7. O LORD, though our iniquities testify against us, do thou it for thy name's sake: for our backslidings are many; we have sinned against thee.
7. Si iniquitates nostrae testificantur contra nos, Jehova, fac propter nomen tuum; quia multiplicatae sunt aversiones nostrae, in te scelerate egimus.
The Prophet, no doubt, intended here to exhort the Jews by his own example to seek pardon; nor does he so assume the character of others, as though he was free himself from guilt; for he was not more righteous than Daniel, who, as we find, testified that he confessed before God, not only the sins of the people, but also his own sins. (Daniel 9:4, 5) And Jeremiah, though not one of God's despisers, nor of the profane, who had provoked God's wrath, was yet one of the people; and here he connects himself with them; and he did this in sincerity and not in dissimulation. But he might have prayed silently at home; why then did he make public his prayer? What was his purpose in consigning it to writing? It was that he might rouse the people, as I have already said, by his example, so that they might flee as suppliants to God's mercy, and seek forgiveness for their sins. This then was the Prophet's object. Thus we see that the prophecy concerning the scarcity and the famine was announced, that the people might through repentance escape the wrath of God; for we know that when God has even taken his sword he may possibly be pacified, as he is in his nature merciful: and besides, the design of all such predictions is, that men, conscious of their sins, may by faith and repentance escape the destruction that awaits them. We now then understand the design of the Prophet in this passage.
He says first, Even though our iniquities testify, etc. The verb nh, one, properly means to answer; but it means also to testify, as in this place. O Jehovah, he says, there is no reason now to contend with thee, or to expostulate, or to ask why thou denlest so severely with us; let all such excuses be dismissed, for our sins testify against us; that is, |Were there no angels nor men to accuse us, our own conscience is sufficient to condemn us.| But when do our iniquities testify against us? Even when we know that we are exposed to God's judgment and are held guilty by him. As to the reprobate, their iniquities cry to heaven, as it is said of Sodom. (Genesis 18:20, 21) But the Prophet seems here to express something more, -- that the Jews could not make evasions, but must confess that they were worthy of death.
For he says, For thy name's sake deal with us. We see that the Prophet first condemns himself and the whole people; as though he had said, |If thou, Lord, summonest us to plead our own cause, we can expect nothing better than to be condemned by our own mouths, for our iniquities are sufficient to condemn us. What then remains for us?| The Prophet takes it as granted that there was but one remedy, -- that God would save his people for his own name's sake; as though he had said, |In ourselves we find nothing but reasons for condemnation; seek then in thyself a reason for forgiving us: for as long as thou regardest us, thou must necessarily hate us and be thus a rigid Judge; cease then to seek anything in us or to call us to an account, but seek from thyself a reason for sparing us.| He then adds, For multiplied have our defections, and against thee have we done wickedly By these words the Prophet shews that he did not formally, like hypocrites, confess sins, but really acknowledged that the Jews would have been found in various ways guilty had God dealt with them according to justice.
As we now perceive the import of the words, let us learn from this passage, that there is no other way of being reconciled to God than by having him to be propitious to us for his name's sake. And by this truth is refuted everything that has been invented by the Papists, not less foolishly than rashly, respecting their own satisfactions. They indeed know that they stand in need of God's mercy; for no one is so blinded under the Papacy, who does not feel the secret misgivings of his own conscience: so the saintlings, who lay claim to angelic perfection, are yet self -- convicted, and are by necessity urged to seek pardon; but in the mean time they obtrude on God their satisfactions and works of supererogation, by which they compensate for their sins, and thus deliver themselves from the hand of God. Now this is a remarkable passage to confute such a diabolical delirium, for the Prophet brings forward the name of God; as though he had said, |This is the only way by which we can return to God's favor and obtain reconciliation with him, even by having him to deal with us for his name's sake, so that he may seek the cause of his mercy in himself, for in us he can find none.| If Jeremiah said this of himself, and not feignedly, what madness is it for us to arrogate so much to ourselves, as to bring anything before God by which he may be induced to shew mercy? Let us then know that God forgives our sins, not from a regard to any compensation, but only on account of a sufficient reason within himself, that he may glorify his own name. Now follows a clearer explanation and a confirmation of this verse.