Charles H. Spurgeon

Dear Readers,

While preparing for the Church Bible Study on Jeremiah in December, I came across an exposition by Spurgeon on Jeremiah 4:14, “O Jerusalem, wash thine heart from wickedness, that thou mayest be saved. How long shall thy vain thoughts lodge within thee?”

As last Lord’s Day we have just touched on the importance of having a heart that pleases God, it is good and appropriate if we can consider Spurgeon’s exposition of Jeremiah 4:14, so that we may deal with what is spiritually unhealthy with our hearts.

As the sermon is rather lengthy, it will be split into parts, with some sections coming in later weeklies when appropriate. Do seriously read and consider how we may have a pleasing heart before the Lord.

Yours affectionately,
Pastor Clement Chew


One notices in reading such a chapter as this fourth of Jeremiah that the change which God required in the Jewish people was a very deep and thorough one. It was not only the washing of their hands, nor the cleansing of their outward lives but the washing of their hearts from wickedness; and the Lord did not alone require of them that they should cease from wicked actions but even from vain thoughts. The like demand he makes of us, for he saith by the mouth of his servant James, “Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.” This makes our holy religion such a weighty and solemn business. If it were wholly a matter of outward ordinances, we might take the child and sprinkle it or might bring the adult and plunge him; or we might admit all to a table where they should eat and drink such consecrated materials as should save them. This would be all easy enough and hence men cling to a religion of ceremonies; for heart religion is troublesome, and the ungodly cannot endure it. Ritualism is the most popular religion in the world because it is all “Hi! Presto!” Done in a minute — nothing to think of, nothing to care about, nothing to sorrow over. It is all a mere matter of form, which men leave to their priests, as they leave their deeds to be drawn up by their lawyers and their physic to be prescribed by their doctors. The little that is wanted of them can be done without thought and they can go on in their sins as pleasantly as ever.

Next to that in popularity is the religion of mere morality. “Yes, we know we do amiss: we will amend. Gross vices shall be lopped off as stray branches that run over a wall. We will at once purge ourselves from everything for which our fellow-men would blame us. Is not that enough?” Many hope it is and live as if they felt sure it was. But the religion of the Word of God is not so. It is, “Rend your hearts, and not your garments:” hence ceremonies are not enough “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength:” hence outward actions are not enough. This is too hard a demand; and as for repentance and faith, the ungodly cannot enter upon such spiritual duties for they have no mind to them. The carnal mind hates the mention of spiritual things.

Now to our text, “How long shall thy vain thoughts lodge within thee?” Bad lodgers. Some people have admitted bad lodgers into their chambers. I have known a good many people troubled with them; and there is no use in keeping them; they must be sent adrift. So, the text says, “How long shall vain thoughts lodge within thee?” It means that we must not be slow to give them notice to quit, for they ought not to be tolerated in the human breast.

  1. First, then, HERE ARE CERTAIN BAD LODGERS; and I should not wonder if some people here have found and furnished chambers in their hearts and heads for these mischievous tenants whose name is “vain thoughts.”

    Many thoughts may be called vain because they are proud, conceited thoughts. Thus, whenever a man thinks himself good by nature, we may say of his thoughts, “Vanity of vanities: all is vanity.” If you are unrenewed, and dream that you are better than others because your parents were godly, it is a vain thought. Every thought of self-righteousness is a vain thought; every idea, moreover, of self-power — that you can do this and do that towards your own salvation and that at any time when it pleases you, you can turn and become a Christian, and so there is no need to be in a hurry or to seek the help of the Holy Spirit: — that also is a vain thought. To reckon yourself to be anything more than a mass of sin and helplessness is a vain thought. You have misconceived your own true value and your condition before God.

    Another sort of vain thoughts may be ranged under the head of carnal security. The poet says, “All men think all men mortal but themselves,” and often as the saying is quoted never was a proverb more generally true. We are surprised to hear that So-and-so, who was well and hearty three days ago, is dead: we are quite taken aback for the moment but we never dream that it will happen to ourselves. There is no hint of, “If the Lord will, we shall do this or that.” We know all of us that life is very uncertain, yet multitudes are hazarding their souls upon the uncertainty of that life, under an inward belief which they would not dare to express, that somehow or other they are sure not to die just yet. What is such security but a vain thought.

    Now, I shall come closely home to some here whom I love in the Lord if I say that resolutions to be very useful, prayerful and holy are often little better than vain thoughts because they are encumbered with procrastination. There are many who love the Lord, who have never done much for him because the time of figs is not yet. Leaves, and leaves only, have they produced. They are live branches of the vine, although they have not brought forth many grapes; but they cheer themselves with the persuasion, that one of these days— they do not know quite when— they will bring forth clusters as famous as those of Eshcol, though hitherto they have been poor specimens of Christian professors; their mind is made up to rise to a higher life; they will grow in grace; they will give more time to Bible-reading and prayer; they will live nearer to God; they will grow quite strong Christians; and when that happens then they are going to do some great thing. My dear friend, I would have you regret your idleness. It is infinitely better to get to work, and perform the little which you are able to do; to give the Lord your service while you can serve him than that you should have to lie upstairs trying to amuse yourself or quiet the upbraidings of a guilty conscience by proposing to do great things, which you could not accomplish if you were to set about them, and which, indeed, you will never even so much as attempt.

    I have thus mentioned to you several groups of bad lodgers, of whom the text says, “How long shall vain thoughts lodge within thee?” “How long,” says God to every Christian here that has loitered, lingered, hesitated— “how long shall vain thoughts lodge within thee?” Perform at once the doing of that which you have resolved, if indeed the resolve is such as you ought to have made. God help you by his sacred Spirit to lead a practical life, and not a dreamy one.


(To be continued)