Lecture one Hundred and Eighth
Hananiah, after having broken the bands of Jeremiah, predicted that God would liberate the Jews as well as other nations from under the yoke of King Nebuchadnezzar; and it is at length added, that Jeremiah went his way; by which words the Prophet intimates that he left the place, for he was unwilling contentiously to dispute with a violent man, or rather with a wild beast; for it is probable, nay, it may be concluded as certain, that Hananiah had great power in the Temple, for his prophecies were plausible. For as men always seek flatteries, when they heard promised to them what was especially desirable, even an end to all their evils and calamities after two years, all of them greedily received what the impostor had said. Besides, not only his tongue fought against Jeremiah, but also his hands, for he violently assailed the holy man when he broke his bands. Hence Jeremiah could not have acted otherwise than to turn aside as it were from the storm; nor did he do this through fear, but because he saw that his adversary would be his superior in wrangling, nor did he hope to be heard amidst noise and clamors; for he saw that a great tumult would immediately rise if he began to speak. He found it therefore necessary to withdraw from the people.
We are hereby reminded that we ought wisely to consider what occasions may require; for it is not right nor expedient to speak always and everywhere. When, therefore, the Lord opens our mouth, no difficulties ought to restrain us so as not to speak boldly; but when there is no hope of doing good, it is better sometimes to be silent than to excite a great multitude without any profit. True indeed is that saying of Paul, that we ought to be instant out of season, (2 Timothy 4:2;) but he means, that the ministers of Christ, though they may sometimes offend and exasperate the minds of many, ought not yet to desist but to persevere. But Jeremiah had no hearers, and the whole people were so incensed, that he could do nothing against that impostor even if he exposed himself to death. He therefore was silent, for he had already discharged the duties of his office; he might have also withdrawn, that he might come furnished with new messages, and thus endued with new authority, as, indeed, it appears from what follows, —