Go you up on her walls, and destroy; but make not a full end: take away her battlements; for they are not the LORD's.
Jeremiah is telling of the defenses of Judah and Jerusalem. In the approaching invasion they should fall and prove utterly worthless; for, by reason of the people's sin, that blessing of the Lord which had made their battlements impregnable hitherto was withdrawn, and so, the people being no longer the Lord's, their defenses were not either, and so were no defenses at all. But often those who are not under the Divine displeasure - nations, Churches, individuals - are found relying on defenses that are not Divine, thinking to find shelter and safety within battlements that are not the Lord's; and when such is the case the Lord would ever have such battlements taken away. The course of his providence not seldom makes plain his displeasure in these things; for they get torn down and destroyed hopelessly if they who trust in them are not wise in time, and themselves take them away. There are many references in Scripture to such battlements. They are spoken of either as "walls daubed with untempered mortar," or as "broken cisterns which hold no water," or, more plainly, as "refuges of lies," or as "a house built upon the sand," or as the building upon the foundation of "wood, hay, stubble." Such are some of the parallels to the truth taught in the text. But take some illustrations of this erecting of and trusting in battlements not the Lord's.
I. IT HAS BEEN SEEN IN THE DEFENSE OF THE CHURCH OF CHRIST. Nothing in the world is so precious, so essential to the world, as the Church of Christ, and he has promised to preserve it unto the end. But men have often tried to plant, maintain, and spread it in anything but Divine ways; e.g. when:
1. They have relied on the secular arm. They have done so, and with what consequences let the present state of Christendom tell. When will men trust the glorious inherent power of the faith of Christ, and throw to the winds those carnal weapons which she wields only to her own wounding? When will she hear the voice of God saying, concerning such battlements, "Take them away; they are not the Lord's?"
2. Organization is another of these very questionable defenses. That it has its use, and is capable of much and valued service, he would be a fool who should deny. But the peril is lest the artificial and merely human supports which organization supplies should be allowed to serve instead of that Divine life which alone is the true defense of any Church. Church arrangements which necessitate that when that life is wanting everything shall collapse about such a Church, that it shall cease to be and not present the mere simulacrum of what it is not, - it is a question if this be not a better order than one which, by means of its elaborate organization, keeps up the show of Church life when the reality is not there.
3. And the same may be said of all those adventitious aids to the Church of Christ upon which men are apt so much to rely. Wealth, social position, learning, eloquence, numbers, gifts, and other such advantages, - let a Church place her trust in any of these, and the command of the text will go forth at once. But the true defense of a Church is the life that is in her, the manifest godliness of her members; that is a battlement which is the Lord's, and which none can take away.
II. IT HAS BEEN SEEN IN THE DEFENSE OF THE FAITH OF THE CHURCH, The faith of the Church is, without doubt, most precious; and it is our duty to contend earnestly for it. But men have sought to guard and defend it in wrong ways.
1. Persecution has been tried.
2. Demanding subscription to fixed creeds. There may be and are good reasons for demanding such subscription, but it cannot be said that such subscription has kept the faith one and entire in all the members of the Church. Probably there is more unity of belief in those Churches which demand no such subscription than in those who do.
3. Relying mostly on the intellectual defenses of the faith. There are such, many, varied, cogent, clear, invaluable, but they may be all read and mastered, and the citadel of the heart be not won. But the true battlement, of the faith is in the fact that it commends itself to every man's conscience in the sight of God. Let conscience be awakened and then the faith presented, and the fitness of the faith to the needs and teachings of conscience are visible at once.
III. IT IS CONTINUALLY SEEN IN MEN'S CONDUCT IN REGARD TO THEIR OWN PERSONAL SALVATION. What else is:
1. Trust in sacraments? They are, without doubt, means of grace to the believer in Christ - the experience of myriads of saints attests that; but he who looks to them as a viaticum that will open a way to heaven for the vilest, surely that is a refuge of lies.
2. Reliance on human priests? This reliance is by no means Confined to the Church of Rome. Deep seated in men's mind is the idea that ministers of religion can really help the soul in its great needs. Much of sending for ministers in cases where death is anticipated is based on this false belief.
3. Trust in such poor righteousness as we can offer to God; what can it do?
4. Resting on an imagined leniency in God, which will prevent his carrying out the threatenings of his holy Law as he has said he would? How many soothe and still all disquiet of conscience by such false confidence as this! - a confidence which the facts of life, apart from the Word of God, utterly shatter and show to be false. But the true defense of the soul is Christ; that battlement is the Lord's, yea, is the Lord himself, and he will keep that which is committed to him even unto the great day. - C.
Parallel VersesKJV: Go ye up upon her walls, and destroy; but make not a full end: take away her battlements; for they are not the LORD'S.