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" And surely the mountain falling cometh to nought, and the rock is removed out of his place. The waters wear the stones: thou washest away the things which grow out of the dust of the earth J and thou destroy est the hope ofman,^ — ^JOB xiv. i8, 19. It is enough for a man to find himself in the darkness, and in the darkness to cry out, " My God, why hast thou forsaken me ? " without being forsaken by men. It is enough for a man to suffer, without his sufferings being intensified by the alienation and estrangement of his friends. It is enougli for a man to be perplexed by the mystery of Divine dispensations, without those dispensations being interpreted as a Divine handwriting against him. There is a mystery in this one life, which has engrossed the attention of men in all subsequent ages, — what mystery there is in it still. If the patriarch of Uz could listen to all the criticism of his commentators, his patience would be more severely tried than by his contemporaries. We are accustomed to speak of this as an advanced age. We speak with some feeling of contempt pf ages long gone by, but a careful study of this book
The Law of ature and of Life. 89 will correct our estimate of the patriarchal age. Men who had no literature, no books, read with care the great book of nature, and the sublime handwriting of God in the heavens. They gave names to groupings of stars — ^to the constellations of the heavenly bodies. They recognised those great agencies —
those subtle powers and mysterious influences— which are always at work in this world. They were diligent students of the laws of nature, and found out many of her secrets. They were conversant with the whole circle of the sciences. They propounded startling moral theories, — they grappled with some of life's great problems, — they anticipated many of our questions as to the existing state of things, — they uttered scepticisms which the men of our times repeat, as though they had the freshness and novelty of to-day. They were men of great thoughts. They were true poets; — ^what a Divine poem you have in this book. We have to direct your attention to one passage in this book; it is a singularly beautiful one — "Surely the mountain falling cometh to nought, and the rock is removed out of his place. The waters wear away the stones: thou washest away the things which grow out of the dust of the earth ; and thou destroyest the hope of man." It is almost necessary that you should be conversant with the great features of natural scenery in the East, — ^with its sudden convulsions of nature, — with storms and
go The Law of ature and of Life. tempests, — ^with its rush of waters and overwhelming floods, to appreciate the language of the text ; but still you have a picture before you, and you may look on it and learn great lessons. I. Job intentionally uttered a solemn truth. He speaks of the changes to which human life is subjected — great and sudden revolutions and changes, — and the changes that result from the slow and silent operation of trivial causes.
I. Many things in life are fixed and stable as the mountains, but are nevertheless suddenly removed. Mountains are the types of the everlasting and the unchangeable. A man whose position in life is singularly prosperous, as he looks on the circumstances by which he is surrounded, says, " My mountain stands strong, and I shall never be moved." • You have never known adverse circumstances, — the landmarks of your prosperity have never been swept away by any deluge, — your foundations have never been removed. Every morning you look for light, and listen for the voice of rejoicing in your tabernacle. Sorrow would be as strange to you as preternatural darkness, — as strange as some unbidden and unwelcome guest. You expect health ; — how strange sickness would be to you. You reckon on success, and never think of failure. Your life seems settled, fixed, and uniform. You would not be more startled by an interruption of great natural laws — if the sun were to go down at noonday — if the darkness were
The Lauf of ature and of Life. 91 to come on before eventide, — than by any calamity that should befall you : it would be like the mountain falling, or the rock being removed out of its place. Men build houses, plant vineyards, marry and are given in marriage ; they are in perfect security, and know not till the flood comes and sweeps all away. The most stable things in life may be removed. Some sudden calamity may overwhelm you. The only abiding and permanent objects are spiritual. God — a rock in the midst of the great sea;
Christ — ^the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever; the Holy Ghost — ^who dwells with us, and shall abide with us for ever ; the Gospel — never to be superseded by another; the promises — which "are all yea and amen" in Christ Jesus; the life — everlasting. God makes a covenant with you more lasting than the mountains. "For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed ; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee." God's salvation is more durable than the heavens and the earth. " Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath; for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner ; but my salvation shall be for ever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished." Great changes may be brought about by great
92 The Law of ature and of Life. revolutions, but great changes may be produced by apparently little things; the floods may sweep away great fragments of rock, but the " waters wear away the stones." 2. Many things in life receive their impress and derive their character from the operation of trivial causes. The stream makes its own channel in the rocks, — " the waters wear away the stones." There is a power in the slow, uniform operation of little things. Little things always working produce great things. The present is the result of the past. Life is made up of pulsations of light and waves of darkness, — of moments that lose themselves in hours, and hours that lose themselves in days. You are
growing old, yet it seems but yesterday you were a child. Time has touched you every day, and has cut those lines in your forehead — those furrows in your brow, has dimmed your sight, has impaired your strength, and washed the colourings out of life. Your neglect or abuse of natural laws has gradually undermined your constitution and ruined your health. Your continued improvidences have imperceptibly led to poverty. It is not by any sudden calamity that you have been brought into your present position ; your sad experiences are the result of circumstances that have been long and quietly at work — " the waters wear away the stones." 3. Many things in life that are most precious, and singularly frail, are nevertheless swept away by some
The Law of ature and of Life. 93 flood. ^'AU flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass." The most precious things grow out of the dust — ^they have no deep root, and no abiding stay. The most beautiful things are like flowers : if they borrow their colourings from the heavens, they bend over the dust of earth — "Thou washest away the things which grow out of the dust of the earth, and thou destroyest the hope of man." Our relationships, so dear to us, do not last as long as we — ^they are suddenly swept away. Changes are constantly taking place before our eyes. You cannot live long in a village or town without being affected by them. There is scarcely a dwelling with the sanle inhabitants. Families are scattered and broken up. Many of the men you once knew have been gathered to their fathers. That fair young bride you recollect leaving her father's house has returned a widow, and when you
said, " Is this aomi ? " the reply was " Call me not aomi, call me Marah ; for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me." That man, who in your remembrance was so strong and vigorous, is now enfeebled, and leans on his staff for very age. That man you knew in prosperous circumstances, has through a series of misfortunes become a wreck — a ruin. "And this I say, brethren, the time is short; it remaineth that both they that have wives be as though they had none, and they that weep as though they wept not, and they that rejoice as though they
94 7A^ Law of ature and of Life. rejoiced not, and they that buy as though they possessed not, and they that use this world as not abusing it; for the fashion of this world passeth away." The things that grow out of the dust are washed away. II. Joh unconsciously stated a great fact* Thjere are laws by which all changes and convulsions in nature are regulated. Storms are the baptism by which nature is regenerated. There is a law of darkness as well as of light. There is a law of change as well as of rest. There must be quiescence and repose, that strength may be gathered up for seasons of action. There is a law of life and death, — there is death to one form of life that there may be new and more mature developments. There are laws for great things, and for all trivial things in nature — ^for storms and floods, for the action of water on the stones, and for the death of things that grow up out of the dust. Stones may preach sermons to us. The laws which operated in the formation of each stone are
as clearly written upon it, as the laws of the ten commandments were on the two tables of stone. The stone shows the effect of the winds and rains of a past age, or exhibits the ripples of ancient seas, or tells of violent or volcanic action. There is in nature a provision against the waste which appears to follow change. The things which grow out of the dust owe their beauty or fruitfulness
The Law of ature and of Life. 95 .to the soil. The soil is necessary to vegetable life — without it our fields would presently become sterile ; and yet the soil, consisting as it does of loose materials, must be constantly undergoing change — ^the rains and floods must sweep it away. The very destruction of the soil seems imminent through the waste which is going on year after year, but still there is no apparent diminution. There are causes at work to supply the loss. The storms and tempests, the rush of waters and overwhelming floods — mechanical and chemical agencies, and the action of atmospheric influences on the mountains and rocks — create the new soil. The winds scatter over the fields new particles of nourishment, and the streams bring deposits from the higher lands. You have seen rocks in their fearful loneliness, with only some few signs of life on their bare and stony sides. How came these flowers to grow there ? Did the sun kiss the rocks, and give birth to life ? o ! The winds howled around them, and smote them, — ^the tempest swept by them, or expended its force against them, — the lightnings struck them, and left scars behind, and thus there were made clefts, crevices, in which the seeds of these frail but beautiful forms of life were posited by the passing breeze.
There is no soil so miraculously prolific as sorrow — the seed sown there will bring forth the peaceable fruits of righteousness. Life seems to have its birth in death.
96 The Law of ature and of Life. There are certain conditions of thought and feeling in which the mind becomes barren, and the heart loses its sensitiveness. You may pace the same round of thought so regularly that at last you may make footprints in your beaten track, and you can only walk by putting your feet in these. You lose the capacity for fresh and vigorous thought on great subjects — -your heart loses the power of deep feeling, and becomes contracted.. Any convulsion, any revolution is to be welcomed which shall break up these forms of life, these conventional states of thought and feeling. The depths of your nature must be broken up. There comes some mighty rushing wind, or some earthquake, causing the very foundations of your nature to be shaken ; — and the Lord is in the earthquake. There are new deposits. Amidst the dibris — the desolations of your old life, there will be material for new forms of strength and beauty. There is a necessity for change ; you see this in nature. There must come the desolation, the barrenness of winter, that the spring may follow with its verdure and promises of fruitfulness. From those awful mountains, where the storm sweeps and the avalanche falls, comes forth in its calmness and imruffled serenity the stream, which makes glad the city of God. There is one great change produced directly by Divine agency. It is indispensable that we should experience this. I refer to the Spirit of God regene-
The Law of ature and of Life. 97 rating the fallen creature to the new creation in Christ Jesus. Do not think that God is jealous of any attempt on your part to change yourself. ot so; but the change is so great that it can only be effected by Divine power. If a man has ruined his physical nature, would he not be willing to be restored to health ? and are you not willing for God to create you anew ? You must be made a new creature in Christ Jesus, and then the old things pass away, and lo, all is new.
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