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SERMON XXIII.

JEHOIAKIM BURNS THE ROLL.

JEREMIAH xxxvi. 2, 3.

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“ Take thee a roll of a book, and write therein all the words that I

have spoken unto thee against Israel, and against Judah, and against all the nations, from the day I spake unto thee, from the days of Josiah, even unto this day. It may be that the house of Judah will hear all the evil which I purpose to do unto them; that they may return every man from his evil way; that I may

forgive their iniquity and their sin.” THESE words are the commandment of God to his prophet Jeremiah. It shall be the business of my present discourse to set before you, and to apply the whole of the awful but instructive history of which they are a part.

Previously to Jeremiah’s being called to the prophetical office, God's people of the house of Judah had been hastening, with a dreadful obstinacy, to fill up the measure of their sins. Some degree of outward reformation was, indeed, effected by the pious king Josiah : but the nation were not hearty in it, and he was enabled to do but little'. The Lord, in resentment of their hypocrisy, removed him by a premature death; and then they had a succession of weak and wicked princes, of distracted counsels, and of disasters, till the period, not long delayed, of the destruction of

See 2 Kings xxii. xxii.

Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. At the time when the command in the text was given, Jeremiah had been acknowledged as God's prophet about three-and-twenty years. Good Josiah had fallen in battle; his son, Jehoahaz, had been carried away captive into Egypt by the king of that country, Pharaoh-necho, who also brought the land under tribute?; and Jehoiakim, the successor of Jehoahaz, had been reduced to great straits, by a still more powerful monarch than Pharaoh, namely, the king of Babylon; and indeed was so weakened as to be entirely at his mercy'. There was One, however, able to protect him, and who, if He had been duly regarded, would have protected him; the same who had chosen Jerusalem

1 to be his peculiar treasure, the one King of the rulers of the earth. And He, though He had not been called upon, saw fit of his own abundant mercy to bestow yet another warning upon a prince and people going on still in their wickedness. They had had message upon message at the hand of Jeremiah already, but, as it should seem, to no effect. But at length, as the text relates it, the prophet was ordered to prepare a copy of all the messages, and all the warnings, which had been at any time delivered by him; and to publish the whole by reading the volume which should contain them in the ears of all the people. For (saith Jehovah, in his marvellous love and patience), “ It may be that the house of Judah will hear all the evil which I purpose to do unto them; that they may return every man from his evil way; that I may forgive their iniquity and their sin.” Jeremiah did as he was commanded. Some little hope he had that good might follow. But whether it were to prove so or not, he must do his duty. He was shut up*, it is said ; perhaps in prison, that he could not do it himself. But Baruch the scribe wrote the prophecy from his dictation, and then, the time chosen for reading it to the people was the fittest that could have been fixed upon. 2 Kings xxiii. 29–33.

* 2 Kings xxiv. 1. 4 Jer. xxxvi. 3.

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Baruch read it in the chamber of Gemariah the scribe, which, it seems, was situated at the entry of the new gate of the Lord's house; and this was done upon occasion of a day of national humiliation, when a fast had been proclaimed before the Lord, and when, consequently, it might be expected that the people, if they were not wholly hypocrites, should be in something like a proper frame of spirit to listen to the Divine rebuke. It does not appear that Jehoiakim, or any of the principal persons of his court, had humility, or even common decency enough, to attend upon this religious solemnity, though of their own appointment. But one Michaiah, the son of Gemariah, happened to be present, and “ heard,” it is said, “ out of the book, all the

, words of the Lord.” Whether he meant to call the attention of Jehoiakim's princes to what God had spoken, or whether he was only desirous to inform them against Baruch, is not clear; but he went down into the chamber where they were assembled, and gave them a full account of what had passed. Upon this they sent Jehudi, the son of Nethaniah, to fetch Baruch, and when he was come, desired that the prophecy might be read to them also. “So Baruch read it in their ears.” The judgments denounced were terrible, and “they were afraid,” it is said, “both one and other 6.” The godly, I suppose, were afraid, seeing God was so offended, and the wicked astonished at the horror of the punishment. They resolved, however, to tell the king ; but, being well aware of his proud and persecuting spirit, they first desired that Jeremiah and Baruch would provide for their own safety, by hiding themselves. The king seems to have received the tidings that such an awful message had arrived from the Lord, with much scorn and profane indiffer

Yet, as if he just thought it worth while to indulge his curiosity, he sent Jehudi to fetch the roll or volume which contained the prophecy, and would have him read it to him as he sat before the fire. When great men are profane and blasphemous, they 5 Jer. xxvi. 12.

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find no difficulty in having such as themselves about them; and Jehudi appears to have been much such another person as his master. So we read that “ when Jehudi had read three or four leaves, he cut it with the penknife, and cast it into the fire that was on the hearth, until all the roll was consumed in the fire that was on the hearth. Yet they were not afraid,” it is added, “nor rent their garments, neither the king, nor any of his servants that heard all these words. Nevertheless Elnathan and Delaiah and Gemariah had made intercession to the king that he would not burn the roll: but he would not hear them ?.' This feeble effort was enough, they thought, to discharge their consciences; and then, without further resistance, they let the matter take its course. Having offered this deliberate and outrageous insult to Almighty God, and openly set Him at defiance, Jehoiakim’s next endeavour was to lay hands upon his messengers. “ The king commanded to take Baruch the scribe and Jeremiah the prophet 8.” Here, however, he was foiled; God knows how to protect his faithful servants; “The Lord hid them;" and then the history concludes as might have been expected. “ The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, ... saying, Take thee again another roll, and write in it all the former words that were in the first roll, which Jehoiakim the king of Judah hath burned. And thou shalt say to Jehoiakim king of Judah, Thus saith the Lord ; Thou hast burned this roll, saying, Why hast thou written therein, saying, The king of Babylon shall certainly come and destroy this land, and shall cause to cease from thence man and beast? Therefore thus saith the Lord of Jehoiakim king of Judah; He shall have none to sit upon the throne of David : and his dead body shall be cast out in the day to the heat, and in the night to the frost. And I will punish him and his seed and his servants for their iniquity; and I will bring upon them, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and upon the men of Judah, all the evil that I 7 Jer. xxxvi. 23–25.

8 Ver. 26.

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have pronounced against them; but they hearkened not. Then took Jeremiah another roll, and gave it to Baruch the scribe, the son of Neriah; who wrote therein from the mouth of Jeremiah all the words of the book which Jehoiakim king of Judah had burned in the fire: and there were added besides unto them many like words 9.

"He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy"." So it befel this wicked prince and his ungodly people. They scorned the warning; therefore, now they must hear their sentence. The roll is written again, and, for the contempt of the first message, fresh woes are added; and Jehoiakim within a very few years suffered as was foretold, and Jerusalem was taken and burnt with fire. We are to consider, now, the instruction laid

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for ourselves in this awful history.

It appears, then, in the first place, that though that which is committed to the preachers of God's word is a ministry of reconciliation *, a message of peace and good will to sinners, yet it is their duty, without diminishing a word, to declare God's threatenings against sin. They must lift up their voice like the warning trumpet, and show the Lord's people their transgression, and plainly set forth the measure of duty and of self-denial which God requires, and the consequences of impenitence and of going on still in wickedness 5.

If they do not do this, they cannot deliver their own souls, much less be of any use to those who hear them. So saith the Almighty to Ezekiel, and through him to all his ministers to the end of time. “Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me. When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked

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9 Jer. xxxvi. 27-32.

2 Chron. xxxvi. 6–8. 4 See 2 Cor. v. 19.

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Prov. xxix. 1.

2 Chron. xxxvi. 19. 5 See Isa. lviii. 1.

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