Therefore I retract my words, and I repent in dust and ashes."
I. A HEARSAY KNOWLEDGE OF GOD. This is what Job possessed in the old days. Not that he was without any religious experience in those prosperous times. But the shallowness of it in comparison with what he has now attained makes it look of little worth. Most of us begin in this way. We hear of God "by the hearing of the ear." This is especially true in a Christian country. Here we seem to breathe a Christian atmosphere, and Christian ideas float in upon us unsought. But the faint perception of God that is acquired in this way cannot be of very great value to us. Historical facts can only be known by testimony, and the facts of the gospel must reach us through "the hearing of the ear." But we have got a very little way when we have only come to understand and believe in the historical character of those facts. We are still only among the antiquarian relics at a museum. There is no life in such a knowledge, and it has little influence over us.
II. A PERSONAL VISION OF GOD. "Now mine eye seeth thee." Job had longed for a revelation of God; at length he has received one. But this was not in a vision like those of Jacob at Bethel or Moses at Horeb. It was not after the manner of the startling apparition that Eliphaz describes with so much pomp and self-importance (Job 4:12-21). It was the calm inward vision of spiritual experience, which is indeed an experience of God.
1. This has been brought about through trouble. In his great distress Job has been continually seeking God. His grief has strengthened his hold upon the unseen world by making him feel that world to be most real.
2. God has spoken and manifested himself, Religion is not a one-sided effort of man to reach after God. God descends to man, and the communion of God's Spirit with man's spirit is the deepest fact in religious experience.
3. This interior vision of God is what all our souls need. We have to go beyond the hearing of sermons to our own personal experience of God. Then we begin to understand him; then he becomes real to us; then we can say with Tsuler, "I am more certain of the being of God than I am of my own existence."
III. THE EFFECT OF THE NEW EXPERIENCE.
1. It leads to self-humiliation It is vain any longer to boast of our own rights and to make the most of ourselves. We cannot think of ourselves but with shame and. confusion of face in the light of the new vision of God. When once he manifests himself to us, he is everything.
2. It awakens repentance. In the light of God we not only see our littleness, we perceive our sire This vision had done for Job what all the harangues of his three friends had failed to effect. They had charged him falsely, and his pride had been hardened by their unjust accusations. God had not charged him at all, but the very vision of the Divine at once revealed his mistaken position to Job. He saw that he had been wrong in arraigning the justice of God. So it will ever be. We never know ourselves till we see ourselves in the light of God. - W.F.A.
I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear.
I. A GENERAL CONTRAST BETWEEN TWO KINDS OF KNOWLEDGE OF GOD. We know the difference which there is in ordinary matters between a knowledge which rests on testimony and a knowledge gained by personal experience and observation. There is a contrast in vividness between the two kinds of knowledge: a battle, a thunderstorm, foreign scenery. There is a contrast also in certainty. We may distrust or question what comes to us only as report — we may reject it as unsupported by sufficient evidence; but we cannot doubt what we have seen with our own eyes. Job's knowledge of God had hitherto been the traditional knowledge common to himself and his friends. Now he knew God for himself, as if by direct personal vision. He saw. Can man, then, see God? or is Job using here merely the language of strong metaphor? Certainly in one sense God is not and cannot be seen. He is not an object of sensuous perception; we cannot see Him with the natural eye, as we see the forms and hues of objects around us. But that may be true, and yet man be able to "see God." Job had heard God speaking to him in the whirlwind, but it is not of that he is thinking here. It was the "eyes of his understanding (Gr., heart)" which had been enlightened. Whereas formerly he had heard of God by the hearing of the ear, he had now a direct spiritual intuition of His presence, of His nearness, of His majesty, of His omnipotence, of His holiness. We need not, therefore, hesitate to affirm that in man's soul there abides a power enabling him spiritually to apprehend God, and in some measure to discern His glory; a kind of Divine faculty, buried deep, it may be, in sense, filmed over by manifold impurities, and needing to be quickened and cleansed by an outward revelation, and by the inward operation of the Spirit; but still there. Happy the misfortunes which, like Job's, help to clear the spiritual vision, and enable us to see God better.
II. THIS CONTRAST ONE WHICH DISCLOSES ITSELF IN A SERIES OF ASCENDING STAGES.
1. And first the text may be taken to express the contrast between the knowledge which a converted man and the knowledge which an unconverted man has of God. The one, the unconverted man, has heard of God with the hearing of the ear, as the blind man hears of the splendour of the landscape and the glory of the flowers, without being able to attach any definite ideas to what he hears; the other, the converted man, in comparison with this, has seen God with the seeing of the eye. A light has broken in on him to which the other is a stranger He cannot perhaps explain very clearly the rationale of the change — as who can? but the fact itself he knows, that whereas he was blind, now he sees. How many have heard of God with the hearing of the ear, have acquired notions about Him, have learned of Him from books, from the creed, from catechisms, in church! But how few comparatively walk with Him, and commune with Him as a living Presence! Ah! that is a never-to-be forgotten moment in a man's life when first the reality of God's presence breaks in on him like a revelation. He will not always he able to keep alive those vivid, soul-thrilling views of God which he had in the hour of his conversion; still, God can never again he the same to him as before his eyes were opened. God is a reality, not a mere name to him. The light of life has visited his soul, and its illumination never wholly deserts him. The contrast in his experience is broad and unmistakable.
2. The text expresses the contrast between the knowledge of God which a good man has in his prosperity, and the revelations which are sometimes made to him in his adversity. The former was the contrast between nature and grace; this is the contrast between grace and higher grace. Up to this time Job seems to have been remarkably prosperous. His sky bad scarcely known a cloud. But what Job knew of God in his prosperity was little compared with what he knew of God now in the day of his adversity. And is not this always the effect of sanctified affliction? All love the sunshine and the smooth way. No one prays for adversity, yet few who have come through the furnace will question its purifying power. When real affliction comes, a man can't live on hearsays and hypotheses, but is driven back on the great realities, and compelled to keep a tight hold upon them.
3. The text fitly expresses the contrast between the knowledge which Old Testament saints had of God and that which we now have in Jesus Christ. Compared with ours, theirs was but the hearing of the ear; compared with theirs, ours is the seeing of the eye. The Scripture itself strongly emphasises this contrast. "No man hath seen God at any time; the only-begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him." No revelation which God ever gave of old can for a moment compare with that now vouchsafed in the person, character, and work of Christ. Job himself, were he to return to earth, would be the first to say to us, "Blessed are your eyes that ye see, and your ears that ye hear," etc.
4. Lastly, the text may be taken as expressive of the contrast between the state of grace and the state of glory, and in this view its meaning culminates. It can go no higher. "Now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known." Earth at its best, in comparison with that, is but hearing with the ear; in heaven alone the eye seeth God. Conclusion: Every step upward in the knowledge of God will be attended by a downward step in humility and consciousness of sin (ver. 6).
(J. Orr, M.)
I. LET US INQUIRE WHAT WE ARE TO UNDERSTAND IN THE TEXT BY SEEING GOD; for Job says that he had heard of Him before by the hearing of the ear, but now his eye saw Him. He does not mean through his bodily senses; for in this manner, says our Saviour, "no man hath seen God at any time." "God is a spirit"; "the king invisible," "dwelling in the light, which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, or can see." Even when God revealed Himself to the people of Israel, "they saw no manner of similitude." It was not so much a new or miraculous knowledge of God which he had obtained, as a practical conviction and application of those truths respecting Him which he had known before, but which had not been before brought home to his heart and conscience with their due force, so as to produce the fruits of repentance, humility, and submission to the will of God. He had heard of the wisdom, the power, and the providence of the Creator; of His justice, His mercy, and the veneration due to Him. His friends, especially Eliphaz, and even Job himself, had uttered many admirable maxims on these subjects; but now his knowledge had become more than ever practical in its effects. He felt assured that God could do all things; that none could resist His will; yet that it was never too late to hope for His mercy. His knowledge was attended with such a lively faith as made it, according to the definition of the apostle, "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." He had known and confessed many important doctrines and precepts of true religion at an earlier period of his history. He had acknowledged, in the first place, his infinite obligations to God, "Thou hast granted me life and favour, and Thy visitation hath preserved my spirit." He had, further, confessed his sinfulness in the sight of God; for, though he vindicated his character against the unjust suspicions of his fellow creatures, he knew that his righteousness extended not to his Creator: "I! I justify myself," said he, "mine own mouth shall condemn me; if I say I am perfect, it shall also prove me perverse." He could trust to no merit of his own: for he felt so forcibly the imperfection of his best observances in the sight of art infinitely holy God, that he says, "If I be righteous, yet will not I lift up my head"; and again, "If I wash myself with snow water, and make my hands never so clean, yet shalt Thou plunge me in the ditch, and mine own clothes shall abhor me." He knew that God could, and would, deliver him, and in the end make all things, and not least his severe afflictions, work together for his good. "When He hath tried me," said he, "I shall come forth like gold"; elsewhere adding, with the most exalted faith and confidence, "I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth; and though, after my skin, worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God." Yet all his former knowledge of these things, clear and accurate as it once seemed, appeared now to him but like a verbal report, compared with the vivid distinctness of his present convictions. He had heard, he now saw; he had believed, but his faith now became more than ever active and influential on his character. Before, he mourned chiefly for his afflictions; now, he mourns for his sinfulness in the sight of God: and he exhibits his penitence by the most expressive emblems; he repents "in dust and ashes."
II. TO APPLY THE SUBJECT TO OUR OWN TIMES AND CIRCUMSTANCES. We also have heard of God by the hearing of the ear. We were born in a Christian country; we have, perhaps, had the benefits of early Christian education; of frequent instruction in the Word of God; of the prayers and example of religious friends: we cannot therefore be wholly ignorant of our obligations to God Yet, with all our advantages, our professed religion and knowledge of God may have been hitherto but "the hearing of the ear." It was by this faith that "Moses endured, as seeing Him who is invisible." Now, there are too many, even of those who call themselves Christians, who "live without God in the world." He is as much unseen by the eye of their mind as by their bodily senses. Far from "setting the Lord always before them," the practical language of their conduct is rather, "Depart from us, for we desire not the knowledge of Thy ways." But is not this a heinous sin? Is it not also the height of folly? Will it profit us, at the Last Day, that we have heard of God by the hearing of the ear, if we have no true practical knowledge of Him, like that of Job in our text? Let us, then, "acquaint ourselves with God, and be at peace; and thereby good shall come unto us." And let us ever remember that the only medium of this peace and intercourse between God and man is Christ Jesus the Mediator.
(J. Orr, M.)
Christian Observer.In the warmth of the debate which took place between Job and his friends, and in the anguish of his sufferings, Job had used some impatient expressions respecting the conduct of God towards him. For these he was first reproved by Elihu, and then by God Himself, who, with unspeakable force and majesty, displays the glory of the Divine perfections. Job was deeply humbled, and acknowledges in the strongest terms his own vileness and insignificance. The impressions he now had of the majesty and glory, the wisdom and holiness, of God, were far stronger and more distinct than any he had felt before. From this passage of Scripture we learn that a clear view of the perfections of God has a powerful effect in producing repentance. But the view of the Divine perfections which has this tendency, it ought to be understood, is not a speculative knowledge of the natural attributes of the Deity, but a spiritual and affecting discovery of it is moral excellencies; of the glory of His infinite purity, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.
1. It convinces us of sin, by bringing to light those evils which the deceitfulness of our own hearts is apt to hide from our view. There is a light and glory in the presence of God which exposes the works of darkness, and tends to produce a deep sense of our sinfulness. Nor is it difficult to explain how it is that a view of the Divine glory produces this effect. By applying a straight rule to a line we discover all its unevennesses. What is deformed appears more frightful when compared with what is beautiful. In the same way, a clear view of the purity of God, and of His constant presence with us, and inspection over us, tends to bring those sins to light, and to cover us with confusion on account of them, which before we contrived to justify, excuse, or conceal. This truth may be further illustrated by the different behaviour of vicious persons, when in society like themselves, and when in that of men eminent for piety.
2. A view of the glory of God serves to point out the evil of sin, with its aggravations, and to take away all excuse from the sinner. When the law of God shows us our sins, and condemns us for them, we may be ready to complain of it as severe; but when we see that law to be but a copy of the moral perfections of God, and when we contemplate those perfections, we must be convinced that all sin must be hateful to God, and must necessarily be opposed to His nature. A view of the glory of God produces such a conviction of His rights as our Creator, and of our obligations as the creatures of His hand, as constrains us to acknowledge His justice in the punishment of sin. When we reflect on the omnipresence and omniscience of God, how great appears to be the folly of thinking to veil even our most secret sins from Him! When we reflect on His power, how does it add to the guilt and madness of presumption! This is in a more especial manner the effect of a view of the glory of God as it shines forth in Jesus Christ. The unparalleled love shown to sinners in the Gospel greatly heightens their ingratitude. It may be said in general, that it is a light sense of the evil of sin which leads men to commit it; and when they have committed it, to frame excuses for it; and also to indulge a hope that the threatenings against sin will not be executed. But a discovery of the glory of God, and particularly of His infinite holiness and justice, by showing the evil of sin in its true colours, sweeps away all such delusions.
3. A proper view of the glory of God serves further to point out the danger of sin.
4. Lastly, a view of the glory of God tends to produce repentance, because, by setting before us His infinite mercy, it encourages us to turn to Him.
1. We may learn from this subject the force of those passages of Scripture in which the knowledge of God is put for the whole of religion — "Know the Lord." "This is life eternal, that they might know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent." On the other hand, the wicked are described as those "that know not God." The truth is, God is either wholly unknown to wicked men, or greatly mistaken by them.
2. From what has been said we may also learn the great danger of a state of ignorance. If repentance take its rise from a knowledge of the perfections of God, does it not follow that those who are ignorant of Him must be in a deplorable state, strangers to the power and practice of religion, and that if they die in this state they must perish everlastingly?
3. We may learn also, from what has been said, the absolute necessity of regeneration, or an inward change of heart. It is not, as has been already observed, a speculative knowledge of the nature and perfections of God that leads to repentance, but an affecting view of His excellence and amiableness. This none can have, but those who are in some measure changed into the same image. And true Christians will see, from what has been said, how closely connected the right knowledge of God — in other words, true religion — is with humility and self-abasement.
2. The speculative knowledge of God that is true. This is the true knowledge of God, which comes to the intellect, and there it is arrested, — which stands in idea and sentiment. Everything is acknowledged. The Divine perfections are not separated and sacrificed. The theological system is correct. Religion has been learned as a science, but with no better a moral and spiritual influence. These men have not seen God; they never had those views of God that are peculiar to a regenerate and purified heart. The report has reached the understanding, but has never been echoed through the soul. Bare knowledge does but "puff up."
3. A knowledge of God which is spiritual and true, but an incipient acquaintance with God. This is a higher description of knowledge, yet is it only a beginning. Such a knowledge is as decided in its effects as it is Divine in its nature. But in its first degrees, although it brings salvation into the soul, this knowledge of God is but as the distant, though well-established report of what is true. We come now to the consideration of an advanced stage in the spiritual knowledge of God; that which constitutes its ripeness in the present world. Such a maturity in grace is not to be attributed to more abundant instruction, or to any new method of instruction. It was a purifying of his heart by the influences of the Holy Spirit. The perfection of the knowledge of God must not be hoped for in the present world. Examine, then, into the nature of that knowledge of God which you possess.
(T. Kennion, M. A.)
1. How strong a resemblance there is between the estimate which Job formed of his own character before the vision and the voice of God had met him, and that which the multitude of men are wont to entertain and to express regarding themselves.
2. All that I implore of you, in prospect of that solemn entrance which awaits us all into the sphere of Jehovah's more peculiar residence, and on the consciousness of a more present Deity, is to judge from the recorded example of Job what will be the effect on all your conceptions of Jehovah's awful holiness, and of your own contrasted sinfulness.
(J. B. Patterson, M. A.)
(Edward Girdlestone, M. A.)
1. Are there any here who have never needed such an alteration in their views, and principles, and conduct? Let them pour out their hearts in grateful thanksgiving for this singular benefit and mercy.
2. The other questions relate to those who are conscious that there was a period at which their hearts were not right with God. Have they now turned to God in sincerity and truth? Do they now see God in the fulness of His grace and power and blessing? To find ourselves lodged in the ark of His salvation is a consolation for all ills, a constraining motive to all duty, the sweetest food for the immortal soul, and a "joy unspeakable and full of glory."
(J. Slade, M. A.)
(F. M'Adam Muir.)
Homilist.I. HERE IS IMPLIED A SECOND-HAND KNOWLEDGE OF GOD.
1. This second-hand knowledge is very common.
2. It is spiritually worthless. There is no moral value in it. Its influence on the soul is that of the lunar ray, cold and dead, rather than that of the solar beam, warm and life-giving.
II. HERE IS IMPLIED A PRIMARY KNOWLEDGE OF GOD. "Now mine eye seeth Thee." The Great One came within Job's horizon.
1. This primary knowledge silenced all controversy. Job, under the influence of a secondhand knowledge, had argued long and earnestly; but as soon as he is brought face to face with his Maker, he felt Him as the greatest fact in his consciousness, and all controversy was hushed. Experimental knowledge of God disdains polemics. It is second-hand knowledge that breeds controversies.
2. This primary knowledge subdued all pride. Hast thou this primary knowledge? Is God Himself thy teacher, or art thou living on second-hand information?
I. THE REAL ROOT OF JOB'S PERPLEXITIES. They sprung from the traditional but inadequate conception of God's moral government accepted in his day. The Book represents a transition period in Jewish religious thought, and one of much interest and importance. Men's minds were passing from an older and simpler faith to the fuller recognition of the facts of the Divine government. The old creed was this — the outward lot is an index to the inward character. This is true in its essence, but rudimentary in its form. But, according to the ways of human nature, the form became stereotyped, as though the letter rather than the spirit of the law were the abiding and essential element. Presently the question arose, How is this creed to be reconciled with facts? What about the prosperity of the wicked? What as to the sore troubles and afflictions of the righteous? Men of honest purpose could not shut their eyes to the seeming contradiction. Must they then yield up their trust in Jehovah as the supreme and righteous Ruler? It was the emerging out of. comparative childhood, an advance to a theology at once more spiritual, more true to the facts of life, and charged, moreover, with new sympathies for human sorrow and need; an advance, indeed, of no insignificant character towards that highest point of prophetic thought — the conception of the ideal servant of Jehovah, as "marred in His visage more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men." In this poem we have the lasting record of this immense transition — this passing of the old faith into the new. As to the three friends and their characteristic talk, at every period of advance in men's conceptions of Divine truth these same good men have reappeared — with the same appeal to traditional beliefs, the same confidence that their hoary formulae express the whole of truth, the same inability to conceive it possible that they may be mistaken, the same dark suspicion of those who question their conclusions, and the same disposition to wax bitter, and to use hard words against the apostles of advance. On the other side we have Job. He had accepted the traditional view, but he sees plainly that in his case the belief does not square with the facts. And he is too honest and too fearless to shut his eyes to the contradiction. He will neither be untrue to his own consciousness of integrity, nor yet will he "speak unrighteously for God." Like many a man after him, Job found himself adrift on the surging waves of doubt. He asks, Can it be that the God I have trusted is simply force, resistless force, indifferent to moral distinctions? Or can it be that He has pleasure in the misery of His creatures? Or can it be that He sees as man sees, is capable of mistake, of confounding innocence with guilt?
II. How was THE DELIVERANCE OBTAINED? "Now mine eye seeth Thee." He clings to God even when most keenly sensible that His ways were harsh and repelling. He is resolved to hold on to God. From the traditional conception he presses upward to the thought that, somehow and somewhere, the righteous God will ultimately vindicate and honour righteousness. The answers of God did not deal directly with his problem, but they gave him such a vision of the glory of God, that his whole being was stilled into reverent trust. "Now mine eye seeth Thee"; — there is faith's foundation.
(Walter Ross Taylor.)
1. Clear views of God correct errors touching His character. Caught in some speculation, we are whirled about as in an eddy, till, in bewilderment, we may deny that there is a God, or deny some attribute — His justice or His grace, His goodness or His power. But let a man's eyes be opened by the Holy Spirit so that he shall see God, as did Job, Moses, Paul, and error vanishes.
2. Clear views of God correct errors touching God's providence. Here all men are staggered at times, their steps well-nigh slip; the wicked prosper, the righteous suffer. The wise man dies even as the fool. Does it not seem wrong that our lot is cast, and our wishes not regarded? Our purposes are baffled, our plans miscarry, our way is hedged, till hope lies crushed. Does ever an accident distinguish between the innocent and the guilty? Does not a mistake kill as quickly as an intent? Does death spare the child or the mother? We cannot escape these agonising questions; can we find relief in them? With all the light shining from another world on the dark spots of this, tormenting doubts will not be allayed until we come into a clearer view of God. Let the Spirit reveal God, and doubts dissolve in the fulness of the light.
3. Clear views of God correct errors touching our moral condition. They convict of sin. Even the most godly then abhor themselves. The elder Edwards wrote, "I had a view that for me was extraordinary, of the glory of the Son of God." "My wickedness, as I am in myself,...looks like an abyss infinitely deeper than hell."
4. Clear views of God correct errors touching Jesus and His salvation. Shall men never have done with the question, What think ye of Christ? Yes, men are slowly exalting Him to the throne of His glory. Have we had these clearer rays of God? We may see Jesus, and yet nail Him to the Cross. Men seeing God in the face of Christ may turn their backs on Him. But when Christ is accepted, forgiveness, peace, life eternal are sure.
(A. Hastings Ross, D. D.)
I. JOB'S EARLIER AND SUPERFICIAL EXPERIENCE. "I have heard of Thee with the hearing of the ear." I have heard of Him as the God of creation, the God of providence, the God of Israel, the God of the universe, the God who, in Christ, was incarnate for my salvation. But not what we hear is the thing, but what we read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest.
II. JOB'S PRESENT VIVID REALISATION. "Now mine eye seeth Thee." Note the emphasis of this short phrase; what awe, what closeness, what personality, what a majestic presence they imply. There is no escape, no evasion, not an attempt at it. He stands or lies before God, "naked and open."
III. THE GRACIOUS CONSEQUENCES. "I abhor myself, and repent." Those are gracious consequences. The unconverted may shrink from them, but the people of God covet them. Job had been entertaining a vast amount of self-complacency, which generated pride and a refined idolatry. He had been petulant, impatient, imperious. This is what he alludes to when he says, "I abhor myself." Now I perceive myself to be loathsome, corrupt, brutish, guilty, miserable. Was not that a gracious consequence of his vivid realisation of God? Then he adds, "I repent." He repented of his self-sufficiency, of his charging God foolishly, of his irritation under His rebukes, of his exalting himself above his fellows, of his hastiness in speech with them, etc. The regenerate amongst you will not limit your repentance to your grievous offences, you will mourn over what defiles the white linen within, our sinful aims, motives, desires, our opposition to God, reproaches of God, murmurings against God.
(J. Bolton, B. A.)
Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.
I. THE EFFECT OF A DISCOVERY OF THE GLORY OF GOD. Attend to the following preliminary remarks.
1. This truth (that a view of the glory humbles the soul) will hold equally certain in whatever way the discovery is made. God manifests Himself to His people in very different ways. In miraculous ways; by affecting dispensations of providence; by His ordinances, or instituted worship, accompanied with the operation of His Spirit; and sometimes by this last alone, without the help or accession of any outward mean.
2. We may add the manifestations given us in the Gospel of the Divine glory.
3. When I speak of the influence of a discovery of the glory of God, I mean an internal and spiritual discovery, and not such a knowledge as is merely speculative, and rests in the understanding without descending into the heart. A barren speculative knowledge of God is that which fixes chiefly on His natural perfections. The true knowledge of God is an inward and spiritual discovery of the amiableness and excellence of His moral perfections.What influence has such a discovery of the glory of God in producing a repentance, and increasing humility?
1. It tends to convince us of sin, and particularly to bring to light those innumerable evils which a deceitful heart often hides from our view. There is a light and glory in the presence of God which discovers and exposes the works of darkness. Nothing makes any quality appear so sensibly as a comparison with its opposite.
2. It serves to point out the evil of sin, the aggravations of particular sins, and to take away the excuses of the sinner.
3. It serves to point out the dangers of sin. It is the hope of immunity that emboldens the sinner to transgress, and to persist in his transgressions. But a discovery of the Divine glory at once destroys the foundation of this stupid security and impious presumption. "All things are naked before Him," so that there is no hope of lying concealed. God in Scripture reveals the glory of His own nature as the effectual means of restraining us in the commission of sin, or turning us from it; plainly supposes that nothing but ignorance of Him can encourage sinners in their rebellion.
4. It tends to lead us to repentance, as it sets forth His infinite mercy, and affords encouragement to, as well as points out the profit of repentance. Just and proper conceptions of God cannot be given us without including His great mercy. It is in the Gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ that we have the brightest and clearest display of Divine mercy.
II. PRACTICAL IMPROVEMENT.
1. Learn the force and meaning of those passages of Scripture, in which the whole of religion is expressed by the knowledge of God.
2. The great danger of a state of ignorance.
3. The necessity of regeneration, or an inward change of heart, in order to real religion. Finally, address those who are strangers to true religion. See also the reason why every truly good man, the more he groweth in religion, the more he groweth in humility.
(J. Witherspoon, D. D.)
(F. Orpen Morris, B. A.)
1. The very narrow and limited view commonly taken of repentance. As though repentance were either a regretful and sorrowful backward looking upon some particular sin or sins; or, at best, an altered mind towards that particular kind and shape of sinning. But repentance is not the necessity of some; it is the necessity of all. Repentance is not an act, but a state; not a feeling, but a disposition; not a thought, but a mind. Repentance is too real a grace to live in the ideal. Of course, if there are sins in sight, past or present, repentance begins with these. It is of the nature of repentance to be quick-sighted, and quick-souled, and quick-conscienced; she cannot dwell complacently with evil, be it but in memory. But she goes far, far deeper than any particular exhibition or ebullition of evil. Repentance is the consciousness. not of sins, but of sin — the consciousness of sinfulness as the root and ground of all sinning. The new mind, the "after-mind," according to the Greek word for repentance, is the mind which eschews the fallen state, the taint and bias of evil, which is what we mean, or ought to mean, by original sin. Thus a deep, pervading humility, a lowly self-estimate, what our Lord speaks of as "poverty of spirit," takes a possession not to be disturbed of the very thought and soul of the man. This is one part of the grace.
2. The connection of repentance with what is here called the sight of God. This is contrasted with another thing which is called the hearing of God by the hearing of the ear. We are not to dream of any literal sight. It is a figurative contrast between hearing of and seeing. The former is a hearer hearing; the latter is a direct communication, like that face to face vision, which has nothing between the person seeing and the person looked upon. The experience spoken of is always the turning point between the two kinds of repentance. We have all heard of God by the hearing of the ear. The Godward sorrow, before it reaches repentance, has had another experience. It has seen God; it has realised the Invisible. The Godward sorrow will grow with each access to the God who breathes it, and repentance itself will be seen as the gift of gifts, foretaste of heaven below, and atmosphere of heaven above.
I. LOOK AT THE SENSE OF SIN IN THE INDIVIDUAL. Place in as sharp a contrast as our personal experience may enable us to do, the two states of the man, converted and unconverted. What is the difference that has been made between them? The man has lost nothing except his pride. He has not deteriorated one whit since the change. He has gained a new ideal, a higher conception of moral goodness, a loftier standard by which to measure himself. A man grows into his aims, and rises or sinks with them. The man satisfied with his own work can never be great. It is the same with the conscience that it is with the intellect. The same laws pervade all our nature. The man who has acquired a sense of sin has simply grown. How has this conception been gained? The text gives the answer. The soul of Job was filled with deepest humiliation. Now there had flashed upon his soul an actual vision of God. The words "now mine eye seeth Thee" express inward sight, not outward. It is remarkable that Job saw God mainly in His immensity and sovereignty, for to these, rather than His moral attributes, the words of God refer. In that sight Job saw the infinite distance between God and himself.
II. WHEN WE LOOK TO THE AGGREGATE OF MANKIND THE SENSE OF SIN SUGGESTS THE GRANDEUR OF HUMAN NATURE. The human nature is a fallen thing, sadly different to what it was when it came first from the Creator's hand, the finite reflection of His own infinite perfections, if human nature be not fallen, then all its sins and sorrows are an essential part of itself, and never can be otherwise. The man was made thus. What hope can there ever be of change?
III. THE DOCTRINE OF SIN GIVES SUCH A HEIGHT AND DEPTHS OF GLORY TO THE GOSPEL AS IT CAN POSSESS IN NO OTHER WAY. From this alone we understand the occasion of the Gospel, and see the necessity for it. The greatness and value of a remedy can only be commensurate with the evil that it cures. I do not say that sin is a good or noble thing. The sense of sin is a prelude to the song of triumph.
(E. Garbett, M. A.)
(Alfred Bowen Evans.)
I. WE HAVE SOMETIMES VERY VIVID IMPRESSIONS OF GOD. Job had long before heard of God, and that is a great matter. If you have heard God in the secret of your soul, you are a spiritual man; for only a spirit can hear the Spirit of God. Now Job has a more vivid apprehension of Him. Notice that in order to this close vision of God affliction had overtaken him. In prosperity God is heard; in adversity God is seen, and that is a greater blessing. Possibly helpful also to this seeing God, was Job's desertion by his friends. Still, before Job could see the Lord, there was a special manifestation on God's part to him. God must really come and in a gracious way make a display of Himself to His servants, or else they will not see Him. Your afflictions will not of themselves reveal God to you. If the Lord does not Himself unveil His face, your sorrow may even blind and harden you, and make you rebellious.
II. WHEN WE HAVE THESE VIVID APPREHENSIONS OF GOD, WE HAVE LOWLIER VIEWS OF OURSELVES. Why are the wicked so proud? Because they forget God.
1. God Himself is the measure of rectitude, and hence, when we come to think of God, we soon discover our own shortcomings and transgressions. Too often we compare ourselves among ourselves, and are not wise. If thou wouldest be right, thou must measure thyself with the holiness of God. When I think of this, self-righteousness seems to me to be a wretched insanity. If you would know what God is, He sets Himself before us in the person of His own dear Son. In every respect in which we fall short of the perfect character of Jesus, in that respect we sin.
2. God Himself is the object of every transgression, and this sets sin in a terrible light. See then the impertinence of sin. How dare we transgress against God! The fact that sin is levelled at God makes us bow in lowliness. When God is seen with admiration, then of necessity we are filled with self-loathing. Do you know what self-loathing means?
III. SUCH A SIGHT FILLS THE HEART WITH TRUE REPENTANCE. What did Job repent of?
1. Of that tremendous curse which he had pronounced upon the day of his birth.
2. Of his desire to die.
3. Of all his complaints against God.
4. Of his despair.
5. Of his rash challenges of God.According to our text, repentance puts man into the lowest place. All real repentance is joined with holy sorrow and self-loathing. But repentance has comfort in it. The door of repentance opens into the halls of joy. Job's repentance in dust and ashes was the sign of his deliverance.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
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