Jeremiah 2:13

I. THERE IS SUGGESTED HERE AN INCONCEIVABLE ACT OF FOLLY. It is a thing which could be believed of no one in his sound senses that he would leave a fountain of living water, knowing it to be such, and enjoying the use of it; and be contented with a cistern such as is here described. A fountain is that from which he benefits without any trouble; it is a pure gift of grace, and all he has to do is to take up his habitation by it. Why, then, should he leave a fountain for a cistern, even if the cistern were ready-made? Still less credible is it that he should take the trouble to make a cistern. And the incredibility reaches its height when we are asked to suppose him doing all this with the end of possessing a broken cistern that can hold no water. Such broken cisterns the people of Israel seem to have known only too well. Dr. Thomson says there are thousands such in Upper Galilee, which, though dug in hard rock and apparently sound, are all dry in winter; at best they are an uncertain source of supply, and the water, when collected, is bad in color and taste, and full of worms. The whole action, then, of the character here indicated is scarcely conceivable, unless as the expression of fear in a diseased mind. In somewhat of this way we have heard of men acting, who, after having made great fortunes, have become victims to the horrid delusion that they are paupers, and must make some sort of provision against utter destitution. So we might imagine the victim of delusion, with fountains all round him, still insisting upon having some sort of cistern provided. Note, moreover, that the aspect of folly becomes more decided when we consider that it is water which is treated in this way. The water which is offered so freely and continuously in the fountain is a thing which man needs, and yet it is for the supply of that which is a great and may be a painful need that he is represented as depending on broken cisterns which with great toil he has constructed for himself.

II. THERE IS MENTIONED AN INDISPUTABLE ACT OF DESERTION. Israelites, stung to wrath by a charge of folly, might reply that they had not left a living fountain for broken cisterns. This, however, was but denying the application of a figure; the historical fact which the prophet had connected with the figure they could not possibly deny. Assuredly they had forsaken God. Not simply that at this time they were without him, but, having once been with him, they had now left him. Had' he not taken them up when they were in the weakness, dependence, and waywardness of national infancy? Had they not received all their supplies from him, and gathered strength and prestige under the shelter of his providence? They owed the land in which they lived, and the wealth they had heaped up, to the fulfillment of his promises, and yet they were now worshipping idols. Their worship was not a momentary outbreak like the worship of the golden calf, soon after leaving Egypt, and when they had so long been living in the midst of idolaters. It was a steady settling down into the worst excesses of an obscene and cruel worship, after long centuries during which the Mosaic institutions had been in a place of acknowledged authority. What extenuations there may have been for this apostasy are not to be considered here. The thing insisted upon is the simple undeniable fact of the apostasy itself.

III. THIS DESERTION OF JEHOVAH IS DIVINELY ASSERTED TO BE AN ACT OF THE GROSSEST FOLLY. We have noticed the figure under which this act is set forth; and if Israel meant to get clear of a humiliating charge, it was only by denying that God was indeed a fountain of living water. The figure, therefore, resolves itself into a sort of logical dilemma; and the fact is clearly shown that in spiritual affairs men are capable of a folly which, in natural affairs, they are as far from as possible. Man holds within him a strange duality of contradictions. In some directions he may show the greatest powers of comprehension, insight, foresight; may advance with all the resources of nature well in hand. But in other directions he may stumble like a blind man, while around him on every hand are piled up the gracious gifts of a loving and forgiving God. There is no special disgrace to any individual in admitting what a fool he may be in spiritual things. In this respect, at all events, he is not a fool above other fools. He may see many of the wise, noble, and mighty of earth who have lived and died in apparent neglect as to the concerns of eternity and the relation of Christ to them. Men toil to make securities and satisfactions for themselves, but if they only clearly saw that they are doing no better than making broken cisterns, their toils would be relinquished the next moment. It is but too sadly plain how many neglect the revelations, offers, and promises of God; but who can doubt that if they could only really see him to be the true Fountain of living waters, the neglect would come to an end at once? - Y.







My people have committed two evils.
Homilist.
I. THE FORCE OF HUMAN FREEDOM. Mightiest rivers cannot break from their source, nor greatest planets from their centre, but man can from centre and fountain of his being.

1. This freedom is a matter of personal consciousness.

2. It invests human existence with transcendent importance.

II. THE ENORMITY OF HUMAN WICKEDNESS.

1. Ingratitude.

2. Injustice.

3. Impiety.

III. THE EGREGIOUSNESS OF HUMAN FOLLY.

1. In withdrawing from the satisfying to toil for the unsatisfying.

2. In withdrawing from the abundant to tell for the scanty

(Homilist.)

I. THE NATURE OF SIN. This will be seen by observing —

1. What men leave. God — a "fountain of living waters" to them. The sum of all excellency, the source of all happiness.

2. What the follow. "Broken cisterns."

(1)Worldly business.

(2)Worldly pleasure.

(3)Earthly distinction.

(4)Worldly ease.

II. HOW WE SHOULD REGARD SIN. As God regards it — with loathing and abhorrence. Learn —

1. The emptiness of mere outward profession.

2. God's remedy for man's sin.

(C. Clayton, M. A.)

They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters
In a land like this, perpetually green with Atlantic showers, which at once refresh the thirsty soil and replenish the subterranean reservoirs, it is not easy to understand the gratitude, reverence, almost affection, with which men who live under a fiercer sky, and upon a parched earth, look upon a "fountain of living waters." Some remnant of the feeling, descending to us from an earlier and simpler time, may be noticed in connection with such a strong outgush of pure waters as, at Wells or at Holywell, springs into the upper air, at once a river: men have thought that there must be some healing efficacy in so bountiful a manifestation of one of nature's most beneficent forces; and soon they have imagined a legend, and built a shrine, and to the natural holiness have added a superstitious sanctity. But it is almost the same in the thirstier lands of the East with any rill of water, so it be perennial. A spring becomes a natural landmark of a kind to which expectation points, round which memories are wont to gather. When all the long day the caravan has toiled patiently through the pitiless brightness, and the path has lain for many a weary mile over the sand slopes shimmering in the heated air, or by the mountain pass where the sun-smitten rocks reflect the intolerable rays, — how grateful, as the shadows are lengthening, to descry afar off the fringe of palm trees on the horizon, and to quicken the march, till at last there is a bubbling in the cool grass, and shade overhead, water for the thirsty lips, rest for the tired feet! And how terrible the disappointment, if, when the journey has tended to some less fortunate spot, where the care of man has provided — poor substitute for the bounty of God! — a cistern to catch a precarious and failing supply, the travellers have found at nightfall only a broken reservoir, and the trace of help and refreshment passed away! What resource, but a night as comfortless as the day had been toilsome, and on the morrow, a renewed effort, with diminished strength and a courage sustained by despair, to reach some happier island in the desert, where the waters of God never fail to flow! There is a depth of spiritual meaning in this passage, which, ignorant as we may be of the precise occasion to which it applies, forbids us to interpret it in any but a religious sense. It was, so to say, the nature, the destiny, of the Jewish people to be always committing the two evils of which it speaks. Theirs was indeed a mixed character, in which elements as opposite almost as light and darkness perpetually struggled for the mastery. Their distinguishing mark as a nation was insight into God: they had discerned Him as one; they had learned that He was holy; they had fixed, for all coming time, the true point of contact between God and man in the god-likeness of humanity; and yet in their history, as told by their own lips, they show themselves false, fickle, sensual, cruel, as hardly any other people. In Judah of old, a distracted State, the sport of fierce political passions within and beyond her own borders, falling back now upon a hard Levitical religiousness, now madly rushing upon alien idolatries, now again wakened to better life by the thunder of prophetic rebuke; — in Judah of old it was possible for a man to climb, like Isaiah, to such heights of rapt communion with the all-holy God as human feet have since but rarely trodden, or to find a downward way to abysses of foul sensuality, masking itself in a pretence of religion, such as it is not good even to speak of. It is enough surely to forsake God; to pass through the dry and thirsty land of life as if no fountain of living waters sprang up to cheer and to fertilise it; to choose the sun-smitten sand, to toil up the parched torrent bed, when it is possible to rest beneath the palm trees' shade, and to drink of the brook that murmurs through the grass. And yet this can hardly be: the thirst for the Divine cannot wholly die out of the human heart: there must be some reaching forth to the unseen, some attempt to find a stay in the Eternal. So the first evil has its natural issue in the second. Those who have turned away from the living fountain bend their wandering steps towards a cistern of their own making, a broken cistern which will hold no water; a cistern which, as the traveller draws nigh, offers to his thirsty lips only the slime, where water was long ago, baking in the sun. This it is to forsake the solemn worship of Jehovah for the wild dance of the devotees of Baal. It may not be easy to expound this passage; but, as it stands, it is impossible not to feel how deep and how vivid it is. It contains all the secret of religion; the secret which it is the object of preaching of every kind to reveal and to enforce; the one truth which prophets present in every form of living and burning words, — that all life worthy of the name is life in, and with, and for God; that life without God is a dream likest death, except that by God's mercy it is always possible to awake from it. So I take this particular metaphorical representation of the central truth to indicate that an essential element of human nature is a longing for the Divine, as heat and weariness thirst for cool water: a sense of a higher law, a holier will, to which it would be peace and happiness to conform: a desire to find, amid the perplexity of things, a hand of guidance, and in their mutability and sorrowfulness a heart on which to rest: a yearning after something fixed and changeless, to set against the daily experience of loss and decay and death. The thirst is in us all: when sorrow strikes us down upon the sand; when disappointment bars our way in the mountain pass; when the mirage of earthly affections first allures and then deceives us, we feel it, and all the more keenly that we hardly know where to seek the spring that will refresh us. Would that always we had the courage to listen to the promptings of our nobler nature, and to enter upon the impossible task of quenching the soul's thirst for God! Would that always we could recognise the demand of our true need, and bring our parched lips through every desert and over every obstacle to the living spring "whereof who drinks shall never thirst again"!

(C. Beard, B. A.)

Jeremiah was the medium rather than the source of these words; and it is noteworthy that he does not lay claim to them. We find lying between the two verses a clause which invests them with Divine authority, namely, "saith the Lord."

I. THE CHARACTER WHICH GOD GIVES HIMSELF. It is a fact, that all that God has made and sustains speaks to us of God; and it is essential to morality and religion, as well as to our happiness, that God should reveal Himself. Before we can know that He is worthy of our supreme love, reverence, and trust, and that we should obey His will, He must make Himself known. We cannot conceive of God giving Himself a false character. God sets Himself forth as "the fountain of living waters." His estimate of Himself is high, but not too high. He does not speak of Himself as a stream or reservoir of water. He is a "fountain," and not merely a fountain among other fountains, but "the" fountain. If there be other fountains, they spring from Him; and He casts them completely into the shade. He is not content with representing Himself as the fountain of waters. He applies the epithet "living" to the waters that issue forth from Him. He is a fountain that is ever gushing. There is no exhausting of Him. There is an immense difference between the water that is taken from a reservoir and that which is drawn from a fountain. The water which is taken from a fountain is peculiarly fresh, pure, sweet, and wholesome. For ages the angels have been enjoying God. Has He become distasteful to them? The waters that flow from Him never grow stale and fiat. They are living and life-giving. They undergo no change for the worse. This language — "the fountain of living waters" — is, of course, figurative, and on that account all the more beautiful and expressive. The grand idea which they suggest is — that God alone can satisfy individuals and communities. Creatures are good and useful. As things are, we cannot do without them. Earth is not a superfluous gift. We require light and air; we require bread and human society, and a multitude of other things; but creatures are not absolutely needed. If God chose, He could dispense with them. Assuredly, it is not in creatures to satisfy us. They yield us more or less pleasure; and it would ill become us to despise them; but we have a mind above them. Deal with them as we may, they leave us unsatisfied. We were made for God, and, till we find Him, there is a void within. He is "the fountain of living waters," and besides Him there is no fountain. Thirst has an injurious effect upon the body's life, beauty, health, and strength, and is a most painful sensation. Well, what do the thirsty need? Lead them to a bubbling fountain, and they are satisfied.

II. THE TWO EVILS WITH WHICH JUDAH IS CHARGED.

1. The first evil is desertion of God. "They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters." To forsake God in any physical sense, in the sense in which birds sometimes forsake their nests, and children home, is impossible. We can put local distance between us and our fellow creatures, but not between us and God. The forsaking referred to is departure of a moral kind, or departure in thought and affection. This species of departure from God was possible to the inhabitants of Judah. Like ourselves, they were morally free. They might either think about God or not, either love Him or not, either trust in Him or not, either do His will or not, either seek their happiness in God or not; and how did they act? It seems that the departure from God which we have characterised as possible, became actual. God did not turn His back on them; but they deserted Him, and in deserting Him they "forsook the fountain of living waters." They forsook Him as a people, and in forsaking Him they committed an "evil." They neither did God nor themselves justice, Morally, they backslided from Him — dismissed Him from their minds and hearts, and lapsed into A state of sin and idolatry. Instead of seeking their happiness in God, they began to seek it in other objects. What God pronounces an evil must be an evil. It is criminal to forsake God; and, as we would expect, it is as injurious as it is criminal.

2. The second evil is attempting to find a substitute for God. "And hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns," etc. These two evils go together. The one naturally leads to the other. The religious is perhaps man's strongest instinct. There is something which men of the world ever supremely fear and love, to which they look and pray in times of danger and distress, and on which they lean for happiness. Accordingly, when we cease to worship God — the right object of worship — there is not with us an end of all worship. There is merely a change of worship. Wrong objects are put in the place of God. Man is not competent to the supply of his own wants, and he knows it. He cannot rid himself of the consciousness of limitation and dependence. Hence, when he departs from God, he precipitates himself on a variety of objects, and devotes himself to a variety of pursuits, with the view of indemnifying himself, Nothing will do for those who renounce God, but trying their hand at cistern making They are driven to exert themselves in order to the discovery of a substitute for God; and are they successful? No. One cistern may be larger than another, or differ from another in shape, or other respects; but the best cisterns are leaky. Water may be poured into them, but, alas! they let it through. Whatever may be thought of them by the maker, they fall infinitely short of God, "the fountain of living waters."

III. THE SUMMONS TO ASTONISHMENT ADDRESSED TO THE HEAVENS. "Be astonished," etc. Were a fountain of living waters and a leaky cistern put before a person suffering from thirst, it would excite wonder were he to prefer the cistern to the fountain. We would be strongly tempted to call in question his sanity. Were a youth to leave a happy home — to forsake a father well able to provide for, protect, school, guide him, advance his temporal and spiritual interests, how would we feel on being introduced to him as a deserter from home? We would look on him with no small measure of pity and surprise; and how can we help being affected with the profoundest astonishment when with the mind's eye we contemplate an intelligent and free creature turning his back upon God?

(G. Cron.)

d: —

I. WHAT HAS MAN SUBSTITUTED IN THE PLACE OF THE HAPPINESS WHICH MIGHT HAVE BEEN FOUND IN GOD?

1. Philosophy. They have sought enjoyment in calm contemplation on the relation of things, and on the abstract questions of philosophic inquiry. They have sought to raise themselves above suffering by rendering the mind insensible to the common ills of life, and they attempt to separate themselves from the common herd of mortals by their insensibility to the woes which affect the mass of men.

2. A part, men of leisure and of taste, fly to the academic grove, and look for happiness there. They go up the sides of Parnassus, and drink from the Castalian fount, and court the society of the Muses. Their enjoyment and their solace is in the pursuit of elegant literature. Their time is spent in belles-lettres — in the records of historic truth, or in the world of poetry and of fiction.

3. Another portion have substituted the pursuit of wealth in place of religion, and their happiness is there. This has' become almost the universal passion of civilised man. Yet is not happiness so much sought in the pursuit of wealth itself as in that which wealth will procure. He looks on to the old age of elegant retirement and leisure which is before him; he sees in vision the comforts which he will be able to draw round him in the splendid mansion and grounds, and in the abundance which his old age will enjoy.

II. HAS THE PLAN SUCCEEDED?

1. What is happiness?(1) It must be adapted to the nature of man or fitted to his true rank or dignity. There must be some permanency, some solid basis on which the superstructure is to be reared.(2) There must be a recognition of immortality. This must be, because man is so made that he cannot wholly forget it.(3) True happiness must be of such a nature that it will not be materially disturbed by the prospect of sickness, the grave, and eternity. "My Athenian guest," says Croesus to Solon, "the voice of fame speaks loudly of your wisdom. I have heard much of your travels; you have been led by a philosophic spirit to visit a considerable portion of the globe. I am here induced to inquire of you what man, of all you have beheld, has seemed to you most truly happy." After one or two unsatisfactory answers, and being pressed still for a reply, Solon said, "I shall not be able to give a satisfactory answer to the question you propose till I know that your scene of life shall have closed with tranquillity. The man of affluence is not in fact more happy than the possessor of a bare competency, unless in addition to his wealth his end be more fortunate. Call no man happy till you know the nature of his death. It is the part of wisdom to look to the event of things; for the Deity often overwhelms with misery those who have formerly been placed at the summit of felicity" (Herod. 1:24, 32). Our happiness must not be of such a nature as to be disturbed by the recognition of death, and the anticipation of a future world.

2. Can happiness be found away from God? My appeal is mainly to experience; and here the argument need not be long. The experience of the world on this point may be divided into two great parts — the recorded and the unrecorded. Of the recorded testimony of the world, I appeal to the records made on sick beds, and in graves; to the disappointments, and cares, and anxieties, evinced all over the world as the result of the revolt in Eden, and of wandering away from God. Recall for one moment what the forsaking of God has done. Whence is sorrow, disappointment, pain, death? The misery of our world all began at that sad hour when man ate the fruit of the forbidden tree. What might not this world have been if man had never forsaken the fountain of living waters! Alexander wept on the throne of the world. Charles V and Diocletian descended from the throne to seek that happiness in the vale of private life, which could never be found in the robes of royalty. Goethe, the celebrated German author, said of himself, in advanced age, "They have called me a child of fortune, nor have I any wish to complain of the course of my life. Yet it has been nothing but labour and sorrow, and I may truly say that in seventy-five years I have not had four weeks of true comfort. It was the constant rolling of a stone that was always to be lifted anew." Who shall record the disappointment of those who seek wealth as their portion? The most instructive part of the history of our world is unwritten — at least is not written among mortals. It is recorded in the book that preserves the memory of human deeds with reference to the judgment, and will be developed only on the final trial It is the record of numberless individual failures and disappointments; the total history of that which makes up the vast experiment in our world to find enjoyment without the friendship of the Most High.

( A. Barnes D. D.)

Broken cisterns that can hold no water.
I. A SINNER'S LIFE IS LABORIOUS. Have your dreams of ease in sin been fulfilled? Have you not found the life of sin to be a toilsome, thankless drudgery? Be honest to your own heart if you cannot confess it to man. Has not sin been an universal deceiver, a cruel, remorseless taskmaster? Have not all the fairy visions of our fancy been converted into bushes of thorns and barren rocks of desolation? God has made the broad road thus to prevent His children walking therein.

II. A SINNER'S WORK IS WORTHLESS. Our grandfathers could tell us what a great noise sounded through Europe in the days of their early youth at the strokes of a great cistern hewer. By a series of marvellous steps the mightiest military genres of modern days reached the cold and tottering summit of imperial power. He had devoted almost superhuman energies of body and mind to the task of hewing out a cistern, he had compelled millions of slaves to assist in this gigantic construction. Strong and glorious as the fabric was, God could not be outwitted; His decree went forth against the cistern, by His iron rod it was broken into a thousand shivers, and the exile of St. Helena sat himself down for weary months and years in the chill shadow of his own "broken cistern which could hold no water," till his own heart broke, and he passed away, to render his account unto God. Power, glory, fame, are but a broken cistern to the soul of man. You may get it by becoming a vestryman, an alderman, a popular novelist, a member of Parliament, a Cabinet minister, or a hundred other ways, but the end will be the same dissatisfaction and unrest which overwhelmed the great Napoleon. Ah, when will saints give as much diligence to their high and holy calling as the servants of pleasure give to theirs?

III. A SINNER'S STATE IS APPALLING. Shall we witness the blindness, madness of our own friends and neighbours, of our fellow citizens, and have no bowels of compassion for them? Let us fervently, kindly, personally appeal to them; lot us watch for their souls, invent wise contrivances, and lovingly use them till the scales fall from their eyes, and we bring them to the Fountain of living waters.

IV. A SINNER'S CONDITION IS NOT HOPELESS. God is still the Fountain of living waters. In Him abides the fulness which alone can supply all the lawful and infinite longings which rise up within the mysterious nature of man. Do we want knowledge, wisdom, love, life, peace, rest, immortality? They are all in God. From Him is ever issuing a stream bearing upon its bosom the richest spiritual blessings His mercy can provide. The grace of God is wider, deeper, richer, than in the era when the prophet of lamentation poured forth his sorrowful strains over the folly of sinners.

(W. A. Esscry.)

Think over these cisterns which have been built, and have been offered to us in our time, and ask whether, after all, they are not broken, obviously broken before our eyes.

1. I thought of the immense part that, a few years ago, secularism seemed to play in the thought of London. A cistern offered to us of this kind, that man should confine his attention to the world in which he lives; that we should seek to make the most of our material and intellectual opportunities here; that we should use our time honestly and well, we should instruct one another in the affairs of the world and of life, but we should remit the consideration of religion and thoughts of God to another world if it ever comes, and not trouble ourselves with them here. That cistern of secularism, at which the men of England have been requested to drink, must always be an unsatisfying cistern — a broken cistern indeed. For what reason? Because you never can silence the deep craving of the human soul; you never can bring man within the limits of time and space, and get him quietly to remain there. If secularism could give us, as we wish, a more equal distribution of opportunities, and if every man had all that the world could offer, every man would still remain unsatisfied. Count Leo Tolstoi has told us himself how in his youth he was a nobleman with every advantage of wealth and education and social position, and, moreover, he was a man in perfect health, and there seemed to be not a cloud to cross his sky. And yet he has told how at that time his deep dissatisfaction and misery were such that he was constantly contemplating suicide.

2. And then I thought of that cistern which has been offered to us under the name of socialism. That cistern is so well constructed, and is so attractive, that I would be the last to deny that waters of a satisfying kind might for a time be stored within it. It proposes to make a framework of society in some future day complete and satisfying, but meanwhile it has no message to the millions of human souls that are passing, as it were, in a dull, dead flood, week by week, day by day, into the silent grave.

3. Then it occurred to me how much we had heard in our time of natural science and physical science as cisterns at which human beings were to quench their thirst. And I remembered how, in my earlier ministry, we were constantly told that the discoveries of science would take the place of religion, and that man would learn to live his life in the world, subject to its many limitations, in the clear light that science sheds upon the development of human life and its possible goal. Then I took up the utterance of a great scientific man today, Sir Henry Thompson, who has published his little pamphlet called "The Unknown God," in order to show us what the creed of science really is. I turn over the pages of Sir Henry Thompson's book and see what a great and candid and earnest scientific man makes of this universe, and of this life in the light of science. When I read his broken and halting conclusions, and see what he offers me as the cup of cold water to quench the ardent thirst of my soul, I cannot hesitate to say, with all reverence to so good, so honest, and sincere a thinker: "My friend, you have brought me to a broken cistern, which can give no water for the thirsty soul of man."

4. And then I thought of that which is much commoner than secularism, socialism, and science, as the solution of human life — I mean the widespread and absolute indifference to all higher things into which so many of our unhappy people fall. The men who seem agreed to live as if they were merely animals upon the earth, like the beasts with lower pleasures, like the beasts with lower pains. The men who put aside altogether ideals and dreams. The men who do not ask for either God or life or eternity. The men who do not concern themselves about moral improvement or the benefit of their fellow creatures, but drift along the path of life an aimless crowd, careless of the world, careless of themselves, indifferent to all that makes life truly worth living and significant. And it seemed to me that this was not so much a cistern which is offered, or even a broken cistern, but a dull, flat pool, a mere stagnant pond where men can never quench their thirst, but where they can be and must be poisoned by the malaria that rises from the stagnant waters. What is to happen to these men if the soul thirst should ever awaken within them? And when I thought of all these broken cisterns that can hold no water, I remembered from my text that meanwhile there is a fountain; it rises there in the far-off Galilean hills, and the stream flows through the thirsty centuries, and where it flows the margin of the stream is green and fertile. And today it seems as if it were in a sense easier to get to the spring than in any other day that has ever been. "If any man thirst let him come unto Me and drink."

(R. F. Herren, D. D.)

I. THE SOUL OF MAN NATURALLY THIRSTS AFTER HAPPINESS.

1. This affords a strong argument for the dignity of the soul, and the certainty of a future state.

2. These inward and insatiable cravings, amidst the high enjoyments of sense and the world, should lead us to God, who alone can felicitate the soul He hath made; should deaden our desires towards the delights of life, and quicken them after those of religion.

II. NOTWITHSTANDING THIS NATIVE THIRST IN THE SOULS OF MEN AFTER HAPPINESS, YET THEY ARE GENERALLY MISTAKEN IN THEIR CHOICE OF IT.

1. There are many who quite mistake the object of their happiness, and place it in those things which are not only foreign from but opposite to it. Wealth, ambition, pleasure.

2. Some are right in their notions of happiness, but seek it the wrong way. Instead of seeking God's favour in the way of righteousness, through the mediation of Christ, by the assistance of His Spirit, they build their hopes of it either on a zeal for speculative opinions, party notions, formal services, modes of worship, voluntary mortifications, impulses of fancy, deep knowledge, rigid faith, or unscriptural austerities.

3. How many are they who have not only right notions of happiness but of the way to it, who yet fall short of it through neglect and indolence; and the fatal influence which the world and the things of it have upon their hearts! whereby they are rendered quite cold, lukewarm, and indifferent, in the things which concern their eternal salvation.

III. MANKIND ARE NATURALLY DISPOSED TO SEEK THEIR HAPPINESS FROM THIS WORLD, WHERE IT IS NOT TO BE FOUND.

1. The pleasures of this life are very scanty and confined. They are but cisterns of water — which can hold no very large quantity — not sufficient to answer all the occasions we may have for it, at least not for any considerable time.

2. They are also insipid and unsatisfying; like water in a cistern, stagnated and exposed to the sun; whereby it not only loses its quick taste and freshness, but contracts scum and dirt and foulness.

3. They are at the same time uncertain, and continually wasting away. The vessel that holds them is leaky.

4. They are not to be had without much pains. Even these broken cisterns we are obliged to hew out to ourselves, and be at great labour to procure.

IV. MEN ARE NATURALLY BACKWARD AND AVERSE TO SEEK THEIR HAPPINESS FROM GOD WHERE ALONE IT IS TO BE FOUND. The folly of this will appear by considering that the pleasures of piety have properties just the reverse of those belonging to worldly pleasures.

1. They are most full and capacious. Not contracted and limited, not diminished by successive draughts, as water in a cistern is — but free, and full, and ever flowing, as water at the fountain head.

2. They are the most exquisite and satisfying delights.

3. They are most durable and imperishable.

4. They are easy to be had. Freely offered.

(J. Mason, M. A.)

I. FORSAKING OF GOD IN CHRIST, AND BETAKING ONESELF TO THE CREATURE IN HIS STEAD, ARE TWO SIGNALLY ILL THINGS.

1. The forsaking of God in Christ.(1) The object forsaken by the hearers of the Gospel must be considered as — God in our nature, for communion with guilty men (Matthew 1:23). God in our nature, ready to communicate His fulness to us, for making us happy in time and eternity (John 4:10). A God we have professed to betake ourselves to for our happiness (Jeremiah 16:19).(2) How sinners forsake God in Christ. Lowering their esteem of Him, the value and honour they had for Him sinking low (Psalm 50:21). The heart's falling off its rest in Him, and turning. restless, so that the fulness of God cannot quiet it (Isaiah 30:15). Ceasing to cleave to Him by faith, and letting go believing gripes of the promise (Hebrews 3:12). Looking out some other way, for something to rest their hearts in (Psalm 4:6). Growing remiss in duties, and slighting opportunities of communion with God a form of duties may be kept up, but the heart is away, what avail they? Having no regard to please Him in their ordinary walk (Ezekiel 23:35). Laying aside the Word for a rule, and regulating themselves by another standard (Psalm 119:53). Forsaking His people for their companions (Proverbs 13:20). Forsaking ordinances and the communion of saints therein (Hebrews 10:25, 26). Throwing away the form of religion, casting off the mask, and giving the swing to their lusts.(3) Why they forsake Him. There is a natural bent to apostasy in all (Hosea 11:7). Many were never truly joined to the Lord, though they seemed to be so: so having never knit with Him, no wonder they fall away from Him (1 John 2:19). They often have some idol of jealousy secretly preserved when they are at their best; and that upon a proper occasion does the business; like the young man in the Gospel, that went away from Christ grieved, because "he had great possessions." Their not pressing it to the sweet of religion, in an experimental feeling of the power of it (Psalm 34:8). The want of a living principle of grace in the heart, that may bear out in all changes of one's condition (Psalm 78:37). They cool like a stone taken from the fire, and wither like a branch that takes not with the stock. Unwatchfulness. Thereby men are stolen off their feet (Proverbs 4:23). A conceit of being able to live without Him (Jeremiah 2:31). Ill company carries many away from God (1 Corinthians 15:33).(4) The ill of sin that is in forsaking God in Christ. It is a downright perversion and deserting of the end of our creation. There is in it a setting up another in the room of God. Fearful ingratitude for the greatest mercy and kindness (Jeremiah 2:2, 12). Notorious unfaithfulness to our kindest Head and Husband (Jeremiah 2:20). Notorious unfaithfulness to our own interest and folly with a witness. An affronting of God before the world, casting dishonour on Him, bearing false witness against Him (Jeremiah 2:31). A practical commendation of the way of the world, contemning God, and seeking their happiness in things that are seen (Proverbs 28:4). A sinning against the remedy of sin, making one's case very hopeless (Hebrews 10:26). An opened sluice for all other sins. The man that forsakes God, exposes himself a prey to all temptations, to be picked up by the first finder (Proverbs 27:8).

2. The betaking of oneself to the creature in God's stead.(1) The object taken up with in God's stead.

(a)It is not God (Deuteronomy 32:21).
(i) It cannot satisfy.
(ii) It cannot profit.

(b)It is the world (1 John 2:15); the great bulky vanity (Ecclesiastes 1:2); the passing world (1 John 2:17); the present evil world (Galatians 1:4).(2) How sinners take up with the creature in God's stead. Raising their esteem of and value for the creature, till it come to overtop their esteem of God in Christ, like Eve with respect to the forbidden fruit. Bending their chief desire towards the creature (Psalm 4:6) to obtain it, and the satisfaction they apprehend is to be found in it. Embracing and knitting with it in love (2 Timothy 4:10). Seeking a rest for their hearts in it. Trusting in it, and having their chief dependence on it, notwithstanding the curse pronounced against such trust (Jeremiah 17:5, 6). Using their chief and most earnest endeavours for it. Rejoicing most in their enjoyment of it, and delighting most in it. Sorrowing most of all for the want of it, under the frowns of it.. Still cleaving to it, under never so many disappointments from it; nor forsaking it, but trying another means, when one misgives (Isaiah 57:10). Following the creature, whithersoever it goes, even quite over the hedge of the law of God.(3) Why sinners take up with the creature in God's stead. Because the heart of man is naturally wedded to the creature; and that bond not being truly broken, it is apt to return upon occasion to its natural bias. Because man's corrupt nature finds a suitableness and agreeableness in the creature to itself (Isaiah 57:10). Because the creature takes by the eye and other senses; God and His favour is the object of faith, which is rare in the world. Because the creature promises a present good, whereas the greatest things of God are reserved to another world. Because, by the power of a strong delusion, conveyed into the nature of man by the serpent in paradise, they expect a satisfaction and happiness in the creature (Genesis 3:5, 6). Because they must needs betake themselves to something within themselves, not being self-sufficient; so, having lost God, they fall of course to the creature in His stead.(4) The ill of this practice, taking up with the creature in God's stead. It is an egregious wrong done to God, and His infinite excellency (Jeremiah 2:11). It is a wrong done to the creature, as being a putting it out of its proper place (Romans 8:21, 22). It is a wrong done to the whole generation of the saints (Psalm 73:12-15). It is an egregious wrong to the sinner's own soul, putting the arrantest cheat upon it that one is capable of (Proverbs 8:36).

II. TO FORSAKE GOD IN CHRIST, AND TAKE THE CREATURE IN HIS STEAD, IS A WRETCHED EXCHANGE.

1. It is an exchanging of a fountain for a cistern.(1) The water in the cistern is borrowed water; that in the fountain is from itself.(2) The water must needs be sweeter and fresher in the fountain than in the cistern.(3) The water in the cistern is no more but a certain measure in the fountain it is unmeasurable.(4) The water in the cistern is mostly very scanty; the fountain is ever full.(5) The water of the cistern is always dreggy; the fountain clear and pure.(6) The water of the cistern is soon dried up; the fountain, never.

2. It is an exchanging of a fountain made ready to our hand, for a cistern that remains to be hewed out by ourselves.(1) The fountain is always ready for us; the cisterns often are unready. There is access at any time to be had unto God, through Christ, by faith (Psalm 46:1). But the creature is an unready help, so that the man's case is often past cure, ere help can be had.(2) The fountain is made ready for us by another hand, the cistern must be prepared by our own (Zechariah 13:1; John 7:37).(3) At the fountain one has nothing to do but drink; but it is no little pains that is necessary to fit out the cistern for us. Hard and sore work (Habakkuk 2:13). Longsome work, that one comes but little speed in. Weary work.

3. It is an exchanging of a fountain for many cisterns.(1) None of them are sufficient, but all defective.(2) There is something disagreeable and vexing in them all (Ecclesiastes 1:14).(3) They enlarge the appetite, but do not satisfy it (Habakkuk 2:5). As one draught of salt water makes the necessity of another, so the gratifying of a lust doth but open its mouth wider; as is evident from the case of those, who having once given themselves loose reins, nothing can prevail to bind them up, till the grace of God change them. They go from ill to worse. Now, this is a wretched exchange; for the access to one fountain is far more ready than to many cisterns. He that has but one door to go to for sufficient supply is certainly in better case than he that must go to many; so he that has the fulness of a God to satisfy himself in, is in circumstances a thousand times better than he who must go from creature to creature for that end. The water is better that is altogether in one fountain, than that which is parted into many cisterns. United force is strongest; and that which is scattered, the farther it is scattered abroad, it is the weaker. It is with greater ease of mind that one may apply to the one fountain, than to the many cisterns. O what ease has the man that goes to God's door for all, in comparison of him who begs at the doors of the creatures, ranging up and down among them! Use — Repent then of this folly, and take the one fountain instead of your many cisterns; go to one God instead of the multitude of created things.Motive 1. — This will contract your cares now so diffusive, lessen your labour, and spare you many a weary foot.Motive 2. — Ye shall find enough in God, that ye shall see no necessity of seeking any happiness without Him (John 4:14); more than shall supply the want of the corn and wine (Psalm 4:7); that shall be commensurable to your whole desire (2 Samuel 23:5).

(T. Boston, D. D.)

I. THE OBJECT FORSAKEN.

1. Sin is an ungrateful rejection of God. The parental bond is broken, the conjugal tie is dissolved, the oath of suretyship is annulled.

2. We cannot forsake God without forsaking our own mercies. Sin is always the act of a suicide; we cannot reject the counsel of God against ourselves without rejecting His blessings also.

3. What is the fountain which Israel hath thus forsaken? Oh! it is deep as the unfathomed sea; free as the unbought air; more healing than Bethesda's pool; fresh as the stream which comes forth from the throne of God and of the Lamb.

II. THE OBJECT PREFERRED.

1. The deadening character of all worldly enjoyments. For all the ends of consolation and encouragement and hope the resources of the world are worse than unavailing; The cisterns are not so empty as they are poisonous.

2. Poor as the world's enjoyments are, they are to be obtained only at great cost and labour. In drinking of "the fountain" you will have to stoop much, to kneel long, and to lie low. In drinking from the "cistern," you will have to labour hard, to drag heavily, and to climb high.

3. Another characteristic of worldly enjoyments is their instability, their transitoriness, their incapacity for yielding any continued happiness, or for "giving a man peace at the last." They are not "cisterns" only, but "broken cisterns"; vessels which let out their contents as fast as they put them in; cisterns "which can hold no water." The world not only palls upon its votaries while drinking of its waters, but its tide is always ebbing away. Not only may we write upon it "Marah" for the bitterness of its taste, but also "Ichabod" for the evanescence of its glory.

(D. Moore, M. A.)

I. The first cistern which attracts our attention is one of SENSUALISM. The youth who is working at it with mallet and chisel, and with hot and fevered face, dreams that the highest enjoyment of life is that which comes through the senses. He will inform you that he regards man as an animal more than anything else, and that it behoves him to listen to the cry of his passions and to satisfy it. He will demand of you why his passions were lodged in his heart, if they were not to govern him. But the sensualist reasons as if he forgets two most important points. He forgets that the passions are no longer what once they were. He reasons as if the soul were still as it was when it came bright and sinless from its Creator's hands; as if its original harmony and balance were undisturbed; as if there had been no obscuration of the moral sense and no inflammation of the passions. And he forgets, too, that while the soul has passions they have their due place assigned them in the economy of our constitution, and that that place is not the throne but the footstool. They can never sit in the throne but by revolt, rebellion, and usurpation. Their position is one of service, a service, too, assigned them by a pure conscience and an enlightened judgment. I said the sensualist forgets these two important points rebut does he not forget another? He strives to hew out a cistern of satisfaction by gratifying his passions; but has he not yet learned from observation, if his own experience has not taught him, that from their very nature the passions can never yield a constant happiness? The more they are indulged, the less they can be gratified. The pampered appetite becomes the jaded appetite, and at length becomes the diseased and ruined appetite. And the man who is hewing out for himself a cistern of sensual pleasure is like the dram drinker, who derives less stimulus and delight from the same quantity every day, who has accordingly to increase the dose to supply the same excitement; who at length gets beyond the range of gratification, but finds that the passion holds him fast in its serpent coils even when all its joys are forever fled.

II. We find another earnest worker who is hewing out a cistern of WEALTH. No sooner do we reach him than he begins to pour out his contempt of the man we have just left. He wonders how it is possible for any one with an atom of sense to spend his life and strength at such a cistern as that — a cistern which, even if it could be made to hold water, proclaims the mean and degraded character of the man who could drink it. Then turning to his own cistern he points with evident pride at this monument of his superior wisdom; expatiates on the various powers of wealth; tells us how "money answereth all things," how it has ministered to the growth of nations, to the development of civilisation, to the creation and sustentation of commerce, to the advancement of the arts and sciences, to the physical and moral improvement of mankind, and even to the extension of the Gospel itself. Now what shall we say to this man? It will not serve any good purpose to call him hard names. You cannot scold a man out of any sin, still less out of the sin of covetousness. Nor must we bluntly deny all that he has said in praise of wealth. It is when we find men mistaking its functions and properties, and labouring to hew out of it a cistern of satisfaction, that we are constrained to remind them that such a cistern will hold no water. Christ speaks of the deceitfulness of riches. I wonder where the man is who can raise an intelligent and experienced protest against the epithet. Wealth is the feeder of avarice, not its satisfaction. It inflames the thirst, it does not quench it. But, would you learn the weakness of wealth as well as its power, look at the narrow limits within which after all its efficacy is bounded. If there are times when one feels that money answereth all things, there are times when one feels still more keenly that it answereth nothing. When the brain becomes bewildered, or its substance begins to yield and soften, what can a man's wealth do for him then? If you travel on the sea, and a destructive storm falls upon your vessel, will the waves that engulph the poor retire in bashful respect for a wealthy man? The digger of this well has said something about the power of wealth: is it not well that he should learn, too, its powerlessness in regard to many of the great needs and sorrows of life? It cannot give you health; it cannot give you talent; it cannot give you the real and abiding respect of your fellow men; it cannot give you peace of mind; it cannot save your wife or children; it cannot avert death and its preliminary horrors and pains from yourself.

III. But we must leave this worker, and make our way to another who is hewing out the cistern of INTELLECTUALISM. He is clearly a higher type of man. There is a refinement about his appearance which shows that his communion has been with the thoughts of poets and philosophers He expatiates on the intrinsic greatness of man; on his immortality; on his reason, that "vision and faculty divine"; on the unapproachable supereminence of man over all the universe around him. Knowledge, he says, is the thing for man. For this we were made. It is the element in which we are to live, and without this there is no life worthy of man. And yet, somehow, there seems a shade of sadness upon that face now that his glowing excitement has passed away. Aye, it is even so. He tells us that he is not yet satisfied; that he is hoping to be; that with all his knowledge he feels more ignorant than wise; that if he gets fresh light he seems only to realise more fully the fact that he is standing on the border of a vaster territory of darkness; that if he solves one mystery it serves but to show a thousand more; and that he has been striving, too, for many years at some difficulties which have hitherto beaten him back in hopeless confusion. We assure him that this need not distress him, for with his limited capacities he cannot expect to understand all things at once, and that while it is true that death will for a moment interrupt his speculations and researches, there is eternity before him with its illimitable scope and opportunities. He is paler now than ever, and seizes convulsively his mallet and chisel, and works away with averted face at his cistern, muttering between every stroke, Death, death; ah! it is death which troubles one. What is death? — what will it be to me? Why should I die? and if I must die, why should I fear to die?

IV. While thus he muses and mutters, let us visit the cistern of MORALITY. Its owner accosts us at once as follows: "And so you have been visiting my learned neighbour yonder. He is incurable, and I would fain believe, insane, He has the fancy, that man is nothing but intellect, and that our whole mission in this world is to acquire knowledge. I have told him once and again, that if this were the chief end of man he need not to have had either affections or conscience, and that we are moral creatures as well as intellectual ones. Now, the cistern which I have been working at for years is the cistern of morality and good living, for it is clear that we ought to love God with all our hearts, and minds, and strength and our neighbours as ourselves; and that, in fact, our happiness lies in this, and in nothing else. And it is delightful to have something which one's own hands have made, to have a righteousness we ourselves have wrought out, and for which we are indebted to no one." Thus speaks the man, and while he speaks we have been looking at the cistern, which is not without its beauty, and which shows traces and proofs of long and careful working; and we have seen, or think we have seen, chinks great and small which do not promise well for the serviceableness of the cistern, if it be meant, as it is meant, to hold water. Has it been made exactly according to the pattern which you have specified, namely, that you love God with all your heart, and all your soul, and all your strength, and your neighbour as yourself? Will it hold any water? And the man, chagrined to have the perfectness of his work called in question, replies: "I know that as yet it will hold no water, but it is not finished. I am striving to fill up the defects and openings with mortar — with the mortar of sorrow for the past, and endeavours to do better for the future." But what, we ask, if the mortar be as porous as the stone? What if it will not hold water any more than the cistern? What if future obedience cannot repair the mischief of the past? What if repentance without Christ itself needs to be repented of? What if even an awakened conscience itself refuses to accept the part for the whole? And what if God say, "By the deeds of the law shall no flesh living be justified"? And what if there be a special condemnation for those who, "going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God"?

V. As we retrace our steps and visit the other cisterns, lo! we find that THE WORKERS WORK NO MORE. The end has come to all. And on the cistern of the scholar we find the inscription, as if traced by a mystic hand, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; but fools despise wisdom and instruction." And on the cistern of the worldling we find, "So is every man that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich towards God." And on the cistern of the sensualist we find, "To be carnally minded is death." And as we look within we find that all is parched and dry as summer dust, and that the description is awfully exact and literal: "Cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water."

(E. Mellor, D. D.)

Whilst two evils are specified, we are not to suppose they are ever committed separately: no man forsakes the living fountain who does not also hew out the broken cistern — for there is a search after happiness in which all men naturally engage; and if they do not seek happiness in God, where alone it may be found, they will inevitably seek it in the creature, though only to be disappointed. Yet notwithstanding that these truths are attested by universal experience, there is continually going on the same forsaking of the fountain, the same hewing out of the cistern, so pathetically and indignantly denounced in the text. There is something very striking in the expression "hewed them out cisterns." What labour does it indicate, what effort, what endurance! Had the cisterns been ready made to their hands, there had not been so much with which to upbraid them. But God has caused that it shall be actually toilsome thing for men to seek happiness in the creature. Witness the diggings, so to speak, of avarice: the painful climbings of ambition: the disgusts and disappointments of sensuality. God makes it an aggravation of the sin of his being forsaken that He is forsaken for that which must demand toil, and then yield disappointment. He sets the "fountain of living waters" in contrast with "broken cisterns" — as though He would point out the vast indignity offered Him, in that what was preferred was so unworthy and insufficient. It is the language not only of jealousy, but of jealousy stung to the very quick by the baseness of the object to which the plighted affection has been unblushingly transferred. "Wonder, O heavens, and be astonished, O earth." God speaks of His people as offering Him this indignity; but He does not speak to His people. He tells His grievance to the material creation, as though even that were more likely to feel and resent it than the beings who were actually guilty of the sin. And ye who are setting up idols for yourselves, ye who, in spite of every demonstration of the uselessness of the endeavour, are striving to be happy without God, we will not reason with you: it were like passing too slight censure on your sin, it were representing it as less blinding, less besotting, than it actually is, to suppose that you would attend to, or feel the force of, an ordinary remonstrance. It may move you more, ye worshippers of visible things, to find yourselves treated as past being reasoned with, than flattered with addresses which suppose in you the full play of the understanding and the judgment. Ye will not hearken: but there are those who witness and wonder at your madness: the visible universe, as if amazed at finding itself searched for that which its own sublime and ceaseless proclamations declare to be nowhere but in God, assumes a listening posture; and whilst the Almighty publishes your infatuation, He hath secured Himself an audience, "whether ye will hear, or whether ye will forbear"; for the accusation is not uttered till there have been this astounding call: "Be astonished, O ye heavens, at this," etc. But let us proceed to the case which is perhaps still more distinctly contemplated by the passage before us — that of the abandonment of the true religion for a false. If ever God discovered Himself as a "fountain of living waters," it was when, in the person of His own Divine Son, He opened on this earth a "fountain for sin and for uncleanness." The justifying virtue of the work of the Redeemer, the sanctifying of that of the Spirit — these include everything of which, as sinful but immortal beings, we can have need: by the former we may have title to the kingdom of heaven, and by the latter be made meet for the glorious inheritance. Nevertheless, can it be said that men in general are ready to close with the Gospel, to partake of it as the parched traveller of the spring found amid the sands? Even where religion is not neglected, what pains are bestowed on the making some system less distasteful to pride, or more complacent to passion, than practical, unadulterated Christianity! What costly effort is given to the compounding the human with the Divine, our own merit with that of Christ; or to the preparing ourselves for the reception of grace, as though it were not grace by which, as well as for which, we are prepared, grace which must fashion the vessel, as well as grace which must fill it. Truly, the cistern is "hewn out," when the fountain is forsaken. Let Christ be unto you "all in all," "made unto you of God, wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption," and the fountain gives a river which, like the rock struck in Horeb, never ceaseth to make glad the believer. But turn away, though by a single step, from Christ, and, oh, the toil, the dissatisfaction, of endeavouring to make — what? "a broken cistern," "a cistern that can hold no water" — if creature comforts are such cisterns to those who seek happiness, creature systems must be to those who seek immortality. For what shall endure the severity of God's scrutiny, but that which is itself of God's appointing and providing

(H. Melvill, B. D.)

The mother of Hume, the philosopher, was once a professor of Christianity. Dazzled by the genius of her son, she followed him into the mazes of scepticism. Years passed and she drew near to the gates of death, and from her dying bed she wrote him the following: "My dear son, — My health has failed me. I am in deep decline. I cannot live long. I am left without hope or consolation, and my mind is sinking into a state of despair. I pray you hasten home to console me, or, at least, write to me the consolations that philosophy affords at the dying hour." Hume was deeply distressed at his mother's letter. His philosophy was "a broken cistern" in which was no water of comfort.

Links
Jeremiah 2:13 NIV
Jeremiah 2:13 NLT
Jeremiah 2:13 ESV
Jeremiah 2:13 NASB
Jeremiah 2:13 KJV

Jeremiah 2:13 Bible Apps
Jeremiah 2:13 Parallel
Jeremiah 2:13 Biblia Paralela
Jeremiah 2:13 Chinese Bible
Jeremiah 2:13 French Bible
Jeremiah 2:13 German Bible

Jeremiah 2:13 Commentaries

Bible Hub
Jeremiah 2:12
Top of Page
Top of Page