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as well as some of his subjects, to be affected by the precepts and threatenings which they found in the law.
The first twelve chapters of Jeremiah are supposed to have been spoken in the reign of Josiah. They abound in reproofs of the people for apostasy, in melting intreaties to induce them to return to their allegiance, in rebukes for the insincerity of their apparent reformation, and in threatenings of punishment if their disobedience should be continued.
The sacred record contains but few incidents in this part of the history of Jeremiah; but his inner life, how he thought and felt, is revealed by his messages and the emotions which attended their utterance. Some of the prophets seem, in the discharge of their office, to be almost impersonal. They doubtless felt, but they did not disclose their feelings. They seem rather to be the unconscious organs through which the spirit of prophecy was manifested, than living, sympathizing members of the human family. Elijah, for example, in denouncing appalling judgments against Ahab and Israel, is so absorbed in his official character as to appear like a being of another race, to whom human frailties and sufferings are unknown. But when Jeremiah is summoned to proclaim the judgments of heaven against his countrymen, he seems to be overwhelmed with emotion. Predicting the
Chaldean invasion in language vivid and terrific, he cries out, I am pained at my very heart; my heart maketh a noise in me; I cannot hold my peace, because thou hast heard, Oh my soul, the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war. When Jerusalem, long besieged, and disappointed of the aid so anxiously expected from Egypt, raises the lamentation, “ The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved,” the prophet exclaims, · My heart is faint in me. For the hurt of the daughter of my people am I hurt; I am black; astonishment hath taken hold on me.” And as if the wickedness and threatened woes of his countrymen were more than he could endure, he sighs forth, “O that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people. Oh that I had in the wilderness a lodging-place of wayfaring men, that I might leave my people and go from them! for they be all adulterers, an assembly of treacherous men.'
Jeremiah seems to have remained for some years in his native city exercising the prophetic office. But gentle as was his disposition, so pungent were his reproofs and so well aimed at the conscience, that his fellow-townsmen, his very brethren the priests, were ready to put him to death. Perhaps, as is common in similar cases, they felt rebuked for their own lack of zeal by the earnestness of Jere
miah. They conspired against him, saying, “Let us cut him off from the land of the living, that his name may no more be remembered.” One might suppose they would not venture on such violence, in the reign of Josiah ; but when men are irritated by the truth, they will incur almost any danger to avenge themselves on their reprovers. The prophet, resorting to the Lord for protection, was commanded to denounce to the people of Anathoth that their young men should die by the sword, and their sons and daughters should die by famine, in the year
of their visitation. His own kindred joining in the treachery, he went to reside at Jerusalem. Here he would be an active assistant to the king in restoring the worship of Jehóvah, and cleansing the land from idol-altars and idol-gods. He would be in little danger from his enemies, so long as Josiah lived; they might be indignant at his rebukes, but their rage would be suppressed through fear of the royal displeasure.
When Jeremiah, in his despondency, complained to the Lord of the dangers, which beset him in his mission among his friends and neighbors, it was intimated to him that still greater dangers would attend the more public discharge of his ministry. “If thou hast run with the footmen and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses ? and if in the land of peace wherein thou trustedst, they have wearied thee, then how wilt
thou do in the swelling of Jordan ?" If the threats of thine own brethren and fellow-citizens dismay thee, how wilt thou endure the opposition of the princes and mobs of the prophet-killing metropolis ? The meaning of this language Jeremiah learned from experience when Josiah was cut off, and it soon appeared that he had abundant cause for the lamentation which the history informs us he made over the untimely death of that godly prince. Deprived of his protection, he was now exposed to the vindictive hate of those who were offended at his faithful admonitions.
JEREMIAH'S LABORS AS A PROPHET.
NEAR the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim, Jeremiah was ordered to take a linen girdle, such as the Jews used for confining their loose dresses around their bodies, and wear it without putting it into water. When he had worn it many days, the Lord commanded him to “go to Euphrates and hide it in a hole in the rock.” After some time, he was commanded to go and take the girdle. He went accordingly, and found it “marred” and good for nothing. Most commentators think this only passed in vision, and that Jeremiah, in executing his commission, did not really go twice to the river Euphrates, which was a hundred and fifty leagues distant from Jerusalem.
Girdles were an ornament of dress very highly valued by the orientals, and were often made of precious stuffs. As the prophet's girdle, when taken from its hiding-place, “was marred and profitable for nothing,” so the Jews, once dear to Jehovah, had by disobedience become worthless in his sight, and he would cast them away.
In view of the judgments impending over his countrymen, the prophet presses on them the exhortation, Hear ye, and give ear; be not proud: