Letter 7

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The Case Of Job.
September 17, 1842.
It has come into my heart to send you a little scribble on Job. May the meditation refresh your soul. May the Lord keep our souls, by the Holy Ghost, simply and preciously in the power of the truth, in this busy, intellectual day. The case of Job is quite one of every day observation, the principle of it we all understand. He was a man, I judge, who had a true evangelical know ledge of God, but his faith was weak in meeting the discipline of his heavenly Father.
Severe losses and crosses came upon him, and who of us will say, that he would have stood so hard and sudden a shock? In mind, body, and estate, he was tried at the same moment. Bereavement of health, family, and comforts, he knew all together, and the desertion and scorn of the world instead of its honor and flattery. What could much aggravate this? And who of us would have stood it, even as he did, for the seven days? But at length the weakness of faith and the impatience of nature sadly betrayed themselves. But it needed much wisdom and grace to meet a believer in such a state. "One of a thousand " it needed. But he was visited by three of a very poor and ill-instructed class. They evince themselves to be of the Lord's people, for they come and mourn with this His servant; when all the world beside was refusing him. But their standing in the light of the mind of God was low indeed, and therefore all that they could apply to the case of Job only made bad worse: But in what do they betray this ill-instructed,:, state of their souls? Here again, I judge, we have something of every-day recurrence, for the mistakes of these three are as common as is the impatience or weakness of Job. They counted much on religion in a worldly way. They reasoned, as though it were true, that honesty is the best policy, that righteousness gets its sure advantages hi this world, and, therefore, that all the present sorrow and trouble of their friend was the proof of some secret unconfessed iniquity.
They drew also from themselves, deeming that they were men of experience and of observation, and had been much favored with divine light. And they seem to make their own attainments, as they deem them to be, the great standard; so that poor Job's reputation had no chance at all in their hands, nor had his answers or words any countenance at all, if they would not stand the test of their experiences, or abide the measure of their rules of judging. They were familiar also with the traditions of the elders, treating them with the same respect that they did their own experiences and observation. These they cite against Job as determining the case, deeming it folly to suppose that the claims of antiquity could yield to anything he could possibly say.
In these ways their minds were much corrupted. Principles like, these had been their masters. There was a great religious reverence for God without, that is quite clear. Job himself could not speak abstractedly of God in more self-renouncing style than they, or with deeper expressions of religious fear. But the springs' within were all polluted by the principles I have noticed. There was a worldly leaven, and a leaven of spiritual pride, and a leaven of traditionary knowledge, defiling all the exercises their souls, and debasing all that issued from them. What could a poor believer, tried to the uttermost by the strong hand of his heavenly Father, and sinking through weakness under the pressure, do in the conflict and collision of such minds as these? “Miserable comforters are ye all," were gentle words, words that we might expect to hear from Job, till his soul had been taught and strengthened by the Spirit of God.
There is, however, one feature in this tremendous conflict which I would more particularly notice.
According to their view of the worldly advantages of true religion, or that honesty is the best policy, Bildad, in chapter 18, insists, that as " the light of the wicked is put out," Job must not suppose that in his case any exception will be allowed. He is not to judge that for his sake "the Rock shall be removed out of his place;" in other words, that the general divine plan will be abandoned through any special favor or respect to him. All this plainly telling Job, that as he was now so great a sufferer, he must be a hypocrite, for it is only the light of the wicked that is thus put out.
Now, however weak Job's faith may have been, the whole book and history show us that he had a good conscience. And these things are, morally, very different. We are not extenuating his faults. His fainting under the rebuke of God was very sad; his anger and murmuring were grievous. But still the testimony of his conscience was with him, and not against him. It was not true that he was a hypocrite. It was not true, as these worldly minded men of religion would have it, that he was hiding some sin. A good conscience he had not put away. And it was their great mistake, and it is any one's great mistake, to assume that there can be no affliction to a saint but of a penal or judicial character.
And such a thought is, I believe, offensive to the mind of God, quite contrary to His revealed way. " Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth; and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.” This is His common way, and this was His way with Job, that He might make him partaker of His holiness. It was not because He loved Job the less, or found in Job an unsound conscience, that the Chaldeans and Sabeans, the wind and the fire, were allowed their way against him.
The moment there was cause for the Lord (may I say) to vindicate His own principles, and also His servant (Job not having put away a good conscience, had not of faith made ship, wreck), the Spirit enables him here, and the Lord entitles him, to make a full and glorious confession of faith (chap. 19.), a confession which embraces the person, office, and work of Christ, and his full assurance of his own personal interest in all that, as a believer or one of God's elect. And in the certainty of all this, he warns his accusers to take care, for that it was a serious thing to meddle thus, as they were now doing, with one of the flock of God.
The Spirit seems to give a deep tone to this Confession. A man with a bad conscience may still, in the effrontery of wretched nature, be bold to confess a sound creed. But there will be nothing of the—Spirit's unction or light in all that. It will not commend itself as the ready utterance of a soul that has, and knows it has, its warrant in God under the seal of the Spirit. But this confession from Job breaks forth in that character. It comes to us with a seal upon it. It comes from a heart that was full of the truth through the Spirit. And thus it is a witness to us, that if the " good conscience" be not " put away," " faith" need not be " shipwrecked." (1 Tim. 1.) For this is a divine principle; and, moreover, it answers Bildad to his face, that there is another way of accounting for the afflictions of the righteous than by assuming that they are hiding some way of iniquity. And, thus, the principles of God, the principles of His words, as well as the person of His poor, weak but upright servant, are blessedly vindicated before the adversary and accuser.
And I cannot but add another thing that shows itself in the progress of this wondrous and valuable book. Elihu, for a long time silent, at length speaks. And in this we observe the modesty and yet holy confidence of one who has consciously the Spirit in him and with him. He waits till " years" had spoken, fully allowing that; " years" should know wisdom and speak of understanding. But he finds it far otherwise. Their answers to Job, making only bad worse,' had proved this. Then Elihu speaks, not as they had done, from himself, as from his experiences or observations of his own, neither from the dictates of the ancients, or in simple subjection to any authority, however venerable, of man, but from the Holy Ghost. His silence had owned what was due to " years," or to the elders, or the ancients. Ile did not in pride, or in an insubordinate, revolutionary spirit, refuse the claims which naturally they might put in But he would not sacrifice the truth or the rights of the Spirit to any one, and if the elders spoke not according to truth, they were not to be regarded. If the carnal intellect, however consecrated by years, or church place and authority finds out the path of understanding, Elihu will not give flattering titles or bow before it.
All this reads our souls a deep and blessed lesson. " Let God be true, but every man a liar." A false humility is not to lead us to bow to carnal authority, however venerable in the esteem of the world. A true humility will hinder our drawing from ourselves. These three practiced the first but not the second, for they were blindly led by tradition or Church-authority, and also were wise in their own conceits: they drew both from the ancients and from their own experiences. But Elihu was led of the Spirit, apart from both, and the Spirit ever uses the word of truth and ever teaches us accordingly, forcing its holy path onward after God, through every resistance from the false lights both of men and of our own hearts. Job, however, was to be rebuked. He was suffering, but he traced this suffering up to the mere good pleasure or sovereign will of God. He did not justify God in these sufferings. For God does not willingly afflict. He has a purpose in all that He does or allows to be done. Job, therefore, was to be rebuked. And Elihu does rebuke him. He stands for God and God's goodness against all that Job had said; and though Job insisted that, as touching this life, it was vain to serve God, for all were equally subject to sorrow, and God made no difference; yet did Elihu insist that there was profit in waiting on the Lord. And the voice from the whirlwind confirms all this judgment of Elihu, and Job is humbled and restored.
I do indeed read these characters in this book with much interest, and it is for our profit,to note them. For such things have their claim still. The authority of antiquity, the worldliness of religious profession, or that godliness is gain, and the force of one's own spiritual light and experience, are found themes with men still, and harass much the hearts of wayfaring children of God. These are the flesh and fleshly pretensions, though in different forms. But " let God be true, and every man a liar," our souls should still say, as Elihu in principle said Nothing should stand with us if the truth be touched. We are debtors to the Spirit in us to assert His rights, though naturally we may be ready to take the lowest place, and let " years" speak, as Elihu did.
And there is still another thing I would notice: Job was more simply and genuinely evangelical than his friends were. The truth of the gospel in his soul was not corrupted, as it was in theirs, though he was impatient under the rebuke of God, and uttered the fruit of that impatience against Him. But he held the faith and a good conscience. And these differences are dealt with at the end. His friends are owned of God then. That is true and happy. But they have to submit to God, and to own the great principle of the gospel which they had been corrupting-that is, to bring their victims in sacrifice as poor guilty ones, and thus to confess that all their hope was in the simple value of that Redeemer and His blood to which Job had made confession. Job, on the other hand, for his faith was sound, had not to repent in that particular. He was to humble himself under the mighty hand of God, and to love his brethren, to "pray for his friends.".But he was not called on to learn the gospel itself more perfectly, as his friends were. They had not spoken of. God the thing that was right, as he had, therefore they were commanded to go to the brazen altar, and there learn the doctrine of the blood. He had only to bow his head to the rod. And all this was the healing of their souls. Job and his friends were all restored, though differently, according to the different errors, which the course of the history had disclosed, as we have seen.