Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
Then answered Eliphaz the Temanite, and said,Humbling Questions
I. 'Art thou the first man that was born?' There must have been a first man. He might possibly have had some measure of independence from a merely superficial view of himself, but he had no real independence, he was part of the next man that was coming, and thus we belong to posterity as well as ancestry, and we hand on the life which we have often stained and spoiled. If I am not the first man that was born, if I am not the only man, then it follows that I must consult some other man. We belong to one another. Your friend knows better than you do how certain cases stand, because you may be part and parcel of the cases, and he stands aside or at a proper distance giving them the right proportion, perspective, and colour, and he, being a wise man, can tell you what to do, and you in your turn may be able to render the same service to him. We belong to one another. There is but one Man—multifold, but one.
II. Thus God makes one man debtor to another, and so creates mutual interests. When you 'take a man in,' using a commercial phrase, you do not enrich yourself. That is curious, but it is true. You enrich yourself apparently or for the moment, you increase your possessions for the moment at least; but you do not really enrich yourself, your soul, and there is no abiding, no durableness, in the stuff that you get with a thief's hand. Honesty is rich, economy is wealth; he who has few wants has many riches.
We are debtors to one another, because the first man belongs to the second man, and the second man to the first man, and when a third man comes they will be divided and sub-divided, and when the three-hundredth man comes we shall begin to shape our relations and define our responsibilities, and make that marvellous star called Society, that no telescope can see thoroughly into and which no calculation can estimate at its full and enduring value. We are members one of another, like the jointed body. This is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes.
III. Applying this line of thought to the highest spiritual things, let us remember that we did not invent the Gospel. This is no modern thought; this is no yesterday's ware turned out of some oven in the manufacturing districts. This is older than man. The Cross is older than Adam; the Cross is just as old as the love of God. When you have fixed the date of the birth of the love of God you have fixed the date of the meaning of the Cross. Yet if we come into historical times, say into Mosaic years, we shall find the Cross in the book of Genesis, we shall find the Cross in the book of Revelation. Jesus Christ is the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world. Our temptation is to amend the Gospel, to add something to it or take something from it, or set our own finger-mark upon its beauty. If we could but deliver the Gospel instead of attempting to invent it, we might do some good. 'I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received.' That was the apostolic declaration, and if we would be in the apostolic succession we must do exactly what the Apostle Paul himself did: he 'received' the Gospel and 'delivered' it. That is all we have to do; or if we make any contribution to it, which we cannot make to its substance, but to its illustration, it must be the contribution of our own personal experience in agonizing prayer, in self-crucifixion, and in the dwelling with God in secret places where the fountains throw up their healing waters for our refreshment and our renewal. The Gospel is in every bush of the summer, in every bird of the air, in every act of suffering, in the vicarious mother and the vicarious father: these are parables given to us to help us understand the central Gospel, which is that Jesus Christ tasted death for every man.
—Joseph Parker, City Temple Pulpit, vol. III. p. 270.
Compare Fitzgerald's remark (Letters, i. p. 231) about a certain vicar, 'he is a good deal in the secrets of Providence'.
'I had a letter from Edward Irving the other day,' wrote Carlyle in 1826 to his brother. '"The Lord," he says, "blesses him; his Church rejoices in the Lord"; in fact, the Lord and he seem to be quite hand and glove.'
Reference.—XV. 11.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxv. No. 2099.
Some apparent advantages followed for a season from a rule which had its origin in a violent and perfidious usurpation, and which was upheld by all the arts of moral corruption, political enervation, and military repression. The advantages lasted long enough to create in this country a steady and powerful opinion that Napoleon the Third's early crime was redeemed by the seeming prosperity which followed. The shocking prematureness of this shallow condonation is now too glaringly visible for any one to deny it. Not often in history has the great truth that 'morality is the nature of things' received corroboration so prompt and timely.
—Morley, Compromise, pp. 25, 26.
Should a wise man utter vain knowledge, and fill his belly with the east wind?
Should he reason with unprofitable talk? or with speeches wherewith he can do no good?
Yea, thou castest off fear, and restrainest prayer before God.
For thy mouth uttereth thine iniquity, and thou choosest the tongue of the crafty.
Thine own mouth condemneth thee, and not I: yea, thine own lips testify against thee.
Art thou the first man that was born? or wast thou made before the hills?
Hast thou heard the secret of God? and dost thou restrain wisdom to thyself?
What knowest thou, that we know not? what understandest thou, which is not in us?
With us are both the grayheaded and very aged men, much elder than thy father.
Are the consolations of God small with thee? is there any secret thing with thee?
Why doth thine heart carry thee away? and what do thy eyes wink at,
That thou turnest thy spirit against God, and lettest such words go out of thy mouth?
What is man, that he should be clean? and he which is born of a woman, that he should be righteous?
Behold, he putteth no trust in his saints; yea, the heavens are not clean in his sight.
How much more abominable and filthy is man, which drinketh iniquity like water?
I will shew thee, hear me; and that which I have seen I will declare;
Which wise men have told from their fathers, and have not hid it:
Unto whom alone the earth was given, and no stranger passed among them.
The wicked man travaileth with pain all his days, and the number of years is hidden to the oppressor.
A dreadful sound is in his ears: in prosperity the destroyer shall come upon him.
He believeth not that he shall return out of darkness, and he is waited for of the sword.
He wandereth abroad for bread, saying, Where is it? he knoweth that the day of darkness is ready at his hand.
Trouble and anguish shall make him afraid; they shall prevail against him, as a king ready to the battle.
For he stretcheth out his hand against God, and strengtheneth himself against the Almighty.
He runneth upon him, even on his neck, upon the thick bosses of his bucklers:
Because he covereth his face with his fatness, and maketh collops of fat on his flanks.
And he dwelleth in desolate cities, and in houses which no man inhabiteth, which are ready to become heaps.
He shall not be rich, neither shall his substance continue, neither shall he prolong the perfection thereof upon the earth.
He shall not depart out of darkness; the flame shall dry up his branches, and by the breath of his mouth shall he go away.
Let not him that is deceived trust in vanity: for vanity shall be his recompence.
It shall be accomplished before his time, and his branch shall not be green.
He shall shake off his unripe grape as the vine, and shall cast off his flower as the olive.
For the congregation of hypocrites shall be desolate, and fire shall consume the tabernacles of bribery.
They conceive mischief, and bring forth vanity, and their belly prepareth deceit.