What man is like Job?
Elihu’s estimate of Job
It was natural that, with all his reverence for Job, Elihu should be offended by the heat and passion of his words, by the absence of moderation and self-restraint, and tell him that “this strained passion did him wrong.” No doubt it is easier for a friend on the bank to maintain his composure, than it is for the man who has been swept away by the stream of calamity, and is doing instant battle with its fierce currents and driving waves. Job is not to be overmuch blamed if, under the stress of calamity, and stung by the baseless calumnies of the friends, he now and then lost composure, and grew immoderate both in his resentments and his retorts. Remembering the keen agony he had to endure, we may well pardon an offence for which it is so easy to account; we may cheerfully admit, as Jehovah Himself admitted, that in the main he spoke of God aright; we may even admire the constancy and patience with which, on the whole, he met the provocations and insults of the friends; and yet we cannot but feel that he often pushed his inferences against the Divine justice and providence much too far: as, indeed, he himself confessed that he had, when at last he saw Jehovah face to face, and carried his just resentment against the friends to excess. There are points in the progress of the story where he seems to revel in his sense of wrong, and to lash out wildly against both God and man. With fine moral tact, Elihu had detected this fault in his tone and bearing, and had discovered whither it was leading him. (Samuel Cox, D. D.)
Neither will the Almighty pervert Justice.
On the justice of God
These words are a description of the justice and righteousness of the supreme Governor of all things; introduced with an affectionate appeal to the common reason of mankind for the truth of the assertion, and closed with an eloquent repetition of the assurance of its certainty. There are, and must be, difficulties in the administration of providence; but these difficulties affect only such as are careless in matters of religion, and they can never make reasonable and considerate persons, men of attention and understanding, to doubt concerning the righteousness of the Divine government.
I. God is, and cannot but be, just in all His actions. There being necessarily in nature a difference of things, which is what we call natural good and evil, and a variety in the dispositions and qualifications of persons, which is what we call moral good and evil, from the due or undue adjustment of these natural qualities of things to the moral qualifications of persons, arise unavoidably the notions of right and wrong. Now, the will of every intelligent agent being always directed by some motive, it is plain Chat the natural motive of action, where nothing irregular interposes, can be no other than this right or reason of things. Whenever this right and reason are not made the rule of action, it can only be, either because the agent is ignorant of what is right, or wants ability to pursue it, or else is knowingly and willingly diverted from it, by the hope of some good, or fear of some evil. But none of these causes of injustice can possibly have any place in God. His actions must necessarily be directed by right, and reason, and justice only. It is sometimes argued that the actions of God must needs be just, for whatever He does is just, because He does it. But this argument is not proving, but supposing the thing in question. It has been unworthily used, as if, because whatever God does is certainly just, therefore whatsoever unjust and unreasonable things men, in their systems of Divinity ascribe to Him, were made just and reasonable by supposing God to be the author of them. Or that, God being all-powerful, therefore whatever is ascribed to Him, though in itself it may seem unjust, and would be unjust among men, yet by supreme power is made just and right. Upon this kind of reasoning is built the doctrine of absolute reprobation, and some other the like opinions. But this is speaking deceitfully for God. In Scripture, God perpetually appeals to the common reason and natural judgment of mankind for the equity Of His dealings with them.
II. Wherein the nature of God’s justice consists. Justice is of two sorts. There is a justice which consists in a distribution of equality; and there is a justice which consists in a distribution of equity. Of this latter sort is the justice of God. In the matter of punishment, His justice requires that it should always be apportioned with the most strict exactness, to the degree or demerit of the crime. The particulars wherein this justice consists are--
1. An impartiality with regard to persons.
2. An equity of distribution with regard to things; that is, the observing an exact proportion in the several particular degrees of reward and punishment, as Well as an impartiality and determining what persons shall be in general rewarded or punished.
III. Objections arising from particular cases against the general doctrine of the Divine justice.
1. From the unequal distributions of providence in the present life. This is answered by the belief of a future state, wherein, by the exactness and precise equity of the final determinations of the great day, shall be abundantly made up all the little inequalities of this short life. There are also many special reasons of these seeming inequalities. God frequently afflicts the righteous, for the trial and improvement of their virtue, for the exercise of their patience, or the correction of their faults. On the other hand, God frequently, for no less wise reasons, defers the punishing of the wicked. Besides these, there are also particular difficulties arising from singular inequalities, even with regard to spiritual advantages.
The uses of this discourse are--
1. Let us acknowledge and submit to the Divine justice, and show forth our due sense and fear of it in the course of our lives.
2. A right notion of the justice of God is matter of comfort to good men.
3. The justice of God is a matter of terror to all wicked and unrighteous men, how great and powerful soever they may be.
4. From a consideration of the justice of God arises a true notion of the heinousness of sin.
5. If God, who is all-powerful and supreme, yet always confines Himself to what is just, how dare mortal men insult and tyrannise over each other, and think themselves by power and force discharged from all obligations of equity towards their fellow creatures? (S. Clarke, D. D.)
The perdition of the unconverted, not attributable to God
I. God cannot wish that any human mind should continue unconverted. It would be strange indeed if He did. It is blasphemy to think that God should wish any creature to commit sin. The holy God cannot wish any human mind either to begin to be unholy, or to continue to be unholy.
II. God cannot wish that any human being should perish. God has declared that they shall. It is inevitable in order to the ends of justice, and the maintenance of His moral government. But, then, He does not desire this issue. To say He did would be to say that God is malevolent. He cannot take any pleasure in suffering.
III. God has not decreed that any single mind should continue unconverted and should perish. There is no such decree. If there were, it would be substantially the same with the last, only that it would be underhand and clandestine. It would be charging God, not only with sin, but with cowardice and hypocrisy.
IV. God never acts with the view that any should continue unconverted and should perish. God never operates upon the mind with this view. He never interposes difficulties in the way of its conversion, and with a view to its perdition. God does wish that every human mind should be converted and saved.
1. Prove this from God’s words.
2. The actions of God will be found in harmony with His word.
3. Prove this from the death Of Christ.
4. This doctrine is deducible from the entire plan of salvation. (John Young, M. A.)
Who hath disposed the whole world.
The disposer of the world
It becomes us to entertain proper apprehensions of “Him with whom we have to do.”
I. God’s all-disposing agency.
1. God is the disposer of the whole world of nature. What man can produce, man can comprehend. All human workmanship is limited and finite, and capable of improvement. It is otherwise with the works of God. Here nothing is superfluous, nothing wanting, nothing by alteration can be improved. What arrangement there is in all those numerous and immense worlds which God hath created! If we are struck with a single instance of God’s arrangement in the world of nature, how much more should we be impressed with the whole if we were in a proper state of mind, and if God were in all our thoughts.
2. He is the disposer of the whole world of grace. The apostle speaks not only of grace, but of the purpose of grace. There was nothing left unappointed or unarranged. The scheme stretches from eternity to eternity, and in every part of it we see God abounding in all wisdom and prudence.
3. He is the disposer of the whole world of providence; and while He seems to be doing nothing, He is doing “all things according to the counsel of His own will.” We have many specimens of God’s providence in the Scriptures of truth. Providence has been at work in your history.
II. Practical reflections. Four ways in which the doctrine of the all-disposing energy of God may be improved.
1. In the way of conviction.
2. In the way of adoration.
3. In the way of consolation.
4. Let this subject check our presumption. (William Jay.)
If now thou hast understanding, hear this.
I. Founded on the supremacy of God. Where there is absolute supremacy, there can be no injustice. There are some who speak of the absolute law of right as something outside the Almighty, independent of Him, and to which He is accountable. What the Supreme wills, is right, and right because He wills it.
II. On the impartiality of the Eternal. God is no respecter of persons. This is a fact proclaimed over and over again in the Bible, and which all nature and history demonstrate. The thought of God’s impartiality serves two purposes.
1. To alarm the influentially wicked.
2. To encourage the godly poor.
III. On the omniscience of the Eternal. “There is no darkness nor shadow of death where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves.”
1. Wicked men perform their deeds in darkness.
2. However deep the darkness, God’s eye is on them.
IV. On the power of the Eternal. What a description of power we have here. Are not these views of God sufficient to hush every murmuring thought, to subdue every rebellious will, and to bring every heart into a loving agreement with His plans? (Homilist.)
And the mighty shall be taken away without hand.
God’s sovereignty viewed in relation to the death of His people
The text is part of the argument employed by Elihu to establish the principle of the Divine equity in the government of the universe. He insinuates that the suffering patriarch had at least implied certain reflections on the character of the Deity, and he remonstrates with him to show that the governor of the universe could not be unjust.
I. The sovereignty and impartiality of God. Sovereignty in the highest and most proper sense belongs exclusively to Jehovah. No bounds are set to His influence, and no department is free from His control. The originating cause of death is not Divine sovereignty, but our sin. In salvation we see God’s sovereignty as the originating cause; but in death man’s guilt. Though death has not originated in sovereignty, yet all the circumstances of death are controlled by it. Death stands as a willing messenger at the footstool of Omnipotence.
1. God determines the hour of dissolution. The casualties which we sometimes speak of are casualties to us, but not to God. They are necessary parts of the general system which His wisdom regulates and His power controls. There is no confusion in what God does or permits to be done.
2. God determines or controls the instruments by which life shall be ended. Whether by long, lingering sickness, or by a sudden stroke. There are only two cases of (apparent) exemption--Enoch and Elijah.
3. God is uninfluenced by the consideration of merely present consequences. They are all foreseen by Him. Death is a penalty that must be universally rendered. While administering equitable government, that which is particular must not be permitted to impede the universal good.
II. The weakness and dependence of man. The contrast is tremendous between the feebleness of the creature and the majesty of the Creator. “Man dieth and wasteth away.” “He cometh forth like a flower and is cut down.” We ask the question, “Where is he?” Nature gives no answer. Philosophy gives no answer. Only revelation can. It flings its light upon the future, and as in one word utters “eternity!” (George Wilkins.)
When He giveth quietness, who then can make trouble?
It is no small blessing to enjoy quietness in a world like this.
I. This quietness. It is not a freedom from outward afflictions. We often notice, that so far are Christians from being exempted from sufferings, that it is just the most advanced Christians who are the most deeply tried. It is not a callous indifference to our own sufferings or the sufferings of others. It is not hardness or selfishness. By purifying the heart, and destroying its natural and miserable selfishness, Christianity renders the affections far more strong and enduring. Nor is this quietness a freedom from conflict. Indeed, only the true Christian knows what this conflict between the flesh and the spirit is. Everyone who reaches heaven in safety is, and must be, a conqueror. Yet there is a quietness of spirit which the Christian enjoys. A calmness of spirit which arises from faith and confidence in Jesus Christ, in His perfect atonement, His finished work, His precious blood, His living person. This quietness is something unworldly, something that comes from above, and so it is a state of mind which endures. Notice whence and how it comes. “When He giveth quietness.” It is a gift--a free gift of God. The channel is Jesus Christ. Real peace, real quietness of spirit, can only come to sinners as we are through a mediator. We lack quietness of spirit when we do not depend fully and simply upon Christ. But it is not always at the commencement of the Christian course that God gives “quietness.” Sometimes it is bestowed nearer its close. It is the result of a holy walk with God, with increasing acquaintance with Him.
II. The seasons when God giveth quietness. We need not speak of seasons of outward prosperity. Then it is, and only then, that the world enjoys its worldly quietness. But that quietness, what an empty thing it is! The quietness which God gives, He bestows in largest measure in seasons of trouble. It is just when outward comforts fail, when the world looks very dark, it is then that inward consolations abound, and the believer’s cup runs over . . . ”Who then can make trouble?” It is a bold challenge! Bold, whether addressed to Satan, the world, or our own hearts, all of which are so mighty to make trouble. The true Christian can meet even death with quietness of spirit. (George Wagner.)
In our inmost being there is a yearning for what Elihu here calls quietness, for what Paul elsewhere describes as the peace that passeth understanding, for what Jesus promised to the weary and heavy-laden--rest. We are tired of the weary struggle in our own hearts, the internal to-and-fro conflict between good impulses and bad. Notice some of the ways in which “God giveth quietness” to the soul.
I. By pacifying the conscience. Conscious innocence makes the best pillow. Blessed are all those who know something of the quietness that God gives when He pacifies the conscience!
II. By working in the heart a contented disposition. Discontent is one of the greatest enemies to our peace of mind. It is the murderer of men’s happiness. We stretch forth empty hands from the attained to the unattained. It is the old story: the apprentice longs to be a journeyman, and the journeyman pants to be a foreman, and the foreman groans to be a master, and the master pines till he is able to build a snug villa and retire from business. But God gives quietness, and then we drop anchor, never to voyage any more upon the sea of unsatisfied desire. Who now can make trouble?
III. By delivering us from all anxiety about the future. It is not everyone who can contemplate the future with composure. To many it is a shapeless terror. Who will venture to open its seven-sealed book, who brave enough to read its contents? The future! No man can look fearlessly upon it, except the Christian. Come what will, he is prepared for all that shall befall him between this hour and the grave.
IV. By imparting a sense of security in view of the final change. (S. L. Wilson, M. A.)
I. What is the nature of the quietness here spoken of? When God enables a man to rest peacefully, tranquilly, without let or hindrance, without anything to molest, or harm, or disturb, or terrify him, “who can make trouble?”
1. External quietness, as when God interposes in the defence of His people. Here is the Christian’s comfort, that no harm can happen to him without God’s permission. He is safe beyond the reach of danger. But we cannot be certain at any time that it is God’s pleasure wholly to deliver us. He may let the evil come. He may keep us in suspense.
2. There is another way. God may supply us with inward peace--such peace as shall set us free from anxious fears as to trials that may be coming upon us, or shall hear us up, and sustain us, in the midst of trials which have come. Often the trials which we dread do not come; and often, when they do come, they prove less than we had imagined. God gives quietness in such cases by enabling us to look up to Him as our Father, our reconciled Father, in Christ Jesus, and so to feel assured that we are the objects of His fatherly care.
II. The author of this blessed peace--God. We are perfectly secure from all molestation, and all danger, because He that keepeth us is the eternal, unchangeable, almighty, ever-present God.
III. In what way is this quietness to be attained?
1. The first step towards it is to make sure that we are in a state of reconciliation with God; and this is to be attained by earnestly and heartily returning to Him through our Lord Jesus Christ.
2. The second step is to live closely to God--to walk before Him in all holy obedience, serving Him faithfully, unreservedly, diligently. We may rest assured that real, solid, well-grounded peace is to be enjoyed by none but those who do thus serve Him.
3. We must learn to cast all our care on God in the full assurance that He careth for us. We must look off from ourselves. We must walk by faith, not by sight.
4. We should acquire the habit of carrying our cares, and anxieties, and sorrows to God, and spreading them before Him in prayer. It is true that He knows them all without our telling Him; but He would have us tell Him notwithstanding. Prayer is His own appointed ordinance. (C. A. Heurtley, B. D.)
Wherever innocence is found, there perfect peace reigns. Man, as the subject of sin, carries on war against universal being--himself not excepted.
I. Peace has no necessary residence anywhere but in the bosom of Jehovah. He is called, “the God of peace.” Then--
1. Peace must be universally the gift of God. Finite being has no peace to confer on another; it must emanate ceaselessly from the bosom of Deity.
2. Peace is likewise the purchase of Deity. One who is God must bear the consequences of our sins, or His peace can never reach us.
3. It is the gift and creation of the Divine Spirit. Learn, then, to estimate the value of true religion.
II. Why, then, does God hide His face from His child?
1. To lead man into intimate acquaintance with Himself.
2. To humble His family.
3. To teach them to prize communion with Himself above everything.
4. That He may try if anything can make them happy in His absence.
5. To chastise His children for their transgression. (W. Howel.)
The need or justifying the providence of God
I. The doctrine on the subject. God is the supreme and only disposer of all human affairs. This doctrine is not laid down formally, but taken for granted. It forms the ground of Elihu’s appeal. Many will not admit that God interferes in the affairs of this or that particular person. But this objection to the doctrine of particular providence proceeds, not from doubt about the doctrine, but from dislike to it. In the government of the world, God not only rules, but overrules. God, in the government of the world, feels toward it, not merely the interest of a creator and contriver of means to an end, but the far more tender and compassionate regard of a Redeemer.
II. The duties which arose out of the doctrine.
1. The Christian duty of faithful dependence on God.
2. The Christian duty of reverential fear of Him. (F. C. Clark, B. A.)
God the Giver of quietness
1. Because all things are in subjection to His disposing. As, for example, men’s purposes and counsels, they are all guided by Him.
2. When God will give quietness, none shall be able to make trouble, because that trouble which is at any time made, it is in reference to God Himself, and for the avenging of His quarrel upon people. The second reference of this verse is as they respect, not a kingdom, but a particular person. When God will give a man quietness, none can trouble him; when God will hide His face from him, none can uphold him. When God gives inward peace, a man shall suffer no great inconvenience from outward trouble. Trouble is not so much from the condition, as the affection; it is not so much from the state, as from the mind. Where a man has peace and quietness of conscience, he is so far forth provided against all trouble and disturbance whatsoever. He which has peace and atonement with God, has that within him which swallows all outward sadness and trouble whatsoever. He which has peace with God, there is nothing which is able to trouble him, because that which is the main ground, and occasion, and foundation of trouble is removed, and taken away from him. Where God gives this quietness and peace, there is also an intimation and assurance of all those evils and outward calamities, as working and making for our good. Where there is peace with God, there is also an intimation of safeguard and protection for time to come. There is also the sweet and comfortable expectation of a blessed and happy condition, which a man shall partake of in another world. (T. Horton, D. D.)
I. The nature and character of the blessing here spoken of. It is quietness, calmness, repose, and may consist of--
1. External peace. This is when God interposes on behalf of His people. “He maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.” Still, We cannot reckon on this kind of peace.
2. Internal peace. This is of a different nature to external peace, and every Christian can and ought to enjoy it. It is independent of all the vicissitudes of life, of all the trials of time.
II. The method of its attainment. The quietness of our text is one of the growths of Christian character. There are two particulars which bring it about:--
1. Reconciliation with God. There can be no peace where there are alienation and enmity.
2. Holiness of conversation. There can be no peace where there is indulged sin.
3. Assurance of confidence. “Casting all your cares on Him, for He careth for you.” (J. J. S. Bird.)
The quiet mind
To serve God in a world which is in rebellion against Him is alike our duty and high privilege. Christ bade us, “take no thought”--i.e., be not anxious and disquieted, suffer not your mind to be distracted, drawn different ways, by cares as to this want and that; learn to trust, to serve God with a quiet mind. How can we obtain and secure this spirit? If we are really serving the Lord, how can we do it as here asked for, with a quiet mind? The ever-restless, ever-changing sea is but too true an image of the heart. In order to be real, lasting, and effectual, there must be the true basis for it, the pardon and cleansing away of sin; there must be the purging of the conscience from dead works to serve the living God. True service must be based upon the sense of pardon and reconciliation. In no other way can the motive be supplied which alone can produce the result. In addition to the pardon which God offers, and as a result of its being received by us, and assured to us, there is the peace, that we may serve Him with a quiet mind. There must be the true basis, but there must also be this result aimed at, and carried out. It is, indeed, a consequence of pardon, but it must not be taken for granted that it is enjoyed, that the service is necessarily yielded, and the quietness of mind maintained. This privilege is provided by God, but the degree in which it is used is found to vary greatly in the case of different Christians. There are so many causes of trouble and unrest--doubts and difficulties in connection with God’s word; personal and family trials--in the discharge of the duties to which God’s providence calls us, and in employing for Him the talents He has given, we may at times be perplexed. There may seem a clashing of duties, and this may disquiet us in our service; but He does not require of us more than we can do. How often the fears which have disturbed the quietness of God’s children have been groundless. (J. H. Holford, M. A.)
God-all in all
I. First, then, the eye of faith beholds the all-sufficiency of Jehovah, and our entire dependence upon Him, as she marks His effectual working. “When He giveth quietness, who then can make trouble? This unanswerable question may be illustrated by the Lord’s works in nature. The world was once a tumultuous chaos: fire and wind and vapour strove with one another. Who was there that could bring that heaving, foaming, boiling, raging mass into quietude and order? Only let the great Preserver of men relax the command of quiet, and there are fierce forces in the interior of the earth sufficient to bring it back to its primeval chaos in an hour; but while His fiat is for peace, we fear no crash of matter and no wreck of worlds. Seed time and harvest, summer and winter, cold and heat, do not cease. Passing on to the age of man, we see the Lord in the day of His wrath pulling up the sluices of the great deep, and at the same moment bidding the clouds of heaven discharge themselves, so that the whole world became once again a colossal ruin. The covenant bow was seen in the cloud, the token that the Lord had given quietness to the earth, and that none again should be able to disturb her. Further down in history the Red Sea asks of us the same question, “When He giveth quietness, who then can make trouble?” Glancing far on in history, and passing by a thousand cases which are all to the point, we only mention one more, namely, that of Sennacherib and his host. God put a hook into the enemy’s nose, and thrust a bridle between his jaws, and sent him back with shame to the place from whence he came. “When He giveth quietness, who then can make trouble?”
1. We shall reflect upon this truth as it applies, first, to God’s people. If your gracious Lord shall give you quietness of mind, who then can cause you trouble? We have found it sweet to be afflicted when we have enjoyed the presence of God in it, so that we have counted it all joy when we have fallen into divers temptations; because, in our hour of extremity and peril, the Saviour has been unspeakably the more precious. When the Lord giveth quietness, slander cannot give us trouble. Ay, and at such times you may add to outward troubles and to the slanders of the wicked man, all the temptations of the devil; but if the Lord giveth quietness, though there were as many devils to attack us as there are stones in the pavement of the streets of London, we would walk over all their heads in unabated confidence. Even inbred sin, which is the worst of ills, will cause the Christian no trouble when the light of Jehovah’s countenance is clearly seen.
2. I thank God that my text is equally true of the seeking sinner. If the Lord shall be pleased to give thee, poor troubled heart, quietness this day in Christ, none can make trouble in thy soul. What a mercy it is for you that God can give you peace and quietness! “Ah,” say you, “but there is His law, that dreadful law of ten commands; I have broken that a thousand times.” But if the Saviour lead thee to the cross, He will show thee that He fulfilled the law on thy behalf; that thou art not thyself under the law any longer, but under grace. “Yes, yes,” say you, “well, I thank God for that, but my conscience, my conscience will never let me be in quietness.” Oh! but my Master knows how to talk with thy conscience. He can say to it, “I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins.” And let me say, dear friend, if the Lord gives you quietness while the law and conscience will be at peace with you, so will that Book of God be. Some of you, whenever you turn the Bible over, can find nothing but threatenings in it. Oh! but if you can only come to Jesus and rest in Him, then the page shall glisten with blessings, and glow with benedictions.
3. Now this text, which thus belongs to the saint and to the seeking sinner, I think is equally true, on the larger scale, to the Christian Church. I, shall leave this first point when I have briefly drawn three lessons from it. “When the Lord giveth quietness, who then can make trouble?” The first lesson is, those who have peace should this morning adore and bless God for it. Secondly, be hopeful, ye who are seeking peace, whether for others or for yourselves. Lastly, give up all other peace but that which the Lord giveth to every believer. If you have a quietness which God has not created, implore the Lord to break it.
II. The all-sufficiency of God is seen, secondly, in His sovereign withdrawals. God does sometimes hide His face from His people, and then, as His saints well know, nothing can enable them to behold Him or to be happy.
III. This is true of a nation as well as of any one Church and of any one man. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
I have borne chastisement.
The nature and necessity of holy resolution
There are two essential parts of a true repentance. A humble acknowledgment and confession of our sins to God. A firm purpose and resolution of amendment, and forsaking of sin for the future.
I. Show what resolution is in general. It is a fixed determination of the will about anything. It supposes--
1. A precedent deliberation of the mind about the thing to be resolved on. Peremptorily to determine and resolve upon anything before deliberation is not properly resolution, but precipitancy and rashness.
2. Resolution supposes some judgment passed upon a thing after deliberation. This judgment of the necessity and fitness of the thing is not the resolution of the will but of the understanding. To be convinced that a thing is fit and necessary to be done, and to be resolved to set upon the doing of it, are two very different things. An act of the judgment must go before the resolution of the will.
3. If the matter be of considerable consequence, resolution supposeth some motion of the affections; which is a kind of bias upon the will. Deliberation and judgment, they direct a man what to do or to leave undone; the affections excite and quicken a man to take some resolution in the matter.
II. What is the special object or matter of this resolution. What it is that a man when he repents resolves upon. It is to leave his sin and return to God and his duty. He that truly repents, is resolved to break off his sinful course, and to abandon those lusts and vices which he was formerly addicted to, and lived in. The true penitent does not stay in the negative part of religion, he is resolved to be as diligent to perform the duties of religion as he was before negligent of them.
III. What is implied in a sincere resolution of leaving our sins and returning to God. Three things.
1. It must be universal, in respect of the whole man, and with regard to all our actions.
2. A sincere resolution implies a resolution of the means as well as of the end.
3. It implies the present time, and that we are resolved speedily and without delay to put the resolution into practice. There is this reason why thou shouldst immediately put this resolution in practice, and not delay it for a moment. Thou mayest at present do it much more certainly, and much more easily. Thou art surer of the present time than thou canst be of the future: and the longer thou continuest in sin, thy resolution against it will grow weaker, and the habit of sin continually stronger. Sin was never mortified by age.
IV. In this resolution of amendment, the very essence and formal nature of repentance doth consist. A man may do many reasonable actions without an explicit resolution. But not matters of difficulty. There is no change of a man’s life can be imagined, wherein a man offers greater violence to inveterate habits, and to the strong propensions of his present temper, than in this of repentance. So that among all the actions of a man’s life, there is none that doth more necessarily require an express purpose than repentance does.
V. Some considerations to convince men of the necessity and fitness of this resolution and of keeping steadfast to it.
1. This resolution of repentance is nothing but what, under the influence of God’s grace and Holy Spirit, is in your power. It is a power which every man is naturally invested withal, to consider, and judge, and choose. As to spiritual things, every man hath this power radically. He hath the faculties of understanding and will, but these are hindered in their exercise, and strongly biassed a contrary way, by the power of evil inclinations and habits; so that, as to the exercise of this power, and the effect of it on spiritual things, men are in a sort as much disabled as if they were destitute of it. When we persuade men to repent, and change their lives, and resolve upon a better course, we do not exhort them to anything that is absolutely out of their power, but to what they may do, though not of themselves, yet by the grace of God.
2. Consider what it is that you are to resolve upon; to leave your sins, and to return to God and goodness. Consider what sin is. Consider what it is to return to God and duty.
3. How unreasonable it is to be unresolved in a ease of so great moment and concernment. There is no greater argument of a man’s weakness, than irresolution in matters of mighty consequence.
4. How much resolution would tend to the settling of our minds, and making our lives comfortable.
VI. Directions concerning the managing and maintaining of this holy and necessary resolution.
1. What an argument it is of vanity and inconstancy, to change this resolution, whilst the reason of it stands good, and is not changed.
2. If we be not constant in our resolution, all we have done is lost.
3. We shall by inconstancy render our condition much worse. Application--
For the sick and afflicted
I. But first let us commune together upon the text in its more natural application as addressed to the afflicted.
1. The first lesson is, it is meet for them to accept the affliction which the Lord sends, and to say unto God, “I have borne chastisement.” We notice that the word “chastisement” is not actually in the Hebrew, though the Hebrew could not be well interpreted without supplying the word. It might exactly and literally be translated “I bear,” or “I have borne.” It is the softened heart saying to God, “I bear whatever Thou wilt put upon me; I have borne it, I still bear it, and I will bear it, whatever Thou mayest ordain it to be. I submit myself entirely to Thee, and accept the load with which Thou art pleased to weight me.” A constant submission to the Divine will should be the very atmosphere in which a Christian lives. We must not be content with bearing what the Lord sends, with the coolness which says, “It must be, and therefore I must put up with it.” Such forced submission is far below a Christian grace, for many a heathen has attained it. Neither, on the other hand are we to receive affliction with a rebellious spirit. Neither, as believers in God, are we to despair under trouble, for that is not bearing the cross, but lying down under it. The Christian, then is not to treat the cross which. God puts upon him in any such way as I have described, but he is to accept it humbly, looking up to God, and saying, “Much worse than this I might reckon to receive even as Thy child; for the discipline of Thine house requireth the rod, and well might I expect to be chastened every morning.” We should receive chastisement with meek submission. The gold is not to rebel against the goldsmith, but should at once yield to be placed in the crucible and thrust into the fire. We should accept chastisement cheerfully. The next duty is to forsake the sin which may have occasioned the chastisement. “It is meet to be said unto God, I have borne chastisement; I will not offend any more.” There is a connection between sin and suffering. There are afflictions which come from God, not on account of past sin, but to prevent sin in the future. The third lesson in the text to the afflicted clearly teaches them that it is their duty and privilege to ask for more light. The text says, “That which I see not, teach Thou me. If I have done iniquity, I will do no more.” Do you see the drift of this? It is the child of God awakened to look after the sin which the chastisement indicates; and since he cannot see all the evil that may be in himself, he turns to his God with this prayer, “What I see not, teach Thou me.” It may be that, in looking over your past life and searching through your heart, you do not see your sin, for perhaps it is where you do not suspect. You have been looking in another quarter. Perhaps your sin is hidden away under something very dear to you. Jacob made a great search for the images--the teraphs which Laban worshipped. He could not find them. No; he did not like to disturb Rachel, and Laban did not like to disturb her either--a favourite wife and daughter must not be inconvenienced. She may sit still on the camel’s furniture, but she hides the images there. Even thus you do not like to search in a certain quarter of your nature. This is the right way in which to treat our chastisements: “If I have done iniquity, I will do no more. That which I see not, teach Thou me.”
II. And now, I am going to use the text for those of us who may not have been afflicted. What does the text say to us if we are not afflicted? Does it not say this--“If the afflicted man is to say ‘I bear,’ and to take up his yoke cheerfully, how cheerfully ought you and I to take up the daily yoke of our Christian labour”? “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might.” We have yet another remark for those that are strong. Should not the favours of God lead us to search out our sins? Do you not think that while enjoying God’s mercy we should be anxious to be searched by the light of the love of God? Should we not wish to use the light of the Divine countenance that we may discover all our sin and overcome it?
III. The last remark I have to make is to the unconverted. Perhaps there are some here who are not the people of God, and yet they are very happy and prosperous. Take us at our worst--when we are most sick, most desponding, most tried, most penitent before God, we would not exchange with you at your best. Would we change with you, for all your mirth and sinful hilarity? (C. H. Spurgeon.)
I will mot offend any more.
Reformation under correction
Resolution to reform should be upon the heart of all them that smart under the rod of the Lord.
I. What kind of reformation it is that we should resolve upon under the rod of the Lord.
1. In the work of reformation under the rod, we must have reference to Him that useth the rod, go to God, and set ourselves to amend what is amiss, as under the eye of God.
2. You must be sure to have your work guided by God Himself.
3. You must be careful to reform in one particular, as well as another; you must go through-stitch with this business. He hath not reformed in anything aright that doth not reform in everything blameworthy.
4. You must not only reform in what you yourselves do, or may understand to be amiss, but you must take direction to know what is blameworthy; be eager and earnest to understand wherein you do amiss.
5. A Christian under the rod should be so wrought upon with a resolution to reform, that he should, by solemn covenant, bind himself to God for the future.
6. Christians under the rod must severally and personally, and not only jointly and in company and assemblies, reform what is amiss, according to the afore-mentioned rules. Christians should not look on this reforming as a task necessary, and a duty commanded; they should regard it as an employment comely and lovely.
II. What arguments may prevail with christians thus to reform under the rod?
1. Some in relation to God.
2. In relation to ourselves.
III. What course we should take to be wrought upon to attain unto this frame of spirit.
1. Thoroughly, from Scripture light, inform ourselves concerning the sinfulness and the ugliness of the course whereof you must reform.
2. You must be deeply humbled for whatever it is that under the rod you do discover to be out of order, both in your heart, mind, and actions. Thus go to God, pray unto God, wait upon God, and expect deliverances from Him. (William Fenner.)
The improvement of affliction
I. A humble confession of God’s justice in afflicting. “I have borne chastisement,” i.e. I have suffered justly; nay, I have been punished less than mine iniquities deserve. The afflictions of believers are chastisements from God. Particular afflictions are not indeed always sent on account of particular sins, but there is enough of sin in the best of men to justify the severest sufferings with which they may be visited in a present world.
II. A prayer for Divine teaching. “That which I see not, teach Thou me.” A prayer necessary for all; but peculiarly seasonable in the time of affliction, since one of the principal ends for which affliction is sent is the discovery of sin, and one of the chief benefits derived from it is the knowledge of ourselves.
1. This prayer may have a reference to the rule and measure of our conduct, the holy law of God. Consider what low, imperfect ideas the generality of mankind entertain of the law of God: and what a poor measure of outward conformity to its precepts appears to satisfy many.
2. This prayer may have reference to the application of this rule to our own characters and conduct, whereby we become acquainted with our own sins in particular.
III. A pious resolution, founded on the foregoing confession and prayer. “If I have done iniquity, I will do no more.” This implies a total renunciation of all sin, and a full and fixed purpose of new and better obedience. Wherever the grace of God is known in truth, there is an absolute renunciation of all sin, and an entire surrender of ourselves to the service of God. (D. Black.)
That which I see not, teach Thou me.--
Holy desire of instruction
The desire of knowledge is universal among men. It is a second nature. It becomes natural from the course of their education, however limited that education may be. There is in every mind a thirst for information and intelligence. Human means of knowledge, however, are soon exhausted. Religious truths are of the deepest interest to the mind of every thoughtful man, but of these he could naturally know nothing. Even when the deep things of God are revealed, they are beyond the comprehension of human reason. The faculties of man were darkened by the fall, and his affections estranged from heaven and heavenly things. It was for the offended Jehovah to open his eyes and pour upon them the light of a newborn day. This is the working of the mighty scheme of redemption, to give man somewhat of the knowledge which he had lost; to reveal the God of truth within him, and to fill his soul with a desire and love of the truth. Such is the prophetic description of the Gospel day. “All thy children shall be taught of the Lord.” It is for this that the regenerating spirit is breathed into them. There is nothing more remarkable in the natural man than his spirit of self-sufficiency; and this continues to show itself more or less even after he has been brought into fellowship with a holy God, even through the whole of his Christian trial. They who are resting content with their present attainments and observances, show themselves to be strangers to the nature of Divine truth; to the meaning and purpose of that revelation with which they are favoured by their merciful God. There is much to be learned continually from the dealings of God with us, day by day, from His spiritual and providential dealing. (J. Slade, M. A.)
Surely it is meet to be said unto God.
The second speech of Elihu
I. A good counsel. Elihu recommends Job to do two things.
1. To resolve on an improved life. This includes--
2. To submit to the eternal will. God’s mind is the standard--all knowing, all loving, all righteous, immutable . . . Should the method of redemption be according to thy mind? Two facts convince us that the human mind is utterly incompetent to form a scheme for spiritual restoration. The mistakes it has made on the subject in interpreting Scripture. And the mistakes it has made on the subject in interpreting Christianity.
II. A bad example. Four things (verses 34-37) exhibit Elihu in no very virtuous or amiable light.
1. There is vanity.
In these things Elihu is a warning to young advocates of religious opinions. (Homilist.)
Should it be according to thy mind?
The verse is written in language of the most ancient kind, which is but little understood. Moreover, it is extremely pithy and sententious, and hence it is obscure. The sense given in our version is, however, that which sums up the other translations, and we prefer to adhere to it.
I. Do men really think that things should be according to their mind?
1. Concerning God. Their ideas of Him are according to what they think He should be; but could He be God at all if He were such as the human mind would have Him to be?
2. Concerning Providence on a large scale, would men rewrite history? Do they imagine that their arrangements would be an improvement upon infinite wisdom? In their own case they would arrange all matters selfishly. Should it be so?
3. Concerning the Gospel, its doctrines, its precepts, its results, should men have their own way? Should the atonement be left out, or the statement of it be modified to suit them?
4. Concerning the Church. Should they be head and lord? Should their liberal ideas erase inspiration? Should Baptism and the Lord’s Supper be distorted to gratify them? Should taste override Divine commands? Should the ministry exist only for their special consolation, and be moulded at their bidding?
II. What leads them to think so?
1. Self-importance and selfishness.
2. Self-conceit and pride.
3. A murmuring spirit which must needs grumble at everything.
4. Want of faith in Christ leading to a doubt of the power of His Gospel.
5. Want of love to God, souring the mind and leading it to kick at a thing simply because the Lord prescribes it.
III. What a mercy that things are not according to their mind!
1. God’s glory would be obscured.
2. Many would suffer to enable one man to play the dictator.
3. We should, any one of us, have an awful responsibility resting upon us if our own mind had the regulation of affairs.
4. Our temptations would be increased. We should be proud if we succeeded, and despairing if we met with failure.
5. Our desires would become more greedy.
6. Our sins would he uncorrected; for we should never allow a rod or a rebuke to come at us.
7. There would be universal strife; for every man would want to rule and command (James 4:5).
If it ought to be according to your mind, why not according to mine?
IV. Let us check the spirit which suggests such conceit.
1. It is impracticable; for things can never be, as so many different minds would have them.
2. It is unreasonable; for things ought not so to be.
3. It is unchristian; for even Christ Jesus pleased not Himself, but cried, “Not as I will” (Matthew 26:39).
4. It is atheistic; for it dethrones God to set up puny man. Pray God to bring your mind to His will. Cultivate admiration for the arrangements of the Divine mind. Above all, accept the Gospel as it is, and accept it now. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
A word to the God-criticising man
I. Should the arrangements of life be according to thy mind? Those who are constantly murmuring under the dispensations of Providence should remember--
1. The circumscribed sphere of their observation.
2. The limitation of human faculties.
3. The brevity of man’s mortal existence.
4. The narrowness of human sympathies.
II. Should the method of redemption be according to thy mind? There are many who raise objections to Christianity. Many who imagine that they could have constructed a better system of spiritual redemption. Two facts convince us that the human mind is utterly incompetent to form a scheme for spiritual restoration.
1. The mistakes it has made on the subject in interpreting nature.
2. The mistakes it has made on the subject in interpreting Christianity. The perverters of the Gospel plan of salvation may be divided into two grand classes.
The condemnation of self-will
The speaker is Elihu. The meaning of the question is obvious. “Shall the Supreme Being do nothing without thy consent? Should He ask counsel of thee?” Job would instantly have answered, “No.”
I. To have things according to our mind is a very common wish. Man is naturally self-willed. The disposition appears very early in our children. All sin is a contention against the will of God. It began in Paradise. Enter the world of grace. Behold the revelation which God has given us. One deems it unnecessary; for a second it is too simple; for a third it is too mysterious. We seek to be justified by our own works, while the Gospel assures us we must be justified by the faith of Christ. The same is seen in the world of providence. Who is content with such things as he has? Who does not covet what is denied him? Who does not long to be at his own disposal? But is not this disposition crushed in conversion? Alas, too much of self-will remains even in the choicest saints. We are far from saying that they would have nothing done according to God’s mind, but they are often solicitous to have too many things done according to their own.
II. The desire is unreasonable. For we are wholly unqualified to govern; while God is in every way adequate to the work in which He is engaged. Nothing can be more absurd than to labour to displease Him, and substitute ourselves as the creators of destiny, the regulators of events. Have you not often found yourselves mistaken where you thought yourselves most sure? Have you not frequently erred in judging yourselves, and generally erred in judging others? And hove can we decide on the means which the Supreme Being employs, while we are ignorant of the reasons which move Him, and the plan which He holds in view?
III. The desire is criminal. The sources are bad.
1. It argues ingratitude. It is infinite condescension in God to be “mindful of us.” For all this He surely deserves our thankful acknowledgments, and we insult Him with murmuring complaints.
2. It springs from discontent. It shows that we are dissatisfied with His dealings, for if we were not dissatisfied why do we desire a change?
3. It betrays earthly-mindedness. The soul feels it when “cleaving to the dust.” According to our attachments will be, all through life, our afflictions and our perplexities. More attached are we to our fleshy interests than to our spiritual concerns.
4. It is the produce of impatience. This will suffer no delay, and bear no denial.
5. It is the offspring of pride and independence. It is a presumptuous invasion of the authority and prerogative of God. Your place is the footstool, not the throne. Maintain your distance here, and do not encroach on the Divine rights.
IV. The desire is dangerous. If it were accomplished, all parties would suffer,--God, our fellow creatures, and ourselves. In a word, you would be too ignorant to choose well. In order to determine what will promote our happiness, it is necessary for us to know the things themselves from among which we are to make our choice. Nor is it less needful to understand ourselves, For a man must be adapted to his condition, or he will never be happy in it. Here another difficulty occurs. It is impossible for us to judge of ourselves in untried circumstances and connections. We are not only liable to err on the side of our hopes, but also of our fears.
V. The desire is impracticable.
1. The desires of mankind are often opposite to each other; hence they cannot all be accomplished.
2. The plan of Divine government is already fixed. Learn--
“God’s work of providence is His most holy, wise, and powerful, preserving and governing all His creatures and all their actions.” The truth is, we must either bring God into all, or keep God out of all. To Him, and to His presiding providence, all must be attributed--all or nothing. If the great events of life are brought about by the hand of God, so also must the little; for, in the web of human destiny, the two are inseparably interwoven. There are some who reject this view of God’s providence. It is not consistent with their notions of the dignity and greatness of God, to think of Him as taking notice of our race in its feebleness and insignificance. What is the reply? We argue too much from ourselves up to the Almighty. We know only a few things: we know nothing thoroughly. It is only the outside of things we see. It is one of the sad entails of scientific exploration, that we have got, in these latter days, into a labyrinthine maze of second causes The belief in Providence is too happy to be parted with. God is watching all our fortune, guarding all our welfare, guiding all our way. The mysterious and fearful dispensations of His providence may seem inscrutable and past finding out. Alas! we are all very apt to believe in Providence when we get our own way, but when things go awry, we think, if there is a God, He is in heaven, and not on the earth. (A. B. Jack, D. D.)
God judges better than man
When we consider that there is a God of infinite perfection at the head of the universe, extending His providence to every event, and making it the expression of His will, it seems to be the plainest of all truths that such creatures as we are, ought to be cheerfully subject to His disposal. Time was when submission to God on the part of man was not deemed grievous. Then the will of man and the will of his God were one. But man would be wiser than his Maker, and vainly imagined that, in consulting his own will, higher satisfaction was to be found than in according with the holy will of a perfect God: in the same path of miserable adventure have gone, ever since, his blind and unhappy offspring. To develop this form of human selfishness, and to show how unbecoming it is in such a creature as man, let us consider it--
I. As highly presumptuous. Look at the lesson of experience. In all their estimates men are not merely liable to mistakes, but they constantly fall into them. The very events to which men are chiefly indebted for their happiness are not of their own contriving. It is the testimony of experience, that we neither understand well how to choose events, nor how to control them. The presumption is still more strikingly apparent if we reflect on our own incompetence to govern. Can we even look through time? Can we cast an eye over immensity and through eternity? The presumption is still more striking when we reflect on our inability by comparison or contrast. What is man, and what is God?
II. This desire, if accomplished would be fatal to the highest and best interests. What would become of the glory of God? The effects would not be less fatal to the interests of any community. It would be equally fatal to the individual interests of lash. And still more fatal to their spiritual interests. How differently we should order events from the manner in which God orders them, if things might be according to our mind.
III. This state of mind is highly offensive to God. It betrays almost every evil temper and disposition. It shows a sordid attachment to our own selfish interests. This desire betrays also dissatisfaction with God. It bespeaks ingratitude to God. It is in direct rebellion against God. To govern the world is the prerogative of God. To wish to change the administration at all is an invasion of that prerogative, and high treason against the King of kings. It is distrust of God. Remarks--
1. Submission to the Divine will is necessary to secure the blessings which we need.
2. Acquiescence in the Divine will is a duty which respects a/l events.
3. Let this subject support us under the trials of this world, and animate us in our way to a better. (N. W. Taylor, D. D.)
This was a very proper question to be put to Job, whose danger was, to challenge and arraign the ways of God. But the principle reproved in him is largely diffused among men. Our proneness to oppose our judgments to the Divine determinations sometimes appears.
I. With respect to the extent of the Divine law. We allow His right to govern. God claims to govern the opinions of men; to regulate the will, by a wise adjustment of its degrees of choice to the degrees of moral goodness.
II. With respect to religion as a matter of experience. If it were “according to thy mind,” what would be the system of experimental piety set before us?
III. With reference to the method of our pardon as sinners. That beings who have so greatly offended should ever stand upon being pardoned in a way prescribed by themselves to their greatly-offended God, though a strange fact, is yet established. And here man claims, proudly and petulantly claims, that it shall be according to his mind.
IV. The principle is illustrated in another, but not an uninstructive manner by that tendency there is in us to wrestle with the appointments of God in the choice of our lot and portion in life. Here, indeed, we not unfrequently think that it ought to be according to our mind: and we as often find ourselves very painfully crossed in our endeavours to make it so.
V. This principle is apt to show itself, even in good men, in what we may call the circumstances of their experience. Far better take religion as described in the Scriptures. To take our providential lot, and extract good from it. And to leave the process of our recovery from sin to holiness in the hands of God. (R. Watson.)
The mind of God
The mind of man is not the mind of God. Suppose man had the ordering of things, what an alteration would he make in the Lord’s counsels and arrangements. Is the mind of the spiritual man opposite to that of God? Through the abounding grace of his Redeemer it is in great measure otherwise. But in him, yea, even in him, there is a frame of mind, at times, which rises, or which strives to rise, against the mind of God. There are certain dispensations of God’s providence which even he is often under strong temptations to wish otherwise. When affliction comes upon him, he sometimes thinks God’s hand presses too sore, and beyond what the case asks for. Even the mind of the believer is not, in many points, conformed to the mind of God. Consider a comparison of God and His creatures.
1. In point of rank and eminency.
2. In point of wisdom.
3. Think of the Lord’s graciousness and goodness.
The experience of all ages is enough to teach us how ill it has been when things have been according to men’s own minds, and how well it has been when they have submitted to the mind of God. The Lord has sometimes let men have their own way; and sad has been the consequence. A last reason why the believer ought not to desire that things should be according to his mind, is that such was not the spirit of Christ his Saviour. Even Christ pleased not Himself. And yet how much reason there is to fear that this is the secret wish of too many of us. Else why so much of fretfulness and discontent when things are not according to our mind? (A. Roberts, M. A.)
Submission to the Divine will
Man is so imperfect in his views, so weak in his faith, so worldly in his spirit, and so selfish in his actions, as to be incapable of wisely directing his own affairs; how much more then is he incapable of suggesting anything to Him, who is “wonderful in counsel and excellent in working!”
I. Explain the nature of this submission. It is the yielding of the heart to God in all the dispensations of His providence, and in the administration of His government. It is a state entirely remote from apathy or stoicism. It cherishes, rather than destroys, the best sensibilities of our nature. Some have distinguished between submission and resignation. This state of mind is the subjection of our reason to the supreme authority in reference to various truths which we cannot comprehend. It is the surrender of the will to His gracious arrangements.
II. Urge the importance of this subject. To submit ourselves unto God is a duty founded on the most solid principles, and urged by the most cogent and feasible considerations. Consider--
1. The state of man. As a creature, it is that of subjection to God, and entire dependence upon Him. As a sinner, man has fallen into the lowest degradation--abject poverty and complete vassalage.
2. The character of God. He has a right to dispense His favours as He may please.
3. The nature of God’s moral government. The whole of the Divine procedure to man is founded on the most sacred principles, the everlasting principles of moral justice, the essential principles of moral goodness, and the unalterable principles of moral rectitude. Can such a being do wrong?
4. The state of mind evinced in some of the most distinguished characters. Example is of great consequence and of great influence. Take the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and patience--such as Aaron, Eli, Job, etc.
III. Illustrate the advantages of this state of mind. Our duty and our happiness are closely united; in keeping of God’s commands there is great reward.
1. Submission is the effect of Divine influence, and thus becomes an evidence of grace.
2. It is the operation of sacred principle, and accordingly prepares the mind for future trials. Religion does not exempt from suffering; but it ensures adequate support.
3. It is a blessing of the New Covenant, and, as such, is an earnest of heaven.
IV. Suggest motives to its exercise.
1. Reflect much on your own moral guilt. Wherefore doth a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins?
2. Contemplate the sufferings of Christ; these were numerous, direful, overwhelming. He suffered in His person, in His circumstances, in His character. He suffered in His soul. He suffered as a substitute.
3. Contrast present sufferings with future glories.
4. Consider the great inconsistency of the want of submission with your own character as creatures, with your state as sinners, and with your profession and prayers and obligations as Christians. (John Arundel.)
Whose way shall it be
The theology of Job’s friends was, that success waits on a right character and sorrow attends a wrong one. With this theology, if a man has sorrow, misfortune, and pain, it is certain his character is amiss. Like many other of later times, they never once thought of revising their theology when they found it did not fit the facts. They take a short cut; they revise the facts. The fact is, that the good are not free from suffering, and the bad are not given up to it. Becoming a Christian does not exempt a person from trial, or give him what he wants. He can have what he wants, if he wants what God wants him to have; He can have his way if his way is God’s way. To become Christians is, in general, to give up our plans to Him, our will to His. Religion is self-surrender. What is the freedom of the will? Freedom is not an absolute but a relative term. There is no such thing as unqualified freedom. Freedom of the will does not mean freedom from all restraints; it does not mean licence; but freedom “from some particular kind of restraint or inducement to which other beings are subject.” Freedom is nor freedom from the influence of motives, but freedom to make choice of motives. Man’s will is subject to motives. Here is what we mean when we speak of forming a character, To form a character is to induce a probability that a man under given conditions will act in a manner which can be foreseen. Man can see where he is weak, and when he sees a motive coming to assail him which he thinks too strong for him, he can interpose another to shut out the first. The education of a man is for a man to come under the controlling influence of certain motives; a right education is to come under the easy and permanent control of the best motives. We see, then, that not the man most obedient to determined motives is the slave, but he whose conduct can be the least foreseen. The slave is one who is subject to the impulse of the moment, given over to the whim and caprice of any passion that may strike him. The strong man, the free man, the large, hopeful, intelligent, brave man, is he who has made the most perfect surrender to the best motives. We have the paradox, striking but true, that the man who possesses this freedom of will in its most valuable form is the one whose will is the most nearly a slave to the best motives, and who therefore obeys them easily and without rebellion. It comes to this, that when we speak of religion as being self-surrender to God, we mean that human freedom consists in the frank, conscious, total, irreversible, glad surrender to Him in whom all the highest motives which actuate humanity reside, and from whom they take their origin. The Lord Jesus represents this central character to the world. This self-surrender to the will of God is wisdom. We are starting out with the end in view to make something of ourselves which shall stand the shock of death and the wear of eternity. Now it is wise to give the conduct of this process into the hands of God. And for two very simple reasons.
1. Because we do not know the elements which would work into the character we desire. And,
2. We have not the power to combine them if we did. (Henry Elliot Mort.)
Should it be according to our mind
No one has all he wishes. Many have a great deal in the life lot which they deprecate, object to, resent, and strive against with all their might, albeit in vain. Much depends on the “mind” a man has. How much “mind” has he to begin with? Of what nature is it? How is it ordered and kept? If the temper is keen, and the will strong, and the view of life and duty defined and decisive, then between the soul and events there will be continual collision. Things will not take their right shape;--all this will be, unless there shall come in, happily, the explanation and corrective of a trustful faith, of true religion. The only answer we can give to the question of the text is in the negative. It should not be according to our mind.
1. Because our knowledge is so limited. Our judgment of things is quite as imperfect as our knowledge of them.
2. We mistake the nature of what we do see. The forms of things are not the things themselves.
3. If this were granted in one case, it must be granted in all.
4. The very thing we seek by self-will is not attained by it. No self-willed man is happy. Not even when in a large measure he gets what he seeks.
5. There is one moral Governor of this world, and only one, who governs and keeps us all. His will is sufficiently made known to each to be to him rule of practical, guidance in everything he has to do. The providence of natural law contemplates and provides for only one plan of life for each--the best. The failure of that must bring penalty, and, indeed, irretrievable disaster. Well may it be according to the mind of God, and ill must it be with any who still insist that it shall be according to their own. (Alex. Raleigh, D. D.)
Justice requires government by an unerring mind
Judgment must be shaped according to knowledge, and where ignorance prevails, how can the judgment be just? A railroad engineer was arrested and tried for manslaughter because his train ran into another, passing half-way through one carriage before it stopped. In the trial the defendant deposed that he was running on schedule time, only fifteen miles an hour, and so was not responsible for the disaster. The prosecution charged that he was running thirty miles an hour, and was, therefore, entirely to blame. It was a question of the rate of speed, and an accurate knowledge of this one fact was essential to a just decision. With certain figures at his command, a professor in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology carefully calculated the momentum of the moving train and the inertia of the ill-fated carriage, and found that the result was in perfect accord with the statement of the engineer. Had the rate of speed been thirty miles an hour it was clearly shown that the increased momentum would have forced his engine four times as far. And the engineer was at once set at liberty. Now, without this knowledge of mathematics, who would presume to sit in just judgment upon such a case? Shall men of less experience, and much more limited understanding, affirm that justice must be according to their mind? Before presuming thus much, it might be well to make at least one honest attempt to answer the wonderful questions which the Lord asked Job out of the whirlwind, and then confess that our knowledge is as the rivulet, our ignorance as the sea. (R. Cox, D. D.)
Our own way preposterous
We are all very apt to believe in Providence when we get our own way; but when things go awry, we think, if there is a God, He is in heaven and not upon earth. The cricket, in the spring, builds his house in the meadow, and chirps for joy because all is going so well with him. But when he hears the sound of the plough a few furrows off, and the thunder of the oxen’s tread, then his sky begins to darken, and his young heart fails him. By and by the plough comes craunching along, turns his dwelling bottom-side up, and as he goes rolling over and over, without a house and without a home, “Oh,” he says, “the foundations of the world are breaking up, and everything is hastening to destruction.” But the husbandman, as he walks behind the plough, does he think the foundations of the world are breaking up? No. He is thinking only of the harvest that is to follow in the wake of the plough; and the cricket, if it will but wait, will see the husbandman’s purpose, My hearers, we are all like crickets. When we get our own way we are happy and contented. When we are subjected to disappointment we become the victims of despair. (A. B. Jack.)
Our mind should be in harmony with God’s mind
There is a way by which you may get everything according to your own mind. Men have been labouring to discover the philosopher’s stone--the secret by which they could transmute iron, copper, tin, all their possessions into gold. Now, there is a way--and I will show it in one word--there is a way by which we may get everything according to our own mind. They tell me, if you take two instruments and tune them into perfect harmony, and lay your finger on one and sound it, that the other, though in a fainter tone, sends forth the same note, as though an invisible musician stood by the harp and touched it with the light finger of a spirit. Be that true or not, of all instruments, I know that if the Holy Spirit tune your discordant soul into perfect harmony with God; I know that if there be a holy harmony between heaven and earth, your mind and God, then you have everything according to your own mind, because your mind is according to the mind of God. (A. B. Jack.)
I. To begin at the beginning, here is, first, a question: “Should it be according to thy mind?” You say that you are willing to find mercy, and that you are very teachable; but you object to the plan of salvation as it is revealed in the Scriptures. First, then, what is it to which you object? Do you object to the very basis of the plan, namely, that God will forgive sin through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, His Son? But, possibly, you do not object to the doctrine of substitution, but your objection is to the way of salvation by faith. But if you object to this doctrine, how would you like to have it altered? “Oh, well! I would like to have some good feelings put in with faith.” And how, then, would any man be saved? Can he command his own feelings? “Oh, but!” say some, “we object to the requirements of the Gospel, especially to that verse where Christ says, ‘Ye must be born again.’” Well, sirs, as you say that Christ’s requirements are not according to your mind, what would you like them to be? What sin is there, in the whole world, that would be put to death if men were left to pick and choose the Agag which each one wished to save? “Should it be according to thy mind?” No, certainly not; for, putting all reasons into one, it is not the slightest use for you to make any objection to the Gospel, for you will be lost if you do not accept it just as it is revealed in the Scriptures. I have thus tried to mention a few of the objections which men make to God’s plan of salvation. Now let me ask two or three questions. First, should not God have His way? You know that when we give even a trifling charity, we like to do it in our own way. O Lord, if Thou wilt but save me, save me anyhow! Further, is not God’s way the best? The mind of God is so infinitely great, and good, and wise, that it cannot be supposed that, even if He left the plan of salvation to our option, we could choose anything half as good as what He decrees and appoints. Suppose the plan of salvation should be according to any human mind, whose mind is to decide what it shall be? Yours? Nay, mine. And another says, “No, mine.”
II. Now, secondly, here is a warning: “He will recompense it, whether thou refuse, or whether thou choose.” By this I understand that, whatever our will may be, God will carry out His own purpose. I would also remind you that, though you cavil at God’s way of salvation, God will punish sin just the same. And further, though you may object to God’s way of salvation, others will be saved by it. Christ did not die in vain. Just once more, upon this point, let me say that God will certainly magnify His own name, whoever may oppose Him,
III. This brings us to the third part of our subject, on which I desire to say exactly what Elihu said: “and not I.” We cannot be absolutely sure what these three words mean; but if they mean what I think they do, they teach us a lesson, which I have called a protest. Whenever you find anyone opposing God, say to yourself, “and not I.” When there is any wrong thing being done, and it comes under your notice, say, “and not I.” Take care that you go not with a multitude to do evil. What Elihu did mean, I think, was this. Whoever opposes God should know that he is not dealing with a man like himself. Elihu also means, I think, “I will not be responsible for the man who refuses God’s Word. I will not stand in his place, or take the blame which is due to him.” And, once more, Elihu means, “If you refuse God’s Word, it is not I. I will not share in your rebellion against Him.”
IV. Our last head is, a challenge and an invitation. If there are any who refuse the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, for any reason known only to themselves, we venture to ask them to say what it is: “Therefore speak what thou knowest.” It was not in Elihu’s mind to tell Job to be silent, and never open his mouth again. Speech is the glory of man, and freedom of speech, as far as concerns his fellow creatures, is the right of every man. It is far better that, when there is a difficulty or an objection, it should be fairly stated, than that it should lie smothered up within the soul to breed untold mischief. Therefore, if thou hast an objection to God’s Word, write it out, and look at it. But at the same time, when thou art speaking, “speak what thou knowest.” Now, what dost thou really know of God? Little enough do the most of us know; but, still, I think we know enough to know that He is not the god of modern times whom some preach. It is well for us to speak of God as we have found Him. He has dealt kindly and graciously with us: “He lath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities”; else had we been cast away forever. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Let men of understanding tell me.
Abide by certitudes
It behoves us to beware of originality in matters of faith. The old maxim that “What is true is not new, and what is new is not true,” is of no little value. Parke Godwin used to say that he had heard a good deal of “original investigation where the originality surpassed the investigation.” Dr. C.F. Deans also remarked, “Believe your beliefs, and doubt your doubts; never make the mistake of doubting your beliefs and believing your doubts.” Never be reckless in abandoning, without sufficient cause, a faith long cherished by the most devout souls of all ages. As Paley says, “We should never suffer what we know to be disturbed by what we do not know.” And Butler well adds, “if a truth be established, objections are nothing; the one is founded on our knowledge, the other on our ignorance.” There is an Arab fable of a dervish who was told that the “philosopher’s stone” lay in a certain river bed. He picked up pebble after pebble only to throw it away; and actually picked up the treasure among the rest, but he had formed such a habit of casting away that he threw the philosopher’s stone away too, and never could recover it. (A. T. Pierson.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Job 34". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany