« PreviousContinue »
among the people of the east; and his piety and integrity equalled his temporal grandeur. That he was no fictitious character, but a real person, well known, and celebrated among the Jews, appears from the prophecy of Ezekiel to them, in which Job is ranked with Noah and Daniel.
Some critics are of opinion, that the book of Job is the oldest and noblest in the world. To his sufferings, self-examination, and defence of his conduct, we are indebted for a history, which, in point of execution and sublimity, stands unrivalled. His testimony against the worship of the heavenly bodies gives us an idea of an integrity not to be corrupted : "If I beheld the sun when it shined, or the moon walking in brightness; and my heart hath been secretly enticed, or my mouth hath kissed my hand; this also were an iniquity to be punished by the judge, for I should have denied the God that is above." Job xxxi. 26. 28.
Every person of taste must be delighted with the exquisitely beautiful description of the ten- der sensibility, the dignified condescension, and the incorruptible integrity of Job.-Compassion was brought up with him, was his guide from his youth. But that he was a mighty and powerful prince is evident, from his own language:
"When I went out to the gate* through the city; when I prepared my seat in the street, the young men saw me, and hid themselves; and the aged arose and stood up. The princes refrained talking, and laid their hand on their mouth."
Yet we find he did not deem it beneath him to reason with his man servant, or maid servant, when they thought they had any subject of complaint. He placed not confidence in riches; and the destruction of his enemies gave him not seeret joy. How touching is his exclamation! "When the ear heard me, then it blessed me; and when the eye saw me, then it gave witness to me because I delivered the poor that cried, and the fatherless, and him that had none to help him! The blessing of him that was ready to perish came upon me; and I caused the widow's heart to sing for joy! I put on righteousness, and it clothed me: my judgment was as a robe and a diadem! I was eyes to the blind; and feet was I to the lame; and the cause which I knew not, I searched out: and I brake the jaws of the wicked, and plucked the spoil out of his teeth!"
Not less conspicuous are his piety and humility, when precipitated from a station so elevated, to the lowest and most abject condition:
x The gates of the cities were the places of public assemblies, where justice was administered.
"The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord." What an example for the destitute and afflicted throughout all generations!
That he had an idea both of redemption and of future retribution, cannot be doubted, when he says: "For I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth, &c."
But to return to the subject we quitted; indulgence of the irregular inclinations of the heart, was doubtless the spring of idolatrous defection from the true and living God. Those who had rendered themselves obnoxious to his judgments, would be in a disposition similar to that of the Israelites when they said: "Let Moses speak unto us, but let not God speak unto us, lest we die." As Maimonides has supposed, they might be desirous of some interposition, or Mediator for them, either from a sense of their impurity, or from a fear to approach the throne of a Holy, Righteous, and Supreme Being.
RECAPITULATION AND REFLECTIONS
THE Israelites, separated from the rest of mankind by their peculiar institutions, were but little acquainted with commerce. They admitted of no hereditary distinction of rank, except in favour of the regal tribe of Judah, and the sacerdotal family of Levi. Their occupations, from the earliest times, were of the most simple kind, and consisted in pasturage and agriculture. To guide the plough, and tend the flock, were employments which, recommended by the innocence of primeval manners, and dignified by length of time, were exercised by Kings, Prophets, and Generals.
Moses was called from feeding his flock to conduct the Israelites to the promised land; Elisha forsook the plough to be invested with the mantle of prophecy; and Gideon left the threshing floor to lead the army of his country to battles,
The country in which this highly favoured people were established, was that narrow region in the west of Asia, extending along the Mediterranean sea, its western limit, and lying principally between that and the river Jordan; the inheritance of the two tribes and a half, which skirted the eastern border of Jordan, being the opposite boundary. This country was originally called CHANAAN, but afterwards JUDEA, PALESTINE, PHOENICIA, and the HOLY LAND. It presented a scene diversified by fruitful vallies, barren rocks, and lofty mountains, and was watered by numerous streams. It produced the palm tree, the balsam, the vine, the olive, the fig, and all the fruits which abound in the east.
From the labours of the field, and from cultivating the vine, the attention of the Israelites was regularly called by religious worship, which was intimately blended with the civil constitution of the state. The splendour of their publie services, the pomp and magnificence of their rites and ceremonies, being calculated to strike the senses, were adapted to the shadowy and outward dispensation under which they lived. As has been before observed, forms are necessary, when men are not spiritually minded.
"The stated recurrence of various festivals and sacrifices, the sabbath, the passover, the celebra