Jeremiah 12:5
Great Texts of the Bible
The Pride of Jordan

If thou hast run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses? and though in a land of peace thou art secure, yet how wilt thou do in the pride of Jordan?—Jeremiah 12:5.

The prophet Jeremiah occupies a unique position in Israelitish history from the fact that to him fell the bitter and ungrateful task of contending in vain against the main currents of his time, religiously and politically, and finally perishing in consequence of his faithfulness to his mission. Of no other prophet of the first rank can the same thing be said. The prophets were often severe and scathing critics of their age and their contemporaries, but none of them was so tragically situated as Jeremiah. He had to see the nation drifting straight to ruin, ruin that overtook it within a few short years of the beginning of his ministry, and he knew himself helpless to avert it. With the overthrow of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, the disaster he had foreseen came to pass, and he shared in the misery of it, being afterwards slain, it is said, by some of the Jewish refugees themselves in their flight from the scenes of horror that ensued. But long before that he had been maltreated and imprisoned for his supposed unpatriotic conduct in prophesying the humiliation of his own people.

His fellow-townsmen, even his brethren and the house of his father, even they dealt treacherously with him. The sacred tie of kindred was too weak to restrain the outbreak of fanatical hate. The priestly houses had winced beneath the vehement denunciations of their young relative, and could bear it no longer. A plot was therefore set on foot, and under the show of fair words they conspired to take the prophets life. He had not known of his danger but for Divine illumination: “The Lord gave me knowledge of it, and I knew it: then thou shewedst me their doings.” Stunned with the sudden discovery, Jeremiah turned to God with remonstrance and appeal. Conscious of his own rectitude and of the rectitude of God, he was for a moment caught in the outer circles of the whirlpool of questioning which has ever agitated the minds of Gods oppressed ones, concerning the unequal distribution of earthly lots.

Now, God answers such questionings as these in different ways—sometimes by showing His servant the true state of the ungodly, making him “to understand their end”; sometimes by revealing to the righteous the vast superiority of their portion over that of the ungodly; sometimes by gently soothing the ruffled spirit; at other times, as here, by rousing rebuke and sharp remonstrance, bidding him bethink himself, if he broke down under these comparatively small trials, how would he bear up when much more terrible ones had to be endured? If running with “footmen” was too much for him, then how would he “contend” with the swift “horses”? If he could feel secure only in a quiet land, how would he do in a region full of peril like that of the jungle-land, the lair of the lion and other fierce beasts of prey, which stretched along the banks of the Jordan? Greater trials were to come to him than he had as yet known; how would he meet them if he failed in the presence of these lesser ones?

The text is thus Gods answer to the prophets remonstrance. Let us look, first, at the Remonstrance, and then at the Divine Response.


The Remonstrance

Jeremiah is here kicking against the pricks which have wounded the feet of men for centuries—how to account for the fact that, in a world governed by a righteous God, righteousness should often have to suffer so much. But in the midst of the cruel experience he never lets go his grip of God. “Righteous art thou, O God,” he says—whatever comes, that is the first established fact of life. “Yet,” he continues in holy boldness, “would I reason the cause with thee: wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper? wherefore are all they at peace that deal very treacherously?” His indignant soul, on fire for justice, cries out that it ought not to be so. But the undercurrent of the complaint is not the seeming prosperity of the wicked; it is his own pain and sorrow and terrible adversity. We do not ask a solution of the universe till we are forced to ask a solution of our own place and lot in it. Gods providence seemed perfect to Job till he was caught in the tempest and tossed aside broken. We are not much concerned about mere abstract injustice. Jeremiahs wherefore about the wicked is really a why about himself. Why am I bared to the blast in following Thy will and performing Thy command? Why are tears and strife my portion? Why am I wearied out and left desolate, though I am fighting the Lords battle? That is the prophets real complaint.

Pain and sin, as we know them, cannot be dismissed by general considerations about the excellence of sympathy or moral victory; we must find real sympathy for all real suffering, real conquest of all real evil. Let us consider the lesser problem of Pain. If God is revealed in Christ the sympathy and the conquest are sure. God suffers, and God conquers. When we suffer, we share the experience of God. In all our afflictions He is afflicted, and all the pain is permitted for the joy that comes out of it, the joy of hearts united for ever in the bond that common suffering makes; and because our fellow-sufferer is God, we can believe that for all innocent pain there is the sympathy that redeems it. This is not proved, of course, but it is credible; it makes sense, and nothing else makes sense, of pain. It may be doubted whether suffering is altogether evil. It is apparently not only a condition of the realization of some forms of good, but also an essential part of much that is best in life—heroism and self-sacrifice.1 [Note: W. Temple, in Foundations, 220.]

1. Jeremiah was conscious of his own integrity.—Of course, like all the other saints of God, he was poignantly aware of his own unworthiness. He must have had as deep a conviction of sinfulness as any of the great prophets and psalmists of Israel. None could have lived so close to God as he did without an overwhelming sense of uncleanness. What Job felt, and Moses, and David, and Isaiah, must have been constantly present to his consciousness also. But in respect to this special outburst of hatred, he knew of nothing for which to blame himself. He had not taken pleasure in the disasters he announced, or spoken in the heat of personal passion. The sins of the people had procured the evils he predicted; and he had only sought to warn the reckless mariners of the rocks that lay straight in their course.

2. Jeremiah was perplexed at the inequality of human lot.—Every word of Asaphs complaint in Psalms 73 might have been appropriated by Jeremiah. He had never swerved from the narrow path of obedience; at all hazards he had dared to stand alone, bereft of the comforts and alleviations that come in the lot of men; he did not scruple to bare his heart toward God, knowing that to the limit of his light he had done His bidding. But he was hated, persecuted, threatened with death; whilst the way of the wicked prospered, and they were at ease who dealt very treacherously. Surely it was in vain that he had cleansed his heart and washed his hands in innocency. It was too painful for him. His feet were almost gone, his steps had well-nigh slipped.

From the beginning this has been the crux of the problem of suffering. It was not hard to understand suffering where there was sin. The mystery was rather on the other side, that so often the wicked seemed to escape their just punishment. But that the righteous should suffer while the wicked went scot-free, this seemed a challenge of Gods moral government, so staggering that for long—even in the face of the most convincing evidence—men refused to believe in the fact. We see this in the attitude of Jobs friends, when they insist, in spite of Jobs denial, that where there is so much suffering there must have been corresponding sin. We see it in the protest of Jeremiah and Ezekiel when they repudiate the old proverb: “The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the childrens teeth are set on edge.” And yet it remains true that the innocent do suffer with and for the guilty, and that the iniquities of the fathers are visited upon the children unto the third and fourth generation. What does it mean?

There are two things which it might mean. One is that the ultimate reality is force, and that the Christian faith in a loving Father, who cares for each one of His human children, is without foundation in fact. The other is that the individual is not the final unit; that, because Gods plan is social, a family, and not simply a collection of unrelated sons and daughters, His method of training must be more complex than would be the case if He were dealing with isolated individuals. It is the latter that is the Christian view. Gods method is a method of redemptive love, and redemptive love saves by vicarious suffering.

For people like me, who are confirmed invalids with no hope of recovery, this religious point of view [expiatory suffering] has the advantage of giving us strength and even joy in bearing the pain, the sleepless nights, and the thousand and one deprivations of our lot; and it further teaches us to see material pleasures in the right light, a process which makes them appear very hollow, and sometimes positively harmful. The reason why I am so happy is that I do not envy any one; I have found the secret of pure joy, for I suffer with Christ in the holy cause of the redemption of humanity. Then I have other sources of joy as well, which are more beautiful and fragrant than any of the ordinary pleasures of health, and which I would like every one to possess, even if it involved their being ill for years. Fortunately, however, this is not an indispensable condition for those who want to comfort and help all who are fallen and out of the way, and who would show them the radiant glories of eternity in the midst of the shadows of this earthly life.

Sometimes I feel that I am so much happier than those whom the world reckons the most fortunate, that I am almost ashamed of myself, and I am quite glad when from time to time my spirit fails me, and I realize my oneness in suffering with all who struggle and rebel. Oh, how well I understand them, when I think of all the blessings that I have received and how I have fallen! I feel then that I am sister to all these unhappy souls, and my heart goes out to them, and I long to take them by the hand and dry their tears, and show them Him who is the Saviour and the Life.1 [Note: A Living Witness: The Life of Adèle Kamm (1914), 202.]

3. But Jeremiah was not only troubled about himself, he was anxious for Gods character.—There is a touch of apparent vindictiveness in his cry. “Let me see thy vengeance on them”; “pull them out like sheep for the slaughter, and prepare them for the day of slaughter.” We are disposed to contrast these words with those that Jesus breathed for His murderers from the cross, and those that Stephen uttered as the stones crashed in upon him; and we think that there is an alloy in the fine gold, a trace of dross in the saint.

It is possible to adopt the suggestion that the prophet was predicting the fate of these wicked men, or that he was the Divine mouthpiece in this solemn pronouncement of the coming doom. But a deeper and more correct conception of his words appears to be that he was concerned with the effect that would be produced on his people if Jehovah passed by the sin of his persecutors and intending murderers. It was as though the prophet feared lest his own undeserved sufferings might lead men to reason that wrongdoing was more likely to promote their prosperity than integrity and holiness.

Josiah was the one God-fearing monarch of his time, but he was slain in battle; he himself was the devoted servant of God, and his life was one long agony; was it the best policy then to fear God? Might it not be better to worship the gods of the surrounding peoples, who seemed well able to defend their votaries, and to promote the prosperity of the great kingdoms that maintained their temples? As Jeremiah beheld the blasting influence of sin, how the land mourned, and the herbs were withered, and the beasts and birds consumed, his heart misgave him. He saw no limit to the awful evil of his times, so long as God seemed indifferent to its prevalence. Therefore he cried for vengeance—not for the gratification of his own feeling, but for the sake of Israel and of God.

Drummonds exposition of revelation, as also of evolution, needs to be supplemented by only one remark which, when he wrote his articles [on science and religion in the Expositor and the Nineteenth Century], it was not possible to make with confidence. Recent researches into the origins of the Old Testament have proved that the factor in the extraordinary development of moral and religious truth, which is so discernible in the history of Israel and in their gradual ascent to the loftiest heights of spiritual knowledge, from the low levels of life which they had once occupied with their Semitic neighbours, was the impression upon the people as a whole through the wonderful deeds of their history and the experience of their greatest minds, of the character of God. But to impress the character of God upon a people so sensitive and so responsive is revelation in its purest and most effective form.1 [Note: G. A. Smith, The Life of Henry Drummond, 244.]

(1) At first men thought of God as outside the drama of history—the spectator, the playwright; if acting at all, only occasionally, at set times and for specific purposes, but not Himself involved in His inner life in the fortunes of the human actors He set in motion. This was, on the whole, the dominant Greek conception, and it recurs again and again in Christian history. God is the onlooker, sympathetic indeed, and well disposed, whose great calm we may hope to share in the good time coming when this life is over, and the other which lies beyond has begun.

(2) But the prevailing Christian conception is very different. It is not merely that God is in history, immanent as well as transcendent, actor as well as spectator, but that He is involved in His inmost life in the fortunes of the human participants. He not only acts, He cares. When Israel sins, the burden falls not on man only, but on God. He is like the husband whose wife has committed adultery, the father whose children have rebelled against him. If He punishes, it is not because He is indifferent or angry, but because He earnestly desires their moral good. There is no suffering of theirs in which He does not share. “In all their affliction he was afflicted; … in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old.”

It is no argument against the love of God that the world is a world of pain, provided, as we know to be the case, that God Himself has elected to suffer more than the greatest sufferer, and that there is a worthy end to it all.1 [Note: Bishop Brent.]

The deeper these thoughts sank within me, the more complete became my dissatisfaction with the shallow theories through which human thinkers have striven to bridge over contradictions which God has left unreconciled, and to reply to questions which He has been pleased to leave unanswered. That death of anguish which Scripture declares to us to be “necessary,” though it does not explain wherein its dire necessity resides, convinced me that God was not content to throw, as moralists and theologians can do so easily, the whole weight and accountability of sin and suffering upon man, but was willing, if this burden might not as yet be removed, to share it with His poor, finite, heavily burdened creature. When I looked upon my agonized and dying God, and turned from that world-appealing sight, Christ crucified for us, to look upon lifes most perplexed and sorrowful contradictions, I was not met as in intercourse with my fellow-men by the cold platitudes that fall so lightly from the lips of those whose hearts have never known one real pang, nor whose lives one crushing blow. I was not told that all things were ordered for the best, nor assured that the overwhelming disparities of life were but apparent, but I was met from the eyes and brow of Him who was indeed acquainted with grief, by a look of solemn recognition, such as may pass between friends who have endured between them some strange and secret sorrow, and are through it united in a bond that cannot be broken.1 [Note: Dora Greenwell.]

Mist on the hills, all mist,

And never a hill-top kissed

With the fire of the hidden sun:

Mist in the leafy dells

And the open rolling fells,

And the work of the day is done.

Mist on the moaning sea,

Where the waves toil hopelessly

And the land is a shadowed death:

Mist on the rivers breast,

And every branch is dressed

In the gauze of its clinging breath.

Mist in the mind of man,

However he try to scan

The track of the coming years:

Is there mist in the mind of God,

And never a footstep trod

But is wet with a rain of tears?2 [Note: D. H. S. Nicholson, Poems, 6.]


The Response

1. There is no attempt at explanation. God never explains Himself in a ready-made fashion. God explains Himself through life. God explains Himself by deeds. The complaint is answered by a counter-complaint. Jeremiahs charge against God of injustice is met by Gods charge against Jeremiah of weakness. “If thou hast run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses? and though in a land of peace thou art secure, yet how wilt thou do in the pride of Jordan?”

The phrase “the pride,” or “the swelling of Jordan” may mean either of two things, perhaps both. It may refer to the floods which follow the rainy season, when the river overflows its banks, or it may simply be an allusion to the wide tract of wild, marshy land along those banks with reeds and undergrowth, in which lurked dangerous beasts of prey. Thus we read in chapters 49 and 50: “Behold, he shall come up like a lion from the swelling of Jordan.” Apparently the swelling of Jordan was a spot dangerous to travellers, and much dreaded in consequence. The thought of the text, therefore, is this: If you cannot race against men on foot without becoming exhausted, how can you expect to prevail when you have to race against horsemen? At home, and in time of peace, you may feel safe, but how will you behave when you have to breast Jordan in full flood, or fight for your life against the fierce and terrible creatures that prowl along its banks waiting for what they may devour? In other words, there come crises in life when all our moral reserves have to be summoned to enable us to hold our own against the forces of overwhelming evil. Well is it for us in that day if we are not found unprepared, but are equal to the demands of the dreadful occasion. History records that the man who first asked himself this question in the words of the text was able to answer it sublimely in the hour of trial.

The Jordan is from 90 to 100 feet broad, a rapid, muddy water with a zigzag current. The depth varies from 3 feet at some fords to as much as 10 or 12. In the sixty-five miles the descent is 610 feet, or an average of 9 feet a mile—not a great fall, for the Spey, and the Dee from Balmoral to Aberdeen, both average about 14 feet a mile. But near the Lake of Galilee the fall is over 40 feet a mile, and this impetus given to a large volume of water, down a channel in which it cannot sprawl, and few rocks retard, induces a great rapidity of current. This has given the river its name: Jordan means the Down-comer. The swiftness is rendered more dangerous by the muddy bed and curious zigzag current which will easily sweep a man from the side into the centre of the stream. In April the waters rise to the wider bed, but for the most part of the year they keep to the channel of 90 feet. Here, with infrequent interruptions of shingle, mostly silent and black in spite of its speed, but now and then breaking into praise and whitening into foam, Jordan scours along, muddy between banks of mud, careless of beauty, careless of life, intent only upon its own work, which for ages by the decree of the Almighty has been that of separation.

Down the broad valley [called a wilderness in the New Testament] there curves and twists a deeper, narrower bed—perhaps 150 feet deeper, and from 200 yards to a mile broad. Its banks are mostly of white marl, and within these it is packed with tamarisks and other semi-tropical trees and tangled bush. To those who look down from the hills along any great stretch of the valley, this Zôr, as it is called, trails and winds like an enormous green serpent, more forbidding in its rankness than any open water could be, however foul or broken. This jungle marks the Jordans wider bed, the breadth to which the river rises when in flood. In the Old Testament it appears as the “Pride of Jordan,” and always as a symbol of trouble and danger. “Though in a land of peace thou be secure, what wilt thou do in the Pride of Jordan? He shall come up like a lion from the Pride of Jordan.” It was long supposed that this referred to the spring floods of the river, and it is given in the English version as “swelling,” but the word means “pride,” and as one text speaks of the “pride of Jordan being spoiled,” the phrase most certainly refers to the jungle, whose green serpentine ribbon looks so rich from the hills above. In that case we ought to translate it the “luxuriance” or “rankness” of Jordan. Though lions have ceased from the land, this jungle is still a covert for wild beasts, and Jeremiahs contrast of it with a “land of peace” is even more suitable to a haunted jungle than to an inundation. But it is floods which have made the rankness, they fill this wider bed of Jordan every year; and the floor of the jungle is covered with deposits of mud and gravel, with dead weed, driftwood and the exposed roots of trees.1 [Note: G. A. Smith, The Historical Geography of the Holy Land, 486, 484.]

2. Jeremiah needed to be braced. He is taught the need of endurance. It is a strange cure for cowardice, a strange remedy for weakness; yet it is effective. It gives stiffening to the soul. The tear-stained face is lifted up calm once more. A new resolution creeps into the eye to prove worthy of the new responsibility. God appeals to Jeremiahs strength, not to his weakness. “By Gods grace I will fight, and fighting fall if need be. By Gods grace I will contend even with horses; and I will go to the pride of Jordan though the jungle growl and snarl.” This was the result on Jeremiah, and it was the result required. Only a heroic soul could do the heroic work needed by Israel and by God, and it was the greatest heroism of all that was needed, the heroism of endurance.

Nothing worth doing can be done in this world without something of that iron resolution. It is the spirit which never knows defeat, which cannot be worn out, which has taken its stand and refuses to move. This is the “patience” about which the Bible is full, not the sickly counterfeit which so often passes for patience, but the power to bear, to suffer, to sacrifice, to endure all things, to die, harder still sometimes to continue to live. The whole world teaches that patience. Life in her struggle with nature is lavish of her resources. She is willing to sacrifice anything for the bare maintenance of existence meanwhile. Inch by inch each advance has to be gained, fought for, paid for, kept. It is the lesson of all history also, both for the individual and for a body of men who have espoused any cause.1 [Note: Hugh Black, Edinburgh Sermons, 272.]

Would you grow a rose? Then the suns rays must be broken up and buried out of sight to rise again in new beauty of form and shade. Obtain a rose in any other way, and it is no rose but an artificiality without life or fragrance. Even so does the revealing of the glory of God carry with it a cosmic calvary in which we, His children, are individually called to share. This is as truly the nature of things in their highest computation as it is true of the simplest modes in which beauty and truth express themselves in our experience.2 [Note: R. J. Campbell.]

(1) God puts first that which is less, and afterwards that which is greater.—He does not put us at once to contend with horses, but tests us first with footmen. He does not allow any one of us with frail and fainting courage to meet the overflowing floods of Jordan; He causes us first to be tested in our homestead—the land of peace, where we are comparatively secure amidst those who know and love us. God graduates the trials of our life; He allows the lesser to precede the greater. He gives us the opportunity of learning to trust Him in slighter difficulties, that faith may become muscular and strong, and that we may be able to walk to Him amid the surge of the ocean. Be sure that whatever your sorrows and troubles are at this hour, God has allowed them to come to afford you an opportunity of preparation for future days.

Mans condition in the world presents an insoluble problem except upon one hypothesis. For he cannot help believing that he exists for a purpose. Every instinct of his nature compels him so to do. And yet when he looks round him for evidence of that purpose he is everywhere baffled and perplexed. He has capacities for pleasure, but they conduct him to pain. He desires knowledge, but is limited to ignorance. And if he works for the improvement of his race, his work is hampered on every side, while he sees the men most qualified for usefulness continually cut off in their prime. Neither pleasure nor knowledge nor achievement, then, can be the destined end of man upon earth. And if there is no further alternative, his instincts deceive him, and he exists in vain. But once adopt the hypothesis that the world is a school of character, and everything falls into its place in the scheme. He has pleasure enough, and knowledge enough, and achievement enough, here to suggest what possibilities hereafter may await him; while the pain and doubt and frustration that hinder his present progress may be fashioning his character for future use.

What if the breaks themselves should prove at last

The most consummate of contrivances

To train a mans eye, teach him what is faith.

Thus the only theory of the world which, as a rational hypothesis, seems tenable is the one that, on other grounds, the Christian believes to be true. And this coincidence of his belief with rational probability gives additional confidence to all his practice.1 [Note: J. R. Illingworth, Christian Character (ed. 1904), 37.]

(2) Victory over the lesser will ensure victory over the greater.—By the successful running with the footmen we shall be prepared for the severer contest with horses. Hence little trials borne well prophesy our bearing well such as may be greater, should God please to send them. And if, when entrusted with but a few things, we are found faithful in them, the Lord whom we serve is likely to make us “ruler over many things.”

It is not uncommon for men to believe that they are able to bear great calamities better than they can bear small ones. They lose all patience with an attack of toothache, yet fancy that they could smilingly endure leprosy or consumption; they lose their temper with the silly oversights of domestics and workpeople, but they are sure that a crushing misfortune would evoke their heroism; they lose all dignity and peace of mind in dealing with the peddling mishaps of routine life, yet cherish the belief that they are prepared to take arms against a sea of troubles whenever it happens to break forth. It is a flattering unction we should refuse to lay to our soul. Wesley tells that one day sitting by the fire of a wealthy gentleman a puff of smoke came down the chimney, whereupon the host plaintively addressed the evangelist, “You see, sir, I have to put up daily with this kind of thing.” Are we to believe that behind this fretfulness the man hid the strength of a martyr, and that whilst he was subdued by the smoke he could stand the fire? It is an illusion. He who is wearied in a sprint with the footmen will never contend successfully with horses; he who faints in the land of peace will make a poor show in the swelling of Jordan.1 [Note: W. L. Watkinson.]

3. Jeremiah was faithful in the peaceful retreat, and so did not fear the swelling of Jordan. He made straight for the lair of the lion. No one could have had an easier time than Jeremiah if he had done like the others—proclaimed peace when he knew there was no peace. It was by his own voluntary action that he passed from running with the footmen to contending with the horses and from the land of peace to the swelling of Jordan. He must go; for he wills to obey; the hand of the Lord directs him. It is his mission. It matters not what lies before him. He is one of those who must ignore everything but their duty, their mission, their message to the world. And though the earth close around him in balls of fire, still he must proceed. “Jeremiah, go not to Jerusalem! Pashhur the priest is there. There are enemies there powerful enough to take away thy life—or at any rate they will attempt it—and they will come very near doing so. They will make thy life a torture. Pashhur is there, thy great foe.” One can hear in imagination Jeremiah saying as Luther said: If it rained Pashhurs nine days running I must go. What does it matter what it rains? If you are in the path of duty it matters not how the storms may come. The servant of duty

Needs must pass the thunders lair

Where ambushed lightnings lie,

Where meteors cleave the hissing air

And perils throng which none may dare—

Save those that seek the sky.

Jeremiah was actually bolder in the swelling of Jordan than he had been in the land of peace. When Jeremiah came to Jerusalem, his heart was set like flint, his aspect was grander and bolder than before. So logic was completely out of it. There is no logic in spiritual power, unless it has a separate logic of its own. This is all the logic of spiritual power, “As thy days, so shall thy strength be.” They that wait upon the Lord shall mount up with wings as eagles. They can do nothing of themselves; they can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth them. “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.” That is the logic of faith and spiritual power. You cannot pass from premise to conclusion, because you are dealing with an infinite quantity, and the amount of your power simply depends on the amount of your capacity to receive from God. Touch His infinite hand and you can do anything.

4. Jordan has got into poetry as the symbol of the passage to the better life. We speak of passing the stream of Jordan, meaning the stream of Death; just as we say “across the water,” meaning that we leave our own sweet land for some far-off place of promise. Jordan was the little silver line which separated Canaan from the outer world; and the Jew, in his captivity, looked upon it as dividing him from the city of his passionate desire, while he dwelt in a city for which he had but scant liking. What wonder that Christian souls have called Death the Jordan, and spoken of their holy land as Canaan! To pass over Jordan has long been a proverb for dying, and the fields of Canaan flowing with milk and honey a sweet symbol of the Christians place of rest.

It is a felicitous expression and gathers within itself all possible troubles, all lifes tempests, and within its broad compass also points all too plainly to the final overwhelming catastrophe that soon or late rounds the whole; it is so intense with force, so human, “How wilt thou do in the pride of Jordan?” And wise men always reckon on the possibility of flood. What will you do in the “rainy day,” when no more money can be drawn from the bank? “Oh! I have insured against that.” That is wise; and, being wise, you have, of course, reckoned for the time when the golden bowl is broken, when no more life is to be drawn from the blood? “Yes, I have insured my life; they will be all right.” They!—yes, but you?

The river “Jordan” had no bridges, and, as far as we read, very few boats. It was never crossed by those means of mans invention—save only that ferryboat which once went to carry over king Davids household. From this we may well take this simple lesson—that God may use, and does sometimes use, human art to bring His children safe through their troubles; but more often, He takes it into His own hand, and so lays the matter out as to give all the glory only to Himself. We are very fond to build our bridges, by which we are to walk over the waters; but we shall find at last that we were oftener carried through them.1 [Note: J. Vaughan.]

It is written by one who knew the swellings of Jordan, that to the faithful the stream was shallow, whilst to the doubters it was deep; that the depth of the stream varied with him who crossed; as faith failed, the waters grew higher. Bunyan knew the stream, and in his book is written the true story of the swelling of Jordan: the trustful goes over almost dry-shod, but over him who is faint and faithless the waters gather.2 [Note: G. Dawson, Sermons on Daily Life and Duty, 325.]

The Pride of Jordan


Black (H.), Edinburgh Sermons, 267.

Chapman (J. W.), And Judas Iscariot, 67.

Dawson (G.), Sermons on Daily Life and Duty, 313.

Edmunds (J.), Fifteen Sermons, 49.

Guthrie (T.), The Way to Life, 313.

Hyde (T. D.), Sermon Pictures, ii. 297.

Leach (C.), Old yet ever New, 177.

Maclaren (A.), Expositions: Isaiah and Jeremiah, 272.

Meyer (F. B.), Jeremiah: Priest and Prophet, 58.

Thomas (J.), Myrtle Street Pulpit, iii. 116.

Vaughan (J.), Sermons (Brighton Pulpit), vi., No. 591.

Watkinson (W. L.), Themes for Hours of Meditation, 107.

Christian Age, xxxi. 180 (T. de W. Talmage).

Christian Commonwealth, xxxiv. (1913) 57 (R. J. Campbell).

Christian World Pulpit, xiv. 312 (B. J. Snell); xl. 204 (C. Leach).

Church of England Magazine, x. 384 (W. Battersby); xxxiv. 384 (R. L. Joyce); lix. 80 (D. Ace).

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