Sermon 2684. Two Arguments Against Sin
A SERMON INTENDED FOR READING ON LORDS-DAY, JULY 22, 1900.
DELIVERED BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON, ON LORD'S-DAY EVENING, MAY 29, 1881.
"However I sent unto you all My servants the Prophets, rising early and sending them, saying, Oh, do not do this abominablething that I hate!" Jeremiah 44:4.
THIS verse portrays what a minister should be and the picture is a burden upon my heart and conscience, for it shows thatthe true preacher, or Prophet, or man of God, should be one whom God sends early to do His work. It is, as it were, as thoughhis Master were up early in the morning, bidding him make haste to go to His service and not let the grass grow under hisfeet, for men are sinning-and to suffer them to continue in sin unrebuked, even for an hour, is truly dreadful. It is as thoughone were to leave a house burning without giving an alarm and calling the firemen, or to see a person in imminent peril inthe street without immediately attempting to do something for his rescue. Notice that in this verse God represents Himselfas rising early, to show how He realized the greatness of man's danger and the importance of his being speedily deliveredfrom it. The Lord said that He rose early in order that He might send His Prophets-of course that theymight go early, thatthey might go at once and waste no time-but be instant in season and out of season to warn men not to do the abominable thingwhich God hated! A minister, then, is one who should be diligent in his Master's business, fervent in spirit, serving theLord by endeavoring to warn men of the terrible nature and consequences of sin.
He is also to be one who speaks as God's representative. Not only speaking God's Truth, but, as it were, speaking it withGod's mouth, for these Prophets were not to say, "Oh, do not this abominable thing that God hates," but they were to personify'God,to put themselves into His place and to say as though He said it, "Oh, do not this abominable thing that Ihate!" What a responsibleand privileged position is this for any man to occupy, to have to speak for God in this fashion! Paul referred to it whenhe wrote to the Corinthians, "Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you inChrist's stead, be you reconciled to God." It is a high honor but a tremendous responsibility to have to do Christ's pleading,to be intercessors for the Intercessor, and to stand up and speak God's thoughts as though He had set us to be His spokesmenfor a time-to plead with the sons of men on His behalf. As I have realized this responsibility, I have sometimes dreaded myoffice with an unutterable dread, though I would not change it to become ruler of all the empires of earth, or even to bean archangel in Heaven, for I reckon that to be even first among the angels is nothing compared with being an instrument,in the hand of God, of saving the souls of men! Yet how awful and how solemn a thing it is for any man to be called to standand speak as though God did speak by him and say, "Oh, do not this abominable thing that I hate!"
There is another lesson to be learned from this picture-not only that the minister should rise up early to meet an early God,and should speak in God's name, but he is also to speak in God's style-that is, pleadingly and pathetically. I count it aneasy thing to proclaim the Truth of God as one might do it from the desk of a classroom, or to be oratorical and to wax eloquentover the great themes we have to make known. But it is quite another matter to plead with men, to be pathetic and to speakas God does here, "Oh, do not this abominable thing that I hate!" This is the work and this is the difficulty which oftenburdens our spirits. You remember that the disciples said to Christ, on one occasion, "Lord, teach us to pray," for they feltas if the strong desires that burned within His heart might well burn in theirs, and that
they had even greater necessities than He had. But when they heard Him preach, they felt at once that He outsoared them all.When they saw the tears of pity stream from His eyes and listened to His lament over the doomed city of Jerusalem, then theyrealized that He overmatched them and they felt, if they did not say it, "Never man spoke like this Man!" And they did notcry, "Lord, teach us to preach as You do!"
They could not hope to rise to that great height and we feel just as they did. Oh, that these lips could use language borrowedfrom the lips of the Well-Beloved! Oh, that these eyes could run with tears like those that welled up from the great heartof the loving Savior of sinners! His sermons show us what true preaching is-it should be the highest form of persuading, itshould be really, only in a better sense than that in which the term is generally used, peilpleading-a pleading with men,by weighty arguments, that they would leave their sins and turn to God! Christ's sermons show us a pleading in which God theHoly Spirit exercises His own supreme office and works upon the minds of the hearers through the utterances of Him who speaksto them. As this is what a minister ought to be, may God help us poor creatures to attain to this high standard! You who areHis people can also help us by your prayers, which we greatly need.
Now, turning from my text as it especially related to the Jews in Jeremiah's day, I want to apply it to you, dear Friends,who are still unconverted. In this verse God tells certain people that He had risen early and sent unto them His servants,the Prophets, one after another, to plead with them on His behalf. Will you, if you can, kindly recollect when your conscienceswere first touched? Can you remember when that happened? It is highly probable that the sweet tones of your mother's voicewere associated with your first religious thoughts, or, perhaps, there was a godly man-your father-since passed into the skies,who pleaded with you, his son, in Christ's name. These were your Prophets sent from God-could there be any better messengersfrom Him than a gracious mother or grandmother, or a godly father?
Why, some of you were plied with the Gospel almost before you knew anything else! Before you had committed any overt act ofsin, you heard of Jesus' wondrous Grace and dying love! And, since then, you have not been without messengers from Heavenwho have brought you loving entreaties and invitations. How have you treated them? If you are still unconverted, I am surethat you have not dealt with them as they ought to have been received-you have turned a deaf ear to the voice of love andmercy, or else you would not now be without God, without Christ and without hope! So I come once more, in my Master's name,as His messenger-will you slight me and reject my message? If you do, I must sorrowfully endure it and cry, with others ofmy Master's servants, "Who has believed our report?" Yet I pray you, do not do it, for, though I speak but feebly, no manmore sincerely or more heartily desires the good of his hearers than I do. And I ask you who do know the Lord to join me inpleading that God, the Holy Spirit, will bless the message I am about to deliver in Christ's name.
In our text there are two arguments against sin. What God has to say to unconverted men is here put in very few words-"Oh,do not this abominable thing that I hate." This short sentence contains the two arguments against sin upon which I am goingto speak. The first is, from the nature of sin itself-this abominable thing." and the second is, from the feeling of God towardssin-"this abominable thing that I hate."
I. The first argument in our text against sin is DERIVED FROM THE NATURE OF SIN ITSELF-"this abominable thing."
The particular sin of which the Prophet was speaking was that of idolatry. Those Jewish people would make idol gods in someform or other and they would bow down before them and neglect the worship of the one invisible Jehovah. And God calls theiridolatry "this abominable thing." It is rightly so called, for it is abominable ingratitude. That a man should not worshiphis Maker, that he should refuse obedience to his Creator, that he should say to Him who made the heavens and the earth, andwho also made him and keeps him in being, "I will not worship You! I refuse to bow down before You. I choose to adore anothergod-Baal, Ashtaroth, Venus, Bacchus, anything but the one true God-and I will not worship You, O Jehovah, the Creator of allworlds!" This, I say again, is shameful ingratitude!
It is also an abominable thing because it is so degrading and debasing. Everybody ought to be able to see that for a man withintellect and mind to bow himself down before a carved image is most degrading. That he should worship that which is madeof wood, or stone, or metal is practically to make himself inferior to the dead thing which he worships! I know of no actin which a man seems to bring himself lower than when he prostrates himself before a material object and says, "This is mygod," or, "This is what I worship." So God truly calls idolatry an "abominable thing." And it will appear to you all the moreso when you recollect the kind of gods that these people's images represented. They did, in effect,
say to Jehovah, the Maker of Heaven and earth, the good and gracious God, "We will not worship You, but we will worship thatgolden calf, or those images that have eyes but see not, and hands but feel not, and ears but hear not. We would sooner bowdown to these dull dead blocks of wood than worship You." Oh, this is abominable! I know no more appropriate word than thatwhich God has here used-"this abominable thing." An immortal being prostrating himself before a piece of wood! A man, createdby Jehovah, bowing down before an image which he has, himself, made! This is indeed loathsome! It is insulting to God andprovokes Him to the highest degree.
"We are all agreed about that," you say. I am glad to hear you say so, yet you may be idolaters, for all that. Have you neverheard of those concerning whom Paul wrote to the Philippians, "whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame,who mind earthly things"? Did you ever hear of "the self-made man who worships his creator"? I have heard of him and seenhim, too! And I confess that I have more respect for a man who worships a god shaped out of the filth of the kennels thanfor the one who worships himself because, to worship one's own self seems to me to be the nethermost depth of degradation!For the Israelites to say of the golden calf, "These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt,"was degrading-horribly so! But for a man to say to himself, practically, if not in so many words, "I am my own god"-surelythis sinks him still lower!
There are some who worship strong drink and who offer themselves as a sacrifice at its shrine. There are many who immolateupon the altar of Bacchus, wife, children, home, character and life itself-and they go down to their dishonored graves, notburnt in the arms of Moloch, but drowned in their own cups. When you talk of idolaters and abominable things, is there anyworse form of idolatry than this? Then look at the various forms of covetousness which the Apostle Paul says, "is idolatry."Think of the guilt of the men who grind the faces of the poor and, perhaps, even pinch themselves so that they may amass moregold and have it written concerning them at the last, "He died worth so much," when he was really utterly worthless! He whoworships the little round images of the Queen is as gross an idolater as the man who bows down before Juggernaut or Baal!The sin of idolatry is still abundant everywhere and it is always, in its nature and essence, a degrading thing to man andan insult to God and, therefore, He continues to say to all idolaters, "Oh, do not this abominable thing that I hate!"
There are many other sins, besides idolatry, which are abominable in the sight of God. And there is one point about them thathampers a preacher very much. That is, he cannot bear witness against them, because even to speak of some sins is to helpto spread them. It is dangerous work to handle gunpowder and, even when we need to move it from the magazine, we feel thatwe must do it with great fear and trembling. Alas! Alas, there are abominable sins that are terribly common in this awfullyguilty London-sins of unchastity that defile the body and pollute the mind. I fancy that I can see God standing by some youngman who is about to go into this kind of sin and I seem to hear Him say, "Oh, do not this abominable thing!" I think I alsohear God crying out to some woman who has turned aside from the paths of purity- "Oh, do not this abominable thing!" It maynot appear at the time, when the mind is under the spell of the serpent's fascination, to be so abominable as it really is,but, soberly thought of, what a curse it is to this city and what a curse it is to each individual who is contaminated byit! Young man, keep far away from the house of the strange woman-yes, I must say it plainly-God would have me say it, forHe, Himself, says, "Oh, do not this abominable thing that I hate!"
There are other abominable sins besides these fleshly lusts which war against the soul, such as the tempting of others tosin. It is an awful fact that there are some people who seem to set themselves deliberately to instruct others in vice andtransgression. They will defile the imagination and the heart of children and of growing young men and women-this is a dreadfulthing. If any of you are in the habit of singing low songs, or of talking ill-savored language, I would have you hear my Godsay to you through my lips, "Oh, do not this abominable thing that I hate," for it is a horrible evil for you to be spoilingthese fair flowers while yet they are in the bud! Then there is the habit of using profane and filthy language which is socommon in this city-I think more prevalent than ever it was. It is a most senseless as well as wicked practice. There is nothingto gain in it. George Herbert quaintly and wisely wrote-
"Take not His name, who made your mouth, in vain- It gets you nothing, and has no excuse. Lust and wine plead a pleasure,avarice gain- But the cheap swearer, through his open sluice, Lets his soul run for naught, as little fearing. Were Ian Epicure,I could bate swearing."
There are many who sin greatly by slandering others. They lie against their neighbors' characters and they are never betterpleased than when they can, by exaggeration, make some little flaw into a grave fault. God says to all who slander, and lieand speak not the truth, "Do not this abominable thing that I hate!" Then there is hypocrisy which is always far too rife-themaking of a profession when there is nothing at the back of it-the pretending to be gracious when there is no Grace in theheart, and to be faithful when there is no faith in the soul. O Sirs, if you will be lost, I pray you, do not be lost as hypocrites!If you are determined to perish, choose some other way of perishing than that which Judas took when he joined himself to theApostles and yet sold his Master for 30 pieces of silver. God says to you, with a special emphasis, "Oh, do not this abominablething that I hate!"
Another aspect of the abominable character of sin will be apparent if I remind you that there are some persons in whom sin-anysin-is peculiarly abominable. If you were privileged, as I was, to be born into a Christian family, having had a grandfatherand a great-grandfather and other ancestors all walking in the ways of God, and having a father and a mother whose first andchief desire was to train you in the fear of God, you know that for you to do wrong under such circumstances is, indeed, anabominable thing! Poor gutter children and persons who dwell in the worst dens and slums of London-and who have never beentaught as you and I were-cannot sin to the same extent as we can who have so long known better and who have been trained arightfrom our earliest days. O you children of godly parents, I pray you look well to your walk and hear the Lord say especiallyto you, "Do not this abominable thing that I hate!"
There are also some persons who are gifted by Nature, or by that Grace which God sometimes intertwines with Nature, with atender conscience. Some seem, from the very first, to be more callous and hardened than others, but there are some of us who,from our very childhood, remember how we could not sleep unless we had said our prayers, or, if we had told a lie, we couldnot rest till we had confessed it. And if we had disobeyed our parents, we were tormented with remorse even though they didnot know what we had done! Chastening was not needed to bring us to repentance, for we chastened ourselves. It is a greatmercy to have a tender conscience-but to sin against it is a peculiarly abominable thing.
Mind, my young Friend, you who are sorely tempted just now, I charge you not to do violence to your conscience! Whatever youdo, be sure to keep it tender, for it is one of your best friends and it will, by God's Grace, be the means of guiding youto Heaven! Do not trifle with its warnings. Do not sear it with the hot iron of even an occasional transgression, but, atonce, obey the Savior's call and trust to Him for the salvation only He can give! It is an abominable thing for any man tosin, but it is a hundred times worse in some than it is in others because they have clearer light and a plainer perceptionof what sin really is.
And, sometimes, sin becomes an especially abominable thing to a man who has previously committed it and smarted from it, andwho has escaped as by the skin of his teeth-and yet goes back to indulge in it again. Have you ever tried to save a poor moth,on a summer's evening, when you have been sitting at work or reading by the light of the gas or a candle? It comes dashingtowards the light and singes its wings-and there it lies, helpless, on the table. You have taken it up very tenderly and putit away from the light in the hope that it might, perhaps, escape. But the very first thing it has done, when it has recoveredeven the partial use of its wings, has been to fly back into the flame again! You have said, "There is no saving you, poorsilly thing, for you are determined to die by your own folly. You will not let me rescue you." And it is just so with somesinners whom we try to rescue-they will go back to the very thing that has already burnt them!
Perhaps I am addressing one who, but a little while ago, was on a bed of sickness and, as you were lying there looking intoeternity, you cried, "Lord, save me. If You will but spare me, I will turn from sin and I will seek the Savior until I findHim." Yet you are not doing anything of the kind though the Lord did spare you! Peter's solemn words might be repeated toyou, "You have not lied unto men, but unto God." Remember what happened to Ananias and Sapphira when they sinned thus. I prayGod not to visit you in judgment, but, in His great mercy, to lay all your sin as a heavy burden upon your conscience thatyou may feel the evil of having broken your vows and your promises, for this is, indeed, an abominable thing in the sightof God-and also an abominable thing in the judgment of all honest, right-thinking men!
Thus might I continue to point out various circumstances which increase the guilt of sinners, but I will only say one morething and then I shall have finished the consideration of this first part of our subject. The observation I wish to make isthis. There are some of us to whom sin has become such an abominable thing that we can honestly say we would
sooner suffer every pain of which the body is capable than we would willfully commit sin. There are various things in thisworld which are loathsome to all our tastes, but we would be willing to have them all around us, however distasteful theymight be, rather than be in the presence of moral evil. It grates upon our ears, it galls our mind, it frets our heart, itaggravates all our spiritual senses to be brought into contact with sin! Sin is to us more horrible than death, more diabolicalthan the devil, more hellish than Hell, itself, for the pains of Hell would lose their sharpness if it were not that sin isthe undying worm that causes them. Sin, transgression, iniquity, evil in all its forms, untruth, every violation of God'sLaw-all this is an abominable thing which every right-minded man is bound to hate, to loathe, to detest with all the energyof his being! One great reason why we implore men to forsake sin, and pray the Holy Spirit to enable them to do so, is becauseit is an abominable thing.
"Oh," someone says, "sin is a sweet thing!" No, no, it is an abominable thing! "It is a delightful thing," says another. No,it is an abominable thing! "Oh, but it is a fashionable thing-you can see it in courts of kings and princes- and the greatmen of the earth love it." Even though they do, it is an abominable thing! Though it should crawl up to a monarch's throneand spread its slime over crown jewels, it would still be an abominable thing. It once entered Heaven, itself, and befouledand defiled a mighty angel and all who followed him-and you can see what an abominable thing it is when you realize how itdegraded them and cast them down from their high estate to be, "reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgmentof the great day."
II. Now, for a little while, I will speak to you upon the second reason why sin should be repented of and forsaken. That isbecause of THE FEELING WHICH GOD HAS TOWARDS IT. Note how strongly He puts it. "Oh, do not this abominable thing that I hate!"
God hates all evil, all injustice, all wrong-doing, all immorality, all sin of every kind. He hates it! He is not indifferentto it, nor tolerant of it, but His whole soul goes out in righteous indignation against it. And He hates it, first, becauseHe is infinitely pure. If He were not, Himself, perfectly pure, He might tolerate or excuse sin, but the delicate, matchlesspurity of His Nature causes His holy anger to burn with a fierce flame against everything that is unrighteous. A pure andholy God must hate sin.
He hates it, too, because it is such an injury to you, His creatures, and, therefore, He says to you, "Oh, do not this abominablething that I hate!" He hates it because it so grievously mars what He made perfect. Sin has spoiled all the beauty of God'shighly-favored creature, man. I cannot tell what a perfectly lovely being Adam was before he fell, but I am sure that bothAdam and Eve, in their unfallen state, must have had about them a matchless grace to which their loveliest sons or most beautifuldaughters cannot now attain. And this also I know, that if you have a face most exquisitely fashioned and well proportioned,yet when evil passions rage behind it, it looks positively diabolical! On the other hand, a man who is truly converted toGod and living to bless his fellow men, even though he has only ordinary features, has real beauty about him which we canall perceive. I have seen a very plain woman who has been full of love to Christ and who has consecrated herself to His service,look quite lovely when the Grace of Christ has shone through her face and illuminated her whole life.
But God hates sin because it spoils men and women, not only in face, but especially in heart. Men and women, as God sees them,are rendered ugly through sin. Any beauty that the sinner may possess is marred in the sight of the Most High and He cannotlook upon it except with abhorrence. Besides, where does the sweat on our brow come but from our sin? Where do these achesand pains come but from our sin? Where do the thorns and thistles come, which we must dig up with hard toil, but from oursin? Where do yon hillocks in the churchyard come, those graves that cause so many hearts to break, but from our sin? Andbecause sin works such havoc upon the creatures He has made, God hates it.
God hates it, too, because it drives Him to do what He dislikes doing. Isaiah tells us that judgment is, "His strange work,"a work at which He is not so much at home as in His works of mercy and Grace. and His own words confirm the Prophet's testimony-"AsI live, says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked." Though He must smite the guilty, it is, as it were,with His left hand that He smites, for He would far rather that they turned to Him and lived. Yet God must be just, for Hewould cease to be God if He were not just-and if He did not punish sin. But, in effect, it is sin that has put the sword intoGod's hand and made the chains that men must wear forever, and lit the eternal fires that never can be quenched. O Souls,God hates sin for your sakes and He cries to you, "Oh, do not this abominable thing that I hate!"
To me, the most touching thing in my text is God's pleading with men-"Oh, do not do it; do not do it. Do not live any longerin sin. 'Do not this abominable thing that I hate!'" It is such wondrous condescension on God's part to thus plead with sinners.It is the act of a king to command, but here it is more like a father who persuades, expostulates, implores, entreats. "Oh,do not this abominable thing that I hate!" It is God solemnly dealing with men in earnest-a Suppliant to them, as it were,saying to them, "Oh, do not this abominable thing!" This kind of language is suitable for us to use towards God. We may wellcry, "Oh, do not smite me! Do not condemn me!" But, here, God takes the Suppliant's place and cries to us, "Oh, do not destroyyourselves! Do not force Me to punish you! Do not reject My love! Do not despise My Son! Do not refuse My mercy! Do not neglectMy call! Do not continue in sin-'this abominable thing that I hate!'"
It is as though God had such sympathy with men that He stood and pleaded with them, as a man's own mother or father mightwith him. Have you ever heard a mother or a father, when a child has seemed to be determined to follow an evil course, saying,"Do not so, my child! I pray you, do not so"? Will such wrong-doing hurt the father? Not personally. Will it injure the mother?No, not in her own person, but, somehow, parents so identify themselves with their children that they suffer when their childrensin-and they say to them, "Do not so! Oh, I beg you, do not so, lest, in injuring yourselves, you also bring my gray hairswith sorrow to the grave." It is amazing that God, whose thunders shake the heavens, should say to His fallen, rebelliouscreatures, "Do not so." I wish I knew how to repeat these words, but my tongue may not even attempt the impossible task, forI cannot speak as God did when He said, "'Oh, do not this abominable thing that I hate!' I hate it for your sake. I hate itfor its own sake. Do not grieve Me. Do not vex Me. I grieve because it injures you and I am vexed because of the misery andwoe it will surely bring upon you unless you repent."
The greatest wonder of it all is-and with this I must close-that God not only pleaded thus with men, once, but He did it manytimes, for He sent Prophet after Prophet and this was always the message He gave to each of them, "Oh, do not this abominablething that I hate!" I can conceive of a prince, in very great pity to an erring subject, saying to him, "Do not so! Do notso!" But I cannot conceive of a great potentate again, and again, and again, and again, and again, with tears, coming to asubject and saying, "Oh, do not break my law! Do not this abominable thing!"
But hear it, O you heavens, and be astonished, O earth, as this strange story is told to you! God has pleaded with some herefor 20 years-twenty years of patience-twenty years of rejected love! Twenty years, did I say? With many of you it is thirty,or even 40 years! You know it is so. Forty years was the Lord tried by the children of Israel in the wilderness and 40 yearshas He been tried by many who are still alive! Would you have had patience with anybody who had vexed you for 40 days Someof you cannot keep your tempers for 40 seconds! Certainly you boil over in less than 40 hours! Yet God has had patience withyou for 40 years! Yes, and all that while some of you have been hearers of the Gospel or, if you have not regularly gone tohear it, you might have done so, for it has been preached quite close to you. The most of you have been living in a city thatis well provided with the means of Grace. I said 40 years, but in some cases it is 50 years-and there is one, over yonder,with whom it is now 60 years of slighted love and Divine compassion. Is there one with whom it is 70 years? Seventy-five years?Eighty years? Perhaps it is even so and yet you are still despising your God and neglecting your own soul!
How I wish that I knew how to say to you, in God's name, "Oh, do not this abominable thing that I hate!" Come, Friend, giveup your sin! Renounce your folly! Trust in Christ-ask God to receive you. Say, "I will arise and go to my Father and willsay to Him, Father, I have sinned." If you go to Him with that confession, you may be sure that He will receive you! OtherwiseHe would never have sent you tonight's pleading message. He would not have spared you to be here if He had not meant to acceptyou when you seek His face! Remember, the way of salvation is by trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ. You trust Him and then,by His Grace, He helps you to overcome sin! He gives you a new nature and you become saved. Trust Him now! The service isalmost over and the clock has struck the hour for closing, but Mercy's hour has not yet struck. God still waits to be gracious!"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved." Trust Him now. May He enable you to do so by His infinite mercy!Amen.
EXPOSITION BY C. H. SPURGEON: JEREMIAH 1.
Verses 1-3. The words of Jeremiah the son of Hilkiah, of the priests that were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin: to whomthe word of the LORD came in the days of Josiah, the son of Amon, king of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign. It camealso in the days of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, unto the end of the eleventh year of Zedekiah the son of Josiahking of Judah, unto the carrying away of Jerusalem captive in the fifth month. Jeremiah was a young man when he was calledto the prophetic office and he was sent of God, as a young Prophet, to help the young king, Josiah. His public life, therefore,opened somewhat happily. But, after the death of Josiah, wicked kings sat upon the throne and it was the painful lot and yet,in some respects, the choice privilege, of this weeping Prophet to be sent upon his Master's errand, time after time, to adisobedient and gainsaying people who repaid him only evil while he sought their good. The Holy Spirit, you see, is carefulto note important dates in the history of God's servants-and you and I should also keep a record of the times when God setsus to work and when He gives us special Grace for the service to which He has called us.
4-6. Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Before I formed you in the belly I knew you; and before you came forthout of the womb I sanctified you, and I ordained you a Prophet unto the nations. Then said I, Ah, Lord GOD! behold, I cannotspeak: for I am a child. He was but young and, when young men are called to be ambassadors for God, it behooves them to feelthe weight of the responsibility that rests upon them-and to be conscious of their lack of experience and of their need offitness for the work. In that consciousness of unfitness, there often lies the evidence of their fitness for the task entrustedto them! Perhaps out of weakness they shall be made strong, but if they do not feel their weakness, they are not likely tocry to God for help, or to receive it from Him. "Ah, Lord God!" said young Jeremiah, "behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child."
7. But the LORD said unto me, Say not, I am a child: for you shall go to all that I shall send you, and whatever I commandyou, you shall speak. Now, even a child can often speak anything that has been said to him. To repeat what he is told to sayis not beyond his capacity and, after all, this is a Christian minister's principal work! Somebody says, "We need thinkers."Yes, so we do, but we need men whose thoughts shall be subordinate to the thoughts of God-ministers who do not come to uttertheir own thoughts, but to deliver their Master's message-to tell to us what He has told them. Is that sermon merely whatyou think, Sir? Then, what do I care what you think? What is that to me anymore than what I thinkmay be to you? If, however,you can come to me and say, "Thus says the Lord," I will give diligent heed to your message and I am bound to receive it-butwoe be to that minister whose word shall be other than this!
8. Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD. When a king sends an ambassador to a foreigncourt, he cannot usually go with him, but God's ambassador always has his King with him. Oh, what courage he ought to havewith such a Companion!
9. Then the LORDput forth his hand and touched my mouth. For you young Brothers who are to be preachers of the Gospel, I cannotwish anything better than that the Lord may touch your mouth in this way. In the old times that some of us remember, godlymen used to pray that the Holy Spirit would be "mouth, matter and wisdom" to the preachers of the Word. It was not at alla bad prayer, for it was a petition that He would give to His servants the right subject, the right spirit and the right utterance-thatHe would teach them howto speak, whatto speak and in what spirit to speakit.
9. And the LORD said unto me, Behold, I have put My words in your mouth. That is a true picture of a Spirit-sent preacherof the Gospel-a man who has God's words in his mouth. I said before that the minister must not utter his own thoughts, buthere we see that he must not even utter his own words! God's thoughts are best delivered in God's words- and the more of Scripturethere is in our teaching, the more true, the more Divine and the more powerful will it be.
10. See, Ihave this day set you over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, andto throw down, to build, and to plant What a mysterious power rested on this God-sent messenger! Poor Jeremiah was often inprison, frequently at death's door, yet he was the master of nations and kingdoms and the Lord gave him authority to rootthem up or to plant them, to throw them down or to build them up! What wondrous power God gives to those who faithfully preachHis Word! Well might Mary, Queen of Scots, say that she was more afraid of John Knox's preaching than of all the armies thatcame against her!
11-14. Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Jeremiah, what do you see? And I said, I see a branch of an almondtree. Then said the LORD unto me, You have seen well: for I will hasten My word to perform it. And the
word of the LORD came unto me the second time, saying, What do you see? And I said, I see a boiling pot; and the face thereofis toward the north. Then the LORD said unto me, Out of the north an evil shall break forth upon all the inhabitants of theland. The Chaldeans and the Babylonians were like a great cauldron, boiling and seething, sending forth smoke and steam overthe nations and ready to scald Jerusalem to its destruction!
15, 16. For, lo, I will call all the families ofthe kingdoms of the north, says the LORD; and they shall come, and they shallset, everyone, his throne at the entering of the gates of Jerusalem, and against all the walls thereof round about, andagainstall the cities of Judah. And I will utter Myjudgments against them touching all their wickedness, who have forsaken Me, andhave burned incense unto other gods, and worshipped the works of their own hands. God tells Jeremiah that He was about todestroy Jerusalem because of the people's sin. Jeremiah was not merely to foretell their doom, but he was also to tell thereason of it-that it was the result of their sin and especially of the sin of idolatry, to which mankind is always exceedinglyprone. It is most difficult to keep men to pure spiritual worship-the worship of the unseen God in spirit and in truth. Theywill get away, if they can, to some outward form or another. They will take the very bread of communion and worship it! Orthe image of the bleeding Savior and make an idol of that. Somehow or other, they will have something visible, or tangible,as the object of their adoration. Men will fall into idolatry of one kind or another even to this day-and this is a God-provokingoffense from which may the Lord, in His mercy, graciously preserve all of us perfectly clear!
17. You, therefore, gird up your loins. ' 'You have a hard task before you, Jeremiah, a stern life's work cut out for you-'thereforegird up your loins.'"
17. And arise. "There must be no waiting, no idleness-'Arise.'"
17. And speak unto them all that I command you. "Do not trim it at all, or pare it down, or omit distasteful portions, but,'speak unto them all that I command you.'"
17. Be not dismayed at their faces, lest I confound you before them. We ought to be so afraid of God that we are afraid ofnobody else-
"Fear Him, you saints, and you will then Have nothing else to fear."
Send all your fears to Heaven and there let them stay there!
18, 19. For, behold, Ihave made you this day a fortified city, andan ironpillar, and bronze walls against the whole land,against the kings of Judah, against the princes thereof, against the priests thereof, and against the people of the land.And they shall fight against you; but they shall not prevail against you; for I am with you, says the LORD, to deliver you.