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SERMONS XXV. XXVI.
A JUST SENSE OF THE CHARACTER AND PRESENCE OF GOD A
SOURCE OF REPENTANCE.
JOB xlii. 5, 6.
I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear ; but now mine eye seeth Thee.
Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.
Job, as every person who reads his Bible knows, was an emi. nently righteous man. God himself testifies, that there was none like him in the earth ; that he was perfect and upright; that he feared God, and eschewed evil. Still he was afflicted beyond most other men. He lost his property, and his children. He was distressed with a most painful and loathsome disease. His wife treated him with the bitterest unkindness; and his friends put a finishing hand to his sufferings by insisting that they were all exhibitions of the anger of God against him, on account of his peculiar guilt. Job vindicated his character against these charges with firmness and zeal. In the progress of the debate both parties evidently passed the bounds of moderation. While his friends attributed to him crimes which he had not committed, and guilt which he had not incurred; Job strenuously challenged, in terms too unqualified, an innocence and a purity, to which his claims were certainly imperfect.
When their dispute was ended, Elihu, a young man, who had been a witness of their zeal, censured them all for their heat, for the intemperance of their sentiments, the unreasonable imputations of the one party, and the unwarranted self-justification of the other. At the same time he vindicated, in a becoming manner, the justice of the Divine dispensations towards Job; exhibVOL. II.
ited in a strong light the greatness and perfection of Jehovah; and urged, irresistibly, the duty of implicit submission to his will.
When Elihu had closed his discourse, God manifested himself to this assembly of disputants in a storm, accompanied with thunder and lightning; and answered Job out of the whirlwind, by which they were borne along. In a series of sublime and wonderful observations he displayed his own supreme excellence; the immeasurable greatness, the incomprehensible multitude, and the unfathomably mysterious nature, of the works of creation and providence. With these observations he interwove, also, strong and overwhelming proofs of the littleness, ignorance, and imbecility, of man; and shewed, unanswerably, how impossible it was, that such a being should judge, with any propriety, concerning the divine dispensations.
By these discoveries of the true, great, and perfect character of God, Job, as we might well expect, was deeply humbled, and led to genuine self-abhorrence, and sincere repentance.
The great evangelical truth, which is contained in this passage, thus illustrated, and on which I mean to insist in the following discourse, is this:
That clear and just views of the character, and presence, of God naturally produce in the mind obasing and penitential thoughts concerning ourselves.
This doctrine I shall attempt to illustrate by the following observations.
God is our Creator, Preserver, and Benefactor. He formed us out of nothing ; breathed into our nostrils the breath of life ; and caused us to become living souls. He made us wiser than the beasts of the field, and the fowls of heaven ; and enabled us by the light of reason to discern his character and his agency; and, by our moral powers, to love, and serve, and glorify, him forever. The being which he gave, he upholds by the word of his power ; and renders desirable by the exercise of his goodness. His mercies to us are new every morning, and fresh every moment, Life, and breath, and all things which we enjoy, are among the good gifts, which come down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. All these considerations prove, indubitably, that in the highest possible sense we are the property of this great and glorious Being ; in such a sense, as nothing is ours. Indeed, nothing is ours, except what he has given us ; and all the property which Intelligent creatures possess or can possess, in any thing, is created solely by the gift of God.
From these considerations, it is evident, God has an absolute right to dispose of us in whatever manner seems good in his sight: Particularly, he has an unquestionable right to prescribe for us such laws, and require of us such services, as he pleases. Whatever he prescribes we are bound by the highest possible obligation to obey : whatever he requires, we are by the same obligation bound to perform.
This unlimited right God is infinitely able to vindicate. His power is immeasurable. Disobedience to his commands he can punish without bounds, and without end. He knows every avenue to the heart; and can make every thought and every nerve, a channel of suffering. To escape from his eye or his hand, is alike impossible. Every element, every faculty, and even every enjoyment, he can convert into a minister of vengeance. He needs not the famine nor the pestilence, the storm nor the thunder-bolt, the volcano nor the earthquake, the sword nor the sceptre of tyranny; to execute his wrath upon his rebellious creatures. He needs no lake of fire and brimstone to torment the workers of iniquity. He can arm an insect, he can commission an atom, to be the minister of his anger. He can make the body its own tormentor. He can convert the mind itself into a world of perdition, where the gloom of despair shall overcast all the faculties; the sigh of anguish heave, and the stream of sorrow flow forever.
In the possession of this mighty power he is still just. No intelligent creature will ever find a solid reason for complaining of God. His commandments concerning all things are absolutely right. I do not intend, that they are right, because they are his commandments: they are right in themselves. The things
which they require, are the very things which wisdom sufficiently informed, and virtue sufficiently pure, would choose to do in preference to all others. In themselves therefore, they contain ample reasons why they should be done by us.
At the same time he is infinitely good. “Thou art good," says David, " and thou dost good; and thy tender mercies are over all thy works.” Even in this rebellious world he has not left himself without abundant witness, “ in that he gives us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, and fills our hearts with food and gladness.” Our health, our food, our raiment, our friends, our hopes; the nameless and numberless enjoyments which succeed each other without intermission, and flow in an unceasing stream through the period of life ; and peculiarly, the means and proffers of life beyond the grave; are all daily and divine proofs of the kindness of our great Benefactor. From Him who does these things, to such beings as we are, what blessings would not descend were we better. Were we innocent ; can we doubt, that our thorns and briers would bloom with the beauty of Paradise? Were we of an angelic disposition ; can we hesitate to believe that earth would be changed into heaven?
Of the goodness of God his mercy is the consummation and glory. When we had ruined ourselves, and had none to save, or even to pity us; he sent his Son, his only beloved, to redeem us from our sins, and to rescue us from perdition. He sent him to endure the contradiction of sinners, and to undergo the death of the cross.
At the tidings of this wonderful work heaven opened its gates to receive mankind; and thousands and millions of repenting sinners entered the path, which leads to immortal life; and found themselves welcomed in that happy world, with a joy, never exercised over just persons who need no repentance.
He is also our Ruler, our Judge, and our Rewarder. The universe which he has made, is his own empire. All the beings by which it is inhabited, are his subjects. The dominion which he exercises over them, is dictated by the glorious perfections which I have mentioned. To rebel against it, is to oppose the excellence and authority of the Ruler, and the interests of his immense