Jeremiah 47
Biblical Illustrator
How long wilt thou cut thyself?
Travellers in the East tell us that among the most melancholy scenes they witness is the following: — Men inflict upon themselves very grievous, voluntary wounds, and then exhibit themselves in public. They even disfigure themselves with gashes m me presence of excited throngs. I am speaking of what has occurred even within, the last few years among the Moslems. When some great prophet or emir is coming that way, a certain number of fanatical Mahometans take swords, spears, and other sharp instruments, and gash themselves terribly therewith, cutting their breasts, their faces, their heads, and all parts of their bodies. Frequently they have taken care to dress themselves in white sheets, in order that, as the blood flows copiously from their bodies, it may be the more clearly seen, that they may become the more ghastly spectacles of misery, or the more fully display the religious excitement under which they labour. As everything in the East remains for ever the same, thin Moslem superstition carries us back to the olden times whereof we read in the Old Testament, when the priests of Baal, having cried in vain to their idol, cut themselves with lances and with knives. Our translators were probably afraid to write the harsher words, and so they translated the passage "knives and lances," but they might have written swords and spears — sharp instruments of a desperate character. Thus they displayed their inward zeal, and thus, perhaps, they hoped to move the pity of their god. The Lord expressly forbade His people, the Jews, to perpetrate such folly. They were not even to shave the corners of their beards, or to hack their hair, as the Orientals do in the hour of their grief; and then they were further prohibited from injuring their bodies by the command (Leviticus 19:28). Men in Eastern lands, not only in connection with fanaticism, but in reference to domestic affairs, will cut themselves to express their grief and anguish, or to make other people believe that they are feeling such grief and anguish. We may congratulate ourselves that we are free from at least one foolish custom. The prophet here speaks to the Philistines who were about to endure the tremendous judgments of God, and, indeed, to be crushed Out as a nation by the Egyptians and the Chaldeans; and he says to Philistia "How long wilt thou cut thyself?" How long would they continue to bring upon themselves such terrible judgments?

I. I SHALL ASK THIS QUESTION VERY DESPAIRINGLY — "How long wilt thou cut thyself?" — for many are cutting themselves very terribly, and will have to feel the wounds thereof for a long. time, neither can we induce them to cease therefrom.

1. I allude, first, to some professors of religion who have been Church members for ten, twenty, or more years, and yet have practically done nothing at all for the Saviour. If they were really to awaken to a sense of their neglect, I do not know how long- they would be in anguish, or how deep would be their distress; for if Titus mourned that he had lost a day when he had done no good action for twenty-four hours, and he but a heathen, what would happen to a Christian if he were really to see his responsibility before God, and to feel that he has not only lost a day but a year — perhaps many years? Have not some of you well-nigh lost a whole lifetime?

2. The same may be applied, and applied very solemnly, too, to those who backslide — who, in addition to being- useless, are injurious, because their example tends to hinder others from coming to Christ. Oh, if any of you that name the name of Jesus, and have been happy in His service, and have enjoyed high days and holy days in His presence, turn aside, I shall use this lamentation over you! You will do yourselves terrible injury, and I shall shudder as I see the edged tools of sin in your reckless hands. Every sin is a gash in the soul. The Lord will bring you back and save you, as I believe; but oh, how long will you cut yourselves?

3. There is one thing which comes after these, and comes in connection with them. If you and I should know that souls have been lost — lost as far as we are concerned — through our neglect, how long- shall we cut ourselves on that account? Fathers, if you have never sought to bring your children to repentance, how will you excuse yourselves? If you have never prayed with them, or wept with them — if you have never even instructed them in the things of God, what flattering unction will you lay to your guilty consciences? What will you say, mother, if your daughter passes into eternity unforgiven, and you have never tried to lead her to Jesus?

4. One other most solemn use may be made of this question" God grant that it may never be so, but if any one of you should die in his sins, how long will you regret it, think you? Oh, thou who hast lost eternal life, how long wilt thou cut thyself? If thou shouldst miss Christ, and miss mercy, and miss heaven, and miss eternal glory, if there were naught else, how long wilt thou bemoan thyself? With what depth of anguish wilt thou smart to have lost all this — to have, in fact, lost all which makes up life and joy!

II. I SHALL ASK THIS QUESTION HOPEFULLY, trusting that in many their sorrow is nearing- its end.

1. This text may be very profitably and prudently applied to those who have been bereaved, and who, being bereaved, sorrow, and sorrow to excess. "How long wilt thou cut thyself?" Is not thy child in Jesus' bosom? Has not thy friend gone among the angels, to join the sweet singers of God? Is it not a gain to the departed, though it be a loss to thee, that they are translated to the place of everlasting bliss?

2. Turning to quite another character, I would use the same expression for another purpose. There are some persons with whom God is dealing in great love, and yet they are very rebellious. "How long wilt thou cut thyself?" Already they have met with great disasters and misfortunes: they will meet with many more. when the dogs are out hunting, they run in packs. The plagues of Egypt are ten at least, and every one who plays the Pharaoh may expect the full number.

3. I might use this expression even to the Jewish nation itself. Ah, God, through what seas of trouble have they had to swim since the day when they said, "His blood be on us, and on our children"!

4. But, now, all this has rather kept me from my main design, which is to speak to those dear friends of ours who are afflicting their souls with needless fears. No good can possibly come by a continuance in their unhappy moods: they are cutting themselves quite needlessly. They might at once have peace, and rest, and joy if they were willing to accept the Lord s gracious way of salvation. Despairing and desponding are not commanded in the Gospel, but they are forbidden by it. Do not cultivate these gross follies, these deadly sins. Do not multiply these poisonous weeds — this hemlock and this darnel — as if they were fair flowers of paradise.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

Put up thyself into thy scabbard, rest, and be still.
Notwithstanding all the boasted improvements of modern times, in knowledge and refinement, wars have not been less frequent than formerly, when mankind were in a rude and barbarous state. In making this reflection, the philosopher may profess his astonishment, but the genuine Christian will weep. Such are the mournful and ruinous effects which sin has produced in the world. Not only has it filled men's minds with enmity against God, but also with implacable enmity and revenge against one another.


1. Because the seasons in which this sword is drawn are governed or appointed by the Lord. The kindling of war, or the settling of peace, are appointed by the providence of that God who ruleth over all the earth. The direction of cabinets, the ambition of princes, of governors, of statesmen, are only the instruments which God employs with a powerful and a holy hand, to execute His will.

2. Because it receives its direction from the Lord. When God gives the commission, when He opens the brazen gates of destruction, no country, no city is secured against the ravages of war; and when His providence forms a wall of protection around a country, no army can prevail, no weapon formed against it can prosper, for the Almighty God Himself is its fortress, its pillar, and its strength.

3. Because the execution done by it is of the Lord. It is a saying of King William, who had himself been in many battles, that "every bullet had its billet"; intimating that it was under God's direction whom to miss and whom to strike.

4. Because God sanctifies and glorifies Himself in its operation. In the management of war, the reputation of kings and statesmen, of generals or soldiers, is considered, but this is only a secondary consideration. The glory of the Lord, whom the Scriptures call a Man of War, is illustrated and made conspicuous in the eyes of the world. The slayer and those who are slain are His creatures and subjects, and the instruments which defend the one and kill the other are His sword.


1. Conviction that the wrath of God bringeth upon man the punishment of the sword, will cause the saints to long earnestly for its being sheathed and at rest.

2. All God's people will earnestly long to see the sword of war in -its scabbard and at rest, when they reflect what multitudes of men are hurried by it into eternity without thought or preparation.

3. God's people earnestly long to see the sword of war sheathed and at rest, when they reflect on the unparalleled distresses and miseries inflicted on those countries which are the seat of war. Gracious persons are deeply affected with the miseries of their fellow-creatures, even though they he enemies.

4. God's people earnestly desire to see the sword of war sheathed and at rest, that Christ's Gospel may be propagated throughout the whole world, and its Divine power and influence felt by all nations.

(James Hay, D. D.)

As patriots, prophets felt the miseries which they denounced; as mourners, they lamented the sins which brought on these miseries; and as men, they wept over the graves of the enemies by whom their country had been harassed and wasted.


1. The seasons in which the sword is drawn and sheathed are appointed by the Lord. The direction of cabinets, the ambition of princes, and the caprices of statesmen in these affairs, are subordinated by His invisible influence to His own will, without violating the order of second causes, or breaking in upon the freedom of rational agents.

2. The sword of the warrior is put in commission by the Lord.

3. The direction of the sword of the warrior is from the Lord. The seat of war is marked out, and its bounds circumscribed, in the purpose of the will of God; and thither the warrior marches without mistaking his way, whether it he to the shore of Tyrus, the valley of Jehoshaphat, the plains of Blenheim, the heights of Saratoga, or the mountains of Armageddon.

4. The execution done by the sword of the warrior is of the Lord. "A sparrow falleth not to the ground without our heavenly Father," and in the day of battle, no soldier loses his life without His knowledge and predetermination.

5. By the sword of the warrior the Lord sanctifies and magnifies Himself. According to the states of the sufferers wars of conquest and extirpation are corrections and punishments, and whichever of the sides gains or loses the victory, the supremacy of Jehovah over all is main, rained, and the glory of His justice and holiness displayed and magnified. The cause in which the sword is drawn is always sinful on one side, and frequently sinful on both sides. But whatever be the quality of the cause, the views of men, or the issues of the contest, the Lord will not lose His end. He rules in the seat of war, and commands on the day of battle.


1. Compassion for those who are delivered to the sword, or subjected to the insolence and rage of fierce and lawless men whose tender mercies are cruelty.

2. Knowledge of the consequences of driving men unprepared into eternity.

3. The peace of God, which rules in the hearts of mourners in Zion, inclines and constrains them to cry for the sheathing of the sword of the warrior.

4. Convictions that the wrath of God bringeth upon men the punishment of the sword, dispose mourners in Zion to long for its being put up into the scabbard.

(A. Shanks.)


1. War is a tremendous evil.

2. Well might the prophet desire its speedy termination.


1. War is one of those judgments with which God punishes the sins of men.

2. Till He has effected His purposes by it, no human efforts can bring it to a close.


1. The intention of God's chastisements is to bring us to repentance.

2. On the attainment of this end He will instantly remove HIS judgments from us.


(C. Simeon, M. A.).

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