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of the seventy weeks, in which he prefixed the period for • bringing A.M. 3470. in everlasting righteousness by the Messiah,' as well as in giving B.C. 531. the mysterious predictions which probably mark out the time or duration of the power of Antichrist, and, as some suppose, for the commencement of the millennium, or universal reign of saints, which they conceive to be foretold; for the explanation of which we must wait the event."
FROM A.M. 3362, B.C. 642, TO A.M. 3418, B.C. 586.
A.M. 3362. The life and character of the Jewish prophet Daniel were so B.C. 642. evidently associated with the changes of the Assyrian empire, that
we slightly anticipated the regular order of events in placing our record of them in this work immediately after the life of Nebuchadnezzar. We now return to the contemplation of one of the last amongst the series of prophetic lights that adorned the darkest ages of the Jewish commonwealth, in the character and predictions of JEREMIAH, who was also the earliest prophet of the Babylonish captivity itself, and connected with the several stages of its completion.
It was the fate of this prophet, like that of Cassandra, always to Cassandra. speak the truth, and never to be believed; and, in the clearest
exhibitions of impending judgment, to find that, according to the ancient adage, “whom God will destroy, he first deprives of understanding.” One could be ready to conclude, that the poets of antiquity had copied the character of their celebrated prophetess from that of this illustrious man, so entirely do they agree in temper and in circumstances. In both we find an inflexible integrity, never yielding to threatenings and penalties; in both a high spirit of patriotism, pouring out its illimitable griefs
And I will fill them with prophetic tears!
Cry, Trojans, cry! lend me ten thousand eyes, in both a participation in the sufferings which they foresaw, but could not ward off; and a large personal share in the miseries of a captivity ever before their own eyes, but never to be impressed upon others. In whatever sense the ancients might have used their adage, it is employed here only to illustrate the position, that the obstinate unbelief of the Jews, relative to their approaching destruction, undoubtedly accelerated its accomplishment, and rendered its consequences inevitable. A melancholy illustration of this position will appear as we detail the leading features of the life of this prophet; which will also furnish some additional circumstances accompanying
the fall of the empire of Judah. His birth. Jeremiah was the son of Hilkiah, one of the priests of Anathoth,
in Benjamin. He affirms himself to have been set apart from his
birth to his difficult and glorious office, and his pretensions are A.M. 3362. well supported by the fact, that he began to prophesy in the B.C. 642. thirteenth year of the reign of Josiah, when he could have been Early only about fourteen years old. Terrified at so awful and hazardous of
ministry a commission, at an age so immature, in times so dangerous, he B.C. 628. would have excused himself from his arduous task; but his appointment was ratified by new charges; and, sustained by correspondent promises, he entered upon his office, which he exercised until the destruction of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans, through a space of more than forty years. It is generally thought that he died in Egypt, about two years after the captivity. Of his private history little Private can be ascertained as apart from the public affairs of his country;
my history. and that which is blended with them presents us only a series of privations and persecutions.
The privations of the prophets extended over all their circum- Privations. stances, and reached to the most endearing relations of human life. They were obliged to conform in their diet and manner of living to such severities as might best prefigure the horrors of famine, the straitness of a siege, and the miseries of war—of all of which they were appointed as tokens—and were often required to sacrifice to their prophetic duties and station their domestic and social ties and comforts. Thus Jeremiah not only shared the horrors of war and captivity with his people, but yielded many indulgences yet within his power, as a type of impending judgment, and was even forbidden to marry. We have already seen, in the account of Hosea, that prophet's choice directed by the circumstances to be symbolized rather than by his inclinations; when that which was allowed by his country was strictly enjoined upon him—a temporary marriage with a woman of loose character. And we shall hereafter see Ezekiel suffering the severest domestic loss—a wife of his choice, “the delight of his eyes, taken away at a stroke,”—as a sign of the sudden disruption of all social ties, about to be produced by the calamities hanging over the Jewish nation. These, and similar circumstances, rendered the prophetic office not an enviable distinction; and fully account for the reluctance with which it was generally undertaken, of which Jeremiah is an example. A post of so much difficulty and danger, and the distinctions of which, purely of a spiritual kind, were hid in the midst of so much peril, could have no fascinations for an ambitious spirit, and would effectually repress every attempt at deception, since no impostor could be willing to hazard so much for an uncertain renown. Some men can better encounter perils than endure privations—they will brave danger, but cannot practise self-denial. The prophets were inured to both ; Persecuthey were prepared for persecution by habitual poverty, restraint, tions. and resignation; they had been taught, by repeated and painful triils, to submit their will wholly to the will of God, to relinquish, without murmuring, their dearest interests, and to sacrifice private
B.C. 628. feeling to the public welfare. These privations were followed by
persecutions as bitter as they were unmerited. Jeremiah was premonished as to the character of his glorious but painful career, and encouraged to meet its severest afflictions. He who called him to the field girded him for the fight, but did not conceal from him the sharpness of the conflict. “Behold, I have made thee, this day, a defenced city, and an iron pillar, and brazen walls, against the whole land”—“and they shall fight against thee, but they shall not prevail against thee; for I am with thee, saith the Lord, to deliver thee.” After such a premonition, we are prepared for a life of suffering and sorrow on the part of the individual to whom it is addressed; we expect to find great mental qualities and distinguished virtues develop themselves in situations of unequalled peril, and finally triumphing over calumny and calamity. Such conclusions are fully justified in the chequered life of this eminent servant of God.
The prophecies of Jeremiah turn upon two points—the sins of Judah, and their captivity by Nebuchadnezzar. These are the great incidents, presented in a variety of forms and an amazing amplitude of detail; the other subjects of his predictions are incidental and collateral. They were conveyed partly by preaching, and partly in writing; before the captivity, he delivered them himself, from his own lips, at different times, before all ranks, in various places—after that event they were propagated by writing
exclusively. Vision of the His commission opened with a vision of “a rod of an almond
tree”—the rod, a symbol of punishment—the tree, of which it was made, a signal of its near approach: the almond tree, being the most forward of all trees, is called, in Hebrew, the hasty tree, and became a proper and impressive sign of impending and swift destruc
tion. This was instantly followed by the vision of “a seethingseething
pot,” with its aspect “ toward the north:” the boiling vessel prefiguring the internal commotions which should arise in the state, or the circumstances under which the Jewish nation should be melted and consumed ; and the direction of the face of the pot towards the
i The wood, blossoms, and fruit of the made of this wood, as emblematical of the almond tree,' have each been made vigilance required' in their duties, Num. emblematical of scripture truth. Pliny, xvii. 6—8, and Aaron's rod distinguished Nat. Hist. Lib. XVI. Cap. 25, says, him as God's peculiar servant, by miracuFloret prima omnium aniygdala, mense lously bringing forth this fruit. SoloJanuario, Martio vero pomum maturat; mon, alluding perhaps both to its early and Dr. Shaw, in his Travels, speaks of appearance and white blossom, describes it as the most early bearing fruit in Bar- the approach of old age by the phrase, bary. Its Hebrew root 17w, signifies to “the almond tree shall flourish."" "The watch or waken; and when the prophet almond tree flourished around Smyrna," Jeremiah was first commissioned to de- says Hasselquist, in his Travels, *Febliver the will of God to the Jews, he was ruary 12, on bare boughs." The bowls shown “a rod of an almond tree,” for of the golden candlestick were made sy '98 Tu, “ I am hastening," it was said, of the graceful shape of this fruit, and or am' watching, or waking over “my here the light was never to be suffered word to perform it.” The rods of the to decline. chief of the tribes seem each to have been
north, distinctively pointing out from what quarter the affliction B.C. 628. should come. Thence he proceeded, as he was inspired by prophetic impulses, to reprove the inhabitants of his country for their Reproves idolatry; and to show them that they not only had broken the ties idolatry. of gratitude arising out of their peculiar relation to the Deity, but that they had committed an outrage unknown to the heathen world, by an act of religious infidelity never practised among the nations towards their idols. “ For, pass over the isles of Chittim, and see: and send unto Kedar, and consider diligently, and see if there be such a thing: hath a nation changed their gods, which yet are no gods? but my people have changed their glory for that which doth not profit! Be astonished, 0 ye heavens, at this, and be horribly afraid ; be ye very desolate, saith the Lord!” This short, but glowing passage, will serve to show the mingled ardour and tenderness, fidelity and compassion, which characterize the predictions of this writer. Among other things, he threatens them, that they should be ashamed of Egypt, in which they had hitherto placed so much confidence, as they had been before disappointed in Assyria. The power of Chaldea was collecting itself gradually to overwhelm that once proud and flourishing empire with a blow from which it has never since recovered. He describes the idolatry of Israel, under the strong image of whoredom; and warns Judah, that as she had partaken of the crime, she must share the punishment: yet the penalty is pronounced with reluctance and infinite pity, and is qualified by many unexpected mitigations. The Father of the families of the whole earth, when he rises to punish his guilty children, never forgets his paternal character; and teaches his prophets to mingle promises with threatenings, mercy with judgment, and lamentations with accusations. This is a spirit pervading Scripture prophecy, but never more conspicuous than in the predictions of Jeremiah.
While the prophet was pleading with his apostate and profligate B.c. 610. country, foretelling its dangers, urging it to repentance, and blending all the affections of a patriot with the fidelity of a prophet, that ungrateful country was plotting his destruction: his very relatives Threatened were engaged in the conspiracy; and, in his native place, the town relatives. of Anathoth, one of the possessions of the priesthood, they threatened to make him the victim of the universal resentment. He was unaware of this perfidious purpose, until it was divinely revealed to him; and his enemies were, at the same time, threatened, that, in consequence, they should be themselves utterly destroyed when the day of visitation should come.
These predictions having been delivered in words only, were symbol of followed by fresh symbols. The prophet was commanded to gird his loins with a linen girdle; then to divest himself of it, and to hide it “ in a hole of the rock” by the river Euphrates, where, when the tide flowed, it would be wet, and when it ebbed, would be left dry,
the linen girdle.