Jeremiah 4:1
"If you will return, O Israel, return to Me," declares the LORD. "If you will remove your detestable idols from My sight and no longer waver,
The Kind of Return Which Jehovah RequiresD. Young Jeremiah 4:1
A Fallow FieldJeremiah 4:1-4
On SwearingR. Clerke, D. D.Jeremiah 4:1-4
Ploughing and SowingW. Simpson.Jeremiah 4:1-4
Putting Away of SinT. Meade.Jeremiah 4:1-4
Soul AgricultureHomilistJeremiah 4:1-4
The Duty of Moral CultivationJeremiah 4:1-4
The Duty of Reality in Religious ProfessionA.F. Muir Jeremiah 4:1-4
The Fallow Ground BrokenW. Clayton.Jeremiah 4:1-4
The Life of the Sinner a Foolish AgricultureHomilistJeremiah 4:1-4
The Pleadings of GodJ. Parker, D. D.Jeremiah 4:1-4
The reformations of Jehu and Josiah were superficial and short-lived. Something more thorough was required. A real, immediate return to Jehovah was demanded.


1. Retention of the memories and symbols of the guilty past. They may not be used, but they are there. There has not been strength of will to remove them, or the fear of man has produced vacillation. Externally the heathen temple stands side by side with the house of God, and may claim equal respect with it.

2. An uncertain and wavering attitude. Blowing hot and blowing cold. Compromising with existent evils. Postponing needed reforms.

3. Unrighteousness of life. This is one of the gravest evils. A creed which does not affect conduct must be either untrue or not heartily believed. An enigma of the anti-slavery times was the fact that amongst the pro-slavery advocates were many of the most orthodox clergy, whereas the leaders of the agitation for freedom were secularists, Unitarians, and men of vague or heterodox religious opinions.


1. Confusion is created between the true and the false religions.

2. A constant temptation exists in the relics and practices of evil that are retained.

3. Moral influence upon unbelievers is lost, and unrighteousness encouraged.

4. Spiritual growth is seriously impeded. It is a "sowing among thorns, or upon the exhausted and unfruitful soil of superficial emotion and fancy." As Wild land can be cleansed from weeds only by deep and repeated plowing, so the spiritual nature must be thoroughly moved by penitence and steadfast resolution.

III. GOD'S FEELING TOWARDS UNREAL WORSHIPPERS. He cannot accept their penitence. Their services are an abomination to him. His anger is represented as a smoldering fire ready to break forth in destruction. - M.

If thou wilt return,...and if thou wilt put away thine abominations...then shalt thou not remove.
A strange ministry is that of Almightiness. It is almightiness — almost. So we come upon a mysterious "if" in all the history of God's administration. "If thou wilt return" — why not make them return? Here man is stronger than God. We have seen in innumerable instances how true it is that God, who can handle universes, can do nothing with the heart He has made except with the heart's consent. Behold God, then, as a pleader. "If thou wilt return, O Israel, saith the Lord, return unto Me: and if thou wilt put away thine abominations out of My sight," — if thou wilt swear, "The Lord liveth, in truth, in judgment, and in righteousness," — if thou wilt do these things, the issue will be glorious; it will also be beneficent, it will have an evangelistic effect upon the world. The meaning is, the heathen nations round about shall see thy return, and they will begin to own the power of God. That is the converting force that must be brought to bear upon the whole of the nations. The Church must be so beautiful as to attract attention. When Christians do right, pagans will believe; when Christians claim their uniqueness of quality and exemplify it, the men who get up arguments against Christianity will be ashamed of their own ingenuity, and run away from the things their hands have piled, saying, We cannot build fortresses against such quality of character. This is true missionary work.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

A great warrior was once persuaded by his enemies to put on a beautiful robe which they presented him. Not suspecting their design, he wrapped himself tightly in it, but in a few moments found that it was coated on the inside with a deadly poison. It stuck to his flesh as if it had been glued. The poison entered into his flesh, so that in trying to throw off the cloak, he was left torn and bleeding. But did he for that reason hesitate about taking it off? Did he stop to think whether it was painful or not? Did he say, Let me wait and think about it awhile? No! he tore it off at once, and threw it from him, and hastened away from it to the physician. This is the way you must treat your sins if you would be saved. They have gone into your soul. If you let them alone you perish. You must not fear the pain of repentance. You must east them from you as poison, and hasten away to Jesus Christ. Do this, or your sins will consume you like fire.

(T. Meade.)

And thou shalt swear.
I. THE COMMAND. Did Christ countermand this? (Matthew 5:34.) The Son forbid in the Gospel what the Father bids in the law? God bids thee swear, so thy oath be truthful and needful; Christ forbids swearing which is truthless and needless.

II. THE FORM. God bade us swear; now He tells us how. "The Lord liveth." It is, then, impiety to swear by creatures. God prevents all evasion by the name He here gives — "the Lord"; not any god the swearer would substitute, as some swear by angels, called in Scripture "Elohim," and superstition worships them as gods.


1. "In truth." Perjury is impious — makes that which is the sign and seal of truth, the cloak of falsehood.

2. "In judgment." Swear not upon guess only.

3. "In righteousness." To any act against right or religion bind not thyself, let not any bind thee.

(R. Clerke, D. D.)

Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns
I. Proper attention to the SOIL.

1. Variety of condition.

2. Capability of improvement.

II. Proper attention to the SEED.

1. Care in selection of true spiritual seed. The Gospel —

(1)Perfect in itself.

(2)Fitted to grow in all climates.

(3)It does not sow itself.

(4)It is the support of life.

2. Attention must also be paid to its growth.

III. Proper attention to the SEASON.

1. Youth.

2. The season of moral seriousness, when the heart has been softened.


The people referred to as sowing among thorns are those, perhaps, who are endeavouring by religious study and effort to get the seeds of Divine good into them when their hearts remain full of worldly things.

I. A GRAND EVIL. Sowing precious seed in bad soil involves three things.

1. Loss of seed. The precious grain has been thrown away.

2. Loss of labour. All the efforts employed go for nothing.

3. Loss of hope. All the bright anticipations of a glorious future frustrated.

II. AN URGENT DUTY. "Break up your fallow ground." This means in one word evangelical repentance for sin.

1. This in moral, as well as material, agriculture is hard work. A skilful ploughman, a strong plough and a vigorous team are necessary. It is hard work to repent.

2. This in moral, as well as in material, agriculture is indispensable work.


I. THE NECESSITY OF FALLOWING THE GROUND is obvious to all who are practically acquainted with tillage: and such as are experimentally informed on the subject of the evil and barrenness of their own hearts, will admit the absolute requirement of a similar mental process. All your carnal hopes, and criminal opposition to the Divine will, must be completely eradicated.

II. THE NATURE of this part of a farmer's business will well Illustrate the correspondent toil of a believer. No attempt to cleanse the heart, however disagreeable, is intentionally neglected by the sincere believer — no effort is relied upon; all is subservient to the expected influences of heaven.

III. THE ADVANTAGES of this procedure. Those who make thorough work with their own hearts, will find that their religious joys and better hopes, though delayed, shall be most vigorous; their subsequent sufferings from the grieving thorn and pricking brier shall be fewer; and a richer harvest shall at length crown their toil.

1. If you desire permanent prosperity and joy in the Holy Ghost, break up the fallow ground — sow not among thorns.

2. Be personal in this labour. Turn your eyes from others to yourself.

3. Remember your own unworthiness, and the poverty of your unassisted endeavours.

(W. Clayton.)

This season of spring, with its ploughing, and sowing, and opening of life, typifies the time which God has given for forming in us enlightened principles and virtuous habits, holy motives and pure desires, and for becoming possessed of the grace and goodness which Jesus has to impart, in order that we may grow up into the Divine life of God, which shall abide with us through old age as the source of true enjoyment, and as the first beginnings of eternal glory. The ploughshare of the Divine Word must pierce into us, and break up our hardness and indifference, and make us impressible and movable, to fit us for bringing forth the fruits of righteousness. For example, the seedtime of life, like that of spring, regulates and determines the moral results which the future shall unfold, whether in time or in eternity. Our life on earth is the scene of moral causes and operations — the sowing time of our spirit — the period for the earnest cultivation of our moral nature; and it is to us all the more important, because it is far-reaching in its effects, stretching beyond the present earthly existence into eternity, bearing the flowers and blossoms of spiritual beauty and grace, a manifestation of Deity in humanity. And if these moral causes do not operate — if the seed time of life be wasted — if the cultivation of the moral nature be neglected, equally true the effects of such a life are eternal, stretching beyond the present earthly existence, and bearing into eternity the fruits of moral depravity and corruption. Now, this cultivation of our moral nature is no easy task. Even in matters connected with this life, if we neglect any duty from time to time, or if we delay entering upon any employment necessary to our material or social well-being, indolence increases, disinclination to perform the duty strengthens, dislike to the employment springs up, until habit entirely unfits us for action. In the same way, to ignore religious truth in its relation to our heart, and to neglect religious duties, is to deepen false impressions, strengthen ignorant prejudices, and confirm evil habits. This also is certain, that if good seed is not germinating in our hearts, thorns of evil are, do what we will. If, for instance, our mind is not exercised with religious truth, and no effort made on our part to understand intelligently the revelation which God has made of human salvation; or if the heart be unopened to the power of the Divine Spirit and the moral impressions of Divine truth; and if we continue to refuse accepting Christ as the Saviour of our soul; then our mental and moral nature will become as hard-baked fallow ground, almost impenetrable to the ploughshare of heaven. The indifference of the mind to religious truth keeps the heart spiritually cold, and the coldness of the heart induces in the mind a distaste for spiritual things. On the other hand, any powerful awakening in connection with religion or religious truth, whether it affect the mind alone, or the heart alone, or both together, is in the highest sense beneficial to our soul. Whatever acts on the mind so as to turn it in upon itself, whatever makes the soul depend upon God, and believe in an invisible spiritual world as a reality, though accompanied with strong excitement or inward conflict, is good, and leads to spiritual power. Besides, the precise form of treatment that does good to one spiritual nature, is not always successful with every other, even in like circumstances, any more than the same culture would be successful with different soils in the same climate. We cannot, therefore, project our own feelings and experience into the mind and soul of others, as if we were examples of the only way in which Divine grace and power plough all human souls for the seed of salvation. This breaking up of our moral nature is nothing else than the softening of our hearts under the influence of Divine truth — a humble, penitent spirit, a constant sense of the evil of sin, a willingness to be reconciled to God, whom our transgressions have offended, and an earnest desire after a holier life in God. It is only in such a heart as this that Divine truth will take root, and grow up and bring forth fruit. As the ground must be broken before the tiny fibrils of the root can descend into the earth, which they do, as by a sensitive instinct, in search of vegetable nourishment and life; so the spiritual nature must be humbled and made penitent — broken under a sense of sin, and under the operation of Divine law — in order that the seed of the Divine Word may hide itself deep down into the subsoil of the soul, until it establishes itself firmly there. While the tangled threads of the root are shooting themselves downwards, and gathering strength and nourishment from the soil, the blade in spiral form shoots itself upwards to the light, and the leaf opens, then comes the ear, and then the full corn in the ear, ripe for the sickle of harvest. In the same way Divine truth and heavenly principles, spiritual thought, emotion, and life descend and ascend, as by an unchangeable law. In every truly spiritual life there is this two-fold operation — a movement upwards and downwards, a working within and without, a meditative disposition expressing itself in active habits, believing prayer, conjoined with earnest effort in doing good.

(W. Simpson.)

Our nature at its largest is but a small farm, and we had need to get a harvest out of every acre of it, for our needs are great. Have we left any part of our small allotment uncultivated? If so, it is time to look into the matter and see if we cannot improve this wasteful state of things. What part of our small allotment have we left fallow? We should think very poorly of a farmer who for many years allowed the best and richest part of his farm to lie altogether neglected and untilled. An occasional fallow has its benefits in the world of nature; but, if the proprietor of rich and fruitful land allowed the soil to continue fallow, year after year, we should judge him to be out of his wits. The wasted acres ought to be taken from him and given to another husbandman who would worthily cherish the generous fields, and encourage them to yield their harvests.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

Do you know what happens to a fallow field? how it becomes caked and baked hard as though it were a brick? All the friable qualities seem to depart, and it hardens as it lies caked and unbroken; I mean, of course, if year succeed year, and the fallow remains untouched. And then the weeds! If a man will not sow wheat, he shall have a crop for all that, for the weeds will spring up, and they will sow themselves, and in due time the multiplication table will be worked out to a very wonderful extent; for these seeds, multiplying a hundredfold, as evil usually does, will increase and increase again, till the fallow field shall become a wilderness of thorns and briars and a thicket of dock nettle and thistle. If you do not cultivate your heart, Satan will cultivate it for you. If you bring no crop to God, the devil will be sure to reap a harvest.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

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