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CHAPTER XXIV.

JEREMIAH'S FIDELITY.

We have already stated, that on the decease of Josiah his eldest son was superseded by a younger brother, whom the people put into his place. The conduct of Jehoiakim, after he became king, showed that there was good reason for deviating from the regular order of succession. He exhibited in his reign a total want of the qualities that become a prince. Irritated by the preference of his brother to himself, and upheld on the throne in opposition to the wishes of the people, by a foreign power that would not be strict to mark his misdeeds, so long as he continued firm in his allegiance, he could give free range to all the bad passions of his nature. He was oppressive; not only to the stranger, the fatherless and the widow, who are usually the first to feel the heavy hand of tyranny, but to any of his subjects whose services or wealth could minister to his pleasures. He was unjust; exacting labors from the people for which he refused to give the promised wages. He was selfish and destitute of patriotism ; imposing burdensome taxes on the country to pay the tribute levied by Pharaoh-Necho, while he spent large revenues raised by extortion in erecting a splendid palace. Covetous of the

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possessions of others, he lavished his own to gratify sensuality and pride. He was cruel, distinguishing his reign by deeds of blood. He had already slain Urijah for prophesying against the “city and against the land, according to all the words of Jeremiah ;” and the latter could not long expect to escape his vengeance, unless protected by the arm of Jehovah.

It was to such a monarch that the prophet, hardly recovered from the mortification and suffering sketched in the previous chapter, was sent with a message which, for pungent personal rebuke, is not surpassed by any other on the sacred record. He was not to speak it at the temple, or at some place of public resort, in the absence of Jehoiakim, but in the palace itself, and in the presence of the king and court. “ Thus saith the Lord, Go down to the house of the king of Judah, and say, Hear the word of the Lord, O king of Judah, that sittest on the throne of David, thou and thy servants, and thy people that enter in by these gates. Woe unto him that buildeth his house by unrighteousness, and his chambers by wrong; that useth his neighbor's service without wages, and giveth him not for his work; that saith, I will build me a wide house and large chambers ; and cutteth him out windows; and it is ceiled with cedar, and painted with vermilion. Shalt thou reign, because thou closest thyself in cedar? Did not thy father eat and drink, and do judgment and justice, and then it was well with him ? He judged the cause of the poor and needy; then it was well with him : was not this to know me? saith the Lord. But thine eyes and thy heart are not but for thy covetousness, and for to shed innocent blood, and for oppression, and for violence, to do it. Therefore, thus saith the Lord concerning Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah ; They shall not lament for him, saying, Ah my brother! or, Ah sister! they shall not lament for him, saying, Ah lord! or, Ah his glory! He shall be buried with the burial of an ass, drawn and cast forth beyond the gates of Jerusalem."

When Nathan said to David, “ Thou art the man," he addressed a pious though erring monarch, who felt that for the righteous to smite him was a kindness. When Isaiah came with a rebuke to Hezekiah, he spoke to one who feared God and bowed to the authority of his messenger. When Daniel stood before the thousand lords of the Babylonish empire, in the banqueting-hall, and told Belshazzar to his face, “ Thou art weighed in the balance and art found wanting,” the haughty monarch, divinely subdued by the hand on the wall, had become harmless as a child. But Jeremiah had to deal with an abandoned apostate, a bloodthirsty idolater, whom judgment had not yet humbled, and whom neither shame nor conscience would restrain from putting him to instant death.

The place where this message was delivered would add to its offensiveness. The very timbers and stones of the palace would seem to echo, “Woe unto him that buildeth his house by unrighteousness, and his chambers by wrong.” The contrast, too, which the prophet drew between Josiah the temperate, the just, the beneficent, and his sensual, unjust, tyrannical son, must have stung Jehoiakim to madness. But he seems not to have molested the prophet for his scorching rebuke. Perhaps he still retained some slight respect for one whom he must often, in boyhood, have seen honored at his father's court; or, hardened in sin and puffed up with pride, he may have treated both the prophet and his denunciation with contempt.

How many splendid mansions, since the days of Jehoiakim, have been erected by gains derived from extortion and fraud! How many live in magnificence and luxury, on riches obtained by cheating their creditors, or by withholding from the poor a proper reward for their labor! How many sons of honest, respectable parents, to gratify their love of display, resort to questionable or dishonest modes of acquiring wealth, and ruin both their character and their souls! They may boast of success, and in their affluence look down disdainfully on the honest poor; but the deep disapprobation of the community around, even if suppressed from prudence or policy, unites with the word of God in pro

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claiming, “Woe unto him that buildeth his house by unrighteousness, and his chambers by wrong; that useth his neighbor's service without wages, and giveth him not for his work.”

In the time of Jeremiah, the profaneness and profligacy of the order of prophets were corrupting the morals of the people. While he predicted the overthrow of the kingdom for its idolatry and dissoluteness, they prophesied that it should be prosperous and safe. • They say, Ye shall have peace ; and they say unto every one that walketh after the imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you.” Some, perhaps, might advise Jeremiah not to discompose himself about the falsehoods by which the prophets deceived the people. There is no danger, they might say, that error, if left to itself, will not soon fall to the ground. They might urge the prophet to exercise a little more charity towards these men; to treat them as honest and sincere, even if they were misguided. They might endeavor to dissuade Jeremiah from exposing their profligacy and falsehood, lest it should cause divisions among friends and neighbors. They might speak of the beauty of harmony; and suggest how impolitic it is to destroy the peace of families and social circles, and incur the ill-will of the great and fashionable, for the sake of abstract notions.

But the prophet could not be quiet while false teachers were leading the nation to ruin. “My

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