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« Reply #90 on: March 26, 2008, 12:10:07 AM »

JEREMIAH PRIEST AND PROPHET
XVI.  JEREMIAH'S GRANDEST ODE
BY F. B. MEYER, B.A.

(Jeremiah 51.)

"God spake, and gave us the word to keep;
Bade never fold the hands, nor sleep
'Mid a faithless world -- at watch and ward,
Till Christ at the end relieve our guard.
By his servant Moses the watch was set:
Though near upon cock-crow, we keep it yet."
BROWNING.

IT was a very deserted Jerusalem in which Jeremiah dwelt, after King Jehoiachin, his household and court, princes and mighty men of valor, had been carried off to Babylon. It was impossible to take ten thousand of those that constituted the bone and muscle of the state without leaving an attenuated and weakened residuum. Still the fertility and natural resources of the land were so considerable as to give hope of its comparative prosperity, as a trailing vine dependent on Babylon (Ezekiel 17.).

Mattaniah, the third son of Josiah -- who was a boy of tell years of age when tidings came of the awful catastrophe at Megiddo, but who was now in his twenty-first year -- was called to the throne by the conqueror, and required to hold it under a solemn oath of allegiance, which was asseverated and sanctioned by an appeal to Jehovah himself. It was as though the heathen monarch thought to make insubordination impossible on the part of the young monarch, since his word of honor was ratified under such solemn and august conditions -- conditions which under similar circumstances the heathen king would probably have felt binding and final. Alas! how often heathen men have attached an importance to religious appeals which has shamed religious professors! And how often they must have marveled that we could so lightly disregard them! (2 Chronicles 36:13; Ezekiel 17:13).

At the instance of his conqueror the young king took the name Zedekiah, "the righteousness of Jehovah." It was an auspicious sign; every encouragement was given him to follow in the footsteps of his illustrious father. And throughout his reign he gave evident tokens of desiring better things; but he was weak and irresolute, lacking the strength of purpose necessary to assert himself for good amid the confused counsels that agitated his court. He respected Jeremiah, but did not dare publicly to espouse his cause, showing him his royal favor by stealth.

Meanwhile the kingdom was violently agitated by rumors from every side, which encouraged the hope that ere long the power of Babylon would be broken and the exiles return. These thoughts were rife among the exiles themselves, as we have seen; they were diligently fostered by the false prophets, who gladly fell in with the current of the popular wish; and there seem to have been various political considerations which favored the expectation of a speedy reversal of conditions that chafed the proud Jewish heart beyond endurance.

About this time there was a revolt in Elam against Babylon. What if this should spread until the empire itself became disintegrated! But Jeremiah, by the voice of God, said, "It shall not be: the bow of Elam shall be broken, her king and princes destroyed, her people scattered toward the four winds of heaven" (Jeremiah 49:34-39).

Then there was the seething discontent of the neighboring peoples, who, though they had accompanied the invader as allies, were eager to regain their independence, and desired to draw Judah into one vast confederacy, with Egypt as its base. "No," said Jeremiah, "it must not be: Nebuchadnezzar is doing the behest of Jehovah; all the nations are to serve him, and his son, and his son's son" (Jeremiah 27:6-7). Perhaps it was at Jeremiah's suggestion that Zedekiah at this time made a journey to Babylon to pay homage to his suzerain and assure him of his fidelity.
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« Reply #91 on: March 26, 2008, 12:12:22 AM »

JEREMIAH PRIEST AND PROPHET
XVI.  JEREMIAH'S GRANDEST ODE
BY F. B. MEYER, B.A.

All through the troubles that followed Jeremiah pursued the same policy. He asserted that the state of the captives in Babylon, as compared with that of the. remnant at Jerusalem, was as good figs to bad (Jeremiah 51:24.); when Pharaoh's army produced a temporary diversion and compelled the Chaldeans to draw off, he said that they would certainly return, set fire to palace and Temple, and burn the city (Jeremiah 51:37.), and his policy was so well known among the Chaldeans that in the final overthrow they gave him his life and allowed him to choose where he would dwell (Jeremiah 51:40.).

Often it must have seemed to his choicest friends as though his advice were pusillanimous and wanting in the courage of faith. Did he really favor Babylon above Jerusalem? Was he traitorous to the best interests of his people? But if ever they entertained such questionings they must have been suddenly and completely disillusionized when he summoned them to hear the tremendous indictment he had composed against Babylon in the early months of Zedekiah's reign, together with the graphic description of its fall. A copy of this prophecy was intrusted to Seraiah, the chief chamberlain, who went in the train of Zedekiah to Babylon, with instructions that he should read it privately to the exiles, and then, weighting it with a stone, cast it into the midst of the Euphrates with the solemn words, that must have thrilled the bystanders: "Thus shall Babylon sink, and shall not rise again, because of the evil which God will bring upon her: and her might shall wax faint" (Jeremiah 51:59-64).

I. THE PROPHECY OF THE FALL OF BABYLON.

(1) The Glory of Babylon.


In glowing imagery Jeremiah depicts her glory and beauty. She had been a golden cup in the hand of Jehovah, his battle-ax and weapons of war. Her influence was carried far and wide. She dwelt by many waters, rich in treasure, and the wonder of the earth. Like a mighty tree, she stretched her branches over the surrounding lands. Queen of the nations, she was at ease and thought to see trouble no more. "Is not this great Babylon," her greatest monarch cried, "which I have built for the royal dwelling-place by the might of my power, and for the glory of my majesty?"

(2) The Divine Controversy.

The Almighty had used her for great purposes of disintegration, doing among the nations much the ,same sort of work that the icebergs did among the rocks of the primitive world, or that the frosts do each winter in pulverizing the dust of the earth. But she had abused for unrighteous and selfish ends the power which God had intrusted to her. Her execution of the divine purpose, her administration of the divine decrees, had been cruel in the extreme. The track of her armies had been marked with ruthless and wanton bloodshed. She had floated to the eminence of another Ararat, on the waters of another flood, an ocean of human suffering. And therefore Jehovah set nets for her, and caught her as a wild beast. He opened his armory and brought out the weapons of his wrath.

But God was especially against Babylon for her treatment of his people. The inhabitants of Zion are introduced, crying, "The king of Babylon has devoured us, he hath crushed us, and he hath filled himself with our delicacies. The violence done to me and mine be upon Babylon." Therefore the Most High would take up their cause and take vengeance on their behalf. "As Babylon caused the slain of Israel to fall, so at Babylon shall fall the slain of all the earth: for the Lord is a God of recompenses; he shall surely requite."
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« Reply #92 on: March 26, 2008, 12:14:14 AM »

JEREMIAH PRIEST AND PROPHET
XVI.  JEREMIAH'S GRANDEST ODE
BY F. B. MEYER, B.A.

(3) The Summons to her Foes.

The standard is reared, and around it, at the sounding of the trumpet, the nations gather. The wild tribes of Ararat and Armenia are there, the kings of the Medes, the governors thereof, and all the lands of her empire. The sure-footed shaggy horses of the mountaineers are like the rough locusts that fill the land with their countless multitudes. Sacrifices are offered to propitiate the gods of battle, and the tide of invasion begins to flow against and around the massive walls of the city. The very earth trembles beneath the weight of the armaments and the tread of the troops. "Behold," the prophet cries, "a people cometh from the north, and a great nation, and many kings shall be stirred up from the uttermost parts of the earth. They lay hold on bow and spear: they are cruel, and have no mercy: their voice roareth like the sea, and they ride upon horses, every one set in array, as a man to the battle, against thee, O daughter of Babylon" (Jeremiah 50:41-42, R.V.).

(4) The Attack.


The archers invest the city on every side so that none may escape. They are bidden to shoot at her and not spare their arrows. Now the battle-shout is raised, and an assault is made against her walls. See! she submits; she gives her hand in token; her bulwarks are fallen; the bars of her gates are broken through; her walls are thrown down; the mighty men of Babylon have forborne to fight; their might has failed; they have become as women. Lo! the fire breaks out amid her dwelling-places. the messengers, running with similar tidings from different quarters of the city, come to show the king of Babylon that the fords are in the hand of the foe and that the city is taken.

(5) The Overthrow of the City.

Then the captured city is given up to the savage soldiery. Nameless wrongs are inflicted on the defenceless and weak. There is plunder enough to satisfy the most rapacious. Her granaries are despoiled, her treasuries ransacked, her stores winnowed. All the captive peoples who had been held by her in cruel bondage go free, and especially the Jews. "Let us forsake her," they cry, "and let us go every one into his own country: for her judgment reacheth unto heaven, and is lifted up even to the skies."

"And now her cities are become a desolation, a dry land, and a desert, a land wherein no man dwelleth, neither cloth any son of man pass through; but the jackals dwell there, and it lies waste from generation to generation, as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah and the neighbor cities thereof."

Such were the predictions of Jeremiah concerning the greatest city which perhaps the world has ever seen, and which was then rising to the zenith of her power and glory. Seventy years were to pass before his words would be fulfilled; but history itself could hardly be more definite and precise. Those who can compare this prophecy with the story of the fall of Babylon, and with the researches of Layard, will find how exactly every detail was repeated, even to the burning of the reeds in the river-bed, the meeting of post with post on the night of its fall, the deep stupor with which the fumes of wine had dazed the brave men of Babylon, and the utter desolation which for centuries has reigned over her site.

"They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone. In the same hour came forth fingers of a man's hand, and wrote over against the candlestick upon the plaster of the wall of the king's palace. In that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain. And Darius the Median took the kingdom."
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« Reply #93 on: March 26, 2008, 12:16:49 AM »

JEREMIAH PRIEST AND PROPHET
XVI.  JEREMIAH'S GRANDEST ODE
BY F. B. MEYER, B.A.

II. BABYLON THE GREAT.


In every age of the world Babylon has had its counterpart. Over against the line of Seth, with its reverence for God, was that of Cain, where arts and science were cradled and nurtured. Babel's tower cast its shadow over the primitive races of mankind. Over against Shem was Ham; over against Abraham, Chedor-laomer; over against Israel, Nineveh; over against Jerusalem, Babylon; over against the Church, Rome; over against the New Jerusalem, Babylon the Great; over against the bride of the Lamb, the scarlet woman riding upon the beast. Where God has built up his kingdom, the devil has always counterfeited it by some travesty of his own.

Jeremiah comforted his heart amid the desolations which fell thick and heavily on his beloved fatherland, by anticipating the inevitable doom of the oppressor. And his words, read amid the exiles of Babylon, as they sat beside the rivers, and wept, and hanged their harps upon the willows, may have inspired that marvelous outburst of faith and patriotism and undying hatred --

"O daughter of Babylon, thou art to be destroyed;
Happy shall he be that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us.
Happy shall he be that taketh and dasheth thy little ones
Against the rock."

In the same way, throughout the persecutions of the empire, when paganism made her awful attempts to stamp out Christianity; and afterward amid the horrors of inquisition, when the Roman Catholic Church sought to extinguish the true light of the gospel, which in no age has been without witnesses, the suffering children of God have turned to the Book of Revelation to read the doom of that antichristian power which, under the guise of paganism or of papalism, always sets itself against God, and is set on by the undying hatred of the devil. Her fate is described in words that strongly recall those of Jeremiah. She, too, had the golden cup, and was drunk with blood, and reigned over the kings of the earth. She, too, is destroyed by a combination of those that had owned her sway. A voice is heard bidding God's people come out from her, lest they be involved in her overthrow. It is rendered unto her as she rendered, and double is mingled into her cup. As Seraiah cast a stone into the Euphrates, so a strong angel casts a great millstone into the sea, saying, "Thus with a mighty fall is Babylon, the great city, cast down, and shall be found no more." And her site becomes the haunt of demons, and a hold of every unclean and hateful bird; the voice of harpers and minstrels forever silenced; the light of the household lamp forever quenched; the voice of the millstone forever still.

Prophetic students have always identified this great persecuting power with Rome, the city of the seven hills; and if this interpretation be correct, without doubt in the millennial age her site will be as desolate as that of Babylon has been for more than two thousand years. But one is disposed to enlarge the scope of the prophecy, and to believe that every form of anti-Christian power, whether systems of false philosophy or structures of ancient superstition, or gigantic wrongs like the drink traffic and the opium trade, shall wither and die before the all-conquering might of Immanuel, who was manifested to destroy the works of the devil. He must reign till all enemies are put beneath his feet. Then shall be heard in heaven the voice of a great multitude, as the voice of many waters and as the voice of mighty thunders, saying, "Hallelujah: for the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigneth."

Let us strengthen our confidence in the certain prevalence of good over evil, of the Church over the world, and of Christ over Satan, as we consider the precise fulfillment of Jeremiah's predictions concerning the fall of Babylon. "So let all thine enemies perish, O Lord: but let them that love thee be as the sun when he goeth forth in his might."
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« Reply #94 on: March 26, 2008, 12:18:57 AM »

JEREMIAH PRIEST AND PROPHET
XVI.  JEREMIAH'S GRANDEST ODE
BY F. B. MEYER, B.A.

III. OUR OWN BABYLON.

Each heart has its special form of sin to which it is liable, and by yielding to which it has been perpetually overthrown. How bitter have been your tears and self-reproach! How you have chafed and foamed beneath the strong iron bit of your tyrant! How hopeless your struggles to escape from the tormenting net, whose meshes refused to break, while every plunge only entangled you more tightly in its folds!

But there is a deliverance for you, as for those weak and misguided but suffering Jews. How exactly your life-history is delineated in theirs! They were the children of God; so are you. They might have lived in an impregnable fortress of God's covenant protection; so might you. They forfeited this by their disobedience and unbelief; so have you. They tried to compensate for the loss of God's keeping power by heroic resolutions and efforts, and by alliance with neighboring peoples; so have you. They utterly failed, and were crushed as a moth in a child's hand; so has it been with you. They almost renounced hope; this, too, is your case -- you hardly dare hope for deliverance. But as God saved them by his own right hand, so will he save you. And as Babylon was so utterly quelled that it ceased to be an object of alarm, so God is able so entirely to deliver you that you shall no more fear or be afraid; you shall see the bodies of your taskmasters dead upon the sea-shore.

Accept these rules if you would have this blessed deliverance:

(1) Put out of your life all known sin.

Are there vows that ought never to have been made? Recall them! Are there wrongs that lie back in the past, which can be righted? Right them! Are there secret habits and practices which eat out your heart? Be willing to-be set free, and deliberately tell God so. So far as you are concerned, put away the idols that have provoked God to jealousy.

(2) Intrust the keeping of your soul to God.

You cannot control it, but he can. He made you, and must be able to keep you. One of his angels has power enough to bind the devil; surely then the Lord of all angels can deliver you from the accursed demons that make sport of you. If Christ in his human weakness cleared the Temple, he must be able to drive the foul things from your heart, and when once they are out it will be easy for him to keep them out. In his ascension he was raised above all the principalities and powers of darkness, and you were raised with him, too, if you only knew it; certainly the living Christ can tread your lion and dragon beneath his feet. You cannot, but he can. Put the case deliberately, thoughtfully, calmly into his hand. Do not say, "I will try," but, "I will trust." Do not look at your faith, but at him. Do not cry, "Help me! "for that implies that you are going to do some and he some, and your part will inevitably vitiate all; but cry, "Keep me!" thus throwing the entire responsibility on him.

(3) Reckon that the Almighty Saviour accepts your deposit at the moment of your making it.

As it leaves your hand it passes into his. Be sure that he has undertaken it all for you. Do not try to feel that he has, but reckon that he has. Do not go over and over the act of committal to see whether it was rightly done. Make it as well as you can, or ask him to take what you but ineffectively transfer. Never doubt that he reads your motive and desire, even though you fail to do as you would, and that he accepts the eager willing for the perfect doing. Then steadfastly resist every suggestion to doubt him. Dare to say a hundred times a day, "Jesus is able to keep that which I have committed to him: I am a worm, weak, witless, worthless; but the Son of God has me in his safe-keeping; he hath delivered, he doth deliver, and I am persuaded that he will yet deliver." You may have no glad emotion, no paean of victory, no share of ecstasy: never mind; lie still and trust him. The lion may roar all around, but the weary, tired sheep will lie within the fold absolutely safe, because the Shepherd interposes his mighty keeping between it and every dreaded ill.
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« Reply #95 on: March 26, 2008, 12:21:23 AM »

JEREMIAH PRIEST AND PROPHET
XVII.  HOW A REED STOOD AS A PILLAR
BY F. B. MEYER, B.A.

(Jeremiah 24:1-10, 34, 37.)

"Thou wast alone through thy redemption vigil,
Thy friends had fled;
The Angel at the garden from thee parted;
And solitude instead,
More than the scourge or cross, O Tender-hearted!
Under the crown of thorns, bowed down thy head.

"But I, amid the torture and the taunting,
I have had thee!
Thy hand was holding my hand fast and faster,
Thy voice was close to me:
And glorious eyes said,
Follow me, thy Master,
Smile as! smile thy faithfulness to see.'"
MRS. HAMILTON KING.

TO a sensitive nature it is an agony to stand alone. By  a swift and unerring instinct such a soul can detect what is in men's hearts; and when it knows intuitively that the sympathy for which it yearns is dried up like a summer brook; that interest has changed to indifference, and warmth of friendship to the coldness of disdain -- whether in society or in the great world of human life -- its energy ebbs, and its native power of influence is frozen at its spring. To many, the sense of being esteemed and loved is the very breath of life. They would scorn flattery and the adulation of wealth or fashion; they are quite content to dwell among their own people; but they are so constituted as to require an atmosphere of sympathy for the full forthputting of their powers.

Many strong and stalwart souls, cast in an heroic mold, have no experience of this sensitive and tender disposition. It is well that they have not. They were born to be the discoverers, the pioneers, the soldiers of the race; theirs the ribs of iron and the nerves of steel; theirs the courage which mounts higher on opposition and ill-will. They will never realize the cost at which those do their work and bear their testimony who have much of the woman in their nature, with its faculty of insight, its warmth of emotion, its keen sensitiveness to praise or hate, its yearning for sympathy, the smile of approbation, the kind word of cheer.

Jeremiah was one of the latter class: tender, shrinking, sensitive, with a vast capacity for emotion, strong to hate, and therefore to love, not constituted by nature to stand alone. But herein let us adore that grace which stepped into his life and for forty years made him "a de-fenced city, and an iron pillar, and brazen walls against the whole land " -- against princes, priests, and people. They indeed fought against him, but could not prevail, because God was with him. He outlasted all his foes, and maintained the standard to life's end. And this marvelous endurance and steadfastness of spirit was nowhere so conspicuous as during the last months of his nation's independence. We must tell part of this story in this chapter, that none may miss its helpful inspiration, because, if the presence of God could do so much for him, and for so long, it is sufficient for the weakest child of his that may read these words.

I. JEREMIAH'S ATTITUDE TOWARD THE KING.

We gain much information concerning the situation at Jerusalem, during the reign of Zedekiah, from the pages of Ezekiel, who, though resident in the land of the exile, faithfully reflected, and in prophetic vision anticipated, what was transpiring in the beloved city, to which his thoughts were incessantly directed. His prophecies are most valuable and interesting when read in this light.

Zedekiah, as we have seen, on ascending the throne, bound himself under the most solemn sanctions to be loyal to the supremacy of Babylon; and there is no doubt that at the time he fully intended to be faithful, the more especially as, at Nebuchadnezzar's command, he took the oath of allegiance in the sacred name of Jehovah. But he was weak and young, and wholly in the hands of the strong court party that favored an alliance with Egypt and the casting off of the Chaldean yoke.
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« Reply #96 on: March 26, 2008, 12:23:10 AM »

JEREMIAH PRIEST AND PROPHET
XVII.  HOW A REED STOOD AS A PILLAR
BY F. B. MEYER, B.A.

Two years before the catastrophe befell, Ezekiel clearly foretold what was about to happen. He foresaw the embassy sent to Pharaoh requesting horses and people, and asked indignantly, "Shall he prosper? shall he escape that doeth such things? or shall he break the covenant, and be delivered?" And he followed up his bitter remonstrances by the awful words, "As I live, saith the Lord God, surely in the place where the king dwelleth that made him king, whose oath he despised, and whose covenant he brake, even with him in the midst of Babylon he shall die. Neither shall Pharaoh with his mighty army and great company make for him in the war" (Ezekiel 17:11-21).

Jeremiah, as we know, earnestly dissuaded both king and princes from entering into the alliance which was being advocated between Judah and the neighboring states, and insisted, in the face of the false prophets, that the residue of the vessels left by Nebuchadnezzar in the Temple would certainly be transported, as the rest had been, to Babylon, if the mad project were persisted in (Jeremiah 51:27.). Notwithstanding all these remonstrances, however, the confederacy was formed, and in a fatal moment Zedekiah renounced his allegiance to the king of Babylon.

Then it befell precisely as Ezekiel had foreseen. Stung to the quick by the perfidy and ingratitude of the Jews,. who had so persistently and obstinately outraged him, Nebuchadnezzar gathered a vast army, resolved to make a public example of them to surrounding peoples by the swiftness and mercilessness of his vengeance. "A sword, a sword, it is sharpened, and also furbished: it is sharpened that it may make a slaughter; it is furbished that it may be as lightning .... Cry and howl, son of man: for it is upon my people, it is upon all the princes of Israel. They are delivered over to the sword with my people: smite therefore upon thy thigh" (Ezekiel 21:8-17, R.V.).

The king of Babylon comes to the junction of the ways  -- this to Jerusalem, that to Rabbah, the chief city of Ammon. He consults the usual signs of divination, which point him to the assault of Jerusalem with battering-rams and mounts and forts. And as he takes the road to the devoted city, the voice of Jehovah is heard bidding the prince of Israel, whose day is come, to remove the miter and take off the crown, because Jehovah was resolved to "overturn, overturn, and overturn." And then, as though to justify the awful sentence, there is given an enumeration of the crimes which were making the streets of Jerusalem red with blood and foul with impurity. It is altogether a terrible description of the state of things in the city during those last years of Zedekiah's reign. A bitter experience for Jeremiah, whose soul must have been sore vexed from day to day in seeing and hearing their lawless deeds (Ezekiel 21:18-27; 22:1-16).

At last, in December, 591 B.C., the siege began. On the approach of Nebuchadnezzar the confederacy had melted away, and Jerusalem was left alone, an islet amid the roaring waves of Chaldean armies. But the citizens had laid in a good store of provisions, and were expecting daily the advance of Pharaoh Hophra, with the cavalry of Egypt, to raise the siege.

At this juncture Zedekiah sent two well-known men to Jeremiah to ask whether Jehovah would not interpose for his people, as he had done in the great days of the past, as, for instance, when he destroyed the host of Sennacherib in a single night. It must have been a trying ordeal to the prophet. One conciliatory word might have averted the dislike of princes and people, given a bright glint of popularity and hero-worship, and obliterated the charges of mean-spiritedness and lack of patriotism that were freely leveled at him. Why should he not be the Isaiah of this new siege? Why not arouse and encourage his people to indomitable resistance and heroic faith? Why not blend his voice with those of the prophets that foretold a certain deliverance, and so acquire an influence over them, which might be used ultimately for their highest good?

It is not impossible that such considerations passed before his mind. But if so they were immediately dismissed. "Then said Jeremiah unto them, Thus shall ye say to Zedekiah: Thus saith Jehovah, the God of Israel; Behold, I will turn back the weapons of war that are in your hands, wherewith ye fight against the king of Babylon, and against the Chaldeans, which besiege you without the walls, and I will gather them into the midst of this city. And I myself will fight against you with an outstretched hand and with a strong arm, even in anger, and in fury, and in great wrath. And I will smite the inhabitants of this city, both man and beast: they shall die of a great pestilence. And afterward, saith the Lord, I will deliver Zedekiah king of Judah, and his servants, and the people, even such as are left in this city from the pestilence, from the sword, and from the famine, into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon: and he shall smite them with the edge of the sword; he shall not spare them, neither have pity, nor have mercy."
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« Reply #97 on: March 26, 2008, 12:24:52 AM »

JEREMIAH PRIEST AND PROPHET
XVII.  HOW A REED STOOD AS A PILLAR
BY F. B. MEYER, B.A.

He followed up these terrible words by saying that the only way of safety was to go forth to the Chaldeans, who were now investing the city on every side. All who stopped in the city would die of sword, pestilence, or famine. They would be accounted as figs not fit to be eaten and destined to be cast away as refuse. But those who went forth and surrendered themselves to the king of Babylon would save their lives (Jeremiah 21:1-14.; Jeremiah 22:1-9; Jeremiah 24:1-10.).

Yet once again, when the siege of Jerusalem was in progress, and every day the air was full of the cries of the combatants, the heavy thud of the battering-rams against the walls, and the cries of wounded men borne from the ramparts to the tendance of women, Jeremiah went fearlessly to Zedekiah with the heavy tidings that nothing could stay the sack and burning of the city, since God had given it into the hands of the king of Babylon; and that he would surely be taken, and behold him face to face. "He shall speak with thee mouth to mouth, and thou shalt go to Babylon" (Jeremiah 34:1-7).

At the same time, roiling across the desert waste and reverberating like a funeral knell, came the terrible voice of Ezekiel: "Woe to the bloody city! Heap on the wood; make the fire hot; then set it empty upon the coals thereof, that the rust of it may be consumed. I the Lord have spoken it. I will not go back, neither will I repent" (Ezekiel 24:1-14).

II. HIS ATTITUDE TOWARD THE SLAVE OWNING JEWS.

It is not impossible that Jeremiah's vehement words of reproof aroused the deeply drugged conscience of his people, and they resolved, at the suggestion of Zedekiah, to make some reparation for their sins, and at the same time strengthen their garrison by setting free their slaves. This was done at a solemn convocation specially summoned in the Temple, and the national resolve was ratified before God with the most sacred rites. A calf was cut in twain, and the princes of Judah, the princes of Jerusalem, the eunuchs and the priests, and all the principal people, passed between the parts of the calf, as much as to say, "May God part us in twain, as this beast is, if we turn back from our vow to emancipate our brethren and sisters, Hebrews and Hebrewesses, who are enslaved."

Great joy spread through hundreds of hearts -- a body of stalwart defenders was raised for the beleaguered city. Best of all, the nation had done fight in the eyes of the Lord. Two months or so passed, when, to the unbounded joy of the citizens, the attacks of Nebuchadnezzar became less frequent; the lines of the besieging army thinned; and presently the tents were struck, and the whole host moved off. How immense the relief when the crash of catapult and ram ceased, and the population pent up so long within their wails could go freely forth! This diversion was caused by the approach of Pharaoh's army. The Jews thought that they would never see their foes again, and must have derided Jeremiah mercilessly. They also repealed the edict of emancipation, and caused the servants and handmaidens whom they had let go to return to their former condition.

In that tumult of national rejoicing, when the prophet's words seemed falsified, and when the fear they had inspired turned to increased hatred against the man who had spoken them; when he seemed cast off and disowned by Jehovah himself, it must have needed uncommon faith and courage to raise a bold and uncompromising protest. But he did not swerve by a hair's-breadth from the path of duty.

The infatuation of his people, their treachery to their plighted oath, the disappointment and sufferings of the enslaved, and the honor of Jehovah so ruthlessly contemned, all compelled him to speak out. "Behold, saith the Lord, I proclaim liberty to the sword, to the pestilence, and to the famine. And! will give the men that have transgressed my covenant into the hand of their enemies: and their dead bodies shall be for meat unto the fowls of the heaven, and to the beasts of the earth. And Zedekiah king of Judah and his princes will I give into the hand of the king of Babylon's army, which are gone up from you. Behold, I will command, saith the Lord, and cause them to return to this city; and they shall fight against it, and take it, and burn it with fire: and I will make the cities of Judah a desolation without inhabitant" (Jeremiah 51:34.).

It needed no common moral courage and sense of the presence of God to dare to speak such words, and they must have brought down on the devoted head of the lonely prophet storms of abuse. How easy to ridicule him when it seemed so sure that the false prophets were right and he wrong! His opponents would be proportionately indignant, as the voice of conscience, not yet quite silenced, protested that he was speaking the very word of Jehovah.
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« Reply #98 on: March 26, 2008, 12:27:34 AM »

JEREMIAH PRIEST AND PROPHET
XVII.  HOW A REED STOOD AS A PILLAR
BY F. B. MEYER, B.A.

III. HIS ATTITUDE DURING THE INTERVAL OF RESPITE.

The city was delirious with joy. The Chaldeans had withdrawn, Pharaoh would prove more than a match for them, they would not return. the thunder-cloud had broken -- there was nothing to fear. But Jeremiah never changed his note. It seemed like a raven's croak amid the songs of spring birds. Very depressing! Very unpopular! Very likely to spread suspicion and panic! Only too gladly would he have yielded to the current flowing around him. But he dared not; and when the king sent another deputation to inquire through him of Jehovah he returned this terrible reply: "Deceive not yourselves, saying, The Chaldeans shall surely depart from us: for they shall not depart. For though ye had smitten the whole army of the Chaldeans that fight against you, and there remained but wounded men among them, yet should they rise up every man in his tent, and burn this city with fire" (Jeremiah 37:1-10).

God's prophets had too clear a vision of the issue of the duel between Chaldea and Egypt to be able to buoy up their people with hopes of deliverance. Jeremiah had already foreseen that the daughter of Egypt should be put to shame and delivered into the hand of the people of the north; he had even asked that the tidings of invasion might be published in her principal cities (46:13-28 ). Ezekiel was not less decisive: "Thus saith the Lord God; I will strengthen the arms of the king of Babylon, and put my sword in his hand: but I will break the arms of Pharaoh, and he shall groan before him with the groanings of a deadly wounded man" (Ezekiel 30.).

Shortly after this the prophet resolved to take the opportunity offered by the withdrawal of the Chaldeans to visit his inheritance at Anathoth, for the purpose of receiving his portion there, perhaps of rent or of some division of tithes among the priestly families, of which he was a member. As he was passing out through the gate of Benjamin, he was recognized by a captain, whose family had long been in antagonism with him; and he was not slow to turn the occasion to advantage by repaying a long-standing grudge (Jeremiah 37:13). He therefore laid hold on the prophet, saying, "Thou fallest away to the Chaldeans." It was an absurd charge; for the Chaldeans had raised the siege, and it was supposed they would not return. The pretext, however, was sufficient to serve Irijah's purpose, and though it was indignantly repudiated by Jeremiah, he was dragged with violence into the presence of the princes, who were as glad to have their intractable foe at their mercy as the priests to whom Judas offered to betray his Master.

When he had been in a similar plight in the previous reign, Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, had rescued him, like another John of Gaunt; but he was now dead or in exile. Zedekiah was too weak to interpose to rescue the prophet from the fury of his lords, even if he were acquainted with his peril. And so they adjudged him to the bastinado; forty stripes save one fell from the scourge on his bare back; and he was then thrust into a dark, underground, unhealthy dungeon, where he remained many days at the peril of his life.

After a while Zedekiah, perhaps pricked by remorse, or alarmed at the tidings which came from the frontier, sent for him, much as Herod was wont to summon John the Baptist from his dungeon to converse with him in his palace halls above. "Is there any word from the Lord?" the king asked, anxiously.

What an opportunity was here for Jeremiah to trim .his speech, to put velvet on his lips, and to mitigate the unwelcome truth! Thus he might curry the king's favor, and secure for himself deliverance from his intolerable sufferings. But again there was no compromise. "And Jeremiah said, There is. He said also, Thou shalt be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon."

He then pleaded with the royal clemency for a mitigation of the severity of his sentence, with such good success that he was committed, at the king's command, to the court of the guard, in the immediate vicinity of the palace, and fed daily with a loaf of bread out of the bakers' street, until all the bread in the city was spent. In the meanwhile the army of the Chaldeans, having defeated Pharaoh, returned, and again formed their thick-set lines around the city, like a fence of iron, to be drawn closer and closer until Jerusalem fell, like a snared bird, into their grasp.

It is impossible to recite or read this story without admiration for the man who dared to stand alone with God against a nation in arms. It makes us think of Ziegenbalg, the first missionary to the East Indies, standing alone there against the whole force of the authorities, determined to crush his mission in the bud; of Judson, pursuing his work for the salvation of Burmah amid the treachery and hostility of the king; of Moffat, going alone and unarmed into the territory of the terrible Africander; of John Hunt amid the ferocious cannibals of Fiji; of John G. Paton, who was preserved amid fifty attempts to take his life. Surely the angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them. Our duty is to see to it that we are on God's plan and doing his work; to wrap around our souls the sense of his presence; to keep our ears open to the perpetual assurance, "I am with thee to deliver thee." Then we shall find that by our God we can leap barrier-walls, pass unscathed through troops of foes, and stand as pillars in his temple that shall never be removed.

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« Reply #99 on: March 26, 2008, 12:29:04 AM »

JEREMIAH PRIEST AND PROPHET
XVIII.  INTO THE GROUND TO DIE
BY F. B. MEYER, B.A.

(Jeremiah 32.)

"All we have willed or hoped or dreamed of good shall exist;
Not its semblance, but itself; no beauty, nor good, nor power,
Whose voice has gone forth, but each survives for the melodist
When eternity affirms the conception of an hour;
The light that proved too high, the heroic for earth too hard,
The passion that left the ground to lose itself in the sky,
The music sent up to God by the lover and the bard;
Enough that he heard it once; we shall hear it by and by."
BROWNING.

WHILE shut up in the court of the guard, perhaps fastened by a chain that restrained his liberty, Jeremiah received a divine intimation that his uncle would shortly come to him with a request for him to purchase the family property at Anathoth. This greatly startled him, because he had so clear a conviction, which he cherished as divinely given, of the approaching overthrow of the kingdom, and the consequent desolation of the land. It had been his one incessant message to his people for nearly forty years that the land must keep her sabbaths as a judgment for the sins of the people; and now it seemed conflicting and inconsistent to be told to purchase the field at Anathoth, as though it were needed for cultivation. The divine command quite staggered him, and may have made him for a moment question whether there had not been some mistake in the message he had so constantly reiterated in the ears of his people.

He gave, however, no outward sign of his perplexities; but when his uncle's son entered the courtyard with his request, the prophet at once assented to the proposal, and purchased the property for seventeen shekels (about ten dollars). A similar incident is recorded in Roman history. When 'Rome was being besieged by Hannibal, the very ground on which he was encamped was put up for auction, and purchased -- a proof of the calm confidence that the Romans possessed of the ultimate issue of the conflict.

In addition to this, Jeremiah took care to have the purchase recorded and witnessed with the same elaborate pains as if he were at once to be entering on occupation. Not a single form was omitted or slurred over; and ultimately the two deeds of contract -- the one sealed with the more private details of price, the other open and bearing the signatures of witnesses -- were deposited in the charge of Baruch, with the injunction to put them in an earthen vessel and preserve them. They were probably not opened again until the return from the captivity; but we can well imagine how strong a rush of emotion and confidence must have been inspired as the men of that day perused the documents.

But Jeremiah was not a sharer in that glad scene. He did as God bade him, though the shadow of a great darkness lay upon his soul, from which he could only find relief, as the Lord on the cross, in recourse to the Father. Indeed, at this point of his life he resembles the hidden vessel, which contained within it the charter of the nation's deliverance. He was an earthen vessel indeed, but he contained heavenly treasure. He fell into the ground to die, as the seed does, which holds at its heart a principle of life that can only express itself through death, and can only bless men when its sowing, amid the depression and decay of autumn, has been complete.
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« Reply #100 on: March 26, 2008, 12:31:01 AM »

JEREMIAH PRIEST AND PROPHET
XVIII.  INTO THE GROUND TO DIE
BY F. B. MEYER, B.A.

I. HOURS OF MIDNIGHT DARKNESS.

It is only in service that anything reaches its fullest life. A bit of iron is condemned to solitude and uselessness till it becomes part of a great machine. A seed of corn, hidden for three thousand years in a mummy-case, abides alone, and only learns the motive and glory of existence when, through death, it learns to weave the chemical juices of the earth, and clews, sunbeams, and air, into the fabric of the golden corn. A man who lives a self-contained life, of which the gratification of his own ambition and selfhood is the supreme aim, never drinks the sweets of existence or attains his full development. It is only when we live for God, and, in doing so, for man, that we are able to appropriate the rarest blessedness of which our nature is capable, or to unfold into all the proportions of full growth in Christ. In the deepest sense, therefore, Jeremiah could never regret that he had given the strength and measure of his days to the service of others. If he had not done so, but had shrunk back from the high calling of his early life, his misery would have been in proportion to the royal quality of his nature, and his power to enrich the life of man.

But none can give themselves to the service of others except at bitter cost of much that this world holds dear. In the words of Christ, the corn of wheat must fall into the ground and die if it is to bear much fruit. In the case of the wheat-corn, death is necessary to break up the case in which the principle of life lies imprisoned. It has fed on the choice farina, the fine flour, stored in its sac or shell, and having consumed it all, it must be let forth; and there is no way of emancipation except through the death that tears down the prison-walls of its cell, and allows it to strike its radicle downward, and its blade upward to the air. And in the case of every true life there must be death to the attractions and indulgences of the self-life, that the soul, being at leisure from itself, may go forth to seek its supplies from God, and to weave them into nourishing food for the lives of those around. This will explain the privations and sorrows to which Jeremiah was subjected. Death wrought in him that life might work in Israel, and in all who should read the book of his prophecy.

He died to the dear ties of human love. "Thou shalt not take thee a wife, neither shalt thou have sons nor daughters in this place," was early said to him. The men of Anathoth, of the house of his father, conspired against him. The friends with whom he took sweet counsel, and in whose company he walked to the house of God, betrayed him. What he held in his heart belonged to the race, and might not be poured forth within the narrower circle of the home, of priestly Temple duty, or of the little village of Anathoth.

He died to the good-will of his fellows. None can be indifferent to this. It is easy to do or suffer when the bark of life is wafted on its way by favoring breezes, or the air thrills with expressions of love and adulation. Then a man is nerved to dare to do his best. And a nature as sensitive as Jeremiah's is peculiarly susceptible to such impressions. But it was his bitter lot to encounter from the first an incessant stream of vituperation and dislike. We have no record of one voice being raised to thank or encourage him. "Woe is me, my mother," he cried, sadly, "that thou hast borne me a man of strife and a man of contention to the whole earth! I have neither lent on usury, nor men have lent to me on usury; yet every one of them doth curse me."

He died to the pride of national patriotism. No patriot allows himself to despair of his country. However dark the lowering storm-clouds and strong the adverse current, he believes that the ship of state will weather the storm. He chokes back words of despondency and depression lest they should breed dismay. He does not allow his heart to harbor the thoughts of despair that flit across it and knock for entrance; he drives them away, and treats them as traitors guilty of high treason. But Jeremiah was driven along an opposite course. A truer heart than his never beat in human breast. A loftier patriotism than his never hazarded itself in the last breach. His belief in Israel was part of his belief in God. But he found himself compelled to speak in such a fashion that the princes proposed, not without show of reason, to put him to death, because he weakened the hands of the men of war.
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« Reply #101 on: March 26, 2008, 12:33:22 AM »

JEREMIAH PRIEST AND PROPHET
XVIII.  INTO THE GROUND TO DIE
BY F. B. MEYER, B.A.

He died to the sweets of personal liberty. A large portion of his ministry was exerted from the precincts of a prison. Repeatedly we read of his being shut up and not able to go forth. His friend Baruch had constantly to act as his intermediary and interpreter. This, too, must have been bitter to him. His writings abound with references to nature and to natural processes; and the iron fetters of restraint must have eaten deeply into the tender flesh of his gentle heart.

He died, also, to the meaning he had been wont to place on his own prophecies. Up to the moment when Jehovah bade him purchase the property of Hanameel, he had never questioned the impending fate of Jerusalem. It was certainly and inevitably to be destroyed by sword, famine, pestilence, and fire. All that he had ever said in private or public was but the fresh assertion of this bitter fate, with some new touch of pathos or turn of emphasis. But now the word of God, demanding an act of obedience, seemed to indicate that the land was to remain under the cultivation of the families that owned it.

II. JEREMIAH'S BEHAVIOR.

To very few men has it been given so closely to walk along the path which the Redeemer trod during his earthly life. He was stripped of almost everything that men prize most. But amid it all he derived solace and support in three main directions:

(1) He prayed.

Take this extract from his own diary: "Now after I had delivered the deed of the purchase unto Baruch the son of Neriah, I prayed unto the Lord, saying, Ah, Lord God!" Yea, and he was encouraged in this holy exercise, for shortly after this incident, when tidings came to him that the houses of the kings of Judah were being broken down to provide materials for the building of an inner line of defence behind the shell of wall which was nearly demolished by the terrible battering-rams, and when his heart was more than ever dismayed, the word of the Lord came to him, saying, "Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and will show thee great and secret [or inaccessible] things, which thou knowest not" (Jeremiah 33:1-5).

There is no help to the troubled soul like that which comes through prayer. You may have no clear vision of God. You may be only able to grope your way in the direction where he sits enshrouded from your view in the thick darkness. You may be able to do little more than recite things which God and you know perfectly well, ending your prayer as Jeremiah did, with the words, "and, behold, thou seest it" (Jeremiah 32:24). Nevertheless pray; pray on your knees; "in everything by prayer and supplication . . . let your requests be made known unto God; "and the peace of God will settle down on and enwrap your weary, troubled soul.

(2) He rested on the Word of God.

The soul of the prophet was nourished and fed by the divine Word. "Thy words were found," he cries, "and I did eat them: and thy words were unto me the joy and the rejoicing of my heart." It sounds but hard and cold advice to bid a man in sorrow to read his Bible; but it were impossible to give better. Because behind the words is the Word; in this garden the Son of Man walks; in this tabernacle the Sun shines in whose beams are health and comfort. How often have God's people turned to the Bible, as the Saviour did in the darkest hours that swept over his soul, and found in a psalm or a chapter the balm of Gilead, the tree of life with healing leaves!
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« Reply #102 on: March 26, 2008, 12:34:49 AM »

JEREMIAH PRIEST AND PROPHET
XVIII.  INTO THE GROUND TO DIE
BY F. B. MEYER, B.A.

(3) He faithfully kept to the path of duty.

"And I bought the field." It does not always happen that our service to men will be met by rebuff, ill-will, and hard treatment; but when it does there should be no swerving or flinching or drawing back. God's sun shines on the evil as well as the good, and his rain descends on the fields of the thankless churl equally as on those of his children. The fierce snow-laden blast, driving straight in your teeth, is not so pleasant as the breath of summer, laden with the scent of the heather; but if you can see the track you must follow it. To be anywhere off it, either right or left, would be dangerous in the extreme. And often when the lonely soul has reaped nothing but obloquy and opposition, has been borne to a cross, and crucified as a malefactor, it has comforted itself with the prospect of the harvests of blessing which were to accrue to those who had rejected its appeals, just as Pentecost came to those who had been the murderers of Christ.

Such are the resorts of the soul in its seasons of anguish. It casts itself on the ground, crying, "Father, Abba, Father;" it stays itself on the word of promise that comes to it in angel garb; it goes forth to yield itself to death, assured that life awaits it and the objects of its choice.

III. COMPENSATIONS.


To all valleys there are mountains, to all depths heights; for all midnight hours there are hours of sunrise; for Gethsemane an Olivet. We can never give up aught for God or man without discovering that at the moment of surrender he begins to repay, as he foretold to the prophet: "For brass I will bring gold, and for iron I will bring silver, and for wood brass, and for stones iron." We do not make the surrender with any thought of profiting by it; but when we make it with a single purpose and aim, we learn that when Christ lays a requisition on boat or sailor's time, he returns the boat laden with fish to the water's edge.

Nor does God keep these compensations for that new world, "where light and darkness fuse." It were long to wait if that were so. But here and now we learn that there are compensations. It may seem a hardship to the man to leave his cell, where he has been immured so long that he dreads the light, the stare of strange eyes, the call for exertion; but when the first stiffness of the joints and the novelty of his surroundings have passed off, will he not be compensated? The first movement from the selfish life may strain and try us, the indifference of our fellows be hard to bear; but God has such things to reveal and give as pass the wildest imaginings of the self-centered soul.
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« Reply #103 on: March 26, 2008, 12:36:03 AM »

JEREMIAH PRIEST AND PROPHET
XVIII.  INTO THE GROUND TO DIE
BY F. B. MEYER, B.A.

So Jeremiah found it. His compensations came. God became his Comforter, and wiped away his tears, and opened to him the vista of the future, down whose long aisles he beheld his people planted again in their own land. He saw men buying fields for money, and subscribing deeds and sealing them, as he had done; he heard the voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voice of them that bring the sacrifices of joy into the Lord's house; he was assured of the advent of the Man, the Branch from the root of David, who should sit upon his throne (Jeremiah 32:32-33.). There was compensation also in the confidence with which Nebuchadnezzar treated him, and in the evident reliance which his decimated people placed on his intercessions, as we shall see. And if he could only know of the myriads who had been comforted by the story of his griefs, and by the assurances of his prophecies -- ruddy juice pressed into the golden chalice of Scripture by the sorrows that crushed his heart  -- surely he would feel that his affliction was light and not worthy to be compared with the far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory which it was working out.

So will it be with all who fall into the ground to die. God will not forget or forsake them. The grave may be dark and deep, the winter long, the frost keen and penetrating; but spring will come, and the stone be rolled away, and the golden stalk shall wave in the sunshine, bearing its crown of fruit, and men shall thrive on the bread of our experience, the product of our tears and sufferings and prayers.
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« Reply #104 on: March 26, 2008, 12:54:20 AM »

JEREMIAH PRIEST AND PROPHET
XIX.  THE FALL OF JERUSALEM
BY F. B. MEYER, B.A.

(Jeremiah 38, 39.)

"Among the faithless faithful only he;
Among innumerable false, unmoved,
Unshaken, unseduced, unterrified,
His loyalty he kept, his love, his zeal;
Nor number, nor example with him wrought
To swerve from truth, or change his constant mind
Though single. From amidst them forth he pass'd,
Long way through hostile scorn, which he sustain'd
Superior, nor of violence fear'd aught;
And with retorted scorn his back be turn'd
On those proud tow'rs to swift destruction doom'd."
MILTON.

DURING those long, dark months of siege probably the only soul in all that crowded city which was in perfect peace, and free in its unrestrained liberty, was Jeremiah's. Tethered as he was by an iron chain to the wall of the court of the guard, he passed beyond the narrow confines of the inclosure to the great age that was to be, when Judah should be saved and Jerusalem should dwell safely, known by the name THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS. And amid the cries of assailants and defenders, unbroken by the thud of the battering-rams, deep as the blue Syrian sky that looked down upon him, was the peace of God, that passed the understanding of those that thronged in and out, to and fro, between the city and the royal palace.

I. THE HORRORS OF THE SIEGE.

It tasted in all for about eighteen months, with the one brief respite caused by the approach of Pharaoh's army, and it is impossible for us to estimate the amount of human anguish which was crowded into that fateful space. Some conception of it may be gathered from the words with which Ezekiel anticipated it. As in a mirror coming events were forecast. The caldron full of the choicest flesh hanging over the swift fire until it was consumed; the vision of the iron pan encircling the sun-burnt brick, as the iron legions of Chaldea would engirdle the beleaguered city; the meager measure of wheat and barley and beans and lentils and millet and spelt, dealt out by measure day by day, but barely sufficient for the prophet's sustenance; the barley-cakes mingled with cow's dung, abhorrent to the taste, yet greedily devoured; the stealthy preparation of his household stuff for removal; and the stealing out at night from his house by a hole in the wall, with covered face and laden shoulder -- all these spoke with a vividness which no words could equal of the horrors of that siege (Ezekiel 4.).

Imagine for a moment the overcrowded city, into which had gathered from all the country round the peasantry and villagers, who, with such of their valuables as they had been able hastily to collect and transport, had sought refuge within the gray old wails of Zion from the violence and outrage of the merciless troops. If wandering tribes like the sons of Rechab were induced for once to break the tradition of their nomad life to shelter themselves within the city inclosure, how much more would the terrified populations scattered in slight habitations over the hill country count it politic to do the same? This mass of fugitives would greatly add to the difficulties of the defence by their demands upon the provisions which were laid up in anticipation of the siege, by overcrowding the thoroughfares and impeding the movements of the soldiery.
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