תמונות בעמוד

a great fair and holiday. On this day the people of the neighboring villages brought for sale their figs and grapes and wine and vegetables ; on this day the wine-presses were trodden in the country, and the harvest was carried to the threshing-floors. The preacher made himself especially odious for his rebuke for the violation of the Sabbath. “Come,” said his enemies to the crowd, " let us lay a plot against him; let us smite him with the tongue by reporting his words to the king, and bearing false witness against him.” On this renewed persecution the prophet does not as usual give way to lamentation, but hurls his maledictions. “O Jehovah! give thou their sons to hunger, deliver them to the sword ; let their wives be made childless and widows ; let their strong men be given over to death, and their young men be smitten with the sword.”

And to consummate, as it were, his threats of divine punishment so soon to be visited on the degenerate city, Jeremiah is directed to buy an earthenware bottle, such as was used by the peasants to hold their drinking-water, and to summon the elders and priests of Jerusalem to the southwestern corner of the city, and to throw before their feet the bottle and shiver it in pieces, as a significant symbol of the approaching fall of the city, to be destroyed as utterly as the shattered jar. “And I will empty out in the dust, says Jehovan, the counsels of Judah and Jerusalem, as this water is now poured from the bottle. And I will cause them to fall by the sword before their enemies and by the hands of those that seek their lives; and I will give their corpses for meat to the birds of heaven and the beasts of the earth; and I will make this city an astonishment and a scoffing. Every one that passes by it will be astonished and hiss at its misfortunes. Even so will I shatter this people and this city, as this bottle, which cannot be made whole again, has been shattered.” Nor was Jeremiah contented to utter these fearful maledictions to the priests and elders ; he made his way to the Temple, and taking his stand among the people, he reiterated, amid a storm of hisses, mockeries, and threats, what he had ust declared to a smaller audience in reference to Jerusalem.

Such an appalling announcement of calamities, and in such strong and plain language, must have transported his hearers with fear or with wrath. He was either the ambassador of Heaven, before whose voice the people in the time of Elijah would have quaked with unutterable anguish, or a madman who was no longer to be endured. We have no record of any prophet or any preacher who ever used language so terrible or so daring. Even Luther never hurled such maledictions on the church which he called the “scarlet mother.” Jeremiah uttered no vague generalities, but brought the matter home with awful directness. Among his auditors was Pashur, the chief governor of the Temple, and a priest by birth. He at once ordered the Temple police to seize the bold and outspoken prophet, who was forthwith punished for his plain speaking by the bastinado, and then hurried bleeding to the stocks, into which his head and feet and hands were rudely thrust, to spend the night amid the jeers of the crowd and the cold dews of the season. In the morning he was set free, his enemies thinking that he now would hold his tongue ; but Jeremiah, so far froin keeping silence, renewed his threats of divine vengeance. “For thus saith Jehovah, I will give all Judah into the hands of the king of Babylon, and he shall carry them captive to Babylon, and slay them with the sword.” And then turning to Pashur, before the astonished attendants, he exclaimed: “And thou, Pashur, and all that dwell in thy house, will be dragged off into captivity; and thou wilt come to Babylon, and thou wilt die and be buried there, -thou and all thy partisans to whom thou hast prophesied lies.”

We observe in these angry words of Jeremiah great directness and great minuteness, so that his meaning could not be mistaken; also that the instrument of punishment on the degenerate and godless city was

to be the king of Babylon, a new power from whom Judah as yet had received no harm. The old enemies of the Hebrews were the Assyrians and Egyptians, not the Babylonians and Medes.

Whatever may have been the malignant animosity of Pashur, he was evidently afraid to molest the awful prophet and preacher any further, for Jeremiah was no insignificant person at Jerusalem. He was not only recognized as a prophet of Jehovah, but he had been the friend and counsellor of King Josiah, and was the leading statesman of the day in the ranks of the opposition. But distinguished as he was, his voice was disregarded, and he was probably looked upon as an old croaker, whose gloomy views had no reason to sustain them. Was not Jerusalem strong in her defences, and impregnable in the eyes of the people; and was she not regarded as under the special protection of the Deity ? Suppose some austere priest — say such a man as the Abbé Lacordaire — had risen from the pulpit of Notre Dame or the Madeleine, a year before the battle of Sedan, and announced to the fashionable congregation assembled to hear his eloquence, and among them the ministers of Louis Napoleon, that in a short time Paris would be surrounded by conquering armies, and would endure all the horrors of a siege, and that the famine would be so great that the city would surrender and be at the entire mercy of the conquerors, — would he have been believed? Would not the people have regarded him as a madman, great as was his eloquence, or as the most gloomy of pessimists, for whom they would have felt contempt or bitter wrath? And had he added to his predictions of ruin, utterly inconceivable by the giddy, pleasure-seeking, atheistic people, the most scathing denunciations of the prevailing sins of that godless city, all the more powerful because they were true, addressed to all classes alike, positive, direct, bold, without favor and without fear, — would they not have been stirred to violence, and subjected him to any chastisement in their power ? If Socrates, by provoking questions and fearless irony, drove the Athenians to such wrath that they took his life, even when everybody knew that he was the greatest and best man at Athens, how much more savage and malignant must have been the narrow-minded Jews when Jeremiah laid bare to them their sins and the impotency of their gods, and the certainty of retribution !

Yet vehement, or direct, or plain as were Jeremiah's denunciations to the idol-worshippers of Jerusalem in the seventh century before it was finally destroyed by Titus, he was no more severe than when Jesus denounced the hypocrisy of the Scribes and Pharisees, no more mournful than when he lamented over the approaching ruin of the Temple. Therefore they sought

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