16. Et ad sacerdotes et ad populum hunc loquutus sum, dicendo, Sic dicit Jehova, Ne audiatis sermones prophetarum vestrorum, qui prophetant vobis, dicendo, Ecce vasa domus Jehovae reducentur e Babylone nunc cito; mendacium ipsi prophetant vobis.
Jeremiah, as we have seen, did not deal privately with the king alone, for he did not separate him from the people; but as he had directed his words chiefly to him, he therefore expresses now what might have seemed obscure, that though he had begun with the king, he yet included all the Jews. It was indeed necessary to begin with the king, for we know that earthly kings think much of their own dignity, and that the whole people are dependent on their will. Hence Hosea condemned them, because they rendered a too willing obedience to royal edicts, and worshipped God according to what it pleased the king and his counsellors to dictate. (Hosea 5:11: Micah 6:16.) As then the royal name served to dazzle the eyes of the simple, Jeremiah was bidden to address first the king himself; but he now shews that the priests and the people were included.
It was indeed like something monstrous, that the priests, whom God had designed to be the interpreters of his Law, should have become so stupid as thoughtlessly to receive, together with the common people, what they had heard from the false prophets. This surely was by no means compatible with that high encomium by which they are honored by Malachi, that the priest's lips should keep knowledge, and that from him the Law is to be sought, because he is the messenger of the God of hosts. (Malachi 2:7.) As then they were the guardians of the Law and of knowledge, as they were messengers from God himself to the people, how was it that their stupidity was so monstrous, that they did not distinguish between truth and falsehood, but were led astray, together with the most ignorant, by what the false prophets delivered!
This ought to be carefully noticed, that we may not at this day be too much disturbed, when we see the pastoral office assumed by ignorant asses, and that those who are called, and wish to be thought ministers, are so inexperienced in Scripture that they are deficient as to the first elements of religion. And we see the very thing happening at this day especially under the Papacy, as existed among the ancient people; for the Papal bishops are for the most part extremely stupid and presumptuous. There are to be found many husbandmen and artisans, who know nothing of learning, but have only heard what is obscure and indistinct, and yet they can speak better on the general principles of faith than these haughty prelates in all their splendor. How is this? even because the just reward for their sloth is rendered to them. They are verily ignorant of what should qualify them to be bishops, and yet they glory in the name! Yea, though they do not think that Episcopacy consists in anything but in revenues, and also in vain symbols, such as to be mitred, to wear an episcopal ring, and to exhibit other like trumperies, they yet suppose themselves to be a sort of half-gods. Hence it is, that God exposes them to the utmost reproach. The same was the case with the priests under the Law, as Jeremiah now shews; for they were not ashamed of their ignorance, but encouraged the people to believe the false prophets; so at this day do the bishops; they scud forth their monks and such like brawlers, who run here and there to deceive the ignorant people, and they secure a hearing to them. And what is the burden of their message? to bid men to attend to the holy Catholic Church; and what is the Catholic Church? The Synod which the Pope assembles, where the mitred bishops sit; for what purpose? That they may know what pleases these brawlers, to whom is committed the office of disputing. We hence see that all things under the Papacy are at this day in great disorder; and yet this horrible disorder differs nothing from that of old. And it is, as I have said, what ought to be particularly noticed, that our faith may not fail, when we see all things in a confusion and hardly any order remaining.
Now also is added a clearer explanation, -- that the Jews were warned, lest they should receive the false prophecy respecting the restoration of the vessels of the Temple; for in order to render the people secure as to the future, the false prophets boasted in this manner, "The splendor of the Temple shall shortly be restored; for the vessels, which Nebuchadnezzar has taken away, shall return together with the captives, and everything decayed shall be repaired." But Jeremiah said, that what they promised was false; "Believe them not," he says, "when they say to you, Behold, the vessels of Jehovah's house shall be brought back, (or restored, that is, shall return hither;) for the king of Babylon shall either be constrained to restore what he has taken away, or he will of his own accord restore it." And they also added, Now soon, in order that the shortness of time might be all additional chain to captivate the minds of the people; for had a long time been mentioned, the prophecy would have been less plausible and by no means acceptable to them; but they said, "Almost within a day the vessels of the Temple shall be brought back here." And Jeremiah also, as we have already seen, and shall presently see again, did not deprive the people of every hope, but had assigned seventy years for their exile. Now these prophets, in order to dissipate this fear, said, -- "Shortly shall the vessels be restored;" but he declared that they prophesied falsely to them. It follows --