Billeder på siden

short time, took every thing of value out of the temple, set fire to it and to the city, threw down the fortifications, put to death its principal inhabitants, and compelled the rest to go into exile.

Of the few people left in the country, some soon went down into Egypt; others were removed to Babylon, and the land was stripped of its inhabitants. Desolation reigned everywhere. No voice of joy or of mirth, no voice of the bridegroom or voice of the bride, was heard in any habitation ; the sound of the millstone greeted no passer-by at morning dawn; no light twinkling through the casement cheered the lone traveller in the evening gloom. The idol-altars were crumbling on the hilltops, and the groves of oak were no longer stained with the blood of human sacrifices. In this state, for the most part, the land remained, enjoying its Sabbaths as predicted by Moses, and waiting for the Hebrews who were one day to return.

Some, in the present age, speak slightingly of the Old Testament as a record of our race in its childhood. But men everywhere and in all circumstances have so much in common, that a divine sketch of the workings of the human mind at any period, even the rudest, must be of inestimable value. It stands out amid the speculations of philosophers and the dreams of moralists, as the brilliancy of the sun among the stars. God is always the same; and whatever may be the peculiarity of his dealings with the Jews, an apostle has decided that they contain warning and instruction pertinent to every period and every clime. “ Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples, and were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.” “ For whatsoever things were written aforetime, were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.” Faithful to his ancient promises, we may rest satisfied that God will be faithful to his covenant in all coming time. And if he "spared not the old world,” if he turned “the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, making them an ensample unto them that should after live ungodly," he “knoweth how to reserve the unjust to the day of judgment to be punished.” The same justice, the same regard for his own honor and the good of his kingdom, which poured out the flood, cast down the fires of his wrath upon the guilty cities of the plain, and swept the Jews from their own land, make sure the infliction of vengeance on them who violate his law and despise his mercy. Indeed, all the principles of his government, all the claims of equity, the spontaneous feelings of the human mind, plead even louder for judgment against those who reject the clearer light and the stronger motives of the gospel, than against transgressors in the days of old. The grass

withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away; but the word of the Lord endureth for ever.”




We have already remarked, that for a long period during the reigns of Manasseh and Amon, as if the nation had been given over by heaven, the voice of prophecy was silent in Judah. At length, in the thirteenth year

of the reign of Josiah, one year after he began to purge the land of its idols, the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah the son of Hilkiah, a priest of Anathoth. This was a small city four miles north-east of Jerusalem, allotted to the priests in the division of the country by Joshua. Some think this Hilkiah was the high-priest of that name who coöperated with the king in the reformation of Judah. We must suppose that Jeremiah, trained in a sacerdotal family and city, was early instructed concerning the peculiar institutions of the Jews, though it is not certain that he had access in childhood to the Scriptures. The Pentateuch in the temple was not discovered until about five years



after he began to prophesy, and in that age books of every

kind were rare. When first invited to assume the office of a prophet, Jeremiah shrunk from the service. Though the king was an ardent worshipper of Jehovah, the princes and people were still mad after their idols. It demanded so much courage and nerve to reprove their wickedness, that the retiring young man could not summon resolution to attempt such a duty. With the modesty so common an attendant on genius and true worth, he desired to be excused : “Ah, Lord God, behold I cannot speak, for I am a child.” But gathering confidence from the promise of divine aid, he entered on the responsible task. And a responsible task truly it was, in that age and among so perverse a people as the Jews, to perform a service which could be little else than rebuke and denunciation. Girded with strength from above, the youthful prophet undertook to declare all God should command him to speak, however much it might arouse the indignation of princes, priests, or people.

The commission of Jeremiah was not limited to his own countrymen. “I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build and to plant.” Judaism was only preparatory to Christianity: it was fitted but for a small territory. It would not have been possible for distant nations to come up to Jerusalem three times in a year, as was required of the Jews; nor could men, women, and children, from remote lands, assemble in that city once in seven years, to hear the law. Hence the prophets took little pains to extend the institutions of Moses to other nations. Jonah was indeed sent for a special purpose with a message to the Ninevites; and Isaiah and some other prophets had a “burden” for heathen nations; but it was denunciation of judgment for their sins, not instruction in the principles of the Jewish religion. Though Jeremiah was “set over the nations,” his chief office in respect to the heathen, in like manner, was “ to root up and to pull down.”

Jeremiah prophesied eighteen years during the reign of Josiah. He must have shared in the deep feeling which pervaded the heart of the king and the whole nation at the discovery of the Pentateuch. Why on that occasion he was not consulted rather than the prophetess Huldah, we do not know. Perhaps he was at Anathoth, and the anxiety of the king would not admit of delay.

Hilkiah was one of the deputation sent by the king to inquire of the Lord. If he was the father of Jeremiah, he might feel some delicacy, at such a crisis, in going to his young son for advice. He might think it expedient to resort to some older person of established reputation. However this was, the messages of Jeremiah must have aided in preparing the king,

« ForrigeFortsæt »