19. O LORD, my strength, and my fortress, and my refuge in the day of affliction, the Gentiles shall come unto thee from the ends of the earth, and shall say, Surely our fathers have inherited lies, vanity, and things wherein there is no profit.
19. Jehova, robur meum et munitio mea, et refugium in die angustiae, (vel, afflictionis) ad te Gentes venient e finibus terrae ac dicent, Certe mendacium possederunt patres nostri, vanitas (vanitatem) et nihil in ipsis utile.
What the Prophet has said hitherto might appear contrary to the promises of God, and wholly subversive of the covenant which he had made with Abraham. God had chosen to himself one people from the whole world, now when this people were trodden under foot what could the most perfect of the faithful suppose but that that covenant was rendered void, since God had resolved to destroy the Jews and to obliterate their name? This was then a most grievous trial, and sufficient, to shake the strongest minds. The Prophet therefore now returns to the subject, and obviates this temptation; and seeing men in despair he turns to God, and speaks of the calling of the Gentiles, which was sufficient wholly to remove that stumbling -- block, which I have mentioned respecting the apostasy and ruin of the chosen people. We now perceive the Prophet's meaning.
When any one reads the whole chapter, he may think that Jeremiah abruptly turns to address God; but what I have stated ought to be borne in mind, for his purpose was to fortify himself and the faithful against the thought I have mentioned, which would have otherwise shaken the faith of them all. And he shews what is best to be done in a troubled and dark state of things, for Satan hunts for nothing more than to involve us in various and intricate disputes, and he is an acute disputant, yea, and a sophist; we are also very ready to receive what he may suggest, and thus it happens that the thoughts which we either attain ourselves or too readily receive when offered by the artifice of Satan, often overwhelm us. There is then no better remedy than to break off such disputes and to turn our eyes and all our thoughts to God. This the Prophet did when he said, O Jehovah, to thee shall the Gentiles come
We now see that Jeremiah sets the conversion of the Gentiles in opposition to the destruction which he had before denounced; for the truth of God and his mercy were so connected with the salvation of the chosen people, that their destruction seemed to obliterate them. Therefore the Prophet sets forth in opposition to this the conversion of the Gentiles, as though he had said, |Though the race of Abraham perishes, yet God's covenant fails not, nor is there any diminution of his grace, for he will convert all the Gentiles to himself.| If any one objects and says, that though the Gentiles be converted, yet the covenant of God could not have been valid and perpetual, except the posterity of Abraham were heirs of that grace which God had promised to him. To this there is a ready answer, for when God turned the Gentiles to himself he was mindful of his promise, so as to gather a Church to himself both from the Jews and the Gentiles, as we also know that Christ came to proclaim peace to those afar off and to them who were nigh, according to what Paul teaches. (Ephesians 2:17) Jeremiah then includes in the calling of the Gentiles what is said elsewhere,
|A remnant according to the election of grace.| (Romans 9:5)
It is an argument from the greater to the less; |God will not retain a few men only, but will gather to himself those who now seem dispersed through the whole world; much more then shall all those of the race of Abraham, who are chosen by God, be saved; and though the great body of the people perish, yet the Lord, who knows his own people, will not suffer them to perish even in the worst state of things.|
But as the struggle was difficult, he calls God his strength, and fortress, and refuge. He says zy vmzy ozi vemozi, ma force et forteresse, for the two words come from the same root, and we cannot in Latin thus fitly translate them. He then calls God his strength and his fortress, but both words are derived from a verb which means to be strong. He then adds, my refuge in the day of affliction We here see that God according to circumstances is adorned with names, such as are fit to give us confidence, and as it were to arm us for the purpose of sustaining all the assaults of temptations, for there was not sufficient force and power in that plain declaration, |O Jehovah, the Gentiles shall come to thee,| but as the Prophet was reduced to the greatest straits, and, as I have said, his faith nmst have been greatly tried, he calls God his strength, his fortress, and his refuge in the day of affliction; as though he had said, |Now is the time when I find how necessary is thy protection, thy strength, thy power; for though my present miseries, and the approaching ruin dishearten me, yet thou wilt be to me a refuge.|
But he says, that the Gentiles would come from the ends of the earth A contrast is to be observed here also; for the Jews at first worshipped God, as it were in an obscure corner; but he says, |When that land shall cast out its inhabitants, all nations shall come, not only from neighboring countries, but also from the extremities of the earth.| He adds, that the Gentiles would say, surely falsehood leave our fathers possessed; it was vanity, there was nothing profitable in them To possess, here means the same as to inherit; for we know that one's own inheritance is valuable to him; and men are as it were fixed in their farms and fields. As then the Gentiles, before they were enlightened, thought their chief happiness to be in their superstitions, the Prophet says here, by way of concession, that they possessed falsehood, as though it was said, |Our fathers thought themselves blessed and happy when they worshipped idols and their own inventions.| It was therefore their heritage, that is, they thought nothing better or more to be desired than to embrace their idols and their errors; but it was falsehood, he says, that is, when they thought that they had a glorious inheritance it was only a foolish imagination; it was, in short, vanity, and there was nothing useful or profitable in them. This confession proves the conversion of the Gentiles by external evidences. When we offend God, not only secretly, but also by bad examples, repentance requires confession. Hence the Prophet shews a change in the Gentiles, for they would of themselves acknowledge that their fathers had been deceived by superstitions; for while they thought that they were acting rightly, they were only under the influence of inusions and fascinations.
But it is not to be doubted but that the Prophet here indirectly condemns the Jews, because they had not departed from the sins of their fathers, though they had been often admonished. The Gentiles then shall come, and the ignorance of their fathers shall not prevent them from confessing that they and their fathers were guilty before God. Since then the hinderance which from deliberate wickedness held fast the Jews, would not prevail with the Gentiles, it appeared evident how great was the contumacy of the people, who could not be persuaded to forsake the bad examples of their fathers. We now understand what the Prophet means, and for what purpose he introduced this prayer. It follows --