Job 32:7


Elihu speaks with becoming modesty in these words, although most of his discourse shows that he is perfectly self-confident, and full of contempt for the old censors of Job. He cannot but admit at least the conventional distinctions between the claims and dues of youth and age. Let us look at these distinctions.

I. DEFERENCE IS DUE TO AGE. We all feel that this is appropriate, even though age does not always appear in a light that fully justifies its claims. On what grounds does this deference rest?

1. The experience of age. Certainly age has had opportunities of gaining wisdom that are not afforded to youth. Whether a good use has been made of those opportunities is another matter. Still, it is scarcely possible to pass through the world without learning something, if only from one's own blunders.

2. The maturity of age. There is a certain rawness about youth. Apart from its acquisitions from without, the growth of the inner life of a man should ripen, and time should mellow his temperament.

3. The dignity of age. Age is not always dignified; still, the fatherly relation implies a certain rank that is only found with added years. We must respect the orderly arrangement that gives places of honour to years.

4. The achievements of age. The old hero may have become a feeble invalid. Yet he still wears the scars of the battles of bygone days, and we must respect him for what he has done.

5. The infirmities of age. These claim considerate and sympathetic treatment, not slighting and scornful disregard.

II. MODESTY IS BECOMING IN YOUTH. This is especially fit on two grounds.

1. The claims of age. If these are to be respected, youth must stand back for a time. However it might desire to assert itself, youth here finds itself confronted by an obstacle that must not be rudely thrust aside. It may chafe against the restraints, and think them most unreasonable. Perhaps it would be well for the young to consider that they will be aged some day, and will need the consideration shown to age. Meanwhile their advantages are greater than those of the aged in many respects, so that the attempt to surround a naturally melancholy lot of increasing infirmities with honours is really a pathetic confession of the loss of many of the solid boons of life. The young need not envy the honours of age, seeing that they have the powers and opportunities and delights of the sunny spring-time of life.

2. The imperfection of youth. New and untried powers promise great things, but they need regulating and guiding. It is possible to do immense harm by rushing forward ignorantly and without circumspection. It is wiser to begin quietly, and feel our way by degrees.

III. NEITHER THE DEFERENCE DUE TO AGE NOR THE MODESTY BECOMING IN YOUTH SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO INTERFERE WITH DUTY. Old men should be careful not to suppress the generous enthusiasm of youth. They should rather mourn that they have lost it, if it is no longer with them. No venerable position can justify the obstruction of good works. The young have to learn to combine a suitable modesty with fidelity to truth and right. There will be no progress if the constitutional timidity of age is permitted to stand in the way of every proposed improvement. Deference does not mean absolute submission. After all, the consequences of actions are much more important to the young, who will live to reap them, than to the old, who will soon leave the world. The future is for the young; the young must be allowed to shape it. - W.F.A.









Days should speak.
Days should speak. They do. Each has a message.

I. YESTERDAY SPEAKS. It says, "Learn of me." To learn from the experience of the past is one of our prime duties. What is learned by experience is best understood: is best remembered; and is most practical in its influence.

II. TODAY SPEAKS. It says, "Use me. Turn me and my gifts to good account." Make prompt use of opportunity.

III. TOMORROW SPEAKS. It says, "Let me alone. Leave me. Trust me with God. Do not anticipate me." Wise and kindly message! Four considerations show this. Today has quite enough cares. Anxiety will not help us to bear tomorrow's cares. Christ is Lord of tomorrow. And tomorrow may be quite different from what we expect.

(W. R. Stevenson, B. A.)

The distance between the infancy of a great man and the climax of his greatness is immense, so that could we have heard Fox or Pitt deliver one of their greatest orations, it would seem impossible that the day ever was when those lips could not speak even the name of her whose arms were their whole world, their horizon, their parliament, their only earth and only heaven. Man is thus an accumulation. He grows as the tree grows. The little oak shrub stands only a foot high in the first summer, but around it the winds and rains and sunshine play, and cast their offerings upon their favourite, and joyfully it receives them, and heaps them up, and when a hundred years have passed, there stands the great monument of the forest, laden with all the vital forces that came near it in the whole hundred years. Its great trunk represents the sunshine and the rain that fell a hundred years before. It is probable that our earth in its early days presented only a surface of volcanic rock, as desolate as Gibraltar; and then came the influence of rain, and atmosphere, and sun, dissolving the surface and making that soil in which the trees and grass live, and which the plough can move so easily. Be this as it may, the philosophy of this world is action, and the conservation of this action in some new form. Into such a theatre of forces God saw fit to place man, and if the favourite creature of God is true to his world, each year comes and adds to his mind and heart far more willingly than the summer days add to the unconscious oak. The chief mission of earth must be to help the mind onward toward a higher condition of every faculty. In harmony with the whole theory of earth, Elihu opens his speech to Job, and drops one of the finest of truths: "Days should teach, and years should teach wisdom."

Time should be educatory. Every day has its lessons divinely arranged which we are expected to learn. The "days" by their educational processes should throw brighter light on the great problems of life, and make the pathway to the hidden world less ghostly and shadowed. There may be age without wisdom, and there may be wisdom without a "multitude of years." There is a wisdom which is only born of experience; and experience can only come with the silent growth of years. What is wisdom? The right application of means to ends. Wisdom is knowledge reduced to practice. But there may be worldly wisdom and advanced age without "understanding." Men may be intellectually cultured and wise, yet morally fools in their attempts at interpretation of questions and problems in the higher realm of the spiritual and divine. The mental can never of itself interpret the spiritual, the metaphysical, the Divine. Moral revelations come to none but such as are in heart prepared and waiting to receive them. This is the secret of the errors which our clever scientists are making today in their interpretations of the hieroglyphs of the spiritual universe, — they read them, spell them out, in the light of the intellectual, and guess at their meaning through the medium of secular knowledge, mere cultured reason. There must be the child spirit of humility, receptivity, submissiveness, and love, or God will remain a hidden, impalpable, unrealised mystery, and the spiritual universe a sealed volume, a dumb oracle, a dread uncertainty. The mysteries of life are plain only in the light which is born of Divine "inspiration." Elihu, spirit taught, saw beneath the apparent, the real design of Job's sufferings. They were "moral discipline," not "judicial visitation." Both parties looked at the same object, but the three philosophers saw it through the medium of their philosophy, and Elihu through the medium of sonship — filially; hence the difference! The heart sees farther than the head, and its Christian love interprets with accuracy what the dictionary confounds and philosophy contradicts. "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."

(J. O. Keen, D. D.)

I. TIME UNFOLDS THE PLAN OF OUR LIFE. Our curiosity often prompts us to desire a present knowledge of future events. Would we understand them if revealed? You put an arithmetic book in the hand of a child, and say, In this book you will find Practice, Proportion, Fractions, Interest, etc. The child turns the leaves over from beginning to end, but as yet he has not learnt numeration. The book is of no use, although it contains the arithmetician's wisdom. So, did we see the end from the beginning, we should be no wiser. God has kept the other pages of the Book till we have learnt the first; the others are not soiled.

1. Human life is ordered of God. He orders our steps. He girded Cyrus for his work, although he knew it not. It is impossible to realise and value life if this view is not taken of it. Its sacred origin and its Divine organisation constitute the basis of belief.

2. Human life is gradually unfolded. Because it is Divine it is mysterious. All God's works have passed through time. Matter and events must ever turn in cycles. God alone is immovable. "I, the Lord, change not."

II. TIME UNFOLDS OUR CAPACITIES FOR LIFE. Growth is a characteristic of life; change, that of inanimate nature.

1. Man becomes an intelligent being by the exercise of time. There are activities which tend both to reveal that which we ought to know, and enlarge our capacity for knowing it. It is a two-fold process. Unexercised brains are dwarfs. Minds which are exercised about that which pleases them, and are made their hobby, grow like the willow — very long, but very weak.

2. Man becomes a moral being by considering time. Life moves on gradually, like a panorama, that we may observe its motions, and know the purposes of God in them. We learn the nature of actions by the exercise of the intuitive faculty, as actions reveal themselves. Morality and accountability are unfolded by degrees.

3. Man becomes a social being by the enjoyment of time. We have a capacity for enjoyment, and life has blessings to exercise that capacity. Every period of life has its charms.

III. TIME UNFOLDS THE GREAT PURPOSES OF LIFE.

1. The development of true manhood. Man is God's ideal creature. All others am steps up to man. Evolution is the gradual unfolding in creation of the final embodiment of matter and life.

2. The unity of the various parts. There is a period when we shall not look upon life as atoms separated from their kindred, or contradictions, but a whole, with all its parts fitly put together, and all things working for our good.

(T. Davies, M. A.)

The Study.
I. THE PAST SHOULD SPEAK OF US.

1. It speaks of sins committed. Spectres seem to come up from the dark arches of the past, and confront us at every turn. They tell of sins of omission and sins of commission; they speak of failures here and errors there. The past is dark, and few can look it in the face without a blush.

2. It speaks of privileges abused. The means of grace neglected — prayer restrained — the Gospel declined.

3. It speaks of opportunities neglected.

(1)Opportunities of doing good.

(2)Opportunities of getting good.

II. THE PAST SHOULD SPEAK TO US.

1. It should speak to us of the frailty of human life.

2. It should speak to us of the shortness of time.

3. It should speak to us of the future recompense of the saints, and punishment of the ungodly. The voice of the past says: "He that soweth to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption," etc.

III. THE PAST SHOULD SPEAK IN US AND IMPRESS OUR MORAL CONSCIOUSNESS IN REGARD TO OUR PERSONAL OBLIGATIONS.

1. It should teach us to develop a spirit of gratitude. "O praise the Lord, for He is good; for His mercy endureth forever," is the language as well of the thoughtful intelligent Christian as the emphatic utterance of revelation.

2. It should preach to us the part of our personal responsibility to ourselves; to our families; to the Church; to the world.

3. It should teach us greater fidelity to God.

4. It should inspire us with a Divine earnestness. Conclusion — Meditate on the past. Mourn over its sins and its failures. Seek to improve upon it. Ask Divine aid in order that you may succeed.

(The Study.)

Homilist.
I. A DISTINGUISHING FACULTY IN HUMAN NATURE. Of all the creatures on this earth man alone has the power of deriving instruction from the experience of others. We have no reason to believe that the birds of heaven or the beasts of the field derive one particle of information from any of their ancestors through the ages that are gone.

1. The faculty connects all generations together in a mental unity.

2. This faculty explains the gradual advancement of the world in intelligence. Every age builds up a fresh layer Of general intelligence, on which the next steps up and works, and thus the generations are ever climbing the hill of knowledge.

3. This faculty increases the moral responsibility of the world. On us the ends of ages are come.

II. A SAD PERVERSITY IN HUMAN NATURE. In secular matters we are constantly learning from the experience of our ancestors, We avail ourselves of their discoveries. But in moral and spiritual matters we are slow to learn. Ancestral experience teaches us lessons on spiritual subjects not only in the general historical works of the world, but especially in the Bible. The Bible for the most part is a record of man's experience in relation to the higher and more solemn relations of being.

(Homilist.)

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