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Bible Commentaries

The Church Pulpit Commentary

Jeremiah 6

Verse 15

FAILURES

‘They shall fall among them that fall.’

Jeremiah 6:15

How many men start in London with the fairest possible promise, but who ultimately, alas, become occasional inmates of the casual ward! You have no need to be told of their failure—some dragged down by the horrible curse of drink, others degraded by impurity. But it seems to me as though such cases as these were, after all, not the very saddest illustration of our subject. The saddest failures, it appears to me, are those whom the world regards as successes—the men who get on in life, who make large fortunes, who attain to a lofty social position, and who, all the while, have been injuring and even ruining their own moral nature by their very process of advancement. They are rich, successful, and externally fortunate, but, none the less, mean, sordid, greedy, avaricious. They are what the world calls successes, and they must be very bad indeed if the world does not recognise them as such. But how does a man of that description appear in the eyes of the Eternal God who made him? A shrivelled, withered thing, bereft of nearly all that goes to make man God-like; not unlike the autumn leaf swept by the October blast—who shall say where!

I. Perhaps the saddest part of the matter is that many who belong to this class do not recognise the fact that they are failures.—A very large number of them are on extremely good terms with themselves. They settle down into a condition of self-complacency.

One man, perhaps, has made many thousands of pounds, and in a few months he is going to retire from business, and he will have his respectable place in the church, and, as he puts it, make the church a little more respectable by going there. And so it is that, as frequently happens, our desire in early days to lead a good life gradually fades away amidst the ‘humdrum’ routine of commercial life, which we allow to drag us down instead of our elevating it into a position of sanctity; and we become more and more gross in our aims, and content with our moral failure. On the whole, peradventure, such a man calls himself a very fair specimen of the genus humanum. ‘I will succeed,’ he seems to say, ‘in passing muster in the court of my self-consideration, and I appear to pass muster pretty fairly in the circle in which I live; and if I do that, I do not see why I should trouble myself about any nobler aims.’ He does not realise that he is selling his spiritual birthright for the paltry mess of pottage offered him by the world. Hence, you see that there may be abundant activity in our lives, and that many a man who has led an active life in the way just described will go so far as to affirm that he has always endeavoured to do his duty. But what is duty? Duty is to produce what God intended you should, and to become true to the Divine ideal. Otherwise, a man does not, and cannot, rise to the proper level of true activity.

II. How do we become failures?—By abusing the world instead of using it as God would have us use it. A man’s commercial life is part of the mechanism that God employs for rendering him what God intended him to be. What, then, is your commercial career doing for you in your manhood? Are you learning lessons of self-control? Are you learning how to master your disposition in the direction of avarice, greed, and impurity? If so, you are getting something out of your business which you will have to thank God for through all eternity.

Many of our commercial men mistake the proper purpose of life, forgetting that the making of money should be a means to an end, and not an end in itself. The man who looks at the matter in the right light regards each fresh thousand that comes into his possession as something that God has entrusted to him in order that he may employ it for his Master’s glory and the benefit of his fellow-men. The secret of moral failure lies in an absence of Divine co-operation—not in the reluctance of God to co-operate, but in the indisposition of man to claim, and ensure, and make use of the co-operation. I would just as soon expect to see a structure like the Forth Bridge turned out without modern appliances as expect to see a saint produced otherwise than by Divine co-operation. I stand in this pulpit, my fellow-men, because I believe in the reformative power of God. God knows how to make a saint just as much as He knows how to make a star. But to make a saint, man needs to surrender his human will into the Divine hands; whereas, in the case of a star, the matter obeys the behests of the Divine.

Gehenna, or Hell, is the common receptacle of rubbish, the place of loss, where those who are not fit to share the Divine society, and to exercise the proper functions of man—where those who are branded with God’s ‘failure,’ drop down into the dark and are lost in utter night. What is the only alternative to this miserable, tragic issue? It is that of surrendering ourselves completely to the control of God, Who is able to turn our spiritual weaknesses into impregnable forts against the powers of evil.

Canon Aitken.

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Bibliographical Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Jeremiah 6". The Church Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cpc/jeremiah-6.html. 1876.