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A view of the glory of God humbling to
JOB xlii. 5, 6.
I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear; but
now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes,
Y brethren, we can have no experimental
knowledge ; and, indeed, we have not much distinct knowledge at all of the nature of religion, as it takes place among angels, and other intelligent beings, who have kept their first estate, and never were polluted by sin. From some things, however, recorded in scripture, we have reason to believe that they appear before God with the greatest lowliness and self-abasement, that they are at all times deeply penetrated with a sense of the infinite disproportion between themselves, as derived, dependent, limited, imperfect beings, and the eternal, immutable, omnipotent Jehovah. Thus, in the vision of Isaiah, in the sixth chapter of that book, ver. 1, 2, 3. In the year that • King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the • temple. Above it stood the seraphims; each one
bad fix wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, • Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hofts, the whole • earth is full of his glory.' But, if this is the case With thefe exalted and happy spirits, how much more muit a deep humiliation of mind be necessary to us, who, by fin, have rendered ourselves the just objects of divine wrath, and whose hope of salvation is founded only on the riches of divine grace? We ought never to forget, that every instance of the favour of God to man, is not to be considered as the cxercise of goodness to the worthy, nay, not merely as bounty to the needy, or help to the miserable, but mercy to the guilty.
For this reason, as repentance is neceffary to every finner, in order to his reconciliation with God, fo thofe Christians preserve the justest views of their present state and character, as well as the foundation of their hope, who frequently renew this falutary exercise. I cannot help faying further, that thofe make the wifest provision for the preservation of their inward peace, who frequently water that tender plant with the tears of penitential forrow. To allist you in this exercise, and to point out the proper grounds of it, I have chosen to infilt a little on these words, in which you see the effect which a difcovery of the glory and majesty of God had
upon his servant Job: I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear; but now mine eye feeth thee. Wherefore Į abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.
It is not necessary to my present purpose, to enter far into the dispute between Job and his friends, al. though, po doubt, the words of the text have an e. vident relation to it. The controversy feems plain: ly to have turned upon this point. His friends find. ing him in deep distress, under the most complicated affliction, would needs have it, that no good man could be fo frowned upon by a righteous God; and therefore that his former profession must have been hypocritical and false. This is evident from the man, ner in which Eliphaz opens the charge against him, chap, iv. 6, 7, 8, 9. Is not this thy fear, thy con• fidence, thy hope, and the uprightness of thy ways? • Remember, I pray thee, who ever perished, being • innocent ? or where were the righteous cut off? • Even as I have seen, they that plow iniquity, and • fow wickedness, reap the fame. By the blast of God they perish, and by the breath of his noftrils • are they consumed.' In opposition to this, Job af. serts and maintains his integrity in general, and, with, al, affirms their opinion to be falfe; for that God, in his just and sovereign providence, brings affliction both on the righteous and the wicked. That this is the proposition which he all along endeavours to sup, port, is plain, as from many other passages, so partiçularly from chap. ix, 22. ' This is one thing, there. fore I said it, he destroyeth the perfect, and the • wicked.'
Thus stood the matter, in dispute, between Job and his friends, in which, though that good man,
had supported the truth, on the subject of divine providence; yet, in the heat of the debate, and the anguilh of his owa sufferings, he had let fall fome expressions, not only of impatience, but of disrespect to the conduct of the Lord his Maker. For thefe he was first reproved by Elihu, and afterwards, with unspeakable force and majesty, by God himself, who asserts the sovereignty of his power, and the righteoufness of his providence. On this discovery of the glory of divine perfection, the sufferer was deeply humbled, and expresses a sense of his own vileness and folly, in the 4th and sth verses of the fortieth chapter: • Behold, I am vile, what shall I answer
thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth. Once have I spoken, but I will not answer; yea, twice,
but I will proceed no further. And, again, in the beginning of the forty-second chapter, concluding with the words of the text.
It is not improbable, from the beginning of the thirty-eighth chapter, that it pleased God to give Job fome visible representation of his glory and omnipotence. This was not unusual, in ancient times, before the canon of the scripture was closed. But, no doubt, the discovery which chiefly affected him was inward and spiritual, carrying home, with irresistible force, the great truths which we fill find recorded in a manner inimitably noble and fublime. I have heard of thee, fays he, by the hearing of the ear ; but now mine eye seeth thee. This implies, that, as seeing gives a more distinct, full, and satisfying knowledge of any thing, than hearing of it only by the report of others, the impresions which he then had of the majesty
and glory of God, were far stronger than any he had ever felt before. Therefore, says he, I abhor myself. It filled him with self-lothing and abhorrence. And I repent in duft and asbes. This is either, in general, a strong expression of deep penitence and sorrow, of which dust and alhes were antiently the signs; or, perhaps, it has a particular reference to his prefent miferable and afflicted state, described in chap: ii. 8. 'And he took him a potsherd to scrape him. : self withal; and he sat down among the ashes. As if he had said, Lord, I am deeply sensible of the e: yil of every rash word, of every rebellious thought, I confefs, that thou haft afflicted me in truth and faithfulness; and that, in this low and desolate con. dition, it becomes me to lay my hand upon my mouth, and to repent of that guilt which would have fully justified thy providence in a still heavier stroke.
The words thus explained, present to us this general and most important truth, That a discovery of the perfection, glory, and majesty of God, has a powerful influence in leading us to repentance; and that the clearer this discovery is, the more sincere will be our repentance, and the deeper our humilia tion. In discourfing further on this subject, at prefent, I propose, only, through divine assistance,
1. To make some observations, at once to illuftrate and confirm the proposition above laid down, as to the effect of a discovery of the glory of God., And, in the