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Commentary On Jeremiah And Lamentations Volume 2 by Jean Calvin

Jeremiah 18:21

21. Therefore deliver up their children to the famine, and pour out their blood by the force of the sword; and let their wives be bereaved of their children, and be widows; and let their men be put to death; let their young men be slain by the sword in battle.

21. Propterea pone filios eorum ad famem (hoc est, projice, vel, prostitue ad famem,) et diffunde (vel, diffluere fac) eos ad manus gladii, et sint mulieres eorum orbae et viduae, et viri eorum sint percussi ad mortem (lethaliter,) juvenes eorum sint percussi gladio in praelio.

The Prophet seems here to have been driven through indignation to utter imprecations which are not consistent with a right feeling; for even if Christ had not said with his own mouth, that we are to pray for those who curse us, the very law of God, ever known to the holy fathers, was sufficient. Jeremiah then ought not to have uttered these curses, and to have imprecated final destruction on his enemies, thouglt they fully deserved it. But it must be observed, that he was moved not otherwise than by the Holy Spirit, to become thus indignant against his enemies; for he could not have been excused on the ground that indignation often transgresses the bounds of patience, for the children of God ought to bear all injuries to the utmost; but, as I have said, the Prophet here has announced nothing rashly, nor did he allow himself to wish anything as of himself, but obediently proclaimed what the Holy Spirit dictated, as his faithful instrument.

We have said elsewhere, that the first thing to be noticed is, that when we pray for any evil on the wicked, we ought not to act on private grounds; for he who has a regard to himself, will ever be led away by too strong an impulse; and even when our prayers are calmly and rightly formed, we are yet ever wrong, when we consult our private advantages or redress our own injuries. That is one thing. And secondly, we ought to have that wisdom which distinguishes between the elect and the reprobate. But as God bids us to suspend our judgment, inasmuch as we cannot surely know what will take place to-morrow, we ought not to imitate indiscriminately the Prophet in praying God to destroy and scatter ungodly men of whom we despair; for, as it has been stated, we are not certain what has been decreed in heaven. In short, whosoever is disposed, after the example of Jeremiah, to pray for a curse on his enemies, must be ruled by the same spirit, according to what Christ said to his disciples; for as God destroyed the wicked at the request of Elijah, the Apostles wished Christ to do the same by fire from heaven; but he said,

|Ye know not by what spirit ye are, ruled.| (Luke 9:55)

They were unlike Elijah, and yet; wished like apes to imitate what he did.

But, as I have said, let first all regard to our own benefit or loss be dismissed, when we would shew ourselves indignant against the wicked; and secondly, let us have the spirit of wisdom and discretion; and lastly, let all the turbulent feelings of the flesh be checked, for as soon as anything human be mixed with our prayers, some confusion will ever be found. There was nothing turbulent in this imprecation of Jeremiah, for the Spirit of God ruled his heart and his tongue, and then he forgot himself; and lastly, he knew that they were reprobate and already doomed to final ruin. He therefore hesitated not, through the prophetic spirit, to imprecate on them what we here read. And there is no doubt but that he was ever solicitous for the remnant, for he knew that there were some faithful; and though they were unknown, he yet prayed God for them. But he fulminates here against the reprobate who were already given up to ruin. This is the reason why he hesitated not to pray that they might be delivered up to famine and given to the sword, so that their women might be bereaved and become widows, and their men put to death, and their youth smitten by the sword. It now follows --

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