JOB

Charles Simeon's Devotional Commentaries

 

DISCOURSE 449

JOB'S ANXIETY FOR HIS CHILDREN

Job 1:5. And it was so, when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt-offerings according to the number of them all: for M said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually.

WHO Job was, or at what precise period he lived, or who wrote the book that is called by his name, is not certainly known. It is probable that he was a descendant of Nahor, Abraham's brother Genesis 22:20-21, and that he lived previous to the deliverance of Israel from Egypt, because there does not appear to be any direct reference to that event, which there would in all probability have been, if it had taken place, and Job or his friends had been acquainted with it. The Book of Job, with the exception of the two first chapters, and part of the last, is written in verse; and this has given occasion to some to imagine, that the whole book is a kind of poetic fiction: but there undoubtedly was such a man as Job Ezekiel 14:14; and the events referred to in the Book of Job did actually occur James 5:11; and the record of them was most assuredly inspired It is referred to by Paul in this view. Compare Job 5:13 with 1 Corinthians 3:19. Though therefore we admit that the conversation which passed between him and his friends is not recorded in the precise words used by the different speakers, yet it is certain that the substance of their respective speeches is correctly given, and that the record of them was written under the direction of God himself; so that it is, as much as any other part of the inspired volume, the word of God.

The scope of the book must be clearly understood, and be borne in mind throughout; for, if we lose sight of that, the whole will be a mass of confusion. The friends of Job conceived, that his extraordinary calamities proved that his former professions of piety had been hypocritical: and Job maintained, that the trials which a man might be called to endure were no just criterion whereby to judge of his state; since the most upright of men might be deeply afflicted, and the most ungodly of men might enjoy uninterrupted ease and prosperity. And it will be found in the sequel, that, though Job in some instances was unguarded in his expressions, his views on the whole were right, and those of his friends erroneous. But we must not therefore conclude, that his friends uttered nothing that was good: their general sentiments were just; but their application of them to Job's particular case was incorrect: their premises were often right; but their conclusions wrong. Their great error was, that they thought such extraordinary dispensations of God's providence towards a man must be sent on account of some extraordinary wickedness committed by him. Conceiving themselves to be correct in this, they concluded Job to have been a hypocrite, and that God had now exposed his hypocrisy to the view of all: and Job, on the contrary, maintained that he had been upright in all his conduct, and that the judgment of his friends was uncharitable, erroneous, and wicked.

But it is not our intention to enter any further into the general question between Job and his friends at present: we have now only to consider the private character of Job, and that more particularly in reference to his family. He is represented as a man of most eminent piety, as being "perfect and upright, and one that feared God and eschewed evil verse 1;" and from what is said of him in our text, he evidently deserved that high character. Let us consider then,

I. His conduct in relation to his family—

God had blessed him with a numerous family, whom he had reared to manhood, and placed around him with separate establishments. But, notwithstanding he had thus liberally provided for them, and was evidently most indulgent towards them, (promoting to the uttermost a brotherly union among them, and permitting his daughters to enliven the innocent conviviality of their domestic circles,) he was exceeding watchful and jealous over their eternal interests. His seven sons had been entertaining each other in succession: and, though Job knew not that anything contrary to God's will had passed among them, yet, conceiving it possible that they might in their mirth have been transported too far, he called them to prepare themselves for a solemn attendance upon God, while he should offer for every one of them a burnt-offering unto the Lord.

Now consider this as an act,

1. Of magisterial authority—

It is manifest that he was, if not a king, yet a magistrate, possessing very high authority, and occupied to a great extent in judicial proceedings Job 29:5-10; yet he did not therefore think himself at liberty to neglect religion, or to confine his attention to private duties: he felt that the more exalted his station was, the greater was his responsibility, and the more urgent his duty to honor God before men. What a blessing would it be, if all people of wealth and dignity would use their influence in this way! But the generality of great men think there is no need for them to stand forth as patrons and patterns of religion: they suppose they have a dispensation from such open acts of piety as would attract observation, and make them appear particular; and that, if they countenance by their presence the public institutions of religion, it is quite as much as can be required at their hands. But we must declare to all, that, if Job, with the small measure of light which he enjoyed, accounted it his duty to exert all his influence for the honor of his God, much more should we, who profess to have received the full light of the Gospel, feel it our duty to devote all our faculties and all our talents to the honor of Christ, and the extension of his kingdom upon earth.

2. Of parental love—

Many who have been careful of their children in their earlier days, cast off all concern about them, or at least decline all interference with them as to religious matters, when they have arrived at years of discretion. But so did not Job: though he was an indulgent parent, he did not give up all parental authority, but sought to use it for the eternal welfare of his children. He called them all to self-examination and prayer, previous to his offering for them the sacrifices in which he commanded them to join This is the meaning of the word "sanctified" See Exodus 19:10; Exodus 19:14. Yes, we are told, "Thus he did continually;" continually watching over their eternal interests, and using all his influence, both with them and with God, to bring them to the enjoyment of the divine favor. in this he is a pattern for parents in every age, and in every place. As long as God shall continue to them the possession of their intellects, so long should they improve their authority for the enforcing of an attention to religious duties, and for the cultivating of a spirit of piety in the hearts of their children.

The peculiarity of his conduct naturally leads us to inquire into,

II. The grounds and reasons of it—

Had any great evil been committed by his sons, to call forth that particular exercise of parental authority, we should have ascribed to that the conduct of this holy man: but, as no evil existed but in his apprehensions, we must look for the grounds of his conduct in some general views and principles to which it is to be traced. It was founded in Job's views of,

1. The extreme depravity of our nature—

Though he had trained up his children in pious principles, he knew that they were by nature prone to evil, and that there was not any sin which, if left to themselves, they might not commit. He knew that they might even go so far as to speak lightly of God and his dispensations, whether of providence or grace; yes, through an evil heart of unbelief they might depart from God altogether, and actually renounce their allegiance to him. Hence he was desirous to obtain mercy for them, that, if they should have committed so great a sin, they might be brought back again to repentance, and not be left to perish forever in their iniquity.

Now in this respect the views of Job were just: for the heart of man by nature is "deceitful above all things and desperately wicked;" and, whatever education he may have received, and whatever eminence in piety he may have attained, he has reason to pray, "Hold up my goings in your paths, that my footsteps slip not!" yes, he has reason to fear, "lest, having preached to others, he himself should become a cast-away." And every person in the universe should bear this in mind, in reference both to himself and others: for it is "God alone that is able to keep us from falling," and it is only while "he holds us up that we can be safe."

2. The corrupt tendency of carnal mirth—

Mirth may be very innocently enjoyed: but there is great danger, especially when indulged to any extent, that it may become an occasion of evil. It certainly tends to stupefy the conscience, and to deaden our affections towards God. When we are rejoicing much in earthly things, we are apt to languish in our desire of heavenly things; and to feel less ardent longings for the glory that shall be revealed. Moreover, when "we are full, there is danger lest we deny God, and say, Who is the Lord Proverbs 30:8-9." It was against this that God cautioned his people of old Deuteronomy 8:10-11, and this effect Job saw as likely to be produced in his own children. Hence he called them to a particular recollection of their spirit and conduct during their days of feasting: he urged them to examine well their own hearts, and to implore help from God, that they might be enabled to discover any secret evil which might have lurked in their bosoms. Now in this he set an admirable example unto us. The world is apt to fascinate our carnal hearts; and it is extremely difficult to "use the world without abusing it." Whenever therefore we have been mixing in its company and participating of its pleasures, it becomes us carefully to examine our own hearts, lest we should have offended God by our forgetfulness of him, or contracted any stain that may render us odious in his sight.

3. The universal need of an atonement—

Had Job offered one burnt-offering for them all, it would have sufficed to show them what judgments they merited at the hands of God, and that nothing but the Great Sacrifice could ever avert his wrath from them; but when he offered a separate burnt-offering for each of them, these lessons were inculcated with double force. In truth, whether the young men had transgressed, or not, to the extent that their father feared, it was still necessary that they should apply to the blood of atonement to cleanse them from their sins. We need one to "bear the iniquity of our holiest actions," and much more to expiate the guilt which we contract in an hour of conviviality and mirth: "Without shedding of blood there can be no remission" of any sin whatever: and a most important lesson we shall learn from this history, if we take occasion from it to get this truth deeply impressed upon our hearts.

Let us learn from hence,

1. To exercise a jealousy over ourselves—

If it was right in Job to be jealous over his sons, it must surely be right for all to maintain a similar disposition in reference to themselves: nor is it only after a season of conviviality that we should exercise it, but at all times. Not a day should pass without diligent self-examination how we have passed our time, and how we have performed our several duties in the world, the family, and the closet; what tempers we have manifested towards man, and what affections we have exercised towards God, Have we received everything, whether good or evil, as from him, and endeavored to enjoy him in our comforts and to bless him for all our trials? In a word, let us especially inquire from time to time whether we have under all circumstances walked as in his immediate presence, and labored to glorify his great and glorious name? "This, like Job, we should do continually:" and, like him also, we should occasionally set apart a day for more than ordinary self-examination, for deep humiliation on account of our innumerable short-comings and defects, and for a more earnest application to the blood of our Great Sacrifice to expiate the guilt of all sins, whether deliberate or unintentional, whether known or unknown.

2. To seek above all things the eternal welfare of our children—

It is undoubtedly a parent's duty to seek the comfortable settlement of his children in some good and useful occupation: but it is his duty also to seek above all things the salvation of their souls. Consider, you who have families, that from you has been transmitted to your children a corrupt nature, which, if not changed by divine grace, will hurry them on to everlasting perdition. Surely then you are bound to seek this grace for them: you are bound to pray for them night and day: you are bound to restrain them also, and to "bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord 1 Samuel 3:13." Nor is it only in their earlier years that you are thus to watch over them, but in after life: and if you neglect to do so, you will involve yourselves in the deepest guilt, and be justly answerable for them in the day of judgment: "their blood will be justly required at your hands." In particular, be careful to instill into their minds high and reverential thoughts of God, and adoring gratitude to Christ for the atonement which he has made for sin and sinners. Teach them to go to that Savior continually, and to wash in the fountain of his blood, which alone can cleanse them from their sins. Thus, whatever may be the issue of your labors with respect to them, you will stand acquitted in your own conscience, and have a testimony from God in the last day that you have done the things which were pleasing in his sight; "Well done, good and faithful servant; enter you into the joy of your Lord."

 

DISCOURSE 450

UNCHARITABLE JUDGMENT REPROVED

Job 1:9. Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, Does Job fear God for nothing?

WELL has it been asked, "Who can stand before envy?" This vile principle is as ingenious as it is malignant. Never is it at a loss for an occasion to display its hateful propensities. The very favor of God himself shall call it forth, and cause it to pierce the most innocent of men with its envenomed darts. Especially, if any person be made an object of approbation and applause, its odious qualities will instantly appear in an endeavor, if not to destroy the character of the person applauded, yet at least to reduce it to the standard of ordinary attainments. In the chapter before us, Satan is represented as coming on a particular occasion into the presence of the Most High, and as being asked of God, whether he had considered what an eminently holy character Job was, insomuch "that there was not one like him upon earth, so perfect, so upright," so altogether conformed to the mind and will of God verse 6.–8. And what was the answer of this malignant fiend? It was in direct opposition to the divine testimony: "Does Job fear God for nothing?" No: he is a selfish hypocrite, that serves his God only because of the temporal advantages he gains by it: and, if those advantages were withdrawn, he would show he has no more regard for God than the vilest of mankind; yes, he would even "curse his God to his very face verse 9–11."

Now, it is in this very way that envy operates, in reference to the saints, in all ages: they are represented as actuated by far different principles from those which they profess, and as possessing in reality no more of true sanctity than the world around them: "Do they fear God for nothing?" No: they have some selfish end in view: and, if they be disappointed in attaining that, they will prove themselves as destitute of any religious principle as those who make no profession of religion.

It was in this sense that Satan put his challenge: and, therefore, we shall first direct our attention to it in that view. But we may take the words without any particular reference to the context; and then they will afford occasion for some observations of a very different nature. In both these views, it is my intention to consider them, and to notice them,

I. As a base accusation, indignantly to be repelled—

How false the accusation was, in reference to Job, the event proved: nor is it a whit more just as thrown out against the people of God in all ages. I grant there are, and ever have been, some, who are not upright before God. A Judas was among the immediate disciples of our Lord; and a Simon Magus among the early converts of his Apostles. But if there be some like Orpah, who cleaved to Naomi in her prosperity, but abandoned her when her name was changed to Marah, (when, from being "pleasant" her very existence became "bitter,") so are there many who, under all circumstances, "cleave unto the Lord," and adopt the resolution of pious Ruth: "Entreat me not to leave you, or to return from following after you; for where you go, I will go; and where you lodge, I will lodge: your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part you and me Ruth 1:14-17."

And why should their motives be called in question?

Is earthly prosperity so generally the portion of the godly, that hypocrites should be induced by the prospect of it to profess themselves the people of the Lord? For one, that is led by a hope of honor or emolument to embrace the religion of Christ, there are ten, at the least, who are deterred from professing it, by a fear of injuring their respectability or interests. Indeed, we are taught, by our blessed Lord, that "we must forsake all to follow him;" and, consequently, a desire after the loaves and fishes cannot reasonably be imputed to the general mass of Christians as their motive for professing godliness. We must look for other motives: and other motives there are, abundantly sufficient to produce the effects which we ascribe to them.

Are we not immortal beings, and accountable to Almighty God for the whole of our conduct? And is not the thought of this sufficient to impress the mind with awe, and to stimulate us to the utmost efforts, if, by any means, we may escape death, and lay hold on eternal life? Has not God also, in tender mercy to our souls, sent unto us his only-begotten Son, to effect our reconciliation with him by the death of the cross? And is not this sufficient to show us at once the value of our souls, and the necessity of fleeing from the wrath to come? May not such love on the part of our offended God be well expected to operate on our hearts, and to constrain us to devote ourselves altogether unto him? And, while our lives accord with our profession, has any one a right to sit in judgment upon our motives? and, when no fault can be found with our actions, is any one at liberty to criminate our intentions?

If multitudes of God's people were upright in former ages, why should all who profess themselves his be accounted hypocrites now?

Were Noah, Daniel, Paul, induced by any sinister motives to serve their God? Did not their whole lives bear testimony to them that they were sincere? And is not the grace of God as sufficient for us as it was for them; so far at least as to inspire us with a holy fear of God, and a desire to serve him with our whole hearts? I may go further, and ask, Whether there be not many, even at this present day, evincing a superiority to all earthly good, and a determination to serve their God, though with the loss of all things? I repel, then, and with indignation too, the base accusations that are so generally brought against the people of God: and I declare, without fear of contradiction, that at this day there are many who, though far inferior to Job in respect of spiritual attainments, resemble him fully in the integrity of their hearts; and many, of whom it may be justly said, They are "Israelites indeed, and without deceit."

But, as detached from the context, the words may be regarded,

II. As an unanswerable truth, most gladly to be conceded—

Selfishness is doubtless an evil, when it leads us to postpone spiritual things to those which are temporal: but, if understood as implying a supreme regard to our eternal interests, it is good and commendable; for it is that very disposition which was exercised by Mary, when she dismissed from her mind all inferior considerations, and chose that good part, which should never be taken away from her. In this sense Christians are selfish; and it may justly be said of them, that "they do not serve God for nothing." For,

1. They desire, above all things, the salvation of their souls—

They know what they have done to offend their God, and what God has done to save them, and what promises of mercy he has given to all who repent and believe his Gospel. And, knowing these things, they desire to avail themselves of the opportunity afforded them, and to secure to themselves the offered benefits. And is this wrong? If so, what can all the invitations and promises of the Gospel mean? Why did Peter say, "Repent, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out?" or why did our blessed Lord say, "If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink; and out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water?"

2. They actually obtain from God many present benefits—

By "coming to Christ, they find rest unto their souls," and are "filled with peace and joy in believing:" and in this way they are encouraged to "fight the good fight of faith," and to "run with patience the race that is set before them." And is there anything evil in this? Does it not accord with the experience of the saints in all ages? Yes, does it not constitute a very strong argument in favor of godliness, that "it bath the promise of the life that now is, as well at of that which is to come 1 Timothy 4:8."

3. They look forward to infinitely richer benefits in the world that is to come—

To those who seek after glory and honor and immortality, God has promised eternal life: and the saints, under their most afflictive trials, are pronounced blessed, because of the recompense that awaits them in the eternal world Matthew 5:3-12. Can it be wrong, then, to have respect to that reward, and to run with a view to obtain the prize? Look at Moses: was not he actuated by this hope, when he "refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than all the treasures of Egypt?" Yes, we are expressly told that "he had respect unto the recompense of the reward Hebrews 11:24-26." By the same hope were the ancient martyrs also actuated, when "they refused to accept deliverance from their tortures, in the assured expectation of obtaining a better resurrection Hebrews 11:35." And even of our blessed Lord himself is it said, that "for the joy that was set before him he endured the cross and despised the shame, until at last he sat down at the right hand of the throne of God Hebrews 12:2."

Then I confess the truth contained in my text, that we are selfish: and my only complaint is, that we are not sufficiently impressed with these hopes and expectations: for, if we were, we should, like the holy Apostle. "forget all that is behind, and reach forward to that which is before, and press on with continually increasing ardor for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."

To all the calumniated servants of God, then, would I say,

1. Regard not the uncharitable censures of ungodly men—

Do what you will, they will be sure to find fault with you. Satan accused Job to God as a hypocrite, because of his prosperity: and, when he had prevailed to involve him in utter ruin, he stirred up Job's friends to condemn him as an hypocrite, because of his adversity. So, when "John the Baptist came neither eating nor drinking," Satan's agents said "he had a devil:" and, when "Jesus came eating and drinking," they accused him as "a gluttonous man and a wine-bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners." Thus, "whether you pipe or mourn," they will find occasion against you, even as they did against David, who, "when he put on sackcloth, and fasted," to bring down blessings on his enemies, had even "that turned to his reproach." Only be careful to give no just occasion of offence. Let your enemies be able to "find no fault in you, except concerning the Law of your God." Let it be the one labor of your life to "be blameless and harmless, as sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, shining among them as lights in a dark world, and holding forth, in the whole of your life and conversation, the word of life."

2. Endeavor in all things to approve yourselves to God—

A contempt of man's censures should ever be attended with a determination of heart to "keep a conscience void of offence towards both God and man." You have seen what a testimony the heart-searching God bare to Job: seek that he may testify respecting you also, that you are "perfect and upright, fearing God, and eschewing evil." Be men of principle: and then you will be independent of outward things, and serve God as well in one state of life as another. Neither prosperity nor adversity will influence you in this respect; but, "whether God give or take away, you will bless his holy name." Then, if condemned by men, you may look forward with confidence to the future judgment, when "your righteousness shall shine forth as the noon-day," and "every tongue that has spoken against you shall be condemned."

 

 

Job 1:20-21

 

DISCOURSE 451

TRIALS AND RESIGNATION OF JOB

Job 1:20-21. Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshiped, and said, Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.

BEHOLD, the invisible world is here opened to our view. We here see an assembly of the sons of God, (whether of angels, or of glorified saints, is not certain,) and Satan himself intruding in among them, in the very presence of their God. We are informed also of a conversation passing between Jehovah and Satan in reference to Job; God commending him as the most eminent of the saints on earth; and Satan traducing his character, as a mercenary hypocrite, who would even curse his Maker to his face, if only he should be tempted to do so by a withdrawment of his temporal prosperity. We are told also that God permitted Satan to put the piety of Job to the test which he had proposed.

There would be no inconsistency in this, if we were to interpret it literally: but we apprehend that it is a kind of parabolic representation, like that of Micaiah, who saw in a vision a spirit coming into the presence of Jehovah, and proposing to go forth as a lying spirit in the mouth of Ahab's prophets, in order to persuade Ahab to go up to Ramoth-Gilead 1 Kings 22:19-22. In this view it is intended to show us the malignity of Satan, and the restraints imposed upon him by Almighty God, who will suffer him to proceed no further than shall ultimately lead to his own confusion.

In whichever way we take this account, whether literally or mystically, it appears that Satan was permitted to assault Job with the most grievous temptations, and that the piety of Job was victorious in the conflict. In considering this account of Job, we shall notice,

I. His trials—

These were beyond measure great—

Their number and variety; their rapid succession, without one moment allowed him for reflection and prayer; the extent of them, comprehending the loss not only of all his worldly property, but of all his children, and that too in a season of mirth, when he was peculiarly apprehensive that they might be least fit to die; and particularly the certainty of all these calamities, every one of them being reported by an eye-witness; all of these coming so suddenly, were sufficient to overwhelm any one, more especially when the hand of God himself appeared, not in the language of the reporters only, but in the events themselves, to have been thus awfully directed against him.

In them we see,

1. How great the power of Satan is—

How speedily he found instruments to execute his will! The minds of Sabeans and Chaldeans received in a moment the impulse which he chose to give them; and they performed exactly the service to which he destined them: the time, the manner, the measure of their actions were perfectly subject to his control, The elements also were alike obedient to his command, and performed precisely what he directed them to effect: the lightnings flashed, the winds blew, and, by their ready compliance with his will, proclaimed him to be indeed "the God of this world," "the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that works in all the children of disobedience." True it is, he could not have done these things if God had not permitted him: but from what he did we may easily see what he both could and would do, if all restraint were withdrawn from him; and what he will do in the eternal world to those who shall be delivered into his hands.

2. How uncertain is all worldly good—

When Job arose in the morning, he was "the richest man in all the east;" and before night he was bereft of all that he possessed. And such changes are by no means infrequent in the world. Not to mention the restless desires of a gamester, the unfortunate speculations of a merchant, or the misplaced confidence of a surety, (all of which are fruitful sources of misery and ruin,) let us contemplate those other sources of calamity which are more out of the reach of human prudence, such as earthquakes, inundations, shipwrecks, invasions, conflagrations; alas! alas! how many thousands are from time to time reduced by these from a state of ease and opulence to the most abject and destitute condition! Truly there can be no one so ignorant as not to know, as well from observation as report, that "riches make themselves wings, and fly away."

3. That the most eminent saints are not exempt from even the heaviest calamities—

If ever any man could venture to say, "I shall die in my nest Job 29:18," it was Job; because, while he possessed more wealth than others, he had a mind more under the influence of piety, and consequently more free from those snares and temptations to which others are exposed. Yet, though there was no one like him upon earth in respect of piety, there never was a man so oppressed as he by overwhelming calamities. Let no man then ever venture to say, "My mountain stands fast; I shall not be moved:" for "all things come alike to all." "Of the righteous in particular the afflictions are many:" as in the case of Job, God often sends troubles to try and prove the sincerity of their faith, to strengthen their graces, to purify their hearts, to display before the world the efficacy of his grace, and to fit his people for a better world. If God have given faith to any, they may expect that it shall "be tried, in order that it may be to the praise and honor and glory of their God at the appearing of Jesus Christ 1 Peter 1:7."

But in the midst of all his trials we behold, and admire,

II. His resignation—

He felt, and deeply too, the heavy load of his afflictions; and hence he rent his mantle, and shaved his head, as customary expressions of deep anguish of mind Genesis 37:29; Genesis 37:34 with Job 2:12 and Isaiah 22:12 with Mic. 1:16. But still he was composed and tranquil, "not charging God foolishly," or uttering anything hasty or unadvised. Let us notice,

1. The considerations with which he quieted his mind—

These were two; namely, that what he had lost, was not properly his own; and, that he had taken it, whose property it was. He felt himself now only reduced to the state in which he was when he came into the world, and in which he must at all events soon be, when he should be called to go out of the world again. Why then should he repine and murmur at being stripped of all, when he was so lately, and must so soon again be, altogether naked, without anything that he could properly call his own? So just and important is this idea, that Paul has actually quoted the very words of Job, to show that "godliness with contentment is the only desirable gain 1 Timothy 6:7-9."

Moreover, the use and enjoyment of those things had been given him by God alone: whether they came by inheritance, or had been the fruits of his own industry, God was equally the giver of them James 1:17; and, whether men or devils or elements had deprived him of them, they were no other than as instruments in the hand of God, who had accomplished by them his own sovereign will Isaiah 45:7. Amos. 3:6. How then could he presume to reply against God? No: "he would be dumb, and not open his mouth, because the Lord had done it."

What astonishing grace was here, that could suggest at a moment such thoughts as these, and give them such an efficacy to compose and tranquillize his soul!

But let us notice more particularly,

2. The manner in which he expressed his resignation—

He "fell on the ground and worshiped" his God with the profoundest humility. O what submission of heart was here! How meekly did he receive at the Lord's hands the strokes of his chastening rod! But he went further still, and "blessed the name of the Lord," yes, blessed him for that very dispensation which Satan expected to have called forth only the language of cursing and blasphemy. Job was convinced in his judgment that "the Judge of all the earth could not but do right;" and that however "clouds and darkness might be round about him, yet judgment and justice were the basis of his throne." He knew that whether he could see the reason of God's dealings now, or not, he should see reason to adore him for them in the eternal world; and therefore he would bless and adore him for them here. Thus did he adopt exactly the line of conduct which God approves; "neither despising the chastening of the Lord, on the one hand, nor fainting under his rebukes," on the other hand Hebrews 12:5. He "walked by faith, and not by sight," and excelled all the saints, whether of that or any other age. David was not the least eminent of men; yet when the Amalekites had invaded Ziklag, and taken away his wives and property, "he wept until he had no more power to weep 1 Samuel 30:3-4;" and when he lost his rebellious son Absalom, he so fainted under the loss as to be altogether forgetful of all his mercies, and of all his duties 2 Samuel 19:4-6. But Job lost not for a moment his self-possession: his principles operated instantly to the full extent that the occasion required: "Shall we receive good at the hands of God," says he, "and shall we not receive evil Job 2:10." Any other conduct appeared to him to be highly unreasonable: and hence he is proposed by God himself as a pattern for our imitation to the end of time James 5:11.

From contemplating this exalted character, let us learn,

1. To sit loose to earthly things—

We deny not but that a competency in earthly things is a blessing for which we have great reason to be thankful: but when we see how uncertain the possession of them is, and, above all, how happy we may be in God without them, we have no occasion to covet them, or to set our hearts upon them. Paul, when "he had nothing, yet possessed all things 2 Corinthians 6:10," because he had God for his God and portion. Let us in like manner "learn in every state to be content, whether we be full or hungry, whether we abound or suffer need Philippians 4:11-12." Let us, "if we have a wife, be as though we had none; if we weep, be as if we wept not; if we rejoice, be as if we rejoiced not; if we buy, be as though we possessed not; and altogether use this world as not abusing it, because the fashion of it so quickly passes away 1 Corinthians 7:29-31."

2. To stand prepared for trials—

Truly we know not what a day or an hour may bring forth; what losses we may have in our property, or in our dearest friends and relatives; or what calamities may come upon us. We are sure that "Satan, that roaring lion," is "going to and fro throughout the earth," "seeking whom he may devour:" and, if he have obtained permission to exercise his power against us, how soon may he bring us down to the ground, and even "sift us as wheat!" Who among us can have any idea what storms he may be preparing for us, or what instruments he may be stirring up against us? Knowing then his malignity and his power, let us stand upon our guard against him; let us "arm ourselves with the mind that was in Christ Jesus 1 Peter 4:1;" and let us so endeavor to realize our principles, that we never give way to discontent or impatience, but bless in everything the name of our God.

3. To seek the things which neither men nor devils can take away from us—

Spiritual blessings are out of the reach of all our enemies: "Our life is hid with Christ in God;" and not all the powers of darkness combined can destroy it. Moth and rust may corrupt our earthly treasures, or thieves may break through and steal them: but if we lay up treasure in Heaven, it will be inaccessible to them all. That is "substance Proverbs 8:21," while all else is vanity and vexation of spirit. Let us then "labor for the meat that endures to everlasting life;" and "choose the good part, that never can be taken away from us."

 

 

Job 2:11-13

 

DISCOURSE 452

FRIENDLY SYMPATHY ILLUSTRATED

Job 2:11-13. Now when Job's three friends heard of all this evil that was come upon him, they came every one from his own place; Eliphaz the Temanite, and Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite: for they had made an appointment together to come to mourn with him and to comfort him. And when they lifted up their eyes afar off, and knew him not, they lifted up their voice, and wept; and they rent every one his mantle, and sprinkled dust upon their heads toward Heaven. So they sat down with him upon the ground seven days and seven nights, and none spoke a word unto him: for they saw that his grief was very great.

JOB in a second conflict had gained the victory: yes, though his wife acted as a confederate with Satan, and urged him to "curse God and die," yet did he retain his integrity, and prove himself worthy of the character which God had given him. But the rumor of his unprecedented calamities had spread far and wide, and had caused all those who should have been a comfort to him to depart from him; insomuch that, having none to administer to his relief, he had "taken a potsherd to scrape himself withal." But three of his aged friends, descendants of Abraham, though not of the chosen seed, still loved and honored him; and feeling their incompetency, as individuals, to afford him all the instruction and consolation that the occasion called for, concerted a plan to visit him together, and to unite their efforts for his welfare. An account of their first interview is here set before us; and a most interesting account it is. In discoursing upon it, we shall be led to contemplate,

I. The nature of love—

Love, as described by Paul 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, and as summarily expressed by our blessed Lord Mark 12:31. Matthew 7:12, is the acting in all things towards our neighbor as we would think it right that he, in a change of circumstances, should act towards us. It makes us to consider all men as members of one great body, and to participate with them in their feelings, as the different members of our own body would with each other 1 Corinthians 12:25-26. If any be afflicted, it prompts us to fly to their relief, and to concert the best measures in our power for their restoration to happiness. In the friends of Job we see the nature of love well exemplified: they did not feel indifferent about him, or run from him, as they did whose hearts were destitute of love; but they met together for the express purpose of participating and alleviating his sorrows. They did this, too, unsolicited, and unsought: it was the fruit of a divine principle within them, the voluntary expression of their own affectionate regards. This was a "love, not in word and in tongue, but in deed and in truth:" it was "a love without dissimulation:" and wherever true love exists, it will produce exactly the same dispositions, and stimulate, according to its measure, to the same exertions.

In executing their benevolent plan, Job's friends have shown us,

II. The effects of sympathy—

When they were yet at some distance from him, they saw him; but would not have recognized him at all, (so altered was he in his whole appearance,) if they had not been prepared for the change by the reports which they had heard concerning him. But the sight deeply affected them all; so that they burst forth into floods of tears, and rent their mantles, as expressive of their anguish, and sprinkled dust upon their heads towards Heaven, as mourners were accustomed to do See this whole expression of sorrow exemplified in those who mourned over the destruction of Tyre; Ezekiel 27:30-31. On coming into his immediate presence, "they sat down with him upon the ground seven days and seven nights," that is, a considerable part of each successive day See Luke 2:37 and Acts 20:31; and so overwhelmed were they with the sight of his melancholy condition, that none of them could give utterance to their feelings, or attempt to suggest anything for his relief.

Those who have never known from their own experience how entirely the soul may be overwhelmed with sympathy, conjecture, that during all this time the friends of Job were harboring suspicions which they did not dare to express. But this idea is very injurious to the character of those holy men, and directly contrary to the account given in our text: for their silence is expressly ascribed to the overpowering effect of their own sympathy at the sight of his unparalleled afflictions; "They spoke not, for they saw that his grief was very great:" and to this cause it must be ascribed. We know, that as silence is the proper effect of great sorrow." (David says, "I am so troubled that I cannot speak Psalm 77:4,") so is it also of deep sympathy; such as the elders of the daughters of Zion experienced, when they saw their city and temple destroyed, their princes and people carried into captivity, the law of their God forgotten, and their prophets no longer favored with visions from the Lord Lamentations 2:9-11. In a word, the effect of sympathy is, to make the sorrows of another our own; and to produce in our hearts those very feelings of grief and anguish, which the afflicted individual himself is called to sustain.

The interview, thus illustrated, displays,

III. The excellence of true religion—

The whole of true religion is comprehended under the term love: "Love is the fulfilling of the law Romans 12:8-10." Moreover, the sympathy before delineated, is the most unequivocal expression of love: "Pure religion, and undefiled before God and the Father, is this; To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction James 1:27." See then religion as exemplified in our text, how beautiful does it appear! A carnal mind would admire rather a sight of kings surrounded by their nobles: but God and his holy angels, I have no doubt, esteem such a sight as was exhibited on that occasion, as infinitely grander than all the pomp of courts, yes than of "Solomon in all his glory." Never did our Lord himself appear more glorious, no not even on the mount of transfiguration, than when he was weeping with sympathy at the tomb of Lazarus, or with compassion over the devoted city of Jerusalem. So the sight of these aged men, assembled to mourn with, and to comfort, their afflicted brother, and expressing in such significant ways their overwhelming sorrow, was as noble and as interesting as can be seen on earth. And O, what would this world be, if every one possessed such a spirit as they evinced! Yet such is the tendency of true religion, which transforms us into the image of that God, whose name and nature is love.

By way of improvement, we will,

1. Recommend to you the exercise of these dispositions—

Behold these men, how amiable they appear in all the posture and habiliments of woe! And are they not a fit pattern for you to imitate? But you have a brighter pattern than they, even our Lord Jesus Christ himself; who, when he saw our fallen state, came down from Heaven to seek and save us, yes, "though rich, for our sakes he became poor, that we through his poverty might be rich." O, what marvelous grace was here! and still, "as our Great High-priest, he is touched with the feeling of our infirmities, having been himself in all things tempted like as we are, on purpose that he might support them that are tempted." If then the example of Job's friends be not sufficient to commend to you these lovely dispositions, let me entreat you to seek "the mind that was in Christ." As a further inducement to this, consider how soon you yourselves may need the compassion and the sympathy of others. There is no man so secure, but he is open to the assaults of trouble on every side. Would you then in trouble have any to sympathize with you? Know, that "he who would have friends must show himself friendly Proverbs 18:24;" and that you must sow the grain which you desire to reap. This is an argument used by God himself, who bids us to "remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them that suffer adversity, as being ourselves also in the body Hebrews 13:3." If any further motive be wanted, consider, that in the day of judgment the exercise of this disposition will be a very principal subject of inquiry, as evincing the sincerity of our love to Christ: and every act of love towards the poorest of his people will be acknowledged by him as a favor conferred upon himself Matthew 25:40. Let me then recommend the exercise of love and sympathy to all who would adorn their holy profession now, or be approved of their God in that great and awful day.

2. Suggest some cautions in relation to it—

Let not sympathy be shown with the rich only, or with our own particular friends; but let it be extended to all who are in trouble, whether rich or poor, whether known or unknown Job 30:25. We deny not but that those who are nearly related to us have a superior claim; as they have also who are of the household of faith Galatians 6:10; but still we must, like the good Samaritan, account every man our neighbor, and gladly avail ourselves of every opportunity of pouring balm into his wounded spirit.

Again, wait not until you are called and summoned to the house of mourning; but go thither of your own accord, esteeming it "far better to go there, than to the house of feasting Ecclesiastes 7:2; Ecclesiastes 7:4." Let the principle of love in you be like a spring, ever ready to act, the moment that a scope for action is afforded it. "Look not every man on his own things only, but every man also on the things of others Philippians 2:4 with 2 Corinthians 11:29;" and be ready on all occasions to "rejoice with them that rejoice, and to weep with them that weep Romans 12:15." This readiness to "bear one another's burdens is a fulfilling of the law of Christ Galatians 6:2."

But lastly, be not hasty to offer advice to those who are bowed down with a weight of trouble. There is a sacredness in grief which demands our reverence; and the very habitation of a mourner must be approached with awe. A hasty effusion even of consolatory truths is offensive to one who is not prepared in a measure for the reception of them. The language of many is, "Look away from me; I will weep bitterly; labor not to comfort me Isaiah 22:4;" and to such, an obtrusive officiousness is disgusting. To such, the silent eloquence of sighs and tears is more consolatory than the most copious harangue. See that you yourselves feel deeply; and then you will neither fall into an officious impertinence, on the one hand, nor deem even a silent visit unserviceable, on the other: you will patiently wait for the most favorable season, and administer your instructions as the mourner is able to receive them.

 

 

Job 3:1

 

DISCOURSE 453

JOB CURSES THE DAY OF HIS BIRTH

Job 3:1. After this opened Job his mouth, and cursed his day.

IT is Worthy of observation, that the most eminent saints mentioned in the sacred records are reported, not only to have sinned, but to have failed in those very graces for which they were most distinguished. Abraham, the father of the faithful, who is set forth as the great pattern for all future believers, repeatedly denied his wife through the influence of unbelief: and Moses, the meekest of all men upon the face of the earth, spoke unadvisedly with his lips, and thereby provoked God to exclude him from the earthly Canaan. Of the patience of Job the Scripture speaks in the highest terms: but, behold, he is here set forth to our view in a state of grievous impatience. Let us consider,

I. The manner in which he expressed his impatience—

It should seem as if Satan had now assaulted, not his body only, but his soul also, and had succeeded in wounding him with his fiery darts. It is probable too, that the continued silence of his friends had produced an unfavorable impression on his mind. But however these things might be,

He vented his complaints in very unfitting terms—

He first cursed the day of his birth, wishing it to be marked, both by God in his providence, and by men in their feelings, as a day of darkness and gloominess, even to the latest generations verse 3–10. He next expressed his regret, that he had not been left to perish as soon as he came out of the womb; seeing that he should then have escaped all his calamities, and been quiet in the tomb, where all of every class, whatever their situations and circumstances were while they were living upon earth, are enjoying equal repose verse 11–19. And, lastly, he complained that while his grievous sufferings tormented him beyond measure, they did not prevail to take away his life verse 20–26.

We have a similar instance of impatience in another eminent saint, the Prophet Jeremiah, who seems almost to have adopted the very expressions in the chapter before us Jeremiah 20:14-18.

Alas! how weak a creature is man when left in any measure to himself!

But is this an uncommon line of conduct?

No, truly: there is the same spirit in every man, ready to break forth whenever occasion offers: and in too many of us it breaks forth almost without any occasion at all. How little a thing will discompose the minds of the generality!.

How small a provocation will cause them to vent their displeasure in angry and opprobrious language!: If trials be at all heavy and of long continuance, how will they disquiet our minds, and destroy all the comfort of our lives! Is it an uncommon thing for men under some calamity to feel weary of their existence, and even to entertain thoughts of terminating their sorrows by suicide? Yes, do not multitudes, who have not one half of Job's trials, actually destroy their own lives, and rush headlong into Hell itself, in order to get rid of their present troubles?

While then we lament the imperfections of this holy man, let us turn our eyes inwards, and contemplate the prevalence of our own corruptions, which a single loss, or disappointment, or injury, is sufficient to call forth in their utmost extent.

Having viewed the impatience of Job, let us notice,

II. Some observations arising from it—

We may justly notice,

1. The folly of arraigning the providence of God—

Had Job been able to see the design of God in that dispensation towards him, (as sent in the purest love;) and the end in which it was soon to issue, (his greatly augmented happiness and prosperity;) had he contemplated the benefit that was to arise from it to his own soul (both in present sanctification and in eternal glory,) and to the Church of God in all ages, (in having such an example of sufferings and patience set before them,) he would never have uttered such complaints as these: he would have acknowledged then, what he afterwards so clearly saw, that "the Judge of all the earth did right." Thus if we also in our trials would look to the final issue of them, we should bear them all, whether little or great, with resignation and composure. We see Jacob complaining, "All these things are against me," and yet at last find, that the loss he so deplored was the salvation of him and all his family: it was a link in the chain of providence to accomplish God's gracious purposes in the preservation of the chosen seed, and ultimately in the redemption of the world, by Him who was to spring from the loins of Judah. And if we saw everything as God does, we should see that the very trials of which we complain are sent by God as the best means of effecting the everlasting salvation of our souls; and we should unite in the testimony of David, that "God in very faithfulness has caused us to be afflicted." Let us be contented then to leave everything to the disposal of an all-wise God: let us in the darkest seasons "possess our souls in patience;" assured, that "he does all things well;" and let us say with Job when in his better mind, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him."

2. The inability of Satan to prevail against the Lord's people—

Satan had hoped that he should instigate Job to "curse God to his face:" but in this he was disappointed. Job did indeed "curse his day;" but never for a moment thought of cursing his God. On the contrary, he often spoke of God in the most honorable and reverential terms. But Satan is a chained adversary: he can prevail no further than God sees fit to permit him. He could not have done anything against Job, if he had not first obtained leave of God. Neither can he do anything against the least of God's people, any further than God is pleased to suffer him with a view to their eternal good. He "desired to sift Peter as wheat:" but the intercession of Christ preserved his servant from being finally overcome. "He is a roaring lion, going about seeking whom he may devour:" but he cannot seize on one of the lambs of Christ's flock. They are kept in safety by the Good Shepherd; and "none can pluck them out of his hand." God has provided for his people, "armor, by means of which they shall be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all to stand Ephesians 6:10-18." Nor do the more aged and experienced alone defeat him; "the young men also overcome him 1 John 2:13-14," yes, all that are begotten of God are enabled so to "resist him, that he flees from them James 4:7," and "touches them not 1 John 5:18." He may be permitted to tempt and try us Revelation 2:10; but he is a vanquished enemy John 12:31, and "shall be bruised under our feet shortly Romans 16:20."

3. The necessity of fleeing from the wrath to come—

There is a period fast approaching, when all the ungodly will be reduced to a state infinitely more calamitous than that of Job They will indeed then, and with justice too, "curse the day of their birth;" for it would, as our Lord himself testifies, be "better for them that they had never been born." O what a day of darkness awaits them; a day wherein there will not be one ray of light to cheer their souls! Then will they curse and "blaspheme their God, because of the plagues that he inflicts upon them Revelation 16:9; Revelation 16:11." They will wish for death also, and "call upon the rocks to fall upon them, and the hills to cover them Revelation 6:15-17;" but all in vain. Now if we were informed that only such troubles as Job's were coming upon us, what diligence should we use to avert them! how careful should we be to preserve our property, and to guard against the disorders with which we were threatened! Not a moment would be lost by us, nor should we decline the use of any means, to ward off such awful calamities. How earnest then should we be in fleeing from the wrath to come! Think, Brethren, what a fearful thing it will be to "fall into the hands of the living God," and to "be cast into the lake of fire and brimstone," "where the worm dies not, and the fire is not quenched Mark 9:43-48 with Revelation 14:10-11." O delay not one moment to flee for refuge to the hope set before us in the Gospel: flee to Christ, as the city of refuge, where, notwithstanding all your past iniquities, you may find perfect rest and security. Do not put off the great work of your souls to a time of sickness and trouble: such a season is but ill calculated for so great a work. Look at Job: if he had neglected his soul hitherto, how incapable would he have then been of performing those offices of repentance and faith, which require all the energies of the mind! He could not even compose his mind to bear his affliction aright; much less could he have employed that season in calling his past ways to remembrance, and in turning unto God with all his heart. So we also shall find it quite enough to bear up under the pains or weakness of a dying hour. Let us then improve the time of health and prosperity, in preparing for a better world, where neither sin nor sorrow shall molest us more, but we shall be forever happy in the bosom of our God.

 

 

Job 4:12-19

 

DISCOURSE 454

ELIPHAZ REPROVES JOB

Job 4:12-19. Now a thing was secretly brought to me, and mine ear received a little thereof. In thoughts from the visions of the night, when deep sleep falls on men, fear came upon me, and trembling, which made all my bones to shake. Then a spirit passed before my face: the hair of my flesh stood up: it stood still, but I could not discern the form thereof: an image was before my eyes, there was silence, and I heard a voice, saying, Shall mortal man be more just than God? shall a man be more pure than his Maker? Behold, he put no trust in his servants; and his angels he charged with folly: how much less in them that dwell in houses of clay, whose foundation is in the dust, which are crushed before the moth?

THE controversy on the part of Job's friends is here begun: and Eliphaz leads the way. He begins with acknowledging Job's former usefulness in alleviating the sorrows of others, but turns it into a ground of accusation against him for not bearing with more fortitude his own sorrows. The testimony however was most honorable to Job: for we can scarcely conceive a more honorable character, than that of one who, possessing all the influence of wealth, and power, and wisdom, employs it all in instructing and comforting the sons and daughters of affliction: and we cannot be surprised, that, when Eliphaz was so well acquainted with the benevolent exertions of Job, he did not in his own conduct pay greater attention to his example. It is evident, that he did not duly estimate the calamities of Job: not feeling them in his own person, he was not aware of their weight and pressure; else he never could have spoken so lightly of his affliction, as to say, "It touches you, and you are troubled;" and then to make his confidence a subject of derision. But let us come to the argument with which Eliphaz thought to confound Job; "Who ever perished, being innocent?" This was the ground on which all Job's friends proceeded: they maintained, that his sufferings were a certain proof of his having committed some enormous wickedness, which God was now punishing. From appealing thus to observation and experience, Eliphaz proceeds to mention a revelation which he had received from Heaven, and which, in his opinion, strongly confirmed the sentiments he had delivered. This revelation we shall now consider;

I. Abstractedly—

The circumstance of so remarkable a vision having been given to Eliphaz, in order to fix his attention the more deeply on the instruction conveyed with it, clearly shows, that the revelation delivered to him was of great importance. The very terror also which the vision inspired, led him, and should lead us also, to regard every word that was spoken with reverence and godly fear. As he trembled at the sight, so should we "tremble at the word."

But we must not so understand the word as if it imported only that man is not more just or more pure than God; for such a truth as that needed no revelation to make it known: it was obvious to all, and acknowledged by all, without any such confirmation as this. The truths intended to be made known, were these;

1. That no man is pure before God—

Man is a weak and sinful creature: his very nature is corrupt: and therefore, whatever superiority to others he may possess in point of dispositions or conduct, he must shut his mouth, and acknowledge himself guilty before God Romans 3:19. Having once violated the law in any one particular, (and it is as much violated by defect as by actual transgression,) he is condemned by it, and must to all eternity confess himself a just object of God's displeasure. Job himself, notwithstanding some apparent inconsistency in his assertions, was convinced of this, and expressed it too in very strong terms Job 9:2-3; Job 9:20-21; Job 9:30-31; just as it is elsewhere declared in Holy Scripture Psalm 143:2. Even the angels themselves are not so perfect, but that they are capable of committing sin, precisely as the fallen angels did: nor are they so intelligent, but that they would be guilty of the most egregious folly, if a work like that of governing the world were entrusted to them for one single hour. God therefore "can put no trust in them:" and if "he charges even them with folly," in what light must he view the children of fallen man? Truly no descendant of Adam can have any pretensions to wisdom or to purity in his sight.

2. That no man can claim anything at the hands of God—

If we had done all that is commanded us, we must acknowledge ourselves to be only "unprofitable servants:" "we must have done no more than was our duty to do." The same must be said of the holy angels, no one of whom ever rendered unto God either more or better service than was his duty to perform. All idea of merit must be excluded as well from them as from us: and it is beyond measure surprising that any one should be found among the children of men so ignorant, so conceited, so presumptuous, as to conceive that God can by any means be made his debtor. Instead of laying God under an obligation by any thing that we can do, we ourselves are indebted to him for that grace whereby we are enabled to do any good thing, and are more abundantly indebted to him in proportion to the good which he has enabled us to perform.

3. That no man under any circumstances can have reason to complain of God—

We will suppose a man to be as "perfect and upright" as Job himself: we will suppose him too to suffer as severely as ever Job suffered; and that too without any previous warning, or any assignable cause: would he have any right to complain? We answer, No: if his sufferings were a thousand times heavier, even a perfect Hell itself, he would have no right to complain; because, as a sinner, he is justly obnoxious to the everlasting wrath of God. "Shall a living man complain?" says Solomon. No surely: if he were dead and in Hell itself, he would have no other than his just portion; and consequently, anything short of that is a ground rather for thankfulness than complaint.

This we apprehend to be the import of our text, abstractedly considered: but it will be proper to notice our text,

II. As tending to decide the controversy between Job and his friends—

Eliphaz thought it admirably calculated to decide the point: and so it really was, if only it had been viewed in its proper light. Let us consider it,

1. As it was applied by Eliphaz—

Eliphaz, as we have already observed, thought that Job was suffering on account of some great and hidden abominations: and that, if he had not committed some enormous wickedness, God was too just to punish him in so signal away. Hence he argued thus: If a just man would not deal thus with an innocent person, how much less will God? "Shall mortal man be more just than God, and more pure than his Maker?" this is impossible: and therefore Job must be a hypocrite; and God has given me this vision on purpose that I may convince him of his hypocrisy. But all this was erroneous: the principle itself was false; and the application of it altogether unwarranted. It was not true that God always punishes great wickedness in this life; for "all things come alike to all;" and the wicked are often the most prosperous: nor was it true that Job, previous to these calamities, had committed any such evils as they apprehended; for God himself had testified that he was perfect. Therefore, notwithstanding all his confidence, Eliphaz erred exceedingly in his interpretation of this vision.

2. As it ought to have been applied—

The vision had respect to the controversy: and so far Eliphaz was right: but it had not a partial reference to Job: and there Eliphaz was mistaken. It referred to all the parties, to the friends of Job as well as to Job himself. To Job it spoke powerfully, reproving him for complaining of his sufferings; because all discontent with the dispensations of God does, in fact, impeach his wisdom, and his justice in the government of the world. But "shall man be more just than God, or wiser than he who charges even the angels with folly?" This cannot be; and therefore Job was to be blamed for murmuring against God. But to his friends it spoke also. They took for granted, that, if Job was not a hypocrite, God must have been unjust in so afflicting him. But were they able to fathom all the counsels of the Almighty, and to sit in judgment upon God? Were they wiser, and more just, than he? or was he bound to conform his proceedings to their opinion of what was wise and just? No: they should learn therefore not to pronounce so positively upon things which were so far beyond their comprehension: they must not presume to set up their own justice as a standard, whereby to try the justice of their God; and their own wisdom, whereby to estimate the wisdom of their God. To act as they were acting, was uncharitable to their friend, and insulting to their God: and they, no less than Job, should wait for the issue of these calamities; assured, that the wisdom, the justice, and the goodness of God would at last be fully manifested in the whole of this most mysterious dispensation.

Eliphaz was partial in his interpretation of the vision: he saw its bearing upon Job; but overlooked its application to himself. And this is indeed a too common fault in hearing the word of God. We are struck with it as applicable to our neighbor; but we do not hold it up as a glass wherein to behold ourselves: we hear for others, and not for ourselves; and thus make it an occasion rather for uncharitable censures than for personal humiliation. Let us mark this evil in Eliphaz, and watch against it in ourselves.

Improvement—

1. Be thankful to God for the written word—

Formerly God made known himself to men in dreams and visions, and by voices and ministering spirits; but these communications were accompanied with terror, and, as in the instance before us, not easy to be seen in all their bearings. But in the written word we have a full revelation of God's mind and will, that we may consult at all times; that we may have recourse to without any fear or terror; and that we may both clearly and fully understand: because if one part be dark and intricate, we may compare it with another that is more simple; and so, by comparing spiritual things with spiritual, may learn more certainly the mind of God. Besides, in the written word there are great leading principles, which will serve to throw light upon any point that is more obscure. If anything appear contrary to the analogy of faith, we have a standard both of faith and practice whereby to try it; and may thus, for the most part, have our doubts respecting it removed. Lot us be thankful then for such an inestimable treasure: and let us study the word, not as critics merely, or as controversialists to condemn others, but as persons desirous of discovering their own faults, and of conforming themselves in everything to the mind and will of God.

2. Bear in mind the infinite distance between you and your Maker—

He is the great, the incomprehensible God; you are poor sinful worms crushed before the moth: He is the eternal and infinitely wise God; "you are of yesterday, and know nothing." Get but a just apprehension of the infinite distance between you and him, and all will go right with you: you will take your proper place, at the footstool of your God. You will receive with humility and confidence whatever he shall speak in his blessed word: you will, if we may so speak, give him credit for acting with unerring wisdom and goodness, even when his dispensations are most dark and mysterious: you will be submissive to his chastisements, and obedient to his will. Your insignificance as creatures will constrain you to bow before him, and to say, "Let him do as seems him good:" but your vileness as sinners will make you to regard with unbounded gratitude every mercy you enjoy, and especially that greatest of all mercies, the gift of his only dear Son to die for you. With what wonder and admiration will you embrace the salvation offered you in the Gospel! with what simplicity of mind will you live by faith on the Lord Jesus Christ! and with what zeal and diligence will you devote yourselves to his service! We say again, if only God be exalted in your eyes, and you be abased in the dust, all will be well: God will be glorified, and your souls be happy, both in time and eternity.

 

 

Job 5:19-27

 

DISCOURSE 455

THE SECURITY OF GOD'S PEOPLE

Job 5:19-27. He shall deliver you in six troubles: yes, in seven there shall no evil touch you. In famine he shall redeem you from death: and in war from the power of the sword. You shall be hid from the scourge of the tongue: neither shall you be afraid of destruction when it comes. At destruction and famine you shall laugh: neither shall you be afraid of the beasts of the earth. For you shall be in league with the stones of the field: and the beasts of the field shall be at peace with you. And you shall know that your tabernacle shall be in peace: and you shall visit your habitation, and shall not sin. You shall know also that your seed shall be great, and your offspring as the grass of the earth. You shall come to your grave in a full age, like as a shock of corn comes in his season. Lo this, we have searched it, so it is; hear it, and know you it for your good.

THE friends of Job were men of undoubted piety, and of very deep and extensive knowledge in the things of God. Unhappily they had taken up an erroneous principle in relation to the dealings of God with men in this world; and from that error proceeded all their criminations of Job, together with a continual misapplication of the sublimest truths. This distinction we must ever bear in mind: their general views of divine truth were most sublime and glorious: it was only the particular point of doctrine respecting divine providence in which they were mistaken, and in which their sentiments are not to be depended on. This very speech of Eliphaz is repeatedly quoted in other parts of Scripture as of divine authority. Solomon adopts one part of it Proverbs 3:11; Paul quotes different parts 1 Corinthians 3:19.Hebrews 12:5; James also refers to it James 1:12; James 5:11; we may therefore safely regard the promises recorded in our text as the declarations of God himself; more especially as there is not one expression in them which is not confirmed by a variety of other passages of Holy Writ. Indeed Eliphaz himself lays singular stress upon them, declaring, from the deepest "search," his full conviction of their truth; and urging a reliance on them as a most infallible source of "good." Regarding them therefore in this light, we shall endeavor to explain, confirm, and improve them.

I. To explain them—

They are very great and comprehensive—

They ensure to every believing soul a full deliverance from all evil. Evils may arise in quick succession, not only "six or seven," but to an indefinite extent: the pressure of famine and the calamities of war may be felt by him as well as others; and the scourge of calumny may be directed against him in a more peculiar and exclusive manner: but he shall find such interpositions of God in his favor, either for his exemption from the trial, or for his support under it, as shall sufficiently distinguish him from all others. In the very midst of the trials he shall feel himself like a man in an impregnable fortress, that "laughs at" the efforts of his bitterest foes. So chained shall all his enemies appear, that he shall feel as if the very "stones of the field were in league with him" not to wound his foot, and "the beasts of the field" not to open their mouths against him.

The same sweet assurance also is given him as to an enjoyment of all comfort. Not only is his mind at peace in relation to his own personal concerns; he has equal composure in reference to those of a domestic nature. While he sees his family growing up around him, he knows that they also are under the protection of an all-wise Providence; and that no evil shall befall them. If he "visit his habitation," he has no fear that he shall find his family overwhelmed with troubles, or that he shall be disappointed The word translated "sin," is in the margin translated "err:" and the true sense of the passage is that given above. in his hopes of seeing them in "peace" and safety. Nor is it in life only that he is thus blessed, but in death also; to which he shall be brought, when ripe for glory, as a shock of corn, fully meet for the granary of Heaven.

They must however be understood with limitations and restrictions—

Though "godliness has the promise of the life that now is, as well as of that which is to come 1 Timothy 4:8," we are not to imagine, that the temporal promises are on the same precise footing with those which relate to things spiritual and eternal. Grace and glory are secured to the believer at all events; while temporal prosperity is secured only so far as shall ultimately conduce to his eternal welfare. To this extent the promises are equally sure: but where the benefit of the soul will be most promoted by circumstances that are painful to flesh and blood, the lesser good gives way to the greater; and God, as a wise Parent, sends us that which he knows to be most for our eternal good. If we do not thus restrict the promises of temporal happiness, we shall be at a loss to account for all the trials that have befallen the saints from the time of Abel until this present hour: but, with that solution, there is not, nor ever has been, the smallest difference between the promises of God's word, and the dispensations of his providence.

The promises in our text being thus explained, we proceed,

II. To confirm them—

The whole Scripture bears testimony to the truth of them. "Search,"

1. The Law—

Precisely the same promises were made to the Jewish people, if only they would serve their God in sincerity and truth Leviticus 26:3-12.

2. The Prophets—

Not to dwell on each individual promise, we may find the whole collected together in one psalm by the sweet singer of Israel Psalm 91:1-16.

3. The New Testament—

Not only are we told in general that "God is faithful, and will not suffer his people to be tempted above that they are able 1 Corinthians 10:13," but we find the Apostle actually applying to himself the promises of God to the full extent that they are specified in the text 2 Timothy 4:18, and actually glorying over all the enemies that might be supposed capable of interfering with their accomplishment Romans 8:35-39.

In a word, the promises which we have been considering are confirmed by the uniform tenor of the Holy Scriptures; and "they are sure to all" who truly rely upon them Romans 4:16.

Convinced of the truth of these promises, we are now only concerned,

III. To improve them—

Nothing can exceed the importance of them; since they most forcibly teach us,

1. Submission in trials—

Be it so, that our afflictions are great and manifold; can we have any reason for complaint, when we know that they are all ordered in number, measure, and duration, for our best and greatest good, according to the counsels of infinite wisdom and love? Can we have reason for complaint when we are assured, that they are the very dispensations which we should choose for ourselves, if we saw the issue of them as clearly as God sees it? It is in this very view that the promises are introduced, namely, to pacify the mind of Job, and to reconcile him to the afflictions which he was called to sustain verse 17, 18; and, if once we are convinced that God is fulfilling to us the promises of his word, we shall receive even the most painful dispensations as blessings in disguise See Romans 8:28. 2 Corinthians 4:17-18. 1 Peter 1:7.

2. Confidence in supplications—

What will he who unsolicited "has given us such exceeding great and precious promises," refuse to our earnest petitions? The very end for which he gave them was, "that by them we might be partakers of the divine nature 2 Peter 1:4," and be enabled "to perfect holiness in the fear of God 2 Corinthians 7:1." Can we ask for anything more than this? If we can conceive of anything beyond, he says, "You shall ask what you will, and it shall be done unto you:" yes, he teaches us to expect that he will do for us exceeding abundantly "above all that we can ask or think." Let us then "draw near to him in full assurance of faith:" let us "open our mouths wide, that he may fill them;" and let us say to him in the confidence of a successful issue, "I will not let you go, except you bless me."

3. Activity in obedience—

Who can hear such promises as God has made to us in our text, and not say, "What shall I render unto the Lord?" Can any "commandment be grievous," that proceeds from him? If dissuaded from any exertion or any sufferings for his sake, should we not instantly reply, "What mean you to weep and to break my heart?" for "I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die" the most cruel death for so unspeakably gracious and good a God Acts 21:13. My Brethren, let this unbounded "love of His constrain you to live no more unto yourselves, but wholly and unreservedly to him": Then indeed will this grace of God have produced its due effect, and, as Eliphaz intimates in our text, we shall have "heard and known it for our good."

 

 

Job 7:1

DISCOURSE 456

MAN'S TIME ON EARTH FIXED

Job 7:1. Is there not an appointed time to man upon earth? are not his days also like the days of an hireling?

THE precise connection of these words is not very clear: nor, as far as the sense of them is concerned, is it of any great importance to inquire respecting it. It should seem that Job, having been reproved by his friend Eliphaz for expressing too strongly and too impatiently his wish for death to terminate his troubles, here vindicates himself by an appeal to him, that, if an hireling looks forward with comfort to the rest that awaits him after his labors, much more may he desire rest under his great and accumulated afflictions.

But, waving any further consideration of this, I will endeavor to show,

I. What these interrogations import—

Wherever appeals are made to man in the inspired volume, we may be sure that the things asserted are true, and that they are deserving of particular attention. Those which present themselves to our notice in the text plainly imply,

1. That man's time on earth is fixed by God himself—

The time of our birth is fixed by Him who formed us in the womb, and breathed into our nostrils the breath of life. Our continuance, also, in life is fixed. No man can deprive us of life until our time is come; nor can any man protract his existence upon earth one moment, when the appointed period of his dissolution has arrived. "No man," says Solomon, "has power over the spirit, to retain the spirit; neither has he power in the day of death: and there is no discharge in that war Ecclesiastes 8:8." No: "his days are determined, the number of his months are with God, who has appointed his bounds, which he cannot pass Job 14:5." "Our times are altogether in God's hands Psalm 31:15;" and "all the days of our appointed time must we wait, until our change come Job 14:14."

2. That during that time we have a work to do, and a warfare to maintain—

The word, "our appointed time," is, in the margin, translated "our warfare." The same word occurs in the fortieth chapter of Isaiah, and is there translated, "warfare:" "Her warfare is accomplished:" and there the marginal reading is, "appointed time Isaiah 40:2." Without determining which is preferable here, we will include both. We have a work to do, even "as an hireling," who labors in the field. To serve our God, and to seek the salvation of our souls, are the great ends of life. In this work we must engage, not as laborers only, but as soldiers also: for we have corrupt propensities, which must be mortified, and powerful adversaries that must be withstood. Our conflicts with these may well be called a "warfare;" for, indeed, we can never hope to overcome them, if we go not forth to the combat "in the strength of Christ, and put not on the whole armor of God Ephesians 6:10-18." The world with its temptations, the flesh with all its lusts, and the devil with all his wiles, are ever seeking to destroy us: and, unless we "fight manfully the good fight of faith 1 Corinthians 16:13. 1 Timothy 6:12," it cannot fail but that we must perish. During the whole period of our abode on earth this warfare must be maintained; nor must we ever put off our armor until our victory be complete. It cannot be supposed that God has sent us into the world merely to please and gratify ourselves, like the rich fool, who said, "Let us eat, drink, and be merry." There is not an hireling who feels not that he has some work assigned him, nor a soldier who does not expect that he will have some conflicts to sustain: and every Christian must regard himself as invested with these characters, and, as of necessity, called to the performance of these duties.

3. That, at the expiration of that time, God will give us a recompense according to our works—

The hireling expects his pay, and the soldier his discharge, when they have completed the term for which they were engaged, and fulfilled the offices to which they were appointed. And we, also, may look forward, even as Moses did, to "a recompense of reward Hebrews 11:26," which our Divine Master will surely give to all his faithful servants. Doubtless, whatever be our labors or our conflicts, it is "not a reward of debt, but a reward of grace Romans 4:4," that we are to hope for: but still God has graciously pledged himself that "our labor shall not be in vain 1 Corinthians 15:58;" and he would even esteem himself "unrighteous, if he were to forget the works and labors of love which we have performed for his name's sake Hebrews 6:10."

The import of the interrogations being sufficiently clear, let me point out,

II. What they suggest to every reflecting mind—

Whole volumes would not suffice for a full statement of this part of our subject. To mention only what is most obvious, they suggest,

1. That we should perform with diligence our appointed work—

We expect a hireling or a soldier to do this. If they were unmindful of their calling, or loitered in it, we should account them worthy of reproof. But their offices, however important, are not to be compared with those which we have to discharge: theirs relate to time and to mortals like ourselves; but ours relate to God and to eternity. Let us, then, at the commencement of every day, ask ourselves, "What have I to do for God and for my own soul this day?" And "whatever our hand finds to do, let us do it with all our might Ecclesiastes 9:10."

2. That we should sustain with patience the trials that are allotted us—

Trials there are in every situation of life, and especially in those which expose us to great fatigue and danger. No hireling or soldier expects to escape them. They are regarded as necessarily attached to the offices which such persons have to perform. And can we hope to escape them; we, whose work is so arduous, and whose warfare is so continued? We should be prepared for them, and have our minds fore-armed against them: and, bearing in mind who it is that has appointed them, and what he deserves at our hands, we should welcome every trial as a means of displaying our attachment to him, and of honoring that God whose servants we are.

3. That we may look forward to our dismissal from the body as a season much to be desired—

This, perhaps, is the primary idea intended in the text. At all events, the hireling welcomes the rest and recompense which await him after the labors of the day, as the soldier does his discharge after a long and dangerous campaign. What then should we do, whose rest will be so glorious, and whose recompense so great? Can we think of the approbation of our God, and not pant for the time when we shall hear him say. "Well done, good and faithful servant; enter you into the joy of your Lord?" Can we survey all the glory and felicity of Heaven, and the crowns and kingdoms that await us there, and not long for the period when we shall be invested with them? Paul "desired to depart, and to be with Christ Philippians 1:23," yes, and "groaned in spirit" for the time, "when, the earthly house of this tabernacle being dissolved, he should possess a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens 2 Corinthians 5:1-3. We, then, may exercise the same holy disposition; not, indeed, through weariness of life, but through desire of beholding our God face to face: our wish must be, "not merely to be unclothed (and freed from the storms and tempests of this present world), but clothed upon, that mortality may be swallowed up of life 2 Corinthians 5:4."

In a review of this subject, what matter do we find,

1. For humiliation!

What if a hireling employed by us had performed his work, from day to day, as we have ours; of what reward should we account him worthy? Or, if a soldier in our army had discharged his duties as we have ours; what recompense would he receive at the hands of his commander? Yet, our zeal and diligence ought to have far exceeded those of the most industrious laborer and the most devoted soldier upon earth. Ah, Brethren, the very best among us has need to weep in the review of all his past life, and even of the very best day that he ever spent, and the best services that he ever rendered. But rise, I pray you, to your duty; and redeem, as much as possible, the time you have lost. What advice would you give to a man that was under sentence of condemnation, even though two or three months were yet to intervene before the execution of his sentence? Take that advice to yourselves, and follow it: and pray mightily to God, that your appointed time, whether it be short or long, may be so improved, as you will wish you had improved it, when you shall come to die.

2. For encouragement!

Had we to perform our work in our own strength, or to "carry on our warfare at our own cost," we might well despair. But it is not so. The Spirit of the living God is promised to us, to "help our infirmities;" and "he who has begun the good work in us has engaged to perfect it until the day of Christ Philippians 1:6." Count not, then, your difficulties or your dangers, as though they were too great for you to encounter. Only go forth in the strength of Christ, and you may say to all of them, "Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain Zechariah 4:7." Your weakness, if only you feel it as you ought, should rather be an occasion of satisfaction than of despondency; since, "when you are weak, then shall you be strong; and Christ's strength shall be perfected in your weakness 2 Corinthians 12:9-10." After all, who can tell how few your conflicts may be? Perhaps your appointed time is already so near a close, that you have but a few days or hours to live. Be this as it may, "let your loins be girt, and your lamps trimmed, as those that wait for the coming of their Lord; that, at whatever hour he shall come, he may find you watching." "What I say unto you I say unto all, Watch."

 

 

Job 8:8-14

 

DISCOURSE 457

BILDAD WARNS JOB OF THE DANGER OF HYPOCRISY

Job 8:8-14. Inquire, I pray you, of the former age, and prepare yourself to the search of their fathers: (for we are but of yesterday, and know nothing, because our days upon earth are a shadow:) shall not they teach you, and tell you, and utter words out of their heart? Can the rush grow up without mire? can the flay grow without water? While it is yet in his greenness, and not cut down, it withers before any other herb. So are the paths of all that forget God; and the hypocrite's hope shall perish: whose hope shall be cut off, and whose trust shall be a spider's web.

RELIGIOUS controversy is rarely carried on with that meekness and candor, which are necessary to render it profitable to the soul. Even in such a sacred subject as religion, the generality seek for victory rather than for truth, and put such a construction on the expressions of their adversary as to distort his sentiments and to calumniate his views. The friends of Job, though good men, were guilty of this to a very great extent. In the chapter before us, Bildad begins his reply with a most unjustifiable misconstruction of all that Job had spoken; and accuses him of having represented God as "perverting justice;" when Job certainly never intended to make so impious an assertion. But still we must remember, that the general sentiments of Bildad were just; and that, if Job had really been such a character as his friends imagined, the warnings which they suggested, and the advice which they gave him, were on the whole both beneficial and good.

In order to enter fully into the meaning of the words before us, we must particularly bear in mind, that Bildad regarded the sons of Job as ungodly, and Job himself as hypocritical Compare Job 4:7-11; Job 5:3-5 with 8:4, 6. In this view, he designates the former as "forgetting God," and the latter as having acted "the hypocrite" before him: and both the one and the other he compares to "a rush," which, when deprived of water, withers in a very short space of time.

We shall consider this comparison,

I. In reference to those who manifestly "forget God"—

Here, as we have observed, we must keep in view the precise character which Bildad considered as belonging to the sons of Job—

They were living in ease and affluence, happy in their family connections, and blessed with an abundant measure of harmony in their domestic circle. The apprehension which their father had, lest his sons should by any means have been led to dishonor God in their mirth Job 1:5, shows, that they were not, in his opinion at least, possessed of solid piety; while, on the other hand, it showed, that they were not addicted to impiety. Now persons of this description are very numerous: "There is a generation," says Solomon, "that are pure in their own eyes, but are not washed from their filthiness Proverbs 30:12;" they fill up their stations in life with credit to themselves, and with benefit to all around them: they are irreproachable in their character, as men of honor and integrity, of kindness and benevolence, of decency and decorum: and in all these respects they are, "like the rush in the mire, green and flourishing."

In their prospects also and their expectations, they are happy. Not anticipating evil, they look forward to fresh gratifications, like travelers in a rich and fertile country. In early youth they form sanguine hopes of settling in the world; and then of advancing their rising families: and thus, having always some fresh object in view, they run their career of pleasure or ambition, and conclude that, at the termination of it, they shall stand as high in the approbation, of their God, as they do in the estimation of their ignorant fellow-creatures.

In their end also an especial reference is made to them—

Those of the foregoing character, while living in their proper element, the world, flourish; but when, through illness or misfortunes, they can no longer enjoy the world, like the rush or flag in a season of drought, they wither: they need "not be cut down" by great calamities; small trials suffice to rob them of all their verdure, and to reduce them to a very pitiful and drooping state. "In the fullness of their sufficiency they are in straits Job 20:22;" and they are compelled, however reluctantly, to inscribe on every created enjoyment, "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity and vexation of spirit."

But, if we look to the period of their departure hence, we shall find the text yet more awfully verified in them: then indeed "all their hopes perish, even as a spider's web." We have a most remarkable illustration of their state in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. The rich man seems to have been much such a character as we suppose these to be: he "lived to the flesh rather than to the Spirit," and "to himself rather than unto God." This was the rich man's sin; (we charge him wrongfully, if we accuse him of avarice or oppression;) and it is the sin of those we are now speaking of Romans 8:5; Romans 14:7-9 and 2 Corinthians 5:15; they "forget God:" they forget, that God is entitled to all their love, and to all the service which they can possibly render to him: they forget, that, as he is the Author, so he should be also the End, of their being; and that, "whether they eat or drink, or whatever they do, they should have a single eye to his glory." The end of such a course is seen in the rich man; who was no sooner taken from his present enjoyments, than he was cast into Hell, where he "lift up his eyes in torments, and entreated in vain for a drop of water to cool his tongue." We find him too requesting that a messenger might be "sent to his five surviving brethren, to warn them, lest they also should come into the same place of torment:" for then he found, what during his life he would not believe, what must of necessity be the issue of such a life; he found, what all must find, (either now by faith, or hereafter by their own actual experience,) that "the wicked shall be turned into Hell, and all the people that forget God Psalm 9:17."

The comparison in our text will be found no less just, if we consider it,

II. In reference to those who make a hypocritical profession of serving God—

As under the former head we have kept Job's sons in view, so here we must keep Job himself in view.

In Bildad's opinion of him we find the true notion of a hypocrite—

Job had maintained a high reputation for sanctity, and had shown a great zeal for God's honor in relation to others; but, as Bildad erroneously thought, had neglected to consult it himself, or to live agreeably to his avowed principles. This, though not the true character of Job, is a just description of many among ourselves: they profess to venerate religion, and show much zeal in the propagation of it: they pretend also to feel deeply, when any depart from the good way, and bring a disgrace on their holy profession: but yet they are themselves under the dominion of some besetting sin. They are secretly indulging pride, envy, malice, covetousness, lewdness, or some other bosom lust: they do not live near to God in their secret chamber, or aspire after an entire conformity to his will: they are more anxious to appear religious, than to be so, and to be applauded of man, than to be approved of God.

Now these persons, while carried on by a conceit of their own superior knowledge of divine truth, and a desire of establishing a character for piety, are, like the flag in the water, green and flourishing: they seem extremely rapid in their growth; and are regarded, both by themselves and others, as persons of a higher order of being.

But the hope of all such persons is most delusive–

It rarely happens that a hypocrite continues long to deceive those who are acquainted with his private habits: he cannot maintain a consistency of character, for want of an inward principle of grace. Like the seed sown in ground where it "had no depth of earth," or like the flag destitute of water, he withers away, and exposes both himself and religion to general contempt. For the truth of this we may appeal to the records of former ages; yes, "though we are of yesterday and know nothing," as it were, we must have seen it but too frequently in our own day; that person of high expectation have declined from the right path, and "made shipwreck either of faith or of a good conscience." As Lot's wife was a monument in the Old Testament, so is Demas in the New: and similar monuments are yet found in every Church.

But let us follow the hypocrite also into the eternal world: what is his condition there? Alas! alas! however high he was in his own estimation or in that of others, he is now fallen indeed; and all his towering hopes are now swept away with the broom of destruction See Job 20:4-7. Even while he is here carrying on his deception, though it be unsuspected by himself or others, and though his hypocrisy be not in act, but in heart only, he is "treasuring up wrath for himself Job 36:13." against "the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Christ Jesus Romans 2:16." Possibly he may carry his confidence with him into the eternal world, and almost presume to expostulate with his Judge: but "he will say to them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity Matthew 7:22-23;" and then shall their state be so superlatively wretched, that they who sink the deepest into perdition are said to "take their portion with the hypocrites."

O that we might all learn from this subject,

1. The importance of piety—

We are not disposed to undervalue the blessings of worldly prosperity, or domestic happiness: but in comparison of eternal blessedness we must needs say, that everything in this world is only as the dust of the balance. Yet the highest ambition of parents for their children is, to see them precisely in the way that Job's children were, all with separate establishments, living in sweet harmony with each other, and in the vicinity of their parents, where all as one family, may augment and enjoy the happiness of the whole. This state also is regarded by young persons of both sexes as the summit of their ambition. But even in this life we see how soon their gourd may be withered by a worm at the root: and after this life, nothing remains of it, but a fearful responsibility for every hour that has been spent in a forgetfulness of God. Indeed, indeed, however the ungodly may scoff at piety, there is nothing that deserves a thought in comparison of it. If the whole world be no adequate price for one single soul, it is madness to be bartering away our souls, as so many do, for the truest trifles that can be presented to our view. To all then, and especially to the young, I would say, Remember God; "remember your Creator in the days of youth" or health; and let "the life which you now live in the flesh, be by faith in the Son of God, who loved you and gave himself for you." But, if you are still disposed to hold fast your delusive expectations, go and sweep away a spider's web, and then reflect, how suddenly, and irrecoverably, it is destroyed. Then say with yourself, Such is my hope, and such will before long be the termination of it. "O consider this, you that forget God, lest he tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver you Psalm 50:22."

2. The danger of self-deception—

All see how others deceive themselves; yet none, of whatever class, imagine themselves to be in any great danger of self-delusion. But James tells us, that we may "seem to be religious," and persuade ourselves that we are so, and yet "deceive our own souls, and have our religion vain James 1:26." O remember, that we live in a deceitful world, and have an adversary whose wiles and devices are inconceivably subtle; and that our own "hearts also are deceitful above all things and desperately wicked:" and let the consideration of these things make you "jealous over yourselves with a godly jealousy." Be not too confident that all is right with you; but say with Paul, "Though I know nothing by myself, yet am I not hereby justified; but he who judges me is the Lord 1 Corinthians 4:4." Yet, if you have "the testimony of your own conscience that with simplicity and godly sincerity you have your conversation in the world, you may rejoice in it 2 Corinthians 1:12;" only "rejoice with trembling Psalm 2:11;" and, bearing in mind that "God requires truth in the inward parts Psalm 51:6," beg of him to "search and try you Psalm 139:23-24," and to make you "Israelites indeed, in whom there is no deceit."

 

 

Job 9:2-4

DISCOURSE 458

THE FOLLY OF SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS AND PRESUMPTION

Job 9:2-4. How should man be just with God? If he will contend with him, he cannot answer him one of a thousand. He is wise in heart, and mighty in strength: who has hardened against him, and has prospered?

THE fundamental doctrines of our holy religion are not like the deductions of human reason, which leave a degree of doubt upon the mind: they correspond with something within us, which contributes to assure us that the things which we have received upon the divine testimony are unquestionably true. The inspired writers indeed, knowing by whom they were inspired, delivered without hesitation those things of which they had no internal evidence, as well as those which were confirmed by their own experience. Nevertheless there is a peculiar energy in their mode of declaring experimental truths: they make them a subject of appeal to their very enemies, and challenge the whole universe to deny the things whereof they affirm. Thus it was with Job Bildad had charged him with asserting his own perfect innocence, and accusing God as unjust in his proceedings towards him: "Does God pervert judgment? or does the Almighty pervert justice!" Job, in his reply, allowed the premises of his opponent, but denied the consequences which were deduced from them: "I know it is so of a truth;" that is, I know God will not pervert justice: "but" I deny that I ever intended to justify myself before God, or to harden myself against him; for I am as fully convinced of the folly of acting in such a manner, as you or any one else can be: "How can man," etc.

In this reply Job strongly asserts two things;

I. The folly of justifying ourselves before God—

Many there are who justify themselves before God—

Few indeed, if any, will deny that they have sinned: but all unregenerate persons will deny that they deserve the wrath of God: at least, if, on account of some flagrant transgression, they be constrained to confess themselves obnoxious to eternal punishment, they hope by some repentance or reformation to compensate for their sins, and to establish a righteousness whereby they may find acceptance with God.

But this proceeds from an ignorance of the divine law—

"The law of God is perfect Psalm 19:7;" "the commandment is exceeding broad Psalm 119:96;" it extends not to actions only, but to the thoughts and desires of the heart "You shall not covet,"I. e. You shall not harbor, you shall not even have, an inordinate desire, Romans 7:7; and it requires perfect and perpetual obedience Galatians 3:10. On our failure in any one particular, it denounces a curse against us Galatians 3:10; and from that period it can never justify us. It admits of no repentance on our part, or relaxation on God's part Matthew 5:18. It is as immutable as God himself: and it is owing to men's ignorance of this law that they so foolishly build upon it as the foundation of their hopes.

None who understand this law will ever look for justification from it—

If among a thousand perfect actions, one only were found defective, it were sufficient to condemn us forever. But, if we will try ourselves by the law, we shall not find "one action of a thousand," no, nor one in our whole lives, that will not condemn us. If we should presume to "contend with God" respecting the perfection of our best action, how soon would he confound us! Even we will venture to expose the folly of such presumption. Bring forth your action to the light: was there nothing amiss in its principle, nothing defective in the manner, nothing of a selfish mixture in its end? See if you can answer a weak sinful creature like yourselves: and, if you cannot, how will you "answer" the pure heart-searching "God?"

See then the folly of hoping ever to "be just with God;" and adopt the language of David, "Enter not into judgment with your servant; for in your sight shall no man living be justified Psalm 19:12; Psalm 40:12; Psalm 130:3; Psalm 143:2."

But there is another point in the text to which we must advert, namely,

II. The folly of hardening ourselves against God—

Those who justify themselves before God are equally prone to harden themselves against him—

This they do by their unbelief and impenitence: they will not give credit to the declarations of God concerning them: they think, in direct opposition to all that God has spoken, that he will never execute his threatenings against the transgressors of his law. They profess to hope that repentance will appease his anger; and yet they put off their repentance from year to year, and take occasion even from his mercy to sin the more against him.

The folly of this appears,

1. From the character of God—

If God were ignorant of what passes in our minds, or unable to punish us for our sins, we need not concern ourselves so much about him. But are "the thick clouds a covering to him, so that he cannot see us Job 22:13-14." or "are we stronger than he, so that we can provoke him to jealousy 1 Corinthians 10:22." without any fear of his resentment? No: "he is wise in heart, and mighty in strength:" he beholds the most secret emotions of our hearts, and will surely call us into judgment for them. What folly is it then to "harden ourselves against him," when "neither rocks nor mountains can conceal us from him," nor the whole universe combined deliver us from his hands Daniel 4:37. Proverbs 11:21.

2. From the experience of men—

"Who among all the sons of men ever prospered," while he lived in an impenitent and unbelieving state? Many indeed have been wealthy and powerful Psalm 73:3-12; but who ever had solid peace in his conscience? Who ever had real comfort in a dying-hour? Who ever had happiness in the eternal world? This is the only prosperity that deserves our notice; and, in this view of it, the question in the text is unanswerable.

But, if we cannot tell of one that prospered, can we not recount multitudes that have been marked as objects of God's most signal vengeance? Was not the rebellious Pharaoh visited with ten successive plagues, and drowned at last, with all his army, in the Red Sea Exodus 9:17; Exodus 14:17; Exodus 14:28. Was not the vain-glorious Nebuchadnezzar changed, as it were, into a beast for the space of seven years for his impious boasting against God Daniel 5:20-21. Was not his son Belshazzar warned by a hand-writing on the wall, in the midst of his lewd, drunken, and blaspheming revels; and, agreeably to the prediction, dethroned and slain that very night Daniel 5:22-28; Daniel 5:30. But why do we mention individual instances, when we are told, that "every one who, after repeated reproofs, hardens his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy Proverbs 29:1." Who that considers this denunciation, must not confess, that such opposition to a God of infinite wisdom and power is madness itself?

These things then being clear, the following advice cannot but approve itself to the consciences of all—

1. Be attentive to the concerns of your souls—

To "repent, and believe the Gospel," was the advice which Jesus himself gave to his hearers: and it is as necessary for you as it was for them. But it may be thought that an attention to spiritual concerns will interfere with your worldly prosperity. This however is not a necessary consequence: there can be no doubt but that, if you serve God faithfully, the world will hate you: but prudence and diligence may advance your temporal interests even in spite of the world's hatred. Be it so, however: your temporal and spiritual welfare, we will say, are in direct opposition to each other: can it be doubted which you should prefer? Is not the soul of more value then ten thousand worlds? Seek then the prosperity which God approves, and which will continue for ever.

2. Study the Gospel in particular—

It is the Gospel alone that can enable you to answer that important question, "How shall man be just with God?" That takes your eyes off from human attainments, and directs them to the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ is there "set forth as a atoning sacrifice for sin, that, through him, God may be just, and yet the justifier of penitent and believing sinners Romans 3:24-26." From thence you learn, that Christ's obedience unto death is a sufficient plea against all the accusations of God's law; and that, if you be washed in his blood, God himself will not behold in you the least spot or blemish Ephesians 5:25-27. It was from "the Gospel as originally preached to Abraham," that he found out the method of a sinner's acceptance with God Galatians 3:6-9. All the Apostles acquiesced in this way of salvation: they all renounced their own works in point of dependence, and sought for mercy through faith in Christ Galatians 2:15-16. Let the Gospel then, whether as written by the first ministers of Christ, or as preached by those who now follow their steps, be your meditation and delight: so shall you find support under the most accumulated trials, and be accepted of your God in the day of judgment.

 

 

Job 9:20-21

 

DISCOURSE 459

THE EVIL OF A SELF-JUSTIFYING SPIRIT

Job 9:20-21. If I justify myself, mine own mouth shall condemn me: if I say, I am perfect, it shall also prove me perverse. Though I were perfect, yet would I not know my soul: I would despise my life.

IN controversies of every kind, and more especially in those which relate to religion, the disputants are, for the most part, more anxious to obtain the victory than to discover truth. Hence, instead of putting that precise construction on each other's words which they were designed to bear, they labor to turn to their own advantage every expression of their adversary, and to derive from it an argument for the support of their own cause. Even good men are by no means so candid as they ought to be in relation to this matter, more especially when they become heated by opposition. The friends of Job were exceedingly faulty in this particular. They first charged Job with hypocrisy; and then, when he asserted his own innocence in relation to that heinous sin, they represented him as asserting his freedom from all sin, and as justifying himself as a righteous person before God. This was by no means the intention of Job: on the contrary, he here explicitly declares, that "no man can be just before God verse 2," and that he should stand utterly self-condemned if he should presume to arrogate to himself any such measure of perfection. He had stated in the foregoing verse, that if he should dare to contend with God, he could neither withstand his power, nor put himself into a capacity to make good his cause before him verse 19; and now he renounces with abhorrence any such impious idea. Of the former verse of our text, this is the plain and obvious meaning: and in the latter verse, the same idea seems yet more strongly, though not so plainly, stated: "Though I were perfect," so far as not to be aware of any evil that I had ever committed, "yet would I not know my soul," or pretend to know it as the heart-searching God does: "I would despise my own life," and submit to any death, rather than presume to offer such an insult to the Majesty of Heaven. Thus he avows, in opposition to the charge that had been brought against him, first, the folly, and next, the impiety, of a self-justifying spirit. These two we propose to consider in their order:

I. The folly of a self-justifying spirit—

By a self-justifying spirit we understand, a persuasion of mind that we do not deserve God's wrath and indignation, but, on the contrary, that we do deserve his favor and blessing. Now supposing a person to indulge this spirit, what does he, in fact, affirm? He affirms, if not in words, yet by clear inference, what "his mouth must utterly condemn." He affirms,

1. That there is no truth in the Scriptures—

The Scriptures in every part cither affirm, or take for granted, that man is a sinner, justly condemned, and standing in need of mercy at the hands of an offended God. Now to talk of perfection, or of being righteous before God, is to assert directly the reverse of what the Scriptures assert, and, consequently, to say that there is no truth in them. But will any one dare to speak thus concerning the sacred oracles? will not his own mouth instantly condemn him as a proud and wicked infidel? or, if he profess to believe the Holy Scriptures, and yet maintain the notion of his being righteous before God, will not his own mouth still condemn him as guilty of the grossest inconsistency? Believer or unbeliever, he must equally stand self-refuted, and self-condemned.

2. That there is no sin in his heart—

We ask not whether there be any flagrant iniquities that can be laid to his charge: it is sufficient if once, in ever so small a degree, in act, word, or thought, he have transgressed, or fallen short of, the perfect law of God: having offended thus far, he has broken the law, and is from that moment subjected to its curse Galatians 3:10. Now to be justified by the very law that condemns us, is a contradiction in terms: so that the person who pretends to be just before God must either deny that he has any sin in his heart, or maintain the contradiction before stated. If it be said, that he may imagine that the law admits of imperfections, and justifies us notwithstanding those imperfections, we answer, that we cannot make laws of our own, but must take the law as we find it: and that the law, being a perfect transcript of God's mind and will, can be satisfied with nothing but perfect and perpetual obedience: and consequently, if ever we have transgressed it in the smallest measure, we are, and must forever be, condemned by it. To deny the perfection of the law would be to deny the perfection of God, which is atheism: and to admit its perfection, and yet dream of justification by it, is such an absurdity, as every man's own mouth must condemn. The only possible ground of being justified by it must be, that we have no sin in our hearts: and, if any man dare affirm that, his own mouth has already proved him most ignorant and perverse 1 John 1:8.

3. That he has no need of a Savior—

If he be righteous himself, he has no need to be clothed in another's righteousness, nor any need of an atonement for his sins: consequently, as far at least as relates to that individual, God has sent his own Son in vain. And will any man say that God, in making his Son "a atoning sacrifice for the sins of the whole world," was under a mistake, and that for himself he needed no such exercise of mercy? Why then does such a man call himself a Christian? If he stood in no need of Christ, and is in a state of justification without Christ, he should cease to "name the name of Christ:" for while he continues to do so, his own mouth condemns him, and proves him perverse. "If righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain Galatians 2:21."

But let us proceed to notice,

II. The impiety of it—

It was not without good reason that Job expressed such an abhorrence of the spirit that was imputed to him: for the indulging of it is,

1. A criminating of God—

There is not a perfection of the Deity which is not dishonored by a self-justifying spirit. It impeaches and vilifies his truth; seeing that he has represented all to be in a state of guilt and condemnation before him. It denies his justice; since he threatens all men with death, when there are some who do not deserve it. It degrades his wisdom; since it supposes that that wonderful contrivance of providing a surety for us, and laying our sins upon him, was unnecessary. It holds up to derision also his mercy and grace, which are proclaimed as incomprehensibly great and glorious, when the very offer of them is only an empty sound. Hear what God himself says: "If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar 1 John 1:10." Can anything be conceived more heinous than this? Should we not "despise our own lives," and submit to ten thousand deaths, rather than be guilty of it?

2. A contempt of our own souls—

God has provided a salvation for us, and offered it freely to all who will accept it in and through his beloved Son; and has told us, that "there is no other name under Heaven whereby we can be saved," but that of Jesus; and yet we choose to ground our claim of happiness on the purity and perfection of our own character, rather than submit to be saved in his appointed way. But is not this madness? Will a man deal so with his temporal interests? will he risk the loss of them upon a mere phantom of his own imagination, in direct opposition to the plainest dictates of his understanding? Surely, if men had the least value for their souls, they would not so trifle with them; they would at least endeavor to ascertain what degree of weight was due to their opinions, and whether there was any rational ground for them to expect God's blessing in a way so contrary to his own most express and solemn declarations. But their total indifference about the issue of their confidence shows, that they account their souls of no value, or, as Solomon expresses it, "they despise their own souls Proverbs 15:32."

3. A trampling under foot the Son of God—

This is God's own representation of the sin. In rejecting the sacrifice of Christ, there being no other sacrifice, we cut ourselves off from all hope of salvation; yes, "we trample under foot the Son of God, and count the blood of the covenant an unholy thing, and do despite to the Spirit of grace Hebrews 10:26-29." What amazing impiety is this! We are apt to confine our ideas of impiety to gross sins committed against our fellow-creatures: and such an error as self-righteousness we suppose to be of very little importance. But it is not thus that God estimates sin: he views sin chiefly as it dishonors him, and more especially as it militates against that stupendous effort of his love, the redemption of the world by the blood and righteousness of his beloved Son. Know then, that to justify ourselves, is to repeat, in fact, the conduct of those who crucified the Lord of glory; it is to "crucify him afresh," and to say, "We will not have this man to reign over us."

This subject may be further improved,

1. For our conviction—

Who was it that used the language in our text? It was Job, of whom God himself testified, that "he was a perfect and upright man." And if he could not justify himself before God, who are we, that we should presume to do so? Are we more perfect than he? Hear how he speaks of himself, a few verses after our text verse 30, 31; and then see what our views of ourselves should be. Nor was Job singular in his views of himself: the language of all the most eminent saints, both in the Old and New Testament, is precisely similar See Psalm 130:3; Psalm 143:2. Proverbs 20:9. Isaiah 6:5; Isaiah 64:6. Philippians 3:4-9 and especially 1 Corinthians 4:4; And such must be ours also, if ever we would find mercy at the hands of God: we must "humble ourselves, if ever we would be exalted."

2. For our consolation—

Some are discouraged at the sight of their own vileness, and are ready to think that such unworthy creatures as they can never be saved. And such thoughts they might well have, if justification were, either in whole or in part, by any righteousness of our own. But "we are to be justified freely by God's grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus Romans 3:24-26;" it is "the ungodly whom God justifies Romans 4:5;" not indeed those who continue ungodly, but those who come to Christ in an ungodly state, desiring to be cleansed from the guilt and power of their sins: those persons are justified the very moment they believe in Jesus, and that too from all the sins they have ever committed Acts 13:39. Here indeed is abundant consolation for "the weary and heavy-laden" sinner; here indeed he may find rest to his soul. Remember then what the Apostle has said; "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners:" and that Paul himself, when he was a bloody persecutor and blasphemer, obtained mercy, on purpose that the extent and riches of God's grace might be displayed in him, as a pattern and encouragement to all who should ever desire acceptance with their offended God 1 Timothy 1:15-16. Follow his example then, and believe in Jesus for the remission of your sins: say, as the prophet encourages you to do, "In the Lord Jesus have I righteousness and strength;" for "in the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and in him shall they glory Isaiah 45:24-25." The very name by which the Lord Jesus himself delights to be called, is, "The Lord our Righteousness Jeremiah 23:6."

 

 

Job 10:1

 

DISCOURSE 460

IMPATIENCE REPROVED

Job 10:1. My soul is weary of my life.

LIFE is justly esteemed a blessing: and we are properly taught in the Liturgy to thank God, as well for our creation, as for our preservation, and redemption. But to the greater part of mankind this world is a chequered scene at best; and to very many it is only a valley of tears. Had we seen Job in his prosperity, we should have been led perhaps to form a more favorable estimate of the present state: but there are changes in the affairs of men, as much as in the air and seas: and the day that dawned with the most promising appearance, may be overcast with clouds, and blackened with tempests, before the sun has reached its meridian height. Thus it was with Job: the man that was the envy of all who knew him, was in a short space of time so reduced, as to exclaim, "My soul is weary of my life."

We shall,

I. Show that this is a common experience—

Daily observation proves that it is common,

1. Among the ungodly—

It arises from domestic trials. Who can tell what trouble a tyrannical or unfaithful husband, a contentious or imprudent wife, a rebellious or extravagant son, an indiscreet or unchaste daughter, may occasion? There is scarce a family to be found, where something does not happen to embitter life, and to make death, either to the head or members, an object of desire.

From personal troubles also the same disquietude will spring. Pain and sickness, when of long continuance, and especially when accompanied with the infirmities of age, cause many to wish for a speedy dissolution. Embarrassed circumstances too will so oppress the spirits, particularly when occasioned by one's own extravagance or folly, as to make the soul weary of life: yes, to such a degree are the minds of men oppressed by troubles of this kind, that a deliverance from them is not unfrequently sought in suicide. Even a mere sense of the emptiness of all earthly things will often fill the soul with disgust, and cause it to sigh for a release from the body, in which it finds no satisfactory enjoyment. Many, in the midst of youth, health, and affluence, while moving in a constant round of amusements, and free from every external trouble, are yet so weary of life, that they would gladly part with it immediately, if they were not afraid of entering into the invisible world. But, above all, a guilty conscience renders man "a burden to himself." A person "weary and heavy-laden" with a sense of sin, and not knowing where to go for rest, is indeed a pitiable object. He wishes that he had never been born, or that he could be again reduced to a state of non-existence. If he might but be annihilated like the beasts, he would gladly accept the offer, and most thankfully forego all hope of Heaven, to obtain deliverance from the fears of Hell.

2. Among the godly—

Not even the most eminent saints are altogether free from this experience. They are not, while in the flesh, above the reach of temporal afflictions. They are not indeed overcome by every little trouble, like those who know not God: but they are not insensible to pain or pleasure: they have their feelings, as well as other men. Pains of body, loss of substance, bereavements of friends, injuries from enemies, may, when accumulated, cast them down; and produce, as in the case of Job, extreme dejection.

The weight of spiritual troubles is felt by these exclusively: nor can those who have never experienced their pressure, form any just conception respecting them. Who can describe the anguish that is occasioned by violent temptations, headstrong corruptions, unsuccessful conflicts? What language can paint the distress of a soul under the hidings of God's face, and the apprehensions of his wrath? Can we wonder that a person long exercised with such trials, should say, "Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest Psalm 55:4-6." Surely "the spirit of a man may sustain other infirmities; but a wounded spirit who can bear Proverbs 18:14."

The commonness of this experience may well lead us to,

II. Inquire into the reasons of it—

Many reasons may be assigned, but we shall limit ourselves to a few:

1. Impatience—

Job, whose patience is celebrated even by God himself, when borne down by the weight of his afflictions, cursed the day of his birth Job 3:1-22, and longed exceedingly for death Job 6:8-9; and would have been glad to have had a period put to his existence, even by strangling, rather than to have it protracted any longer in such misery Job 7:15-16. To the same source we must trace those hasty wishes, which we also are ready to form in seasons of great calamity. If "patience had its perfect work in us," we should be willing to bear whatever God might see fit to lay upon us. But "in the day of adversity the strongest of us are too apt to faint."

2. Unbelief—

From this more particularly arose that weariness and aversion to life which the Prophet Elijah manifested, when he fled from Jezebel. He had encountered Ahab, and slain all the prophets of Baal, in dependence on the divine protection: but when this wicked woman menaced him, he stayed not to take counsel of the Lord, but instantly fled into the wilderness; and, to get rid of all his dangers and difficulties at once, requested God to kill him 1 Kings 19:4. Had he felt the same security in God us on former occasions, he would have been quite composed, knowing assuredly that without God's permission not a hair of his head could fall to the ground. Thus when afflictions render us weary of life, we show that we have forgotten the promise of Jehovah to make all thing's work together for our good. When we know that medicine is operating for our good, we disregard the uneasiness that it occasions: we are contented even to pay for the prescriptions, from a confidence that we shall be benefitted by them in the issue. And should we not welcome the prescriptions of our heavenly Physician, if we duly considered his unerring wisdom, goodness, and truth? Instead of repining and murmuring on account of his dispensations, we should rest satisfied, that every additional trouble would only call forth additional displays of his power and love.

3. A forgetfulness of our real desert—

Man, as a sinner, deserves the curse of the law, and the wrath of God. Suppose we bore this in mind, should we not say, even under the most accumulated trials, "You have punished us less than our iniquities deserve Ezra. 9:13." Would not a recollection of our desert of death and Hell constrain us to cry, "Shall a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins Lamentations 3:39." Would Jonah have been so clamorous for death, and so ready to justify his impatience before God Jon. 4:2-3; Jon. 4:8-9, if he had considered what he merited at God's hands? So neither should we be so fretful under our sufferings, if only we bore in mind, that, instead of being put into the furnace of affliction, we should, if dealt with according to our deserts, be cast into the flames of Hell. We should learn rather to adopt the sentiment of the Church of old, "I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against him Mic. 7:9."

4. A disregard of the great ends of life—

It is truly humiliating to find not only such querulous, and almost doubtful, characters as Jonah, but the bold Elijah, the pious David, the patient Job, fainting in their trials, and longing for their dismissal from the body. But to this catalogue we must add another, even Moses, the meekest of mankind. Even this holy man, unable to bear up under the burdens imposed upon him, complains of them to God, and says, "If you deal thus with me, I pray you to kill me out of hand Numbers 11:14-15." Would he have offered such a petition if he had reflected on the benefits which had already accrued to Israel by his means, and, humanly speaking, the incalculable loss which they would sustain by his removal? And should not we also be more willing to endure our trials, if we considered what valuable ends might be promoted by our continuance under them? Perhaps we are not prepared to die; (for persons are most apt to wish for death when they are least prepared to meet it;) and would we, for the sake of extricating ourselves from some earthly trouble, plunge ourselves, both body and soul, into the everlasting miseries of Hell? But, supposing that we are prepared, may not others be greatly edified by our example, our counsels, and our prayers? May not our own weight of glory also be greatly increased, by a due improvement of our light and momentary afflictions 2 Corinthians 4:17. Is not this last consideration alone sufficient to reconcile us to a prolonging of our troubles, and a deferring of our heavenly felicity For this sublime idea the author is in a measure indebted to a poor woman (so poor as to be supported by the parish), who, when in great pain, and almost in dying circumstances, replied (in answer to what he had suggested respecting the rest and happiness that awaited her), "True, Sir, but in some respects affliction is better even than Heaven itself; for, etc. etc."? We may indeed be in a strait between the two; but we shall, like Paul, be willing to live, when we reflect how much better that may be both for ourselves and others Philippians 1:23-24.

Towards lessening this common evil, we shall,

III. Prescribe some remedies for it—

The painful experience before described may be mitigated, and in many cases wholly prevented, by,

1. A due attention to our worldly callings—

Persons under the pressure of heavy afflictions are apt to give themselves up to sorrow, and to neglect the proper duties of their calling. By this means their minds become more and more enervated; their spirits sink, and they fall a prey to their sorrows: they die of a broken heart. But if, instead of thus yielding to lowness of spirits, they would employ themselves in their accustomed duties, their occupations would divert their attention from their troubles, and give scope and opportunity to the mind to recover its proper tone. Whether the troubles be of a temporal or spiritual nature, this remedy should be applied. We must not indeed go and plunge ourselves into business or amusement in order to get rid of reflection, (that would be to run into a contrary extreme;) but we should never be so occupied with our sufferings as to forget or neglect our duties. It is remarkable, that when God repeated to the fugitive prophet that expostulatory question, "What do you here, Elijah?" he ordered him, not to sit any longer wishing for death, but to go about the business which yet remained for him to do; namely, to return to Damascus, and anoint Hazael to be king of Syria, and Jehu to be king of Israel, and Elisha to be his successor in the prophetic office 1 Kings 19:15-16. And in the same manner it becomes us, not to sit wishing for the spoils of victory, but to continue fighting until God shall call us to put off our armor.

2. A close walk with God—

Strange it is, that heavy trials which are sent to bring us to God, often prevail rather to drive us from him. We complain, "We are so overwhelmed with trouble, that we cannot think of our souls or compose our minds for supplication to God." But we are particularly commanded to "call on God in the time of trouble Psalm 50:15;" and to "cast all our care upon Him, who cares for us 1 Peter 5:7;" and we see in the instance of Paul how speedily our sorrows might be turned into joy, if only we would use this remedy 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. Surely one ray of the light of his countenance would dissipate all our darkness, and change our impatient murmurings into "thanksgiving and the voice of melody." If we were bowed down with a sense of guilt, one glimpse of Christ would remove the load from our conscience. If we were harassed with the fiercest temptations or most overwhelming fears, one word from him would quiet the tempestuous ocean, and qualify us for encountering all the storms with which we might at any time be overtaken.

3. A frequent survey of Heaven—

A view of Heaven would indeed excite desires after the full enjoyment of it. But this is very different from the experience which is described in the text. Our longings after Heaven cannot be too ardent, provided we are contented to wait God's time in order to possess it 2 Peter 3:12. This is an important distinction, and most accurately marked by the Apostle Paul. He knew that Heaven was the portion prepared for him; and he earnestly desired to enjoy it 2 Corinthians 5:1-3,: but these desires did not spring from an impatient wish to get rid of his troubles, or to terminate his conflicts, but from a thirst after God himself, and the perfect fruition of his glory 2 Corinthians 5:4. Now this would be a most effectual remedy against the other: the brighter the views we had of the glory that awaits us, the less we should regard the sufferings of this present time Romans 8:18. If the years of labor and servitude appeared to Jacob only as a few days, because of the love he bore to Rachel, and the desire he had to possess her as his wife Genesis 29:20, so will the tribulations which are appointed as our way to the kingdom Acts 14:22. appear of little concern, when we look to the end of our journey, and the felicity we shall then enjoy.

 

 

Job 10:7

 

DISCOURSE 461

CONSCIOUS INTEGRITY

Job 10:7. You know that I am not wicked.

PAINFUL as the consideration of God's omniscience must be to the wicked, it is a rich source of consolation to those who are upright before him. Circumstances may arise, wherein they may not be able fully to vindicate their character to the world, even though they are perfectly innocent of the things laid to their charge. The defilement also which they sometimes contract by reason of their indwelling corruptions maybe such as to excite fears respecting the state of their souls; while they are maintaining a strenuous conflict with the whole body of sin. In such cases it will be a satisfaction to them to reflect, that their very inmost souls are naked and open before God; and that he can discern the integrity of their hearts, even when most clouded, either by unreasonable suspicions, or just occasions of doubt. From this source Job drew his consolation, when the dispensations of Providence seemed to justify his friends in accusing him of hypocrisy: he could then appeal to God, and say, "You know that I am not wicked."

We propose to show,

I. What we are to understand by this appeal—

Job never intended to assert that he was possessed of sinless perfection—

God had indeed honored him with the title of a "perfect man." But in the very same place, the import of the term "perfect" is limited and explained by the word "upright" united to it Job 1:8. Perfection, in the Scripture use of the word, relates rather to our desires than our attainments; and denotes that growth in grace, which is found in those who have arrived at the full stature of a Christian, as distinguished from a state of infantile weakness, or youthful inexperience. That Job did not deny himself to be a sinner, or still to be encompassed with sinful infirmities, is evident from the whole of the preceding context, where he repeatedly acknowledges, and deeply bewails, his own depravity Job 7:20; Job 9:20-21; Job 9:30-31. Indeed his spirit at this time was by no means free from sinful impatience verse 3; so that, if he had boasted of sinless perfection, he would have opposed the whole tenor of Scripture 1 Kings 8:46. James 3:2. 1 John 1:8, and his own mouth would have condemned him, and proved him perverse.

But he appealed to God,

1. That he was free from the sin imputed to him—

Job's friends imagined, that heavy judgments were never sent except as punishments of some enormous wickedness. What evils Job had been guilty of, they could not tell: but, as they saw him so grievously afflicted, they concluded that he must have indulged some secret wickedness, which God now intended to disclose and punish. They therefore, at a venture, accused him of hypocrisy Job 8:13-14; Job 8:20. But he repelled the charge, and asserted, in opposition to them, his own innocence David did the same. See Psalm 7:3; Psalm 7:8; Psalm 26:1; Psalm 26:6. And Paul: see 1 Thessalonians. 2:10.

2. That he was, on the whole, upright before God—

He had sincerely endeavored to serve and please God; nor did his conscience accuse him of allowedly indulging sin. In hopes therefore that the solemnity of an appeal to God would convince and satisfy his friends, he presumed to address the Deity in the words of our text. Nor was this without an evident propriety: for, as the troubles which proceeded from God were considered as a testimony against him, he could not clear himself better than by appealing to the Author of those troubles for a testimony in his favor. To have done this merely to cover his guilt, would have been madness: for if he was already suffering the rebukes of God on account of his hypocrisy, he could expect nothing but a ten-fold load of misery us the reward of such aggravated impiety Such an appeal therefore to the heart-searching God, upon a subject of which none but God could judge, was the best, and indeed the only means, of reestablishing his character in the good opinion of his friends.

But, that we may not be too hasty in making such an appeal, let us consider,

II. What is necessary to warrant it—

We ought to have the testimony of our own conscience,

1. That we are free from all allowed sin—

If we allow ourselves in any sin, we are servants of sin Romans 6:16; we belong to Satan 1 John 3:8; we have no interest in the covenant or grace Romans 6:14; yes, even the prayers we offer in such a state are an abomination to the Lord Psalm 66:18. Proverbs 28:9. It matters not whether the sin be open or secret, great or small; if we indulge it willingly, we oppose the authority of God, which is equally displayed in every commandment. It is no excuse to say, that such or such an indulgence is conducive to our comfort, or necessary to our welfare: if it be as useful as a right hand, or as precious as a right eye, we can never be sincere, if we do not pluck it out or out it off, and cast it from us Matthew 5:29-30. In order to say with truth, "I am not wicked," we must have "a single eye Matthew 6:22," and be Israelites indeed, without deceit John 1:47.

2. That we endeavor habitually to approve ourselves to God—

We may approve ourselves to our fellow-creatures, while there is much iniquity harbored in our hearts. If we would have a good conscience, we must act, not to men, but to God: God's will must be the reason, his word the rule, and his glory the end, of our obedience Colossians 3:23. We must have as much respect to our motives and inclinations as to our words and actions; we must be careful to purge out all leaven Luke 12:1. 1 Corinthians 5:7-8, and to have the very thoughts of our hearts brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ 2 Corinthians 10:5. Without this we cannot say, "I am not wicked;" for that which is the root and summit of all wickedness abides within us: we have "a carnal mind that is enmity against God Romans 8:7;" and however clean we may be in the outward appearance, we are inwardly like whited sepulchers, full of rottenness and all impurity Matthew 23:27-28.

But in proportion to the difficulty of making this appeal is,

III. The blessedness of being able to make it—

Certainly such a consciousness of our own integrity must be a rich consolation to us,

1. Under any troubles that may come upon us—

Under the pressure of any heavy calamity, when God seems as if he were "bringing our sins to remembrance," and especially in times of persecution, when our characters are traduced, and we are regarded as the most worthless of man-kind, we find it a most painful addition to our grief if we think that we have brought the trial on ourselves by some misconduct of our own. But if, in either of these cases, we can appeal to God that we have sought only his glory, and endeavored to approve ourselves to him, we shall feel our trials greatly alleviated, and our spirits calmed. Never was a man more cruelly aspersed, or more virulently persecuted, than the Apostle Paul: yet the reflection that God knew his heart, and approved his conduct, made it appear "a light matter to him to be judged of man's judgment 1 Corinthians 4:3." A similar consciousness will be productive of similar composure in all our minds 2 Corinthians 1:12.

2. In the prospect of death and judgment—

None who have guilt upon their conscience can look forward to these seasons without pain and dread. But to him who can make this appeal to God, death and judgment have lost all their terrors. He has within himself a pledge of the felicity that awaits him. The judgment has already passed, as it were, with respect to him; and, while others have only a fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation to consume them, he "knows that he has a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens 2 Corinthians 5:1." Not being condemned in his own heart, he has a just and Scriptural confidence towards God 1 John 3:19-21.

Address,

1. Those who are living in any known sin—

Perhaps you have contrived so well, that you can defy man to lay any particular evil to your charge. But what will that avail, while God beholds the secret abominations of your hearts? To what purpose is it to say to your fellow-creatures, "You cannot accuse me," when you are constrained to confess before God, "You know that I am wicked?" Reflect on the strictness of the trial that awaits you; and know, that God will bring every secret thing into judgment, whether it be good or evil 1 Corinthians 4:4-5 with the first clause of Job 10:15.

2. Those who think themselves in a good state—

It is by no means uncommon for men to "deceive themselves, by thinking themselves something when they are nothing Galatians 6:3." The way to prevent this is, to take the word of God as the standard by which we try ourselves; and, to beg of God to search and try us. This is recommended by Paul, in order that we may have rejoicing in ourselves alone, and not merely in the good opinion of others Galatians 6:4-5. If indeed we have in ourselves an evidence that we truly love and fear God, we may say, with Peter, "Lord, you know all things, you know that I love you John 21:17." But, after all, we should remember, that, whatever be our estimate of our own character, "Not he who commends himself shall be approved, but he whom the Lord commends 2 Corinthians 10:18."

 

 

Job 11:7-12

 

DISCOURSE 462

THE INCOMPREHENSIBILITY OF GOD

Job 11:7-12. Can you by searching find out God? can you find out the Almighty unto perfection? It is as high as Heaven; what can you do? deeper than Hell; what can you know? The measure thereof is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea. If he cut off, and shut up, or gather together, then who can hinder him? For he knows vain men: he sees wickedness also; will he not then consider it? For vain man would be wise, though man be born like a wild ass's colt Perhaps it might be better to take only verse 7 and 8. for the text, and to leave out the second head of this Discourse. In that case, the subject will be 'The Incomprehensibility of God;' and the great divisions of it will be those which are found in the first head in this Discourse. Then the improvement of the subject might be, to learn, First, To receive with meekness whatever God has revealed: (and there verse 12. might be introduced:) Secondly, To hear with patience whatever he may inflict: (where the inefficacy, verse 11 and the danger, verse 12. of contending with God are stated:) and Thirdly, To be thankful especially for the discovery he has given of himself in the person of his dear Son. Here it might be shown, that God, though still incomprehensible, has given the fullest discoveries of himself. Christ is expressly called "the image of the invisible God;" and "Whoever has seen him, has seen the Father." In his cross, all the perfections of the Father are illustrated and glorified (Psalm 85:10.); and by the help of his Spirit (2 Corinthians 4:6) we may discover them.

WE are not a little grieved to see a good man, under circumstances that should have called forth nothing but tenderness and compassion, run down and persecuted by his own friends, and those friends men of great intelligence and real piety. But human nature, notwithstanding it may have been renovated by divine grace, is still imperfect: and, if left under the influence of any mistaken principle, we may pursue evil with earnestness under the semblance of good, and may provoke God to anger, while we imagine that we are rendering him the most acceptable service. The friends of Job were eminently enlightened men: yet all in succession act towards him the part of enemies; and each in succession, with increasing acrimony, condemns him as a hypocrite before God. How painful is it to hear this address of Zophar; "Should your lies make men hold their peace? and when you mock, shall no man make you ashamed verse 3." But, while we lament the sad misapplication of their arguments to the point in hand, and the bitterness of spirit with which they were urged, we must still avail ourselves of the instruction they afford us, which in some respects is equal to any that is contained in the sacred volume.

Zophar supposed, that Job had complained of God as acting unjustly towards him: and, if he had been right in his interpretation of Job's expressions, the reproof he administered would have been just and beneficial. His error in relation to Job's real character divests his observations of all force in reference to him: but they deserve the strictest attention in reference to ourselves. From them we are naturally led to notice,

I. The incomprehensibility of God—

Well does David say, "Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; and his greatness is unsearchable Psalm 145:3." Truly he is unsearchable,

1. In the perfections of his nature—

Men will often talk of God, and lay down laws for him, just as if they had the most perfect knowledge of him, and of everything relating to him. But our knowledge of God is altogether negative: we know that he is not unwise, not unholy, not unjust; but, as to any definite ideas of his attributes, we have them not. What notion have we of his natural perfections of eternity or immensity? None at all. So of his moral perfections, of justice, mercy, goodness, truth, we, in fact, know as little. We contemplate these qualities as existing in man, and are enabled to estimate with some precision their proper bearings: but, when we come to transfer these qualities to the Deity, we are much in the dark: and we are guilty of great presumption, when we prescribe rules for him, and bind him by laws that are suited for the restrictions or human actions. "He dwells in the light which no man can approach unto:" and presumptuously to ascend the mount of his habitation, or to look within the ark, is death Exodus 19:12-13. 1 Samuel 6:19.

2. In the dispensations of his providence—

These we see; but no one of them do we understand This was as strongly affirmed by Job himself as by his friends. Compare Job 5:9; Job 9:10 with the text. Who will pretend to account for God's conduct towards our first parents, in suffering them to be overcome by temptation, and to entail sin and misery on all their posterity? Who will undertake to declare all the consequences that may arise from any one event, however trivial, or all the motives which exist in the divine mind for the permission of it? We are apt to speak of things as great and small, because of the degree of importance that we attach to them: but there is nothing great, nothing small, in the estimation of God: and whoever meditates on the history of Joseph, or the facts recorded in the Book of Esther, will see, that the most casual and trifling circumstances, as they appear to us, were as important links in the chain of providence, as those which bear the clearer marks of counsel and design. The rejection of the Jews, the calling of the Gentiles, and the restoration of the Jews to the favor of their God, are events of vast magnitude in human estimation: but what the Apostle says in reference to them, is in reality as applicable to the events of daily occurrence, "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out Romans 11:33."

3. In the operations of his grace—

Let that first act of grace be surveyed, the destination of God's only dear Son to be the surety and substitute of man: let the whole covenant of grace be contemplated: let every act of grace from the foundation of the world to this present moment be scrutinized: and what shall we know of it all? Let it be inquired, why God puts a difference between one nation and another, and between one individual and another: let the mode in which divine grace operates upon the soul be investigated, so as to distinguish in all things the agency of the Holy Spirit from the actings of our own minds: Who is sufficient for these things? Who is not a child and a fool in his own estimation, when he turns his attention to them? We would address our text to every child of man; "Can you by searching find out God? can you find out the Almighty to perfection? It is as high as Heaven; what can you do? deeper than Hell; what can you know? the measure thereof is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea." "Touching the Almighty, we cannot find him out Job 37:23." "As no man knows the things of a man, but the spirit of man which is in him; so the things of God knows no man, but the Spirit of God 1 Corinthians 2:11."

If God be so incomprehensible, then we may see,

II. The folly of presuming to sit in judgment upon him—

This was the particular drift of Zophar's admonition. He conceived that Job had complained of God as unjust towards him: and therefore, having solemnly warned Job, that "God had exacted less of him than his iniquities deserved," he proceeded to dilate upon the character and ways of God as far exceeding all human comprehension, and to show unto Job the folly of arraigning the conduct of the Most High. In prosecution of his argument, Zophar shows,

1. How incompetent we are to resist his will—

God is almighty: and, if he is pleased "to cut off" a man's family, "or to shut him up" in darkness and distress, "or to gather together" his adversaries against him, "what power has any man to hinder him?" We may dispute against him; but we cannot divert him from his purpose: we may complain and murmur; but "we cannot stay his hand." "He does according to his will in the armies of Heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth:" and, "whatever his counsel may be, that shall stand." What folly then is it to be indulging hard thoughts of him, and to be maintaining a stoutness of heart against him, when we know beforehand that we can never prevail, that we only kick against the pricks, and that the only way of averting his wrath is, to humble ourselves before him! Think, all you who now repine, "Will your hands be strong in the day that he shall deal with you? or will you thunder with a voice like his?"

2. How unable we are to escape his judgment—

God sees all the rebellious motions of our hearts, and will certainly call us into judgment for them. Here then, is a strong additional reason for not presuming to condemn him. To know that the indulgence of such a rebellious spirit will not avert his displeasure, were quite sufficient to suppress all risings of heart against him: but to know that it greatly augments his displeasure; to know that he marks every rebellious thought that springs up in our minds, and "that he considers it" with a view to a just and awful retribution; surely this should make us extremely cautious how we thus ensure and aggravate our eternal condemnation. On this subject we shall do well to remember the warning which God himself gave to Job; "He who reproves God, let him answer it Job 40:2."

3. How destitute we are of everything that can qualify us for such an office—

What is any man, "vain man, that would be wise?" What? "He is born" as stupid, as unteachable, and as refractory "as a wild ass's colt See Jeremiah 2:23-24." Were he of the first order of created intelligences, he could know nothing of God any further than God was pleased to reveal himself to him: but he is a being of an inferior order, and that too in a fallen and degraded state; "having the eyes of his understanding darkened" by sin, and "blinded by the God of this world;" yes more, having also a thick impenetrable "veil over his heart." What then can such a creature pretend to know of God, that he should presume to sit in judgment upon him, and to arraign his conduct? We know how incompetent a little child would be to comprehend and sit in judgment upon the designs of a great statesman; yet is there no distance between those, in comparison of that which exists between God and us. Let us bear in mind then what we ourselves are; and that will most effectually repress our arrogance, if we be tempted to judge of God.

As the obvious improvement of this subject, let us learn,

1. To receive with meekness whatever God has revealed—

We are no more to sit in judgment upon God's word than upon his providence: if once it be ascertained that the word is a revelation from God, then are we to receive it with the simplicity of a little child. We must indeed use all possible means to attain a clear knowledge of the meaning of the Scripture, as well as to assure ourselves that it is of divine origin: but we must not wrest the word, and put an unnatural construction upon it, because we do not fully comprehend it: we must rather look up to God for the teachings of his Spirit, and wait upon him until he shall be pleased to "open our understandings to understand the Scriptures." Did we act thus, setting ourselves against no truth that God has revealed, but receiving with humility whatever he has spoken, we should no longer behold the Church rent into parties, and the minds of men embittered against each other by controversies. Let us remember, that "the riches of Christ are unsearchable;" that "his love passes knowledge;" and that however deep our knowledge of Scripture may be, there will always remain some things difficult to be understood: and our wisdom is, first, to improve for our benefit all that is clear; and then, in reference to the rest, to say, "What I know not now, I shall know hereafter."

2. To bear with patience whatever God has inflicted—

Impatience does, in fact, reflect upon God either as unjust or unkind. But if we considered how "little a portion is heard of him," that "his footsteps are not known," and that those things which we deplore as calamities are sent by him in love for our eternal good, we should not only submit with patience to whatever he might lay upon us, but should adore him for it as an expression of his love. The issue of Job's trials is proposed to us in this very view, as the means of composing our minds, and of reconciling us to the most afflictive providences James 5:11. If Job were now to live on earth again, and were to see all the benefit that has resulted both to himself and to the Church, and all the glory that has redounded to his God from the troubles that he endured, how differently would he speak of them, from what he did when under their immediate pressure! What he has seen of God's unerring wisdom and unbounded love would make him justify God, yes and glorify him too, for all those trials which once he felt so insupportable: and, if we now by faith learn to estimate the divine character aright, we shall welcome every dispensation however afflictive, and glory in our present troubles, under the sweet assurance, that "our light shall before long rise in obscurity, and our darkness be as the noon-day."

 

 

Job 12:5

 

DISCOURSE 463

A WANT OF SYMPATHY CONDEMNED

Job 12:5. He who is ready to slip with his feet it as a lamp despised in the thought of him that it at ease.

THE friends of Job meant well: but, mistaking utterly his case, all that they spoke, though good in itself, was irrelevant, and tended only to aggravate his sorrows, which it was their professed intention to alleviate. The injustice of their remarks generated in him somewhat of tartness and asperity; though, considering how cruel and unjust their reflections were, we wonder not that his vindications of himself should assume somewhat of that character. But, passing by his ironical reprehension of them verse 2, I would call your attention to the complaint which he utters in the words which I have just read. It was a just complaint, as it respected them: and it contains a truth, which is confirmed by universal experience.

To mark the precise import of Job's expressions, I will set before you,

I. The evil complained of—

Job did not intend to deny that his friends were possessed of humanity, or to say that kind dispositions might not be found even in ungodly men: for, where distress is great and visible, and within the reach of common remedies, there are many who will find a pleasure in relieving it. It was not this which Job designed to controvert. To enter into the full meaning of his words, we must distinctly notice,

1. The terms in which the evil is expressed—

The afflicted person is described as "one who is ready to slip with his feet." Now, this is not the case with persons in common afflictions. It refers to those only whose afflictions are of a peculiarly dark, complicated nature, contrary to the common course of things, or, at all events, contrary to what, according to the usual dispensations of Providence, might have been expected. These trials lead a person to complain of God himself, and to question the justice and goodness of his dealings with them. Such was the state of Asaph, when he saw the prosperity of the wicked, and compared it with the afflicted lot of God's own faithful servants. He said, "As for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well near slipped: for I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked." Then he adds, "Truly, I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency Psalm 73:2-3; Psalm 73:13." Here, by reason of his trouble, this good man was ready to think that it was altogether in vain to serve the Lord.

Now, such a person meets with little compassion from those who have never experienced any similar affliction: "he is as a lamp despised, in the thought of him that is at ease." The man that is at case in his circumstances and in his mind, cannot enter into the feelings of one who is thus dejected. He therefore looks upon the sufferer just as a man, after the sun is risen, looks upon a lamp in the street, from which he can reap no benefit, and about which he feels no concern. He will not get a ladder, in order to trim it; nor will he put himself to the expense of oil to supply it; nor does he care how soon it is extinguished, provided only that he himself be not annoyed by its smell. Like the priest and Levite in the parable, he passes by such a sufferer with unconcern, instead of getting oil and wine to pour into, and to mollify, his wounds.

This leads us to a just view of,

2. The evil itself—

Job was in such circumstances as his friends could not at all account for: yes, and he himself too was ready to complain of God, as acting unjustly and unmercifully towards him. Hence his friends, who came with a good design to comfort him, expressed in reality no compassion towards him, nor seemed to feel any concern, even though, by their unkind insinuations, they should drive him to despair. They did, indeed, give him good advice, on a supposition he was a hypocrite chastised of God for some secret and enormous wickedness: but, for a saint, placed in the furnace, by a wise and merciful Refiner, for his own good, and the good of all to whom his history should in future ages be made known, there was not, in all their advice, one word of comfort, or encouragement, or support. They themselves, never having been involved in such trouble, could not understand his case. When he shined as the sun in his prosperity, they could avail themselves of his light, and bask with pleasure in his beams: but, now that he was under so thick a cloud, they regarded him only "as a despised lamp," which, having been shorn of its luster, was left to be extinguished in utter darkness.

And such is the treatment generally given to persons circumstanced as Job was. Their sorrows being so little appreciated, they find but little sympathy. Even good people know not how to meet their case, or what to say for their relief. The blow, which has struck down the sufferer, has stunned and stupefied those who, under less complicated afflictions, might have been able to administer to him: and hence he is, for the most part, left without those compassionate attentions which his sorrows require, and perhaps is regarded as one whose troubles admit not of any consolation, and of whose restoration to happiness there is no hope.

This evil prevailing so generally, I will endeavor to show,

II. The state of mind which it betrays—

Certainly it denotes,

1. A want of Christian knowledge—

By Christian knowledge I mean, emphatically, the knowledge of Christ Jesus, and of all the wonders of redeeming love. Doubtless, a speculative knowledge of the Gospel a man may have, and yet be a stranger to the tender feelings of sympathy in such a case as this: (for even the devils possess a speculative knowledge of the Gospel, to a great extent:) but a practical and influential knowledge he possesses not. How can he ever have duly contemplated the compassions of Almighty God towards our fallen race? Can he have ever been impressed with the Father's love towards us rebellious creatures, and yet feel no pity towards a suffering brother? What sense can he have of the tender mercies of our Lord, when he undertook to assume our fallen nature on purpose that he might "bear in his own sacred person our sins, and, by bearing, take away from us, forever, our iniquities Isaiah 53:4." What, I say, can he know of the length and breadth and depth and height of this immeasurable love, and remain insensible to the wants and miseries of others? I may further add, What can he know of "the love of the Holy Spirit" towards us, in undertaking for us the office of "a Comforter," and dwelling in our polluted bosoms, as in a temple, for the express purpose of administering consolation to us, and of perfecting in us the work which the Father planned, and the Son executed, and which He, the third Person in the ever-blessed Trinity, applies? When all this love has been shown to us on purpose to generate in us a similar love towards each other John 15:12-13. Ephesians 5:2, what can he know of this stupendous mystery, who displays it not in its effects? If it be true respecting those who sympathize not with others in their bodily necessities, that "they have not the love of God in them 1 John 3:17," much more is it true, that they who "shut up their affections of compassion from a brother" under the pressure of spiritual troubles, can possess but little knowledge of that mystery which unites all in one body, and causes every member to participate in the feelings and necessities of the whole body 1 Corinthians 12:25-26.

2. A want of Christian experience—

Some find comparatively few conflicts in the divine life: others have to maintain a severe warfare, by which they are often reduced to great straits. Now, it is to these latter that I refer, when I speak of Christian experience. It is by no means uncommon for persons, at their first awakening, to be bowed down with fear and terrible apprehensions of the divine displeasure. It was thus with the first converts on the day of Pentecost: "they were pricked to the heart; and cried out in great agony of soul, Men and brethren, what shall we do?" In subsequent stages of the divine life, too, many are brought into deep waters, where, like David, they are apprehensive of being swallowed up, and utterly destroyed Psalm 69:2. They "pass through fire and through water Isaiah 43:2;" and if they were not succored from on high by more than ordinary communications of grace, they would sink and perish. Now, these persons can enter into the feelings of others who are cast down by reason of their afflictions; and can suggest to them many suitable reflections, such as perhaps the angels suggested to our Lord, when tempted in the wilderness Matthew 4:11, and when agonizing in the garden of Gethsemane Luke 22:43. But the man who has no sympathy with persons under such circumstances, shows, that he knows but little either of temptations or deliverances; since these deep experiences are given to some for the express purpose, that they may thereby be both qualified and disposed to administer to others the consolations with which they themselves "are comforted of God 2 Corinthians 1:4-6."

3. A want of Christian feeling—

The very essence of Christianity is love: and it is "by bearing one another's burdens that we very principally fulfill the law of Christ Galatians 6:2." But how can we fulfill that law, if we do not "rejoice with them that rejoice, and weep with them that weep Romans 12:15." Or how can we possess "true and undefiled religion, if we do not visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction James 1:27," and endeavor, according to our ability, to "lift up the hands that hangs down, and the feeble knees, and to make straight and smooth paths Hebrews 12:12-13." for "the feet of those who are ready to slip?" It was peculiarly characteristic of our blessed Lord, that "he would not break the bruised reed, or quench the smoking flax, until he should bring forth judgment unto victory Isaiah 42:3." and, if we do not resemble him in his compassionate regard for his afflicted saints, whatever we may profess, "we have not the mind that was in Christ Jesus Philippians 2:5."

Behold, then,

1. The benefit of affliction—

"Affliction, doubtless, is not joyous, but grievous:" but it qualifies us for services for which we should be otherwise unfit. Our blessed Lord was tempted in all things like unto us, sin only excepted, on purpose that he might be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, and be qualified (so to speak) "to support them that are tempted Hebrews 2:17-18;" and from that very consideration we are encouraged to come to him for relief under our troubles Hebrews 4:15-16. Shall we not, then, be content to learn, in the school of adversity, the lessons which he designs us to convey to others? We doubt not but that Job, if he were on earth again, and knew how many millions of souls his example has instructed, would readily submit again to the same discipline, in order to communicate the same blessings to mankind. And we also may well descend with David into the horrible pit and miry clay of despondency itself, if only, with him, we may have "a new song put into our mouth, which many, beholding, may fear, and put their trust in the Lord Psalm 40:2-3."

2. The excellency of the Gospel—

Under the gospel dispensation we have a perfect antidote to all the afflictions even of Job himself. We have a far greater insight into the nature of God's dispensations than they had under the darker ministration of the Law. The compassions of Christ do, in fact, dispel every cloud; and bring such light into the soul, that it may be said of all who view them aright, "Unto the godly there arises up light in the darkness Psalm 112:4;" and every believing soul may say, "When I walk in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me Mic. 7:8." Yes, Brethren, "there is balm in Gilead;" there is balm for every wound. Only study the Gospel, and get your souls filled with a sense of redeeming love, and every storm you encounter shall only forward you to your desired haven, and every furnace you endure shall only purge you from your dross, and "fit you, as vessels of honor, for the use of your Divine Master 2 Timothy 2:21." Of those who come to Heaven, as all, more or less, must be content to do, through much tribulation, not one ever did, or ever shall, complain, that his trials have been too great. Our passage to Heaven may be laborious: but our rest shall amply compensate for all our labors.

 

 

Job 14:10

DISCOURSE 464

DEATH

Job 14:10. Man gives up the Spirit, and where is he This is inserted, not as a set Discourse, but merely as a specimen of an easy, popular, and extemporaneous Address on occasion of a Funeral.

AFFLICTIONS, while they wean us from the love of this present world, serve to familiarize us with the thoughts of death, and to make that which to our nature is terrible, an object of desire and hope See Job 7:1-10 and verse 1, 2. of the chapter before us. But it is proper for us to contemplate this subject while we are yet in a state of health and prosperity; and, especially, to make the removal of others to the eternal world an occasion of considering what our own state may shortly be.

Man consists of soul and body. These, in death, are separated; the body returning to its native dust, and "the soul returning to God who gave it." This separation must speedily take place, whatever be our rank, our age, our employment. The very instant that "our soul is required of us," it must be surrendered up; nor can the skill of all the physicians in the universe enable us to ward off the stroke of death one single hour.

And when the hour arrives for "man to give up the Spirit, Where is he?" While he is yet alive, we may find him. His office in life will assist us in our inquiry. The student, the mechanic, the man of pleasure, yes, and even the traveler, may be sought for, each in his own vocation, and may be found without great difficulty: but who shall find the man, when once his spirit has taken its flight to the invisible world? No more shall he return to his former abode; no more have fellowship with his former friends. The house he has built, or the books he has written, may remain: but he himself shall be far away, and the place he has inhabited shall know him no more. A tree that is cut down may sprout again: but not so the man that dies: he shall pass away as a morning cloud, and be no more seen Ecclesiastes 9:10.

Then where is he,

I. As to any opportunity of serving God?

Once, he had one talent at least committed to him, and he might have improved it for God: but now it is taken from him: whatever he once possessed of corporeal or mental power, of time, of wealth, of influence, is all gone forever; and he can do no more for God than if he had never existed in the world.

II. As to any means of benefitting his own soul?

Time was, when he could read the blessed book of God, and draw near to a throne of grace, and pour out his soul in prayer, and lay hold on the promises of the Gospel, and seek from the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, such communications of grace and mercy and peace as were needful for him: but this time is passed away: no access to God now; no help from the Savior now; no scope for repentance now: none of these things remain to a soul that is once removed to the eternal world verse 7–12; the work that is unfinished now will remain unfinished forever.

III. As to any hope of carrying into effect his purposes and resolutions?

There are few so hardened, but they have some thought or purpose of turning unto God before they die. To the mirthful, the laborious, the dissolute, the fit time for religious services is not yet arrived: but all have a secret conviction, that the concerns of the soul deserve some attention; and they hope that, in a dying-hour at least, they shall regard what, in despite of all their levity, they know to be the one thing needful. Perhaps the young only waited until they were settled in life; or until their children should be grown up, and leave them more at leisure to follow the dictates of their better judgment: and those who were immersed in earthly cares only waited until they should be able to retire from the world, and to devote a good measure of their attention to heavenly things. But "the day is closed upon them; and the night is come, in which no man can work:" "their soul being, as it were, prematurely and unexpectedly required of them," their hopes are never realized, their desires never are accomplished.

IV. As to any possibility of preparing for his eternal state?

The fight is terminated; the race is closed; the crown awarded. There is no return to the field of action; no further scope for amended efforts: "As the tree falls, so it lies;" and so it will lie to all eternity. Pardon, peace, holiness, glory, are all at an unapproachable distance to him who dies without having attained the possession of them. There is an impassable gulf between him and Heaven; and he must take his portion forever in that place for which alone he is prepared.

Permit me, then, now to ask,

1. If the time were come for us to "give up the Spirit," where should we be?

This is a thought which ought frequently and deeply to occupy all our minds. Of individual persons we can know but little: but respecting characters we may form a very correct judgment. For instance, we know where the man who dies impenitent shall be Luke 13:3; Luke 13:5; and where the man who has not fled to Christ for refuge John 3:18; John 3:36; and where also the hypocritical professor Matthew 7:21-23. And if we will candidly search out our own character, we may form a very accurate estimate respecting our future destination. I beg you, then, to examine carefully into the state of your own souls, in reference to your penitence: your faith: your obedience to God's commands: and then to say, as before God, what expectations the result of that inquiry will authorize? Reflect, too, I pray you, on the inconceivable difference of those two states, to one of which you must go; and on the different emphasis with which the reflection in my text will be uttered by your surviving friends, according as their hopes or apprehensions respecting you are formed.

2. As the time for your giving up the Spirit will shortly come, "Where should you now be?"

Are the scenes of gaiety and dissipation those which you should chiefly affect? Should not rather the house of God be the place where you should delight to resort? and should not your own closet be frequented by you for the purposes of reading, and meditation, and prayer?: In a word, should you not live as dying men, and improve your time in preparation for eternity?: Realize the thought of your feelings in that day, when, in the eternal world, you shall say, "Where am I?" O! the blessedness of that reflection, if you died in a state of acceptance with God; and the anguish it will occasion, if you died under his displeasure! I pray you, Brethren, waste no more time in vanity and folly, but attend now to the great concerns of your souls; that, if the inquiry be made either here or in the invisible world, "Where is he?" the answer may be, "He is happy forever, in the bosom of his God."

 

 

Job 14:14

 

DISCOURSE 465

THE CHANGE THAT TAKES PLACE AT DEATH

Job 14:14. All the days of my appointed time will I wait, until my change come.

"IS there not an appointed time to man upon earth Job 7:1." Yes, there is: the time for every man's entrance into the world, and the time for his continuance in it, are fixed by Almighty God, from whose hand we come, and by whose hand alone we are upheld. Successive generations arise, and are swept away, like the foliage, which by revolving seasons is produced and destroyed. But in this the illustration fails: "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. 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 dies, and wastes away; yes, "man gives up the Spirit, and where is he?" "As the waters fail from the sea, and the flood decays and tries up; so man lies down, and rises not, until the heavens be no more verse 7–12." The change at death is complete: and, therefore, whether a man be elated with joys or depressed with sorrows, it becomes him to look forward to that period, when all present things shall have passed away, and an eternity, an unalterable eternity, shall commence. In the prospect of this period, Job consoled himself under his accumulated sorrows; and determined to wait with patience all the days of his appointed time, until this change should come.

It will be profitable to consider,

I. What is that change that awaits us all—

The voice of inspiration tells us, "It is appointed unto men once to die; and after that the judgment." Now, the change that takes place in death is,

1. Great—

That which passes upon the body we can in some measure appreciate; because we see before our eyes the frame, which but lately exhibited the loveliest evidences of creative wisdom, despoiled of all its powers, and reduced to the lowest state of degradation and deformity.

But who can estimate the change which death produces on the soul? Who can form any adequate idea of its views and feelings in a disembodied state? Respecting it we know little more than that it exists: of the mode of its existence, or the nature of its operations, or the extent of its powers, we have no means of judging. That it is in a state of inconceivable happiness or misery, indeed, we have no doubt: but all beyond that is mere conjecture. This, however, sufficiently warrants us to affirm, that the change which takes place in death is great.

It is also,

2. Momentous—

It is a transition, not only from the use of means to the absence of all means, but from a state of probation to a state of retribution. Here we can read the word of God, and hear it from God's appointed ministers. Here we can draw near to God in prayer, and implore mercy at his hands, and plead his great and precious promises, and flee for refuge to the hope that is set before us. In our present state there is "a cloud of witnesses," surveying all our motions, and, with affectionate solicitude, panting for our success Hebrews 12:1. God himself is watching over us, and saying, "How shall I give you up Hosea 11:8." "Will you not be made clean? When shall it once be Jeremiah 13:27." But the very instant that the soul departs from the body, its state is fixed; all opportunities of promoting its welfare are terminated Ecclesiastes 9:10; and a sentence of happiness or misery is awarded to it, according to what it has done in the body during the period of its existence here.

The awfulness of this change is yet further increased by the consideration of its being,

3. Permanent—

True it is, indeed, that the body shall undergo a further change; because it will be raised again, to participate the lot which had been previously assigned to the soul. But, from the instant of its dissolution, its doom was fixed; and to all eternity will it remain an heir of happiness or woe. Conceive now the soul and body exalted to the throne of God, to enjoy all his blessedness and glory; or cast down to Hell, to endure all the terrors of his wrath! Conceive its state irreversibly and unalterably fixed, so that, when millions of ages shall have rolled on, it shall be no nearer a termination than at its commencement! In what a view does this exhibit the change that shall take place at death! Truly, this is a subject which deserves the deepest consideration, and which, above all others, ought to operate with the greatest force upon our minds.

Let us consider,

II. Our duty in reference to it—

We should continually look forward to that change, and "wait" for it in a state,

1. Of patient expectation—

When trouble comes upon us, we are apt to feel impatience, and are ready, like Elijah, to pray that "God would take away our life." Many, alas! proceed even to the extremity of terminating their lives by suicide: and I cannot but think that the act of suicide would be still more common, if the dread of an hereafter did not operate to produce a submission to present ills, as, upon the whole, a preferable alternative. But we should bear in mind, that "the number of our days is determined" of the Lord; that they are continually drawing to a close; that, in a little time, our afflictions, how great soever they may at present be, will come to a close; and, consequently, like persons waiting for the morning, we should submit with patience to the evils of the night.

2. Of diligent preparation—

The present is the only time for securing happiness in the eternal world. Now, therefore, every hour should be improved for that end. Whatever talents have been committed to us, we should employ them so as to give a good account of them at last. If we have but one talent, we should not hide it in a napkin, but turn it to the best account that we are able; that so our Divine Master may, at his coming, receive his own with usury.

Let this subject teach us,

1. The folly of ambition—

What if we possessed all that the world could give? We might speedily, like Job, be dispossessed of all, or be rendered incapable of enjoying it. At all events, the instant our "change" comes, we must resign it all, and go naked out of the world, even as naked as we came into it. Who, that reflects on this, does not see that vanity is inscribed on all created good?

2. The wisdom of true piety—

Piety is that which alone will profit us in the eternal world: and the effects of that remain unchangeable for evermore. Know, then, that "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do thereafter: the praise of it endures forever."

 

 

Job 15:31

 

DISCOURSE 466

THE FOLLY OF TRUSTING IS VANITY

Job 15:31. Let not him that is deceived trust in vanity: for vanity shall be his recompense.

THE friends of Job were enlightened and pious men; but they altogether mistook the character of Job, and misinterpreted the dispensations of God towards him. They had assumed a principle which they carried too far: they laid it down as an invariable rule, that hypocrites would be visited with some peculiar judgments, and that extraordinary afflictions were in themselves a proof of some extraordinary wickedness which had procured them. But though they were mistaken in this, their observations are frequently most weighty and important. The words in our text are a kind of general truth, founded upon what Eliphaz had spoken in reference to Job As applied to Job, it was not by any means pertinent: but as an abstract truth, it is deserving of our deepest attention. Let us consider,

I. The caution—

Men are universally "deceived" through the influence of a corrupt heart, a tempting world, and a subtle adversary. And that deception shows itself, as in other things, so particularly in the "trust" which they place in "lying vanities." They trust,

1. In vain conceits—

Men conceive themselves to be possessed of wisdom, goodness, strength, in such a degree at least as to warrant their expectation of happiness in a future world. Tell them from God, that they are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked, and they will deny your positions as false, and ridicule them as enthusiastic. They have no idea that they need the influences of the Holy Spirit to enlighten their minds, or the blood of Christ to atone for their sins, or the grace of Christ to renovate their hearts.

But let them examine their boasted attainments, and see whether they amount to anything more than "vanity." Let them see whether their wisdom has made them like-minded with God: let them bring their goodness to the touchstone of God's law: let them try their strength in any act of spiritual obedience: let them see if they can love God with all their heart and mind and soul and strength: and they must soon be convinced, that they are trusting to a mere vanity.

2. In vain possessions—

If a man possess much of this world's goods he presently trusts in it for happiness 1 Timothy 6:17; "his wealth is his strong city Proverbs 10:15;" and he says to gold, "You are my confidence Job 31:24."

But is not wealth also vanity? What can it do to assuage our anguish? or what stability is there in the possession of it? Do not "riches often make themselves wings, and fly away?" Or, when we are saying, "Soul, you have much goods laid up for many years; take your case, eat, drink, and be merry;" may not God reply, "You fool! this night shall your soul be required of you?"

Let it not be said, that men do not trust in riches; for the reverse is manifest beyond the possibility of contradiction, seeing that the acquisition of wealth is regarded as the chief step towards happiness; and men bestow ten-fold more pains in the attainment of it, than they do in the pursuit of Heaven.

3. In vain hopes—

Every one hopes that he shall be happy when he dies. But, if we "ask men a reason of the hope that is in them," they can make no reply that will at all justify their expectations. They will say, that they live as well as others, and that God is too merciful to condemn them: but as for any Scriptural reason, they can assign none.

What a vanity then is this! If a man were hoping for a harvest while he neglected to use the proper means to obtain one, would not his folly be manifest to all? Why then will men dream of going to Heaven when they die, not only without having one word in all the inspired volume to warrant such a hope, but in direct opposition to the plainest declarations of God concerning them? Is not this a strange infatuation, a fatal delusion?

4. In vain purposes—

There is no one so hardened, but he intends at some future period to repent. All who have ever reflected on the value of their souls, or the importance of eternity, must have purposed in their minds that they would prepare to meet their God. But in this state they continue without carrying their purposes into execution. The young confess the necessity of repentance, and declare their intention to seek it: but they arrive at manhood, and repentance is unattained: they proceed to a more advanced period of life, and even to old age, and it still is as far from them as ever. Thus they live, always purposing, but never accomplishing their purpose, until the time for working is forever past.

Can there be a greater vanity than this? And does not the trusting in such a vanity prove a man deceived?

That we may not ourselves be guilty of this folly, let us consider,

II. The reason with which the caution is enforced—

God has wisely ordained that men should reap according to what they sow Galatians 6:7-8. Proverbs 4:8. And it will surely be found, sooner or later, that "they who trust in vanity, shall have vanity for their recompense:" they shall reap,

1. Disappointment—

God alone is the proper object of our trust and confidence, because he alone can support us, and make us happy. If we have looked to sin for happiness, we will venture to ask, with the Apostle, "What fruit have we now of those things whereof we are ashamed?" If we have sought happiness in things lawful, still we must confess, that the creature, however excellent in itself, is but a broken cistern that can hold no water, and that must consequently fail us when we most need its support. We may fitly compare those who expect solid satisfaction in the creature, to a man almost famished, who dreams that he is eating and drinking, but awakes afterwards as empty and unsatisfied as before Isaiah 29:8. Truly, "he fills his belly with the east wind verse 2;" and his fairest prospects shall "be as the unripe grape shaken off from the vine, or the blossom cast off from the olive verse 33,."

2. Vexation—

Solomon has observed respecting all the choicest things under the sun, that they are "vanity and vexation of spirit:" and the experience of all attests the truth of his observation. The more we trust in the creature, the more pain, generally speaking, it will occasion us: it will not only be a broken staff that refuses to support us, but a sharp "reed that will pierce through the hand that leans upon it 2 Kings 18:21." When Ahaz relied upon the Assyrian monarch to extricate him from his troubles, he found nothing but additional vexation: "Tiglath-pileser distressed him, but helped him not 2 Chronicles 28:16; 2 Chronicles 28:20." Thus it will be with all who trust in vanities of any kind, or seek for happiness in anything but God. They may not yet have reached the crisis of their fate; but vanity and vexation are inseparable, both in this world and in the world to come. They may think that they have a feast to come; but while dreaming of something pleasing to their palate, they will find that they are "feeding on ashes, and a deceived heart has turned them aside Isaiah 44:20. See also Ecclesiastes 5:16-17."

3. Ruin—

We well know how the tasting of the forbidden fruit, which promised such gratification and benefit to our first parents, terminated, and what misery it brought on them and their posterity: and the same recompense awaits us also, if we trust in lying vanities, instead of depending wholly on our God. Hear what God himself says respecting this: "Cursed be the man that trusts in man, and that makes flesh his arm, and whose hope departs from the Lord Jeremiah 17:5." How should we tremble at such a denunciation as this! O let it have a becoming influence on our minds; and stimulate us to seek our happiness where alone it can be found.

We conclude with observing,

1. How necessary is it to mark the state and habit of our minds!

If it were said that gross sin should issue in misery, we should not be surprised: but we are told that the mere "trusting in vanity," independent of any gross sins which may flow from it, "will have vanity for its recompense." Let us look then not to our actions only, but to the state and habit of our minds; since our happiness both in time and in eternity depends no less on the latter than on the former. Let us not be satisfied that we are free from any flagrant transgressions, while we are relying on any thing besides God. Let us observe whether we practically feel the emptiness of all created things, and their utter insufficiency to make us happy either here or hereafter. And let us be going forth to God in the constant exercise of prayer, and "commit our souls to him in well-doing, as into the hands of a faithful Creator."

2. How thankful should we be, that there is an all-sufficient Friend in whom we may trust!

God in Christ is the only legitimate object of our hope and confidence. We are told, under the figure of Eliakim, that "Christ has the key of David; that he opens and no man shuts, and shuts and no man opens; and that on him must hang all the glory of his Father's house Isaiah 22:20-24." "Every vessel in the Lord's house, whether great or small, must hang on him;" and every care must be devolved on him. In him there is a fullness of all that we can want. "In him is wisdom for the blind, righteousness for the guilty, sanctification for the polluted, and redemption for the enslaved: and all this he will become to those who trust in him 1 Corinthians 1:30." Be thankful then, Brethren, for such a friend, and for the command given you by God, "Trust in him at all times, you people." Rejoice that he can bear your every burden, and supply your every want; and that, as a trust in vanity will have vanity for its recompense, so a "confidence in Jesus will have a great, substantial, everlasting recompense of reward Hebrews 10:35."

 

 

Job 16:19

 

DISCOURSE 467

JOB'S CONSCIOUS INTEGRITY

Job 16:19. Now, behold, my witness is in Heaven, and my record is on high.

GREATLY was this holy man afflicted by his own friends, who came to condole with him; so that he was constrained to say, "Miserable comforters are you all verse 2." Yet was he not wholly destitute of comfort; because he had the testimony of his own conscience, that, to the best of his ability, he had approved himself both to God and man: for neither had there been any injustice in his hands towards man, nor had his prayer been hypocritical before God verse 17. Had he been guilty of any secret oppression, he wished the earth to disclose it, and his very prayers also to be rejected of his God verse 18; but he could appeal to the heart-searching God himself for his integrity: "Now, behold, my witness is in Heaven, and my record is on high."

It shall be my endeavor,

I. To unfold this passage in reference to Job—

These words may be understood as containing,

1. An unquestionable truth—

"The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good." There is not an abomination in the heart, which is not seen by God, nor one that is not noticed in the book of his remembrance as a ground of his future judgment. To this the whole Scriptures bear witness: "I know the things that come into your mind, every one of them Ezekiel 11:5." "I search the heart and try the reins, even to give to every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings Jeremiah 17:10." On the other hand, there is not a holy motion in the heart, but God notices it in the same manner, and for the same end. "There was some good thing in the heart of young Abijah 1 Kings 14:13;" and God made that the ground of distinguishing him above all his brethren, who were wholly given to iniquity. And where God is said to write in the book of his remembrance the conferences of his people, he is represented as taking peculiar notice of the thoughts of those who listen, no less than of the words of those who speak: so observant is he of every the minutest good that can be imagined. The sigh, the groan, the very look, is understood by him, and regarded with delight; and every tear is treasured up in his vials Psalm 56:8, and shall be exhibited by him, in the last day, in attestation of our sincerity. "When you were under the fig-tree, I saw you John 1:48," is a specimen of the testimony he will bear to our most hidden dispositions and desires.

2. A consolatory reflection—

Inexpressibly painful must have been the judgment of his misguided friends. Indeed, appearances were much against him: for why should he be called to endure such complicated and unparalleled afflictions, if he did not merit them? and, if he did merit them, what a consummate hypocrite must he have been, to have gained so high a reputation for piety! Such was the interpretation which his friends put upon the troubles that had come upon him. They thought that the dispensations of Providence were a sufficient criterion whereby to estimate a man's character, particularly when they were so extraordinary and unprecedented as those which they now beheld. But Job knew that their accusations were unfounded, and their decision altogether unmerited. The testimony of his conscience, therefore, afforded him no little consolation. He knew that Heaven had witnessed in him a far different conduct from that which his uncharitable friends imputed to him, and that God's record concerning him differed widely from theirs: to God, therefore, he committed his case, not doubting but that, when his sentence should be declared, it would be the Very reverse of that which they so ignorantly passed upon him. Hence he felt as the Apostle did afterwards, under the imputations cast on him: "It is a small matter to me to be judged of you, or of man's judgment; yes, I judge not mine own self: but he who judges me is the Lord 1 Corinthians 4:3-4."

3. A solemn appeal—

There are many instances wherein the people of God have made their appeal to him, respecting things of which he only could judge. Thus Samuel 1 Samuel 12:5, and David Psalm 18:23-24; Psalm 40:9, and Paul Romans 1:9. 2 Corinthians 1:23. Philippians 1:8, frequently called God to witness, either their innocence of evils imputed to them, or their performance of things to which he alone was privy. And it is in this sense, chiefly, that the words of my text are to be understood. In this view they have the nature of an oath, and should have put an end to all further controversy on the subject. In another place he makes a similar appeal to God, and says, "You know I am not wicked," that is, willfully and deliberately wicked Job 10:7. And happy was he, in having such a witness as could not err, and such a record as could never be set aside.

Such being, as I conceive, the import of this passage, I shall now,

II. Improve it in reference to ourselves—

To every description of person is this passage capable of most profitable application. And I would, in reference to it, address,

1. The formal—

You, because of the constancy of your observances, are ready to persuade yourselves that you are accepted of your God. But what, I would ask, is the witness which you have in Heaven, and what the record that is on high concerning you? Can the testimony of the heart-searching God be in your favor? Must it not rather be to this effect? 'I never saw you weeping for your sins: never did I behold you fleeing to Christ with anything approaching to the earnestness with which a manslayer fled from his pursuer to the city of refuge. Never did I hear you surrendering up yourselves wholly to the Lord, as his redeemed people. As far as outward services have gone, you have been forward enough; but to real vital religion you have been utter strangers.' Consider, Brethren, I pray you, what reply you will make to such a testimony as this. You cannot set it aside: your own consciences attest the truth of it: yet, if it be true, what hope can you have before God? Indeed, indeed, you do but deceive your own souls, while you rest "in a form of godliness, and are destitute of its power."

2. The hypocritical—

Well I know, that none will conceive themselves addressed under such a character as this. And I would to God that there were none to whom the character really appertains! But let me ask, Are there none who have embraced the Gospel as a system, and yet never been cast into the mold of it, so as really to be assimilated to their Lord in the spirit and temper of their minds? Can God say concerning all of you, 'I have witnessed the subjugation of your passions, the mortification of your lusts, and the entire change of all your tempers; so that you are no longer proud, and passionate, and vindictive, in your spirit; no longer earthly and sensual in your desires; no longer cold and formal in your duties; but you are become humble, meek, forgiving, towards men; pure, spiritual, and heavenly, in your own souls; and devout and holy before God?' What say you? Can the heart-searching God bear this testimony respecting you? and is this the habit which every hour bears to Heaven, to be recorded there? Tell me, Brethren, what does conscience say to this? Truly, it must be feared that the experience of many will not bear this test; but that their own consciences at this moment condemn them as guilty of gross, and flagrant, and frequent inconsistencies: and, "if your own hearts condemn you, remember that God is greater than your hearts, and knows all things." It is to little purpose that your external conduct be approved: for "God looks at the heart;" and expects that you "be renewed in the spirit of your mind." He will bring all your tempers end dispositions under examination at the last day: and, if he cannot bear witness to the loveliness of them here, you may be assured that you can have no favorable testimony from him hereafter. You may forget your motions of pride and envy, of uncharitableness and discontent, of covetousness and impurity, but God records them all in the book of his remembrance, and will surely bring them forth, to the confusion and condemnation of your souls, if you do not get them washed away in the Redeemer's blood, and mortified through the influences of his Holy Spirit. I pray you, remember, it is by your fruits that the tree will be estimated; and, according as they shall be found, will you either be translated to Heaven, or cast into the lake of fire, to be the fuel of God's righteous indignation through all eternity.

3. The calumniated—

It is possible that some of you, like Job, may lie under censures which you do not deserve, and may "have things laid to your charge which you never knew." It is possible, too, that appearances may be against you; as was the case with Joseph in Potiphar's palace; and with Benjamin, when Joseph's cup was found upon him. Should this be your unfortunate condition, commit, with all humility, your cause to God, and leave yourselves altogether in his hands. Doubtless it is extremely painful to be calumniated and traduced: but the testimony of a good conscience is sufficient to support you, especially when confirmed by the witness of God's Spirit in your souls. You remember "how many charges were brought against our blessed Lord: yet he answered to never a word, insomuch that the governor marveled greatly." Imitate you Him in this respect. Be not too eager about the vindication of yourselves: but let your life speak, and your spirit speak: and the time shall speedily arrive, if not in this world, yet certainly in the life to come, when your character shall be cleared, and your righteousness shine forth as the noonday sun.

4. The sincere—

It is an unspeakable consolation to know that God is acquainted with all that passes in our hearts. If he knows our defects, he knows also our humiliation on account of them. He knows what conflicts we sustain, and what victories we gain through the mighty operation of his Spirit on our souls. And if we be "Israelites indeed without deceit," he will bear witness to it before the whole assembled universe, and grant to us the richest tokens of his mercy and love. Be watchful, then, against every deviation from duty, even in thought; and labor incessantly to "keep a conscience void of offence, towards both God and man." Bear in mind, that the eye of God is ever upon you; and endeavor constantly to walk as in his immediate presence. Thus will you approve yourselves to him, and ensure from him in judgment that testimony of his approbation, "You have been faithful over a few things; be ruler over many things; enter you into the joy of your Lord."

 

Job 17:9

 

DISCOURSE 468

DARK DISPENSATIONS OVERRULED FOR THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE SAINTS

Job 17:9. The righteous also shall hold on his way, and he who has clean hands shall be stronger and stronger.

AMONG all the doctrines of our holy religion, there is not one more difficult to be received than that which here offers itself to our notice: it may well be numbered among "the deep things of God." The manner too in which it has been professed by men of enthusiastic minds, or antinomian habits, has rendered it odious in the eyes of thousands, who yet are truly upright before God. But neither the difficulty of guarding it from abuse, nor the averseness of men to embrace it, must deter us from stating what we believe to be the truth of God. We would not needlessly go out of our way to introduce a subject of such difficult discussion; nor, on the other hand, should we feel justified in passing it by when it comes fairly before us: we are bound "to declare unto you," as far as we are able, "the whole counsel of God." The doctrine we allude to is that which is generally called, The perseverance of the saints: and it is evidently contained in the words of our text. Job, seeing how all his friends were puzzled and confounded by the mysterious dispensation under which he was suffering, consoled himself with the thought, that, when the issue of it should be seen, it should greatly promote the edification of all who were truly upright: persons who were unsound or hypocritical might be discouraged by it; but "the upright and innocent" would rescue it from abuse; and would take occasion from it to pursue their course with augmented steadiness and zeal.

Agreeably to this view of our text, we will proceed to state,

I. The general principles upon which the perseverance of the saints is founded—

It is supposed by many, that there is in the souls of the regenerate a principle which is in its own nature imperishable and indestructible: and in support of this opinion, they appeal to several passages of Scripture which seem to establish this fact. They say, that "we are born of incorruptible seed 1 Peter 1:23;" that, "because this seed remains in us, we cannot sin 1 John 3:9;" and that it must of necessity "spring up unto everlasting life John 4:14." But we are by no means satisfied with this statement: we doubt much whether there be in the universe a man, provided he possess one grain of humility, who will venture to affirm, that he has such an indestructible principle of grace within him: nor do we think that the passages here cited do by any means establish such a notion: the seed to which such efficacy is ascribed, is, not a principle, but "the word of God If we compare 1 Peter 1:23 with the latter part of 1 John 2:14. they will give the true explanation of that difficult passage, 1 John 3:9. They will show, that the seed is not a principle, but the word;" and it is the tendency, rather than the certain infallible effect, of the Spirit's operations, that our Lord speaks of, when he compares his Spirit to "a well of water springing up into everlasting life." Nevertheless we think that there is in the Holy Scripture sufficient foundation for the doctrine we are considering. It may be proved,

1. From the immutability of God—

It is "from God that every good and perfect gift proceeds Philippians 2:13;" even from Him "with whom is no variableness nor shadow of turning James 1:17.": These gifts are the result of his own eternal purpose and grace 2 Timothy 1:9; and they are bestowed by him with a fixed purpose to render them effectual for the salvation of our souls 2 Thessalonians. 2:13. Hence they are said to be "without repentance Romans 11:29," or change of mind in him who bestows them. There is an inseparable connection between the original purpose formed in the divine mind, and the final completion of it in the salvation of the person thus chosen Romans 8:29-30; and to this very immutability in the divine mind is the salvation of men expressly ascribed Malachi 3:9. "The foundation of God stands sure, having this seal, The Lord knows them that are his 2 Timothy 2:19."

2. From the covenant of grace—

In the covenant which God from all eternity entered into with his dear Son Titus 1:2, there were a number given to Christ, to be his purchased possession John 17:6. In behalf of these the Savior stipulated, not only to redeem them by his blood, but also to keep them by his grace John 17:12; and the Father also engaged, not only never to depart from them, but to secure them from ever finally departing from him Jeremiah 32:40. Provision was made for them, that they should have "everything that pertained to life and godliness:" and the promises which assured these things to them, were made irrevocable 2 Corinthians 1:20; that so their consolation might be made abundant Hebrews 6:17-18, and their salvation sure Romans 4:16. On this covenant the Christian lays hold Isaiah 56:4; Isaiah 56:6; and in an assured dependence on it he may say, "I am confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in me will perform it until the day of Christ Philippians 1:6;" and that nothing shall ever "separate me from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord Romans 8:35-39." In this covenant David felt his security 2 Samuel 23:5,; and in this may every believer trust, with humble, but unshaken, confidence 2 Timothy 1:12; 2 Timothy 4:8-18.

3. From the intercession of Christ—

Whence was it that, when Peter and Judas resembled each other so much in their crimes, they differed so widely in their end; the one being restored to his apostleship, and the other being left to go to his own place? Our Lord himself tells us: "Peter, I have prayed for you, that your faith fail not Luke 22:32." And to the same cause must be traced the restoration of all who are restored, and the stability of all who stand. Paul, in defying all his enemies, lays the chief stress on this: he mentions with gratitude a dying Savior; but glories more especially in the thought of Christ as risen, and as making continual intercession for the saints Romans 8:34, with Romans 5:10, and Hebrews 7:25. Him the Father hears always: and, while he "appears in the presence of God for us," "bearing our names on his breastplate," and "making intercession for us according to the will of God," we need not fear but that we shall in due time occupy "the mansions which he has prepared for us."

On these grounds we believe that the saints' perseverance in faith and holiness is secured.

II. The particular manner in which the most untoward circumstances shall be overruled to promote it—

This is the particular point to which our attention should be directed, in order to elucidate the true import of the text: for, in the text we have an assurance, not merely that the saints shall persevere, but that they shall persevere under circumstances which will prove a stumbling-block unto all whose hearts are not truly upright before God.

There are many circumstances which prove stumbling-blocks to the unsound—

Among these we must first notice those which Job himself more especially refers to. Though he was perfect and upright in himself, he was oppressed with a heavier load of afflictions than ever fell to the lot of mortal man; and in the midst of them, appeared to be forsaken of his God. Now from such a dispensation, a man whose heart was not right with God would be ready to conclude, that it was in vain to serve God; and that, if he is to be subjected to such trials as these, it were better at once to seek the happiness which the world affords; since God puts no difference between the righteous and the wicked.

But more especially, if there be heavy trials for righteousness' sake, the unsound professor is alarmed; and he draws back from an open confession of Christ, lest he should be involved in troubles which he is not willing to endure John 10:22.

But the greatest obstacle in the way of the unsound arises from the falls of those who make a profession of religion. A man whose principles are not fixed, is ready to doubt whether there be any truth in the Gospel itself, when he sees a Judas and a Demas making shipwreck of their faith. Our blessed Lord told us, not only that such circumstances would arise, but that they would produce the most unhappy effects: "Woe unto the world because of offences; for it must needs be that offences come."

But all these tend ultimately to the establishment of those who are truly upright—

The assurance that trouble springs not out of the dust, composes their minds under the diversified trials of life: they know, that, whoever be the instrument, it is God who uses it; and that He does all things well.

If persecution rage, he has counted the cost, and is "ready to suffer the loss of all things" for Christ's sake; yes, "he rejoices, if he is counted worthy to suffer for his Redeemer's sake." The imprisonment of Paul was designed to intimidate his followers, and to obstruct the progress of the Gospel: but "it turned out rather to the furtherance of the Gospel," inasmuch as multitudes were encouraged by his example to preach the truth with greater firmness and zeal Philippians 1:12-14.

So also, if there be any public disgrace brought on the Gospel by the misconduct of those who have been regarded as eminent in the Church, the truly upright Christian is not at all shaken in his faith: he knows that the Gospel is wholly independent of those who profess it: if eleven of the Apostles had proved like Judas, he would not therefore have concluded that there was either less importance, or less efficacy, in the Gospel of Christ. He considers religion as standing on its own proper grounds; and he determines, through grace, to adhere to Christ, though all others should forsake him.

Here it may be well to mark more distinctly the operation of such circumstances on the true believer's mind.

Events like these humble him before God: they show him how weak he himself is, and how certainly he also shall fall and perish, if for one moment he be forsaken of his God. They make him also more earnest in prayer to God. Seeing whence alone his strength must come, he cries day and night, "Hold you up my goings in your ways, that my footsteps slip not." Moreover, he takes occasion from them to search and try more carefully his own heart, lest he also should have deceived his own soul. He is put also on his guard against temptations, and is made to watch more carefully against every occasion of sin. Finally, he is made to feel the necessity of living more simply and entirely by faith in the Son of God, and of receiving out of his fullness those supplies of grace and strength, whereby alone he can hope to get the victory.

Thus are those very events, which weaken the hands, discourage the hearts, and subvert the faith of hypocrites, overruled for the advancement and establishment of the righteous in every good word and work.

To guard against an abuse of this doctrine, we entreat you to bear in mind,

1. The characters who alone can take comfort in it—

It is "the righteous" only, and he who "has clean hands," that has any title to the promise before us, or that is in a fit state to derive any consolation from it. If any be walking in the habitual indulgence of either open or secret sin, he is a hypocrite before God; and to be left to "hold on his way," will be the heaviest curse that can be inflicted on him. Know, all of you, that "herein the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil; he who does not righteousness is not of God 1 John 3:10."

2. The way in which alone it should be improved—

It is not to create in any one an unhallowed confidence, and to make him imagine that he may relax his exertions; but rather to encourage his exertions, from the assurance that they shall not be in vain 1 Corinthians 15:58. Whatever confidence we may feel, it must always be blended with holy fear Proverbs 28:14. If the Apostle "kept under his body, lest after having preached to others he himself should become a castaway," who among us will feel himself at liberty to remit his caution, or relax his diligence, in the ways of God? "The path of the just is as the shining light, which shines more and more unto the perfect day;" and while we have an evidence that our path accords with that description, we shall be in no danger of deceiving ourselves: but the very moment that our progress is doubtful, we have reason to inquire whether we are indeed upright before God. Use then this doctrine, not as an excuse for idleness, but as an incentive to diligence; that you may "not lose the things which you have wrought, but may receive a full reward."

 

 

Job 19:25-27

 

DISCOURSE 469

CHRIST A LIVING REDEEMER

Job 19:25-27. I know that my Redeemer lives, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth; and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another.

THE trials of the saints have not only been eminently conducive to their own good, but also productive of the best effects to the Church at large. It is in afflictive circumstances that their graces have shone most bright; and under them they have made the most glorious confessions, which will be recorded with admiration as long as the world shall stand. Of all the calamities which Job endured, there was none more pungent than the uncharitable censures of his friends, which tended to rob him of his only consolation. But he rose superior to them all; and when he could not convince his friends by argument, he made his appeal to God, and wished it to be written for the vindication of himself, and the encouragement of others to the latest posterity. We shall point out,

I. The substance of his confession—

That Christ is the person spoken of, the very terms here used sufficiently declare.

Job speaks of him as then actually "living"—

Doubtless Job was no stranger to the promise made to Adam respecting "the seed of the woman that should bruise the serpent's head;" or to those so often repeated to Abraham, of a "seed, in whom all the nations of the earth should be blessed." The father of the faithful had anticipated the advent of that promised seed, and had rejoiced exceedingly in seeing, though at the distance of two thousand years, the day in which he should exist John 8:56. But Job seems not only to equal, but even to surpass that most distinguished "friend of God;" for he saw Christ as actually living; and understood that, which, when spoken by our Lord, so much confounded the Jewish doctors, "Before Abraham was, I am John 8:58." Yes, Job beheld him in his pre-existent state, seventeen or eighteen hundred years before he became incarnate; he beheld him as having life in himself, and as being the same yesterday, today, and forever John 1:4. Hebrews 13:8.

He even declares him to be "God"—

The same person whom he calls "his Redeemer," he afterwards calls "God." And in this he is supported by numberless other testimonies of Holy Writ. The evangelical prophet tells us that the very same person who was "a child born, and a son given, was also the Mighty God Isaiah 9:6;" and the New Testament assures us that He was "Emmanuel, God with us, even God manifest in the flesh Matthew 1:23. 1 Timothy 3:16." Job was accused of ignorance by his friends; but it is to be feared that they had not by any means such exalted views of Christ as he here exhibits.

This holy man yet further confesses Christ as "his Redeemer"—

The word Goel imports the nearest of kin, in whom the right of redeeming any estate that had been sold was vested Leviticus 25:25. Behold then the depths of divine truths which had been revealed to Job! He sees his God incarnate; and himself as "a member of Christ's body, even of his flesh and of his bones Hebrews 2:11; Hebrews 2:14-15. Ephesians 5:30." He sees Christ redeeming his soul from death and Hell; redeeming him at no less a price than his own blood; or, to use the words of an Apostle, he sees "God purchasing the Church with his own blood Acts 20:28."

Nor does he view him only as incarnate, or as dying for the redemption of man, but as coming again to judge the world—

The words used by Job might be applied to the incarnation and resurrection of Christ; but they seem rather to designate his appearance in the last day to judge the world. This office is "committed to Christ because he is the Son of man;" and when he shall execute it, "he will come from Heaven in like manner as he ascended up to Heaven;" He will not indeed any longer be seen in a state of weakness and humiliation, but "in all the glory of his Father and his holy angels:" nevertheless He will then appear "as a lamb that has been slain;" and will summon all those who pierced him to his tribunal.

But that which gives inexpressible dignity to this confession, is, the full assurance it expresses of his rising from the grave in that day to behold and enjoy Christ—

He does not seem to have had any hope of restoration to temporal prosperity; but speaks in the most confident manner of his resurrection to eternal happiness. The destruction of his mortal frame by worms was not in his eyes any bar to its renovation in the last day. He knew that what was sown in corruption, weakness, and dishonor, should be raised in incorruption, power, and glory; that his vile body should be changed like unto Christ's glorious body 1 Corinthians 15:42-43. Philippians 3:21; and that when his earthly tabernacle should be dissolved, he had an house, not made with hands, eternal in the heavens 2 Corinthians 5:1. He knew that, having awaked up after his Redeemer's likeness, he should behold him, not as now through a glass darkly, but face to face, and dwell forever in his presence where is fullness of joy 1 Corinthians 13:12. 1 John 3:2. Psalm 16:11; Psalm 17:15. This re-union of his soul and body, together with the beatific vision of his glorified Redeemer, was the one object of his most earnest desires, and most assured hopes. And he was determined, notwithstanding all the accusations of his friends, to maintain "this rejoicing of his hope firm unto the end."

We shall endeavor to improve this subject by considering,

II. The lessons to be learned from it—

Whatever was written aforetime was written for our learning: and this confession in particular suggests to us that,

1. A full assurance of hope is attainable in this world—

Job's assurance seems to have been remarkably strong: he not only calls Jesus his Redeemer, but proclaims his confident expectation of dwelling with him forever: he speaks of this, not as a thing which he surmised, or hoped, but as what he "knew" for certain. Nor was this a privilege peculiar to Job Had not Paul also the same delightful confidence, when he said, "I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day 2 Timothy 1:12;" and again, when he professed that "henceforth there was laid up for him a crown of righteousness, which the Lord the righteous Judge should give him 2 Timothy 4:8." And has not the same Apostle bidden us all to show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end Hebrews 6:11. Why then should we rest satisfied without attaining this blessed hope? Would it not serve as an anchor of the soul both sure and steadfast Hebrews 6:19, amidst all the storms and billows of this tempestuous world? Would it not be an effectual antidote to the poisonous breath of calumny, which will ever strive to blast the fairest characters? Will not the testimony of a good conscience fill us with joy even when we are loaded with the bitterest accusations 2 Corinthians 1:12. Shall we not say with Paul, "It is a small matter with me to be judged of you or of man's judgment, yes, I judge not mine own self, but he who judges me is the Lord 1 Corinthians 4:3." Seek then to "know your election of God;" strive to make it sure and evident to yourselves 1 Thessalonians. 1:4; and be continually "living a life of faith on the Son of God," that you may be able to say, "He has loved me, and given himself for me Galatians 2:20."

2. A clear knowledge of Christ in his person and offices is the best groundwork of an assured hope—

Though Job had been too ready to boast of his integrity, it was not on that that he founded his hopes of immortality and glory. He knew himself to be under the curse of God's broken law; and that Christ, as his Redeemer, was his "deliverer from that curse, having himself been made a curse for him." And what other foundations of hope can we have? Are we holier than Job, who notwithstanding all his holiness exclaimed, "Behold, I am vile?" Have we not at least as much reason as he to "abhor ourselves and repent in dust and ashes Job 42:6." How then shall we pretend to be just before God? Let this be firmly settled in our minds, that we must flee to Christ for redemption, before we can know him to be our Redeemer: we must be united to him by faith, before we can claim him as our nearest kinsman: we must behold his glory now as it is exhibited in the glass of the Gospel, if we would behold it with joy in the great day of his appearing. Let us then seek to know Christ as he is revealed in the word: let us "search the Scriptures, which testify of him," and pray for the illuminating influences of that Spirit, whose office is, to "glorify Christ, by taking of the things that are his, and showing them unto us." Let us be ashamed that Job, who lived before there was any written record of Christ in the world, should know more of Christ than we, who live in the meridian splendor of gospel light. And, whatever we have attained, let us seek daily to "grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."

3. There is no state, however afflictive, wherein an assurance founded on the knowledge of Christ will not support and comfort us—

It is worthy of observation, that from the instant Job uttered these words he was enabled to suppress, in a considerable measure, his bitter murmurings and complaints. And what greater support can any man need than to know that he has Christ for his redeeming God, and that after a few more conflicts he shall enjoy him forever 1 Thessalonians. 4:17-18. We do not indeed expect that a person shall always be so elevated by these considerations, as to soar above all sense of his afflictions. But sometimes even this may be enjoyed; and at all times we may hope to "possess our souls in patience, until patience have its perfect work, and we be perfect and entire, lacking nothing." Let the sons and daughters of affliction then have recourse to this remedy: let them labor to attain a thankful sense that they have been translated out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God's dear Son; and then they need not fear but that they shall be strengthened unto all patience and long-suffering with joyfulness Colossians 1:11-12. Let them seek an evidence that they are Christ's: let them beg the Holy Spirit to witness to their spirit that they are children of God; and then their trials, however grievous at the time, shall only serve as a boisterous wind, to waft them more speedily to their desired harbor.

 

 

Job 20:4-7

 

DISCOURSE 470

AGAINST HYPOCRISY

Job 20:4-7. Know you not this of old, since man was placed upon earth, that the triumphing of the wicked is short, and the joy of the hypocrite but for a moment? Though his excellency mount up to the heavens, and his head reach unto the clouds; yet he shall perish forever like his own dung: they which have seen him shall say, Where is he?

PREJUDICE or passion will miserably warp the judgment. It will hide from us what we might know, and cause us to pervert what we do know. Never was this more strongly exemplified than in the friends of Job Had they calmly considered, they might have comforted him in his affliction; but, by a hasty misapplication of acknowledged truths, they most unjustly and cruelly condemned him. Job had hinted to them the evil and danger of their conduct Job 19:28-29. And Zophar, irritated at the caution, replies with great severity. His words, however, though misapplied, suggest to us two very important truths respecting sinners:

I. Their prosperity is transient—

Of sinners, some make no profession of religion, and others a false profession. Each of these characters may enjoy, for a while, great prosperity—

The profane are often exalted to places of dignity and power: they prosper in all their labors for wealth and preferment. They not only despise, but perhaps persecute the godly: they "triumph," as though no evil should ever happen unto them. This the Psalmist saw with deep regret Psalm 73:3-12.

Hypocrites also frequently are held in estimation Revelation 3:1. They are objects of envy to many a humble and contrite soul. They will boast of experiences which might well be coveted; and even attain considerable heights of joy Matthew 13:20. Their "excellency may mount up to the heavens, and their heads reach unto the clouds."

But their prosperity will be of short duration—

Death will speedily seize upon the most stout-hearted sinner. Then all, which he gloried in, shall come to an end. None of his "pomp shall follow him," or his "wealth be carried with him." The hypocrite also shall have a period put to his dissimulation: he shall soon appear in his proper character. The all-seeing God will discover the secrets of his heart. Nor is this time at any great distance Deuteronomy 32:35; in comparison of eternity, the duration of his joy will be "but a moment."

Then will they experience a sad reverse—

II. Their ruin will be tremendous—

The ungodly will in due time be visited for their offences. They will then "perish;"

1. To their own eternal shame—

Many portions of Scripture appear to us indelicate; but God's representations of sin are surely just, and well calculated to make us nauseate and loath it. Such is his description of the ways of sinners 2 Peter 2:22; and such his declaration respecting their end Compare Revelation 3:16 with the text. They will perish under circumstances of disgrace and ignominy. Christ will not deign to own them before his Father Matthew 10:33. The angels will come forth to execute the vengeance of God upon them. The saints would even "thrust them out of Heaven" if they should seek admittance there Luke 13:28. The damned themselves will insult them with bitter taunts Isaiah 14:9-16; nor shall they ever cease to be objects of contempt and abhorrence. This is told us in the plainest terms Proverbs 13:5. Daniel 12:2. Nor, while they retain, as they must, their character, is it possible that their situation ever should be changed Revelation 22:11.

2. To the astonishment of all that knew them—

The question, "Where is he?" refers primarily to the utter extinction of the ungodly; but it may well be considered also as an expression of surprise. The wicked little think where their course will terminate. If the rich man's request had been granted Luke 16:23; Luke 16:27-28, what reply would his surviving brethren have made so soon as that in the text They would most probably have exclaimed, 'Where it he! in Hell! lifting up his eyes in torments! Is it really so? We never could have thought it: we had no doubt but that he was happy: he seemed to us as worthy and blameless a character as any: nor had he himself any doubts but that he was going to Heaven.'? The hypocrites also often escape detection in this world. Perhaps they were celebrated, after their departure, as eminent saints. We may conceive that their dearest friends, or their associates in holy exercises, may inquire after them in Heaven. What surprise and horror must seize them, when they hear of the doom which the heart-searching God has passed upon them If a Minister is to have those as his "joy and crown of rejoicing," who were truly converted by his ministry, we may, not improperly, suppose a degree of disappointment, if he miss those, concerning whom he had entertained the most sanguine hopes. We may suppose him, upon the first discovery, to say, 'Where is he! What, he in Hell! I often feared that I myself should go thither; but who would have ever thought that HE should?' The Lord grant that this may never be realized by any of us!!

ADDRESS—"Know you not this?"

Know you not that this has been so from the beginning of the world?

Does not the word of God assert, that "it shall be ill with the wicked Isaiah 3:11. Psalm 9:17." Does not the most authentic history in the world prove it to have been so Where are now the antediluvian scoffers, the haughty Pharaoh, the treacherous Judas, the worldly-minded Demas, the heretical Hymeneus? etc. Does not conscience itself testify that it shall be so still?

If you know, do you not consider this?

Can anything be more worthy of our consideration? If we have "but a moment," should we not improve that moment? Are we willing to perish in this ignominious and awful manner?

Let us live no longer in the neglect of religion—

The gratifications of sense can last but for a little time; but the consequences of neglecting God will endure forever. Surely the care of the soul is the "one thing needful."

Nor let us rest in a "form of godliness" without experiencing "its power"—

It will avail us little to deceive our fellow-creatures. The higher we have been in their estimation, the deeper will be our disgrace. Let us then go to Christ for the remission of past sins: let us approve ourselves to him in future, as "servants that need not be ashamed," and labor to be "sincere and without offence until his coming again."

 

 

Job 20:22

 

DISCOURSE 471

THE EMPTINESS OF EARTHLY POSSESSIONS

Job 20:22. In the fullness of his sufficiency he shall be in straits.

MEN universally, by nature, seek their happiness in earthly things: and though they meet with continual disappointment, they will persevere in the same unprofitable course, "spending their money for that which is not bread, and their labor for that which satisfies not." The question, "Who will show us any good?" is asked by every man: but it is the godly man alone that answers it aright, "Lord, lift you up the light of your countenance upon me Haman's state, Esther 5:11-13, may here be opened to advantage." The godly man attains the object of his pursuit: but the ungodly man finds, by bitter experience, that, whatever be the measure of his success in the attainment of earthly things, "in the fullness of his sufficiency he is in straits."

From these words, I will take occasion to show what a poor wretched creature a mere worldly man is;

I. As viewed in himself—

It is here supposed, that he may not only possess a very large measure of earthly things, but may have a consciousness that his portion is, as it were, "shaken together, pressed down, and running over." Yet, "in the fullness of his sufficiency, he will be in straits;"

1. As it respects his present enjoyments—

Earthly things, of whatever kind they be, pleasures, riches, or honors, are all, in their nature, empty and unsatisfying: in their use, transient and cloying: and, in their effects, productive of trouble and vexation: Our blessed Lord has told us, that "a man's life consists not in the abundance of the things that he possesses;" and Solomon, after trying all things to an extent that no other man ever did, has given us his testimony respecting them, that they are "all vanity and vexation of spirit."

2. As it respects his future prospects—

Every man has a consciousness that there is a future state; and that earthly possessions, so far from advancing our preparation for it, tend rather to divert our attention from it, and to obstruct our progress in the heavenly life. And it is no uncommon thing for a man, in the midst of all his earthly pleasures, to feel them embittered to him, by a consciousness that he is hastening to the eternal world, and is unprepared for it. In fact, though men may, for a season, shake off the thoughts of eternity, they cannot so divest themselves of it in a time of sickness, and in the approach of death, as not to feel exceedingly straitened in their spirit, and to acknowledge that they have been all their days following a phantom, that has eluded their grasp, and disappointed their expectations.

But, to see him in his true colors, look at him,

II. As viewed in contrast with a godly man—

As an ungodly man may possess an abundance of earthly comforts, so may a godly man be reduced to great straits. We can scarcely conceive a more destitute condition than that of Lazarus, or that of those persecuted saints who "wandered about in sheep-skins and goat-skins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented Hebrews 11:37-38." Yet, as the worldling is in straits in the midst of his abundance, so these are in abundance in the midst of all their straits. They enjoy much,

1. In possession—

They have peace with God: and that is more to them than ten thousand worlds. With this they have content; which reconciles them fully to their state, whatever that state may be. However great their distress may be, they are resigned to it as their father's will, and they assure themselves that "all things shall work together for their good." They know that "their affliction is but light and momentary, and that it is working out for them a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." Hence, so far from being dejected by their trials, they even "glory in them," and find them a source of solid satisfaction 2 Corinthians 12:10.

2. In reversion—

They are enabled to look up to Heaven, with an assurance, that, however destitute here, they have in that blessed world "an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that fades not away." They have already a foretaste of that bliss, in "a spirit of adoption," and in the sealing of the Spirit, which is to them "a pledge" of what they are speedily to enjoy in all its fullness. How empty do all earthly things appear to him, while in such an elevated state as this! A king upon his throne, if not possessed of these spiritual treasures, is to him an object of pity rather than of admiration and envy: so infinitely is the worldly man below the child of God! The worldly man, in having all things, possesses nothing; but the saint, while "having nothing, in reality possesses all things 2 Corinthians 6:10."

APPLICATION—

1. Seek not happiness in a way of sin—

Sin may afford a present gratification: but, though it be as honey in the mouth, it will be as gall in the stomach. So we are told in the preceding context verse 12–14; and so it is found by every child of man.

2. Be not too intent upon the things of this world—

In earthly business, of whatever kind, we may be diligent; yes, and great diligence will consist with great fervor of spirit, and spirituality of mind Romans 12:11. But "our affections are not to be set on things below." In Heaven alone is the treasure which we are to affect; and "where that is, our heart must be also."

3. Seek your happiness in God alone—

There can be no disappointment, and no satiety. That will make you rich in possession, and in reversion too: for if Christ be yours, "all other things must of necessity be yours also: whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours: and you are Christ's, and Christ is God's 1 Corinthians 3:21-23."

 

 

Job 21:14-15

 

DISCOURSE 472

CONDUCT OF SINNERS TOWARDS GOD

Job 21:14-15. Therefore they say unto God, Depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of your ways. What is the Almighty, that we should serve him? and what profit should we have, if we pray unto him?

AS in the speeches of Job's different friends, so in his answers to them, we must ever bear in mind the ground of their controversy. This, as we have often before mentioned, was, A persuasion on their part that God in his providence would mark the characters of men by his dealings towards them; and that signal judgments of any kind were sufficient, without any other evidence whatever, to prove the pre-eminent wickedness of the person on whom they were inflicted. The different speakers indeed all wander occasionally from the point, and launch out into other topics; but all intended to keep this point in view, and to make it the ultimate object of their discourse. The friends of Job had maintained their side of the question with great confidence, and had driven him more immediately to vindicate himself in opposition to the implied charge contained in their arguments; but here he speaks less of himself, and directs his answer more clearly to the general question. He shows that multitudes of those who prospered in the world were altogether addicted to impiety; yes, that their very prosperity was made by them an occasion of more determined hostility to God "Therefore.": and yet God continued to prosper them both in life and in death, so far, at least, as to exempt them from any remarkable judgments either in the one or the other. The impiety of these persons, as described in our text, must not be interpreted literally, as if the words here used were uttered with their lips: they must be understood as marking rather the language only of their hearts and lives; and in this view they will be found to designate with equal truth the dispositions and habits of ungodly men in all ages.

In evincing this, we shall,

I. Confirm the assertion in our text—

The assertion itself is most humiliating, seeing that it lays to the charge of unconverted men these two enormous crimes; first, that they cast off all regard for God; and next, that they vindicate this conduct as reasonable and proper. Now that this is but too just a description of unregenerate men, we appeal,

1. To observation—

What is the conduct of the generality, when the light of divine truth is set before them? Do they not shut their eyes against it? Even the public exhibition of it they do not like: but if a pious minister or friend speak personally to them in secret, they rather resent it as an insult, than accept it with gratitude; and by the aversion to holy things which they manifest, they, in effect, "say to God, Depart from us; we desire not the knowledge of your ways": If an attention to heavenly things be urged from a regard to duty and interest, the generality will deny that a life of godliness is either necessary or profitable. They conceive, that their time and talents are altogether their own, to be employed according to their own will and pleasure: and that all serious piety, and a life of communion with God, are sources rather of pain and melancholy than of peace and happiness.

2. To experience—

What does every man's own heart declare? Let us all look Lack and see, What has been our conduct in relation to this matter? Have we desired the knowledge of God's ways, as we have of the ways that lead to worldly honor and interest? Have we not, on the contrary, when God, by his providence, his word, his Spirit, has been knocking at the door of our hearts, said to him, Depart from me; I have other occupations and interests to attend to; You must wait for a more convenient season? If pressed by the exhortations of a faithful friend or minister, have we not vindicated ourselves as acting a wise and rational part; and asserted, (by our conduct at least,) that such a devotedness to God as was required of us was neither necessary nor desirable? Yes truly, we all have "hated the light John 3:19-20," have wished it to be withheld from us Isaiah 30:10-11, have "rebelled against it," when it has flashed conviction on our consciences Job 24:13, and have determined to go on our own way, in spite of all God's warnings and invitations Jeremiah 6:16-17; Jeremiah 44:15-17. By this resistance to God we have in fact denied his authority over us Exodus 5:2. Psalm 12:4. Jeremiah 2:31, avowed ourselves his decided enemies Romans 8:7, and lived without him in the world Ephesians 2:12.

Let us now proceed,

II. To suggest some reflections naturally arising from it—

1. How marvelous is the patience and long-suffering of God!

The conduct above described is not peculiar to men of an abandoned character; it is found in every child of man. There are indeed some persons comparatively religious. Of these it may be said, that they affect religion, and even glory in the distinction which they assume to themselves as persons fearing God and working righteousness. But, in truth, there are no people more decidedly hostile to the Gospel than those whom we now refer to. No man was ever more zealous for a certain kind of religion than Paul in his unconverted state; yet no man was ever a more bitter persecutor of the Church than he. And it is a fact, that, when the Jews at Antioch wished to expel Paul and Barnabas from their city, they could find no persons that would enter more cordially into their views, or more vigorously execute their designs, than "the devout women, whom they stirred up" to countenance and aid their proceedings Acts 13:50. "God's ways," whether of acceptance with him, or of obedience to him, are displeasing and irksome to the natural man; the one being too humiliating for him, and the other too strict and self-denying: and the contempt that is universally poured on those who "walk as Christ walked," is itself the most unequivocal proof of the universality of our departure from God, and our hatred of his ways. How astonishing then is it, that God should bear with us a single hour! that he does not now retaliate upon us, as he will do at the day of judgment, and say, "Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels!" Let us then "account the long-suffering of God to be salvation;" and "let his goodness and patience and forbearance lead us to repentance."

2. What glorious tidings does the Gospel bring to our ears!

It was fox such persons that the Lord Jesus Christ came into the world, and offered himself a sacrifice to the offended Majesty of Heaven: "While we were enemies, Christ died for us." To such persons also are we sent, to offer them a free and full salvation: the extent or long continuance of their rebellion is no bar to the exercise of divine mercy towards them: "Whoever comes unto me," says our Lord, "I will in no wise cast him out." O you who are convinced of your past iniquities, and are sensible of your need of mercy, hear what Paul affirms; "It is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, even the chief." Do not imagine that God is filled with resentment against you, as your earthly parents would have been, if you had so treated them: he is plenteous in mercy; and, if you will go to him, he will "give you his blessing liberally, without upbraiding." If it be thought, that justice will require the execution of vengeance on such sinners as we; be it known, that his justice is satisfied by the atonement which Christ has offered; and that he can now be "just, and yet the justifier of all them that believe."

3. What a blessed change takes place in the great work of conversion!

The inmost dispositions of the soul are changed by grace; so that he who lately said unto God, "Depart from me," now desires his presence above all things, and pants after God as the deer after the water-brooks, and considers "his loving-kindness as better than life itself." Now he "counts all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus his Lord." Nor is it the principles only of the Gospel that he loves, but the precepts also; and the way of God's commandments is as much approved as the way of salvation through a crucified Redeemer. Now he feels that "he is not his own, but, having been bought with a price, is bound to glorify God with his body and his spirit which are God's." Nor is it any longer a question with him, whether there is any profit in communion with God: he knows and feels that there is no employment under Heaven so profitable; and that, in fact, there is no profit in anything, not even in attending the ordinances or in reading the word of God, unless a blessing be brought down upon the soul by fervent prayer.

Show you then, Beloved, the truth of your conversion by the change of your dispositions, your tempers, your habits. If you be indeed brought forth into marvelous light, "walk as children of the light and of the day." And as some remains of your former corruption will yet be found in you, be daily putting off the old man, and be putting on the new, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.

 

 

Job 22:21

 

DISCOURSE 473

ACQUAINTANCE WITH GOD

Job 22:21. Acquaint now yourself with him, and be at peace.

IN estimating the characters and conduct of men, we must make great allowance for their prejudices and mistakes. Unless we take into our consideration the erroneous idea which Job's friends had conceived respecting the dealings of Providence with men, we shall be ready to view them in a most unfavorable light. Even with this allowance we scarcely know how to account for the extreme uncharitableness of Eliphaz. He is not content with accusing Job of secret sins that could be known to God only, but he brings plain and positive charges against him of open visible crimes, no one of which could with even a shadow of truth be imputed to him. We regret to see such inconsistency in a man, whom yet we are constrained to consider as pious: and we turn from this painful view of him, to notice the excellent advice, which, though still under a mistaken apprehension of Job's character, he gave him. To a person under any circumstances, an acquaintance with God is most desirable, but more especially under such a dark and afflictive dispensation as that which Job at this time experienced. That we may invite you all to seek it, we propose to show,

I. Wherein an acquaintance with God consists—

There is a knowledge of God which may be obtained from the works of creation: but this must of necessity be extremely partial and defective. They display his wisdom, and power, and goodness; but they exhibit no traces of that perfection which we so greatly need to be acquainted with, namely, his mercy in pardoning sin. It is from revelation only that we can learn his true character as "a just God and a Savior:" and for a discovery of him in that endearing new, we must look at him as exhibited to us in the Gospel of his Son. It is in the face of Jesus Christ that all his glory shines 2 Corinthians 4:6. It is in the cross of Christ that all his perfections are made to unite and harmonize: it is there alone that we can see "mercy and truth met together, and righteousness and peace kissing each other." This then it is which constitutes a true knowledge of God; it is an acquaintance with the great work of redemption; a view of "God in Christ Jesus reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them".

II. What is that measure of acquaintance with him which we as sinners are privileged to enjoy—

It is not a mere speculative knowledge of these things, but an actual participation of them in our own souls: it is not "an hearing of God with our ears, but a seeing of him with our eyes," as Job speaks; I mean, with the eye of faith, which is privileged to "behold Him who is invisible Hebrews 11:27." By faith "we have a fellowship," yes a most intimate and endearing fellowship, "with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ." God will come and manifest himself to us, as our God, our Father, and our Friend Genesis 5:21. "By his Spirit he will enable us to cry, Abba, Father." "He will dwell in us, and walk with us:" Christ will live in us, even as his heavenly Father lived in him; insomuch that "he himself will be our life John 6:56-57 with Colossians 3:4." What nearer intimacy can be conceived? yet this it is our privilege to enjoy: this union with him, this committing of our souls to him, this receiving of all needful communications out of his fullness, this living entirely by faith in him as our Savior and our God; this, I say, is that measure of acquaintance with him which we ought to seek, and may actually possess Galatians 2:20.

III. The benefits resulting from it—

Who can ever fully declare what is implied in peace with God? Truly it is "a peace that passes all understanding": But there is peculiar emphasis in the word "Now;" "acquaint now yourself with God, and be at peace." What was the estimate which Eliphaz had formed of Job's character? He viewed Job as the vilest hypocrite upon earth, and considered him as punished by God with most signal vengeance: yet he said to him, "Acquaint now," now, notwithstanding all your vileness; now, in the midst of all these judgments; even now acquaint yourself with God; and "so shall good come unto you." This was indeed a just view of God, though an erroneous view of the poor afflicted saint. This is the view we should ever have of God in Christ Jesus: we should see him ready to bestow his richest mercies even on the chief of sinners, and as determined "never to cast out any who come unto him." Be it known then, that, if only we will acquaint ourselves with God as he is revealed to us in the Gospel of his Son, there is not a good which God himself can bestow, which he will not richly communicate to us; nor is there a condition, either of sin or suffering, in which that acquaintance with him shall not be effectual for the restoration of our souls to peace. Were we the vilest of the human race, our iniquities should be blotted out: and were we in a condition a thousand times more deplorable than that of Job, it should turn all our sorrows into joy Son. 2:3.

ADDRESS—

Acquaint now yourselves with God,

1. You who are in a state of sin—

Seek him in reading, meditation, prayer, etc.

2. You who are in a state of suffering—

Doubt not his willingness or sufficiency.

 

 

Job 23:10

 

DISCOURSE 474

THE UPRIGHT PERSON'S COMFORT UNDER AFFLICTIONS

Job 23:10. He knows the way that I take: when he has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.

THE superior happiness of the godly above that of the ungodly is not so manifest in a season of prosperity as under circumstances of deep affliction. The world can rejoice in their portion as long as their pleasures are uninterrupted by bitter reflections or painful dispensations: but in trouble they have no refuge. The righteous, on the contrary, have less of thoughtless gaiety; but in time of trouble they find abundant consolations. No man was ever beset with a greater complication of trials than Job; all of which were beyond measure heightened by the uncharitable censures of his friends: but still he found an inward support by reflecting upon,

I. His conscious integrity—

It is characteristic of God's children, that they are all upright before God—

As there is a very considerable difference in the attainments of different men with respect to bodily strength and intellectual powers, notwithstanding all possess the same members and enjoy the same faculties, so is there with respect to piety also, notwithstanding all are upright in heart. From the very instant that a person is converted to God, he must of necessity hate sin, and long after a conformity to God's image: he cannot commit sin 1 John 3:9; he must be, according to the measure of grace given him, "an Israelite indeed, and without allowed deceit." Nor does humility require us to confess ourselves hypocrites (willful hypocrites, I mean) when God has quickened us by his Spirit; for it is not humility, but ingratitude and falsehood, to deny the work which God has wrought in us. Many of God's most eminent saints have spoken of their own integrity and rejoiced in it, and even pleaded it before God Psalm 17:2. 2 Kings 20:3. And we also, by "proving every one of us our own work, may have rejoicing in ourselves, and not in another Galatians 6:4."

A consciousness of their own integrity is a rich source of consolation to them in a trying hour—

There are times and seasons when almost all the other springs of comfort seem dried up: sometimes it may be painful even to reflect upon God Psalm 77:3. Job acknowledges in the context, that God's "presence was a trouble to him:" but knowing that God was acquainted with his heart, he could yet appeal to him respecting his own integrity: and from this source he derived a pleasing satisfaction, an encouraging hope. Paul, under a daily and hourly expectation of martyrdom, experienced much joy in the same thought 2 Corinthians 1:8-12; nor shall we find it a small consolation to us, under any trials we may be called to endure.

But Job found a yet further consolation in reflecting upon,

II. The expected issue of his trials—

Though he was at present in as hot a furnace as he could possibly endure, yet he believed that he was put into it by a skillful Refiner, for the purifying of his soul from dross—

They who are truly upright, learn to view the hand of God both in their comforts and their troubles: they know that affliction comes not by chance, but from the hand of Him who directs everything with consummate wisdom. The ungodly look no further than to second causes; and therefore yield to murmuring and impatience whenever they receive evil from the hand of their fellow-creatures: but the godly are persuaded that their portion, whatever it be, is mixed for them by God himself, and that it is intended "to purge away their iniquity," that they may be partakers of his holiness Psalm 39:9. Isaiah 27:9. Hebrews 12:10. This was evidently the view which Job had of troubles, notwithstanding they sprang from such various sources.

An expectation of the benefit reconciled him to the means used for his good—

No one can love trouble on its own account; since it is "never joyous, but grievous." But sanctification is the highest wish of the upright soul: it is regarded as a pearl that cannot be purchased at too high a price. Trials, however painful, are welcomed, if they may but be the means of promoting this blessed end. Many have even dreaded the removal of them, lest with them they should lose also the benefits flowing from them. And, if we could have viewed the afflictions of Job in their true light, we should have preferred his condition when upon the dunghill far before that of his censorious friends. He was enabled to look forward to the end; and the event fully justified his expectations.

Address,

1. Those who are in the furnace of affliction—

Look above all second causes, and see God appointing the nature, measure, and duration of all your trials 2 Samuel 16:10. "He brings the third part through the fire;" and appoints tribulation as your way to the kingdom. Let him accomplish his own will in his own way; and "what you know not now, you shall know hereafter."

2. Those who have been delivered from their troubles—

When you were bowed down under the load of your afflictions, you probably thought how differently you would live if God should hear your prayers, and deliver you. Now then remember the vows that are upon you Psalm 66:10-15; Psalm 116:1-14. Provoke him not to visit you with yet heavier afflictions. As clouds succeed the rain, so do troubles come in succession while we are in this valley of tears. Endeavor then so to improve the past, that future troubles may find you better prepared for their reception, and every dispensation fit you for your eternal rest.

3. Those who have never yet experienced any particular trials—

A little outward religion will satisfy you in a state of case and prosperity. But that will not be found sufficient in a time of trouble. The fire will try what your attainments are. Now therefore be in earnest about the work of salvation, that when affliction comes, it may be mitigated by the consolations of an upright mind, and not be aggravated by the accusations of a guilty conscience.

 

 

Job 23:12

 

DISCOURSE 475

JOB'S LOVE TO THE WORD OF GOD

Job 23:12. I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food.

WHENCE arose this remarkable assertion? Was it a spontaneous and uncalled-for effusion of self-applause? or was it drawn forth by the circumstances in which this holy man was placed? If we look back to the preceding chapter, we find that Eliphaz had given him this counsel: "Acquaint now yourself with God, and be at peace: thereby good shall come unto you. Receive, I pray you, the law from his mouth, and lay up his words in your heart Job 22:21-22." In answer to this, Job replies, "O that I knew where I might find him! that I might come even to his seat! …. Behold, I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him: on the left hand, where he does work, but I cannot behold him: he hides himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him.…My foot has held his steps; his way have I kept, and not declined: neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips; I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food verse 3, 8–12."

I will call your attention to these latter words,

I. As an honor to Job—

What sacred records Job possessed, I know not: but certainly he had some, either written or traditionary: and to these he had respect, "esteeming them more than his necessary food."

His desire after them was more ardent—

A man may feel no great appetite for dainties; but for his necessary food he cannot but feel a most intense desire. Hunger and thirst will in time so oppress a man, that he will gladly part with all that he possesses in the world to satisfy their pressing demands. In the famine that was in Egypt, the whole people of the country sold their lands, yes, their very bodies, to Pharaoh, for a supply of necessary food Genesis 47:19. Yes, on some occasions, women have eaten their own children, to satisfy the calls of nature. Yet was Job's desire after the words of God more urgent than any pressure of the natural appetite for bodily food.

His delight in them was more exquisite—

The sacred records are represented to us as "a feast of fat things, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined Isaiah 25:6." Yet this, methinks, conveys but a very inadequate idea of the delight which the promises of God afford to a weary heavy-laden soul. Doubtless to one nearly famished with hunger and thirst, the necessary food, how common soever it may be, is exceeding sweet: but not so sweet as were God's words to Job; so much more exquisite was the satisfaction which they afforded to his soul than any of which his bodily frame was capable.

His refreshment from them was more abiding—

Elijah, after a hearty meal, "went in the strength of his meat forty days and forty nights 1 Kings 19:5-8." And Jonathan, after a day's extreme fatigue, did but taste a little honey, and his strength was renovated in a very extraordinary degree 1 Samuel 14:29-30. But the strength which God's blessed word imparted to Job was visible in every part of his life. Truly "it enlightened his eyes," insomuch that his discernment of God's truth was incomparably clearer than that of any of his friends who came to instruct and comfort him: for God himself says of them, that "they had not spoken of him the thing that was right, as his servant Job had Job 42:7." And, as it informed his understanding, so it strengthened him to bear his trials with a degree of confidence and composure never surpassed by mortal man. In immediate connection with my text, he says, "God knows the way that I take: when he has tried me, I shall come forth as gold Job 23:10." And James represents him, in this respect, as the most perfect pattern to the Church in all ages: "You have heard of the patience of Job James 5:11." I may add further, his love to the word of God was that to which we must trace the whole of that obedience which he so feelingly describes: "My foot has held his steps; his ways have I kept, and not declined; neither have I gone back from the commandments of his lips: I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food Job 23:11-12."

Let me yet further pursue this subject,

II. As a reproach to us—

How much fuller a revelation of God's mind do we possess!

Doubtless Job's views, both of himself as a sinner, and of Christ as a Savior, were, in many respects, clear and just Job 9:20-21; Job 19:25-27. But how incomparably richer is that discovery of God's revealed will, which is transmitted to us in the writings of the Old and New Testament! There is nothing concealed from us, which it would be for our advantage to know. All the eternal counsels of God, as displayed in the covenant of grace, are exhibited to our view, together with all the wonders of redeeming love. How highly, then, should these be estimated by us! If Job felt such regard for the partial revelations given to him, what should not we feel towards this complete system of divine truth, which we are privileged to enjoy?

But how low is the esteem in which it is held by us!

Not only is "our necessary food" preferred before it, but every base indulgence: the gratifications of sense which are most sinful, and the acquisition of objects which are most worthless, have a greater preponderance in our minds than either the Law of Moses or "the glorious Gospel of the blessed God." Let us only look back, and see how faint have been our desires after divine knowledge, and how feeble our endeavors to obtain it. In truth, every book has been preferred before the sacred volume: and, with almost every one among us, the perusal of a novel or a newspaper would be resorted to, at any time, to occupy a leisure hour, rather than God's blessed word.

To what is our ignorance of heavenly subjects to be ascribed, but to this? And to what else must our disobedience to God's commandments be traced? We love not God's word, and therefore we do not study it: we explore not its contents, and therefore we neither know it nor obey it. Though it ought to be our meditation and delight all the day Psalm 1:2. See Jeremiah 15:16, with many the sacred volume is scarcely ever read at all: and with those who do occasionally take it into their hands, it is read only in a superficial manner, and without that veneration and love which it deserves. I say, then, that Job may well rise up in judgment against us, to condemn us for our grievous neglect of that sacred volume, which even "the angels in Heaven desire to look into 1 Peter 1:12."

APPLICATION—

Redeem, then, the time which you have lost, for the attainment of divine knowledge—

Were the salvation of your soul out of the question, God's blessed word deserves more attention than any other book: for there is no other book whose contents are so curious, so instructive, so edifying in every view. But, when the salvation of your soul depends on your obedience to it, what shall I say? Methinks, you should be studying it day and night, in order to obtain all its offered benefits, and to comply with all its most reasonable demands. In public, when it is opened to you in the ministration of the Gospel, "receive it, not as the word of man, but as the word of the living God." And in your secret chamber study it, as it were, upon your knees; and implore of God the teaching of his Holy Spirit, in order that you may be able to comprehend its mysterious contents. In a word, esteem the revelation of your God as Job esteemed it: and then, like Job, shall you have a record on high, that you pleased God, and that you were accepted of him.

 

 

Job 24:13

 

DISCOURSE 476

REBELLING AGAINST THE LIGHT

Job 24:13. They are of those that rebel against the light.

WE cannot understand any part of the Book of Job aright, unless we continually keep in mind the subject in dispute between Job and his friends; they laboring incessantly to convince him, that the judgments with which he was visited were marks of God's indignation against him, on account of some secret wickedness he had practiced; and he endeavoring to prove to them, that God's dealings with men in this world were no proper tests of their character; since even the most abandoned of mankind, in many instances, prospered in this world, and passed through life without any visible marks of God's displeasure. Among persons of this character, he mentions "those who rebel against the light;" who form, indeed, a very large portion of the community in every age and in every country under Heaven.

We shall find it not unprofitable to inquire,

I. Who they are that are obnoxious to this charge—

The expression, "rebelling against the light," may be taken both in a literal and a figurative sense. Accordingly, we must comprehend under this description those who rebel,

1. Against the light of day—

This, in fact, is the primary import of the expression in my text: for Job himself goes on to illustrate his meaning by the conduct of murderers and adulterers, both of whom shun the light of day, which would expose them to observation, and affect the darkness of night, as more favorable to their pursuits. "The murderer," says he, "rising with the light, kills the poor and needy: and in the night is as a thief. The eye also of the adulterer waits for the twilight, saying, No eye shall see me; and disguises his face. In the dark they dig through houses which they had marked for themselves in the day-time: they know not the light: for the morning is to them even as the shadow of death: if one know them, they are in the terrors of the shadow of death Job 24:14; Job 24:17." Hence such persons are called "children of the night and of darkness," in opposition to the godly, who are termed "children of the light and of the day 1 Thessalonians. 5:5-7;" the one choosing the night as the season for their wicked transactions, and the other the day for their labors which affect the light. The truth is, that God has given the light of day on purpose that his people may be enabled to serve and honor him in their different vocations: but the persons here spoken of discard the light, denying to it their acknowledgment of its superiority, and giving a decided preference to darkness, which alone is suited to such a conduct as they pursue. This is "rebellion against the light," inasmuch as it is a withholding from it those services which the Creator himself has assigned it, and which its peculiar properties demand.

2. Against the light of conscience—

Conscience is God's viceregent in the soul of man. Under its direction and government all, without exception, are placed. The heathen, who have no written law to regulate their conduct, and are therefore "a law unto themselves," are under the control of this faculty; which either "accuses or excuses them," according as they demean themselves in accordance with the law of their minds, or as they oppose and violate its dictates Romans 2:14-15. And whoever disobeys its motions is altogether "inexcusable" before God Romans 1:20-21. True indeed, many, while following their conscience, sin grievously against God, as Paul did, when he persecuted the followers of Christ. But his sin consisted, not in following the dictates of his conscience, but in not having his conscience better informed. The obeying of the voice of conscience, so far as that alone it considered, is always right; and to rebel against it is always wrong. And who is there that has not transgressed in this way? Who is there that, having known what was evil, has not committed it; and, having known what was good, has not neglected to perform it? James tells us plainly, that to "rebel thus against the light" is sin: "To him that knows to do good, and does it not, to him it is sin James 14:17."

3. Against the light of revelation—

God has given us "his word to be a light to our feet, and a lantern to our paths:" and he requires that we obey it without reserve. But where has it its legitimate control? Where does it reign with unrestricted sway? Alas! whether among Jews or Christians, its influence is very limited: any worldly interest, any carnal gratification, is quite sufficient to overpower it. Not even the Gospel itself, with all the wonders of redeeming love, can operate so as to subject men to its dominion. See, I pray you, and consider, Who regards the Law as a rule of life? who yields himself to the Gospel, so as to have his soul "cast into it as into a mold," and so as to be "formed by it into the image of our God?" Look round the world, and see how few are really in subjection to it. Even where the Gospel is preached in its utmost simplicity, the great mass of those who hear it "rebel against the light," and "walk on still in darkness."

But, not to speak of others, let us consider,

II. How far we ourselves are implicated in it—

In order to bring it home to ourselves, let us call to mind particularly,

1. Our indulgence of secret sins—

Let us look at those who are yet in a state of childhood, and see what frequent deviations from truth and honesty are to be found among them; insomuch, that it is almost a miracle if a single individual be found who cannot call to mind some violations of his duty in these respects. Let us trace our lives up to manhood, and see what each successive year has brought forth; in how many instances we have harbored thoughts which we could not have dared to express in words; yes, and uttered in words, to a fellow-creature, what we should not have dared to utter in the hearing of a man of God; yes, perhaps I may say, have carried also into effect, when, if an intelligent and pious friend had been present, it would have been impossible for us to have acted as we did. As for God's presence, we thought not of it. It was sufficient for us that we were not seen by man. If we have had reason to fear that our sin was discovered, we have been filled with shame and sorrow: but, if we have eluded human observation, we have thought little of the eye of God. In a word, to a sense of our own honor and credit in the world we have been all alive; but, to the approbation of our God we have been indifferent.

In speaking on this subject, I may fitly mention the artifices of trade and commerce, which, in fact, constitute the great are of rising in the world, and without which it is scarcely possible for a man to gain a livelihood. Yet, all these arts of adulteration and deceit are practiced in secret, without any regard to God or conscience. I wish all of you, Brethren, from the oldest to the youngest, in whatever rank you move, and whatever office in life you fill, to examine whether the sins incident to your age and station are not indulged by you, so far as the habits of the world will sanction them, without any fear of God. Truly, there is not one among us, who, if he will suffer conscience to speak the truth, must not acknowledge, that he has "rebelled against the light" in instances without number, yes, and it is to be feared, in instances too which he could not endure to have published to the world at large.

2. Our neglect of acknowledged duties—

Who, that has ever heard the Gospel, does not know the two great leading requirements of it; namely, "repentance towards God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ?" Yet, who complies with them? Who calls his ways to remembrance, and mourns over all the evils of his former life, and humbles himself before God in dust and ashes? Who goes to God from day to day, imploring mercy at his hands in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and wrestling with him, as it were, in prayer, until he obtains an answer of peace? Who "lives altogether by faith in the Lord Jesus," "receiving out of his fullness those supplies of grace and strength which are necessary for him, and goes forth in dependence upon Christ to glorify his God in all holy obedience? Alas! alas! we acknowledge readily enough what the light of the Gospel requires; but we "rebel against it." And this, as our Lord says, is the very point which so greatly offends our God: "This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil John 3:19." In fact, it is this which renders men so averse to be told in private what they are accustomed to hear in public: "for every one that does evil hates the light, neither comes to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved: whereas, he who does truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God John 3:20-21." Let us, then, only look at the daily habit of our minds, in relation to these things, and we shall see how deeply we all, without exception, are implicated in the guilt which is imputed to those who rebel against the light.

Behold, then,

1. How amazing has been the forbearance of God towards us!

God has seen all our wickedness, however secret, whether it has been in a way of commission, or of omission. "The darkness has been no darkness with him; but the night and the day to him are both alike." How wonderful then is it, that he has borne with us, and not taken us away in the midst of our sins: when, if I may so say, he might have cut us off to advantage, and made us most distinguished monuments of his displeasure! How wonderful, too, that when he has seen the whole world, and all the iniquity that has been perpetrated in it, he has borne with us so long, and not consumed us utterly, as Sodom and Gomorrah! Let us, then, acknowledge "this long-suffering of God to be salvation 2 Peter 3:15;" and let it convince us, that he is "not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance and live 2 Peter 3:9."

2. What a mercy is it that the light is yet continued to us!

From many churches God has removed the candlestick, when those who enjoyed the light persisted in rebellion against it. But we, Brethren, have the light continued to us, the light of day; being preserved in life, when so many have been taken away long before they attained to our age; the light of conscience, too, which so many have been left to "scar as with a hot iron;" and the light of revelation, which yet sounds in our ears, and invites us to accept of mercy through the Redeemer's blood. O Brethren! how "little a while you will have the light with you, God alone knows: but while you have the light, walk in the light, that you may be the children of light John 12:35-36,." Beg of God that the word you hear may "not be a savor of death to your death and condemnation, but a savor of life to your eternal life and happiness."

3. How thankful should we be if conscience have in any measure its proper influence upon us!

Does conscience smite you, Brethren? Be not in haste to close the wound: yes, beg of God that it may never be healed, but by the blood of Jesus Christ. Conviction is the very first work of the Spirit of God: and the deeper that is, the richer will be your consolations. And, when you have obtained peace with God, still let conscience sit enthroned in your soul, to regulate your every act, and every word, and every thought, according to the mind and will of God. Entreat of God to make your conscience tender as the apple of your eye: and, if but a mote offend it, let it never rest there, but weep it out with tears of penitential sorrow, and get the guilt of it also washed away in the blood of Christ. In a word, endeavor to "walk in the light, as God is in the light; and then shall God and you have fellowship one with the other; and the blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, shall cleanse you from all sin 1 John 1:7."

 

 

Job 27:6

 

DISCOURSE 477

SELF-REPROACH

Job 27:6. My heart shall not reproach me so long as I live.

JOB had been represented by God as a perfect and upright man: and the severe trials he was called to endure served only to prove the truth of that assertion. True it is that he was occasionally driven by the unkindness of his friends and the depth of his sufferings to speak without due reverence for the Supreme Being; but never were the predictions of Satan, or the accusations of his own friends, verified respecting him. His whole life had been a continued course of piety and virtue: and he determined, through grace, that nothing should divert him from it. Being conscious that he had maintained his integrity hitherto before God, he would not suffer his uncharitable friends to rob him of the comfort which that consciousness afforded him in this hour of trial: "he held fast his righteousness, and would not let it go." And being determined to preserve the same blessed course even to the end, he said, "My heart shall not reproach me so long as I live."

Of all the blessings that man can enjoy in this life, there is none greater than the testimony of a good conscience: without it, not all the world can make us happy; and with it, we find support under all the calamities that can come upon us. Let us then consider,

I. The proper office of conscience—

While we acknowledge that there are no innate ideas which obtain universally among the children of men, we affirm that there is in every man an innate capacity to judge of, yes, and an innate power that will sit in judgment upon, his actions, and will pronounce a sentence of condemnation or acquittal upon him, according as he obeys or violates the law, by which he conceives himself bound to regulate his life. To this effect Paul, speaking of the Gentiles, says, that they, not having the written law, are a law unto themselves; and that their conscience accuses or excuses them, according as they demean themselves in reference to that law Romans 2:15.

From hence we see that the office of conscience is two-fold;

1. To judge of what is past—

God, who will pass judgment upon all men at the last day, has appointed conscience to be, as it were, his viceregent in the hearts of men, and to testify to them beforehand what sentence they are to expect at his tribunal: nor is it of actions only that it is constituted a judge, but of dispositions, of motives, and of all the most secret workings of the heart. If evil be committed by us in act, word, or thought, it is to condemn us, even though the whole world should resound with our praise: and, on the other hand, it is to bear testimony in our favor, and to acquit us, if we are innocent, even though men and devils should combine to load us with reproach. Its office, as an accuser, is strikingly exhibited in those who brought to our Lord the woman taken in adultery: when he bade the person who was without sin among them to cast the first stone at her, they all went out successively "from the eldest to the last," every one of them standing condemned in his own mind John 8:7-9. We are not necessarily to conclude, that they had all been guilty of the same particular sin; but that every one of them had some grievous sin brought to his remembrance, by which he was convinced that he himself was not a fit person to use severity towards her. Our Lord did not lay any specific sin to their charge; nor were the spectators able to accuse them: but conscience did its office: and they were unable to withstand its potent sway. Many glorious instances also are recorded of the power of conscience to support the mind under the severest trials. The very instance of Job which we are now considering, evinces this: and the solemn appeals which David, and Paul, and others, have made to God himself respecting their integrity, prove, beyond a doubt, that the testimony of a good conscience will enable a man to rejoice, though suffering under the foulest aspersions and the most unfounded accusations 2 Samuel 23:21-25. 2 Corinthians 1:12; 2 Corinthians 1:17-18; 2 Corinthians 1:23, See also Acts 23:1 and Romans 9:1-2.

2. To direct in what is to come—

Every man is bound to be regulated by his own conscience. We may sin indeed, and sin grievously, while following the dictates of our conscience; but our sin will consist, not in doing what we think to be right, but in not taking care to have our conscience better informed. Even supposing any line of conduct to be right in itself, we ought not to do it, unless we believe it to be right: for "whatever is not of faith, is sin Romans 14:23." We ought to be "thoroughly persuaded in our own minds Romans 14:5;" if we doubt respecting the proper line of duty, we should wait, and inquire, and pray, until we see our way clear; especially if the doubt have respect to the morality of the action Romans 14:22. There may be doubts about some particular circumstances which can never be fully resolved; and in them we must follow the line which expediency prescribes: but where duty can by any means be ascertained, then we should exert ourselves to the uttermost to learn the will of God, and then follow the path which we apprehend he will most approve.

But, that we may mark more distinctly the office of conscience in relation to this point, we shall proceed to notice,

II. Our duty with respect to it—

While conscience is given to us to preserve us from all moral evil, we are bound on our part to preserve it in a lively and vigorous state. It is our duty,

1. To consult its records—

Unobserved by us, it notices from time to time the quality of our actions, and frequently assigns to them a very different character from that which a common observer would imagine them to bear. But if we forbear to consult its records, they become gradually fainter, until they are almost wholly effaced. Scarcely an hour, and certainly not a day, should ever pass, without our retiring, as it were, to converse with it. What have you recorded concerning me this day? What is your testimony respecting my morning addresses at the throne of grace? Were they such as became a poor sinful creature, redeemed by the blood of God's only dear Son, and altogether dependent on the operations of his grace? Were they full of gratitude for mercies received, of contrition for sins committed, of earnestness for future communications, and of affiance in him as a promise-keeping God? What have you recorded concerning my family devotions? What, of my tempers throughout the day? What, of the improvement of my time for God? What of my zeal for his honor? What, of my labors for the eternal welfare of my fellow-creatures? Thus, as the Apostle says, "We should examine ourselves," and "prove our own selves:" nay more, we should beg of God to search and try, not our ways only, but our inmost thoughts and desires, that so we may have a fuller knowledge of ourselves, and keep a conscience void of offence both towards God and man.

2. To venerate its testimony—

If we disregard its voice, we may soon silence it altogether, yes, we may even "sear it" as with a hot iron, so as to make it "past feeling 1 Timothy 4:2." We must remember whose voice it is, even the voice of God himself, speaking in our hearts. Were God to speak by an audible voice from Heaven, we should hear and tremble: the fear of his Majesty would alarm us. But his Majesty is the same, whether he speak in thunders and in earthquakes, or in a still small voice: and he should be listened to with the same reverence in the one case, as in the other. It is his testimony respecting us; and agreeably to that we should estimate both our character and our prospects. "If our heart condemn us, God is greater than our hearts, and knows all things: but, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence towards God 1 John 3:20-21."

3. To obey its dictates—

Nothing can justify a violation of its commands. Whatever conscience prescribes, we should do it without hesitation and without delay. Nothing should intimidate us, nothing deter us: we should not count our lives dear in comparison of its testimony in our favor. Like the Hebrew youths, we should be resolute, though menaced with all the sufferings that tyrannic cruelty can inflict. And here it may be useful to observe, that the first testimony of conscience is generally the most just, and most to be depended on. We may by reasonings bewilder conscience, so that it shall not know what testimony to give; or we may by leaning to the side of our passions or our interests bias it to give a directly contrary testimony to that which it first suggested: it is therefore of peculiar importance to bear in mind our first impressions: for though they may not be always right, and may be corrected by the acquisition of further light and knowledge, yet they may be always considered as more pure and unadulterated, and therefore as deserving of more peculiar attention.

4. To get it enlightened and rectified—

This, though mentioned last, must be attended to in the first place. If we navigate the seas with a compass, we must take care that that compass be true to the pole, and not be under any undue influence to impede its motions. If that be drawn aside by a magnet, it will, instead of assisting us in our voyage, infallibly drive us on rocks and quicksands. Thus Paul could say, that he had lived "in all good conscience" from his youth up; but, being blinded by his prejudices, and "thinking he ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus," he was for a long time a most determined enemy of Christ and his Church. Afterwards, when he was enlightened and renewed by the Spirit of God, he changed his course, and became as zealous for Christ as ever he had been against him. No pains therefore should be esteemed too great for the acquiring of divine knowledge: we should study the Holy Scriptures with all diligence: we should cry mightily to God for the influences of his Spirit to guide us into all truth; and we should keep our minds open to conviction upon all points that will admit of doubt. Especially we should entreat of God to give us a single eye: for, "if our eye be single, our whole body will be full of light; but if our eye be evil, our whole body will be full of darkness: and, if the light that is in us be darkness, how great is that darkness!"

We cannot better improve this subject than by suggesting to you some beneficial cautions. Guard then against,

1. An evil and guilty conscience—

Many continue all their days impenitent, while yet they know that they are guilty before God: O let none of you rest satisfied with such a state as this. If sin be not repented of, and washed away in the blood of Jesus Christ, it will abide upon your souls to all eternity. And will any of you continue in a state of guilt and condemnation, when God is ready to put you into "the fountain that was opened for sin and for impurity Compare Zechariah 12:1 with John 5:2-9." Know assuredly that "the blood of Jesus Christ will cleanse from all sin 1 John 1:7;" and that, being once cleansed in it, you shall "have no more conscience of sin," so as to be under any distressing apprehensions on account of it Hebrews 10:2; since, while it "purges you from an evil conscience, it will stimulate you to serve the living God Hebrews 9:9; Hebrews 9:14."

2. A partial and deluded conscience—

It is surprising how partial the consciences of many are: they can see no evil at all in some things which suit their inclination, while they are shocked at the very mention of other things which are in themselves altogether indifferent: "they strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel" The Pharisees would not for the world eat with unwashed hands; but they would devour widows' houses without a moment's hesitation: they would bribe a man to betray his Lord; but, on the restoration of the money, they would on no account put it into the treasury, because it was the price of blood. Thus it is at this day, with persons of every description. We should be glad if we could say that all religious professors were exempted from the charge; but there are many even of them who would account it a heinous crime to deviate from the rules of their own sect or party, who yet will violate both truth and honesty in their dealings with the world. Such persons will say, "My heart shall not reproach me as long as I live;" but we hope their consciences will reproach them before it is too late: for, if they continue to harbor any one allowed sin, whether in act or in heart, they are no better than self-deceiving hypocrites; and their religion will be found vain at last James 1:27."

3. An over-confident and unfeeling conscience—

Though a scrupulous conscience is an evil to be lamented, yet a tender conscience is above all things to be desired: it should be kept tender, even as the apple of our eye. The smallest deviation from our duty, either to God or man, ought to pain us in our inmost souls. How lovely was the spirit of David, when his heart smote him for cutting off the skirt of Saul's garment, when, in the judgment of the world at large, he would have been justified in putting his malignant and implacable enemy to death. Thus should it be with us: if only a thought of our heart be in any respect contrary to God's mind and will, we should be humbled in the dust; and our incessant labor should be, "to stand perfect and complete in all the will of God;" or, in other words, to be "holy as God is holy," and "perfect even as our Father which is in Heaven is perfect."

 

 

Job 29:2

 

DISCOURSE 478

SPIRITUAL DECLENSION CONSIDERED

Job 29:2. O that I were as in months past!

TO take a retrospect of our past lives is always profitable: but it is not unfrequently attended with much pain. The man that has lived as without God in the world, how can he look back upon the days that are past, without feeling the deepest anguish of mind? Nor is a review of former days less distressing to one who from a life of spiritual peace and joy has fallen into a state of darkness and of spiritual death.

The change which Job had experienced, was both outward, in all that related to the body, and inward, in what related to his soul. The circumstances attendant on that change were so peculiar, that they are but little applicable to the Church at large: and the design of God in them was also very peculiar; it being not so much to punish the sin which yet remained in his servant, as to display, confirm, and augment the grace that had been imparted to him Into these peculiarities we shall not enter; because, though they might instruct and amuse our minds, they would not come home to men's business and bosoms, or lead us sufficiently to a contemplation of ourselves. His temporal calamities we shall altogether overlook: and his spiritual troubles we shall notice only in a general view, as affording occasion for us to take a review of our past lives, and to see whether we have not reason for a similar complaint, "O that I were as in months past!" There had been a time when, as Job says, "the candle of God had shined upon his head, so that by the light of it he had been enabled to walk through darkness," and when "God himself was with him," and "the secret of God was upon his tabernacle." So it may have been with us; and yet a most painful reverse have taken place. And so important do I conceive this subject to be, that I shall endeavor to cast upon it what light I can in the compass of one short discourse. A person anxious to know the state of his soul before God, would be ready to ask, What are the usual causes and precursors of spiritual declension? Whereby shall I ascertain whether it has taken place in me? and how, if such a change has taken place, shall I regain my former happy condition? To answer these questions, I will proceed, in a brief and partial manner, to point out the sources, the evidences, and the remedies of spiritual declension.

I. The sources of it—

It is obvious that, were we to attempt a full discussion of the subject, a whole volume would scarcely suffice for the consideration of it. We must therefore of necessity confine ourselves to a few leading topics, leaving a multitude of others, of nearly equal importance, untouched.

Among the sources which I will specify, the first is,

1. A remissness in secret duties—

The duties of the closet, such as reading, and meditation, and prayer, are indispensably necessary to the welfare of the soul. As well might we hope that our bodies should retain their vigor without food and exercise, as that our souls should flourish without communion with God. The vegetable creation will not thrive without light; nor will the seed of Divine grace, which has been sown in our hearts, grow without the light of God's countenance. But this returns not unsought, like the light of day: it must be sought, and sought with care too, or else it will be withheld, and the soul will be left to languish in darkness and distress. And in this respect is that word of our Savior verified; "To him that has, shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that has not, shall be taken away even that which he has Matthew 13:12."

2. An indulgence of some secret lust—

Sin, of whatever kind it be, is "a worm at the root," which will soon make the fairest gourd in the universe to wither. It matters not what the sin be: it may be pride, or envy, or malice, or revenge, or lust, or covetousness, or discontent, or sloth, or unbelief, or vain conceit, or any other; every man has some "sin which more easily besets him:" and that, whatever it may be, will grieve the Spirit of God, and provoke God to hide his face from us. "Sin of any kind will separate between him and us," and deprive us of all his gracious communications: "If I regard iniquity in my heart," says David, "the Lord will not hear me." And our blessed Lord tells us, that "a right hand, or a right eye," not sacrificed and abandoned, will plunge us, both body and soul, "into hell-fire Mark 9:43-48." No wonder then that any man declines in spiritual health, while some unsubdued sin lurks within him, and, "like a canker, eats up" all his strength 2 Timothy 2:17.

3. An undue and unnecessary entangling of ourselves in the affairs of this life—

All have of necessity some worldly engagements, which it is their bounden duty diligently to perform. And many have a very great portion of their time necessarily occupied with worldly pursuits: nor are they at liberty to withdraw from a post which, though painful and difficult, God has evidently assigned them. But when we needlessly multiply our temporal concerns, we must expect to suffer loss in those which are spiritual. Our Savior, in the parable of the sower, tells us, that the cause of vast multitudes not bringing forth fruit to perfection is, that "the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word that has been sown in their hearts, and render it unfruitful." A man who "loads his feet with thick clay," or suffers a long garment to impede the motion of his feet, does not wonder that he makes an inadequate progress in a race: and as little can it be wondered at, if a person, encumbered, unnecessarily or beyond a due proportion, with the cares or pleasures of this life, make not his profiting to appear in the ways of God.

Supposing a spiritual declension to have taken place in us, what may we expect to be,

II. The evidences of it—

Spiritual decay will doubtless discover itself in every exercise of the soul, even as bodily weakness does in every function of the body. But, to instance it in two or three particulars. We may be sure that a declension has taken place, if we have suffered loss,

1. In the spirituality of our minds—

In a soul that is in full health, there is a tendency upwards, not unlike that of a vessel or balloon, filled with light and buoyant air: it is fastened, as it were, by cords to the earth; but it discovers its proper tendency by repeated and continued efforts to ascend: and, as different cords are loosened, its efforts are more and more visible: and, when the last cord is cut asunder, it mounts to the heavens, as the regions it most affects. Thus the soul, in proportion as it is "filled with the Spirit," aspires heavenward. But, if the vessel before referred to lose its buoyant powers, it ceases its aërial flight, and descends upon the earth: and from the effect no one is at a loss to infer the cause.

I will grant, that a pressure of worldly engagements may operate unfavorably in appearance, while there is no cause for self-condemnation in reality. The way to form an accurate judgment is, not so much to inquire, Whether the flights of the soul heavenward are less frequent than they were under different circumstances? as, What the tendencies of the soul are, when it is left at liberty to pursue the course it most affects? And, if in these seasons it evinces a heaviness and an indisposition to ascend, then may it be clearly seen, that the soul has suffered loss; and in proportion as it ceases to dwell in God by faith and love, God will cease to dwell in it by the vital energies of his Spirit: and then "its root will soon be as rottenness; and its blossom will go up as dust Isaiah 5:24."

2. In the tenderness of our conscience—

The effect of grace in to make the conscience tender as the apple of the eye; to make us dread sin, and flee temptation, and use all possible means for the preserving of the soul pure before God. In one who is walking close with God, even a mote will not be suffered willingly to retain the place it has invaded; but will be wept out with tears of penitence and shame. But, if the conscience have lost its sensibility, so that it can now endure without emotion a feeling which would once have filled it with the acutest anguish, what shall we say? Can that soul be in a flourishing condition?

We must distinguish doubtless between a scrupulous and a tender conscience: for increasing light may have lessened its scrupulosity about indifferent matters, while yet its tenderness is undiminished in reference to every acknowledged duty. But, if the smaller commissions of sin or neglects of duty pass with less grief and indignation against them than formerly, the authority of God is weakened in the soul, the hatred of sin diminished; and, if a remedy be not speedily applied, "the last state of that soul will be worse than its beginning."

3. In the vigor of our exertions for God—

A man that is right with God will always be saying, "What shall I render unto the Lord for all the benefits that he has done unto me?" No labor will be grudged, no sacrifice accounted great, if only God may be glorified in him. But if the self-denial which once appeared unworthy of a thought is now become a burden, and the efforts which once we made in the service of our God are now relaxed, we obviously have declined in real piety. Were we right, we should never think we had attained anything as long as any thing was left to be attained, or done anything as long as anything was left to be done: but, forgetting what was behind, we should reach forward to that which was before: and our grief would be, that we could not do a thousand times more for Him who has done and suffered so much for us. If we are faint and weary in well-doing, it is plain and indisputable that our spiritual health has declined.

Such backslidings however are not incurable, if only we apply, according to God's prescription,

III. The remedies of it—

We may regain our former state,

1. By a renewed and more solemn repentance—

This is the remedy prescribed by our Lord himself to the angel of the Church of Ephesus, when he "had left his first love:" "Remember from whence you are fallen, and repent, and do your first works Revelation 2:4-5." We must look back and search out the occasions of our departure, from God: we must then examine the instances wherein our departure has appeared. For those we must abase ourselves before God in dust and ashes: and we must again and again apply to the blood of sprinkling for the remission of them. Not content with this, we must return to those better ways which we have forsaken, and resolutely give up ourselves with all our powers to the service of our God. If our grief was deep at our first turning unto God, it ought to be tenfold deeper now, in proportion as our guilt by reason of our backslidings from God is aggravated beyond that which we contracted by our rebellions in the days of our ignorance. We should add fasting also to prayer. If, as our Lord says, "The days come when the Bridegroom shall be taken away from them; and then shall they fast;" how much more ought we to fast, when by our own unfaithfulness we have driven the Bridegroom from us! We need only mark the neglect into which this duty has fallen, in order to see how low the standard of religion is, which is current in the world. But, if we would recover the peace and purity that we have lost, we must return unto God with the deepest contrition, and wash us from our guilt in the fountain opened for sin and for impurity.

2. By getting a sense of redeeming love into the soul—

Without this, repentance will be of little avail. That will prepare the soul; but it is a sight of Christ only that will perfect it. That casts down; but this will raise us up. There is nothing that will effectually constrain the soul, but a sense of the love of Christ shed abroad in the heart. That regained, all else will be easy. And that is to be regained, not by slavish exertions, but by the simple exercise of faith. As in the first instance we come to him, not seeking to heal ourselves first, and then applying to him as the Physician, but by a simple dependence on his blood and righteousness; so we must do at all times and under all circumstances, trusting in him only as "our Righteousness and strength." This reliance on his promises will alone cleanse us; and this view of his glory will alone change us into his image from glory to glory by the Spirit of our God.

3. By keeping the nearness of eternity in view—

This also is prescribed by our blessed Lord, as the means of augmented watchfulness, and of a more entire preparation for death and judgment. We know not at what hour our Lord will come. For anything that we know to the contrary, this very night our souls may be required of us. Now, if we bore this in mind, should we rest in a cold or lukewarm state? Should we not endeavor to have our loins girded and our lamps trimmed, and ourselves as those who wait for the coming of their Lord? Could we but, like the Apostle, learn to "die daily," we should make no account either of labors or of sufferings, "if by any means we might attain unto the resurrection of the dead Philippians 3:10-11."

ADDRESS—

1. Those who are conscious that they have occasion for this heart-rending complaint—

Truly, Brethren, it is a painful thing to look back upon times and seasons, when, in comparison with the present, you had the enjoyment of God in your souls. What self-reproach do you feel in the retrospect, and what misgivings in the prospect of the eternity that awaits you! We are told that persons in your situation have "a certain fearful looking-for of judgment Hebrews 10:26-27." Be thankful, however, that it is not yet too late to regain your former peace; yes, you may have it yet increased and multiplied an hundred-fold. God has indeed said, that "the backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways Proverbs 14:14;" but he has also said, "Return unto me, you backsliding children; and I will heal your backslidings, and love you freely; and mine anger shall be turned away from you. Jeremiah 3:22. Hosea 14:1-2; Hosea 14:4." Return then in dependence on his promised mercy: then shall it be with you as in the months that are past; yes, and your last days shall be your best.

2. Those who are making a progress in the divine life—

Thrice happy souls! "To you to live is Christ; and to die it shall be gain." How sweet is it to have the testimony of our conscience that we are living near to God, and walking daily in the light of his countenance! This is the way to be truly happy. This is the way to secure peace in a dying hour. "Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright; for the end of that man is peace." Go on then; but not in your own strength, nor with unhallowed confidence. "Let him that thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall." Yet let not this consideration fill you with slavish fear, but only make you watchful and dependent on God. God is able to keep you; and he will keep the feet of his saints; and, if only you commit your way entirely to him, he will "preserve you blameless unto his heavenly kingdom."

"Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen Jude, verse 24, 25."

 

 

Job 29:11-16

 

DISCOURSE 479

JOB'S CHARACTER

Job 29:11-16. When the ear heard me, then it blessed me: and when the eye saw me, it gave witness to me; because I delivered the poor that cried, and the fatherless, and him that had none to help him. The blessing of him that was ready to perish came upon me: and I caused the widow's heart to sing for joy. I put on righteousness, and it clothed me: my judgment was as a robe and a diadem. I was eyes to the blind, and feet was I to the lame. I was a father to the poor: and the cause which I knew not, I searched out.

TO boast of one's own goodness is a sure mark of vanity and folly: of vanity, because it betrays an undue desire of man's applause; and of folly, because it defeats its own end, and injures the reputation which it is intended to exalt. Nevertheless there are occasions on which we may, without any impropriety, declare facts, notwithstanding the mention of them does tend to proclaim our own praise. If, for instance, we have been calumniated, we may vindicate ourselves; and, if false charges have been adduced against us, we may refute them, by a candid and explicit statement of the truth. It was in this way that Job was led to speak of himself as he does in the passage before us. His friends had not only concluded from his extraordinary sufferings that he must have been peculiarly wicked, but they had undertaken even to specify crimes of which he had been guilty, and for which this afflictive dispensation had been sent Job 22:5-10. It was in answer to these unfounded charges that he delivered, what appears like an eulogy upon himself, but what was indeed nothing more than an appeal to facts for the establishment of his own innocence.

To us it is a singular benefit that such a statement was ever made; because it shows us, not only what our character ought to be, but what has actually been attained.

In order to make a suitable improvement of the passage, we propose to show,

I. The excellence of this character—

From the particulars which are here enumerated we may distinctly notice,

1. The character itself—

The first thing that attracts our notice is, Job's diffusive benevolence. Misery, wherever it could be found, was the object of his tender compassion and assiduous regard: and the greater that misery was, the more imperious did he consider his call to relieve it. Were they poor, or blind, or lame, or widows, or fatherless, or friendless, he felt as a father towards them, and labored to supply their every want. In the exercise of that benevolence he showed the most active zeal. He did not stay until his interposition was sought for: but went to the most frequented parts of the city, and "prepared his seat in the street verse 7," in order that all might have me readiest access to him, and be encouraged to spread their wants before him. Cases of considerable difficulty often occurred; but he spared no pains to inform himself of whatever might throw light upon the question, and to search to the bottom the truth or falsehood of every assertion, the force or nullity of every claim. No labor was accounted great, when it might tend to the relief of trouble or the confirmation of right. To this he added unblemished integrity. Nothing could for a moment bias his judgment, or induce him to swerve from the path of equity. It sometimes happened that he had to deal with powerful oppressors; but he was unawed by power, as well as unmoved by wealth: yes, the more power he found on the side of injustice, the more determinately he set himself to reduce it within its proper bounds: "he brake the jaws of the wicked, and plucked the spoil out of his teeth:" and the effecting of this he accounted more honorable than any ornaments, either of magisterial robes, or of an imperial diadem verse 14.

2. The excellence of it—

See what was thought of it by all who beheld it in Job: "When the car heard me, then it blessed me; and when the eye saw me, it gave witness to me." And we ask, Where is the man in the whole universe that must not admire it? What part of it is there that is not worthy of our imitation? That such a character will not be censured, we by no means affirm: but no man will censure benevolence, or zeal, or integrity, as such; they must first put a wrong construction upon it, before they will venture to utter one word against it.

From viewing it in itself, let us contemplate it in its aspect on society. What incalculable good must not arise from it! See but a single magistrate possessed of wisdom, of integrity, of power: see him laying out all his time, his strength, his influence in the composing of differences and in the relieving of every species of distress: see him doing this with unselfish zeal and unwearied diligence: will not such an one be esteemed as the "father of the poor?" and will he not "make many a widow's heart to sing for joy?" See a minister of such a description, devoting himself with equal zeal to the administering of temporal comforts to the poor, and super-adding a similar attention to their spiritual necessities: to how many will he be made a source of good, becoming "eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame!" Surely in many instances "the blessing of him that was ready to perish" will come on such a minister, and the eyes and ears of multitudes will bear witness to him. The same is equally true of all that are in private life, according to the extent of their sphere and the steadiness of their exertions. And if once such were to become the general character of society, it would go far to banish evil, moral as well as temporal, from the world.

The excellence of this character being established, we will proceed to mark,

II. The importance of cultivating it in ourselves, and of encouraging it in others—

1. Of cultivating it in ourselves—

Were there nothing more than the acquiring of such intrinsic worth, and the being so assimilated to Jesus, "who went about doing good," it were most desirable that we should be imitators of this holy man. But a resemblance to him is not merely desirable; it is necessary; for by our conformity to his character we must judge of our state before God; and by it we shall be judged in the last day.

The highest attainments, whether of knowledge or of faith, are nothing in God's estimation, without an active, constant, self-denying exercise of love 1 Corinthians 13:1-3. This is the test by which we are to try our religion. We are told expressly, "that pure and undefiled religion is, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction James 1:27;" and that by "bearing one another's burdens we fulfill the law of Christ Galatians 6:2." Without this, our faith is no better than the faith of devils James 2:14-19, and all our professions of love to God are mere hypocrisy. God himself repeatedly appeals to us on this very subject, as though he were willing to abide by the testimony of our own consciences 1 John 3:17; 1 John 4:20. To have any just evidence therefore that we belong to Christ, we must tread in the steps of holy Job This is the rule prescribed by that loving and beloved disciple, John: "My little children, let us love, not in word and in tongue, but in deed and in truth: for hereby know we that we are of the truth; and shall assure our hearts before him 1 John 3:18-19." These are "the things that accompany salvation Hebrews 6:9-10;" and by abounding in them we shall obtain a full assurance of hope Hebrews 6:11, and an abundant entrance into the kingdom of our Lord 2 Peter 1:7; 2 Peter 1:10-11.

But these habits are also necessary, because by our proficiency in them we shall be judged in the last day. Who can read the account of the day of judgment as given us by Christ himself, and not wish that he had cultivated more the dispositions of Job? Who that lives for himself, does not see cause to tremble? Let us deeply consider and diligently weigh the declarations of Christ Matthew 25:34-36; Matthew 25:41-43, and we shall need no further arguments to prove the importance of cultivating love.

2. Of encouraging it in others—

It is thought by many, that it is better to distribute their alms themselves, than to do good through the medium of others. We grant that all may find proper objects of charity within their own immediate neighborhood; and that, if every one would exert himself within his own circle, there would be little comparative need of persons to dispense our alms for us. But we know that some want time, some inclination, some ability, to seek out the poor, and to impart to them spiritual instruction with temporal relief. Though therefore we certainly admit that it is well to reserve a portion of our alms for our own personal distribution, yet we cannot but say that it is of peculiar importance to encourage the activity of others; for by that, more extensive good is done—more grace is called forth into exercise—and more honor is brought to religion.

More extensive good is done.—Numberless are the cases wherein the poor require more assistance than it would be possible for an individual to afford them. It is on this account that hospitals and other public charities have been so universally established. For the same reason a society for relieving the poor must be of the greatest utility, because that can be done out of a public fund which cannot be done out of a private purse. Moreover, where persons who have some degree of leisure and ability devote themselves to the various offices of charity, it must be supposed that they will acquire a greater fitness for the work, and consequently will perform it to more advantage. Besides, many, however fit for the work, and well disposed towards it, have not time to spare; and consequently much good must be left undone, if those who have time be not encouraged and enabled to improve it in this way.

More grace also is called forth into exercise.—We will suppose that in either case the same degree of grace is exercised both by the donor and the receiver of the alms: still the employing of the services of others has greatly the advantage; because it calls forth their graces, and strengthens in them a habit of benevolence. Methinks, it is like the training of soldiers for war; which gives them a martial spirit, and renders them more efficient in their work. Many there are, possessed of wisdom and piety, who yet, on account of the narrowness of their own circumstances, are unable to visit the poor; because they cannot show their sympathy in such a way as to render it acceptable to the poor themselves. But, if they be employed as the dispensers of the charity of others, they have scope for all the finer feelings of their souls, and are enabled to "rejoice with them that rejoice, as well as to weep with them that weep."

We may add further, that more honor also is brought to religion.—It is said by the enemies of the Gospel, that the doctrine of salvation by faith alone leads to a neglect and contempt of good works. But, with Job, we will appeal to facts: Who are they that most abound in good works; those who talk about them, and profess to make them the ground of their hopes? or those who build all their hopes of salvation on Christ alone? Among which of these two classes shall we find those, who, not having funds of their own, are willing to become the almoners of others, that they may exert themselves with more effect in every office of love both to the bodies and the souls of men? The matter is too notorious to admit a doubt. And does not this tend to the honor of religion? and do not they consult the interests of religion, who encourage such societies? Yes: and our answer to all who decry our faith is, "Outdo us in good works Here the excellence of any particular charity may be stated, with a suitable exhortation to support it."

 

 

Job 30:23

 

DISCOURSE 480

THE CERTAINTY OF DEATH

Job 30:23. I know that you will bring me to death, and to the house appointed for all living.

WE cannot certainly know the ultimate intentions of Providence from anything we either see or feel. A man to whom God has given a robust constitution, cannot therefore be sure that he shall attain to old age: nor can a man that is bowed down with complicated diseases, be certain that his health shall not be restored. Presumption too often attends the former state, and despair the latter; as appears in the instance of Job In his prosperity he said, "I shall die in my nest," without living to experience any material trials: and in his adversity he felt confident that God, whom now he thought his enemy, was bringing him down to the grave; and that his present troubles would terminate in death. In both these opinions he was mistaken: he did experience very heavy afflictions: and those were succeeded by brighter days of happiness than ever he had before known. But though he erred as to the expectations he had formed respecting the time and manner of his death, his general assertion was founded in truth, and conveys to us a most instructive lesson. Let us consider,

I. The truth affirmed—

Nothing can be more certain than that we shall all die—

The grave is "the house appointed for all living." Adam was doomed to it for his transgression Genesis 2:17; Genesis 3:19, and all his posterity have been involved in his sentence Romans 5:12. It is not in the power of wisdom, or strength, or riches, to avert the stroke of death Psalm 49:7-10. All, whatever be their rank or condition, must pay the debt of nature Ecclesiastes 8:8; whether we have lived in a palace or a cottage, the grave is the house in which we must all abide at last. The righteous are, in this respect, on a par with the wicked Romans 8:10. Zechariah 1:5. The moment that God says to any, "Your soul is required of you," "his body must return to its native dust, and his spirit must return unto Him that gave it Ecclesiastes 12:7."

And this is a truth universally acknowledged—

Every one "knows" that he himself must die. We look back to the antediluvian world; and though we find that they lived eight or nine hundred years, they all died at last. Since that time, successive generations have come and passed away. Our own near ancestors are removed, and "their places know them no more." There are few among us who have not, within a very few years, lost some friend or relative. And we all feel, that if we have not any disorder at present, we are at least liable to those diseases and decays which are daily weakening the strongest constitutions, and executing the Divine appointments in bringing us to the grave.

The time of our death, as we observed before, is known to none: but its approach is not for one moment doubted by any Ecclesiastes 9:5.

As this thing is so plain, we hasten to,

II. The improvement we should make of it—

The certainty of death should,

1. Moderate our regards to the things of this world—

Were our present possessions to abide with us forever, there were some reason for our eagerness respecting them: but, as they are so soon to be removed from us, or we from them, it is folly to let them occupy so large a portion of out affections: We are not greatly elated with the comforts of an inn, where we are to stop but an hour; nor are we greatly depressed with any want of comforts which we may find there: the thought of our stay there being so short, renders us comparatively indifferent to our present accommodations. Thus the thought, that "the Lord is at hand," should cause us to make "our moderation known unto all men Philippians 4:5.": This is elsewhere enforced by the Apostle in relation to everything, whether pleasant or painful; all is but a pageant passing by; and whether the spectacle be mournful or joyous, it is scarcely sooner arrived that it vanishes from before our eyes 1 Corinthians 7:29-31. Our joys and our sorrows will both appear light and momentary, when viewed in reference to the transitoriness of what is visible, and the endless duration of the things invisible 2 Corinthians 4:17-18.

2. Make us diligent in preparing for a better world—

The time allotted us here, is given on purpose that we may prepare for another and a better state. If the present hour be not seized, all opportunity of securing happiness in another world will be lost: Should not this thought stimulate us to activity in the concerns of our souls? Solomon was clearly of this opinion Ecclesiastes 9:10; and so must every one, who reflects a moment on the comparative importance of time and eternity. If we could return hither after having once departed, or begin in the invisible world the work which we have neglected here, we might have some excuse: but to know that death and the grave are ready to swallow us up, and yet to trifle with the interests of the soul, which, if neglected now, are gone forever, this, I say, is a madness, which credulity itself could never imagine to exist, if its existence were not daily and hourly before our eyes: The prayer of Moses is that which reason dictates, and which God approves: "So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom Psalm 90:12."

ADDRESS—

1. Those who know this truth, and feel it—

Happy they whose minds are by meditation and prayer rendered familiar with death: and who know, that while the grave is the receptacle of their bodies, they have for their souls an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens If this be a subject for a Funeral Sermon, the person's character may be mentioned here—Thus; "Such was the state of him whose loss we now deplore.": Happy they who in the view of this are cleaving unto Christ with full purpose of heart. O that we all might be like-minded, living in an habitual dependence upon Christ, and in a zealous performance of his will! Then may we look forward to our dissolution with joy, accounting death our gain Philippians 1:21, and placing it among our choicest treasures 1 Corinthians 3:22.

2. Those who know and disregard it—

This, alas! forms the greater part of every congregation; insomuch, that they who act up to this truth are gazed at "as signs and as wonders" in the world. But how will this supineness appear in a little time? We do not positively say, that you will look with regret on your present conduct on your death-bed; for many die as stupid, as ignorant, and as hardened as they lived. But we are well assured, that you will have far other thoughts of your conduct as soon as you come into the presence of your Judge: Let me then entreat you to "redeem the present time," and to "work while it is day; for the night comes wherein no man can work."

 

 

Job 30:25

DISCOURSE 481

JOB'S COMPASSION FOR THE POOR

Job 30:25. Did not I weep for him that was in trouble? Was not my soul grieved for the poor?

IN the midst of any heavy calamities, a recollection that we have abused the season of prosperity must add greatly to our distress: whereas a consciousness that we have endeavored to fulfill the duties of our station, must afford a rich consolation to the afflicted mind. It was a matter of self-congratulation to David under the persecutions that he met with from his inveterate enemies, that he had done nothing to provoke their enmity; and that, instead of retaliating their injuries even in thought or desire, he had tenderly felt for them in their troubles, and earnestly sought their welfare Psalm 35:11-14. To Job also this thought was a source of much comfort under his accumulated trials. In the passage before us he complains bitterly of his friends, and too rashly also concerning God. And the words of the text may be considered as reflecting on them for treating him otherwise than he had deserved. But we rather suppose the words were introduced as a consolatory reflection, that, though unkindly treated under his own afflictions, he could appeal to God he had conducted himself differently towards others: "Did not I weep for him that was in trouble? Was not my soul grieved for the poor?"

There are two observations naturally arising from these words, which we shall make the foundation of the following DISCOURSE

I. The poor, when they are in trouble, are great objects of compassion—

The poor, while they enjoy their health, and are under no extraordinary pressure, are quite as happy as the rich. If they have fewer comforts, they do not feel the want of them; and they are, in a great measure, strangers to those vexations and disappointments, which are the usual attendants of wealth. They, for the most part, enjoy their homely meal with a keener appetite and relish, than they who are fed with delicacies: and, while their richer and more luxurious masters are wakeful upon beds of down, they rest in comfort on a bed of straw, and "their sleep is sweet unto them." If we had complete access both to the rich and poor, and could perfectly weigh the personal and domestic happiness of each, I am persuaded we should find the scale very generally turn in favor of the poor: for what they lose in respect of carnal indulgences, is more than made up to them by peace and contentment.

But when sickness comes, then the inconveniences of poverty begin to be deeply felt. The well-earned pittance which was adequate to the wants of a man and his family while in health, is utterly insufficient to procure medical assistance, and to provide those comforts which are requisite for the alleviation of pain, or the restoration of health and strength. The industrious husband finds all his exertions ineffectual; and is reduced to the necessity of leaving his wife or child to languish without help, or of plunging himself into inextricable difficulties, by his endeavors to obtain a suitable, but uncertain, relief.

But suppose the head of the family himself to be seized with sickness; then, with increasing wants, there comes an increased incapacity to supply them. The little stream that before nourished and refreshed the family, is cut off, and ceases to flow in its accustomed channel. What now can he do? Perhaps it may be said "Let him apply to his parish for relief." True; but it is painful to a generous mind to become burdensome to others. He who has been accustomed to maintain his family by his own labor, does not like to become a pensioner on the bounty of others without an absolute and irresistible necessity. He knows, possibly from his own experience, that many are obliged to pay rates for the support of others, while they themselves scarcely know how to provide for their own subsistence. Hence he nobly struggles with his difficulties; and carries the conflict perhaps beyond the bounds of prudence, while from tenderness to others he forgets the regard which he should show to himself and his own family. Conceive, then, his distress: behold him debilitated with disease, and racked with pain: behold him destitute of the remedies that might remove his disorder: see him incurring debts which it will be difficult for him ever to discharge. Perhaps at last he applies for relief: and then is told, that, while he has this or that comfort, which the industry of former years had enabled him to procure, he cannot be relieved. See him then compelled to sell first one thing, then another; thus stripping himself and family of the little comforts that remained to them; and, after all, witnessing the privations, the wants, the miseries of his benumbed and starving dependents. This is no uncommon picture: it is seen in every town, and almost in every village, through the kingdom; though, probably, less in this than in any other nation upon earth. And is not such a person an object of compassion? must not he be lost to all the feelings of humanity, who does not "weep over him, and whose soul is not grieved for him?"

Yes; we must declare to all, that,

II. To exercise compassion towards them is one of the principal duties of a Christian—

There is no duty more strongly inculcated than that of compassion to the poor: every species of argument is used in Scripture in order to enforce the observance of it. It is enforced by arguments taken,

1. From political expediency—

God does not disdain to urge upon us such considerations as are calculated to affect even a selfish mind.

Does not every one desire to relieve himself? This we do, in fact, when we relieve the poor: for all of us are members of one body: consequently our neighbor demands the same attention from us as ourselves 1 Corinthians 12:25-26; and, in neglecting him, we "hide ourselves from our own flesh Isaiah 58:7."

Are we not ourselves liable to fall into adversity? No man knows what circumstances he may be brought into before he die. We have seen in our day princes and nobles subsisting upon charity, and many of them on a very slender pittance too. Would not we then, if reduced to want, desire to find compassion in the breast of others? And, if so, ought we not to exercise it ourselves Hebrews 13:3. Methinks our charity should be extended to the utmost verge of prudence and propriety Ecclesiastes 11:1-2.

Would we desire Divine consolations under our afflictions? To be charitable to others is one way to secure them. Hear what God has said: "Blessed is the man that considers (not slightly pities, but with a deep interest in their welfare considers) the poor and needy: the Lord shall deliver him in the time of trouble …The Lord will make all his bed in his sickness Psalm 41:1-3. See also Isaiah 58:10-11. "Draw out your soul," not your purse merely." What greater inducement to charity would we desire, than such a hope and prospect as this?

Would we get the best possible interest for our money? There is no such bank in the universe as this. To enrich ourselves by giving away, and by giving the very "first-fruits, and that too of all our increase," may seem strange indeed: reason would say that it was the way to impoverish ourselves: but God tells us that it is the way to "fill our barns with plenty, and to make our presses burst out with new wine Proverbs 13:7; Proverbs 3:9-10." And experience proves, that, "if we give to others, men will in our necessity give into our bosom, good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over Luke 6:38."

To complete this argument—Would we keep our wealth forever? This is the way to do so. They who hoard up their riches must leave them all behind them Luke 12:33; but they who dispose of their wealth in acts of charity, carry it with them into the eternal world, where it shall be restored to them with interest Luke 18:22. They lend their money to the Lord, who has pledged himself to repay them Proverbs 19:17." in full, yes, to recompense them in the resurrection of the just Luke 14:12-14; and, provided they have acted from Christian principles, to give them eternal life 1 Timothy 6:17-19. He has even promised to proportion their harvest to the seed they have sown 2 Corinthians 9:6. So that if "the children of light were as wise in their generation as the children of this world," they would, like the poor widow, and the first Christians, be ready to give their whole substance to the poor.

2. From Christian necessity—

Here the arguments are far more forcible and impressive.

The exercise of charity is imposed on us, with the authority of a law, by Christ himself. And shall we despise that law? Yes rather, when it comes to us so recommended and enjoined, shall we not labor to the uttermost to fulfill it? This is an argument urged by the great Apostle: "Bear you one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ Galatians 6:2."

Our obedience to this law is the criterion whereby we must judge of our regard to Christ.—St. Paul exhorts the Corinthians to liberality, in order "to prove the sincerity of their love 2 Corinthians 8:8." And John tells us that all our professions are hypocrisy, and all our experiences a delusion, if we do not exercise this virtue 1 John 3:17. Would we then contentedly rest in a state, wherein all our pretensions to religion are vain? Would we proclaim to all men that we have no love to the Father or to Christ? If not, we must delight ourselves in doing good according to our ability.

Our exercise, or neglect, of charity will be the ground of the sentence that in the last day shall be passed upon us.—The Judge of quick and dead informs us, that the strictest inquiries will be made relative to this point; and that they who have not relieved him in his poor members, will be bidden to depart accursed; while they who have manifested a tender regard for the poor shall be welcomed by him as the children of his heavenly Father, and be exalted by him to the possession of his eternal kingdom Matthew 25:34-46. To the same effect he elsewhere says, "Blessed are the merciful; for they shall obtain mercy Matthew 5:7;" and James, on the contrary part, says, "He shall have judgment without mercy that has showed no mercy James 2:13."

Weigh now these considerations, and see if they do not amount to necessity; and whether we must not say, 'Woe is unto me, if I do not cultivate a compassionate and liberal spirit!'

To CONCLUDE—

We have inculcated the necessity of liberality and compassion. But let us not be misunderstood; alms-giving does not make us Christians; but only proves us so. Nor does it prove us Christians, unless it arise from Christian principles. It is faith in Christ that makes us his: and obedience to his will proves us to be his.

But we must further guard the subject from mistake. It is not a transient emotion, or a falling tear, that will suffice, (for many will shed a tear at a moving tale, who have no principle of love in their hearts); but "our souls must be grieved" for the poor: we must lay to heart their wants and miseries, and make it our study and delight to administer to their relief Here the particular institution, or occasion, may be mentioned; and the usefulness of the particular charity insisted on.

Let not any then be contented with approving the things which they have heard, or with wishing well to the institution that has been recommended to their care: for James justly says, "If you merely say to a brother or sister, be warmed, be filled; and yet neglect to give them the things they need: what does it profit James 2:15-16." Such compassion will neither profit them nor you. Let such of you then as profess yourselves "the elect of God, put on affections of mercies Colossians 3:12;" yes, let all of us stir up within our own breasts a tender concern for the welfare of our fellow-creatures; and so act now, that on our dying bed we may appeal to God himself, "Did I not weep for him that was in trouble? Was not my soul grieved for the poor?"

 

 

Job 31:14

 

DISCOURSE 482

THE IMPORTANCE OF PREPARING FOR OUR GREAT ACCOUNT

Job 31:14. What shall I do when God rises up? and when he visits, what shall I answer him?

THE testimony of a good conscience is a source of rich consolation at all times, but more especially when we are suffering under afflictions from God, or calumnies from man. Job, in the midst of all his troubles, was upheld by it, when, without such a support, he must have inevitably sunk under his accumulated burdens. It must be confessed, indeed, that this holy man, when urged and irritated by his uncharitable friends, expressed himself too strongly upon this subject: yet we cannot fail of seeing throughout his whole history, that his conscious integrity enabled him to hold fast by God, and to wait with patience the issue of his unexpected calamities.

In the passage before us he is specifying many things commonly practiced by others, but from which he had been preserved pure. Among these he mentions his conduct to his servants; and observes that, if in this he had been arbitrary and oppressive, he would have a melancholy account indeed to give in the day of judgment; "Then," says he, "What shall I do when God rises up? and when he visits, what shall I answer him?"

These words may be considered as,

I. A weighty reflection—

Job is contemplating his responsibility to God, together with the impartiality that will be shown in the future judgment—

In speaking of his accountableness to God, he does not limit it to such actions as are reprobated among men, but mentions it in reference to (what is generally but little regarded) his spirit and temper in domestic duties. He well knew that God took cognizance of small things as well as great, and of things relating to civil and social life as well as those that pertain more immediately to religion. He was certain also, that at God's tribunal the slave and his master, the beggar and the king, would have their cause determined with equal and unerring justice. Hence, when calumniated and condemned by men, he naturally reflects on the sentence that would be passed upon him at God's tribunal, on the supposition that there were any willful and allowed sin found in him, whatever the nature of that sin might be, and however trivial it might be deemed by the world at large.

Such a reflection will be highly profitable to us also—

For great and heinous sins, as they are called, we all feel ourselves accountable to God; but we scarcely think that any responsibility attaches to the dispositions we manifest in the family or the state; we may be querulous and contentious subjects, or proud and oppressive masters, or slothful and impertinent servants, and yet never imagine that God will notice such faults in the day of judgment. The rich and the great are ready to think, that they shall find some favor with God on account of their earthly distinctions; and that, while a poor man who robs or injures them is deserving of the heaviest judgments, they may rob and injure others to ever so great an amount by their extravagance or extortion, and yet pass without censure. But the great and terrible God has no respect of persons Deuteronomy 10:17, but will "judge every man according to his works." And it will be well for us, if we take a retrospect of our actions, and seriously reflect, what answer we shall give to God in the day that he shall visit us.

But these words may also properly suggest to us,

II. An instructive inquiry—

The inquiry is twofold: if God should call us to his judgment-seat before we have truly repented of our sins,

1. What shall we "do?"

Shall we go before him with boldness, as too many rush into his presence now? Will not his purity abash us, and his excellency make us afraid Job 13:11."

Shall we hide ourselves from his presence, and elude his search? Where shall we flee in order to effect this Psalm 139:7-12. In vain shall we, "call upon the rocks to fall upon us, or the hills to cover us."

Shall we resist his summons? How vain the attempt! "Shall our hands be strong in the day that he shall deal with us Ezekiel 22:14," or, "can we thunder with a voice like his Job 40:9."

Let us then bethink ourselves "what we shall do in the day of visitation? to whom shall we flee for help? and where shall we leave our glory Isaiah 10:3."

2. What shall we "answer?"

Shall we say with that amiable, but mistaken, youth, "I have kept all your commandments Matthew 19:20." Alas! which of the commandments have we not broken times without number? Let it only be considered that an angry word is murder Matthew 5:21-22, and an unchaste look adultery Matthew 5:28; and we shall find abundant reason, even as holy Job himself did Job 9:20, to blush and be confounded before the heart-searching God Job 9:2-3.

If this appear too presumptuous, shall we, like the Pharisee, tell him of our comparative goodness Luke 18:11-12. Suppose we do differ from others, what ground of glorying is this to us 1 Corinthians 4:7. And how infinitely short have we come of the perfection which God requires of us! Yes, the very disposition to justify ourselves is sufficient to make God utterly abhor us Job 9:30-32. Luke 18:14.

Shall we answer, that we had other things beside religion to attend to? But what other things? If they were lawful in themselves, they were not in the least degree incompatible with religion: and if they were unlawful, they ought to have been renounced.

Shall we reply, that we did not think God would ever condemn any one for the want of religion? But why did we entertain so fond a hope? Were we not sufficiently warned to the contrary? Was it possible for God to declare in more express terms his determination to punish impenitent transgressors Psalm 9:17. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10.

Whatever other answers we may be disposed to make, let us consider whether they do not admit of a reply that shall stop our mouths, and utterly confound us? In this way we shall gather instruction for which we may have reason to bless God forever.

The oblique hints which both Job and his friends repeatedly gave to each other, may lead us further to consider the words, as,

III. A solemn warning—

If a master's unkindness to his servant would bring down upon him the divine judgments, Job's friends might see, that their uncharitableness towards him would not pass unnoticed. In the same manner, these questions convey a solemn warning,

1. To those who are altogether regardless of religion—

We are well aware that when a fellow-creature expostulates with such persons, they will fill their mouths with arguments, and turn to ridicule "the words of truth and soberness." But it is not a worm like themselves that they must answer, but the living God. Let careless sinners then consider what they shall answer him? And, before they speak peace to themselves, let them think whether he will deem their excuses sufficient? It is by his judgment that they must stand or fall; and therefore they must be satisfied with nothing which will not satisfy him. It will be to but little purpose to be justified in their own eyes, and in the opinions of a partial world; for if he should refuse his sanction, they will have nothing left but to bewail their folly in everlasting torments.

2. To those who rest in an outward and formal religion—

It is not the observance of forms, but the devotion of the heart, that God requires. Religion is to be our business, yes, our very element wherein we live. Our daily care, and our supreme delight, must be to maintain fellowship with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ, and to glorify God by a holy conversation. These are the things which God will inquire into at the last day: and if we tell him then, that such a life was generally reprobated as hypocrisy or enthusiasm, will he account it a sufficient excuse for our conduct? What! he may say, were all the prophets, and apostles, yes, and my only dear Son, too, hypocrites and fanatics? And were others to be condemned in proportion as they resembled these divine patterns? Did you not know in your consciences, even while you ridiculed the godly, that both you, and they, ought to walk as Christ walked?

Know, then, that the form of godliness, however exemplary, will, if destitute of the life and power of it, leave you without excuse in the day of judgment.

3. To those who profess religion indeed, but walk unworthy of it—

Every question put to careless or formal Christians will have tenfold force when addressed to those who profess godliness: for they acknowledge their obligation to piety, and seek to be esteemed as truly religious characters; and therefore to all their other guilt they add the basest hypocrisy, if they live in any willful sin. Let those (if such there be among us) who, while they "seem to be religious, either bridle not their tongue James 1:26," or yield to the solicitations of wrath, envy, malice, lewdness, covetousness, or any other vile affection; let them, I say, consider what they shall answer when God shall visit them. If others be punished, much more shall they Amos. 3:2. Isaiah 33:14; yes, their condemnation shall be increased in proportion to the mercies they have slighted, and the advantages they have abused.

We cannot conclude without adding one word of direction—

It has been shown already, what answers will not suffice at the day of judgment. It is but reasonable then to ask, What answer will suffice? To solve this important question, we reply, That doubtless we must renounce all habitual and allowed sin: but that, with respect to the sins of infirmity that are incident to our fallen nature, we should lie low before God Job 40:4-5; Job 9:15, seeking mercy through Christ only, and declaring our affiance in the promises which God has given us in his word Isaiah 43:25-26. See this very question, "What shall we do?" and the answer given to it by the voice of inspiration, Acts 2:37-38; Acts 16:30-31. Then, though vile, we shall not be cast out; nor shall our past sins be remembered against us any more forever Hebrews 8:12.

 

 

Job 31:24-25

 

DISCOURSE 483

SPIRITUAL IDOLATRY

Job 31:24-25; Job 31:28. If I have made gold my hope, or have said to the fine gold, You are my confidence; if I rejoiced because my wealth was great, and because mine hand had gotten much; …. This also were an iniquity to be punished by the Judge: for I should have denied the God that is above.

HATEFUL as boasting is, and justly condemned both by God and man, there are occasions when it is proper, and indeed necessary. For instance; when a character has been grossly calumniated, and can be vindicated only by an appeal to facts, those facts may be adduced, however much the recital of them may tend to proclaim our own praise. Samuel was constrained to assert the equity of his own administration, when the people cast reflections on him, by desiring to change the form of his government, and to have a king substituted in his place. Paul also, when traduced by persons who sought to destroy his influence in the Church, declared, though much against his will, the honors which had been conferred upon him, and the habits he had invariably maintained 2 Corinthians 12:1-11. Indeed, we should have known comparatively but little of this blessed Apostle, if he had not been compelled by the malevolence of others to make known the hidden principles by which he had been actuated, and the blameless conduct which he had uniformly pursued: and, so far from blaming him for his boasting, we cannot but be thankful that God suffered him to be so injured, and thereby constrained him in self-defense to make known to us so much of his true character. In like manner we account it a great benefit to the Church, that Job was driven by the heavy accusations that were brought against him, to insist so largely on his own innocence, and to declare so fully the habits and exercises of his former life. Throughout this whole chapter he maintains, in reference to the evils that were laid to his charge, that his conduct had been the very reverse of what his friends supposed. Had he done this in the spirit of the self-applauding Pharisee (Luke 18.), he had acted wrong: but when it was necessary to wipe off the aspersions that were so injuriously cast upon him, he was justified in adducing whatever had a tendency to place his character in its true light.

The part we have just read is a vindication of himself from idolatry. Of idolatry there are two kinds; one actual and manifest; the other virtual and constructive. The actual idolatry is that which is referred to in the verses we have omitted. In the days of Job, or at least in the country where he lived, the sun and moon were the only objects to which idolatrous worship was paid: and, as they were out of the reach of the worshipers, the kiss, which was afterwards given to idols as an expression of supreme regard, was transferred to them by means of the hand Hosea 13:2. But Job declared, that he had never been guilty of this great impiety. Nay more, he had never, even in heart, given to the creature any portion of that respect which was due only to the Most High God: and if he had, he acknowledged that his sufferings were richly merited, and that as his conduct would have been in fact a denial of his God, he could expect nothing from God but wrath and indignation to all eternity.

I. The disposition here specified—

An undue regard to wealth is extremely common in the world—

The possession of wealth is no evil: it then only becomes an evil, when it is accompanied with a measure of affiance or delight in it. But, fallen and depraved as man by nature is, it is exceeding difficult to view wealth with such indifference as we ought. Our blessed Lord states this, when speaking of the Rich Youth, who renounced and forsook him, rather than part with his great possessions. He first said, "How hardly shall they that have riches, enter into the kingdom of God!" and then, "How hardly shall they that trust in riches enter into the kingdom of God!" intending thereby to intimate, that it is almost "impossible" to have them, and not to trust in them Mark 10:21-27. The pleasure that men take in the contemplation of their wealth, whether inherited or acquired, arises from the thought, that they are thereby placed, if not entirely, yet in some measure, beyond the reach of evil; and that, in whatever circumstances they may be, they shall have something which will administer to their comfort Habakkuk 2:9. But this is idolatry, as we shall show under our Second Head. At present, we content ourselves with observing, that this is the view, which all natural men have of wealth, and the regard which, under all circumstances, they pay to it.

Whence is it that men are so eager in the pursuit of wealth? Whence is it that they so earnestly desire it for their children? Whence is it that all who come to the possession of wealth, or to any great preferment, are congratulated by their friends, and receive those congratulations as suitable to the occasion? Whence is it, on the contrary, that any heavy losses are considered as so great a misfortune, and call forth either real sympathy, or compliments of condolence? Is not all this from a presumption, that wealth and preferment are in themselves a certain and a positive good? Does it not all imply a hope or confidence in gold? Would a man who had merely scraped together a great heap of dust, rejoice because his hand had gotten much? and does not the satisfaction he feels from the attainment of riches, show, that he has formed an erroneous estimate of their value?.

Such then being the disposition specified in our text, we proceed to point out,

II. The sinfulness of it—

To act in any way unworthy of God is to deny him Titus 1:16; but to feel such a disposition towards wealth as has been now described, is in a more especial manner to be regarded in this view. It denies, in fact,

1. That God is the only source of happiness to man—

God has called himself "the Fountain of living waters," and has pronounced all creatures to be "broken cisterns that will hold no water." Now what is this but a declaration, that to make us happy is his exclusive prerogative? Doubtless the creature, when he accompanies it with his blessing, is a source of much comfort: but it has nothing in itself: the sun, whose genial warmth is such a fruitful source of blessings to some, destroys all the hopes of others, and burns up the very face of the earth. The moon, which gladdens the heart of many a benighted traveler, operates by a secret influence upon the brain, to strike some with madness. Thus wealth also, which to some is the means of exercising a most diffusive benevolence, to others is a curse. What was Nabal the better for his wealth? It only fostered his deep-rooted churlishness, and ultimately proved the occasion of his death. In a word, the creature is nothing but what God is pleased to make it: with his blessing, it will contribute to our happiness; but without his blessing, it is only "vanity and vexation of spirit." If then we place any confidence in it, or suffer it to be a source of delight to our minds, we ascribe to the creature what is found in none but the Lord Jehovah; to whom alone we should have respect, when we say, "Return unto your rest, O my soul."

2. That he is all-sufficient for that end—

The man that can look up to a reconciled God in Christ Jesus, has all that he can desire: the wealth of the whole world can add nothing to him. If it be thought that wealth being an addition, must of necessity enlarge the comforts of the soul; we would ask, What can a taper add to the light of the meridian sun? or who that enjoys the full splendor of that heavenly orb, does not despise the feeble efforts of a taper to augment its luster? So it is with him who beholds the light of God's glory shining in the face of Jesus Christ: the creature, whoever, or whatever it may be, "has no glory in his eyes by reason of the glory that excels." Did the prodigal any longer affect the husks which the swine ate of, when he was feeding on the fatted calf in his father's house? No, surely: nor does he ever hunger, who has fed on Jesus' flesh; or thirst, when once he has been refreshed with the water of life: Hear the testimony of one who spoke from his own experience: "We are sorrowful," says the blessed Apostle, "yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing all things 2 Corinthians 6:10."

Now if we desire any earthly good from an idea that it can of itself contribute to our happiness, we virtually deny the all-sufficiency of Christ; and by exalting the creature to a participation of his rights, we rob him of his unalienable and incommunicable glory.

Improvement—

1. For reproof—

Let this character of Job be compared with that of the generality of Christians, and it will afford abundant matter for the deepest humiliation. Certainly, on account of our superior advantages, we ought to possess far greater spirituality of mind than Job: yet how far below him do the generality even of those who profess religion fall! Perhaps the besetting sin of those who embrace the Gospel is worldliness: it is certain, that very many of them are as eager in the pursuit of wealth as others: and this accounts for the little influence of the word of God upon them: the seed is good, but the soil is bad; and the noxious weeds, by their speedy and incessant growth, keep down the feebler plants of piety in the soul: "the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lust of other things, choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful." And here let it be observed, that it is not the overt act of covetousness or creature-dependence that is condemned, but the inward disposition of the soul: even the delight of mind that arises from the possession of wealth is itself a positive "denial of the God that is above." O, Brethren, enter into your own bosoms, and judge yourselves in relation to this matter. Inquire whether God has such a full possession of your hearts as to render all earthly things rain, empty, and worthless, in your estimation? if not, how can you call God your portion, or imagine that you have formed a proper estimate of the blessings of salvation? Know assuredly, that, if you have just views of Christ, you will regard him as the pearl of great price, "to purchase which a wise merchant will sell all that he has;" and you will say from your inmost soul, "Whom have I in Heaven but you? and there is none upon earth that I desire in comparison of you."

2. For instruction in righteousness—

We learn from our text, wherein a true confession of Christ consists: it is not in an assent to some particular truths, but in a practical and experimental sense of his love overpowering all inferior considerations. To love the Lord Jesus Christ, to "cleave to him with full purpose of heart," to count him "all our salvation and all our desire," this is what God requires; this is also what our blessed Savior merits at our hands; and if we despise not even life itself when standing in competition with his will, his presence, his glory, we shall be regarded as denying him, and must expect to be denied by him in the presence of his Father and his holy angels Mark 8:34-35; Mark 8:38. In the Church above "there is no need of either sun or moon to lighten it, because the Lamb is the light thereof Revelation 21:23;" so also is it in the Church below, wherever Christ has really established his kingdom in the heart Isaiah 24:23. Look to it then, Brethren, that it be thus with you: and, if you are disposed to ask, "Who will show me any good?" learn immediately to add, "Lord, lift you up the light of your countenance upon me; and that shall put more gladness in my heart, than any increase of corn or wine or oil can ever do Psalm 4:6-7;" for as, on the one hand, "A man's life consists not in the abundance of the things that he possesses," so, on the other hand, "In God's favor is life, and his loving-kindness is better than life itself."

 

 

Job 31:28

 

DISCOURSE 483

SPIRITUAL IDOLATRY

Job 31:24-25; Job 31:28. If I have made gold my hope, or have said to the fine gold, You are my confidence; if I rejoiced because my wealth was great, and because mine hand had gotten much; …. This also were an iniquity to be punished by the Judge: for I should have denied the God that is above.

HATEFUL as boasting is, and justly condemned both by God and man, there are occasions when it is proper, and indeed necessary. For instance; when a character has been grossly calumniated, and can be vindicated only by an appeal to facts, those facts may be adduced, however much the recital of them may tend to proclaim our own praise. Samuel was constrained to assert the equity of his own administration, when the people cast reflections on him, by desiring to change the form of his government, and to have a king substituted in his place. Paul also, when traduced by persons who sought to destroy his influence in the Church, declared, though much against his will, the honors which had been conferred upon him, and the habits he had invariably maintained 2 Corinthians 12:1-11. Indeed, we should have known comparatively but little of this blessed Apostle, if he had not been compelled by the malevolence of others to make known the hidden principles by which he had been actuated, and the blameless conduct which he had uniformly pursued: and, so far from blaming him for his boasting, we cannot but be thankful that God suffered him to be so injured, and thereby constrained him in self-defense to make known to us so much of his true character. In like manner we account it a great benefit to the Church, that Job was driven by the heavy accusations that were brought against him, to insist so largely on his own innocence, and to declare so fully the habits and exercises of his former life. Throughout this whole chapter he maintains, in reference to the evils that were laid to his charge, that his conduct had been the very reverse of what his friends supposed. Had he done this in the spirit of the self-applauding Pharisee (Luke 18.), he had acted wrong: but when it was necessary to wipe off the aspersions that were so injuriously cast upon him, he was justified in adducing whatever had a tendency to place his character in its true light.

The part we have just read is a vindication of himself from idolatry. Of idolatry there are two kinds; one actual and manifest; the other virtual and constructive. The actual idolatry is that which is referred to in the verses we have omitted. In the days of Job, or at least in the country where he lived, the sun and moon were the only objects to which idolatrous worship was paid: and, as they were out of the reach of the worshipers, the kiss, which was afterwards given to idols as an expression of supreme regard, was transferred to them by means of the hand Hosea 13:2. But Job declared, that he had never been guilty of this great impiety. Nay more, he had never, even in heart, given to the creature any portion of that respect which was due only to the Most High God: and if he had, he acknowledged that his sufferings were richly merited, and that as his conduct would have been in fact a denial of his God, he could expect nothing from God but wrath and indignation to all eternity.

I. The disposition here specified—

An undue regard to wealth is extremely common in the world—

The possession of wealth is no evil: it then only becomes an evil, when it is accompanied with a measure of affiance or delight in it. But, fallen and depraved as man by nature is, it is exceeding difficult to view wealth with such indifference as we ought. Our blessed Lord states this, when speaking of the Rich Youth, who renounced and forsook him, rather than part with his great possessions. He first said, "How hardly shall they that have riches, enter into the kingdom of God!" and then, "How hardly shall they that trust in riches enter into the kingdom of God!" intending thereby to intimate, that it is almost "impossible" to have them, and not to trust in them Mark 10:21-27. The pleasure that men take in the contemplation of their wealth, whether inherited or acquired, arises from the thought, that they are thereby placed, if not entirely, yet in some measure, beyond the reach of evil; and that, in whatever circumstances they may be, they shall have something which will administer to their comfort Habakkuk 2:9. But this is idolatry, as we shall show under our Second Head. At present, we content ourselves with observing, that this is the view, which all natural men have of wealth, and the regard which, under all circumstances, they pay to it.

Whence is it that men are so eager in the pursuit of wealth? Whence is it that they so earnestly desire it for their children? Whence is it that all who come to the possession of wealth, or to any great preferment, are congratulated by their friends, and receive those congratulations as suitable to the occasion? Whence is it, on the contrary, that any heavy losses are considered as so great a misfortune, and call forth either real sympathy, or compliments of condolence? Is not all this from a presumption, that wealth and preferment are in themselves a certain and a positive good? Does it not all imply a hope or confidence in gold? Would a man who had merely scraped together a great heap of dust, rejoice because his hand had gotten much? and does not the satisfaction he feels from the attainment of riches, show, that he has formed an erroneous estimate of their value?.

Such then being the disposition specified in our text, we proceed to point out,

II. The sinfulness of it—

To act in any way unworthy of God is to deny him Titus 1:16; but to feel such a disposition towards wealth as has been now described, is in a more especial manner to be regarded in this view. It denies, in fact,

1. That God is the only source of happiness to man—

God has called himself "the Fountain of living waters," and has pronounced all creatures to be "broken cisterns that will hold no water." Now what is this but a declaration, that to make us happy is his exclusive prerogative? Doubtless the creature, when he accompanies it with his blessing, is a source of much comfort: but it has nothing in itself: the sun, whose genial warmth is such a fruitful source of blessings to some, destroys all the hopes of others, and burns up the very face of the earth. The moon, which gladdens the heart of many a benighted traveler, operates by a secret influence upon the brain, to strike some with madness. Thus wealth also, which to some is the means of exercising a most diffusive benevolence, to others is a curse. What was Nabal the better for his wealth? It only fostered his deep-rooted churlishness, and ultimately proved the occasion of his death. In a word, the creature is nothing but what God is pleased to make it: with his blessing, it will contribute to our happiness; but without his blessing, it is only "vanity and vexation of spirit." If then we place any confidence in it, or suffer it to be a source of delight to our minds, we ascribe to the creature what is found in none but the Lord Jehovah; to whom alone we should have respect, when we say, "Return unto your rest, O my soul."

2. That he is all-sufficient for that end—

The man that can look up to a reconciled God in Christ Jesus, has all that he can desire: the wealth of the whole world can add nothing to him. If it be thought that wealth being an addition, must of necessity enlarge the comforts of the soul; we would ask, What can a taper add to the light of the meridian sun? or who that enjoys the full splendor of that heavenly orb, does not despise the feeble efforts of a taper to augment its luster? So it is with him who beholds the light of God's glory shining in the face of Jesus Christ: the creature, whoever, or whatever it may be, "has no glory in his eyes by reason of the glory that excels." Did the prodigal any longer affect the husks which the swine ate of, when he was feeding on the fatted calf in his father's house? No, surely: nor does he ever hunger, who has fed on Jesus' flesh; or thirst, when once he has been refreshed with the water of life: Hear the testimony of one who spoke from his own experience: "We are sorrowful," says the blessed Apostle, "yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing all things 2 Corinthians 6:10."

Now if we desire any earthly good from an idea that it can of itself contribute to our happiness, we virtually deny the all-sufficiency of Christ; and by exalting the creature to a participation of his rights, we rob him of his unalienable and incommunicable glory.

Improvement—

1. For reproof—

Let this character of Job be compared with that of the generality of Christians, and it will afford abundant matter for the deepest humiliation. Certainly, on account of our superior advantages, we ought to possess far greater spirituality of mind than Job: yet how far below him do the generality even of those who profess religion fall! Perhaps the besetting sin of those who embrace the Gospel is worldliness: it is certain, that very many of them are as eager in the pursuit of wealth as others: and this accounts for the little influence of the word of God upon them: the seed is good, but the soil is bad; and the noxious weeds, by their speedy and incessant growth, keep down the feebler plants of piety in the soul: "the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lust of other things, choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful." And here let it be observed, that it is not the overt act of covetousness or creature-dependence that is condemned, but the inward disposition of the soul: even the delight of mind that arises from the possession of wealth is itself a positive "denial of the God that is above." O, Brethren, enter into your own bosoms, and judge yourselves in relation to this matter. Inquire whether God has such a full possession of your hearts as to render all earthly things rain, empty, and worthless, in your estimation? if not, how can you call God your portion, or imagine that you have formed a proper estimate of the blessings of salvation? Know assuredly, that, if you have just views of Christ, you will regard him as the pearl of great price, "to purchase which a wise merchant will sell all that he has;" and you will say from your inmost soul, "Whom have I in Heaven but you? and there is none upon earth that I desire in comparison of you."

2. For instruction in righteousness—

We learn from our text, wherein a true confession of Christ consists: it is not in an assent to some particular truths, but in a practical and experimental sense of his love overpowering all inferior considerations. To love the Lord Jesus Christ, to "cleave to him with full purpose of heart," to count him "all our salvation and all our desire," this is what God requires; this is also what our blessed Savior merits at our hands; and if we despise not even life itself when standing in competition with his will, his presence, his glory, we shall be regarded as denying him, and must expect to be denied by him in the presence of his Father and his holy angels Mark 8:34-35; Mark 8:38. In the Church above "there is no need of either sun or moon to lighten it, because the Lamb is the light thereof Revelation 21:23;" so also is it in the Church below, wherever Christ has really established his kingdom in the heart Isaiah 24:23. Look to it then, Brethren, that it be thus with you: and, if you are disposed to ask, "Who will show me any good?" learn immediately to add, "Lord, lift you up the light of your countenance upon me; and that shall put more gladness in my heart, than any increase of corn or wine or oil can ever do Psalm 4:6-7;" for as, on the one hand, "A man's life consists not in the abundance of the things that he possesses," so, on the other hand, "In God's favor is life, and his loving-kindness is better than life itself."

 

 

Job 33:23-24

 

DISCOURSE 484

THE BENEFIT OF VISITING THE SICK

Job 33:23-24. If there be a messenger with him, an interpreter, one among a thousand, to show unto man his uprightness; then he is gracious unto him, and says, Deliver him from going down to the pit; I have found a ransom.

ELIHU was not one of the particular friends of Job He was a young man, who, on the occasion of Job's friends assembling together, had been admitted to hear rather than to speak. But when he had heard the repeated attempts of Job's friends to convince him of sin, and their incapacity to answer the arguments which Job had adduced, his spirit was stirred in him, and he determined to offer his opinion Job 32:6-10. He was of a better spirit than Job's friends, and had a deeper insight into the dispensations of God's providence. He never accused Job of hypocrisy, as they had done; but he saw wherein he had erred, and endeavored with fidelity to point it out to him. Job had certainly erred in two respects; in speaking too highly of himself, and too disrespectfully of God. To bring home to him these two faults, Elihu shows him, what he evidently was not sufficiently acquainted with, the ends and designs of God in afflicting man; namely, to humble him, and to prepare him for those richer mercies which he has in reserve for every true penitent. There were various means whereby God prepared men for the knowledge of himself, and the enjoyment of his glory: one was by secret discoveries of himself in dreams and visions: another was by laying them on a bed of affliction, and sending some well-informed servant to instruct them. It is of this latter mode that Elihu speaks in the words before us: from which we are naturally led to show you,

I. The office of those who visit the sick—

A person who in a spirit of love visits the chambers of the sick, is "a messenger" from the Most High God, and "an interpreter" of his holy will: and one who delights in that office, and is duly qualified for the performance of it, is indeed a rare and valuable character, justly styled "One among a thousand." The object which such a person should bear in view is briefly stated in our text; it is "to show unto man his uprightness."

But whose uprightness is here intended? the man's own? Most assuredly not. Such a visitor as this would be neither rare nor valuable. It is the common language of ignorant persons when visiting a dying friend, to say, "You have nothing to fear: you have been upright and honest in the world: you have fulfilled all your duties in life: and there is no doubt but that you are accepted of God." Such a visitor as this is indeed "a messenger;" but it is "a messenger of Satan," to beguile and ruin an immortal soul. For what is such language as this, but to "speak peace where there is no peace," or, as the prophet strongly expresses it, to "sew pillows to the arm-holes" of one that ought to be awakened from his delusions, and to "daub with untempered mortar a wall that is just ready to fall Ezekiel 13:10-11; Ezekiel 13:18."

The uprightness that is to be pointed out, is God's. But here we acknowledge, that the precise import of the passage is not easy to be determined. Various are the senses which commentators have affixed to the word: but, if we would obtain just views of the Scripture, we must not consider so much what sense any word will bear, as what agrees best with the context. Now we apprehend that the context duly attended to, will give us the exact meaning of this expression. Let us see what was the object which Elihu had in view. He considered Job as faulty in two respects; first, in maintaining his own righteousness; and next, in complaining of God as harsh and unjust towards him verse 8–12. "In this," says he to Job, "you are not just." To counteract these two errors, he tells Job, that God had afflicted him on purpose to lead him to juster views both of himself and of his God: and that he himself was sent as "a messenger and interpreter" to him, "one among a thousand," to expound this matter to him; and to show him "God's uprightness, or righteousness," first, in punishing his sin; and, next, in the way provided by him for the pardon of it.

The visitor's office then is, to show the righteousness of God,

1. In punishing sin—

It is common for persons in affliction, especially if their afflictions be heavy, complicated, and of long continuance, to manifest an impatient spirit, and to account their trials severe. But every thought of this kind shows how regardless they are of the hand from whence their trials proceed, and of their own extreme demerit, which, if justly viewed, would reconcile them to any dispensation which Almighty God might send. The invariable language of those who are truly humbled is, "You, Lord, have punished me far less than my iniquities deserve:" "You are righteous in all that is come upon me:" "to you belongs righteousness; but unto me belongs shame and confusion of face See Ezra. 9:13. Nehemiah 9:33. Daniel 9:7-8." This truth had been before inculcated by Zophar Job 11:6; and it is of great importance to be inculcated on all: for, "shall a living man complain? a man for the punishment of his sins Lamentations 3:39." No: he must be brought to "accept the punishment of his iniquity," and to say, "I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against him Mic. 7:9." There must be no "replying against God:" "the clay must not contend with the potter:" the frame to which every sufferer must be brought is this; "It is the Lord; let him do what seems him good:" and it is a very important part of a visitor's office to bring him to it, by showing, that anything short of "everlasting burnings" is a mercy for which we have reason to be thankful, and not a judgment of which we have any reason to complain; since it is light in comparison of what we deserve, and is sent on purpose to keep us from ever suffering our full desert.

2. In his way of pardoning sin—

This, we confess, appears at first sight a forced construction of the passage: but, on a nearer inspection of it, we shall see reason to believe, that it is indeed the true import. The uprightness of God in punishing sin seems undoubtedly the first and leading sense; but it must include a view of the way of salvation through the ransom paid for sinners, or else the immediate acceptance of the sinner through that ransom could not follow from it. In this view of the word "uprightness," or "righteousness," there is a striking coincidence between the text and a passage in Paul's Epistle to the Romans; where the Apostle again and again mentions "the righteousness which is of God by faith," and represents Christ as "set forth to be a atoning sacrifice through faith in his blood, to declare God's righteousness for, or in, the remission of sins; to declare, I say, his righteousness, that he might be just, and yet the Justifier of him which believes in Jesus Romans 3:21-22; Romans 3:25-26." Now on what occasion can it be so necessary to "show a man this," as when he is in sick and dying circumstances, and speedily about to enter into the immediate presence of his God? Then in particular he is anxious to inquire, "What must I do to be saved?" and then must we return him the same answer as the Apostle did to the jailer, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall he saved Acts 16:30-31."

This, then, is the special office of those who visit the sick; namely, to declare freely and fully the way of salvation through a crucified Redeemer. They should act in the chambers of the sick precisely as Moses did in the camp of Israel, when thousands were dying of the wounds inflicted by the fiery flying serpents: they should erect in the sight of the dying penitent the brazen serpent, and say, "Look unto it and be saved, all the ends of the earth Compare Isaiah 45:22 with John 3:14-15." They should encourage the afflicted soul to look unto Christ even "at the eleventh hour;" and to declare plainly, that "all who believe in him are justified from all things Acts 13:39." Then indeed will they approve themselves faithful "messengers" from God, and just "interpreters" of his mind and will: and every messenger is of inestimable value, and fitly called, "One among a thousand."

Such being the blessed office of a visitor, let us contemplate,

II. The benefit arising from a faithful discharge of it—

Doubtless in many instances, little, if any, good arises from efforts made in the chambers of the sick: and often the hopeful appearances that begin there, vanish speedily, "as the early dew, or as the morning cloud." But in many instances the labors of visitors are productive of the greatest good;

1. Even to the bodies of men—

We speak not now of financial relief, and of its effects on the recovery of many from their disorders, (though we ought not by any means to lose sight of that;) it is solely of the spiritual office of the visitor that we speak; and we affirm, that the bodies of men often derive incalculable benefit from it. Of disorders, some purely belong to the body; and others are greatly influenced by the mind, or perhaps originate altogether from it. Now, in reference to the former of these, it is certain, that spiritual instruction will not operate as a charm upon the body: but if, under the pressure of temporal affliction, the mind be disquieted by impatience and fretfulness, those agitations will have a very unfavorable aspect on the body: and will greatly impede the cure of the disorder; and consequently, the composure of the mind, the bringing of it to a state of resignation and submission, and particularly to a state of peace with God, will exceedingly promote the recovery of the body; so true is it that "A merry heart does good like a medicine It sometimes happens, that the life of a person a actually preserved, solely, under God, by the composure of the mind. A most remarkable instance of this the author has in his own parish." But if, as in the latter case, the disorder is very intimately connected with the mind, and (how many nervous disorders arise from the pressure of worldly troubles!) it is obvious, that the spiritual physician may be more useful than a medical attendant; since by administering "the balm of Gilead" to the soul, he applies his remedy to the root of the disorder, and gains access to that which no earthly prescription can reach. And more especially if, as sometimes happens, the health has declined through apprehensions of God's wrath, and the influence of desponding fears, the free and full exhibition of God's mercy in Christ Jesus is the only remedy that is at all suited to the case; and the restoration of peace to the soul is, in fact, "health to the navel, and marrow to the bones Proverbs 3:8." "A faithful ambassador," says Solomon, "is health Proverbs 13:17."

2. More especially to their souls—

How many are there who never began to think of their souls, until they were visited with sickness, or brought down by some heavy affliction! "Before they were afflicted they went astray:" but God having sent to them some kind messenger, some able interpreter, has led them by his means to a consideration of their state, and to a true and saving repentance. No man has ever executed with fidelity the office of which we are speaking, without having seen some fruit of his labor: and we will venture to appeal to such persons, (for they are the only competent judges,) whether they have not been sometimes eye-witnesses of the very scene described in our text? Have they not seen the afflicted soul comforted; and peace abounding in the conscience that was recently overwhelmed with desponding fears? Has not God said, as it were, in their very presence, "Deliver that drooping sinner from going down to the pit: I have found a ransom?" And have they not seen the person, who but just before dared not to lift up his eyes unto Heaven, "praying unto God" and made sensible "of his favor," and "beholding the face of his reconciled God with joy verse 26." Yes; this is no uncommon sight: and whoever will lend himself diligently to this good work, shall have the happiness of dispensing these blessings, and of having some poor sinners to be his joy and crown of rejoicing in the day of judgment.

Reflections—

1. How honorable an office is that of a visitor of the sick!

This office, though highly proper to be executed by ministers, ought by no means to be confined to them. True, such a person, duly qualified and thoroughly in earnest, is "One among a thousand:" but it were better, if possible, that there should be ten or twenty such among a thousand: and most assuredly it is the duty of every one, according to his ability and opportunities, to engage in it; since the execution of it is a very principal fruit and evidence of "pure and undefiled religion James 1:27." We would call on all, therefore, in their respective stations, to consider how they may execute this office to the utmost possible advantage. And let all know, for their encouragement, that if they receive not honor from their fellow-creatures for these self-denying exertions, they shall certainly before long be honored and rewarded by their God Matthew 25:35-36.

2. How blind are they who are averse to have such pious instructors introduced to their sick and dying friends!

There exists in the minds of many an idea, that religious conversation will prove injurious to a person on a bed of sickness; and that, by the anxiety that it will create, it will retard, rather than accelerate, a restoration to health. Now, if in any instance this should be the case, it may justly be said, that some risk of injury to the body would be but a small sacrifice for the obtaining of spiritual instruction under such circumstances: for, who can reflect on a soul perishing in ignorance and sin, and not see the indispensable necessity of plucking it as a brand out of the burning, before yet it be gone beyond a hope of recovery? Methinks, if a certainty of some injury to the bodily health were put in the scale against the near and almost certain prospect of dying in an unconverted state, there can be no doubt which should preponderate: no man that knows the value of an immortal soul, can hesitate which alternative to choose. But such cases, if they exist at all, are very rare: the mind of an ungodly man is not so easily moved; nor are the emotions that may be excited so injurious as worldly vexation or worldly care: they do not prey upon the mind, as carnal feelings do. Religious feelings, even where they are not altogether of the best kind, have rather a tendency to compose the mind; inasmuch as they generate a hope in God, and open prospects of progressive improvement and of ultimate salvation. But we will not rest this matter upon the dictates either of reason or experience: God himself shall determine it: and he says, "Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him. James 5:13." Doubtless it is expedient for the visitor to consult the weakness of the patient: but it is the height of cruelty to deny to those who are going into the presence of their God, the means of obtaining that wedding-garment that can alone make them acceptable guests at the marriage-supper of the Lamb.

3. How desirable is it to support such a society as this!

Here state the nature and plan of the Society. But how can they execute their functions, if not aided by financial contributions? The poor, if some relief can be afforded them in their sickness, will on that account welcome the Visitor as "a Messenger" from Heaven: and, having received him as "a Messenger," they will be disposed to listen to him as "an Interpreter." It cannot be supposed, that the Visitors can effect much in this way from their own individual resources: it must be through the liberality of the public alone that this plan can be executed to any great extent. Let the hearts of all, then, be open on this occasion. If we pleaded only for the temporal relief of our poorer brethren in a time of sickness, we should feel that we had a claim upon your charity: but the temporal relief is of small importance when compared with that which we contemplate, the instruction and salvation of the soul. Bear this in mind; and let your contributions show in what light you appreciate an immortal soul. Multitudes who would otherwise die in ignorance and sin may by these means be rescued from perdition: and, if our blessed Lord came down from Heaven to "ransom" them by his own blood, let it be a light matter in your eyes to contribute liberally of your substance for the purpose of making known to them that "ransom," and thereby "delivering them from going down to the pit."

 

 

Job 33:27-28

 

DISCOURSE 485

THE NATURE AND EFFICACY OF REPENTANCE

Job 33:27-28. He looks upon men; and if any say, I have sinned, and perverted that which was right, and it profited me not; he will deliver his soul from going into the pit, and his life shall see the light.

GOD is often pleased to make use of affliction as the means of bringing persons to a right mind: and where he has sent any affliction as a chastisement for some particular sin, it is probable that on our repentance he will remove the chastisement James 5:14-15. But we must not always associate the ideas of affliction and punishment, or of repentance and recovery, so as to conclude every person wicked in proportion to the calamities that may come upon him. This was the error which occasioned the whole controversy between Job and his friends. They conceived, that, by visiting him with such accumulated afflictions, God designed to point him out as a hypocrite: and, upon that presumption, they exhorted him to repent, and assured him that on his repentance God would restore to him his former health and prosperity. In support of their argument they spoke many valuable truths; but they erred in the extent to which they carried those truths, and in the application which they made of them to the case of Job The fact is, that "no man knows love or hatred by all that is before him: all things come alike to all Ecclesiastes 9:1-2;" and the inequalities which we observe in the dispensations of Providence will all be rectified in the day of judgment, which is on that very account denominated, "The day of the revelation of the righteous judgment of God Romans 2:5." We shall therefore drop that which we apprehend to be the primary meaning of these words, because in that sense they are not true to the extent that Elihu designed them. We doubt not but that the most righteous persons may be reduced by sickness, and that the most penitent persons may have their sickness continued unto death. Fully persuaded of this, we shall not insist upon our text in reference to bodily sickness and recovery, but simply in reference to the concerns of the soul. In this view of the words, they point out to us,

I. The nature of repentance—

Few consider properly the nature of repentance. It does not consist in a mere acknowledgment that we are sinners, or in a dread of the consequences of our sin; but in a deep and humbling view of sin,

1. As unreasonable—

The law of God is right Psalm 19:7-8; it is "holy, and just, and good Romans 7:12." And whoever views its requisitions with an impartial eye, must of necessity confess them to be most highly reasonable. Who can doubt one moment the reasonableness of the creature serving his Creator; or of the sinner feeling gratitude to his Redeemer? Who does not see the propriety of having the bodily appetites in subjection to the nobler faculties of reason and conscience; and of governing our lives in reference to eternity, rather than to the poor vanities of time and sense? The most ignorant and most prejudiced person cannot but acknowledge that these things are "right."

Now what is the life of the generality, but a direct opposition to all this, or, in other words, "a perversion of that which is right?" We speak not now concerning gross sins, but concerning that kind of life which even the most moral and decent live: they forget their God; they disregard their Savior; they live as if they thought the salvation of their souls a matter of only secondary importance.

A penitent, when he comes to a just sense of his condition, views things in this light: he is ready to exclaim with Agur, "Surely I am more brutish than any man, and have not the understanding of a man Proverbs 30:2." He is amazed that God should have borne with him so long in the midst of his perverseness: and there are no terms too humiliating for him to adopt, in order to express his shame and self-abhorrence before God.

2. As unprofitable—

All expect that sin will profit them in some respect or other; and the gratifications purchased by it are considered as more than an equivalent for any consequences that may ensue from it.

This delusion often lasts for a considerable time: but, when a person begins to turn unto God, the scales fall from his eyes; he sees, that if he had gained the whole world, it would have been an unprofitable bargain for his immortal soul. He feels himself much in the state that our first parents were after their fall. What Satan had promised them was indeed true in some sense: "their eyes were opened; and they did discern good and evil;" but it was good which they had lost, and evil which they had incurred. Ah! how unprofitable did their sin now appear! for one taste of the forbidden fruit to sacrifice their innocence and the favor of their God! If we contemplate their feelings when they were driven out of Paradise, we shall form some idea of what a penitent feels, when once he comes to a just apprehension of his state. His folly appears to him even greater than his guilt. He now begins to understand those words, "Madness is in their hearts while they live Ecclesiastes 9:3;" and he feels the full force of that pointed interrogation, "What fruit had you then of those things whereof you are now ashamed Romans 7:21."

That we may not be discouraged by this view of repentance, let us contemplate,

II. The benefits of it—

We have before assigned our reasons for declining to notice our text in reference to a recovery from bodily sickness: on that subject we could promise you nothing with any certainty: but in reference to spiritual benefits, we do not hesitate to promise you,

1. Deliverance from condemnation—

Besides "the pit" of the grave, there is also a pit into which sinners must be cast, even "the bottomless pit," the miserable abode of Satan and his angels Revelation 20:1-3. Into that pit your soul shall never come. The impenitent alone shall have their portion there. The word and oath of Jehovah are pledged to rescue you from thence. "He has found a ransom verse 24;" the ransom has been paid: and God (if we may so speak) would violate his engagements with his Son, if he were to spurn from his footstool one who came to him in the name of Jesus Romans 3:26. But you need not be afraid; for this is his own gracious declaration: "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness 1 John 1:9;" and again, "He who covers his sins shall not prosper; but whoever confesses and forsakes them shall have mercy Proverbs 28:13."

Perhaps from a retrospect of your past lives you may be led to fear that you have sinned beyond the reach of mercy: but there is no ground for despondency, even to the vilest of mankind: the blood of Christ is sufficient to cleanse from all sin, however heinous 1 John 1:7; and the promises of acceptance through him are so extensive as to preclude all possibility of doubt to those who humbly rely upon them Isaiah 1:18. John 6:37.

2. Exaltation to glory—

The light of God's reconciled countenance shall certainly be enjoyed by the penitent in this world; "his light shall rise in obscurity, and his darkness shall become as the noon-day." But who can conceive of that "light" which he shall enjoy in the world to come? The highest joys which the soul can experience here, are no more in comparison of Heaven, than a taper is of the meridian sun. There "the sun shall not be our light by day, neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto us; but the Lord shall be to us an everlasting light, and our God our glory. Our sun shall no more go down, neither shall our moon withdraw itself; but the Lord shall be our everlasting light, and the days of our mourning shall be ended Isaiah 60:19-20." There may be many dark nights, and tremendous storms, before we arrive at the full consummation of our happiness: but the word is sure, that "if we sow in tears we shall reap in joy Psalm 126:5-6."

We may learn from hence,

1. What encouragement we have to repent—

God represents himself in the text as "looking upon men;" he is looking continually to see if he can find an object towards whom he can exercise mercy consistently with the honor of his other perfections. The father, in the parable, is described as looking out, as it were, with an ardent desire for the return of his prodigal son, and as running towards him as soon as ever he beheld him a great way off. This gives us a just idea of the tender compassions of our God, who "wills not the death of any sinner, but rather that he should turn from his wickedness and live." We have a still livelier representation of this in the Prophet Jeremiah, Jeremiah 31:18; Jeremiah 31:20; and we may with great propriety conceive of God as looking wishfully upon us at this moment, and saying, "O that they would hearken unto my voice Psalm 81:13-16." "Will you not be made clean? When shall it once be Jeremiah 13:27." Be persuaded, my Brethren, that God is now "waiting to be gracious unto you:" and that if you turn unto him, he will have mercy upon you Isaiah 55:7, yes, he will make his "grace to abound even where sin has most abounded Romans 5:20."

2. How just will be the condemnation of the impenitent—

God's direction to every one of us is, "Only acknowledge your iniquity Jeremiah 3:13." And what can he require of you less than this? Would you yourselves forgive an offending child, while he obstinately refused to acknowledge his fault? What then will you say to God in the day of judgment, when he shall refuse to admit you into the regions of light and bliss, and shall consign your souls over to that bottomless pit, from which you made no effort to escape? How pungent will be the recollection of those invitations and promises which you now despise!: O do not by your obstinate impenitence make work for everlasting and unavailing sorrow. Do but call to mind the mercy given to David: the very instant he said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the Lord," Nathan was inspired to reply, "The Lord has put away your sin; you shall not die 2 Samuel 12:13." And this affecting incident David himself records for the encouragement of all to make supplication to their God: "I said, I will confess my sin unto the Lord; and so you forgave the iniquity of my sin Psalm 32:5." Surely if such an example joined to the gracious declarations in the text do not lead you to repentance, your mouths will be shut in the day of judgment, and (whatever you may now do) you will acknowledge your condemnation to be just.

 

 

Job 34:29

DISCOURSE 486

THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING IN FAVOR WITH GOD

Job 34:29. When he gives quietness, who then can make trouble? and when he hides his face, who then can behold him?

GOD orders and appoints all things throughout the universe. Nations are not so mighty as not to need his superintending care, nor are any individuals so insignificant as to be disregarded by him. The words immediately following the text show that the text itself is equally applicable to nations or to individuals. The history of the Jews is a striking comment on them in the former view. The experience of every man attests the truth of them in the latter view. Waving the less profitable consideration of the text, we observe,

I. None can trouble those whom God comforts—

God is pleased to bestow peculiar quietness on his own people—

He sprinkles their souls with the blood of his dear Son Hebrews 10:22; hence they enjoy peace with God, and in their own consciences Romans 5:1. By his Holy Spirit also he sheds abroad his love in their hearts Romans 5:5; hence they maintain a filial confidence towards him Romans 8:15-16. Moreover he convinces them of his own continual care over them Romans 8:28; hence their minds are established in the most trying circumstances Job 5:19-24.

This quietness is widely different from the false peace enjoyed by the world—

There is a kind of peace possessed even by the ungodly Luke 11:21, but it flows only from inconsiderateness or delusion; it vanishes as soon as light breaks in upon the soul: hence the wicked cannot be said to enjoy true and solid peace Isaiah 57:21. But the peace of God's people consists in a resignation to his will, affiance in his promises, assurance of his love, and an expectation of his glory: hence the Apostle speaks of it in the most exalted terms Philippians 4:7.

When God vouchsafes it to their souls, none can trouble them—

The question is much stronger than the strongest affirmation: it is a triumphant challenge to the whole universe It is not said here that none will endeavor to trouble the Believer; for it is certain that both the world and Satan will exert all their influence for this end; 2 Timothy 3:12. 1 Peter 5:8. Nor is it said that God's children shall never have cause for trouble, for they are liable to pain, sickness, etc. as much as others; but it is affirmed, that none shall greatly or materially trouble them; and this assertion is verified by daily experience. They who enjoy God's presence may disregard the pressures of poverty Habakkuk 3:17-18; nor will they be discouraged by the persecutions of man, or the temptations of Satan 2 Corinthians 12:9-10. Every child of God therefore may adopt the Apostle's words Romans 8:31; he may assume the triumphant language of Messiah himself Isaiah 1:7-9.

On the other hand, God's determinations are irresistible also with respect to his enemies; so that,

II. None can comfort those whom he troubles—

Though God does not leave it in the power of creatures to trouble his people, he does not see fit altogether to exempt them from trouble. He sometimes, for wise and gracious reasons, hides his face from them—

David had frequent occasion to lament the loss of God's presence Psalm 30:7; Psalm 13:1. It was a subject of complaint with the Church of old Isaiah 49:14. Even our Lord himself cried out by reason of dereliction Matthew 27:46. There is therefore an awful propriety in the prophet's address to God Isaiah 45:15.

Nor can any comfort them at such seasons The last clause of the text admits of two different interpretations: it may import, either that none can behold God with comfort, when he hides his face from them; or, that if God hide his face from any one, men will no longer look upon him, or at least that they cannot so look upon him as to impart comfort to him. The sense we adopt includes both, God will not, and men cannot, comfort those from whom God hides his face.—

Job speaks of himself as quite disconsolate under the hidings of God's face Job 3:23-24. David also describes the anguish of his heart on a similar occasion Psalm 102:1-11; and universal experience confirms the truth of Job's assertion Job 12:14.

The wicked, however, are more awfully exposed to these tokens of God's displeasure—

They are now indeed, for the most part, insensible of God's absence from them: but at the hour of death they will feel the whole weight of his indignation Romans 2:8-9. God will then assuredly hide his face from them, and bid them to depart from him Deuteronomy 32:20. Matthew 25:41.

And who will comfort them, when they are in such a tremendous state?

Sinners even here are often made utterly inconsolable This is awfully exemplified in Judas, Matthew 27:3-5; but, in the eternal world, GOD will afford them no comfort. The angels will certainly administer none The angels will rather be the executioners of God's vengeance, Matthew 13:41; nor can their fellow-creatures help them in the least Their wicked companions will only increase their misery, as may be inferred from the solicitude which the Rich Man manifested respecting the probable condemnation of his five brethren, Luke 16:27-28; and the righteous will not afford them so much as a drop of water to cool their tongue, Luke 16:24-25. They cannot derive any comfort from reflections on the past; nor can they find consolation in their prospects of the future. Thus can they find no comfort from without, or from within.

APPLICATION—

1. To those who are seeking rest and quietness in the world—

 

 

How poor a portion is the world in comparison with God! and how absurd would it appear if any one should affirm of the world what is here affirmed respecting God Should any one ask, 'If the world comfort me, who can trouble me?' we answer, without fear of contradiction, 'Conscience, I## awakened by God, may trouble you; pain and sickness may disquiet you; the prospect of death may appal you; and, above all, the wrath of God shall trouble you forever, if you continue to seek your happiness in the world.' If, on the contrary, any one say, 'When the world troubles me, who can comfort me?' we may refer him to that unalterable declaration of the prophet, Isaiah 26:3. Let every one then acquiesce in the decision of Solomon Ecclesiastes 1:14; and let Christ be regarded as the true and only source of rest Matthew 11:28.

 

2. To those who now enjoy quietness in God—

Peace, however firmly established at present, may soon be lost: it can be maintained only in a way of holiness Isaiah 32:17. Sin indulged will cause God to hide his face from us. This is the true source of the disquietudes which many feel Isaiah 59:2. Let all therefore mortify secret and besetting sins. In this way they shall attain happiness in life, in death, and forever Psalm 119:165 and 2 Peter 1:10-11.

 

 

Job 35:10

 

DISCOURSE 487

THE IMPIETY AND FOLLY OF MANKIND

Job 35:10. None says, Where is God my Maker, who gives songs in the night?

IN investigating so deep a mystery as that of, what is generally called, the doctrine of the Trinity, we ought, beyond all doubt, to look for clear and solid ground whereon to found our judgment: and happily there is ample proof, throughout the whole Scriptures, that, though there is but one God, there is in the Godhead a distinction of persons, who are severally revealed to us as possessing all the attributes of Deity. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, are represented as concurring in the great work of Redemption; the Father sending his Son into the world; the Son laying down his life for us; and the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father and the Son, to apply that redemption to our souls: and this distinction is especially recognized by every one that is received into the Christian Church; every one being, by the express command of Christ himself, baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

In so important a doctrine as this we may reasonably expect to find that, though the clear and full manifestation of it might be reserved for the Messiah some intimations of it should be given from the beginning of the world. Accordingly, we find that, at the very creation of man, the Sacred Three consulted, if I may so speak, with each other, in reference to this matter: "And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness Genesis 1:26." Again, when man had fallen, and the punishment denounced against transgression was to be inflicted on him, the same concert between them is marked: "And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil Genesis 3:22." In like manner, when, after the Deluge, the inhabitants of the earth were devising a plan for their own consolidation and aggrandizement, and God determined to defeat it, the language used by Jehovah on the occasion was precisely similar: "The Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the children of men built. And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them which they have imagined to do. Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language Genesis 11:5-7." Moreover, in many passages where God is mentioned, his name is put in the plural number; as when it is said, "Remember your Creator in the days of your youth," it is in the original. "Remember your Creators Ecclesiastes 12:1." And the noun thus plural is often united to a singular verb: thus it is said, "Your Makers is your husband Isaiah 54:5;" and again in my text, "None says, Where is God, my Makers?"

The particular occasion on which my text was spoken seems to have been this. All of Job's friends interpreted his expressions in a way more unfavorable than truth or equity required. Elihu, after doing this in numerous instances, specifies, as a further proof of Job's supposed impiety, that he had complained of God, as not attending to the cry of the oppressed, either in his own case or in that of others Alluding probably to what Job had said in chapter 24:12. in reference to others; and in 19:7 and 30:20. in reference to himself. In answer to which, Elihu says, that this arose from the people themselves, who under their troubles complained and murmured, but never, in a becoming manner, inquired after God, to seek relief from him. Now, in this answer, as containing a general and a very important truth, Elihu marks, in very strong characters, the impiety and folly of ungodly men: but, in the answer, as intimating also a plurality of persons in the Godhead, there is an extraordinary force, which places their guilt in a most aggravated point of view.

That we may exhibit this truth in its just light, we shall proceed to mark distinctly the impiety and folly of ungodly men. And,

I. Their impiety—

The assertion must, of course, be limited to unconverted men: but of all classes of them, without exception, it is true. Paul, showing that all, whether Jews or Gentiles, are alike under sin, cites a variety of passages to prove his point, and which fully prove also the declaration in my text: "It is written, There is none righteous, no not one: there is none that understands; there is none that seeks after God: they are all gone out of the way; they are together become unprofitable; there is none that does good, no not one Romans 3:9-12." Humiliating as this description of human nature is, it is strictly true, in reference to every unconverted man: there is none that has any sense,

1. Of duty to God—

Men will acknowledge that there is a Supreme Being; and that they owe him allegiance as their Creator and Governor: but, practically, they pay no regard to his authority whatever. His Law is no law to them: they take no pains to ascertain his will: and, if it be stated to them as the rule of their conduct, they pour contempt upon it, and set it at nothing, and determine to regulate themselves by a standard of their own. The language of their hearts is, "Our lips are our own: who is Lord over us Psalm 12:4." "As for the word which is spoken to us in the name of the Lord, we will not obey it Jeremiah 44:16;" but we will certainly do whatever comes into our own mind, and "will walk every one of us, after the imagination of his own evil heart Jeremiah 18:12;" "We know not the Lord; neither will we obey his voice Exodus 5:2."

If this statement appear too strong, look around you, and see where you can find persons truly and abidingly influenced by the fear of God. Truly, whatever appearance of that principle there may be in some who are more religiously inclined, "it is no other fear of God than what is taught by the precept of men Isaiah 29:13;" the true vital principle itself is found in none but those who have been "renewed in the spirit of their minds" by the power of the Holy Spirit Ephesians 4:23.

2. Of dependence on him—

As men will acknowledge the existence of God, so will they, in words, confess his providence also. But who receives everything as from God? Who looks to him to order everything in his behalf! Who realizes the idea, that not a sparrow falls to the ground without the special appointment of God? Who has not his attention so fixed on second causes, as almost to overlook the First great Cause of all? It is undeniable, that men are universally "leaning to their own understanding," or "making flesh their arm," or "saying to the fine gold, You are my confidence:" and that, to be satisfied with all that God does, and, in the absence of all human help, to trust simply and confidently in him, is an attainment far out of the reach of the natural man, whoever he may be.

3. Of desire after him—

Where do we ever hear the language of the Psalmist? "O God, you are my God; early will I seek you: my soul thirsts for you; my flesh longs for you in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is, that I may behold your power and glory, like as I have seen you in the sanctuary Psalm 63:1-2." Does "the hunted deer, panting after the water-brooks, justly represent the desires of men's souls for God Psalm 42:1-2." Does their delight in his word, or their earnestness in prayer, or their contempt of all sublunary good, evince that God is indeed the chief object of their desire? Where shall we find the people who can with truth make that appeal to God, "Whom have I in Heaven but you? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides you Psalm 73:25." The truth is, that they are content to live "without God in the world Ephesians 2:12;" that "he is not in all their thoughts Psalm 10:4;" and that, if they were to be assured that there was no such Being in existence, it would give them no concern at all: they would sleep as soundly, and eat their food as pleasantly, and spend the morrow as cheerfully, as if no such information had been given them: yes, rather, instead of occasioning them any pain, it would accord with what God himself declares to be the wish of their hearts; "The fool has said in his heart, No God Psalm 14:1."

A more distinct view of our text will further exhibit to us,

II. Their folly—

It is the peculiar prerogative of God to "give songs in the night"—

This is the office, and this the blessed employment, of each person in the Sacred Trinity. The Father, as the source and fountain of all good, is, to all who seek him, a "God of grace, and of all consolation," "forgiving all their sins, healing all their diseases redeeming their lives from destruction, and crowning them with mercy and loving-kindness." The Lord Jesus Christ as our Great High-Priest, sprinkles his own precious blood on the soul of the repenting sinner, and "gives him beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness." The Holy Spirit also will descend and dwell in the contrite soul, to revive and comfort it: with those also who are bowed down through manifold temptations, to support them with great might, and to make them victorious over all their enemies. Indeed our Triune God assumes to himself that endearing name, "The God that comforts all them that are cast down 2 Corinthians 7:6." There is no tribulation so heavy, but he can make our consolations to abound above all our afflictions 2 Corinthians 1:4-5. Behold Paul and Silas when in prison, their backs torn with scourges, and their feet made fast in the stocks; that was certainly to them a night of deep affliction: yet, so far were they from being dejected, that "at midnight, with a loud voice, they sang praises to their God, insomuch that all who were in the prison heard them Acts 16:25." And thus will God support all his afflicted people: he will cause "light to arise unto them in darkness," yes, and in the darkest night, "will himself be a light unto them."

But where besides shall we find a God that can do this? As for "the gods of the Heathen, they cannot do either good or evil:" and all the creatures in the universe are no better than "broken cisterns, which can hold no water." With God alone "is the fountain of life; and in his light alone shall we see light Psalm 36:9."

Yet is this consideration wholly insufficient to stir up their desires after him—

Though God would be a Father unto them, and treat them as his sons and daughters, they will not seek his face: and though the Lord Jesus Christ would wash away their sins, and clothe them in the robe of his own unspotted righteousness, they will not follow after him: and, though the Holy Spirit would accomplish in them the whole work of salvation, they will not implore his gracious influences. The vanities of time and sense they will seek with avidity: but after God they will not inquire, nor will they use the appointed means to obtain his favor.

Now, what extreme folly is this! For, however long their day of prosperity may be, there must come at last a night of affliction; since "man is born to trouble, as the sparks fly upward." And what will they do when the night shall arrive? To whom will they flee for support? or where will they find any solid consolation? Even "in the midst of their sufficiency they are in straits:" and "in the midst of laughter their heart is in heaviness." What, then, will they do, when all created comforts shall vanish, and God himself shall frown upon them? What will they have to comfort them in a time of sickness? what under the guilt of an accusing conscience, and under the apprehensions of God's impending wrath? What comforters will they find then? Who will brighten their prospects then? Whatever satisfactions they may have found in the day, who will give them "songs in the night?" Above all, who will console them under the loss of Heaven; or administer to them in Hell one drop of water to cool their tongue? Truly, the neglect of such a God, who is the only and the all-sufficient source of all good, is nothing short of madness itself: as it is said, "Madness is in their heart while they live; and, after that, they go to the dead Ecclesiastes 9:3."

ADDRESS—

1. To those who are yet in the sunshine of prosperity—

You, under your present circumstances, feel no need of God: and you can sing, as it were, all the day long. But will night never come? Will the period never arrive when you shall say, 'Oh that I had God for my Friend! Oh that I had God for my Portion!?' You cannot but know that that time must come; and that, if your day close before the Sun of Righteousness has arisen upon you, it were better for you never to have been born. Why, then, will you delay to seek the Lord? Why will you not turn, and inquire early after God? Why will you not be as wise for eternity as others are for the concerns of time? You see persons anxious enough to provide for their bodily wants: why will you not be careful for your souls? Were God held forth to you only as a Governor and a Judge, you should want no further inducement to seek his favor: for you cannot but know that "it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." But, when God is set forth to you under the endearing characters of a Father, a Savior, a Comforter, how can you withstand his invitations to accept of mercy? Hear how he himself expostulates with you on your impiety and folly: "O generations, see you the word of the Lord! Have I been a wilderness unto Israel? a land of darkness? Why say my people, We are lords; we will come no more unto you? Jeremiah 2:31." Dear Brethren, delay not any longer to turn unto your God: provoke him not utterly to depart from you, and to "swear in his wrath that you shall never enter into his rest:" but "seek you the Lord while he may be found; call you upon him while he is near."

2. To those who are in the night-season of adversity—

Tell me, Beloved, whether, on a supposition that you have truly sought the Lord, you have not found him a present, "a very present help in the time of trouble?" Has he not been ready to hear your every prayer, and to supply your every want? and has not the light of his countenance been abundantly sufficient to turn all your sorrows into joy? Has he not enabled you even to "glory in tribulation," yes, and to "take pleasure" in the heaviest calamities, because of the augmented consolations and supports which they have been the means of bringing into your soul 2 Corinthians 12:10. You, then, are witnesses for God, that he "gives songs in the night," and that he is worthy of all possible love and adoration and praise. This is the state in which the Lord's people should be. When you can say, as his Church of old, "In the way of your judgments, O Lord, have we waited for you; the desire of our soul is to your name, and to the remembrance of you; with my soul have I desired you in the night; and with my spirit within me will I seek you early;" then it is well with your soul: whatever your outward circumstances may be, you are, and must be, happy: no increase of corn or wine or oil could put such gladness into your hearts as that which you experience in the light of your Redeemer's countenance. Go on, then, and "let your light shine more and more unto the perfect day." And may "the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ your Savior, and the love of God your Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit your Comforter," yes, may all the richest communications of our Triune God, be ever with you! Amen and Amen.

 

 

Job 35:14

 

DISCOURSE 488

THE SOURCE AND REMEDY OF DESPONDING FEARS

Job 35:14. Although you say you shall not see him, yet judgment is before him: therefore trust you in him.

IN controversy there is need of the utmost candor; nor without it can we ever hope for a favorable issue. The friends of Job were grievously defective in it; and therefore utterly failed, either to convince him, or to be convinced themselves. But Elihu, who was an attentive auditor of the dispute, and who, on account of his youth, judged it indecorous to offer his sentiments until he saw that his elders were silenced, took up the matter with incomparably better temper and judgment, and, instead of bringing railing and unfounded accusations as the others had done, called Job's attention to many expressions he had used, and endeavored to convince him out of his own mouth. This was wise, and well adapted to the end proposed: and it is observable, that when God reproved the manner in which the other three had conducted the controversy, he said nothing to the disparagement of Elihu, nor required any sacrifice on his account.

It is certain that Job, though far from being a hypocrite, as his friends had represented him, had not always spoken quite advisedly with his lips. His self-justification had been occasionally too strong, and his complaints of God's conduct towards him somewhat irreverent: he had yielded also too much to despondency. He had complained that he could not understand God's dealings with him, and that he had no hope or prospect of deliverance from his troubles Job 23:8-9. This is noticed by Elihu in the words before us; and the proper remedy for such desponding fears is pointed out to him: "although you say you shall not see God, yet judgment is before him; therefore trust you in him;" that is, Place in God that confidence he deserves; and all will yet be well.

From the words thus explained we shall be led to consider,

I. The source of desponding fears—

There is far more of despondency in men than is generally supposed: perhaps it is, as much as any other thing whatever, a ground of their continuing impenitent in their sins.

The ostensible ground of men's fears is usually a sense of the extreme difficulty of their case—

Thus it was with Israel at the Red Sea, at the waters of Marah, at the borders of Canaan also, when the spies represented the cities as impregnable, and the inhabitants as irresistible. Thus it was even with the pious Hezekiah, when his sickness appeared to be unto death Isaiah 38:10-13; and thus it is with multitudes among ourselves, who imagine that their circumstances are so calamitous, as to be beyond the reach of any remedy. More particularly is this the case with persons under spiritual trouble: they are apt to imagine, that their sins are unpardonable, and that their corruptions are too inveterate ever to be subdued.

The real ground is a low apprehension of the perfections of their God—

This is the interpretation which God himself puts on the unbelieving fears of his people. When Sarah laughed at the promise made to her, the answer was, "Is there anything too hard for the Lord?" and the complaint of God against the unbelieving Israelites was, that "they limited the Holy One of Israel." In fact, a just view of God's perfections would silence all fears: for if his wisdom, his power, his love, his faithfulness be really infinite, we have nothing to do, but to repose our confidence in him, and we are safe.

But it is a small thing to know the source of desponding fears, unless we apply,

II. The remedy—

This is prescribed in the words of our text:

1. Contemplate God—

What we are to understand by that expression, "Judgment is before him," may be ascertained by consulting a similar passage in the prophet Isaiah Isaiah 30:18. He will do nothing but what is right and good; nor will he omit anything which it becomes him to do.

Consider what he has done in a way of power and grace: and is he not the same God as ever?

Consider what he has engaged to do: is there anything that we can need, which is not made over to us by an express promise? Has he not said, that "his grace shall be sufficient for us;" that "we shall have no temptation without a way to escape;" that "as our day is, so shall our strength be;" that "he will give grace and glory, and withhold no good thing" from his believing people? "Has he then said these things, and will he not do them? has he spoken, and will he not make them good?"

Consider, above all, the gift of his only dear Son! What else will he, or can he, withhold from us Romans 8:32. Surely he will be "a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shadow from the heat, when the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against the wall Isaiah 25:4."

Did we but duly consider his glorious perfections as already exercised for his people, and as specially pledged to be exercised for us, we should never entertain a doubt of his constant and effectual care. "His name would be to us as a strong tower, to which we should run and be safe."

2. Trust in him—

"They that know his name will trust in him:" and to trust in him is the certain way to dissipate all fear. See how a confidence in God operated in the case of David Psalm 46:1-3; Psalm 11:1-4; and the same effect will it produce in us: "if we commit our ways to him, our very thoughts" (which are by nature fluctuating as the wind) "shall be established." This, then, is what we must do: we must "cast all our care on Him who cares for us." It is the very direction which God himself gives to "those who walk in darkness and have no light Isaiah 50:10;" and if we follow this direction, "God will keep us in perfect peace Isaiah 26:3;" and we shall be as Mount Zion, which cannot be removed, but stands fast forever Psalm 125:1."

ADDRESS—

1. To those who overlook difficulties—

This is the habit of men in general: and hence it is that they are so much at their ease. But it is no easy matter to turn to God aright. To repent and to believe in Christ are works far beyond the ability of man; nor can any man do either the one or the other, but by the influence of the Holy Spirit Acts 5:31. Philippians 1:29. O let this be duly weighed! Let us remember, that "we cannot even say that Jesus is the Lord," (we cannot feelingly and believingly say it) "but by the Holy Spirit 1 Corinthians 12:3;" and let us not delay one hour to seek his effectual aid.

2. To those who unduly magnify them—

We certainly magnify our difficulties too much, when we deem them insuperable: for "the things that are impossible with man are possible with God." See the state of Jonah in the whale's belly: could any condition be conceived more hopeless? Yet from thence did he cry; and his prayer entered into the ears of the Lord of Hosts Jon. 2:1-7. Thus let us "never stagger at the promises of God through unbelief, but be strong in faith, giving glory to God Romans 4:20." The greater our difficulties, let our application to him be the more earnest, and our expectations of his gracious interposition be the more enlarged: "Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all you that hope in the Lord Psalm 31:24."

 

 

Job 36:13

 

DISCOURSE 489

HYPOCRISY EXPOSED

Job 36:13. The hypocrites in heart heap up wrath.

SUFFERINGS are to the soul what the furnace is to gold; they serve to ascertain the measure of its purity or its corruption. If under the pressure of them we humble ourselves before God, and correct whatever we may find to have been amiss, they will promote at once the renovation of our nature, and the honor of him by whose gracious providence they are laid upon us: but, if we murmur at them, and rebel against our God, they will betray a heart unsound and hypocritical. As to the measure of temporal advantage that shall accrue to those who patiently endure the Lord's will, or to the temporal miseries that shall be sustained by hypocrites, we apprehend that Elihu, as well as the three friends of Job, was, though in a less measure than they, mistaken: but as to the eternal consequences of uprightness or hypocrisy, he was perfectly correct: "The hypocrites in heart heap up wrath."

This expression is deserving of the most attentive consideration. But so to delineate the hypocrisy of the heart, as neither to encourage an undue confidence by distinctions that are inadequate, nor to wound the feelings of the upright by too refined distinctions, is a work of great difficulty. We will however, in dependence on God's help, attempt it; and will proceed to describe,

I. The characters here mentioned—

The heart is the seat both of uprightness and hypocrisy: the upright are "the upright in heart;" and the hypocrites, "the hypocrites in heart." Of those whose hypocrisy is gross and glaring, we shall forbear to speak See two most extraordinary instances; Ishmael. Jeremiah 41:2-7, (N. B. his weeping); and Johanan, Jeremiah 42:1-6; Jeremiah 42:20. We will rather draw your attention to those whose religion is,

1. Formal and vain-glorious—

The religion of many consists in an outward respect for certain forms, which, though not necessary in themselves, they think it expedient to observe, in order to maintain a reputation for piety, and to set a good example to the lower orders of the community. Different degrees of strictness obtain among them in relation to these things: some of a more zealous cast, say, as it were, "Come, and see my zeal for the Lord:" while others are contented with the round of duties, to satisfy their own consciences, and to enable them to say, "What lack I more?" But in all this there is nothing of regard for God: it is hypocrisy altogether: and hence our blessed Lord, speaking of such characters, says, "You hypocrites, well did Isaiah prophesy of you, saying, This people draw near unto me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me Matthew 15:7-8."

2. Partial and temporary—

Certain occasions sometimes arise to excite men to diligence in seeking after God: and, if the making of some particular sacrifices would suffice, they would willingly pay the price. But to "follow the Lord fully," to give up themselves to him without reserve, to "be steadfast and immoveable, and always abounding in the work of the world," this is more than they can consent to: and, when required to do these things, they, like the Rich Youth in the Gospel, renounce all hope in Christ, rather than forego the things to which their carnal hearts are more attached. Under the pressure of some heavy affliction, they are like men in a storm; who will rather throw overboard their provisions and the tackling of the ship, than suffer the ship to sink: but they cast not out their sins on account of the hatred they bear to them, but only from an apprehension, that, if not cast away, they will operate to the destruction of their souls: and, when the storm is over, they will be as ready as ever to return to their former habits. But all this argues an unsoundness of principle; and proceeds from hypocrisy in the heart. So the Scriptures uniformly declare Hosea 5:15; Hosea 6:4; Hosea 7:16. Isaiah 26:16. Psalm 78:34-37. See especially Job 27:8-10; and so it will assuredly be found in the last day Matthew 7:22-23.

3. Weak and ineffectual—

The object of all religion is to renew and sanctify the soul: and if it produce not this effect, it is of no avail. The delivering us from gross immoralities is but half its work: it must purge the soul from all allowed evil, of whatever kind it be. If our religion prevail not to overcome our high thoughts of ourselves Habakkuk 2:4, and uncharitable censures of others Matthew 7:3-5; if it do not enable us to govern and control our tongues James 1:26, and indeed to rescue us from the dominion of every known sin, we are under a delusion, and deceive ourselves to our eternal ruin Mark 9:43-48. It matters not how high our pretensions may have been, or how exalted our reputation; the mask will at last be taken from our face, and our degradation be proportioned to the eminence from which we fall Job 20:4-7 with 33:14. The stony-ground hearers are not saved by their transient joys; nor are the thorny-ground hearers accepted on account of their stinted fruits: those only approve themselves truly upright, who bring forth fruit unto perfection, and "have respect unto all the commandments Matthew 13:19-23. Psalm 119:6."

Little are such characters aware, what is indeed,

II. Their melancholy employment—

Every sinner may properly be said to be "treasuring up wrath against the day of wrath Romans 2:5;" but this is more particularly the case with hypocrites; because,

1. Their sins are more heinous than those of others—

They are more insulting to the Majesty of heaven.—The sins of all are heinous, inasmuch as they trample on the authority of God: but hypocrites pour contempt upon him: they say, in their hearts, 'Tush, God shall not see: "the thick clouds are a covering to him:" he cannot discern good from evil, but may be imposed on, like any of us.' But how offensive must such thoughts be to the heart-searching God! and how greatly must they aggravate the guilt of any sins committed by us!

They are also more injurious to the Divine honor.—Those who make no profession of religion may do what they will, and God is not dishonored, any farther than as his authority is set at nothing: but when a man pretending to be religious betrays his hypocrisy, the world cry out against God himself, "blaspheming his holy name 2 Samuel 12:14," and calumniating his blessed Gospel 2 Peter 2:2.

They are also more destructive to our fellow-creatures.—Sins committed by others, pass unheeded; but committed by them, are made stumbling-blocks to the whole world. It is surprising how the ungodly triumph on such occasions; 'There, there, so would we have it! they are all hypocrites alike; religion is only an empty name; and they are most honest and most to be depended on, who discard it altogether.'

Thus the sins of hypocrites are really more aggravated as to their guilt than others, and therefore they entail on those who commit them a heavier condemnation.

2. Their best actions, as well as their worst, augment their guilt before God—

If they come into the house of God, and offer the most costly sacrifices, they still only heap up wrath against the day of wrath Proverbs 21:27. God abhors their very best services Isaiah 1:11-15, and accounts them no better than "the cutting off a dog's neck, or offering him swine's' blood Isaiah 66:3." Their most common actions also, which have no reference to religion, are hateful to him: "the very ploughing of the wicked is sin Proverbs 21:4." Thus wherever they are, and whatever they do, they are only swelling the number of their sins, and treasuring up for themselves a more accumulated load of misery to all eternity. Unhappy people! they think, perhaps, or may even be confident, that all is well with them; while yet their one employment is to add sin to sin in this world, and misery to misery in the world to come. And hence the portion of hypocrites is represented as that which is more terrible than any that will be assigned to any other class of sinners whatever Matthew 24:51.

Infer,

1. What need is there for self-examination!

This is the improvement which God himself teaches us to make of this subject Galatians 6:3-5. O search and try yourselves with all possible care; and, knowing how deceitful the heart is, beg of God to "search and try it" for you, that you may "see if there be any wicked way in you, and may be led in the way everlasting Psalm 139:23-24."

2. How earnestly should we pray for the renewing influences of the Holy Spirit!

So did David Psalm 51:10; and so should we do. The old nature, however corrected, is corrupt still: we must be "created anew in Christ Jesus," and "be renewed in the spirit of our minds." To "take away the heart of stone, and to give us hearts of flesh," is God's work. O cry to him for it: and be not satisfied with "a name to live, while you are really dead" lest, like the Foolish Virgins, you be found destitute of that grace, which can alone prepare you for the coming of the heavenly Bridegroom.

3. How happy are they who have experienced a work of grace in their souls!

These are accepted in all that they do; their prayers, their tears, their sighs, their groans, yes, their very thoughts, are all recorded in the book of God's remembrance, and shall be brought forth to augment the eternal weight of glory provided for them Psalm 15:1-2 with Malachi 3:16-17. You, then, who are cleaving with full purpose of heart unto the Lord, and striving really to glorify him in all things, rejoice in the prospects that are before you: and "keep your hearts with all diligence," that you may be found "Israelites indeed, in whom is no deceit," and "may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God."

 

 

Job 40:2

 

DISCOURSE 490

SIN OF REPROVING GOD

Job 40:2. He who reproves God, let him answer it.

JOB'S friends had failed of convincing his mind. And no wonder; for they adopted not any line of argument fitted to that end. Job was faulty, exceeding faulty, before God, though not in the way that his friends imagined. He had complained of God in very irreverent and unhallowed terms. He had complained of God as "multiplying his wounds without cause Job 9:17." He had even condemned God as an oppressor: "I will say unto God, Do not condemn me: show me why you contend with me. Is it good unto you that you should oppress, that you should despise the work of your hands, and shine upon the counsel of the wicked? You inquire after mine iniquity, and search after my sin. You know I am not wicked Job 10:2-3; Job 10:6-7." He even challenges God to a dispute respecting the equity of his own proceedings, not doubting but that, if God will only give him leave to plead his own cause, without oppressing him by his power, he shall prove God himself to be in error concerning him: "Withdraw your hand far from me; and let not your dread make me afraid: then call you, and I will answer; or let me speak, and answer you me Job 13:21-22." In reply to all this, God takes up the cause: and, with an immediate reference to such expressions as I have already cited, he says, "He who reproves God, let him answer it."

Now, as it may be thought that there are none at this day so presumptuous as to "reprove God," I will inquire,

I. Who they are that are obnoxious to this charge—

Impious as such conduct is, there are multitudes who are guilty of it.

1. Those who dispute his word—

None but the truly humble either do or will receive the word of God without gainsaying. To some it is too sublime, containing doctrines which human reason cannot comprehend: to others it is too simple, offering salvation by faith alone, without any deeds of the Law. To others, again, its precepts are too strict, requiring more than man can perform; while, on the other hand, its promises are too free, seeing that a man has nothing to do but to rest upon them, and they shall all be fulfilled to him.

But, of all people under Heaven, there are none who so systematically and openly blaspheme the word of God as the Papists do. They deny its sufficiency for the instruction of men in the way of life, and put on a footing of equality with it their own unwritten traditions. And even its suitableness, also, do their deny; affirming that, if indiscriminately read by the laity, "it will do more harm than good." If it be in any translation of the Protestants, they denounce it as "a deadly pasture," that will destroy the flock; and as "the devil's gospel," which, whoever has "the presumption to read without the permission of the priest, he shall never receive absolution from the priest; and, as far as the priest can prevail, he shall perish forever under the guilt of all his sins All this is affirmed by the present Pope, in his charge to all the Popish Bishops and Clergy throughout the world, given in 1824. What is all this, but to "reprove God," and to say to him, "You have revealed your word in away unsuitable to the necessities of your people, and unfit for their perusal?" This the priests declare, even respecting their own translations of the Bible: and they accordingly take the Bible out of the hands of the laity, and suffer none to read it without their special permission. I marvel that there can be found upon the face of the whole earth persons that will submit to such impious, such deadly, tyranny as this. But this whole Church shall answer for it, before long.

2. Those who arraign his providence—

Here, again, will every man be found guilty before God. It is no uncommon thing to hear even persons who bear the Christian name speaking of luck, and fortune, and chance, exactly as if there were no God in Heaven, or as if there were things beyond his reach and control. And, when afflictions are multiplied upon us, how commonly do we repine and murmur against God, instead of saying, as we ought, "The cup which my Father has given me, shall I not drink it?" Perhaps it will be said, that our complaints are not so much made against God as against those who are the immediate instruments of our affliction. But the creature, whoever he may be, is only a "rod," a "staff," a "sword," in Jehovah's hands: and, though God leaves men to the unrestrained operation of their own corrupt hearts, he overrules everything they do for the accomplishment of his own will. Even the crucifixion of our blessed Lord was "in accordance with God's determinate counsel and will Acts 2:23; Acts 4:28;" "nor is there evil in the city, but it must be traced to God as the doer of it Amos. 3:6," so far, at least, at the sufferer is concerned. And us Moses, when the people murmured against him and Aaron, told them that their murmurings were in reality against God himself Exodus 16:7-8, so must I say, that murmuring of every kind, against whoever or whatever it be directed, is," in fact, a reproving of God himself, without whom not a sparrow falls to the ground, nor does so much as a hair fall from our heads.

3. Those who condemn his grace—

The sovereignty of God, in the disposal of his blessings, is more especially offensive to the proud heart of man. We arrogate to ourselves a right to dispense our favors to whoever we will: but we deny that right to God. Paul places this in a very striking point of view. God had said by the Prophet, "Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated," Paul, then, arguing with a proud objector, replies, "What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. For he says to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So, then, it is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy. For the Scripture says unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore has he mercy on whom he will have mercy; and whom he will, he hardens. You will say, then, unto me, Why, then, does he yet find fault? for who has resisted his will? Nay but, O man, who are you that replies against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why have you made me thus? Has not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel to honor and another to dishonor Romans 9:13-21." Here is the very point both stated and answered. Man's proneness to call in question the grace of God is here affirmed, and is plainly declared to be a reproving of God himself.

Seeing, then, that so many are obnoxious to the charge here exhibited, I will show,

II. What is meant by the warning here given them—

I have before noticed Job's challenge to Jehovah to answer him. Now God, in reply, bids the offender, if he can, to answer him. But there are only two ways in which any answer can be given: it must either be in a way of self-approving vindication, or in a way of self-abasing humiliation. Let the answer, then, be heard,

1. In a way of self-approving vindication—

To return such an answer as this, a man must maintain these three points: God is bound to consult me in what he does—I am competent to sit in judgment on his proceedings—I know, better than God himself does, what it becomes him to do. But who can maintain these points, and make them good against God? Let the two preceding chapters be read, and it will soon appear what claim man has upon God: from whom he derived his very existence, and who keeps him in existence every breath he draws: As to judging of God's ways, as well might a peasant sit in judgment on the works of the greatest statesman or philosopher. Who among us would submit to have all his views and pursuits criticized by a child that has just learned to speak? Yet, that were wise and commendable in comparison of our presuming to sit in judgment upon God. And, when a taper can add to the light of the meridian sun, then may we hope to counsel God, how best to govern the world, and how most effectually to advance his own glory.

If, then, we cannot make good our own cause against God, then must we answer him,

2. In a way of self-abasing humiliation—

It was in this way that Job replied. "Then Job answered the Lord, and said, Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer you? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth. Once have I spoken; but I will not answer; yes, twice; but I will proceed no further verse 3, 4." So again, afterwards; "I have uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not. Why I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes Job 42:3; Job 42:6." O Brethren! this is the answer for every one of us to give: for "God will assuredly be justified in all that he has done, and will be clear when he is judged Psalm 51:4." He will vindicate his own honor, and put to silence every proud objector.

Instead of reproving God, therefore, in future, let this be the habit of our minds: let us, under all circumstances, maintain a humble affiance in his goodness, and a meek submission to his will. This is our duty, our interest, our happiness. We expect as much as this from our own children: and shall we manifest less regard for God, than we, poor fallible creatures, exact from them? Let us lie as clay in the hands of our all-wise, all-gracious God, and leave him to perfect his work in his own way; having no anxiety in our minds, but to fulfill his will and to glorify his name. It was by a very circuitous route that he brought the Israelites to Canaan: but we are told, "He led them by the right way." And we, whatever trials we may meet with in this wilderness, shall, in "the end," have the same reason to glorify our God as Job himself had James 5:11, and as all the saints have had from the beginning of the world.

 

 

Job 40:4

 

DISCOURSE 491

TRUE HUMILIATION

Job 40:4. Behold, I am vile!

THESE are the words of a man whom God had pronounced "perfect and upright." As a fallen descendant of Adam, he partook of the corruption of our common nature: but as a child of God, he was one of the most eminent of all the human race. It may be thought, indeed, that this confession of his proved him to have been guilty of some enormous crime; but it evinced rather his great advancement in the divine life, and his utter abhorrence of all evil. Doubtless there was just occasion for this acknowledgment, because he had transgressed with his lips in arraigning the conduct of Providence towards him: but, if they were suited to his case, much more are they so to all those who possess not his high attainments.

We shall consider the words as expressing,

I. A discovery then made—

Job had certainly low views of himself upon the whole Job 9:20; Job 9:30-31; yet he had spoken in too unqualified terms in vindication of his own character Job 10:6-7; Job 16:17. Instances of this Elihu had brought to his remembrance Job 32:2; Job 33:8-12; Job 35:2; and God himself testified against him in this respect Job 38:2; Job 40:2-8. Job had repeatedly expressed his wish, that God would admit him, as it were, to a conference; and had expressed his confidence that he could maintain his cause before him Job 23:1-5; Job 31:35-37; but now that God did interpose, he saw how much he had erred, and that all his former confidence was presumption. He now saw,

1. That his conduct had been sinful—

Being conscious of the integrity of his heart, in relation to the things which his friends had laid to his charge, he had done right in maintaining his innocence before them: but he had erred in maintaining it to the extent he did; he had erred in imagining that he had not merited at God's hands the calamities inflicted on him; and, above all, in complaining of God as acting unjustly and cruelly towards him. These workings of his heart he now saw to be exceeding sinful, as betraying too high thoughts of himself, and great irreverence towards the God of Heaven and earth, "in whose sight the very heavens are not clean, and who charges his angels with folly." This sin therefore he now bitterly bewailed.

2. That his whole heart was sinful—

He did not view his conduct as a mere insulated act; but took occasion, from the fruit which had been produced, to examine the root from which it sprang. He now traced the bitter waters to their fountain-head, and discovered thereby the bitterness of the spring from whence they flowed. This was altogether a new discovery to him: he had no conception how desperately wicked his heart was, and that the evils he had committed would have broke forth with ten thousand times greater violence, if they had not been restrained by the grace of God. The rebellion of which he had been guilty now proved indisputably to him, that he was of himself as prone to sin as any of the human race, and that, if he differed from the vilest of mankind, he had nothing to boast of, since he had not made himself to differ, nor did he possess anything which he had not received as the free gift of God 1 Corinthians 4:7. This is the true way of estimating any individual sin Psalm 51:3; Psalm 51:5. Mark 7:21; Mark 7:23; and in this way alone shall we ever attain a just knowledge of ourselves.

But we must further view his words as expressing,

II. An acknowledgment of the truth then discovered—

"Out of the abundance of his heart his mouth spoke." Feeling his sinfulness, it was an ease, rather than a pain, to him to confess it before God and man. Behold here,

1. The ingenuousness of his confession—

Here were no excuses made, nor any suggestions offered to extenuate his guilt. He might have pleaded the weight of his sufferings, and the falseness of the accusations brought against him: but he saw that nothing can excuse sin; and that, whatever palliatives may be adduced to lessen its enormity in the sight of man, it is most hateful in the sight of God, and ought to abase us in the dust before him. That his sin on this occasion was an exception to his general conduct, did not at all change, in his estimation, the malignity of it: on the contrary, the enormity of it would appear in proportion to the mercies he had before received, and to the profession of piety he had before maintained.

Now thus it is that we also should acknowledge our vileness before God. Doubtless there may be circumstances which may greatly aggravate our transgressions; and these it will be at all times proper to notice: but it is never wise to look on the side that leads to a palliation of sin: self-love is so rooted in our hearts, that we shall always be in danger of forming too favorable a judgment of ourselves: the humiliation of the publican is that which at all times befits us: nor can we ever be in a more becoming state than when, with Job, we "repent and abhor ourselves in dust and ashes."

2. The dispositions with which it was accompanied—

He submitted to reproof, and acknowledged himself guilty in relation to the very thing that was laid to hit charge. This is a good test of true and genuine repentance. It is easy to acknowledge the sinfulness of our nature; but for a man, after long and strenuously maintaining his integrity, to confess his fault before the very people who have vehemently accused him, is no small attainment: yet did Job confess, that he had repeatedly offended, both in justifying himself, and in condemning God. Moreover, he declared his resolution, with God's help, to offend no more verse 5; and by this he manifested beyond a doubt the reality and depth of his repentance. Of what use is that penitence that does not inspire us with a fixed purpose to sin no more? Humiliation without amendment is of no avail: "the repentance which is not to be repented of" produces such an indignation against sin, as will never leave us under the power of it any more 2 Corinthians 7:10-11. May we all bear this in remembrance, and, by the entire change in our conduct, "approve ourselves in all things to be clear in this matter 2 Corinthians 7:10-11."

ADDRESS—

1. Those who entertain a good opinion of themselves—

How is it possible that you should be right? Are you better than Job, who is represented by the prophet as one of the most perfect characters that ever existed upon earth Ezekiel 14:14; Ezekiel 14:20. or if you were subjected to the same trials, would you endure them with more patience than he, of whom an Apostle speaks with admiration, saying, "You have heard of the patience of Job?" Know, then, that while you are indulging a self-righteous, self-complacent spirit, you betray an utter ignorance of your real state and character, and are altogether destitute of true repentance. Moreover, to you the Gospel is of no avail: for, what do you want of a Physician when you are not sick; or what of a Savior, when you are not lost? O put away from you your Laodicean pride, lest you be rejected by God with indignation and abhorrence Revelation 3:17-18. But if, notwithstanding this warning, you are determined to hold fast your confidence, then think whether "you will be strong in the day that God shall deal with you," or be able to stand before him as your Accuser and your Judge? Be assured, that if Job could not answer his God in this world, much less will you be able to do it in the world to come.

2. Those who are humbled under a sense of their vileness—

We bless God if you have been brought with sincerity of heart to say, "Behold, I am vile." If you feel your vileness as you ought, then will all the promises of the Gospel appear to you exactly suited to your state, and Christ be truly precious to your souls. Whom does he invite to come unto him, but the weary and heavy laden? What was the end for which he died upon the cross? Was it not to save sinners, even the chief? Yes, truly; "it is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptance 1 Timothy 1:15.": But while we would encourage all to come and wash away their sins in the fountain of his blood, we would caution all against turning the grace of God into licentiousness. Many, in acknowledging the depravity of their nature, make it almost an excuse for their sins. Their acknowledgments may be strong; but they are attended with no tenderness of spirit, no deep contrition, no real self-loathing and self-abhorrence. Brethren, above all things guard against such a state as this. While you are ignorant of your vileness there is hope that your eyes may be opened to see it, and your heart be humbled under a sense of it: but to acknowledge it and yet remain obdurate, is a fearful presage of final impenitence, and everlasting ruin Revelation 16:9; Revelation 16:11; Revelation 16:21. If you would be right, you must stand equally remote from presumption and despondency: your vileness must drive you, not from Christ, but to him; and when you are most confident of your acceptance with him, you must walk softly before him all the days of your life.

 

 

Job 42:5-6

 

DISCOURSE 492

THE EFFECT WHICH A SIGHT OF GOD PRODUCES

Job 42:5-6. I have heard of you by the hearing of the ear: but now my eye sees you. Why I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.

THE deepest lessons of religion are usually taught us in the school of adversity. Affliction draws forth and discovers to us our latent corruptions. These drive us with more abundant earnestness to God. God takes these occasions to manifest his power and grace. Thus we attain to a more enlarged and experimental knowledge of God. This advances and improves us in every part of the divine life. The history of Job remarkably exemplifies this observation: he was a good man before his affliction Job 1:8.—but too confident of his own integrity; but in his trouble God revealed himself to him more fully, and thus brought him to a better spirit—"I have," etc.

I. The discoveries of himself which God sometimes makes to his more favored people—

There is a hearing of God, which, for want of faith in the hearers, profits them nothing. But there is also a hearing which is really profitable. Such had Job's been; and such is that which multitudes experience under the Gospel. But there is a seeing of God which is very distinct from hearing.

So Job experienced on this occasion—

There was not any visible appearance of the Deity given to him; but doubtless he had views of the majesty, and power, and holiness of God, which he had never beheld before.

Such experience too have all his saints—

God does "manifest himself to them as he does not unto the world John 14:22-23," and reveals himself more fully at some times than at others. What else can be meant by that "unction of the Holy One" which he vouchsafes to us 1 John 2:20; 1 John 2:27. or what by the "Spirit of adoption Romans 8:15," the "witness of the Spirit Romans 8:16," and "the sealing of the Spirit," which is a pledge "of our heavenly inheritance 2 Corinthians 1:21-22. Ephesians 1:13-14." What can be meant by "the light of God's countenance lifted up upon us Psalm 4:6," and his "love shed abroad in our hearts Romans 5:5." These are blessings experienced by the saints in different degrees; and when given, are like the sun bursting forth from behind a cloud, or a veil being taken from before our own eyes 2 Corinthians 3:18. Then are we, like Moses, put in the cleft of a rock, and both hear his name proclaimed before us, and behold his goodness and his glory pass before our eyes Exodus 33:22-23; Exodus 34:5-7.

In the instance before us we see,

II. The effect which those discoveries will invariably produce upon them—

They will discover to us our utter sinfulness—

Job was high in his own esteem before he saw God Job 27:5-6; Job 31:6; but after he had seen God, his sentiments were wholly changed Job 40:4-5. Job expressly declares that his repentance was the result of the discovery afforded him—" why," etc. Thus Peter's mind was affected with a discovery of Christ's power Luke 5:8. We have a yet more remarkable instance of this effect in the prophet Isaiah 6:5. The experience of every Christian accords with this. Nothing shows us the aggravations of our sins so much as a view of Him against whom they have been committed. Our contrition will ever be proportioned to our views of Christ Zechariah 12:10.

They will cause us to abhor ourselves in dust and ashes—

While we know but little of God, we see but little of our own corruptions; but as we become more enlightened, we learn to loath and abhor ourselves. Even Job, holy as he was, found this effect from his views of God. Paul also, notwithstanding all his probity, was brought to this by a sight of Christ 1 Timothy 1:15. The same cause will produce the same effect in all Ezekiel 36:26; Ezekiel 36:31.

INFERENCES—

1. How do they err who decry all manifestations of God to the soul!

Many think that divine manifestations are only the offspring of enthusiasm, and the parent of pride: but God does surely manifest himself to some as he does not to others John 14:22-23. Nor will such manifestations be suffered to puff us up. The more exalted a Christian is, the lower thoughts will he have of himself Ephesians 3:8. Let the saints then be careful to cut off occasion for such calumnies 1 Peter 3:16. Let them seek clearer views of Christ, as the means of abasing themselves more and more.

2. In what a wretched state are they, who hear only in a customary manner!

Many there are of this description Matthew 13:14-15; they discover themselves by their self-righteousness and self-delight: but every living soul must be brought low before God Isaiah 2:11. God has established an invariable rule of procedure towards them James 4:6. We cannot address them better than in the pathetic language of Jeremiah Jeremiah 13:15-17.

3. How unspeakable a mercy do many find it to have been afflicted!

The generality even of real Christians are prone to rest n low attainments; but God quickens them by means of temporal or spiritual afflictions. Through their troubles, they are brought to much humility and heavenly-mindedness; hence the most eminent saints have esteemed their troubles a ground of thankfulness. Let all therefore justify God in their troubles, and glorify him by submission. Let the afflicted be solicitous to have their trials sanctified, rather than removed.

4. What views shall we have of God in the eternal world!

The views with which the godly are sometimes favored in this world are inexpressibly bright and glorious. But what a sight of God will that be, when we shall behold him face to face! Surely all that we have heard or seen of God in this earthly state will be, in comparison of that, no more than a taper compared with the meridian sun. Let us willingly then endure the tribulations that are preparing us for Heaven.

 

 

Job 42:10

 

DISCOURSE 493

JOB'S RESTORATION TO HEALTH AND PROSPERITY

Job 42:10. The Lord turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends.

IF God himself had not interposed to determine the controversy between Job and his friends, it would have been extremely difficult for us to decide with any precision the points at issue between them. There was much of wisdom and of piety on all sides; and on all sides there was somewhat also to blame. Perhaps we should have thought that the fault of uncharitableness was chiefly on the side of Job's opponents: but yet, as they were three in number, while he stood alone, we should have been ready to bow to their authority, and to consider the scale as preponderating in their favor. However, happily for us, the difficulties are all removed by that infallible Umpire, to whom all the disputants appealed; and we are able to pronounce with certainty, that, both in temper and argument, Job had greatly the advantage of all his adversaries: nay, so far were they inferior to him in these respects, that they were commanded to request the intervention of his kind offices in their behalf, that through his intercession they might obtain pardon for their misconduct in the whole matter. In compliance with this command, they entreated an interest in Job's prayers; a favor instantly conferred, and productive of the happiest effects, as well to him who prayed, as to them for whom his prayers were desired: "The Lord turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends."

We shall conclude our remarks on the history and character of Job, by showing,

I. The office he performed—

The friends of Job had greatly offended God by their mode of conducting their controversy with him—

They imagined, that, while criminating or condemning Job, they were rendering an acceptable service to God: but they were, in reality, only provoking the Divine displeasure. On the contrary, their injured friend was regarded by God with an eye of pity and of love. This is a very instructive circumstance. The many are not always right in their views; nor the confident, in their assertions. The persecuted and afflicted saint whom they oppress, may be right in opposition to them all. It can scarcely be conceived, how one false principle may warp the judgment even of good men; or to what erroneous conduct it may lead them. We cannot, therefore, but impress on all the necessity of guarding against the influence of prejudice or party zeal, and of maintaining in habitual exercise the united graces of diffidence and love. Charity in the heart is that which alone renders our most zealous services pleasing unto God; and, without it, whatever we may do or suffer for the Lord's sake, we are no better than sounding brass or tinkling cymbals 1 Corinthians 13:1-3.

For their ignorance and uncharitableness, God required them to humble themselves before him—

They were to bring their sacrifices, and to offer up burnt-offerings, in order to appease the wrath of their offended God: yes, they were also constrained to solicit the prayers of Job; nor would God pardon them, until his injured servant Job should have interceded with him in their behalf. Here, independent of the Mosaic law, the great doctrine of an atonement for sin was proclaimed; that doctrine which has been revealed with increasing clearness in all the types and prophecies of the Old Testament, and which is the one hope and consolation of every child of man. The persons who had transgressed were pious; and their sin was a sin of ignorance: yet must they present their burnt-offerings, in order to obtain mercy at the hands of God: from whence we may see, that not even the smallest sin, by whoever committed, can be pardoned, but through the blood of that all-sufficient sacrifice once offered upon Calvary: no penitence, no confession, no supplication will avail without that: "without shedding of blood there can be no remission Hebrews 9:22."

Moreover the duty and efficacy of intercession are here inculcated. It was not only for the honor of Job, or for the humiliation of his friends, that they were obliged to solicit his intercession for them: it was the design of God to show, that every man needed the intercession of the saints; end that He who had appointed his only-begotten Son to be the Advocate of his people at the throne of glory, would hear their mutual supplications for each other at the throne of grace.

This office Job most gladly undertook. Instead of feeling any resentment on account of the injury he had sustained, he was penetrated with an affectionate solicitude to avert from them the divine displeasure, and to bring down upon their souls a rich supply of all spiritual blessings. Whether Job officiated as their priest in offering the sacrifices, does not Altogether appear: but as their intercessor, he succeeded far beyond his own most sanguine expectations.

In his execution of this office we are particularly led to notice,

II. The benefit resulting to himself from the discharge of it—

A great and immediate change was wrought in Job's circumstances—

His bondage and misery had extended to his mind, and body, and estate: and in relation to them all "his captivity was turned:" his flesh, which had been covered with a most loathsome and painful disease, was healed, and became "fresher than a little child's;" his mind, which had been agitated even to distraction, became calm and peaceful; and his friends, who had all despised and forsaken him, united in making him such presents, as, through the peculiar blessing of God's providence, rendered him twice as rich as he had before been. The same number of sons and daughters also were in due time given him by God, and all such other blessings were added as tended to make him most happy in the enjoyment of them.

By this instantaneous change, God rendered more manifest his decision of the controversy—

Now it could no longer be doubted but that Job had been unjustly accused and unrighteously condemned The friends of Job had been most unreasonable in the testimonies they demanded: yet God had far exceeded them all. Job 8:6-7; Job 22:22; Job 22:25. No less than four times does God himself designate Job by that honorable title, "My servant Job;" thereby attesting in his behalf, that, whatever infirmity he had shown, he had indeed been upright before God, and had maintained a conscientious regard for God's honor. And though we cannot infer from this, that God will always interpose for the comfort of his people in the same precise manner, yet we may be assured, that sooner or later he will vindicate the honor of his saints, and "make their righteousness to shine forth as the noon-day." We need not, therefore, be cast down because of any present sufferings which we may be called to endure; for, if not in this world, yet certainly in the next, our meek submission to them shall be abundantly recompensed by our gracious God, "with whom it is a righteous thing to recompense tribulation to those who trouble us; and to us who are troubled, rest 2 Thessalonians. 1:6-7."

By this also he put honor on a forgiving spirit—

The forgiveness of injuries done to us is required by God in order to his forgiveness of our iniquities Matthew 6:14-15; Matthew 18:35. It may at first appear a hard command, "Bless them that curse you, and pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you:" but who can behold the termination of Job's afflictions, and not see the blessedness of fulfilling that duty? Truly, whatever may be said of the sweetness of revenge, there is nothing so refreshing to the soul as to gain a victory over one's own spirit, and to exercise that disposition towards our brethren, which we ourselves hope to meet with in our offended God.

Improvement—

This subject very distinctly shows us,

1. The manner in which our sins are to be forgiven—

We do not agree with those who represent Job as a type of Christ: but in this part of his history we certainly behold the way of acceptance with Almighty God: it is through the sacrifice and intercession of that Great High Priest, who has been especially ordained of God to be our Advocate and Mediator. By putting our cause into the hands of our blessed Lord and Savior, we may all, even the vilest of the human race, obtain mercy with God: but there is no other way of coming unto God with even the smallest hope of mercy John 14:6. Acts 4:12; Let us bear this in mind, and not lose sight of it for one moment. Let us set before our eves the conduct of Job's friends in relation to this matter, and instantly unite in following their example. If we are too proud to seek reconciliation with God in the way which he has appointed, we can expect nothing but that "he will deal with us after our folly."

2. The wisdom of waiting to see the end of God's dispensations—

Job, in the midst of his afflictions, accounted God his enemy; but not so when he saw the termination of them. Thus we, under our trials, are ready to say, "All these things are against me:" but in how many instances have we seen reason to be ashamed of our precipitancy and unbelief! In how many instances have we found our trials to be the richest blessings in disguise, and have been constrained to acknowledge them all as the fruits of parental love! Let us, then, wait for the issue of our trials, before we presume to judge hardly of God on account of them. The history of Job was particularly intended to teach us this lesson, and to reconcile us to afflictive dispensations of whatever kind: "Behold, we count them happy that endure. You have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord, that the Lord is very pitiful and of tender mercy James 5:11." Thus let but the end of our troubles be seen, and we shall bless and adore our God for every trial we have ever endured.

3. The duty and efficacy of intercession—

To enter fully into the wants and necessities of our fellow-creatures, and to spread them with earnestness before God in prayer, is no easy attainment: but, when this disposition is attained, and is put forth into lively exercise, it is replete with most incalculable benefit to the soul. Truly, if a person groaning under spiritual bondage himself, could stir up himself to make intercession for others, we believe that he would find no readier or more certain way to obtain deliverance for his own soul. At all events, to abound in this holy exercise is our duty 1 Timothy 2:1; and we have all possible encouragement to perform it. The examples of Moses Numbers 12:13. Deuteronomy 9:13-14; Deuteronomy 9:18-20; Deuteronomy 9:26, of Elisha James 5:17-18, and of the Church at Antioch Acts 12:5-17, are sufficient to warrant a firm expectation that our prayers, if offered in faith, shall not go forth in vain. We are not, however, left to gather this as an uncertain inference from former events: it is made the subject of a special promise to the saints in all ages: "Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that you may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. James 5:15-16."