Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. INNOCENCE MAINTAINED. (Vers. 2-10.)
1. Conscious rectitude of resolve. (Vers. 2-4.) In the profoundest sense that his thoughts are open to the eye of the all-seeing God, and that he need not fear to have his words overheard, Job speaks. He declares that he has still strength and sanity enough to know what he is saying, and to speak as a responsible witness on this quest on of his innocence. And although it has pleased God, as he thinks, to withhold justice from him, and to distress his soul, the light of duty and of conscience shines as brightly as ever. He will be true in word and deed to the last. Truth is the supreme duty we owe to ourselves, to our fellows, to our God, to eternity. The resolve to be true should be inseparable from the resolve to live; and we should part with life sooner than with truth. And no suffering should be allowed to disturb our genuine convictions about ourselves. The discouragement of others' harsh opinion may well lead us to cast more searching glances into the state of our heart, but ought not to extort confessions of guilt which are exaggerated and unreel. It is only superstition which can suppose such to be acceptable to God. But this is the language of a man who has found, deep below all his doubts, an immovable ground of confidence in God. This makes him bold in the presence of his fellow-men. Happy those whose hearts condemn them not, and who have confidence with God. A false humility is an affectation of being worse than we really are. A genuine humility teaches us to see ourselves as we are; and every recognition of facts as facts, truths as truths, gives confidence.
2. The steadfastness of a good conscience. (Vers. 5-7.) Job will never give way to his friends, nor own them in the right. The language of dogged egotism and stupid obstinacy imitates that of conscious right: "I will never give in!" But the one is the mark of folly and weakness, the other is the evidence of vitality and strength. He will not part with the sense of his integrity; it is as the jewel for which he has sold everything, which represents, amidst poverty and suffering and shame, all the property he has in the world. "Conscience is the great magazine and repository of all those pleasures that can afford any solid refreshment to the soul. When this is calm and serene and absolving, then properly a man enjoys all things, and what is more, himself; for that he must do before he can enjoy anything else. But it is only a pious life, led exactly by the rules of a severe religion, that can authorize a man's conscience to speak comfortably to him; it is this that must word the sentence before the conscience can pronounce it, and then it will do it with majesty and authority; it will not whisper, but proclaim a jubilee to the mind; it will not drop, but pour in oil upon the wounded heart" (South).
3. Inward peace and joy denied to the wicked. (Vers. 8-10.) This is a further argument of innocence. How can Job be numbered amongst the wicked? No hypocrite can possibly enjoy this serenity and unshaken hope in God which have been the portion of his soul amidst all calamities, and in the approach of death (ch. 17. and 19.). When the cords of his life-tent are cut (comp. Job 4:21), the wick d man has nothing more to hope for. His prayers will receive no answer, and joyous and trustful intimacy with God is denied him. Whatever disturbs innocence, in the same degree makes inroad upon 'the comfort of the soul. To be in the dark; to find that the gate of prayer is closed; to carry about a sick, ulcerated mind; to be harassed by the returning paroxysms of diffidence and despair; to be haunted with the dismal apparitions of a reviving guilt - the old black sores of past forgotten sins; to have the merciless handwriting against him, presented in new and flowing characters to his apprehension - is the case and condition of the sinner. But "why should a man choose to go to heaven through sloughs and ditches, briars and thorns, diffidence and desertion, trembling and misgiving, and by the very borders of hell, with death staring him in the face, when he might pass from comfort to comfort, and have all his way paved with assurance, and made easy and pleasant to him by the inward invaluable satisfaction of a well-grounded peace'? (South).
II. INSTRUCTION ON THE FATE OF THE WICKED. (Vers. 11-23.)
1. Introduction (Vers. 11-13; comp. Job 20:29; Job 16:20.) The theme of discourse is to be the "hand of God" - his power and his mode of moral government as seen by daily examples in the lives of men; and the "sense" or mind of the Almighty - the contents of his thoughts and counsels (Job 10:13; Job 23:10). And experience is to furnish the evidence and the illustrations (ver. 12). The facts are open to the view of all, but what was wanting in the friends of Job, as in many others, is a correct understanding and appreciation of them. Wisdom to mark the signs of the times, the hints of God's will, his meanings, his judgments, not only in the course of nations, the great crises of history, but in the smaller sphere of every day, is what we need. Then the theme is announced (ver. 13): "the lot of the wicked man - the heritage of the tyrant." Compare the words of Zopbar (Job 20:29).
2. The instability of the wicked man's condition (Vers. 14 18.) His household and family are first mentioned. The corruption working outward is first felt in the nearest circle and surrounding of his life. The sins of the father are visited upon the children. The sword, or famine, or pestilence makes them a prey. All modern as well as ancient experience confirms this law. The doctrine of "heredity" throws light upon many diseases, many vices, many woes. The children's teeth are set on edge because the fathers have eaten sour grapes. And this law of eternal retribution would seem intolerably stern and harsh did we not perceive that it is thus God constantly warns the world. The connection of causes and effects, constant, unbroken, alike in the physical, the moral, and the spiritual sphere, is the natural revelation of the will of God. But there are compensations, redeeming agencies at work for the individual. He suffers often as the scapegoat of others' sins externally; he is the victim of a solemn necessity; but in the large realm of inward freedom he may be emancipated, redeemed, and blessed. "His widows weep not" (ver. 15) behind his bier, perhaps because in the fearful raw, gee of the pestilence the funeral rites are suspended. The plural is used to indicate the wives of the heads of other families and relatives of the deceased generally. Then, not only is the wicked cursed in his family, but in his property. A picture of immense wealth and profuse display follows (ver. 16) - his silver being heaped up like dust, and fine raiment being as common as dirt. Yet there is no more real substantiality in all this than in the frail cocoon of the moth, or the hut which the watchman puts up in the vineyard or orchard (Isaiah 1:8). The striking story is told by Herodotus (6:86) of one Glaucus, the son of Epicydes, who was requested by a man of Miletus to take charge of the half of his fortune. When the sons el the Milesian claimed the money, Olaucus denied all knowledge of it, and consulted the oracle as to the results of perjury, and whether he could safely retain the money. The oracle replied, "Glaucus, son of Epicydes, for the present moment, indeed, it is more profitable to prevail by an oath, and to make the money thy booty. Swear; for death in truth awaits the man who is true to his oath. But, on the other hand, the child of the oath is nameless, and hath neither hands nor feet; yet he swiftly comes on, until he has ruined and destroyed thy whole race, yea, all thy house. With the race of the faithful man it shall fare better hereafter." He restored the money, but was told it was too late; and Leotychides, who related the story to the Athenians, says, "There is now no descendant of Glaucus living, no hearth that owns his name; he has been utterly rooted out, and has passed away from Sparta."
3. Insecurity of life. (Vers. 19-23.) "He lies down rich, and - doth it not again," according to the best reading. This is a picture of the evening. The next is a picture of the morning. "Opens his eyes, and - is gone!" Both depict the suddenness of the wicked man's end (ver. 19). A multitude of terrors rush in upon him, like the waters of an inundation (ver. 20; comp. Job 20:28; Psalm 18:5; Jeremiah 47:2), and fill his death-bed with horror (comp. Job 18:14; Job 20:25), and the east wind carries him away (ver. 21) - the east wind being often mentioned as one of great violence (Job 1:19; Job 15:2; Job 38:24; Isaiah 27:8; Ezekiel 27:26). God slings without sparing the bolts of his wrath against him, and he must flee before his hand (ver. 22). The fearful scene closes amidst the scornful laughter and clapping of hands of those who exult in the tyrant's doom (ver. 23; comp. Job 34:37; Lamentations 2:15; Nahum 3:19), and he departs from his place amidst the hisses of execration. The powerful picture of the great moralist, Juvenal, may be compared with this passage ('Sat.,' 13:210, sqq.). Alter depicting the sufferings of a guilty conscience, he proceeds, "What, then, if the sinner has achieved his purpose? A respiteless anxiety is his, that ceases not, even at the hours of meals; his jaws are parched as though with fever, and the food he loathes swells between his teeth. All wines the miserable wretch spits out; old Alban wine, of highly prized antiquity, disgusts him. At night, if anxious care has granted him perchance some brief slumber, and his limbs, that have been tossing over the whole bed, at length are at rest, immediately he sees in dreams the temple and altar of the deity he has insulted; and, what weighs upon his soul with especial terror, he sees thee [the wronged one]! Thy awful form, of more than human bulk, confounds the trembling wretch, and wrings confession from him!" These pictures of the doom of the godless are fitted to teach patience to all the ill-used and the suffering in this world. God forgets nothing; neither the work of faith and labour of love of his children, nor the rank offences of the rebels against his laws. In due time he will both reward and punish, commonly even in this life (Exodus 32:34; Romans 2.). Calamity is not a mere accident, as the worldly and the infidel think. It follows sin, according to a fixed connection, by the will of God (Amos 3:6). - J.
I. THE TEMPTATION TO INSINCERITY. This is many-sided, springing from various sources.
1. The desire to conciliate God. Job is persuaded that it is the Almighty who has vexed his soul. If he will abase himself and confess his utter unworthiness, it would seem that perhaps God would be propitiated.
2. The persuasive urgency of others. Each of the three friends had set before Job the same picture, and had suggested that the only security, the only hope, lay in abject penitence. It is difficult to hold to our course when it is resisted and reprobated by our friends.
3. The true humility of a good man. Job knew that he was a frail creature, and that he was as nothing before the might and holiness of God (ch. 7:1-8). Good men are more or less conscious of their own littleness. It seems a mark of modesty to depreciate one's self. Job must have been deeply pained at the unfairness that drove him to take the opposite course and vindicate his own uprightness. We are all tempted to insincere confession of guilt which we do not feel in order to please God or men, or as a sign of humility.
II. THE WEAKNESS OF YIELDING TO THIS TEMPTATION. All the inducements that may be brought to urge a person to insincerity are just temptations to sin. They are attacks upon the conscience. To yield to them is a sign of weakness. The important point is that insincerity is always wrong, even when it is in the direction of self-humiliation. There may be a hypocritical penitence as well as a hypocritical pride. We cannot be too deeply humble; when the thought of our sin dawns upon us we cannot grieve over the guilt and shame of it too intensely. But if we do not feel this profound penitence it is nothing but falsehood and empty pretence to make a confession of it with our lips. For the language of penitence to exceed the feeling of it is not a mark of real humility. Any insincerity is injurious to the conscience and wrong in the sight of God, and the fact that it tends to self-depreciation rather than to self-exaltation does not alter its essential character.
III. THE MORAL HONESTY OF RESISTING THE TEMPTATION TO INSINCERITY. We cannot but admire the manliness of Job. It was difficult for him not to be cowed before the array of adverse influences brought to bear upon him. His sickness of body, his mental distress and perplexity, and the unanimous opinion of his friends, might well have deprived him of all courage. Yet he holds up his head and asserts the right. On what is such moral honesty based?
1. Reverence for truth. Truth is imperious and must be respected at any cost.
2. Belief in justice. In the end right must prevail. It cannot be well to renounce it in favour of temporary appearances.
3. Trust in God. Job still clings to his faith, although he believes that all his troubles come from God. Now, no insincerity can please God or deceive him. If we think of our standing in his sight, rather than our position in the eyes of men, we must be true and honest. - W.F.A.
I. RESOLUTION FORTIFIES THE MIND AGAINST THE ATTACKS OF TEMPTATION. Evil finds its easiest prey in the irresolute and undetermined. Subtle and sudden suggestions of wrong are instantly rejected by the determined mind. They are cast off. There is a spirit of antagonism - a cherished antipathy to wrong; and before temptation has power to draw away the feet of the unwary, the determined one casts back the oftenting presence. He waits not to parley. There is a law established to cleave to the right; and the presence of the wrong becomes the watchword for an uprising of the whole strength against the usurper.
II. RESOLUTION, BY ITS DECISIONS, PREVENTS THE MIND FROM THE INJURIOUS EFFECTS OF VACILLATION. The mind is kept braced up to its duty. Its judgments are formed beforehand. It has not to wait for any mental process. The instant wrong is suggested, that instant its reply is at hand. While the wavering and uncertain are being overcome, the resolute man walks on his plain path fearlessly and safe.
III. RESOLUTION TO MAINTAIN INTEGRITY ARISING OUT OF A JUST ESTIMATE OF ITS WORTH PRESERVES FROM DECEPTION BY FALSE VIEWS. Low estimates of the worth of personal integrity make a man the sport of the trafficker in evil. Personal rectitude being held cheaply would be bartered away for any gilded bait.
IV. THE ENCOURAGEMENT OF RESOLUTENESS OF SPIRIT BECOMES AN OBVIOUS AND PRESSING DUTY. No one can be neglectful of this without doing great wrong to himself. To stand firm, entrenched by a strong will, guards the soul from the delusions that are rife enough; but that the will may be well supported, it is needful to encourage the spirit of resolute, unyielding determination. Then, with a high sense of the preciousness of conscious integrity, and with a mind adjusted to an attitude of proposed resistance against whatever would threaten to impair that integrity, the faithful one holds fast to his possession, and gains, in addition to his own quiet approval, that of all observers, and, above all, that of the great Judge of human conduct. In this Job succeeds, and becomes a pattern to all tempted ones. From the depth of his acute and prolonged suffering arises the cry of holy resolve, "Till I die will I not remove mine integrity from me." So that from his inmost heart cometh no reproach upon his days. He that. thus acts secures
(1) peace of mind;
(2) consciousness of the Divine approval;
(3) the benefit of daily growth in goodness;
(4) the final reward of fidelity. - R.G.
What is the hope of the hypocrite? It is an appeal that can receive no satisfying answer. There is no hope for him, indeed; whatever he may imagine it to be, it is as a bubble that floats on the water for a short time, then bursts, and no trace is left of it. His confidence is placed on an unsafe foundation; he may build his expectations upon it, but the inevitable flood of time will wash it away. It is a vain, groundless, lost, disappointed hope. Job directs his inquiry into one channel - What is the hypocrite's hope as towards God? The earthly hopes of the hypocrite are not safe, though for a time he may prosper. But his hopes towards God are vain indeed. The hypocrite is estranged from God.
I. HE HAS NO HOPE IN GOD IN DEATH. When the righteous man filleth his bosom with sheaves, the hope of the wicked is found to be cut off. Beyond the grave all is darkness.
II. HE CANNOT TURN TO GOD IN TIME OF TROUBLE. When affliction falls upon the humble and righteous one, he whom he has sought to know and obey proves to be a reality to him. But the hypocrite has made God to be a sham. He has not known or obeyed him, or acted towards him as though he were a reality. To him, indeed, there is no God. How can he call on him in trouble whom he has denied in health?
III. HE CANNOT FIND IN GOD A SPRING OF JOY. He cannot delight himself in him whom he has represented to himself as an unreality. God has not been really G-d in the estimate of the hypocrite. The man who is himself conscious of being false makes all false around him. He does not live in a real but a deceitful world. He has deceived himself in respect of it.
IV. HE CANNOT CALL UPON GOD IN PRAYER. Thus the hope of the hypocrite perishes. It is vain. In the exigencies of life, when he most needs help, the false foundation which he has laid for himself fails him. The man who acts falsely towards God really acts falsely towards himself, and turns the most substantial grounds of hope into airy nothingness. - R.G.
I. HE HAS EARTHLY POSSESSIONS. The foolish man has made gain; but it is useless to him. He is like the rich man in the parable, who was about to build new barns lot his goods when his life was taken and all his wealth lost at a stroke. If a person trusts to his earthly prosperity he is not prepared to confess his true needs. He thinks he is rich when he is miserable and blind and naked (Revelation 3:17). If he has acquired his wealth for himself, if it is his gain, he is in the greater danger of over-estimating it. Self-made men are tempted to think too much of what they have won by their own hard toil.
II. HE HAS NO CLAIM ON THE HEAVENLY INHERITANCE. There is nothing for the future. Yet life is brief and uncertain. It must end soon; it may end at any moment. Riches may have been got by a man's own energy; but life is dependent on the will of God. Thus a man gains earthly things; but God disposes of his life. The greater concerns are altogether outside his powers, as they are beyond the region of his calculations.
III. HE HAS NO ACCESS TO GOD IN PRAYER. The wicked man has no right to expect God to hear him in trouble.
1. He will have trouble. All his prosperity cannot exclude the possibility, nay, the certainty, of adversity.
2. He will need God. In trouble he may shriek to Heaven for help, though he never dreams of acknowledging God in times of prosperity. Prayer is so natural to man that it is forced out of the most unaccustomed lips by the pressure of great distress.
3. He will not be heard. Job is right. There are men whose prayers God will not hear. The reason is simply that they do not fulfil the necessary conditions of successful prayer. No man can fall so low, but that if he humble himself and turn and repent, God will hear him. But God will not hear the prayer of the impenitent. When the wicked man fails into trouble, very naturally he will desire to be saved from it. But possibly he may not repent of his sin nor desire to be saved from that; then all his prayer comes from a low, selfish desire to escape what hurts him. Such a prayer cannot be heard.
IV. HE HAS NO DELIGHT IN GOD.
1. He misses the one source of perfect good. Though he gains much, his possessions are external; they do not help or Iced his soul. They are but temporal; when he dies he will leave them all behind. But God, as the Portion of his people, is a satisfying and permanent possession. He, and he alone, both fills all their real need now and endures for ever. To miss God in pursuit of any other aim is to light on an empty hope.
2. He will not continue to seek God. In the agony of the moment a miserable, selfish cry to Heaven is wrung from his heart. But when the trouble is past he forgets his prayer. He will not "always call upon God." So-called death-bed repentances are justly viewed with suspicion. Too often the dying man is only afraid of the dread unknown, naturally desirous of being delivered from its terrors. Too often, if he recovers, his penitence is forgotten with his fears of death, and he lives his old evil life again. - W.F.A.
I. THE HIGHEST TEACHINGS. Our thoughts am too much chained to the earths and too much centred in self. Even in religion we tend to subjective feelings rather than to worship - the contemplation and the service of God. Now, the chief end of revelation is to make God known to us, and the highest occupation for our minds is to rise to the thought of God. The character of God should make this clear to us.
1. His greatness. Knowledge should seek a worthy object. We should desire to know what is greatest, rather than petty details.
2. His holiness. Teachings about God are teachings about goodness. Here we come to the source of true ethics. We cannot study "the good" till we know God.
3. His love. That is supreme in God, and it is supreme in the universe. To know the love of God is to know what is highest and best of all things.
II. PRACTICAL TEACHINGS. It may be urged that we cannot afford to spend our time in contemplation, that we want to know how to live our present life, and that therefore earthly and human knowledge is the most important knowledge. But this is a mistake. For God is not separated from this world and the affairs of daily life. The knowledge of God is not abstract theology. God is our Father, our Master, our Guide. To know God is to know how to live; it is to know what character and conduct are in harmony with the mind of our supreme King. We cannot live aright without knowing him. Moreover, it is a matter of profound interest to know how God is disposed towards us. Is he gracious and forgiving? how may we best please him? These are practical questions. But apart from the ends of knowledge, the knowledge of God is itself a source of blessedness. To know God is eternal life (John 17:3).
III. DIFFICULT TEACHINGS. Experience shows how grievously men have erred in their teachings about God. Not only has heathenism gone astray in its manifold and monstrous perversions of Divinity, but Christians have set forth the most erroneous conceptions of God. With some he has been regarded as a stern despot, an arbitrary autocrat; with others he has been represented as a mere personification of amiable and compliant good will, without regard to moral considerations. It is not wonderful that the teachings are difficult, considering:
1. The greatness of God. One can know but a very little of so awful a Being. We see but "parts of his ways;" "but the thunder of his power who can understand?"
2. The blindness of men. Sin blinds us; prejudice perverts our notions of God instead of allowing us to see the truth about him.
IV. POSSIBLE TEACHINGS.
1. From revelation. God has not hidden himself in the thick darkness. He has made himself known in his works, by the inspiration of prophecy, and above all in the Person of Christ. Agnosticism is only defensible if all revelation is discarded, and agnosticism cannot account for Christ.
2. By spiritual grace. The knowledge of God is an inward revelation. We can only read nature, the Bible, and Christ aright when the Spirit of God is in our hearts. By the gift of his Spirit God opens our eyes to the knowledge of himself. - W.F.A.
I. AFFLICTION UPON HIS FAMILY. A curse is upon his home. The sword, the famine, the pestilence, carry off his children, even if they be multiplied.
II. INSECURITY OF HIS WEALTH. Yea, "though he heap up silver as the dust." The Divine retributions are everywhere acknowledge(! to extend to ill-gotten gain. Job is speaking of "the wicked man" and of "oppressors." They have an earthly "heritage," but there is a God that judgeth in the earth, and there is a "heritage" also which they shall receive of the Almighty.
III. THE INSTABILITY OF HIS HOUSE. That in which man takes so great a pride. To establish a name in the earth, to be distinguished as a family, a house, is a marked aim on the part of most men. The effort and hope of the wicked are cut off. The very "name of the wicked shall rot."
IV. HE IS THE VICTIM OF SORROW, UNHAPPINESS, AND FEAR. That which sustains the righteous in his afflictions, viz. his conscious integrity, is wanting in the wicked, and he becomes filled with fear.
V. HE IS FINALLY UPROOTED AND CAST AWAY. He leaves no permanent memorial. His name, his works, his memory, are not cherished by any. "The east wind carrieth him away," and he is hurled "out of his place." He is judged of God; he is despised of man (vers. 22, 23). This, in Job's view, is the lot of the ungodly; and though he himself has Suffered many things at the hands of the Lord, he is conscious of his righteousness, and has confident hope of final vindication. - R.G.
I. FAMILY DISAPPOINTMENTS. (Vers. 13-15.) The wicked man is not childless. He has children who are to be regarded as "a heritage from the Lord." His family grows up about him. But wait for the end. Clouds gather and break over the home. Brave sons are slain by the sword. Famine visits the land, or business failure impoverishes the store, and then many children only mean many mouths to feed. If the calamity does not always come in this visible way, in some way or other the bad man must miss the true blessings of family life, for he has not the pure and generous spirit out of which they are produced.
II. USELESS WEALTH. (Vers. 16, 17.) He may heap up silver as the dust, but he will not be able to enjoy it. Mere money is not happiness. Money may be married to misery, while peace may dwell with poverty. The wealth may not be forfeited; yet the life of its owner is but brief. After he has gone another will enjoy the product of his labours, Thus, while he has it, it will not satisfy his deepest wants, and at best his tenure of it is temporary and hazardous.
III. DANGER IN THE MIDST OF SECURITY. (Vers. 18, 19.) He has built him a house. But in the day of trial this will prove flimsy as a silken cocoon spun by a moth, frail as a booth of green boughs. Thus he deceives himself. If he had not been prosperous he would have been more ready to confess his helplessness. But his very success has blinded him, and lulled him to sleep in a false sense of ease and safety. Yet his ruin is preparing for him, and it will burst over him when he least expects it. Such a sudden and startling surprise must be overwhelming. The miserable man will be crushed by it.
IV. TERRORS AND IRRESISTIBLE DESTRUCTION. (Vers. 20, 21.) When the day of reckoning comes there will be no possibility of mistaking it. All signs of prosperity now disappear. There is only an awakening to terror and tempest. The fierce east wind sweeps the wicked man away. No one can resist the judgment of God. It is sudden, swift, complete, like the desolating hurricane.
V. REPROBATION INSTEAD OF POPULARITY. (Vers. 22, 23.) In his prosperity the wicked man was fawned upon by flatterers. Then he had society and admirers. Now he has lost all, and is desolate. God is against him. Men mock at him. A miserable, hunted creature, he has no hope and no refuge. Around and before him are only foes and dangers. He can but despair. This awful fate is set forth as a warning. It is possible for the wicked man to repeat and find deliverance in the grace of Christ. - W.F.A.
I. THAT THE WORK OF THE WICKED IS FOR THE ADVANTAGE OF THE GOOD. First there is the negative side of the truth. Bad people do not enjoy the fruits of their own misdeeds. They may heap up riches, but they are not able to keep possession of them; for even if they meet with no reverse of fortune, they must forsake all when they die. But now we are carried a step further. What becomes of the forsaken wealth? Job says that it falls into the hands of the just, who put on the raiment which the wicked have prepared. This does not always happen in the direct manner that Job's words indicate, though sometimes his statement is literally verified. But in indirect ways it has a much wider application. "All things work together for good to them that love God" (Romans 8:28). The earth helps the woman (Revelation 12:16). The meek shall inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5). Nebuchadnezzar fought for his own advantage only. Yet he was used as God's servant (Jeremiah 25:9), and his achievements were turned to the real advantage of the devout remnant of Israel. Persecution has spread the gospel, as when the Church was scattered at the death of Stephen, and so became missionary. Thus "the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church." Modern wars have opened up countries to the gospel of Christ - not wars of the cross in the interests of Christianity, but selfish, wicked wars, the leaders of which had no good end in view. So it may be that all sin and Satanic evil will be utilized, like offensive manure out of which spring beautiful and fragrant flowers.
II. HOW THE WORK OF THE WICKED COMES TO BE FOR THE ADVANTAGE OF THE GOOD. This thing is not aimed at by the wicked, nor do they imagine that it will come about. How, then, is it produced?
1. By the overruling providence of God. God governs even through the wicked deeds of bad men. He "shapes our ends, rough-hew them how we will." "Man proposes, and God disposes." We are not like pawns on the chess-board, because we have free-will. But God is infinitely greater than a skilful chess-player. He does more than manipulate inert things. He works among the wild and wayward wills of men, and so acts that they result in accomplishing his great purposes. Thus God employs unconscious agents and brings good out of evil.
2. Through human fitness. The good must be fit to profit by God's providential use of the work of the wicked. That work tends to their advantage just in proportion as they are capable of being benefited.
(1) Moral fitness. This is a condition of the special favour that is indicated by the providential action. God will give as a favour what, indeed, is not earned, but what is in a measure the reward of fidelity.
(2) Personal fitness. We can only receive real good in proportion to our capacity for it. There are men who cannot take God's blessings, simply because they have no susceptibility for them. Now, the real good even of property is not in the thing itself, but in the right use of it. God will make things a blessing to those who are in the condition to use them well. - W.F.A.
I. THERE ARE DESTRUCTIVE FORCES IN NATURE. The east wind is destructive. It brings blight to plants and illness to men. We might have expected that a perfect world would have only fresh, healthy west winds. Yet we must recognize the fact that, like the east wind, lightning, tempest, earthquakes, drought, and deluge are naturally hurtful influences. We need not resort to a Manichaean explanation, and suppose that a malignant being is at the root of these things. For scientific research teaches us that the destroying agencies of nature minister to its progress. The biting east wind that cuts off the more tender plants leaves the hardier ones to flourish with greater freedom, and so tends to promote their growth and propagation. The buffeting of the world helps to develop robustness of character.
II. INFLUENCE PARTAKES OF THE CHARACTER OF ITS ORIGIN. The east wind is gendered on the dreary steppes of Russia. Arid plains suck out of it all its exhilarating properties. Cold regions lend it cruel barbs of ice. Even in beautiful, smiling England, the east wind comes as a blast from Siberia, and the desolation of the land of exile accompanies it. Spiritual influence is like its origin. Cruel natures can only spread an atmosphere of cruelty and distress about them. No man can influence others excepting through what he possesses. We cannot permanently disguise our characters. As we are in our hearts and homes, so shall we be ultimately in our work and in the outcome of our lives.
III. CHILDHOOD DETERMINES MANHOOD. Leagues away beyond whole empires the east wind is born in the far-off Russian solitude. Yet when it flies over our fields and rushes in at our doors it is true to the character it received in the land of its birth. Not only is its influence true to its origin, but the wind itself continues of the same harsh character, although it is now surrounded by very genial circumstances. The tone and set of life are determined in youth. Some asperity may be softened and mellowed by the discipline of later years; but in the main most men are of the character of their youth. Hence the great importance of a right life at the start.
IV. EAST WINDS ARE CONFINED TO EARTH. There are none in heaven. The storms and terrors of life that beset God's children are peculiar to this brief time of discipline. The fruits of the heavenly Eden are not touched by frost or blighting blast. Those people who have no portion in the better land may well dread the destructive agencies of nature, which tear away all that they have to live for. But true Christians should learn to face the east wind of cutting calamity, knowing that they have but to cross the moor, and a cheerful home will welcome them on the other side. - W.F.A.