The People's Bible by Joseph Parker
Then Job answered and said,Job's Answer to Bildad.
It is supposed by some that there is a tone of satire in the opening words of Job's reply to Bildad. Those opening words are, "I know it is so of a truth." The words may be so read as to exclude the satire, but those who have looked most deeply into these things have discovered in these terms a tone of sarcasm, the interpretation being—I know that it is so of a truth; so obviously true that even you, blind comforters, have actually seen it; the justice of God is so patent that even you could not pass by without observing it! Whether Job is satirical here or not, we know that Job could be satirical, and the probability is that he began thus early to jeer the men who misunderstood him.
Bildad had made a grand appeal in one point; he said to Job, Take no notice of what we say: we are but of yesterday, and know nothing: judge us to be right in so far as we represent the consolidated wisdom of the ages; go back to the fathers; consult ancient history: see how from day to day, and from century to century, experience has gone in one direction, and do not despise the voice of time. That was a wonderful thing to say so far back in history as the period at which Bildad lived. We now call Bildad and his friends part of the ancients, but Bildad at his time referred Job to the centuries then gone; and so far his argument was rational, sound, and conclusive. Men ought not to despise history. The judgments of God are written in the records of time. There is an external Bible, or a Bible external to the Book which claims that high name—a Bible of Providence, of conscious guidance of life, of obvious shaping of events, and a leading forth of history to certain issues and effects, the reality and the beneficence of which cannot be questioned. But Job, accepting this view, calls the attention of his friends to a deeper truth than they had yet perceived: "How should man be just with God?" (Job 9:2). The emphasis of that inquiry is in the first word—"how": relate the method, tell the plan, produce the key of this mysterious lock: it is easy for you to preach about the justice and the uprightness of God, and easy for you to chide me for want of integrity, but will you tell me how man should be just with God? This is a question which God himself alone can answer. And this is the difficulty—"If he will contend with him, he cannot answer him one of a thousand" (Job 9:3). The meaning is this: I am right enough in many points; I know, says Job, that I am an upright man, as the world judges uprightness; not one of my contemporaries can bring a single charge against me, or stand before me for one moment in fair criticism of conduct: when I turn to God with that argument, even if he were to admit it, so far as I present the case, he would startle me, he would madden me, by pointing out a thousand instances in which I had utterly failed to obey the law of truth and walk by the light of wisdom. So Job takes up this strong position, saying of himself: I know I am respectable; I am well aware how I have guided my family; I know that my house is a house of prayer; I could stand up with the whitest and best of you, and if the judgment lay between ourselves possibly you would vote me to the primacy; but the question does not lie between you and me, as who should say, Who is the better of two men? The question is, "How should a man be just with God?" for God is omniscient. Take a beautiful action to him, and he will thus handle it, saying, Outwardly it is comely enough; it is well coloured, it is excellently shaped; it would pass muster before any tribunal ever constructed by human wisdom—but, see! Then opening the action he would show that every motive is perverted, or corrupt, or at least partially wrong; and he would so handle and analyse our very lowliest prayer that we should burn with shame to think we had ever uttered it at his altar. Job thus continues, if we may paraphrase his argument: You take a narrow view of life; you talk about circumstances, actions, reputableness, respectability; but since I have been thus afflicted, and have been looking round and round within myself for causes, I have come to see that if I would contend with God, I could not answer him one of a thousand: before I had this affliction I thought I was faultless, but these distresses have revealed me to myself: up to this time I had taken a wrong view, because a narrow or superficial view, but now I see that I must get at realities, essences, innermost motives, springs and impulses, and conduct the judgment not in the marketplace but in the sanctuary. It is a great deal that Job should have thus learned the profoundest of all lessons. This is the lesson which the world has yet to learn. The world will continue to victimise itself by its own respectability to the very end. The world will not discuss motives. The best of men would say, We must let motives alone. Whereas everything depends upon the motive. Not the action but the motive determines the quality of life, the issue and the destiny of existence. But, so pressed, who can stand now? Herein is the meaning of the woeful declaration, "There is none righteous, no, not one." If there could be one righteous, the whole world might become righteous, and Jesus Christ might come to be understood as unnecessary, or he might be superseded. If there could be one good man, in God's sense of that term, the cross of Christ would be a mistake—a blunder. Only affliction can drive men into this analysis of motives. It is so easy to get credit for good actions, transient courtesies, inexpensive civilities, outsides that cost nothing; and it is harder than dying to force the mind to self-analysis, and bind the heart down to self-judgment. The heart is afraid of itself. No man could see himself and live. Where, then, is help to be found? Hear the words of the Lord through the mouth of his prophet—"O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thine help."
What a noble view of God Job is enabled to present; Eliphaz and Bildad have spoken highly of the Deity, but when Job comes to speak of him there is an addition of tenderness to sublimity; in other words, Job does not discourse as a mere dialectician, of man of eloquence; he makes his words rich with unction, precious with pathos; he lifts human speech to new levels and new dignities. From the first verse to the twelfth of the ninth chapter we have Job's description of God, a description which no man could have spoken so eloquently if the very life of him had not been crushed out by divine judgment, and by all the discipline which tests life at every point. Job makes his knowledge contribute to the expression of his theology:—the mountains are moved by God, and they know not, they cannot account for their trembling; they vibrate, they shiver, as if in pain, and cannot tell why they are startled from their old decorum: they are overturned in his anger, and they cannot account for their removal or their destruction. The earth is shaken out of her place, and the pillars thereof tremble; the sun is ordered about like an inferior servant, and the stars are sealed with the black seal of thunderous clouds, so that they cannot shine—Arcturus, the great northern bear that has attracted the attention of the ages; Orion, a symbol of the chained Lucifer who rebelled in heaven, and who is now held in leash to be looked at and wondered about; Pleiades, too numerous to be named, and the chambers of the south—a general phrase by which he indicates the undiscovered astronomical territory, the great south, rich with unnamed stars, wealthy with innumerable planets,—chambers of mystery, chambers of majesty. This is the God to whom Job has to justify himself: nor is he wrong in making natural theology the basis of divine judgment as to conscience and action: for is not God critical in nature? Does he not sharpen the least point upon the grass-blade as if he had spent eternity in perfecting the completeness of that point? Has not the microscope revealed God as the minutest critic as well as an infinite builder? The argument is that if God is so particular, definite, critical, in all these natural appointments, who can go before him, and say, Lo, this is my conduct: is it not good? He will judge it by his own workmanship, and we "cannot answer him one of a thousand." The greater he is the less we are; the wiser the God the more terrific and destructive his criticism, if we seek to impose upon him by presenting the outward as a veritable image of the inward. Surely Job's affliction is beginning to tell well already. He is getting among the deeper truths. He is not a hastening reader, merely glancing at title pages, and running through them as if he had something better to do. He is going quite profoundly into things. What if at the end he should prove to be a well-schooled scholar, and should come out of this black affliction medalled all over, and crowned as God's choicest student? We must wait.
Now another view is presented. Supposing the argument or controversy to be between men and God, what shall the upshot be? Reduce life to a controversy between the divine and the human, and what will it come to? It will come to this:
"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. If I speak of strength, lo, he is strong: and if of judgment, who shall set me a time to plead? If I justify myself, mine own mouth shall condemn me: if I say, I am perfect, it shall also prove me perverse. Though I were perfect, yet would I not know my soul: I would despise my life" (Job 9:17-21).
We cannot successfully battle with God. The only thing to be done when God arises to judgment is to fall into his hands, speechlessly, trustingly, lovingly, and when we come to the point where we may speak, to say—God be merciful to me a sinner! It is useless to oppose our little strength to God's, for our strength is the strength of a rush, and God's strength is almightiness. If we come to self-justification he can excel us in criticism, he can point out our errors, he can show us how our whitest and most beautiful deed is full of corruption and rottenness; and if we were to attempt to justify ourselves, we could not believe ourselves, that is to say, we should give ourselves the lie when we had rounded off every period of argument, and wrought up to a grand culmination our rhetorical defence. An awful power is that which is within us! It would seem as if God's vicar were resident within every man,—that terrible conscience which makes cowards of us all; that quality so like divinity; that voice so much other than human; that ghost which makes us tremble at midday as if it were midnight. This is the presence of God in the soul. We may endeavour to pervert it, corrupt it, bribe it, affright it, but it comes up out of the depths, and menaces us with dignity and calmness.
Then what would the controversy come to morally? It would come to confusion and error:
"This is one thing, therefore I said it, He destroyeth the perfect and the wicked. If the scourge slay suddenly, he will laugh at the trial of the innocent. The earth is given into the hand of the wicked: he covereth the faces of the judges thereof; if not, where, and who is he?" (Job 9:22-24).
That is what spiritual controversy comes to when a man tries to argue out the whole case within the range of his own wisdom and skill; in other words, he makes continual blunders; he does not discriminate between right and wrong, between the right hand and the left; he is misled by particulars, he is victimised by details, he is befooled by accidents; he does not grasp the situation with the genius which is befitting the highest spiritual education. But what of self-help?—
"If I say, I will forget my complaint, I will leave off my heaviness, and comfort myself: I am afraid of all my sorrows, I know that thou wilt not hold me innocent. If I be 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" (Job 9:27-31).
Job is the man to come upon ulterior truths, without knowing the full range of what he is saying. In the thirty-third verse, for example, Job exclaims, "Neither is there any daysman betwixt us, that night lay his hand upon us both." We need not force this word daysman, or umpire, into full evangelical significance; at the same time there is no need why we should pass it by as if it had no special meaning. Job has come to this position, that he feels that if he is to be understood by God, or if God is to be understood by him, or if ever the controversy is to be ended, there must be a middle man. Job says in effect, I can say no more: I have used all my best words and all my ripest arguments; I have moaned and I have prayed, I have expostulated and I have gone well-nigh to defiance, and I have almost charged God with injustice in his inscrutable dealing with me; now I am tired—I can add no more; if ever this tumult is to be calmed an arbiter must arise who can lay one hand upon God and another hand upon myself, and speak to us both, and make us understand the common message. Are we to dismiss such words as a mere trope? Or are we to accept them in the light of what we now know—the fuller providence, and the fuller disclosure of God's will towards the human race? We are not to insist that Job foresaw the evangelical light, and felt in all its fulness the evangelical meaning of the gospel, but there are strugglings upward, there are dumb instincts, there are conjectures that come very near to revelations, there are gropings that mean prayer; and surely he is the wise man who sees in all the way of human education the germs of things, their beginnings, their first indications, and who watches them advancing like an ascending sun. Thus viewed, we have no hesitation in declaring that there is now a daysman between God and us. There is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. The controversy was proceeding idly on our part, and was resulting in great moral confusion and tumult, when, lo, there came amongst us one like unto the Son of man—a mysterious man,—now almost a little child, now almost a woman for very tenderness and tearfulness,—now a giant for strength, now a God for wisdom. His name is Jesus of Nazareth. He is able to save unto the uttermost, seeing that he ever liveth to make intercession for us. If we sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is able to lay a wounded hand upon God, and a wounded hand upon man, and to bring God and man together in righteous and eternal reconciliation. The poorest man may engage this advocate. His eloquence is free to all. He takes up the least prayer, the soul's first effort in supplication, and enlarges it into a prevailing plea. The weakest believer that hangs upon him hangs upon the rock of ages. Cease to plead for yourselves; cease to justify your own life; cease to believe in the moral value of respectability as before God, and like little children, brokenhearted prodigals, self-renouncing criminals, come and say to Jesus Christ, Plead for me; take up my poor lost soul; guide me altogether, and make me silent whilst thou dost speak. This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them. This man still repels the scribe, the Pharisee, the zealot, the bigot, and welcomes all fallen ones, who cannot fly to him, or walk, or crawl, but only—look!
Job's Answer to Bildad. II.
We must remember, if we would understand Job's mournful and noble complaint and eloquence, that Job himself is utterly unaware of the circumstances under which he is suffering. Unfortunately for ourselves as readers, we know all that the historian or dramatist can tell us about the case; but Job knew only his suffering. A Why? almost indignant came from his lips again and again. And no wonder. It is one thing, we have seen, to read the Book of Job, and another to be Job himself. A pitiful thing if we can only annotate the Book of Job, an excellent if we can comment upon it through our experience and our sympathy. Consider the case well, then:—
There has been an interview between God and the devil: the subject of that interview was Job's integrity and steadfastness: the devil challenged Job's position, and said that he was but circumstantially pious; he had everything heart could wish; a hedge was round about him on every side, and if such a man were not pious the more shame be his: take away, said the enemy, the hedge, the security, the prosperity, and this praying saint will curse thee to thy face. Job knew nothing about this. There is an unconscious influence in life—a mysterious ghostly discipline, an unexplained drill; a sorrow anonymous, and lacking explication. Job understood that he was a servant of the living God, a diligent student of the divine law, a patient follower of the divine statutes and commandments; he was to his own consciousness a good man; certainly inspired by noble aspirations, sentiments, and impulses; good to the poor, and helpful to those who needed all kinds of assistance; and, therefore, why he should have been struck by these tremendous thunderbursts was an inquiry to which he had no answer. But consider, on the other hand, that the whole pith of the story and meaning of the trial must be found in the very fact that Job had no notion whatever of the circumstances under which he was suffering.
Had Job known that he was to be an example, that a great battle was being fought over him, that the worlds were gathered around him to see how he would take the loss of his children, his property, and his health, the circumstances would have been vitiated, and the trial would have been a mere abortion: under such conditions Job might have strung himself up to an heroic effort, saying, if it has come to this—if God is only withdrawing himself from me for a moment, and is looking upon me from behind a cloud, what care I if seven hells should burn me, and all the legions of the pit should sweep down upon me in one terrific assault? this is but for a moment: God has made his boast of me; I am God's specimen man, God's exemplary saint; he is pointing to me, saying, See in Job what I myself am; behold in him my grace magnified and my providence vindicated. This would have been no lesson to the ages. We must often suffer, and not know the reason why: we must often rise from our knees to fight a battle, when we intended to enjoy a long repose: things must slip out of our hands unaccountably, and loss must befall our estate after we have well tended all that belongs to it, after we have securely locked every gate, and done the utmost that lies within the range of human sagacity and strength to protect our property. These are the trials that we must accept. If everything were plain and straightforward, everything would be proportionately easy and proportionately worthless. It is after we have prayed our noblest prayer, and brought back from heaven's garden all the flowers we asked for, that we must be treated as if we were wicked, and overthrown as if we had defied the spirit of justice. So must our education proceed. Brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers trials and persecutions and tests: all these things are meant for the culture of your strength, the perfecting of your patience, the consolidation of your hope and love. Thus we should interpret history. God will not explain the causes of our affliction to us, any more than he explained the causes of Job's affliction to the patriarch. But history comes to do what God himself refrains from doing: all history says that never is a good man tried without the trial being meant to answer some question of the devil, or to test some quality of the man. God does not send trials merely for the sake of sending them; he is not arbitrary, capricious, governing his universe by whims and fancies and changeable moods. But seeing that he made us, as Job here contends, and knows us altogether, we must accept the trials of life as part of the education of life.
What course does Job say he will take? A point of departure is marked in the tenth chapter. Hitherto Job has more or less answered the men who have spoken to him; now he turns away from them, and says—I will speak straight up to heaven. He determines to be frank. "I will speak in the bitterness of my soul." That is right. Let us hear what the soul has to say. Let us make room for pale, haggard grief, that she may tell her harrowing tale. Men are sickened by luxury. Men are sated with mere delights. Life would be poor but for the wealth of agonised experience, and dull but for the music of sanctified desolation. Job has begun well in saying he will speak right out to God. It soothes poor misery "hearkening to her tale." If a man could once assure himself that he was speaking as it were face to face with God, the greatness of the auditor would lift up the speech to a worthy level, and the very interview with one divine would help our human nature up to the very divinity to whose radiance it has been admitted.
Do not let us speak our misery downwards; otherwise our tears will soak into the dust, and there will be no answer in flowers. Let us venture to lift up our heads even in the time of grief and misery and loss and loneliness, and speak all we feel right into the ear of God. He will not be angry with us. He will make room for our speech. He framed us; he knows our composition; he understands us altogether, and blessed be his name and his love, he knows that a little weeping would ease our hearts, and that long talk with himself would end in a mitigation of our grief. Do not be harsh with men who speak with some measure of indignation in the time of sorrow. Sorrow is not likely to soothe our feelings, and to pick out for us the very daintiest words in our mother-tongue. We are chafed and fretted and vexed by the things which befall our life. It is not easy to put the coffin-lid upon the one little child's face; it is not easy to surrender the last crust of bread that was meant to satisfy our hunger; it is not pleasant to look into the well-head and find the water gone at the spring. Yet, in our very frankness, we should strive at least to speak in chastened tones, and with that mystic spirit of hopefulness which, even in the very agony of fear, whispers to the soul, Perhaps, even now, at the very last, God may be gracious unto me. Have we thus turned our sorrows into spiritual controversies with God? or have we degraded them into mere criticisms upon his providence, and turned them to stinging reproaches upon the doctrine which teaches that all things work together for good to them that love God? Let us go alone, shut the door of the chamber, and spend all day with God, and all night; for even in talking over our grief, sentence by sentence, and letter by letter, in the presence and hearing of the King, without his personally saying one word to us, we may feel that much of the burden has been lifted, and that light is preparing to dawn upon an experience which we had considered to be doomed to enduring and unrelieved darkness.
Job says he will ask for a reason. "I will say unto God, do not condemn me; show me wherefore thou contendest with me" (Job 10:2). I cannot tell why; I am not conscious of any reason; the last time we met it was in prayer, in loving fellowship; the last interview I had with heaven was the pleasantest I can remember; lo, I was at the altar offering sacrifices for my children, when the great gloom fell upon my life, and the whole range of my outlook was clothed with thunder-clouds—oh, tell me why! We need not ask whether these words actually escaped Job's lips, because we know they are the only words which he could have uttered, or that this is the only spirit in which he could have expressed himself; he would have been God, not man, if under all the conditions of the case he had expressed himself in terms less agonising, and in wonder less distracting.
Job will also appeal to the divine conscience, if the expression may be allowed:—
"Is it good unto thee that thou shouldest oppress, that thou shouldest despise the work of thine hands, and shine upon the counsel of the wicked?" (Job 10:3).
"Is it good,"—is it in harmony with the fitness of things; is it part of the music of divine justice? How will this incident be interpreted by those who are looking on? Art thou not doing more mischief by this experiment than good? There are men who are observing me, who knew that I was a man of prayer, a man of spiritual fame, and they will say, If thus God treats the good, is it not better to be wicked? And there are wicked men looking on who are saying, It has come out just as we expected; all this religious sentiment ends in spiritual reaction, and God is not to be worshipped as Job has worshipped him. O living, loving, saving God, Shepherd of the universe, consider this, and answer me! Once shake a man's confidence in right, and he could no longer go to the altar of the God whom he could charge with wrong; once let a man feel that good may come to nothing, and prayer is wasted breath, and that the balances of justice are in unsteady hands, and all religious lectures are properly lost upon him, and all pious appeals are but so much wasted breath. We must have confidence in the goodness of God. We must be able to say to ourselves, The lot is dark, the road is crooked, the hill is steep; I cannot tell why these trials should have come upon me, but see me tomorrow, or the third day, and I shall have an answer from heaven, the enigma shall be solved, and the solution shall be the best music my soul ever listened to.
Job then pleads himself—his very physiology, his constitution:—
"Thine hands have made me and fashioned me together round about; yet thou dost destroy me. Remember, I beseech thee, that thou hast made me as the clay; and wilt thou bring me into dust again? Hast thou not poured me out as milk, and curdled me like cheese? Thou hast clothed me with skin and flesh, and hast fenced me with bones and sinews" (Job 10:8-11.)
I am made by thee; didst thou make make me to destroy me? Art thou so fickle? Art thou a potter that fashions a beautiful vase, and then dashes it to the ground? I am all thine, from the embryo—for that is the reference made in the tenth verse: "Hast thou not poured me out as milk, and curdled me like cheese?" I am thine from the very embryo, the very germ; there is nothing about me that I have done myself; I am the work of thine own hands; art thou a fantastic maker, creating toys that thou mayest have the delight of crushing them between the palms of thine hands? A very pathetic inquiry is this—"Thou hast made me as the clay; and wilt thou bring me into dust again?"—is this the law of evolution? is this the science or philosophy of development? is all life simply a little beginning, rising out of itself, and returning to itself? and is "dust" the only word appropriate to man? is life a journey from dust to dust, from ashes to ashes, from nothing to nothing? Consider this, O loving Creator! Job says he will reason otherwise. God, who has made so much out of nothing, means to make more out of so much: the very creation means the redemption and salvation and coronation of the thing that was created in the divine image and likeness. Creation does not end in itself: it is a pledge, a token, a sign—yea, a sure symbol, equal in moral value to an oath, that God's meaning is progress unto the measure of perfection. This is how we discover the grand doctrine of the immortality of the soul, even in the Old Testament—even in the Book of Genesis and in the Book of Job. What was it that lay so heavily upon Adam and upon Job? It was the limitation of their existence; it was the possible thought that they could see finalities, that they could touch the mean boundary of their heart's throb and vital palpitation. When men can take up the whole theatre of being and opportunity and destiny, and say, This is the shape of it, and this is the weight, this is the measure, this is the beginning, and this is the end, then do they weary of life, and they come to despise it with bitterness; but when they cannot do these things, but, contrariwise, when they begin to see that there is a Beyond, something farther on, voices other than human, mystic appearances and revelations, then they say, 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 has 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:
"Oh that I had given up the ghost, and no eye had seen me! I should have been as though I had not been; I should have been carried from the womb to the grave. Are not my days few? cease then, and let me alone, that I may take comfort a little, before I go whence I shall not return, even to the land of darkness and the shadow of death; a land of darkness, as darkness itself; and of the shadow of death, without any order, and where the light is as darkness" (Job 10:18-22).
Thus he exhausts the Hebrew tongue in piling image upon image by which to signify the everlasting extinction and eternal darkness. Yet he would choose extinction rather than life under a galling sense of injustice. It is so with individual men. It is so with nations of men. There comes a time when the sense of injustice becomes intolerable. Anarchy, the sufferers say, is better; and as for darkness, it is to be chosen in preference to light which is only used for the perpetration of iniquity. "My soul is weary of my life." Is that a solitary expression? We have heard Rebekah say the same words—she would die. We have heard David say, "Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away,"—a term which indicates distance without measure—"and be at rest." We have heard great Elijah—royal, lion-like, terrible Elijah—say, "Let me die"—give me release from life. What wonder if other men have uttered the same expression. It is, let us say again and again, the natural and necessary expression, except there be hidden in the heart the hope of immortality. Thus Paul triumphed: "Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen: but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal." Eternity must help time, or time will be the grave of its own creations and aspirations. What hold have we upon eternity? Is our citizenship in heaven? From what fountain do we drink? If from the fountains of eternity, then we shall be satisfied for ever, and labour will be but a preparation for the enjoyment of rest, and rest shall bring back the energy which we shall rejoice to spend in service. Are we trusting to the tricks, the chances, the revolutions of some mere wheel of fortune? or are we living in the living God? Are we crucified with Christ, yet have we risen with him? are we living in him, and is he living in us? Is the life we now live in the flesh a life of faith in the Son of God? Then, come weal, come woe, at the end there shall be festival, celestial Sabbath, infinite liberty, unspeakable joy. We fearlessly preach the doctrine that all things are done by God. We cannot recognise any devil that eclipses the omnipotence of the Almighty. Boldly would we say, "Shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it?" Do we suppose there are two rival powers in the universe, and that one endeavours to overreach the other, to be before the other, in the culture or the destruction of human nature? That is not a Christian doctrine as we understand the teaching of Holy Scripture. "The Lord reigneth." The devil is a chained enemy: "beyond his chain he cannot go." When he wants a new link added to it he has to ask the Omnipotent to lengthen his tether by one short inch. All things are in the hands of God. All earthquakes, and tumults, and revolutions, all national uprisings, all political upheavals, all the mysterious, tragic, awful process of development, we must find in the hand and under the government of God. Therefore will we not be afraid; we will say, "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble;" though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea, the throne of the Eternal is left untouched, and the government of the Everlasting is left unimpaired. We will hide ourselves in the Sanctuary of our Father until all calamities be overpast. Out of the agony and the throes of individual experience, and national convulsions, there shall come a creation fair as the noonday, quiet as the silent but radiant stars!
If I justify myself, mine own mouth shall condemn me: if I say, I am perfect, it shall also prove me perverse."Handfuls of Purpose"
For All Gleaners
"If I justify myself, mine own mouth shall condemn me."—Job 9:20
There are two processes often going on together in human thought,—self-justification and self-condemnation.—The justification is often outward; that is, it takes a social range, going up and down amongst men, asking for charges, indictments, proofs of blame: but even whilst the soul is thus revelling in social applause, when it turns in upon itself, it is with bitterest reproaches.—The hand has been clean, but the heart has been impure; the deed has had all the appearance of charming beneficence, but the motive out of which it came was one of the intensest selfishness.—A man may justify himself logically; that is to say, he may prove a literal consistency in his behaviour; yet when he turns to spiritual considerations, he may overwhelm himself with proofs that all his outward life has been but a series of studied attitudes, a marvel in trickery, invention, and cunning arrangement.—"As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he:" "The Lord looketh on the heart:" "Judge not by the appearance, but judge righteous judgment."—It is at this point that the spirituality of the Christian religion is realised.—God searches the heart, and tries the reins of the children of men.—Innocence can be simulated; respectability can be put on like a cloak; even piety itself may be turned into a mere colour of the skin: but all these accessories are stripped by the spirit of divine judgment, and the eye of God looks upon the heart, its motive, its purpose, its supreme desire.—This is at once a terror and a blessing: a terror to the evil man, how clever soever he may have been in his exterior arrangements, a blessing to the pure and genuine heart that has had to struggle against a thousand social disadvantages and oppositions.—The great condemnation is self-condemnation.—In vain the world applauds us, when we know that the applause is undeserved.—The public assembly may welcome us with overwhelming acclamation, yet the soul within may say, All this noise is a tribute to my hypocrisy, not a recognition of my real state; could these people know me as I really am, these welcoming cheers would be turned into thundering denunciations: I do not accept the huzzas of the ignorant multitude, I tremble and cower under my own judgment.—Self-justification is no commendation: he who justifies himself before men, is all the more likely to be guilty before God; for he tries to make up by boisterousness and declamation what is wanting in solidity and spiritual piety.—"Brethren, if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things."—Blessed is the man who condemns himself justly and thoroughly, for only by so doing does he prepare himself for the true revelation of God in the soul.—God never sat down in the heart of self-conceit, but evermore hurled against that heart his judgments and retributions.—The Pharisee justified himself, and was left unjustified by God: the publican condemned himself, and went down to his house justified.