20. We acknowledge, O LORD, our wickedness, and the iniquity of our fathers: for we have sinned against thee.
20. Cognoscimus, Jehova, scelus nostrum, et iniquitatem patrum nostrorum; quoniam scelerate egimus in te (cht'nv, quanquam rs et cht' idem fere sunt, tamen simpliciter concludit, quod scelerate egerint adversus Deum.)
The Prophet here prescribes no doubt to the Jews the way of appeasing God. He before uttered a prayer, partly in order to reprove the people for their wicked obstinacy, and partly to shew to the godly and the elect that there remained some hope. But now he uses a simple form of prayer, when he says, O Lord, we know, etc Hardly one in a thousand then did know; but the Prophet does not assume the character of the whole people; and why not? He doubtless knew that the faithful among the people were very few; but he dictates for posterity a right form of prayer, so that they might iu exile know that this one thing only remained for them -- to confess their sins, as otherwise they could not obtain pardon.
He therefore says, We know our wickedness and the iniquity of our fathers; for we have done wickedly against thee We have already explained the Prophet's meaning in these few words, -- that when God puts forth his hand against us, there is no hope of salvation, except we repent. But confession is here put for repentance. Hypocrites are indeed very free in confessing their sins; but the Prophet speaks here of real confession; and by stating a part for the whole, everything included in repentance, as I have said, is intended. But the object here is to shew, that they were humbly to seek forgiveness, which could not be done, except they condemned themselves before God, and thus anticipated his judgment.
He speaks of the iniquity of the fathers, not that the faithful seek associates, here and there, for the sake of extenuating their guilt; but it was an aggravation of their sins, when they confessed that they were not only guilty themselves before God, but that they had brought from the womb what was, as it were, hereditary, so that they deserved death because they were the descendants of ungodly parents. Whilst hypocrites allege the examples of fathers, they think themselves thus absolved, or at least not so culpable, because they had learnt what they practice from their childhood, because a bad education had led them astray. But the faithful are of a far different mind; for they confess themselves worthy of God's vengeance, though he inquired not into the wickedness of their fathers; and they think also that God acts justly, when he executes vengeance on account of their fathers' sins, being thus worthy of a twofold vengeance.
We now then understand what the Prophet means; and hence we learn how foolishly the Papists set up this shield against God; that is, by having the word fathers often on their lips; for they ought on the contrary to confess the wickedness and iniquities of their fathers, according to what is more fully enlarged upon in the ninth chapter of Daniel (Daniel 9), where he confesses that he himself and the fathers and kings had done wickedly. And in these words we may also notice, that it was not some slight fault that Jeremiah refers to when he said, |We acknowledge our iniquity and the iniquity of our fathers;| he mentions first the iniquity of the living; then the iniquity of their fathers, and adds, in the third place, |We have acted wickedly against thee.| We hence see that he did not formally acknowledge some slight faults, but he confesses most plainly, that they were all ungodly and transgressors of God's law, and were worthy, not merely of a moderate chastisement, but of dreadful perdition, as they had thus provoked the wrath of God.