Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

prising fortitude, and have even governed empires with ability. I cannot however gratify you with the elevation of another female besides Deborah in this period of sacred history. A female Sovereign arose some centuries after in Israel, but we derive no honour from her character." Vol. 1. page 275.

FANNY. Mother, you have now finished the history of the Old Testament, without mentioning the Book of Job. You have I believe named every other,-why did you omit that?

MOTHER. The Book of Job was omitted because it is wholly unconnected with the history of which we have spoken. Job was not a Jew, nor does he appear to have known any thing of that people, but rather to have lived some ages before they became a nation.

FANNY. Why then, is his story inserted amongst the sacred writings, which are chiefly devoted to their affairs.

MOTHER. By the sacred writings, we do not mean merely such books as were connected with the Jewish history, but all the inspired books which have come down to us, and considering the scrupulous care that has been most religiously devoted to their preservation, it may be presumed that we now possess all that did ever bear the sacred stamp. We have histories of the Jews by some profane authors, and frequent allusions to them by others. We read also of" the book of Josher," "the book of Iddo the seer,” and "the book of the wars of the Lord”—these were historical, but probably not inspired, otherwise, they would not have been lost, as they now certainly are. But this sublime poem has been treasured up with the sacred rolls of the Jews from the earliest period of their written history, and is transmitted with them for our instruction. It has all the marks of divine inspiration; its views of the deity are the most elevated, and its moral sentiments the most pure we conclude then, that it was delivered to them by their revered legislator, from whom alone perhaps, they would have received a rule of faith and manners.

CATHERINE. By whom was it written?

MOTHER. That is a question which divides commentators. Some have assigned it to Moses, and some to Job himself. Some have supposed it to have been written by Elihu one of the actors in the drama, whilst others have not scrupled to bring it down so late as the time of Ezra, but so various are the opinions on this uncertain subject, that still others, and intermediate persons, between the first and the last named, are supported as the authors.

No book of scripture has been more severely scrutinized than this. The reality of Job's existence, the period, and the place in which he lived, as well as the pen to which we are indebted for this portion of his story-have all been made the subjects of very able discussion. The time and the design of its publication have also been examined. Some writers more fanciful than wise, have imagined the whole book to be an allegory, or fable, agreeably to the eastern mode of giving lessons. Whilst others, with mors

reason defend the literal truth of every circumstance related, admitting however, that the dialogue is ornamented by the florid language without which, a conversation could not have been reduced to measured numbers consistently with the elegance re quired in an epic poem But all these disputed points are put to rest by the successful labours of commentators* ail competent to the work. It is not necessary that I should rehearse all the arguments on either side, an abstract on each particular will prepare you to read their works, and to study the sublime original. I shall only premise, that it is allowed on all hands to be a poem of the most lofty character, excepting the two first and the last chapters, which are plain narrative, and that it is replete with instruction.

CATHERINE. On what ground is the reality of his existence questioned, when the patience of Job is proposed as an example by the apostle James ?t

MOTHER. Objections are made to the transactions related in the exordium. That the adversary of mankind should have appeared with the "sons of God" before the throne of the omnipotent and have obtained permission to bring a succession of calamities beyond the common lot of mortals, on a righteous man, say the objectors, appears fabulous, and the protraction of the patriarch's days to the amount of an hundred and forty years after his trial, is inconsistent with the abridgment of man's life after the flood, for that he lived after that catastrophe is evident from the

text.

Now the experience of every age in accordance with the words of inspiration is sufficient proof that the patience and resignation of the most pious, are often severely tried by affliction. That Satan may be the agent, is also clear. He tempted Eve in Paradise, and our Saviour in the wilderness-but in what manner he obtains his commission, or what takes place in the celestial regions respecting this awful arrangement, is amongst the secret things of God, which we are not permitted to know. If the fact is to be communicated to mortals, it must be done in some way compatible with human comprehension. Another argument against the reality of the whole story is assumed, from its metaphorical style, in the debate between Job and his companions. In answer to this, it is not necessary to contend that every word is related as it was spoken, although much may be allowed to the known figurative style of the Arabians, the country in which the scene is laid. If the sentiments are preserved, the dignified form into which the poem is cast, does not impugn the reality of the events. Besides, to the testimony of an apostle we have added that of a prophet, concerning the existence of such a man as Job. And with respect to the number of his years-they did not so far exceed that

*Gray, Magee, Peters, Horne, &c.

† James, v. 11.

Ezekiel, xiv. 14.

of other patriarchs (considering too that he was but young at the date of his trial) that we may not suppose him to have been favoured with an extraordinary length of life, as a reward of his pious fortitude, and a gracious compensation for his extraordinary sufferings.

Job is called "the greatest of all the men of the East," by the inspired historian. "The whole region between Egypt and the Euphrates, was called the East, at first in respect to Egypt, and afterwards absolutely, and without any relation to situation or circumstances."* He dwelt in the land of Uz, which is said to be a district of Arabia, lying between Egypt and Philistia. Having discovered the place of Job's residence, there is no difficulty in ascertaining the period at which he flourished. The whole complexion of the book in question, bears the mark of high antiquity. He was the priest of his own family according to patriarchal customs, and offered sacrifices for his children and his friends; consequently he lived before the institution of a regular priesthood by Moses, to which alone belonged this privilege after the promulgation of the law. He offered them at his own dwelling, whereas, the Levites, as you know, might sacrifice only at the consecrated tabernacle. Had there been a law, the acknowledged piety of Job would have restrained him from transgressing it. His wealth is reckoned by his flocks-he had seven thousand sheep, and three thousand camels, besides an immense herd of cattle; he therefore led the pastoral life-the earliest occupation of man. Our bible chronology dates the trial of Job about twenty-nine years before the Exodus from Egypt. That there is no allusion to such a nation as the Israelites, or their peculiar system, to the miracles by which they were delivered from the cruel hand of Pharaon, or by which they were sustained forty years in a desert, is abundant evidence that he lived anterior to these wonderful events. Their number, and their notoriety, must have reached the ears of those who lived in the very neighbourhood where they occurred. Sodom, Gomorrah and the other cities of the plain lay still nearer to the land of Uz-all the people of Idumea must have known of their miraculous ruin, yet none of all these most remarkable transactions are mentioned in the conversation between Job and his companions—a conversation which turning chiefly on the power of God, and the manner of his dealings with the children of men, afforded an opportunity so favourable, that they must have been noticed had they taken place before that time. It is also observable, that all these men, though coming from different parts of Arabia, spoke the same language, the original Hebrew; from which it would appear, that they conversed together on this memorable occasion before it was corrupted into different dialects by the posterity of Abraham.

It is well known that of all the various forms by which the true

* Horne's Introduction to the study of the Bible.

religion was debased, amongst the most ancient was the worship of the sun and moon; and to this alone is there any allusion in the book of Job.

From these, and yet other arguments, the high antiquity of this incomparable book is completely proved. A late writer of great erudition, collecting them ali-concludes the time of Job to have been eight hundred and eighteen years after the deluge, and one hundred and eighty-four before the birth of Abraham, which would carry it back some ages beyond the date in our common bibles. But it is a nicer point to determine by whom this interesting story was written. It may have been the work of Job himself, but the thirty second chapter affords a strong presumption that Elihu was the author. Moses having found it during his long exile in Midian, night deliver it to his rebellious people in the desert, as a corrective of their unthankful temper, and an encouragement to submission by the rewards that are there held out to quiet suffering.

CATHERINE. It would then appear that this is the oldest book in the world, even more ancient than the pentateuch. I should now be glad to have some account of the argument which is beyond my present comprehension. I hope it will not be always so, but that I may hereafter obtain a better knowledge, both of this and every other part of sacred writ.

MOTHER. I am only able to give you a general view of a composition so magnificent although it contains instruction the most obvious, it is yet veiled to the most illustrious scholars by our imperfect knowledge of the eastern idioms, and by the transcendant nature of the subject. The God of nature is discovered in his works, we see we feel we admire and adore! Much is given to exercise the intellectual faculties of man, but much more is exalted beyond his best attainments. Of his justice and his mercy we see the effects in his moral government, but we are often lost in conjecture when we attempt to scan the reason of his dispensations. These high matters were the chief subject of debate between Job and his disputatious friends. Guided only by the light of nature and tradition, and destitute of the revelation with which we are favoured, although they often "spoke amiss," it is yet surprising that they were in general so correct.

Job was a man of great eminence, a prince perhaps, or a magistrate in the land of Uz. Endowed with wisdom, wealth, and virtue, he was reverenced by every class of society. His children had grown to maturity and misfortune had not violated his dwelling. Encompassed by all the blessings of domestic and social life, he seemed almost beyond her reach. But suddenly he is bereft of all! Neighbouring bands of roving Chaldeans overrun his fields his flocks and herds are swept away, and the shepherds and ploughmen put to the sword! Scarcely had these disasters reached his cars, when the blow is finished by another

[blocks in formation]

messenger. All his children assembled at a feast in their elder brother's house, are crushed to death in its fall, by a fierce whirlwind! Such a tide of accumulated evils, might well have burst the heart of a father, and a man! But in the midst of prosperity Job had prepared his heart for a reverse. Whilst his sons and daughters, had gone from house to house at some festive season, the pious patriarch had risen early in the morning, and offered burnt offerings, according to the number of them all;" "It may be," said he," that my sons have sinned in a moment of intemperance, and blasphemed their Creator," Thus he stood ready to submit to the divine will, in that beautiful ascription to his unquestioned sovereignty, which fell without a murmur from his lips. "The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away-Blessed be the name of the Lord." But this was not all the saint was to be yet further proved. He is smitten with "sore boils, from the sole of his foot to his crown!" His wife, who seems not to have borne affliction with the same placid temper, was astonished that he should yet confide in Jehovah-but he silenced her : "What," said he, "shall we receive good at the hand of God, and not evil?" "In all this," adds the historian," Job sinned not with his lips." Happy would it be for you and me, who have the assured hope of rejoining our pious friends after death, could we give them up with the same obedient will.

FANNY. Was he altogether without that consoling hope?

4

MOTHER By some it has been supposed that he was. By others, his belief in a future state of glory through the intercession of a Redeemer, is supposed to be clearly marked in some sentences, which he afterwards uttered. Be this as it may, his subdued disposition is intitled to the highest praise. And in this happy state of mind, it is probable he would have remained had he been left to himself. But that serenity which the heavy-hand of God had never moved, was disturbed by man, less mercifuland less just. Such unparallelled calamity was soon spread far and wide throughout Arabia, and three men his particular friends, Bildad, Zophar, and Eliphaz, all men of rank in Idumea, came together to condule with him. They had heard of the loss of his immense property-the death of ail his children—and of his own agonizing disease-but when they approached him whom they had seen seated in the gate dispensing the law-the most honourable in all the land" before whom the princes refrained talking, and the nobles held their peace-in whose presence the aged arose, and the young men shrunk away," when they now saw him stretched upon the earth, a loathsome spectacle from which his own domestics turned away-amazement, grief, and horror, struck them dumb-they sat down by him on the ground, and for days and nights no one broke the solemn silence of unutterable woe! In this interval of meditation, the kindly sympathy of pitying friendship gave way to the cooler dictates of erroneous reason. They were themselves virtuous and had flourished in uninter

[ocr errors]
« ElőzőTovább »