Upon the Eighth, Ninth and Tenth
Chapters of the Book of
The Summe of Thirty two Lectures, delivered
at Magnus neer the Bridge, London.
By Joseph Caryl, Preacher of the Word ,
and Pastour of the Congregation there.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord deli-
vereth him out of them all.
Printed by A. Miller, for Henry Overton in Popes-head-alley,
and Luke Fawne, and John Rothwell in Pauls Church-yard,
and Giles Calvert at the west end of Pauls,1647.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord deli-
vereth him out of them all.
PUBLISHED BY A. Miller
PUBLISHED FOR Henry Overton
PUBLISHED FOR Luke Fawne
PUBLISHED FOR John Rothwell
PUBLISHED FOR Giles Calvert
When God took up a resolution against his own people, that he would not hear or be intreated, and protested his minde could not be towards them, he saith (Jer. 15.2.) Let them go forth, such as are for the sword to the sword; and such as are for the famine, to the famine; and such as are for the captivity, to the captivity. This was a dreadfull sentence; but for God to say to a people, Let them go forth in [Page 27] the waies of their sinne; he that is for drunkennesse, to be drunk; he that is for uncleannesse, to be unclean; he that is for pride, to be proud; he that is for swearing to oaths; and he that is for envy, to be envious; and he that is for idolatry, to his idols. O how unconceivably miserable are such a people! To be left in the hand of these sins, is a spirituall judgement; and these sinnes will quickly bring in temporall judgements, and not long hence eternall.
They do not receive all at once. It is true of persons, families and Nations. We must not look for all in a day. Outward mercies may come too fast upon us, there may be a glut of them. We may have more than we know how to order and take in, it may do hurt to receive all together. As it is with men that have been long pined with famine and hunger, and are grown out of their ordinary course, by reason of their necessitated abstinence: We doe not presently give them all manner of good cheer, or bring them to a full table, and let them eat as much as they will; but we give them a little and a little at a time, and so by degrees bring their stomacks on, till they be wrought for plenty. So when the Lord brings persons or nations very low, he doth not bring in a glut of mercies at first, this would be more then they are able to bear, as they may be undone, if they have all at one receit; but he gives they are able to take them in, and make a right use of them. As Jacob said to Esau his brother, when he invited him to march with him; no, saith Jacob, I cannot march thy pace, I must consider what my train is, I have flocks here that are great with young, And if I should over-drive them one day, they would all die: therefore (saith he) I will lead on softly, according as the cattell that are before me, and the children be able to endure. So it is in this case, the Lord in infinite wisdome gives, as men are able to receive. We may be over-mercy'd, as well as over-afflicted; over-laden with comforts, as well as with sorrows. And therefore as the Lord doth correct in judgement and in measure: So also doth he restore. We have not fulltide in a moment, or in a quarter of an hour: it would be terrible, dangerous and troublesome, if when it is low water we should have full tide in a moment, but it comes in stealing by degrees, and at last it swels all over the banks. Such a stealing flood of mercies the Lord gives his people.
He removeth mountains, even their mountains, and they know it not.
'Tis true in reference to naturall, but especially to civill mountains. The rich, the mighty are cast down from their seats, or [Page 179] their seats are cast down before they saw any hand touching them; the whore of Babylon , and mother of fornications, who sits upon seven mountains (Revel. 17.9.) saith in her heart, I sit a Queen and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow, (Revel. 18.7.) Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death and mourning and famine, &c. (ver. 8.) [...]
How little is it that we see, that we know of God in either? What admirable operations are there in the course of naturall things, in the Sunne, Moon, and Stars, in the growth of herbs and plants, and in our own bodies, which we see not? What admirable administrations are there in the course of civill things? The beginnings, growths and declinings of Common-wealths, the transplantations of people from Countrey to Countrey, their oppressions by injustice, their confusions by warre, their establishments by peace, their consumptions by plague and famine, their encrease by health and abundance are little minded by the most of men. How doth God turn Nations up-side-down, and hurl Kingdoms together, and we perceive him not. Some take no notice at all of God, as doing such things, none taking such notice as they ought. We observe creatures, what this man did, and what the other, such men were malicious and unfaithfull, such were valiant and wise, such were self-seekers, such self-deniers, such constant Patriots, and such were Apostates. Thus we see men, but we seldom see God in the great transactions and motions of Kingdoms. And we see him least of all in the course of spirituall things, in his working upon our hearts; God works wonders in us, and we perceive [Page 233] him not! We regard not his commings or goings, his comfortings or with-drawings, when our spirits are heated, or when they are cold, when we are strong, or when we are weak: There are continuall varieties and changes in our spirits, had we a clearnesse to make observation. The work of God in the heart of a believer moving it, ordering it, preserving it, comforting it, purging it, is as wonderfull, and more, then any of his works in the whole world.
Verse 23. If the scourge slay suddenly, he laugheth at the triall of the innocent.
The former words gave offence to some mindes, conceiving them inconsistent with grace and holinesse. Others are more offended with these. And in the letter it is strange language to say, The Lord laughs at the triall of the innocent.Nullum est ver Bun hat sententia & illa, elegit anima mea suspendiu, du [...] [...] atq, asperius in bac libro. Philip. This verse, with the fifteenth of the 7th Chapter: So that my soul chooseth strangling, are concluded by a learned Writer, the sharpest and most questionable passages in the whole book. Hence his conceit, that in the 40th Chapter, vers. 5. Job aims at these two speeches, Once have I spoken, but I will not answer; that is, I will never speak such a word again, that, I chuse strangling, yea twice, but I will proceed no further, I said also, That thou laughest at the triall of the innocent, but I will never say so any more. I am asham'd that ever I opened my lips so unadvisedly; tis too too much that I have spoken twice so sinfully, I will not speak so thrice. The conceit is witty, but the charg lies too heavy. The sense of the former hath been made out fair for Job, and I doubt not but his meaning may be so cleared in this later, that he will need neither reproof nor apology for saying,
If the scourge slay suddenly, &c.
The verb signifies to encompasse or incircle a thing, to twine round about it. And so it alludes to the fashion of a scourge, which begirts the offender, & at every blow winds about his body.
The scourge in Scripture is put for any affliction, plague, sword or famine are called scourges, Isa. 10.26. The Lord of hosts shall stirre up a scourge for him; what scourge? the next words expound it, a scourge, not of cords or wiers, but of swords and spears, a scourge, according to the slaughter of Midian at the rock Oreb, that is, the Lord will send a sword upon him: So Gideon slew the Midianites, Judg. 7. commanding his souldiers to make that terrible shout, when they fell on upon their Camp, The sword of the Lord and of Gideon . That great warriour Attila king of the Hunnes, who harassed a great part of Christendom with fire and sword, was called, Flagellum Dei, The scourge of God.Flagellum inundans. i.e. omnes five deletsu involvens & proculcans. The unbelieving Jews having made a Covenant with death, and an agreement with hell, were very full of faith, such as it was (Isa. 28.15.) When the overflowing scourge shall passe thorow, it shall not come unto us. An overflowing scourge ('Tis an elegant metaphor [Page 313] taken from waters) is a common, spreading, sweeping judgement, which like an over-flowing river encompasses, circles about, and fetches in all.
Every scourge doth not slay, [...] Subito, statim, tia at non sentiatur donecres fiat. and many which slay doe not slay suddenly. We usually hear the clashing of the scourge before we feel the smart of it. The Lord shews the scourge, and threatens it before he smites with it, he lets judgement hang like a black cloud over the heads of some, long, before it fals upon them. But others He slaies suddenly.
Some take this suddennesse of the scourge in slaying for a mittigation of the judgement, and others for the heightning of it. In the former sense suddennesse doth not imply the sudden comming of it, but the sudden killing of it, a scourge which doth it's work quickly; so that a man doth not hang long as it were upon the rack of an affliction. The Church of the Jews (Lam. 4.6.) complains of their afflictions, as if the judgement of Sodome and Gomorrah had been more easie and eligible then that which the Lord brought upon Jerusalem ; not that they thought God had dealt worse with them then with Sodome and Gomorrah , but as to this particular, because Sodom was overthrown in a moment, but Jerusalem was pined away by degrees with famine. A sudden scourge is a kinde of mercy. Better die once then die alwaies: Or, as the Apostle speaks concerning the afflictions of the Saints (Rom. 8.36. To be killed all the day long. When one under torture petitioned Tiberius the Roman Emperour, a bloudy cruell tyrant, that he might be quickly dispatcht, he desired not life or pardon, but a speedy death; the Emperour sent him word, That as yet he was Nandum tetum in gratia redijnot reconciled to him, or become his friend. His cruelty would neither suffer the man to live longer, nor to die speedily. And some observe, that as the Prophet expresses his trouble at the prosperity of the wicked in their lives, so at this kinde of prosperity in their deaths, There are no bands in their death, Non sunt nodt in morte eorum.but they are lusty and strong, (Psal. 73.4.) that is, when they die, they die in their strength, they are not pined away with long and tedious sicknesses: They live in pleasure, and die with ease. They are not bound to their beds, and tied down with the cords of chronicall lingring diseases. It is some favour (if the scourge must slay) to be slain, in this sense, suddenly.
But here the scourge slaying suddenly, is a judgement comming unexpectedly, They who sleep in security, seldom dream of scourges. Observe hence,
When they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction commeth upon them, as travel upon a woman with childe, and they shall not escape (1 Thess. 5.3.) Wicked men are never so neer destruction, as when they are most secure. And that (by the way) is the reason why we have least cause to fear those men, who fear God least: Security springs from infidelity, and both from sleighting, if not contemning the Word of God; no marvell then if the Lord hasten his wrath to justifie his truth, and slay them on a sudden, who would not believe, no not at leisure. But to the point. The Prophet describes it elegantly (Isa. 30.13.) This iniquity shall be to you as a breach ready to fall; that is, this iniquity shall produce a judgement, which shall be to you as a breach ready to fall, Swelling out in an high wall, whose breaking commeth suddenly at an instant. If once a high built wall doe but swell, down it comes. Such a swelling wall fell upon, and slew twenty and seven thousand of Benhadads scattered Army (1 King. 20.30.) And such a tower in Siloe fell upon eighteen, and slew them (Luk. 13.4.) The Prophet Jeremy at once imprecates and fore-tels a speedy scourge upon the gain-saying Jews, Let a cry be heard from their houses, when thou shalt bring a troop suddenly upon them, Jer. 18.22. This hath been the case of many among us, who thinking of no danger have been surprized by a troop, themselves made prisoners, and their houses spoil'd in one hour. Such was the condition of our Brethren in Ireland ; it is almost incredible how suddenly that scourge slew them: there was scarce a Protestant that had so much as a suspition of the danger; nay, some would not believe it, when a great part of the countrey was on a flame, and the enemy had butchered thousands. That scourge (if ever any) slew suddenly the perfect and the wicked. As mercies may come so suddenly to our senses, that they overcome our faith, so may judgements. Some have been surprized with mercy (Psal. 126.4.) When the Lord turned our captivity as the streams in the South: that is, gave us sudden deliverance (rivers in the South, rise not from a constant spring, but from accidentall raines, which make violent landfloods on a sudden.) At the approach of this sudden mercy, the Jews were like to them that dream. So when the Lord sends sudden judgements, rivers [Page 315] of calamity, rivers of bloud, as rivers in the South, when he brings in captivity, as rivers in the South, then are we in a dream too, and are not only destroied, but distracted and amazed. But how fast soever judgements come, they come not suddenly upon them, who are awake, much lesse on them who are watching for them when they come.
M . Broughton reads it thus, He scorneth at the melting away of the innocent. The reason of the different reading is, because the Hebrew word may spring either from a root, signifying to tempt and try, or from another, To melt and dissolve, He scorneth at the melting away of the innocent. Afflictions are meltings, They dissolve our comforts; yea, our very hearts, in the same sense that godly sorrow breaks our hearts. Pity should be shewen to him that is melted (Cha. 6.) but ye forsake the fear of the Almighty; so M. Broughton translates there, The Lord tempted Abraham (Gen. 22.1.) that is, the Lord tried his faith, to finde out of what strength it was, and how much he could trust him in that great businesse of sacrificing his son.
He will laugh at the triall of the innocent] At their melting or trying by afflictions. The difficulty is, [...] Ridcre est irredere, subisannare, ur fit ab bostibus, cumeos quos captivos detinent, diuturnis malis conficiunt. Pined. siognificat derisionem que fit externo corporls Zestu. LXX. vertunt per [...] Pisc, in I Con 14.31.How God laughs at this triall? The word notes derision or scorn (Psal. 2.4.) Hethat sitteth in heaven will laugh, there he uses the ordinary word for laughter, and he will have them in derision, That's the word in the text. So that properly and strictly it signifies to scorn and deride, and that either by words or gestures, as putting forth of the finger, shaking the head, or gnashing the teeth, which are Scripture expressions of highest scorn by gesture.
But how shall we fit this to the businesse in hand? Will the Lord thus scorn and deride at the triall and probation of the innocent?
The Vulgar was it seems so much straitned to make out the sense that he reads it negatively, If the scourge slay suddenly, he will not laugh at the triall of the innocent. Others, though they put not in a negation formally and in terms, yet they doe it equivalently, and therefore they render it by an interrogation, If the scourge slay suddenly, Will he laugh at the triall of the innocent? No, he will not, that's their meaning: the Lord will not sleight or neglect the triall of the innocent, though he destroies them, yet he will not deride [Page 316] them. But we, and most of the learned Hebritians, keep close to the affirmative, If the scourge slay suddenly, he will laugh at the triall of the innocent.
There is a di [...]te, whom we are to understand by this He, for some taking this laughing and deriding in the broadest sense, think it too low and dishonourable to be ascribed unto God, and therefore they carry it down low enough, ascribing it to the devil, If the scourge slay suddenly, then the devil laugheth to see the upright tried, He makes merry with the sorrows of the Saints: the devil hath no great cause (how much minde soever he hath) to laugh, considering his condition; but the meaning is, that which gives the devil most content, is to see righteous persons vexed. And that's a truth. As there is joy in heaven, when good men sorrow for sinne; so there is a kinde of joy in hell, when good men are enwrapt with the sorrows of suffering.
Others make the antecedent to He, a wicked man (such are within one degree of Satan his children) If the scourge slay suddenly,Impius justum fubsannatmatis imploicitum. then the ungodly, who yet thrive and prosper, rejoyce and make sport at the triall of the innocent; See what these good, honest, innocent men have got, they thought by their prayers and fastings, by their zeal and strictnesse to exempt themselves from these common afflictions, they presumed they should be spared, though all the world were consumed, but see they are destroied as well as others, they smart under the lash, as well as we their neighbours, whom they looked upon, as the only whipping stocks, when a scourge should come, That, wicked men laugh and deride the innocent under affliction, and jeer them with, Where is your God now? what's become of all your praying and fasting? Where are the hopes and confidences, the priviledges and protections ye talked of? is a truth.
But thirdly, We need not ease the text thus, nor relieve it out of this difficulty, by fastening the interpretation upon wicked men. Let us take the relative to be God himself, and see how we can make the sense out, with a saving to his honour. If the scourge slay suddenly, He, that is, the most holy and gracious God, laugheth at the triall of the innocent. How so?
First, I premise this, God doth not laugh or deride properly at the afflictions of his people. No, the Lord is a tender, a gracious and a mercifull father to his people at all times, and most tender of them, when they are in their afflictions, when they are in their sorenesse, and in their sorrows: he is more tender then the most [Page 317] tenderhearted mother (Isa. 49.15.) Can a mother forget her sucking childe, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Will a mother laugh and deride a poor infant, when it lies sprawling and wants her help? No, much lesse will God laugh at his people: therefore as laughing noteth hard-heartednesse, or unnaturall harshnes of spi-rit, the Lord doth not laugh at his afflicted Saints, it is against his nature, against his practice and all experience.
What is it then he laughs at?
First, Positively, thus, Job would here expresse that the Lord carries himself in outward things, with an equall hand both to the good and to the bad, as was touched before. The Lord laugheth at, and derideth the wicked (Prov. 1.28.) I will laugh at their destruction, and mock when their fear cometh. The carriage of God to his own people is such, as if he did mock and laugh at them also.Dicitur ridcre, quia sie judis at hominum vulgus. He that laugheth and derideth at a mans affliction, doth not regard what he suffers, he gives him no help, nor delivers him out of his sufferings. Nay, a man that laugheth at another in affliction, will lay more affliction upon him. Even thus in regard of outward dispensations, God deals with his own people, that is, when in-nocent ones are in affliction and cry unto him,Rifere dicitor, cum contemnere videiur orationem pasi ula [...] tis opem.he makes as if he did not hear or regard them, but lets them lie crying it may be day after day in their pains and wants, yea sometimes in stead of easing them, he laies more afflictions upon them; poor souls, since they sought the Lord they finde an encrease of their sorrows. God seems to deal with them, as Pharaoh did with the Israelites in Egypt , who crying to him for release of their burdens, are answered only with, Ye are idle, ye are idle; let more work be laid upon these men, Exod. 5. Or like Rehoboam , who threatned his people to make their yoke heavier, while they petitioned he would make it lighter, and told them of scorpions, while they complained of whips. David gives us this in his own experience (Psal. 77.2, 3.) In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord, my sore ran in the night, and ceased not (or, my hand was stretched out in praier, and bedewed with tears) my soul refused to be comforted (David sought for comfort, but his troubles encreasing, he could not take in the comforts administred) I remembred God, and was troubled, I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed. If any thing in the world can ease a troubled heart, thoughts of God can. Thus David once relieved himself, When the people talked of stoning him, he encouraged himself [Page 318] in the Lord his God (1 Sam. 30.6.) Yet sometimes God seems to think of us least, when we think of him most. A soul complaining may be overwhelmed, in stead of being helped. Now, he that laies on further afflictions, Post orationes meas, ita me semper in miseriis reliquit, ac si me ferideret. slights and laughs at the former. And this is the first way, in which it may be made out, how God laughs at the triall of the innocent. When they complain he doth not presently relieve them, nay, he laies heavier burdens of affliction upon them, and makes them more matter of complaining, before they have any matter of rejoycing
Secondly thus, The Lord is said to laugh, in regard of the pleasure He takes in the fruits, effects and issues of those troubles, wherewith his people are exercised: He laugheth, not at the affliction it self, but at the effects and successe of it: he knows the issue will be matter of high contentment to himself, and benefit to the Saints. He laughs at their triall, because he knows they will honour him in their trials. He laughs not because they are pained, but because himself is glorified. As a father who puts a childe upon a very hard task, which yet he is assured the childe is able to go thorow with, takes content to see him sweat at it, to pant and blow at it: Or, as a Commander in warre, rejoyces when he puts a party, of whose valour and skill he is confident, upon some dangerous service: Though he knows many of them must bleed for it, and some of them (perhaps) die for it, yet it pleases him to see such engaged in it. Thus God laughs at the trials and most desp-rate adventures of the innocent, for he sees they are men who will bide a triall, they will neither shrink in the wetting, nor will their spirits consume in the burning
And thus a believer is exhorted to laugh at his own triall, My brethren (saith the Apostle James , chap. 1.2.) count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations or trials. The more trials, the more joyes. And thus one believer may laugh and rejoyce at the triall of another, because he knows that the trial of our faith, being much more precious then of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, shall be found unto praise, and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ , 1 Pet. 1.6, 7.
First, The Lord may bear himself toward his own people in their affliction, as if he mockt at their afflictions.
As he laughs at wicked men in earnest, and hath them in derision: So he puts out an appearance of derision in what he doth to his own people.
Secondly, To see good men tried is a delight unto God.
Laughter is an expression of our inward content and joy. Though the word of the text is scarce used for laughter in a good sense, yet here it may. The Prophecy saith of Christ (Isa. 53.10.) It pleased the Lord to bruise him; God the father was delighted to bruise his Sonne, not that he delighted in afflicting or striking him, he was tender and dear to him, as the apple of his eye. But with respect to the issue and fruit of it, the Lord was pleased; His father laughed to see him cast down and suffering, whom he foresaw conquering and triumphing: So it is here. A man delights to see wrestlers shew their strength, as also to behold men striving for masteries in fencing or running a race, which are but trials of activity, and contendings for honours. Thus when the Lord bringeth his innocent servants into affliction, he doth but bring them to a wrestling, to a running or a fencing, to see how they can make use of their hands and legs, how they can make use of their spirituall armour, how they can weild the sword of the Spirit, how they can defend themselves with the shield of faith, how they can bear a knock upon the helmet of salvation, how they can walk upon thorns and sharp stones, himself having before shod their feet with the preparation of the Gospel of peace. This is the spectacle which God delighteth in and laughs at, and it is a glorious spectacle. The Roman triumphs were but childish plaies to these of the Saints, called out and clad with the armour of righteousnesse, which makes them more then Conquer-ours, over tribulations and distresse, over persecution, famine, nakednesse, peril and the sword, yea over principalities and powers, over things present and to come; The Saints in their trial conquer not only all present evils, but all that are possible. Non video quid: habeat in terris [...] upiter pulobrius si convertere an [...] mum velit, quam ut spectet atonem, jam partibus non senel fractis, sta [...] ten nihilominus inter rui [...]. Since [...] deprovid.They are reall victours over those evils, which they shall never feel or see. As in doing, so in suffering all is reckoned to us, which we are willing to engage in, though actually we doe not; no marvell if God laugh at the triall of such Champions and Christian Hero's. It is the observation of Seneca , a Roman Moralist and Philosopher, in his book of providence, speaking of some of the ancient Worthies of Rome , I see not (saith he) what Jupiter hath on earth more contentfull to him, or to which he would rather turn his eye, then to behold Cato standing firm in the midst of publike ruines, and that, though (after all his wrestlings, as a noble Patriot for the saving of his Countrey) he found both his honest counsels broken, and his unwearied labours lost, yet [Page 320] he did not lose his Spirit, nor was his heart broken. Now, if an Heathen could say, that to see such a man contest with all manner of troubles, was, he thought, a delight for Jupiter, and laughter to the idol-gods: May not we changing the persons make his sense the comment of this text, and a proof of this observation? It is a holy delight to the holy God to see his faithfull ones, his Abrahams in a triall, to see his Jobs in a triall, his Pauls in a triall, to see those Grandees in graces shew such admirable skill, such courage, such zeal, such faith, such patience, such submission of spirit, to see Saints play the men thus in such spirituall trials and hottest services, is not this just matter of laughing and rejoycing to the Lord?
And if the Lord take a kinde of pleasure in the trials of his Saints, then surely the Saints ought not to be displeased at their trials. Hence the holy Ghost bids the Saints laugh, as well as the Lord laugheth, Jam. 1.2. My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations. Christians, never look upon a triall with such sad and sowr faces; the face of God is full of smiles to see you at it: shall that make you sad, which makes God rejoyce? Never grieve, but when ye fear ye have grieved God.
Further, note, That the afflictions of the Saints are trials of the Saints.
They are occasions to shew forth their vertues and their gra-ces. They give proofs both to God and the world, what manner of men they are. Tried ones are precious ones; many others are so, but these appear what they are, they have shewed their metall. All true faith is good, but tried faith is best (1 Pet. 1.7.) That the triall of your faith (that is, that your tried faith) being much more precious then of gold that perisheth, may be found unto praise, &c.
Besides these two interpretations, I shall adde, for a close, two more, which may further illustrate the meaning of this laughter a-scribed to God, at the triall of the innocent. First, or
Thirdly, He laughs at the fears and sad forecasts of his people, who not being able to look thorow second causes, and see the ends of things in their beginnings; presently judge all's lost, the Church must be ruin'd, and the Saints undone, because thus tried. Now God knowing the end of all actions, not only at their beginning, but from the beginning (yea, from eternity) he looking thorow the blackest clouds and darkest nights, upon the issues of all things, derides the simple conjectures of men about them. The very Heathens have given us such a notion of God in laughter. Secondly,
Fourthly, God laughs at the laughter, and derides the joies of wicked men, who see his innocent ones tried. For they say in their hearts, and it may be with their tongues, Happy we, who have scaped such a scouring, we would not have been in their coats for a world: better die then live to bring our selves into such troubles. Or thus, Now the day is ours, we have prevailed, These men are catcht and entangled, we shall doe well enough with them now. The Lord hearing such language at the triall of the innocent, laughs, to thinke how those wretches shall see themselves deceived, when they see these who were fallen rising again, or God by their fall raising others, and setting his King upon his holy hill of Sion .
Lastly, As God laughs at the triall of the innocent; so let the nocent and impenitent remember and tremble at it, that God will laugh at the approach of their torments, and mock when their fear commeth, when their fear commeth as a desolation, and their destruction as a whirlwinde.
Job having thus shewed how the innocent are afflicted, shews in the next verse how the wicked are exalted, from both he infers, that there can be no judgement made of any mans inward state, whether he be innocent or wicked, upon his outward state, whether he be prosperous or afflicted: The innocent are under the scourge, and the wicked are upon the throne, and who doth these things, but God himself? that's the sum of this 24th verse.
[...] A godly man may be long in the dark about the reason of Gods dealing with him.
He labours alwaies to give an account of his own heart and waies to God, but he is seldom able to give an account of the waies of God toward him The way of God both in mercy and in judgement is in the sea, and his foot-steps are not seen. As there is much of the Word of God, which a sincere heart after many praiers and much study, is not able to give a reason of: so also are there many of his works. The text of both is dark to us, till God make the Comment, and he sees it best sometimes to make us call and call, wait and wait before he makes it. There was famine in the Land of Israel three years, year after year, and yet David knew not the cause; doubtles he did often examine his own heart, & look into the Kingdom, to see what might be a provocation there, but saw nothing till (after three years) he enquired of the Lord, who answered, It is for Saul, and for his bloudy house, because he slew the Gibeonites (2 Sam. 21.1.) It is more then probable that David had enquired of the Lord before that time. A holy heart, especially one so holy as Davids was, can hardly let personall affliction be a day or an hour old, without enquiring of the Lord about it: And shall we think that David let this Nationall affliction grow three years old, before he enquired of the Lord about it? surely then this enquiry after the end of three years, was that grand and most solemn enquiry by Urim and Thummim , appointed as the last resort to God in cases of greatest difficulty and concernment; till David used this means, he found no resolution of that case, why the Lord contended with his Kingdom by famine, year after year. Neither had Job got resolution (when he thus complained) why the Lord contended with him, by sore diseases and mighty terrours, day after day.
The word which we translate to oppresse, [...] Significat opprimere alique verbu aut factis. Numquid [...] tibi videtur, si calumniersis me [...] Vulg. signifies a double oppression. First, An oppression by our words. And secondly, An oppression by our actions, the oppression of the tongue, and the oppression of the hand. The tongue is a great tyrant, the tongue will lay on load, and draw bloud. The Vulgar understands it of this tongue-oppression, Is it good for thee that thou shouldest calumniate or slander me? that is, Give others occasion to speak evil of me. That is a good sense. Slander and censure wound deep, hard words bruise the credit and break the heatt, as well as hard blows, bruise the flesh, and break the bones. But [Page 440] take it here rather for oppression by outward violence: So the word is often used (Psal. 119.122.) I have done judgement and justice, give me not Single illegible letterver to mine oppressours, to those, who would wrong me, because I have done right. And it noteth, as an open or violent oppression, so a cunning, subtil oppression, a cheating, fraudulent oppression. All wrong, how close and cunning soever, is oppression. We have that sense of the word (Hos. 12.7.) He is a merchant, the balances of deceit are in his hand, he loveth to oppresse. How doth a Merchant oppresse? He comes not like a thief or a Nimrod with a sword in his hand, bidding you, Deliver your purse or your life, commanding you to give up your right, or your liberty; but while in buying and selling, in trading and dealing, he offers you a fair bargain, or as we say, a penny worth for your penny, he smites you secretly, and cuts your throat (as famine doth) without a knife: the balances of deceit are in his hand; Balances are put for all instruments, or means of trading, by these he deceives: light weights oppresse the State, as a heavy weight presses the body. The word imports also oppression by withholding what is due, as well as by taking away what we duly hold (Deut. 24.14.) Thou shalt not oppresse an hired servant that is poor and needy; that is, thou shalt not detain or keep back any part of his wages.
The word (you see) is of a large sense, Is it good unto thee to oppresse? I know thou wilt not oppresse me, either by speaking evil of, or overcensuring me; either by open violence, or by secret fraud; either by taking from me what I have, or by detaining from me, what I ought to have. Thou wilt not oppresse either with tongue or hand; either as a robber with thy sword, or as a merchant with thy balances. Thus Job expostulates upon highest confidence, both of the justice and holinesse of God; as if he had said, Lord, I know thou doest not love to oppresse; no thou art mercifull and full of compassion. Whence is it then that thou seemest to act so unlike thy self? Is this thy pity to a poor creature, and thy love to the work of thy hands? Thou usest to rejoyce in the consolation of thy people, and mercy pleaseth thee; thou usest to send out rivers of goodnesse for wearied souls to bathe in, and streams of comfort for thirsty souls to drinke and be refreshed in. How is it then that a bitter cup is put to my lips continually, and that I am overwhelmed in a salt sea, in a sea of gall and bitternesse?
Hence observe, God is so good and gracious that he loves not to grieve his creature.
Among men (Mica. 7.4.) The best of them is as a brier, the most upright is sharper then a thorn hedge. Even they that seem most gentle and compassionate, will yet sometimes scratch like briars, and tear like thorns: but the Lord changeth not, neither do his compassions fail. The actings of God appear sometimes unsutable to his nature, but they are never so. When he breaks us to pieces, he delights not in our breakings, nor doth he ever break his own, but with an intent to binde them up again. God is so farre from loving to oppresse, that one of his most eminent works of providence is, to relieve those who are oppressed (Ps. 12.4.) For the oppression of the poor will I arise, saith the Lord. And when the Lord arises, oppressours shall fall. O Lord (cries Hezekiah in his sicknesse) I am oppressed, undertake for me (Isa. 38.14.) As if he had said, This disease like a mercilesse tyrant oppresses my spirit, death hath even master'd me, and got the victory over my house of clay. Lord, Come to my rescue, thou wast wont to deliver poor men, as a prey out of the hand, yea mouths of their oppressours. [...]