10. And it shall come to pass, when thou shalt shew this people all these words, and they shall say unto thee, Wherefore hath the LORD pronounced all this great evil against us? or what is our iniquity? or what is our sin that we have committed against the LORD our God?
10. Et erit quum annuntiaveris populo huic omnia verba haec, tunc dicent (vel, si diceret) tibi, Cur loquutus est Jehova super nos omne malum hoe magnum? et quae iniquitas nostra? et quod scelus nostrum, quo scelerate egimus adversus Jehovam Deum nostrum?
11. Then shalt thou say unto them, Because your fathers have forsaken me, saith the LORD, and have walked after other gods, and have served them, and have worshipped them, and have forsaken me, and have not kept my law;
11. Tunc dices illis, Quia dereliquerunt me patres vestri, dicit Jehova, et profecti sunt post deos alienos, et servierunt illis, et adoraverunt illos (vel, sese inflexerunt coram illis,) et me reliquerunt et legem meam non servarunt;
12. And ye have done worse than your fathers; for, behold, ye walk every one after the imagination of his evil heart, that they may not hearken unto me:
12. Et vos deteriores fuistis (deterius egistis) ad faciendum, (vel, perpetrandum) quam patres vestri, et ecce vos profecti estis quisque post pravitatem cordis sui mall, et absque audire me (hoe est, ita ut non audieritis me:)
13. Therefore will I cast you out of this land into a land that ye know not, neither ye nor your fathers; and there shall ye serve other gods day and night; where I will not shew you favour.
13. Et expellam vos e terra hae ad terram quam non novistis vos et patres vestri, et servietis inie diis alienis die ae nocte; quia non dabo vobis gratiam.
He shews here what we have seen elsewhere, -- that the people flattered themselves in their vices, so that they could not be turned by any admonitions, nor be led by any means to repentance. It was a great blindness, nay, even madness, not to examine themselves, when they were smitten by the hand of God; for conscience ought to have been to them like a thousand witnesses, immediately condemning them; but hardly any one was found who examined his own life; and then, though God proved them guilty, hardly one in a hundred winingly and humbly submitted to his judgment; but the greater part murmured and made a clamor, whenever they felt the scourges of God. This evil, as Jeremiah shews, prevailed among the people; and he shewed the same in the fifth chapter.
Hence it is that God says, When thou shalt declare these words to this people, and they shall say, Wherefore has Jehovah spoken all this great evil against us; what is our iniquity? what is our sin, that he so rages against us, as though we had acted wickedly against him? God no doubt intended to obviate in time what that perverse people might have said, for he knew that they possessed an untameable disposition. As then he knew that they would be so refractory as to receive no reproof, he confirms his own Prophet, as though he had said, |There is no reason for their perverseness to discourage thee; for they will immediately oppose thee, and treat thee as one doing them a grievous wrong; they will expostulate with thee and deny that they ought to be deemed guilty of so great crimes; if then they will thus petulantly cast aside thy threatenings, there is no reason for thee to be disheartened, for thou shalt have an answer ready for them.|
We now see how hypocrites gained nothing, either by their evasions, or by wantonly rising against God and his Prophets. At the same time all teachers are reminded here of their duty, not to vacinate when they have to do with proud and intractable men. As it appeared elsewhere, where God commanded his Prophet to put on a brazen front, that he might boldly encounter all the insults of the people; (Jeremiah 1:18) the same is the case here, they shall say to thee, that is, when thou threatenest them, they will not winingly give way, but they will contend as though thou didst accuse them unjustly, for they will say, |What is our sin? what is our iniquity? what is the wickedness which we have committed against Jehovah our God, that he should declare this great evil against us?| Thus we see that hypocrites vent their rage not only against God's servants, but against God himself, not indeed that they profess openly and plainly to do so. But what is the effect when they cannot bear to be corrected by God's hand, but resist and shew that they do not endure correction with a resigned mind? do they not sufficiently prove that they rebel against God?
But Jeremiah here graphically describes the character of those who struggled with God, for they dared not wholly to deny that they were wicked, but they extenuated as far as they could their sin, like Cain, who ventured not to assert that he was innocent, for he was conscious of having done wrong; and the voice of God, |Where is thy brother?| strengthened the voice of conscience, but in the meantime he ceased not to utter this complaint,
|Greater is my punishment than I can bear.|
(Genesis 4:9, 13)
So also Jeremiah introduces the people as speaking, |O, what is our iniquity? and what is the sin which we have committed against Jehovah our God, that he should speak this great evil against us?| They say not that they were wholly without fault, they only object that the atrocity of their sins was not so great as to cause God to be so angry with them, and to visit them with so grievous a punishment. They then exaggerated the punishment, that they might obtain some covering for themselves; and yet they did not say that they were innocent or free from every fault, but they speak of their iniquities and sins as though they had said, |We indeed confess that there is something which God may reprehend, but we do not acknowledge such a mass of sins and iniquities as to cause him thus to thunder against us.|
But he then says, Thou shalt answer them, Because your fathers forsook me; they went after foreign gods, served and worshipped them; and me they forsook and my law they kept not, and ye have done worse God in the first place accused their fathers, not that punishment ought to have fallen on their children, except they followed the wickedness of their fathers, but the men of that age fully deserved to be visited with the judgment their fathers merited. Besides well known is that declaration, that God reckons the iniquities of the fathers to their children; (Exodus 20:5; Exodus 34:7; Deuteronomy 5:9) and he acts thus justly, for he might justly execute vengeance for sins on the whole human race, according to what Christ says,
|On you shall come the blood of all the godly, from righteous Abel to Zachariah the son of Barachiah.| (Matthew 23:35; Luke 11:51)
Thus then the Scripture often declares, that children shall be punished with their fathers, because God will at one time or another require an account of all sins, and thus will make amends for his long forbearance, for as he waits for men and kindly invites them through his patience to repent, so when he sees no hope he inflicts all his scourges. It is hence no wonder that children are more grievously punished after iniquity has prevailed for many ages.
We hence see that these two things are not inconsistent -- that God connects the punishment of children with that of their fathers, and that he does not punish the innocent. We indeed see this fulfilled,
|The soul that sinneth it shall die; the children shall not bear the iniquity of their fathers, nor the father the iniquity of his child,| (Ezekiel 18:4, 20)
for God never blends children with their fathers except they be their associates in wickedness. But yet there is nothing to prevent God to punish children for the sins of their fathers, especially when they continually rush headlong into worse sins, when the children, as we shall hereafter see, exceed their fathers in all kinds of wickedness.
We further learn from this passage, that they bring forward a vain pretense who allege against us the examples of the Fathers, as we see to be done now by those under the Papacy; for the shield they boldly set up against us is this, that they imitate the examples of the fathers. But God declares here that they were worthy of double punishment who repented not when they saw that their fathers had been ungodly and transgressors of the law.
Let us now notice the sins which God mentions: he says, that they had forsaken him. That people could not make any excuse for going astray, like the unhappy heathens, to whom no Prophet had been sent, and no law had been given. Hence the heathens had some excuse more than the Jews. The truth indeed respecting all was, that they were all apostates, for God had bound the human race to himself, and all they who followed superstitions were justly charged with the sin of apostasy; there was yet a greater atrocity of wickedness in the Jewish people, for God had set before them his law, they had been brought up as it were in his school, they knew what true religion was, they were able to distinguish the true God from fictitious gods. We now then see the meaning of the expression, They have forsaken me: and it is twice repeated, because it was necessary thus to prove the Jews guilty, that their mouths might be stopped; for we have seen that they were to be thus roused from their insensibility, inasmuch as they would have never yielded nor acknowledged their sins, were they not constrained.
He says further, that they went after foreign gods, served them, and worshipped them Now this statement enhances again their sins, for the Jews preferred their own inventions to the true God, who had by so many signs and testimonies manifested his glory and made known his power among them. As then God had abundantly testified his power, it was by no means an endurable ingratitude in them to follow strange gods, of whom they had only heard. The heathens indeed vainly boasted of their idols, and spread abroad many fables to allure unhappy men to false and corrupt worship, but the Jews knew who the true God was. To believe the fables of the heathens, rather than the law and their own experience, was not this the basest impiety? This then was the reason why God complained that foreign gods were worshipped by them.
Then he adds, They served and worshipped them The verb to serve is often used by the Hebrews to express worship, as we have stated elsewhere; and thus is refuted the folly of the Papists who deny that they are idolaters, because they worship pictures and statues with dulla, that is, with service, if we may so render it, and not with latria, as though Scripture in condemning idolatry never used this verb. But God condemns here the Jews because they served strange gods, because they gave credit to the false and vain fictions of the heathens; and then he adds the outward action, that they prostrated themselves before their idols.
At the end of this verse he shews how he had been forsaken, even because they kept not his law. He then confirms what I have already stated, that there was on this account a worse apostasy among the Jews, for they had knowingly and wilfully forsaken the fountain of living water, as we have seen in the second chapter: hence simple ignorance is not what is here reprehended, as though they had sinned through error or want of knowledge, but they had rejected the worship of God as it were designedly. The rest I shall defer till to-morrow.