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his mercies are great: and let me not fall into the hand of man." 2 Sam. 24. 14. Job felt that his friends had put a harsh construction on his case. He was persuaded that they judged wrongfully, and that God would prove a righteous and a merciful Judge. His conscience testified, that though he was indeed far from just in the sight of the Almighty, yet was he also far from being the wilful, gross, and hypocritical sinner, which his friends thought he was; and which they insinuated he must be, for God to have afflicted him so sorely. This he was sure was false. And he was persuaded that this view of God's dealings was derogatory to God's honour; although himself greatly at a loss to find the right view of them, and sorely perplexed to reconcile the fact of his suffering so severely, with his consciousness that he had not been, as compared with others, an offender in proportion. He therefore would fain reason with God, and not with Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. He charged them with making statements which were not true, and with administering medicine which could not cure. He advised them that silence would be their wisdom, and besought them to hear the pleadings of his lips. He put it to them whether they could be doing right, in speaking for God that which was wrong, taking as it were his side, and defending his cause, at the expense of truth and charity; God knowing all the while the hollowness of their plea, and being aware that they were arguing more for victory than for truth, and were resolved at all events to triumph over their afflicted friend.
The sentence of the Lord against these three friends of Job, at the end of the book, declaring that they had not spoken concerning God the thing that was right, as Job had; this sentence, already referred to, seems to warrant us in putting the above interpretation on their speeches, and in considering that Job was warranted in so interpreting the tenour of their words. And if so, it was his duty to rebuke them, provided he had done it in good temper. For even Christians who in the Gospel learn so fully the abundance of the love of God, and who are so frequently charged to imitate the pattern of that love in their treatment of each other, even Christians are thus instructed by their divine Master: "If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him." Luke 17. 3. Oftentimes we are tempted to neglect both these duties. We neither faithfully tell our brother of his fault, nor heartily forgive him on his repentance. Let us be aware that this negligence is in both cases the result of self indulgence. Let us be assured that as it is the part of charity to forgive, so is it also the part of charity, if it be done charitably, to rebuke our brother for trespassing against us. Much more is it the fruit of true Christian love, to tell each other plainly of those trespasses, which, whether hurtful to ourselves or not, are manifestly sins against God.
Job professeth trust in God, but complaineth of his distress.
14 Wherefore do I take my flesh in my teeth, and put my life in mine hand?
15 Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him. 16 He also shall be my salvation for an hypocrite shall not come before him.
17 Hear diligently my speech and my declaration with your ears. 18 Behold now, I have ordered my cause; I know that I shall be justified.
19 Who is he that will plead with me? for now, if I hold my tongue, I shall give up the ghost.
20 Only do not two things unto me; then will I not hide myself from thee.
21 Withdraw thine hand far from me and let not thy dread make me afraid.
22 Then call thou, and I will answer or let me speak, and answer thou me.
23 How many are mine iniquities and sins? make me to know my transgression and my sin.
24 Wherefore hidest thou thy face, and holdest me for thine enemy?
25 Wilt thou break a leaf driven to and fro? and wilt thou pursue the dry stubble?
26 For thou writest bitter things against me, and makest me to possess the iniquities of my youth.
27 Thou puttest my feet also in the stocks, and lookest narrowly unto all my paths; thou settest a print upon the heels of my feet.
28 And he, as a rotten thing, consumeth, as a garment that is
That we ought to be thankful for affliction.
We find in this passage a remarkable profession of confidence in God: "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him." As long as Job could hold in this mind he was safe. The enemy could gain no advantage of him, beyond some perplexity of mind as to the reasons of God's afflicting him notwithstanding that his conduct had been acceptable to God. Let us endeavour to learn this lesson of holy trust in God's ability and willingness to save. Let us endeavour to walk in such ways, as may be approved before Him, in the day when the hope of the hypocrite shall fail. Let us feel assured, that He will be our salvation then, however deeply He may afflict us now. This is what Job probably meant by putting his life in his hand, namely, that he was ready to stake life, to risk it upon God's faithfulness. He was ready to die, willing to be slain; and confident, that even after slaying him, God would find means to make it up to him abundantly; provided his ways were such as could be maintained before God. And this he trusted they could; however ill his friends might think of them. And this we must trust also, we must have ground for thinking thus; if we would have reasonable confidence in
God's saving us. For we know that we shall receive according to our works. And therefore unless our conscience bear witness, that our works are such as we may believe to be the fruit of the Spirit, how great must be our presumption to think that God will save us!
But when Job would refer his cause from the judgment of his friends to the judgment of the Lord, he pleaded for two things before the trial should come on; one, that his sore disease of body, the visitation of God's hand, might be withdrawn; the other, that he might be relieved from those horrors of mind, which appear to have been a part of his disease. Otherwise he felt, that he should be too weak to stand before God's judgment seat at all. And surely we must plead also for some signal interference of God's power, to strengthen and support our souls, when the day shall come for standing before the judgment seat of Christ. Else how will our spirits faint with terror, on beholding the brightness of his coming! And how shall we bear to lift up our heads, even though we may have done much, by God's assistance, according to his will, if there be but a single thing in which we have done amiss; and who is there that must not feel that there are many things? Thanks be to God for telling us beforehand, that when we shall arise from death to judgment, it will be with bodies glorified, and therefore, as we may humbly hope, with the senses capable of bearing the full light of the divine majesty, and with faculties able to comprehend the full extent of the divine mercy!
But in order to attain unto this state of blessedness, when our great change shall come, it is needful that we should approach as nigh to it as possible during the time of this present life. How thankful then ought we to be, if God, even by the most bitter adversity, makes known to us our transgressions, and leads us to repent of them! Let us be prepared to praise his holy name, for the very things of which Job was tempted to complain; if He hide away his face, and seem to treat us as his enemies, and exert his mighty power to subdue the hearts of us his feeble creatures, and bring to our remembrance the sins of our youth, and give us a sense of how grievous a thing it is to be in bondage to iniquity; that we may be thereby the more vehemently moved to flee from the wrath to come. Welcome affliction, if it make us humble! Welcome the record of our past iniquities, if the bitter remembrance constrain us to repent, and to amend our lives! Welcome any dispensation of God's providence on earth, which may tend to fit us for partaking of his glory in heaven! Welcome any manifestation of the terrors of the Lord, which, making us to stand in awe and sin not, may be the means of God's now keeping us from falling, and hereafter presenting us faultless before the presence of his glory, with exceeding joy! See Jude 24.
Job describeth man's transitory life on earth.
1 Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble.
2 He cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down: he fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not.
3 And dost thou open thine eyes upon such an one, and bringest me into judgment with thee?
4 Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one.
5 Seeing his days are determined, the number of his months are with thee, thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass;
6 Turn from him, that he may rest, till he shall accomplish, as an hireling, his day.
7 For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease.
8 Though the root thereof wax old in the earth, and the stock thereof die in the ground;
9 Yet through the scent of water it will bud, and bring forth boughs like a plant.
10 But man dieth, and wasteth away: yea, man giveth up the ghost, and where is he?
11 As the waters fail from the sea, and the flood decayeth and drieth up:
12 So man lieth down, and riseth not: till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep.
That we may judge of our future lot by our present state.
The transitory nature of man's present life, makes Job the more surprised that God should pay such close attention to man, and to man's concerns. Well indeed may we also be surprised, well may we add to wonder thankfulness and love; to think that the most high God should open his eyes upon such as we are, and should vouchsafe to note all we do against a future judgment. Conceived in sin, brought forth in sorrow, often carried off by death in infancy, in childhood, or in youth, man, even if he live to manhood, has but few years of active usefulness, ere age begins to undermine his strength, and death to advance as one that will not much longer be denied." Few and evil," said Jacob, "have the days of the years of my life been." Gen. 47. 9. And Job was perhaps alluding to these well known words, when he spake as follows, "Man that is born of woman is of few days, and full of trouble. He cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down he fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not."
Expressive words; made to us doubly affecting, by their constant occurrence in the solemn service, with which we commit the bodies of departed friends to the ground from which they were taken. Instructive description of our state on earth; and one which ought to make us deeply feel the vanity of setting our hearts upon those pleasures or possessions, which we can but for so short a season call our own. What? do we think that here we
have any certainty for the tenure of a single moment? Do we doubt that the future years of life, if for any future years we should be spared, will flee away as rapidly as the past, and that the hour of death will soon be as present to us as the moment that now is? Or do we expect, as it might almost be thought we do, seeing what deep interest we are apt to take in the things of earth, do we expect to rise again in the present world, again to be what we have been once already, again to enjoy what we have already once for all enjoyed? No; there is no such renewed life of man on earth. "There is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease. Though the root thereof wax old in the earth, and the stock thereof die in the ground; yet through the scent of water it will bud, and bring forth boughs like a plant. But man dieth, and wasteth away: yea, man giveth up the ghost, and where is he?"
"Man giveth up the ghost," an event that happens daily amongst us; nay such is the number of men living on the earth, and so many the deaths which continually occur, that there is scarcely a single moment in which some one of our fellow creatures does not breathe his last. "And where is he?" Where are all these millions and millions of active, intelligent, responsible beings? They are not here. They never will be here again. They can have no more to do with all the things about which they have here been busied, with which they have here been interested; but in regard to which they are henceforth as in a deep sleep, having no concern at all in all their past possessions, occupations, and enjoyments; except that they will have to answer for the use of them, when they shall arise from the grave at the world's end. And where are they, as regards that future life? In what degree are they prepared for that resurrection from the dead, which whether it were intended here by Job or not, is obviously suggested by his words to us, who are informed with certainty of life and immortality? Where, in this respect, are they who have died heretofore? Where shall we be when we die? Where, in this respect, are we now? Has it pleased God to bring a clean thing out of an unclean, to renew our hearts, to purify us, and to sanctify us, and to fit us for an eternity of happiness? Has He in mercy dealt with us, as with his own beloved Son, to make us perfect through sufferings? Or has He, in his displeasure, left us to ourselves; and according to the usual wish of our corrupt nature, turned from us, and allowed us to rest, and to accomplish our day as hirelings? Where are we now in these respects? patient in tribulation, or proud in prosperity? labouring to advance in piety, or living at ease in sin? Where are we in such respects as these at present? This will best help us to judge where we shall be, when we shall have given up the ghost.