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the earth was given, and no stranger passed among them.” By which words, we may conceive it intimated, that they were the patriarchs who lived not long after the flood, at a time when the earth was very thinly peopled. And certainly that most awful visitation, the drowning of the whole world of the ungodly, was well fitted to impress those who lived soon afterwards, nay and is also well fitted to impress us, with the conviction, that God will not spare the wicked.
The testimony of these wise men of old is here set forth by Eliphaz in striking language; much of which is certainly very applicable to the destruction which the flood brought upon the ungodly, and all which may be profitably interpreted by us of that misery which God makes to wait on wickedness, usually in this world, and uniformly in the world to come. True it is that the wicked often prosper, in the worldly meaning of the word prosperity. But “in prosperity the destroyer shall come upon him;" and in the most strictly true sense of the words “ the wicked man travaileth with pain all his days.” In the case of any one so daring in iniquity as Eliphaz here describes, there must be ever a secret terror haunting the soul, and embittering all the pleasures of the sense. There must be an apprehension that the day of darkness is nigh at hand; as is indeed very plainly admitted in the favourite maxim of such as these, “Let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we die.” 1 Cor. 15. 32. There must be the pain of apprehension beforehand, or the pain of endeavouring to stifle it. And then there is the painful reality soon to come to pass, when the Almighty, here described as a resistless warrior, shall rush on those who presume to strengthen themselves against Him, and who trust in those good things which He has given them.
And oh the helplessness of man, when overtaken by God! Oh the vanity of man's riches, and of man's strength and length of life, and of all the strength of all the wicked men in all the world combined, as opposed to the might of Him who made all things ! Language fails in attempting to express the madness of the thought. No image can sufficiently represent the presumptuous folly, and miserable weakness, of the creature, when daring to resist the will of the Creator. Impunity for a short season may perhaps give them some sense of safety in their wickedness; but it will make their punishment so much the more signal and severe. With Him who created all things for their enemy, what can be their lot at last but unutterable woe? Whatever pain then we may be put to here in serving God, let us calculate within ourselves, that all this pain, and pain much greater than any we feel now, all the pain and shame which we shall be capable of feeling with body and soul fitted for eternity, all this is the sure end of refusing to serve God; all this is the consequence, now threatened, and soon to be fulfilled, in the case of all who having been called unto holiness live an ungodly life.
head at you.
Job reneweth his complaint against his friends. i Then Job answered and said, 7 But now he hath made me
2. I have heard many such weary: thou hast made desolate things: miserable comforters are all my company.
8 And thou hast filled me with 3 Shallvain words have an wrinkles, which is a witness end ? or what emboldeneth thee against me : and my leanness that thou answerest?
rising up in me beareth witness 4 I also could speak as ye do: to my face. if your soul were in my soul's 9 He teareth me in his wrath, stead, I could heap up words who hateth me: he gnasheth against you, and shake mine upon me with his teeth ; mine
enemy sharpeneth his eyes upon 5 But I would strengthen you me. with my mouth, and the moving 10 They have gaped upon me of my lips should assuage your with their mouth; they have grief.
the cheek 6 Though I speak, my grief is reproachfully; they have gathernot assuaged: and though I for- ed themselves together against bear, what am I eased ?
LECTURE 787. Against resting satisfied with imaginary well doing. It is easy to purpose how well we would behave, if we were in different circumstances from those in which we are. " I would strengthen you with my mouth,” says Job," and the moving of my lips should assuage your grief;" thus he says he would behave to his friends, if he were in their situation, and they in his. He might indeed then triumph over them, as they were triumphing over him: “ I also could speak as ye do: if your soul were in my soul's stead, I would heap up words against you, and shake mine head at you.” But he is confident that he should do the very
He assures his friends, that in the case supposed, he would do all in his power to comfort them in affliction. It was easy for Job thus to purpose. And no doubt he really meant that which he declared.' But it would have been far better to have spoken kindly to his friends, in return for the unkindness which he met with. It would have been far better to have done his duty to the best of his power, as things then were, than to be resolving how well he would do it, if things were as he could imagine them. Instead of doing this, he now reproached his friends
“ miserable comforters.” He spoke of them as the means of adding to his trouble, as the instruments of the vexation which it pleased God to inflict on him, as enemies gathered together on purpose to give him pain.
Now we cannot say exactly how far Job ought to have known better. For we cannot tell to what degree his mind had been enlightened on the duty of forgiving injuries, and overcoming
evil with good. It was not till God had fully revealed in the Gospel the extent of his love for fallen man, it was not till then that man could be thus forcibly exhorted: “ Be ye kind one to another, tender hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.” Eph. 4. 32. But we have been thus exhorted; we are thus instructed. We have been fully informed of this most amazing instance of God's love towards us, the gift of his own Son to be our Saviour. And we know, that the way in which we are to prove our sense of his marvellous kindness, is to love Him in return, and that the way in which we are to prove that we really love God is to love our brethren. Never then let us be content with imagining how kindly we would act, and how much good we would do, if we had some supposed means and opportunities, other than we have. But with the means we have, and in the opportunities actually presented to us, let us do all the good we can, and shew all the kindness in our power, to every one of our fellow creatures.
It is indeed so much easier to purpose goodness than to be good, there are so many hinderances in the way of every active duty, and so much unthankfulness awaiting our exertions for the welfare of each other, that it is natural for men to shrink from the self denial and diligence of real life, and to resort with eagerness to books, or to other means of entertainment, which represent histories either real or fictitious in an interesting point of view; and which stir the affections of the heart, without any corresponding exercise for the bounty of the hands. And certainly we have a warrant in the many affecting histories contained in God's most holy word, we have a warrant for thinking, that it must be good for us to exercise our sympathy in cases which are beyond the reach of our relief. But the great use of our so doing, is to quicken our affections against the time of action. And the more we take delight in reading what has befallen others, and the more deeply we enter into the wants and sorrows of those whose history we read, we must so much the more watch, lest we become gradually less fitted, instead of more so, for those active duties of benevolence, which ought to form one of the chief sources of our happiness. To endure hardship in doing good, to put up with unthankfulness for good done, and though requited with evil in return for our labour of love, still to persevere in well doing with love unquenched and unabated zeal, this is a point of Christian proficiency, for which we may indeed be prepared by study and meditation, but in which we can only be perfected by practice. And the same is the case in regard to the attainment of all other graces of the Gospel. In order to grow in them, we must be actually exercised in them. And instead of imagining what progress we might make in them, if we were otherwise situated, we must do our duty in that state of life, unto which it has pleased God to call us.
Job ascribeth his affliction to God. 11 God hath delivered me to 16 My face is foul with weepthe ungodly, and turned me ing, and on mine eyelids is the over into the hands of the shadow of death ; wicked.
17 Not for any injustice in mine 12 I was at ease, but he hath hands : also my prayer is pure. broken me asunder: he hath also 18 O earth, cover not thou my taken me by my neck, and shaken blood, and let my cry have no me to pieces, and set me up for place. his mark.
19 Also now, behold, my witness 13 His archers compass me is in heaven, and my record is round about, he cleaveth my on high. reins asunder, and doth not spare; 20 My friends scorn me: but he poureth out my gall upon the mine eye poureth out tears unto ground.
God. 14 He breaketh me with breach 21 Oh that one might plead for upon breach, he runneth upon a man with God, as a man pleadme like a giant.
eth for his neighbour ! 15 I have sewed sackcloth upon 22 When a few years are come, my skin, and defiled my horn in then I shall go the way whence the dust.
I shall not return. LECTURE 788. The blessedness of being chastised in mercy. From complaining of his friends, Job breaks off into a lamentation on his own sad case under the afflicting hand of God; to whom he confidently appeals as a witness of the integrity of his heart, and with whom he had much rather plead his cause, than with his three unkind visitors. Of them it is that he complains, saying, “ God hath delivered me to the ungodly, and turned me over into the hands of the wicked.” And it is to God, as the overruling cause of all, who uses even the ungodly as the instruments of his own holy will and pleasure, it is to God that Job proceeds to refer the weight of his affliction, saying, “ I was at ease, but he hath broken me asunder: he hath also taken me by my neck, and shaken me to pieces, and set me up for his mark. His archers compass me round about, he cleaveth my reins asunder, and doth not spare; he poureth out my gall upon the ground. He breaketh me with breach upon breach, he runneth upon me like a giant.” In these various and striking figures, Job expresses his conviction, that God was so far the Author of his sufferings, as that without God's commanding or permitting it, they could not have been inflicted. Neither evil disposed men, nor evil spirits, could have had any power at all against him, except it were given them by God.
True as this is of every affliction which befals us here, it would prove a perplexing truth to the afflicted, if we were not equally well assured that " whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth." Heb. 12. 6. But knowing this, we are enabled to receive God's chastisements as proofs and tokens of his love. However sorely diseased in body, dishonoured in reputation, or distressed in spirits, we cannot but be abundantly comforted by the thought, that each woe is dispensed to us for our good, by One who well knows what is best for us. Only in order for us to have this confidence of hope, we must be able to say with Job, when our “face is foul with weeping," that it is not for any injustice that is in our hands. We must be able to appeal to God“ which trieth our hearts,” 1 Thess. 2. 4, that also our prayer is pure.” It may be that God is chastening us in his anger, and visiting us in his sore displeasure. It may be so, and we cannot but fear it is so, if our conscience accuses us of purposely committing any sin we know of, and purposing to continue to commit it. As long as we are aware that this is the case, we have no ground for taking to ourselves the consolations of religion. Rather we are proper subjects for the manifestation of the terrors of the Lord.
But do not then all men sin ? Was not Job himself a sinner? Must not every one of us admit, that we deserve the worst of chastisement that God sends us ? We do deserve it. We are sinners. But we are not all sinners in the same sense and same degree. We are not all wilful sinners, hardened sinners, obstinate sinners. We are not all unbelieving, impenitent, ungodly sinners. We do not all deliberately choose sin as our course of life, and deliberately reject the grace of God, and the commandments of the Lord. This makes all the difference in the true estimate of our spiritual state. Can we appeal to God, who knows the secrets of our hearts, and feel assured that He sees them bent on pleasing Him without reserve? Can we point to our witness which is in heaven, and to the record that is on high, and trust that if the books were opened now, and God Himself were now to publish his unerring sentence on our conduct, there would arise no charge against us, of purposed self indulgence, wilful ignorance, or inexcusable neglect? Much there will be of frailty, many things each day to be repented of, which upon due self examination we feel we might do better, and purpose to do better, and actually do better on the morrow. But for these we apply for pardon, with the confidence of sons, who having been once truly reconciled to their heavenly Father, believe that He is ever ready to forgive. And if this be our condition before God, if we can look forward with hope like this to the day when we shall stand before the judgment seat of Christ, then may we interpret, without danger of mistake, each sorrow that God sends us in this present life, as a token of the love He feels for us, and an instance of the pains He is taking to fit us for a life of perfect happiness hereafter. To Him be all the glory of the grace we bave attained to, to Him be thanks for all the tribulation we are subject to, through Jesus Christ our Lord !