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Be this as it may, his subdued disposition is entitled to the highest praise. And in this happy state of mind, it is probable he would have remained, had he been left to him. self. But that serenity, which the heavy hand of God had never moved, was disturbed by man, less merciful-and less just. Such unparalleled calamity was soon spread far and wide throughout Arabia, and three men, his particular friends, Bildad, Zophar, and Eliphaz, all men of rank in Idumea, came together to condole with him. They had heard of the loss of his immense property-the death of all his children--and of his own agonizing disease-but when they approached him, whom they had seen seated in the gate, dispensing the law—the most honourable in all the land—“ before whom the princes refrained talking, and the nobles held their peace--in whose presence the aged arose, and the young men shrunk away,” when they now saw him stretched upon the earth, a loathsome spectacle, from which his own domestics turned away-amazement, grief, and horror, struck them dumb-they sat down by him on the ground, and for days and nights no one broke the solemn silence of unutterable woe ! In this interval of meditation, the kindly sympathy of pitying friendship gave way to the cooler dictates of erroneous reason. They were themselves virtuous, and had flourished in uninterrupted joy--they were not overwhelmed by misery, in every torturing shape like the wretched Job-piety in them had found a rich reward-whence then the uncommon weight of woe that had befallen him! Surely, they concluded, his religion was but a vain pretence, and the hypocrite is now exposed by the just judgment of a righteous Ruler. „When therefore the sufferer at length broke out into a pag
sionate lamentation, even execrating the day he first beheld the light---they advised him to confess his secret sins, and thus conciliate an offended God! Conscious of the integrity of a well-spent life, he firmly pleads his innocence. This they refused to admit, his unsullied reputation notwithstanding. A dialogue then ensues, in which the comforters contend, that the wicked only are punished, whilst the upright are protected and crowned with temporal blessings. “ Remember," they say, “who ever perished, being innocent; or where were the righteous cut off? They that plough iniquity and sow wickedness, reap the same.” They even cruelly intimate, that his children had sinned, and were cut off for their transgressions. They magnify
. the divine attributes; they contend that God is just. “ Happy is the man,” says Eliphaz, " whom God correcteth ; therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty.” He accuses Job, whose wisdom and benevolence had heretofore supported others, of weakness in sinking under his own calamity. : “Behold, thou hast instructed many, and thou hast strengthened the feeble knees; but now it is come upon thee, and thou faintest.” So hard is it to judge of that which experience has not made us feel! But the sufferer answers_" To him that is afflicted pity should be shown from his friends”---he desires only death---" even that it would please God to destroy him--to be hidden in the grave, where the wicked cease from troubling, and where the weary are at rest. Where the prisoners rest together, and hear not the voice of the oppressor.”. He confesses his own unworthiness, and the absolute power of Jehovah
of Jehovah, but inasmuch as he is nothing in His hands, he expostulates with him on his excessive
rigour---and complains that vice and virtue are not distinguished in his administration.
Zophar reproves him harshly for attempting to know the mind of the Omnipotent, and for vindicating himself : again accuses him of unknown crimes, and beseeches him to repent. Exasperated, at length, by the un feeling acri. mony of his accusers, while yet they lay no specific sin to his charge, Job ridicules their affected wisdom, as if he were ignorant who had been their teacher!" Miserable comforters,” cried he, “are ye all !” He pathetically laments his altered state, and intreats their compassion. “Have pity upon me—have pity upon me, 0 ye my friends! for the hand of God has touched me!” But in vain he asks their pity, and in vain he contrasts his fallen state with the days when the light of God shined on his tabernacle. “ When the Almighty was yet with me, when my children were about me--when the ear heard me, then it blessed me, and when the eye saw me it gave witness to ine. Because 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; the cause which I knew not I searched out.” In vain he calls
them to attest the active usefulness and integrity of his whole life, recounting eloquently his deeds of justice and of charity. In vain he contends, “ that the wicked are often prosperous all their days ;” that they are reserved to the day of destruction ;” and confidently invokes the wrath of the Omniscient Judge, if he had gloried in his wealth, or bad perverted his power or his possessions to the purposes of pride or oppression --- or if he had been betrayed into idolatry, when he “ beheld the sun when it shined, or the moon walking in brightness ;” and ardently desires that the Almighty would appear, and permit him to plead his cause in His presence !
Argument and asseveration were alike lost on his hard. hearted accusers. Unmoved by the pathetic appeal of their suffering friend, and still persuaded that he had enjoyed an unmerited reputation, yet unable to name the turpitude they suspected, and disgusted that they could not drive him to a voluntary confession of his guilt, they were at length silent. Elihu, then, who seems to have joined the company while they were engaged in conversatiou, and who had not yet spoken, now arose; and, after apologizing for his interference, because he “was young and they were very old,” he declares that he listened at. tentively to the debate, and had discovered that “great inen are not always wise, neither do the aged always judge correctly,” evidently reproving the pretended friends for the severity with which they irritated the virtuous patriarch. He then turns to Job, and tells him that he had erred in justifying himself rather than God; that by affirming bimself to be altogether perfect, he had arraigned the wisdom and the justice of the Sovereign ! that virtue could not entitle a creature to exemption from calamity, because it could not profit the self-sufficient Creator; that the counsels of God are not to be developed to finite man; but his chastisements are to be received with humility; that the righteous and the prosperous are afflicted to remind them of their dependence on the Great Supreme. “If they obey and serve him," he adds, “they shall spend their days in prosperity and their years in pleasure." He speaks in glowing terms of the magnificence of the Creator's works, and admonishes Job to reverence the Deity.
From the phraseology of Elihu, he would seem to be the author of the whole narrative. In the introduction to his speech, he says—“ When I had waited,” (for they spake not, but stood still, and answered no more,)“ I said, I will answer my part, I will also show mine opinion,” thus speaking in the first person, whereas the cther speakers are always quoted in the third.
When Elihu had ceased speaking, then comes the most majestic part of the poem, a conclusion that cannot be surpassed in grandeur. “ The Lord, answered Job out of a
, whirlwind." This is mysterious language to us, nor do we pretend to know how the Invisible Spirit spoke to man. A voice, probably, was heard in the whirlwind, and words were pronounced becoming a Deity to utter. Job is reproved, for presuming to scan the moral government of God, the meanest of whose works he cannot understand. He is called upon to contemplate the works of creation, and see if he is able to imitate the least of them. Where wast thou (it is asked) when the foundations of the pondrous earth were laid : " when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy-when the bars and the doors of the unfathomable deep were set,” and the raging floods were restrained by the high command “ flitherto shalt thou come, but no further, and here shall thy proud waves be stayed.” He asks if man can control the paths of light or darkness: can he direct the stars in their annual round, or set limits to their dominion ? Thunders, and lightnings, and clouds, and raius, and hail, and ice, and snow, are all arrayed in grand succession, to show