Lecture One Hundred and Eleventh
12. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.
12. Et invocabitis me et ibitis; et orabitis me, et exaudiam vos.
Jeremiah pursues the same subject, even that the Jews, after having undergone the punishment allotted to them by God, would at length return to their own country and find God merciful, and hence learn that their chastisement in exile would prove useful to them. He had indeed in the last verse explained this with sufficient clearness, but he now expresses the manner; and that would be by calling on God. he uses two words,
It was not only sloth but stupidity, that they were not subdued by God's scourges so as to call on him; but as they were of a disposition so rude and refractory the Prophet here briefly reminds them that many years had been necessary to subdue them, as twenty or thirty years were not sufficient. We now then understand the design of the word
But there is added a promise, that God would hear them. It may however appear, that God promised conversion even in the first clause; and, no doubt, prayer is the fruit of repentance, for it proceeds from faith; and repentance is the gift of God. And further, we cannot call on God rightly and sincerely except by the guidance and teaching of the Holy Spirit; for he it is who not only dictates our words, but also creates groanings in our hearts. And thus Augustin, writing against the Pelagians, understands the passage, and proves that it is not in the power of man either to convert himself or to pray; "for God," he says, "would in vain promise what is in the power of man to do; and this is the promise, ye shall pray; it then follows, that we do not pray through the impulse of our own flesh, but when the Holy Spirit directs our hearts, and in a manner prays in us." I do not, however, know whether the Prophet intended to speak in so refined a manner. From other passages of Scripture it is easy to prove, that we cannot pray to God, except he anticipates us by his own Spirit. But as to this passage, I prefer to take a simpler meaning, that God would hear, when they began to pray; but yet he shews that it would not be after a short space of time, because they were almost untameable, and would not repent until after many years. It follows, --
1 The two first verbs are wanting in the Sept. and the Targ., and the second in the Syr. The Vulg. is according to our version, which is literally the Hebrew: and there are no various readings. It is difficult to understand the meaning here of the second verb, go, or proceed. Some give this meaning, "And ye shall call upon me and shall go to your country; and ye shall pray to me, and I will hearken to you." But the sense most suitable appears to be the following, -- " And ye shall call on me, and ye shall go on and intercede with me, and I will hearken to you." The verb
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