What is man that You should exalt him, that You should set Your heart upon him,
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.
What is man, that Thou shouldst magnify him?
I. A SCRIPTURAL SOLUTION OF THE QUESTION.
1. What is man as a creature? A piece of modified dust, enlivened by the breath of God (Genesis 2:7). An earthen vessel (2 Corinthians 4:7). He is grass (Isaiah 40:6, 8). A drop of a bucket, or dust that will not turn the scale (Isaiah 40:15). Vanity (Job 7:16; Isaiah 40:17).
2. What is man as a fallen creature? An ignorant creature (Isaiah 1:3). A guilty (Romans 3:23). A condemned (John 3:18, 19). A polluted (Job 15:16; Isaiah 1:16). A diseased (Isaiah 1:6). Impotent (Ezekiel 16:4, 6). Rebellious (Numbers 20:10; Isaiah 1:2).
II. IN WHAT RESPECTS IT MAY BE SAID THAT THE LORD MAGNIFIED MAN. He magnified man at the creation. By the care He showeth towards him in the course of His providence. By assuming human nature. By giving us such great and precious promises. By making man a sharer of His throne. Observe —
1. How amazing that the Lord should thus notice sinful man! He who is the High and Lofty One.
2. The base ingratitude of sinners who rebel against so kind a Benefactor.
3. If God thus magnify man, ought not man to endeavour to magnify God, i.e., praise and extol Him?
I. THE DIGNITY OF MAN.
1. We are dignified because magnified of God. So far as we know, man is the consummation of creative skill. Man is both material and spiritual, presenting a marvellous combination of the two. He is a middle link in the chain of being, holding both ends together. He partakes much of the grossness of earth, yet much of the refinement of heaven. Without man, between the atom and the angel there would be a chasm, Man is the golden chain between the two. He is a little world in miniature, for in his frame there is an epitome of the universe. Truly, in the character of his being he is magnified. No one who thinks of his capabilities can dispute it. The capabilities of some men must be enormous. The dignity of man is further enhanced, if we consider that he possesses an immortal soul. He has a life that must run parallel with the life of the Eternal; a life that neither sin, death nor hell can quench. How awful does this make the importance of even a single man! Notice also man's exalted position in this world. He is lord of creation. This world was built as a house, for which man is the tenant.
2. We are dignified, because beloved of God. Our text says that God has set His heart upon man. This glorious truth is written on the page of inspiration with the clearness of a sunbeam (John 3:16). Surely such love must make man the envy of the angels. It seems as though man had received more care, attention, and love than all other parts of His dominion put together. On our weal the Deity has expended Himself, communicated to us in Christ Jesus all that was communicative in His being and character.
II. WHAT CONDUCT IS WORTHY OF THE DIGNITY OF MAN? I take a high standard of appeal, and ask you, in the light of your noble faculties, in the light of all the mercies bestowed on you in creation and providence, in the light of God's infinite love, what conduct becomes you? What should be your bearing towards yourselves, your Saviour, your God? You are unanimous in your verdict that a sinful, sensual life is utterly beneath the dignity of manhood. Take another kind of life. A life of mere self-gratification. Perhaps more promising young men are ruined through this kind of living than any other. But it is unworthy of a man. The end of a life that is true is not happiness in any shape or form, but character that shall fit us for eternity. In every man that has not this as his supreme desire, his one aim, only a fraction of manhood is awakened. The portions of his nature which make it worth while to be, are dormant. The trembling anxiety about our privileges, our welfare, our debt to God — which leads us to trust in Him — this makes a life true.
III. WHAT ARE THE POSSIBILITIES OF SUCH A MAGNIFIED BEING?
1. There is a possibility of any lost self-respect being restored. Some of you may have started wrong. This has destroyed self-respect. This is one of the most potent evils incident to a sinful life. Remember that character is under a law of perpetuity. It has an element in it which will make it almost immutable. "Evil tends to evil permanence." Then let me tell you the glad news of the Gospel. There is a possibility of self-conquest. Self-control, for real usefulness, is as necessary as self-respect. How are we to exercise it? Will resolution, will determination do? My only hope is in God the Holy Spirit; in seeking Divine grace and power. To all of us there is the joyous possibility of a sublime life. Then, talk not of destiny, but believe in your own, and working like men, trusting like children, fulfil it.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
1. Man is magnified by the gift of an intellectual nature.
2. In the possession of a moral nature.
3. In being the object of a Divine redemption.
4. In the omnipresent and omniactive superintendence of Divine providence over human affairs.
5. Immortality and future blessedness strikingly illustrate the text. If you believe these things, what manner of persons ought you to be?
I. CERTAIN CONSIDERATIONS ILLUSTRATIVE OF THE DOCTRINE OF THE TEXT.
1. God hath "magnified" man by the gift of an intellectual nature. We see unorganised matter without life; matter organised, as in vegetables, with life, but without sensation; and, in the inferior animals, with life, sense, and a portion of knowledge, but without reason. But, in man, the scale rises unspeakably higher. His endowments are beyond animal life and sensation, and beyond instinct. Man is the only visible creature which God, in the proper sense of the word, could "love." No creature is capable of being loved, but one which is also capable of reciprocal knowledge, regard, and intercourse.
2. By the variety and the superior nature of the pleasures of which He has made him capable. His are the pleasures of contemplation. These the inferior animals have not. The pleasures of contemplation are inexhaustible, and the powers we may apply to them are capable of unmeasurable enlargement. His are the pleasures of devotion. Can it be rationally denied that devotion is the source of even a still higher pleasure than knowledge? His are the pleasures of sympathy and benevolence. His are the pleasures of hope.
3. The text receives its most striking illustration from the conduct of God to man considered as a sinner. If under this character we have still been loved; if still, notwithstanding ingratitude and rebellion, we are loved; then, in a most emphatic sense, in a sense which we cannot adequately conceive or express, God hath "set His heart" upon us. Mark the means of our reconciliation to God, and mark the result.
4. Consider the means by which God's gracious purpose of "magnifying man," by raising him out of his fallen condition, is pursued and effected.(1) He has, with the kindest regard for our higher interests, attached emptiness to worldly good, and misery to vice.(2) He has been pleased to establish a constant connection between our discipline and correction, between His providential dispensations and moral ends.(3) He has opened His ears to our prayers, and invites them both by command and promise.(4) To bring men to feel their own wants, He sends forth His Gospel, accompanied by His quickening Spirit, thus to render it, what in the mere letter it could not be, "the Word of fife," the "Gospel of salvation."
II. THE PRACTICAL IMPROVEMENT WHICH FLOWS FROM FACTS SO ESTABLISHED.
1. We are taught the folly and voluntary degradation of the greater part of the unhappy race of mankind.
2. The subject affords an instructive test of our religious pretensions.
3. To form a proper estimate of our fellow men, and of our obligations to promote their spiritual and eternal benefit.
(W. Jones, M. A.)
I. MAN'S LITTLENESS. As a creature. As a fallen creature. Is it too much to say that he is lower than the beasts? It is a strong expression. Is it too much to say that sin has sunk man as low as Satan? Man is a sinful, guilty, and condemned creature. The law condemns him. All that is in God condemns the impenitent, unbelieving sinner. Man is a proud, self-righteous sinner. There is no man but what has some apparently good qualities — at least, he thinks he has them — and these blind him to all his bad qualities, and he thinks he can blind God with them.
II. GOD'S MOST WONDROUS DEALINGS WITH MAN. Out of these materials does God choose a people and erect a temple to His own glory. How wonderful is the exhibition of God's grace in the conversion of a sinner! Look at the wondrous display of grace in redemption, and in bringing all the redeemed ones safe to glory. See in this subject the greatness of God: notice how contemptible is our pride when we can look down upon others. Though our Lord shows us our littleness, yet we ought not to forget that He has magnified us.
(J. H. Evans, M. A.)
I. ITS MYSTERY. We shall not feel it as Job felt it unless we accept his belief in the incessant action of God's providence in human history. He did not regard life as governed by general laws usually, and by the living God only occasionally. He said God "visited man every morning." Job's view of human life was that the souls of men were surrounded and influenced by the ever-present, ever-acting God, How common is the belief that "in the beginning" God created certain general laws, and that He has retired into His eternity, leaving them to govern the universe, interfering Himself now and then, when a great crisis demands His action. We speak of general and special providence as if there were some real distinction between the two, and as if all providence were not the activity of the living God, equally present everywhere. Now this distinction is unscriptural and unreasonable. If God directs the great events, He also directs every event, for all are bound together. Besides, how do we know which are great and which are small? We must go back to the strong, simple faith of such men as Job and David before we can realise the mystery which they felt in life. Accepting, then, that view of an incessant providence, the difficulty which Job felt must have risen from two sources: the greatness of God, "What is man, that Thou shouldst magnify him?" and the nature of the discipline through which He conducted life, "That Thou shouldst try him every moment?"
1. Take the first source of the mystery which Job felt in the unceasing providence of God: the greatness of God compared with the insignificance of man. He felt God was so great, that for Him to visit man in sorrow was to magnify the frail child of time by exalting it to even a moment's notice of the Infinite One. We do not feel the mystery of God's dealings with man with the same intensity as Job and the men of old time must have felt it.
2. Look at the other aspect of God's perpetual providence — The nature of the discipline through which God conducts life. This was evidently the other source of the difficulty that perplexed the patriarch. Life had become to him one overwhelming trial, yet he believed that every element of that trial was sent or permitted by God. Why? Some men have to learn the mystery of discipline in the sternest school of suffering. Now, accepting the Bible faith that God orders all our life, is it not evident He is trying us every moment? Why does He stoop from His vast empire to visit thus the creatures of a day? Christianity has revealed two things, corresponding to the two-fold character of this mystery.(1) The boundless capacities of man. Christianity throughout magnifies man, by representing him as at present but in the childhood of his eternal growth. It is true that men in the old time felt the dignity of humanity, but Christ, by taking it upon Himself, clothed it with a new grandeur. Until He came, men, in a great measure, looked on life from the side of time. Christ dwarfed the temporal by revealing the immortal. At the same time, He made men feel the awfulness of life, by showing how it might be the commencement of an infinite progress towards the holiest. God's infinite eye sees in every man the germ of what he may and will become. Frail, feeble, fading like the grass he may be, but in him is the germ of a nature that will unfold and greaten into an angel of God; and within the sin-scarred and suffering body of humanity, the Divine Eye sees spirits whose capacities only the life of eternity can unfold.(2) The education of man by trial. Christianity brings this out with peculiar force. Our characters must be tested. We fancy we hold the reins of our natures. We think we are strong, and rejoice in our fancied strength. And then God sends us trials, disappointments, bitter lessons of sorrow, and under their startling light we discover our weakness and evil. We grow earth bound, become wrapped in life's transient interests: God sends us suffering, and in the long, lonely watchings of pain, we catch glimpses of eternal realities. This, then, is the meaning of God's perpetual providence in life. Seeing man as he is to be; seeing that his infirmities must be removed by trial, "He visits him every morning, and tries him every moment."
(E. L. Hull, B. A.)
1. It tends to deliver us from shallow and frivolous conceptions of our own nature. There are many influences at work which tend to give to human nature and life an aspect of littleness. Our very being is itself animal as well as spiritual. We have many needs and cravings in common with the brutes. Our nature, moreover, touches the surrounding world at countless points, many of which are as "pin points." Things which are in themselves but trifles, have often a wondrous power over us. No doubt the comedy of life has also its uses. God has not endowed us with the sense of humour for nothing. Laughter is a kind of safety valve. But there is danger of our life being dwarfed into pettiness, and of our losing a true sense of the inherent dignity of our nature. Precisely here comes in the tragic element of life to counteract this tendency. Just as the loftiest mountains throw the largest and deepest shadows, so these dark shadows of human experience bear witness to the original grandeur of our being. You cannot have tragedy without a certain greatness. Even those tragedies of life which are due directly to human sins, testify to the greatness of the nature which has been so sadly and shamefully perverted. With regard to those terrible calamities which sometimes come into men's experience without any fault of their own, how often is it the case that these ordeals of trial bring to light the noblest traits of character. Is not the Cross of Calvary itself the crowning illustration of how the loftiest greatness of humanity may be revealed against the dark background of the deepest sorrow? Look also at affliction as a means of discipline and education, and we can scarcely fail to be impressed with the greatness of that nature which God subjects to trials so great. This is the thought which lies latent even in poor Job's remonstrance. Whatever we may do with our life, God evidently does not trifle with it; whatever we may think of our nature, God evidently does not think lightly of it. Thus, then, the tragic element in our life tends to redeem it from pettiness, to deliver us alike from prosaic stolidity and shallow sentimentalism, and to inspire us with a sense of the sacredness of our being.
2. This same element in life confronts men directly with the thought of God. Men, in their sinfulness, banish God from their hearts, and try to forget Him in their lives. But God refuses to be forgotten. For our own good, He will, if necessary, simply compel us to recognise His presence. He will make men feel that a higher will than theirs is at work. When there comes some sudden and extraordinary visitation, men are aroused to reflection. The appalling magnitude of the calamity startles them. The very fact that some event presents an inscrutable mystery, awakens them to the sense of an infinite wisdom overruling the projects and actions of mankind.
3. This same tragic element of life tends to deepen our reverence and tenderness towards our fellow. men. Our very experience of the world sometimes tends to make us hard and cold and censorious. Even our own troubles do not always deepen the springs of our charity. We may shut ourselves up in our griefs, and morbidly exaggerate our trials until we become morose and peevish, instead of sympathetic and gentle. But here, too, comes in the tragedy of life to counteract this selfish tendency. Ever and again there occurs some terrible event involving others in a sorrow which dwarfs our own griefs. And a great calamity invests even the meanest with interest. It tends to draw us out of ourselves, and to open the floodgates of sympathy and benevolence. Think, finally, how we are living together under the shadow of the closing tragedy of all. Prince and peasant, master and servant, all are travelling to that. Death gives a tragic touch even to the beggar's personality. Let us cultivate reverence and tenderness towards one another; for we are all of us living in a world that has its terrible possibilities of experience.
(T. Campbell Finlayson.)
I. Man is A CREATURE OF CONSEQUENCE, or God would not thus visit him. The Psalmist asks the same question, but from a very different point of view (Psalm 8:3, 4). It is here that we usually look for the signs of human greatness and royalty — in the direction of man's power, action, rule, and achievement. Job is concerned with man's weakness, perplexity, suffering, humiliation, and failure. What is man, that Thou shouldst magnify him with miseries? Job feels the greatness of man in the greatness of his suffering. The conflict and sorrow of human life are indubitable signs of dignity. We often enough look poor, feel poor, but we cannot be poor. There is a singular greatness about us somewhere, or we should not be distinguished by infinite and endless sorrows. Our importance is demonstrated by the length and depth of the shadows that we make. The shouts of conquerors, the sceptres of princes, the triumphs of scientists, the masterpieces of artists, and the scarlet of merchantmen are so many signs of our status; yet the sense of anxiety, the problems which torture the intellect, our wounded affections, the smart of conscience, our painful sense of limitation and disability, the groan of the afflicted, the burden of living, and the terror of dying are not less signs of our fundamental greatness. Is it not, indeed, often the case that we are more affected by the dignity of men when they suffer than when they are strong? that in misfortune we discern a loftiness and sacredness never discovered in them in their prosperity? and if we never felt their majesty in life, do we not awake to it when they die, and uncover at their grave? It is also true that in deep affliction we realise most vividly the greatness of our own nature. Stripped of outward, meretricious greatness, Job begins to feel that he is great; his sorrows show him his consequence before God. The very humility born of trouble is a sign of greatness.
II. MAN IS A CREATURE OF GUILT, or God would not thus visit him.
1. There is no cruelty in God. Nero condemned men to prison and then treated them as condemned malefactors simply to feast his eyes on their agonies, by, and by releasing them. This world is no laboratory of aimless vivisection. "For He doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men."
2. There is no injustice in God. "The right of a man before the face of the Most High." Nowhere is the right of a man more sacred than before the face of the Most High.
3. There is no levity in God. Some talk as if this world were a mere spectacle, a great theatre of shadows where God watches the long tragedy with an aesthetic eye. But there is no levity in the Ruler of the universe. All revelation teaches how real human sorrow is to God. What, then, is man, that God visits him with endless correction? Why does He fill his soul with anguish? There is only one answer: man is an offender, his sin is the secret of his misery. In vindicating himself against his friends Job denied that he was guilty of any conscious, specific, secret transgression; but he knew that he was a sinner before God. Immediately after the text he confesses, "I have sinned." It was all there: his suffering brought home the sense of guilt. The broken law makes the shadow of death.
III. Man is A CREATURE OF HOPE, or God would not thus visit him. "What is man, that Thou shouldst magnify him?" Sinful and afflicted as he may be, he is yet a creature of hope, or God would not thus lavish discipline upon him. Terrible as this world may be, it is not hell, nor the region of despair. Hope is written with sunbeams on the forehead of the morning; spring writes the lovely word in the grass with flowers; it is emblazoned in the colours of the rainbow. God visits us, then, that He may awake in us the consciousness of sin, and discipline us out of our sin into health of spirit. Again and again Job says, "Let me alone." And that appeal is often on our lips. "Let me alone," cries one, that I may examine this curious world, and do not disturb me with thoughts of infinity and eternity. "Let me alone," pleads another, so that I may enjoy life, and do not harass me about righteousness, guilt, and judgment. "Let me alone," entreats a third, and cease to interrupt my money making by sickness and misfortune. "Let me alone," cry those whose hearths are threatened; leave my friends, and spare me bitter bereavements. But this is exactly what God will not do. He visits us every morning, and tries us every moment, that He may arouse us to our true state, great need, and awful danger. Having awoke in us the sense of sin, through the discipline of suffering God perfects us. Yes, this — this is the grand end. "Behold, I will melt them, and try them" (Jeremiah 9:7). "The Lord hath proved thee and humbled thee, to do thee good at thy latter end."
(W. L. Watkinson.)
And try him every moment.
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