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cially if they have continued long; and deliverance has not come when you expected it? Are you never tempted to question the mercy and faithfulness of God under your troubles? The Psalmist found this symptom of unbelief. He expostulated with God, Is thy mercy clean gone? “But,” says he, “this is mine infirmity.” It is owing to your unbelief, that you cannot quietly trust God in all conditions, and rejoice in him, though the fig-tree should not blossom. Have you never taken indirect methods to extricate yourselves from worldly embarrassments? Do you never feel discontented with the allotments of Providence, or anxious about the events which are before you? These feelings are the fruits of unbelief. If you had a lively view of the providence, promises and perfections of God, you would be careful for nothing, but to know and do his will—to secure and enjoy his favor; you would commit your souls to him in well-doing as to a faithful Creator. Are you never distracted in religious duties? Do not your thoughts wander, and your affections flag ? What is the reason, but because your faith is weak? Would not a lively faith in God collect your thoughts, and fix your attention ? Do you live under a slavish fear of death? It is because faith has not so purified your hearts, as to give you decisive evidence of your title to heaven; or has not so raised you above this world as to make you willing to leave it for another.
Do you find any of these signs of unbelief in you? They call for humiliation : and if you are true believers, they will work humiliation. Humility was the temper of this weak believer who came with his son to Jesus for a cure of his maladies. For himself he prayed, that his faith might be strengthened. When he fully believed Christ's Divine power, the first thing he requested was, that this power might be employed in removing the unbelief which he felt within him.
The true christian often applies to Christ for the increase of faith. Where a principle of faith and holiness exists, there will be earnest desires of deliverance from sin and unbelief. These are a burden to the renewed soul. “O wretched man that I am ; who shall deliver me from the body of this death ?”
After the man had professed the reality, and prayed for the increase of his faith, Christ granted his first request and healed his son. This in some measure answered his other request; it confirmed his faith.
The disciples, seeing their master cast out the evil spirit, enquire, “ Why could not we cast him out ?" Christ tells them, “ It was because of their unbelief.” They had attempted the miracle without a due persuasion of the presence and co-operation of Christ's power to give efficacy to their word. Now, in order to improve their faith, he directs them to prayer and fasting, as the proper means. « This kind goeth not out, but by prayer and fasting.” These had no relation to the ejection of an evil spirit, or to the performance of any miracle, otherwise than as they were the means of increasing the principle and enlivening the operation of faith.
Christ here teaches us the proper use of prayer, fasting and other external acts of devotion; it is to increase our faith, invigorate our pious sentiments, and thus excite us to every good work. If we think that prayer, fasting, hearing the word, or any devotional exercise, is acceptable to God for itself, and by itself alone, we entirely mistake the matter. The design of all the devotional parts of religion is to make us better in heart and life-to improve a holy temper in us—to impress us with a more intimate sense of God—to raise our thoughts and affections to him—to give us more exalted and influential views of him—to make us more like him in purity and goodness—to subdue worldly affections—to free us from earthly passions, and fit us for the practice of every duty.
Prayer is a greater thing, than we, perhaps, are apt to imagine. We pray to little purpose, if prayer has no effect to make us better men. Prayer is a mean of faith, and faith is the principle of holiness and good works. Let us live much in prayer, that we may live more by faith. Under the influence of faith, let us walk in holiness; and by abounding in holiness secure to ourselves an abundant entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Eliphaz describes to Job the miserable condition of a wicked man. He demands Job's particular attention to what he was going to say; for he assures him, it was founded in his own personal knowledge, and in the observation of wise men, and in the instructions of the fathers who had in their day seen the same and told it to their children. “I will shew thee; hear me, and that which I have seen will I declare; which wise men have told from their fathers, and have not hid it; to whom alone the earth was giver, and no strangers passed among them. The wicked man travelleth with pain all his days, and the number of his years is hidden, or secretly exposed to the oppressor. A dreadful sound is in his ears. In prosperity the destroyer shall come upon him. He believeth not, that he shall return out of darkness—he is waited for of the sword. Trouble and anguish shall make him afraid. For he stretcheth out his hand against God, and strengtheneth himself against the almighty."
These and several circumstances of terror and wretchedness Eliphaz enumerates, as attending the condition of a wicked and ungodly man-one who stretches out his hand against God, and by a wicked life contemns his supreme authority. All wilful disobedience, all determined iniquity is stretching the hand against God. It is treating him with insolence and defiance.
But that circumstance of his misery, to which we shall now particularly attend, is the dreadful sound that is in his ears. In the margin it is rendered, a sound of fears in his ears. A sound which awakens painful and terrifying apprehensions—a sound that disturbs his rest, and destroys his peace and embitters his enjoyments.
We will consider what this sound is—how the wicked man usually treats it—and what is the use which he ought to make of it.
I. We will consider, first, what is that fearful sound, which is often in the ears of the wicked man.
1. The first sound, which Eliphaz mentions as dreadful to a wicked man, is the sound of worldly adversity.
In the day of prosperity the destroyer shall come upon him. The day of darkness is ready at hand. Trouble and anguish make him afraid.
The wicked man's heart is wholly in the world. His hope and happiness-his enjoyments and prospects are here. He knows nothing-seeks nothing, and looks for nothing beyond. Deprive him of his earthly treasures and expectations, you take away his gods; and what has he more ? Go to him in the day of his prosperity, and tell him of the vanity and mutability of the world, the uncertainty of every thing he possesses—how soon the frowns of Providence, or the injustice of men—his own incaution, or the pride and profligacy of his sons, may reduce him to a condition the reverse of the present; he will hear you with a cold, reluctant assent; but he does not at all like your subject. The sound is unpleasant. If you would speak in flattering terms of his worldly wisdom, successes and prospects, you would please him much better. But does he not believe the mutability of the world? Yes; and for that reason he hates to hear of it; and hates to think about it; and when adversity comes, it always finds him unprepared to meet it.
The temper of the good man is the reverse. His heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord; and he is not afraid of evil tidings. He has in heaven an enduring substance, and he can spare his earthly goods. He knows that Divine wisdom orders his condition, and he acquiesces in its allotments. He feels a consciousness of his love to God, and rests secure in the promise, that all things shall work together for his good.
The world brings the wicked man more trouble in proportion as his heart is more set upon it. And what is an additional unhappiness, he can draw no comfort from religion. For,
2. To him the law is a dreadful sound. I do not mean human law; though indeed this may sound terribly to a man, who by atrocious crimes has exposed himself to its penalties.
This however will give him no disquietude, as long as he thinks his crimes are concealed from the eyes of men. And if iniquity is so framed by law, that under its protection he can acquire property by trampling on the rights of other men, it gives a pleasant sound to his ears.
But it is the Divine law of which I now speak—that law which was delivered in thunder from Sinai. From this he hears a dreadful sound—more dreadful than the thunder of the mount. “Cursed is every one who continueth not in all things written in the book of the law to do them.” The law of God is perfect. It is exceeding broad. It forbids all sin both of action and neglectboth open and secret.
And God who has given the law knows all the thoughts and intents of the heart, as well as the outward acts of the life. He remembers sins that are past, as well as sees those which are present. There is no darkness, nor shadow of death, where the workers of iniquity can hide themselves. This law denounces a curse against every transgressor. Every wicked man, who is, in the least, acquainted with himself, must see that he falls under its dreadful sentence. This sentence he hates to hear. It is to him a dreadful sound—and the more dreadful because it is just. It comes from the mouth of God. It is uttered by his voice. Conscience is awakened by its terror, and repeats the sound. If