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Let them return to thee, but return not thou unto them. And I wių make thee unto this people a fenced brazen wall, and they shall
fight against thee, but they shall not prevạil against thee: for I am with thee to save thee, and
to deliver thee, saith the Lord. Jer. xv. 19, 20. The words of my text having a full dependance upou, and flowing out from, the main subject matter of the whole chapter, I must of necessity take a view thereof, and hold out unto you the mind of God contained therein, before I enter upon the part thereof chiefly intended. And this I shall do with very brief observations, that I may not anticipate myself from a full opening and application of the words of my text.
And this the rather are my thoughts led unto, because the whole transaction of things between the Lord and a stubbornly sinful nation, exceedingly accommodated to the carrying on of the controversy he is now pleading with that wberein we live, is set out (as we say) to the life therein.
Of the whole chapter, there be these five parts :
First, The denunciation of fearful wasting, destroying judgments against Judah and Jerusalem, ver. 3. and so on to ver. 10.
Secondly, The procuring deserving cause of these overwhelming calamities, ver. 4. and 6.
Thirdly, The inevitableness of those judgments, and the inexorableness of the Lord, as to the accomplishment of all the evils denounced, ver. 1.
Fourthly, The state and condition of the prophet, with the frame and deportment of his spirit, under those bitter dispensations of providence, ver. 10. and 15—18.
Fifthly, The answer and appearance of God unto him upon the making out of his complaint, ver. 11–14. and 19-21.
My text lieth in the last part, but yet with such dependance on the former, as enforceth to a consideration of them.
First, There is the denunciation of fearful wasting, destroying judgments to sinful Jerusalem, ver. 2. and so onwards, with some interposed ejaculations, concerning her inevitable ruin, as ver. 5, 6.
Here's death, sword, famine, captivity, ver. 2. banishment, ver. 4. unpitied desolation, ver. 5. redoubled destruction, bereaving, fanning, spoiling, &c. ver. 6–9. That universal devastation of the whole people, which came upon them in the Babylonish captivity, is the thing here intended, the means of its accomplishment by particular plagues and judgments, in their several kinds (for the greater dread and terror) being at large annumerated; the faithfulness of God also being made hereby to shine more clear, in the dispersion of that people; doing, not only for the main, what before he had threatened, but in particular, executing the judgments recorded, Luke xxvi. 14, &c. Deut. xxviii. 15, &c. Fulfilling hereby what he had devised, accomplishing the word he had commanded in the days of old ;' Lam. ii. 17.
That which hence I shall observe is only from the variety of these particulars, which are held out as the means of the intended desolation.
Observation. God's treasures of wrath against a sinful people, have sundry and various issues for the accomplishment of the appointed end.
When God walks contrary to a people, it is not always in one path, he hath seven ways to do it, and will do it seven times; Lev. xxvi. 24. He strikes not always with one weapon, nor in one place. As there is with him molín xápis, 'manifold and various grace;' 1 Pet. iv. 10. love and compassion making out itself in choice variety, suited to our manifold indigencies; so there is, ópyn tegnoavpiouévn; Rom. ii. 5. stored, treasured wrath, suiting itself in its flowings out to the provocations of stubborn sinners.
The first emblem of God's wrath against man, was a‘flaming sword turning itself every way ;' Gen. iii. 24. Not only in one or two, but in all their paths, he meeteth them with his faming sword. As a wild beast in a net, so are sinners under inexorable judgments; the more they strive, the more they are inwrapped and entangled; they shuffle themselves from under one calamity, and fall into another : 'as if a man did flee from a lion, and a bear met him; or went into the house, and leaned his hand upon the wall, and a serpent bit him; Amos v. 19. Oh, remove this one plague, saith Phiaragh ;' if he can escape from under this pressure, he thinks e Isa. li.20.
i Exod. x, 17.
he shall be free: but, when he fled from the lion, still the bear met him, and when he went into the house, the serpent bit him. And as the flaming sword turns every way, so God can put it into every thing. To those that cry, Give me a king, God can give him in his anger; and from those that cry, Take him away, he can take him away in his wrath; Hosea xii. 10, 1).
Oh that this might seal up instruction to our own souls ! What variety of calamities have we been exercised withal, for sundry years? What Pharaoh-like spirits have we had under them? Oh, that we were delivered this once, and then all were well! How do we spend all our thoughts to extricate ourselves from our present pressures? If this hedge, this pit were passed, we should have smooth ground to walk in: not considering that God can fill our safest paths with snares and serpents. Give us peace, give us wealth, give us as we were, with our own, in quietness. Poor creatures ! Suppose all these desires were in sincerity, and not as with the most they are, fair colours of foul and bloody designs; yet if peace were, and wealth were, and former things were, and God were not, what would it avail you? Cannot he poison your peace, and canker your wealth? And when you were escaped out of the field from the lion and the bear, appoint a serpent to bite you, leaning upon the walls of your own house? In vain do you seek to stop the streams, while the fountains are open; turn yourselves whither you will, bring yourselves into what condition you can, nothing but peace and reconciliation with the God of all these judgments, can give you rest in the day of visitation. You see what variety of plagues are in his hand, changing of condition will do no more to the avoiding of them, than a sick man's turning himself from one side of the bed to another; during his turning, he forgets his pain by striving to move, being laid down again, he finds his condition the same as before.
This is the first thing, we are under various judgments, from which by ourselves there is no deliverance.
Secondly, The second thing here expressed, is the procuring cause of these various judgments, set down ver. 4. • Because of Manasseh, son of Hezekiah king of Judah, for that which he did in Jerusalem.'
The sins of Manasseh filled the epha of Judah's wickedness, and caused the talent of lead to be laid on the mouth thereof. Oftentimes in the relation of his story doth the Holy Ghost emphatically express this, that for his sin Judah should be destroyed; 2 Kings xxi. 11. Yea, when they had a little reviving under Josiah, and the bowels of the Lord began to work in compassion towards them; yet as it were remembering the provocation of this Manasseh, he recalls his thoughts of mercy; 2 Kings xxiii. 26, 27. The deposing of divine and human things is oftentimes very opposite." God himself proceeds with them in a diverse dispensation. In the spiritual body the members offend, and the head is punished: The iniquity of us all did meet on him;' Isà. liii. In the civil politic body the head offends, and the members rue it: Manasseh sins, and Judah must go captive.
Three things present themselves for the vindication of eht equity of God's righteous judgments, in the recompensing the sins of the king upon the people.
1. The concurrence and influence of the people's power into their rule and government: they that set him up, may justly be called to answer for his miscarriage. The Lord himself had before made the sole bottom of that political administration to be their own wills: If thou wilt have a king after the manner of the nations;' Deut. xvii. 14. 1 Sam. viii. 7. Though for particulars, himself (according to his supreme sovereignty) placed in many, by peculiar exemption, otherwise his providence was served by their plenary consent, or by such dispensation of things as you have related, 1 Kings xvi. 21, 22. “Then were the people of Israel divided into two parts, half of the people followed Tibni, the son of Ginath, to make him king; and half followed Omri, but the people that followed Omri, prevailed against the people that followed Tibni; so Tibni died, and Omri reigned.' Now they who place men in authority to be God's vicegerents, do undertake to God for their deportment in that authority, and therefore may justly bear the sad effects of their sinful miscarriages.
2. Because for fear of Manasseh's cruelty, or to flatter him in his tyranny for their own advantage, the greatest part of the people had apostatized from the ways and worship of Hezekiah, to comply with him in his sin. As at another '* Zech. v. 7, 8. "Est quædam æmulatio divinæ rci, et humana. Tertul. Apol.
time they willingly walked after the commandment;' Hos. v. Il. And this is plainly expressed, 2 Kings xxi. 9. Manasseh seduced the people to do more evil than the nations.' When kings turn seducers, they seldom want good store of followers. Now if the blind lead the blind, both will, and both justly may, fall into the ditch. When kings command unrighteous things, and people suit them with willing com pliance, none doubts but the destruction of them both is just and righteous. See ver. 6. of this chapter.
3. Because the people, by virtue of their retained sovereignty, did not restrain him in his provoking ways. So Zuinglius, Artic. 42. Qui non vetat, cum potest, jubet.' When Saul would have put Jonathan to death, the people would not suffer him so to do, but delivered Jonathan that be died not; 1 Sam. xiv. When David proposed the reduc ing of the ark, his speech to the people was: 'If it please you, let us send abroad to our brethren everywhere, that they may assemble themselves to us; and all the congregas tion said, that they would do so, because the thing was right in their eyes;' 2 Chron, xiii. 2. So they bargain with Reboboam about their subjection, upon condition of a moderate rule; 1 Kings xii. By virtue of which power also they delivered Jeremiah from the prophets and priests that would have put him to death ; Jer. xxvi. 16. And on this ground might they justly feed on the fruit of their own neglected duty. See Bilson of Obed. part 3. page
271. Be it thus, or otherwise, by what way soever the people had their interest therein, certain it is, that for the sins of Manasseh, one way or other made their own, they were destroyed. And therefore these things being written for our example, it cannot but be of great concernment to us to know what were those sins which wrapped up the people of God in irrevocable destruction, Now these the Holy Ghost fully manifesteth in the story of the life and reign of this Manasseh, and they may all be reduced unto two chief heads.
(1.) False worship or superstition: “He built high places, made altars for Baal, and a grove, as did Ahab;' 2 Kings xxv.2.
(2.) Cruelty: 'He shed innocent blood very much, till he bad filled Jerusalem with blood from one end of it to another;' ver. 16.