"Then Job answered and said, I know it is so of a truth: but how should man be just with God? If he will contend with Him, he cannot answer Him one of a thousand." (Job 9:1-3)
GOD forbid that I should falsely judge any man. God forbid that I should falsely judge any of you, my hearers; but do you know I often speculate upon your probable state before God! As I am in my quiet study, and upon my bed, in the dark watches of the night, I often fancy myself in this pulpit, and you all ranged before me, and I say to myself: (1) Does such a one ever think seriously? (2) Does such a one really understand what I preach? (3) Does such a one care for what is preached? (4) And supposing I were removed tomorrow, would it make any difference to such and such a one if the direct opposite to what is preached here were preached? (5) And then I think of you who are very irregular in your attendance at Church--you whose places are occupied, perhaps, once a month, and I say to myself, What of these? are they alive or dead? I wonder what is their creed? (6) Then, again, I say to myself, There is so-and-so getting far into years, and oh, I wonder, what would be his or her testimony if called upon to die tonight? Have they any scriptural hope? Have they ever been convinced of their lost estate by nature, and had Christ revealed to their hearts the hope of glory?
These, and a score of like thoughts, often pass through my mind. There is not one of you all escapes my notice. And what, think you, are the conclusions I come to? Well, to be honest with you, they are these: (1) So-and-so I feel convinced is a Christian man or a Christian woman. There can be no question about their salvation. (2) So-and-so I hope is in an inquiring state, really sincere in pursuit of the best things. (3) So-and-so I am sure has a great respect for me as a man, and as a minister, but I can see no light. (4) And so-and-so I can make nothing of, and am forced to believe to be as dead as ever.
Here are my honest thoughts and convictions laid before you. But of course I am not your judge. Still, you know, that as the Lord has said, "By their fruits ye shall know them," (Matt. 7:20) by your fruits, as they are apparent, or non-apparent to me, I form my opinion, and here I have to leave it. Believe me, I would save you all if I could, but with your salvation I have nothing to do. I would, though, for the sake of those who are not yet enlightened, speak once more upon a foundation truth, and may the Lord condescend to be present.
I. "How should man be just with God?" Do we all understand the drift of this question? The convinced and converted amongst us do; but, doubtless, there are many of you who do not. Here, then, is the meaning of it. Job and his friend Bildad were having an argument about God's dealings with men. This Bildad was the very type of a well-informed and self-important pharisee. He knew a deal about God, and God's dealings with men. He could speak very reverently of God, and was very jealous for God's justice and God's honor, but he evidently was not acquainted with the iniquity of his own heart; he was not aware of the fact that if God were to deal justly with any man it must end in man's rejection from God. This Bildad was like all of his class. When he saw a man afflicted he came to the conclusion that he was a hypocrite, or an inconsistent liver, and that God was punishing him for his iniquity. In short, his divinity was this: "God is too just to cast away a perfect man. He seems to be casting you, Job, away. Therefore, you cannot be all right." How like a self-righteous man's reasoning. What multitudes of the present hour think thus! Surely the pharisees, or the self-righteous, are of a very old family, a very antiquated race! Well, but mark what Job says in reply: "Then Job answered and said, I know it is so of a truth: but how should man be just with God? If he will contend with Him, he cannot answer Him one of a thousand." I know what you say about God's justice is all true. I know that God will not pervert justice. I know, too, that if I were perfect, or pure and upright, God must necessarily come to my rescue. I know that the hypocrite's hope shall perish. But how should a man, a fallen man, be just with God or before God? Job knew that God was just and holy in all His works; but how could man be just with God? If God will contend with man, if He will enter into judgment with man, man cannot answer to one charge or one sin out of a thousand that he is guilty of. The whole chapter is well worth your prayerful perusal. But just read with me ver. 29-32: "If I be wicked, why then labour I in vain? If I wash myself with snow water, and make my hands ever so clean; yet shalt thou plunge me in the ditch, and mine own clothes shall abhor me. For He is not a man, as I am, that I should answer Him, and we should come together in judgment." If I be the wicked or hypocritical person you, my friends, would make me, it would be in vain for me to pray as you recommend. And if, on the other hand, I do my best to purify myself, and compare myself with God, why, He would show me my folly, just as one plunged in a filthy ditch would appear in comparison with one that was clean and pure from filth. Such was Job's divinity, and such, my hearers, must be ours, if we would be saved. Man cannot be just before God, no matter what he does. Though his head were waters of repentance, and his eyes a fountain of tears which flowed from the cradle to the grave, all cannot render a man just before God. Oh that you all could see this, and be convinced of it! But you cannot till God puts you into the ditch, or rather till He opens your eyes to let you see you are in the ditch of sin and filth by nature, and convinces you that He alone can pull you out. It is from having erroneous notions about holiness, that men in general are deceiving themselves. If we all could understand what the holiness of God is, we should see at once that it is impossible for man to be just with God by any effort of his.
II. Such is man by nature, a helpless, filthy, loathsome thing in the sight of God. What is to become of him, then? There is a plan by which he may be made just before God, and that plan was invented by God Himself. "Being justified freely by His grace." (Rom. 3:24) "Being justified by faith through our Lord Jesus Christ." (Rom. 5:1) These are sentences which reveal the whole secret. The righteousness of Christ imputed to poor fallen, filthy man, is what makes him just before God, and nothing else. Job evidently had a knowledge of this plan, for he speaks in the context of "a daysman." (ver. 33) And in chap. 19:25, Job acknowledges the existence of his Redeemer. We are not to suppose that Job is here doubting the existence of a Mediator, for his confession upon that subject is clear. But this seems rather a prayer, or an exclamation to the effect, "Oh that there were a daysman betwixt us;" or, "This daysman is not yet, there will be one, but He is not yet come!"
Dear hearers, we all need a daysman or mediator to settle matters between us and God, one who literally can lay His hand upon us both. This very Individual is provided by God in the Person of Jesus Christ. As God He can lay His hand upon God, and as man He can lay His hand upon the poor sinner and thus make peace. How greatly I desire that you all should feel your need of this Mediator, and did experience His blessed power. Tell me, have you ever tried to realize the judgment-day? or the fact of your individually being called upon for judgment before the throne of God? Oh, what a solemn, what an awful time, when every secret thought of the heart shall be brought to remembrance in our breasts. Sins that we had long forgotten, iniquities that we thought had been buried with those with whom we committed them, lies that we had deliberately told, thefts that we had deliberately committed, slanders that we had willfully propagated, vengeance that we had planned and carried out, thoughts that we had secretly cherished; when all these, and ten thousand things besides, shall all crowd upon our consciences, where shall we be if we have no daysman, no mediator, no representative to plead for us? O dread hour! enough to make the straitlaced pharisee quail and cry out, "Enter not into judgment with Thy servant, O Lord, for in Thy sight shall no man living be justified." (Ps. 143:2)
The other day I heard of the melancholy death of a sinful companion of mine whom I have not seen for five-and-twenty years. The last time I saw him was when curiosity induced him to come and hear me preach, but I found him and his wife both dead in trespasses and sins. We parted to meet no more on this earth. They are both dead. They died as they had lived, devoted to the world. And the thought came upon me, "What but sovereign grace has made the difference between those two unhappy ones and me? They have no daysman, I profess to have. They have died without hope, I am living in the midst of hope." Ah, my hearers, rely upon it, there is such a thing as free and sovereign grace. It is nothing but this that saves any man. I, for one, know it. for my old companions are all swept away unjustified before God. I am left a monument of mercy. But some of you ask me, "Tell us how we may obtain the services of this Daysman, this Mediator?" A question easier asked than answered. But I will be faithful, God being my Guide and Teacher. If you are expecting to begin before God begins, you are deceiving yourselves. You can do nothing to obtain or secure the services of the great Advocate. He must begin the work, not you. And oh, it is so difficult to know whether He has begun or not!
Some time ago I was called upon to visit an old person on a sick bed. "Can you tell me," the person asked, "Can you tell me how I may know I shall be saved?" I said, "I cannot unless to try your heart, but the human heart is so deceitful that it can baffle man's best efforts." "Well, but" said the person, "I know I am a sinner." "Well," I said, "that is a good sign; but do you know you are a hell-deserving sinner, and that in you dwells no good thing?" "Yes," said the person, "I know all that." "Well," I observed, "that is a very good sign, but now am I to know you are telling me the truth?" "Oh," said this person, "I am no hypocrite; I never made a profession; I never told lies; I never pretended to be what I was not." "Stay, my friend," I rejoined: "you are now beginning to boast and to brag like the pharisee in the parable. You evidently have not that mean opinion of yourself you confessed a little while ago. You have some good thing in you, and until that is taken out of you I can hold out to you no hope." Ah, what a hard thing is it to visit the sick, and the dying, and to be faithful!
But to come back. Some of you want to know whether the Daysman is yours. I answer, He is nobody's who is not born again. He is nobody's who is not convinced of sin, as sin in the sight of God. He is nobody's who is a stranger to the blood and righteousness of God. He is nobody's who has no love for God, or longing after holiness. But He is the Mediator and Redeemer of everybody who knows the plague of his own heart, and is convinced he cannot be justified before God but by the righteousness of God. Here are the grand tests: the result of their application depends wholly upon the truthfulness of untruthfulness of the parties seeking to know.