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as deal deceitfully; most striking it is as a proof, considering how long ago these words were written, that human nature is in all ages, and under all variety of circumstances, essentially the same. Many are they who crowd about a friend when in prosperity, but are shy of his acquaintance in his reverses. They resemble the stream of brooks in eastern countries, which in winter may run dark with melted snow, but in the summer are speedily dried up, and are sought for by the traveller in vain. So did Job's friends seem now to him as nothing; so did he in his vexation hastily esteem them; and so did they provoke him to esteem them by their own want of consideration. And so are many who are esteemed friends often found to be in reality no friends at all, but only lovers of their own selves. Let us be the more careful not to put our trust in man, not to place our happiness in man's friendship. Let us be the more desirous to secure God for our Friend, to cast all our care on Him, knowing his kind care for us, and on Him to place all our dependence, being well assured of Him, that He will never leave us nor forsake us.
And yet a friend on earth, however little to be depended on as compared with God, is, when faithful and affectionate, one of the chief of earthly blessings, for which God ought to be thanked most heartily. And painful it is to see Job losing the help and comfort, which he might have been deriving from his friends' presence and society, losing all this benefit by complaining, and disputing, and reproving, by justifying himself, and by bringing charges against them. Yet such is the common fruit of our evil tempers. Surrounded as we are with trouble, and thankfully as we ought to use every means of consolation, we often throw away the mutual help and comfort that the one ought to have of the other, both in adversity and in prosperity. We sacrifice for some trifling offence a substantial benefit. We forget neighbourhood, brotherhood, and we even wilfully close our hearts to the endearments of a tie more close than that of brethren, rather than put up with some affront real or imagined, rather than bear to be denied in a fact, worsted in an argument, thwarted in a wish, or humbled in a comparison. But behold, as the Psalmist says, "Behold how good and joyful a thing it is, brethren, to dwell together in unity." Ps. 133. 1. See how many, how precious, are the blessings, which attend on true Christian friendship, and on the maintenance of a kind feeling between friends. And let no misunderstanding rob us of the joys of mutual sympathy, mutual affection, mutual help. With the world, the flesh, and the devil, in league against us, let us at least be in peace and charity with each other. Let all who are of one household, all who are of one family in Christ Jesus, and especially those among them who have been of one heart and mind as friends, watch that no angry word, or unkind act, ever pass between them, to make them feel towards each other, even for a time, as enemies.
Job excuseth his longing for death.
Is there not an appointed time to man upon earth? are not his days also like the days of an hireling?
2 As a servant earnestly desireth the shadow, and as an hireling looketh for the reward of his work:
3 So am I made to possess months of vanity, and wearisome nights are appointed to me.
4 When I lie down, I say, When shall I arise, and the night be gone? and I am full of tossings to and fro unto the dawning of the day. 5 My flesh is clothed with worms and clods of dust; my skin is broken, and become loathsome.
6 My days are swifter than a
weaver's shuttle, and are spent without hope.
7 O remember that my life is wind: mine eye shall no more see good.
8 The eye of him that hath seen me shall see me no more : thine eyes are upon me, and I am not.
9 As the cloud is consumed and vanisheth away; so he that goeth down to the grave shall come up no more.
10 He shall return no more to his house, neither shall his place know him any more.
11 Therefore I will not refrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.
We ought to be content to live as long as it is God's pleasure.
The excuse which Job here offers for desiring death, may be paraphrased as follows: Has not every man his appointed time on earth, or, as it is better translated in the margin, his appointed "warfare," his work that he must do, his battle that he must fight, his victory that he must gain; and then his warfare is accomplished? And as a slave or hired servant earnestly desires the shades of evening to put a period to his labour, and to bring him the reward of his work, may not I also be allowed to wish for the end of my protracted sufferings, of my months of vanity, my nights of weariness? So wearisome are my nights, that from the time I lie down, I am longing for the time when I shall get up; so vain my days, so useless to others, so hopeless to myself, that as for any good that comes of them, they swiftly pass away, and leave no trace behind them. Nor can it be otherwise with such a disease as I labour under, my flesh being so full of corruption, that it may be said to be "clothed with worms and clods of dust." Oh consider this my grievous case, ye friends, who seem to think so lightly of my sufferings. Remember that my life is passing fleetly like the wind, and that I have no prospect of any possible enjoyment whilst it lasts. Consider, that though I live, I am already as one dead; you see me, and yet I am not. I can enjoy
no more pleasure; I can do no more good. Why may I not then be allowed to wish to die in reality, to depart as the cloud that "is consumed, and vanisheth away," to go "down to the grave," and "come up no more?"
If this be the meaning of these words of Job, we may consider them as expressing a notion common to most men in the extremity of grief and pain, the notion that there is no use in living any longer, and that death would be, as we often call it, a happy release. "I am weary of my life," said Rebekah, "because of the daughters of Heth, if Jacob take a wife of the daughters of Heth, such as these which are of the daughters of the land, what good shall my life do me?" Gen. 27. 46. Here the cause of grief assigned seems comparatively slight, and this proves the words to have been used proverbially; whence we learn, that even in those early times the expression was so common as to have passed into a proverb. In an age much later, we find the same notion thus beautifully expressed in the Apocrypha, "O death, acceptable is thy sentence unto the needy, and unto him whose strength faileth, that is now in the last age, and is vexed with all things, and to him that despaireth, and hath lost patience!" (Ecclus. 41. 2.) But beautiful and natural as these expressions are, we must observe, that unless duly qualified, they are inconsistent with a proper resignation to the will of God. In the Old Testament, even Job himself can teach us better, saying, "What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?" Ch. 2. 10. Shall we cling to life as long as it yields us pleasure; but as soon as it yields us pain, then throw back the wondrous gift into the hands of the gracious Giver? No; not unless it be his good will and pleasure. No; not until He sees fit to call us hence. No; not even though besides a riddance from our troubles, we expect to find in death an entrance into heavenly joy. "To me to live is Christ," says the apostle in the New Testament, "to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." But though he felt that" to depart and be with Christ," would be, as he says, "far better," Phil. 1. 21, 23, he does not thereupon complain of the continuance of his life, nor wish impatiently for death; no, not though he was then in bonds, and exposed to all the malice of his enemies. Neither must we in any case so wish for death, as not to be content to live; nor must we doubt that it is good for us here to suffer for a time, and for a long time too, if God so orders it. Nothing should so much make death welcome, as the thought that it is God's will for us to die. And as long as it is his pleasure that we live, we must be ready to say, Welcome life, though it bring only pain and grief, disease and poverty, "months of vanity," and "wearisome nights;" yet because it is God's appointment, and as long as it is his appointment, thank God that we are still alive!
Job reneweth his complaint, but admitteth his sinfulness.
12 Am I a sea, or a whale, that thou settest a watch over me? 13 When I say, My bed shall comfort me, my couch shall ease my complaint;
14 Then thou scarest me with dreams, and terrifiest me through
15 So that my soul chooseth strangling, and death rather than my life.
16 I loathe it; I would not live alway let me alone; for my days are vanity.
17 What is man that thou shouldest magnify him? and that thou shouldest set thine heart upon him?
18 And that thou shouldest visit him every morning, and try him every moment?
19 How long wilt thou not depart from me, nor let me alone till I swallow down my spittle?
20 I have sinned; what shall I do unto thee, O thou preserver of men? why hast thou set me as a mark against thee, so that I am a burden to myself?
21 And why dost thou not pardon my transgression, and take away mine iniquity? for now shall I sleep in the dust; and thou shalt seek me in the morning, but I shall not be.
How thankful we ought to be to God for trying us.
Job seems to have considered, that in the appeal made to his friends, in the first part of this chapter, he had justified the tone of complaint in which he had indulged towards God. Now therefore he turns his words once more towards the almighty Author of his being, and with such reasons as seemed to him sufficient, urges his earnest wish, that God would please to put an end at once to his sufferings, and to his life. "Am I a sea, or a whale, that thou settest a watch over me?" He felt himself hemmed in by adversity, and bound down by a power strong enough to deal with the waves of the ocean, or with the most mighty of its inhabitants. "When I say, My bed shall comfort me, my couch shall ease my complaint; then thou scarest me with dreams, and terrifiest me through visions: so that my soul chooseth strangling, and death rather than my life." He found no rest even in sleep, that repose so welcome to the weary; but which in sickness is not unfrequently disturbed by dreams of a most painful and agitating nature. These terrific visions Job considered to be sent to him by God; knowing that He is "the Lord of life and death, and of all things to them pertaining, as youth, strength, health, age, weakness, and sickness." Thus has our Church impressively declared in the service for the Visitation of the Sick. And this they who are under the chastisements of God's hand are usually most willing to acknowledge. Oh that we may be no less sensible of this truth, whilst we enjoy the many comforts which He gives us. When we have the vigour of youth
and health, let us remember that it is God who girds us with strength. See Ps. 18. 32. When we lay us down in peace, and sleep, let us never forget, that it is God, and God alone, who makes us to dwell in safety. See Ps. 4. 8.
And now see how Job, in the tempest of his soul, first loathes his life, and would not live alway; then begs of God to leave him alone, as if he could neither die nor live but by the power of God; then asks how it can be worth the while of so great an One as God, to notice one so insignificant as man, nay, never for one moment to depart from him, not even time enough for him to take breath, or, as the same notion is expressed by a form of speech proverbial in the east, " till I swallow down my spittle." How thankless and murmuring is the spirit here betrayed! But how just and true is the notion, that no single function of life can be performed, by any one of the countless millions of living beings, with which the almighty Maker has replenished the universe, except so far as He upholds us by his power, and departs not from us with his presence! Let us use Job's words devoutly, and they will well express our dependence upon God, as the "preserver of men." It will then well become us to ask in reverent humility, in thankful adoration, "What is man, that thou shouldest magnify him? and that thou shouldest set thy heart upon him? And that thou shouldest visit him every morning, and try him every moment?"
Much more may we marvel at God's grace and condescension, when we consider not only our insignificance, but also our sinfulness; when we say with Job, as we may most truly say, " I have sinned; what shall I do unto thee, O thou preserver of men?" Alas, there is nothing we can do to God, nothing we can do for God, that can in any measure make amends for past transgression. Richly we deserve, that He should set us as a mark for the shafts of his wrath and indignation, and make us to be a burden to ourselves. And well it is for us that for a time He does so, if thereby we are made sensible of our sinfulness, and earnestly desirous of pardon and forgiveness. This seems to have been in some sort the frame of Job's mind towards the end of this his vehement complaining. This was the train of thought that he was led into; at least so far as that he owned that he had sinned, and desired God to pardon his transgression, before his departure hence, when he would be no more seen. Let this be our first concern, when we think of dying: have our sins been forgiven? However great be the affliction, inclining us to long for death, let us feel how much better it is to live here in trouble, than to die with our sins upon our heads. Let us be thankful to God for visiting us, and proving us yet longer, even by the most severe trials and visitations, if thereby He is graciously preparing us for heaven, leading us through anguish of body, or of mind, to rest and peace and joy for evermore.