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palace a message from the Lord, but we read of no messenger sent by the king to the prophet. He had not only neglected Jeremiah, but in this very matter had gone counter to his warning. Now the evil is at hand, Zedekiah does not call around him the prophets who urged him to rebel, and ask them to beseech help of their idol-gods, but in alarm at the threatening danger, he sends messengers to request that Jeremiah would intreat the Lord to deal with them “according to all his wondrous works” in former years. The king was not an idolater through ignorance of the true God. He had often heard of the deliverances wrought for the land in other times. The story of the slaughtered Assyrians had not faded from the national history nor from popular tradition, though scorners then, as now, might declare it all a fiction.

Had Zedekiah made such a request of the false prophets, they would readily have assured him of deliverance from the Chaldeans. But Jeremiah renewed his declaration that the city would be taken, and the kingdom depart from the house of David, without a speedy reform in their abuse of power. Such a reply might seem harsh, and was undoubtedly so represented by the princes and prophets to prejudice the king against Jeremiah.

When evil comes on the wicked for their personal transgressions, or approaching death fills their minds with terrors, the servant of the Lord must not

soften the truth, or speak words of peace to those for whom, while impenitent, there is no peace. Better, by faithful yet tender counsel, quicken the fears of the sufferer and wound the bosom of friends, than quiet a soul in sin by misdirected sympathy.

It was a merciful provision of the law of Moses, that at the end of six years the Hebrews who were in servitude to their brethren should be set free. While the Chaldeans were besieging the city, the king and the people entered into an agreement to comply with this requisition. Accordingly all the Hebrew bondmen and bondwomen in Jerusalem were liberated. The chief motive for this tardy act of justice probably was to engage those who had regained their freedom in a m re hearty defence of the city; but mingled with this may have been apprehensions of punishment for disobedience.

When the Babylonish camp was broken up on the approach of Pharaoh's army, and the danger was supposed to be over, the people compelled their Hebrew servants to return to bondage. This hypocritical and cruel movement was severely censured by the prophet. “Thus saith the Lord; behold, I proclaim a liberty for you, to the sword, to the pestilence, and to the famine; and I will make you to be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth.”

So the wicked in their calamity will sometimes apparently draw nigh unto God; but when the danger is past, they usually return to their folly,



and perhaps even affect to ridicule their relentings as weakness. And is there not reason to fear that many a death-bed repentance will be found hereafter no better than this seeming reformation of the affrighted Jewish king and people ?

The Chaldean army having withdrawn to give battle to the Egyptians, Jeremiah was leaving the city to go into the land of Benjamin, where was Anathoth, his native home. He was persuaded the Chaldeans would return, and he did not perhaps choose to await the horrors of a siege when his messages were treated with so much contempt; but God had work still for him to do at Jerusalem, hopeless as appeared the prospect of usefulness. Men should not too hastily quit their posts because they cannot see at once the fruit of their labors, or because they think they can be more useful somewhere else. In such cases they often find themselves mistaken, and fall into greater difficulties than they attempted to escape.

“ Follow Provi. dence, and not lead it.”

When Jeremiah was going out at the gate of Benjamin, he was apprehended by a captain of the ward, who accused him of a design to desert to the Chaldeans. The officer may have supposed there was some ground for this accusation, because Jeremiah advised the people to surrender, as the only way to preserve the city from ruin. The prophet, conscious of innocence, indignantly repelled the

charge; but the officer took him to the princes, who smote him and cast him into prison. They were glad of a plausible pretext for treating the prophet in this manner. Often annoyed by his predictions and reproofs, they would busily report from mouth to mouth, that Jeremiah had been caught in an attempt to join the enemies of his country; just as the profane and profligate nowadays eagerly lay hold of any slander, however improbable, against the ministers of Christ.

The eastern prisons are not, as with us, public buildings erected for that purpose, but a part of the house in which their criminal judges reside. The prophet remained a prisoner in the house of Jonathan many days. At length the king sent for him to the palace, and inquired of him privately, "Is there any word from Jehovah?” Perhaps Zedekiah thought the prophet might be more tractable, after so long confinement. Jeremiah knew his answer might enrage the king, but he unhesitatingly replied, “There is; for he hath said, Into the hand of the king of Babylon shalt thou be delivered." He then preferred a petition, that the king would change his place of imprisonment, as he could not long survive in his present dungeon; at the same time asserting his innocence, and demanding of the king, “Where are now your prophets that prophesied unto you, saying, The king of Babylon shall not come against you, nor against the land ?” Zedekiah, softened by the words of the prophet, and perhaps admiring his firm adherence to truth in the face of danger and death, ordered him to be removed to a more comfortable prison in the palace, and bread to be given him as long as there was any in the city.

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