Then Job answered and said.Job 10:3). We must have confidence in the goodness of God. Job then pleads himself — his very physiology, his constitution (Job 10:8-11). What lay so heavily upon Adam and upon Job, was the limitation of their existence. This life as we see it is not all; it is an alphabet which has to be shaped into a literature, and a literature which is to end in music. The conscious immortality of the soul, as that soul was fashioned in the purpose of God, has kept the race from despair. Job said, if this were all that we see, he would like to be extinguished. He would rather go out of being than live under a sense of injustice. This may well be our conviction, out of the agonies and throes of individual experience, and national convulsions, there shall come a creation fair as the noonday, quiet as the silent but radiant stars!
(J. Parker, D. D.)
Homilist.I. He regarded Him as JUST. "I know it is so of a truth: but how should man be just with God?" His language implies the belief that God was so just, that He required man to be just in His sight. Reason asserts this; the Infinite can have no motive to injustice, no outward circumstance to tempt Him to wrong. Conscience affirms this; deep in the centre of our moral being, is the conviction that the Creator is just. The Bible declares this. Job might well ask how can man be just before Him? He says, not by setting up a defence, and pleading with Him; "if he will contend with Him, he cannot answer him one of a thousand." What can a sinner plead before Him?
1. Can he deny the fact of his sinfulness?
2. Can he prove that he sinned from a necessity of his nature?
3. Can he satisfactorily make out that although he has sinned, sin has been an exception in his life, and that the whole term of his existence has been good and of service to the universe? Nothing in this way can he do; no pleading will answer. He must become just before he can appear just before God.
II. He regarded Him as WISE. "He is wise in heart." Who doubts the wisdom of God? The whole system of nature, the arrangements of Providence, and the mediation of Christ, all reveal His "manifold wisdom." He is wise, so that —
1. You cannot deceive Him by your falsehoods; He knows all about you, sees the inmost depths of your being.
2. You cannot thwart Him by your stratagems. His purposes must stand.
III. As STRONG. "Mighty in strength." His power is seen in the creation, sustenance, and government of the universe. The strength of God is absolute, independent, illimitable, undecayable, and always on the side of right and happiness.
IV. HE REGARDED HIM AS RETRIBUTIVE. There is a retributive element in the Divine nature — an instinct of justice. Retribution in human governors is policy. The Eternal retributes wrong because of His instinctive repugnance to wrong. Hence the wrong doer cannot succeed. The great principle is, that if a man desires prosperity, he must fall in with the arrangements of God in His providence and grace; and wisdom is seen in studying these arrangements, and in yielding to them.
But how should man be just with God.
1. That man cannot be justified by the law — that is, by his obedience to the law, or the performance of its duties, — is clear from its condition, "This do, and thou shalt live." It makes no abatement for sincerity; it makes no allowance for infirmity. Mercy is inadmissible here; it just asks its due, and holds out the reward upon the payment of it.
2. Neither can he be justified by a mitigated law; that is, by its being lowered till it is within reach.
3. Nor yet can he be absolved by the passing by of his transgressions through the forgetfulness (so to speak) of God; as if He would not be extreme to mark what was done amiss.
4. How then shall man be just with God? It must be in a way that will honour the law. Christ hath "magnified the law, and made it honourable" —
(1) (2) (George Jeans, M. A.)
(2) (George Jeans, M. A.)
(George Jeans, M. A.)
i.e., how Adam was justified, so far as the term justification can be predicated of him? He continued in the Divine favour as long as he obeyed the law. He was justified by works. There is nothing evil necessarily in the idea of justification by works. Conscience naturally knows of no other mode of justification, and where that is impossible, she gives the offender over to condemnation and despair. Conscience knows of no justification but that of works. When it is possible, the first, the obvious, and the legitimate, the natural mode of securing the Divine favour is by a perfect obedience, in one's own person, to the Divine commands as contained in the moral law. How are Adam's posterity justified? Not in the same way that he was. Their circumstances are so different. He was innocent, they are guilty; he was pure, they are impure; he was strong, they are weak. The Gospel mode of justification cannot be by works. But what is it positively? A knowledge of this subject must embrace two things, namely, what God has done to this end — to make justification possible; and what man does when it is become actual. It has pleased God to save us, not arbitrarily, but vicariously. He has not cancelled our sin, as a man might cancel the obligation of an indebted neighbour, by simply drawing his pen across the record in his ledger. This may do for a creature in relation to his fellows. We are told in Holy Writ that God the Father has given His Son to be a "ransom" for us, a "sacrifice for our sins," a "mediator between Him and us," the "only name under heaven amongst men whereby we can be saved." The Father hath laid in His atoning death the foundation of our hopes, the "elect cornerstone" of our salvation. By the Holy Spirit and through that Son, He hath also granted to mankind, besides an offer of pardon, an offer of assistance, yea, assistance in the very offer. The mediatorship of the Spirit began the moment the Gospel was first preached to fallen Adam. So indeed did the Mediatorship of Christ, i.e., God began immediately to have prospective regard to the scene one day to be enacted upon Calvary. But the mediatorship of the Spirit could not be one moment deferred. In order to render the salvation of men subjectively possible, the Spirit must be actually and immediately given. What then is necessary on the part of man? This may appear to some a dangerous way of viewing the subject. I am not about to establish a claim of merit on the part of man. When a man is justified, as justification takes place on the part of God, there must be something correlative to it on the part of man — man must do something also. This great act of God must find some response in the heart of man. There must needs be, in a fallen, guilty, and polluted creature, emotions which were at first unknown in Paradise. Deep penitence befits him, pungent sorrow, bitter self-reproach, and utter self-loathing. If we look to the honour of God, or the exigencies of His moral government, we come to the same conclusion. As His honour requires that the obedient should continue obedient, so does it require that, having disobeyed, they should repent, and cease to be disobedient: it is, in truth, the Same spirit in both cases, only adapted to the adversity of the circumstances. If God should, in mercy, justify the ungodly, it must be in such a manner as shall not conflict with these first and manifest principles; and the Gospel, therefore, must have some contrivance by which men may attain to justification without impairing the Divine government, or degrading the Divine character, or thinking highly of themselves. What then is that contrivance? It is not the way of works. What suits Adam in Paradise cannot suit us, driven out into the wilderness of sin and guilt. We are inquiring, as the correlative to justice and law on the part of God is obedience on the part of man, what is the correlative to merely and atonement? it cannot be that self-satisfied feeling which belongs to him who has fulfilled the law. His present obedience, however perfect, could not undo past disobedience. The correlative to the Divine acts of justification cannot be human acts in obedience to law. "By the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified." But may not man be justified by obedience to a mitigated law? Is not the Gospel, after all, only the moral law with some abatements designed to bring it down to the level of our infirmity? This is the most plausible and deceptive supposition that could be made. It suits exactly man's natural pride, his fondness for his idols, and has withal an air of mingled mercy and justice. But, however specious, it is utterly unfounded in reason or Scripture. It supposes the law, which we regard as a transcript of the Divine character, to be found faulty, and its requirements in consequence to be cut down to the true level. Neither the violation of the law, nor yet its observance in its original or any mitigated form, can be the ground of our justification before God, in our present state, what way then remains to this infinitely desirable object? Are we not shut up to the way of faith? "Being justified by faith." Nothing that is morally good either precedes justification, or is simultaneously instrumental of it; all real good follows it. By faith we understand a reliance upon Christ as our atoning sacrifice, and the Lord our righteousness, for acceptance before God. It is reliance on another. There is no self-reliance or self-complacence here. This principle consults and provides for every interest involved in a dispensation of mercy to fallen creatures through a Divine Redeemer. It humbles the sinner. It exalts the Saviour. Holiness is promoted. If such then be the nature and tendency of faith, if it be the sole instrument of justification, and if it is only in a state of justification that man can render real and acceptable obedience, how earnest and ceaseless ought to be our prayer, "Lord, increase our faith!"
(W. Sparrow, D. D.)
(John Smith, M. A.)
1. Our subject is the atonement, and facts in human nature which demand it. Religion can account for all its principles and doctrines by an appeal to the facts of our being. The doctrine of reconciliation with God through the atoning death of Jesus is confessedly the chief and, in some respects, the most obscure doctrine of the Christian religion. Nevertheless, belief in its general features is essential to any honest acceptance of the Gospel. Without discussing obscurities, I wish, in aid of faith, simply to point out how true it is to all the facts of human nature.
2. "How should man be just with God?" It is not a question that is raised by recent ethical culture or by the progress of man in moral development, as some have thought. It is as old as the human soul, as ancient as the sense of sin, as universal as humanity, and is heard in all the religions. Beneath the burning skies of primeval Arabia this mighty problem is debated by an Arab sheik and his three friends. First —(1) Bildad, the Shuhite, states the incontrovertible premise from which the discussion starts — a premise grounded in universal consciousness, and axiomatic in its truth: "Behold, God will not east away a perfect man, neither will He help the evildoer." That is to say, God makes an everlasting distinction between and a difference in His treatment of righteous and unrighteous men.(2) Then up speaks Job: "I know it is so of a truth. But how should man be just with God? If he will contend with Him, he cannot answer Him one of a thousand!" "There is none that doeth good; no, not one."(3) Despondently, Job continues: "If God will not withdraw His anger, the proud helpers do stoop under Him. How much less shall I answer Him, and choose out nay words to reason with Him?" That is to say, all our repentances and righteousnesses, upon which we so much rely, are, for the nakedness of our need, but as filthy rags. The cry for mercy, instead of justice, must be our only plea.(4) Then Job continues again: "I am afraid of all my sorrows. I know Thou wilt not hold me innocent." "All my sorrows." There is the remorse, the hell that is in me, the sense of justice unsatisfied, "I am afraid of them!"(5) Then Job resumes once more: "Neither is there any daysman betwixt us, that he might lay his hand upon both!" Ah, the blessed Christ, the Mediator, our Daysman, laying one hand on Justice and the other on our guilty heads, our Atonement, making God and man to be at one in peace — He had not come! "Neither is there any daysman betwixt us, that He might lay His hand upon both!" Do you see now why Abraham and Job and all the ancient kings and prophets longed to see the day of Christ, and how hard it was for them to die without the sight? "We have no daysman!" Oh, the abysmal depth of longing in that word, "We have no daysman," and "How should man be just with God?" And then, for all we are told, that desert colloquy stopped there, in utter sadness and gloom. Oh, if some one of us had only been there, and had been able to smite out and drop into the abyss the years that intervened between Job's day and Christ's. Or, if we could have led John the Apostle up to that company of Job and his three friends, and could have bidden John speak up, with clear tone, on their debate, and had him say to those, ancient Arabs, as he said to us: "If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous. And He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the whole world!" But Paul says it again, in his exact, positive way, and insists upon it. "To declare, I say, at this time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus!" And then they are satisfied. And now Job, and Bildad, and Zophar, and Elihu spring to their feet upon the desert sands, and with John and Paul lift their eyes and hands heavenward, and cry with one voice: "Unto Him that hath loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood — to Him be glory and dominion, and honour, and power, forever and ever. Amen."
3. I affirm, as a matter of Christian experience, that all the necessary features and implications of the orthodox doctrine of the atonement are true to the facts of human nature. When I say the orthodox view, I mean that view in the highest form of its statement, the substitutional view, namely, that Christ's death becomes an actual satisfaction to justice, to that sense of justice which exists in our own bosoms and in the bosoms of all intelligent creatures, and which, in the nature of things, must be a duplication of the sense of justice within the bosom of God Himself; that Christ's sufferings and death become an actual satisfaction to justice for our sins that are past, when we accept it as such by faith. And the proof that it is a satisfaction, the evidence that it does take away the sense of demerit, the feeling that we owe something to justice, is that we are conscious it does. The philosophers have sometimes voted consciousness down and out by large majorities, but it refuses to stay down and out. It comes back and asserts itself. "A man just knows it, sir," as Dr. Johnson said, "and that is all there is about the matter." All that we Christians can do, all that we need to do, is to have the experience of it, and then stand still, and magnificently and imperiously declare that it does, for we feel it to be so. Men may tell us that it ought not to be so; we will rejoin that it is so. They may say that our sense of right and wrong is very imperfectly developed, or we could not derive peace from the thought that an innocent Being has suffered in our stead. Against our experience the world can make no answer. We aver that man feels his sin needs propitiation, and that, if he will, he may find that the death of Christ meets that need.
4. Let us go outside distinctively Christian experience, and note some facts in human nature which show its trend toward the atonement in Jesus.(1) We aver that repentance and reformation alone will not satisfy the sense of right in man. Twenty-five years ago a friend of mine, a boy, under circumstances of great temptation, stole, and then had to lie to conceal the theft. He did not afterward have courage to confess and restore. The opportunity to own his sin and to make restitution soon passed away forever. Within a few years, he has assured me that the memory of that early, only theft yet lies heavily upon his soul, and that he can never feel at ease until that matter is somehow made right. Standing by this blazing fact in experience, I aver that the moral sense demands satisfaction, Repentance is not enough — he has repented. Reformation is not enough — he has never stolen since. Still he cannot answer God nor himself. He is not innocent, and the "proud helpers do stoop under him." Propitiation of his own sense of right was necessary. He and my friend go and stand beside Job in the desert yonder, and say with him, "I am afraid of my sorrows. I know that Thou wilt not hold me innocent." They do not hold themselves innocent. Let me add some more specimens of the innermost feelings of representative men which look in the same direction. Byron was not a man given to superstition or flightiness. In his "Manfred," he is known to have spoken out the facts of his own guilty heart. There he says —
"There is no power in holy men,
Nor charms in prayer, nor purifying form
Of penitence, nor outward look, nor fast,
Nor agony, nor, greater than them all,
The innate tortures of that deep despair
Which is Remorse without the fear of hell,
But all in all sufficient of itself
Would make a hell of heaven — can exorcise
From out the unbounded spirit the quick sense
Of its own sins, sufferings, and revenge
Now, recollect that this is poetry. In poetry we get the deepest philosophy — there the heart speaks. It has no voice but the voice of nature. Byron speaks true to nature when he declares not prayer, nor fast, nor agony, nor remorse, can atone for sin or satisfy the soul. Is there not in the confession of that volcanic spirit a fact which looks toward man's need of Calvary? I take down my Shakespeare and open it at "Macbeth," that awfulest tragedy of our tongue, matchless in literature for its description of the workings of a guilty conscience, to be studied evermore. Lady Macbeth — King Duncan having been murdered — walks in her sleep through her husband's castle at night bearing a taper in her hands. "Physician: How came she by that light? Servant: Why, it stood by her; she has light by her continually; 'tis her command." As she walks, she rubs her hands. A servant explains: "It is an accustomed action with her to seem thus washing her hands; I have known her to continue in this a quarter of an hour." Then Lady Macbeth speaks: "Yet here's a spot. What! will these hands ne'er be clean?...Here's the smell of the blood still; all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand!" Is there not something there which sounds like the echo of Job's words in the desert: "I am afraid of all my sorrows"? Does not Lady Macbeth, walking at night and repenting of her crime and washing her hands in dreams from Duncan's blood, look as if an accusing conscience and the sense of justice unsatisfied could make its own hell?(2) Still further, I aver that the moral sense is never appeased until atonement is somehow made. The atoning stroke must fall somewhere, even though it be upon himself, before a man can be at peace with himself. That is a profoundly instructive, because profoundly true, series of passages in Coleridge's tragedy of "Remorse," which sets out this fact. "The guilty and guilt-smitten Ordonio is stabbed by Alhadra, the wife of the murdered Isadore. As the steel drinks his heart's blood, he utters the one single word, 'Atonement!' His self-accusing spirit, which is wrung with its remorseful recollections, and which the warm and hearty forgiveness of his injured brother has not been able to soothe in the least, actually feels its first gush of relief only as the avenging knife enters, and crime meets penalty." Ordonio, shortly dying, expires saying —
"I stood in silence, like a slave before her,
That I might taste the wormwood and the gall,
And satiate this self-accusing heart
With bitterer agonies than death can give."
That seems to say to me that nothing will give the soul peace but atonement of some kind.
5. I think, therefore, that if you could bring Job and his three friends, and my acquaintance who stole in his youth, and Byron, and Shakespeare, and Coleridge here today, they would see eye to eye, and agree upon some things in the name of facts in human nature.(1) They would agree that repentance alone does not make a man to be at peace. All this company had most bitterly repented.(2) They would agree that reformation was not sufficient.(3) They would agree that the guilty soul's remorse, its "biting back" upon itself, was its own hell, enough for its punishment.(4) They would agree that the mind so sternly demands that atonement be made, somewhere and somehow, that it will sooner offer its own bosom, as Ordonio did, than that its own sense of justice should go unsatisfied.(5) They would probably agree with Socrates, when he says to Plato, as some of you may have said today, "Perhaps God may forgive sin, but I do not see how He can, for I do not see how He ought." That is to say, "I do not see how the man who has sinned can ever be at peace."(6) And then I aver that, if the years between could be dropped out and Paul could join that company and say, "Behold the Lamb of God, whom God set forth to be a propitiation by His "blood, to show His righteousness because of the passing over of the sins done aforetime, that He might Himself be just and the justifier of him that hath faith in Jesus" — if Paul could say that to them, and that company could accept Christ as their Daysman, transferring by sincere repentance and faith their guilt to Him, and consenting in their minds that He should discharge its penalty by His body and blood, then I aver, in the name of millions of Christians, that they would find peace. And I aver that this feeling of indebtedness to justice, which is alike in the bosom of God and the bosom of man, being satisfied, Job and his friends, and Byron, and Shakespeare, and Coleridge, and all sinful men would spring to their feet and say, with John and Paul and all that other company of the saved in heaven, "Unto Him that hath loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, to Him be glory and dominion and honour and power, forever and ever. Amen!" Such are a few of the facts in the consciousness of men which a brief survey enables us to notice. The logic of human nature is Christ. No Humboldt, or Cuvier, or Darwin, with keen scientific eye, ever noted such an array of physical facts, all bearing toward one end in the physical world, as we find in the moral realm, all tending toward Jesus. claimed that the testimony of the mind was naturally Christian. His claim is just. Men may raft at these facts in consciousness; they may declare that they make God a Moloch, and that the doctrine of the atonement is the bloody invention of gross. minded men, but the facts remain still, and their scientific trend and drift is wholly toward the Blessed Man of Calvary. If anyone does not feel so now, he is drugged with sin; he has taken opiates; he is not himself.
(J. C. Jackson, D. D.)
Who hath hardened himself against God, and prospered?
I. THAT APPEALS ARE ADDRESSED BY GOD TO MEN IN ORDER TO BRING THEM INTO ALLEGIANCE TO HIM. The conduct which is imputed to men is susceptible of explanation only as the existence of such appeals is assumed.
1. God has appealed to us by the instrumentality of conscience. Conscience is the testimony of secret judgment in the mind of a man as to the moral quality of his own thoughts and actions. The true dictates of conscience are conformable to the extensive principle of the Divine law; and the judgments of the one are substantially the judgments of the other.
2. By the instrumentality of providence, The events which happen under the superintendence of God in the temporal sphere, and affect the temporal interests of man, are intended always to speak powerfully on his behalf. This fact was recognised by Job, when he uttered the language before us.
3. By the instrumentality of revealed truth. All Scripture is profitable "for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction," and for what belongs to righteousness.
II. MEN TREAT THE APPEALS OF GOD WITH OBDURATE RESISTANCE. The text takes the case of men who "harden themselves against God," indicating a habit which is heinous in its nature, and which is progressive in its influence. It is emphatically resistance, the surrender of the heart and life to objects against which God has pleaded, and the retention of the heart and life amidst indulgences which God has protested against, and which He has condemned. This resistance is introduced as voluntary. It is also introduced as continued. That continuance augments the guilt. Such resistance becomes more heinous and aggravated in proportion as the calls addressed by God are solemn and weighty. Resistance is also progressive in its influence. In proportion as it is continued in the indulgence, it exercises increasing power and authority over the soul. It becomes more steady, more settled, more confirmed — this being in accordance with what we know of the tendencies of all habits to strengthen and establish themselves.
III. OBDURATE RESISTANCE TO THE APPEALS MADE BY GOD EXPOSES TO FEARFUL AND FATAL CONSEQUENCES. No human being placing himself in voluntary and continued opposition against God can escape final punishment and ruin. God will inflict upon those who harden themselves against Him temporal sorrow; and if their resistance be continued till the last, the irremediable loss of their souls. There will be a proportion between punishment and guilt.
I. INQUIRE WHEREIN THIS HARDNESS OF HEART CONSISTS.
1. The word signifies a spirit that is obstinate and incorrigible.
2. It is descriptive of a rebellious spirit, which discovers itself under the various dispensations of God, both in a way of mercy and judgment.
3. There is also a judicial hardness to which sinners are liable, in a way of righteous judgment for their iniquities. This is not owing to any defect in the Gospel, or in the dispensations of God towards us; but to the depravity of the human heart, which perverts the means of salvation into those of destruction.
II. NOTICE SOME OF THE INSTANCES IN WHICH THIS SIN IS STILL COMMITTED.
1. It appears in indulging hard thoughts of God, of His government and of His holy law; in esteeming Him as a hard master, and in considering sinful propensities as an excuse for sinful actions, though no one thinks of excusing the offence of others against himself on the ground of such a plea. The indulgence of such thoughts lead on to final impenitence.
2. It manifests itself in a rejection or dislike of God's way of salvation.
3. Persisting in an evil course, amidst many convictions and fears, is another instance of this sort of depravity. Pharaoh knew that he was wrong, and yet he dared to persist.
4. This hardness of heart appears in the resistance that is offered to the hand of God in providence instead of being humbled under it.
5. Presumptuously tempting God, amidst the most affecting means of salvation, is another instance of this hardness of heart. It was thus with Israel in the wilderness.
III. THE FATAL ISSUE OF FINAL IMPENITENCE. "Who hath hardened himself against Him, and prospered?"
1. The longer you continue in this state, the more hardened you will become, till at last you will be past feeling (Ephesians 4:19).
2. This also is the way in which God punishes men for their impenitence (Isaiah 6:8).
3. The end of this impenitence and hardness of heart is fearfully described by an apostle, and should warn us of our danger (Romans 2:5-9).
1. Upon presumption of mercy. Many do evil because they hear God is good. They turn His grace into wantonness, and are without all fear of the Lord, because there is mercy so much with the Lord.
2. The patience of God, or His delays of judgment, harden others. Because God is slow to strike, they are swift to sin.
3. Gross ignorance hardens many.
(1) (2) 4. Hardness of heart in sinning is contracted from the multitude of those who sin. They think none shall suffer for that which so many do. Man doth not grow hard at once, much less hardest; but when once he begins to harden himself, where he shall make an end he knows not. The first step is, the taking time and leave to meditate upon sin, and roll it up and down in the thoughts. A hard heart lets vain thoughts dwell in it. A holy heart would not let them lodge with it. A second step is, some tastes of pleasure and delight in sin. It proves a sweet morsel under his tongue. The third step is, custom in sinning. It argues great boldness to venture often. By the fourth step of hardness he comes to defend and maintain his sin. 5. The hard heart grows angry and passionate with those who give advice against sin; he is resolved; and a man that is resolved in his way is angry if he be desired to remove out of his way. He that is resolved to sleep, loves not to be awakened. 6. Hard hearts grow too hard for the Word. They are sermon proof; they can sit under the preacher, and hear from day to day, but nothing touches them. 7. The heart is so hard that the sword of affliction doth not pierce it; the man is judgment proof. Let God strike him in his person or estate, let God set the world afire about his ears, yet on he goes. He is like the man of whom Solomon speaks (Proverbs 23:34), who lies sleeping in a storm upon the top of the mast. 8. The hard heart sits down in the chair of the scorner. He derides the Word, and mocks at the judgments of God. (J. Caryl.)
(2) 4. Hardness of heart in sinning is contracted from the multitude of those who sin. They think none shall suffer for that which so many do. Man doth not grow hard at once, much less hardest; but when once he begins to harden himself, where he shall make an end he knows not. The first step is, the taking time and leave to meditate upon sin, and roll it up and down in the thoughts. A hard heart lets vain thoughts dwell in it. A holy heart would not let them lodge with it. A second step is, some tastes of pleasure and delight in sin. It proves a sweet morsel under his tongue. The third step is, custom in sinning. It argues great boldness to venture often. By the fourth step of hardness he comes to defend and maintain his sin. 5. The hard heart grows angry and passionate with those who give advice against sin; he is resolved; and a man that is resolved in his way is angry if he be desired to remove out of his way. He that is resolved to sleep, loves not to be awakened. 6. Hard hearts grow too hard for the Word. They are sermon proof; they can sit under the preacher, and hear from day to day, but nothing touches them. 7. The heart is so hard that the sword of affliction doth not pierce it; the man is judgment proof. Let God strike him in his person or estate, let God set the world afire about his ears, yet on he goes. He is like the man of whom Solomon speaks (Proverbs 23:34), who lies sleeping in a storm upon the top of the mast. 8. The hard heart sits down in the chair of the scorner. He derides the Word, and mocks at the judgments of God. (J. Caryl.)
4. Hardness of heart in sinning is contracted from the multitude of those who sin. They think none shall suffer for that which so many do. Man doth not grow hard at once, much less hardest; but when once he begins to harden himself, where he shall make an end he knows not. The first step is, the taking time and leave to meditate upon sin, and roll it up and down in the thoughts. A hard heart lets vain thoughts dwell in it. A holy heart would not let them lodge with it. A second step is, some tastes of pleasure and delight in sin. It proves a sweet morsel under his tongue. The third step is, custom in sinning. It argues great boldness to venture often. By the fourth step of hardness he comes to defend and maintain his sin.
5. The hard heart grows angry and passionate with those who give advice against sin; he is resolved; and a man that is resolved in his way is angry if he be desired to remove out of his way. He that is resolved to sleep, loves not to be awakened.
6. Hard hearts grow too hard for the Word. They are sermon proof; they can sit under the preacher, and hear from day to day, but nothing touches them.
7. The heart is so hard that the sword of affliction doth not pierce it; the man is judgment proof. Let God strike him in his person or estate, let God set the world afire about his ears, yet on he goes. He is like the man of whom Solomon speaks (Proverbs 23:34), who lies sleeping in a storm upon the top of the mast.
8. The hard heart sits down in the chair of the scorner. He derides the Word, and mocks at the judgments of God.
(W. Hay M. H. Aitken, M. A.)
Which removeth the mountains.
Homilist.I. Its almightiness is OVERWHELMINGLY GRAND in its manifestations. "Removeth the mountains," etc. The whole passage impresses one with the unbounded energy of God.
1. His almightiness should impress all with a sense of their utter insignificance.
2. His almightiness should impress the sinner with his impious hardihood.
II. ITS ALMIGHTINESS IS CO-EXTENSIVE WITH THE UNIVERSE. Job here touches every part of material nature — the earth, the sea, the heavens — and sees God working in all.
1. His universal agency explains all material phenomena.
2. His universal agency binds men practically to recognise Him in every part of nature. He is the Force of all forces, the Pulse of all life, the Spirit of all forms.
Which doeth great things past finding out.
Homilist.He regards the Eternal as —
1. In His works. "Which doeth great things past finding out." How great are His works! great in their nature, minuteness, magnitude, variety, number. Ask the chemist, the astronomer, the entomologist, the physiologist, and the anatomist; and the more accurate and comprehensive their knowledge of the Divine workmanship is, the more ready will they be to acknowledge that "His works are past finding out, and wonders without number."
2. He is inscrutable in His essence. "He goeth by me, and I see Him not; He passeth on also, and I perceive Him not." I see His works, but I cannot detect the essence of the Worker.
II. AS IRRESPONSIBLE. "Behold He taketh away, and who can hinder Him? Who will say unto Him, What doest Thou?"
III. AS RESISTLESS. "If God will not withdraw His anger, the proud helpers do stoop under Him."
1. God is an offendable Being. He is not an impassive existent, sitting at the head of the universe, utterly indifferent to the moral character of His creatures.
2. The proud have "helpers" and abettors. Were the whole universe to arm itself against Him, its opposition would be infinitely less than the opposition of the smallest insect to the eagle or the lion.
IV. AS INEXORABLE.
1. As uninfluenced by man.(1) Uninfluenced by his appeals. The appeal of vindication has no power with Him. "How much less shall I answer Him, and choose out any words to reason with Him? Whom, though I were righteous, yet would I not answer." The appeal of prayer. But I would make supplication to my Judge. If I had called, and He had answered me; yet would not I believe that He had hearkened unto my voice." A most melancholy mental mood is this! The patriarch represents Him as —(2) Uninfluenced by his sufferings. "For He breaketh me with a tempest, and multiplieth my wounds without cause. He will not suffer me to take my breath, but filleth me with bitterness."
2. As unapproached by human argument.
3. As too holy to encourage anyone to have confidence in his own virtues. Were the patriarch even a "perfect" man, he feels that to plead his virtues before a God so holy would not only be utterly useless, but impious and pernicious.(1) It would involve self-condemnation. No condemnation is so terrible as the condemnation of a man's moral self.(2) It would prove self-ignorance. "Yet would I not know my soul." Truly, a man who would dare to prove his merits before God would demonstrate thereby an utter ignorance of his own insignificance and moral character.(3) It would secure self-contempt. "I would despise my life." This would be the issue of such conduct. The Almighty is here represented —
4. As utterly regardless of the moral distinctions of society. "This is one thing, therefore I said it. He destroyeth the perfect and the wicked," etc. (vers. 22-24). Here Job hits the main point now in discussion between him and his friends. Their position was that God dealt with men here according to their moral characters, and that Job suffered because he was wicked. The patriarch again refutes it, and asserts the broad fact that the perfect and wicked are treated alike. This is not the scene of retribution, it is the domain of discipline.
So He goeth by me.Psalm 29:3-8). These mighty saints may have had no formulated system of theology, where God was mapped out with all His perfections, with all the nicety and precision of a mathematical figure; but to them He was the omnipresent God. They saw some rays of His glorious presence reflected from every cloud. They heard His voice in every passing breeze. God was passing by then. God — the same God — is passing by us now. Whatever changes have come or yet may come to His universe, He Himself is unchangeable. In the glorious panorama of the heavens God is passing by us. In the noiseless tread of the seasons God is passing by. Spring and summer, seed time and harvest, autumn and winter, as they quietly come and quietly go, all tell the same story, "God is passing by." In the regular succession of day and night, in every rising and setting sun, in every waxing and waning moon, God is near us and passing by us. In every national blessing and every national chastisement God is passing by. When the streams of earthly comforts flow full and strong around our life, and equally when these streams run low or dry, God is passing by us. When war, with all its accompanying desolations, its misery and agony and woe, is sweeping over a country, God is passing by. And no less surely is He passing by for us in our days of peace and our nights of quiet. God is ever near us, though we see Him not. In every beat of our pulse, in every throb of our heart, in every movement of our brain, God is there. He is about our bed and around our path. Above us, behind and before, we are flooded with the omnipresence of Deity as with the noonday sunshine. But because we see Him not with the bodily eye we forget that He is there. He passeth on also, but we perceive Him not.
(James Carmichael, D. D.)
1. That God is invisible in His essence, and incomprehensible in many of His actions. Man's eye cannot see Him. Man's understanding cannot comprehend what He doth.
2. As the Lord in His nature cannot be seen at all; so (such is the weakness of man, that) we cannot see Him fully in His Word or works. Thus we see men, but we seldom see God in the great transactions and motions of kingdoms. And we see Him least of all in the course of spiritual things, in His working upon our hearts. God works wonders in us, and we perceive Him not.
3. Man is not fit to sit as a judge upon the works and dealings of God. Shall we judge God in what He doth, when we cannot apprehend what He doth? A judge must have the full cognisance of the matter before him, how else can he pass sentence about it?
4. It should be matter of great humiliation to Us, that we see so little of God.
Homiletic Review.We are reminded of this profound spiritual truth by reading the following account of an occurrence which illustrates an impressive scientific fact touching the invisible. Photographs of the invisible are what M. Zenger calls two pictures which he took about midnight of 17th August from a window looking out upon the Lake of Geneva. They gave faint yet distinct images of the lake and of Mont Blanc, which could not be seen in the darkness. Mr. Bertrand remarks that invisibility is a relative term, the significance of which depends on the power of the observer's eye. The photographs were taken with a light of very small intensity, and did not represent an invisible object. So sky photographs, taken in observatories, show stars which cannot be discerned by the most piercing vision.
Behold, He taketh away.
I. THE DOCTRINE TAUGHT — THE AGENCY OF GOD. His agency in providence. Not to be classed with chance or accident. It would be a mistake to represent God as exercising no providential superintendence, no control, no management, no rule. Some hold that God's agency is general, not particular, not concerned with details. But great and little are not to God what they are to us. What it was no degradation to God to create, it can be no degradation to God to superintend. A particular agency on His part is the only intelligible notion of God's agency in providence. The manner in which God's agency, in the various dispensations of providence, is regarded respectively by the believer and by the unbeliever, constitutes one of the most marked distinctions between the characters of these two classes of person.
II. THE LESSONS WHICH THIS DOCTRINE TEACHES.
1. Privation and loss are the doing of Him who neither does nor can do us any wrong. God is never arbitrary, never capricious, never unjust. He is essentially righteous. In no sense can He do that which is unrighteous. He cannot do it from ignorance, or from design.
2. Privation and loss are the doing of Him, all whose doings in reference to us are in accordance with what He Himself is — wise and gracious. Not only is He wise, but all-wise; actually, absolutely, yea, necessarily all-wise. His understanding is infinite. He is gracious. His nature is love. What a proof of this did He afford in devising a plan by which sinners might be rescued from the penal consequences of sin.
3. Privation and loss are the doing of Him who is able, and as willing as He is able, to educe, in our experience, good from evil. Out of the strait in which we are involved there may be no seeming way of escape. But is it irremediable by Him whose arm is full of might, who is equal to our support and deliverance, whatever be our condition? This subject calls for thankfulness; it should produce resignation; it should lead us to prepare for changes.
(A. Jack, D. D.)
Who will say unto Him, What doest Thou? —
I. IT IS THE NATURAL TENDENCY OF AFFLICTIONS TO MAKE THE FRIENDS OF GOD REALISE AND SUBMIT TO HIS SOVEREIGNTY. Afflictions always display the sovereignty of God. Whenever God afflicts His children, He gives a practical and sensible evidence that He has a right to dispose of them contrary to their views, their desires, and most tender feelings. Of all afflictions, those which are called bereavements, give the clearest display of Divine sovereignty.
II. SUCH A REALISING SENSE OF THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD IN AFFLICTIONS, HAS A NATURAL TENDENCY TO EXCITE TRUE SUBMISSION IN EVERY PIOUS HEART.
1. While they realise the nature of His sovereignty, they cannot help seeing the true ground or reason of submission.
2. God designs thus to bring His children to submission.
3. It has so often produced this desirable effect in their hearts. Apply the subject.(1) If all afflictions are designed and adapted to bring men to a cordial submission to Divine sovereignty, then all true submission must be in its own nature absolute and unreserved.(2) We may assume that we shall have to submit to the Divine sovereignty in the world to come.(3) The doctrine of unconditional submission to God ought to be plainly taught and inculcated.(4) If afflictions are designed and suited to make men realise Divine sovereignty, then they always try their hearts, whether they are friendly or unfriendly to God.(5) The afflictions that bring men to submission must do them good.
(N. Emmons, D. D.)
I. THE LORD'S SOVEREIGN AGENCY. We see this in families, we see it in provinces, we see it in whole nations. We perceive prosperity or adversity — peace or discord — joy or misery — coming both to individuals and to communities without their knowledge, and often without their concurrence. The human race are subject to other influences besides their own. From the Bible we learn that the smallest, as well as the weightiest affairs, are under Christ's supervision and control. Nothing arises in this our world by chance or by accident. The same sovereign agency is seen in the issues of life. The keys of the invisible world are committed to Christ's sole custody. All second causes work out the sovereign will of the Great First Cause. It is He who fixes the precise moment for the removal of men by death from their busy occupations.
II. HIS IRRESISTIBLE MIGHT. This is the groundwork of the patriarch's argument in the passage before us. Who can hinder Him? Shall the man of wisdom? Shall a parent's love avert the threatening blow? Shall the tears of a wife? Shall the regrets of an admiring nation?
III. HIS UNSEARCHABLE WISDOM. The Almighty doeth all things well. From all eternity the Lord has had certain purposes to be accomplished. In some matters the wisdom of the Lord's dealing is so palpable that we are compelled to acquiesce. At other seasons we are all in the dark. Then it is our privilege to exercise faith in the fatherly care and unfailing love of our Almighty Redeemer.
(C. Clayton, M. A.)
Yet would I not believe that He had hearkened unto my voice.
(T. G. Selby.)
If I justify myself.
If I say I am perfect.
I. THE PLEA OF SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS CONTRADICTS ITSELF. "If I justify myself, mine own mouth shall condemn me." For the very plea itself is a piece of high and arrogant presumption. God hath said it, let Jew and Gentile stop his mouth, and let all the world stand guilty before God. We have it on inspired authority, that "there is none righteous, no, not one." Besides, dost thou not see, thou vain and foolish creature, that thou hast been guilty of pride in the very language thou hast used? Who but a proud man would stand up and commend himself? But further, the plea of self. righteousness is self-contradictory upon another ground; for all that a self-righteous man pleads for, is comparative righteousness. "Why," saith he, "I am no worse than my neighbours, in fact a great deal better; I do not drink." Just so, but then all that you claim is that you are righteous as compared with others. Do you not see that this is a very vain and fatal plea, because you do in fact admit that you are not perfectly righteous; — that there is some sin in you, only you claim there is not so much in you as in another? Suppose now for a moment that a command is issued to the beasts of the forest that they should become sheep. It is quite in vain for the bear to come forward and plead that he was not so venomous a creature as the serpent; equally absurd would it be for the wolf to say that though stealthy, and cunning, and gaunt, and grim, yet he was not so great a grumbler nor so ugly a creature as the bear; and the lion might plead that he had not the craftiness of the fox. A holy God cannot look even upon the least degree of iniquity. But further, the plea of the self-conceited man is, that he has done his best, and can claim a partial righteousness. It is true, if you touch him in a tender place he acknowledges that his boyhood and his youth were stained with sin. A perfect righteousness you must have, or else you shall never be admitted to that wedding feast.
II. THE MAN WHO USES THIS PLEA CONDEMNS THE PLEA HIMSELF. Not only does the plea cut its own throat, but the man himself is aware when he uses it that it is an evil, and false, and vain refuge. Now this is a matter of conscience, and if I speak not what you have felt, then you can say I am mistaken. Men know that they are guilty. The conscience of the proudest man, when it is allowed to speak, tells him that he deserves the wrath of God.
III. THE PLEA IS ITSELF EVIDENCE AGAINST THE PLEADER. There is an unregenerated man here, who says, "Am I blind also?" I answer in the words of Jesus, "But now ye say we see, therefore your sin remaineth." You have proved by your plea, in the first place, that you have never been enlightened of the Holy Spirit, but that you remain in a state of ignorance. A deaf man may declare that there is no such thing as music. A man who has never seen the stars, is very likely to say that there are no stars. But what does he prove? Does he prove that there are no stars? He only proves his own folly and his own ignorance. That man who can say half a word about his own righteousness has never been enlightened of God the Holy Spirit. But then again, inasmuch as you say that you are not guilty this proves that you are impenitent. Now the impenitent can never come where God is. Further than this, the self-righteous man, the moment that he says he has done anything which can recommend him to God, proves that he is not a believer. Now, salvation is for believers, and for believers only. The thirsty are welcome; but those who think they are good, are welcome neither to Sinai nor to Calvary. Ah! soul, I know not who thou art; but if thou hast any righteousness of thine own, thou art a graceless soul.
IV. IT WILL RUIN THE PLEADER FOREVER. Let me show you two suicides. There is a man who has sharpened a dagger, and seeking out his opportunity he stabs himself to the heart. Who shall blame any man for his death? He slew himself; his blood be on his own head. Here is another: he is very sick and ill; he can scarcely crawl about the streets. A physician waits upon him; he tells him, "Sir, your disease is deadly; you must die; but I know a remedy which will certainly heal you. There it is; I freely give it to you. All I ask of you is, that you will freely take it." "Sir," says the man, "you insult me; I am as well as ever I was in my life; I am not sick." Who slew this man? His blood be on his own head; he is as base a suicide as the other.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
Now my days are swifter than a post...as the swift ships.I. THE TEXT TEACHES US THE BREVITY OF HUMAN LIFE. "My days are swifter than a post." They are as swift-footed messengers, as couriers, as the medium of communication from one province to another. They are "swifter than the swift ships"; than the "eagle hastening to his prey." There are illustrations from earth, and sea, and sky. We often speak of the brevity of life; it is only now and then we are really impressed with the fact. Our days are brief as the preface to a new and undying life. Our days are brief as the period for the culture of our whole nature. How great a portion of the present life is necessary as the introduction to the remainder. Our physical nature requires growth and development. How slowly our mental faculties open themselves. The culture of our spiritual nature seems to demand a longer period than the present life, for it is the education of a nature that dies not; that will take with it all the training of earth. Our days are brief, when we think of the solemn realities with which they have to do. Our days are brief, because our destiny depends on them. On these days that pass so quickly, all the future hangs; these days give a colouring to a whole eternity.
II. THE TEXT TEACHES US THE UNSATISFACTORY NATURE OF LIFE. "They see no good." "What shadows we are, and what shadows we pursue."
1. Our days bear with them the freshness and joyousness of life. Our days rob us of the freshness and beauty of youth, and as they pass they carry with them all that we deemed most precious — friends, kindred, joys, hopes.
2. Life is unsatisfactory, because of the fragmentary and unfinished character of its work. God's providence is in strong contrast with man's.
3. If the present be all, life must be most unsatisfactory, for we can see no good.
III. OUR TEXT SUGGESTS TO US THE IMPORTANCE OF LIFE. Our days are as a post.
1. They carry with them the records and impressions of our minds. Thoughts for good or for evil must live — must live to be a blessing or a curse.
2. Our days carry with them the treasures of our hearts. What treasures the swift ships convey from one land to another; how they enrich one country with the wealth of others. Our days carry the wealth, the priceless affections of our nature.
(H. J. Bevis.)
Homilist.I. As a PROPHETIC fact. Can it be that this short life is the end of our existence?
1. We quit this life with unwrought powers. The tree grows on until it exhausts its latent powers, and animals die not (unless they are destroyed) until they are worn out. But man has to quit this life just as some of his powers are beginning to bud, and others without measure undeveloped and unquickened.
2. We quit this life with unfulfilled plans.
II. As a TERRIFIC fact. To whom is it terrible? To all whose hearts are centred in this world.
1. That their wealth relatively becomes less valuable to them every day.
2. That eternity becomes relatively more awful to them every day.
III. As a CHEERING fact. To whom is it cheering? To those who, though they are in the world are not of the world, those who are born into the Divine kingdom of Christly virtues and imperishable hopes.
If I say, I will forget my complaint.
Homilist.I. AS TOO GREAT TO RENDER ANY EFFORTS OF SELF-CONSOLATION EFFECTIVE. Three things are suggested.
1. A valuable power of mind. The power to alleviate sufferings. "If I say, I will forget my complaint." Herein is the implied power. All have it. It is a remedial force that kind heaven has put within us. If he cannot quench the flame, he can cool it; if he cannot roll off the load, he by his own thoughts can make it comparatively light. He can go into a circle of ideas so engrossing and delectable as to experience transports of rapture in the dungeon or in the flames. What is pain but a mental sensation? And wherever that mental sensation may burn, its fires can be quenched in the river of noble thoughts and lofty aspirations.
2. A natural tendency of mind. What is it? The exertion of this mitigating power within us under suffering; an effort to "forget" the "complaint," to "leave off" the "heaviness," to "comfort." Who under suffering does not essay this?
3. A sad defect in mind. "I am afraid of all my sorrows; I know that Thou wilt not hold me innocent." Why did his mental efforts at self-consolation fail? Simply because he had not the inner sense of innocence. Though he always maintained that he was innocent of the sin of hypocrisy with which his friends charged him, he always felt that before the Holy he was guilty, and herein was the failure of his mind to mitigate his pain. He regards his sufferings —
II. AS TOO DESERVED TO JUSTIFY ANY HOPE OF RELIEF.
1. He feels that no self-cleansing would serve him before God. "If I be wicked," — or, as it should be, I am wicked, — "why then labour I in vain? If I wash myself with snow water, and make my hands never so clean; yet shalt Thou plunge me in the ditch, and mine own clothes shall abhor me."
2. He feels that there is no one to act as umpire between him and his Maker. "Neither is there any daysman betwixt us, that might lay his hand upon us both."
3. He feels that his afflictions were directly from God, and until they were removed there was no hope for him. "Let Him take His rod away from me, and let not His fear terrify me; then would I speak, and not fear Him: but it is not so with me."
If I wash myself with snow water.
(T. Chalmers, D. D.)
I. At the outset we observe that QUICKENED SOULS ARE CONSCIOUS OF GUILT. They know it; they feel it; and they blush to find that they are without excuse for it. All men are sinners: to most men, however, sin appears to be a fashion of the times, a necessity of nature, a folly of youth, or an infirmity of age, which a slight apology will suffice to remove. Not till men are quickened by Divine grace do they truly know that they are sinners. How is this? Some diseases are so insidious that the sufferers fancy that they are getting better, while in very truth they are hastening to the grave. After such manner does sin deceive the sons of men: they think they are saved when they are still unrenewed. How is this, you ask again? Few give themselves the trouble to think about these matters at all. Ours is an age in which men's thoughts are keen upon politics and merchandise, practical science, and economic inventions. To natural ignorance we may attribute much of the ordinary indifference of men to their own sinfulness. They live in a benighted age. In vain you boast the enlightenment of this nineteenth century: the nineteenth century is not one whir more enlightened as to the depravity of human nature than the first century. Men are as ignorant of the plague of their own hearts today as they were when Paul addressed them. Hardly a glimmer of the humbling truth of our natural depravity dawns on the dull apprehension of the worldly wise, though souls taught from above know it and are appalled by it. In divers ways the discovery comes to those whom the Lord ordains to save. Sometimes a preacher sent of God lets in the dreadful light. Many men, like the false prophet Mokanna, hide their deformity. You may walk through a dark cellar without discerning by the eye that anything noisome is there concealed. Let the shutters be thrown open! Bid the light of day stream in! You soon perceive frogs upon the cold clammy pavement, filthy cobwebs hanging on the walls in long festoons, foul vermin creeping about everywhere. Startled, alarmed, horrified, who would not wish to flee away, and find a healthier atmosphere? The rays of the sun are, however, but a faint image of that light Divine shed by the Holy Spirit, which penetrates the thickest shades of human folly and infatuation, and exposes the treachery of the inmost heart.
II. We pass on to notice that it often happens that AWAKENED SOULS USE MANY INEFFECTUAL MEANS TO OBTAIN CLEANSING. Job describes himself as washing in snow water, and making his hands never so clean. His expressions remind me of my own labour in vain. By how many experiments I tried to purify my own soul! See a squirrel in a cage; the poor thing is working away, trying to mount, yet he never rises one inch higher. In like case is the sinner who seeks to save himself by his own good works or by any other means: he toils without result. It is astonishing what pains men will take in this useless drudgery. In seeking to obtain absolution of their sins, to establish a righteousness of their own, and to secure peace of mind, men tax their ingenuity to the utmost. Job talks of washing himself "with snow water." The imagery is, no doubt, meant to be instructive. Why is snow water selected?
1. The reason probably was, first, because it was hard to get. Far easier, generally, to procure water from the running brooks than from melted snow. Men set a high value on that which is difficult to procure. Forms of worship which are expensive and difficult are greatly affected by many, as snow water was thought in Job's day to be a bath for kings; but, after all, it is an idle fashion, likely to mislead.
2. Besides, snow water enjoyed a reputation for purity. If you would have a natural filtered water gather the newly-fallen snow and melt it. Specimens yet remain among us of piety more than possible to men, religiousness above the range of mortals; which piety is, however, not of God's grace, and consequently is a vain show. Though we should use the purest ceremonies, multiply the best of good works, and add thereto the costliest of gifts, yet we should be unable to make ourselves clean before God. You may wash yourself till you deny the existence of a spot, and yet you may be unclean.
3. Once again, this snow water is probably extolled because it descends from the clouds of heaven, instead of bubbling up from the clods of earth. Religiousness which can colour itself with an appearance of the supernatural is very taking with many. If I "make my hands never so clean," is an expression peculiarly racy in the original. The Hebrew word has an allusion to soap or nitre. Such was the ordinary and obvious method anyone would take to whiten his hands when they were grimy. Tradition tells that certain stains of blood cleave to the floor. The idea is that human blood, shed in murder, can never be scrubbed or scraped off the boards. Thus is it most certainly with the dye of sin. The blood of souls is in thy skirts, is the terrible language of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 2:34). These worthless experiments to cleanse yourselves would be ended once for all if you would have regard to the great truth of the Gospel: "Without shedding of blood there is no remission The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin."
III. BUT AS SURE AS EVER QUICKENED SOULS TRY TO GET PURITY IN THE WRONG WAY, GOD WILL THRUST THEM DOWN INTO THE DITCH. This is a terrible predicament. I find, on looking at the passage closely, that it means "head over ears in the ditch." Often it happens with those who try to get better by their own good works, that their conscience is awakened by the effort, and they are more conscious of sin than ever. The word here rendered "ditch" is elsewhere translated "corruption." So in the sixteenth Psalm: "Neither wilt Thou suffer Thine Holy One to see corruption." Language cannot paint abasement, reproach, or ignominy in stronger terms. "Thou shalt plunge me in the ditch." Is it not as though God Himself would undertake the business of causing His people to know that by their vain ablutions they were making themselves yet more vile in His eyes? May we not regard this as the discipline of our Heavenly Father's love, albeit when passing through the trial we do not perceive it to be so? "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent." Perhaps the experience I am trying to describe will come to you through the preaching of the Word. Frequently our great Lord leaves a poor wayward soul to eat the fruits of its own ways, and this is the severest form of plunging in the ditch. While striving after righteousness in a wrong way, the man stumbles into the very sin against which he struggled. His empty conceit might not have been dislodged from its secret lurking place in his depraved nature without some such perilous downfall. Thus do we, in our different spheres, fly from this to that, and from that to the other. Some hope to cleanse away sin by a supreme effort of self-denial, or of miraculous faith. Let us not play at purification, nor vainly hope to satisfy conscience with that which renders no satisfaction to God. Persons of sensitive disposition, and sedentary habits, are prone to seek a righteousness of inward feeling. Oh, that it could turn from feeling to faith; and look steadily out of inward sensation to the work finished once for all by the Lord Jesus!
IV. By such severe training THE AWAKENED ONE IS LED TO LOOK ALONE TO GOD FOR SALVATION, and to find the salvation he looks for.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
Neither is there any daysman.
(Marvin R. Vincent, D. D.)
I. HE IS LABOURING UNDER A SENSE OF HOPELESS SIN. This is not less true because it is not persistent through the Book of Job, but intermittent; sometimes lightly felt, at other times crushing. It is on that account only a truer exhibition of human character. Here the feverish sense of it is at its strongest.
1. He is "plunged in the ditch," in the mire, in the "sewer"; so that his "clothes abhor him." The mire is his covering: he is all sin!
2. In this state he is self-condemned. He cannot "answer God," he cannot come into judgment with Him! That is probably the true meaning of these words, and not the common explanation, that he is afraid to answer God. God is not a man; He is not to be answered. He is Himself the judge; He must be right. That was not always Job's spirit, it is true; but that is his spirit in the present passage.
3. Then again, he cannot put away his pollution. He cannot make himself pure. "If I wash myself in snow water, and make my hands never so clean ('cleanse them with lye'), yet shalt Thou plunge me in the ditch." Struggling to get free only shows one's utter helplessness.
4. And why does he feel so helpless? What is it that reveals his sin to him? It is the character of God! God's holiness! God's law! He had not known sin but for that law. God's requirement, God's inspection of the soul after it has done its best, seems to "plunge it into the ditch."
II. IT IS THIS SENSE OF HOPELESS SIN THAT HAS TAUGHT JOB THE NEED OF A MEDIATOR.
1. As yet he can find none. His words do not go the length of asserting that there is not a daysman between God and any man; they are confined to his own need at the present moment — "Betwixt us!" For him there is none, and that is his overwhelming trouble.
2. But there is a need. He longs (more than one of the Hebrew words bring out the longing) for an umpire who should mediate between him and God.
3. This mediator must be able to "lay his hand upon us both." Not surely in the poor and irreverent sense (for it is both), that by a restraining hand of power he might control the action of the Almighty. The meaning is surely the simple one, that the umpire must be one who can reach both parties.
4. On the one hand we must do justice to God's holiness. In the mediation that must be sacred. It must issue from the trial not less glorious than before.
5. And on the other hand, the mediator must confess and deal with the sin of man. He must neither conceal nor excuse it; but, admitting, and rightly measuring the fact, he must be able to deal with it so as to satisfy God and to save man.
III. THE RESULTS OF SUCH MEDIATION ARE INDICATED. Generally there is reconciliation, the removal of that state of enmity existing between the sinner and his God.
1. Specifically, there is pardon. "Let God take His rod away from me!" God's punishment, whatever form it may assume, shall pass wholly away. "Thy sins be forgiven thee!" That would come from such a "daysman."
2. Next there is peace "Let not His fear terrify me!" May I look up to God, the Omnipotent and the holy God, and say, I am not afraid; for I have been reconciled unto Him! The mediator has laid a hand upon both, has reached God's holiness, and has reached my sin.
3. Then fear passes, and trust comes. "Then would I speak, and not fear Him." There can be no communion with God till the daysman has cast out the fear which has torment. Till then I can neither speak to Him nor hear Him.
IV. WE HAVE IN THE NEW TESTAMENT THE ANTITHESIS OF THIS LONGING CRY OF JOB. "The law (says Paul, Galatians 3:19, 20) was ordained in the hand of a mediator. Now a mediator is not a mediator of one; but God is one." And who is the other party? It is sinful man. And "Jesus is the Mediator of the new covenant" (Hebrews 12:24), "laying a hand on both," mediating between two who have been long and sorely at variance; the "daysman betwixt us" and God, who "pleads as a man with God, as a man pleadeth for his neighbour" (Job 16:21). The need then of a mediator, as a spiritual necessity of the sinner who has come to look down into his own heart and to compare it with God's holiness, is one of the strange teachings of the Book of Job.
(J. Elder Cumming, D. D.)
(T. Chalmers, D. D.)
-one-ment"; and that is its meaning. By reason of our sin, there are two parties opposed the one to the other; there is no clement of union, but every element of antagonism to part and keep us asunder. Christ is the atoning sacrifice, and His atonement is a complete satisfaction. This is because Christ, our daysman, is both God and man, both natures in one person. To be a mediator it is necessary to have power and influence with both parties. Christ, as our daysman, has power with God, for He Himself is God; and to obtain influence with man He became a man, and bare our sorrows and endured our griefs. He became as one of us, "sin only excepted." Behold the sympathy of Jesus! — a participator in our sufferings, a sharer in our sorrows, and acquainted with our grief. It is true the majesty of God was unapproachable; no man could approach unto it; the spotless glory of that Presence was too dazzling for mortal sight to behold; His holiness was too pure to come into any contact with sin; the height of that glory was beyond what man had any power to attain unto. Then God in Christ came down to us. Oh, what grace! And whereas the Majesty of the Godhead was too august, He left it there upon His Father's throne, and He wrapped Himself for a time in the familiar mantle of our humanity; He became a man as we are. Inasmuch as man could not approach unto God, Christ brought the Godhead to the level of our humanity, that He might raise the human race from death and sin to the enjoyment of the life of righteousness. This is the true dignity of man, that Christ has dignified him and elevated him to His Father's glory. "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me upon My throne, even as I also have overcome, and am set down upon My Father's throne." This is the Daysman who lays His hand upon us both. Does not that span the gulf? You know a bridge, to be of use and service, must rest its springing arch upon one bank and upon the other. To stop midway spoils the bridge. The ladder that is lifted up must touch the place on which you stand and the place where you would be, So is Christ the daysman. He lays His hand upon both parties. With one hand He lays hold upon God, for He Himself is God, and with the other He stoops until He lays hold upon sinful man, for He Himself is man; and thus laying His hand upon both parties, He brings both to one — He effects an at-one-ment, and "God is in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself." Oh, blessed meeting! happy reconciliation! where mercy and truth met together, and righteousness and peace kissed each other! Again: a mediator for sin must suffer, and by his sufferings he
(Robert Maguire, M. A.)
I. THE SINNER NEEDS A "DAYSMAN." Nothing but a sense of sin will ever lead a man in reality to seek a Saviour.
1. Mark the situation in which the sinner stands before his God — a condemned criminal
2. The sinner cannot plead his own cause.
3. There are none around to befriend his cause.
II. A "DAYSMAN" IS PROVIDED. The Gospel is called the "ministry of reconciliation." It bears this name because it points to Jesus as the sinner's "daysman." He is fitted for the character He sustains, and He effectually discharges the office.
III. THE IMPORTANCE OF OUR SEEKING AN INTEREST IN THIS "DAYSMAN." He is not our "daysman" unless we have sought Him. We must come to Him, and it must be by faith. The interest in Him surely should be sought at once.
I. First of all, let me describe what are THE ESSENTIALS OF AN UMPIRE, AN ARBITRATOR, OR A DAYSMAN.
1. The first essential is, that both parties should be agreed to accept him. Let me come to thee, thou sinner, against whom God has laid His suit, and put the matter to thee. God has accepted Christ Jesus to be His umpire in His dispute. He appointed Him to the office, and chose Him for it before He laid the foundations of the world. He is God's fellow, equal with the Most High, and can put His hand upon the Eternal Father without fear because He is dearly beloved of that Father's heart. But He is also a man like thyself, sinner. He once suffered, hungered, thirsted, and knew the meaning of poverty and pain. Now, what thinkest thou? God has accepted Him; canst thou agree with God in this matter, and agree to take Christ to be thy daysman too? Art thou willing that He should take this case into His hands and arbitrate between thee and God? for if God accepteth Him, and thou accept Him too, then He has one of the first qualifications for being a daysman.
2. But, in the next place, both parties must be fully agreed to leave the case entirely in the arbitrator's hands. If the arbitrator does not possess the power of settling the case, then pleading before him is only making an opportunity for wrangling, without any chance of coming to a peaceful settlement. Now God has committed "all power" into the hands of His Son. Jesus Christ is the plenipotentiary of God, and has been invested with full ambassadorial powers. If the case be settled by Him, the Father is agreed. Now, sinner, does grace move thy heart to do the same? Wilt thou agree to put thy case into the hands of Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the Son of Man? Wilt thou abide by His decision?
3. Further, let us say, that to make a good arbitrator or umpire, it is essential that he be a fit person. If the case were between a king and a beggar, it would not seem exactly right that another king should be the arbitrator, nor another beggar; but if there could be found a person who combined the two, who was both prince and beggar, then such a man could be selected by both. Our Lord Jesus Christ precisely meets the case. There is a very great disparity between the plaintiff and the defendant, for how great is the gulf which exists between the eternal God and poor fallen man? How is this to be bridged? Why, by none except by one who is God and who at the same time can become man. Now the only being who can do this is Jesus Christ. He can put His hand on thee, stooping down to all thine infirmity and thy sorrow, and He can put His other hand upon the Eternal Majesty, and claim to be co-equal with God and co-eternal with the Father. Dost thou not see, then, His fitness? There cannot surely be a better skilled or more judicious daysman than our blessed Redeemer.
4. Yet there is one more essential of an umpire, and that is, that he should be a person desirous to bring the case to a happy settlement. In the great case which is pending between God and the sinner, the Lord Jesus Christ has a sincere anxiety both for His Father's glory and for the sinner's welfare, and that there should be peace between the two contending parties. It is the life and aim of Jesus Christ to make peace. He delighteth not in the death of sinners, and He knows no joy greater than that of receiving prodigals to His bosom, and of bringing lost sheep back again to the fold. Thou seest then, sinner, how the case is. God has evidently chosen the most fitting arbitrator. That arbitrator is willing to undertake the case, and thou mayest well repose all confidence in Him: but if thou shalt live and die without accepting Him as thine arbitrator, then, the ease going against thee, thou wilt have none to blame but thyself.
II. And now I shall want, by your leave, to TAKE YOU INTO THE COURT WHERE THE TRIAL IS GOING ON AND SHOW YOU THE LEGAL PROCEEDINGS BEFORE THE GREAT DAYSMAN. "The man, Christ Jesus," who is "God over all, blessed forever," opens His court by laying down the principles upon which He intends to deliver judgment, and those principles I will now try to explain and expound. They are two fold — first, strict justice; and secondly, fervent love. The arbitrator has determined that let the case go as it may there shall be full justice done, justice to the very extreme, whether it be for or against the defendant. He intends to take the law in its sternest and severest aspect, and to judge according to its strictest letter. He will not be guilty of partiality on either side. But the arbitrator also says that He will judge according to the second rule, that of fervent love. He loves His Father, and therefore He will decide on nothing that may attain His honour or disgrace His crown. He so loves God, the Eternal One, that He will suffer heaven and earth to pass away sooner than there shall be one blot upon the character of the Most High. On the other hand, He so loves the poor defendant, man, that He will be willing to do anything rather than inflict penalty upon him unless justice shall absolutely require it. He loves man with so large a love that nothing will delight Him more than to decide in his favour, and He will be but too glad if He can be the means of happily establishing peace between the two. Let justice and love unite if they can. Having thus laid down the principles of judgment, the arbitrator next calls upon the plaintiff to state His case. Let us listen While the great Creator speaks. "Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the Lord hath spoken, I have nourished and brought up children." The Eternal God charges us, and let me confess at once most justly and most truly charges us, with having broken all His commandments — some of them in act, some of them in word, all of them in heart, and thought, and imagination. He charges upon us, that against light and knowledge we have chosen the evil and forsaken the good. All this, calmly and dispassionately, according to the great Book of the law, is laid to our charge before the Daysman. No exaggeration of sin is brought against us. The plaintiff's case having thus been stated, the defendant is called upon by the Daysman for his; and I think I hear Him as He begins. First of all, the trembling defendant sinner pleads — "I confess to the indictment, but I say I could not help it. I have sinned, it is true, but my nature was such that I could not well do otherwise; I must lay all the blame of it to my own heart; my heart was deceitful and my nature was evil." The Daysman at once rules that this is no excuse whatever, but an aggravation, for inasmuch as it is conceded that the man's heart itself is enmity against God, this is an admission of yet greater malice and blacker rebellion. Then the defendant pleads in the next place that albeit he acknowledges the facts alleged against him, yet he is no worse than other offenders, and that there are many in the world who have sinned more grievously than he has done. The sinner urges further, that though he has offended, and offended very greatly and grievously, yet he has done a great many good things. It is true he did not love God, but he always went to chapel. The defendant has no end of pleas, for the sinner has a thousand excuses; and finding that nothing else will do, he begins to appeal to the mercy of the plaintiff, and says that for the future he will do better. He confesses that he is in debt, but he will run up no more bills at that shop. What is the poor defendant to do now? He is fairly beaten this time. He falls down on his knees, and with many tears and lamentations he cries, "I see how the case stands; I have nothing to plead, but I appeal to the mercy of the plaintiff; I confess that I have broken His commandments; I acknowledge that I deserve His wrath; but I have heard that He is merciful, and I plead for free and full forgiveness." And now comes another scene. The plaintiff seeing the sinner on his knees, with his eyes full of tears, makes this reply, "I am willing at all times to deal kindly and according to loving kindness with all My creatures; but will the arbitrator for a moment suggest that I should damage and ruin My own perfections of truth and holiness; that I should belie My own word; that I should imperil My own throne; that I should make the purity of immaculate justice to be suspected, and should bring down the glory of My unsullied holiness, because this creature has offended Me, and now craves for mercy? I cannot, I will not spare the guilty; he has offended, and he must die! 'As I live, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but would rather that he should turn from his wickedness and live.' Still, this 'would rather' must not be supreme. I am gracious and would spare the sinner, but I am just, and must not unsay My own words. I swore with an oath, 'The soul that sinneth shall die.' I have laid it down as a matter of firm decree, 'Cursed is everyone that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.' This sinner is righteously cursed, and he must inevitably die; and yet I love him." The arbitrator bows and says, "Even so; justice demands that the offender should die, and I would not have Thee unjust." The arbitrator, therefore, after pausing awhile, puts it thus: "I am anxious that these two should be brought together; I love them both: I Cannot, on the one hand, recommend that My Father should stain His honour; I cannot, on the other hand, endure that this sinner should be cast eternally into hell; I will decide the case, and it shall be thus: I will pay My Father's justice all it craves; I pledge Myself that in the fulness of time I will suffer in My own proper person all that the weeping, trembling sinner ought to have suffered. My Father, wilt Thou stand to this?" The Eternal God accepts the awful sacrifice! Yes, sinner, and He did more than say it, for when the fulness of time came — you know the story. Here, then, is the arbitration. Christ Himself suffers; and now I have to put the query, "Hast thou accepted Christ?"
III. Let us now look at THE DAYSMAN'S SUCCESS.
1. For every soul who has received Christ, Christ has made a full atonement which God the Father has accepted; and His success in this matter is to be rejoiced in, first of all, because the suit, has been settled conclusively. We have known cases go to arbitration, and yet the parties have quarrelled afterwards; they have said that the arbitrator did not rule justly, or something of the kind, and so the whole point has been raised again. But, O beloved, the case between a saved soul and God is settled once and forever. There is no more conscience of sin left in the believer.
2. Again, the case has been settled on the best principles, because, you see, neither party can possibly quarrel with the decision. The sinner cannot, for it is all mercy to him: even eternal justice cannot, for it has had its due.
3. Again, the case has been so settled, that both parties are well content. You never hear a saved soul murmur at the substitution of the Lord Jesus.
4. And through this Daysman both parties have come to be united in the strongest, closest, dearest, and fondest bond of union. This lawsuit has ended in such a way that the plaintiff and the defendant are friends for life, nay, friends through death, and friends in eternity. What a wonderful thing is that union between God and the sinner! We have all been thinking a great deal lately about the Atlantic cable. It is a very interesting attempt to join two worlds together. That poor cable, you know, has had to be sunk into the depths of the sea, in the hope of establishing a union between the two worlds, and now we are disappointed again. But oh! what an infinitely greater wonder has been accomplished. Christ Jesus saw the two worlds divided, and the great Atlantic of human guilt rolled between. He sank down deep into the woes of man till all God's waves and billows had gone over Him, that He might be, as it were, the great telegraphic communication between God and the apostate race, between the Most Holy One and poor sinners. Let me say to you, sinner, there was no failure in the laying down of that blessed cable.
( C. H. Spurgeon.).
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