Jeremiah Chapter Fifty-one
Babylon's doom; God's controversy with her; encouragements from thence to the Israel of God. (1-58) The confirming of this. (59-64)
Commentary on Jeremiah 51:1-58
(Read Jeremiah 51:1-58)
The particulars of this prophecy are dispersed and interwoven, and the same things left and returned to again. Babylon is abundant in treasures, yet neither her waters nor her wealth shall secure her. Destruction comes when they did not think of it. Wherever we are, in the greatest depths, at the greatest distances, we are to remember the Lord our God; and in the times of the greatest fears and hopes, it is most needful to remember the Lord. The feeling excited by Babylon's fall is the same with the New Testament Babylon, Revelation 18:9,19. The ruin of all who support idolatry, infidelity, and superstition, is needful for the revival of true godliness; and the threatening prophecies of Scripture yield comfort in this view. The great seat of antichristian tyranny, idolatry, and superstition, the persecutor of true Christians, is as certainly doomed to destruction as ancient Babylon. Then will vast multitudes mourn for sin, and seek the Lord. Then will the lost sheep of the house of Israel be brought back to the fold of the good Shepherd, and stray no more. And the exact fulfilment of these ancient prophecies encourages us to faith in all the promises and prophecies of the sacred Scriptures.
Commentary on Jeremiah 51:59-64
(Read Jeremiah 51:59-64)
This prophecy is sent to Babylon, to the captives there, by Seraiah, who is to read it to his countrymen in captivity. Let them with faith see the end of these threatening powers, and comfort themselves herewith. When we see what this world is, how glittering its shows, and how flattering its proposals, let us read in the book of the Lord that it shall shortly be desolate. The book must be thrown into the river Euphrates. The fall of the New Testament Babylon is thus represented, Revelation 18:21. Those that sink under the weight of God's wrath and curse, sink for ever. Babylon, and every antichrist, will soon sink and rise no more for ever. Let us hope in God's word, and quietly wait for his salvation; then we shall see, but shall not share, the destruction of the wicked.
── Matthew Henry《Concise Commentary on Jeremiah》
 For Israel hath not been forsaken, nor Judah of his God, of the LORD of hosts; though their land was filled with sin against the Holy One of Israel.
Forsaken — Not utterly forsaken.
 Flee out of the midst of Babylon, and deliver every man his soul: be not cut off in her iniquity; for this is the time of the LORD's vengeance; he will render unto her a recompence.
Soul — By soul is meant life, and by iniquity the punishment of the Babylonian's iniquity.
 Babylon hath been a golden cup in the LORD's hand, that made all the earth drunken: the nations have drunken of her wine; therefore the nations are mad.
Drunken — She had made all the nations about her drunken with the Lord's fury.
Mad — Through the misery they felt from her.
 We would have healed Babylon, but she is not healed: forsake her, and let us go every one into his own country: for her judgment reacheth unto heaven, and is lifted up even to the skies.
We — The prophet seems to personate the mercenary soldiers, saying, they would have helped Babylon, but there was no healing for her.
 The LORD hath brought forth our righteousness: come, and let us declare in Zion the work of the LORD our God.
Some — These words are spoken in the person of the Jews, owning the destruction of Babylon to be the mighty work of God, and an act of justice, revenging the wrongs of his people.
 Set up the standard upon the walls of Babylon, make the watch strong, set up the watchmen, prepare the ambushes: for the LORD hath both devised and done that which he spake against the inhabitants of Babylon.
Set up — These seem to be the prophet's words to the Babylonians, rousing them out of their security. Historians tell us that the city was fortified by walls of fifty cubits high, and two hundred cubits broad, and by a very deep and large ditch.
 O thou that dwellest upon many waters, abundant in treasures, thine end is come, and the measure of thy covetousness.
Waters — Babylon is said to dwell upon many waters, because the great river Euphrates, did not only run by it, but almost encompass it branching itself into many smaller rivers, which made several parts of the city, islands.
 I will also break in pieces with thee the shepherd and his flock; and with thee will I break in pieces the husbandman and his yoke of oxen; and with thee will I break in pieces captains and rulers.
Break in pieces — The sense of all these three verses is the same; that God had made use, and was still making use of the Babylonians to destroy many nations, to spoil much people, wasting their goods, routing their armies, killing all sorts of their inhabitants.
 Behold, I am against thee, O destroying mountain, saith the LORD, which destroyest all the earth: and I will stretch out mine hand upon thee, and roll thee down from the rocks, and will make thee a burnt mountain.
Mountain — Babylon was very high for its power, and greatness, and had very high walls and towers, that it looked at a distance like an high rocky mountain. They had destroyed many people.
Burnt — Thy cities and towers which appear like a mountain shall be burnt.
 Set ye up a standard in the land, blow the trumpet among the nations, prepare the nations against her, call together against her the kingdoms of Ararat, Minni, and Ashchenaz; appoint a captain against her; cause the horses to come up as the rough caterpillers.
As caterpillars — The Median horses are compared to their insects, either with respect to their numbers, or in regard of the terror caused by them when they came, being a great plague to the places which they infected.
 And the land shall tremble and sorrow: for every purpose of the LORD shall be performed against Babylon, to make the land of Babylon a desolation without an inhabitant.
The land — Babylon, or the land of Chaldea.
 One post shall run to meet another, and one messenger to meet another, to shew the king of Babylon that his city is taken at one end,
At one end — Cyrus entered the city at one end, by the channel of the river, which he had drained, and surprized Belshazzar in the midst of his feast.
 And that the passages are stopped, and the reeds they have burned with fire, and the men of war are affrighted.
The passages — The passages over the river Euphrates, and all the other passages by which the Babylonians might make their escape, were guarded with soldiers.
Reeds — On the border of the river Euphrates were vast quantities of great and tall reeds, which with the mud in which they stood, were as another wall to the city; but the Medes had burnt them so as the way was open.
 For thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; The daughter of Babylon is like a threshingfloor, it is time to thresh her: yet a little while, and the time of her harvest shall come.
Threshing floor — Babylon had been a threshing instrument, by which, and a threshing-floor in which God had threshed many other nations; God now intended to make it as a threshing-floor wherein he would thresh the Chaldeans.
Tread her — So they used to prepare their threshing-floors against the time of harvest.
The time — The harvest which the justice of God would have from the ruin of the Chaldeans.
 Nebuchadrezzar the king of Babylon hath devoured me, he hath crushed me, he hath made me an empty vessel, he hath swallowed me up like a dragon, he hath filled his belly with my delicates, he hath cast me out.
Me — The prophet speaks this in the name of the Jews.
Cast me out — As beasts of prey eat what they please of other beasts they have preyed upon, and leave the rest in the field.
 Therefore thus saith the LORD; Behold, I will plead thy cause, and take vengeance for thee; and I will dry up her sea, and make her springs dry.
Dry up — Alluding to what Cyrus did.
 They shall roar together like lions: they shall yell as lions' whelps.
They — The Babylonians, upon the taking of their city.
 In their heat I will make their feasts, and I will make them drunken, that they may rejoice, and sleep a perpetual sleep, and not wake, saith the LORD.
Heat — When they shall grow hot with wine, I will make them a feast of another nature. Interpreters judge that Belshazzar, Daniel 5:1, made a feast to a thousand of his Lords, when he and his wives, and concubines, drank wine in the vessels belonging to the temple, during which feast the city was taken.
And not awake — While they were merry with their wine, they fell into a sleep which they never awoke out of.
 How is Sheshach taken! and how is the praise of the whole earth surprised! how is Babylon become an astonishment among the nations!
Sheshach — A name given to the city of Babylon.
 The sea is come up upon Babylon: she is covered with the multitude of the waves thereof.
The sea — A multitude of enemies.
 And I will punish Bel in Babylon, and I will bring forth out of his mouth that which he hath swallowed up: and the nations shall not flow together any more unto him: yea, the wall of Babylon shall fall.
Bel — Bel was the principal Babylonian idol.
Bring forth — All the vessels of the temple, 2 Chronicles 36:7, and whatever gifts the Babylonians had presented to him.
The wall — And the city of Babylon shall be also ruined.
 My people, go ye out of the midst of her, and deliver ye every man his soul from the fierce anger of the LORD.
Go out of her — At all hazards escape for your lives.
 Then the heaven and the earth, and all that is therein, shall sing for Babylon: for the spoilers shall come unto her from the north, saith the LORD.
Then — All the creatures in heaven and earth shall rejoice at the vengeance which God shall take upon Babylon.
 As Babylon hath caused the slain of Israel to fall, so at Babylon shall fall the slain of all the earth.
Of all the earth — This term must be understood in a restrained sense; the Chaldeans coming up from all parts of Chaldea to help Babylon, were slain there, as by the means of Babylon the Israelites were slain that came from all parts of Judea to help Jerusalem.
 Ye that have escaped the sword, go away, stand not still: remember the LORD afar off, and let Jerusalem come into your mind.
Ye — Ye Jews, leave Babylon as soon as liberty is proclaimed.
Remember — And remember in Judea the great things both of justice and mercy which God hath done.
 We are confounded, because we have heard reproach: shame hath covered our faces: for strangers are come into the sanctuaries of the LORD's house.
We — We Jews are ashamed to hear the enemies reproaching us, for our God, or for our religion.
Strangers — Pagans that were strangers to the commonwealth of Israel, are come, not to worship, but to plunder, the sanctuaries of the Lord; even into the courts of the priests and of the Israelites; yea, into the most holy place.
 Wherefore, behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will do judgment upon her graven images: and through all her land the wounded shall groan.
Wherefore — For this profanation of my holy place, I will be revenged not only upon their idols, but upon the worshippers of them, and cause a groaning of wounded men over all the country of the Chaldeans.
 Because the LORD hath spoiled Babylon, and destroyed out of her the great voice; when her waves do roar like great waters, a noise of their voice is uttered:
The great voice — The noises caused from multitudes of people walking up and trafficking together.
A noise — The noise of her enemies that shall break in upon her shall be like the roaring of the sea.
 Because the spoiler is come upon her, even upon Babylon, and her mighty men are taken, every one of their bows is broken: for the LORD God of recompences shall surely requite.
Because — Little more is said here than was before, only the words hint the taking of Babylon by a surprize when the king, and the inhabitants were not aware of it, which we had before also told us, verse 39,40.
Requite — The wrongs done to his people.
 And I will make drunk her princes, and her wise men, her captains, and her rulers, and her mighty men: and they shall sleep a perpetual sleep, and not wake, saith the King, whose name is the LORD of hosts.
Drunk — A plain allusion to the posture the king of Babylon, and the thousand of his lords were in, when their city was taken while they were drinking wine in the bowls that were brought from the temple at Jerusalem.
 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; The broad walls of Babylon shall be utterly broken, and her high gates shall be burned with fire; and the people shall labour in vain, and the folk in the fire, and they shall be weary.
Weary — Though the people should labour to quench this fire, or to rebuild this city, yet it would be all lost labour.
 The word which Jeremiah the prophet commanded Seraiah the son of Neriah, the son of Maaseiah, when he went with Zedekiah the king of Judah into Babylon in the fourth year of his reign. And this Seraiah was a quiet prince.
In the fourth year — This circumstance lets us know that this prophecy was many years before Babylon was destroyed; for it was seven years before Jerusalem was taken; so as it must be above sixty years before it was fulfilled in the first degree.
 And Jeremiah said to Seraiah, When thou comest to Babylon, and shalt see, and shalt read all these words;
Shalt read — Probably to the Jews, that were in Babylon.
 Then shalt thou say, O LORD, thou hast spoken against this place, to cut it off, that none shall remain in it, neither man nor beast, but that it shall be desolate for ever.
Shalt say — Thou shalt testify that thou believest what thou hast read.
 And thou shalt say, Thus shall Babylon sink, and shall not rise from the evil that I will bring upon her: and they shall be weary. Thus far are the words of Jeremiah.
Weary — With that weight of judgment which shall be upon them.
The words — The prophetical words of Jeremiah; for the matter of the next chapter is historical, and the book of Lamentations is not prophetical.
── John Wesley《Explanatory Notes on Jeremiah》
51 Chapter 51
Let Jerusalem come into your mind.
The captives in Babylon are charged to remember Jerusalem, because the temple of their God was there; to keep them from settling down in Babylon.
I. There is a Jerusalem here below which should come into our mind. The Church of the living God is our holy city, the city of the Great King, and we should have it in mind--
1. To unite with its citizens. Join with them in open profession of faith in Christ, in Christian love and mutual help, in holy service, worship, communion, &c.
2. To pray for its prosperity. Our window, like that of Daniel, should be opened towards Jerusalem.
3. To labour for its advancement. Remember it in the allotment of money, use of time, employment of talents, exercise of influence, &c.
4. To prefer its privileges above earthly gain. Consider these privileges in our choice of our residence, occupation, &c.
5. To act consistently with her holy character. God’s people must not degrade His name and cause by living in sin.
II. There is a Jerusalem above which should come into our mind.
1. Let the believer’s thoughts often go thither, for Jesus is there, our departed brethren are there, our own home is there, and thither our hopes and desires should always tend. It should be upon our minds--
2. Let the unconverted permit such thoughts to come into their mind, for they may well inquire of themselves thus--
Longing for heaven
It may be a sin to long for death, but I am sure it is no sin to long for heaven. (Matthew Henry, D. D.)
Blessed are the home-sick, for they shall come at last to the Father’s house. (Heinrich Stillings.)
John Eliot was once on a visit to a merchant, and finding him in his counting-house, where he saw books of business on the table, and all his books of devotion on the shelf, he said to him, “Sir, here is earth on the table, and heaven on the shelf. Pray don’t think so much of the table as altogether to forget the shelf.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Jerusalem to be enshrined in memory and heart
But these captive Jews were not to be despairing Jews. In seventy years their captivity was to end. Meantime, as a resource against discouragement, against the infecting Babylonian evil with which they were to be surrounded, Jeremiah commands these Israelites, “And let Jerusalem come into your minds.” Think of what she has been; think of what restored Jerusalem is to be; remember that you are really citizens, not of this Babylon, but of God’s Jerusalem; and as citizens of this Jerusalem, even though you be in Babylon, endure, hope, live. Everywhere in Scripture the earthly Jerusalem is the symbol of the heavenly. We have right to generalise. From the fact that whatever God says is to be in this world comes to be, we have reason to believe that whatever God says concerning the other world certainly is. When the Scriptures tell me that the earthly Jerusalem points to a heavenly Jerusalem, because I find God s Word so true about everything in this world, I have right to believe it true about things in that; I have right to believe that there is a heavenly Jerusalem. So let the heavenly Jerusalem come into your minds.
1. Let Jerusalem come into your mind when it seems to you as though life were not worth the living. There is a better life beyond, for which this is preparation.
2. Let Jerusalem come into your mind when you seem to yourself specially baffled.
3. Let Jerusalem come into your mind when the fight with sin is sore and weary.
4. Let Jerusalem come into your mind when death seems complete victor. This is the greatest of questions for each one of us, Have we any title in that Jerusalem? Can we let it come into our minds as our own? (Homiletic Review.)
Quickened memories for God’s house and worship
Jerusalem should come into our mind so that we should prefer its privileges to earthly gain. Whenever we are about to make a settlement in any place, and have the choice of residence left to ourselves, the first matter we have to consider is the religions advantages and disadvantages. I admire the action of that Jew who, when he was about to select a city in which he would pursue his business, asked his friend the rabbi, “Is there a synagogue in such and such a place?” The rabbi replied, “No.” So the Jew said, “Then I will not go to live there, for I will” not settle in any place, where there is no synagogue, for I must gather with my people for the worship of God. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The first place in our thought to be given to Christ’s Church
The Church of God should come into our minds as spontaneously as the recollection of our wife or mother. When we look at a map of any country, we should think of how the cause of God prospers in that region. If we make a profit in business, one of our first thoughts should be, “Now I can do something more for the work of the Lord.” When the newspaper is read, it should be in relation to the progress of the kingdom of God. This one thing should tinge all other things with its own colour, and draw all other thoughts into its net. The cause of Christ should be an all-absorbing maelstrom, into which all our thoughts and pursuits should be drawn. A man of one idea aces thy universe by the light of it, and he who loves the Church of God with all his heart will do the same. How can we say, “Lord, remember me,” to Christ in heaven, if we do not remember His Church on earth?
These words were addressed to the exiled Jews in Babylon, in view of their enfranchisement, and their return to their own country. A four months’ journey lay before them, a road infested by savage men and marked by many discomforts had to be trodden, and hence this counsel was given to hearten and comfort the pilgrims. Let the dear place shine before your eyes, let its spell be upon your hearts, and this will relieve the tedium of the journey, make you brave to face the foe, keep you from fainting, and secure the success of your journey. The text is relevant to all times, and especially if we think of the heavenly instead of the earthly Jerusalem. Jesus was always reminding His hearers of the upper universe. Paul admonishes us to “Seek those things which are above.” And again and again we are reminded of our fugitive life in this world--we are “strangers,” “sojourners,” “pilgrims,” and are urged to look upward. In recent years there have been those who have disparaged everything in the nature of other-worldliness. I think it was George Eliot who set this modern fashion of condemning attention to the celestial world, but her life was a sad, suggestive commentary on her loss of faith. But George Eliot has had not a few followers in her anti-heavenly propaganda. Rationalists, Agnostics, and Socialists have vetoed the other-worldly life. There was little need for this adjuration. Heaven is one of the most neglected subjects in present-day preaching. The Sunday is not more restful and healing because given up to the consideration of secular subjects; character is not more refined, ethereal, and blessed because men look down instead of up; the world is not richer but poorer for ignoring the Ideal, the Mystical, the Transcendental, the Divine. The grandest souls of the past--noble-tempered, fine-charactered men and women of majestic mien--are thus described: “They looked for a city which hath foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God.” There are three or four reasons why we should earnestly cultivate this other-worldly disposition.
I. It is necessary for our salvation. The Christian life is one of perpetual peril. We are menaced from every quarter. The microbe is ever on our track, and we need to be on our guard to ward off our foes. But the perils of our body are as nothing compared with our soul-perils. Our danger arises from this present evil world. It is always near us, appealing to us, setting its snares, offering us its bewildering and beguiling baits. It comes, too, in such subtle forms, in the form of a fair-faced friend; it can make use of such attractive things, and sometimes souls are ensnared before they are aware of it. Think of a man living daily in some social circles with their artificialities, their unrealities, white lies, lamentable hypocrisies; or in the world of politics with its “understandings,” trickeries, untruths; or in the world of business with its corners, monopolies, injustices, sharp practice! What does it mean? Full often the dulling of the mind, the paralysis of the conscience, ay, it means the heart loses its freshness, and the life its whiteness. And, mark you, it is not that one need voluntarily yield himself up to these blighting phenomena not to resist is to suffer. Then, what can be done to break the spell of this present world, and ensure our salvation? Let Jerusalem come into your mind, suffer the better world to overshadow the worse world, get into God’s own climate, cultivate the heavenly vision. Fetch heaven’s light down to earth. Fetch the fresh air of the eternal hills down to this stifling, stagnant scene. Fetch the music of heaven down to this terrestrial sphere. The better saves from the worse. Its glory will be glory no longer, its unreality will be sighted, and he will be saved. It is the far-off look that is needed, a vision of the eternal things which is our salvation. Sir Redvers Bullet has told us that in the late war the Boers fought better than our own soldiers, because they had better eyesight, and could see much farther, and no doubt the reason why many Christians are overtaken by spiritual calamities is because they cannot see afar off, they do not lift up their eyes on high. Let us accustom our eyes to see the glories of the New Jerusalem.
II. It is necessary for our amplification. Familiarity with the world does not broaden men, but narrows them. “Born a man and died a grocer,” says the epitaph, and the shrinkage of a soul is one of the painfullest features of life. Many people feel they are sadly caged up, with no poetry, romance, interests, change in their lives. Well, what are we to do? How to make life broader? Thank God, we have an answer--annex heaven. “Reinforce,” says one, “this world with the world which is to come. What do they do in an inland state that is surrounded by other countries, and cramped in on every side? They fight to get down to the sea. Give a country only a few miles, and it is satisfied. Why? Because it will build a harbour there, and it will make ships there, and the enterprising spirits of the nation will man the ships, and the ships will go to the ends of the earth, carrying out such poor things as they have to send, but bringing home untold treasures. That single harbour holds the whole earth in its grasp.” It is even so in our spiritual life. When I am linked with the skies, when I do commerce with heaven my life cannot be petty, narrow, insignificant. I am not lost in my trade, business, profession, nor does my soul undergo any shrinkage. Nay, I do my buying and selling, my getting and spending, in the eyes of heaven. A literary lady who went to consult an oculist about her eyes was told that her eye-weariness and brain-jadedness would pass away if she would now and then pause from her work, and sight the glorious hills in the distance, and she found it so. Is not this what we sorely need to save our life from getting cramped by what is sordid and petty--pauses to look away from life’s manifold engagements to the bright-topped hills of immortality? It is ours, like the apostle at Patmos, to see the fair city of our King, to fraternise with the denizens of the skies, to consort with God Himself, and to do this is to find the grandest emancipation.
III. It is necessary to our consolation. He was a wise professor who used to say to his students when going to preach, “Never fail in any service to have at least a word of comfort.” There is a sore, ii not a broken, heart in every religious assembly. Existence were a poor mockery if this world were all. To how many life is just one long bitter struggle. Think of those, the bruised and broken, who are on their back all their days; think of those who, through no fault of their own, are face to face with poverty most of their time; think of those who have been overtaken by a black bereavement with tragic suddenness; think of these who are left orphans when young, and are at the mercy of an unfeeling world; think of those who have secret trials--trials of which they never whisper even to their dearest friends; think of those who, in trying to live the Christian life, are sorely, buffeted! Where is the compensation? This: “Let Jerusalem come into your mind. Think of it as the place where all life’s wrongs will be ended, where the weary-footed will lay aside their sandals, and the weary-hearted will find sweet rest, where the homeless will find a home, where the broken circles will be re-formed, and where the miseries of a lifetime will be forgotten in the first moment of hallowed bliss.
IV. It is necessary
to our inspiration. One of our primary needs is inspiration, we so soon begin
to flag and lose heart. It is needful for the maintenance of our ideals, for
the shaping of a holy character, to keep us steadfast in the midst of strife
and sorrow. It is painful to note how that when men forget the heavenward look,
they drift from the golden life, part with their noble dreams, sink beneath
their troubles, and fall into bondage to a sensuous life. There are wrecks on
all sides of us--Demases who have loved this present world. “We surmount the
flesh by ascending with Christ to the realm of the spirit. In those who are
occupied with Christ and His kingdom, who ‘set their mind on the things above
where Christ is,’ carnal passions cease to be nourished, the former
channels of thought and desire are left bare and dry, the man’s soul is caught
by a keener excitement and a mightier current, he is drawn into the orbit of
the Sun of Righteousness. He is absorbed in the great and entrancing things of
God, and the old frivolities can no longer divert him.” The same is true of
every other phase of our earth-life. This was the temper of Moses, and it
heartened him for the most prodigious tasks. “He looked for the recompense of the
reward.” This was the temper of the old-world pilgrims, “they desired a better
country, that is a heavenly.” The saints of God, the men for whom duty,
religion, faith, love, character, possess their full meaning, are known by this
far-away look, this detachment of spirit. At the bottom of their souls is a
Divine home-sickness for the Eternal--and this made them spiritual stalwarts.
This, also, was the temper of Jesus. Never for a moment did He forget the
Father, the will, the home, the friendship and fellowship of the Father, “I
speak unto you the things that I have seen with the Father.” “I go to My
Father.” And a share of His glory He assured to all His faithful followers. I
have read somewhere of a bewildered party on a mountain. Pressing on in the blinding
snow, the track lost and the cold increasing, one of them at last in sneer
fatigue sank flown to die. His friends coaxed him, urged him, expostulated with
him so as to get him forward, but all to no purpose. But some one took from his
pocket a picture of wife and children, and showed it to him. That was enough;
what coaxing and threats failed to effect was done in an instant by that vision
of the far-off home. He at once threw off the death-drowse that was so surely
embracing him, and rousing himself with the new power that came from that
vision, he pushed forward with his friends to a place of safety. And our Divine
Leader, when we are flagging
and wearying, gives us pictures of the heavenly home to hearten us. (J.
For Israel hath not been forsaken, nor Judah of his God.
Israel and Judah not forsaken
You would think, according to the teaching of some, that Christ s members kept lopping off something like the limbs of lobsters, and that new ones were constantly growing. There is nothing in Scripture to warrant such a notion as that. You remember Mr. Bunyan’s parable of a child who is in a room, and a stranger comes in, and says, “Come hither, child, I will cut off thy finger.” “No,” says the child. “Yes, but I will; I will take off your little finger. Here is a knife, I will cut off your little finger.” “No,” again says the child, and begins to cry. “Oh, but,” says the stranger, “that is a poor little finger that you have. I will cut it off and I will buy you a gold finger, such a brave gold finger. I will put it on your hand instead of your little finger.” “Oh,” says the child, “but it would not be my finger; I cannot lose my little finger.” Whereupon Mr. Bunyan says, “If Christ could have better people than those He has, He would not make the change,” for, saith He, “they are not My people; they are not a part of My own living self.” So the Lord Jesus would not change you for a golden saint, for one much better than you axe. That new finger would not be what the Father gave him, nor what He bought with His precious blood. “Thou shalt not be forgotten of Me,” means that God will never cease to love His servants. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
God’s people not forgotten or forsaken
Before the siege of Paris Gustave Dore had nearly finished one of his greatest paintings, one of the finest pictures which has ever been produced. Having to fly from the city, on a sudden, as the Germans were coming up, he hid his picture in a cellar, down under a heap of rubbish. When the siege was over, Dore came back to Paris, and of course when he returned he had forgotten all about his picture, had he not? Not he; he had taken too much trouble with it to forget it. He knew the value of it, and he knew where he had put it. He did not have to go up and down the house and say to the people, “Do you know where my picture is?” No! he never forgot where he had himself put it, so he found it where it was hidden, brought it out to the light of day, and finished it. Now, in a far higher sense than that, God will have respect unto the works of His own hands. The very bodies of the saints, though they were hidden away for a while in the rubbish of the earth, He will fetch out, and He will complete the works of grace which He has begun upon each one of them. The Lord hath formed us to be His servants, we shall not be forgotten of Him. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Flee out of the midst of Babylon.
Fleeing from the city of destruction
And now the trembling pilgrim, with fixed resolution, having a glimpse of the light and a definite direction, begins to run; it is unutterable relief to his perplexities to run towards Christ, though as yet he sees Him not. But now the world clamours after him, yea, the dearest ones in it try to stop him, but the fire in his conscience is stronger than they; he stops his ears and runs without looking behind, and stays not in all the plain, but runs as swiftly as his burden will let him, crying, “Life, life, eternal life!” (Lectures on Pilgrim’s Progress, G. H. Cheever.)
He hath made the earth by His power, He hath established the world by His wisdom.
The being of God proved from the frame of the world
The attentive observation of this world, or visible frame, is not only a worthy employment of our thoughts, but even a considerable duty not to be neglected by us. For it is that which affords most cogent and satisfactory arguments to convince us of, and to confirm us in, the belief of that truth which is the foundation of all religion and piety, the being of one God, incomprehensibly excellent in all perfections, the maker and upholder of all things; it also serves to beget in our minds affections toward God, suitable to those notions; a reverent adoration of His unsearchable wisdom; an awful dread of His powerful majesty; a grateful love of His gracious benignity and goodness.
1. View we first, singly, those things which are most familiar and obvious to our senses. First, those plants we every day do see, smell, and taste: Have not that number, that figure, that order, that temperament, that whole contexture of parts we discern in them, a manifest relation to those operations they perform? Whence, then, I inquire, could that fitness proceed? from chance, or casual motions of matter? But is it not repugnant to the name and nature of chance, that anything regular or constant should arise from it? Are not confusion, disparity, deformity, unaccountable change and variety, the proper issues of chance? It is not, therefore, reasonable to ascribe those things to chance: to what then? will you say, to necessity? If you do, you only alter the phrase; for necessary causality is but another name for chance; they both are but several terms denoting blindness and unadvisedness in action; both must imply a fortuitous determination of causes, acting without design or rule. These effects must therefore, I say, proceed from wisdom, and that no mean one, but such as greatly surpasses our comprehension, joined with a power equally great: for to digest bodies so very many, so very fine and subtile, so divers in motion and tendency, that they shall never hinder or disturb one another, but always conspire to the same design, is a performance exceedingly beyond our capacity to reach how it could be contrived or accomplished; all the endeavours of our deepest skill and most laborious industry cannot arrive to the producing of any work not extremely inferior to any of these, not in comparison very simple and base; neither can our wits serve to devise, nor our sense to direct, nor our hand to execute any work, in any degree like to those. And ii we have reason to acknowledge so much wisdom and power discovered in one plant, and the same consequently multiplied in so many thousands of divers kinds; how much more may we discern them in any one animal, in all of them? Who shaped and tempered those hidden subtile springs of life, sense, imagination, memory, passion; who impressed on them a motion so regular and so durable, which through so many years, among so many adverse contingencies assailing it, is yet so steadily maintained? Thus doth commonsense from these sort of beings, whereof there be innumerable exposed daily to our observation, even singly considered, deduce the existence of a wisdom, power, and goodness unconceivably great; and there are probably divers others (stones, metals, minerals, &c.) no less obvious, even here on the earth, our place of dwelling, which, were our senses able to discern their constitution and texture, would afford matter of the same acknowledgment.
2. But if, passing from such particulars, we observe the relation of several kinds of things each to other, we shall find more reason to be convinced concerning the same excellent perfections farther extending themselves. Is there not, for instance, a palpable relation between the frame, the temper, the natural inclinations or instincts of each animal, and its element or natural place and abode; wherein it can only live, finding therein its food, its harbour, its refuge? Is not to each faculty within an object without prepared, exactly correspondent thereto; which were it wanting, the faculty would become vain and useless, yea sometime harmful and destructive; as reciprocally the object would import little or nothing, if such a faculty were not provided and suited thereto? As for example, what would an eye signify, if there were not light prepared to render things visible thereto? and how much less considerable than it is would the goodly light itself be, were all things in nature blind, and uncapable to discern thereby? What would the ear serve for, if the air were not suitably disposed in a due consistency, and capable of moderate undulations distinguishable there-by? The like we might with the same reason inquire concerning the other senses and faculties, vital or animal, and their respective objects, which we may observe with admirable congruity respecting each other. So many, so plain, so exactly congruous are the relations of things here about us each to other; which surely could not otherwise come than from one admirable wisdom and power conspiring thus to adapt and connect them together; as also from an equal goodness, declared in all these things being squared so fitly for mutual benefit and convenience. Well, then, is it to a fortuitous necessity (or a necessary chance) that we owe all these choice accommodations and pre-eminences of nature? must we bless and worship fortune for all this? did she so especially love us, and tender our good? was she so indulgent toward us, so provident for us in so many things, in everything; making us the scope of all her workings and motions here about us? Oh, brutish degeneracy! Are we not, not only wretchedly blind and stupid, if we are not able to discern so clear beams of wisdom shining through so many perspicuous correspondences; if we cannot trace the Divine power by footsteps so express and remarkable; if we cannot read so legible characters of transcendent goodness; but extremely unworthy and ungrateful, if we are not ready to acknowledge, and with hearty thankfulness to celebrate all these excellent perfections, by which all these things have been so ordered, as to conspire and co-operate for our benefit?
3. Yea, all of them join together in one universal consort, with one harmonious voice, to proclaim one and the same wisdom to have designed, one and the same power to have produced, one and the same goodness to have set both wisdom and power on work in designing and in producing their being; in preserving and governing it: for this whole system of things what is it, but one goodly body, as it were, compacted of several members and organs; so aptly compacted together, that each confers its being and its operation to the grace and ornament, to the strength and stability of the whole; one soul (of Divine providence) enlivening in a manner, and actuating it all? We may perhaps not discern the use of each part, or the tendency of each particular effect; but of many they are so plain and palpable, that reason obliges us to suppose the like of the rest. Even as a person whom we observe frequently to act with great consideration and prudence when at other times we cannot penetrate the drift of his proceedings, we must yet imagine that he hath some latent reason, some reach of policy, that we are not aware of; or, as in an engine consisting of many parts, curiously combined, whereof we do perceive the general use, and apprehend how divers parts thereof conduce thereto, reason prompts us (although we neither see them all, nor can comprehend the immediate serviceableness of some) to think they are all in some way or other subservient to the artist’s design: such an agent is God, the wisdom of whose proceedings being in so many instances notorious, we ought to suppose it answerable in the rest; such an engine is this world, of which we may easily enough discern the general end, and how many of its parts do conduce thereto; and cannot therefore in reason but suppose the rest in their kind alike congruous, and conducible to the same purpose. If the nature of any cause be discoverable by its effects; if from any work we may infer the workman’s ability; if in any case the results of wisdom are distinguishable from the consequences of chance, we have reason to believe that the Architect of this magnificent and beautiful frame was one incomprehensibly wise, powerful, and good Being; so that “they are inexcusable, who from hence do not know God”; or knowing Him do not render unto Him His due glory and service. (Isaac Barrow, D. D.)
Thus saith the Lord: Set ye up a standard in the land.
The standard of the Cross, a rallying-point for the people
“Set ye up a standard,” plain, obvious to be seen; a standard, high, on a mountain top, so as to be a rallying-point for the people in the battle of the Lord. A message, this, to fire the hearts of men, to steep them to the full in the sense of life s solemnity. The appeal of the prophet had reference, in the first instance, to the assault of the Persian armies upon the fortress city of Babylon. Cyrus was employed (to use the language of the prophet elsewhere) as the very “battle-axe” of God; who was to do God’s work in delivering the Jews from their captivity, and rebuilding for their use His Temple at Jerusalem. It is the commission of the Lord God to His Church in every age; to lift up the ensign of the Cross, the banner of Christian conflict, the talisman of victory, the rallying-point of all true hearts in the battle of the Lord, against the power of evil that is abroad in our midst. If there is one lesson more emphatically taught than any other by the facts of our present-day experience, it is the lesson that in Christianity alone lies, after all, the true and ultimate hope of the world; that the standard of the Gospel is the only true measure of our social reforms and of our personal or political ideals.
1. There is a power in our midst to-day--a power so imperious that a man may well be excused for holding it to be well-nigh irresistible--the power of public opinion. Are we not apt to forget that this potent engine of our modern life is one whose motive force may, and should be, in a Christian country, spent always in the cause of God, and of His Christ? It is an engine which, if it be informed by hearts aglow with the Spirit of Christ, and guided by hands that are exercised in deeds of truth and love, may well work miracles before our eyes. Then, may not our Church expect of all her sons that each one of them should realise his personal responsibility in this respect?
2. What a motto is this for our national and imperial politics! What a “programme” is here set forth for any Government, under whatever accidents of political party! “Set ye up a standard in the land”; a standard of righteousness and of good faith in matters of international law, or the observance of international treaties.
3. May not this be taken, again, as a potent watchword at our parliamentary elections? Can we not, each one of us, deal at any rate with our own vote as with a serious trust? Can we not raise over our polling-booths a standard of principle rather than party? Can we not muster courage to demand fair play for all; to denounce the use of unworthy weapons in the process of electioneering--the weapons of declamation and mob-flattery, of slander and personal abuse, of mere brute force, obstruction, and of secret bribery, boycotting, or cowardly intimidation? “Set up a standard in the land.” What nobler principle for our legislation itself? A standard of mercy and unselfishness, of wise and intelligent sympathy in dealing with the needs of the many; a standard of absolute impartiality, strict and entire justice, in legislating for the uneducated and the helpless classes of our population.
4. So, too, with respect to other matters of less distinctly political interest. There is room, surely, for a higher standard in questions of pressing social gravity, such as, for example, the subject of national education. Here, at any rate, the Church is pre-eminently bound to hold aloft the ideal of that which alone is worthy of the name of education. Or, turning again to such facts as are revealed by our criminal statistics, in view of the open sore of our national intemperance; or of the not less terrible though secret cancer of our national impurity, can we not, as carrying the Cross of our dear Lord’s self-denial on our foreheads, can we not do something towards setting up a standard in our homes, in our streets, in our business, and in our amusements,--a standard of sobriety and of purity?
5. So, again, in our very amusements. It rests with you, of the English Church laity, to “set up a standard in the land.” It is for you, who are the patrons of the English stage, to pronounce with no faltering accent that the drama--whether grave or gay--no more necessitates the stimulus of an immoral plot, or the adjuncts of a vicious art, than the pen of a Macaulay, a Tennyson, or a Browning, need defile itself with the innuendoes of a Wycherley or the coarseness of a Congreve.
6. And once again, in reference to those forum of sin to which as a great commercial people we arc especially prone. Have we not enough knowledge of a sound political economy to see that all the remedies which Parliament can propose will never touch the root of the evil we deplore? that what is wanted is not so much the mere readjustment of taxation, still less the forcible redistribution of our wealth, as the introduction of a higher standard into our commercial transactions; the standard of a fairer co-operation between the capitalist and the workman--of a more just and upright dealing between tradesman and customer--of a closer sympathy between master and servant, between producer and consumer: a standard of hard, but not slavish, honest, and conscientious work--a standard of fair working hours and fair working profits; a standard of just prices and honest weights and measures; a standard of thrift and temperance and industry, that will condemn idleness and dishonesty in the workman, the producer, but which will not excuse indolence and selfishness and unbridled luxury in the consumer; a standard which denounces all trade adulterations, all lying labels, all imitation brands, all false advertisements, and other similar forms of commercial ostentation and inequity; a standard, moreover, which declares such sins to be as sinful among the warehouses of the city as in the village shop, and pronounces the vices of the west to be at least as criminal as the crimes of the east. Lift up your hearts, then, comrades in the sacred battlefield of right and wrong! Look to that warrior Christ who leads us on. (H. B. Ottley, M. A.)
──《The Biblical Illustrator》