18. To wit, Jerusalem, and the cities of Judah, and the kings thereof, and the princes thereof, to make them a desolation, an astonishment, an hissing, and a curse; as it is this day;
18. Jerosolymae et urbibus Jehudah, et regibus ejus, et principibus ejus, ad ponendum eos in vastitatem (vel, solitudinem,) in stuporem, in sibulum, et maledictionem, sicut dies haec;
He begins with Jerusalem, as it is said elsewhere that judgment would begin at God's house. (1 Peter 4:17.) And there is nothing opposed to this in the context of the passage; for though he had promised to the children of God a happy end to the evils which they were shortly to endure, he nevertheless enumerates here all the nations on whom God had bidden him to denounce judgments. In this catalogue the Church obtains the first place; for though God be the judge of the whole world, he yet justly begins with his own Church, and that especially for two reasons -- for as the father of a family watches over his children and servants, and if there be anything wrong, his solicitude is particularly manifested; so God, as he dwells in his Church, cannot do otherwise than chastise it for its faults; -- and then, we know that they are less excusable, who, having been taught the will of God, do yet go on indulging their own lusts, (Luke 12:47;) for they cannot plead ignorance. Hence is fulfilled what Christ declares, that those servants shall be more grievously beaten, who, knowing their masters will, yet obstinately disregard it. There is, then, a twofold fault in the members of the Church; and no comparison can be made between them and the unbelieving who are in thick darkness. Since God shines in his Church and shews the way, as Moses says,
|Behold I set before you the way of life and of death; I therefore call heaven and earth to witness that there is no excuse for you. (Deuteronomy 30:15, 19.)
This, then, is the second reason why God first visits the sins of the faithful, or of those who are counted faithful.
There is also what appertains to an example: God chastises his own children lest he should seem by his indulgence to favor or countenance what is wicked and sinful. But this third reason is in a manner accidental; and therefore I wished to state it apart from the two other reasons. When, therefore, God so severely treats his own Church, the unbelieving ought to draw this conclusion, that if this be done in the green tree, what shall be done in the dry? (Luke 23:31.)
But the two things which I have before mentioned ought to be deemed by us as sufficient reasons why God, while suspending his vengeance as to the reprobate, punishes the elect as well as all those who profess themselves to be members of his Church. We now understand why Jeremiah mentions first the holy city, and then all the cities of Judah, the kings also and the princes; for God had with open bosom invited them to himself, but they had, as it were, from determined wickedness, provoked his wrath by despising both his Law and his Prophets.
He afterwards adds, to make them a waste, or a solitude. This was a grievous denunciation, no doubt, and we shall hereafter see that most became enraged against the holy man, and in their fury endeavored to destroy him; yet he with all intrepid mind fully declared what God had commanded him. He adds, an astonishment, and in the third place, an hissing, even that they would become detestable to all; for hissing intimates contempt, reproach, and detestation. In the fourth place he mentions a curse. We have already said what the Prophet meant by this word, even that the Jews would become in this respect a proverb, so that when one cursed another, he would use this form, |May God destroy thee as he destroyed the Jews.|
It is then added, as at this day The Prophet refers, no doubt, to the time of the city's destruction. God had indeed even then begun to consume the people; but we shall hereafter see that the minds of the greater part were still very haughty: so that they often raised their crests and looked for a new state of things, and depended on aid from the Egyptians. But the Prophet here mentions what was not yet completed, and as it were by the finger, points out the day as having already come in which the city was to be destroyed and the temple burnt up. This, then, refers to the certainty of what he predicted. Some think that it was written after Jeremiah had been led into exile; but this conjecture has nothing to support it. It seems to me enough to suppose that his object was to rouse the Jews from their security, and to shew that in a short time all that he predicted would be accomplished, and that they were no more to doubt of this than if the calamity was now before their eyes. It follows, --