May 1, 2010

Jeremiah 4:4 - John Gill

Jeremiah 4:4.
Circumcise yourselves to the Lord, and take away the foreskins of your heart, ye men of Judah, and inhabitants of Jerusalem; let my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench it; because of the evil of your doings.

These words, with Deuteronomy 10:16, which express much the same thing, in almost the same words, are thought to disprove man’s passiveness and the unfrustrable operation of God in conversion; or that that is God’s work alone; which, if true, it is said,[1] vain are all such commands and exhortations as these: on which, let the following things be observed:

1. That it is questionable whether these figurative expressions are to be understood of internal conversion, or the first work of it on the soul; since they are directed to backsliding Israel and Judah; and may not rather design a national repentance and reformation of them, as God’s professing people, that. they might be saved with a temporal deliverance from temporal judgments; with which they are threatened throughout this chapter.

2. Admitting that they are to be understood of the internal, spiritual, and saving work of conversion;[2] since 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 (Rom. 2:29): this sense of the word carries the things expressed by them still farther out of the power of man, and into the hands of God alone; seeing this is the circumcision made without hands (Col. 2:11), that is, without the power, help, and assistance of men. Circumcision of the flesh was typical of that of the spirit, and fitly expresses the passiveness of men in it; for as the infant was entirely passive and not active in circumcision, so is man in regeneration and first conversion; not to take any notice of, or insist upon the word wlmh, being of a passive form, and rendered by the Septuagint, peoitmhqhte and by the Vulgate Latin, circumcidimini, be ye circumcised.

3. What God here requires, commands, and exhorts unto, he elsewhere promises to do himself, saying; The Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live (Deut. 30:6); which at once discovers the inability of man, and the necessity of the grace of God; for if man could do this of himself, there would be no need of God’s doing it for him: since this is the case, we may say, as Austin did, Domine, da quod jubes, et jube quod vis; Lord, give what thou commandest, and command what thou wilt.

4. Such commands and exhortations are not in vain, supposing man’s passiveness in this work of conversion, and the unfrustrable operation of God in it; seeing such exhortations may be useful to convince men of the corruption of their nature; the necessity of a spiritual circumcision, without which there can be no salvation; their own disability, and the need of the power and grace of God to effect it.

[1] Whitby, pp. 237, 287; ed. 2. 231, 280.
[2] Vid. Remonstr. in Coll. Hag. art. 3. and 4. p. 265.

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