« AnteriorContinuar »
so confused and terrified that, however innocent I knew myself to be, I should declare that I was guilty, though I should despise myself for doing so all the while.
It is all one to me whether I live or die ; so I may as well speak out my mind. This talk of yours about His punishing the guilty is nonsense. He destroys the guilty and the guiltless alike. If there is any difference, the guilty have the best of it. The earth seems to be given over in the hands of the wicked. At the calamities of the righteous, God only laughs.
My days are swifter than a courier, and they will soon be over; so that there will be no time for compensation. Besides, I know Thou wilt not clear me. Well, if I must be guilty, I must be. Thou hast determined to have it so. Were I to wash myself in snow-water and cleanse my hands in potash, Thou wouldst thrust me into a ditch, and make me so foul that my very garments would shrink from contact with me. I am helpless. He says I am guilty, and I cannot disprove it; for He is God, and I am only man. There is no arbiter to come between us, no mediator to reconcile us and explain us to one another. If there were, I would speak and not be afraid, for I am innocent ; I know no cause for fear.
And speak I will, even as it is. I can but lose the life which I loathe. In the bitterness of my soul I will say unto God, Show me wherefore Thou contendest with me. Is it becoming in Thee to oppress the weak, to give prosperity to the wicked, to despise the very work of Thine own hands? Can it be that Thou hast only human eyesight, that Thou hast been misled as to my real character ? Or is it that Thy days are numbered, and that Thou hastenest to glut Thine anger before Thou art no more? Thou knowest I am not guilty, yet Thou inventest sins of which to accuse me. Thy hands fashioned me, yet now Thou art destroying me. Oh remember how soon I must return to dust! Once Thou didst grant me favour. Once Thou didst watch over me and guard me. But Thou must have been hiding malice in Thine heart all the time. Thou wast preserving me only to amuse Thyself with my anguish. That this was Thy purpose, I know. It mattered not whether I was innocent or guilty. Had I done wickedly, Thou wouldst have taken vengeance on me. Had I been righteous, Thou wouldst have been doubly angry. Thou wouldst not have permitted me to hold up my head; Thou wouldst have suborned witnesses to convict me ; Thou wouldst have proved Thyself omnipotent for my discomfiture.
be as though I had not been! Would that I had been carried from the womb to the grave! But as it is, forbear! Get Thee gone! Leave me alone, that I may know some little comfort before I go away into the land from which there is no return—that land of disorder and of gloom, where the very light is darkness.
In this state of mind we must leave him for the present. The burden of his complaint, you will have noticed, has been twofold. He laments, first, that God, by so grievously afflicting him, has virtually declared him to be pre-eminently sinful; and secondly, that his little span of life should have been wasted in anguish, when it was the only life he would have. He has spoken words which fall little, if at all, short of blasphemy. But these words were the natural product of his creed. The theology in which he and his three friends had been instructed contained at least two seriously erroneous doctrines. It taught that suffering was an invariable proof of the divine displeasure; and it also taught that human life ended with the grave. It is in the light, or rather in the darkness, of these doctrines, that Job has hitherto been studying his experience. No wonder that he despairs.
TT is now Zophar's turn to speak. He has
only the same doctrine to preach as Eliphaz and Bildad, and he is a vastly inferior preacher. But, with the self-conceit natural to an ignorant man, he seems to think that he alone can satisfactorily answer Job's arguments.
Your boastful babblings about your purity shall not go unanswered. Would that God might appear to you as you have wished ! He would soon make you conscious of your guilt. You would then see that your punishment was less than you deserved.
What do you know about God? Are you acquainted with the heights and depths and lengths and breadths of the divine perfection? Iniquity cannot be hid from Him, and nothing can hinder Him from punishing it. He sees evil even when He seems to see it not. A man may be as stupid and intractable as a wild ass's colt, but God can make him wise. Do you, therefore, draw near to God, having first put away your iniquity. Then you will once more be able to hold up your head. The light of prosperity will dawn upon you, and become brighter than the glory of noon. Peace and hope and safety will be yours, and many will pay court to you. But as for the wicked, they shall perish. Their hope is as fleeting as the sigh of an expiring man.
Job in his reply gives a long harangue on the power of God. He wishes his friends to see that he can be as eloquent on this subject as they can; and he also intends to prove that instead of being strictly retributive, as they maintained, Providence is arbitrary, or at any rate inexplicable, in its action. He declares that he will summon his divine Adversary to a formal trial; and, as though the trial had been already instituted, he demands to be informed of what he is accused. But failing to elicit any response, he relapses again into his old despondency. For a moment it occurs to him that there