Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. APPEAL TO THE GOODNESS AND GREATNESS OF GOD. (Vers. 2-7.)
1. To his reasonableness and justice. (Ver. 2.) "Condemn me not unheard, without cause assigned; make clear to my mind, which cannot deny its convictions, my guilt and its nature." Taking the analogy of our Lord's reasoning in the sermon on the mount, if to condemn a man without cause is felt to be an odious injustice - if it is a cardinal point in a just earthly constitution (e.g. as expressed in our Habeas Corpus Act) that no man be seized and kept in prison without speedy opportunity of being confronted with his accusers - how can we ascribe such conduct to him who sits on the eternal throne?
2. To his equity. (Ver. 3.) Can it be right that God should, on the one hand, cast down the weak and innocent, and, on the other, exalt and favour the unprincipled and the wicked? This would not be to hold even the scales, the eternal emblem of justice. The true solution to the question is given by Christ. God is good to all alike. The great gifts of nature - sunshine and rain - are common to good and evil, just and unjust. And as to spiritual blessings, which are of their nature conditional on human will and seeking, God is as good to all as their own state and disposition will suffer him to be. Are, then, the sufferings of the good contrary to his justice? Not so; but they come under that higher law which Job and his friends have yet to learn, that suffering is one of the forms and manifestations of Divine goodness in the education of human beings.
3. Appeal to his omniscience. (Ver. 4.) God sees all things, from all beginnings, to all ends. He is not a short-sighted tyrant who is tempted to force by torture a confession of guilt from an unhappy prisoner against whom he has only a suspicion but no evidence. God knows that Job is innocent. But this fact should put an end to his murmurs, could he be wholly true to his higher faith in God. The right which God knows he will in the end declare, and will be seen to have throughout defended and protected.
4. Appeal to his eternal duration. (Vers. 5, 6.) The calm and ever-abiding existence of God must surely free him from those temptations to which short-lived man is subject. Hurry, impatience, haste, impetuosity, are characteristics of humanity, because men know they have much to do, and but a short time in which to do it. Therefore the tyrant will snatch quickly at revenge for any affront or injury he may have suffered. But who can escape the power and the penalties of the Eternal? Once more: God knows he is innocent (ver. 7)!
II. THE RELATION BETWEEN THE CREATOR AND THE CREATURE. (Vers. 8-17.)
1. Comparison of the Creator and the creature to the potter and his work. (Ver. 8.) The potter's artistic work is a work on which care, thought, elaboration, have been spent; it is a" thing of beauty," and he designs it to be a "joy for ever." He will not wantonly destroy it, will not bear to see it so destroyed. Can we believe otherwise of God and his work? A most true and telling analogy, and on which may be founded an argument for the immortality of the soul. Had that idea come within the horizon of Job's vision, his analogy would have afforded him profound comfort.
2. Contrast between the careful production and preservation and the seeming reckless destruction of the creature. (Vers. 10-17.) On the one hand we see (vers. 10, 11) the marvellous production and development of the bodily life from the embryo to the distinct and fully developed form, arranged with all the apparatus and mechanism of nutrition and of movement. What dazzling evidences of the thought which God has lavished upon his chief work do all the discoveries of physiology unfold! We may read side by side with this passage Psalm 139., and Addison's noble hymn, "When all thy mercies, O my God." Then there is the endowment of this marvellous framework with the great gift of life, and manifold rich enjoyments, and its preservation through all the dangers of youth to the present moment (ver. 12). But how dread the other side of the contrast! Behind this elaborate design there was concealed from the first, as it seems to Job's gloomy reflection, a deliberate purpose of destruction - the reckless annihilation of this splendid work of Divine art (ver. 13). Rather, if we do but rectify these perverted reasonings of a morbid and distressed mood, what noble and irresistible arguments do we derive from experience and from the science of our physical life for God's eternal interest in that which is here contained in it - the soul which partakes of him, and cannot perish! Then follows a terrible picture of the relation in which the patriarch, in his misery, supposes himself to stand to God. He is in a "tetralemma," or net, from which he can see no escape.
(1) If he commits the smallest error (ver. 14), those all. searching eyes follow him with their ceaseless watch, and will exact the penalty of every fault.
(2) If he should commit iniquity (ver. 5) - that he has done so, however, before these sufferings, he must most solemnly deny - then he will be justly chastened.
(3) But even if he were in the right, he must appear as a guilty one; cannot dare, freely and proudly, to raise his head - because full of ignominy, and with his own eyes beholding his humiliation (ver. 15).
(4) And should this innocent and insulted head, unable longer to endure the ignominy, rise in freedom and in pride - as Job is now doing, in fact, by. the tone of his speech - then God, wroth with his resistance, will send afresh the severest sufferings upon him; will hunt him like a lion; will reveal himself in fresh marvels of woe and judgment (ver. 16); will produce fresh witnesses, in the shape of new pains, as accusers against him. Like hosts pouring one after another against one beleaguered city, so will these troubles thickly come on (ver. 17).
III. RENEWED BURST OF DESPONDENCY, IMPRECATIONS ON LIFE, CRAVING FOR REST. (Vers. 18-22.) Once more he wishes that he had never been (vers. 18, 19, repeated from Job 3:11, etc.). Once more he urges his strong petition that he may enjoy one brief respite during these few short days that remain, free from the unceasing torment (ver. 20), before he sinks for ever into the lower world.
IV. PICTURE OF HADES, OR THE LOWER WORLD.
1. It is the "land of darkness and of gloom, like to midnight" (vers. 21, 22).
2. Therefore it is the land of disorder and of confusion, where none who is accustomed to light and order can feel himself at home.
3. Though there be even there a slight change of day and night, yet even if it be bright there, it is as gloomy as midnight upon earth. We may compare those impressive pictures of the lower world and the state of the departed which we find in the 'Odyssey' (11.) -
"Never the sun, that giveth light to man, 1. Confidence founded on our relation to God as a faithful Creator." He cannot desert the work of his own hands. 2. His goodness in the past is an argument for trust for the time to come. 3. Insoluble perplexities are due to our own ignorance of the complete conditions of life. God is the most misunderstood of beings. 4. Every revelation is to be eagerly received, every habit of mind encouraged, which induces us to look on life as a good, death as a gain, and the scene beyond as one of eternal brightness for all faithful souls. - J
1. Confidence founded on our relation to God as a faithful Creator." He cannot desert the work of his own hands.
2. His goodness in the past is an argument for trust for the time to come.
3. Insoluble perplexities are due to our own ignorance of the complete conditions of life. God is the most misunderstood of beings.
4. Every revelation is to be eagerly received, every habit of mind encouraged, which induces us to look on life as a good, death as a gain, and the scene beyond as one of eternal brightness for all faithful souls. - J
I. A DESIRE TO RE FREED FROM CONDEMNATION. "I will say unto God, Do not condemn me." This the first desire of the resigned sufferer. Let it not be as a punishment for my transgression. "Condemn me not" is another form of urging, "Pardon my offence which! confess." It is a prayer for forgiveness. Up to this, the previous confession of unworthiness and even of sin has properly led. It is the first rest of the soul. While the unconfessed condemnations of guilt are upon it there can be no peace. Happy he who in the depth of his suffering makes his confession; happier still he who hears the word of gracious forgiveness. This is followed by -
II. THE UNSUPPRESSED LONGING TO KNOW THE REASON FOR THE DIVINE AFFLICTIONS. "Show me wherefore thou contendest with me." How natural to desire this! But the Divine ways are "past finding out." "He giveth none account of his ways" Certainly to Job came no sufficient answer. It remained for later days to learn, "Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth" To all Job's suggestions a negative reply may be given.
1. It is not "good" (i.e. pleasing) to God "to oppress," to (appear to) "despise" his creatures; or, as it would seem, "to shine upon the counsel of the wicked"
2. He has not "eyes of flesh" He does not see "as man seeth" - looking only on the outward appearance, and judging by that alone. God looketh on the heart, and estimates the human act by the motive which impels it. He makes allowance for human frailty more than even frail, erring man makes for his own brother. He is just in his view, and not warped as is the judgment of feeble flesh.
3. His days are not "as the days of man." His are the days of eternity, lie can wait until the future for a justification of Job's conduct. He has not to make haste to bring about a crisis in Job's history. He needs not to hurry to put Job to the proof. Our reflections on the Divine dealings may be justly corrected by duly pondering this history. In our assured integrity we may wait. In our conscious sinfulness we are safest in the Lord's hands; from which, indeed, we cannot escape. "There is none that can deliver out of thine hand." - R.G.
I. THE SORROWFUL CONDITION.
1. The misery of it. Life is naturally sweet. It is a most merciful arrangement of Providence that the hard lot which would seem to be unbearable when regarded from the outside has many alleviations and consolations for those to whose portion it has fallen. There are few lives on which no gleam of sunshine ever falls. But to be weary of life is to have lost all the sunshine, and to be in dark despair. Like "Mariana of the moated grange," the desolate one cries -
I am aweary, aweary; 2. The dangers of it. (1) It tempts to suicide, and that is sin. (2) It leads to the neglect of duty; for if a man has no hope or heart in life, it is difficult for him to take up its tasks. When life itself is no longer worth living, it is hard to summon any energy for work. (3) It blinds us to remedies. Like Hagar in her despair, we do not lift up our eyes to see the fountain. Despair justifies itself by blinding us to hope. 3. The causes of it. This weariness of life may spring item a terrible conjunction of external circumstances, as it did in part with Job. But internal causes usually co-operate. Sometimes the despair is a result of bodily or brain disease, and the sufferer must be pitied and treated accordingly. But it may come from brooding too much over the dark side of life, from distrust of God, from a consciousness of sin, or from impenitent and rebellious thoughts. Ennui is the product of indolence. Weariness of life is often a result of idle sentimentality. II. THE DIVINE REMEDY. This evil is not incurable. For the despair is a delusion. No one would be weary of life if he knew all its future possibilities. If the despair is a result of brain disorder, the remedy is in medicine, not theology. Here is a harder-land where the two faculties touch; therefore a man who practises either should not be a stranger to the other. Despair may give way to a change of scene and a bracing regimen without any arguments. But when the causes are deeper and more spiritual, a corresponding remedy must be looked for. This will not be found in any worldly philosophy of life. The wonder is not that some people are weary of life, but that all who are "without God in the world" are not also "without hope." Pessimism is the natural goal of the Epicurean. Life is not worth living without God. The great remedy for weariness of life is the discovery of the true worth of life when it is redeemed by Christ and consecrated to God. Then it is not dependent on pleasure for its motives, nor driven to despair by pain. It has a higher blessedness than any earthly possession can give, in doing God's will on earth with the prospect of enjoying him for ever in hen yen. But even the unselfish service of our brother man will help to conquer weariness of life. If Mariana had been well occupied she might have overcome her misery. There is a healing grace in the discharge of duty, and more of it in losing ourselves while serving others. - W.F.A.
2. The dangers of it.
(1) It tempts to suicide, and that is sin.
(2) It leads to the neglect of duty; for if a man has no hope or heart in life, it is difficult for him to take up its tasks. When life itself is no longer worth living, it is hard to summon any energy for work.
(3) It blinds us to remedies. Like Hagar in her despair, we do not lift up our eyes to see the fountain. Despair justifies itself by blinding us to hope.
3. The causes of it. This weariness of life may spring item a terrible conjunction of external circumstances, as it did in part with Job. But internal causes usually co-operate. Sometimes the despair is a result of bodily or brain disease, and the sufferer must be pitied and treated accordingly. But it may come from brooding too much over the dark side of life, from distrust of God, from a consciousness of sin, or from impenitent and rebellious thoughts. Ennui is the product of indolence. Weariness of life is often a result of idle sentimentality.
II. THE DIVINE REMEDY. This evil is not incurable. For the despair is a delusion. No one would be weary of life if he knew all its future possibilities. If the despair is a result of brain disorder, the remedy is in medicine, not theology. Here is a harder-land where the two faculties touch; therefore a man who practises either should not be a stranger to the other. Despair may give way to a change of scene and a bracing regimen without any arguments. But when the causes are deeper and more spiritual, a corresponding remedy must be looked for. This will not be found in any worldly philosophy of life. The wonder is not that some people are weary of life, but that all who are "without God in the world" are not also "without hope." Pessimism is the natural goal of the Epicurean. Life is not worth living without God. The great remedy for weariness of life is the discovery of the true worth of life when it is redeemed by Christ and consecrated to God. Then it is not dependent on pleasure for its motives, nor driven to despair by pain. It has a higher blessedness than any earthly possession can give, in doing God's will on earth with the prospect of enjoying him for ever in hen yen. But even the unselfish service of our brother man will help to conquer weariness of life. If Mariana had been well occupied she might have overcome her misery. There is a healing grace in the discharge of duty, and more of it in losing ourselves while serving others. - W.F.A.
I. GOD SEES US TRULY AS WE ARE. It is no attribute of infinity to be above seeing what is small. Because God is infinite he can descend to the infinitely little as well as comprehend the infinitely great. Moreover, he does not treat us as insignificant beings unworthy of his notice, but he regards us as his children. The very hairs of our head are numbered by God. His greatness is seen in the truth and thoroughness of his vision. He does not look through distorting media, nor does he only see one aspect of things, as is the case with us. He sees all round everything, and he looks through all things. There is no secret hidden from God. He understands what he sees, for his infinite vision is accompanied by an infinite comprehension.
II. GOD JUDGES US BY A HIGHER STANDARD THAN OURS. We are hampered by narrow ideas; our judgment is warped and cramped by prejudice and error. Our ignorance, folly, and sin even mar the very standards by which we judge. God's estimate is supremely fair, and it is after the very highest and purest ideas of judgment.
III. GOD'S STANDARD OF JUDGMENT IS NOT ALIEN TO OURS. We might be dismayed by the very elevation and perfection of God's method of judgment, thinking it totally different from our own. If this were the case conscience would be a delusion. But God is the Creator of conscience, and though this is limited, and in a measure perverted, still it retains the essential character given to it by God. "God made man in his own image" (Genesis 1:26). Therefore man's honest judgment must be a reflection of God's judgment. God sees as we see, so far as we see truly. His judgment is just the correction and perfection of our judgment.
IV. GOD HAS ENTERED INTO OUR LIFE THAT HE MAY SEE US WITH OUR OWN EYES. This seems to be part of the purpose of the Incarnation. Christ is a brother-Man. He looks at us with human eyes. One with us by nature, he can perfectly understand us. We cannot even understand our favourite dog when he turns to us his dumb, pathetic gaze, for he is of a different species. Christ became one with us, one of our species. Thus we can understand him, and he can perfectly sympathize with us. Apart from Christ, God seems to be distant and altogether different from ourselves. In Christ he is one with us, near to us, and able to regard us with the eyes of a Brother. - W.F.A.
I. IT IS A PLEDGE OF BLESSING. Even erring man is thoughtful of his own work. Cod's work is perfect. But it is so because he momentarily guards it. He carries forward all the processes which we moderns call "laws of nature." Job saw the "hand" of God in all the changes of the earth and heavens and of human life, Therefore to know I am a creature of God is to know my life is in his hands. I serve his purpose. He is Lord of all. Every act of his hand is pure blessing. He can do no evil. My creatureship is a sufficient pledge to me of certain blessing. He worketh for the good of all the creatures of his hands - sheep and oxen, birds of air and fish of sea. So his work in my limb is the truest warrant of good to me.
II. IT IS A SOURCE OF COMFORT. No one can calmly reflect on the fact of his creatureship without finding cause for comfort. Each may leave himself in the hands of his Owner. It is the basis of the truest consolation. "I am thine" must warrant the prayer, "Save me." The human life may be left in the Divine hands. The poor, frail, helpless one may commit himself unto God. There is rich comfort in the knowledge of the fact that the Lord of the whole earth is my Creator. That he should "destroy," or appear to destroy, the poor sufferer is at once acknowledged to be matter of surprise. Under the shadow of the wings of the Almighty Creator every creature may find refuge.
III. IT IS AN ASSURANCE OF DIVINE CARE. "Wilt thou then bring me into dust again?" This is the inevitable thought in the heart of him who recognizes himself as the creature of God - who says, "Thou hast made me as the clay." It is the instinct of frail man to care for his own. How much more is it the Divine method! Already Job has declared his faith when saying, "Dost thou despise the work of thine own hands?" Thou hast raised me from the dust; wilt thou bring me into dust again? Writ thou frustrate thine own purpose? Thus Job reasons, and wisely. It is the assurance of calm wisdom, the faith which has firm foundation. He who has brought me into life, will care for me, will sustain me, will defend me.
IV. SUCH AN ASSURANCE IS A SUFFICIENT GROUND OF CONFIDENT AND CALM REPOSE. Restful is the spirit of faith; and the more simple faith is in its reasonings, the more assured is its peace. Consciousness of sin would lead to distress of mind and to fear when it is remembered, "Thine hands have fashioned me;" but to the heart assured of its integrity, this truth is the ground of calm repose. Prayer may be based upon this. Faith here may find its support; love, its inspiration. - R.G.
I. GOD IS THE CREATOR OF EVERY INDIVIDUAL MAN. Theologians were once divided between two theories of the origin of human souls, called respectively "Creationist" and "Traducianist." The Crestionists held that each soul was created by God; the Traducianists that souls were derived by descent, were transmitted by birth from ancestral souls, and originally from Adam and Eve, just like the bodies they inhabit. Was it not unfair to confine the name "Creationist" to the former school? The idea of descent from parents does not exclude Divine action. The parent is not the creator. The original great Cause must be the Source of all that follows. If God only created once for all at the beginning of the world, still he created each individual, because each individual simply comes from that original creation. If it could be shown that man was not separately created, but that he derived his origin from lower creatures by evolution, he would be not the less created by God; for how could the marvellous process of evolution originate or progress, unless the Almighty and All-wise had started it? Nay, it is only reasonable to believe that God is ever creating. Not once for all, but in every stage of evolution, the Divine hand is working out the eternal plan. So also each individual life is moulded by that same Creative hand. God is working eternally, for the laws of nature are but the ways of God. He was as truly the Creator of Job as of Adam; and he makes each man now by means of birth as really as he made the first life out of inorganic matter.
II. THE FACT THAT GOD IS THE CREATOR OF EVERY MAN MUST AFFECT HIS TREATMENT OF ALL HIS CREATURES.
1. He cannot have predestined them to ruin. To affirm that he could do so is to say that the Creator is not God, but the devil, A god who was merely indifferent to his creatures would not from the first plan their destruction. If it is suggested that God might do this to display his own glory, the reply is that such an action could display no glory, but the reverse. To say that God may do as he will with his own is irrelevant. His absolute rights over his creatures do not exclude moral considerations. Further, the holy, righteous, and loving character of God makes it absolutely certain that he could not planned have their ruin.
2. He can never consent that they should be ruined. "He hateth nothing that he hath made." The very fact of creation gives God an interest in his creatures. The artist cannot be indifferent to the fate of his works. But God is more than an artist; he is a Father, and a father cannot be indifferent to the fate of his children. It may be necessary for the parent to chastise, but no true and worthy parent will ever really wish to hurt his offspring. Can we think that God is less strong in parental love than we are? It is necessary for God to be angry with the wicked - and there is a terror in God's anger which men can only despise at their peril - but behind that auger there can be no vindictive temper, much less can there be a spiteful malignity. God only desires the welfare of his children. - W.F.A.
I. GOD THE ORIGINAL SOURCE. Job appeals to his Creator, and recognizes the Divine Source of all he is and all he has. The prologue shows that Job had always been a devout man, not forgetful of God. But his frightful losses and troubles brought home to him the thought of his relations to God with a vividness never before experienced. Job is now face to face with God. Huge calamities have swept away all intermediate interests, and over the wreck of his wasted life he looks straight to God his Maker. Terrible hours of distress reveal the deeper facts of life, as the earthquake exposes the granite foundations of the hills. Tragedy destroys superficiality. Those who have been through the raging waters el trouble are best able to perceive the Divine Source of all things.
II. GOD'S PRIMAL GIFTS.
(1) This can only come from God. The chemist may analyze the component elements of our bodily frame, but the subtle life-principle can never be caught in his crucible. The engineer may construct a most delicate machine, but he can never breathe life into it. God is the one Source of life.
(2) This is essential to all else. Here we are at the first and most fundamental gift. Men may bury treasures with the dead, but the silent sleepers in the tomb can never touch one of the gifts that rust and moulder by their side. We must live if we are to own or use anything. We must have the spiritual life in order to enjoy the gospel blessings.
2. Favour. Life is itself a favour. It is never deserved; yet it is good to live. But with life God gives other favours. Even Job in his desolation did not forget this fact, as some seem to forget it when they murmur against Providence, and complain of the world as though everything were working for the misery of man. Greater than all earthly favour is the grace of Christ, the favour shown to fallen man in the redemption of the race by the sacrifice of God's Son.
III. GOD'S CONTINUED GOODNESS. Job acknowledges that his very breath is continued by God's care. God does not merely create once for ell; he preserves his creatures. If he were to withdraw his hand for one moment, they would cease to be. That we arc alive now is a sign that God is now good to us. Present existence is a proof of present providence. Therefore our thanksgivings should be fresh; not the withered flowers of yesterday, but the new blossoms of to-day, with the dew still upon them. Daily renewed mercies call for daily renewed praises. We have not to look far for God, searching the annals of antiquity, inquiring of the deeds of old-world history, or scraping together the geologic records of the rocks. God is with us in the new sunrise, in each day's life and blessing.
IV. GOD'S ASSURED CASE. It cannot be as Job supposes. His remonstrance is natural to him, but it is needless. If God has made and preserved us, it is impossible that he should be turned against us. His past and present favours are proofs of his unchanging love. Though he smites, he cannot hate. Though he withdraws his smiling countenance, he does not remove his supporting baud. Creation and preservation are prophecies of redemption and salvation. - W.F.A.
Job 2:3). What, then, is the explanation of the whole? Can we ever hope to know in this world what are the deep purposes of God in the afflictions of which the human life is capable, and especially in the sufferings of the godly? No. The purposes, though partially revealed, are still to a great extent "hidden" - hidden in the "heart" of God. Job feels himself hedged in. He is "full of confusion." We must remember Job had not the clear light in which we view the Divine work. Yet even from us his ways are hidden. We must say, "Clouds and darkness are round about him."
I. WE MUST SEE IT TO BE PERFECTLY NATURAL THAT THE DIVINE WAYS SHOULD BE HIDDEN FROM MEN. How should man be able to trace the Divine purpose? It is high; he cannot attain unto it. Hidden in the Divine mind - not always revealed by the incidents of affliction. "These things hast thou hid in thine heart."
II. THE HIDING OF THE DIVINE PURPOSES IS A SALUTARY TEST TO FAITH. Faith in God needful in order to a right relation of the human soul towards God. It is the basis of peace; encouragement to obedience; ground of holy fear; help to holy love. But the testing of faith leads to a more spiritual dependence upon God, to a more frequent reference of the heart to him. Walking by faith honours God. Faith needed by the very conditions of human life. Its exercise promotes its growth.
III. THE HIDING OF THE DIVINE PURPOSE IS A GRACIOUS DESIGN ON THE PART OF GOD MORE EFFECTUALLY TO WORK OUT HIS WILL CONCERNING MAN. The rebellious, not knowing it, cannot frustrate it. Secretly the Divine will is wrought out in the experience and history of the sufferer. The entire dependence of the soul on God is encouraged. This must lead to submission, and submission in faith. The reliance of the soul must be on the character of God, and not on circumstances and incidents.
IV. THE HIDING OF THE DIVINE PURPOSES ISSUES IN THE PERFECTING OF THE SUPREME EXCELLENCE OF THE HUMAN CHARACTER - PATIENCE. Thus it has its "perfect work," and the soul is left "entire, lacking nothing." He who can patiently and trustfully wait upon God, bearing up under pressure of afflictive circumstances, gains's vigour and beauty of character. If patience be wanting, all other qualities of the character are impaired. Man's wisdom is to be satisfied with committing himself to the hidden purposes of God. In faith to confide in them as wise and good. In patience to await their exposition when it shall please God to reveal them to him. - R.G.
I. GOD'S PURPOSES ARE HIDDEN FROM MAN. They are more hidden than Job supposed. He thought that the Divine plan had just appeared. But it was deeper than he imagined. Not only was it hidden in the sunny days of prosperity; it was also hidden in the dark and dreadful days of misery. Had Job known the Divine purpose, his suspicions would have been dissipated, and he would have seen how unjust his arraignment of Providence was. We cannot yet see the Divine thought. If it were revealed to us, the discipline of trial would be frustrated. Moreover, it is too deep and wide for us to grasp it. Therefore we must walk by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7).
II. GOD APPEARS TO HIDE DARK DESIGNS. So Job thought, and so the events of his life seemed to show. As the curtain slowly lifted, dreadful things were discovered behind. God was always in the future, preparing it for its advent; yet when it came it appeared in thunder and ruin. Was God secretly planning all this misery in the quiet, old peaceful days when Job suspected no danger? The unrolling of many a life-story has seemed to tell the same tale of God's secret thoughts made manifest in calamity.
III. GOD REALLY HIDES PURPOSES OF LOVE IN HIS HEART. h He must do so because he is love. We cannot understand his plans, but we can understand his nature as far as it is revealed to us. Now the revelation of God is wholly of goodness. This includes wrath against sin, but no injustice, no harshness, no delight in inflicting misery. Therefore, though we do not see the Divine intention, we may be sure that it is gracious.
2. He is seen to do so as far as his purposes are revealed.
(1) In Scripture. Ancient prophecy and the New Testament gospel concur in setting forth the Divine plan, and although this includes judgment and the punishment of sin, its main design is the redemption of man.
(2) In experience. Some of God's purposes are ripened and fulfilled daring our earthly life. These are seen to be good and gracious. It is only the unaccomplished purpose that wears a threatening aspect.
IV. THE HIDDEN PURPOSES OF GOD'S HEART WILL BE ULTIMATELY REVEALED. God does not delight in secrecy, much less does he designedly tantalize his creatures by perplexing them with needless mysteries and alarming them with bogus fears. What we know not now we shall know hereafter (John 13:7). The great apocalypse of futurity will answer many a dark riddle of providence in the light of eternal love. We have but to possess our souls in patience, and all will be clear. Job's life-problem was solved at last. When ours is made clear it will only enlarge our wondering gratitude for the depth of the love which God had hidden in his heart. - W.F.A.
I. DEATH APPEARS TO LEAD TO A LAND OF DARKNESS.
1. We cannot see what lies beyond. Science cannot penetrate this mystery of mysteries. At best she can but dimly surmise the existence of an "unseen universe." Philosophy may reason of the soul's immortality, but can throw no light into the tomb. The mind dashes itself in vain against the awful wall that separates it from the world beyond. One by one our most intimate friends leave us, and the dark doors open to receive them, but never a ray of light comes out, and "the rest is silence."
2. We shrink by natural instinct from death. Reason as we may, the grave is a horror to us. We people the land of the dead with terrors of the imagination. La Rochefoucauld says, "Neither the sun nor death can be looked at steadily,"
"Death is a fearful thing.
II. WHETHER DEATH WILL LEAD TO A LAND OF DARKNESS DEPENDS ON OUR USE OF LIFE. Nature, science, philosophy, all leave the future obscure. But God has lifted the veil in the gospel enough to give us guidance, warning, and consolation. We learn from the revelation of Christ that the unseen land need be no place of terror and darkness. What it will be depends on our present conduct.
1. Death leads the impenitent sinner into a land of darkness. For him the horrors of imagination cannot be too black. No one can conceive the chill desolation of the "outer darkness," the dread despair of seeing the "door shut" on a rejected soul. The darkness will consist in separation from God, from blessed companionship, from joy, from life - for the future existence of the lost is never called a future life. The dolorous words of Job are not too strong for the fate of lost souls.
2. Death leads the people of God into a land of light. The old-world gloom of the grove is dissipated by Christ, who has "brought life and immortality to light through the gospel" (2 Timothy 1:10). Here we have a great advance from the Old Testament standpoint, "The resurrection of Christ has thrown a flood of light into the regions beyond. It has shown us a "land of the leal," where the blessed dwell in light eternal St. Paul could even desire to depart and be with Christ, counting it gain to die (Philippians 1:21-23). All who have turned from sin to Christ may despise the darkness of death, for this is but the portal to the home of eternal life. - W.F.A.