Imatges de pÓgina

pleased to make to it, in the laws of our nature, or in the dispensations of his providence. And Job would have his friends to know, that he understood their devices in obstinately maintaining the contrary opinion. He knew that they designed to argue from his being a great sufferer to his being a great sinner; which would evidently follow on his granting them, that none except the very wicked are heavily afflicted, and that they always are. It was for this that they said, "Where is the house of the prince? and where are the dwelling places of the wicked?" They pointed to Job's desolate house, as proof beyond dispute, that he must be numbered with the ungodly. Whereas they might have learnt, he tells them, by asking of any traveller on the road, that the dwelling places of the wicked were often well established, and were seen to flourish for a length of time. Nay, he signifies, at the end of his speech, that they knew all this themselves, and knowingly were speaking that which was not true.

The fact was notorious, that oftentimes the ungodly might be seen to flourish. And the true account of this, Job seems to think, was equally well known, namely, "that the wicked is reserved to the day of destruction, they shall be brought forth to the day of wrath." High they may be, and haughty, and above being rebuked for their offences, and supposing themselves above being brought to judgment for them. They may die as much at ease as they have lived; and may be brought to the grave, and remain in the tomb as peaceably and as honourably, to all outward seeming, as if they had lived a godly life. The earth may rest as light on their remains, and the clods of the valley may be as sweet to mingle with their dust. And as thousands have run the like course before them, so there may be nothing seen in their earthly end to deter thousands from taking the same course after them. But for all this, they are reserved to the day of destruction. They have but been heaping up for themselves wrath, against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God. See Rom. 2. 5. Let us not then be deceived by the calmness, and seeming peace, with which the wicked often breathe their last, or by the honours which are often paid to their remains or their memory, those last tokens of respect that man can give to man. All this may be theirs when life ends, as well as all prosperity while life lasts; and yet all may be only a dream of pleasure, from which they must awake to an eternity of pain. Peace they say unto themselves, when there is no peace; for "there is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked." Is. 57. 21. Honour they have received one of another. But God is about to put them to shame. And when the gilded sepulchres of the rich and the renowned shall give up their dead, the sentence awarded to many of their owners will fearfully fulfil these words of Christ, "That which is highly esteemed amongst men is abomination in the sight of God." Luke 16. 15.

Eliphaz speaketh for the third time.

1 Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered and said,

2 Can a man be profitable unto God, as he that is wise may be profitable unto himself?

3 Is it any pleasure to the Almighty, that thou art righteous? or is it gain to him, that thou makest thy ways perfect? 4 Will he reprove thee for fear of thee? will he enter with thee into judgment?

5 Is not thy wickedness great? and thine iniquities infinite? 6 For thou hast taken a pledge from thy brother for nought, and stripped the naked of their clothing.

7 Thou hast not given water to the weary to drink, and thou hast withholden bread from the hungry.

8 But as for the mighty man, he had the earth; and the honourable man dwelt in it.

9 Thou hast sent widows away empty, and the arms of the fatherless have been broken:

10 Therefore snares are round about thee, and sudden fear troubleth thee;

11 Or darkness, that thou canst not see; and abundance of waters cover thee.

12 Is not God in the height of heaven? and behold the height of the stars, how high they are!

13 And thou sayest, How doth God know? can he judge through the dark cloud?

14 Thick clouds are a covering to him, that he seeth not; and he walketh in the circuit of heaven. 15 Hast thou marked the old way which wicked men have trodden?

16 Which were cut down out of time, whose foundation was overthrown with a flood:

17 Which said unto God, Depart from us: and what can the Almighty do for them?

18 Yet he filled their houses with good things: but the counsel of the wicked is far from me. 19 The righteous see it, and are glad: and the innocent laugh them to scorn.

20 Whereas our substance is not cut down, but the remnant of them the fire consumeth.


Against speaking vexatiously to those with whom we differ. Eliphaz now once more begins to speak, for the third time. And as before, he says much that is unkind towards Job, and with it much that is sound doctrine, and wholesome counsel, either for Job, or for us. First he urges an important truth, namely, that our obedience and holiness of life cannot really be of any advantage to God; cannot be a source of profit or pleasure, in the sense in which we commonly apply these words to our own gains and joys. Neither can it be through fear of losing any such benefit, that God reproves us when we sin. All this is strictly true. And it is truth highly important for us to remember; because we are very apt to conceive irreverently of God, as if He were One like ourselves, dependent on other beings for the perfecting of his happiness and glory. The language in which He graciously condescends to our feeble appre

hensions, and represents Himself in his word as caring for us, seeking us, loving us, longing for the affection of our hearts, and for the devotion of our lives, these expressions are liable to be misapprehended by us in the vanity of our minds; as if God were in any wise obliged to us for loving Him and keeping his commandments. And it is doubtless with a view to check in us this false presumption, that our blessed Lord has warned us, "When ye shall have done all these things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants; we have done that which was our duty to do." Luke 17. 10.

In stating this important truth to Job, Eliphaz appears to have implied, that Job felt as if his past righteousness had laid the Lord under a kind of obligation to give him continual prosperity. But fearing perhaps lest he should herein seem to admit that Job had in past time been righteous, he immediately proceeds to lay to his charge several distinct and serious offences; of which if Job had indeed been guilty, it might have been said to him with reason," Is not thy wickedness great? and thine iniquities infinite?" It seems probable, that Eliphaz means to say no more, than that Job must have done some such things as these, and to set before him, by way of convincing him of sin, the offences into which it was most likely that one in his situation would fall. Oppression of the poor, and withholding a due measure of relief from them that need it, these are in all ages among the temptations of the great. And without supposing Job guilty of some such acts as are here specified, Eliphaz could not account for the pains of body, and perplexity of mind, with which he was now afflicted.

As to Job's own declared opinion, that to be heavily afflicted was not always to be taken for a proof of having been a grievous sinner, this his friend thought fit to interpret, as if it were a denial of God's all seeing providence, as if Job had argued, that God dwelt so far off in the heights of heaven, that He could not judge through the intervening distance. And therefore he points to well known instances, in which the ungodly had been signally overtaken by vengeance from the Lord. And in doing so, he takes up Job's own description of the wicked, "which say unto God, Depart from us," as well as Job's protest against fellowship with them," the counsel of the wicked is far from me." See Ch. 21. 14, 16. Let us observe how objectionable this practice is, how apt to vex and irritate the person, whose words are so taken up by those with whom he is at variance. And let us also beware of charging our opponents with things which they would not admit to be their opinions, however plainly their words seem to us to imply them. These are the arts which embitter controversy. And it is by means like these, that those conferences of reasonable beings, which ought to put an end to strife, often add to the fierceness of wrath, and help to make enmity perpetual.

Eliphaz exhorteth Job to repent, with many promises.

21 Acquaint now thyself with him, and be at peace: thereby good shall come unto thee.

22 Receive, I pray thee, the law from his mouth, and lay up his words in thine heart.

23 If thou return to the Almighty, thou shalt be built up, thou shalt put away iniquity far from thy tabernacles.

24 Then shalt thou lay up gold as dust, and the gold of Ophir as the stones of the brooks.

25 Yea, the Almighty shall be thy defence, and thou shalt have plenty of silver.

26 For then shalt thou have

thy delight in the Almighty, and shalt lift up thy face unto God. 27 Thou shalt make thy prayer unto him, and he shall hear thee, and thou shalt pay thy vows.

28 Thou shalt also decree a thing, and it shall be established unto thee: and the light shall shine upon thy ways.

29 When men are cast down, then thou shalt say, There is lifting up; and he shall save the humble person.

30 He shall deliver the island of the innocent: and it is delivered by the pureness of thine hands.


These promises to the penitent compared with those in the Gospel. How like in many points to the very truth of the Gospel, is this latter part of the concluding speech of Eliphaz ! " Acquaint now thyself with him, and be at peace." Such was the maxim of the patriarchal faith. Now hear it explained by the words of Christ: "This is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." John 17. 3. Again Eliphaz says to Job, "Receive, I pray thee, the law from his mouth; and lay up his words in thine heart. If thou return to the Almighty, thou shalt be built up, thou shalt put away iniquity far from thy tabernacles." Which we may explain by the words of Jeremiah, thus quoted in the epistle to the Hebrews: "This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; and their sins and iniquities will I remember no more." Heb. 10. 16, 17. Yes, it is God that puts away iniquity, not man. Or, in other words, it is by the help of God that man must put it away far from his tabernacles. It is by receiving the instruction which God gives, and by leaning on the help which God affords, and by laying up his words in the heart, and by returning with repentance unto the Lord; this is the way of reconciliation unto God, and of deliverance from our sins, from the guilt of them, and from the power of them, as pointed out in Scripture from one end to the other.

Nor is the promise which Eliphaz holds forth to Job, on condition of his true repentance, so altogether unlike the spirit of the Gospel, as we may be apt at first sight to suppose. "Then shalt thou lay up gold as dust, and the gold of Ophir as the stones of the brooks. Yea, the Almighty shall be thy defence, and thou

Matt. 6. 33.


shalt have plenty of silver." And so it is written in the New Testament: Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth." Matt. 5. 5. And again," Godliness is profitable unto all things, having the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come." 1 Tim. 4. 8. And again, our Lord assures his disciples, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.' And once more, when "Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee," "Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel's, but he shall receive an hundred fold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life." Mark 10. 28-30. A gracious promise, for the support of those whose feeble faith leaps not beyond time into eternity, nor feels the present, as we surely might do, almost as nothing when compared with the future! A gracious promise, and graciously accompanied by mention of the persecution to be expected, lest this when it come, should damp our faith, or abate the ardour of our love!

Other fruits of our turning unto God, as here set forth by Eliphaz, are to have delight in Him, and instead of shrinking from his presence to lift up our faces towards Him, also to make our prayer unto Him, and be heard; to make vows unto Him, and keep them; to decree or resolutely determine to obey Him, and to be enabled to do as we decree, through the light which He makes to shine upon our ways; and yet more when cast down then to be lifted up, He being ready to save the lowly in heart; and also to be the means of deliverance to others; for thus we may understand the purport of the last verse, according to the marginal translation," the innocent shall deliver the island." And in like manner we learn in the New Testament to draw nigh to God with the confidence of sons. See Rom. 8. 15. We are assured that the ears of the Lord are open to the prayers of the righteous. See 1 Pet. 3. 12. We are led to think that God's grace will prove sufficient for us, and will enable us to hold to the decree which we have made, that nothing shall separate us from the love of God. See Acts 12. 9; Rom. 8. 39. We are encouraged, however grievously we may have fallen, to hope that God will, upon our true repentance, receive us as a forgiving parent, that goes forth to meet a long lost son. See Luke 15. 22. And to encourage us in trying to help others in the way of everlasting life, we are recommended to exhort one another daily, while it is called to day, lest any be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin; see Heb. 3. 13; and we are informed that the earnest prayer of a righteous man availeth much. See James 5. 16.

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