on Job 9 :2
I know it is so of a truth - I acknowledge the general truth of the maxims you have advanced. God will not ultimately punish a righteous person, nor shall the wicked finally triumph; and though righteous before man, and truly sincere in my piety, yet I know, when compared with the immaculate holiness of God, all my righteousness is nothing.
on Job 9 :2
I know it is so of a truth - Job here refers, undoubtedly, to something that had been said before; but whether it is to the general strain of remark, or to some particular expression, may be doubted. Rosenmuller supposes that he refers to what was said by Eliphaz in Job 4:17; but it seems more probable that it is to the general position which had been laid down and defended, that God was just and holy, and that his proceedings were marked with equity. Job admits this, and proceeds to show that it was a truth quite as familiar to him as it was to them. The object of his dwelling on it seems to be to show them that it was no new thing to him, and that he had some views on that important subject which were well worthy of attention.
But how should man be just with God? - Margin, "before." The meaning is, that he could not be regarded as perfectly holy in the sight of God; or that so holy and pure a being as God must see that man was a sinner, and regard him as such; see the sentiment explained in the notes at Job 4:17. The question here asked is, in itself, the most important ever propounded by man - "How shall sinful man be regarded and treated as righteous by his Maker?" This has been the great inquiry which has always been before the human mind. Man is conscious that he is a sinner. He feels that he must be regarded as such by God. Yet his happiness here and hereafter, his peace and all his hope, depend on his being treated as if he were righteous, or regarded as just before God. This inquiry has led to all forms of religion among people; to all the penances and sacrifices of different systems; to all the efforts which have been made to devise some system that shall make it proper for God to treat people as righteous.
The question has never been satisfactorily answered except in the Christian revelation, where a plan is disclosed by which God "may be just, and yet the justifier of him that believeth." Through the infinite merits of the Redeemer, man, though conscious that he is personally a sinner, may be treated as if he had never sinned; though feeling that he is guilty, he may consistently be forever treated as if he were just. The question asked by Job implies that such is the evidence and the extent of human guilt, that man can never justify himself. This is clear and indisputable. Man cannot justify himself by the deeds of the law. Justification, as a work of law, is this: A man is charged, for example, with the crime of murder. He sets up in defense that he did not kill, or that if he tools life it was in self-defense, and that he had a right to do it. Unless the fact of killing be proved, and it be shown that he had no right to do in the case as he has done, he cannot be condemned, and the law acquits him. It has no charge against him, and he is just or justified in the sight of the law. But in this sense man can never be just before God. He can neither show that the things charged on him by his Maker were not done, or that being done, he had a right to do them; and being unable to do this, he must be held to be guilty. He can never be justified therefore by the law, and it is only by that system which God has revealed in the gospel, where a conscious sinner may be treated as if he were righteous through the merits of another, that a man can ever be regarded as just before God; see Romans 1:17, note; Romans 3:24-25, note.
on Job 9 :2
9:2 I know - That God is just in all his ways, that he doth ordinarily bless the righteous, and punish the wicked. Before God - And I know that no man is absolutely just, if God be severe to mark what is amiss in him.