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matter of a dreadful storm. Be instant, every one, in secret, for the averting of this wrath, and let us now again unite the cries of our hearts for this purpose to our compassionate God, in the name and mediation of his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
JOB xxxiv. 31, 32.
Surely it is meet to be said unto God, I have borne chastisement, I will
not offend any more. That which I see not, teach Thou ine: if I have done iniquity, I will do no
The great sin, as well as the great misery of man, is, the forgetting of God; and the great end and use of His works and of His word, is, to teach us the right remembrance and consideration of Him in all estates. These words do particularly instruct us in the application of our thoughts towards Him in the time of affliction. The shortness and the various signification of the words used in the original, give occasion to some other readings and another sense of them. But this we have in our Translation, being not only very profitable, but very congruous, both to the words of the primitive text, and to the contexture of the discourse, I shall keep to it, without dividing your thoughts by the mentioning of any other. Neither will I lead you so far about, as to speak of the great dispute of this book, and the question about it which is held. He that speaks here, though the youngest of the company, yet, as a wise and calm-spirited man, closes all with a discourse of excellent temper, and full of grave useful instructions, amongst which this
Surely it is meet to be said (or spoken) to God.] This speaking to God, though it may be vocal, yet, it is not necessarily nor chiefly so, but is always mainly, and may often be only, mental : without this, the words of the mouth, how well chosen and well expressed soever they be, are to God of no account or signification at all. But if the heart speak, even when there is not a word in the mouth, it is that He hearkens
to, and regards that speech, though made by a voice that none hears but He, and in a language that none understands but He.
But it is a rare, unfrequent thing, this communing of the heart with God, speaking its thoughts to Him concerning itself, and concerning Him, and His dealings with it, and the purposes and intentions it hath towards Him; which is the speech here recommended, and is that Divine exercise of meditation and soliloquy of the soul with itself and with God, hearkening what the Lord God speaks to us within us, and our hearts echoing and resounding his words, (as Psalm xxvii. 8, 9.) and opening to Him our thoughts of them and of ourselves. Though they stand open, and He sees them all, even when we tell Him not of them, yet, because He loves us,
He loves to hear them of our own speaking: Let me hear thy voice, for it is sweet; as a father delights in the little stammering, lisping language of his beloved child.
of his beloved child. And if the reflex affection of children be in us, we shall love also to speak with our Father, and to tell Him all our mind, and to be often with Him in the entertainments of our secret thoughts.
But the most of men are little within : either they wear out their hours in vain discourse with others, or possibly vainer discourses with themselves. Even those who are not of the worst sort, and who, possibly, have their times of secret prayer, yet do not so delight to think of God and to speak with Him, as they do to be conversant in other affairs, and companies, and discourses, in which there is a great deal of froth and emptiness. Men think, by talking of many things, to be refreshed, and yet, when they have done, find that it is nothing, and that they had much better have been alone, or have said nothing. Our thoughts and speeches in most things, run to waste, yea, are defiled; as water spilt on the ground, is both lost, cannot be gathered up again, and is polluted, mingled with dust. But no word spoken to God, from the serious sense of a holy heart, is lost: He receives it, and returns it into our bosom with advantage. A soul that delights to speak to Him, will find that He also delights to speak to it. And this communication
certainly, is the sweetest and happiest choice; to speak little with men, and much with God. One short word, such as this here, spoken to God in a darted thought, eases the heart more when it is afflicted, than the largest discourses and complainings to the greatest and powerfullest of men, or the kindest and most friendly. It gives not only ease, but joy, to say to God, I have sinned, yet, I am Thine ; or, as here, I have borne chastisement, I will no more offend. The time of affliction is peculiarly a time of speaking to God, and such speech as this is peculiarly befitting such a time. And this is one great recommendation of affliction, that it is a time of wiser and more sober thoughts; a time of the returning of the mind inwards and upwards. A high place, fulness and pleasure, draw the mind more outwards. Great light and white colours dissipate the sight of the eye, and the very thoughts of the mind too ; and men find that the night is a fitter season for deep thoughts. It is better, says Solomon, to go to the house of mourning than to the house of feasting. Those blacks made the mind more serious. It is a rare thing to find much retirement unto God, much humility and brokenness of spirit, true purity and spirituality of heart, in the affluence and great prosperities of the world. It is no easy thing, to carry a very
cup even, and to digest well the fatness of a great estate and great place. They are not to be envied who have them: even though they be of the better sort of men, it is a thousand to one but they shall be losers by the gains and advancements of this world, suffering proportionably great abatements of their best advantages, by their prosperity. The generality of men, while they are at ease, do securely neglect God, and little mind either to speak to Him, or to hear Him speak to them. God complains thus of His own people : I spoke to them in their prosperity, and they would not hear. The noises of coach-wheels, of their pleasures and of their great affairs, so fill their ears, that the still voice wherein God is, cannot be heard. I will bring her into the wilderness, and there I will speak to her heart, says God of His Church. There the heart is more at quiet to
hear God, and to speak to Him, and is disposed to speak in the style here prescribed, humbly and repentingly.
I have borne chastisement.] The speaking this unto God under affliction, signifies, that our affliction is from His hand; and to the acknowledgment of this truth, the very natural consciences of men do incline them. Though trouble be the general lot of mankind, yet, it doth not come on him by an improvidential fatality: though man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upwards, yet, it comes not out of the dust. Job v. 6,7. It is no less true, and in itself no less clear, that all the good we enjoy and all the evil we suffer, come from the same Hand; but we are naturally more sensible of evil than of good, and therefore do more readily reflect upon the original and causes of it. Our distresses lead us to the notice of the righteous God inflicting them, and of our own unrighteous ways procuring them, and provoking Him so to do; and therefore it is meet to speak in this submissive, humble language to Him. It is by all means necessary to speak to Him. He is the party we have to deal withal, or to speak to, even in those afflictions whereof men are the intervenient visible causes. They are indeed but instrumental causes, the rod and staff in His hand who smites us ; therefore, our business is with Him, in whose Supreme Hand alone the mitigations and increases, the continuance and the ending of our troubles lie. Who gave Jacob to the spoil and Israel to the robbers ? Did not the Lord against whom we have sinned? Isa. xlii. 24. So, Lam. 1. 14. The yoke of my transgressions is bound on by His hand. Therefore it is altogether necessary in all afflictions to speak to Him. And as it is necessary to speak to Him, so, it is meet to speak thus to Him, I have borne chastisement, I will no more offend. These words have in them the true composition of real repentance, humble submission and holy resolution. I have borne chastisement, that is, I have justly borne it, and do heartily submit to it; I bear it justly, and take it well; Lord, I acquit thee, and accuse myself. This language becomes the most innocent persons in the world in their suffering. Job knew it well, and did often acknowledge it in his preceding speeches. Though sometimes, in the heat of dispute, and in opposition to the uncharitable and unjust imputations of his friends, he seems to overstrain the assertion of his own integrity, (which Elihu here corrects) you know he cries out, I have sinned against Thee : what shall I do unto Thee, 0 Thou preserver of men ? Job vii. 20. And ch. ix. ver. 30. If I wash myself with snow-water, and make my hands never so clean, yet shalt Thou plunge me in the ditch, and mine own clothes shall abhor me.
Vain, foolish persons fret and foam at the miscarriage of a cause they apprehend to be righteous; but this is a great vanity and inconsiderate temerity in not observing the great and apparent unrighteousness in the persons managing it. But though both the cause and the persons were just to the greatest height imaginable amongst men, yet, still were it meet to speak thus unto God in the lowest acknowledgments and confessions, that righteousness belongs unto Him, and unto us shame and confusion of face. So says the Church, Lam. iii. The Lord is righteous, for I have rebelled against His commandments. Though affliction is not always designedly intended as the chastisement of some particular sin, yet, where sin is, (and that is the case of all the sons of Adam,) affliction coming in, may safely be considered in its natural cognation and alliance with sin, and so press forth humble confessions of sin and resolutions against it. And thus in Lev. xxvi. 41., They shall accept of the punishment of their iniquity; shall take it humbly and penitently, and kiss the rod.
Oh, that there were such a heart in us! that instead of empty words that scatter themselves in the wind, our many vain discourses we hold one with another concerning our past and present sufferings, and further fears, and disputing of many fruitless and endless questions, we were more abundantly turning our speech this way, in unto God, and saying, We desire to give Thee glory, and to take shame to ourselves, and to bear our chastisement, and to offend no more; to return each