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Without presuming to intrude into the province of the clergy, we may conceive it possible that some of them will, tomorrow, give us a text from the book of Job. It is not the only book in the inspired record, by any means, that is suitable to that occasion. It is impossible, indeed, to open a book or a chapter of the sacred volume that does not teach a lesson of submission and fortitude, and "vindicate the ways of God to man." A very learned man says: "He hath observed, in the histories of all ages, that the great events which determine the fate of great affairs do happen less frequently, according to (human) design, than by (what are called) accident and occasion. Our enterprises here below are derived from above; and we are but engines and actors of pieces that are composed in Heaven. Homo histrio, Deus vero pæta est; 'God is the sovereign poet'; and we cannot refuse the part which he appoints us to bear in the scene. All our business is to act it well; cheerfully complying with His orders concerning us, and submitting ourselves to the direction of His Providence." It is a tradition of the Jews that when Moses was sent by God into Egypt, and beheld the grievous affliction of his people under Pharaoh, he took the pains to trans late the book of Job into their language out of the Syriac, wherein it was first written, to comfort them in their lamentable condition. "Be ye constant, oh children of Israel," said Moses, "do not faint in your minds, but suffer grief, and bear these evils patiently, as did that man whose name was Job; who, though he was a righteous and faithful person, yet suffered the sorest torment by the malice of the Devil; as you do now most unjustly from Pharaoh and the Egyptians. Do not despair of a better condition; you shall be delivered as Job was, and have a reward of your tribulations, like that which God gave to him." To which it is added by a Christian writer, that the early Christian Church was wont to read the book of Job upon fasting days and days, of abstinence, and of the days commemorative of our Saviour's sufferings, of which they thought they saw a figure in the sufferings of Job; as of our Saviour's resurrection and exaltation, in Job's wonderful recovery and advancement to a greater height of prosperity. The same writer adds: "But the principal benefit which I hope the afflicted will reap by this book is, to be persuaded thereby that all things are ordered and disposed by Almighty God; without whose command or permission, neither good angels, nor the Devil, nor men, nor any other creature, can do anything. And that as His power is infinite, so is His wisdom and goodness; which is able to bring good out of evil. And therefore we ought not to complain of Him in any condition, as if He neglected us, or dealt hardly with us; but rather cheerfully submit ourselves to His blessed will; which never doeth anything without reason, though we cannot always comprehend it. To that issue God himself at last brings all the disputes between Job and his friends; representing. His works throughout the world to be so wonderful and unaccountable that it is fit for us to acknowledge our ignorance, but never accuse His providence; if we cannot see the cause why He sends affliction, or continues it long upon us; instead of murmuring or complaining, in such a case, this book effectually teaches us to resign ourselves absolutely to Him; silently to adore and reverence the unsearchable depth of His wise counsels; contentedly to bear what He inflicts upon us; still to assert His righteousness, in the midst of the calamities which befall the good, and in the most prosperous successes of the wicked; and steadfastly to believe that all, at last, shall turn to our advantage, if, like His servant Job, we persevere in faith and hope and patience." The condition of Job in his prosperity was not unlike that of many large planters and farmers of the South in better days. He was rich in land and cattle, and had large numbers of slaves. The most unlimited plenty and hospitality reigned in his dwelling and the dwellings of his family. The birthdays of his children were celebrated with innocent feasting and merriment, as well as accompanied by prayer and sacrifice. It was upon such a man as this — devout, generous, genial, illustrious for virtue as for wealth — that the Devil was permitted to turn loose fire, sword, hurricane, disease; to strip him of children, servants, prosperity and health; to make him an object of scorn to his own friends, and to reduce him so low in the regards of men that he exclaimed: "They that are younger than I have me in derision, whose fathers I would have disdained to set with the dogs of my flock." "And now am I their song, yea, I am their byword." How many a Southern patriarch, exiled from his home, and bereft of his possessions, can look back with Job, and say: "Oh that I were as in months past, as in the days when God preserved me," "when the Almighty was yet with me, when my children were about me, when I washed my steps with butter, and the rock poured me out rivers of oil." Yet, amidst all his reverses and humiliations, Job did not deny the Providence of God; he bore his disasters with resolution, with resignation, and even with hearty thanksgiving. If such a man could be permitted thus to suffer, and could conclude that the best of men are but vile in the sight of God, we of this generation can scarcely present any superior claims to the indulgence of Heaven. The purest and noblest of our people, who have been reduced from alllorence to poverty, and are mourning over better days, may well exclaim: "What, shall we receive good at the hands of the Lord, and shall we not suffer evil? " and heed the counsel of St. Basil: "Remember all the past happiness thou hast enjoyed, and oppose better unto worse. No man's life is entirely and thoroughly happy. If thou art grieved at what is present, fetch thy comfort from what thou hast received before. Now thou weepest, but formerly thou didst laugh; now thou art poor, but there was a time when thou wanted nothing. Then thou drankest of the pure fountain of life; be content and drink now more patiently of the troubled waters. Behold the rivers, their streams are not clear in all places; and our life, thou knowest, is like to one of them, which slides away continually, and is ofttimes full of waves, which come rolling one upon another: one part of this river is passed by, and another is running on its course. This part of it is gushing out from the fountain, and the next is ready to follow as soon as it is gone.--And thus we are all making great haste to the common sea; Death, I mean, which swallows up all at last."
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