Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. GENERAL VIEW OF MAN'S MISERY AND HIS OWN. (Vers. 1-5.) Man is compared to a hireling with an appointed time of service, the end of which is wearily and wistfully looked for. The ideas suggested are
(2) fatigue and exhaustion;
(3) intense longing for rest.
As the slave longs for the lengthening shadows of evening, the hired labourer for pay-time, so the oppressed sufferer, toiling beneath a load of pain, longs for the welcome end of death. He "would 'twere bedtime, and all well." Voluntary and moderate labour is one of the keenest delights of life; but forced and prolonged toll exhausts the very springs of enjoyment. Rest is the reward of moderate exertion, but to the excessive toiler or sufferer it is denied. We have a picture here of the extreme misery of sleeplessness, than which none can be more acute; the tossing through the wakeful hours of darkness, the mind travelling over and over again the same weary track of its melancholy contemplations. It may be appropriate here to think of the great blessing of sleep. Homer termed it "ambrosial." It was one of the great boons of Heaven to suffering mortals. It is "the season of all natures," as Shakespeare beautifully says. It is the preservation of sanity. Connected with this, the lesson of moderate exertion is one needed by many in these busy, striving days; and no less the fault of over-anxiety, and the duty of casting care upon God. on which the gospel insists so strongly. It is the life according to our true nature, and according to simple piety, which brings sound sleep by night, and healthy thought by day.
II. REFLECTION ON THE BREVITY OF LIFE, AND PRAYER. (Vers. 6-10.) The mood of self-pity continues. Then follows a lament on the shortness of life. It is compared to a weaver's shuttle, to smoke, to the vanishing of a cloud, as it is elsewhere compared (Job 9:25) to the hasty passage of a courier, or, in the well-known old story of English history, to the flight of a bird through a hall and out into the darkness again. We may compare the following plaintive passage from the Greek poet AEschylus: -
Ah! friend, behold and see Ah! seest thou not, my friend, 1. There is a constant sense of infirmity in human nature, and of the inexorable law of death. 2. The mind cannot submit patiently to this doom. Dear earthly affections (ver. 8) cry out against it, and unconsciously witness for the immortality of the soul. 3. The thought of utter extinction cannot be endured by an awakened and elevated spirit (ver. 10). These impotences and reluctances in the presence of decay and death are really tokens of immortality. We see them to be so in this instance, in an age when life and immortality were not brought to light. 4. The natural relief from all such sorrows and perplexities is in prayer (ver. 7). The cry, "Oh, remember!" is not unheard by him who knows our frame and remembers that we are dust. There may be the clear consciousness of God where there is not the definite assurance of immortality. But a firm faith in him, when cherished and educated, leads ultimately to the conviction that the soul cannot perish. - J.
Ah! seest thou not, my friend,
1. There is a constant sense of infirmity in human nature, and of the inexorable law of death.
2. The mind cannot submit patiently to this doom. Dear earthly affections (ver. 8) cry out against it, and unconsciously witness for the immortality of the soul.
3. The thought of utter extinction cannot be endured by an awakened and elevated spirit (ver. 10). These impotences and reluctances in the presence of decay and death are really tokens of immortality. We see them to be so in this instance, in an age when life and immortality were not brought to light.
4. The natural relief from all such sorrows and perplexities is in prayer (ver. 7). The cry, "Oh, remember!" is not unheard by him who knows our frame and remembers that we are dust. There may be the clear consciousness of God where there is not the definite assurance of immortality. But a firm faith in him, when cherished and educated, leads ultimately to the conviction that the soul cannot perish. - J.
1. THE COMPARISON OF HUMAN LIFE TO THAT OF THE HIRELING. It is an appointed lot. It is a lot of subjection. It is a life of toil and weariness. In Job's case the comparison is most apt. But his thought is especially upon the longing of the hireling for the close of the day. For this the toil, the heat, the weariness, prepare him. Job's condition is one of hard toil. He is weary even of his life. And his longing for the rest which death alone can bring is the precise point of his comparison. How often does life present no brighter or more beauteous aspect! Its many cares, its disappointments, its multiplied sorrows and keen, penetrating pains make life to many to be as the hard drudgery of the hireling. How many long for death as the hireling for night I In a true sense life is the life of a hireling, and the good Master who has sent us into his vineyard to toil will reward the faithful labourer with his sufficient hire.
II. THE AGGRAVATIONS OF JOB'S LOT. He is to his own view as one whose toil is a grievous one. He is more than weary; and his longing for the shadows of evening is justified by what seems to him to be the hardness of his taskmaster. Earnestly he "desireth the shadow;" for long "months of vanity" he is "made to possess," and "wearisome nights are appointed' to him. When the tired labourer lies down to rest in unconscious sleep, and to gain strength for the toil of the morrow, Job is "full of tossings to and fro." The dawn brings him no refreshment. The fevered night leaves him to encounter unprepared the enemy of the day. His poor afflicted body presents the saddest picture; "worms and clods of dust" clothe it, His "skin is broken;" his sores make his flesh "loathsome" to him, and his "days are spent without hope." From such a sufferer comes the word of complaining. It is little to be wondered at by one who remembers his own frailty. The picture of Job is a lesson for us, and, turning our thoughts from our own healthy life to the sufferings of the afflicted, let us learn our duty, and cherish:
1. The pitifulness of spirit which is due to all sufferers.
2. Their claim upon our help and sympathy.
3. The forbearance with which we should hear their complainings.
4. We also may, in our turn, become the sufferers, and need the comfort we now give to others.
Thus may each man see himself in every sufferer, and learn to give that consolation he himself so soon may need. - R.G.
I. IN A DESIRE FOR THE CLOSE OF LIFE. (Ver. 2.)
II. As A CONTINUOUS DISAPPOINTMENT. (Ver. 3.)
III. As A CEASELESS RESTLESSNESS. (Ver 4.)
IV. AS A REVOLT FROM THE PAINFULNESS OF ITS CIRCUMSTANCES. (Ver. 5.)
V. AS A CONDITION OF HOPELESSNESS. (Ver. 6.) - R.G.
I. LIFE MAY APPEAR LIKE THE DAYS OF A HIRELING.
1. It involves hard toil. The lot of most men is not easy; but some find life a grinding servitude.
2. Its labour is often weary and unattractive. Many people have to work at uninteresting tasks, and only regard their labour as drudgery. There is neither pleasure in the work nor pride in the result of it. If men could all choose their lots, many of the most necessary industries would be entirely abandoned.
3. It is only undertaken for the sake of its rewards. Men work for wages, and, needing the wages, they endure the toil which they detest. This is not only true of what is called the wage-earning portion of the community. It applies also to many who seem to be their own masters, but whose work is undertaken solely for the remuneration which it brings in.
4. The supreme Muster is not seen to take interest in his servants. The laws of life are inexorable. There is no evading the rules of God's great factory in which we are all set to work. Men fall and die at their tasks without visible signs of compassion from their Lord. Thus faith is severely tried, and some weakly ones sink to low views of life and of man's relations to God.
II. IT IS NEITHER HELPFUL NOR RIGHT TO REGARD LIFE AS THE DAYS OF A HIRELING.
1. It is not helpful. Hireling service is never of any great value. The work that is only done for pay is apt to be done hastily if by the piece, and in a wastefully slow and slovenly fashion if by the hour. Until a man puts his heart into his task, he cannot put good work into it. No one can live a worthy life chiefly in the hope of its rewards. The service of God which is only undertaken that good things may be obtained from God is degrading and of little worth. The Christian who lives solely on the hope of heaven is spending a poor life on earth. We have to discover higher motives and to serve God joyfully and lovingly, because his service is delightful, and because we love him.
2. It is not right. The hireling idea of life is delusively suggested to us by a superficial view of facts and by a low tone in our own minds. But it is completely false, for God does not treat us as hirelings. He knows our frame, and remembers that we are dust. He is our Father, and he pities us as his children. And therefore we owe to him more than a hired servants drudgery - we owe filial obedience and the rich service of love. Now, when we have learnt to take right views of God and his service, the miserable, degrading idea of the hireling's lot drops off, and a much nobler and happier conception of life dawns upon us. Then the most common task ceases to be a piece of drudgery and becomes a labour of love. By a gracious law of providence it seems to be ordered that any duty which is undertaken conscientiously and heartily becomes interesting and even a source of pleasure. So while the hireling longs for the shadow that tells of the declining day and of the end of his task, the faithful Christian makes the most of his day of service, knowing "that the night cometh, wherein no man can work." - W.F.A.
1. His days are swifter than the weaver's shuttle (ver. 6).
2. They are as the wind (ver. 7).
3. They are as the glance of the eye (ver. 8).
4. They are as the cloud which is consumed, and which vanisheth away (ver. 9).
To what course of conduct should such a reflection lead? If life be so swiftly passed, can anything be done to abate its apparent evil? What is becoming to him whose days thus flee away?
1. A diligent and careful use and husbanding of time.
2. A concentration of attention on life's essential work, avoiding all frivolous occupations of time which rob the soul of its days and leave no residuum of blessing or benefit.
3. A careful guard against confining the pursuits of life to those things which can be attained only in this present world.
4. A just estimate of the value of immortality, and a due attention to the interests that relate to it.
5. A patient endurance of life's sorrows, seeing they will soon close; and a moderate absorption in life's pleasures, for they speedily pass away. Life is very brief, but it is long enough to enable every one to lay hold on eternal life, to prepare himself for that eternal life, and to do work that hereafter may be reflected upon with pleasure. - R.G.
I. THE MELANCHOLY BREVITY OF LIFE. "The velocity of time," says Seneca, "is infinite, and is most apparent to those who look back." This is one of the most trite topics of conventional moralists. Yet it is one which each individual man feels with a startled shock of surprise when it comes directly home to him in experience. We say that life is short, but we do not believe it till we are reminded of the fact by ugly surprises. Then we feel that the flying shuttle, the melting shadow, the tale hastening to a close, are not more transitory than life. We are but creatures of a day in the light of God's eternity.
II. THE VANITY OF EARTHLY AMBITIONS. We lay our foundations, but we have not time to put the corner-stone on our cherished design before we are called hence. The tools drop from our hands ere we have accomplished our purposes. The mirage of life fades before its paradise has been attained. We start with great hopes, but our hairs are gray before we have begun to realize them, and we are in our graves before they are fulfilled.
III. THE FOLLY OF IMPATIENCE. Let us be fair. If the joys of life are fleeting, so also are its pains. Though our lot be hard, the hardship will not be long. Job seems to complain that, if life is so short, it is cruel to spoil it with trouble. It seems sad that so little a day should be robbed of its brief sunshine. But, on the other hand, if the day is one of pain and bitterness, may we not be thankful that the evening hasteneth on?
IV. THE DUTY OF UNSELFISHNESS. We make too much of our own individual lives, as though the world existed for ourselves. This is like the shuttle fancying that the loom belongs to it, and was made entirely to suit its convenience. Nay, it is worse: it is like the shuttle thinking the loom was made for one throw, one thread. We must learn to understand that we exist for a larger purpose. Slowly enough the great web of time is woven, though each throw of the shuttle is so swift. God is thinking of the whole.
V. THE MYSTERY OF A DIVINE PURPOSE. The shuttle knows not why it is flung across the threads. But it is working out an unseen design. The seemingly aimless and wasted throw is essential to the weaving of the pattern of the whole fabric. God has a purpose with each of our lives. Even the briefest life which is lived in obedience to God cannot be wasted. God's great loom will work it into his eternal design.
VI. THE NECESSITY OF A FUTURE LIFE. The animals are satisfied with their ephemeral existence. They have no melancholy reflections on the brevity of life. It is only to man that this earthly existence seems to be contemptibly short. Why? Because in his breast there dwells the instinct of immortality - an instinct whose very existence is a mute prophecy of its future satisfaction, since he who planted it will not disappoint it. The shuttle is not destroyed after its swift flight. This brief life carries us on to the endless ages of the Divine future. - W.F.A.
I. LOST TIME IS IRRECOVERABLE. We can never overtake the days that we have let slip by us in heedless idleness. A wasted youth is an irretrievable disaster; manhood cannot possibly go back and make up for the deficiencies of youth. At best we can but do the duties of to-day; it will be foolish to neglect these in attempting to pick up those of yesterday. A misused opportunity will never return. The memories of a happy and long-lost past may dwell with us as sweetest dreams, but they can never bring back the days of old. Joy, sorrows, busy scenes, quiet scenes, - all have melted away like the mountains and palaces of cloudland.
II. EARTHLY LIFE WILL NEVER RETURN. The pagan doctrine of metempsychosis finds no support in Scripture. We live but once on earth. Let us, then, make the best of this one earthly life; it is the only one we have. We might think we could afford to squander it a little recklessly if we had a dozen more lives to fall back upon. But we have no reserves. All our forces are in the field. We must win the battle at once or we shall be utterly undone. The duties, joys, sorrows, of life are with us this once. Let us use them in the highest possible service, that our one life may be a good life. Our dear ones are with us for one life only. Let us be patient with them and kind to them. When we have lost them we can never have them back to atone for our ungenerous treatment of them.
III. WE HAVE THIS ONE OPPORTUNITY OF PREPARING FOR THE FUTURE. We now know that death does not end all. But it ends the sowing-time, After death there is the harvest. What is sown in the present life must be reaped in the great coming age. If this life is misspent, it will go for ever, and we shall have no opportunity to come back to the world and make a better preparation for the great day of reckoning. We cannot buy oil for our vessels when the cry of the bridegroom's coming awakes the night.
IV. WE CAN LOOK FORWARD TO RISING TO A BETTER LIFE. It is foolish to take Old Testament texts as giving us a finality of truth. In their limitation they sometimes show us only the imperfection of the earlier knowledge. Job did not know the Christian revelation of redemption, though sometimes he seems to have caught glimpses of it. But we, knowing more, should have brighter hopes. Our guide is not Job in his despair, but Christ in his victory. We shall not rise on earth. But we can look forward to a resurrection-life in heaven, when we shall meet those long-lost but never. forgotten friends who have gone on before us. - W.F.A.
I. SUFFERINGS MISUNDERSTOOD. One might suppose, he argues, from these intense oppressions, that he was some dangerous creature, who could not be chained down too closely nor be watched too narrowly (ver. 12) - one to whom not a moment's rest must be given, that he may not in his freedom commit some terrible injury. But is he such a being? is he a sea, or a living monster of the deep, to be so sharply tormented and guarded by God? Just so, he says (Job 13:20, "Thou puttest my feet in the stocks, and watchest narrowly all my paths; thou settest a print upon the heels of my feet." Not even in sleep can he find rest - weakest and least dangerous of creatures though he be (vers. 13, 14).
II. RASH RESOLVES OF DESPAIR. (Vers. 15, 16.) He will rather be stifled, or in any way court death, than longer carry about this living skeleton, this wretched body which consists only of bones (comp. Job 19:20). He has a disgust for life, will not live for ever, for he has already lived too long.
III. APPEAL TO THE JUSTICE OF GOD (Vers. 17-21.) After a renewed and passionate demand (ver. 16) that God may give him at least a moment's rest, since his life is already as good as vanished, and cannot abide, his language becomes somewhat more tranquil and contemplative.
1. Questionings: the insignificance of man as an object of Divine regard. (Vers. 17-19.) We may compare the question of the psalmist (Isaiah 8:4). It is there suggested by the magnificence of the mighty heavens: what is man in comparison with that vast and brilliant aggregate of constellations? Here the question is suggested by the greatness of the sufferers misery. What worth can he possess either for good or for evil, that he should be made the object of this incessant Divine attention? The answer to these obstinate questionings is found in the gospel. There man learns that it is the greatness and the value of the soul which makes him the object of the Divine pursuit; and then he learns, above all, that that pursuit is not inspired by the vengeance of an irritated adversary, or the caprice of an unjust tormentor, but by the love of an eternal Father, who chastises men for their profit, that they may be partakers of his holiness.
2. Consciousness of guilt. (Vers. 20, 21.) For the first time there is a reference on the part of Job to the concealed cause of suffering - sin. But it is only a general consciousness of infirmity, and an admission that possibly there may have been unwitting error on his part. He cannot confess a special sin of which his friends suppose him guilty, but of which his conscience is free. The words are rendered by some, "If I failed in that which I do unto thee, Preserver of men, why," etc.? Thus deeper than the sense of sin, deepest conviction of all in his heart, is:
3. Instinctive trust in the goodness of God. His reasoning is as follows: It may be necessary that God should punish man for guilt; but is this to hold so strictly that every slightest omission is severely scrutinized and sorely punished by God? Surely man is neither so strong for resistance to error, nor so dangerous, that he should be treated so harshly and jealously? Why, if there has been some fault in the conduct of Job, as seen by those all-penetrating eyes, does God loose all his arrows against him like a hunter aiming at a fixed mark (comp. Job 6:4; Job 16:12), shooting at him the poisonous darts of disease and suffering till he can no longer endure himself? Why does not God rather pardon him before it is too late, as, alas! according to all appearance, it now is, as Job sees nothing before him but the grave? This is no conflict of an infidel or rebellious spirit against its Maker. It is the pleading of a true child with its Father in heaven. It is the struggle of the soul against the iron pressure of that which we have learned to call natural law. The individual suffers, is sometimes crushed by natural law, while the mass are benefited. But above law is God. And out of this long picture of troubled thought the truth will presently flash into splendour, that in that loving and holy will of a Father the soul, emancipated from the troubles of time, shall find its eternal rest. - J.
I. THE CRY OF DESPAIR IS WRUNG FROM THE HEART ONLY IN ITS EXTREMEST SUFFERINGS. Brave and strong as the human spirit may be under suffering, there comes a moment when its strength fails. It reaches a climax of pain and anguish. It can hold out no more; and, in the passionate haste for relief, seeks it in its wild cry of despair. "I will speak in the anguish of my spirit."
II. THE CRY OF DESPAIR IS VAIN. It fails to give ease to the suffering flesh; and, though an expression of the soul's anguish, in itself it is powerless to relieve that anguish. It is liable to excite but to rebelliousness. It is as the struggle of one enclosed in a strong net; or as the folly of a child, in wild passion, kicking with bare foot against the stony rock.
III. THE CRY OF DESPAIR, BEING OFTEN, AS HERE, A CRY OF DEFIANT COMPLAINT, TENDS TO ROUSE THE SOUL TO WICKED REBELLIOUSNESS. There is no restraint put upon the agitated soul. It is let loose in unrestricted freedom to declare, not its calm judgment, but its uttermost complaint, goaded on by the severities of acute suffering. "I will not refrain my mouth."
IV. THE CRY OF DESPAIR SPRINGS FROM, AND AT THE SAME TIME PROMOTES, ERRONEOUS VIEWS OF LIFE AND ITS ISSUES. Job is so far led astray that he chooses "strangling and death rather than life:" So completely is his judgment in abeyance that he knows no other alternative. Possibly it is the aim of the poet to show that Job's knowledge of the future is insufficient to counteract the sorrows and evils of the present.
V. THE CRY OF DESPAIR IS DESERVING OF PITY. When the soul is driven by fierce affliction to such an extremity, it is a proper object for the most tender compassion and patient forbearance. As men are patient with the demented, so they have need to be with him who, by despair, is driven off from the balanced, calm judgment and just thought.
VI. IT IS NOT TO BE FORGOTTEN THAT THE CRY OF HUMAN DESPAIR PIERCES TO THE EAR OF THE ALMIGHTY, THE ALL-HELPFUL ONE. Even the sigh of a contrite heart is heard; so also the wail of despair. The human extremity is the Divine opportunity. Job will ultimately prove that God has not forgotten him. - R.G.
I. DREAM-TERRORS ARE REAL IN EXPERIENCE. Look at the man in a nightmare, how he groans and shrieks! We smile at his fancied troubles. Yet to him, while he endures them, they are very real. We feel according to our subjective state, not according to our objective circumstances. Souls are tortured by day-dreams which have no better foundation than those of the night, yet are not their distresses the less acute. Superstition peoples the heavens with dream-fancies of horror. There are no corresponding realities. Yet the victims of superstition are in real agony. An enormous amount of terrible mental suffering seems to be experienced by the heathen in their superstitious terrors of malignant divinities. One happy result of Christian missionary work is to sweep away those gloomy dreams, and bring the peace and confidence of Christian daylight to the benighted regions of the world.
II. SOME OF OUR WORST DISTRESSES HAVE NO BETTER FOUNDATION THAN IDLE DREAMS. They are terrible so long as we are under their spell; but if we only knew they were but fancies of the diseased mind, we should be relieved of their incubus. Note some of these.
1. The idea that God is opposed to us. This was Job's thought. He thought that even his ill dreams came from God, and that it was God who was scaring him. The too common notion in religion was and is that God is averse to us, and that we have to do something to win his favour, whereas the Scriptures tell us that he loves us and seeks us to be reconciled to him, and that, instead of our needing to do something to make him gracious, he has given his Son to redeem us to himself.
2. The notion that our sins are incurable. People will not believe that holiness is possible; therefore of course they do not have it, because they have not the heart of hope to seek it. We scare ourselves with ugly dreams of our own irretrievably ruined condition. Our sin is not a dream, but our despair is one.
3. The terror of death. To the Christian this is but an idle dream. Death is no hideous Miltonic monster, but the servant of Christ, Dying is the advent of Christ to the soul that lives in Christ's service.
III. CHRIST HAS COME TO DISPEL IDLE DREAMS. We are troubled about God's dealings with us because we do not know him. We have but to acquaint ourselves with him in order to be at peace (Job 22:21). Christ reveals God in his Fatherhood. There are reasonable fears that are no dreams, but which spring from our consciousness of guilt. Often the dream is found in the illusion that ignores or excuses sin. Christ dispels that dream by revealing a dread reality, but only that he may lead us through repentance to pardon. Then all terrors of the night flee away in the glad daylight of God's love. - W.F.A.
must man be that thou takest such knowledge of him?" The answer is only to be found in a just view of the real greatness of human life. The human greatness is seen -
I. IN THE CAPABILITIES OF THE HUMAN MIND. All truth may be stored in it. It is exalted by its great capacities for knowledge, memory, reason, judgment, etc.
II. IN THE CAPACITY OF THE HUMAN SPIRIT FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS. Every holy emotion may find a home in the human soul. Every lofty sentiment sweep across it as any strain across a lyre. All holy affections may be cherished. Man may know and love the highest objects of knowledge and affection. He may illustrate nobleness, patience, charity, faith, hope, gentleness - every grace.
III. HUMAN GREATNESS IS FURTHER SEEN IN THE WIDESPREAD INFLUENCE OF HUMAN ACTION. To-day the world is living in the light of the deeds of Job's life. The impulses of the deeds of past millenniums are felt to-day. A wide illustration possible.
IV. IN THE SKILFULNESS OF THE HUMAN HAND.
V. IN THE SUPREMACY OF MAN IN THE EARTH.
VI. IN THE DESTINY OF MAN, AND ESPECIALLY IN HIS ENDOWMENT OF IMMORTALITY. Although of earth, he aspires to heaven; though a child of time, he rises to eternity; though sinful, he can illustrate all holiness.
VII. THE HIGHEST EVIDENCE OF THE GREATNESS OF THE HUMAN LIFE SEEN IN THE INCARNATION, wherein the Divine life could manifest itself through the medium of the human. When life is thus duly estimated, and when it is known that the sorrows of life are used for its chastening and perfecting, then the answer is found to the question Ñ Why dost thou "try him every moment"? It is because life is so precious and so capable of culture and deserving of it, that he thus seeks to discipline, refine, instruct, and perfect it. - R.G.
Psalm 8:5. While following the form of the psalmist's language, and proceeding on the same general thesis, they suggest a very different inference. The psalmist was amazed at the condescension of God in noticing man, and filled with wonder at the honour that is put on so puny a creature. But Job is here represented as expressing his dismay that God should stoop to try and trouble so small a being. There is no equality in the contest, and it appears to Job as though God were taking advantage of the weakness of his victim. In spite of Job's perplexity and shortsighted complaints, there are truths behind what he says. We must endeavour to disentangle these truths, and separate them from the illusions unworthy of the goodness of God with which they are confused.
I. GOD IS WRONGLY CHARGED WITH WHAT HE DOES NOT DO. We know from the prologue that it is not God, but Satan, who is the "watcher of men," in the sense of the spy who delights to pounce on a fault and to worry the miserable in their helplessness. Most of the sufferings of life do not come directly from the Divine will, but proceed from the injustice of other men, from our own faults and mistakes, and from "spiritual wickedness in high places." We must beware of the dualism which would give this evil an independent power over against God. Satan can only go as far as God permits him. Still, the evil is from Satan, not from God. It is sin, not providence, that brings the greatest trouble of life, and yet providence overrules that trouble for ultimate good. I[. THE SUFFERER IS TEMPTED TO MAGNIFY HIS OWN IMPORTANCE. Job's troubles were unique. But every sufferer is tempted to think that no one was ever troubled as he is. Feeling his own pain most intensely, he is inclined to make this the central experience of the universe, and to fancy that he is singled out for peculiar attacks of adversity. Job, however, generalizes, and regards himself as a specimen of mankind. Man himself seems unduly marked out for affliction. But no one is justified in coming to this conclusion till he knows how other beings are treated. It may be that man's hardships are but a part, and a fair part, of the hardships of the universe.
III. TO BE SPECIALLY TROUBLED IS TO BE MAGNIFIED IN IMPORTANCE. If it be so that man is specially singled out for affliction, no doubt a peculiar, though a most painful, importance is attached to him. Job becomes a great figure in Scripture through his troubles. Christ, crowned with thorns, is most significant on his cross. The sublimity of supreme sorrow is the inspiration of tragedy. Man is sometimes called out of his littleness by being made to suffer greatly. If God has a hand in all human sufferings - as God had in Job's, behind Satan - he is honouring man by condescending to permit him to receive exceptional trials.
IV. GREAT SUFFERING IS PERMITTED FOR THE SAKE OF GREAT GOOD. This is seen in the final outcome of Job's sufferings. They throw light on the higher life, and demonstrate the existence of disinterested devotion. The parody in Job is not so far from the original in the psalm. It is wonderful that God should permit human life to be honoured as the theatre in which the great tragedy of the conflict between evil and good is displayed. God is not stooping to torment men - like a giant torturing an insect - as to Job he appears to be doing with surprising effort. He is condescending to lead man on to greatness through suffering. - W.F.A.
I. THE EXPECTATION OF UNLIMITED FORGIVENESS. This is based on the power and on the goodness of God.
1. His power. The leper prayed, "If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean" (Mark 1:40). Does not the saying apply to the cleansing from sin? Is God not able to purge sin completely out of the universe? For if he cannot do so, must we not say that God is limited, and therefore not Almighty, i.e. not God?
2. His goodness. He cannot wish to see evil continuing. His name is Love, and therefore he must desire the salvation of all. He is our Father, and it must be a pain to him to be separated from his children. Surely his goodness must incline him to universal pardon. His power would seem to make that possible. Therefore does it not seem reasonable to expect it?
II. THE EXPERIENCE OF LIMITED FORGIVENESS. The expectation is not realized.
1. The forgiveness is limited in extent. God's forgiveness is not freely bestowed on every sinner. There are multitudes who are still "in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity." Whilst the gospel is offered to all, very many people still perish in their sins. The universalism which would seem to spring from infinite power and love is not witnessed in actual life.
2. The forgiveness is limited intensively; i.e. those who are not forgiven are not freed from all trouble, neither do they find that sin no longer belongs to them. The first sense of Divine pardon is like a glimpse of heaven; but before long. the joy gives place to disappointment, as evil consequences of old sins are found to follow us still, and even those sins themselves do not appear to be utterly slain.
III. THE EXPLANATION OF THE LIMITS OF FORGIVENESS. God treats us as moral agents. Forgiveness is not simply the relaxation of penalties; it is personal reconciliation. Punishment is not vengeance, but chastisement required by love as much as by justice. Hence we may deduce the explanation:
1. Men have free-wills. God desires to save all, and can save all, yet some do not wish to be saved. Then God respects the liberty which he has conferred. It must be observed that, as pardon is personal reconciliation to God, many who would be glad of release from sufferings, hat who do not desire reconciliation, do not really wish for pardon.
2. Repentance is essential to forgiveness. It would be had in every way - hurtful to the sinner, as well as unjust - to forgive a man who did not repent of his sin. Indeed, the pardon would be a moral contradiction.
3. Forgiveness does not involve a removal of all the consequences of sin. The man who has wrecked health and fortune in sin does not become strong and rich by pardon. Natural consequences continue. Healing chastisements continue. Perhaps the penitent suffers because he is forgiven. God has not deserted him. He has visited him in love. Therefore it is a mistake to suppose' with Job, that great trouble is a proof that God does not pardon transgression.
4. Sin needs an atonement. It cannot be forgiven without a sacrifice which we have in Christ (Hebrews 10:12). - W.F.A.