The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD in the days of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, saying,…
I. THE AUTHORITY OF THE FAMILY. The power of human descent and family tradition in moulding a career is well illustrated in the case of the Rechabites.
1. It controlled the natural tastes. Its members must renounce pleasure, comfort, and fixed habitation; their inheritance was the loss of those very things which sons expect, and parents delight to bequeath. But with the loss came a better gain, — health of body, purity of morals, loyalty of conscience. They had that best possession, — noble character.
2. The authority of the family also controlled their external alliances; those entering it by marriage must accept its obligations. A man may leave father and mother to cleave unto his wife, but may not leave truth and virtue.
3. In the same way the family tradition proved superior to surrounding influences. They were as faithful in the city as in the country, as loyal among strangers as where well known. So from lonely farmhouses among the hills, young men and young women have gone to seek an easier fortune in the great city, or in the lawless West, and been delivered from evil by the abiding influence of their sanctified homes.
4. The faithfulness of the Rechabites displays the normal influence of the family in transmitting a tendency to virtue, and confirming that inherited disposition by congenial surroundings and careful training. This is what God means the family to be, — His surest and mightiest agency for spreading righteousness on the earth.
II. THIS HIGHER AUTHORITY OF GOD. If human descent and family tradition exert authority over the individual, the Divine Creator and Governor holds a far higher claim upon him. Whatever depravity sin may breed into the race, virtue is always its normal life, holiness its ideal. The Scriptures describe man as directly connected with God in his origin. "And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness." When the clay was shaped, He "breathed into his nostrils thy breath of life, and man became a living soul." The characteristics of our Divine origin are as discernible as the marks of our human descent. Our intellect is made after the likeness of the Divine mind, else the universe would be to us an insoluble mystery. In our tastes we can trace kinship with Him who has adorned the earth with beauty. Pure human affection gives us our worthiest conception of the Divine love. Misfortune cannot turn it, ingratitude cannot chill it, death itself cannot overcome it, The Heavenly Father uses this earthly tie to symbolise His own regard; the Saviour describes His fostering care and close union with the Church by naming it His "bride." Our moral nature is plainly Divine in origin. Conscience is the voice of God in man. He who obeys it is lifted to the plane of Divine action, is made a co-worker with God. Over this lordly realm, crowned its regent by the Creator Himself, is the Personal Soul, the "Self," the "I." Self-consciousness is its throne, self-determination its sceptre. By this solemn conviction "I am," "I will," man separates himself from all the universe around him; through this he balances his soul against the whole world and weighs it down; with it he faces eternity. He is his own, something for which the Infinite asks, and he may give. It is here that man's Divine origin finds its explanation; for the glad choice of God, all the dignity of human nature was given; to this end converge the constant teachings of the revealing universe, the open instructions of the inspired Word, the solemn persuasions of the Holy Spirit. Lessons —
1. The responsibility of parents. One writer on heredity declares that the dispositions of Bacon and Goethe were formed by the simple addition of the dispositions of their ancestors. We know that passionate temper, fretfulness, and despondency may be inherited. Let a parent beware how he sins.
2. The responsibility resting upon the child of godly parents. When one who has had a virtuous ancestry seeks out vice and courts godlessness, he has not long to wait before every red drop in his veins will turn against him and curse him traitor. There is something back of his own will, — an authority he knows not how to resist and cannot defy.
3. The ultimate responsibility of each soul to God. When Samuel J. Mills was struggling against the convictions of the Spirit, he exclaimed, "I wish I had never been born!" His mother replied, "But you are born, my son, and can never escape your accountability to God." The glad choice of the holy God is the highest exercise of the created will.
(C. M. Southgate.)
Parallel VersesKJV: The word which came unto Jeremiah from the LORD in the days of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, saying,