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LETTER XXXIV.

THE BOOK OF JOB.

MY DEAR FRIEND,

In requesting your attention to the Book of Job, I have no design of engaging in the controversies which have taken place respecting the time when that patriarch lived, or the author of his memoirs. I take it for granted that he lived under the patriarchal dispensation, and that his memoirs were written, whoever was the penman, under inspiration of God.

My design in bringing this ancient document to your notice, is in unison with the general tenour of my correspondence with you. I propose to institute a brief inquiry into the scope and aim which the Holy Spirit had in view in causing these memoirs to be committed to writing. They were, perhaps, the first instance of verbal composition: they are, at least, the earliest which has reached us. We have no proof, previous to the existence of this book, that arbitrary characters were used in conveying information.* Hieroglyphics were previously in use; but this is the first specimen of literal communication. And may we not trace the wisdom and goodness of God in the revelation up of this

* Unless, indeed, Moses be supposed to have written this book after he had received the Tables of the Covenant, written with the finger of God; and those tables were the first means of instructing man in this most important science. Mr. Faber is of opinion that the book of Job was written by Moses after the delivery of the law from Mount ai, « because it contains an express reference to the punishment of idolatry by the civil magistrate." Three Dispensations. vol. ii. p. 265. A few lines before he had said, This is “what alone I deem the proof." This supposed proof is derived from chap. xxxi. 26–28. But what prevents our considering Job as speaking of his unseen Judge in this passage? Why should not. 33935 be the singular of Subba, ased in ver. 11, with the pronominal suffix of the first person ?-—"This were an iniquity to be punished by my Judge.”—See the note on the verse in Scott's Poetical Version of Job. The sin of the heart, as described by Job, could not be cognizable, either before or after the giving of the law, by the civil magistrate. If Moses therefore were the author of the Book of Job, I can discern no solid reaśou why he might not have written it during the time when he lived with Jethro.. But see Horne's Summary of the opinions formed respecting its author: Introduction to the critical study of the Bible.vol. iv. Part I. chap. iii. Sect. i.

Upon the whole, we have sufficient ground to conclude that this book was not the production of Moses, but of some earlier age; and he adds, " Bishop Lowth favours the opinion of Schultens, Peters, and others (which is also adopted by Bishop Tomline and Dr. Hales,) who suppose Job himself, or some contemporary, to have been the author of this poem: and there seems no good reason for supposing that it was not written by Job himself.” P. 8. second edition.

† I cannot consider alphabetic writing to bave been of human invention. The first notion of hieroglyphic writing was probably

He says,

wonderful art, with respect both to the importance of the art itself, and the time when it was made. The life of man, in the time of Job, was greatly shortened, a favour of no small value to believers of succeeding generations. This abridgment of human life rendered tradition more uncertain, as it had to pass through more stages of communication, and as the persons through whom it had to pass became increasingly liable to corrupt it. On this account it seems to have been necessary to human safety, that a more certain mode of communicating the important truths connected with the everlasting salvation of mankind should be adopted; and as soon as the necessity became urgent, it pleased God to supply the means of grace which were needed by his fallen and erring creatures. If we compare the goodness of God, in this instance of its manifestation, with the tenour of the Divine conduct which we have already traced, we shall find therein fresh motives to adoration, gratitude, and praise.

It is not to be supposed that the first written communication made by inspiration of God had for its subject any trivial or even secondary object. We may infer, a priori, that its scope and its aim must have been of the first importance, and that such a communication must have related to that which was vital in regard to the glory of God and the happiness of his creatures. This was the charaoter of the first oral revelation in paradise, and of its accompanying ritual ; this was also the character of those Divine communications which were made to the patriarchs ; and this is the general character of all subsequent revelations from heaven. “The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy."

derived from the symbols of Paradise and the Cherubim; and I apprehend that the improvement of the science in alphabetic writing was also derived from Divine instruction.

With this clew, then, in our hands, let us humbly inquire into the scope and aim of this first written revelation from God to man. But before we proceed to do so, I shall lay before you one or two of the many opinions which have been formed on the subject. Some have supposed, perhaps influenced by the reference which St. James has made to the history of Job, (chap. v. 11.) that the book was written for the purpose of exhibiting a pattern of patience under afflictive dispensations of Divine Providence. But, if this object were of sufficient importance, (which I conceive it was not) to sanction the notion of its being the principal scope of the history; still it must appear, from a consideration of the dialogue, that, although the instance of patience and submission described in the two first chapters is truly admirable and calculated to magnify the grace of God which produced it, the dialogue which niakes up the chief part of the volumé, so far from discovering any remarkable evidence of patience in the character of Job, manifests a temper of mind very deficient indeed in this grace. And as the dialogue between Job and his friends contains what may be called the moral of the book, it is there chiefly that we are to trace the scope and aim of the Spirit of inspiration in recording this part of holy Scripture.

It has also been maintained that the principal subject of the book of Job is the proof which is therein afforded, by the unequal distribution of good and evil to the righteous and the wicked in this life, that there is another life where the former will be recompensed and the latter be punished. That this is a legitimate inference from the facts recorded, is not to be denied; but that this is the main topic, the dialogue itself will disprove. The doctrine of a future state had been taught emphatically by the prophecy and translation of Enoch, and indeed by all the preceding instances of Divine Revelation ; and it is most explicitly declared in Job's noble confession of faith, chapter xix. 23—27, as well as in many other passages of the book. present question relates not to all the Divine truths that are recognized in it; but to the chief intent that runs through it.

I proceed without further preface to state my own conviction on the scope and aiin of this earliest written record of Divine Truth. And

But our

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