1. There is no thought of man further from right than to think there is any unrighteousness in the dealings of God with man. Man can hardly do anything that is just, and it is impossible God should do anything that is unjust. Let God do what He will, it is right, and He is righteous in doing it. Yea, whatsoever evil God does to a Job or to any of His people, He is good to them in doing it. “Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart” (Ps 73:1). Not only is God righteous and just, but good and gracious, in what He does. Though His dispensations are often very sad, yet they are never unequal; and as the worst of men shall at last acknowledge that He is just, so the best of men, a Job or a David, shall see at last with joy and thanksgivings that God has been good, yea best, to them (considering their state) in His sorest and severest dealings. For all the paths of the Lord – hard as well as soft, those that are set with briars and thorns as well as those that are set with roses – “are mercy and truth (mercy as much as truth) unto such as keep His covenant and His testimonies” (Ps 25:10).
He that shows mercy cannot but show righteousness to his people in all his ways. As “he that doeth righteousness is righteous” (1 John 3:7), so he that is righteous cannot but do righteous things. God is not only righteous but righteousness; He is essentially righteous; His righteousness is Himself. A man’s being and his righteousness are two [different] things. The man may subsist without righteousness – all men by nature, and while nothing but nature, are unrighteous if they are not converted, though they may be much refined – but it is as impossible for God not to be righteous as not to exist. How can He who is righteous, yea righteousness itself, but do righteous things in all He does, in every cause, in every proceeding, whether with persons, families, or nations? Is it not then a most unrighteous thing to think or say that God has done, or can do, any unrighteous thing?
2. He that complains that God deals over-severely with him, or otherwise than is fit, or otherwise than he has deserved, makes himself, as to his cause, more righteous than God. If we say a man deals otherwise with us than we have deserved at his hands, we judge him, as to that action, uneven and unjust in his dealings. Surely then, if we think or speak hardly of the hardest ways of God, we speak and think hardly of God Himself. We cannot think well of God unless we say all that He does is well done. A thought that there is but one twig in our rod more than is meet or fit or good for us, or to think it abides one minute longer upon on our backs than is meet or fit or good for us, is to say, “Our righteousness is more than God’s”. Yea, it is to say, Our wisdom is more than God’s, and our mercies are more than the mercies of God. Therefore take heed of such thoughts. Though we cannot see the righteousness of God in His works, yet we must say His works are righteous. It can never be right, not only to say, “Our righteousness is more than God’s”, but so much as to say, “Our righteousness is anything to God’s”.
3. What we speak rashly may at any time be pressed upon us hardly and sometimes very uncharitably. It is very usual with those who accuse or oppose others to take doubtful things for certainties, their own conjectures for the assertions of their adversary, and everything which has a likeness to an error to be error. Elihu might have spoken more favourably to Job; he might have construed his sayings more candidly than he did. Had he taken Job’s words with a grain of salt (as we speak) he needed not to have put so much gall and wormwood into his own. Had he not interpreted Job’s complaints strictly, according to the sound or letter, but considered them with his scope, his aim and purpose in speaking so, together with the extreme pain of his body and anguish of his soul when he spoke so, he had never given him such cutting answers.
But God justly, and in much wisdom, sharpened the spirit of Elihu to speak cutting words to Job, that Job feeling the smart might be made sensible of his error and at last be brought low and broken under His hand. Mild words may skin a sore before it is searched to the bottom and so not only retard the cure but endanger the patient. The holy apostle foreseeing murmurings, quarrels and disputes which flesh and blood would make about election or predestination does not go about so much to answer them by reason as to repress them by a strong reproof and vehement rebuke: “Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay . . . ?” (Rom 9:20f). Now as about that unsearchable depth of eternal election, so about present dreadful dispensations and providences, our undue reasonings and tumultuating thoughts of heart concerning God, breaking our bounds and forgetting with whom we have to do, or who hath to do with us, call for and deserved sharpest reproofs: Who are you that reply against God? Who are you to think this to be right which you do, or anything wrong which God does? Who are you that you should presume to say, so much as by inference, that your righteousness is more than God’s, or that it is anything compared with the righteousness of God?
1. Observations on Job 35:2 from this Puritan writer’s Exposition of Job, vol 11. As reported in the February issue, this 12-volume set has now been reprinted and is available from the Free Presbyterian Bookroom for £227 (reduced from £335).