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patiently expect it, nor demean themselves before him with becoming humility and submission. This, he asserts, is at once a sufficient reproof of the contumacy of Job, and a full refutation of the unjust suspicions of his friends. Lastly, he explains the purposes
of the Deity in chastening men, which are in general to prove and to amend them, to repress their arrogance, and call forth the highest virtues of the human character. This consideration he makes the ground of an eloquent exhortation to Job to humble himself under the hand of his righteous Judge, and adore his almighty power and majesty.
The discussion which forms the subject of this book, is at length most solemnly closed by the introduction of the decision of the Almighty himself. He ratifies the reasonings of Elihu. He reminds Job of the weakness and ignorance of man, , and demands whether he who is so unable to comprehend those works of creation which are obvious to every eye, the nature and structure of the earth, the sea, the light, the animal kingdom, shall presume to arraign the wisdom of the divine
government, or comprehend all the purposes of his providence. “Hearken unto this, O Job; stand still, and consider the wondrous works of God. Dost thou know when God disposed them, and caused the light of his cloud to shine ? Dost thou know the balancings of the clouds, the wondrous works of him who is perfect in knowledge ?»
6 Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? Declare, if thou hast understanding."
Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened, or who laid the corner stone thereof; when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy ?"
These questions are too weighty for human solution, and the humbled and astonished Job sinks down beneath the rebuke of his Maker, repents in dust and ashes, and exclaims, "Behold I am vile; what shall I answer thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth.”—His penitence is accepted, and his former prosperity restored and augmented.
This rapid outline or analysis of this most striking poem, will, I hope, assist you in forming a judgment on the principal and leading truths which it is meant to inculcate. It remarkably illustrates the importance of the observations with which the discourse was introduced, on the necessity of attending to the general scope and design of the sacred writings, and not merely to the apparent sense of particular verses or peculiar phrases. It is easy to see how unsafe it must be to argue from the speeches of either of the friends of Job, except Elihu, in support of any
doctrine which they may appear to countenance, when it is the whole object of the book to show that their views of life, and of the providence of God, are fundamentally erroneous. Yet you must all have met with instances, in writers of no mean name, of arguments
founded on these very passages, as if they were, equally with the others, intended to impress the same truths. Can it then be wondered at, that differences of opinion should exist among christians about the meaning of the scriptures, when prin. ciples of interpretation, so obvious and indisputable, are overlooked or disregarded ?
That this danger of which we speak, is not an imaginary one, it would be easy to give many proofs. There is
very remarkable. The two passages, which are most frequently and confidently relied on to prove the absolute deprayity of the human heart, are the following, from the fifteenth chapter of this book,fourteenth and sixteenth
“What is man, that he should be clean? and he that is born of a woman, that he should be righteous.” “How much more abominable and filthy is man, who drinketh iniquity like water.”— Now it is not my present object to inquire how far this doctrine is true. He knows nothing of himself, who does not feel his liability to sin, and who is not aware of the lustings of the flesh against the spirit, and of the senses against the better dictates of the mind. But this conviction of our tendencies to sin is a very different thing from the belief that the soul comes from the hand of God steeped in guilt and sin, “ rotten,” as some love to speak, " to the very core ;" that the infant who smiles in your face, one of those whom our Saviour himself took as the emblem of innocence and docility, has
yet the heart of a demon, and only wants the power to do the work of a demon. This doctrine of innate and total depravity, though doubtless many are led to think they believe in it from very pure motives, I do not scruple to say, appears to me a libel on human nature, and on the Author of human nature ; it appears to me to be completely destructive of the responsibility of man, and to render the condition of the brutes that perish a more enviable one than his. The proofs however
. which are brought to sustain it, it would be foreign to my present purpose to examine. I would only remark how wholly unjustifiable it is to quote the two passages which I have mentioned-and they are always put at the head of the list of its proofs--as lending any support to it. They are part of the speech of Eliphaz the Temanite, to whom the Lord says at the close of the book, “My wrath is kindled against thee, and against thy two friends; for ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right.” It is clear that a cause must be desperate, which resorts to such arguments as these.
I cannot dismiss this subject without a few practical remarks. The first general impression, which the study of this sublime book will have on a devout and serious mind, will be, that those conclusions are unjustifiable, which refer every
instance of calamity which falls on our neighbour, to the judgment of God for his sins. There has been a
disposition among mankind in all ages, to form such
, conclusions with regard to the course of Providence. The age is not very remote from our own, when it was part of the established law of almost every country,t hat appeals should be made to the immediate judgments of Providence for the proof of innocence or guilt ; and the magistrate looked on at such trials with the expectation of seeing the innocent man tread unhurt on the burning iron. This disposition is even now not wholly extinguished; and there are some who, like the friends of Job, do not fear to erect themselves into interpreters of God's will, and judges of the secret merit or guilt of his creatures. It is a disposition of very mischievous consequences. It is more than once
. expressly reproved by our Saviour himself. It not only nourishes in ourselves a spirit of arrogance and persecution, but tends to shake in the minds of others the belief of any superintending Providence whatever.
The other sentiment which the perusal of the book of Job will inculcate, is that of perfect submission to the will and government of God, however mysterious they may sometimes appear to us. It is one great object of this production to show that the nature and particular reasons of the divine counsels in the dispensations of happiness and misery in this life, are placed by the necessary limits of human knowledge beyond our comprehension. As far as our observation extends, there is nothing in nature, which tends originally and finally to eyil,