Sermon 2009. Job Among the Ashes
DELIVERED ON LORD'S DAY MORNING, FEBRUARY 19, 1888,
BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear: but now my eye sees You. Wherefore I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes."Job 42:5, 6.
JEHOVAH had spoken, Job had trembled. The Lord had revealed Himself, Job had seen Him. Truly, God did but display the skirtsof His robe and unveil a part of His ways. But therein was so much of ineffable glory that Job laid his hand upon his mouthin token of his silent consent to the claims of the Everlasting One. God spoke to Job out of the whirlwind concerning thegreatness of His power, the wonders of His workings, the splendor of His skill, the infinity of His wisdom. Carefully readthat wonderful speech of the Most High to the trembling Patriarch. I dare not call it poetry. For it rises as much above humanpoetry as the most sublime poetry stands above the poorest prose.
It is simply a statement of facts and these are mentioned in language of the simplest kind. But the overpowering glory ofthe utterance lies in the facts themselves. These sublime stanzas are spoken in the idiom of God. Those only know the peculiarstyle of the living God who have become familiar with the sacred Word in Spirit and in Truth and such persons can at oncedistinguish the speech of Jehovah from that of men. Read the Divine address, that you may see how Jehovah caused the afflictedPatriarch to feel Him near.
In the confession which now lies before us, Job acknowledges God's boundless power. For he exclaims, "I know that You cando everything, and that no thought can be withheld from You." He felt that whatever the Lord chose to think or desire He couldat once accomplish. Job had a glimpse of that omnipotence of which the height and depth no mind can ever measure.
Job sees his own folly. He speaks like a man in a maze or a muse and he says, "Who is He that hides counsel without knowledge?"Look at the second verse of chapter thirty-eight and you will see that he is quoting what God had said to him. The Lord'swords are ringing in his ears and in his anguish he repeats them, accepting them as justly applicable to himself. It is notfar from being right with us when the Words of God can fitly become our words. "The Lord answered Job out of the whirlwindand said, Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?"
And now Job replies, "I am that foolish one-I uttered what I understood not-things too wonderful for me, which I knew not."Job felt that what he had spoken concerning the Lord was, in the main, true. And the Lord Himself said to Job's three friends,"You have not spoken of Me the thing that is right, as My servant Job has." But under a sense of the Divine Presence Job feltthat even when he had spoken aright, he had spoken beyond his own proper knowledge, uttering speech whose depths of meaninghe could not himself fathom. Many a holy Prophet has done this, for inspired men are described as those who "enquired andsearched diligently; searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehandthe sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow."
It is not the thoughts of the Prophet which have been inspired of God so much as their words. For frequently they were movedto speak prophecies which were quite beyond their own understanding-in fact, my Brethren, are not all the great mysteriesof the faith above human thought? And may we not fearlessly assert that no inspired man has ever known all the depth of God'smeaning treasured up in the words which he himself has been led by the Spirit of God to write? Hence I assert that there isa verbal inspiration, or no inspiration at all worthy of the name. Job, as he comes before us in the text, is impressed withhis own folly. He had, to a large degree, spoken what he felt sure was true but he now feels that he did not understand whathe said.
And he at the same time tacitly confesses that he may have said in his bitterness many an unwise and unseemly thing, and thereforehe bows his head before the Lord his God and confesses that he has darkened counsel by words without knowledge and utteredthings that he understood not.
Notwithstanding, the man of God proceeds to draw near unto the Lord, before whom he bows himself. Foolish as he confesseshimself to be, he does not, therefore, fly from the supreme wisdom. Although he knows that he has babbled ig-norantly, hedoes not seek to hide from the Lord as Adam did when he sought the shade of the trees of the garden. No, he takes up the Lord'sWords again and is emboldened by them to approach. Read the thirty-eighth chapter, third verse. The Lord there says, "Girdup now your loins like a man-for I will demand of you and you shall answer Me."
Like a man in a dream, Job accepts the invitation and answers, "Behold I am vile, what shall I answer You? I will lay my handupon my mouth. Once have I spoken. But I will not answer-yes, twice. But I will proceed no further." This was brave and wiseaction. Whatever Job might be or might not be, he was a firm believer in his God and in every Word which the Lord was pleasedto speak. He held even to discouraging words with desperate tenacity and even learned to find honey in Words which roaredlike lions upon him. Hence, when he is humbled in the dust, he recollects that God had bid him draw near to Him. And albeitto his fears that bidding may have sounded like a challenge, yet to his faith it becomes an encouragement and he, in effect,replies, "My God, I will venture to take You at Your Word. You bid me come and come I will. Dust and ashes though I am, Iwill do as You allow me and make my humble appeal to You."
Dear Friends, it is altogether wrong to allow our sense of folly or of sin to drive us away from God. But it is altogetherright when our humiliation draws us to the Lord and our conscious need drives us to the Throne of Grace. The more foolishand sinful we are, the more urgent is our need to come to God, who alone can make us clean and instruct us in the way of heavenlywisdom. I commend to you, therefore, God's servant Job, of whom we may say, whatever fault we may perceive in him, none ofus could have behaved so gloriously as he did-unless, indeed, the Lord should give us like Divine Grace.
The Lord led Job to find fault with Him, yet God does not complain but even commends him. The three carping friends are commandedto bring a costly sacrifice but this was not demanded from Job. And even when they brought their seven bullocks the Lord didnot accept them till Job, whom they had condemned, had made intercession for them. Job bore away the palm from the conflict.So let us do as Job did and make our approach unto the Lord in childlike confidence even when He seems to frown. Let us getwhere Job was when he said, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in
When we bow lowest before His Throne, let not our humble bending have anything of distance in it. Lower before You, O Lord,would we be. But at the same time our cry is, "Nearer to You."
Thus we come to the text, having used the connection as a step to its door. On the text I make three observations- first,we have sometimes very vivid impressions of God. Job said, "I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear: but now my eyesees You." In the second place, when we are favored with these clearer views of God, we have lower thoughts of ourselves-"whereforeI abhor myself." And thirdly, whenever we are thus made low, our heart is filled with repentance-"I abhor myself and repentin dust and ashes." May the Holy Spirit aid us in this experimental meditation!
I. First, then, WE HAVE SOMETIMES VERY VIVID IMPRESSIONS OF GOD. Job had long before heard of God
and that is a great matter. I do not think he meant merely that he had heard men speak of God but that he had really, forhimself, heard God's voice. He had been a reverent Believer in the teachings of God and an obedient servant to His commands-thushe had really heard God. The man who can say this can say a great deal. If God has ever been on speaking terms with you, youhave much cause for gratitude. It is clear that you are not dead in sin, or if you were so when the Lord spoke to you, youare now alive. For His voice causes the dead to live.
If you have heard God in the secret of your soul, you are a spiritual man-only a spirit can hear the Spirit of God- none candiscern the Lord but the man to whom He has given spiritual life. Job had heard God, but now he has a more vivid apprehensionof Him. It is sometimes said that one eyewitness is better than ten ear-witnesses and there is much truth in the saying-certainly,facts perceived by the eye make a far more vivid impression upon the mind than the same facts heard by the ear. If we witnessa sad scene of poverty, it has far more effect upon our heart than the most graphic description. Word paintings can neverbring out the reality of a thing so well as the actual sight of it.
Of course, Job could not literally see God-he does not mean to assert that he did. For "no man has seen God at any time."But Job means that he now had a view of God very much more clearly than any which he had obtained before. In fact, as muchclearer as eyesight is more clear than hearing.
Notice that in order to this close vision of God, affliction had overtaken him. It was not till after he had scraped himselfwith the potsherd, nor till his friends had scraped him with something worse than potsherds, that Job could say, "My eye seesYou." Not till every camel and every sheep had been stolen and every child was dead could the afflicted Patriarch cry, "Nowmy eye sees You." Happy is that man who in prosperity can hear the voice of God in the tinkling of the sheep-bells of hisabundant flocks, can hear Him in the lowing of the oxen which cover his fields and in the loving voices of dear children aroundhim.
But, mark-prosperity is a painted window which shuts out much of the clear light of God and only when the blue and the crimsonand the golden tinge are removed is the glass restored to its full transparency. Adversity thus takes away tinge and colorand dimness and we see our God far better than before-if our eyes are prepared for the light. The Lord had taken everythingaway from Job, and this paved the way to His giving him more of Himself. In the absence of other goods the good God is thebetter seen. In prosperity God is heard and that is a blessing. But in adversity God is seen and that is a greater blessing.
Sanctified adversity quickens our spiritual sensitiveness. Sorrow after sorrow will wake up the spirit and it will infuseinto it a delicacy of perception which, perhaps, does not often come to us in any other way. I purposely say, "perhaps," forI believe that some choice saints are favored to reach it by smoother ways. But I think they are very few. The most of usare of such coarse material that we need melting before we attain to that sacred softness by which the Lord God is joyfullyperceived. O child of God, if you are to suffer as much as Job suffered, if you get to see the Lord with a spiritually enlightenedeye, you may be thankful for the sorrowful process! Who would not go to Patmos if he might see the visions of John and whowould not sit on the dunghill with Job to cry with him, "Now my eye sees You"?
Possibly, Job's desertion by his friends was also helpful. Job's three friends! Ah me, I know their kind! They were most devotedlyattached to him, no doubt. And how warmly they proved it! They had met together with him and said soft and sweet things tohim in those days when he moved like a prince among the nobles of his people and every eye that saw him blessed him. But whenthey found him sitting "down among the ashes," they had altered thoughts of him. They suspected him. And though they knewnothing against him, yet they perceived that he was not in the same honor as before.
Between a prince in ermine and the same man in sackcloth there is, to some minds, a great difference. Besides, the instinctof self-preservation leads men to hold off from one who is sinking, lest they sink with him. After sitting in silence fora week, these excellent men found it in their hearts to assail him with their judicious observations. Here and there theyinserted nice little bits of cruelty, all meant for his good. Was he not covered with sores? Was there not a cause for allthis? By this torture God delivered Job from men-he was not likely after that to incur the curse which comes through makingflesh your arm. He was also strengthened in personal independence of mind. He could clearly see that his breath was in hisown nostrils and not in other people's, and that he could stand alone by God's help, yes, even stand against those eminentmen who had contended with him.
Friends are all too apt to block out our view of our best Friend. When gracious minds are driven from men, they are drawnto God and learn to sing with David, "My Soul, wait you only upon God. For my expectation is from Him." I do not doubt, therefore,that the desertion and upbraiding endured by Job from his friends were a great help towards his being able to say to the Lordhis God, "Now my eye sees You." Eliphaz and Bildad and Zophar might have interposed between Job and God and their kindly helpmight have placed Job under lasting obligations to them-but now he looks alone to God and honors Him only.
Still, before Job could see the Lord, there was a special manifestation on God's part to him. "Then the Lord answered Jobout of the whirlwind." God must really come, and in a gracious way make a display of Himself to His servants, or else theywill not see Him. Your afflictions will not of themselves reveal God to you. If the Lord Himself does not unveil His face,your sorrow may even blind and harden you and make you rebellious. The desertion and unkindness of friends is, also, no helpto Divine Grace-its tendency is to sour and imperil your piety if it acts out its natural influence-there must be a specialrevealing of the Lord to our own souls before we shall get such a clear apprehension of Him as Job intended by the words,"Now my eye sees You."
Read through the thirty-eighth chapter and see how Jehovah declares His wisdom and His power-"Where were you when I laid thefoundations of the earth? Declare, if you have understanding. Who has laid the measures thereof, if
you know? Or who has stretched the line upon it? Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? Or who laid the cornerstonethereof when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy? Have you entered into the treasuresof the snow? Or have you seen the treasures of the hail? Can you bind the sweet influences of Pleiades, or loose the bandsof Orion? Can you bring forth Mazzaroth in his season? Or can you guide Arcturus with his sons?"
Here was a marvelous field for thought. The Lord speaks in nature and it is done. His glory is seen in Heaven and earth, inthe sea and all deep places. God is and there is none beside Him. Yes, Jehovah is God alone. Nor did the Lord fail to showto Job His justice, defying him to emulate it. See the fortieth chapter, eleventh and twelfth verses-"Cast abroad the rageof your wrath. And behold everyone that is proud and abase him. Look on everyone that is proud and bring him low. And treaddown the wicked in their place." God is the supreme governor and He bears not the sword in vain. He is impartial and infallibleand none can disannul His judgment, or condemn His acts.
I need not tarry to say to you that all through that wonderful address of the Lord to His servant, He is saying, in so manywords, "I am God. But who are you?" The Lord is proving that nothing is impossible to His power and His wisdom. He had, afterall, not allowed His servant to sink out of His reach. He was always able to rescue him. You learn here, also, that God isnot amenable to our judgment. He gives no account of His matters. He makes Job feel that He is God, and that is the end ofthe matter. No apology is made to Job and no explanation is given him-he must bow in unreserved submission and surrender unconditionally.And he does so.
Notice how by the Lord's first words Job was silenced and could only whisper," Behold I am vile, what shall I answer You?I will lay my hand upon my mouth. Once have I spoken. But I will not answer: yes, twice. But I will proceed no further." Thusfar he worshipped. But he must yet go further, until he cries, "I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes."
II. We have now reached our second point-WHEN WE HAVE THESE VIVID APPREHENSIONS OF GOD, WE HAVE LOWER VIEWS OF OURSELVES.
Why are the wicked so proud? It is because they forget God. Why did Pharaoh dare to say, "Who is the Lord, that I should obeyHis voice?" It was because he did not know Jehovah. But after those ten plagues, he altered his tone and cried out, "Entreatthe Lord" (for it is enough). Even his great pride was forced to bow before Jehovah when judgments were let loose upon him.If men knew God, how it would change their thoughts and talk! If they could have even an indistinct idea, "by the hearingof the ear," many of them would never be so irreverent as they now are, nor so lofty in their ideas of their own wisdom. Ifthey could "see" Him as Job did and behold His inexpressible glory, they would become far more meek and lowly.
Here let me observe that God Himself is the measure of rectitude, and hence, when we come to think of God, we soon discoverour own shortcomings and transgressions. Too often we compare ourselves among ourselves and are not wise. A man says, "I amnot so bad as many and I am quite as good as such a one, who is in high repute." What if it is so? Do you judge yourself byother erring ones? Your measuring line is false. It is not the standard of the sanctuary. If you would be right, you mustmeasure yourself with the holiness of God-God Himself is the standard of perfect holiness, Truth, love and justice. And ifyou fall short of His glory, you have fallen short of what you ought to be.
When I think of this, self-righteousness seems to me to be a wretched insanity. If you want to know what God is, He sets Himselfbefore us in the Person of His dear Son. In every respect in which we fall short of the perfect character of Jesus, in thatrespect we sin. There is no better description of sin that I know of than this-"Sin is any want of conformity to the Law ofGod," and God's Law is the transcript of His own mind. Wherein in any moral or spiritual respect we fall short of the DivineCharacter, we to that extent fall into sin. No, my Brethren, we cannot hear the ceaseless cry of the cherubim, "Holy, holy,holy, Lord God of Sabaoth," without at once sinking, sinking, sinking, till we abhor ourselves and repent in dust and ashes.
Permit me to suggest to each one here who has a high idea of himself and has no sense of self-abhorrence that such self-honormust arise from ignorance of God. For there is such an immeasurable distance between the perfection of God and our faultinessthat our true position is that of penitent humility.
Our next reflection is this-God Himself is the object of every transgression-and this sets sin in a terrible light. Sin frequentlyhas our fellow men as its object. But even then I am not incorrect in what I have said, for sins against our fellow men arestill sins against God. It would be well if we felt with David-"Against You, You only, have I sinned and done this evil inYour sight." Think, then, of sin as an offense against God, committed in God's Presence, committed
while He is looking on. My beloved Friends, in this light observe the wantonness of sin. For who could wish to offend againsta perfectly holy and entirely loving God? If God is all He should be, why do we not agree with Him?
If in God we see every possible and conceivable good, why do we set up ourselves, our wills, our desires in opposition toHim? He is so gracious towards man that He may be described by that one Word, "love." And if it is so, why do we not loveHim with all our heart and all our soul and all our strength? Every shortcoming and every transgression, therefore, is a wantonoffense against infinite goodness. If Jehovah were a tyrant, there might be some excuse for rebellion. But since He is infinitelyjust and loving, it is atrocious that His own creatures, yes, His own children, should offend Him.
Note, next, the impertinence of sin. How dare we transgress against God? O Man, who are you that rebels against God? How dareyou to do to His face that which He forbids you? How dare you to leave undone in His very presence that which your Lord commandsyou to do? This makes sin a piece of presumption, a daring and glaring provocation of the Lord God. Thus it is evident thatin the immediate Presence of God sin does like itself appear.
The fact that sin is leveled at God makes us bow in lowliness. Although some of us can hold our heads high among our fellowmen and we can say, "I am neither a drunkard, nor a thief, nor a liar, neither have I offended against the laws of integrityand charity," yet when we come before God, we perceive that we have not dealt towards Him as we ought to have done. To Himwe have been thieves, robbing Him of His glory. "Will a man rob God?" To Him we have been li-ars-we have dealt treacherouslyand have broken our promises. To Him we have been ingrates. To Him we have been worse than brutes. Instead of equity, we havedealt towards God iniquity. Instead of love, we have dealt out enmity.
The Lord has nourished and brought up children and they have rebelled against Him. Even our holy things have been defiled.Our best tears need to be wept over and our truest faith is spoiled with unbelief. Oh, when we think of this, we can understandwhy Job says, "Now my eye sees You. Wherefore I abhor myself."
Once more-when God is seen with admiration, then of necessity we are filled with self-loathing. The more you appreciate God,the more you will depreciate yourself. While the thought of God rises higher and higher and higher, you also will sink lowerand lower in your own esteem. The word used by Job, "I abhor myself," is a strong one. It might be paraphrased thus, "I nauseatemyself. I am disgusted with myself. I cast forth from my soul every proud thought of my-self-cast it out from me as a sickeningand intolerable thing."
Ah, dear Friends, you have not seen God aright if your abhorrence turns upon your fellow men. But if the one man you abhoris yourself, you are not mistaken! A sight of God will make us regard our fellow creatures with sympathy, as involved in thesame sin and misery as ourselves. As a common danger in a sinking ship makes every man a brother to his fellow, so a clearsense of our common guilt and ruin will make us feel the brotherhood of man-but, on the other hand, a sight of God will preventour dreaming of personal excellence and will compel us to take the lowest place. Since God is glorious in our eyes, we becomeashamed. We adore God and in contrast, we abhor self.
Do you know what self-loathing means? Some of you do, I know. And I am sure that in proportion as you truly love, reverenceand worship God, in that proportion you are full of abhorrence of self. You fine gentlemen, who hold your heads so high thatyou can scarcely get through common doorways, you know nothing of this! You high and mighty ladies, who cannot condescendto associate with any who are not of your superior rank. And you purse proud men, who expect all to worship the golden calfwhich you have set up, you know nothing about this.
O you wonderfully wise men, you intellectual persons, who so modestly dub yourselves "thoughtful and cultured," you snuffout a poor evangelical Believer as if he were an idiot. May the Lord give you an hour of Job's, "I abhor myself," and thenyou will be bearable. But as you now are, you are a thief! While the dunghill is your proper place, you covet the Throne ofthe Almighty. But He will not yield it to you-you would improve upon Divine Revelation and revise infallible inspiration.But your boasting is vain. Oh that you had a manifestation of God and then you would know yourselves! God grant it to youfor His mercy's sake!
III. Thirdly, I have to show you that SUCH A SIGHT FILLS THE HEART WITH TRUE REPENTANCE. Job
says, "I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes." The word "myself has been added by the translators. And they could hardlyhave done otherwise. Job's expression, however, refers to all that had come out of himself or had lurked within himself. Heabhorred all that he had been doing and saying. He says, "I abhor and repent in dust and ashes." What did he repent of? Ithink Job repented, first, of that tremendous curse which he had pronounced upon the day of his birth. It was terrible. Seethe third chapter.
"Let the day perish wherein I was born and the night in which it was said, There is a man-child conceived. Let that day bedarkness. Let not God regard it from above, neither let the light shine upon it. Let it not be joined unto the days of theyear, let it not come into the number of the months." He wished he had perished from the womb, that his birth cry had beenhis first and his last. "For now should I have lain still and been quiet." Before God Job has to eat his bitter words. Itis always a pity to say too much in moments of agony, because we may have to unsay that which escapes us. He would not curseGod but he did curse the day of his birth and it was unseemly. Of this he unfeignedly repents.
Next, Job heartily repented of his desire to die. In the sixth chapter he expresses it as he did several times-he says, "Oh,that I might have my request. And that God would grant me the thing that I long for! Even that it would please God to destroyme. That He would let loose His hand and cut me off!" Do you wonder that he said this? Was ever man so tried? I do not wonderat all, even at his cursing the day of his birth considering all the bodily pain and mental irritation which he was enduringat the time. I wonder that he played the man as well as he did.
But still he must have looked back with deep regret upon his impatience. The last verses of the book run thus-"After thislived Job an hundred and forty years and saw his sons and his sons' sons, even four generations. So Job died, being old andfull of days." This is the same man who begged to die. Elijah also said, "Let me die, I am not better than my fathers," andyet he never died at all. What poor creatures we are! What haste impatience breeds!
Job had to repent, next, of all his complaints against God. These had been very many. In the seventh chapter he turns to Godand says, "I will speak in the anguish of my spirit. I will complain in the bitterness of my soul. Am I a sea, or a whale,that You set a watch over me? When I say, My bed shall comfort me, my couch shall ease my complaint. Then You scare me withdreams and terrify me through visions-so that my soul chooses strangling and death rather than my life. I loathe it. I wouldnot live always-let me alone. For my days are vanity. How long will You not depart from me, nor let me alone till I swallowdown my spittle?"
Ah! poor Job had to swallow his murmuring as well as his spittle, for he repents of every rebellious thought. He complainsof his having complained and with self-abhorrence he repents in dust and ashes. I do not doubt but what Job repented of hisdespair. The ninth and tenth chapters and many other passages wherein Job speaks are tinged with hopelessness. He felt asif God had left him a prey to the enemy. But this was not true. The Lord has never deserted any of His people. There is noton record in all the history of the ages a case in which God has failed them that trust Him.
Has He not said, "I will never leave you, nor forsake you"? And He never has left nor forsaken any Believer. Yet Job evidentlythought that He had done so, and he was greatly troubled. Job had uttered rash challenges of God-in the ninth chapter, atthe thirty-third verse, he says that there is no mediator between him and God, or else he would plead his cause-"Let Him takeHis rod away from me and let not His fear terrify me-then would I speak and not fear Him-but it is not so with me." This waswrong and Job abhorred himself for having fallen into so ill a temper and so little becoming in a man of God.
His critics goaded him by cruelly charging him with hypocrisy and wickedness and Job vindicated himself with great earnestness,appealing to God and saying, "You know that I am not wicked." This was true. The indignation of an honest heart cannot beblamed for speaking thus to men. But Job felt that he could not speak thus before the Lord. He could plead his innocence inthe common courts of men and there he could well enough defend himself. But when the matter came into the King's own court,he could not answer in the same strain but felt compelled to plead guilty. Job has to retract all his pleadings and challenges.If the case is to be heard as "Jehovah versus Job," then Job yields the point unreservedly. Who is he that can contend withhis Maker over a matter of holiness? We are wrong, God must be right!
Job had also to confess that his statements had been a darkening of wisdom by words without knowledge. Sometimes we say, "Iperfectly understand that. I could clear up that mystery." We define this and define that to our Brethren. But when we getinto the Presence of God we find that our definitions are the proofs of our ignorance. "Vain man would be wise, though manbe born like a wild ass's colt." Job drops his wisdom as well as his righteousness, although he was one of the wisest andholiest of men. While we see not God, we fancy that we can read all the riddles of His Word. But when we behold Him more clearly,we say with David, "So foolish was I and ignorant-I was as a beast before You."
We are apt to judge the Lord by feeble sense instead of trusting Him for His Divine Grace. This comes of evil. In the Presenceof God, Job bowed his head and repented of all his suspicions and mistrusts. And this is what we must do if, in the day ofour sorrow, we have been petulant and unbelieving.
Let me pass on. According to our text, repentance puts man into the lowest place. He says, "I repent in dust and ashes." "Dustand ashes"-that signifies the dust heap, or what in Scotland they call the "midden." Job had made dust and ashes his headquarters.The dunghill, the refuse place, was now the spot which he felt to be fitted for him. Repentance puts us in a lowly
seat. You have heard sometimes, I dare say, among the beautiful nothings of the modern school, the mention of, "the dignityof human nature." Behold a throne for the "dignity of human nature." Yonder dust and ashes are for this proud royalty. Thedust heap is for human nature in its glory, when it has on its richest robes.
When it takes its worst place, where is it? The lowest pit of Hell, prepared for the devil and his angels, is the fit placefor man when he has at last come to his true estate. I say that when man wears his best Sunday righteousness he is even thenonly fit for the midden. And every man of God that has been brought to true repentance, owns that it is so. Alas, says theman that sees his sinfulness, I should be a disgrace to any dust shoot. If I were cast away with the rotten refuse of thehouse, it might creep away from me because my sin is a worse corruption than physical nature knows-an insult even to the wormof decay- since in common putridity there is not the foul offense of moral evil. Repentance, you see, makes a man take thelowest place.
Next, note that all real repentance is joined with holy sorrow and self-loathing. I have read in the sermons of certain teachersthat, "Repentance is only a change of mind." That may be true. But what a change of mind it is! It is not such a change ofmind as some of you underwent this morning when you said, "It is really too cold to go out," but afterwards you braved thesnow and came to the Tabernacle. Oh, no! Repentance is a thorough and radical change of mind and it is accompanied with realsorrow for sin, and self-loathing. A repentance in which there is no sorrow for sin will ruin the soul. Repentance withoutsorrow for sin is not the repentance of God's elect. If you can look upon sin without sorrow, then you have never looked onChrist. A faith-look at Jesus breaks the heart, both for sin and from sin. Try yourself by this test.
But, next, repentance has comfort in it. It is to my mind rather extraordinary that the Hebrew word which is justly translated"repent," is also used in two or three places, at least in the Old Testament, to express comfort. Isaac, it is said, tookRe-bekah to his mother's tent and was "comforted after his mother's death." Here the word is the same as that which is hererendered "repent." Isaac's mind was changed as to the death of his mother. As, then, there is in the Hebrew word just a tingeof comfort. So in repentance itself, with all its sorrow, there are traces of joy. Repentance is a bitter-sweet or a sweet-bitter.After you have tasted it in your mouth as gall, it will go down into your belly and be sweeter than honey and the honeycomb.
The door of repentance opens into the halls of joy. Job's repentance in dust and ashes was the sign of his deliverance. Godturned His wrath upon the three critics but justified Job and gave him the honorable office of intercessor on their behalf.Then "the Lord turned the captivity of Job when he prayed for his friends." "The Lord blessed the latter end of Job more thanthe beginning," and the turning point was that sitting down in the dust and ashes. When you are brought as low as you canbe, the next turn must be upward. Down with you, then! Off with the feathers of your pride and the finery of your self-righteousness!Down with you among the useless and worthless things! From that point you will ascend. The more crushed, humbled, exhaustedand near to death you are, the more prepared you are for God to raise you up.
Job was an unrivalled saint-none of us can compare with him. And if that perfect and upright man had to say, "I abhor myself,"what will you and I say when we see God? We shall by-and-by behold Him on the Judgment Seat-how shall we endure it? If youhave no righteousness but your own, you will stand naked to your shame in the day when the Lord appears. You self-righteousmen-dare you go before God in your own righteousness? If you dare, I marvel at your presumption. Job dared not. He could standup boldly before his accusers but when before God he was in another attitude.
When it comes to dying and appearing before the Most High, you that have no righteousness but one of your own spinning, whatwill you do? If God should take away your soul at once, could you dare to go before Him in that fine character of yours, thatwonderful morality, that large generosity? If you have any sense left, you dare not attempt such a thing. What shall you andI do?
Brethren, we are not afraid. For there is a righteousness of God which is given to us by faith through Jesus Christ. God Himselfcannot find any fault with His own righteousness. And if He gives me His own righteousness, even the righteousness of God,which is by faith in Jesus Christ-which is to all and upon all them that believe-then I may hope to sit at last, not on themidden but on the Throne!
Then I will find myself rejoicing in Christ Jesus, crowned with a crown which I shall delight to cast at His feet. How happyare we if we can sing-
"Jesus, Your blood and righteousness My beauty are, my glorious dress; Midst flaming worlds, in these arrayed,
With joy shall Ilift up my head"!