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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae
Job 17



Verse 9



Job 17:9. The righteous also shall hold on his way, and he that hath clean hands shall be stronger and stronger.

AMONGST all the doctrines of our holy religion, there is not one more difficult to be received than that which here offers itself to our notice: it may well be numbered amongst “the deep things of God.” The manner too in which it has been professed by men of enthusiastic minds, or antinomian habits, has rendered it odious in the eyes of thousands, who yet are truly upright before God. But neither the difficulty of guarding it from abuse, nor the averseness of men to embrace it, must deter us from stating what we believe to be the truth of God. We would not needlessly go out of our way to introduce a subject of such difficult discussion; nor, on the other hand, should we feel justified in passing it by when it comes fairly before us: we are bound “to declare unto you,” as far as we are able, “the whole counsel of God.” The doctrine we allude to is that which is generally called, The perseverance of the saints: and it is evidently contained in the words of our text. Job, seeing how all his friends were puzzled and confounded by the mysterious dispensation under which he was suffering, consoled himself with the thought, that, when the issue of it should be seen, it should greatly promote the edification of all who were truly upright: persons who were unsound or hypocritical might be discouraged by it; but “the upright and innocent” would rescue it from abuse; and would take occasion from it to pursue their course with augmented steadiness and zeal.

Agreeably to this view of our text, we will proceed to state,

I. The general principles upon which the perseverance of the saints is founded—

It is supposed by many, that there is in the souls of the regenerate a principle which is in its own nature imperishable and indestructible: and in support of this opinion, they appeal to several passages of Scripture which seem to establish this fact. They say, that “we are born of incorruptible seed [Note: 1 Peter 1:23.];” that, “because this seed remaineth in us, we cannot sin [Note: 1 John 3:9.];” and that it must of necessity “spring up unto everlasting life [Note: John 4:14.].” But we are by no means satisfied with this statement: we doubt much whether there be in the universe a man, provided he possess one grain of humility, who will venture to affirm, that he has such an indestructible principle of grace within him: nor do we think that the passages here cited do by any means establish such a notion: the seed to which such efficacy is ascribed, is, not a principle, but “the word of God [Note: If we compare 1 Peter 1:23. with the latter part of 1 John 2:14. they will give the true explanation of that difficult passage, 1 John 3:9. They will shew, that the seed is not a principle, but the word.]:” and it is the tendency, rather than the certain infallible effect, of the Spirit’s operations, that our Lord speaks of, when he compares his Spirit to “a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” Nevertheless we think that there is in the Holy Scripture sufficient foundation for the doctrine we are considering. It may be proved,

1. From the immutability of God—

[It is “from God that every good and perfect gift proceeds [Note: Philippians 2:13.];” even from Him “with whom is no variableness nor shadow of turning [Note: James 1:17.]” — — — These gifts are the result of his own eternal purpose and grace [Note: 2 Timothy 1:9.]: and they are bestowed by him with a fixed purpose to render them effectual for the salvation of our souls [Note: 2 Thessalonians 2:13.]. Hence they are said to be “without repentance [Note: Romans 11:29.],” or change of mind in him who bestows them. There is an inseparable connexion between the original purpose formed in the divine mind, and the final completion of it in the salvation of the person thus chosen [Note: Romans 8:29-30.]: and to this very immutability in the divine mind is the salvation of men expressly ascribed [Note: Malachi 3:9.]. “The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his [Note: 2 Timothy 2:19.].”]

2. From the covenant of grace—

[In the covenant which God from all eternity entered into with his dear Son [Note: Titus 1:2.], there were a number given to Christ, to be his purchased possession [Note: John 17:6.]. In behalf of these the Saviour stipulated, not only to redeem them by his blood, but also to keep them by his grace [Note: John 17:12.]: and the Father also engaged, not only never to depart from them, but to secure them from ever finally departing from him [Note: Jeremiah 32:40.]. Provision was made for them, that they should have “every thing that pertained to life and godliness:” and the promises which assured these things to them, were made irrevocable [Note: 2 Corinthians 1:20.]; that so their consolation might be made abundant [Note: Hebrews 6:17-18.], and their salvation sure [Note: Romans 4:16.]. On this covenant the Christian lays hold [Note: Isaiah 56:4; Isaiah 56:6.]; and in an assured dependence on it he may say, “I am confident of this very thing, that He who hath begun a good work in me will perform it until the day of Christ [Note: Philippians 1:6.];” and that nothing shall ever “separate me from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord [Note: Romans 8:35-39.].” In this covenant David felt his security [Note: 2 Samuel 23:5,]; and in this may every believer trust, with humble, but unshaken, confidence [Note: 2 Timothy 1:12; 2 Timothy 4:8-18.].]

3. From the intercession of Christ—

[Whence was it that, when Peter and Judas resembled each other so much in their crimes, they differed so widely in their end; the one being restored to his apostleship, and the other being left to go to his own place? Our Lord himself tells us: “Peter, I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not [Note: Luke 22:32.].” And to the same cause must be traced the restoration of all who are restored, and the stability of all who stand. St. Paul, in defying all his enemies, lays the chief stress on this: he mentions with gratitude a dying Saviour; but glories more especially in the thought of Christ as risen, and as making continual intercession for the saints [Note: Romans 8:34, with Romans 5:10, and Hebrews 7:25.]. Him the Father heareth always: and, whilst he “appeareth in the presence of God for us,” “bearing our names on his breastplate,” and “making intercession for us according to the will of God,” we need not fear but that we shall in due time occupy “the mansions which he has prepared for us.”]

On these grounds we believe that the saints’ perseverance in faith and holiness is secured.

II. The particular manner in which the most untoward circumstances shall be overruled to promote it—

This is the particular point to which our attention should be directed, in order to elucidate the true import of the text: for, in the text we have an assurance, not merely that the saints shall persevere, but that they shall persevere under circumstances which will prove a stumbling-block unto all whose hearts are not truly upright before God.

There are many circumstances which prove stumbling-blocks to the unsound—

[Amongst these we must first notice those which Job himself more especially refers to. Though he was perfect and upright in himself, he was oppressed with a heavier load of afflictions than ever fell to the lot of mortal man; and in the midst of them, appeared to be forsaken of his God. Now from such a dispensation, a man whose heart was not right with God would be ready to conclude, that it was in vain to serve God; and that, if he is to be subjected to such trials as these, it were better at once to seek the happiness which the world affords; since God puts no difference between the righteous and the wicked.

But more especially, if there be heavy trials for righteousness’ sake, the unsound professor is alarmed; and he draws back from an open confession of Christ, lest he should be involved in troubles which he is not willing to endure [Note: John 10:22.].

But the greatest obstacle in the way of the unsound arises from the falls of those who make a profession of religion. A man whose principles are not fixed, is ready to doubt whether there be any truth in the Gospel itself, when he sees a Judas and a Demas making shipwreck of their faith. Our blessed Lord told us, not only that such circumstances would arise, but that they would produce the most unhappy effects: “Woe unto the world because of offences; for it must needs be that offences come.”]

But all these tend ultimately to the establishment of those who are truly upright—

[The assurance that trouble springs not out of the dust, composes their minds under the diversified trials of life: they know, that, whoever be the instrument, it is God who uses it; and that He doeth all things well.

If persecution rage, he has counted the cost, and is “ready to suffer the loss of all things” for Christ’s sake; yea, “he rejoices, if he is counted worthy to suffer for his Redeemer’s sake.” The imprisonment of Paul was designed to intimidate his followers, and to obstruct the progress of the Gospel: but “it turned out rather to the furtherance of the Gospel,” inasmuch as multitudes were encouraged by his example to preach the truth with greater firmness and zeal [Note: Philippians 1:12-14.].

So also, if there be any public disgrace brought on the Gospel by the misconduct of those who have been regarded as eminent in the Church, the truly upright Christian is not at all shaken in his faith: he knows that the Gospel is wholly independent of those who profess it: if eleven of the Apostles had proved like Judas, he would not therefore have concluded that there was either less importance, or less efficacy, in the Gospel of Christ. He considers religion as standing on its own proper grounds; and he determines, through grace, to adhere to Christ, though all others should forsake him.

Here it may be well to mark more distinctly the operation of such circumstances on the true believer’s mind.

Events like these humble him before God: they shew him how weak he himself is, and how certainly he also shall fall and perish, if for one moment he be forsaken of his God. They make him also more earnest in prayer to God. Seeing whence alone his strength must come, he cries day and night, “Hold thou up my goings in thy ways, that my footsteps slip not.” Moreover, he takes occasion from them to search and try more carefully his own heart, lest he also should have deceived his own soul. He is put also on his guard against temptations, and is made to watch more carefully against every occasion of sin. Finally, he is made to feel the necessity of living more simply and entirely by faith in the Son of God, and of receiving out of his fulness those supplies of grace and strength, whereby alone he can hope to get the victory.

Thus are those very events, which weaken the hands, discourage the hearts, and subvert the faith of hypocrites, overruled for the advancement and establishment of the righteous in every good word and work.]

To guard against an abuse of this doctrine, we entreat you to bear in mind,

1. The characters who alone can take comfort in it—

[It is “the righteous” only, and he that “hath clean hands,” that has any title to the promise before us, or that is in a fit state to derive any consolation from it. If any be walking in the habitual indulgence of either open or secret sin, he is a hypocrite before God; and to be left to “hold on his way,” will be the heaviest curse that can be inflicted on him. Know, all of you, that “herein the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil; he that doeth not righteousness is not of God [Note: 1 John 3:10.].”]

2. The way in which alone it should be improved—

[It is not to create in any one an unhallowed confidence, and to make him imagine that he may relax his exertions; but rather to encourage his exertions, from the assurance that they shall not be in vain [Note: 1 Corinthians 15:58.]. Whatever confidence we may feel, it must always be blended with holy fear [Note: Proverbs 28:14.]. If the Apostle “kept under his body, lest after having preached to others he himself should become a castaway,” who amongst us will feel himself at liberty to remit his caution, or relax his diligence, in the ways of God? “The path of the just is as the shining light, which shineth more and more unto the perfect day;” and whilst we have an evidence that our path accords with that description, we shall be in no danger of deceiving ourselves: but the very moment that our progress is doubtful, we have reason to inquire whether we are indeed upright before God. Use then this doctrine, not as an excuse for idleness, but as an incentive to diligence; that you may “not lose the things which you have wrought, but may receive a full reward.”]


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Bibliography Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Job 17:4". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. 1832.

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