« PreviousContinue »
foster. For we all know that every line of life has its own temptations : every calling may be made the means of destroying our souls, as well as of saving them; and it is our previous evil dispositions and low principles which will make it to us the evil and not the good. And then it is too late to turn back; we must do something in life, yet we can do nothing safely; God urges us on to Ramoth-Gilead that we may fall and perish. Such is the state of those who are preparing to enter upon life, -whatever may be their particular views in it,—under the curse of careless or corrupted principles, with their earlier years unimproved or marked only with sin. If they are saved at last, it may be truly said that they are saved so as by fire ; it is God's marvellous long suffering and abundant grace, which enables them to turn what was to them evil into good, by being changed themselves from evil; even as they had in the beginning turned into evil that which was in its nature good, because they had corrupted their way before the Lord, and were marked by Him for judgment.
August 26th, 1832.
JOB i. 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 Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually.
The book of Job, from which these words are taken, contains in substance some of the most important truths of revelation. The greater part of it consists of a dialogue, in which opposite views, both equally erroneous, are maintained by the principal speakers ; till towards the close a new character comes in, and states the truth ; which truth is lastly enforced by language represented to come from God Himself. Then Job, who had maintained one of the two erroneous views which had been thus reproved, confesses his fault, and throws himself entirely on God's mercy; while his three friends, who had defended the error opposite to his, persisting in it notwithstanding the answers which had been made to them, are declared to have offended, and are commanded to offer for themselves a burnt offering, lest God should punish them. Now the error which they had maintained was this :-Because Job was suffering they charged him with hypocrisy ; for, they argued, had he been really a good man, God would not have punished him; he must therefore have only worn the appearance of goodness to deceive men, whilst in his heart he was the servant of sin. And though Job protested against the injustice of this charge against him, and the cruelty of thus adding to his sufferings, they persisted in maintaining it. Job's error on the other hand was this, that he asserted his innocence not only against men, but against God. He not only denied that he was a hypocrite in the common sense of the term, or a sinner according to man's use and meaning of the word, but he seems to have maintained his innocence in a yet higher sense, as if it could endure God's judgment no less than man's. And for this he is reproved by Elihu, and reminded that although he might justly call himself good, in the common meaning of the word, and justly repel the charge of common hypocrisy, yet that goodness in God's meaning is of a far higher nature; that when tried by His standard, all are sinners; and that in His sight can no man living be justified. To this view of the case Job at last yields; he confesses that he had spoken in ignorance, and that now, better informed of what God is, and of man's infinite unworthiness in His sight, he abhors himself, and repents in dust and ashes.
It is manifest that this is exactly the state of mind which is required before a man can embrace God's offer of forgiveness through Christ. And in the book of Job, no less than in the Epistle to the Romans, we find that he who thus casts away his trust in his own righteousness, and acknowledges that in God's sight he is only a sinner, becomes forgiven and accepted; and that his latter end is better than his beginning.
On the other hand, an exaggerated statement of man's sins, a denial of the goodness of his actions in the common sense of the word goodness, and an attempt to show that the virtues of unbelievers are not virtues in any sense, but are done from some selfish or unworthy motives; in a word an uncharitable spirit, offensive to our common reason and common delicacy, while it pretends to be excessively zealous for God's glory, is condemned strongly in the example of Job's three friends. And it is not a little curious, that the very language of these friends, in which their hard and offensive spirit is marked most strongly, has been actually quoted by persons infected with the very same faults of character, and quoted, not as language condemned by the Scripture as erroneous, but actually as if it was itself Scripture. A more remarkable instance could not be afforded of the utter blindness of that system, which takes as scriptural truth applicable to us, whatever is contained in the volume of the Bible, without considering the context or the circumstances under which any given passage was written.
Thus much might perhaps be said, not without propriety, concerning the book of Job as a whole, because it is a portion of the Scripture with which many of us probably are little familiar, and the object and lesson of which appear many times to be misunderstood. But the words of the text contain in themselves a distinct lesson; and to this it is now my wish to confine myself.
We see readily what is the statement contained in them. After the days of his son's feasting were over, Job offered sacrifices of atonement for them, lest in the midst of their enjoyments they might have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. He was afraid lest their pleasures had done them harm, and he wished, if it were so, to remedy it. This is the exact point in the text which it concerns us now to attend to.
One expression however seems remarkable. may be,” said Job,“ that my sons have cursed God in their hearts.” He does not say, "have cursed him with their lips,” for this, as society then was