Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

and the same time to answer all that has been advanced upon the subject by each of his opponents. He boldly controverts their principle, that present prosperity is the lot of the good, and present misery that of the wicked. He asserts, even while trembling at the thought of so mysterious a providence, that here the reprobate, instead of the righteous, are chiefly triumphant-that this is their world-that they riot in it unrestrained, and take their full of enjoyment. They may, perhaps, continues he, be reserved against a day of future judgment and retribution; but where is the man that dares attack their conduct to their face? who is there that does not fall prostrate before their power and overwhelming influence? even in death itself they are publicly bemoaned, and every individual attends upon their obsequies.-Thus concludes the third part of the poem; and it could not possibly conclude

better.

"PART IV. comprises the third and last series of controversy, and reaches from the twenty-second to the close of the thirty-first chapter. Eliphaz, as usual, commences; and, roused by the cogent and argumentative eloquence of the preceding speech, is himself incited to a stricter and closer discussion of the subject than he had hitherto aimed at; and pours forth his whole spirit into one grand effort of confutation. His argument is full of art, but it is, in a great degree, the art of the sophist. He charges Job, in spite of his own guarded declarations to the contrary, with being an advocate for the wicked, by connecting wickedness and prosperity in the manner of cause and effect; and of course as being, in his heart and propensities, a party to all the iniquities of the antedi

luvians, that brought the deluge upon the world. With the most accomplished subtilty, he dwells upon this signal judgment, for the purpose of adverting to the single delivery of the family of righteous Noah, their great progenitor, as a proof that God neither does nor will suffer the wicked to escape punishment, nor the righteous to pass without reward. In addition to which, he proceeds also to instance the striking rescue of Lot and his family from the conflagration that devoured the cities on the plains; thus sophistically opposing two special and miraculous interpositions to the general course of divine providence. He concludes, as on various former occasions, with exhorting Job to confess and abandon his iniquities; and beautifully depicts, in new and forcible imagery, the happiness that he will then find in reserve for him.

"The placid sufferer does not allow himself to be turned off his guard. In his rejoinder, he again bemoans the mercilessness of those around him, and once more longs earnestly to find out and plead before the Almighty. But all around him, he observes, is gloom and obscurity: yet gloom and obscurity as it is, he still beholds him in nature, and in every part of nature; and, in direct opposition to the opinion of his companions, doubts not that the present affliction is dealt to him as a trial; and, rejoicing in the recollection of his past submission to the divine will, ventures to hope he shall yet issue from it as pure gold. He then returns to the argument, and perseveres, to the silencing, if not to the conviction, of his opponents. He shews, from a multiplicity of examples, drawn both from the privacy of retired life and the publicity of crowded cities, that every thing is suffered to take

place at present in a mysterious and unexplained manner; that, admitting a variety of exceptions, the wicked are still generally successful, and prosecute their course uncontrolled; that even the unsinning embryon in the womb expires, not unfrequently, as soon as created, as though neglected or despised by its Maker; and that the lonely widow is, in like manner, left to pine in want and misery. He allows, nevertheless, that nothing can be more precarious than the pleasures and prosperity of vice; that God has his eye at all times upon the wicked; and that often, though not generally, they are overthrown in a moment, and reduced, from the utmost height of splendour, to the lowest abyss of beggary and ruin.

66

Bildad, to whom it belongs next to reply, is completely confounded. He is compelled to admit that the present state of things proves the Deity to work with absolute sway, and in an incomprehensible manner. But, though driven from his former position, he still maintains that Job must be wicked, since every man is wicked and altogether worthless in the sight of God; all which, in order to give the greater weight to his observations, he confirms, by delivering them in the words of ancient and proverbial maxims.

"Job, in reply to Bildad, is indignant at his not openly retracting an opinion which, it was obvious, he could no longer maintain. He is particularly irritated at his pretending once more to quote the proverbial maxims of past times, as though to enlist the wisdom of the ancients against him; and sarcastically follows him up by a string of other traditions of a similar kind, possessing still more magnificence, and at least as much general connexion. And, having thus severely

reproved him, he returns to the argument, in chap. xxvii. and asserts that, distressed as he is, and forsaken of God, habitual innocency has ever belonged to him, and ever shall; and on this very account he secretly encourages a hope that he shall not be ultimately forsaken; and forcibly points out the very different situation of the wicked when they also are overtaken by calamity; their ruin being, on the contrary, utter and irreversible, and even entailed on their posterity. Under the disappointment their visit had produced, and the proofs of feebleness and folly it had exhibited where wisdom and consolation were to have been expected, he proceeds to a highly figurative and exquisite description of the value of genuine wisdom, and the difficulty of searching out its habitation; concluding, as the result of his inquiry, that it alone resides in and issues from the Creator, and is only bestowed upon those who sincerely fear him and depart from evil. He closes with a detailed and deeply interesting examination into every department of his life,-an examination that ought to be studied and copied by every one. He investigates his conduct in the full sunshine of prosperity, as a magistrate, as a husband, as a father, as a master; and, in all these characters, he feels capable of conscientiously justifying himself. In the course of this historical scrutiny, he draws a very affecting contrast between his past and his present situation; the period in which all was happiness and splendour, and that in which all is trouble and humiliation. He challenges his companions, and the world at large, to accuse him publicly and expressly of a single act of injustice or oppression; declares that, so far from shrinking from such

an accusation, he would wear it as a frontlet upon his shoulder and his turban; that, like a witness on the side of his accuser, he would furnish him with all the evidence in his power; and pants earnestly to be put to the bar, and abide the decision of his country.

"Zophar should now have replied in rotation; but he has already exhausted himself—and the argument closes.

“PART V. contains the summing up of the controversy; which is allotted to Elihu, a new character in the poem; but who, though hitherto unnoticed, appears to have entered before the commencement of the debate, and to have impartially studied its progress. The speech of Elihu commences with the thirtysecond chapter of the common arrangement, which constitutes its peroration, and offers a fine specimen of the art of bespeaking and fixing attention. He first adverts to the general irrelevancy of the matter that has been advanced against Job from every quarter by which he has been attacked, and then proceeds to comment upon the patriarch himself. Tacitly admitting the general force of the reasoning by which he had confounded his opponents, Elihu no where charges him with former wickedness because of his present affliction; but confines himself to his actual conduct, and the tendency of his replies on the existing occasion, both of which he reprehends with considerable warmth. In various instances he repeats his words literally, and animadverts upon them as highly irreverent; and observes, that the dispensations of Providence, dark and mysterious as they commonly appear to us, are always full of wisdom and mercy, and that in many cases we are made sensible of this

« FöregåendeFortsätt »