on Job 24 :25
And if it be not so now - Job has proved by examples that the righteous are often oppressed; that the wicked often triumph over the just, that the impious are always wretched even in the midst of their greatest prosperity; and he defies his friends to show one flaw in his argument, or an error in his illustration of it; and that existing facts are farther proofs of what he has advanced.
In the preceding chapters we find Job's friends having continual recourse to this assertion, which it is the grand object of all their discourses to prove, viz., The righteous are so distinguished in the approbation of God, that they live always in prosperity, and die in peace. On the other hand, Job contends that the dispensations of Providence are by no means thus equal in this life; that experience shows that the righteous are often in adversity, and the wicked in power and prosperity. Job's friends had also endeavored to prove that if a reported good man fell into adversity, it was a proof that his character had been mistaken, that he was an internal sinner and hypocrite; and that God, by these manifest proofs of his disapprobation, unmasked him. Hence they charged Job with hypocrisy and secret sins, because he was now suffering adversity, and that his sins must be of the most heinous nature, because his afflictions were uncommonly great. This Job repels by appeals to numerous facts where there was nothing equivocal in the character; where the bad was demonstrably bad, and yet in prosperity; and the good demonstrably good, and yet in adversity. It is strange that none of these could hit on a middle way: viz., The wicked may be in prosperity, but he is ever miserable in his soul: the righteous may be in adversity, but he is ever happy in his God. In these respects, God's ways are always equal. On Job 24:14, I have referred to the case of unfortunate men who, falling into adversity, madly have recourse to plunder to restore their ruined circumstances. The following anecdote is told of the justly celebrated Dr. Sharp, archbishop of York, the grandfather of that highly benevolent, useful, learned, and eminent man, Granville Sharp, Esq., with whom I had for several years the honor of a personal acquaintance. "Never was any man, as well by the tenderness of his nature as by the impulse of religion, better disposed to succor the distressed, and relieve the necessities of the poor; to which merciful offices he had so strong an inclination that no reasonable solicitations were ever in danger of meeting with a repulse. Nay, he was more prone to seek out proper objects of his bounty, than to reject them when recommended; and so far was his charity from any suspicion of being extorted by importunity, that it appeared rather a delight than uneasiness to him to extend his liberality upon all proper occasions." For the same reason, a singular anecdote of the archbishop, related in the London Chronicle of Aug. 13, 1785, and always credited by his family, may be thought worth preserving. "It was his lordship's custom to have a saddle-horse attend his carriage, that in case of fatigue from sitting, he might take the refreshment of a ride. As he was thus going to his episcopal residence, and was got a mile or two before his carriage, a decent, well-looking young man came up with him; and, with a trembling hand and a faltering tongue presented a pistol to his lordship's breast, and demanded his money. The archbishop, with great composure, turned about; and, looking steadfastly at him, desired he would remove that dangerous weapon, and tell him fairly his condition. 'Sir! sir!' with great agitation, cried the youth; 'no words, 'tis not a time; your money instantly.' 'Hear me, young man,' said the archbishop; 'you see I am an old man, and my life is of very little consequence: yours seems far otherwise. I am named Sharp, and am archbishop of York; my carriage and servants are behind. Tell me what money you want, and who you are, and I will not injure you, but prove a friend. Here, take this; and now ingenuously tell me how much you want to make you independent of so destructive a business as you are now engaged in.' 'O sir,' replied the man, 'I detest the business as much as you. I-am-but-but-at home there are creditors who will not stay - fifty pounds, my lord, indeed would do what no tongue besides my own can tell.' 'Well, sir, I take it on your word; and, upon my honor, if you will, in a day or two, call on me at - , what I have now given you shall be made up that sum.' The highwayman looked at him, was silent, and went off; and, at the time appointed, actually waited on the archbishop, and assured his lordship his words had left impressions which nothing could ever destroy. "Nothing more transpired for a year and a half or more; when one morning a person knocked at his grace's gate, and with peculiar earnestness desired to see him. The archbishop ordered the stranger to be brought in. He entered the room where his lordship was, but had scarce advanced a few steps before his countenance changed, his knees tottered, and he sank almost breathless on the floor. On recovering, he requested an audience in private. The apartment being cleared, 'My lord,' said he, 'you cannot have forgotten the circumstances at such a time and place; gratitude will never suffer them to be obliterated from my mind. In me, my lord, you now behold that once most wretched of mankind; but now, by your inexpressible humanity, rendered equal, perhaps superior, in happiness to millions. O, my lord!' tears for a while preventing his utterance, ''tis you, 'tis you that have saved me, body and soul; 'tis you that have saved a dear and much-loved wife, and a little brood of children, whom I tendered dearer than my life. Here are the fifty pounds; but never shall I find language to testify what I feel. Your God is your witness; your deed itself is your glory; and may heaven and all its blessings be your present and everlasting reward! I was the younger son of a wealthy man; your lordship knows him; his name was - My marriage alienated his affection; and my brother withdrew his love, and left me to sorrow and penury. A month since my brother died a bachelor and intestate. What was his, is become mine; and by your astonishing goodness, I am now at once the most penitent, the most grateful, and happiest of my species.'" See Prince Hoar's life of Granville Sharp, Esq., page 13. I have no doubt there have been several cases of a similar kind, when the first step in delinquency was urged by necessity; but few of such wretched adventurers have met with an Archhishop Sharp. An early and pious education is the only means under God to prevent such dangerous steps, which generally lead to the most fearful catastrophe. Teach a child, that whom God loveth he chasteneth. Teach him, that God suffers men to hunger, and be in want, that he may try them if they will be faithful, and do them good in their latter end. Teach him, that he who patiently and meekly bears providential afflictions, shall be relieved and exalted in due time. Teach him, that it is no sin to die in the most abject poverty and affliction, brought on in the course of Divine providence, but that any attempts to alter his condition by robbery, knavery, cozening, and fraud, will be distinguished with heavy curses from the Almighty, and necessarily end in perdition and ruin. A child thus educated is not likely to abandon himself to unlawful courses.
on Job 24 :25
And if it be not so now, who will make me a liar? - A challenge to anyone to prove the contrary to what he had said. Job had now attacked their main position, and had appealed to facts in defense of what he held. He maintained that, as a matter of fact, the wicked were prospered, that they often lived to old age, and that they then died a peaceful death, without any direct demonstration of the divine displeasure. He boldly appeals, now, to anyone to deny this, or to prove the contrary. The appeal was decisive. The fact was undeniable, and the controversy was closed. Bildad Job 25:1-6 attempts a brief reply, but he does not touch the question about the facts to which Job had appealed, but utters a few vague and irrelevant proverbial maxims, about the greatness of God, and is silent. His proverbs appear to be exhausted, and the theory which he and his friends had so carefully built up, and in which they had been so confident, was now overthrown. Perhaps this was one design of the Holy Spirit, in recording the argument thus far conducted, to show that the theory of the divine administration, which had been built up with so much care, and which was sustained by so many proverbial maxims, was false. The overthrow of this theory was of sufficient importance to justify this protracted argument, because:
(1) it was and is of the highest importance that correct views should prevail of the nature of the divine administration; and
(2) it is of special importance in comforting the afflicted people of God.
Job had experienced great aggravation, in his sufferings, from the position which his friends had maintained, and from the arguments which they had been able to adduce, to prove that his sufferings were proof that he was a hypocrite. But it is worth all which it has cost; all the experience of the afflicted friends of God, and all the pains taken to reveal it, to show that affliction is no certain proof of the divine displeasure, and that important ends may be accomplished by means of trial.
on Job 24 :25