“Now a thing was secretly brought to me, and mine ear received a little thereof, in thoughts from the visions of the night, when deep sleep falleth on men, fear came upon me, and trembling, which made all my bones to shake. Then a spirit passed before my face; the hair of my flesh stood up: it stood still, but I could not discern the form thereof: an image was before mine eyes, there was silence, and I heard a voice saying, shall mortal man be more just than God? shall a man be more pure than his Maker? Behold, he put no trust in his servants; and his angels he charged with folly: how much less in them that dwell in houses of clay, whose foundation is in the dust, which are crushed before the moth? They are destroyed from morning to evening: they perish for ever without any regarding it. Doth not their excellency which is in them go away? they die, even without wisdom.”—Job 4:12—21.
Object of the speaker. He would convict Job of having grievously sinned in the use of such language as implied the charge of unrighteousness against God. He would impress upon the mind of his suffering friend the absolute rectitude and spotless purity of the divine dispensations. He seeks to effect this object by first laying down the principle that suffering is only the righteous infliction of punishment on account of transgression; and he follows up this statement by reference to a vision by which he himself had been visited, and by which the truth of the divine holiness had been impressed on his own mind.
The verses 12—21 contain one of the sublimest descriptions within the compass of ancient or modern writing. Their sublimity has been felt in all ages, and by men of every class. Seldom indeed do we find, in such perfect combination, the weightiest instruction and the most admirable adaptation of language to express the solemn grandeur of the thoughts. Such secondary attractions are not to be despised.
Before entering upon our immediate subject, one preliminary enquiry suggests itself—Is it a fair representation of the Original, or is it rather a paraphrase than a translation? It is indeed no paraphrase, but a translation—exact, clear, idiomatic—almost a perfect counterpart of the words as they stand in the Hebrew. There is hardly a word that the most careful criticism would require to be altered—there is scarcely anything either redundant or defective. In many other passages, modern criticism, however conservative, is constrained to apply correction to our admirable version. Although probably more perfect than any that preceded it, our authorized version is not absolutely free from error. But in the verses that describe the vision of Eliphaz, the English reader may rest satisfied that nothing material need be changed.
Such success is not attained all at once. The process of translation resembles the careful operations of a skilful statuary. The most skilful artist does not, by a few random strokes, at once impart “form and shape “to the lifeless marble. By careful elaboration, by well directed efforts, the block is transformed into the status. So the efforts of early translators may be expected to leave much to be effected by their successors, and no passage could be adduced in illustration of this more suitable than the one before us. The early rendering given by the Greek Translators, some two or three centuries before our era, is as inferior to that contained in our ordinary Bible as the unfinished work of art is to the same work when it has received all but the finishing stroke from the artist’s hand. It would be most interesting to compare together the rendering of the LXX, the subsequent version of Jerome some six or seven centuries later, and then through the several English versions, from Wicliffe’s in 1380, down to that of 1611. The comparison would show that, just as in every other work of human skill or learning, care and labour must be paid as the price of progress; so it is not by a sudden bound, but by gradual effort that we may expect ultimate success.
The Following Aee The Versions Of The Greek Septuagint, The Latin Vulgate, And The Geneva.
The Septuagint Version.
12. But if there had been any truth in thy words, none of these evils would have befallen thee. Shall not mine ear receive excellent revelations from Him?
13. But as when terror falls upon men, with dread and a sound in the night,
14. Horror and trembling seized me, and caused all my bones greatly to shake.
15. And a spirit came before my face and my hair and flesh quivered.
16. I arose, and perceived it not; I looked, and there was no form before my eyes: but I only heard a breath and a voice saying
17. What, shall a mortal be pure before the Lord? or a man be blameless in regard to his works?
18. Whereas he trusts not in his servants, and perceives perverseness in his angels.
19. But as for them that dwell in houses of clay, of whom we also are formed of the same clay, he smites them like a moth.
20. And from morning to evening they no longer exist: they have perished because they cannot help themselves.
21. For He blows upon them and they are withered: they have perished for lack of wisdom.
The Vulgate Version.
12. Moreover there was a word spoken to me in secret, and mine ears as if by stealth received the pulsations of its whispers.
13. In the horror of a mighty vision, when deep sleep is wont to lay hold of men,
14. Fear seized me and trembling, and all my bones were affrighted;
15. And when a spirit passed before me the hair of my flesh stood up.
16. There stood one whose countenance I knew not, an image was before my eyes, and I heard as it were the voice of a gentle breeze,
17. Shall a man be justified in comparison of God, or shall a man be more pure than his Maker?
18. Behold they that serve Him are not steadfast, and in His angels He hath found pravity;
19. How much more shall they who dwell in houses of clay, who have an earthly foundation, be consumed as with a moth?
20. From morning till evening they shall be cut down, and, because no one understandeth, they shall perish for ever.
21. And they that shall be left shall be taken away from them; they shall die and not in wisdom.
The Geneva “Version. 1560.
12. But a thing was brought to me secretly, and mine ear hath received a little thereof.
13. In the thoughts of the visions of the night, when sleep falleth on man,
14. Fear came upon me and dread, which made all my bones to tremble.
15. And the wind passed before me, and made the hairs of my flesh to stand up.
16. There stood one and I knew not his face; an image was before mine eyes, and in silence heard I a voice, saying,
17. Shall man be more just than God? or shall a man be more pure than his Maker?
18. Behold He found no steadfastness in His servants, and laid folly on His angels.
19. How much more in them that dwell in houses of clay, whose foundation is in the dust, which shall be destroyed before the moth?
20. They be destroyed from the morning unto the evening, they perish from without regard.
21. Doth not their dignity go away with them? Do they not die and that without wisdom?
The whole passage may be thus divided—
I. A brief introduction.
II. The season and the circumstances connected with the vision.
3:The description of the apparition.
IV. The oracle it delivered.
I. “Now a thing was secretly brought to me, and mine ear received a little thereof.”
The term rendered “thing” is frequently rendered “word.” It is capable of either sense. Here it seems to imply “an oracle,” or “revelation.” Of this word he declares that it was secretly brought to him (literally, it came to him by stealth). See as illustrations of the term Gen. 31:20, 26, 27.
It came to him suddenly, softly, unexpectedly. Its sound stole upon his ear as a gentle whisper. Truth may come with a voice of thunder—Convictions of one who has been hardened in sin, &c, &c. But to the believer, waiting upon God, it comes sometimes in accordance with the words of Moses— “My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew.” Seek after quiet seasons with God, &c.
Effect of dew upon the grass, the flowers, the trees. So effect of the silent dropping of truth into the heart in the hours of stillness, &c.
II. “In thoughts from the visions of the night, when deep sleep falleth on men, fear came upon me, and trembling, which made all my bones to shake” (v. 13,14).
(I.) Night—time of profoundest repose. To the laboring man the heaviest slumbers are granted at the midnight hour.
hm*d}r+T^ It occurs Gen. 2:21—“And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof;” 15:12—And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and lo, an horror of great darkness fell upon him.”—1 Sam. 26:12—“So David took the spear and the cruse of water from Saul’s bolster; and they gat them away, and no man saw it, nor knew it, neither awaked; for they were all asleep j because a deep sleep from the Lord was fallen upon them.”—Job 33:15—“In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon men, in slumberings upon the bed.”—Prov. 19:15— “Slothfulness casteth into a deep sleep; and an idle soul shall suffer hunger.” —Isaiah 29:10—“For the Lord hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes: the prophets and your rulers, the seers hath he covered.”—Seven times in all, including the passage before us.
(2). Painful to be awake when the body needs repose. “He giveth to his beloved sleep.” Yet sometimes we may profitably spend seasons of wakefulness.
Eliphaz seems to have been exercised with distracting thoughts—thoughts that divide the mind. God’s dealings with ourselves, with others, with the world! Awful depth of the divine judgments! Such thoughts likely to come on amid the stillness of the night. Daylight occupation drives them off. The solitude of midnight invites them to come.
(3.) Before the vision came there were premonitory-effects indicating the presence of some supernatural visitant. The fear, the trembling, the shaking of the bones. The first term,
dj^P^, is used to describe both “the fear of godly reverence,” and “the fear of terror.” Here it may have been a mixture of both. The second term,
hd`u*r+, is similar to that which came upon the might of Moab, when they heard of the advancing hosts of Israel coming to avenge their iniquities (Ex. 15:15). “Made my bones to shake “is literally “affrighted my bones.” The term seems to impart feeling and consciousness even to the firmest part of the frame.
(4.) “Why this shrinking of a good man from close connexion with a visitant from the unseen world? Why did even John, who had leant upon the Saviour’s bosom, fall at the feet of that same Saviour when He was revealed in the brightness of His majesty? Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven. In the flesh we cannot bear to gaze upon that which belongs to the world of incorruption. Sin still remains in those who have made most advance in holiness. Only when we have put off this mortal shall we fully enjoy that which God hath prepared and promised. If good men feel this, “where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?” (Blessed portion in Christ.)
(3.) “Then a spirit passed before my face; the hair of my flesh stood up: it stood still, but I could not discern the form thereof: an image was before mine eyes, there was silence, and I heard a voice, saying,” &c. (v.v. 16, 16).
The apparition; the spirit; (a) Passing or gliding before his face. (b) Effect upon the hair—increase of his terror. (c) It stops and stands before him. (d) Indistinctness of the form, (e) An obscurely visible image.
Such are the several particulars in the description of the vision. Let us dwell briefly upon each of them.
(a) The language seems to imply that the heavenly messenger assumed such an appearance as to be perceptible to the eye of him to whom the communication came. We are not told whether the visitant was an angelic being or the departed spirit of a saint of God. Both classes of unseen existences are under the control of God.
(b) The effect upon the hair is said to arise from the influence of terror in driving the blood to the heart, and thus chilling the surface of the body. Whatever be its natural cause, it is a well-known result of extreme dread. Both ancient and modern poetry illustrate the fact. It appears here as the very climax of the terror which the extraordinary scene produced.
(c) After gliding perhaps backwards and forwards, the dimly visible figure stands still before his eyes. He does not turn away from it, but strengthened, it may be, by help from on high, he gazes on it in turn.
(d) He tries to make out the lineaments of its form, but there was no distinctness in the outline. “It stood still,” but even then “he could not discern its form.”
(e) Still he could discern that an image was before his eyes—dimly visible yet sufficiently perceptible to aid the impression of the message which it brought.
Before entering upon the words of that message, consider the sublimity of the circumstances under which it was spoken. It is the midnight hour. Millions of toiling men and careworn women have laid them down to sleep. Eliphaz is alone. Distracting thoughts—the progeny of nightly visions—disturb and exercise his mind. Amidst material and external darkness, he longs for inward and spiritual light. He finds himself tempted to question the perfection of the divine justice. His soul, is tossed with disquietude and harassed with anxious doubts. Suddenly there comes upon him a more than mortal dread. It is no mere earthly fear. His frame trembles with the awe produced by some superhuman presence. Terror enters into his bones, and while thus overpowered with dread an apparition glides before his face, and makes the hair of his flesh to stand on end. The spirit stands still as if to give him opportunity to gaze upon its form—but that form is only dimly visible. The servant of God is thus prepared for the reception of the utterance. It were well if, without slavish dread, we always dealt most reverently with the divine communications of Holy Scripture. It were well if we read its pages, more deeply impressed with the thought of Him by whose Spirit its truths were given at first, and by whose power they are made effectual for the ends for which they have been communicated to man.
In speaking on a former occasion from this sublime description of the vision vouchsafed to Eliphaz the Temanite, I noticed that the whole passage comprehended,
I. A brief introduction.
II. The season and circumstances of the vision.
3:The description of the apparition, and
IV. The oracular utterance.
Having already spoken on the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd particulars, I now enter upon the consideration of the 4th. In directing your attention to the fourth particular, I propose;
I. To offer a brief exposition of the Oracle.
II. To notice the doctrines deduced from it.
3:The application of the doctrines.
I. Exposition of the Oracle.
“Shall mortal man be more just than God? shall a man be more pure than his Maker? Behold, he put no trust in his servants; and his angels he charged with folly: how much less in them that dwell in houses of clay, whose foundation is in the dust, which are crushed before the moth? They are destroyed from morning to evening: they perish for ever, without any regarding it. Doth not their excellency which is in them go away? they die, even without wisdom “(v.v. 17-21).
The enquiry in the first clause of verse 17 closely resembles, in the form of the expression, the question in chap. 9:2. But the meaning of the two enquiries is very different. The 2nd verse of the ninth chapter refers to the great subject of a sinner’s justification in the sight of God. The 17th verse of this 4th chapter expresses, by an emphatic interrogation, the impossibility of a creature like man being, in any sense, more righteous than the God who made him. Job’s language had appeared to Eliphaz as impugning the rectitude of the divine dealings, and thereby implying that God’s justice might be called in question; and the authority of a supernatural visitant is invoked to expose the folly and blasphemy of such an insinuation. The wise Temanite thought that his suffering friend needed to have his heart and mind more firmly established in the conviction of the infinite moral excellence, the unsullied perfection of the divine character; and the question suggests the utter absurdity, as well as grievous sin, of maintaining that the condition of any created being can be elevated —in justice or purity, or any conceivable excellency— above the unsullied perfection of the Creator of all. Jehovah Himself is the source—the spring of all that in the creation which resembles Himself—and therefore the notion of a man, or even an angel, attaining a position in which he could legitimately find fault with God, is as irrational as it is sinful.
Verse 18. Even angelic beings—far greater in power and might than the children of Adam—if left to themselves, might fall away; and, in comparison with the divine wisdom, their intelligence is as folly. This does not mean that the elect angels can ever be permitted to fall, or that they are actually guilty of positive transgression; but that, as the brightest artificial light appears comparatively dim before the full blaze of the sun’s refulgence, so the excellencies of the angelic nature are cast into the shade before the unutterable brightness of Him, who dwelleth in light that is inaccessible and full of glory.
Verse 19. But if the angels are infinitely removed, in glory and excellence, from the incommunicable splendour of Jehovah, how much more is the disparity exemplified in the condition of man. Our bodies are formed of the clay: the frail abodes in which our spirits briefly sojourn, are founded not upon the rock, but upon the dust. Like houses built on the shifting sand, a breath of wind is sufficient to overthrow them; and the earthly life of man is as easily extinguished as that of the very meanest insect—“crushed like the moth.”
Verse 20, 21. Human beings are continually passing away. Death is so common, that its occurrence fails to affect those who survive. No elevation of outward position, and no superiority of mental excellence, avails aught against the ravages of the universal destroyer; and the saddest thought of all is, that so many are called away from this transitory scene before they have apprehended the true wisdom, or have sought with real earnestness a preparation for eternity.
II. Having thus attempted to furnish a brief exposition of the oracular utterance, let me notice the doctrines fairly deducible from its weighty words. The utterance distinctly teaches (1) The absolute perfection of the moral attributes of God. Other passages of the book speak of His resistless might, and marvellous skill, and all pervading energy. Appeals are made to the earth and the heavens—to the ever-heaving ocean—to the secret storehouses of darkness—to the dwelling of the light—to the treasures of the snow—to the paternity of the rain, and to the sources of the dew. The sweet influences of the Pleiades—the bands of Orion—Mazzaroth in his season, and Arcturus with his sons—the rolling thunder and the obedient lightning—all acknowledge His supreme control. But no references to the magnitude of the divine dominion, or the extent of the divine power, can satisfy or sustain the questioning mind, or the fainting spirit. Satisfaction and sustainment must be founded on the practical conviction that the Judge of all the earth must do right; and the heart must find repose in the testimony of the beloved disciple—“This is the message which we have heard of Him and declare unto you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.”
(2) But we find in this utterance not merely a declaration of the absolute perfection of Jehovah’s character and ways, but a distinct assertion of the incompetency of any mere human or created intellect to advance any charge of injustice against any of His dealings. He who penetrates into the secrets of every heart cannot be amenable to the judgment of creatures who can only look at the outward appearance. He who has all the future, as well as the present and the past, ever before His omniscient gaze, cannot be expected to submit His decisions to the censure of those who are but the creatures of a day. Infidel philosophers and licentious poets may dare to arraign the doings of heaven’s high Sovereign; but the very reason of which they insolently boast— itself the gift of Him whom they blaspheme—testifies against their folly. As created and dependent beings, our place is to lie low before the excellent glory of Him who is Lord of all—not to contend but to submit, not to dispute but to worship, not to challenge but to adore. His judgments are a great deep, but the period is at hand when they shall be made manifest. Till then, amid the dimness and perplexity of our earthly pilgrimage, it is ours to wait the clearer revelations of the unseen world. The anomalies and perplexities, the difficulties and questionings, which we cannot disentangle or resolve during our sojourn on earth, may be fully explained when looked at in the light of the heavenly city. All things within us and around us are full of mystery. He who pursues his enquiries on any subject connected with the divine government beyond the surface, finds himself face to face with facts which he cannot understand, and problems which he cannot solve. He is tempted to feel disappointed, impatient, desponding, but he thinks of Jehovah’s greatness, takes the place of a little child, and is still. Hope displaces the feeling of disappointment—confiding dependence expels impatience and relieves depression. He rests in that which has been revealed; he leaves the secret things to be made clear in the day of manifestation. He is happy, not because his understanding has penetrated into the mysterious orderings of the divine administration, and satisfactorily apprehended the reasons of Jehovah’s acts, but because he has obtained that knowledge of God, as revealed in Christ, which furnishes a ground of confidence in reference to the darkest of the divine dispensations.
Such are some of the doctrines fairly deducible from the words that fell upon the ear of Eliphaz, during the solemn silence of the midnight hour.
3:Let us notice, in the last place, some of the momentous subjects of enquiry to which the above doctrines may be applied.
(1) The truths we have deduced, from the utterance of the oracular vision, may serve to sustain our hearts under the view of the physical and moral evils which prevail so universally in our world. Why, we are ready to ask, is the volcano commissioned to pour forth showers of desolation on peaceful villages and cultivated fields? Why do earthquakes engulf “towered cities,” and instantaneously overwhelm, in silence and death, the “busy hum of men?” Why are the coasts of our seagirt island so frequently covered with the spoils of the storm, and with the memorials of those whose lifeless remains lie entombed under ocean’s wave? Why are there such innumerable of terrible pain, hopeless disease, and agonizing sorrow? And why, in addition to physical causes of varied suffering, must tyrants be permitted to persecute and destroy, to consign their victims to the loathsome dungeon, or to torture their bodies on the excruciating rack? Why, during nearly six thousand years, has the earth never had rest from the horrors of war, and the carnage of the battle field? Why, in a world of so much sorrow and suffering, arising from causes which no human power or wisdom can prevent, should there be permitted those additional evils—incalculable in number and terrible in extent—which spring from the self-will, the cruelty, and the reckless selfishness of man. Surely life’s journey were sorrowful enough if disease, and bereavement, and poverty, and pain, with the long catalogue of other ills which humanity inherits, constituted the sole instrumentality of its woe. But the gloom is fearfully deepened, and the occasions of distress terribly augmented, by the addition of those heavier calamities in which man himself is the direct and wilful agent. We need not enlarge on so appalling a contemplation. It is not well that we should over much dwell upon it; but neither is it well that, amidst such demands for thoughtfulness and sympathy, and such liabilities to sorrow, we should pass our lives in unthinking levity or reckless indolence. We cannot, without criminal indifference, resolutely shut our eyes to the manifold aspects in which sorrow and suffering press themselves on our notice; but we are called upon to mingle the cheerfulness of truthful hearts with the seriousness of reflecting minds. An infinitely wise, and gracious, and powerful God controls, with all-pervading energy and universal dominion, the conflicting elements of the dark and interminable chaos; and out of all the evils of the past, the present, and the future, He has assured His people that for them light, and order, and enduring blessing shall ultimately be educed. We regard it as the special exercise of a Christian’s faith, the demand made upon us at every turn of our course and under every trial of our pilgrimage, to humble ourselves under His mighty hand, and to learn more and more thoroughly the profound wisdom of the lesson conveyed in that sublime requirement, “Be still and know that I am God.”
(2) The truths taught in our text can alone enable us to find repose from endless questionings and unanswerable enquiries. The sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man—fixed predetermination and believing prayer—moral and spiritual results dependent apparently on the relative position of those who become the actual sufferers—the condition and prospects of heathenism—the limited effects of the great propitiatory sacrifice—these and similar subjects of perplexing difficulty have exercised and baffled the mightiest intellects. In the magnitude and vigour of his intellectual powers, Leibnitz, a cotemporary of Sir Isaac Newton, has had scarcely any equals, and perhaps never any superior, among the greatest minds of modern Europe. He intermeddled with all knowledge. On other subjects his success was unprecedented and unrivalled. The secrets of science, the obscurities of hard questions yielded to his penetrating scrutiny and his untiring efforts. He attempted to grapple with those difficulties to which I have just referred, and to reconcile, according to the limited standard of our reason, the apparent discrepancies they involve. But the task was super-human, and even Leibnitz failed to accomplish it. His work entitled “Theodicea, or a Vindication of the Divine Kighteousness,” remains to illustrate its author’s vast mental resources, to attract, to interest, and to disappoint the enquiring reader. Paul’s reply is less ambitious, and yet sublime in its unpretending beauty of expression—“Thou wilt say then unto me, why doth He yet find fault? for who hath resisted His will? Nay, but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God” (Rom. 9:19). And again in chap. 11:33, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!”
Shall we admit for a moment that there can be the slightest deviation from the absolute perfection of Jehovah’s righteousness? No, assuredly. Shall we consent to the allegation that it is possible for God to act unjustly towards any of His creatures? Perish such a thought. The form of the question, “Shall mortal man be more just than God? “implies the most emphatic assertion of the contrary.
Shall we, on the other hand, attempt to rid ourselves of difficulties by denying or limiting the extent of the divine control? Shall we allow that God can leave out of His all-comprehending purposes one single event in the universe of being? Shall we explain away His intimate knowledge of unformed plans, or unspoken thoughts, previous to their manifestation in the acts of His creatures? In fine, shall we strip man of his responsibility, that God’s sovereignty may be maintained unfettered? or shall we denude Jehovah of His essential prerogatives, in order that the responsibility of man may be freed from all that would seem to interfere with the spontaneity of his actings? Father let us, in the attitude becoming our place in the scale of being, embrace and hold fast both aspects of the one great theme of revealed truth. Our place is to believe even when we cannot explain—to trust although we cannot reconcile—to walk by the light we are permitted to possess, and to wait for fuller and clearer discoveries in another stage of our existence. It is well to discriminate between that ignorance which results from our own want of humility and diligence, our deficiency in prayerful waiting upon God for the help of His promised Spirit, and that imperfection of our knowledge which arises from the limitation of our faculties, and the impossibility of the finite comprehending the infinite. Many eminent theologians, many true Christian teachers, seem to me to have failed in clearly perceiving this important distinction; and have therefore spent their strength and wasted their energies, upon problems which are incapable of being solved. In seeking to make progress in intelligent acquaintance with the things of God, it is most important to draw the line of demarcation correctly between the things that, having been revealed, belong unto us and to our children, and the things which, having been kept secret, belong unto God.
Hitherto I have spoken on subjects either included or implied in the passage I have been endeavouring to elucidate and apply. I cannot happily conclude without referring to the dimness and imperfection of the light granted to the friends of the suffering Patriarch, in comparison with the discoveries made to us through the person, and work, and atoning sacrifice of the Saviour. It is profitable to have our minds habitually impressed with the conviction of our own insignificance, helplessness, and mortality, and of the reverential frame of spirit in which it behoves us to regard the character and actings of the blessed God. But the chief source of strength and consolation is to be derived from that exhibition of the divine glory which shines in the face of the Lord Jesus Christ. The essential dignity of the Son of God—His undertaking to accomplish our redemption—the constitution of His person, as combining the attributes of divinity with the characteristic qualities of humanity—His spotless holiness—His uniform obedience—His perfect righteousness—His gracious teachings—His overpowering sorrows—His propitiatory death—His burial, resurrection, ascension, and intercession—His promised glory and coming kingdom—these and other related truths constitute grounds of consolation, and themes for thoughtful reflection, far more adapted to meet our condition as sinners and our necessities as fallen creatures, that even the important and fundamental instructions which Eliphaz received in the visions of the night and communicated to his sorrow-stricken friend, with the view of restraining the outburst of the sufferer’s bitter lamentation.
The leading opponents of our holy faith have recently endeavoured to subvert the authority of Scripture by setting forth in alarming array the difficulties by which they aver that our divine records are encumbered. They substitute nothing in the room of that which they are seeking to destroy. They cannot be ignorant that a similar line of argument would lead not only to the rejection of a Saviour, but to the denial of a God. The standing evidence that the Bible has been given by Him from whom it professes to have been derived, is to be found in its effects upon the hearts and lives of those who heartily receive it. The best security against the assaults of infidelity is not learning but godliness—not the power of argument but the experimental enjoyment of the life of faith. For nearly forty years I have more or less diligently studied the scriptures. I was led to choose them as my heritage in early youth, but my hope of holding on to the end is not based upon any long continued study or familiar acquaintance with their contents, but upon the promises of a faithful God, and the experience which I have had that it is no vain thing to wait, in prayerful expectation, at the footstool of His throne.
Critical reading of Scripture has its uses. It is good and profitable for those who are called to it; but experimental reading is requisite for every Christian. Read the Word of God with diligence, humility, prayer, and self-application, and thus will you become enlightened to perceive, and wise to escape the snares of the wicked one. No mere natural faith will stand in the hour of trial. Bend the direction of your desires and the force of your energies so to deal with the Bible as that you may “increase in the knowledge of God.” Happy the man who is warranted to apply to himself the words of David in Psalm 131.
“Lord, my heart is not haughty,
Nor mine eyes lofty;
Neither do I exercise myself in great matters,
Nor in things too high for me.
Surely I have behaved and quieted myself,
As a child that is weaned of his mother:
My soul is even as a weaned child.”