Lecture One Hundred and Fourth
9. Therefore hearken not ye to your prophets, nor to your diviners, nor to your dreamers, nor to your enchanters, nor to your sorcerers, which speak unto you, saying, Ye shall not serve the king of Babylon:
9. Et vos ne audiatis prophetas vestros, et divinos vestros, et somniatores vestros, et augures vestros, et incantatores vestros, qui dicunt vobis (loquuntur vobiscum dicendo; est quidem idem verbum, sed repetitio esset nimis dura,) Non servietis (vel, ne serviatis) regi Babylonis (est verbum futuri temporis, sed quidam accipiunt in modo hortandi, ut satis tritum est in lingua Hebraica.)
As Jeremiah had declared to the king, as well as to the citizens, that they could not escape the punishment that was at hand, he now shakes off from them that vain confidence, which was as an obstacle in the way, so that they were not touched by threatenings, nor received wholesome warnings. For the false prophets deceived them by their flatteries, and promised that all things would happen prosperously to them. As then the Prophet saw that the ears both of the king and of the people were closed against him, so that he could do little or nothing by exhorting and threatening them, he added what he deemed necessary, even that all the things which the false prophets vainly said were altogether fallacious.
He therefore said,
But let us now inquire, whether Jeremiah speaks of such dreamers, and others as were among the Jews, or whether he includes also such as were found among the neighboring nations. It seems probable to me, that what he says ought to be confined to the Jews; for I take the word ye, as emphatical,
auguries, and incantations, were indeed prohibited in the Law; but we well know how often the Jews gave up themselves to these tricks of the devil, the Law of God being wholly despised by them. It is then no wonder if at this time there were among them magicians, as well as augurs and diviners, notwithstanding the manifest prohibition of the Law. We may, however, so understand these words, as that the Prophet compared these false prophets to diviners, as well as to augurs and sorcerers. He sets, in the first place, the prophets, but in mentioning them, he seems to mark them with disgrace, because they had departed from their own office, and had assumed another character, for they deceived the people, as augurs, diviners, and magicians were wont to deceive the nations.
It is indeed certain, as I have before reminded you, that the Prophet spoke, not for the sake of other nations, but that the Jews might be rendered inexcusable, or, if there was any hope of repentance, that they might be reminded not to proceed in their usual course. We hence see the meaning of the words, and at the same time perceive the design of the Prophet, or rather of the Holy Spirit, who spoke by his mouth.
I said at first that the Prophet met an objection, which might have lessened or taken away the authority of his doctrine; for it was not a small trial, that the prophets denied that any evil was at hand. For the prophetic name was ever held in great repute and respect among the Jews. But we see also at this day, and experience sufficiently teaches us, that men are more ready to receive error and vanity, than to receive the word of God; and so it was then, and the Jews imagined that they honored God, because they regarded his Prophets. But when any one faithfully performed the prophetic office, he was often despised. The Jews therefore were taken up only with a mere name, and thought that they did all that was required by saying that they attended to the prophets, while at the same time they boldly despised the true servants of God. It is so at this day; while the name of the Catholic Church is boasted of under the Papacy, it seems that a regard is had for God; but when the word of God is brought forward, when what has been spoken by apostles and prophets is adduced, it is regarded almost as nothing. We hence see that the Papists separate God as it were from himself, as the Jews formerly did.
And hence also we see how necessary it was for Jeremiah to remove such a stumblingblock; for the Jews might have pertinaciously insisted on this objection, -- "Thou alone threatenest us with exile; but we have many who glory in being prophets, and who promise safety to us: wouldest thou have us to believe thee alone rather than these who are many?" Thus the Prophet, being alone, had to contend with the false prophets, who were many. And we have now a similar contest with the Papists; for they boast, of their number; and then they object, that nothing would be certain, if it was allowed to every one to appeal to the word of God. They hence conclude that we ought simply to believe the Church, and to receive whatever is brought under the pretense of being Scripture. But Jeremiah had confidence in his own vocation, and had really proved his divine mission, and also that he proclaimed the messages which he had received from the mouth of God. As then he had given certain proofs of his vocation, he had a right to oppose all those false prophets, and not only to disregard their lies, but also in a manner to tread them under his feet, as he seems to have done,
He concedes to them an honorable name, but improperly. It is therefore a catachristic way of speaking, when he names them prophets; but he leaves them their title, as it was not necessary to contend about words. Yet he shews at the same time that they were wholly unworthy of being heard. Hence no authority was left them, though a mere empty name was conceded to them. It is the same at this day, when we call those priests, bishops, and presbyters, who cover themselves with these masks, and yet shew that there is in them nothing episcopal, nothing ecclesiastical, and, in short, nothing that belongs to the doctrine of Christ, or to any lawful order.
He afterwards adds,
1 The five names here mentioned are thus explained by Venema, --
1. Prophets -- who claimed divine inspiration;
2. Diviners -- who prognosticated by means of lots and arrows;
3. Dreamers -- who pretended that they had divine dreams;
4. Astrologers -- who foretold events by the clouds and stars:
5. Sorcerers -- who pretended to have familiar converse with some spirit.
Parkhurst considers the second, diviners, as a general term, meaning those who divined either by dreams or stars, or familiar spirits; and he renders the fourth word cloudmongers, though he considers that they prognosticated by the stars, as well as by meteors, thunder, lightning, and probably by the flight of birds; but he regards the last word as meaning those who pretended to discover hidden and future things by magical means. How completely heathenized were the Jews become! they believed all these Pagan delusions rather than the infallible oracles of God! and yet these were things expressly forbidden in their law. -- Ed.
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