Yet they were not afraid, nor rent their garments, neither the king, nor any of his servants that heard all these words.
Is it conceivable that men who believed Jeremiah to be a prophet of God should despise his words? Is it credible that, after preaching for twenty years, those who listened to him should think him a prophet, and yet throw his sermons in the fire? I am afraid this is very conceivable and very credible: I see nothing in it a whir more incredible than in this, that men who dare not deny the Bible to be the Word of God, should know what is right and not do it, that they should have warning of a far more fearful captivity than that which was coming on the Jews, and yet should never tremble. The king of Judah and his people were not in the condition of men who had been sinning in ignorance, and to whom a sudden message had come from God to warn them to repent; they had no excuse of this kind, they had been deliberately disobeying God in spite of the warnings of Jeremiah, they had sinned against light, as we say, and so they had become blinded and hardened. At first probably, when they heard the prophet, they felt that they were living wickedly and made resolutions to amend, but by and by temptation came again and they gave way; then once more they would hear the warning voice, but somehow it would not this time be so terrible. Is it difficult to find examples of the like thing now? of men who by little and little fall from one sin to another, who have been taught as children the way of God and have been told of heaven and hell, and so are scared at first when they think that "the wages of sin is death"; but by and by this truth seems to lose its edge, sin has gained more hold, and Satan has said as he did to Eve, "Ye shall not surely die"; one sin leads to another, and each seems easier than the one before it; things which once appeared frightful now seem simple and familiar, and thus after a time the man becomes hardened. This is what the confession of many criminals confirms, they trace their wretchedness hack to some much smaller sin committed when young: a boy disobeys his parents, and perhaps would not believe you if you told him that he had taken one step towards the gallows; and let this may be true. This I understand by the deceitfulness of sin, to which the apostle refers its hardening power (Hebrews 3:13); it is deceitful, because what we call a small sin appears trifling, because we judge of sins merely in themselves, without considering to what they lead. If in a war a general were to see a few of the enemy's soldiers straggling over the hills, he might say that they were so few that they were not worth considering, but would he say so? or would he not rather look upon them as the forerunners of a great army, would he not prepare at once to resist the host of enemies which he must know lurked behind? In like manner the sins of childhood are the forerunners of the great army of the world, the flesh, and the devil, which comes up in maturer years, and the only safe course is to look upon no sin as trifling, but to root out every enemy whether small or great, lest perhaps we allow our enemy to gain such strength as shall end in our over. throw. We will consider first the ease of a man who seldom or never goes to church. Now I suppose the reason such a man would give is, that he does not see the use of it. Did he always think so? Most probably he had been taught differently when a child, he had been taught that God is with His people gathered together in His Name, that our Lord Jesus Christ is there; he was taught this, and he once believed it, but now he thinks he is as well at home: how has this change come about? has he reasoned about it? probably not at all: has any one for whom he has any respect told him so? certainly not: then what has changed him? it is the effect of habit; he has been "hardened by the deceitfulness of sin." What I have just said will apply almost without change to the case of a man who never prays. He was taught to pray as a child, and perhaps he continues the practice, till at length, because he does not act up to his prayers, he finds the practice tiresome, and so he finds an excuse to omit prayer occasionally; then he grows more careless and more irregular, and yet the omission costs him less and less pain, till at last the time comes when he forgets God altogether, and so starves his soul to death. Or again, what shall we say of those who continually hear of their duty, and do not do it, or at all events do it in a very stinted degree? One man is just and kind and liberal, being scarcely aware of it himself, and another is niggardly and churlish, not because he thinks it right to be so, but because he has become hardened. It is a thing for every one of us to think over and pray over, whether we are in all things following God without reserve, and whether there may not be some point in which we are falling very grievously short, but to which habit has hardened us.
(Bishop Harvey Goodwin.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Yet they were not afraid, nor rent their garments, neither the king, nor any of his servants that heard all these words.