Verses 14–18

What is the meaning of this? Does there proceed out of the same mouth blessing and cursing? Could he that said so cheerfully (Jer. 20:13), Sing unto the Lord, praise you the Lord, say so passionately (Jer. 20:14), Cursed be the day wherein I was born? How shall we reconcile these? What we have in these verses the prophet records, I suppose, to his own shame, as he had recorded that in the foregoing verses to God’s glory. It seems to be a relation of the ferment he had been in while he was in the stocks, out of which by faith and hope he had recovered himself, rather than a new temptation which he afterwards fell into, and it should come in like that of David (Ps. 31:22), I said in my haste, I am cut off; this is also implied, Ps. 77:7. When grace has got the victory it is good to remember the struggles of corruption, that we may be ashamed of ourselves and our own folly, may admire the goodness of God in not taking us at our word, and may be warned by it to double our guard upon our spirits another time. See here how strong the temptation was which the prophet, by divine assistance, got the victory over, and how far he yielded to it, that we may not despair if we through the weakness of the flesh be at any time thus tempted. Let us see here,

I. What the prophet’s language was in this temptation. 1. He fastened a brand of infamy upon his birth-day, as Job did in a heat (Job 3:1): “Cursed be the day wherein I was born. It was an ill day to me (Jer. 20:14), because it was the beginning of sorrows, and an inlet to all this misery.” It is a wish that he had never been born. Judas in hell has reason to wish so (Matt. 26:24), but no man on earth has reason to wish so, because he knows not but he may yet become a vessel of mercy, much less has any good man reason to wish so. Whereas some keep their birth-day, at the return of the year with gladness, he will look upon his birth-day as a melancholy day, and will solemnize it with sorrow, and will have it looked upon as an ominous day. 2. He wished ill to the messenger that brought his father the news of his birth, Jer. 20:15. It made his father very glad to hear that he had a child born (perhaps it was his first-born), especially that it was a man-child, for then, being of the family of the priests, he might live to have the honour of serving God’s altar; and yet he is ready to curse the man that brought him the tidings, when perhaps the father to whom they were brought gave him a gratuity for it. Here Mr. Gataker well observes, “That parents are often much rejoiced at the birth of their children when, if they did but foresee what misery they are born to, they would rather lament over them than rejoice in them.” He is very free and very fierce in the curses he pronounces upon the messenger of his birth (Jer. 20:16): “Let him be at the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, which the Lord utterly overthrew, and repented not, did not in the least mitigate of alleviate their misery. Let him hear the cry of the invading besieging enemy in the morning, as soon as he is stirring; then let him take the alarm, and by noon let him hear their shouting for victory. And thus let him live in constant terror.” 3. He is angry that the fate of the Hebrews’ children in Egypt was not his, that he was not slain from the womb, that his first breath was not his last, and that he was not strangled as soon as he came into the world, Jer. 20:17. He wishes the messenger of his birth had been better employed and had been his murderer; nay, that his mother of whom he was born had been, to her great misery, always with child of him, and so the womb in which he was conceived would have served, without more ado, as a grave for him to be buried in. Job intimates a near alliance and resemblance between the womb and the grave, Job 1:21. Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither. 4. He thinks his present calamities sufficient to justify these passionate wishes (Jer. 20:18): “Wherefore came I forth out of the womb, where I lay hid, was not seen, was not hated, where I lay safely and knew no evil, to see all this labour and sorrow, nay to have my days consumed with shame, to be continually vexed and abused, to have my life not only spent in trouble, but wasted and worn away by trouble?”

II. What use we may make of this. It is not recorded for our imitation, and yet we may learn good lessons from it. 1. See the vanity of human life and the vexation of spirit that attends it. If there were not another life after this, we should be tempted many a time to wish that we have never known this; for our few days here are full of trouble. 2. See the folly and absurdity of sinful passion, how unreasonably it talks when it is suffered to ramble. What nonsense is it to curse a day—to curse a messenger for the sake of his message! What a brutish barbarous thing for a child to wish his own mother had never been delivered of him! See Isa. 45:10. We can easily see the folly of it in others, and should take warning thence to suppress all such intemperate heats and passions in ourselves, to stifle them at first and not to suffer these evil spirits to speak. When the heart is hot, let the tongue be bridled, Ps. 39:1, 2. 3. See the weakness even of good men, who are but men at the best. See how much those who think they stand are concerned to take heed lest they fall, and to pray daily, Father in heaven, lead us not into temptation!