Page images
PDF
EPUB

leave a degree of doubt upon the mind : they correspond with something within us, which contributes to assure us that the things which we have received upon the divine testimony are unquestionably true. The inspired writers indeed, knowing by whom they were inspired, delivered without hesitation those things of which they had no internal evidence, as well as those which were confirmed by their own experience. Nevertheless there is a peculiar energy in their mode of declaring experimental truths: they make them a subject of appeal to their very enemies, and challenge the whole universe to deny the things whereof they affirm. Thus it was with Job. Bildad had charged him with asserting his own perfect innocence, and accusing God as unjust in his proceedings towards him: “Doth God pervert judgment ? or doth the Almighty pervert justice ?” Job, in his reply, allowed the premises of his opponent, but denied the consequences which were deduced from them: “I know it is so of a truth;" that is, I know God will not pervert justice: “but” I deny that I ever intended to justify myself before God, or to harden myself against him ; for I am as fully convinced of the folly of acting in such a manner, as you or any one else can be : “ How can man,” &c.

In this reply Job strongly asserts two things; 1. The folly of justifying ourselves before God

Many there are who justify themselves before God

[Few indeed, if any, will deny that they have sinned: but all unregenerate persons will deny that they deserve the wrath of God: at least, if, on account of some flagrant transgression, they be constrained to confess themselves obnoxious to eternal punishment, they hope by some repentance or reformation to compensate for their sins, and to establish a righteousness whereby they may find acceptance with God.]

But this proceeds from an ignorance of the divine law

[" The law of God is perfecta;" “ the commandment is

[blocks in formation]

exceeding broadb:” it extends not to actions only, but to the thoughts and desires of the heart"; and it requires perfect and perpetual obedienced. On our failure in any one particular, it denounces a curse against use; and from that period it can never justify us. It admits of no repentance on our part, or relaxation on God's part'. It is as immutable as God himself: and it is owing to men's ignorance of this law that they so foolishly build upon it as the foundation of their hopes.]

None who understand this law will ever look for justification from it

[If amongst a thousand perfect actions, one only were found defective, it were sufficient to condemn us for ever. But, if we will try ourselves by the law, we shall not find“

"one action of a thousand,” no, nor one in our whole lives, that will not condemn us. If we should presume to "contend with God” respecting the perfection of our best action, how soon would he confound us! Even we will venture to expose the folly of such presumption. Bring forth your action to the light: was there nothing amiss in its principle, nothing defective in the manner, nothing of a selfish mixture in its end? See if you can answer a weak sinful creature like yourselves: and, if you cannot, how will you "answer" the pure heartsearching “ God?”

See then the folly of hoping ever to “be just with God;" and adopt the language of David, “Enter not into judgment with thy servant; for in thy sight shall no man living be justified."]

But there is another point in the text to which we must advert, namely, II. The folly of hardening ourselves against God

Those who justify themselves before God are equally prone to harden themselves against him

[This they do by their unbelief and impenitence: they will not give credit to the declarations of God concerning them: they think, in direct opposition to all that God has spoken, that he will never execute his threatenings against the transgressors of his law. They profess to hope that repentance will appease his anger; and yet they put off their repentance from

b Ps. cxix. 96.

C“ Thou shalt not covet,i. e. Thou shalt not harbour, thou shalt not even have, an inordinate desire, Rom. vii. 7. d Gal. iii. 10. e Gal, iii. 10.

f Matt. v. 18. 8 Ps. xix. 12. and xl. 12. and cxxx. 3. and cxliii. 2.

are we

year to year, and take occasion even from his mercy to sin the more against him.]

The folly of this appears,
1. From the character of God-

[If God were ignorant of what passes in our minds, or unable to punish us for our sins, we need not concern ourselves so much about him. But are “ the thick clouds a covering to him, so that he cannot see ush?” or stronger than he, so that we can provoke him to jealousy.” without any fear of his resentment ? No: “ he is wise in heart, and mighty in strength:” he beholds the most secret emotions of our hearts, and will surely call us into judgment for them. What folly is it then to “harden ourselves against him,” when“ neither rocks nor mountains can conceal us from him," nor the whole universe combined deliver us from his handsk!] 2. From the experience of men

[“ Who amongst all the sons of men ever prospered," while he lived in an impenitent and unbelieving state? Many indeed have been wealthy and powerful"; but who ever had solid peace in his conscience? Who ever had real comfort in a dying-hour? Who ever had happiness in the eternal world ? This is the only prosperity that deserves our notice; and, in this view of it, the question in the text is unanswerable.

But, if we cannot tell of one that prospered, can we not recount multitudes that have been marked as objects of God's most signal vengeance? Was not the rebellious Pharaoh visited with ten successive plagues, and drowned at last, with all his army, in the Red Seam? Was not the vain-glorious Nebuchadnezzar changed, as it were, into a beast for the space of seven years for his impious boasting against God n? Was not his son Belshazzar warned by a hand-writing on the wall, in the midst of his lewd, drunken, and blaspheming revels; and, agreeably to the prediction, dethroned and slain that very nighto?' But why do we mention individual instances, when we are told, that “every one who, after repeated reproofs, hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedyp?” Who that considers this denunciation, must not confess, that such opposition to a God of infinite wisdom and power is madness itself?]

h Job xxii. 13, 14.
k Dan. iv. 37. Prov. xi. 21.
m Exod, ix. 17. and xiv. 17, 28.
o Dan. v. 22-28, 30.

i i Cor. x. 22.
1 Ps. lxxiii. 3-12.
n Dan. v. 20, 21.
p Prov. xxix. 1.

These things then being clear, the following ADVICE

cannot but approve itself to the consciences of

all1. Be attentive to the concerns of your souls

[To “repent, and believe the Gospel,” was the advice which Jesus himself gave to his hearers: and it is as necessary for you as it was for them. But it may be thought that an attention to spiritual concerns will interfere with your worldly prosperity. This however is not a necessary consequence: there can be no doubt but that, if you serve God faithfully, the world will hate you: but prudence and diligence may advance your temporal interests even in spite of the world's hatred. Be it so, however : your temporal and spiritual welfare, we will say, are in direct opposition to each other: can it be doubted which

you should prefer? Is not the soul of more value then ten thousand worlds? Seek then the prosperity which God approves, and which will continue for ever.] 2. Study the Gospel in particular

[It is the Gospel alone that can enable you to answer that important question, “How shall man be just with God?” That takes your eyes off from human attainments, and directs them to the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ is there set forth as a propitiation for sin, that, through him, God may be just, and yet the justifier of penitent and believing sinners." From thence you learn, that Christ's obedience unto death is a sufficient plea against all the accusations of God's law; and that, if

you

be washed in his blood, God himself will not behold in you the least spot or blemish". It was from “the Gospel as originally preached to Abraham,” that he found out the method of a sinner's acceptance with Gods. All the Apostles acquiesced in this way of salvation : they all renounced their own works in point of dependence, and sought for mercy through faith in Christ'. Let the Gospel then, whether as written by the first ministers of Christ, or as preached by those who now follow their steps, be your meditation and delight: so shall you find support under the most accumulated trials, and be accepted of your God in the day of judgment.]

9 Rom. iii, 24-26.
s Gal. iii. 6—9.

Eph. v. 25—27.
Gal. ii. 15, 16.

CCCCLIX.

THE EVIL OF A SELF-JUSTIFYING SPIRIT.

verse.

Job ix. 20, 21. If I justify myself, mine own mouth shall condemn me : if I say, I am perfect, it shall also prove me per

Though I were perfect, yet would I not know my soul : I would despise my life.

IN controversies of every kind, and more especially in those which relate to religion, the disputants are, for the most part, more anxious to obtain the victory than to discover truth. Hence, instead of putting that precise construction on each other's words which they were designed to bear, they labour to turn to their own advantage every expression of their adversary, and to derive from it an argument for the support of their own cause. Even good men are by no means so candid as they ought to be in relation to this matter, more especially when they become heated by opposition. The friends of Job were exceedingly faulty in this particular. They first charged Job with hypocrisy; and then, when he asserted his own innocence in relation to that heinous sin, they represented him as asserting his freedom from all sin, and as justifying himself as a righteous person before God. This was by no means the intention of Job: on the contrary, he here explicitly declares, that “no man can be just before Goda," and that he should stand utterly self-condemned if he should presume to arrogate to himself any such measure of perfection. He had stated in the foregoing verse, that if he should dare to contend with God, he could neither withstand his power, nor put himself into a capacity to make good his cause before him": and now he renounces with abhorrence any such impious idea. Of the former verse of our text, this is the plain and obvious meaning: and in the latter verse, the same idea seems yet more strongly, though not so plainly, stated: “ Though I were perfect,” so far as not to be aware of any evil that I had ever committed, yet

a ver. 2.

b

ver. 19.

« PreviousContinue »