Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered and said,Job 22:5 f
'There was no shadow of truth in the accusation,' Mark Rutherford observes. 'But what a world that must have been when the Church's anathemas were reserved for him who exacted pledges from his brother, who neglected the famishing, and who paid undue respect to the great!'
We require higher tasks because we do not recognize the height of those we have. Trying to be kind and honest seems an affair too simple and too inconsequential for gentlemen of our heroic mould; we had rather set ourselves to something bold, arduous and conclusive; we had rather found a schism or suppress a heresy, cut off a hand or mortify an appetite.
—R. L. Stevenson.
The last word of each of the three parts of the Divina Commedia is 'stelle' (stars). To the stars Dante always returned; and they must indeed be the last word of any utterance, be it in glorious verse or humble prose, that is concerned with the mystery of man's relation to the infinite. This it is that, to the thinking mind, lends life at once its zest and its dignity. This it is that reduces to an infinitesimal pettiness all our cupidities, our vanities, our egoisms.—From Let Youth but Know, p. 207.
Reference.—XXII. 15-17.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xv. No. 859.
It requires greater virtues to support good fortune than bad.
Reference.—XXII. 21.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—Job, p. 49.
I think we lose much from beginning our religion at the wrong end, concerning ourselves first and principally, with the idea of what we are or ought to be to God, without sufficiently considering the converse; what He is to us. Acquaint thyself, said one of old, with God, and be at peace.
To win true peace, a man needs to feel himself directed, pardoned, and sustained, by a supreme power, to feel himself in the right road, at the point where God would have him be—in order with God and the universe. This faith gives strength and calm. I have not got it. All that is, seems to me arbitrary and fortuitous. It may as well not be, as be. Nothing in my own circumstances seems to me providential.
'Horace,' says Mr. Walter Bagehot in his study of Béranger, 'is but the extreme and perfect type of a whole class of writers, some of whom exist in every literary age, and who give an expression to what we may call the poetry of equanimity, that is, the world's view of itself; its self-satisfaction, its conviction that you must bear what comes, not hope for much, think some evil, never be excited, admire little, and then you will be at peace.'
When the Bible says, 'acquaint thyself with God, and be at peace,' it means to say that there is something in God which necessarily gives peace to everyone that knows it. If a soul is not at peace, the only reason is because it does not know God.... Since God does love us and has forgiven us, we need not do anything to change God's feelings, and all that is necessary for our peace and confidence is to know what the actual state of God's feelings are towards us, and this is salvation by faith, c'est-à-dire, salvation by knowing our real circumstances.
—Erskine of Linlathen to Madame de Staël (in 1829).
The Treasure of Heaven
The Almighty shall be thy treasure, or thy gold, as it is in the marginal reading. That, then, is the treasure of heaven. The thirst for gold in the human race is a strong and impelling one. There is no question as to the ardent desire for this precious metal. Is it hurtful in its effects as it is potent in its attraction?
I. It is interesting to find that the first reference to gold in the Bible is of a kind that commends it. 'The gold of that land is good,' we read in the second chapter of Genesis. You will find also that gold in itself is never spoken of in the Bible as bad. It is the love of money, not money itself, that is the root of all evil. Do not, then, let us run down gold in itself; we know the value of it in connexion with human affairs. Here is a poor sufferer languishing upon a bed of sickness. There is hope of recovery if only nourishing food could be obtained. Is it filthy lucre when some one comes to the help of the sufferer with means of procuring the prescribed necessities? Nay, the gold is good.
II. All the same it is only to a certain extent that gold can be a help. No one knows better than a millionaire how little, after all, money can do in the way of bringing true happiness. It is that that Marie Corelli deals with in her work The Treasure of Heaven. It is a rather improbable story, but the object of it is plain enough. The writer wishes to bring out the power of love, and the need of the human heart for love, as the one thing of true value in life's pilgrimage. In general we cannot go among our fellows and look too searchingly for a disinterested love on their part. Human kindness would be paralysed if we were to examine too minutely into the spirit in which helpful deeds are either given or received.
III. But there is one great spring of love in the world's story that accounts for untold kindness in the affairs of men. Your eyes must be dim if you cannot see what the love of Christ has done and is doing among men, and your powers of imagination must be very weak if they cannot realize to some extent how bare and grey the world would be but for the sunshine of that love that is shed abroad in many hearts. Apart from that, there is very little truly disinterested love among men. Some humorist has said, that after all, there is a great deal of human nature in man. And one might add on the other side, that after all, there is very little humanity in man. What is there in the savage or the leper, in the criminal, in the morally degraded, that, so far as they themselves are concerned, would command the loving ministrations of others? It may be said that the sentiment of pity should be sufficient, but as the case stands it is a higher force than that that proves to be the impelling power, a force dauntless in the face of perils, and that never leads to despair. Consider all that is done in the way of disinterested love in the world at the present moment, and you must admit that the love of Christ is the secret of most of it. For His sake is the inspiring motive.
An Outline of the Devout Life
I. I note first that life may be full of delight and confidence in God. Now when we 'delight' in a thing, or a person, we recognize that that thing, or person, fits into a cleft in our hearts, and corresponds to some need in our natures. And so these things, the recognition of the supreme sweetness and all perfect adaptation and sufficiency of God to all that I need—these things are the very heart of a man's religion. There is no religion worth naming of which the inmost characteristic is not delight in God.
II. So secondly, note, such a life of delighting in God will be blessed by the frankest intercourse with Him. That is to say, if a man really has set his heart on God, and knows that in Him is all that he needs, then of course he will tell Him everything. A true love to God makes it the most natural thing in the world to put all our circumstances, wants, and feelings into the shape of prayers. All life may become a thankoffering to God. First a prayer, then the answer, then the rendered thankoffering, thus in swift alternation and reciprocity is carried on the commerce between heaven and earth, between man and God.
III. Then, thirdly, such a life will neither know failure nor darkness. To serve Him and to fall into the line of His purpose, and to determine nothing, nor obstinately want anything until we are sure that it is His will—that is the secret of never failing in what we undertake. To the measure of our love for Him are our discernment and realization of what is truly good.
IV. Lastly, such a life will be always hopeful, and finally crowned with deliverance. The devout life is largely independent of circumstances, and is upheld and calmed by a quiet certainty that the general trend of its path is upward, which enables it to trudge hopefully down an occasional dip in the road. It is the privilege of Christian experience to make hope certainty. And the end will vindicate such confidence. For the issue of all will be 'He will save the humble person'; namely, the man who is of the character described and who is 'lowly of eyes' in conscious unworthiness, even while he lifts up his face to God in confidence in his Father's love.
—Alexander Maclaren, The God of the Amen, p. 118.
References.—XXII. 26.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxi. No. 1839.
Commenting on Numa's injunction to the Romans to sit after they had offered prayers to the gods, Plutarch observes that 'this act of sitting after prayer was said to indicate that such as were good people would obtain a solid and lasting fulfilment of their petitions.
Reference.—XXII. 29.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xiii. No. 731.
I cannot contentedly frame a prayer for myself in particular, without a catalogue for my friends...; and if God hath vouchsafed an ear to my supplications, there are surely many happy that never saw me, and enjoy the blessing of mine unknown devotion.
—Sir Thomas Browne, Religio Medici (pt. ii.).
References.—XXIII.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxviii. No. 2272. Ibid. vol. xliii. No. 2546. Ibid. vol. xlvii. No. 2732.
Can a man be profitable unto God, as he that is wise may be profitable unto himself?
Is it any pleasure to the Almighty, that thou art righteous? or is it gain to him, that thou makest thy ways perfect?
Will he reprove thee for fear of thee? will he enter with thee into judgment?
Is not thy wickedness great? and thine iniquities infinite?
For thou hast taken a pledge from thy brother for nought, and stripped the naked of their clothing.
Thou hast not given water to the weary to drink, and thou hast withholden bread from the hungry.
But as for the mighty man, he had the earth; and the honourable man dwelt in it.
Thou hast sent widows away empty, and the arms of the fatherless have been broken.
Therefore snares are round about thee, and sudden fear troubleth thee;
Or darkness, that thou canst not see; and abundance of waters cover thee.
Is not God in the height of heaven? and behold the height of the stars, how high they are!
And thou sayest, How doth God know? can he judge through the dark cloud?
Thick clouds are a covering to him, that he seeth not; and he walketh in the circuit of heaven.
Hast thou marked the old way which wicked men have trodden?
Which were cut down out of time, whose foundation was overflown with a flood:
Which said unto God, Depart from us: and what can the Almighty do for them?
Yet he filled their houses with good things: but the counsel of the wicked is far from me.
The righteous see it, and are glad: and the innocent laugh them to scorn.
Whereas our substance is not cut down, but the remnant of them the fire consumeth.
Acquaint now thyself with him, and be at peace: thereby good shall come unto thee.
Receive, I pray thee, the law from his mouth, and lay up his words in thine heart.
If thou return to the Almighty, thou shalt be built up, thou shalt put away iniquity far from thy tabernacles.
Then shalt thou lay up gold as dust, and the gold of Ophir as the stones of the brooks.
Yea, the Almighty shall be thy defence, and thou shalt have plenty of silver.
For then shalt thou have thy delight in the Almighty, and shalt lift up thy face unto God.
Thou shalt make thy prayer unto him, and he shall hear thee, and thou shalt pay thy vows.
Thou shalt also decree a thing, and it shall be established unto thee: and the light shall shine upon thy ways.
When men are cast down, then thou shalt say, There is lifting up; and he shall save the humble person.
He shall deliver the island of the innocent: and it is delivered by the pureness of thine hands.