Jer. iv. 3, 4. Thus sdith the Lord to the men of Judah and
Jerusalem^ Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among
thorns. Circumcise yourselves to the Lord, and take away the
foreskins of your heart, ye men of Judah and inhabitants of
Jerusalem ; lest iny fury come forth like fire, and hum that
none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings.
THE language of the Prophets is highly figurative,
and therefore sometimes dithcult to be understood ;
but, when judiciously explained, it will always be
found highly instructive. Of course, it will not be
right to press a metaphorical expression too far;
nor should an idea that may seem indelicate, be so
touched as to offend the nicest ear^ : but, when the
general import of the metaphor is seen, the subject
contained in it may be prosecuted to great advan-
* This hint should be very strictly attended to, in preaching on such
a text as this.
tage. It is obvious that some very important in-
struction is conveyed in the passage before us : and
it will be found no less applicable to ourselves than
to the Jews of old, if we consider,
I. The duties here enjoined —
These are set forth under two different images ;
the one taken from breaking up fallow ground, and
the other from the Jewish rite of circumcision. To
ascertain the import of those images, we need only
refer to a parallel passage in the prophet Ezekiel,
where the same duties are inculcated in plain and
simple terms ; " Repent and turn from all your
transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin''."
Two duties then are here enjoined ;
1. Repentance —
[The heart of man by nature may justly be compared with
uncultivated ground that is covered with thorns and briers : for it
is obdurate, and altogether unfit for the reception of any good
seed, till it has been *' broken up," and cleared of its noxious
products. Let any one examine his own heart, and he will find
this representation true. As to the outward acts of men, there
certainly is a great difference, yea, and in their inward dispositions
too ; but in respect of love to God and delight in his service, all
are on the same level ; " the carnal mind is enmity against God,
for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be"^.**
It is full of " earthly, sensual, devilish " aflfections, which must be
rooted up, before the graces of God's Spirit can grow within it.
But this cannot be done by a slight and superficial work : the plough
must enter into the very soul, as it did on the day of Pentecost :
we must be made to feel our desert and danger, and be brought
to the condition of the poor repenting publican'*. Let every
Child of man bear this in mind ; for it is " the broken and con-
trite heart alone, which God will not despise ;" and " except ye
thus repent, ye must all inevitably perish. ^'J
2. Amendment —
[Circumcision was not only ^' a seal" on God's part, mark-
ing Israel for his own peculiar people, but it was a sign also on
the part of Israel, denoting their obligation to " put off the
body of the sins of the flesh %" and to love and serve God with
all their hearts^ In this sense, though the rite itself is super-
seded by Baptism, the term may justly be applied to us. We
'' Ezek. xviii. 30. * Rom. vlii. 7. * Luke xviii. 13.
•Col. ii. 1 1. ' Dent, xxx, Q.
VOL. VI. e
18 JEREMIAH, IV. 3, 4. [549-.
must have " our hearts circumcised unto the Lord :" we must
'^ mortify our earthly members s," and " put off the old man
which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts''." Whatever
pain it may occasion us to part with '• our besetting sins," (for
circumcision was a painful rite,) it must be submitted to, even
as a man gladly parts with a diseased member for the preset vation
of his whole body. Our blessed Lord assures us, that if we
wilfully retain one bosom lust, we must peiibh in that " fire that
never shall be quenched'."]
This awful truth being so strongly marked in our
text, we will proceed to shew,
II. The connexion between these duties and the
Divine favour —
. In its primary sense, the threatening in our text
may be considered as denouncing temporal judg-
ments on the Jewish nation : but it must also be
understood in reference to those eternal judgments
which we all have merited by our iniquities. For
the averting of those judgments, repentance and
amendment are indispensably necessary :
! . ot, however, in a way of meritorious efficiency —
[It is not possible for man to merit any thing at God's
hands. As transgressors of his law, we are justly exposed to
his everlasting displeasure'': and, if we could perfectly obey his
law in future, our obedience would no more cancel our obligation
to punishment for past disobedience, than our future abstinence
from incurring debts would discharge the debts already incurred.
But the truth is, that every thing we do, is imperfect, and needs
forgiveness on account of its imperfection : and therefore to
dream of meriting pardon by deeds which themselves st;ind in
need of pardon, nm^t be folly in the extreme. There is but one
way of obtaining deliverance from the punishment of sin, and
that is through the blood and righteousness of our Lord Jesus
Christ. It is his meritorious sacrifice which alone expiates the
guilt of sin : and, if we look to any thing else, either in whole or
in part, for pardon and acceptance, we effectually cut ourselves
off from all hope of his salvation. However we may " plough
up the fallow ground, and sow in righteousness, we must reap
in mercy," and in mercy alone^. Salvation is altogether of grace,
through faith™ : and in point of dependence, we must renounce
our best actions as much as our vilest sins.]
2. But
E Col. ill. 5. Gal. v. 24. ' Eph. iv. 22.
' Mark ix. 43—48, '' Rom. ill. \g.
' Hos. X. 12. "Eph. ii. 8,9.
2. But in a way of suitable preparalion —
[Repentance and amendment are necessary both to an ho-
nourable exercise of mercy on God's part, and to a becoming
reception of mercy o?i our part.
If God were not to require humiliation in us, and a mortifica-
tion of our sins, what evidence would there be that He is holy ;
and in what Hght would he appear as the Moral Governor of the
Universe ? Surely he would be thought indifferent about th6
honour of his law, and regardless of the moral character of his
creatures. But he will not so dishonour his own perfections :
and therefore, even when most anxious to display his mercv, he
requires an acknowledgment of sin on our part", and declares,
tliat, if we will not humble ourselves before him, he will proceed
against us with deserved rigour°.
But if we could conceive that God should pardon an unrepent-
ing sinner, the sinner himself would not value a pardon so
offered : he would rather think it an insult than a favour : for,
whilst he is unconscious that he deserves the wrath of God, he
would account it an injustice even to be supposed to merit it.
Again, suppose the pardon actually bestowed, what gratitude
would lie feel for the gift bestowed ? or what endeavours would
he make to glorify God in future ? Would he not account sin a
light matter ? Would he not readily return to it, even " as a
dog to his vomit, or the sow that was washed to her wallowing in
the mire ?" We may ask once more ; supposing him forgiven,
how could he join in the songs of the Redeemed above ? They are
prostrating themselves with profoundest adoration before the
throne of God, and singing praises incessantly '^ to Him that
loved them, and washed them from their sins in his own blood :"
but he has no heart for such exercises : instead of magnifying his
God and Saviour for the greatness of his mercy towards him, he
would be congratulating himself that he had never merited any
other portion.
Here then the connexion between these duties and our forgive-
ness is manifest : it is founded, not in any vain ideas of merit,
but in the immutable decrees of God : God camiot dishonour
himself; nor can man be saved in any other way, than by " con-
fessing and forsaking his iniquities p. "j
1 . Those who have never yet been awakened to a
sense of their sins —
[Alas [ 'now many amongst us are yet " uncircumcised in
heart and ears?" How many have never yet wept and mourned
in secret for their sins, and never adopted the resolution of the
Prodigal, " I will arise and go to my Father." But God forbid
•^16^111.12,13. "Jer. ii. 35. '' Prov. xxviii. 13,
20 JEREMIAH, IV. 3, 4. [549;
that they should continue any longer in such fatal security.
Hear, every one of you, the conimand of God : " Be afflicted
and mourn and weep ; let your laughter be turned into mourning,
and your joy into heaviness : hna)ble yourselves in the sight of
the Lord, and he shall life you up''." This, this is the great
business of life : in comparison of this, every pursuit is light
and vain. " To flee from the wrath to come, and to lay hold
on eternal life !" O who can paint in sufficiently glowing colours
the importance and excellency of such an employment ?
Some may perhaps reply, that they cannot do these things.
True, we cannot of ourselves ; but will not God enable us to do
them, if we seek the aid of his Holy Spirit ? Has he not ex-
pressly told us, that his " grace shall be sufficient for us ?" I say
then, " Plough up your fallow ground ;" " make you a new
heart, and a new spirit :" and when you find your own insuffi-
ciency, then plead with God the promises he has made, and cry,
*' Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit
within me"^!" That prayer, if offered in faith, shall surely be
answered ; and you shall find to your joy, that you " can do all
things through Christ who strengtheneth you."]
1. Those who make a profession of religion —
[Do not imagine that it is sufficient to break up the fallow
ground owce; the husbandman ploughs his ground often, espe-
cially if it be a soil that is full of noxious plants. Thus then
must you do : there is no soil so bad as the heart of a carnal
man : weeds are growing up continually : and it must be the
labour of your life to pluck them up. How many professors of
religion have the good seed choked and rendered unfruitful,
through their negligence in pulling up the thorns and briers that
grow up with it^ ! It is an awful truth, that no people are far-
ther from the kingdom of God than they ; because they are of
all persons the most difficult to be brought to a sense of their
danger. But St. Paul marks in very striking terms the difference
between such persons and the true Christian : against those he
cautions us, " Beware of dogs, beware of the concision : we are
the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, and rejoice in
Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh*." A pro-
fession of religion, however clear your knowledge of the Gospel
may be, will not suffice : for " he is not a Jew who is one out-
wardly, neither is that circumcision which is outward in the
flesh : but he is a Jew who is one inwardly ; and circumcision is
that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter ; whose
praise is not of men, but of God "."J
*< Jam iv. g, IQ.
¦¦ Compare the command, Ezek. xviii. 31. with the promise, Ezek.
xxxvi. 2t). and the peiiiion, Ps. li. 10.
• Matt. xiil. 7, 22. ' Phil. iii. 2, 3.
" Rom. ii. 28, 29. See also ib. ver. 25 — 27.

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