They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace.
There is a very true sentence of Lord Macaulay's, in which he says, "It is difficult to conceive any situation more painful than that of a great man condemned to watch the lingering agony of an exhausted country, to tend it during the alternate fits of stupefaction and raving which precede its dissolution, and to see the symptoms of vitality disappear, one by one, till nothing is left but coldness, darkness, and corruption." It was just such a situation that the prophet Jeremiah was at this time condemned to fill. We feel that there is real agony in the sentence of doom he is compelled to utter. What aggravated his own personal grief was that he saw the remedy that alone could save them, the thorough, searching, radical treatment of their ease that contained their only hope, and they refused it, and with the very grip of death upon them they turned for comfort to those who had the mildest treatment to prescribe, and who cried, "Peace, peace, when there was no peace."
I. The prophet here lays his finger on the essential error — THE FORMALIST HAS NO ADEQUATE IDEA OF THE SIGNIFICANCE OF SIN. To suppose you have healed the corruption of a man's nature by the sacrifice of a turtle dove is the merest folly. To suppose that you remove the enmity of a man's heart against God by crying "Peace, peace" is an incredible mockery. Peace with God is the will, and the heart, and the conscience at one with Him.
II. This ignorance of the priests as to the very nature of the sin they professed to cure reminds us of the truth of Lord Bacon's saying, that THAT IS A FALSE PEACE WHICH IS GROUNDED UPON AN IMPLICIT IGNORANCE, just as all colours agree in the dark. You may cherish the ignominious ambition to have peace at any price. You may escape the problems of thought by declining to think. You may avoid the responsibility of freedom by voluntary slavery; you may escape the pain of repentance by ignoring the reality of sin; yes, you may refuse to acknowledge the obligations of the light by dwelling ever in the darkness; you may prefer to be the victim of error and superstition to being their victor; you may prefer the cowardly acquiescence of surrender to the glad triumph of conquest; but you will surely not delude yourselves into the belief that you have settled anything, healed any hurt, or that the peace you enjoy is a worthy one, with any elements of desirability at all. For let us be quite sure that true peace — moral or mental — is based upon an honest facing of the truth. It was old Matthew Paris, the last of the old monastic historians, who complained somewhat pathetically that the case of historians was hard, because if they told the truth they provoked men, while if they wrote what was false they offended God. The historian's art, it appears, must have in it something of the photographer's, whose bounden duty is well known to be to make men better looking than they are. It has been urged, that if you can persuade a man that he is better than be really is, he will try to live up to the new revelation. Overlook his faults, and explain his errors away, and he will take heart and grow better. The question comes back to an old one that has been asked and discussed again and again, "Can there ever be any moral uses in a lie?" Do we believe in that religious homoeopathy that proposes to cure one immorality by another, conceal corruption by falsehood, and cover sinfulness by lying? Can any possible good come out of such a practice? Can there ever be any moral uses in a lie? I think you will agree with me, that even if it were possible to obtain a satisfactory peace by the suppression of conviction on the one hand, or a misrepresentation of fact on the other, we are not at liberty to take it on such terms. To obtain a worthy peace we must face the facts.
(C. S. Horne, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace.