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If the baffled inquirer drops out the search after God, as many do, and says I will go down to nature and it shall, at least, be my comfort that nature is intelligible, and even a subject of definite science, he shortly discovers that science only changes the place of mystery and leaves it unresolved.... Asking what is matter, what is life, animal and vegetable, what is heat, light, attraction, affinity, he discovers that, as yet, we really comprehend nothing, and that nature is a realm as truly mysterious even as God. Not a living thing grows out of the earth, or walks upon it, or flies above it; not an inanimate object exists, in heaven, earth, or sea, which is not filled and circled about with mystery as truly as in the days of Adam or Job, and which is not really as much above the understanding of science, as the deepest things of God's eternity or of His secret life.
A community which has heard the voice of truth and experienced the pleasures of liberty, in which the merit of statesmen and systems are freely canvassed, in which obedience is paid, not to persons but to laws, in which magistrates are regarded, not as the lords but as the servants of the public, in which the excitement of a party is a necessary of life, in which political warfare is reduced to a system of tactics; such a community is not easily reduced to servitude. Beasts of burden may easily be managed by a new master. But will the wild ass submit to the bonds? Will the unicorn serve and abide by the crib? Will leviathan hold out his nostrils to the hook?
Macaulay, Essay on Hallam's Constitutional History.
Job 39:19 f.
After quoting this passage in his Literary Essays, Mr. R. H. Hutton observes: 'This deeper insight into the natural constitution and beauty of the universe, and complete disavowal of all power on the part of man to form any judgment upon it, is especially remarkable as compared with the bold justification of the spiritual participation of human nature in one of the attributes of God. It proves that the Hebrew poet had already distinguished between the direct knowledge of God's spirit which spiritual communion gives, and the indirect knowledge of His mysterious ways which can only be gained by a study of those ways. It shows that he had mastered the conviction, that to neglect the study of the natural mysteries of the universe leads to an arrogant and illicit intrusion of moral and spiritual assumptions into a different world in a word, to the false inferences of Job's friends as to his guilt, and his own equally false inference as to the injustice of God.'
Carlyle finely applies this passage, in his essay on The Death of Irving: 'A giant force of activity was in the man; speculation was accident, not nature. Chivalry, adventurous field-life of the old Border, and a far nobler sort than that, ran in his blood. There was in him a courage, dauntless not pugnacious, hardly fierce, by no possibility ferocious; as of the generous war-horse, gentle in its strength, yet that laughs at the shaking of the spear.'
In the ninth chapter of The Revolution in Tanner's Lane, Mr. Hale White depicts Zachariah Coleman wandering about in Manchester, looking out for work. 'And it was curious that, as he paced those dismal Manchester pavements, all their gloom disappeared as he reargued the universal problem of which his case was an example. He admitted the unquestionable right of the Almighty to damn three parts of creation to eternal hell if so He willed; why not, then, one sinner like Zachariah Coleman to a weary pilgrimage for thirty or forty years? He rebuked himself when he found that he had all his life assented so easily to the doctrines of God's absolute authority in the election and disposal of the creatures He had made, yet that he revolted when God touched him, and awarded him a punishment which, in comparison with the eternal loss of His presence, was as nothing. At last and here, through his religion, he came down to the only consolation possible for him he said to himself, "Thus hath He decreed; it is foolish to struggle against His ordinances; we can but submit". "A poor gospel," says his critic. Poor! yes, it may be; but it is the gospel according to Job, and any other is a mere mirage. "Doth the hawk fly by thy wisdom, and stretch her wings towards the South?" Confess ignorance and the pity of insurrection, and there is a chance that even the irremediable will be somewhat mitigated. Poor! yes; but it is genuine; and this at least must be said for Puritanism, that of all the theologies and philosophies it is the most honest in its recognition of the facts; the most real, if we penetrate to the heart of it, in the remedy which it offers.'
How dare he lift himself up against the Almighty's designs? The Almighty asked him the question eternally repeated to us, which He had asked thousands of years ago, 'Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? Declare, if thou hast understanding.... Doth the hawk fly by thy wisdom, and stretch her wings forward to the earth?' 'The hawk flies not by my wisdom,' murmured Michael to himself, 'nor doth the eagle at my command make her nest on high. Ah, it is by His wisdom and at His command; how should I dare to interfere? I see it I see it all now.' After his fashion and through his religion he had said to himself the last word that can be uttered by man. He knelt down and prayed.
Mark Rutherford, in Michael Trevanion.
Reference. XL. 3, 4. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. ii. No. 83.
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Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Job 39". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 22 / Ordinary 27