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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae
Job 27

 

 

Verse 6

DISCOURSE: 477

SELF-REPROACH

Job 27:6. My heart shall not reproach me so long as I live.

JOB had been represented by God as a perfect and upright man: and the severe trials he was called to endure served only to prove the truth of that assertion. True it is that he was occasionally driven by the unkindness of his friends and the depth of his sufferings to speak without due reverence for the Supreme Being; but never were the predictions of Satan, or the accusations of his own friends, verified respecting him. His whole life had been a continued course of piety and virtue: and he determined, through grace, that nothing should divert him from it. Being conscious that he had maintained his integrity hitherto before God, he would not suffer his uncharitable friends to rob him of the comfort which that consciousness afforded him in this hour of trial: “he held fast his righteousness, and would not let it go.” And being determined to preserve the same blessed course even to the end, he said, “My heart shall not reproach me so long as I live.”

Of all the blessings that man can enjoy in this life, there is none greater than the testimony of a good conscience: without it, not all the world can make us happy; and with it, we find support under all the calamities that can come upon us. Let us then consider,

I. The proper office of conscience—

Whilst we acknowledge that there are no innate ideas which obtain universally amongst the children of men, we affirm that there is in every man an innate capacity to judge of, yea, and an innate power that will sit in judgment upon, his actions, and will pronounce a sentence of condemnation or acquittal upon him, according as he obeys or violates the law, by which he conceives himself bound to regulate his life. To this effect St. Paul, speaking of the Gentiles, says, that they, not having the written law, are a law unto themselves; and that their conscience accuses or excuses them, according as they demean themselves in reference to that law [Note: Romans 2:15.].

From hence we see that the office of conscience is two-fold;

1. To judge of what is past—

[God, who will pass judgment upon all men at the last day, has appointed conscience to be, as it were, his vicegerent in the hearts of men, and to testify to them beforehand what sentence they are to expect at his tribunal: nor is it of actions only that it is constituted a judge, but of dispositions, of motives, and of all the most secret workings of the heart. If evil be committed by us in act, word, or thought, it is to condemn us, even though the whole world should resound with our praise: and, on the other hand, it is to bear testimony in our favour, and to acquit us, if we are innocent, even though men and devils should combine to load us with reproach. Its office, as an accuser, is strikingly exhibited in those who brought to our Lord the woman taken in adultery: when he bade the person who was without sin amongst them to cast the first stone at her, they all went out successively “from the eldest to the last,” every one of them standing condemned in his own mind [Note: John 8:7-9.]. We are not necessarily to conclude, that they had all been guilty of the same particular sin; but that every one of them had some grievous sin brought to his remembrance, by which he was convinced that he himself was not a fit person to use severity towards her. Our Lord did not lay any specific sin to their charge; nor were the spectators able to accuse them: but conscience did its office: and they were unable to withstand its potent sway. Many glorious instances also are recorded of the power of conscience to support the mind under the severest trials. The very instance of Job which we are now considering, evinces this: and the solemn appeals which David, and Paul, and others, have made to God himself respecting their integrity, prove, beyond a doubt, that the testimony of a good conscience will enable a man to rejoice, though suffering under the foulest aspersions and the most unfounded accusations [Note: 2 Samuel 23:21-25. 2 Corinthians 1:12; 2 Corinthians 1:17-18; 2 Corinthians 1:23, See also Acts 23:1 and Romans 9:1-2.] — — —]

2. To direct in what is to come—

[Every man is bound to be regulated by his own conscience. We may sin indeed, and sin grievously, whilst following the dictates of our coiucience; but our sin will consist, not in doing what we think to be right, but in not taking care to have our conscience better informed. Even supposing any line of conduct to bo rieht in itself, we ought not to do it, unless we believe it to be right: for “whatsoever is not of faith, is sin [Note: Romans 14:23.].” We ought to be “thoroughly persuaded in our own minds [Note: Romans 14:5.]:” if we doubt respecting the proper line of duty, we should wait, and inquire, and pray, till we see our way clear; especially if the doubt have respect to the morality of the action [Note: Romans 14:22.]. There may be doubts about some particular circumstances which can never be fully resolved; and in them we must follow the line which expediency prescribes: but where duty can by any means be ascertained, then we should exert ourselves to the uttermost to learn the will of God, and then follow the path which we apprehend he will most approve.]

But, that we may mark more distinctly the office of conscience in relation to this point, we shall proceed to notice,

II. Our duty with respect to it—

Whilst conscience is given to us to preserve us from all moral evil, we are bound on our part to preserve it in a lively and vigorous state. It is our duty,

1. To consult its records—

[Unobserved by us, it notices from time to time the quality of our actions, and frequently assigns to them a very different character from that which a common observer would imagine them to bear. But if we forbear to consult its records, they become gradually fainter, till they are almost wholly effaced. Scarcely an hour, and certainly not a day, should ever pass, without our retiring, as it were, to converse with it. What hast thou recorded concerning me this day? What is thy testimony respecting my morning addresses at the throne of grace? Were they such as became a poor sinful creature, redeemed by the blood of God’s only dear Son, and altogether dependent on the operations of his grace? Were they full of gratitude for mercies received, of contrition for sins committed, of earnestness for future communications, and of affiance in him as a promise-keeping God? What hast thou recorded concerning my family devotions? What, of my tempers throughout the day? What, of the improvement of my time for God? What of my zeal for his honour? What, of my labours for the eternal welfare of my fellow-creatures? Thus, as the Apostle says, “We should examine ourselves,” and “prove our own selves:” nay more, we should beg of God to search and try, not our ways only, but our inmost thoughts and desires, that so we may have a fuller knowledge of ourselves, and keep a conscience void of offence both towards God and man.]

2. To venerate its testimony—

[If we disregard its voice, we may soon silence it altogether, yea, we may even “sear it” as with a hot iron, so as to make it “past feeling [Note: 1 Timothy 4:2.].” We must remember whose voice it is, even the voice of God himself, speaking in our hearts. Were God to speak by an audible voice from heaven, we should hear and tremble: the fear of his Majesty would alarm us. But his Majesty is the same, whether he speak in thunders and in earthquakes, or in a still small voice: and he should be listened to with the same reverence in the one case, as in the other. It is his testimony respecting us; and agreeably to that we should estimate both our character and our prospects. “If our heart condemn us, God is greater than our hearts, and knoweth all things: but, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence towards God [Note: 1 John 3:20-21.].”]

3. To obey its dictates—

[Nothing can justify a violation of its commands. Whatever conscience prescribes, we should do it without hesitation and without delay. Nothing should intimidate us, nothing deter us: we should not count our lives dear in comparison of its testimony in our favour. Like the Hebrew youths, we should be resolute, thouht menaced with all the sufferings that tyrannic cruelty can inflict. And here it may be useful to observe, that the first testimony of conscience is generally the most just, and most to be depended on. We may by reasonings bewilder conscience, so that it shall not know what testimony to give; or we may by leaning to the side of our passions or our interests bias it to give a directly contrary testimony to that which it first suggested: it is therefore of peculiar importance to bear in mind our first impressions: for though they may not be always right, and may be corrected by the acquisition of further light and knowledge, yet they may be always considered as more pure and unadulterated, and therefore as deserving of more peculiar attention.]

4. To get it enlightened and rectified—

[This, though mentioned last, must be attended to in the first place. If we navigate the seas with a compass, we must take care that that compass be true to the pole, and not be under any undue influence to impede its motions. If that be drawn aside by a magnet, it will, instead of assisting us in our voyage, infallibly drive us on rocks and quicksands. Thus St. Paul could say, that he had lived “in all good conscience” from his youth up; but, being blinded by his prejudices, and “thinking he ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus,” he was for a long time a most determined enemy of Christ and his Church. Afterwards, when he was enlightened and renewed by the Spirit of God, he changed his course, and became as zealous for Christ as ever he had been against him. No pains therefore should be esteemed too great for the acquiring of divine knowledge: we should study the Holy Scriptures with all diligence: we should cry migntily to God for the influences of his Spirit to guide us into all truth; and we should keep our minds open to conviction upon all points that will admit of doubt. Especially we should entreat of God to give us a single eye: for, “if our eye be single, our whole body will be full of light; but if our eye be evil, our whole body will be full of darkness: and, if the light that is in us be darkness, how great is that darkness!”]

We cannot better improve this subject than by suggesting to you some salutary cautions. Guard then against,

1. An evil and guilty conscience—

[Many continue all their days impenitent, whilst yet they know that they are guilty before God — — — O let none of you rest satisfied with such a state as this. If sin be not repented of, and washed away in the blood of Jesus Christ, it will abide upon your souls to all eternity. And will any of you continue in a state of guilt and condemnation, when God is ready to put you into “the fountain that was opened for sin and for uncleanness [Note: Compare Zechariah 12:1. with John 5:2-9.]?” Know assuredly that “the blood of Jesus Christ will cleanse from all sin [Note: 1 John 1:7.];” and that, being once cleansed in it, you shall “have no more conscience of sin,” so as to be under any distressing apprehensions on account of it [Note: Hebrews 10:2.]; since, whilst it “purges you from an evil conscience, it will stimulate you to serve the living God [Note: Hebrews 9:9; Hebrews 9:14.].”]

2. A partial and deluded conscience—

[It is surprising how partial the consciences of many are: they can see no evil at all in some things which suit their inclination, whilst they are shocked at the very mention of other things which are in themselves altogether indifferent: “they strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel” The Pharisees would not for the world eat with unwashen hands; but they would devour widows’ houses without a moment’s hesitation: they would bribe a man to betray his Lord; but, on the restoration of the money, they would on no account put it into the treasury, because it was the price of blood. Thus it is at this day, with persons of every description. We should be glad if we could say that all religious professors were exempted from the charge; but there are many even of them who would account it a heinous crime to deviate from the rules of their own sect or party, who yet will violate both truth and honesty in their dealings with the world. Such persons will say, “My heart shall not reproach me as long as I live;” but we hope their consciences will reproach them before it is too late: for, if they continue to harbour any one allowed sin, whether in act or in heart, they are no better than self-deceiving hypocrites; and their religion will be found vain at last [Note: James 1:27.].”]

3. An over-confident and unfeeling conscience—

[Though a scrupulous conscience is an evil to be lamented, yet a tender conscience is above all things to be desired: it should be kept tender, even as the apple of our eye. The smallest deviation from our duty, either to God or man, ought to pain us in our inmost souls. How lovely was the spirit of David, when his heart smote him for cutting off the skirt of Saul’s garment, when, in the judgment of the world at large, he would have been justified in putting his malignant and implacable enemy to death. Thus should it be with us: if only a thought of our heart be in any respect contrary to God’s mind and will, we should be humbled in the dust; and our incessant labour should be, “to stand perfect and complete in all the will of God;” or, in other words, to be “holy as God is holy,” and “perfect even as our Father which is in heaven is perfect.”]

 


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Bibliography Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Job 27:4". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/shh/job-27.html. 1832.

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