Jeremiah 15:19

19. Therefore thus saith the Lord, If thou return, then will I bring thee again, and thou shalt stand before me; and if thou take forth the precious from the vile, thou shalt be as my mouth: let them return unto thee; but return not thou unto them.

19. Propterea sic dixit Jehova,, Si conversus fueris, ego quoque convertam te; coram facie mea stabis [hoc est, ut stes coram me) et si separaveris (eduxeris ad verbum, hoc est, si discreveris)pretiosum a vili, tanquam os meum eris: convertantur ipsi ad te, et tu non convertaris ad eos.


From this answer of God we may gather more clearly the design of the Prophet, for his purpose was, in order more fully to prove the people guilty, to set before their eyes as it were his own perverseness. Had he spoken only according to the heroic elevation of his own mind, so as not to appear touched by any human feeling, they might have derided him as hardhearted or a fanatic, for so we find that the proud of this world speak and think of the faithful servants of Christ. They call them melancholy, they consider them as unfeeling, and as they neither dread death, nor are drawn away by the allurements of this life, they think that all this proceeds from brutal savageness. Had then the Prophet only performed the duties of his office, the ungodly might have derided his insensibility, but he wished to set forth his own infirmity, his sorrows, his fears, and his anxieties, that he might thus lead the Jews to view things aright. This answer of God ought then to be connected with the complaint of the Prophet, and we may hence learn the meaning of the whole.

God gives this answer, If thou wilt be turned, I will turn thee, that thou mayest stand before me. It is the same as though he had said, that he was reproved by the Lord because he fluctuated amidst the commotions of the people. A similar passage is found in the eighth chapter of Isaiah. The Lord there exhorts his Prophet to separate himself from the people, and not to connect himself with those who might have often easily disturbed him, because they continued not in his word; then he says,

"Seal my law for my disciples, sign the testimony,"
(Isaiah 8:12, 16)

as though he had said, "Have now nothing to do with so perverse a people." So also now the Lord speaks, If thou wilt be turned, that is, if thou wilt not be guided by the false judgments of the people, nor heed what they say of thee, but boldly despise them and persevere in thy separation from them, I will turn thee, that is, I will by my spirit so strengthen thee, that they may perceive at length that thou art my faithful servant. Then he adds, that thou mayest stand before me. We hence see more plainly what is the meaning of the word "turn" in the second clause, even that the Prophet would render his office approved of God, however clamorous the Jews might be; though they even rose up tumulmously against him, yet he says, thou shalt stand before me. There is implied here a contrast in the word "stand," for though the Prophet should be most violently assailed by the false words of men, yet God would support and sustain him. The rest we defer until to-morrow.


Grant, Almighty God, that since thou hast at this day plainly made known to us thy will through the gospel of thy Son, so that we may by an unshaken faith embrace what is therein set forth to us, -- O grant, that we may learn to be satisfied with thee alone, and to aequiesce in thy truth, and to renounce the whole world, so that we may never be moved by any threats and terrors, nor vacinate when the ungodly seem so proudly disposed to withdraw confidence in thee; but may we render to thee all due honor, so as not only to obey thee but also to perform the offices committed to us, and never to hesitate so to provoke the whole world against us, that howsoever hard our warfare may be we may firmly persevere in the course of thy holy calling, and may thus at length enjoy that triumph, which Christ thy only-begotten Son hath procured for us. -- Amen.

Lecture Sixty-Second

We began yesterday to explain the passage in which God exhorts the Prophet to be courageous. He indeed uses the word to "turn," but it is the same as though he had said, that it was not wise in him to vacinate, for he ought not to have turned aside by any means from the performance of his office, though the Jews obstinately resisted him. The sum of the whole then is, "If thou turnest thyself I will also restore thee, that thou mayest stand before me."

It then follows, If thou wilt distinguish the precious from the worthless, thou shalt be as my mouth. God now expresses what sort of turning he required from his servant, even freely to condemn what was vicious, and boldly to defend what was right, though the whole would oppose him. God then indirectly refers to that fear of Jeremiah by which he was so shaken that he knew not what to do. hence God reproves his Prophet, and shows that he could not otherwise stand than by distinguishing between the precious and the worthless. Thus all flattery was to be excluded. God then forbids his Prophet to deal gently with the people, or to be influenced by favor so as to spare their vices, and not to defend what was right with that courage which became him.

In these words is briefly comprehended the duty of a true Prophet, even to turn his eyes from men, to heed neither favor nor hatred, but to fix his attention only on the truth, not only to approve of what is right, but also to defend it at the peril of his life, and further, not to spare vices, but freely to reprove them.

What is added, Thou shalt be as my mouth, some interpret as though it was said, "Happen to thee shall everything that I have promised," or, "my promise shall not disappoint thee," but this seems to be far-fetched. I therefore take this plain meaning, "I will own thee as a true and faithful servant, if only thou distinguishest what is just from what is unjust, if thou continuest to fight for the truth, and freely reprovest and condemnest vices." The import of the passage is, that those only are deemed by God to be the faithful pastors of the Church, who are not influenced by respect of persons, who do not turn to this or to that side, but rightly judge and according to the law of God; for by the law is the difference to be made between the precious and the worthless, as we are no fit judges but as far as we agree with what God has said. The law then is alone that by which we can distinguish the precious from the worthless.

They who keep to this rule, do justly condemn some and approve of others, because they are only God's heralds, and bring nothing of their own. It hence follows, on the other hand, that those are not God's instruments or ministers, nor are worthy of any honor, who so pervert vices and virtues as to say that light is darkness and that darkness is light. We may, in short, conclude from this passage, that a vocation or a title is not sufficient, except, they who are called faithfully discharge their duty to God. It hence follows, that all those who either ambitiously seek the favor of men, or are indulgent to their vices, and by flatteries nourish their corruptions, are impostors: for how much soever they may boast that they are God's servants, yet he himself declares that they are not to be so accounted.

He then adds, Let them be turned to thee, but be not thou turned to them, or, thou shalt not be turned to them; but the verbs, being in the future tense, are to be taken as imperatives. He now confirms the previous doctrine, -- that he ought not to be submissive to them or to flatter them, but to subdue their perverse minds until they received the yoke of God. The meaning of the words is this, -- that the Prophets were sent for this end -- not to gratify men, or to soothe them by obsequiousness, but to continue firm and constant in executing their office and to turn refractory men to him, and not to concede anything to them. And doubtless, except this course be pursued, the majesty of God must give place to the humours and fancies of men: for we know how great is the pride of almost the whole world, and also their love of pleasure, so that no one can willingly bear to be reproved. As then the greater part of mankind are so proud and self-indulgent, were the word of God to bend to the humor of this or of that man, what would become of it? there would certainly remain in celestial truth no dignity and no majesty.

We now see why this clause was added: for the precious could not be rightly and justly distinguished from the worthless, except the Prophets continued firm in the course of their calling, and carried on war with the perverseness of men. It is therefore necessary that all faithful teachers in the Church should so conduct themselves, as not to concede to the vices of men nor to cherish their fancies, but to constrain them to undertake the yoke of God. Paul, however, seems to have followed a different course, for he says to the Galatians,

"Be ye as I am, for I am as you are." (Galatians 4:12)

As then he had endeavored to conform to what they did, and to bear their infirmities, he exhorts them to do the same in return. But it is certain that Paul acted not differently from Jeremiah or other servants of God: and the answer is evident; for Paul in the same Epistle testifies, that if he pleased men, he could not be the servant of Christ, (Galatians 1:10) He then did not hunt for the farours of men, nor turned aside in the least from the course of his duty to render himself obsequious to men; but he could forgive their infirmities, or bear them, so that he might thereby turn them to himself, or rather restore them to the service of God. For when God thus speaks, Be not thou turned to them, he means not Jeremiah personally, but refers to his doctrine. The meaning is, that the truth of God ought not to bend to the will of men; for God changes not, and so his word admits of no change. Whatever then men may expect, this rule must remain fixed and inviolable, that they must submit to God, and that he must be the sovereign, and reduce to submission whatever height or excellency or pride there may be in the world.1 It then follows --

1 It is extraordinary what shades of difference appear in the expositions of this verse: but a literal rendering would, I conceive, dissipate them, --

19. Therefore thus said Jehovah, -- If thou returnest and I restore thee, Before me shalt thou stand; And if thou bringest forth the precious from the worthless, As my mouth shalt thou be; Return shall they to thee, But thou wilt not return to them.

The return at the beginning of the verse was from the state of mind in which he was, to an entire submission to God. The future is here used in the sense of the present. The "Precious" was the godly, and the "worthless" the ungodly. The three last lines are promises. See Jeremiah 42:2.

Houbigant's explanation of the fourth line is too refined, though approved by Horsley. He considers that there is an allusion to Judges 14:14. Jeremiah himself was "the worthless" or the mean, being so regarded by the Jews, and "the precious" was the prophetic word. And Horsley renders the line thus, --

And if thou wilt bring forth the precious from the mean.

He also approves of Blayney's version of the second line, and considers it as expressive of a prompt execution of what is commanded, --

If thou wilt turn as I shall turn thee.

But the first verb is in Kal, and the second in Hiphil, and therefore cannot be rendered the same. - Ed.


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