l. Then said the LORD unto me, Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my mind could not be toward this people: cast them out of my sight, and let them go forth.
1. Et dixit Jehova ad me, Si steterint Moses et Samuel coram facie mea, non est anima (id est cor meum) ad populum hunc; emitte a facie mea et exeant.
2. And it shall come to pass, if they say unto thee, Whither shall we go forth? then thou shalt tell them, Thus saith the LORD; Such as are for death, to death; and such as are for the sword, to the sword; and such as are for the famine, to the famine; and such as are for the captivity, to the captivity.
2. Et erit, si dixerint tibi, Quo exibimus? (vel, egrediemur) tunc dices illis, Sic dicit Jehova, Qui ad mortem, ad mortem, et qui ad gladium, ad gladium, et qui ad famem, ad famem, et qui ad captivitatem, ad captivitatem.
God again repeats what we have before observed, -- that as the impieties and sins of the people had arrived at the highest pitch, there was no more room for pardon or for mercy: and though God seems to have rejected altogether the prayer of his servant, we are not yet to think that it was without any benefit. Jeremiah wished indeed to deliver the whole people from destruction; but he did not thus pray inconsiderately and uselessly; for he distinguished between the titular church, as they say, and the chosen seed, for he knew that many were become the degenerated children of Abraham: nor was he unacquainted with what is said in the Psalms,
|Who shall dwell in thy tabernacle, and who shall stand on the mount of thy holiness? He who is innocent as to his hands, and is of a pure heart.| (Psalm 15:1, 2)
The Prophet there distinctly shews that hypocrites glory in vain, because they had a free entrance into the Temple, and sacrificed together with the faithful; for a clean heart and pure hands are required. Jeremiah no doubt fully understood this.
Though then he extended his solicitude to the whole body of the people, he yet knew that there was a chosen seed. So at this day, when we pray, we ought, according to the rule of charity, to include all, for we cannot fix on those whom God has chosen or whom he has rejected; and thus we ought, as far as we can, to promote the salvation of all; and yet we know, as a general truth, that many are reprobate for whom our prayers will avail nothing; we know this, and yet we cannot point out any one as by the finger. So then the prayer of Jeremiah was not useless; but in its very form, as they say, it was not heard, for he wished the whole people to be saved; but as God had resolved to destroy the ungodly, such as were beyond the reach of hope on account of their untamable obstinacy, Jeremiah obtained only in part what he prayed for, -- that God would preserve his Church, which then was in a manner hidden.
But it is now said, If stand before me did Moses and Samuel, my soul would not be towards this people The meaning is, that though all intercessors came forth in their behalf, they could do nothing, for God had rejected them. Moses and Samuel are here mentioned, but in another place Job and Daniel are named, and for the same reason. (Ezekiel 14:14) Moses is mentioned here, because we find that he offered himself, and wished to be, an anathema for his people.
|Blot me out of the book of life, or spare this people.| (Exodus 32:32)
As then God's wrath had been so often pacified by Moses, he is here mentioned; for when it was all over with the people, he delivered them as it were from eternal death, and this was well and commonly known to the Jews. As to Samuel, we know how celebrated he was, and that God had been often pacified by him for the preservation of the whole people; but at length, when he prayed for Saul, God did indeed restrain his immoderate zeal, and forbade him to pray any more, (1 Samuel 16:1) and yet he ceased not to pray. As then there was so great a fervor in Samuel, that he in a manner struggled with God, he is here joined with Moses: |If, then, stand before me did these two, my soul, or my heart, would be alienated from this people, for I shall be no more pacified towards them.|
But he speaks of the perverse multitude, which had so often wilfully sought their own destruction; for, as it has appeared elsewhere, the people had never been rejected; and yet we must distinguish between the chaff and the wheat. Judea was, as it were, the threshing -- floor of God, on which there was a great heap of chaff, for the multitude had departed from true religion; and there were a few grains found hid in the rubbish. Hence the heart of God was not towards the people, that is, towards the degenerated children of Abraham, who were proud only of their name, while they were covenant -- breakers; for they had long ago forsaken the true worship of God and all integrity. Therefore the heart of God was not towards them. At the same time he preserved, in a wonderful and in a hidden manner, a remnant.
Now this passage teaches us what James also mentions, that the prayer of the righteous avails much with God; and he brings forward the example of Elijah, who closed heaven by his prayer, so that it rained not for a long time; and who afterwards opened heaven by his prayer, so as to obtain rain from God. (James 5:16-18) He hence infers that the prayers of the righteous avail much, not only when they pray for themselves, but also when they pray for others; for Elijah had no particular regard for himself, but his object was to gain relief for the whole people. It is indeed certain that the intercession of the saints is highly appreciated by God; and hence it is that we are bidden winingly and freely to make known to one another our necessities, so that we may mutually help and pray for one another. But we must at the same time observe, that they who think themselves to be commended to God by others in their prayers, ought not on that account to become more secure; for it is certain, that as the prayers of the faithful avail the members of Christ, so they do no good to the ungodly and the hypocrites. Nor does God indeed bid us to acquiesce in the confidence, that others pray for us, but bids every one to pray, and also to join their prayers with those of all the members of the ChurJeremiah Whosoever then desires to profit by the prayers of the saints must also pray himself.
It is true, I allow, that the prayers of the saints sometimes benefit even the ungodly and aliens; for it was not in vain that Christ prayed,
|Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,| (Luke 23:34)
nor did Stephen pray in vain when he offered up a similar prayer, (Acts 7:60) and I am disposed to agree with what Augustine says, that Paul, among others, was the effect of Stephen's prayer. (Serm.1, de Sanctis) But I am speaking now of what we must do when we find that we are helped by the prayers of the saints, that is, that we are strenuously to perform our part, and strive to shew for our brethren the same solicitude and care as we expect from them. It is then certain beyond a doubt, that each is not only heard when he prays for himself, but that the prayers of the saints avail in behalf of others.
But extremely ridiculous are the Papists, who apply this passage to dead saints: Moses and Samuel, they say, were dead, when God declared what is here said; it is then true that they prayed. The inference is worthy of such teachers, which is as good as the braying of an ass. There is here a supposition made, as though God did say, |If Moses and Samuel were now alive and interceded for them, I would yet remain implacable.| But Ezekiel mentions Daniel, who was then living, and he names also Job. We hence see that he makes no distinction between the dead and the living. Therefore the Papists are extremely foolish and stupid when they thus idly prate that the dead pray for the living, on the ground of what is here said of Moses and Samuel. It is not then worthwhile to refute this ignorant assertion, as it vanishes almost of itself: a brief warning, lest ally one should be deluded by such a cavil, is sufficient.
He afterwards bids the Prophet to east away the people; cast them away, or banish them, he says, from my presence He doubtless speaks here in a strong manner, |Let them be gone from me.| But yet God shews what he had commanded his Prophet; as though he had said, |Fulfil thou thine office, remember what burden I have laid on thee.| Jeremiah had been ordered to denounce exile on the people? he was the herald of divine vengeance. As then he sustained this office, it was his duty to execute the commission which God had given him. We now then apprehend what these words mean, cast them away
But we must again notice here what we have before seen, -- that God commends the efficacy of prophetic doctrine, according to what has been said,
|I set thee over nations and kingdoms, to plant and to root up, to build and to destroy,| (Jeremiah 1:10)
Then God intimates, that so great a power would be in the mouth of his servant, that though the Jews mocked at his predictions, as if they were vain threatenings to frighten children, they would yet be like thunderbolts; so that Jeremiah would drive away the people, as though he was furnished with a large army and great forces, according to what Paul declares, -- that he had power given him to cast down every height that exalted itself against Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5) As then God claims so great an authority for his prophetic doctrine, when threatening the unbelieving with punishment, let us know that the same extends to all the promises of salvation. Therefore, whenever God offers grace to us by the gospel, and testifies that he will be propitious to us, let us know that heaven is in a manner open to us; and let us not seek any other ground of assurance than his own testimony: and why? because as to the prophets was given the power of binding and loosing, so now the same power is given to the Church, that is, to invite all to be saved who are as yet healable, and to denounce eternal ruin on the reprobate and the obstinate in their wickedness, according to what is said by Christ,
|Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.| (Matthew 16:19; 18:18)
For he gave his Apostles the power not only of binding, but also of loosing. And Paul, after having spoken in high terms of the former power, adds,
|When your obedience shall be accomplished,| (2 Corinthians 10:6)
as though he had said, that the gospel was not preached only for this end, to pronounce death on the reprobate, but that it was also a pledge of salvation to all the elect, to them who embraced by true faith the promises offered to them.
He now confirms the previous sentence, If they shall say, Whither shall we go forth? then shalt thou say to them, Those for death, to death; those for the sword, to the sword; those for the famine, to the famine; those for exile, to exile; as though he had said, |In vain do they complain of their own miseries.| For God, no doubt, had in view the clamorous complaints which prevailed everywhere among the people on account of their very heavy calamities. Thus indeed were hypocrites wont to do; for whenever God spared them, they haughtily insulted the prophets, and boastingly alleged their subsidies and fortresses; but when God's hand pressed hard on them, they became very eloquent in their complaints: |Alas! how far will God go at length? is there to be never an end? and what does all this mean? why does he so severely afflict us? and why does he not at least relieve us in some measure from our ntiseries?| As then the hypocrites were so querulous in their calamities, God anticipates all these expostulations, and says, |If they say to thee, Where shall we flee?' say to them, Either to death, or to famine, or to the sword, or to exile;' it is all one with God, and it matters not; for there is no hope of mercy for you any longer, since God has rejected you: know then that it is all over with you, for there is no deliverance for you from God: either the sword, or famine, or some other kind of death will overtake you; ye are in every way past hope.|