The prophet, having found his sleep sweet, made so by the revelations of divine grace, sets himself to sleep again, in hopes of further discoveries, and is not disappointed; for it is here further promised,
I. That the people of God shall become both numerous and prosperous. Israel and Judah shall be replenished both with men and cattle, as if they were sown with the seed of both, Jer. 31:27. They shall increase and multiply like a field sown with corn; and this is the product of God’s blessing (Jer. 31:23), for whom God blessed, to them he said, Be fruitful. This should be a type of the wonderful increase of the gospel-church. God will build them, and plant them, Jer. 31:28. He will watch over them to do them good; no opportunity shall be lost that may further their prosperity. Every thing for a long time had turned so much against them, and all occurrences did so transpire to ruin them, that it seemed as if God had watched over them to pluck up and to throw down; but now every thing that falls out shall happily fall in to strengthen and advance their interests. God will be as ready to comfort those that repent of their sins, and are humbled for them, as he is to punish those that continue in love with their sins, and are hardened in them.
II. That they shall be reckoned with no further for the sins of their fathers (Jer. 31:29, 30): They shall say no more (they shall have no more occasion to say) that God visits the iniquity of the parents upon the children, which God had done in the captivity, for the sins of their ancestors came into the account against them, particularly those of Manasseh: this they had complained of as a hardship. Other scriptures justify God in this method of proceeding, and our Saviour tells the wicked Jews in his days that they should smart for their fathers’ sins, because they persisted in them, Matt. 23:35, 36. But it is here promised that this severe dispensation with them should now be brought to an end, that God would proceed no further in his controversy with them for their fathers’ sins, but remember for them his covenant with their fathers and do them good according to that covenant: They shall no more complain, as they have done, that the fathers have eaten sour grapes and the children’s teeth are set on edge (which speaks something of an absurdity, and is an invidious reflection upon God’s proceedings), but every one shall die for his own iniquity still; though God will cease to punish them in their national capacity, yet he will still reckon with particular persons that provoke him. Note, Public salvations will give no impunity, no security, to private sinners: still every man that eats the sour grapes shall have his teeth set on edge. Note, Those that eat forbidden fruit, how tempting soever it looks, will find it a sour grape, and it will set their teeth on edge; sooner or later they will feel from it and reflect upon it with bitterness. There is as direct a tendency in sin to make a man uneasy as there is in sour grapes to set the teeth on edge.
III. That God will renew his covenant with them, so that all these blessings they shall have, not by providence only, but by promise, and thereby they shall be both sweetened and secured. But this covenant refers to gospel times, the latter days that shall come; for of gospel grace the apostle understands it (Heb. 8:8, 9), where this whole passage is quoted as a summary of the covenant of grace made with believers in Jesus Christ. Observe, 1. Who the persons are with whom this covenant is made—with the house of Israel and Judah, with the gospel church, the Israel of God on which peace shall be (Gal. 6:16), with the spiritual seed of believing Abraham and praying Jacob. Judah and Israel had been two separate kingdoms, but were united after their return, in the joint favours God bestowed upon them; so Jews and Gentiles were in the gospel church and covenant. 2. What is the nature of this covenant in general: it is a new covenant and not according to the covenant made with them when they came out of Egypt; not as if that made with them at Mount Sinai were a covenant of nature and innocency, such as was made with Adam in the day he was created; no, that was, for substance, a covenant of grace, but it was a dark dispensation of that covenant in comparison with this in gospel times. Sinners were saved by that covenant upon their repentance, and faith in a Messiah to come, whose blood, confirming that covenant, was typified by that of the legal sacrifices, Exod. 24:7, 8. Yet this may upon many accounts be called new, in comparison with that; the ordinances and promises are more spiritual and heavenly, and the discoveries much more clear. That covenant God made with them when he took them by the hand, as they had been blind, or lame, or weak, to lead them out of the land of Egypt, which covenant they broke. Observe, It was God that made this covenant, but it was the people that broke it; for our salvation is of God, but our sin and ruin are of ourselves. It was an aggravation of their breach of it that God was a husband to them, that he had espoused them to himself; it was a marriage-covenant that was between him and them, which they b 490c roke by idolatry, that spiritual adultery. It is a great aggravation of our treacherous departures from God that he has been a husband to us, a loving, tender, careful husband, faithful to us, and yet we false to him. 3. What are the particular articles of his covenant. They all contain spiritual blessings; not, “I will give them the land of Canaan and a numerous issue,” but, “I will give them pardon, and peace, and grace, good heads and good hearts.” He promises, (1.) That he will incline them to their duty; I will put my law in their inward part and write it in their heart; not, I will give them a new law (as Mr. Gataker well observes), for Christ came not to destroy the law, but to fulfil it; but the law shall be written in their hearts by the finger of the Spirit as formerly it was written in the tables of stone. God writes his law in the hearts of all believers, makes it ready and familiar to them, at hand when they have occasion to use it, as that which is written in the heart, Prov. 3:3. He makes them in care to observe it, for that which we are solicitous about is said to lie near our hearts. He works in them a disposition to obedience, a conformity of thought and affection to the rules of the divine law, as that of the copy to the original. This is here promised, and ought to be prayed for, that our duty may be done conscientiously and with delight. (2.) That he will take them into relation to himself: I will be their God, a God all-sufficient to them, and they shall be my people, a loyal obedient people to me. God’s being to us a God is the summary of all happiness; heaven itself is no more, Heb. 11:16; Rev. 21:3. Our being to him a people may be taken either as the condition on our part (those and those only shall have God to be to them a God that are truly willing to engage themselves to be to him a people) or as a further branch of the promise that God will by his grace make us his people, a willing people, in the day of his power; and, whoever are his people, it is his grace that makes them so. (3.) That there shall be an abundance of the knowledge of God among all sorts of people, and this will have an influence upon all good: for those that rightly know God’s name will seek him, and serve him, and put their trust in him (Jer. 31:34): All shall know me; all shall be welcome to the knowledge of God and shall have the means of that knowledge; his ways shall be known upon earth, whereas, for many ages, in Judah only was God known. Many more shall know God than did in the Old Testament times, which among the Gentiles were times of ignorance, the true God being to them an unknown God. The things of God shall in gospel times be made more plain and intelligible, and level to the capacities of the meanest, than they were while Moses had a veil upon his face. There shall be such a general knowledge of God that there shall not be so much need as had formerly been of teaching. Some take it as a hyperbolical expression (and the dulness of the Jews needed such expressions to awaken them), designed only to show that the knowledge of God in gospel times should vastly exceed that knowledge of him which they had under the law. Or perhaps it intimates that in gospel times there shall be such great plenty of public preaching, statedly and constantly, by men authorized and appointed to preach the word in season and out of season, much beyond what was under the law, that there shall be less need than there was then of fraternal teaching, by a neighbour and a brother. The priests preached but now and then, and in the temple, and to a few in comparison; but now all shall or may know God by frequenting the assemblies of Christians, wherein, through all parts of the church, the good knowledge of God shall be taught. Some give this sense of it (Mr. Gataker mentions it), That many shall have such clearness of understanding in the things of God that they may seem rather to have been taught by some immediate irradiation than by any means of instruction. In short, the things of God shall by the gospel of Christ be brought to a clearer light than ever (2 Tim. 1:10), and the people of God shall by the grace of Christ be brought to a clearer sight of those things than ever, Eph. 1:17, 18. (4.) That, in order to all these blessings, sin shall be pardoned. This is made the reason of all the rest: For I will forgive their iniquity, will not impute that to them, nor deal with them according to the desert of that, will forgive and forget: I will remember their sin no more. It is sin that keeps good things from us, that stops the current of God’s favours; let sin betaken away by pardoning mercy, and the obstruction is removed, and divine grace runs down like a river, like a mighty stream.