Lecture One Hundred and Twenty-Fifth

Jeremiah 31:37

37. Thus saith the Lord, If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel, for all that they have done, saith the Lord.

37. Sic dicit Jehova, Si mensurentur coeli sursum, et investigentur fundamenta terrae deorsum, etiam ego rejiciam (vel, spernam) totum semen Israel, propter onmia quae fecerunt, dicit Johova.


He confirms the same thing by another comparison, even that it would be impossible for God wholly to forget his covenant, but that he would again gather his people. Exile might indeed appear as a permanent death; and thus the truth of God might have been brought to nothing; and the covenant could not have been made void without giving the people a sort of right to complain, that they had been deceived. For we know, that though a condition was added to the covenant, yet it was not founded on the integrity of men; and hence it is said, that God is not a liar, though all the Jews were perfidious. (Romans 3:3, 4) Then the Prophet teaches us here, that though God had severely punished the sins of the people, and had resolved to punish them in future, even so as to destroy their city, there would yet be a place for mercy after the people had been chastised.

He had said before that God's covenant with Abraham's children could no more fail than the laws of nature: he now says, that if any could measure the heaven, and investigate the foundations of the earth, that is, penetrate into the very center of the earth, then, he says, I will reject the seed of Israel. But God brings before us these strange and impossible things, that we may know that he will at length be reconciled to his people after having justly punished them. And this promise could not have afforded any consolation to hypocrites, because God does not include the whole seed of Abraham, but says, that he would not allow the whole seed of Abraham to perish, for some remnant would continue, according to what is said by Isaiah,

"Though thy people were as the sand of the sea,
a remnant shall be saved." (Isaiah 10:22)

God then does not here affirm that he would be merciful to all, but that there would be still some remaining, so that the name of the people would continue immortal: in short, he promises that the Church would be saved, but that the number would be small.

We now perceive the design of the Prophet: he doubtless had regard to the faithful, who might have been overwhelmed with despair, on seeing themselves driven far away from their own country, and having no hope of a return. Then he testifies that God had such a care for the safety of the faithful, that he would gather the scattered seed.

But we must bear in mind what we have said, that this promise is to be confined to the elect alone, for they were alone capable of receiving this favor. As to the unbelieving, who were perverse in their wickedness, God might have wholly cut them off, and yet save the remnants of grace.

Now there is no need here to enter into a subtle discussion, whether the center of the earth can be found out. The philosophers do indeed bring some probable reasons as to the extent of the heavens, and the dimension of the earth is also conjectured by them. But the Prophet's purpose was to declare, according to the common and popular mode of speaking, that God's mercy would be perpetual and immeasurable towards the children of Abraham, like the immensity of the earth and the heavens, which exceeds the comprehension of the human mind.

He adds, On account of all the things which they have done; that is, though they have deserved to die eternally a hundred times, I will yet have a regard to my covenant and my mercy. The Prophet then designedly sets before us here the sins of the people, that we may know that God's mercy would be very great, as that the whole mass of so many evils would not hinder God to forgive them. This is the reason why he says, on account of all the things which they have done. It now follows, --


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