Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
right words but not fitly spoken as to person, time, and place. They cause the poor sufferer to wince afresh instead of soothing his pain. The tumult of his spirit is now aggravated into a very tempest of woe. The human spirit is a thing of moods. We have watched the marvellous changes that pass over the surface of a lake beneath a tempestuous sky. And such are the rapid changes of pain that now pass over the mind of Job, relieved here and there by flashes of calmer reflection, of faith and hope. The picture is instructive, teaching us how feeble and unstable a thing is the human mind, and how deeply it needs to look out from itself for a sure support in the Eternal. Let us briefly take note of these moods. Not without profit shall we try to understand them if we thereby cultivate that deeper sympathy with our brethren in adversity which Job seemed to demand at the hand of his friends in vain.
I. THE EXPERIENCE OF THE IMMENSITY OF SUFFERING. (Vers. 1-14.) There are times when every nerve of the sensitive organization seems to be turned into a channel of pain; when the creature, instead of basking in the brilliant ether of unbounded joy, is submerged in a boundless ocean of misery. "All thy waves and billows have gone over me." It is with this feeling that Job exclaims, "Would that a term, a measure, a weight, might be applied to my sufferings!" A day, an hour, of such woe seems as an eternity!
II. THE FEAR OF SINNING WITH THE TONGUE. Ver. 3, which appears to mean, "Therefore my words idly bubbled," like the impatient cries and reproaches of little children against the parents whom they level But this is the only definite sin of which Job is conscious. And he prays that he may be delivered from it in this trying hour. So said the psalmist, "I will take heed to my ways, that I offend not with my tongue." Let Christians imitate this example. Let them bridle their tongues with holy reverence, and cast upon them as a spell the prayer of Jesus in the garden.
"Forgive these wild and wandering cries, III. THE NATURE AND ORIGIN OF HIS SUFFERINGS TRACED TO GOD. (Ver. 4.) It is his arrows which have fastened themselves with poisonous inflammation in his breast; his host of terrors that have beleaguered his soul. Though in such extreme moments it is hard to reconcile our sufferings with the goodness of God, it is well to hold firmly to the clue of Divine causation. That which has not come causelessly will not causelessly remain. This is the one crevice through which light steals into the dungeon: "God is in all I suffer." IV. APOLOGY FOR HIS COMPLAINTS. (Vers. 5-7.) They are true to nature. God has given to all animals their natural voice of pleasure and of pain. And these voices express natural tastes and repugnances. The ox and the ass are silent at the well-filled stall. It is only when unsavoury food is offered that we hear the cries of complaint. And what an unsavoury mess is this which his friends would place before him, in their rigid application to him of the doctrine that his suffering witnesses his guilt! V. DEATH CRAVED AS A BOON. (Vers. 8-13.) The very thought of it excites a frantic joy. Whereas Eliphaz had spoken of deliverance from death as one of the privileges of the blessed man, and of its lingering approach in a happy old age, Job would crave a speedy dismissal as the last boon which he feels entitled, in a clear conscience, to ask of God I "I have not denied the words of the Holy One; I shall not pass, an impenitent, rejected soul; grant me this last, this speedy favour, to die!" If such a state of mind excites our keenest pity, what shall we think of the condition of those Buddhists or pessimists among the heathen and ourselves, who have built a doctrine upon this horror-stricken mood, and teach that the highest good for man is absorption in some Nirvana of dreamless, unconscious nothingness? Truly, the gospel of Christ is the only remedy for these melancholy aberrations. M. Naville says that the impassioned earnestness of Lacroix, the great Indian missionary, which he had listened to in earlier years, was only fully understood by him when subsequent study had acquainted him with the gloomy beliefs of the Oriental world. VI. CONFESSION OF UTTER WEAKNESS AND DESPONDENCY. (Vers. 11-13.) He has neither strength nor patience to look forward to the end which is to reward endurance. Sooner or later death must be the end; and why not sooner rather than later? But weakness cannot wring from his tortured breast the confession of a guilt which conscience refuses to own. He has not denied the words of the Holy One. His heart has been true to God. This consciousness is still a kind of strength in weakness, and enables him to ask this last boon at God's hands - a speedy death. - J.
III. THE NATURE AND ORIGIN OF HIS SUFFERINGS TRACED TO GOD. (Ver. 4.) It is his arrows which have fastened themselves with poisonous inflammation in his breast; his host of terrors that have beleaguered his soul. Though in such extreme moments it is hard to reconcile our sufferings with the goodness of God, it is well to hold firmly to the clue of Divine causation. That which has not come causelessly will not causelessly remain. This is the one crevice through which light steals into the dungeon: "God is in all I suffer."
IV. APOLOGY FOR HIS COMPLAINTS. (Vers. 5-7.) They are true to nature. God has given to all animals their natural voice of pleasure and of pain. And these voices express natural tastes and repugnances. The ox and the ass are silent at the well-filled stall. It is only when unsavoury food is offered that we hear the cries of complaint. And what an unsavoury mess is this which his friends would place before him, in their rigid application to him of the doctrine that his suffering witnesses his guilt!
V. DEATH CRAVED AS A BOON. (Vers. 8-13.) The very thought of it excites a frantic joy. Whereas Eliphaz had spoken of deliverance from death as one of the privileges of the blessed man, and of its lingering approach in a happy old age, Job would crave a speedy dismissal as the last boon which he feels entitled, in a clear conscience, to ask of God I "I have not denied the words of the Holy One; I shall not pass, an impenitent, rejected soul; grant me this last, this speedy favour, to die!" If such a state of mind excites our keenest pity, what shall we think of the condition of those Buddhists or pessimists among the heathen and ourselves, who have built a doctrine upon this horror-stricken mood, and teach that the highest good for man is absorption in some Nirvana of dreamless, unconscious nothingness? Truly, the gospel of Christ is the only remedy for these melancholy aberrations. M. Naville says that the impassioned earnestness of Lacroix, the great Indian missionary, which he had listened to in earlier years, was only fully understood by him when subsequent study had acquainted him with the gloomy beliefs of the Oriental world.
VI. CONFESSION OF UTTER WEAKNESS AND DESPONDENCY. (Vers. 11-13.) He has neither strength nor patience to look forward to the end which is to reward endurance. Sooner or later death must be the end; and why not sooner rather than later? But weakness cannot wring from his tortured breast the confession of a guilt which conscience refuses to own. He has not denied the words of the Holy One. His heart has been true to God. This consciousness is still a kind of strength in weakness, and enables him to ask this last boon at God's hands - a speedy death. - J.
I. THE INSUFFERABLE WEIGHT OF HIS AFFLICTION. It is as the unknown weight of the sand of the seashore. Affliction is truly as the pressure of a great weight upon the frail body. The idea of patience is gained from bearing up under a load. Heavy is the load, indeed, under which this servant of the Lord is bowed down. It is not to be estimated. No onlooker can determine it. Therefore should judgment be withheld when from the life of the sufferer there escapes the sigh of complaint. He only knows his sufferings; and he may know that his cry does not fully represent them. The untouched observer but hears the cry, and cannot put that into comparison with a pain that he feels not, and the measure of which pain the cry is supposed to represent. How shall a just judgment, therefore, be given?
II. THE KEENNESS OF THE PANG OF HIS SUFFERINGS. They pierce as doth an arrow; and are as poisoned arrows; and as arrows shot forth by no feeble arm, but by the Almighty. They penetrate to the inner spirit. The strength of their burning poison drinks up - burns up his spirit. He does not encounter a feeble foe. "The terrors of God set themselves in array" against him. Is it wonderful that his words are hasty? Is there not a cause? "Doth the wild ass bray when he hath grass?"
III. THE ABHORRENT CHARACTER OF THE THINGS WITH WHICH HE HAS TO DO. "That which my soul refused" - from which I turned away in disgust - I am compelled to take as my daily bread. Yea, that which should give me comfort, even my refreshing food, is loathsome to me. Sadly does he thus represent the nature of the foul disease that cleaveth to him. The onlookers are pained, but they taste it not. To him it is as his food.
IV. HE FURTHER DESCRIBES HIS SUFFERING CONDITION AS SO SAD THAT HE LONGS FOR DEATH. "That it would please God to destroy me!" How low is life reduced when there seems to be no release but in the gravel Worn to the earth, this sufferer cries for an end to be put to his pains. He has not strength to bear up patiently under the weight of them. He cannot desire prolonged life; for what shall the end of it be? Weary, indeed, is that spirit that craves rest in the tomb. Job feels himself so utterly powerless, that continued endurance is impossible to him. He little knew that he could survive all - that he could yet pass through all, and bear honour to God, and perceive in the end the testimony of the Divine approbation. To him it was true, and he would prove it, though the words had not fallen on his ear, "With man it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible." Job's history, therefore, illustrates the sufficiency of the Divine grace to sustain men beneath the uttermost pressure of sorrow. - R.G.
I. THE SUFFERER NATURALLY DESIRES AN APPRECIATION OF HIS SUFFERINGS,
1. That he may be understood. You cannot understand a man till you know how be feels. Words are more than descriptions of bare facts; they may be utterances of the heart. To comprehend their import we must enter into the feelings of the speaker. We should study the needs and troubles of those whom we desire to understand in order to help them.
2. That he may be fairly judged. Eliphaz had made the most galling charges against Job, partly because he was utterly below understanding the afflicted man's overwhelming grief. We are unjust with those who are incomprehensible to us. Christ's executioners did not know him, and he prayed, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34). The mob that yelled at him anti hounded him to death had not the least conception of his Gethsemane agony.
3. That he may receive sympathy. Sympathy helps us to understand one another. But without some preliminary knowledge we can have no kind of sympathy. Ignorant, well-meant attempts at sympathy hurt rather than heal, and chafe the very wounds they are intended to soothe.
II. IT IS NOT EASY TO FIND SCALES IN WHICH SUFFERING CAN BE WEIGHED. Where shall we look for a standard of measurement? We cannot judge by outside tokens of grief; for some are reserved and self-restrained, while others are demonstrative in their abandonment to grief. We cannot judge by the measure of the events that have caused the suffering; for some feel the same calamity much more keenly than it would be felt by others. Each sufferer is tempted to think that his troubles surpass all others. We can only understand a man in so far as we can succeed in putting ourselves in his place. But only Christ can do this perfectly. His incarnation is a guarantee of his complete comprehension of human sin and sorrow; so that the sufferer who is misapprehended by his most intimate earthly friends may be assured of the perfect sympathy of his Saviour. Moreover, with his own thoughts the sufferer might measure his grief in a way which would help him to apprize it more justly than by wild conjectures. Suppose he measured it against his blessings: is it so vastly greater? Or suppose he weighed it with his deserts: is it so immensely heavier? Or suppose he compared it with what Christ suffered for him: is there really any comparison between the Christian's roughest cross and the awful cross of his Saviour? - W.F.A.
I. THE TERROR OF THE ARROWS OF THE ALMIGHTY.
1. They are impelled by an irresistible power. They are shot by "El Shaddai." God in his power is conceived of as the Source of the troubles. But none can resist the might of God. No wonder Job is prostrate in despair. It is useless for him to stand up against his adversary. The shield of faith may "quench all the fiery darts of the wicked" (Ephesians 6:16); but no shield can keep off the piercing arrows of the Almighty If God is against us, we are utterly undone.
2. They come from the Source of light and blessing. God had been showering blessings on the head of the patriarch, who had learnt to honour him as his Benefactor. It was hard, indeed, to find his great Friend turned into a Foe. This fact made the wounds pain as with deadly venom. It is fearful to think that our Father in heaven is shooting wrath against his children. No arrows are so keen as the arrows of love.
3. They penetrate to the heart. Earthly calamities strike the outer life. We may have ramparts and bastions that keep them off from our true self. But God's arrows penetrate to the citadel of the soul He reaches the heart whenever he smites. We can bear outside distresses so long as we keep up a stout heart; but the wounds of the inner man are deadly.
II. THE MISAPPREHENSION OF THE ARROWS OF THE ALMIGHTY.
1. The error of ascribing to God what he has not sent. Job thinks that God is his Adversary, but the prologue shows that the adversary is Satan. Of the Satanic cause of his trouble Job has not the least conception. He ascribes it all to God. Thus he is mistaken, unjust, and needlessly dismayed. If he had but known that he was suffering from the arrows of Satan, he would have been more courageous and hopeful. May we not be in error in ascribing to God what he never sends? The evil state of society causes many troubles to the poor, which God does not wish them to suffer from- We cannot charge him with the terrible wrongs of a corrupt civilization which darken the slums of great cities. Our worst woes come from the devil within - from our own heart of sin.
2. When God does smite, his purpose is good. Job was so far right that God had some hand in his sufferings, for God had permitted Satan to go to the great length in tormenting Job that he had now reached.
(1) There is a smiting to heal Grievous chastisement is a discipline of love. We think that the arrow poisons us; what it really brings is a needed astringent.
(2) There must be a smiting of judgment. God cannot suffer his rebellious creatures to sin with impunity. Though Job had not felt them, God has terrible arrows of judgment for the impenitent. It is well if we learn the lesson of the milder wounds of chastisement before those terrors burst over us. - W.F.A.
I. THE SATISFIED ARE NOT DISCONTENTED. We have illustrations of this fact in nature. Among the wild animals ("the wild ass"), and also among the domesticated ("the ox"), we see that sufficiency produces content. If the wild ass brays, or if the ox lows, something is amiss. Supply them with all they need, and they will be quiet and contented. If, therefore, Job is not. at rest, something must be amiss with him.
1. The discontent of society makes it evident that some want is unsupplied. Men do not rebel for the sake of rebellion. Political and social upheavals have their sources in some disorganized condition of the body politic. If all were satisfied, quiet would reign universally.
2. The discontent of the soul proves that the soul is not satisfied. Man has deeper needs than the animals. The wild ass and the tame ox can be satisfied, while man is still possessed by a "Divine discontent." This very restlessness is a sign of his higher nature. His thirst reveals the depths from which it springs. Man is
"Poor in abundance, famish'd at a feast,
II. THE UNSATISFIED MUST BE DISCONTENTED. This is more than the reverse side of the previous statement. It carries with it the idea that the dissatisfaction cannot be stifled, must be met, if it is to be set at rest. The truth is illustrated from natural things. Unsavoury food cannot be made savoury without the salt, the needed condiment. That which is naturally tasteless, like the white of an egg, cannot be made to have delicious flavours by any conjuring process, unless the thing itself is changed or receives additions. So no jugglery will remove the dissatisfaction of society or of the soul. We cannot make the world at rest by wishing it to be peaceful, or by declaring it to be quiet. A theory of order is not order, nor is a doctrine of optimism a quietus for the world's distresses. The bitter cry of the outcast will not be allayed because some philosophers believe themselves to be living in "the best of possible worlds." We do not make peace by calling, "Peace, peace!" when there is no peace. To preach to souls of rest and satisfaction is not to bestow those desired boons. It is as much a mockery to tell miserable men to be contented without supplying their wants, as to tell the hungry and naked to be fed and clothed while we do nothing to furnish them with what they lack. Any lulling of discontent without curing its cause is false and unhealthy. It is like putting a weight on the safety-valve. It is no better than the morphia that allays the symptoms of the disease it cannot cure. The discontent should go on till it finds its remedy in a true satisfaction.
1. Christ gives this for society in the kingdom of heaven; if we followed out his teaching in the world the wants of society would be satisfied.
2. He gives it for the soul in his body and blood, and the life eternal that comes from fellowship with him. - W.F.A.
Job 2:9); but he begs that God will take his life.
I. IT IS WELL TO BRING THE DESPAIR OF THE SOUL TO GOD. The despair is not utter and complete if it has not stifled the fountains of prayer. When it can be said of any one, "Behold, he prayeth," all hope is not yet gone. Although for the time being he had lost sight of it, still there is a point on which hope for better days may lay hold. When all things seem to be rushing to ruin, and there is no other outlook for the soul, the outlook to heaven is still open. If we can do nothing else, the way is still before us to cast our burden upon the Lord. Though the very prayer be one of horror and despair, like Job's, still it is a prayer. There is the saving element. The Soul is looking up to God. It is not quite alone in its desolation.
II. GOD UNDERSTANDS THE PRAYER OF DESPAIR. He is not like Job's purblind censor Eliphaz, who judged in ignorance and wounded when he thought to heal. The breaches of conventional propriety in religion, which shock the more precise sort of piety, are not thus misapprehended by God. He views all with a large eye of charity, with a penetrating discernment of sympathy. The wild utterance that only scandalizes the superficial hearer moves the compassion of the Father of spirits. He knows from what depths of agony it has been forced, and he pardons the extravagance of it in pity for its misery.
III. THE PRAYER OF DESPAIR IS FOOLISH AND SHORT-SIGHTED. These two words "prayer" and "despair," are quite incongruous. The one should utterly banish the other. If we quite understood the meaning and power of prayer, despair would be impossible. For prayer implies that God has not forgotten us; or why should one pray to heedless ears? When we carry our grief to God we bring it to Almighty Love, and such a haven must be more congenial to hope than to despair.
IV. GOD REFUSES TO ANSWER THE PRAYER OF DESPAIR, There are prayers which God will not answer, and that, not because he is inexorable, but because he is merciful; and as the mother is too kind to give her infant the flaming candles for which it cries, God is too good to bestow on his foolish children the evil things which they sometimes crave from his hand. Thus the very refusal to respond to the prayer is a result, not of disregarding it, but of giving to it more than that superficial attention which would have been enough for an unquestioning response. God sifts and weighs our prayers. We cannot present them as cheques on the bank of heaven, expecting immediate payment, exactly according to the measure of what we have set down in them. God is far better than our prayers. He exceeds our fears even when we beg him to act according to them. His sane mind corrects the wild fancies of our haste and passion. Therefore we need not shrink from the utmost freedom in prayer. God will not deal with us according to our words, but according to his love and our faith. - W.F.A.
ministries of true friendship be! Job, in the shipwreck of fortune and of health, is like a poor swimmer clinging to a spar or fragment of rock with ebbing strength, looking vainly for the lifeboat, and the strong, rescuing arms of friends and saviours. Instead of this, his friends stand aloof, and lecture and lesson him on the supposed folly which has steered his bark upon the breakers. Here we see in one glance the greatest danger to which a human soul can be exposed, and the greatest service one human being can render another.
I. THE GREATEST HUMAN PERIL. What is it? The loss of life? Not in the common sense of those words. For the loss of life in this world is not necessarily the loss of the soul. The loss of worldly goods? Still less; for a man's life consisteth not in these. The loss of family, of reputation, of health? All these may be repaired; but the loss of God is irreparable. The mangled tree may sprout again, and send forth vigorous suckers from its root; but how if that root itself be extirpated from its holding? It is the horror in the prospect of losing reverence, trust - of losing God - that now looms upon the patriarch's soul. We need only refer to the twenty-second psalm - to those words quoted by our Saviour in the agony on the cross - to remind ourselves of the fearfulness of this last trial to every godly soul,
II. THE GREATEST HUMAN MINISTRY. It is to do something to save a sinking brother from such a fate. A cheerful faith is infectious. A noble courage will thrill in the vibrations of sympathy to another's soul. And this is, then, the best office our friends can discharge for us in our greatest troubles. Let them remind us by their words, their prayers, their looks, their tones, of God. Let them not throw a new burden upon our drooping consciousness by reminding us of what we are or are not, but relieve us by telling us of what he is and ever will be - the Refuge and Strength of them that seek him. And this may be a fitting place to speak generally of -
III. THE QUALITIES OF FRIENDSHIP. By a beautiful image Job describes the failure of friendship. An unfaithful or unintelligent friend is like a brook swollen with snow and rain in spring-time, but dried in its channel under the scorching heat of summer. The poet says of one who has been lost to his sorrowing companions by death -
"He is gone from the mountain, 1. Constant affection. The equal flow of a deep river, not the intermittent gushings of a fickle fountain. 2. Habitual sympathy. We must feel with our friend so long as he is our friend. There are crimes which will break up this holy tie. Connivance at guilt can be no part of this sacred covenant. But so long as I can call my friend my friend, I must bear with his infirmities, "not make them greater than they are." How unhappy the knack of seeing all that can be said against our friend, with blindness to all that can be urged in his favour! We dread the coming of these "candid friends," so called. If there are unpleasant truths, let him hear them from another's lips than ours. Let not the troubles of those we own by this sacred name be made occasions for airing the conceit of our superior wisdom, or indulging a vein of moralizing, but for unlocking all the treasures of our heart. 3. Lively imagination. Want of imagination, or, in other words, dulness and stupidity, is a great defect for general social intercourse. Men quarrel and fly asunder because they do not understand one another. They do not use the faculty of imagination to "put themselves in another's place." And what may hinder general intercourse may be a fatal bar to friendship. "I am not understood:" what commoner complaint? Yet what is this high faculty given us for, but that, under the guidance of Christian love, we may identity another heart with our own, appropriate all its sorrowful experiences, and think and speak and feel towards others, as well as do unto them, as we would they should do unto us? But these demands for an ideal friendship are not, after all, to be satisfied by frail human nature. Let us, then, think: 4. These qualities of friendship can be only fully found in God. The Divine Friend! - he whose unfailing, self-replenished love alone is equal to supply the thirst of our hearts, whose sympathy is that of One who knows us better than we know ourselves; who numbers our hairs, and gathers our tears into his bottle; who needs to exercise no imagination in order to realize our condition, because he knows! O God! greater than our hearts, whose knowledge is the measure of thy sympathy, whose sympathy is fed from the eternal well-spring of thy love; God manifested in Jesus Christ; thou only art the Friend of our sorrow, the Sustainer of our help. LESSONS. May we listen with humble obedience to the voice which says to us, "Henceforth I call you friends"! As life wears, and many shallow torrents of earthly kindness are dried, may we experience more profoundly thy never-wasting fulness! - J.
1. Constant affection. The equal flow of a deep river, not the intermittent gushings of a fickle fountain.
2. Habitual sympathy. We must feel with our friend so long as he is our friend. There are crimes which will break up this holy tie. Connivance at guilt can be no part of this sacred covenant. But so long as I can call my friend my friend, I must bear with his infirmities, "not make them greater than they are." How unhappy the knack of seeing all that can be said against our friend, with blindness to all that can be urged in his favour! We dread the coming of these "candid friends," so called. If there are unpleasant truths, let him hear them from another's lips than ours. Let not the troubles of those we own by this sacred name be made occasions for airing the conceit of our superior wisdom, or indulging a vein of moralizing, but for unlocking all the treasures of our heart.
3. Lively imagination. Want of imagination, or, in other words, dulness and stupidity, is a great defect for general social intercourse. Men quarrel and fly asunder because they do not understand one another. They do not use the faculty of imagination to "put themselves in another's place." And what may hinder general intercourse may be a fatal bar to friendship. "I am not understood:" what commoner complaint? Yet what is this high faculty given us for, but that, under the guidance of Christian love, we may identity another heart with our own, appropriate all its sorrowful experiences, and think and speak and feel towards others, as well as do unto them, as we would they should do unto us? But these demands for an ideal friendship are not, after all, to be satisfied by frail human nature. Let us, then, think:
4. These qualities of friendship can be only fully found in God. The Divine Friend! - he whose unfailing, self-replenished love alone is equal to supply the thirst of our hearts, whose sympathy is that of One who knows us better than we know ourselves; who numbers our hairs, and gathers our tears into his bottle; who needs to exercise no imagination in order to realize our condition, because he knows! O God! greater than our hearts, whose knowledge is the measure of thy sympathy, whose sympathy is fed from the eternal well-spring of thy love; God manifested in Jesus Christ; thou only art the Friend of our sorrow, the Sustainer of our help. LESSONS. May we listen with humble obedience to the voice which says to us, "Henceforth I call you friends"! As life wears, and many shallow torrents of earthly kindness are dried, may we experience more profoundly thy never-wasting fulness! - J.
I. A FRIEND'S DUTY.
1. The true office of friendship is to enter fully into the circumstances of the friend; not to be indifferent to them, and therefore ignorant. True affection will inquire gently, wisely, and with care into the state, and the need, and the sorrow, and the hopes of the object of its attachment. Not for meddlesome curiosity, but from loving interest the friend's heart will open to take in the tale of sorrow, even the words of complaint.
2. True friendship will lovingly sympathize. The eager pleading of the casual beggar strikes upon the closed ear of the stranger. No chord of pitiful sympathy vibrates, and no hand of help is outstretched. But to the appeals of friendship the heart opens; warm sympathy is stirred. The fluttering spirit finds rest on the besom of a friend. It is a duty one friend owes to another to show the utmost pitifulness of spirit - a pitifulness that should ripen to loving sympathy. No hardening of the heart, no refusal to be patient, no selfishness, can be found in the breast of the true friend.
3. True friendship will be ready with its help, springing forth with spontaneous eagerness to aid and comfort. It is possible for the friend to stick closer than a brother; and he shows the true spirit of a friend who, feeling perfectly at one with his loved companion, renders willing help to him.
4. The friendship which stimulates to pitiful and loving help in need rejoices also in the joy, the prosperity, and well-being of him to whom it cleaves. The two lives are one. David and Jonathan illustrate this, and happily a thousand examples are around us daily. He that findeth a true friend findeth a precious possession - a prize whose worth cannot be estimated.
II. FOR THIS LOVING SYMPATHY AND PITIFUL HELPFULNESS EVERY ONE MAY MAKE HIS JUST AND REASONABLE DEMAND ON HIS FRIEND. Friendship has its duties of fidelity, of kindness, and help; of confidence, trust, and good will. It has also its claims. It is a silent, mutual compact - each preparing to give that which it demands of the other; each expecting that which it knows it can bestow. It is the supreme satisfaction of true friendship that either of its members may turn to other in the confident, unquestioning assurance of meeting with true sympathy, with an open hand and a warm heart. For this friendship looks, and this it is justified in expecting. A faithful friend's love faileth not; for "a friend loveth always." Even his very "wounds" are "faithful." Happy he who has found a friend in whom he can place the whole faith of his heart; and who is ready to reciprocate the same full, thorough, and trustworthy affection!
1. The wisdom of seeking a friend.
2. The law: "He that would have friends must show himself friendly." - R.G.
Job 6:14more excellent way' of sympathy.
(reading the last clause as in the margin of the Revised Version, "Else might he forsake the fear of the Almighty")
I. THE SECRET OF THE REDEEMING POWER OF SYMPATHY.
1. By giving strength to endure. The soul that stands alone may sink down to despair. But "two are better than one." As we help to bear one another's burdens, we lift the crushing load that drives to rebellion.
2. By softening the heart. The danger of. great calamity is that it will smite the heart to hardness. The most fatal effect is produced when all traces of suffering are passed, because the very faculty of feeling is frozen to death. Now, here sympathy has a saving efficacy. The tears that are sealed up in solitude burst forth at the sight of a friend's tears.
3. By revealing the love of God. There is danger lest great trouble should make men doubt God's love, and even come to regard all love as a pretence and a delusion. The world then seems very black and cruel. But a brother's kindness begins to dispel the error. It shows that the world is not wholly hard and cruel and selfish. This kindness is but a spark from the great fire of God's love. From the sympathy of our brother we are led up to the sympathy of our Father, out of which it springs. If there were more human charity in the world there would be more faith in God. Atheism is a product of the despair which sympathy would cure.
II. THE EXERCISE OF THE REDEEMING POWER OF SYMPATHY,
1. In God. Our sympathy is but a copy of God's sympathy. His method is to save by love. His goodness leads us to repentance. While we scold, God pities; while we blame, he forgives; while we reject, he invites. He saves the sinner by loving him.
2. In Christ. Christ's great redemption is a work of sympathy:
(1) In its origin. It was sympathy that led to the advent of Christ. This was the ruling principle of his life on earth. This, too, brought him to the cross. He could not save himself, because he would not abandon his sinful, sorrowing brethren.
(2) In its application. Christ saves men now individually through his sympathy. We have first to see that he understands us, loves us, feels with us. Then he lays hold of us and lifts us up.
3. In men. We, too, have to save by our sympathy. The old method of repression, rebuke, and repudiation has failed miserably; its fruits are only hatred and despair. It is time we resorted to God's method, to Christ's method. We must understand men if we would help them, feel with them if we would restore them. So long as we will not show sympathy with our brethren in their trouble and temptation, we cannot save them from their sin and despair. Lowell says -
"Far better is it to speak
I. DISCLAIMERS. True friendship disclaims the right to be exacting. We have no right to lay a tax on the property, or time, or energy of those whom we desire to grapple to us as with hooks of steel. All must be spontaneous, voluntary, free, in the mutual offices of friendship. There are a few noble hearts, indeed, with whom every benefit is a reason for another. Shakespeare has drawn the sublime picture of such a one in his 'Merchant of Venice,' who stops not short at the loan of goods, but pledges his very flesh for his friend. But the counterpart is not to be found in actual life. God is he who alone invites our largest asking, wearies not of our urgency, giveth to all liberally, and upbraideth not. The life laid down for us is the pledge that we cannot claim too much from him. The gospel does not fail to point us to the frailty of human nature, even in its noblest moods, in order to set in contrast the illustrious sacrifices of Christ for us. Job had not asked for gifts of substance from his friends to redeem him from durance, or for any other purpose. He had been wiser than to kill the tender plant of mutual good will by unseasonable exactions. And let us read ourselves the lesson that nothing will more surely or speedily break our happiest ties than to allow the hand we offer in affection to be put forth to buy, to traffic, to exact.
II. CLAIMS. But we have great rights and privileges in friendship. These the patriarch insists upon now. He has a right to good words, which are worth much and cost little. He has a right, so long as he is regarded as a friend, to have the truth of his own statements accepted. He has a right to confidence. In distress he is entitled to tenderness, compassion, and efficient guidance by those whose minds are calm and unimpaired by woe. And above all, perhaps, just now, the right of self-defence is most precious, which these advisers seem obstinately to deny. How often is this tragedy enacted! We condemn good men, honest hearts, unheard; we refuse them a fair hearing. They do not easily explain themselves, or we, with our preoccupations and prejudices, are slow to understand. There may be greater ability to defend one's self against the accusations of bitter foes than against the misconceptions of intimate friends. In fact, this is one of those severe trials in relation to our equals of which a recent preacher has so finely discoursed (Mozley, 'University Sermons ').
III. SELF-DEFENCE. Against what fault or sin are these monotonous and harsh reproofs directed? Is it against Job's evil deeds? But they are not specified, and Job denies that they have been done. There is no keener injustice than vague attacks on a man without specification of the exact nature of the charges. Is it the present language of Job? True, hasty words may have escaped him; he fears it; but is the language of health and joy to be tested by the same measures, weighed in the same scales, with that which pain and intense distress extort from the lips? Job knows his heart has not been unfaithful to his God, whatever cries of agony and despair have been berne upon the wind. The whole section thus contains a pathetic appeal to the human conscience for human love; and it teaches us indirectly, bur. with great feeling, the duties of friendly ministry to others in their distress. LESSONS.
1. Calm guidance, healthy suggestions for the morbid intelligence.
2. The "sweetness" (ver. 25) of right words of tender sympathy.
3. Abstinence from argument in such circumstances which only irritates and never soothes.
4. Considerate listening to explanations.
5. Hearty acceptance of honest self-vindications. In all these particulars we have bright examples set us by our blessed Saviour, who never broke the bruised reed nor quenched the smoking flax. By such methods of ministry we are to earn and prove the holy name of friend to our brethren, and lead men to believe that God has angels of blessing in human shape passing about the worn paths of misery in this world. - J.
. Consider the power of truth - the force of right Words -
I. IN RESOLVING THE ENTANGLEMENTS OF ERROR. Truth is the right, the straight, line which reveals and thereby condemns the crooked departures. Its own clear, calm utterance resolves the confusion of tortuous commingled error. It is by the simple statement of truth that the wrong of error is discovered and rebuked. Loudness of denunciation cannot contradict error, or unravel it, or expose it. Nor will mere logical demonstration; noise will not destroy darkness; nor will the gloom be illuminated by proving it to be darkness. But the quiet shining of the lamp will scatter the shades of black night. So truth in its own simplicity and realness effectually and alone disperses the gloom and guides the feet of the wanderer through the tangled path of error. Such words Job had not yet found. But the good Teacher was not far away; and finally Job was led to the open plain and the clear light and the straight way.
II. RIGHT WORDS ARE FORCIBLE IN THE PRESENCE OF DEEP SORROW. So Job thought. It was for such words he pined. He longed for the teaching that would bring him comfort, and not for the accusations that would make his burden heavier and his heart sadder. There is a deep truth relating to all human affliction. Looked at only as a derangement of human happiness, it is devoid of that completeness of view that would constitute it a truthful one. But looked at as a Divine correction, a discipline, a sharp warning or departure from law, and a just punishment for such departure; and looked at as under the control of the Almighty Father, it is seen to be invested with a momentous character, and to be. inflicted for the wisest and best purposes. Right words on it bring the mind to peace. They are forcible to counsel and to comfort; to warn of danger, to guide to safety, to console in suffering. Happy the sufferer who has an interpreter at band, who with right words can unveil the mystery, and make clear the ways of God to man!
III. RIGHT WORDS ARE FORCIBLE IN THE ADJUSTMENT OF DISTURBED RELATIONS OF LIFE. They are wise words and kind. Even enemies are overcome by them. The right word is a word in harmony with the truth. Spoken with lips that speak truth habitually, and from a heart where truth finds its home, they carry conviction. They win the ear and the confidence of the listener. They have a force peculiar to themselves. They command. They are strong and cannot be shaken. They pierce, as doth an arrow, when they are words of condemnation founded on truth; and they comfort, and heal, and restore, and readjust, when they are spoken in kindness. The wise man searches for right words, and, having found them, speaks them in all simplicity. And the seeker after truth, or rest, or comfort welcomes them. They bear help on their wings, and are as reviving as the beams of the morning. - R.G.
I. REASONABLE MEN RECOGNIZE THE FORCE OF RIGHT WORDS. Words may be like arrows that pierce, like swords that divide, like hammers that crush; or they may be like seeds that grow and bear fruit, like loaves of bread to feed the hungry, and streams of living water flowing by the dusty highway, from which all thirsty souls may drink. Thus they are more than mere sounds. They are expressions of thought. God's words come with power. All right Words are forcible. But there are empty words that fall without any weight, and vapid words that are dissipated in the air without effect. It is not the number, the volume, or the noise, of the words that gives them force, but the rightness of them. We must, therefore, inquire wherein this rightness resides.
1. In truth. False words may seem to carry great weight. But in the end all lies fail. The truth, simply told, has a force which no rhetoric can equal.
2. In adaptability. There are truths which are not suitable for the occasion on which they are spoken. This was the case with many of the remarks which Eliphaz had made, which were right enough in themselves, but which did not apply to Job. They lost force by being irrelevant.
3. In moral weight. The justice of what we say adds weight to it. The most forcible words are those that find their way to our conscience. Others may be luminous; these words flame out with startling vividness.
4. In sympathy. Truth spoken in love comes with double force.
II. IT IS FOOLISH TO DISREGARD THE FORCE OF RIGHT WORDS.
1. In the speaker. This was the Temanite's mistake. He was not sufficiently considerate of the rightness of what he said. He meant well, but he spoilt all by this grievous error. We need to weigh our words. They may have many excellent qualities - clearness, grace, apparent vigour - yet if they are not right words they will fail. The Christian teacher needs to test and correct his words by standing close to the fountain of truth and right in the Holy Scriptures, and by keeping his heart pure and sympathetic. Otherwise all his eloquence will be barren, or even poisonous as mephitic vapours.
2. In the hearer. It is excessively foolish to disregard words as though they were merely "sound and fury, signifying nothing." They are the chariots in which thoughts ride; and if we would but open our gates to receive them, we might find those thoughts most welcome guests. Even if the words are unpopular or painful, we should be foolish to disregard them when we know them to be right. For truth does not cease to be truth by being rejected. Many unpalatable ideas are most medicinal. And many words, rejected at first, when once they are received, prove to be as the very bread of life. The words of the everlasting gospel are right words, which we may reject at our peril; which we may receive for our salvation. - W.F.A.