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another, “and she was scrupulous and precise.” “True," says a third, “and she was rigid and exact in insisting upon the whole of her due.” “ Besides," says another, “she was penurious; at least she spent but little on herself."--Have ye done? Is this the worst that ye can say of her character? I pretend not to assert, that she was exempt from common infirmities. But this I will venture to say, that, in all this numerous assembly, I believe that there is not one more exemplary for doing justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God. But what signifies any thing that we can say either for or against her? You see that she has appealed from us to God, when she said, “ He knoweth the way that I take; and when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.”
In these words we see Job, a perfect and an upright man, comforting himself under the unkind and unjust suspicions of his friends. This he does, not by retorting their censures, and judging as harshly of them as they thought of him, but by referring to God, the judge of all. “My witness," says he,“ is in heaven, and
my record is on high :” which is as if he had said, “ let Elihu, and Bildad, and Zophar, and the whole world, if they please, charge me with hypocrisy ; the God of heaven knows that it is otherwise. He is acquainted with all my ways: He understands my thoughts afar off: He sees that my heart is right with him, and that I have not gone back from his commandment." Being thus able to look backward upon his actions, and inward upon his intentions, and upward to his God and judge, it is no wonder that he cauld look forward with so much confidence, that his present trials, grievous as they were, would tera
minate to his advantage.
“ He knoweth the way that I take ; and when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.”
Here is an evident allusion to the putting of metals into the fire or furnace, in order to prove their goodness, or to get rid of their dross. I shall not, therefore, confine myself to the particular circumstances of Job ; but I shall consider it as applicable to the experience of the generality of the people of God; some of them being chosen, and most of them being refined, in the furnace of affliction.
We shall hence observe, in the first place, that the best saints have in them a mixture of dross.
In our original condition we were all gold, pure and precious, without any alloy ; for we were created in the image of God: but we soon fell from this state, and the glory departed ; the gold became dim, and the fine gold was changed. Wegrew vain in our imaginations; and our foolish heart was darkened; and we were even carnal, sensual, devilish. In short, then, we were all dross; so that not the smallest
particle of pure, unadulterated gold was found in our nature. In this depraved condition we came into the world; and in this deplorable state we should have gone out of it, if God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, had not kindly condescended to create us anew in Christ Jesus, Though all had sinned, and come short of the glory of God, he determined that all should not perish. With an awful and gracious sovereignty, he passed through a world lying in wickedness, and said to one here, and another there,“ Live ;” and presently those who before were dead in trespasses and sins, began to
feel and show themselves to be alive. The first symptom of this divine life was, lamenting their former vileness, loathing themselves in their own sight for all their transgressions, and sending up their most earnest cries to heaven for purity and pardon. “ Lord, if thou wilt,” said they,
" thou canst make me clean.” “I will,” said the God of all grace, “ be thou clean :” and immediately they cast away their transgressions; and from that time sincerely desired, and endeavoured, to perfect holiness in the fear of God.
But though sin then received its mortal wound, it did not presently die. Though the seeds of grace were sown, they did not arrive at maturity. There is, therefore, a mixture of holiness and depravity, of gold and dross, in all the people of God. Like Israel and Amalek, sometimes one prevails, and sometimes the other : with this consolation, however, that Israel shall grow stronger and stronger; and the Amalekites, in the end, shall be totally destroyed. Sometimes we see persons, for a considerable while, walking blameless in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord; and maintaining a conduct so circumspect and spiritual, that we cannot but admire their attainments. But afterwards, either they are provoked to speak unadvisedly with their lips; or through the violence and surprise of temptation, they turn aside from the straight path of duty. They dis
. cover that they are sanctified but in part, and that some fibres of the root of bitterness are still left behind. The scriptures present us with several such melancholy instances. But where it is not seen in the actions, it works strongly within, and occasions Chris
tians much grief and perplexity. At the very time when others are thinking and speaking highly of them, if we could follow the people of God to their closets, we should hear them utter a very different language. We should see them trembling in the dust, and acknowledging and lamenting their numerous defects. Their pride, their stubbornness, their excessive love of the world, the great difficulty which they feel to get or maintain a spiritual temper, their distrustfulness of Providence, their unthankfulness for mercies, their fretfulness in affliction, their unfruitfulness under the means of grace; these sins, and a multitude besides, they confess, with sorrow and shame, in the presence of God. But I need not enlarge ; for the best of you, I know, are ready to own that you have very much dross remaining.
Secondly, I observe that trials, and sometimes fiery trials, are necessary to separate the dross from the gold. God has various methods of trying mankind. This is sometimes done by an increase of wealth. Many who knew how to be abased, have appeared, upon trial, not to know how to abound. Sometimes men are tried by an increase of reputation. “As the fining-pot for silver, and the furnace for gold, so is a man to his praise ;" which discovers if he be really so humble and self-denying, as he appears or professes to be. Sometimes they are tried by a temporary or partial withdrawing of the presence and assistance of God. Thus it is said respecting Hezekiah ; “How, beit, in the business of the ambassadors of the princes of Babylon, God left him to try him, that he might know all that was in his heart." But the most common method of trial is by affliction, Some evil dispositions
lie so deep, and are so firmly rooted, that they are not easily discovered or dislodged. God has tried us by his word, directing us to that part of the scrips ture where we might see ourselves as in a glass, and where our sin or duty was particularly described : but that availed nothing. He next gave us loud and repeated calls in the course of his providence, holding up to our view the example of some eminently holy Christians, to excite our emulation ; or the conduct of certain characters notoriously wicked, to awaken us from our criminal security. He tried us by his Spirit ; 'sometimes addressing us in a still small voice ; and sometimes speaking to us in thunder, and raising a storm in our consciences, to bring us to a sense of our sins and our duty. But that did not succeed. It affected us for a moment, but the impressions soon wore away; and we sunk again into sloth and security. It became necessary, therefore, for the kindness and faithfulness of God, to lay upon us some heavy afflictions. Not a few have derived their first serious impressions from such a painful occurrence. God speaks to them in their prosperity, and they will not hear. He then changes the scene, and brings them into trouble, and this becomes the happy means of exciting their attention. “Speak, Lord," say they," for thy servant heareth. Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” Thus awakened to a sense of their duty and danger, like Manasseh, they have reason to bless God for their thorns and their bonds, as the means of their repentance, and deliverance from ruin.
But if some have been chosen, many have been refined in affliction's fiery furnace. What David says of himself, has been the experience of thousands :