If I say, "I will not mention Him or speak any more in His name," His message becomes a fire burning in my heart, shut up in my bones, and I become weary of holding it in, and I cannot prevail.
Exodus 5:22; Numbers 11:11); and how Elijah faltered beneath his burden (1 Kings 19:4); and John the Baptist (Matthew 11:3); and even the holy Savior himself (John 12:29; Luke 22:42). Such is the stress which doing the will of God amongst wicked men puts upon the human spirit; no wonder that it well-nigh gives way. From the experience, then, of our Savior and of so many of his servants we must all of us who are his servants lay our account with manifold and often great discouragements, and yet more with being tried by the temptation on account of these discouragements to abandon our work altogether and to speak no more in the Name of the Lord. Now, where is the spirit that will resist this temptation, that will prevent the half-formed resolve to cease endeavor from being wholly formed and carried out? There is such a spirit. This strong temptation may be and has been resisted again and again. What is the secret of Christian constancy and steadfastness in the work of the Lord? We have the answer in this verse. However much any of God's servants may be tempted, as Jeremiah was, to give up his work, he still will not do so if, as was the case with Jeremiah, "the Word of the Lord is in his heart as a burning fire shut up in his bones;" then he will be "weary with forbearing," and he will find that he cannot stay. Even as Elihu (Job 27:18), who said, "I am full of matter," etc.; and as Peter (Acts 4:20), and Paul (Acts 17:6; Acts 18:5; 1 Corinthians 9:16); and our Savior (Luke 2:49; Luke 12:50). In all these utterances we have the expression of that spirit which alone can, but surely will, bear up the servant of God amid all his difficulties and hold him steadfast to his duty in spite of every discouragement. But dropping all metaphor, let us inquire into this excellent spirit which renders such service to the tried and desponding soul. It does exist. The records of the mission work of the Church at home and abroad will furnish not a few instances of men and women whose hearts the Lord hath touched, and who, moved by this Divine impulse, have felt themselves constrained to be up and doing, to penetrate the spiritual darkness around them, and to resist the power of the devil everywhere present. Under the influence of this holy zeal, such servants of God have looked upon the heathen, the degraded, the vile, not with the natural eye alone. That revealed to them only a foul mass of vice and cruelty, sensuality and all human degradation. From such scenes and people nature turns away and would let them alone. But amid and beneath all this moral, spiritual, and physical repulsiveness, the ardent soul of God's servant sees jewels which may be won for Christ, spirits which may be regenerated and restored. His eye looks fight on to what, through the grace of the gospel, these degraded ones may become; and absorbed, swallowed up by a holy Christ-like love, he determines to spend and be spent in bringing to bear on that mass of sin and evil the power of that gospel which has done so much already and which is "the power of God unto salvation unto every one that believeth. The Word of God has been in their heart as," etc. There have been times in our history when we have known somewhat of this sacred impulse which fired the soul of the prophet Jeremiah. Have we not known seasons when the impulse was strong on us to say something for God? It has come when we have been preaching or teaching, and we have broken away from the calm, not to say cold, tone in which we have been going on, and have spoken to those before us words which have come up from the very depths of our soul, and we have seen in the countenances of our children or our congregation that they, too, were conscious that they were being spoken to in a manner other than usual, and that portion of the day's lesson or the sermon has been remembered when all the rest has been forgotten. And sometimes this impossibility of keeping silence for God has come to us on the railway Journey, in the quiet walk with a friend or child, or in social converse, or in the casual talk with a stranger into whose society we may have been for a while thrown; and then we have felt we must say something for God, and it has been said feebly, weakly perhaps, but nevertheless the testimony has been borne, the endeavor has been made. God would not let us be silent; we could not stay from speaking; necessity was laid upon us. These are in their measure instances of the same Spirit as that which moved the prophets and apostles of old, though in a far less degree. But it is evident how well it would be for us all who bear Christ's name to possess in far larger measure than we do this holy and irresistible impulse. The spur is what we too often need; how rarely the bridle! not the holding back, but the urging on. Whence, then, comes this sacred and mighty Spirit, under whose influence so many of the saints of God, even as the Son of God, have labored on in spite of all discouragement and suffering and wrong? It is evident, from the history of Jeremiah and of all other faithful servants of God, that the method by which God impelled them to their work was by bestowing on them such gifts as these -
I. THE KNOWLEDGE OF SIN. For he who has this knows how appalling is the evil under which men live. To him this present world and its inhabitants present but one aspect, that of being under a yoke which no man can bear. He has seen the vision of sin, and it was a sight so terrible that he can never forget it. It haunts him, for he knew it was no dream of the night, but a dreadful reality of the day and of every day. It was no chimera, no fiction of his own imagination, but a real and awful power that has ruled men and still is ruling over men. What scenes of beauty it has destroyed! What fearful misery it evermore produces. There was the garden of Eden in all its loveliness, with every fair flower and noble tree, with luscious fruit and every herb fit for the food of man or beast; it was all beautiful, so beautiful that even God pronounced it "very good." And as chief over this fair inheritance there were the first created of our race, in form and mind and soul harmonizing with the beauty and goodness that was all around them. How blest their condition! But the scene changes. We see no longer the garden of Eden, but a weary land bearing thorns and briars; we see, too, haggard and careworn people bending in sore agony over the murdered corpse of their child, murdered by his own brother, their eldest born. What hath wrought this change? An enemy, without doubt, but what enemy? It is sin - the heart of man in rebellion against God. The Bible is full of scenes like these - misery, shame, ruin, death, all, all the work of sin. And sin reigns yet, as he to whom God has given to see the vision of sin knows full well. Who can recount its doings? Who can describe the woes it causes? What ocean would be vast enough to receive the tears it has made to flow? What colors dark enough to depict the moral and spiritual evil it has engendered? And then the sorrows of the souls that are lost, the doom of the accursed of God - the antitype of that which Jesus describes as the "fire that is never quenched, and the worm that never dies." It is the vision of this, - the appalling evil, past, present, and most of all to come, - that has risen up before the soul of him who, beholding those around him under its dominion, finds himself utterly unable to forbear telling them of the Word of the Lord to the end that they may be saved. No wonder that, in view of these dread calamities, "the Word of the Lord was in his heart;" etc.
II. But a further knowledge has been given to him to contribute to this same result. Were the vision of sin all, utter and dreadful despair would be alone left to him; but it is not all. Along with the knowledge of sin there is given to him THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE GOSPEL in the Word of the Lord. It is brought home to his soul, by evidence he cannot question, that the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is the sure remedy for all human ill. He has a deep conviction that trust in the Redeemer, reliance on his atoning death and sacrifice, will bring peace to the conscience, purity to the mind, strength to the will, hope to the heart, and final and eternal acceptance in the presence of God. Very much of what it can do for the soul in this life he knows it has done for him, and he has seen it do yet more for others. He sees, not only the need of such great salvation as God has provided in Christ Jesus for guilty and miserable man, but also the fitness and adaptation and the actual power of this grace of God. Such is his conviction concerning the Word of the Lord, the gospel of the grace of God; and, thus persuaded of its power to bless and save mankind, he hears on all sides, and coming up from all depths of sorrow and sin, the imperative summons to him to tell of this Savior and this salvation, and by no means to keep silence. From every hospital and asylum where the victims of vice and sin are reaping what they have sown; from every prison cell; from every place where the ruined in health, in fortune, in character, and in soul are dragging out the remainder of their wretched life; from every gallows-tree; from every impenitent's grave; and from the sinner's hell; - there comes the solemn adjuration which the apostle so keenly felt, "Woe is unto me if I preach not the gospel!" And not the sins alone, though they most, but the sorrows of mankind also, utter forth the same appeal. For the gospel of the Savior is a healing balm to the sick at heart, oil and wine to the wounded spirit; it is the gospel of consolation, of hope, and of peace to the sorrowing myriads of mankind. Feeling all this, how can it be otherwise that "the Word of the Lord is in his heart as," etc.?
III. But there is one other gift needed to the full possession of that Divine Spirit which finds expression in our text. It is THE KNOWLEDGE OF CHRIST. By this is meant, not merely an acquaintance with and belief in the truths concerning our Lord's nature and work, nor even simply such belief in him as will save the soul, but such knowledge of him as is involved in deep love to him and sympathy with those objects on which his heart is set. To know Christ as your own loving Savior, who has died for you, redeemed and pardoned and accepted you, and given you an inheritance amongst his own; to know him by oft and earnest communion with him, by toil and suffering for him; - this is that knowledge of Christ which, when added on to that other knowledge of sin and of the gospel of which we have already spoken, will lead to that irresistible desire to serve him which his true servants have so often felt and shown. The love of Christ must be the constraining motive, and then there will come love and labor for the souls for whom Christ died. I do not know that it is possible for us to have a deep regard and concern for those whom we have never seen or known unless we see in each individual member of mankind one of the brethren or sisters of Christ, part of Christ's body, one of his members, he being the Head of all. If this be believed, then we see that the soul of each of these men and women, though they may be of different clime and color, and be altogether strange and perhaps repulsive to us, still, the soul of each of them is as precious to Christ as our own, and as capable of honoring and as ready to honor him as was our own. This love of Christ will lead to the love of Christ in all men, for indeed he is in all men, and this will beget a Divine charity which will be ever a mighty motive to seek their good. Then shall we possess the mind which was in him who wept over Jerusalem and prayed for his very murderers. Then shall we willingly bear disappointment, reproach, loss, or aught other ill which may come to us as we toil on in our Master's service. Here, then, in this deep knowledge of sin, of the gospel, and of Christ, have we the secret of that burning zeal which consumed the heart of Jeremiah and of others like minded to him. May God, of his mercy, give to all who labor in his cause this holy and quenchless zeal! Laboring under such impulse, let come what will to us in this world as the result of our toil, we will still labor on. Blessed Lord Jesus Christ, let thy Word be in our hearts as a burning fire, so that when tempted to forbear making mention of thee and speaking any more in thy Name, we may be weary of such forbearing and feel we cannot stay. - C.
I. THE EFFECTS OF DISCOURAGEMENT AS A PIOUS SOUL.
Then I said, I will not make mention of Him nor speak any more in His name.I. JEREMIAH'S MOMENTARY RASHNESS. Oh! it was a rash speech — like the rashness of Job, like the petulance of Jonah. It is useful for us to have set before us the failings of the most distinguished of God's people. We learn from these failings, that after all they were mere men, and "men of like passions with ourselves," that they were encompassed with the same infirmity, that they carried about with them the same weakness, and that therefore the same grace which was triumphant in them in the result can be equally triumphant in our support and in our ultimate victory.
II. HIS MANY AND GREAT DISCOURAGEMENTS.
1. They arose partly from the very nature of his message. His was not a pleasing burden. The message of God's Word is a message of wrath as well as of mercy; there are denunciations in it as well as promises. And we must be as faithful and as earnest in the delivery of the one as we are in the delivery of the other.
2. The unbelief and opposition which that message experienced.
3. Nor were the hearers of Jeremiah satisfied with the discouragement that would be occasioned by their opposition to and unbelief of the message of the prophet; they added to this bitter reproach, misrepresentation and persecution. What though earth meets us with its opposition? What though calumnies are flung against the cause in which we are engaged? We are not looking for earthly honours; we are not seeking the gratitude and encomiums of the world. Our record is with God; our reward is on high. We appeal to His judgment seat; we labour as in His sight.
III. THE PERSEVERANCE, BY WHICH THE COURSE OF THE PROPHET WAS MARKED, NOTWITHSTANDING ALL. Mark, then, it was only a momentary fit of despondency. They are the moments of God's people, that are the seasons of their giving way; it is not the characteristic of their entire life. Though they may now and then say, "I will not make mention of Him nor speak any more in His name," follow them a little — they are at it again, and again, and again; and on to a dying hour, and with their dying breath, that name is on their lips; and when the tongue is silent, it is still engraven on the heart.
(W. H. Cooper.)
Homilist.I. THE POWER OF THE OUTWARD TO INDUCE A GODLY MINISTER TO DISCONTINUE HIS WORK. I will state a few of the things which often induce this depressing state of mind
1. The momentous influences that must spring from our labours. In every sentence we touch cords that shall send their vibrations through the endless future; that shall peal in the thunders of a guilty conscience, or resound in the music of a purified spirit.
2. The incessant draw upon the vital energies of our being. To preach is to teach as well as to exhort and warn; and to teach the Bible requires a knowledge of the Bible, and to know the Bible requires the most earnest, continued, and indefatigable investigation. Physical labour tires some limb, but this labour tires the soul itself; and when the soul is tired, the man himself is tired.
3. The seeming ineffectiveness of his labours.
4. The inconsistent conduct of those who profess to believe the truth.
II. THE STRONGER POWER OF THE INWARD TO INDUCE A GODLY MINISTER TO PERSEVERE IN HIS WORK. Look at this inner force; it is like a "fire." Fire! What a purifying, expanding power! it turns everything to its own nature. So it is with the Word of God. This fire was shut up in the bones of the prophet; it became an irrepressible force. The thoughts that passed his mind about resigning, feel as fuel to increase its force. If a man has God's truth really in him, he must speak it out.
1. This word kindled within him the all-impelling "fire" of philanthropy. Many waters cannot quench love. All the waters of ministerial annoyance, disappointment, anxieties, and labour, shall not quench this "fire," if the Word of God is "shut up in his bones."
2. This word kindled within him the all-impelling "fire" of piety. It filled him with love to God. David felt this "fire" when he said, "I beheld the transgressors, and was grieved." Paul felt this "fire" at Athens, when he "felt his spirit stirred within him."
3. This word kindled within him the all-impelling "fire of hope." The Word of God kindles within us a fire that lights up the future world, and makes us feel that what we are doing, however humble, is great, because it is for eternity.
4. This word kindled within him the strong "fire" of duty. "It is giving in trust," etc. "I am a debtor," says Paul.
1. In our labours for the good of others.
2. In our exertions for our own souls. Such apprehension is most enervating.
II. THE EFFECT OF PIETY ON A DISCOURAGED SOUL.
1. To shame querulous impatience.
2. To resuscitate drooping energies.Conclusion:
1. Expect discouragements in every part of your duty.
2. Make them occasions for glorifying God the more.
(C. Simeon, M. A.)
1. Here is a rash resolution formed.
2. An insuperable obstacle presented to his meditated abandonment of his work.
II. POPULAR DETRACTION SENSITIVELY DEPLORED.
1. Explain the nature of popular detraction.
2. Adduce Scripture precepts respecting the evil of popular detraction.
3. Exhibit Scripture examples of individuals who have felt the scorpion's sting of popular detraction.
4. Analyse more particularly the ease of the prophet as exhibited in the text.
III. DIVINE SUPPORT HAPPILY REALISED.
1. From a sense of the presence and power of God.
2. Expectation of the future failure and confusion of his opposers.
3. From a belief of the omniscience of God.
4. From the efficacy of prayer.Learn —
(1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (J. Redford) (F. B. Meyer, B. A.) (F. B. Meyer, B. A.)
(2) (3) (4) (5) (J. Redford) (F. B. Meyer, B. A.) (F. B. Meyer, B. A.)
(3) (4) (5) (J. Redford) (F. B. Meyer, B. A.) (F. B. Meyer, B. A.)
(J. Redford) (F. B. Meyer, B. A.) (F. B. Meyer, B. A.)
(J. Redford)The Maid of the Mist at the foot of the Falls of Niagara, resisting and gaining upon a stormy torrent, madly rushing past her. Slowly she has worked her way through the mad rush of waters, defying their attempt to bear her back, calmly and serenely pursuing her onward course, without being turned aside, or driven back, or dismayed. And why? Because a burning fire is shut up in her heart, and her engines cannot stay, because impelled in their strong and regular motion. Similarly, within Jeremiah's heart a fire had been lit from the heart of God, and was kept aflame by the continual fuel heaped on it. The difficulty, therefore, with him was, not in speaking, but in keeping silent — not in acting, but in refraining.
(F. B. Meyer, B. A.)
(F. B. Meyer, B. A.)