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stroy the connexion and coherence of the various parts of the discourses of the sacred writers. But in truth it was made with a degree of negligence, which on a subject of so much importance is quite surprising. It may not be a fact familiar to you all—that it is wholly a modern invention; that in the ancient manuscripts of the scriptures the present arrangement of chapters and verses was unknown; and that it was originally made by the second printer who ever published an edition of the New Testament, while he was performing a journey. . The consequence of the negligent manner in which this was done is, as might be supposed, that these divisions often begin and end at the wrong place ; and if they are regarded in studying the scriptures, they will often interrupt and misrepresent the meaning of the writers. Indeed if the Bible should always and only be quoted by these verses, there is scarcely any absurdity for which you
would not find the appearance of support in it.
It is therefore obviously necessary, if we would understand aright the sacred writings, that we should inquire after the whole scope and meaning of them, and of course for every thing which can throw light upon them. This, it is true, is not equally necessary for all; and the humble and ** merely practical christian may read them very -profitably without engaging in these difficult inquiries. But if you must form opinions on those subjects on which christians are divided—and this is
the right, and, where there is the requisite leisure and facilities, the duty of every
christian-you must qualify yourselves for it by going through the requisite researches. I
propose to give a general idea of the manner in which this should be done by selecting a particular book, and giving an outline or analysis of its contents. I have chosen the Book of Job, as one by no means the most difficult, and one on which the observations to be made may be brought within a small compass. Let us then inquire who was the author of this book ; what there is peculiar in the manner of its composition ; and what are the general truths, which it is intended to inculcate.
This book is by some critics supposed to be the oldest of the whole canon of the scriptures, and is certainly, by the confession of all, of very great antiquity. From the length of Job's life, which seems to place him in the patriarchal times; from the general air of antiquity which is spread over the manners recorded in this poem; from the fact that no piece of history later than the time of Moses is mentioned in any part of it; from the allusion made by Job to that species of idolatry alone, the worship of the sun and moon, which is undoubtedly the most ancient; from certain customs referred to of the most remote usage, such as the mode of writing by sculpture, and the circumstance of reckoning riches by the number of cattle; from these and other particulars, the great
age of this
poem seems to be correctly inferred. Its author, it is commonly supposed, was Moses himself; though from the circumstance that there is no allusion to any part of the Levitical law, it has been thought by some to be of even higher antiquity. As, however, the scriptures are silent upon this subject, it is a point which cannot be decided, and is indeed of little moment.
Like the book of Psalms, all except the narrative part of this work is written in poetry. It abounds with passages of the highest sublimity and the truest pathos. It is in the form of a dialogue, and the speakers are six in number; Job himself, three aged men, his friends, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar, and a young man, also his friend, named Elihu. Last of all, the word of the Lord is introduced, as deciding the subject on which the conversation has turned. This subject appears to be, in general, the reason of the permission of suffering and trial under the government of a God of benevolence; and how far the particular calamities which fall on each individual are to be esteemed judgments for their sins, and marks of the divine displeasure.
The narrative of this book is exceedingly simple. The principal object held forth to our contemplation, is the example of a good man, eminent for his piety, and of approved integrity, suddenly precipitated from the very summit of prosperity into the lowest depths of misery and ruin ; who, having first been bereaved of his wealth, his pos
sessions, and his children, is afterwards afflicted with the anguish of a loathsome disease, which entirely covers his body. He sustains all, however, with the mildest submission and the most complete resignation to the will of Providence. 4 In all this,” saith the historian, “ Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly."
This is the point of view in the conduct of Job, which is held forth as an example ; and not, I conceive, his subsequent conversations with his friends, whose bitter reproaches and unjust suspicions he seems scarcely to have sustained with equal firmness. They came to visit him in his affliction, with the avowed purpose of giving him consolation. But when the severe calamity of Job extorts from him execrations on the hour of his birth, and on the kindness, which by rescuing him from the dangers of infancy and youth, had prevented him from being committed to an early grave ; instead of seeking to soothe his sorrows, they all unite in questioning his integrity, and asserting that the fact of his suffering was a sufficient proof of his guilt, since God does not inflict such judgments on the righteous. These unjust and cruel attacks seem to have been too much for the miserable man to support. He in reply enumerates his sufferings, and complains bitterly of the inhumanity of his friends; asserts most vehemently the innocence and integrity of his life, and seems even to arraign the justice of God in confounding the distinction be
tween the wicked and the good, by making them equally exposed to suffering. His friends severally rejoin, till all of them have spoken twice, and one of them three times, Job replying to each.
In this stage of the controversy, Elihu, who had hitherto preserved a respectful silence, is introduc
, ed as speaking. He is represented by the sacred historian as displeased both with Job and his three aged friends. With Job, because he seemed righteous in his own eyes, and justified himself rather than God, that is, because he defended so vehemently the justice of his own cause, that he seemed in some measure to arraign the justice of God; and with his three friends, because, though they were unable to answer Job, they ceased not to condemn him, that is, they concluded in their own minds that he was suffering the consequence of some great impiety and wickedness, notwithstanding they had nothing to oppose to his appeals to the uniform innocence and integrity of his life. His speech is directed principally to Job. He reproves him for having attributed too much to himself, and doubted of the providence of God, because it was mysterious. He asserts that it is not necessary for God to explain and develope his counsels to men, and that they ought to be satisfied with the belief of his perfect wisdom and good
He tells him that when the afflictions of the just continue, it is because they do not place proper confidence in God, ask relief at his hands,