The heads of this paragraph are the very same with those of the last; for precept must be upon precept and line upon line.
I. The ruin of Judah and Jerusalem is here threatened. We had before the haste which the Chaldea army made to the war (Jer. 6:4, 5); now here we have the havoc made by the war. How lamentable are the desolations here described! The enemy shall so long quarter among them, and be so insatiable in their thirst after blood and treasure, that they shall seize all they can meet with, and what escapes them at one time shall fall into their hands another (Jer. 6:9): They shall thoroughly glean the remnant of Israel as a vine; as the grape-gatherer, who is resolved to leave none behind, still turns back his hand into the baskets, to put more in, till he has gathered all, so that they be picked up by the enemy, though dispersed, though hid, and none of them shall escape their eye and hand. Perhaps the people, being given to covetousness (Jer. 6:13), had not observed that law of God which forbade them to glean all their grapes (Lev. 19:10), and now they themselves shall be in like manner thoroughly gleaned and shall either fall by the sword or go into captivity. This is explained Jer. 6:11, 12, where God’s fury and his hand are said to be poured out and stretched out, in the fury and by the hand of the Chaldeans; for even wicked men are often made use of as God’s hand (Ps. 17:14), and in their anger we may see God angry. Now see on whom the fury is poured out in full vials—upon the children abroad, or in the streets, where they are playing (Zech. 8:5) or whither they run out innocently to look about them: the sword of the merciless Chaldeans shall not spare them, Jer. 9:21. The children perish in the calamity which the fathers’ sins have procured. The execution shall likewise reach the assembly of young men, their merry meetings, their clubs which they keep up to strengthen one another’s hands in wickedness; they shall be cut off together. Nor shall those only fall into the enemies’ hands who meet for lewdness (Jer. 5:7), but even the husband with the wife shall be taken, these two in bed together, and neither left, but both taken prisoners. And, as they have no compassion for the weak but fair sex, so they have none for the decrepit but venerable age: The old with the full of days, whose deaths can contribute no more to their safety than their lives to their service, who are not in a capacity to do them either good or harm, shall be either cut off or carried off. Their houses shall then be turned to others (Jer. 6:12); the conquerors shall dwell in their habitations, use their goods, and live upon their stores; their fields and vines shall fall together into their hands, as was threatened, Deut. 28:30 For God stretches out his hand upon the inhabitants of the land, and none can go out of the reach of it. Now as to this denunciation of God’s wrath, 1. The prophet justifies himself in preaching thus terribly, for herein he dealt faithfully (Jer. 6:11): “I am full of the fury of the Lord, full of the thoughts and apprehensions of it, and am carried out with a powerful impulse, by the spirit of prophecy, to speak of it thus vehemently.” He took no delight in threatening, nor was it any pleasure to him with such sermons as these to make those about him uneasy; but he could not contain himself; he was weary with holding in; he suppressed it as long as he could, as long as he durst, but he was so full of power by the Spirit of the Lord of hosts that he must speak, whether they will hear or whether they will forbear. Note, When ministers preach the terrors of the Lord according to the scripture we have no reason to be displeased at them; for they are but messengers, and must deliver their message, pleasing or unpleasing. 2. He condemns the false prophets who preached plausibly, for therein they flattered people and dealt unfaithfully (Jer. 6:13, 14): The priest and the prophet, who should be their watchmen and monitors, have dealt falsely, have not been true to their trust not told the people their faults and the danger they were in; they should have been their physicians, but they murdered their patients by letting them have their will, by giving them every thing that had a mind to, and flattering them into an opinion that they were in no danger (Jer. 6:14): They have healed the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, or according to the cure of some slight hurt, skinning over the wound and never searching it to the bottom, applying lenitives only, when there was need of corrosives, soothing people in their sins, and giving them opiates to make them easy for the present, while the disease was preying upon the vitals. They said, “Peace peace—all shall be well.” (if there were some thinking people among them, who were awake, and apprehensive of danger, they soon stopped their mouths with their priestly and prophetical authority, boldly averring that neither church nor state was in any danger), when there is no peace, because they went on in their idolatries and daring impieties. Note, Those are to be reckoned our false friends (that is, our worst and most dangerous enemies) who flatter us in a sinful way.
II. The sin of Judah and Jerusalem, which provoked God to bring this ruin upon them and justified him in it, is here declared. 1. They would by no means bear to be told of their faults, nor of the danger they were in. God bids the prophet give them warning of the judgment coming (Jer. 6:9), “but,” says he, “to whom shall I speak and give warning? I cannot find out any that will so much as give me a patient hearing. I may give warning long enough, but these is nobody that will take warning. I cannot speak that they may hear, cannot speak to any purpose, or with any hope of success; for their ear is uncircumcised, it is carnal and fleshly, indisposed to receive the voice of God, so that they cannot hearken. They have, as it were, a thick skin grown over the organs of hearing, so that divine things might to as much purpose be spoken to a stone as to them. Nay, they are not only deaf to it, but prejudiced against it; therefore they cannot hear, because they are resolved that they will not: The word of the Lord is unto them a reproach; both the reproofs and the threatenings of the word are so;” they reckoned themselves wronged and affronted by both, and resented the prophet’s plain-dealing with them as they would the most causeless slander and calumny. This was kicking against the pricks (Acts 9:5), as the lawyers against the word of Christ, Luke 11:45; Thus saying, thou repoachest us also. Note, Those reproofs that are counted reproaches, and hated as such, will certainly be turned into the heaviest woes. When it is here said, They have no delight in the word, more is implied than is expressed; “they have an antipathy to it; their hearts rise at it; it exasperates them, and enrages their corruptions, and they are ready to fly in the face and pull out the eyes of their reprovers.” And how can those expect that the word of the Lord should speak any comfort to them who have no delight in it, but would rather be any where than within hearing of it? 2. They were inordinately set upon the world, and wholly carried away by the love of it (Jer. 6:13): “From the least of them even to the greatest, old and young, rich and poor, high and low, those of all ranks, professions, and employments, every one is given to covetousness, greedy of filthy lucre, all for what they can get, per fas per nefas—right or wrong;” and this made them oppressive and violent (Jer. 6:6, 7), for of those evils, as well as others, the love of money is the bitter root. Nay, and this hardened their hearts against the word of God and his prophets. It was the covetous Pharisees that derided Christ, Luke 16:14. 3. They had become impudent in sin and were past shame. After such a high charge of flagrant crimes proved upon them, it was very proper to ask (Jer. 6:15), Were they ashamed when they had committed all these abominations, which are such a reproach to their reason and religion? Did they blush at the conviction, and acknowledge that confusion of face belonged to them? If so, there is some hope of them yet. But, alas! there did not appear so much as this colour of virtue among them; their hearts were so hardened that they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush, they had so brazened their faces. They even gloried in their wickedness, and openly confronted the convictions which should have humbled them and brought them to repentance. They resolved to face it out against God himself and not to own their guilt. Some refer this to the priests and prophets, who had healed the people slightly and told them that they should have peace, and yet were not ashamed of their treachery and falsehood, no, not when the event disproved them and gave them the lie. Those that are shameless are graceless and their case is hopeless. But those that will not submit to a penitential shame, nor take that to themselves as their due, shall not escape an utter ruin; for so it follows: Therefore they shall fall among those that fall; they shall have their portion with those that are quite undone; and, when God visits the nation in wrath, they shall be sure to be cast down and be made to tremble, because they would not blush. Note, Those that sin and cannot blush for it are in an evil case now, and it will be worse with them shortly. At first they hardened themselves and would not blush, afterwards they were so hardened that they could not. Quod unum habebant in malis bonum perdunt, peccandi verecundiam—they have lost the only good property which once blended itself with many bad ones, that is, shame for having done amiss.—Senec. Deut. Vit. Beat.
III. They are put in mind of the good counsel which had been often given them, but in vain. They had a great deal said to them to little purpose,
1. By way of advice concerning their duty, Jer. 6:16. God had been used to say to them, Stand in the ways and see. That is, (1.) He would have them to consider, not to proceed rashly, but to do as travellers in the road, who are in care to find the right way which will bring them to their journey’s end, and therefore pause and enquire for it. If they have any reason to think that they have missed their way, they are not easy till they have obtained satisfaction. O that men would be thus wise for their souls, and would ponder the path of their feet, as those that believe lawful and unlawful are of no le 5b0d ss consequence to us than the right way and the wrong are to a traveller! (2.) He would have them to consult antiquity, the observations and experiences of those that went before them: “Ask for the old paths, enquire of the former age (Job 8:8), ask thy father, thy elders (Deut. 32:7), and thou wilt find that the way of godliness and righteousness has always been the way which God has owned and blessed and in which men have prospered. Ask for the old paths, the paths prescribed by the law of God, the written word, that true standard of antiquity. Ask for the paths that the patriarchs travelled in before you, Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob; and, as you hope to inherit the promises made to them, tread in their steps. Ask for the old paths, Where is the good way?” We must not be guided merely by antiquity, as if the plea of prescription and long usage were alone sufficient to justify our path. No; there is an old way which wicked men have trodden, Job 22:15. But, when we ask for the old paths, it is only in order to find out the good way, the highway of the upright. Note, The way of religion and godliness is a good old way, the way that all the saints in all ages have walked in. (3.) He would have them to resolve to act according to the result of these enquiries: “When you have found out which is the good way, walk therein, practise accordingly, keep closely to that way, proceed, and persevere in it.” Some make this counsel to be given them with reference to the struggles that were between the true and false prophets, between those that said they should have peace and those that told them trouble was at the door; they pretended they knew not which to believe: “Stand in the way,” says God, “and see, and enquire, which of these two agrees with the written word and the usual methods of God’s providence, which of these directs you to the good way, and do accordingly.” (4.) He assures them that, if they do thus, it will secure the welfare and satisfaction of their own souls: “Walk in the good old way and you will find your walking in that way will be easy and pleasant; you will enjoy both your God and yourselves, and the way will lead you to true rest. Though it cost you some pains to walk in that way, you will find an abundant recompence at your journey’s end.” (5.) He laments that this good counsel, which was so rational in itself and so proper for them, could not find acceptance: “But they said, We will not walk therein, not only we will not be at the pains to enquire which is the good way, the good old way; but when it is told us, and we have nothing to say to the contrary but that it is the right way, yet we will not deny ourselves and our humours so far as to walk in it.” Thus multitudes are ruined for ever by downright wilfulness.
2. By way of admonition concerning their danger. Because they would not be ruled by fair reasoning, God takes another method with them; by less judgments he threatens greater, and sends his prophets to give them this explication of them, and to frighten them with an apprehension of the danger they were in (Jer. 6:17); Also I set watchmen over you. God’s ministers are watchmen, and it is a great mercy to have them set over us in the Lord. Now observe here, (1.) The fair warning given by these watchmen. This was the burden of their song; they cried again and again, Hearken to the sound of the trumpet. God, in his providence, sounds the trumpet (Zech. 9:14); the watchmen hear it themselves and are affected with it (Jer. 4:19), and they are to call upon others to hearken to it too, to hear the Lord’s controversy, to observe the voice of Providence, to improve it, and answer the intentions of it. (2.) This fair warning slighted: “But they said, We will not hearken; we will not hear, we will not heed, we will not believe; the prophets may as well save themselves and us the trouble.” The reason why sinners perish is because they do not hearken to the sound of the trumpet; and the reason why they do not is because they will not; and they have no reason to give why they will not but because they will not, that is, they are herein most unreasonable. One may more easily deal with ten men’s reasons than one man’s will.