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Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped; and said, Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away ; blessed be the name of the Lordh."
Behold him yet again after his body was so smitten, and when his wife gave him that desperate, that atheistical, advice: all was meekness still: his very reproof was mild, though firm: “ He said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil ?”
Thus “in all this he never once charged God foolishly, or sinned in the least respecti."
It is true that, after this, we find him “cursing the day of his birth," and uttering some unwarranted expressions against God: nor would it become us either to conceal, or to extenuate, his guilt in these respects. Our blessed Lord alone was absolutely without sin. But though Job betrayed his infirmity in some hasty words, yet, on the whole, his argument was right in opposition to that of his friends: and God himself, as the arbiter of the dispute, declared, that “they had not spoken the thing that was right as his servant Job hadk.” Moreover, the deep humility with which he acknowledged his offence, proved his title to the character which God had given him in the beginning, that he was the most perfect and upright of the sons of men'.)
Having taken this view of Job's afflictions, and of his patience under them, let us consider, II. The design which God had in them
We, who behold every part of this mysterious dispensation in one view, are enabled, from its catastrophe, to mark the design of God in every intermediate step of the plot: we see what God intended, by what he actually effected. 1. He confounded Satan
[Satan had accused Job as a hypocrite, who, if he were brought into trying circumstances, would even curse God to his face: and he undertook to prove him such a character, if God would only suffer him to make the trial. God gave him this permission m, and thereby afforded Satan an occasion to prove himself a liar, and to demonstrate that integrity, the existence of which he was so forward to deny. h Job i. 20, 21.
i Job i. 22. and ii. 10. k Job xlii. 7.
1 Job i. 8. and ii. 3. m Job i. 9-12. and ii. 4-6.
Nor is this a small consolation to the people of God, whom Satan is ever ready to accuse and harass. When he would persuade them that they are hypocrites, they may recollect, that “ he was a liar from the beginning." When he, through Divine permission, assaults them either in body or mind, they may look back to this history, and see, that he can in no respect exceed his commission, or overthrow those who trust in God. He may toss them vehemently as in a sieve; but shall never destroy the smallest grain of solid wheat.] 2. He exercised and improved the graces of Job
[If "men do not light a candle, in order to put it under a bushel, but that it may give light to those who are in the houseo," we may be sure that God does not implant his grace in the heart, but with a view to call it into exercise. Now he had endued Job with such eminent patience, that the common events of life were not sufficient to call it forth: he therefore suffered Satan to exert all his power against him, in order that Job's piety might be displayed, augmented, and confirmed. Behold the sufferer when coming out of his trial; how bright does he shine, when “ abasing himself in dust and ashes !" How eminent does he appear, when God himself not only takes his part, but refuses forgiveness to his uncharitable friends, except as an answer to his intercession for themP! Truly he lost nothing in the furnace but his dross; and “he came out of it purified as gold9."]
3. He increased Job's happiness both in this and in the eternal world
(Doubtless the afflictions of Job were inexpressibly severe: yet was he no stranger to consolation even in his most distressing hours. If all his earthly comforts were dead, and he had lost all hope of happiness on this side the grave, still he saw that he had a Redeemer living; and he knew that the day was fast approaching, when he should enjoy an intimate and everlasting communion with him".
But beyond all expectation he was raised from his low estate; his family was again increased to the very number he had before lost; his possessions were doubled; and his life, which probably at that time was somewhat advanced, was prolonged a hundred and forty years, that he might see his posterity even to the fourth generations. We must confess, therefore, that even in this life he was abundantly recompensed for the months of trouble that he had endured.
How much his eternal happiness was affected by it, it is impossible for us to say: but sure we are that his affliction was the means of greatly augmenting it. In this view, affliction was better to him than heaven itself would have been : for, if he had been removed to heaven at once, his state, though glorious, would have been for ever fixed: whereas his affliction was “ working for him" as long as it continued : it was every moment increasing that weight of glory which he was to possess for evert. Who does not see that it would be better for a man to be cut off and be cast into hell immediately, than to live only to " treasure up wrath against the day of wrath u ?" for though his torments would come upon him a little sooner, yet the respite of a few months, or years, would bear no proportion to the increased weight of misery that he must eternally endure. And exactly thus the additional weight of glory which Job will eternally possess, will far overbalance the trials he suffered, or the short period of bliss, which, by an earlier removal, he might have enjoyed.]
To make the just improvement of this history, we must notice, III. The general character of God, as it is exhibited
in this particular dispensationThis seems to be the more immediate object, to which St. James would direct our attention. Persons in the midst of their trouble are apt to entertain hard thoughts of God: but we who, in this instance, “ have seen the end of the Lord,” may rest assured “that he is very pitiful, and of tender mercy," however dark or painful his dispensations towards us may be. It is by love alone he is actuated,
1. In sending afflictions
[He does not willingly afflict his peoplex.” He knows what we stand in need of; and he sends it for our good. He chastises us, not as earthly parents too often do, to indulge their own evil tempers, but purely " for our profit, that we may be partakers of his holiness"." And as he knows what we want, so he knows what we can bear; and will take care either to apportion our burden to our strength?, or to give us strength sufficient for our trialsa. Besides, in all our afflictions he sympathizes with usb; he watches over us with the care of a refiner, and the solicitude of a parentd: and when he sees that his rod has produced its desired effect, he is glad to return to us in the endearments of love, and to confirm our confidence in him by the sweetest tokens of reconciliation and acceptancee.] 2. In multiplying afflictions
+ 2 Cor. iv. 17.
u Rom. ii. 5.
* Lam. iii. 33.
[When our troubles, like those of Job, are many and various, we are ready to conclude that they are sent in wrath. But it is not for us to prescribe how many, or of what continuance, our afflictions shall be. We must consider God as a physician, who prescribes with unerring wisdom, and consults the benefit, rather than the inclination, of his patients. We must " walk by faith, and not by sight:" it will be time enough hereafter to see the reasons of God's proceduref. Job was induced at last to account God his enemy: and they who beheld the afflictions of Christ, were ready to say, that “ he was judicially stricken, and smitten of God” as the most abandoned of mankind. But we know that, as Job was, so was Christ, beloved of the Father; and never more beloved than when crying in the depths of his dereliction, “ My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"
Let not any then“ write bitter things against themselves" on account of the greatness of their afflictions, but rather accept their trials as tokens of his love; for, “ whom he loveth he chasteneth; and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth"."] ADVICE
1. Let none be secure, as though affliction were far off from them
[We may be to-day in affluence; to-morrow in want : to-day in health; to-morrow languishing on a bed of sickness : to-day enjoying the society of wife, or children; to-morrow lamenting their loss. Let us remember, that whatever we have is God's; it is only lent us for a little while, to be recalled at any hour he shall see fit. Let us learn to hold every thing as by this tenure, that we may be ready at any moment to give up whatever he shall be pleased to require of us. Since “ we know not what a day may bring forth,” we should stand girt for the service of our God, ever ready to do or suffer his righteous will.]
2. Let none be hasty in their judgments, when called to suffer
c Mal. iii. 3.
a Ps. ciii, 13.
e Jer. xxxi. 20.
[Jacob thought all his trials were against him ; when, in fact, they were designed for the good of himself and of all his family. And we know not but that the events we so deeply bewail, are indispensably necessary to our salvation. We have reason to think that, if we saw the end as God does, we, instead of regarding our losses or bereavements as afflictions, should adore God for them as much as for the most pleasing of his dispensations. Let us then wait till he shall have discovered to us the whole of his designs; and be content to form our judgment of him when all the grounds of judging are laid before us.]
i Gen. xlii. 36. with xlv. 5, 7. and l. 20.
THE EFFICACY OF FERVENT PRAYER. Jam. v. 16. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man
availeth much. PRAYER and intercession are generally considered as duties : but, if viewed aright, they would rather be regarded as privileges ; seeing that they are the means of obtaining for ourselves and others those blessings which no created being can bestow. In this point of view, the passage before us, together with the preceding context, affords us the greatest possible encouragement. It is to be regretted, however, that instead of making a due improvement of these gracious declarations, the Papists have made use of them chiefly, if not solely, to advance the temporal interests of their clergy, at the expense of the eternal welfare of the laity.
On the direction given to “ pray over a sick person, and to anoint him with oil in order to his recoverya," they have founded an ordinance, to be observed when a man is absolutely past recovery : and that which was designed of God as emblematic only of a miraculous power, given at that time for the restoration of bodily health, they have established as
a ver. 14, 15. The forgiveness of sin here mentioned refers only to the removal of any particular judgment that had been inflicted on account of sin. See John v. 14. and 1 Cor. xi. 30.