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JOB ix. 2.
“ How should man be just with God ? "
SUPERFICIAL thinkers see no difficulty in the determination of questions, whose height and whose depth can scarcely be measured by any finite understanding The friends of Job decided with little hesitation
of his extraordinary trials, and, indeed, concluded that his hypocrisy in religion was thus detected. They argued that the wicked are always punished here, and that the righteous always prosper, and they thus confounded this state of probation, with the season of future retribution. He replied to them with a degree of irony,
• I know it is so of a truth :" but when he calmly looked within; when he contemplated his true character, and surveyed, with alarm and jealousy, his present and his eternal prospects, he inquired with much anxiety, “But how should man be just
with God?” Can the high and lofty One justify the guilty, and yet, Himself, remain immaculate? In what way? By what means? He is not only merciful: He is also Holy and true. His laws are good, as well as just. He too is the Almighty Governor; and can rebellion against him be gratuitously forgiven? And must He not vindicate his insulted majesty ? “How should man be just with God?”
In entering, then, in connection with some of my brethren in the ministry, upon a Course of Sermons, in which it is intended to point out divers errors of the Church of Rome, I begin with the all-important subject of A SINNER'S JUSTIFICATION BEFORE God.
The method which I propose is this :
I. TO ASCERTAIN THE MEANING OF THE SINGULAR QUESTION WHICH IS HERE PUT BY JOB:
II. To STATE THE SCRIPTURAL ANSWER TO IT; AND,
III. TO COMPARE THE DECISIONS MADE UPON THE SUBJECT, BY THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND, AND BY THE CHURCH OF ROME.
I trust, my dear brethren, that much prayer has been offered by us, for the accompanying power and energy of the Holy Ghost, to bless our present undertaking. May that Spirit incline those that preach to " speak the truth in love;" may he also extend widely the kingdom of peace and righteousness, deliver us from all false doctrine, heresy and schism, and bring into the way of truth such as have erred, and are deceived !' Let us now endeavour I. To ascertain the meaning of the singular question which is here put by Job.
When he asks, “How should man be just with God ?" He discovers no ordinary concern upon
the subject; and he is still conscious, that there are windings and intricacies in it, which require to be unravelled. The surest way of searching after the will of God, is always to grapple with matters fully; and, while guided by unfeigned humility, to investigate, if possible, their lowest foundations.
Job, then, feeling his own guilt and exposure to the displeasure of God, might naturally ask himself,
How can I become just in a way that is consistent * with the holiness of his charaeter ?' He is infinite and unspotted in all his perfections. His purity, indeed, was most strikingly represented in a vision to Isaiah : “I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the Seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory,” vi. 1–3. The prophet was so much affected by this representation, that he cried out, “Woe is me: for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips : for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts." v. 5. Another prophet, addressing Jehovah, says, “ Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity,"
Hab. i. 13.
A main benefit which Job derived from his heavy trials, will still further illustrate this point; and this was, a clearer view of the glory of the Supreme Being. This closer acquaintance with him silenced every complaint, and laid him prostrate and selfcondemned at the foot-stool of his God. 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.”*
He attributed no expiatory virtue to his mourning among the ashes. So little did he think of satisfying the justice of God by his penances, that, after he had performed them, he entertained a far meaner opinion of himself, and of his own works, and more spiritual conceptions of the Divine Majesty.
Without wishing to anticipate the last division of my subject, I cannot help stating to you here, how widely different are the views of the Church of Rome upon this point. Their missal is, in part, to the members of their communion' what our book of Common Prayer is to ourselves; and you will see from the following extracts, to what extent their unscriptural sentiments affect their very devotions. . 'O Lord, we pray Thee, let our fasts be accepted by Thee; and let them also, by expiating, make us worthy of thy grace, and lead to thy everlasting promises, through the Lord.' Fasts, then, are here said to have the power of Expiation;' they make us worthy of the grace of God, and lead to his everlasting promises, through the Lord.' Was such the judgment of holy Job? Or is this the real mind of the
* Job xlii, 5, 6.
Spirit of Truth? But still higher efficacy is ascribed to ashes. “Almighty and Everlasting God, spare the penitent, be propitious to thy suppliants; and vouchsafe to send from heaven thy holy angel to bless and sanctify these ashes, that they may be a wholesome remedy to all, who humbly implore thy holy name; and who, from conscience of their sins, accuse themselves, and deplore their own crimes in the sight of thy divine mercy: or who suppliantly and earnestly importune thy most serene compassion (pietatem); and grant that by invocation of thy holy name, whosoever shall sprinkle them upon themselves for the remission of their sins, may receive health of body, and protection of soul, through Christ our Lord. Amen.'
It is difficult to preserve the gravity becoming this place, and this occasion; for who is not shocked to hear an 'angel implored from heaven to bless and sanctify these ashes, that they may become a wholesome remedy;' that the ashes sprinkled' on the supplicants may avail for the redemption of their sins,' and that health of body, and protection of soul' may be thus received ;' and all this is asked
through Christ our Lord ?' Is such worship consonant with a due reverence for the holiness of Jehovah? We believe that “without the shedding of Christ's blood there is no remission :” but this sacrifice is virtually set aside, and the sprinkling of ashes is substituted in its stead.
I add one other quotation from the missal. • We beseech thee, O Lord, by the merits of thy saint, whose relics are here, and of all saints, that thou wouldest vouchsafe to pardon all my sins. Amen.'
* The Roman Missal restored according to the decree of the Council