15. For I have not sent them, saith the LORD, yet they prophesy a lie in my name; that I might drive you out, and that ye might perish, ye, and the prophets that prophesy unto you.
15. Quia non misi eos, dicit Jehova, et ipsi prophetant in nomine meo ad mendacium (id est, fallacium) ut vos ejiciam, et pereatis vos et prophetae, qui prophetant vobis.
He confirms what he had said, that they had not been sent by God. The object is to shew the Jews, that they were not to receive thoughtlessly everything presented to them under God's name, but that they were to exercise discrimination and judgment. This is a passage worthy of special notice, for the devil has ever falsely assumed God's name; and for all the errors and delusions which have ever prevailed in the world, he has not obtained credit otherwise than by this false pretense. And at this day we see that many are wilfully blind, because they think they are excused before God if they can pretend ignorance, and they say that they are not wickedly credulous, but they dare not make curious inquiries. As then there are many who wilfully put on nooses and also wish to be deceived, we ought to notice what the Prophet says here, that we ought to distinguish the true from false prophets; for what purpose? even that we may receive them only, and depend on their words who have been sent by the Lord.
It may be here asked, how comes this difference? It was formerly necessary for prophets to be raised in a special manner, for it was a special gift to predict future and hidden events, hence the prophetic was not an ordinary office like the sacerdotal. That promise indeed ever continued in force,
|A prophet will I raise to thee from the midst of thy brethren.| (Deuteronomy 18:18.)
But though this was a perpetual favor conferred by God on the Israelites, yet the prophets were ever called in a special manner; no one was to take this office except endued with an extraordinary gift. Though Jeremiah was a priest, yet he was not on that account a prophet; but God, as we have seen, made him a prophet. But with regard to us, the matter is different, for God does not at this day predict hidden events; but he would have us to be satisfied with his Gospel, for in it is made known to us the perfection of wisdom. As then we live in |the fullness of time,| God does not reveal prophecies so as to point out this or that thing to us in particular. We may now obtain certainty as to the truth, if we form our judgment according to the Law, and the Prophets, and the Gospel. There is indeed need of the spirit of discernment; but we shall never go astray, if we depend on the mouth of God, and follow the example of the Bereans, of whom Luke speaks in the Acts, who says, that they carefully read the Scriptures, and searched whether things were as they were taught by Paul. (Acts 17:11.) No wrong was done to Paul, when the disciples, in order to confirm their faith, inquired whether his preaching was agreeable to the Law and to the Prophets. So also now, all doctrines ought to be examined by us; and if we follow this rule, we shall never go astray.
As to the ancient people, they could not, as it was said yesterday, be deceived, for the prophets were only interpreters of the Law. With regard to future things, this or that was never predicted by the prophets, unless connected with doctrine, which was as it were the seasoning, and gave a relish to the prophecies; for when they promised what was cheering, it was founded on the eternal covenant of God; and when they threatened the people, they pointed out their sins, so that it was necessary for God to execute his vengeance when their wickedness was incurable. Ever to be borne in mind then is that which is said in Deuteronomy, that God tried his people whenever he gave loose reins to false prophets, (Deuteronomy 13:3,) for every one who sincerely and undissemblingly loves him shall be guided by his Spirit. This then is the sure trial which God makes as to his faithful people, according to what Paul also says, who refers to this testimony of Moses, that heresies arise in order that they who are the faithful and sincere servants of God, might thereby shew what they really are, (1 Corinthians 11:19;) for they do not fluctuate at every wind of doctrine, but remain firm and constant in the pure obedience of faith. Rightly then does Jeremiah say, that they who gave hope of impunity to the people, had not been sent by the Lord; for every one had his own conscience as his judge.
He adds, They prophesy falsely in my name We see how sedulously and prudently we ought to take heed lest the devil should fascinate us by his charms, especially when the name of God is pretended. It is then not enough for us to hear, |Thus has God spoken,| unless we are fully persuaded that those who use such a preface have been called by him, and that they also afford a sure evidence of their call, so that we may be certain that they are as it were the instruments of the Spirit. Ungodly men will find here an occasion for clamoring, because God does in a manner make a mock of the anxiety of men, for he might send angels from heaven, he might himself speak; but when he employs men, and permits false prophets to boast of this word and of that, while they wholly dissemble, he seems in this way as though he designedly bewildered miserable men. But there is nothing better for us than to acknowledge that our obedience is tried by God, when he addresses us by men; for we know that nothing is more contrary to faith than pride, as also humility is the true principle of faith and the real entrance into God's kingdom. This then is the reason why God makes use of men.
In the meantime, when impostors creep in and boast that they are true legitimate prophets, it is indeed a grievous trial, and much to be feared; yet. God, as I have said, will ever relieve us, provided we trust not to our own judgment, and assume not to ourselves more than what is just and right, but look to him as the judge, and submit ourselves to his word; and further, if we suffer ourselves to be ruled by his Spirit, he will ever give us wisdom, which will enable us to distinguish between true and false prophets. However this may be, we clearly see that it is no new thing for Satan's ministers to prophesy in God's name, that is, falsely to assume his name, when in reality and truth they are vain pretenders.
He afterwards adds, that I might drive you out, and that ye might perish, as well as they. Here Jeremiah reminded them, that the prophets who promised impunity could not at length escape, but that they would have to suffer punishment not only for their presumption, but also for those sins by which they, together with the whole people, had already provoked the wrath of God; for their crime was twofold: despising God, they had promised all liberty to indulge in sin; and they had also dared to come forth and to pretend God's name, though they had not been called, nor did they bring, as we have said, any message from God. But the Prophet again repeated, that such prophets were instigated by the devil's artifice, in order to aggravate God's judgment; for the people, inebriated with joy, added sins to sins, as security is wont to lead men to all kinds of wickedness. There is therefore nothing more ruinous than for false teachers to flatter sinners, and so to cajole and wheedle them as to make them to think that they have nothing to do with God; for the devil rules then indeed, when men's consciences are thus asleep in a deadly lethargy. He afterwards adds, --