Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
So these three men ceased to answer Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes.Job 32:2
Job's friends kindly argued with him, 'You are suffering, therefore you are guilty'. And the argument was bad, because they only saw an exceptional accident in the life of a good man; but if that eternal life had been passed in continual residence on this globe, if notorious bad fortune had pursued him through eternity in the nineteenth generation, his descendants might well have said, 'Oh, Job, there is something wrong in you, for you never come out right'.
—Bagehot on The Ignorance of Man.
'I speak not as claiming reverence for my own age and office,' says Mr. Lyon to Felix Holt (Felix Holt, chap. v.), 'not to shame you, but to warn you. It is good that you should use plainness of speech, and I am not of those who would enforce a submissive silence on the young, that they themselves, being elders, may be heard at large; for Elihu was the youngest of Job's friends, yet was there a wise rebuke in his words.'
If youth is the season of unrest, when change is welcomed for its own sake, and when orderly growth is despised, it is also the brooding-time of speculation, the maturing-time of adventure. Old men are probably best fitted for carrying on the mechanical and routine work of the world, but the artists, the poets, the explorers, the propagators of new ideas, are habitually to be found among the young. Of two great changes that have powerfully influenced modern society, it may probably be said that both the Reformation and the Revolution owed their impetus to the generation under forty.
—C. H. Pearson.
Here it is that humanity culminates, or reveals the summit of its dignity; it is, in being, spirit, and, as such, open to the visitation and the indwelling power of God. This it is, and this only, that makes us properly religious beings. No created being can excel in order a soul so configured to God as to be inspirable by Him, able to receive His impulse, fall into His movement, rest in His ends, and be finally perfected in the eternity of His joys.
What the light of your mind, which is the direct inspiration of the Almighty pronounces incredible,—that, in God's name, leave uncredited; at your peril do not try believing that.
—Carlyle, Life of Sterling.
Thy own God-created Soul; dost thou not call that a 'revelation'? Who made Thee? where didst thou come from? The voice of eternity, if thou be not a blasphemer, and poor asphyxiated mute, speak with that tongue of thine! Thou art the latest birth of Nature; it is 'the inspiration of the Almighty' that giveth thee understanding.
—Carlyle, Past and Present.
True, nevertheless, forever it remains that Intellect is the real object of reverence, and of devout prayer, and zealous wish and pursuit among the sons of men; and even, well understood, the one object. It is the Inspiration of the Almighty that giveth men understanding.... Human Intellect, if you consider it well, is the exact summary of Human Worth.
—Carlyle, Latter-day Pamphlets (iii.).
Carlyle, never tired of quoting this verse, recurs again to it in describing the Presbyterianism of Scotland (in the essay on Sir Walter Scott): 'A country where the entire people is, or even once has been, laid hold of, filled to the heart with an infinite religious idea, has "made a step from which it cannot retrograde". Thought, conscience, the sense that man is denizen of a Universe, Creature of an Eternity, has penetrated to the remotest cottage, to the simplest heart. Beautiful and awful, the feeling of a Heavenly Behest, of Duty God-commanded, over-canopies all life. There is an inspiration in such a people; one may say in a more special sense, "the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding".'
Reference.—XXXII. 8.—J. E. Vaux, Sermon Notes (4th Series), p. 22.
We are idolaters of the old. We do not believe in the riches of the soul, in its proper eternity and omnipresence. We do not believe there is any force in today to rival or recreate that beautiful yesterday. We linger in the ruins of the old tent, where once we had bread and shelter and organs, nor believe that the spirit can feed, cover, and nerve us again. But we sit and weep in vain. The voice of the Almighty saith, 'up and onward for evermore'. We cannot stay among the ruins.
In these days, what of lordship or leadership is still to be done, the youth must do it, not the mature or aged man; the mature man, hardened into sceptical egoism, knows no monition but that of his own frigid cautions, avarices, mean timidities; and can lead nowhither towards an object that even seems noble.
—Carlyle, Latter day Pamphlets (i.).
I know nothing can conduce more to letters than to examine the writings of the ancients, and not to rest on their sole authority or take all upon trust from them.... For to all the observations of the ancients we have our own experience: which if we will use and apply, we have better means to pronounce. Let Aristotle and others have their dues; but if we can make further discoveries of truth and fitness than they, why are we envied?
An institution is healthy in proportion to its independence of its own past, to the confident freedom with which it alters itself to meet new conditions.
'Great men are not always wise; neither do the aged understand judgment.'
This verse is put as the motto to the fifth chapter of Mr. Winston Churchill's biography of his father, which describes Lord Randolph's outburst in 1885 against 'the old men who crooned over the fires at the Carlton' and the older leaders of the Conservative Party.
Age is no better, hardly so well, qualified for an instructor than youth, for it has not profited so much as it has lost. One may almost doubt if the wisest man has learned anything of absolute value by living. Practically, the old have no very important advice to give the young, their own experience has been so partial, and their lives have been such miserable failures, for private reasons, as they must believe. I have lived some thirty years on this planet, and I have yet to hear the first syllable of valuable or even earnest advice from my seniors. They have told me nothing, and probably cannot tell me anything to the purpose.
—Thoreau, Walden (' Economy').
Compare the words of the Fool to Lear (Act i. Scene 4): 'Thou hadst little wit in thy bald crown, when thou gavest thy golden one away'.
'We once were lusty youths and tall:' one by the younger men, 'we still are stout, come, try a fall'; and the third by the children, 'but we'll be stronger than you all'.
—Plutarch (describing the Spartan festivals, at which three choruses were sung).
The centuries are conspirators against the sanity and authority of the soul.... Man is timid and apologetic,—he is no longer upright; he dare not say, 'I think,' 'I am,' but quotes some saint or sage. He is ashamed before the blade of grass or the blowing rose. These roses under my window make no reference to former roses or to better ones; they are for what they are; they exist with God today.
In The Pilgrimage of Pleasure Swinburne makes Youth cry as follows:—
'Away from me, thou Sapience, thou noddy, thou green fool! What ween ye I be as a little child in school? Ye are as an old crone that mooneth by a fire, a bob with a chestnut is all thine heart's desire.'
Among all the Diseases of the Mind, there is not one more epidemical or more pernicious than the love of flattery.... When there is not Vanity enough awake in a man to undo him, the flatterer stirs up that dormant weakness, and inspires him with Merit enough to be a Coxcomb.
—Steele in The Spectator (No. 238).
Villari, in the ninth chapter of his Savonarola, describes Lorenzo the Magnificent on his deathbed as unable to 'believe in his confessor's sincerity. Accustomed to see his slightest wish obeyed, and all the world bow to his will, he could not realize that anyone would dare to deny him absolution. Accordingly the blessing of the Church was powerless to lighten the weight burdening his conscience, and he was more and more cruelly tortured by remorse. No one has ever dared to refuse me anything—he thought to himself, and then the idea that had once been his pride became his worst torment.'
What is it we heartily wish of each other? Is it to be pleased and flattered? No, but to be convicted and exposed, to be shamed out of our nonsense of all kinds, and made men of, instead of ghosts and phantoms.
—Emerson on New England Reformers.
Reference.—XXXIII.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xliii. No. 2505.
Then was kindled the wrath of Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the kindred of Ram: against Job was his wrath kindled, because he justified himself rather than God.
Also against his three friends was his wrath kindled, because they had found no answer, and yet had condemned Job.
Now Elihu had waited till Job had spoken, because they were elder than he.
When Elihu saw that there was no answer in the mouth of these three men, then his wrath was kindled.
And Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite answered and said, I am young, and ye are very old; wherefore I was afraid, and durst not shew you mine opinion.
I said, Days should speak, and multitude of years should teach wisdom.
But there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding.
Great men are not always wise: neither do the aged understand judgment.
Therefore I said, Hearken to me; I also will shew mine opinion.
Behold, I waited for your words; I gave ear to your reasons, whilst ye searched out what to say.
Yea, I attended unto you, and, behold, there was none of you that convinced Job, or that answered his words:
Lest ye should say, We have found out wisdom: God thrusteth him down, not man.
Now he hath not directed his words against me: neither will I answer him with your speeches.
They were amazed, they answered no more: they left off speaking.
When I had waited, (for they spake not, but stood still, and answered no more;)
I said, I will answer also my part, I also will shew mine opinion.
For I am full of matter, the spirit within me constraineth me.
Behold, my belly is as wine which hath no vent; it is ready to burst like new bottles.
I will speak, that I may be refreshed: I will open my lips and answer.
Let me not, I pray you, accept any man's person, neither let me give flattering titles unto man.
For I know not to give flattering titles; in so doing my maker would soon take me away.