Imatges de pÓgina
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eagles' wings, and fly aloft far and wide in search of it; not even so should we be the nearer to that heavenly understanding, without which all other skill is vain. Rather we might do well to ask the silent grave, to draw nigh unto the house appointed for all living, to meditate on the weakness, dishonour, and corruption which the rich and the learned there share alike with the ignorant and the poor. This would give us some glimpse of the wisdom we are in search of; this at least would be apt to put us in the way of learning in the proper quarter. For nothing is more likely to make us turn to God, and lean upon his help, than that deep conviction of our own helplessness, which is forced on us by the thought of our mortality. "Destruction and death say, We have heard the fame thereof with our ears."

But no reflection of our own, no mere communing with ourselves on the transitory nature of this present life, will suffice to make us wise unto salvation. "God understandeth the way thereof, and he knoweth the place thereof." It is He that must impart to us this wisdom. And why? because He it is who created us. His hand made all these things, which we deem it so great a matter to find out, to understand, or to possess. He called them into being. He made them out of nothing. He created both them and us. The skill we exercise in regard to them, this also is his handiwork. And when He made all things, and gave to each of his works its own law which should not be broken; when He balanced the waters and the winds; "when he made a decree for the rain, and a way for the lightning of the thunder;" then did He, in the plenitude of his power, lay down and declare this as the law of our well being: "Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding." Now, therefore, we know both what it is we are in search of, and of whom it is to be obtained. Now has Job abundantly declared that whatever prosperity the wicked may enjoy, no man can be happy who is not also holy. Now are we plainly instructed, that to live in the fear of God, departing constantly further and further off from evil, this is the only wisdom worthy of the name, and this no one can teach us except God. To Him then let us

apply with faith in prayer. To his word let us resort, and to the teaching of his ministers, and above all to the teaching of his Spirit. If we have hitherto thought to get this understanding as we would get worldly wisdom, merely by reading and reflecting, depending simply on our own unassisted faculties, no wonder that however well we may comprehend its meaning, we are unable to receive it in our hearts. Let us apply to God, and trust in his assistance, using diligently all the means and abilities He has given us, and then we shall learn effectually, and know practically, both to fear God, and to depart from evil.

Job maketh a statement of his conduct in prosperity.

1 Moreover Job continued his parable, and said,

2 Oh that I were as in months past, as in the days when God preserved me;

3 When his candle shined upon my head, and when by his light I walked through darkness; 4 As I was in the days of my youth, when the secret of God was upon my tabernacle;

5 When the Almighty was yet with me, when my children were about me;

6 When I washed my steps with butter, and the rock poured me out rivers of oil;

7 When I went out to the gate through the city, when prepared my seat in the street!

8 The young men saw me, and hid themselves and the aged arose, and stood up.

The princes refrained talking, and laid their hand on their mouth.

10 The nobles held their peace, and their tongue cleaved to the roof of their mouth.

11 When the ear heard me, then it blessed me; and when the eye saw me, it gave witness

to me:

12 Because I delivered the poor that cried, and the fatherless, and him that had none to help him.

13 The blessing of him that was ready to perish came upon

me: and I caused the widow's heart to sing for joy.

14 I put on righteousness, and it clothed me: my judgment was as a robe and a diadem. 15 I was eyes to the blind, and feet was I to the lame.

16 I was a father to the poor: and the cause which I knew not I searched out.

17 And I brake the jaws of the wicked, and plucked the spoil out of his teeth.

18 Then I said, I shall die in my nest, and I shall multiply my days as the sand.

19 My root was spread out by the waters, and the dew lay all night upon my branch.

20 My glory was fresh in me, and my bow was renewed in my hand.

21 Unto me men gave ear, and waited, and kept silence at my counsel.

22 After my words they spake not again; and my speech dropped upon them.

23 And they waited for me as for the rain; and they opened their mouth wide as for the latter rain.

24 If I laughed on them, they believed it not; and the light of my countenance they cast not down.

25 I chose out their way, and sat chief, and dwelt as a king in the army, as one that comforteth the mourners.

LECTURE 807.

Of learning by the pattern of a good example.

Boasting and vain glory can never be allowable. But it may sometimes be a man's duty to state the truth of his own upright conduct; in order that, according to St. Paul's advice, he may

not let his good be evil spoken of. See Rom. 14. 16. Job had been charged with conduct the very contrary to that which he knew that he had pursued in the times of his prosperity. This obliged him to testify to the truth of the case. And further, in confirmation of the argument he had been urging, he wished to shew his friends that he had not merely been outwardly prosperous, but had also been made partaker of that heavenly wisdom, which no wealth could purchase, no prosperity secure. His statement is most valuable to us, as shewing us both what excellence we ought to aim at, and what has been actually attained to. It is also highly interesting as a proof, that whatever sins of the tongue Job might be tempted to commit in the agony of his affliction, he had, in nearly every instance, been able to avoid those offences, both in word and deed, which commonly beset such as are in great prosperity.

And surely most inviting as a pattern, more especially to the great and wealthy, is the picture here drawn of one, who had all that this world most esteems, and who used it all to the good of his fellowcreatures, and to the glory of the gracious Giver. No wonder that Job earnestly wished himself replaced in a condition so happy and so honourable. Blest he was in his family, and blest in his substance. Blest he was in the good esteem of young and old, of rich and poor. Blest he was in possessing ample means of doing good, and in the disposition to use them bountifully, and in the kind acceptance which he met with, on the part of all whom he was enabled to assist. But there is no need to dwell upon the particulars of a passage so clear as to require little exposition, so striking as to command universal admiration. Rather let us say here unto ourselves, and to each other, according to our means and opportunities, "Go, and do thou likewise." Luke 10. 37. Go, and speak wisely, and act charitably. Go, and follow the example of Job in his prosperity; and beware of the faults he committed in adversity. Go, and imitate a pattern better than that which Job, or any other human being can supply, the faultless example of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. In Him we may see benevolence and beneficence, manifested not only when men received Him gladly, but also when they persecuted Him cruelly. He went about at once doing good, and bearing evil; making the widow's heart to sing for joy, whilst Himself a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. Eyes He was to the blind, and feet to the lame. He came to preach the Gospel to the poor, and to comfort them that mourned. But when He came unto his own, instead of giving ear to Him, his own received Him not. Instead of honouring Him, they set Him at nought. Instead of taking Him gladly for their King, they crucified Him. Yet even when on the cross He prayed for his enemies. And if He greatly helped many whilst He lived, much more by his death did He redeem all.

Job lamenteth the contempt heaped upon him.

1 But now they that are younger than I have me in derision, whose fathers I would have disdained to have set with the dogs of my flock.

2 Yea, whereto might the strength of their hands profit me, in whom old age was perished? 3 For want and famine they were solitary; fleeing into the wilderness in former time desolate and waste.

4 Who cut up mallows by the bushes, and juniper roots for

their meat.

5 They were driven forth from among men, (they cried after them as after a thief;)

6 To dwell in the cliffs of the valleys, in caves of the earth, and in the rocks.

7 Among the bushes they brayed; under the nettles they were gathered together.

8 They were children of fools, yea, children of base men: they were viler than the earth. 9 And now am I their song, yea, I am their byword. 10 They abhor me, they flee far from me, and spare not to spit in my face.

11 Because he hath loosed my cord, and afflicted me, they have also let loose the bridle before

me.

12 Upon my right hand rise the youth; they push away my feet, and they raise up against me the ways of their destruction.

13 They mar my path, they set forward my calamity, they have no helper.

14 They came upon me as a wide breaking in of waters: in the desolation they rolled themselves upon me.

LECTURE 808.

How meekly we ought to put up with insult.

See here the inconsistency of worldly greatness! See the melancholy change from honour to dishonour, from universal esteem to the most abject scorn, befalling one who had so lately said within himself," I shall die in my nest, and I shall multiply my days as the sand!" Ch. 29. 18. This perhaps was the very thing which made Job's reverses needful for his good. This presumption in the continuance of prosperity rendered it desirable that he should fall into adversity. Else he might have been tempted so to presume on his riches and honours, as to indulge in some wilful offence; whereby he would have fallen a much worse fall than this from greatness to obscurity and scorn, a falling into the guilt of sin, a falling under the displeasure of the Lord. How good was it then in God to cast him down from the eminence of wealth and of nobility, into the depths of want, sickness, vexation, and disgrace! How thankful may we be, when it shall seem fit to Him to visit us by any manner of adversity; well assured as we are, that "whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth!" Heb. 12. 6.

But how marvellous that God should make use of wicked men

for the affliction and correction of the righteous! How wisely is their wickedness overruled for good! How skilfully is the vile dross of their evil tempers made the means of refining the faith and patience of those, whose blood is most precious in the sight of God! They who appeared to Job so worthless, the very outcasts of society, were turned herein to a good account, by the providence of God; and were made to do that service to the patriarch, which none of those who had so greatly loved and honoured him were able to perform. By scoffing and scorning, by their offensive language, and by their rude violence, they helped to humble his soul unto the dust; and they prepared him for learning the important lesson, seldom learnt but in the school of affliction, that "before honour is humility." Prov. 15. 33. Surely this thought might help us to love our enemies, to bless them that curse us, and to do good to them that evil entreat and persecute us, see Matt. 5. 44; the thought that their enmity, and ill words, and evil treatment, may become the means, if we do but receive them as we ought, of our growing in the graces of the Gospel, and increasing in meetness for partaking of eternal joy.

But behold we have a more constraining motive than the thought of our own gain, to induce us to comply with this commandment of our Lord. We have the force of our Lord's own example, under circumstances, which the words of Job before us are well fitted to bring to our remembrance. On Him was poured out the like excess of indignity; on Him were inflicted further the chains of captivity, and the agonies of a cruel death; on Him, who, whilst He was alive and at liberty, "went about doing good." Acts 10. 38. In Him, and in his sufferings, were fulfilled both this type, if it be a type, of Job's calamity, and also these corresponding expressions of the Psalmist, which we know to be in part prophetical of Christ: "But as for me, I am a worm, and no man: a very scorn of men, and the outcast of the people. All they that see me, laugh me to scorn: they shoot out their lips, and shake their heads, saying, He trusted in God that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, if he will have him." Ps. 22. 6-8. And did He, who was no less than God's own Son, endure such scorn as this for us? What then ought not we to bear with patience? What wrong, what insult, mockery, or cruelty, that the very best of us can suffer from the very worst, ought to move in us any passion, except sorrow for their wickedness, any words except prayer for their forgiveness?

cross.

"Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." Luke 23. 34. Thus let us pray, in the words of Christ upon the Or if we think it too far above us to come up to Christ's example, let us be led forwards thereunto by one of our own frail fellowcreatures, thus praying for them that stoned him to death: "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge." Acts 7. 60.

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