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must be that heart which can be unmoved, on contemplating a whole people in the power of a relentless conqueror, every thing they possessed taken for spoil, and they severally, and those whom each best loved, exposed to every indignity, which the lawless passions of the strong can prompt them to inflict in the hour of success on the weak and helpless. May no vain glory of this world, no fellowship with the triumph of the vain glorious, ever make us indifferent to the horrors which follow in the train of war, and which are usually perpetrated most largely at the taking of a city after a siege!
But in the taking of Jerusalem we may observe that there was something which greatly aggravated the horrors of warfare, dreadful as they are. There was the reflexion that God's church, his one only church, was grievously discomfited, that the institutions ordained by Himself from heaven were made to be of none effect, and that his own divine honour would be exposed to reproach on the part of the scornful worshippers of idols. The people now led into captivity had once been preeminent in the favour of the Lord. They whose temple was now burnt had once held it for their chief delight there to worship God according to his will. They could not but compare what they were with what they had been. They could not but well know, that their own flagrant iniquities had exposed them to the woes they suffered. They could not but feel these things to be a great aggravation of the sufferings they were called on to endure. Besides their exposure to shame, and the spoiling of their goods, and the pressure of a famine so severe, that they had exchanged the most precious of their property for food, they had all their most sacred feelings. shocked, all their most dearly cherished hopes cut off, by seeing the heathen enter into the sanctuary of the Lord; a proof, as they could not fail to reckon it, that He had given it up to profanation. It is well if in our troubles the most lively emotions of our grief arise from concern for God's honour, and from compunction for our sinfulness. "The sorrow of the world," as we learn from the apostle, "worketh death." 2 Cor. 7. 10. But when we grieve to think that it is our sin which has entailed our suffering, when the anguish which we suffer arises chiefly from our sense of the divine displeasure, or from our consciousness of having done dishonour to our Lord, then we are in the way to experience the truth of his own most gracious words, "Blessed are they that mourn for they shall be comforted." Matt. 5. 4.
Lord, let us weep thus for sin, and for thy sake; and do Thou dry up our tears! Give us that godly sorrow, which "worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of!" 2 Cor. 7. 10.
Jerusalem bewaileth her fall, confesseth and prayeth.
12 Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow, which is done unto me, wherewith the LORD hath afflicted me in the day of his, fierce anger.
13 From above hath he sent fire into my bones, and it prevaileth against them: he hath spread a net for my feet, he hath turned me back: he hath made me desolate and faint all the day.
14 The yoke of my transgressions is bound by his hand: they are wreathed, and come up upon my neck he hath made my strength to fall, the LORD hath delivered me into their hands, from whom I am notable to rise up. 15 The LORD hath trodden under foot all my mighty men in the midst of me: he hath called an assembly against me to crush my young men: the LORD hath trodden the virgin, the daughter of Judah, as in a winepress.
16 For these things I weep; mine eye, mine eye runneth down with water, because the comforter that should relieve my soul is far from me: my children are desolate, because the enemy prevailed.
17 Zion spreadeth forth her hands, and there is none to com
fort her: the LORD hath commanded concerning Jacob, that his adversaries should be round about him: Jerusalem is as a menstruous woman among them.
18 The LORD is righteous; for I have rebelled against his commandment: hear, I pray you, all people, and behold my sorrow: my virgins and my young men are gone into captivity.
19 I called for my lovers, but they deceived me: my priests and mine elders gave up the ghost in the city, while they sought their meat to relieve their souls.
20 Behold, O LORD; for I am in distress: my bowels are troubled; mine heart is turned within me; for I have grievously rebelled: abroad the sword bereaveth, at home there is as death. 21 They have heard that I sigh there is none to comfort me: all mine enemies have heard of my trouble; they are glad that thou hast done it: thou wilt bring the day that thou hast called, and they shall be like unto me.
22 Let all their wickedness come before thee; and do unto them, as thou hast done unto me for all my transgressions: for my sighs are many, and my heart is faint.
Particulars which give evidence of godly sorrow. Hitherto it is the prophet that has been speaking of the sufferings and sorrows of Jerusalem. The desolated city is now introduced as lamenting for herself. And most piteous is the language here put into her mouth: "Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow, which is done unto me, wherewith the Lord hath afflicted me in
the day of his fierce anger." That all this sorrow and suffering was the visitation of the Lord is the principal thing lamented in this passage. The Lord had sent the consuming fire. The Lord had spread the net, and bound on the yoke. The Lord had made desolate, and weak, and had delivered into the enemies' hand, had trodden the mighty under foot, had gathered together the assailants, and had crushed as in a wine press the city, which his protection had heretofore rendered safe from the assaults of all his enemies. "For these things I weep;" thus the desolated city, or rather the desolated people, and church, express their grief; "for these things I weep; mine eye, mine eye runneth down with water, because the comforter that should relieve my soul is far from me." And again, And again, "The Lord hath commanded concerning Jacob, that his adversaries should be round about him."
Such is also the bitter portion of those sinners, who once have known the happiness of loving and serving God, and of being sensible of his favour and protection, but who have subsequently become estranged by sin, and feel that God is hiding away the light of his countenance from them. Nothing hurts them more than the recollection of the blessings they have lost, and of the inestimable satisfaction, no longer theirs, arising from the testimony of the Spirit in their hearts, witnessing that they are at peace with God, and He at peace with them through Jesus Christ our Lord. Under such painful circumstances it is a great point to be brought to own, as the afflicted church here owns, "The Lord is righteous; for I have rebelled against his commandment." It is a great point to have grace to pray, in words like these, “Behold, O Lord, for I am in distress." And we may add, that it is a proof of reviving faith, and of confidence towards God, when the sinner can express a lively hope in the promised redemption, and in the vengeance which God has undertaken to inflict on the enemy of souls. For He who is brought to acknowledge that God is righteous, and to confess his own sinfulness, he who communicates his grief to God in prayer, and believes that God hears, and will take his part, may lament, but it is with godly sorrow, and his repentance is "unto salvation, not to be repented of." 2 Cor. 7.
May we have grace to trust that the Lord is on our side! May we have hope in his mercy, and confidence in his help, as well as heartfelt conviction of how utterly unworthy we are ourselves of the least of all his mercies! And may He of his great goodness spare us for his dear Son's sake, and make the light of his countenance to shine upon us, henceforth for evermore!
PART VII. 0. T.
Many particulars in the misery of Jerusalem.
1 How hath the Lord covered the daughter of Zion with a cloud in his anger, and cast down from heaven unto the earth the beauty of Israel, and remembered not his footstool in the day of his anger!
2 The LORD hath swallowed up all the habitations of Jacob, and hath not pitied: he hath thrown down in his wrath the strong holds of the daughter of Judah; he hath brought them down to the ground: he hath polluted the kingdom and the princes thereof.
3 He hath cut off in his fierce anger all the horn of Israel: he hath drawn back his right hand from before the enemy, and he burned against Jacob like a flaming fire, which devoureth round about.
4 He hath bent his bow like an enemy: he stood with his right hand as an adversary, and slew all that were pleasant to the eye in the tabernacle of the daughter of Zion: he poured out his fury like fire.
5 The Lord was as an enemy: he hath swallowed up Israel, he hath swallowed up all her palaces: he hath destroyed his strong holds, and hath increased in the daughter of Judah mourning and lamentation.
6 And he hath violently taken away his tabernacle, as if it were of a garden: he hath destroyed his places of the assembly: the LORD hath caused the solemn feasts and sabbaths to be forgotten in Zion, and hath despised in the indignation of his anger the king and
7 The Lord hath cast off his altar, he hath abhorred his sanctuary, he hath given up into the hand of the enemy the walls of her palaces; they have made a noise in the house of the LORD, as in the day of a solemn feast.
8 The LORD hath purposed to destroy the wall of the daughter of Zion: he hath stretched out a line, he hath not withdrawn his hand from destroying: therefore he made the rampart and the wall to lament; they languished together.
9 Her gates are sunk into the ground; he hath destroyed and broken her bars: her king and her princes are among the Gentiles: the law is no more; her prophets also find no vision from the LORD.
10 The elders of the daughter of Zion sit upon the ground, and keep silence: they have cast up dust upon their heads; they have girded themselves with sackcloth: the virgins of Jerusalem hang down their heads to the ground.
11 Mine eyes do fail with tears, my bowels are troubled, my liver is poured upon the earth, for the destruction of the daughter of my people; because the children and the sucklings swoon in the streets of the city.
12 They say to their mothers, Where is corn and wine? when they swooned as the wounded in the streets of the city, when their soul was poured out into their mothers' bosom.
Of standing in awe of the terrors of the Lord.
The expressions of deep grief are naturally vehement, and incoherent. And accordingly the prophet throughout the book of Lamentations uses a great variety of lively images, with little or no order or connexion, to represent the agony of affliction under which God's people were then suffering. By a common figure of speech, the people and their city are spoken of as a woman, whom the Lord in his anger had covered over with a cloud, whose beauty He had utterly destroyed. Next they are as a footstool no longer regarded. Next we read of their habitations swallowed up without mercy, their strong holds thrown down, their kingdom and princes polluted, their horn cut off, and their right hand drawn back from contending with their enemy. Again the Lord is spoken of as a fire burning to consume them, then as an adversary standing ready to slay them, and actually destroying them and spoiling them. The particulars of the desolation are then dwelt upon, and the destruction of the temple is set forth, and the bringing to an end all the temple services, and the suspension of all the ordinances of the Law, and the overthrow of the city walls and gates, and the captivity of the king and princes, and the mourning of the elders and of the virgins, and the famishing of the children at their mothers' breasts.
And all these terrible things are represented as inflicted by the arm and anger of the Lord. All therefore may serve to shew us what terrors He has in store for them, that persist in disobeying his commandments. And this is one use we ought to make of the sight of sorrow, and of our acquaintance with the history of the dreadful ills that mankind are liable to suffer. Who is it that has framed us as we are? Who is it that has endued our bodies and our minds with so lively a sense of pain? Who but He who created us at the first, and who made us what we are by reason of our sin? And when we find, how much we are liable to suffer even here, by his appointment, shall we not tremble to provoke his everlasting displeasure? Much more, when we read in his word, that it was He who inflicted upon his chosen people all the terrible calamities, which follow on being conquered by a merciless enemy, shall we not stand in awe of his judgments? And the more ground we have for thinking that we are his people of a truth, shall we not be so much the more afraid to be disobedient to his will?
Thanks be to Thee, O God, for calling us to be thy people! Thanks be to Thee for warning us, that we must not presume upon our high and holy calling, to please our own selves, but must so much the more earnestly desire and endeavour to please and glorify Thee!