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Compare Lord Cockburn's description of Robert Blair in his Memorials (p. 132): 'He was all honesty. The sudden opening of the whole secrets of his heart would not have disclosed a single speck of dishonour.'
Reference. II. 3. F. W. Farrar, Everyday Christian Life, p. 110.
With man also as well as with the animals, says Martineau, 'Death is the evil from which he most shrinks himself, and which he most deplores for those he loves; it is the utmost that he can inflict upon his enemy, and the maximum which the penal justice of society can award to its criminals. The fear of it it is which gives their vivid interest to all hairbreadth escapes, in the shipwreck, or amid the glaciers, or in the fight; and secretly supplies the chief tragic element his art.'
Let us remember what is involved in the enjoyment and in the loss of life that perilous and inestimable something, which we all know how much we ourselves prize, and for which, as we have the word long ago of a personage more distinguished for his talent than his virtue, uttered in a Presence when even he dared not lie direct, that 'all that a man hath he will give,' so let it be our endeavour, or its conservators, to give all that we have, our knowledge, our affections, our energies, our virtue ( ἀρετή , vir-tus, the very essence and pith of a man), in doing our best to make our patients healthy, long-lived, and happy.
Dr. John Brown.
The need for sacrifice is not taken away, only its nature is changed, exalted, deepened; and mild as is the genius of the New Dispensation, its knife goes closer to the heart than that of the elder one, which we are accustomed to think of as so stern and exacting. Behold the goodness and the severity of Christ! 'Skin for skin,' saith Job of old, 'all that a man hath will he give for his life.' And it is this very life which Christ asks us to lay down for Him; this life of which He tells us that he who loveth it shall lose it, and he who loseth it for His sake shall keep it unto life eternal.
References. II. 4. H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 1526. II. 6. J. Clifford, Daily Strength for Daily Living, p. 52.
The fiercest passions are not so dangerous foes to the soul as the cold scepticism of the understanding. The Jewish demon assailed the man of Uz with physical ills; the Lucifer of the Middle Ages tempted his passions; but the Mephistopheles of the eighteenth century bade the finite strive to compass the infinite, and the intellect attempt to solve all the problems of the soul.
Life has its wounds as well as its weapons. Your moral hero occasionally sees not only the discomfiture of Satan, but also the warm blood of his own mortal veins oozing forth as well.
Royce, The Spirit of Modern Philosophy, p. 49.
One of the wildest grandeurs of this poem is that in it the sun is baleful. The sun is in Job as in Homer; but it is no longer the dawn, it is high noon. The sombre oppressiveness of the brazen ray, falling straight down on the desert, pervades the poem, which is heated to a white heat. Job sweats on his dunghill. The shadow of Job is small and black, and it is hidden under him as the snake beneath the rock. Tropical flies buzz on his sores. Job has over his head the fearful Arabian sun which intensifies plagues, and changes the miasma into the pestilence.
It is our patience that is the touchstone of our virtue. To bear with life even when illusion and hope are gone; to accept this position of perpetual war, while at the same time loving only peace; to stay patiently in the world, even when it repels us as a place of bad company, and seems to us a mere arena of bad passions; to remain faithful to one's own faith without breaking with the followers of the false gods; to make no attempt to escape from the human hospital, longsuffering and patient as Job upon his dunghill; this is duty. When life ceases to be a promise, it does not cease to be a Task; its true name even is Trial.
It was the fire that did honour to Mutilius Scaevola; poverty made Fabricius famous; Rutilius was made excellent by banishment; Regulus by torments; Socrates by prison; Cato by his death; and God hath crowned the memory of Job with a wreath of glory, because he sat upon his dunghill wisely and temperately; and his potsherds and his groans, mingled with praises and justification of God, pleased him like an anthem sung by angels in the morning of the resurrection.
Southey remarks, of John Wesley's wife, that 'of all women she is said to have been the most unsuited to him. Fain would she have made him, like Marc Antony, give up all for love; and being disappointed in that hope, she tormented him in such a manner, by her outrageous jealousy, and abominable temper, that she deserves to be classed in a triad with Xantippe and the wife of Job, as one of the three bad wives.'
Many a time since have I noticed, in persons of Ginevra Fanshawe's light, careless temperament, and fair, fragile style of beauty, an entire uncapacity to endure: they seem to sour in adversity, like small beer in thunder. The man who takes such a woman for his wife, ought to be prepared to guarantee her an existence all sunshine.
Charlotte Bronte in Villette.
Curse God and Die
In the introduction to Guy Mannering, Scott describes the youth of John McKinlay's legend as exposed to despairing fears, which he combated with courage. 'It seemed as if the gloomiest and most hideous of mental maladies was taking the form of religious despair. Still the youth was gentle, courteous, affectionate, and submissive to his father's will, and resisted with all his power the dark suggestions which were breathed into his mind, as it seemed, by some emanation of the Evil Principle, exhorting him, like the wicked wife of Job, to curse God and die.'
It is a brave act of valour to contemn death; but, where life is more terrible than death, it is then the truest valour to dare to live; and herein hath religion taught us a noble example; for all the valiant acts of Curtius, Scaevola, or Codrus, do not parallel or match that one of Job; and sure there is no torture to the rack of a disease, nor any poniards in death itself, like those in the way or prologue unto it.
Sir Thomas Browne.
Compare Browning's setting of this text in Ferishtah's Fancies ('The Melon-Seller').
My God! what poor creatures we are! After all my fair proposals yesterday, I was seized with a most violent pain in the right kidney and the parts adjacent, which, joined to deadly sickness which it brought on, forced me instantly to go to bed and send for Clarkson.... I cannot expect that this first will be the last visit of this cruel complaint; but shall we receive good at the hand of God and not receive evil?
Sir Walter Scott's Journal for December, 1825.
Mr. James Skene, in his Reminiscences, describes the brave, cheery spirit of his friend, Sir Walter Scott, after the crisis in his fortunes. 'The sentiments of resignation and of cheerful acquiescence in the dispensation of the Almighty which he expressed were those of a Christian thankful for the blessings left, and willing, without ostentation, to do his best. It was really beautiful to see the workings of a strong and upright mind under the first lash of adversity, calmly reposing upon the consolation afforded by his own integrity and manful purposes.'
Be it so thou hast lost all, poor thou art, dejected, in pain of body, grief of mind, thine enemies insult over thee, thou art as bad as Job; yet tell me (saith Chrysostom) was Job or the devil the greater conqueror? Surely Job; the devil had his goods, he sat on the muck-hill and kept his good name; he lost his children, health, friends, but he kept his innocency; he lost his money, but he kept his confidence in God, which was better than any treasure. Do thou then as Job did, triumph as Job did, and be not molested as every fool is.
Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy.
The Will of God
I. We have here put before us the very highest and most perfect type of patience in the sense of simple resignation. It is the greatest picture ever drawn of that calm, unhesitating, and profound acquiescence in the will of God, which was one of the 'qualities which marked Eastern religions, when to the West they were almost unknown, and which even now is more remarkably exhibited in Eastern nations than among ourselves'.
II. 'Thy will be done' is 'a prayer which lies at the very root of all religion'. It stands among the foremost petitions of the Lord's Prayer. It is deeply engraven in the whole religious spirit of the Sons of Abraham, even of the race of Ishmael. In the words, 'God is great,' it expresses the best side of Mahommedanism, the profound submission to the will of a Heavenly Master. It is embodied in the very words, Moslem and Islam. And we, servants of the Crucified One, must feel that to be ready to leave all in God's hands, not merely because He is great, but because we know Him to be wise, and feel Him to be good, is of the very essence of religion in its very highest aspect.
III. The very highest type of such submission we have set before us in Job. Poor as he now is, he is rich in trust and nearness to his God; and Christian souls, trained in the teaching of Christian centuries, will feel that if there is a God and Father above us, it is better to have felt towards Him as he felt, than to have been the lord of many slaves and flocks and herds, and the possessor of unclouded happiness on a happy earth.
G. G. Bradley, Lectures on the Book of Job, p. 40.
'Even the patriarch Job,' says George Eliot in Felix Holt, 'if he had been a gentleman of the modern West, would have avoided picturesque disorder and poetical laments; and the friends who called on him, though not less disposed than Bildad the Shuhite to hint that their unfortunate friend was in the wrong, would have sat on chairs and held their hats in their hands. The harder problems of our life have changed less than our manners; we wrestle with the old sorrows, but more decorously.'
The consolation offered by these three men to Job has passed into a proverb; but who that knows what most modern consolation is can prevent a prayer that Job's comforters may be his? They do not call upon him for an hour, and invent excuses for the departure which they so anxiously await; they do not write notes to him and go about their business as if nothing had happened; they do not inflict on him meaningless commonplaces. They honour him by remaining with him, and by their mute homage, and when they speak to him, though they are mistaken, they offer him the best that they have been able to think. Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite, sitting in the dust with Job, not daring to intrude upon him, are for ever an example of what man once was and ought to be to man.
W. Hale White, The Deliverance, pp. 132-133.
What majestic tenderness!
'We are over-hasty to speak,' says Dinah Morris in Adam Bede, 'as if God did not manifest Himself by our silent feeling, and make His love felt through ours.' Some special gift or beneficent force flows from one when one is in the sympathetic state.
There are silences of all sorts, as there is speech of all sorts. There are silences that set one's teeth on edge it is always a relief to break them; and there are silences that are gentler, kinder, sweeter, more loving, more eloquent than any words, and which it is always a wrench to interrupt.
F. Marion Crawford.
It is always easy to say of another's misfortune, 'What does it matter to me?' or, 'There must be these sentimental these emotional crises. They form the character. It is all for the best. God is good!' All these things are true in substance; all these things occur invariably to the wise spectator of human fates. But more than wisdom more than the formal utterances of piety is sometimes required of us, and while a sleepless night for your neighbour's woe may not assist him materially in his trouble, we know that the Divine Economy permits nothing to be wasted. Every unselfish thought sends a lasting fragrance into the whole moral atmosphere of the world.
John Oliver Hobbes, The School for Saints, chap. XXVIII.
Grief and Silence
They entered into the genius of the occasion what so few people can do. They want to make the occasion, rather than accept it. Hence the vexation and the heartbreak and the misery of what is called sympathy. Sometimes we do everything by doing nothing. If men could learn this the kingdom of heaven would surely have come amongst us. 'Jesus wept... Jesus cried with a loud voice;' would the voice have been so loud and prevalent but for the preceding tears? did not the tears make a way for the voice? Sometimes weakness is power. God is great, in mercy, in pity, in condescension greater than when He makes stars and heavens and all symbols and parables of majesty. Grief must have its time. Time is not a succession of moments; it is that, and more: we make the moments, we thus cruelly hurt ourselves by ticking off time into pulses. Time, rightly understood, is a great silent, flowing, gracious, healing river; wheresoever the river cometh there is life.
I. Job had to learn to do without things. Is not that life's penultimate lesson? is it not the last lesson but one? We have to do without things that are apparently essential? In our boundless ignorance we say, Without this we could not live; without that life would be intolerable; in the absence of such a presence and such a ministry and such a luxury, life would be one howling wilderness. God has a way of weaning His little ones without hurting them fatally. The way of love herein is most cunning; love is working whilst we are sleeping; love says, He will not miss this so much after I have steeped him in the river of obliviousness. The eagle has to do without its nest; the eagle must be disappointed when it returns to its eyrie heights and finds that the lightning has torn the nest to pieces and the wind has scattered it in contempt.
II. Job had to recognize the inevitable. What is the inevitable? It is that which cannot be turned back, that which must come, that which is ordained and resistless; it cannot be threatened, it cannot be stricken, it cannot be tempted, it cannot be charmed; it must, must come. Better call it the decree of God than the blind will of a blind fate. If I have a choice of words I will choose the better word. If you tell me I have an alternative, God or Fate, I will say, Does God mean life, personality, sovereignty, love, though often not interpreted, and sometimes misinterpreted? If you say yes, I will choose God, rather than Fate, because Fate is impersonal, dumb, far off, mute, careless, callous, incapable of feeling. Do you give me a choice? I accept the choice and elect to be found on the side of God. In the meantime that choice helps me, and if at last I find out that it is only fate, I have in the meantime had a consolation which not only soothes me, but inspires and nerves and qualifies me for service. I have therefore an infinite advantage over a miserable belief in a miserable, impersonal fate.
III. There is a wonderful ministry in life called the ministry of silence. 'And none spake a word unto him: for they saw that his grief was very great.' Grief silences words. Words are modern inventions; words are petty and often mocking contrivances; there is no reality in them that does not exist without them: we would therefore get back to the primal and rest in the sanctuary whose roof is heaven, whose foundations are the heart of God. Silence is older than speech.
IV. Faith is tried by fire. Until you have lost all you have gained nothing. What you call your gains are but so much stored up to be lost, but after you have lost all God may permit you to begin again and build up little by little a richer treasure and a surer dwelling-place. But is not the loss all the same whether we believe or do not believe? No; in the case of belief there come into the life spiritual ministries, inexplicable agencies of all kinds, suggestions, inspirations, comforts, new ideas, new dreams, new hopes, new possibilities, and along with them a voice which says in whispered thunder, 'Behold, I make all things new'.
Joseph Parker, City Temple Pulpit, vol. I. p. 55.
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Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Job 2". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany