Suffer me that I may speak; and after that I have spoken, mock on.
I. THE RIGHT OF REPLY IS JUSTLY CLAIMED. Job has heard enough from his friends. He is impatient to answer them. Surely they should allow him to do so.
1. This right is conceded law. The worst criminal may be defended by counsel, may call witnesses in his favour, may make his own statement. In civil eases both sides are heard before judgment is pronounced.
2. This right should be allowed in social life. It is not just to condemn any one unheard. There may come to us a damaging tale concerning a person; it is our duty to suspend our judgment till he has given his explanation.
3. This right ought to be permitted in theology. It was a theological as well as a personal discussion that Job was carrying on with his friends. But in theology people are most impatient of hearing anything contrary to their own views. Yet it is not just to condemn those who differ from us until we have heard what they have to say on their side of a question.
II. THE RIGHT OF REPLY IS HELPFUL IN THE INTERESTS OF TRUTH. We are all tempted to take partial, one-sided views of things. It is only By bringing light from all quarters that we can see the rounded totality of truth. Therefore discussion helps truth. At first, indeed, it may not seem to do so, and, indeed, there seems to be a certain irony in it, for the most eager combatants are usually furthest from a just con-caption of what they are contending for. But after the discussion is over, those who look on are better able to understand the whole subject. Thus the discussion of Job and his friends throws light on the mystery of Providence. The creeds of Christendom were forged in the fires of controversy. Theology is a result of discussion. The right of reply has given breadth, depth, and definiteness to it. Truth is not helped by the persecution of error.
III. THE RIGHT OF REPLY IS A CONSOLATION TO THE MISJUDGED. Job only asks for this. When he has spoken his friends may mock on. There is some humour in his tone, or perhaps a bitter scorn. Truth is strong. Only let it shine out in its native strength, and calumny must wither before it. Any unjust accusations will then only break themselves like waves that are dashed to pieces on the crags. We can afford to be indifferent to falsehood and error if we can speak out and let the truth be fairly seen.
IV. THE RIGHT OF REPLY WILL BE GIVEN ULTIMATELY TO ALL, It will be of little use to those who are in the wrong. To be able to stand up in the searching light of eternity and reply for a bad case is no desirable privilege. Rather than attempt to reply, the self-convicted sinner will call on the mountains and hills to cover him. But those who are honestly endeavouring to make the truth manifest in face of great opposition and gross misapprehension may learn to possess their souls in patience if they will come to understand that the oppression and injustice are but temporary. Though silenced for a season, ultimately truth will speak out with a trumpet-voice. In conclusion, let us remember that God has a right of redly to all man's foolish sophistry, to all his shuffling excuses. All error and pretence will be pulverized annihilated when God speaks his great answer to cavillers, unbelievers, and opponents of every kind. - W.F.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: Suffer me that I may speak; and after that I have spoken, mock on.