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Dehoiakim burneth the roll, but another is written.
[Preached at S. Giles' on the Twentieth Sunday after Trinity, Oct. 1, 1843.]
FROM THE FIRST LESSON FOR EVENING SERVICE.
Jeremiah xxxvi. 21, 23, 32.
“ SO THE KING SENT JEHUDI TO FETCH THE ROLL....AND IT CAME TO PASS, THAT WHEN JEHUDI HAD READ THREE OR FOUR LEAVES, THE KING CUT IT WITH THE PENKNIFE, AND CAST IT INTO THE FIRE ON THE HEARTH UNTIL ALL THE ROLL WAS CONSUMED.... 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 MANY LIKE WORDS."
BAD men are of all men the most foolish. It is the fool, who hath said in his heart, there is no God.' That a man should give himself up, heart and soul, to the service of his Maker, is the truest wisdom, and, if we are only wise unto salvation, there is little else which need concern us. But to live in forgetfulness of Him, who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell, is no proof of superior prudence or good sense; for who can resist His power? And to lead a sort of half-and-half religious life, seems a very strange infatuation, for what can a man say in excuse for himself, who can acknowledge the Lord, and refuse to give unto Him his heart?
In this chapter of the prophecy of Jeremiah, we have put before us for our warning, a singular instance of the folly of a bad man. I say, a remarkable instance, when our eyes are enlightened to behold it, but yet one which is fearfully common. If we contemplate it merely as a curious historical event, which happened many years ago, and only interesting, as shewing how mad and infatuated were the Jews and their kings during the declining days of the house of David, we had better never read the account at all. Scripture is meant for far more than this. The narratives of Holy Scripture are so many mirrors held up by Almighty God, wherein we may behold ourselves. They put before us vividly our own characters. We see men
acting in a way so foolish and so wicked, that we could not have imagined the case possible. But there the fact is, written in the pages of eternal truth. And then we examine ourselves, and try the ground of our hearts, and we find we have done just the same: we have acted in a manner just as sinful and just as foolish. This is the way to receive the histories we read in the Bible. They are not meant to shew up this or that person or nation, as a wicked person or a rebellious nation: but they are so many images of fallen man, calling upon us to look into our own hearts, and see whether there be not corresponding forms of sinfulness there. The heart is deceitful above all things, but Almighty God of His goodness unmasks a man's heart to himself in the sacred Book, that so we need not be deceived, but by grace be led in the way everlasting.
Now the narrative we are to consider is as follows. Good king Josiah was dead, slain at Megiddo, fighting against the Egyptians. His son Jehoahaz had been anointed king in his room, but he was a young man, who did evil in the sight of God, and did not serve the Lord, as his father had done. He only reigned three months, and then the king of Egypt deposed him, and carried him to Egypt, where he died, and put the land under a tribute, and set up his brother Eliakim to be king in his stead, giving him the new name of Jehoiakim, as if to signify that he ruled only as his creature, and to remind him, that he had set him up, and that he could put him down. This is the king Jehoiakim, who is mentioned in the chapter we are to consider. He was a young man, only twenty-five years' old when Pharaoh placed him on the throne, · and one, we are told, who did evil in the sight of the Lord.
Now the people of the land were very corrupt, and very far departed from serving God. Josiah had rigorously attempted a reformation, but the disease had spread too far: the whole body of the people was corrupt. He saved his own soul, but when he was dead, the reformation of the country was gone. God sent His prophets continually, with threats and with promises, rising up early and sending them, but it was of no avail. They rejected His counsel and would none of His reproof. One of these merciful calls of Almighty God to repentance was made in the fourth year of king Jehoiakim. God directed Jeremiah the prophet to take and write upon a roll of a book all the words that ever He had spoken against the nations during the whole time of Jeremiah's prophecy. It must have been a fearful book. And the reason of making this book was this: God said, “ 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.”
O the mercy and the long-suffering of God! how should His goodness lead us to repentance! He bears with us long; He warns us of our danger; He shews us the roll of the book, wherein is written “lamentations, and mourning, and woe.” He writes down therein, “the wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the people that forget God;" and again, “ these shall go away into everlasting fire;" and again, “ fear Him who hath power to cast into hell;" and again,“tribulation and anguish on every soul of man that doeth evil;" and