Should God repay you on your own terms when you have disavowed His? You must choose, not I; so tell me what you know.
I. THE LIMITS THAT RESULT FROM OUR OWN IMPERFECTION.
1. Ignorance. The best judge cannot decide aright till all the facts are laid before him. We know but a few of the circumstances that determine the action of Providence; and we do not know the laws and principles that have to be applied.
2. Prejudice. We are not impartial judges; our justice is not blindfold; our scales are not even. Pride, self-interest, and passion blind our eyes and warp our judgment.
3. Sin. This is worse than prejudice; it is a directly deceiving influence. It leads us to ignore moral distinctions, and even to call evil good. We are unjust judges concerning truth when we are the enemies of the highest truth and justice.
4. Natural weakness. Apart from all these defective conditions, there are natural conditions that limit our powers of judgment. With all possible enlightenment and moral rectification we should still remain human, i.e. we should still be creatures of very small capacity in regard to the great problems of the universe. These problems are too high for us; we cannot attain unto them. They baffle thought.
II. THE LIMITS THAT RESULT FROM THE GREATNESS OF GOD. Our imperfection limits us in judging all questions; but more especially does it limit us in estimating the action of God. The special idea of Elihu is that we cannot judge of God's providential dealings with us. The three friends were wrong in their defence of it - as Job said, "speaking wickedly for God; ' and Job was wrong in thinking hardly of it. For neither party was in a position to decide about it. We cannot choose our own course in the world wisely, much less can we decide how God shall act. The greatness of God and of his works far exceeds the range of our view.
1. Supreme wisdom. Ideas quite above our comprehension rule in the purposes of God.
2. Large designs. God is not confined to the consideration of a single individual or a little circle; he administers a universe. Therefore his schemes and purposes must far exceed our view in the extent of their range as well as in the character of their aim.
3. Perfect goodness. God must decide aright, for in him is no evil. His holiness and love should make us feel that we dare not sit in judgment on his actions. If they are dark to us, they are so from excess of light. - W.F.A.
Should it be according to thy mind?
I. DO MEN REALLY THINK THAT THINGS SHOULD BE ACCORDING TO THEIR MIND?
1. Concerning God. Their ideas of Him are according to what they think He should be; but could He be God at all if He were such as the human mind would have Him to be?
2. Concerning Providence on a large scale, would men rewrite history? Do they imagine that their arrangements would be an improvement upon infinite wisdom? In their own case they would arrange all matters selfishly. Should it be so?
3. Concerning the Gospel, its doctrines, its precepts, its results, should men have their own way? Should the atonement be left out, or the statement of it be modified to suit them?
4. Concerning the Church. Should they be head and lord? Should their liberal ideas erase inspiration? Should Baptism and the Lord's Supper be distorted to gratify them? Should taste override Divine commands? Should the ministry exist only for their special consolation, and be moulded at their bidding?
II. WHAT LEADS THEM TO THINK SO?
1. Self-importance and selfishness.
2. Self-conceit and pride.
3. A murmuring spirit which must needs grumble at everything.
4. Want of faith in Christ leading to a doubt of the power of His Gospel.
5. Want of love to God, souring the mind and leading it to kick at a thing simply because the Lord prescribes it.
III. WHAT A MERCY THAT THINGS ARE NOT ACCORDING TO THEIR MIND!
1. God's glory would be obscured.
2. Many would suffer to enable one man to play the dictator. —
3. We should, any one of us, have an awful responsibility resting upon us if our own mind had the regulation of affairs.
4. Our temptations would be increased. We should be proud if we succeeded, and despairing if we met with failure.
5. Our desires would become more greedy.
6. Our sins would he uncorrected; for we should never allow a rod or a rebuke to come at us.
7. There would be universal strife; for every man would want to rule and command (James 4:5).If it ought to be according to your mind, why not according to mine?
IV. LET US CHECK THE SPIRIT WHICH SUGGESTS SUCH CONCEIT.
1. It is impracticable; for things can never be, as so many different minds would have them.
2. It is unreasonable; for things ought not so to be.
3. It is unchristian; for even Christ Jesus pleased not Himself, but cried, "Not as I will" (Matthew 26:39).
4. It is atheistic; for it dethrones God to set up puny man. Pray God to bring your mind to His will. Cultivate admiration for the arrangements of the Divine mind. Above all, accept the Gospel as it is, and accept it now.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
Homilist.I. SHOULD THE ARRANGEMENTS OF LIFE BE ACCORDING TO THY MIND? Those who are constantly murmuring under the dispensations of Providence should remember —
1. The circumscribed sphere of their observation.
2. The limitation of human faculties.
3. The brevity of man's mortal existence.
4. The narrowness of human sympathies.
II. SHOULD THE METHOD OF REDEMPTION BE ACCORDING TO THY MIND? There are many who raise objections to Christianity. Many who imagine that they could have constructed a better system of spiritual redemption. Two facts convince us that the human mind is utterly incompetent to form a scheme for spiritual restoration.
1. The mistakes it has made on the subject in interpreting nature.
2. The mistakes it has made on the subject in interpreting Christianity. The perverters of the Gospel plan of salvation may be divided into two grand classes.(1) Those that infer from Christianity that they can be saved by a mere intellectual faith in certain theological propositions.(2) Those that infer that they can be saved by an external observance of certain ceremonies — the intervention of priests, the invocation of saints, the observance of sacraments, etc. Thus we say to the captious sceptic, we cannot have a system of religion according to thy mind. Thy mind is utterly unsuited to construct a religion redemptive to man and acceptable to God. "Eye hath not seen, ear hath not heard," etc.
I. TO HAVE THINGS ACCORDING TO OUR MIND IS A VERY COMMON WISH. Man is naturally self-willed. The disposition appears very early in our children. All sin is a contention against the will of God. It began in Paradise. Enter the world of grace. Behold the revelation which God has given us. One deems it unnecessary; for a second it is too simple; for a third it is too mysterious. We seek to be justified by our own works, while the Gospel assures us we must be justified by the faith of Christ. The same is seen in the world of providence. Who is content with such things as he has? Who does not covet what is denied him? Who does not long to be at his own disposal? But is not this disposition crushed in conversion? Alas, too much of self-will remains even in the choicest saints. We are far from saying that they would have nothing done according to God's mind, but they are often solicitous to have too many things done according to their own.
II. THE DESIRE IS UNREASONABLE. For we are wholly unqualified to govern; while God is in every way adequate to the work in which He is engaged. Nothing can be more absurd than to labour to displease Him, and substitute ourselves as the creators of destiny, the regulators of events. Have you not often found yourselves mistaken where you thought yourselves most sure? Have you not frequently erred in judging yourselves, and generally erred in judging others? And hove can we decide on the means which the Supreme Being employs, while we are ignorant of the reasons which move Him, and the plan which He holds in view?
III. THE DESIRE IS CRIMINAL. The sources are bad.
1. It argues ingratitude. It is infinite condescension in God to be "mindful of us." For all this He surely deserves our thankful acknowledgments, and we insult Him with murmuring complaints.
2. It springs from discontent. It shows that we are dissatisfied with His dealings, for if we were not dissatisfied why do we desire a change?
3. It betrays earthly-mindedness. The soul feels it when "cleaving to the dust." According to our attachments will be, all through life, our afflictions and our perplexities. More attached are we to our fleshy interests than to our spiritual concerns.
4. It is the produce of impatience. This will suffer no delay, and bear no denial.
5. It is the offspring of pride and independence. It is a presumptuous invasion of the authority and prerogative of God. Your place is the footstool, not the throne. Maintain your distance here, and do not encroach on the Divine rights.
IV. THE DESIRE IS DANGEROUS. If it were accomplished, all parties would suffer, — God, our fellow creatures, and ourselves. In a word, you would be too ignorant to choose well. In order to determine what will promote our happiness, it is necessary for us to know the things themselves from among which we are to make our choice. Nor is it less needful to understand ourselves, For a man must be adapted to his condition, or he will never be happy in it. Here another difficulty occurs. It is impossible for us to judge of ourselves in untried circumstances and connections. We are not only liable to err on the side of our hopes, but also of our fears.
V. THE DESIRE IS IMPRACTICABLE.
1. The desires of mankind are often opposite to each other; hence they cannot all be accomplished.
2. The plan of Divine government is already fixed. Learn —
(1) (2) (3) (Willlam Jay.)
(2) (3) (Willlam Jay.)
(3) (Willlam Jay.)
(A. B. Jack, D. D.)
I. AS HIGHLY PRESUMPTUOUS. Look at the lesson of experience. In all their estimates men are not merely liable to mistakes, but they constantly fall into them. The very events to which men are chiefly indebted for their happiness are not of their own contriving. It is the testimony of experience, that we neither understand well how to choose events, nor how to control them. The presumption is still more strikingly apparent if we reflect on our own incompetence to govern. Can we even look through time? Can we cast an eye over immensity and through eternity? The presumption is still more striking when we reflect on our inability by comparison or contrast. What is man, and what is God?
II. THIS DESIRE, IF ACCOMPLISHED WOULD BE FATAL TO THE HIGHEST AND BEST INTERESTS. What would become of the glory of God? The effects would not be less fatal to the interests of any community. It would be equally fatal to the individual interests of lash. And still more fatal to their spiritual interests. How differently we should order events from the manner in which God orders them, if things might be according to our mind.
III. THIS STATE OF MIND IS HIGHLY OFFENSIVE TO GOD. It betrays almost every evil temper and disposition. It shows a sordid attachment to our own selfish interests. This desire betrays also dissatisfaction with God. It bespeaks ingratitude to God. It is in direct rebellion against God. To govern the world is the prerogative of God. To wish to change the administration at all is an invasion of that prerogative, and high treason against the King of kings. It is distrust of God. Remarks —
1. Submission to the Divine will is necessary to secure the blessings which we need.
2. Acquiescence in the Divine will is a duty which respects a/l events.
3. Let this subject support us under the trials of this world, and animate us in our way to a better.
(N. W. Taylor, D. D.)
I. WITH RESPECT TO THE EXTENT OF THE DIVINE LAW. We allow His right to govern. God claims to govern the opinions of men; to regulate the will, by a wise adjustment of its degrees of choice to the degrees of moral goodness.
II. WITH RESPECT TO RELIGION AS A MATTER OF EXPERIENCE. If it were "according to thy mind," what would be the system of experimental piety set before us?
III. WITH REFERENCE TO THE METHOD OF OUR PARDON AS SINNERS. That beings who have so greatly offended should ever stand upon being pardoned in a way prescribed by themselves to their greatly-offended God, though a strange fact, is yet established. And here man claims, proudly and petulantly claims, that it shall be according to his mind.
IV. THE PRINCIPLE IS ILLUSTRATED IN ANOTHER, BUT NOT AN UNINSTRUCTIVE MANNER BY THAT TENDENCY THERE IS IN US TO WRESTLE WITH THE APPOINTMENTS OF GOD IN THE CHOICE OF OUR LOT AND PORTION IN LIFE. Here, indeed, we not unfrequently think that it ought to be according to our mind: and we as often find ourselves very painfully crossed in our endeavours to make it so.
V. THIS PRINCIPLE IS APT TO SHOW ITSELF, EVEN IN GOOD MEN, IN WHAT WE MAY CALL THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THEIR EXPERIENCE. Far better take religion as described in the Scriptures. To take our providential lot, and extract good from it. And to leave the process of our recovery from sin to holiness in the hands of God.
1. In point of rank and eminency.
2. In point of wisdom.
3. Think of the Lord's graciousness and goodness.The experience of all ages is enough to teach us how ill it has been when things have been according to men's own minds, and how well it has been when they have submitted to the mind of God. The Lord has sometimes let men have their own way; and sad has been the consequence. A last reason why the believer ought not to desire that things should be according to his mind, is that such was not the spirit of Christ his Saviour. Even Christ pleased not Himself. And yet how much reason there is to fear that this is the secret wish of too many of us. Else why so much of fretfulness and discontent when things are not according to our mind?
(A. Roberts, M. A.)
I. EXPLAIN THE NATURE OF THIS SUBMISSION. It is the yielding of the heart to God in all the dispensations of His providence, and in the administration of His government. It is a state entirely remote from apathy or stoicism. It cherishes, rather than destroys, the best sensibilities of our nature. Some have distinguished between submission and resignation. This state of mind is the subjection of our reason to the supreme authority in reference to various truths which we cannot comprehend. It is the surrender of the will to His gracious arrangements.
II. URGE THE IMPORTANCE OF THIS SUBJECT. To submit ourselves unto God is a duty founded on the most solid principles, and urged by the most cogent and feasible considerations. Consider —
1. The state of man. As a creature, it is that of subjection to God, and entire dependence upon Him. As a sinner, man has fallen into the lowest degradation — abject poverty and complete vassalage.
2. The character of God. He has a right to dispense His favours as He may please.
3. The nature of God's moral government. The whole of the Divine procedure to man is founded on the most sacred principles, the everlasting principles of moral justice, the essential principles of moral goodness, and the unalterable principles of moral rectitude. Can such a being do wrong?
4. The state of mind evinced in some of the most distinguished characters. Example is of great consequence and of great influence. Take the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and patience — such as Aaron, Eli, Job, etc.
III. ILLUSTRATE THE ADVANTAGES OF THIS STATE OF MIND. Our duty and our happiness are closely united; in keeping of God's commands there is great reward.
1. Submission is the effect of Divine influence, and thus becomes an evidence of grace.
2. It is the operation of sacred principle, and accordingly prepares the mind for future trials. Religion does not exempt from suffering; but it ensures adequate support.
3. It is a blessing of the New Covenant, and, as such, is an earnest of heaven.
IV. SUGGEST MOTIVES TO ITS EXERCISE.
1. Reflect much on your own moral guilt. Wherefore doth a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins?
2. Contemplate the sufferings of Christ; these were numerous, direful, overwhelming. He suffered in His person, in His circumstances, in His character. He suffered in His soul. He suffered as a substitute.
3. Contrast present sufferings with future glories.
4. Consider the great inconsistency of the want of submission with your own character as creatures, with your state as sinners, and with your profession and prayers and obligations as Christians.
1. Because we do not know the elements which would work into the character we desire. And,
2. We have not the power to combine them if we did.
(Henry Elliot Mort.)
1. Because our knowledge is so limited. Our judgment of things is quite as imperfect as our knowledge of them.
2. We mistake the nature of what we do see. The forms of things are not the things themselves.
3. If this were granted in one case, it must be granted in all.
4. The very thing we seek by self-will is not attained by it. No self-willed man is happy. Not even when in a large measure he gets what he seeks.
5. There is one moral Governor of this world, and only one, who governs and keeps us all. His will is sufficiently made known to each to be to him rule of practical, guidance in everything he has to do. The providence of natural law contemplates and provides for only one plan of life for each — the best. The failure of that must bring penalty, and, indeed, irretrievable disaster. Well may it be according to the mind of God, and ill must it be with any who still insist that it shall be according to their own.
(Alex. Raleigh, D. D.)
(R. Cox, D. D.)
(A. B. Jack.)
(A. B. Jack.)I. To begin at the beginning, here is, first, A QUESTION: "Should it be according to thy mind?" You say that you are willing to find mercy, and that you are very teachable; but you object to the plan of salvation as it is revealed in the Scriptures. First, then, what is it to which you object? Do you object to the very basis of the plan, namely, that God will forgive sin through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, His Son? But, possibly, you do not object to the doctrine of substitution, but your objection is to the way of salvation by faith. But if you object to this doctrine, how would you like to have it altered? "Oh, well! I would like to have some good feelings put in with faith." And how, then, would any man be saved? Can he command his own feelings? "Oh, but!" say some, "we object to the requirements of the Gospel, especially to that verse where Christ says, 'Ye must be born again.'" Well, sirs, as you say that Christ's requirements are not according to your mind, what would you like them to be? What sin is there, in the whole world, that would be put to death if men were left to pick and choose the Agag which each one wished to save? "Should it be according to thy mind?" No, certainly not; for, putting all reasons into one, it is not the slightest use for you to make any objection to the Gospel, for you will be lost if you do not accept it just as it is revealed in the Scriptures. I have thus tried to mention a few of the objections which men make to God's plan of salvation. Now let me ask two or three questions. First, should not God have His way? You know that when we give even a trifling charity, we like to do it in our own way. O Lord, if Thou wilt but save me, save me anyhow! Further, is not God's way the best? The mind of God is so infinitely great, and good, and wise, that it cannot be supposed that, even if He left the plan of salvation to our option, we could choose anything half as good as what He decrees and appoints. Suppose the plan of salvation should be according to any human mind, whose mind is to decide what it shall be? Yours? Nay, mine. And another says, "No, mine."
II. Now, secondly, here is A WARNING: "He will recompense it, whether thou refuse, or whether thou choose." By this I understand that, whatever our will may be, God will carry out His own purpose. I would also remind you that, though you cavil at God's way of salvation, God will punish sin just the same. And further, though you may object to God's way of salvation, others will be saved by it. Christ did not die in vain. Just once more, upon this point, let me say that God will certainly magnify His own name, whoever may oppose Him,
III. This brings us to the third part of our subject, on which I desire to say exactly what Elihu said: "and not I." We cannot be absolutely sure what these three words mean; but if they mean what I think they do, they teach us a lesson, which I have called A PROTEST. Whenever you find anyone opposing God, say to yourself, "and not I." When there is any wrong thing being done, and it comes under your notice, say, "and not I." Take care that you go not with a multitude to do evil. What Elihu did mean, I think, was this. Whoever opposes God should know that he is not dealing with a man like himself. Elihu also means, I think, "I will not be responsible for the man who refuses God's Word. I will not stand in his place, or take the blame which is due to him." And, once more, Elihu means, "If you refuse God's Word, it is not I. I will not share in your rebellion against Him."
IV. Our last head is, A CHALLENGE AND AN INVITATION. If there are any who refuse the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, for any reason known only to themselves, we venture to ask them to say what it is: "Therefore speak what thou knowest." It was not in Elihu's mind to tell Job to be silent, and never open his mouth again. Speech is the glory of man, and freedom of speech, as far as concerns his fellow creatures, is the right of every man. It is far better that, when there is a difficulty or an objection, it should be fairly stated, than that it should lie smothered up within the soul to breed untold mischief. Therefore, if thou hast an objection to God's Word, write it out, and look at it. But at the same time, when thou art speaking, "speak what thou knowest." Now, what dost thou really know of God? Little enough do the most of us know; but, still, I think we know enough to know that He is not the god of modern times whom some preach. It is well for us to speak of God as we have found Him. He has dealt kindly and graciously with us: "He lath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities"; else had we been cast away forever.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
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