For inquire, I pray you, of the former age, and prepare yourself to the search of their fathers:…
Bildad invites Job to consult antiquity and to attend to that which the fathers have searched out. Even this pedant may remind us that wholesome lessons are to be culled from the gardens of the past.
I. HISTORY TEACHES BY EXAMPLE. Here we can see truth in the concrete. The ideas which we discuss in the abstract are embodied and at work in the living facts of history. We can study republicanism in ancient Greece, and monarchy in the Roman empire; the consequences of heathenism in the pagan world, and the fruits of Christianity in the story of the gospel and its triumphs; the power of the gospel in the romance of missions, and the weakness of man in the failure and ruin of ancient Churches. Here we see not lifeless arguments, but living men. Therefore much of the Bible is history; God's Word comes to us through man's life. We should pay more attention to men and facts.
II. HISTORY REVEALS THE ORIGIN OF INSTITUTIONS AND MOVEMENTS. Most of those which we have to do with took their rise in a more or less remote past. If we can trace them back to their source, we can better judge of their whole characters. Much attention is given to the childhood and youth of a great man by his biographer, for therein lies the secret of his after-life. It is well to trace back the Christian story, and see how God has been shaping his Church through the ages. Our religion is emphatically historical. It springs from facts, things done in the past. In this respect it is unique among the religions of the world. All the doctrines of Christianity are lessons of history; they all take their rise in the story of Christ and his cross. Yet we are not bound by pedantic rules and frivolous precedents. We find the origin of our faith in certain facts. The interpretation of those facts must grow with our advancing knowledge, and the application of their lessons must vary with changing circumstances.
III. HISTORY HELPS TO MATURITY OF JUDGMENT. If we are weak and lack independence of mind, it may weigh us down with the incubus of its precedents. This is how it affected Bildad with his veneration for the fathers, and this is how it affects those good Christian people who make the Church Fathers absolute authorities, when they should dare to trust a careful and devout interpretation of Scripture and the ultimate judgments of the Christian consciousness. Yet, on the other hand, there is a good use of the Fathers. The very variety of explanations of Christian doctrines in the past should teach us caution and a large wisdom in treating difficult subjects. The student of history will often know that some pretentious notion, flashed out on the world as a magnificent discovery, is but a thrice-slain error of ancient controversies. Old truth will endure the test of time. But standing on the experience of the ages, we should be able to reach forth to higher truth in the future, the more readily because we thus use the past. - W.F.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: For inquire, I pray thee, of the former age, and prepare thyself to the search of their fathers: