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But we cannot in reality suffer wrongfully. However little we may deserve ill, at the hands of those, who are made the instruments of inflicting it, we know that God cannot hold us innocent. Our consciences admonish us, that we cannot stand one moment clear before the holy all seeing God. Aware that we are deeply sinful in his sight, we feel that it is lost labour to excuse ourselves, or to complain as if all that we can suffer were not far short of the ill which we deserve. No washing of ourselves can make us clean. Nothing that we can say, nothing that we can do, can remove from us the foul stain even of a single sin, much less of the many acts and words and thoughts of disobedience, with which our memory is loaded. And when we think how great God is, how good, how gracious He has been to us, and then reflect that we, who make such ill returns for all his goodness, are actually his creatures, the work of his hands, bound to do his will in every thing; we know not how to make amends for the past, we see not any thing that we can do beyond our duty for the present, even if we were able to do that; and we find that we have no answer whatsoever to give, to all the charges of wilfulness, unthankfulness, neglect, disobedience, and rebellion, of which we know that we are guilty before God.
When we have done wrong to a fellow creature, and incurred his displeasure, we feel that there is nothing so likely to remove it, as the good offices of a common friend, to plead our cause and to make our peace. Under the weight of such a load of sin as that which is pressing on our minds, estranging us from an offended God, how thankful ought we to be for the prevailing mediation of Jesus Christ our Saviour, at once the Son of God and the Son of man! He is the "Daysman," the Mediator, the Reconciler, who his own self bare our sins upon the cross, made atonement for us, and pleads his own most precious blood as the all sufficient price of our forgiveness. The rod is now taken away from us; unless we by renewed provocation expose ourselves afresh to the terrors of the Lord. The fear of God no longer terrifies us, but serves, in conjunction with the love of Him, to render us obedient to his will. We approach Him with the confidence of sons. We dwell nigh to Him in our thoughts and hearts by faith, and enjoy peace, quietness, and assurance for ever. All this we owe to
Christ our Saviour, and to his all prevailing mediation. To Him be all the praise and glory. To Him the ever blessed Son of God most high, to Him with the Father and with the Holy Ghost, be ascribed all honour, worship, might, majesty, and dominion, for evermore!
Job reneweth his murmurs under God's dispensation.
1 My soul is weary of my life; I will leave my complaint upon myself; I will speak in the bitterness of my soul.
I will say unto God, Do not condemn me; shew me wherefore thou contendest with me. 3 Is it good unto thee that thou shouldest oppress, that thou shouldest despise the work of thine hands, and shine upon the counsel of the wicked?
4 Hast thou eyes of flesh? or seest thou as man seeth?
5 Are thy days as the days of man? are thy years as man's days, 6 That thou inquirest after mine iniquity, and searchest after my sin?
7 Thou knowest that I am not wicked; and there is none that can deliver out of thine hand.
8 Thine hands have made me and fashioned me together round about; yet thou dost destroy me. 9 Remember, I beseech thee, that thou hast made me as the clay; and wilt thou bring me into dust again?
10 Hast thou not poured me out as milk, and curdled me like cheese?
11 Thou hast clothed me with skin and flesh, and hast fenced me with bones and sinews.
12 Thou hast granted me life and favour, and thy visitation hath preserved my spirit,
13 And these things hast thou hid in thine heart: I know that this is with thee.
14 If I sin, then thou markest me, and thou wilt not acquit me from mine iniquity.
15 If I be wicked, woe unto me; and if I be righteous, yet will I not lift up my head. I am full of confusion; therefore see thou mine affliction;
16 For it increaseth. Thou huntest me as a fierce lion and again thou shewest thyself marvellous upon me.
17 Thou renewest thy witnesses against me, and increasest thine indignation upon me; changes and war are against me.
18 Wherefore then hast thou brought me forth out of the womb? Oh that I had given up the ghost, and no eye had seen me?
19 I should have been as though I had not been; I should have been carried from the womb to the grave.
20 Are not my days few? cease then, and let me alone, that I may take comfort a little,
21 Before I go whence I shall not return, even to the land of darkness and the shadow of death;
22 A land of darkness, as darkness itself; and of the shadow of death, without any order, and where the light is as darkness.
The light which the Gospel throws upon our present life. At the conclusion of the last chapter, Job expresses his conviction, that if there were a daysman, or mediator, between him and God, he might be relieved from his painful sense of the terrors of the Lord. "But," he concludes, "it is not so with me." Here accordingly we find him renewing his complaints,
murmuring under his affliction, and giving utterance to that sore perplexity of mind, as to the justice and wisdom of God's dispensations, from which nothing can relieve us, except the knowledge and belief of our redemption in Christ Jesus. But for this, we should have been as sore distressed as Job, as apt as he to be weary of our life, and to complain in bitterness of soul. But for the light shed on these things by the Gospel, we should have been apt to ask of God, when afflicted by his hand, "Shew me wherefore thou contendest with me." But now we know, that it is not in order to oppress us. Now we know, that instead of despising the work of his hands, He has loved us so greatly as to give his Son to be our Saviour, and that for his sake He makes all things work together for the good of them that love Him. It is because He does not see "as man seeth," and because his years are not " as man's days," therefore it is that He does not spare us for the present, if by any means He may save us for ever. Therefore it is that He contrives, by means of sorrow and sickness, to bring our sin to our remembrance. Therefore it is, that though his hands have made and fashioned us, yet does He allow his own most wondrous work to be marred by disease and death; forwarding hereby his new creation, and preparing us as new creatures, through these fiery trials of our faith, for a life of immortal glory.
Let us then lay to heart how great our gain has been, in having Christ for our Saviour, and in knowing Him, and believing Him to have saved us from sin and death. Let us, with this view, compare these painful thoughts of Job with our own hope full of immortality. "Thou wilt not acquit me from mine iniquity," said Job. My sins are blotted out for Christ's sake, is the conviction of the Christian. "Thou huntest me as a fierce lion," is the thought of the afflicted patriarch. Whilst the Christian, under the like affliction, is privileged to reflect, Thou art seeking me, like a shepherd looking for a lost sheep, Thou art chastening me, like a tender father desiring to reclaim a disobedient child. "Oh that I had given up the ghost," is the wish of Job, when he reverts to the hour of his birth. Thank God, says the Christian, thank God for my creation, and preservation up to this hour; thank God for this present life, by means of which I am prepared for an inheritance of life eternal. And as to death, it seems to Job "a land of darkness, as darkness itself; and of the shadow of death, without any order, and where the light is as darkness." Whilst the Christian views the grave as the passage to a land of light and life, where the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and "every man in his own order;" 1 Cor. 15. 23; a land where the darkness is as light, for there is "no night there," and where the light, inconceivable to mortal sense, can only be prefigured by these wondrous words, "the Lamb is the light thereof." Rev. 21. 23; 22. 5.
PART V. O. T.
Zophar exhorteth and reproveth Job.
1 Then answered Zophar the he seeth wickedness also; will Naamathite, and said, he not then consider it?
2 Should not the multitude of words be answered? and should a man full of talk be justified? 3 Should thy lies make men hold their peace? and when thou mockest, shall no man make thee ashamed?
4 For thou hast said, My doctrine is pure, and I am clean in thine eyes.
5 But O that God would speak, and open his lips against thee;
6 And that he would shew thee the secrets of wisdom, that they are double to that which is! know therefore that God exacteth of thee less than thine iniquity deserveth.
7 Canst thou by searching find out God? canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection?
8 It is as high as heaven; what canst thou do? deeper than hell; what canst thou know?
9 The measure thereof is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea.
10 If he cut off, and shut up, or gather together, then who can hinder him?
11 For he knoweth vain men:
12 For vain man would be wise, though man be born like a wild ass's colt.
13 If thou prepare thine heart, and stretch out thine hands towards him;
14 If iniquity be in thine hand, put it far away, and let not wickedness dwell in thy tabernacles.
15 For then shalt thou lift up thy face without spot; yea, thou shalt be stedfast, and shalt not fear:
16 Because thou shalt forget thy misery, and remember it as waters that pass away:
17 And thine age shall be clearer than the noon day: thou shalt shine forth, thou shalt be as the morning.
18 And thou shalt be secure, because there is hope; yea, thou shalt dig about thee, and thou shalt take thy rest in safety.
19 Also thou shalt lie down, and none shall make thee afraid; yea, many shall make suit unto thee.
20 But the eyes of the wicked shall fail, and they shall not escape, and their hope shall be as the giving up of the ghost.
Of seeking God by faith in Christ Jesus.
We now come to the speech of Zophar, the Naamathite, the third in order of the three friends of Job, who "had made an appointment together to come to mourn with him and to comfort him." Ch. 2. 11. And we may observe, that he, like the other two, speaks justly, and forcibly, and religiously, except in that which he says personally of Job. There is a severity of reproof in his address to his friend most unsuited to a season of affliction; and implying a disposition to censure others, rather than concern for the honour
of God. And even in regard to God and his dealings, he appears to have fallen into the same error as Eliphaz and Bildad, in stating too broadly and without exception, that none but the wicked suffer affliction at the hand of the Almighty. This is probably the chief point of false doctrine referred to, when it is said, at the end of the book, that these three friends of Job had not spoken of God the thing that is right. See Ch. 42. 7. This is the subject on which we ought to be chiefly on our guard, as we read their animated speeches; remembering that the fact is at variance with this our natural expectation, and that God does many times afflict most severely upon earth those whom He is most manifestly making ripe for heaven.
But with this exception, how striking is the language of Zophar, as to the power, and wisdom, and righteousness of God! And how just is his view of the wretched end of the wicked, as well as of the sure happiness of the good, if interpreted with eternity in view; if we take into our account, what we never ought to leave out, when we are considering the case of an immortal being, if we take into our account the transitory nature of our present tribulation, and the endless ages during which they that serve God truly for the present, will enjoy his exceeding great reward. "Then shalt thou lift up thy face without spot;" how true of them that rise from the grave with their sins blotted out from the remembrance of the Lord! "Yea, thou shalt be stedfast, and shalt not fear;" how applicable to them in whom perfect love has cast out fear, and who have boldness even in the day of judgment! See 1 John 4. 17. "But the eyes of the wicked shall fail, and they shall not escape, and their hope shall be as the giving up of the ghost." How exact and terrible a description of the case of those, who live and die without God in the world, hoping where no hope is, at ease where all is danger infinite, and who arise from the dead only to be at once consigned to the blackness of darkness for ever! Oh that God would therefore now shew us "the secrets of wisdom," and convince us in our hearts "that they are double to that which is;" infinitely to be preferred to those objects of sense, which we are apt to regard as if no other were realities! Oh that we may by searching find out God, seeking the Lord whilst He may be found, calling upon Him whilst He is near; see Isai. 55. 6; seeking God, not by trying to scan the heights of heaven, or to plunge into the secrets of hell, but by the way of his own appointment, the way opened unto us in the Gospel, the way of that righteousness which is by faith, through the merits of Jesus Christ! See Rom. 10. 6.