Jeremiah 7:9
Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, burn incense to Baal, and follow other gods that you have not known,
The Doom of the TempleD. Young Jeremiah 7:1-14
The Relations of Righteousness and ReligionS. Conway Jeremiah 7:1-34
Strange Church-GoersS. Conway Jeremiah 7:5-16
FateT. T. Shore, M. A.Jeremiah 7:9-10
On NecessityH. W. Beecher.Jeremiah 7:9-10
Organisation and ResponsibilityJ. Parker, D. D.Jeremiah 7:9-10
SacrilegeS. Conway Jeremiah 7:9-11


1. Some use it of disregard of ritual.

2. Others of secular employment of sacred places or things.

3. Others of those persons whom they regard as unauthorized presuming to minister in holy things.

4. Others of robbing churches, etc. But without discussing these, let us note -

II. WHAT GOD COUNTS AS SACRILEGE. It is declared here (ver. 11). It is when men turn the Church of God into a den of robbers. Our Lord charged this upon the religionists of his day. Jeremiah charges it, in God's Name, upon those to whom he was sent. Costly, splendid, correct, continual worship was duly carried on. Irreverence - and how much less sacrilege! - would seem to be a charge utterly unfit for those who worshipped in such manner. And yet, though the word be not here used, the thing itself is emphatically told of as the very crime which these people were flagrantly guilty of. Turning God's house, which was called by his Name, into a den of robbers, - if that be not sacrilege, what else is? They robbed one another (vers. 5, 6). They robbed God. And the temple was their haunt, as their den is the robbers' haunt; and there they found rest, and prepared themselves for further crime (ver. 10), as does the robber in his den. It is an awful indictment. But under one or other of the counts of such indictment they are assuredly chargeable who frequent the house of God, not for the high and holy purposes for which the worship of God was designed, but that, as in ver. 10, they may get peace of mind in regard to their past sins and so be free to go and sin again. "With such usage the temple is not a place of salvation, but a refuge for robbers, where they purify themselves from the blood of their evil deeds, so as to be the readier for new ones." Therefore all they who "make Christ a Minister of sin," who, instead of deliverance from sin, get comfort in it by their religious observances, who shelter themselves from all fear of God's anger and silence the warnings of conscience by "coming and standing before God in his house which is called by his Name," though their object be only "to be delivered to do all these abominations," and not at all to be saved from them, - these are the sacrilegious, and their profanation of holy things is the worst of all.


1. How God is dishonored!

2. How his service is made hateful in the eyes of men! What a stumbling block it is to those who would turn to God!

3. How it hardens the man's own soul!

4. How it necessitates the judgment of God!

IV. WHAT SHOULD SUCH A SUBJECT TEACH US? Surely, when in the house of God, to pray that if any have come there in sacrilegious manner, God's Spirit, the Lord of the temple, may meet with them and turn them from their evil way. Should we not also search and see if there be any such evil way in ourselves? And let our prayer be unto him who when on earth drove forth with scourges the "robbers" whom he found in the temple, that he would be pleased, by the scourge of his Spirit and his Word, to drive forth from all in his house now all in them that would rob him of his glory and their souls of eternal life. - C.

Will ye steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely...and say, We are delivered to do all these abominations?
"It is my fate," is the excuse for many a career of shame and sin. I do not think that most persons who practically rest satisfied with this explanation of the evil of their lives put it actually into words. They are content with a vague undefined feeling that some excuse or explanation of the sort is possible. Perhaps we should all escape many perils and evils if we more frequently took care to formulate our undefined thoughts into language, and carefully examine their nature.

1. Our idea of God's dealings with us is very largely influenced by the condition of the age in which we live. The language of inspiration will be interpreted by us according to the meaning which, in other directions, we already attach to the words which it must employ; and thus the government of communities by laws has so modified our thought of the Divine government that we no longer have the rude conception of a Divine Ruler acting from caprice; we have now rather the idea of a Being who acts through the operation of great universal laws. That conception of God is so far true, and that interpretation of the words of revelation so far accurate; but there has grown up with it the thought that God acts only thus, which is false. We attribute to the action of the All-wise God the imperfections — the necessary imperfections which belong to human institutions. Now, we must not transfer to God our own finality and failure. God's laws are universal and general; God's dealings with men are particular and individual As, in the physical world, we find that equilibrium is produced by the action of two equal and opposite forces, so in the moral world we have universal irresistible laws, and we have tender loving individualisation, and the resultant of the two is God's calm and equable government of men. Everywhere we see man demanding, and by his conduct showing that he possesses that liberty of action and power of control in the material world which, to palliate his sin, he denies to belong to him in the moral world. You know that the application of heat to certain substances will generate a powerful destructive force. You know such to be a physical law, and what do you do? Do you sit down and say, It is a law of nature, and I cannot resist it? No. You say, "I find it to be a law, and I shall take care either that it shall not come into operation, or if it does come into operation, I shall construct machinery to direct its force, and so make it operate only in the direction which I choose." You ascertain certain laws of health, that infection will spread a certain disease, and do you say, The disease must spread, I cannot fight against a law? No. You take care to keep the infection away from you, to disinfect, and so prevent the operation of that law; and yet that same man when he finds that there are places which will taint his moral nature with disease, that there are scenes or pleasures which will generate in his soul a destructive force, says, "I cannot help it, these things will act so; I have no liberty." You have no liberty to prevent their acting so on you, I admit, no more than you have power to prevent fire igniting powder; but you have power to keep away from them; you have power to prevent those conditions arising under which alone the law will operate. Oh! when we know and feel the evil in the physical world, we take every precaution against its recurrence. How much less zeal and determination do we display concerning our souls!

2. To say that you have a peculiar kind of nature which cannot resist a particular class of sin is to offer to God an excuse which you would never accept from your fellow man. You treat every one of your fellow men as having power to resist the inclination of his natural disposition, so far as its indulgence would be injurious to you. If a man rob you or assault you, no explanation of a natural desire for acquisition or for aggression would be listened to by you as a reasonable excuse. To admit the truth of such principles of uncontrollable natural impulse would at once shake society and destroy all human government. And do you think that such excuses as you would not admit are to be accepted as excuses for, or even explanations of those sins which do not happen to fall within the category of legal crimes, but which, much more than those crimes for which the law imprisons and hangs, are destroying the moral order of God's universe, and outraging the highest and noblest principles of truth, and purity, and love? But it cannot be denied that we have strong natural dispositions and passions which we have been given independently of ourselves, and for the possession of which we cannot with justice be held responsible? Certainly — and you never find fault with a man for any faculty or temper which he may have — but you do hold him responsible for the direction and control of it. We can point to countless noble careers to show how the strong impulses of individual natures are indeed irresistible, but their action is controllable. The great heroes whom we justly reverence, who rise above us as some snow-capped mountain towers above the dead level of a low-lying plain, are not those who have destroyed, but those who have preserved and used aright the natural impulses and passions which had been given them. That is the true meaning of such lives as those of St. Paul, or Martin Luther — St. Augustine, or John Bunyan. Ay, and there are many still amongst us who use their natural dispositions and their natural affections, their natural passions — even their natural beauty, which might have been used to lure souls to hell — to win many a one to a nobler and purer life. What a solemn responsibility, then, is the right use of our natural disposition and talents, for others as well as for ourselves. To you, my young friends, especially, I would say, Do try and begin early to recognise the solemnity of life. Do not be downhearted or dismayed if, after you have felt the power of Christ's death, and when you would do good, evil is present with you. Do not let such moments harden you. Try and realise then all the love and mercy and tenderness with which the crucified Lord looks upon you, as He once looked on the fallen apostle, and, like him, "go forth and weep bitterly." Then it will be well with you. Sin shall not reign in you, though for the moment it seems to have conquered you.

(T. T. Shore, M. A.)

I. MEN ARE VERY FOND OF ASCRIBING THEIR SINS TO THE TEMPTATIONS OF THE DEVIL, and in such a way as, in the main, to put the responsibility upon him. It is surely taught in the Word of God that evil spirits do foment wickedness; that they suggest it; that they persuade men to it. It is not taught that they infuse it, and perform it in men. It is taught that Satan persuades men to sin; but the men do the sinning — not he. The power of temptation depends upon two elements: first, the power of presenting inducement or motive on the part of the tempter; and, secondly and mainly, the strength in the victim of the passion to which this motive is presented. No one could tempt to pride a man that had not already a powerful tendency to pride. The chord must be there before the hand of the harper can bring out the tone. No one could be tempted to avarice that had not a predisposition to the love of property. No man could be tempted to hatred, or to cruelty, or to appetites, one or many, unless there pre-existed a tendency in that direction. Hence, the simple fact of temptation is, that you do wrong, while Satan merely asks you to do it. It is your act. It may be his suggestion, it may be his thought; but it is your performance. And you do it with plenary freedom, urged, fevered, it may be, by him.

II. MEN RELIEVE THEMSELVES, OR SEEK TO DO SO, FROM THE SENSE OF GUILT AND RESPONSIBILITY, BY ATTRIBUTING THEIR SINS TO THEIR FELLOW MEN. They admit the wrong, but they put in the plea that the circumstances were such that they could not help committing it. The example and impunity of other men in transgression are pleaded, the persuasions and influences of other men are pleaded, certain relations to other men are pleaded, as if these things were compulsory. Men attribute their sins to public sentiment, to the customs of the times, to the habits of the community. Are they intemperate? Intemperance is customary in the circle in which they walk. Are they unscrupulous in their dealings? Unscrupulousness is the law of the profession which they follow. And when they have been charged with continuous sinning — with the violation of conscience, with the violation of purity, with the violation of temperance, with the violation of honesty or honour — they have still pleaded, "Yes, we have sinned; but we are not exceptional; we do not stand alone; we are nouns of multitude; all men do these things" — as if the inference was, "Because all men do them, they are not so culpable in us." Men may sin by wholesale; but they are punished by retail. There were never such dividends in any bank on earth as are apportioned in the court of conscience. There every man not only is particeps criminis in the transgression which he joins others in committing, but he is responsible for the whole sin, though thousands and millions participate with him in it. It is an exceedingly fashionable habit at present to put upon society the guilt of the transgressions of men. Are men idle, and is there deduced from idleness the accustomed fruit? Society has not made the suitable provisions for these men, or they would not have been idle! Are men insubordinate, and do they violate the laws? Society has not made proper laws for such men! They have not by society been rightly educated, or they would not have been insubordinate! Are men full of vices and crimes that spring from fertile ignorance? Society, as a schoolmaster, ought not to have let them be ignorant! Do men murder? Society is to blame! Do men steal? Society is the responsible scapegoat for thieves! You shall find philosophers on every side that wag their heads and say, "Now you see that society does not fulfil its duties and functions: society ought to have stepped these things." I will admit that in society there are many things that men ought to do which are left undone, and many things that they ought to leave undone which are done; but to say that upon society is to be put the responsibilities of the individual characters of all its citizens, is to imply that you give to society power to enforce those responsibilities; and if you give to society that power, you give it a power such as was never con. templated even by the extremest despotic theory of government. Society may in some instances be the tempter, and may in some instances have its individual part in the wrong-doing of its citizens; but it does not take away from any man that does wrong, the whole, undivided, personal responsibility of that wrong.

III. THE LAST CLASS OF THE CATEGORY OF EXCUSES IS THAT OF FATALITY. "We are delivered to commit sin; we are bound over to do it; we cannot help doing it" — so say some men. On the one hand, men are apt to be jealous of their liberty; but to avoid responsibility for transgression they disclaim their liberties, and plead a want of power to choose; a want of power to do that which they have chosen; or a want of power to reject that which they have determined to reject.

1. One class of men regard thought and volition as the inevitable effect of natural causes. They are no more avoidable, they say, than are the phenomena of nature. Effect follows cause as irresistibly in the one case as in the other. And so man is just as helpless as a mill wheel, which is made to turn over, and over, and over, by a power that is not under its control. Against this theory, we oppose the universal consciousness of men in the earlier stages of their moral character. Men know perfectly well that they have no plenary liberty; that they have only limited liberty. It is certainly true that, if blue is presented to my eye, I cannot prevent the impression of blue being made on my mind. It is true that, if light is presented to my eye, I cannot prevent the inevitable effect that light produces. But if, for any reason I prefer not to have light, although when it shines I cannot hinder the happening of its actual effects, I can prevent my eyes from coming where the light falls. There is profound Divine wisdom in that part of the Lord's Prayer which seems strange to our youth — "Lead us not into temptation." Well might powder pray, "Deliver me from the fire"; for if the fire touches it, there is no help for it — there must be an explosion. And there are many circumstances in which, if inflamed passions, inflamed tempers, in the soul's warfare in life, subject themselves to certain causes, they will lead a man to sin. Therefore the plea is, "Lead me not into temptation: let it not come upon me." Men are responsible for their volitions, and for those conditions which produce volitions — and this is the opinion of men generally.

2. A more frequent and more subtle plea of irresponsibility is founded on the modern doctrine of organisation. One man says, "I may lie; but I was delivered to do it when I was created with such an inordinate development of secretiveness." Another man says, "I may be harsh and cruel; but I was delivered to be so from my mother's womb; there is such immense destructiveness in my organisation." Another man says, "You that have largo intellectual developments, and are able to see and foresee, may be responsible for falling into sin; but I have no such development; I cannot foresee anything; I have to take things as they find me, and I am not responsible." At first it would look as though this was very rational; but it is not. It is not phrenological. It is not philosophical. And that is not all; the men that use these pleas do not themselves believe in them. There are abundant proofs of the falsity of the claim which they set up; but for my present purpose it is quite sufficient to say that, when men sin and plead fatalism or organisation as a justification of their wrong-doing, they do not believe the doctrine that they themselves advance. No man will accept an insult from another on the plea that that other man cannot help giving it. If a man deals you a blow in the street, not accidentally, but because, as he says, he is naturally irritable, having large combativeness, and cannot help it, you do not listen calmly to the explanation, and say, "All right, sir; all right." No man admits for one single moment any such thing as that men are to be excused for all sorts of misdemeanours, because they happen to be peculiarly organised. The whole intercourse of man with man would be destroyed; the community would be dissolved; society would rush, like turbulent streams in the midst of spring rains, down to destruction, if you were to take away the doctrine that a man can control his conduct, his thought, his will. It does not follow that, because a man follows his strongest faculty, he must follow it to do wrong with it. Here is the fallacy — or one of the fallacies — which men run into. If a man has large secretiveness, it does not follow that he should lie. A man may be secretive, and not transgress. Secretiveness may leaven every faculty of the mind, and that without making one of them commit sin. It has a broad sphere, and a wholesome sphere; and if you say, "I must follow my strongest faculty," I reply that it does not follow that you must follow it contrary to moral law — contrary to what is right. Then another thing to be considered is the determining influence. A man is either sane or insane; and the distinction is this: If a man can no longer control his action by the antagonism of faculties; if, for instance, by the antagonism of reason and the affections he cannot control the passions; if the antagonism among themselves of the balanced faculties is so weak that the individual is incapable of governing himself, then he is insane. But if a man is not insane, there is in him a power proceeding from the balance of faculties, by which the erring one or ones may be controlled. So that every man, up to the point of insanity, has latent in him, if he pleases to educate it and exercise it, the power of controlling by other forces in his mind those which incline him to go wrong. Well, now, if there be this antagonistic power, it becomes a question of dynamics. Men say, "I have such a powerful tendency to go wrong that you ought not to punish me." It is not to punish you, so much as it is to stimulate the dormant faculty from whose inactivity that tendency proceeds, that you are made to suffer. If when my child is convicted of wrong, he having been tempted by vanity to break down into lies, I severely chastise him, and put him to shame, I inflict pain upon him not only as a punishment, but as a restorative. For I say to myself, if that child's conscience is so feeble, I must give him some stimulus. If his fear is so influential in the wrong way, I must spring it in the other direction. In other words, just the opposite of the popular pleading is true. The weaker the child is to resist evil, the more powerful must be the motive that is brought to bear upon him to do well. I remark, in view of these statements and reasonings —

1. Sin is bad enough ordinarily. I do not refer to its influence upon others, but to its reactionary influence upon our own moral state. Not only is it bad enough, but ordinarily it is made worse by the mode in which men treat it. If men stopped, whenever they did wrong, and measured it, and called it by its proper name, and turned away from it, although the process of recovery would be slow, it would in many respects be salutary, by way of strengthening and educating the mind; but when men commit sin, and institute a special plea, and defend their wrong-doing, and conceal it, and equivocate concerning it, they are corrupted even more by the defence than by the wrong-doing itself. How sad is that condition in which the compass will not point to the polar star! If there be fatal attractions on the ship, and if the shipmaster has steered by a compass that is not true in its directions, it would be better if he had thrown it overboard; because he has perfect confidence in it, and it has been lying all the time. And if the conscience, that is the compass of the soul, is perverted, and does not point to truth and right, and men are guiding themselves by it, how fatally are they going down to destruction!

2. What is the reason of the stress that is laid in the Word of God on the subject of confessing and forsaking sin? "Let him that stole steal no more," etc. "Confess your faults one to another." This doctrine was the great recuperative element. It was the preaching of John. It was the initial preaching of Christ. It was the preaching of the apostles. It is the annunciation of the Gospel. Confess and forsake your sin. Own that it is sin. Be honest with yourself. Make at last to yourself a full and clear acknowledgment that wrong is wrong. All men fail, and come short of their duty; but some justify, and palliate, and excuse, and deny, while others confess, and repent, and forsake — and these last are the true men.

(H. W. Beecher.)

That men are variously constituted is a fact not merely profoundly interesting to the speculative philosopher, but of the greatest practical consequence to the Christian philanthropist. While the genus, man, is founded on a common basis, the individual is marked by characteristics singular to himself. Let us look at some special instances of peculiar organisation, and then consider them in relation to personal responsibility. For example, take the man whose dominating characteristic is acquisitiveness. That man's creed is a word, and that word is but a syllable: his creed is Get; nothing less, nothing more, — simply Get! With him benevolence is a matter of weights and scales; with him buying and selling and getting gain are the highest triumphs of mortal genius. Ask him why. Instantly he recurs to his organisation. He says, "God made me as I am; He did not consult me as to the constitution of my being; He made me acquisitive, and I must be faithful to my organisation; and I will go forward to meet Him at the day of judgment, and tell Him to His face that He has me as He made me, and I disclaim all responsibility." The organisation of another man predominates in the direction of combativeness. The man is litigious, quarrelsome, cantankerous, violent: Ask him why. He says, "I must be faithful to my constitution; my whole manhood is intensely combative; I did not make myself; God has made me as He made me, and I disown all laws of obligation." Here is a man with little hope. He sees a lion on every way; he dreads that ruin will be the end of every enterprise; he knows not the sweetness of contentment or the repose of an intelligent hope; he is always mourning, always repining; his voice is an unceasing threnody, his face a perpetual winter. Ask him why. He says, "God so made me; if He had put within me the angel of hope, I should have been sharer of your gladness; I should have been your companion in the choir; I should have been a happier man: He covered me with night that owns no star; He gave my fingers no cunning art of music; He meant me to look at Him through tears and to offer my poor worship in sighs." We cannot enter into all the questions which may lie between God and man on the subject of organisation. Let us take one or two such cases as have just been outlined. We found the acquisitive man getting gold, getting at all risks; getting till his conscience was seared and his understanding darkened. In that case ought we to sympathise with the man, saying, "We are sorry for you; we lament that your organisation compels you to be avaricious: we know you cannot help it, so we exempt you from all responsibility"? No! we would say as in thunder; No! we do not find fault with the organisation of the acquisitive man; but if he pleads the excuse already cited, we openly charge him with having degraded and diabolised that constitution; he has not used it, but abused it; he has not been faithful, but faithless, and must be branded as a criminal. The man's organisation is acquisitive; be it so: that circumstance in itself does not necessitate crime. There are two courses open to the acquisitive man. To him we say, Do be faithful to your organisation, do get, get money by right means, get exaltation by legitimate processes; but with all thy getting, get understanding, "for the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver," etc. The combative man; what of him? Do we sympathise with him? "Sir, your case demands commiseration, inasmuch as you must be faithful to your organisation, and that organisation happens to be a dreadful one"? No! to the combative man we say, There are two courses open to you: you can fight with muscle, and steel, and gunpowder; you may train yourself to be pitiless as a tiger; you may be petulant, resentful, hard-hearted: the choice is before you to pronounce the elective word! Or, there is another course open: you may choose weapons that are not carnal; you may resist the devil; you may "wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." The argument which the fatalist bases upon organisation is self-annihilating when applied to the common relations of life. All human legislation assumes man's power of self-regulation, and grounds itself on the grand doctrine of man's responsibility to man. At this point, then, Divine revelation meets human reason, and insists upon the same principle in relation to God.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

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