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may be taught patience, submission, and resignation. Let us all, according to the exhortation of the apostle James, (v. 11.) when we “hear of the patience of Job, and see the end of the Lord,” acknowledge " that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy,” even in those dispensations towards us which appear most distressing.
Job is first presented to us surrounded by every felicity. He possessed all that his heart could desire. His riches are estimated (according to the simplicity of the time when he lived, and the present practice of the country where he resided) principally by his flocks and his herds; and we are informed, that his opulence was greater than that of any of the men of the East. He was vested with authority and
power; and if it may be disputed whether, as many have supposed, he were actually a king, it is, however, certain, that he was a principal and important ruler. He was blessed with many domestic comforts. Seven sons and three daughters, of mature age, were settled nigh him, and entertained for each other, and for him, the warmest affection. And was he not corrupted by this prosperity? Did not the blessings of God make him forget the divine hand which conferred them? Did he not indulge all his passions and desires, neglectful of the commands of his Maker, and regardless of the happiness of his fellow-men? No, my brethren, he was saved by the grace of God, like the interesting person whose history we have just concluded, from those intoxicating effects of wealth and power which have proved fatal to so many thousands.
In the midst of idolaters, he was a faithful servant of the one only living and true God; and never bowed down with the multitude to “ the sun when it
shined, or the moon walking in brightness." (xxxi. 26.) Communion with God was the chief source of his felicity; and in his subsequent distress, this is what he most regrets when he looks back to his former state, and recalls the time when 66 the secret of the Lord was upon his tabernacle, and by the light of the Almighty he walked through darkness.” (xxix. 3, 4.)
” He had-shame to so many calling themselves Christians, who here do not imitate him!- he had his domestic altar, which he regularly surrounded with those children whose spiritual and eternal interests lay so near his heart, and engaged so much of his care. In reviewing his possessions, he ever regarded them as the gift of God. On his existence and preservation, his health and his talents, his opulence and his reputation, his family and friends, was inscribed by his thankful heart, “ The Lord gave. He who cannot be deceived, testified of him that he was “perfect," i. e. without guile and dissimulation, * and upright, fearing God and eschewing evil.”
This piety was manifested in all his conduct. Instead of relying on his wealth as the ground of felicity, making of it his idol, and substituting it in the place of the Eternal, he could boldly declare before God, when he was cruelly charged with hypocrisy and insincerity, “I have not made gold my hope, nor said to the fine gold, Thou art my confidence. I rejoiced not because my wealth was great, and because mine hand had gotten much.” (xxxi. 24, 25.)
Free himself from the pressure of calamity, he did not forget the wants of the poor and the woes of the destitute. He enjoyed the generous and elevated
. pleasure which wealth yields, when it is made the instrument of beneficence and usefulness to our fellow-creatures. He was a fellow-worker with the
Giver of all good, in promoting the happiness of all within the reach of his benevolence. This we are taught in those affecting words which he was compelled to utter by unmerited censure: “I delivered the poor that cried, and the fatherless, and him that had none to help him. The blessing of him that was ready to perish came upon me; and I caused the widow's heart to sing for joy. I was eyes to the blind, and feet was I to the lame. I was a father to the poor.” (xxix. 12, 13. 15, 16.) “ Did not I weep for him that was in trouble? Was not my soul grieved for the poor? (xxx. 25.) “If I have withheld the
66 poor from their desire, or have caused the eyes of the widow to fail; or have eaten my morsel myself alone, and the fatherless hath not eaten thereof; if I have seen any perish for want of clothing, or any poor without covering; if his loins have not blessed me, and if he were not warmed with the fleece of my sheep; if I have lifted up my hand against the fatherless when I saw my help in the gate; then let mine arm fall from my shoulder-blade, and mine arm be broken from the bone." (xxxi. 16–22.)
Instead of indulging bitter and malignant passions, truth and justice ever directed him, and the fear of God Most High restrained him from all profane wishes against others. “I put on righteousness and it clothed me, and judgment was to me a robe and a diadem. I rejoiced not at the destruction of him that hated me, nor lifted up myself when evil found him; nor suffered my mouth to sin by wishing a curse to his soul.” (xxix. 14. xxxi. 29, 30.)
” Such were some of the leading traits in the character of this holy man.
His whole conduct was a living comment on that solemn direction given many centuries after by the apostle Paul to Timothy-a charge still binding upon every minister of the gospel, and with which we cannot fail to comply, under the most awful penalties :-Charge them that are rich in this world that they be not high-minded, nor trust in uncertain riches; but in the living God, who giveth us all things richly to enjoy; that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.”
Oh! what blessings are such persons to the communities in which they reside! Of how much good are they the instruments, both for time and eternity both for the bodies and the souls of those with whom they are surrounded! The veneration, the respect, the love of society, shall be enjoyed by them. They shall possess, not merely the servile attention of the sycophant, nor the artful court of those who wish to profit by their power or their wealth,—but that honest effusion of the soul from the virtuous and the good which Job so well describes: 66 When I went out to the gate through the city; when I prepared my seat in the street; the young men saw me and hid themselves, and the aged arose and stood up; the princes refrained talking, and laid their hand on their mouth; the nobles held their peace. When the ear heard me, then it blessed me; and when the eye saw me, it gave witness to me." (xxix. 7-11.) Happy such persons! Their occupations leave an aster-taste which satisfies the heart, and provide for permanent self-enjoyment. Whatever reverses they, like Job, shall experience, that holiness and benevolence, which were the fruits of the Spirit, shall cheer them in the hour of solitude, reHection, and wo, as they did that exemplary man whose character we are considering.
Job had for many years been thus blest, when, on a certain day, “ the sons of God,” the holy angels, “ came to present themselves before God,” in order to render an account of their ministrations, or to receive new commands; "and Satan came also among
6 them.” Of the place and manner of this présentation before the Lord, we know nothing. How far the account of this event is poetical—how far the transactions of the invisible world are here described, in language adapted rather to our conceptions than to their real nature,—we pretend not to determine.The great fact, that the adversary of our souls, the accuser of the brethren, is ever desirous to misrepresent, to seduce, and to distress the children of God, is too fully proved, by numberless passages of Scripture, to suffer us for a moment to call it in question. It is no less certain that God, for purposes infinitely wise and benevolent, permits him to try believers. Yet he is still restrained by the Almighty, and all his malignant designs over-ruled for the benefit of believers, and the advancement of the Redeemer's kingdom. Those whom he assaults will come forth from the trial, as did Job, “purified like gold,” and shall leave nothing behind them but their dross.
Satan accusing Job of serving God only through mercenary principles, and from a desire of promoting his own interests, the Lord permits this evil spirit to deprive him of all his possessions, that his sincerity might thereby be tested. It is in the battle that the reality and degree of the soldier's courage are proved. It is in trials and spiritual contests that the reality and degree of the Christian soldier's graces are manifested.