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from afar on this melancholy occasion, on purpose to condole with him; though wise and good men, yet from a common mistake concerning the ways of Providence, they proved, as he calls them, miserable comforters. Supposing that men were always dealt with in this world, very much according to their moral characters, they concluded that Job must have been an extremely wicked man, notwithstanding his former reputation for piety and virtue, or he would not have been visited with such singular divine judgments. And hence they exerted all their powers of argumentation and rhetoric, to bring him to a confession of gross hypocrisy.
Now, in such a state of complicated troubles, when all other sources of consolation were shut up, how natural and necessary is it for a good man to refer his cause to God, and seek help and support from him? But even this last resource of a suffering saint, seems now to have been denied to Job: for he says, ver. 3 and 4, “ Oh, that I knew where I might find him! that I might come even to his seat! I would order my cause before him, and fill my mouth with arguments." And ver. 8, 9, " Behold, I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him on the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold him he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him." Job wanted to reason with God, one would suppose from these complaints, not being able to comprehend the goodness, or perhaps the righteousness, of these his present strange dispensations.
In this view of the foregoing words, our text may be considered as Job's recollection of himself, and calling to mind the folly of expostulating with the Most High, respecting what he had done, or of thinking to alter his purposes in regard to what he was about to do. "But he is in one mind, and who can turn him? and what his soul desireth, even that he doeth."
The meaning of the words is plain and easy to be understood: namely, that God is unalterable in his determinations. That he never changes his counsels; and that no one can move him to alter his mind in any instance. That what he once designs, he always. does, let what arguments or entreaties will be used, to persuade him to the contrary.
And as the meaning of Job is very obvious, so the sentiment he here expresses is very evidently true. For,
1. Such unchangeableness is often ascribed to God, and claimed by him, in the holy scriptures. See Psal. xxxiii. 11, "The counsel of the Lord standeth for ever; the thoughts of his heart to all generations." Isa. xlvi. 9, 10, "I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me; declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done; saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure." Mal. iii. 6, "I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed." And James i. 17, "Every good gift, and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.
2. Such immutability in God, may certainly be concluded from his other perfections-his infinite power, knowledge, and goodness.
To be fickle and given to change, is ever considered as an imperfection in a man; surely then nothing like this ought to be supposed in the all-perfect God. The wisest and most steady men do indeed often alter their minds; and it is often wise and necessary for them to do so. They cannot always foresee how things will turn out, or what incidents may happen. Objections to their plans, unthought of at
first, frequently arise in the prosecution of them, or occur to their thoughts on more mature consideration. Men are sometimes obliged to desist from their designs because of the opposition they meet with from some, or the failure of others on whom they depended for help. They are sometimes induced to alter their purposes by convincing arguments suggested to them; and sometimes, when not convinced it is best, are overcome by the earnest entreaty of friends, whom they cannot bear to disoblige. But to a Being who is infinite in power and knowledge, and in every moral perfection, no such causes of alteration are possible. "Known unto God are all his works," and every thought relative to them, "from the beginning of the world." No new consideration can occur, or be suggested to him, as a reason for changing his mind; nor will he ever be over-persuaded to alter any purpose of his heart without reason ; and none can stay his hand.
Thus indisputably evident is it, both from particular texts of scripture, and from the other revealed attributes of God, that he is in one mind, and none can turn him. Nevertheless, there are objections against this doctrine, or apparent difficulties relating to it, which deserve some attention.
1. Several texts will readily occur, which appear to assert the contrary. We are told, Gen. vi. 6, "It repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart." It is said concerning his people, Psal. cvi. 44, 45, "He regarded their affliction, when he heard their cry: and he remembered for them his covenant, and repented, according to the multitude of his mercies." And in Jer. xviii. 7, 8, God says, "At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it: If that nation against whom I have pronounced, turn from their
evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them."
These texts, and some others, seem to imply, that God is not always in one mind; but is turned from his purposes, or made to regret having executed them, sometimes by the wickedness, and sometimes by the repentance and prayers of his creatures. But it is very certain that all such texts are to be understood only as figurative representations, accommodated to our thoughts and ways; or as speaking after the manner of men. We also read of the arm of the Lord, and of his hand and eyes; yet no one, unless grossly ignorant, will suppose that God, who is a spirit, has actually such bodily organs as these. The eyes of the Lord are his understanding; his hand or arm, denotes his power: And, in like manner, he is said to repent, when he alters his treatment of creatures from what it had been, or seemed about to be. When he destroys what he had created, or spares those whom he had threatened to destroy. In these cases, however, the alteration is in them, and not at all in him: and all these variations in his ways, he foresaw, and fully determined, from all eternity. But,
2. Some may reject this doctrine, and others misimprove it, as though the inevitable consequence of it were, that all supplications and intercessions to God, can avail nothing. If he will do just as he sees fit after all, and just as he had eternally fore-ordained-if he be so in one mind that nothing can turn him, it may be said, Why should we call upon him?" and what profit should we have if we pray unto him?"
To this it may be answered,
1. That whatever difficulty there may be in reconciling the efficacy of prayer, with the immutabil
ity of God, yet both must be believed, if we believe the scriptures and we must impute the seeming inconsistency between them, to their being matters too high for our comprehension. That with God there is no shadow of turning, we are expressly assured in his word, and must necessarily conclude from his other perfections. But we are also abundantly taught that he heareth prayer, and is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. It is written, "He will regard the prayer of the destitute, and not despise their prayer." It is written, " I said not unto the seed of Jacob, Seek ye me in vain." It is written, "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." And our great Teacher hath told us; "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you."
There are also many examples of the wonderful efficacy of prayer, recorded in the holy scriptures, for our encouragement to this duty. We have the instance of Jacob's wrestling in prayer until the breaking of the day; to whom it was said, "Thy name shall be called Israel; for as a prince hast thou power with God, and hast prevailed." We have repeated instances of the prevalence of the fervent intercession of Moses, for averting the threatened vengeance of God, and the utter destruction of his people in the wilderness. We have the instance of the Ninevites: when Jonah, by express divine command, had made a solemn public proclamation ; "Yet forty days, and -Ninevah shall be overthrown:" Nevertheless, on their fasting, and crying mightily unto God, we are told, "God repented of the evil that he had said he would do unto them; and he did it not."
From these declarations and examples, it is certain, if the Bible be true, that prayer is not a vain thing; however hard it may be to conceive how it can be of any avail, if God changeth not, and is not to be turned.