Has he smitten him, as he smote those that smote him? or is he slain according to the slaughter of them that are slain by him?…
These verses set forth two modes of apprehending the afflictions and sorrows of life, and help us in estimating the distinction between the modes. We may say that it sets forth God's ways with the enemies of Israel, and God's ways with Israel.
I. THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN JUDGMENTS AND CHASTISEMENTS. In a sense we may say that judgments are ends in themselves, and chastisements are means to a higher end. Then has God two ways of dealing with men? Thoughtlessly, and misled by appearances, many of us answer, "Yes," and suppose that we can account for some difficult and perplexing things by the help of this supposition. But this answer will not bear the test of either patient thought or Holy Scripture. Thought says, "God is One; truth and right are one; men are one; and, if there be two principles of dealing with the same creatures, both cannot be right." What God does may to us look different; it must really be the same, for the "God of the whole earth shall he be called." Scripture assures us of the Divine unchangeableness. It says, "One event happeneth to the righteous and to the wicked." It expresses the conviction that the "Judge of all the earth will do right." It bids us see that God makes his "sun to rise on the evil and on the good." There is no modification of ordinary natural conditions for the sake of the elect few. Health, accident, disease, death, affect alike the righteous and the wicked. Then comes in another question - Can all judgments be regarded as remedial in their design and tendency? There is a disposition toward the general acceptance of this theory nowadays; in dealing with crime, the reformation of the criminal is put in a first place. We may venture to say that God's final end is always recovery. But he works over indefinitely long periods; and his immediate ends - necessary as stages - may not always be remedial. As a part of the work towards securing the final end, God may stamp by suffering the quality of sin; he may demonstrate his indignations, as in the case of Babylon. It may even be necessary to make us fear lest the consequences of sin may prove irremediable; and this may explain such things as everlasting punishment, the sin against the Holy Ghost that bath never forgiveness, and the day of grace that may be lost. Whether Divine dealings be judgment or chastisement may depend on three things:
(1) the point from which they are viewed;
(2) the moral condition of those who suffer; and
(3) the relations of God being regarded as governmental or as paternal.
II. THE PURPOSE OF JUDGMENT APPREHENDED AS CHASTISEMENT. (Ver. 9.) Apprehended as only judgment, our mind is overborne by our calamity. Apprehended as chastisement, the mind is started with new and trustful thoughts. The trouble may at first crush, but soon we learn to accept it calmly. That we are under fatherly chastisements puts the deepest solemnity into life and into sin; it helps us to lift our hearts away from the present and the seen to the future and the unseen. All deaths become gates of life when this sunlight streams on them. (For this figure see Noel Paton's picture, 'Mors Janua Vita.') Prophecy then keeps before us this cheering fact - all anxieties and sufferings are fatherly. Their "fruit is to take away our sin." And as we so little know the subtleties of our sin, we need not wonder that we cannot understand either the subtleties or the severities necessary for taking it away. Our wonder ought to be that "refining fires," so graciously tempered for us, are made to accomplish so great a cleansing. - R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: Hath he smitten him, as he smote those that smote him? or is he slain according to the slaughter of them that are slain by him?