After the king had burned the scroll with the words Baruch had written at Jeremiah's dictation, the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah:
I. WHEREIN IT CAN BE DESTROYED.
1. In its outward form and medium. The roll; inspired records; religious institutions and means of grace; individual believers and Churches.
2. As a vehicle of blessing to a man's own soul. Jehoiakim deliberately cut off his own salvation, and, destroying the roll, he caused his name to be blotted out of the book of life. To him it brought no blessing. We can destroy the Word of God in this way for ourselves, by heedlessness, unbelief, disrespect, enmity.
II. WHEREIN IT CANNOT BE DESTROYED. Even over the material embodiment and vehicle of the Word shall we not believe that Providence watches? God restores, enlarges, multiplies his Word. But:
1. The spiritual Word cannot be destroyed. It is independent of stone, or parchment, or paper; is continually renewed by the Divine Spirit in its communications with the children of men. Even at the worst there is a "law written upon the heart." It cannot be too strongly impressed upon men's minds that, were all the Bibles and manuscripts in the world destroyed, God would restore his Word and continue to reveal himself; like that temple which, destroyed, would be raised in three days again.
2. The consequences of God's Word, whether these be good or evil. What he willeth will be, and his Word stands sure. "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my word shall not pass away," etc.; i.e. what it foretells and declares will remain certain and will fulfil itself. It secures to the saint an indestructible life and inheritance, and to the sinner the reward of his transgression. The true escape from the thrcatenings of the Divine Word is not to destroy it, but to obey its teachings and yield ourselves to the discipline and grace of Christ. - M.
I. THE COMMITTING OF THE MIND AND WILL OF GOD TO WRITING. This is important.
Take thee again another roll, and write in it all the former words.I. THE WORD OF GOD IS IMPERISHABLE. The truth is not pen and ink, parchment and words, but a force of an unchangeable character. It borrows material forms for garments, and uses outward methods for expression; these change, but truth never. Changes are observable in nature, but its laws remain firm. The process of destruction and restitution is ever on the march. The lily will fade, and the rose will perish, but the law of their life will say to the elements, "Take thee another roll," and write another lily and another rose. The pattern is never destroyed. Truth, law, symmetry, beauty, and life are emanations from the Eternal Mind, abiding immutable in the midst of change. Revelation has assumed aspects, many of which have passed away. The centre of all religious truth is the Saviour — "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever." Whatever talents we possess, or whatever circumstances affect us, if there is a straight line from the heart to Jesus — if we are bound to Him by the radius of love — our lives will express the old truths, and present the old faith which animated patriarch, prophet, priest, apostle, and martyr.
II. OPPOSITION TO THE WORD OF GOD WILL NOT AVERT THE CONSEQUENCES OF SIN. Why did the king precipitate the destruction of the Book before its contents were examined? If the moral condition of the people was wrongly described, facts would have disproved the fiction; if the threatened invasion by the King of Babylon was a myth, time would have revealed it. Evidently Jehoiakim found that the entrance of God's Word brought with it light, and that the spectacle it discovered was too frightful to contemplate. Either he must burn the roll, or the roll would burn him. Sin prevailed, and the roll was burnt. Was it a victory? Three months before the destruction of the city, Jehoiakim died a miserable death. The Florentine philosopher declined to look through Galileo's telescope, fearing he might see in the heavens some movement which would contradict his old view that the sun revolved, and the earth stood still Sinners fear to look at themselves through the Word of God. Dr. South wrote many years ago those words, "Truth is so connatural to the mind of man, that it would certainly be entertained by all men, did it not by accident contradict some beloved interest or other. The thief hates the break of day; not hut that he naturally loves the light as well as other men, but his condition makes him dread and abhor that which, of all things, he knows to be the likeliest means of his discovery." God is not in all the thoughts of the wicked, but there is another roll, and God is there. Impressions of sin, of death, and of a judgment to come have suffered violence, and have been wiped off human recollection, at least for a time, but they are written in the other roll. The last vision which terrified the soul of Jehoiakim was the other roll The authority of truth is inviolable, which no penknife can cut, and no fire burn. Let the Word of God shine into our heart, expose its follies and impurities, and the blush on the cheek will be the dawn of a better day.
III. THERE IS A GRACIOUS PURPOSE IN THE REITERATION OF THE WORD OF GOD. Jeremiah and Baruch retired to re-commit to writing the contents of the first roll This was done to give Judah another chance of escape from the impending storm. Although the roll was fun of denunciation and warning, yet the terms of peace are included in the declaration of war. Prophet after prophet brought to Israel the re-written message. This is set forth in the parable of the barren fig-tree; the end of all God's dealings is fruit unto life everlasting. What have we done with the second roll? Nature has re-written her message. Providence speaks again in terms of mercy. Gospel truths come up afresh, like the flowers in the garden. True, we have turned a deaf ear; but is it so still? Do we persist in unbelief?
IV. ALL ATTEMPTS TO FRUSTRATE THE WORD OF THE LORD MUST IGNOMINIOUSLY FAIL. The Word of God has been assailed by every conceivable opposition. The learned, with the sharp penknife of criticism, and the unlearned, with the fire of raillery, have made the attempt to destroy the authority of God's written Word, but they no more succeeded than if they had dug a grave in which to bury the law of gravitation. Julian the apostate, and Gibbon the historian, cut and burnt the roll, but they were as grass, "The grass withereth," &c. There was once a printing-press used solely to manufacture penknives to cut the roll; that press was afterwards used to print Bibles. The house in which Hume wrote against miracles was converted into a committee-room for the promotion of religious truth. Conviction of sin is the voice of God in the soul. Drown it you never can. Close the covers of the Bible, and fasten them with a clasp, but its very silence is louder than thunder. Messages and messengers come anew to remind us of our duty towards God and man. Let us bear in mind that the Word of the Lord is a hammer to break the rock; a fire to consume the stubble. Its wisdom is unbounded, backed by infinite power. Heaven and earth will dissolve before one iota of the Word will fail. Let us surrender our hearts to its power.
(T. Davies, M. A.)
1. Because the knowledge of them must be preserved and extended.
2. Because there was no way of preserving and extending this knowledge to be compared to this.
II. WHAT THINK YOU OF THOSE WHO WOULD DESTROY THE SCRIPTURES?
1. The enemies who deny its authenticity. Surely those precious pieces of antiquity which are found in the Book of Genesis — who would not wish to admire and preserve them? But the Vandalism of infidelity would fling them all into the fire, and fix our eyes on the darkness and dreariness of two thousand years ago.
2. View these men as to their patriotism, or their regard to public good. What benevolence was seen in the pagan world? Produce one instance in which the philosophy of Greece or Rome ever established an infirmary or an hospital.
3. View the enemies of the Bible, with regard to their charity and compassion. What do you think of the human being that would take away the Bible, dash this only cup of consolation from the parched lip — that would pull down the only refuge to which the polluted sinner can escape from the storms of life — that would deprive him of a resource to which, by and by, there will be an entire enjoyment, and that gives him the consciousness of present support? What can you think of a man that would do this, while he knows that he has nothing to substitute in the room of it, and that if the thing be a delusion, it is a solace which can be obtained in no other way?
4. View these men once more as to their guilt. This may be fairly determined from their doom. "Oh," say some, "we are not accountable for our belief!" To which we answer that if we are not accountable for our belief we are accountable for nothing; for all our actions spring from belief; and infidelity does not arise from want of evidence, but from want of inclination.
III. SOME THINGS WHICH SEEM LIKELY TO INJURE REVELATION, AND WHICH YET PROVE ITS ADVANTAGE.
1. The attacks of the infidel on its divinity. What has been the consequence of all his opposition? Why zeal in its diffusion; and able articles brought forth in its favour; for inquiry is always friendly to truth, as darkness and concealment are friendly to error.
2. The sufferings of its followers by persecution. The periods of suffering have been always the most glorious for Christianity; the brethren have been united and endeared the more to each other; the Spirit of glory and of God has rested upon them; their sufferings have arrested attention and induced sympathy; the witness of their sufferings has been found to be impressed, and they have been led to inspire the principles that would produce such effects.
3. The divisions and parties that have sprung up among its professors. The differences which subsist amongst all those who hold the Head do not affect the oneness of the Church; they are only so many branches which form one tree — so many members which form one body. By these they have always proved stimulations to each other: they have awakened and increased emulation and zeal; and religion has always been upon the whole a gainer by them.
4. The failings of its members. It would seem impossible any good should arise from these to the cause of the Gospel. And yet what is the fact? No thanks to themselves — even these scandals have been overruled for good. These scandals were foretold by the Scriptures; and, therefore, they are pledges of their truth; these have shown that the Gospel is Divine and almighty — because it can bear to be betrayed from within as well as assaulted from without. The excommunication of these persons has always strikingly shown the purity of the Church, and that they cannot bear those that are evil; while the true professors have been led, by these instances, to fear, and tremble, and pray.
1. Be persuaded of the stability of the cause of revelation.
2. Apply Scripture to your own use, and apply it to the purposes for which it has been given.
3. Be concerned for the spread and diffusion of it.
The Weekly Pulpit.True, those were very anxious times. Party feeling ran high, and we may find this much excuse for the foolish king, that party feeling carried him away. The last days of the kingdom of Judah had come. Two rival nations were seeking her alliance, each as a protection against the other. The good Josiah had favoured Babylon, and even fought against Pharaoh Necho, king of Egypt. In the great battle of Carchemish, Josiah lost his life, but the party favouring alliance with Babylon was strong enough to secure the election of his son Shallum as king, rather than the elder son, Jehoiakim, who seems to have favoured the Egyptians. Shallum, however, only held the throne for three months, and then Jehoiakim succeeded. Now Jeremiah, as the prophet of God, had distinctly, and over and over again, advised alliance with Babylon. He was consequently in disgrace when Jehoiakim came to the throne, and the Egyptian party gained the upper hand. He was no longer able to declare the Divine message freely in the streets, and at the court. But what is to be done with the roll? It was a great fast day; a national humiliation on account of the national peril. The people were crowding in from the district round, and were assembling for solemn services in the Temple courts. There the roll must be read. Baruch knew the peril, and shrank from the task, until comforted by an assurance of personal protection. They felt the news of all this must be taken to the king. They knew his impulsive willfulness so well that they feared to take the roll into his presence. Jehudi began to read, and the king began to grow angry at the Divine disapproval of his plans, and presently he seized the scribe s knife, as it lay on the ground, stripped a piece of the skin off, and threw it on the fire; and then, emboldened by his wilful act, proceeded to cut strip after strip, until the entire roll was consumed. What a daring act! And what a foolish act! More foolish than wicked, for he could not silence God's Word, or alter God's will in that way. It is very important that we should recognise the distinction between the revelation of God's will to a man, and the particular form in which that will may be made known to him. It is not the mere wording of the message that is our chief concern, it is the message itself. Men nowadays are finding so much to complain of in the mere form and wording of the Bible, that there is grave danger of their failing to heed that Bible as it comes closely up to each one of them, saying, "I have a message from God unto thee. And is our message to be refused because the form of its setting is unpleasing to fastidious tastes?
I. GOD'S MESSAGE TO US MAY BE AN OFFENCE TO US. It is when it opposes our inclinations. It is a wholly wrong attitude in which to stand towards God's Word, if we think to judge it by our inclinations and preferences, approving it only if it accords with them. God's will and Word are the standard by which we must test our inclinations, and they are stamped as wrong if we cannot gain the Divine approval. But so often our condition of approving the Bible is, that it shall comfortably allow us to "follow the devices and desires of our own hearts." We shut it up, we put it on the upper shelf, out of reach, when we have a half fear that it will-speak with an arresting voice, and say, "What doest thou here, Elijah?" And the Bible is an offence when it convicts us of our sins. The sin of our day is this — we are attempting to judge God's Word instead of to receive it. We conceitedly criticise it, instead of reverently listening to it. We are making ourselves the standard for ourselves; and are determined that we will have nothing in the Bible that we do not like.
II. OUR OFFENCE MAY END EXPRESSION IN INJURY TO THE WORD. That injury is not always coarse and vulgar like the injury done to the roll by Jehoiakim.
1. In subtle ways we injure it, nowadays, by making it out to mean what it suits us to think it means, and by picking out bits here and there which are of doubtful authority; and so creating a general suspicion of the authority of the whole.(1) Generally undermining its authority. Men begin at the Old Testament. They cut strips out here and there. They would persuade us that the early chapters of Genesis are only legends, and the history of the patriarchs only uncertain traditions. Oh, poor Bible of our fathers!(2) Evaporating or changing its meaning. If anything strikes hard against sin, explain it away. If any dark shadows are thrown on the eternal future of impenitent sinners, exaggerate your representations of the love of God, be quite unqualified in your statements, and boldly declare that you would not punish sinners so vigorously, and therefore you are sure God will not. If you hardly dare cut a piece out of the Word, use the knife to scratch out what you do not like, and write over what you think would be suitable.(3) Refusing to admit the applications of the Word to ourselves.
2. How utterly foolish all this is! We cannot change one declaration of Holy Scripture. We cannot prevent the execution of one threatening. We cannot, by any of our devices, secure a comfortable arrangement for impenitent sinners in the next life.
III. GOD'S WILL CAN NEVER BE FRUSTRATED BY ANY INJURY WE MAY DO TO HIS MESSENGERS, OR TO HIS MESSAGE. Because though it is in a message, it exists apart from the message. Jeremiah can soon write it all over again. Moreover, the attempted injury cannot fail to rouse further vindications of God's outraged majesty. Kings never pass lightly by the insults that are offered to their ambassadors. And the Word of God does but tell of providential workings that go on, in spite of anything that may happen to the message that reports them to us. To destroy the Word is as foolish and as useless as for the ostrich to hide her head in the sand, and convince herself that there is no danger, when the hunters are every moment nearing her.
(The Weekly Pulpit.)
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