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Wilt thou also disannul my judgment? Wilt thou condemn me, that thou mayest be righteous?-Job xl. 8.
ALTHOUGH in the main, Job had spoken correctly of God, yet in his great anguish and perturbation under his sore trials, he had said some things which were hasty and abusive. For these the Lord rebuked him. This rebuke is contained in our context:
Then Job answered the Lord, and said -- Behold I am vile; what shall I answer thee? I will lay my hand upon my mouth. Once have I spoken but I will not answer; yea, twice, but I will proceed no further.
Then answered the Lord unto Job out of the whirlwind, and said -- Gird up thy loins now like a man; I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto me. Wilt thou also disannul my judgment? Wilt thou condemn me, that thou mayest be righteous?-Job xl. 1-8
I. Show that every excuse for sin condemns God. II. Consider some of these excuses in detail. III. Show that excuse for sin adds insult to injury.
I. Every excuse for sin condemns God. This will be apparent if we consider,
1. That nothing can be sin for which there is a justifiableexcuse.
This is entirely self-evident. It therefore needs neither elucidation nor proof.
2. If God condemns that for which there is a good excuse,He must be wrong. This also is self-evident. If God condemns what we have good reason for doing, no intelligence in the universe can justify Him.
4. Consequently, every excuse for sin charges blame uponGod, and virtually accuses Him of tyranny. Whoever pleads an excuse for sin, therefore, charges God with blame.
II. We will consider some of these excuses, and see whether the principles I have laid down are not just and true.
1. INABILITY. No excuse is more common. It is echoed and re- echoed over every Christian land, and handed down age after age, never to be forgotten. With unblushing face it is proclaimed that men cannot do what God requires of them.
Let us examine this and see what it amounts to God, it is said, requires what men cannot do. And does He knowthat men cannot, do it? Most certainly. Then He has no apology for requiring it, and the requisition is most unreasonable. Human reason can never justify it. It is a natural impossibility.
But again, upon what penalty does God require what man cannot do? The threatened penalty is eternal death! Yes, eternal death, according to the views of those who plead inability as an excuse. God requires me, on pain of eternal death, to do that which He knows I cannot do. Truly this condemns God in the worst sense. You might just as well charge God outright with being an infinite tyrant.
Hence, those who plant themselves upon these grounds charge God with infinite tyranny. Perhaps, sinner, you little think when you urge the excuse of inability, that you are really arraigning God on the charge of infinite tyranny. And you, Christian, who make this dogma of inability a part of your orthodox creed, may have little noticed its blasphemous hearings against the character of God; but your failure to notice it alters not the fact. The black charge is involved in the very doctrine of inability, and cannot be explained out of it.
I have intimated that this charge is blasphemous against, God -- and most truly. Far be it from God to do any such thing! Shall God require natural impossibilities, and denounce eternal death upon men for not doing what they have no natural power to do? Never! Yet good men and bad men agree together to charge God with doing this very thing, and doing it not once or twice only, but uniformly through all ages, with all the race, from the beginning to the end of time! Horrible! Nothing in all the government of God ever so insulted and abused Jehovah! Nothing was ever more blasphemous and false! God says, his commandments are not grievous; but you, by this excuse of inability, proclaim that God's words are false. You declare that His commands are not only grievous, but are even naturally impossible! Hark! what does the Lord Jesus say? My yoke is easy and my burden is light. And do you deny this? Do you rise up in the very face of His words and say, Lord, Thy yoke is so hard that no man can possibly endure it; Thy burden is so heavy that no man can ever bear it? Is not this gainsaying and blaspheming Him who can not lie?
But you take the ground that no man can obey the law of God. As the Presbyterian Confession of Faith has it, Noman is able, either by himself, or by any grace received in this life, perfectly to keep the commandments of God; but doth daily break them in thought, word, and deed. Observe, this affirms not only that no man is naturally able to keep God's commands, but also that no man is able to do it by any grace received in this life;thus making this declaration a libel on the Gospel as well as a perceptible misrepresentation of the law of its Author, and of man's relations to both. It is only moderate language to call this assertion from the Confession of Faith a libel. If there is a lie, either in hell or out of hell, this is a lie, or God is an infinite tyrant. If reason be allowed to speak at all, it is impossible for her to say less or otherwise than thus. And has not God constituted the reason of man for the very purpose of taking cognizance of the rectitude of all his ways?
Let God be true though every man be proved a liar! In the present case, the remarkable fact that no man can appease his own conscience and satisfy himself that he is truly unable to keep the law, shows that man lies, not God.
Suppose I tell one of my sons, Go, do this or that duty, on pain of being whipped to death. He replies, Father, I can't possibly do it, for I have not time. I must be doing that other business which you told me to do; and besides, if I had nothing else to do, I could not possibly do this new business in the time you allow. Now if this statement be the truth, and I knew it when I gave him the command, then I am a tyrant. There is no evading this charge. My conduct toward my son is downright tyranny.
So if God really requires of you what you have not time to do, He is infinitely to blame. For He surely knows how little time you have, and it is undeniable that He enforces His requisitions with most terrific penalties. What! is God so reckless of justice, so regardless of the well-being of His creatures, that He can sport with red-hot thunder-bolts, and burl them, despite of justice and right, among His unfortunate creatures? Never! NEVER! This is not true; it is only the false assumption which the sinner makes when he pleads as his excuse, that he has not time to do what God demands of him.
Let me ask you, sinner, how much time will it take you to do the first great duty which God requires namely, give Himyour heart? How long will this take? How long need you be in making up your mind to serve and love God? Do you not know that this, when done, will be done in one moment of time? And how long need you be in persuading yourself to do it?
Your meaning may be this: Lord, it takes me so long to make up my mind to serve thee, it seems as if I never should get time enough for this; even the whole of life seems almost too short for me to bring my mind to this unwelcome decision. Is this your meaning, sinner?
But let us look on all sides of the subject. Suppose I say to my son, Do this now, my son; and he replies, I can't, father, for I must do that other thing you told me to do. Does God do so? No. God only requires the duty of each moment in its time. This is all. He only asks us to use faithfully just all the power He has given us -- nothing more. He only requires that we do the best we can. When He prescribes the amount of love which will please Him, He does not say -- Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with the powers of an angel -- with the burning heart of a seraph -- no, but only with all thy heartthis is all. An infinitely ridiculous plea is this of the sinner's, that he can not do as well as he can -- can not love God with all his own heart, and soul, and mind, and strength. Thou shalt do the best that thou art able to do, says God to the sinner. Ah, says the sinner, I am not able to do that. Oh, what stupid nonsense!
You charge that God is unreasonable. The truth is, God is the most reasonable of all beings. He asks only that we should use each moment for Him, in labor, or in rest, whichever is most for His glory. He only requires that with the time, talents, and strength which He has given us, we should do all we can. to serve Him.
Says that mother, How can I be religious? I have to take care of all my children. Indeed! and can't you get time to serve God? What does God require of you? That you should forsake and neglect your children? No, indeed; He asks you to take care of your children -- good care of them; and do it all for God. He says to you -- Those are my children; and He puts them into your hands, saying -- Take care of them for Me, and I will give thee wages. And now will it require more time to take care of your children for God, than to take care of them for yourself? O, but you say, I cannot be religious, for I must be up in the morning and get my breakfast. And how much longer will it take you to get your breakfast ready to please God, than to do the same to please yourself? How much longer time must you have to do your duties religiously, than to do them selfishly?
What, then, do you mean by this plea? The fact is, all these excuses show that the excuser is mad -- not insane, but mad. For what does God require so great that you should be unable to do it for want of time? Only this, that you should do all for God. Persons who make this plea seem to have entirely overlooked the real nature of religion, and of the requisitions that God makes of them. So it is with the plea of inability. The sinner says, I am unable. Unable to do what? Just what you can do for God never requires anything beyond this. Unless, therefore, you assume that God requires of you more than you can do, your plea is false, and even ridiculous. If, on the other hand, you do not assume this, then your plea, if true, would not show God to be unjust.
But I was saying that in this plea of having no time to be religious, men entirely overlook or pervert the true idea of religion. The farmer pleads, I can't be religious; I can't serve God -- I must sow my wheat. Well, sow your wheat but do it for the Lord. O but you have so much to do! Then do it all for the Lord. Another can't be religious for he must get his lesson. Well, get your lesson, but get it for the Lord,and this will be religious. The man who should neglect to sow his wheat or neglect to get his lessons because he wants to be religious, is crazy. He perverts the plainest things in the worst way. If you are to be religious, you must be industrious. The farmer must sow his wheat, and the student must get his lesson. An idle man can no more be religious than the devil can be. This notion that men can't be religious, because they have some business to do, is the merest nonsense. It utterly overlooks the great truth that God never forbids our doing the appropriate business of life, but only requires that we shall do all for Himself If God did require us to serve Him in such a way as would compel us to neglect the practical duties of life, it would be truly a hard case. But now the whole truth is, that He requires us to do precisely these duties, and do them all honestly and faithfully for Hinz, and in the best possible manner. Let the farmer take care of his farm, and see that he does it well, and above all, do it for God. It is God's farm, and the heart of every farmer is God's heart, therefore let the farm be tilled for God, and the heart be devoted to Him alone.
3. Men plead a sinful nature for their excuse. And pray, what is this sinful nature? Do you mean by it that every faculty and even the very essence of your constitution were poisoned and made sinful in Adam, and came down in this polluted state by inheritance to you? Do you mean that you were so born in sin that the substance of your being is all saturated with it, and so that all the faculties of your constitution ire themselves sin? Do you believe this?
I admit if this were true, it would make out a hard case. A hard case indeed! Until the laws of my reason are changed, it would compel me to speak out openly and say -- Lord, this is a hard case, that Thou shouldst make my nature itself a sinner, and then charge the guilt of its sin upon me! I could not help saying this; the deep echoings of my inner being would proclaim it without ceasing, and the breaking of ten thousand thunderbolts over my head would not deter me from thinking and saying so. The reason God has given me would forever affirm it.
But the dogma is an utter absurdity. For, pray, what is sin?God answers, transgression of law. And now you hold that your nature is itself a breach of the law of God -- nay, that it has always been a breach of God's law, from Adam to the day of your birth; you hold that the current of this sin came down in the veins and blood of your race -- and who made it so? Who created the veins and blood of man? From whose hand sprang this physical constitution and this mental constitution? Was man his own creator? Did sin do a part of the work in creating your physical and your mental constitution? Do you believe any such thing? No you ascribe your nature and its original faculties to God, and upon Him, therefore, you charge the guilty authorship of your sinful nature.
But how strange a thing is this! If man is in fault for his sinful nature, why not condemn man for having blue or black eyes? The fact is, sin never can consist in having a nature, nor in what nature is; but only and alone in the bad use which we make of our nature. This is all. Our Maker will never find fault with us for what He has Himself done or made; certainly not. He will not condemn us, if we will only make a right use of our powers -- of our intellect, our sensibility, and our will. He never holds us responsible for our original nature. If you will observe, you will find that God has given no law prescribing what sort of nature and constitutional powers we should have. He has given no law on these points, the transgression of which, if given, might somewhat resemble the definition of sin. But now since there is no law about nature, nature cannot be a transgression.