yet no conception that they are infected with a fatal malady; or that, without a most stupendous effort of divine grace, they must eternally perish. But, though they are called Christians, they are ignorant of the very nature of Christianity. I say again, they know not what Christianity is; and if they were asked to give in one word such a description of Christianity as should suffice to characterize it in all its parts, they would be utterly at a loss, and would say that an impracticable task was imposed upon them. But Christianity is a remedy: it necessarily supposes a deep malady, which it is not in the power of any finite being to heal; and it prescribes such means of healing as shall be effectual for our recovery. The malady and the remedy correspond with each other: whichever be seen, the lineaments of the other may be inferred from it: they answer to each other, as accurately as the impression to the seal. There is nothing in us, for which there is not a correspondent provision in Christ: nor is there any thing in Christ, of which there is not a correspondent want in us. Were this duly understood, there would be no persons of the description that I am now addressing. But to all, without exception, must I declare, that “it was not the righteous that Christ came to save, but sinners;” (“the whole need not a physician, but they that are sick:.”) and if we feel not our lost estate, we can receive no benefit from Christianity, no salvation from Christ. “It is the broken heart whom he heals, and whose wounds he bindeth up [Note: Psalms 147:3.].”]

2. Those who, after having derived some benefits from Christ, have relapsed into sin—

[Such persons there are, in great abundance: and greatly is their guilt augmented by their misimprovement of the mercies conferred. If they continue in their declension, “it were better for them that they had never known the way of righteousness;” for “their last end will be worse than their beginning.” But they are not beyond the reach of healing, Rather, I should say, their Lord is more particularly anxious respecting them, and gives this injunction to his servants: “Go, and proclaim these words; Return, thou backsliding Israel, saith the Lord; and I will not cause mine anger to full upon you. [Note: Jeremiah 3:12.]” “I will heal your backsliding, and love you freely: for mine anger is turned away from you. [Note: Hosea 14:4.]” If you are ready to despond because of your unworthy conduct, he cuts off at once all ground of despondency, by saying, “For the iniquity that he committed I was wroth, and smote him: I hid me, and was wroth; and yet he went on frowardly, in the way of his heart. But I have seen his ways, and (What? will cast him off, and execute my heaviest judgments on him? No: I have seen his ways, and) will heal him; and will restore comfort also to him and to his mourners [Note: Isaiah 57:17-18.].” Avail yourselves then, my Brethren, of the opportunity now afforded you; and go to Him who is able to save you to the uttermost”, and “will cast out none who come unto him.” But remember, you must be content to have your wounds probed to the very bottom; lest, after all, the healing of them should be only superficial.]

3. Those who are enjoying health in their souls—

[Happy indeed is your state. You have the true enjoyment of life. We feel the benefit of health, as it respects the body: for it enables us to perform every office of life with ease and pleasure; whilst to the sick and the infirm even the smallest labour is difficult. So, to the man that is under the power of sin, all spiritual exercises are irksome: but to him whose “soul prospers, and is in health,” the ways of God are beyond measure delightful. Be careful then, beloved, to preserve your health. Be living nigh to your heavenly Physician; and, at the very first appearance of disorder in your soul, apply to him. So will he “keep you in perfect peace,” and “preserve you blameless unto his heavenly kingdom.”]


Verses 20-22

DISCOURSE: 1043

THE REMEDY FOR THOSE WHO HAVE LOST THEIR SEASONS OF GRACE

Jeremiah 8:20-22. The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved. For the hurt of the daughter of my people am I hurt; I am black; astonishment hath taken hold on me. Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered [Note: This may be more simplified, by taking the character of the text as the ground of the distribution and discussion. Thus, consider,

I. His affectionate lamentation—

The people had hoped to receive succour from Egypt, but the time for murching armies was past away, and they wore left without succour. But I rather think the sense to be, God had given them time for repentance, and had warned them by his prophets, but all in vain. Now therefore they were left to the fury of their invading foes. On account of their impending calamities the prophet was greatly distressed. And is there not similar occasion for lamentation over you? How many warnings from the Lord have you received! How many opportunities for your souls, as favourable as the summer for harvest! Yet in what a state are your souls! as far from salvation as if you had never heard of a Saviour, or had salvation offered to you in his name! If the prophet then wept over the temporal calamities of his people, how much greater reason have I to weep over you! (chap. 9:1.) Were your impending calamities temporal only, they were not worthy of a thought, in comparison of those which are shortly coming upon you — — — If your souls be not sated, no language can express, or imagination conceive, the misery that awaits them.

II. His tender expostulation—

Gilead was famous for balm, which physicians were wont to use for their patients. Under that image the prophet tells them how effectually they might have been recovered, if they had sought help from God. Their destruction therefore was wholly of themselves. And may I not make the same appeal to you? Has not Christ been set before you as the heavenly Physician? Has not the efficacy of his blood to cleanse from sin been pointed out to you? Would not the Lord Jesus have healed your souls, if you had applied to him? — — — Yes, verily it is your own fault that you are not recovered. “Ye will not come to Christ that ye may have life.”

Address—

1. Those who are insensible of their danger—

Your danger is indeed both great and imminent; and I entreat you to delay no longer, what in a short space of time there will be no possibility of effecting— — —

2. Those who after hopeful symptoms of recovery have relapsed—

It were better never to have sought the Lord at all, than to have turned back again to your sins. O bless your God that the summer is not yet quite ended; and cease not to apply to the great Physician, till perfect health is restored to your souls.

3. Those who are in a course of recovery—

Fear not, but that the balm of Gilead will prove sufficient. Live nigh to God in the daily application of that balm to your souls, and you may set all your enemies at defiance. Your sins shall all be healed; and Satan himself, as a vanquished foe, he bruised under your feet.]?

EVERY one acknowledges that it is his duty to trust in God; but we are prone to creature-confidence. Hence we are often left to faint under difficulties from which we might easily have been extricated. Thus the Jews increased their distress by relying on the Egyptians for succour, when, if they would have trusted in God, they might have been delivered. The prophet therefore’s takes up this affectionate lamentation over them:

I. Who are they of whom it may be said “their harvest is past, their summer is ended, and they are not saved?”

In its primary sense this passage is applicable only to the Jews, when they were attacked by the Babylonians; but it may be applied to those who have lost seasons of spiritual relief; The “summer and harvest” may be considered as seasons afforded us by God for providing for the necessities of our souls. Many of these we have suffered to pass unimproved and unnoticed. They therefore may be said to have lost their summer, &c. who have neglected to improve the seasons afforded,

1. By nature—

[Youth is well fitted by nature for the work of conversion. The mind is then more flexible, the passions more governable, and the conscience more tender. But many have lost that favourable season.]

2. By Providence—

[Mercies are sent by God to invite, judgments to alarm. But many who should have been drawn by them to seek after God, have remained impenitent. The sabbath also was instituted by God for the promoting of man’s spiritual welfare. On that day more especially God calls and converts sinners to himself. But many have let those seasons pass, without obtaining the knowledge of salvation.]

3. By grace—

[There are times when all experience the strivings of God’s Spirit. If they improved those seasons, God would “give them more grace.” But many stifle their convictions, and “resist the Holy Ghost.”]

They who are in this predicament would do well to reflect on,

II. The misery of their state—

The distress of the prophet’s mind on account of the calamities that were coming on the Jews is most pathetically expressed. But a view of the miseries impending over those who have lost their seasons of grace might well excite yet more painful apprehensions.

Their seasons lost are irrecoverable—

[Present time is often wasted, as though it were of no value. But many would be glad on a death-bed to recall the seasons in which they had heard the tidings of salvation, or felt the motions of God’s Spirit, Such wishes, however, are all in vain.]

Their seasons lost may never be renewed—

[We are apt to promise ourselves days and years to come [Note: Acts 24:25.]. But how often does death disappoint our expectations!]

Every lost season has greatly aggravated their guilt—

[The means of grace are most important and valuable “talents.” The neglecting to improve them will be severely punished [Note: Matthew 25:26; Matthew 25:30.].]

Every season they have lost has hardened their hearts—

[The word that does not quicken and save will stupify and condemn [Note: Matthew 13:14-15. 2 Corinthians 2:16.].]

Every lost season has grieved the Holy Spirit more and more—

[God will not alway strive with those who resist his motions [Note: Genesis 6:3.]. If he cease to strive with us, our destruction is inevitable [Note: Hosea 9:12.].]

How should we compassionate those who are in such a state! How should every one adopt the words following my text [Note: Jeremiah 9:1.]! But their condition is not desperate:

III. The remedy that yet remains for them—

We might be ready to suppose that such persons were incurable; but the animated interrogatories in the text shew the contrary—

[Christ is a “physician” able and willing to save those who come unto him — — — His blood is a “balm” that heals the most deadly wounds [Note: Isaiah 1:18. 1 John 1:7.] — — — The true reason that so many die in their sins is, that they will not come to Christ for salvation [Note: John 5:40.] — — — Let every one then acknowledge that it is his own fault if he be not saved.]


Verse 22

DISCOURSE: 1044

CHRIST OUR PHYSICIAN

Jeremiah 8:22. In there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there? Why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?

AS the Eastern languages in general, so the inspired writings in particular, abound in metaphors. In this view, they are peculiarly calculated to convey instruction; because they embody truth, as it were; they dress it in the most inviting colours, and bring it home to the mind with most commanding energy. Metaphors are of necessity founded on some acknowledged truth: if therefore the figure itself be just and apposite, the sentiment contained under it becomes so much the more luminous and impressive. The general idea intended to be conveyed in the words of our text, is this; that, though God was so severely punishing the Jewish nation, he was willing to remove his judgments from them, and to restore them to his favour, if they would use the means which his prophets had prescribed: lamentable as their state was become, they were not beyond the reach of mercy, if they would repent themselves, and turn unto their God. Now this sentiment is conveyed in metaphorical expressions; the literal import of which is, that no one with the means of recovery before him would be foolish enough to continue under the pressure of a painful and dangerous disorder. This truth every one feels and acknowledges: and consequently we must acknowledge yet more strongly the folly and wickedness of continuing under the displeasure of God, when we have at hand the certain means of deliverance from it.

To impress this thought upon your minds, we shall,

I. Shew what is that state of recovery to which God desires to bring us—

That man is disordered by means of sin, is so evident, that we scarcely need insist upon it. We justly say in the general confession of our Church, “There is no health in us:” and we may as justly apply to our state that description of the Prophet Isaiah, “From the sole of our foot even to the head there is no soundness in us, but wounds and bruises and putrefying sores.” Still however there is such a thing as a state of health: and what that is, we may learn,

1. From the condition of some who had never known sickness—

[Adam in Paradise was made after the Divine image: every perfection of the Deity, as far as it was communicable to a creature, was found in him. His dispositions were altogether in unison with the will of God. He communed with his Maker daily, as with his familiar friend; and sought all his happiness in the performance of his will, and in the enjoyment of his presence.

Our blessed Lord and Saviour also is another example of one who never knew sin. In his early years we have but little information about him, except that he was subject to his parents, and obedient to them in all things: and though we cannot consider this as the whole of a child’s religion, we do not hesitate to say, that it is a most essential part of it, and that religion never can exist where this proof of it is wanting. When he had attained the age of twelve, we are enabled to speak determinately concerning him. Then, we know, that he loved the house of God, and found all his delight in the services of religion. Yea, with such intenseness was he engaged in communicating and receiving instruction, that he let his parents go from Jerusalem without him; and, when they found him in the temple after three days, expressed his wonder that they felt any solicitude about him, and that they did not at once conclude him to be occupied “about his Father’s business,” When he entered on his ministry, he made it “his meat and drink to do his Father’s will:” after labouring in his vocation the whole day, he would sometimes spend whole nights in prayer. He went about doing good amongst the poorest and vilest of mankind: and when his love was recompensed only by the most cruel insults and persecutions, he rendered nothing but good for evil: “when he was reviled, he reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not:” yea, rather, he wept over his enemies, and prayed for his very murderers.]

2. From the condition of some who had experienced a recovery—

[We cannot easily find persons more diseased than those to whom Peter addressed himself on the day of Pentecost. They had withstood all the discourses and miracles of our blessed Lord; and their hands were yet reeking with the Saviour’s blood. But as soon as the grace of God reached their hearts, they were humbled for their sins, they believed in Christ as their only Saviour, they addicted themselves to the ministry of the Apostles, they felt the most cordial affection towards all the despised followers of Jesus, they sold all their possessions for the support of his Church and people, and they found all their happiness in the exercises of devotion, and the service of their God [Note: Acts 2:41-47.].

The Apostle Paul is another instance of a most astonishing recovery. He had been filled with such a murderous zeal against the followers of Christ, that he “breathed out nothing but threatenings and slaughter against them.” But when he was stopped in his career, he became the most zealous and active of all the Apostles. No trials could deter him from prosecuting his Master’s work: he counted not his life dear unto him; yea, “if he should be offered upon the sacrifice and service of his brethren’s faith,” and pour out his blood as a libation for the Church, he considered it as a ground of most exalted joy and thanksgiving [Note: Philippians 2:17-18.].]

3. From these instances we may learn, I say, what a state of recovery is—

[It consists, first of all, in turning to the Lord Jesus Christ, with deep humiliation, and with lively faith, It consists, next, in mortifying all those corruptions which formerly led us captive, and in devoting all our powers to the service of our God. In a word, it consists in following the steps of our adorable Emmanuel, in being “pure as he was pure,” and “perfect as he was perfect.” And to this it is the earnest desire of our God to bring us: “Wilt thou not be made clean?” says he; “O when shall it once be [Note: Jeremiah 13:27.]?”]

Now, if God really desire to bring us to this happy state, we should,

II. Inquire, Whence it is that we do not already enjoy it?

It is not for want of adequate provision for us on the part of God—

[God himself appeals to us respecting this: “Is there not balm in Gilead; is there not a Physician there?” Has not God sent us a Physician from heaven, even his only dear Son, who perfectly knows the extent of our disorders, and is able to prescribe a remedy for them? Other physicians find their remedies in the productions of nature and of art; but this blessed Physician “heals his people with his own stripes:” he shed his own precious blood for us upon the cross, that it might be applied, as a sovereign balm, to our souls, to restore us to perfect health. And now we appeal to all of you: Is there any want of skill in this Physician, or any want of virtue in this balm? Have not thousands and millions of persons, dying of the malady of sin, experienced a perfect restoration of health through the application of the blood of Christ to their souls? Is there any reason to doubt, but that it would be as efficacious for you, as for them? And is not this remedy offered you “without money and without price?”

Behold then, ye are witnesses for God this day, that no blame attaches to him, and that the continuance of your maladies can in no respect be imputed to him.]

It is altogether owing to yourselves—

1. You do not believe that your disorders are so great and fatal as God has represented them—

[That sin has in a measure disordered your souls, you will readily acknowledge; but that your diseases are mortal, and that you must die to all eternity if they be not healed, you do not believe. We ask only what you would do, if you felt within yourselves a bodily disorder, which you were certain would destroy your life in a few hours if a remedy were not instantly applied? Would you not send for a physician without delay, and be in the utmost solicitude till he arrived for your relief? Why then is there not all this anxiety about your souls? Why are you not seeking the Lord Jesus Christ with your whole hearts? Our Lord assigns the true reason; “The whole need not a physician, but they that are sick;” and you feel no need of him, because you are not duly sensible of your sickness.]

2. You do not like the prescriptions which the good Physician has appointed for you—

[Repentance is regarded by you as a bitter pill, which you are very averse to take. Faith in the atoning blood of Christ is so humiliating, that you cannot make up your minds to submit to it: you think that you may be excused going to him with all that contrition and self-renunciation which the Gospel requires. “The living henceforth not to yourselves, but unto him,” and “the having your whole selves, body, soul, and spirit, sanctified” and devoted to the Lord, is also regarded by you as an insufferable restraint. You would be far better pleased to be left in possession of those gratifications which are pleasing to your corrupt nature, and which foster the most deadly diseases of your souls.]

3. You hope for some more convenient season for returning to your God—

[You have a general persuasion that you must experience a change before you go hence; but you wish to put it off to some future period. You are too young at present, or have too many engagements; and you think a time of sickness will be more favourable to reflection; and, as God has shewn mercy to many in their last hours, you hope he may to you. This completes what the other errors have begun. This lulls you asleep in fatal security. If ignorance slays its thousands, this procrastinating habit slays its ten thousands.]

Having shewn you the true reasons why your health is not recovered, I would impress the subject yet further on your minds, by asking two questions:

1. Would not the recovery of your souls tend to your present happiness?

[Grant that the votary of pleasure obtains all that he seeks after; is not he who has his sins forgiven, his corruptions mortified, his soul transformed into the Divine image, the sting of death removed, and a glorious inheritance secured to him, the happier man? — — — We will abide the decision of your own consciences.]

2. Will not the consequence of dying in your present diseased state be terrible?

[Terrible it will be to all; but most of all to those who have their diseases faithfully pointed out to them, and the heavenly Physician brought before them. O how pungent will that question be to them in the day of judgment, “Why were not ye recovered, ye, who had the balm of Gilead freely offered you, and who withstood the most pressing solicitations to accept of mercy?” O that ye may be wise in time! and that, instead of having then to regret the opportunities you have lost, you may now be enabled to say with the Psalmist, “Bless the Lord, O my soul; who forgiveth all thy sins, and healeth all thy diseases!”]

 


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Bibliography Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Jeremiah 8:4". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/shh/jeremiah-8.html. 1832.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, August 18th, 2019
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20
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