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Univerfal Sovereign, and to pay their accuftomed homage, Job's piety and virtue became the fubject of celeftial conversation.
Satan coming among the reft, to make these acknowledgements, which even his rebellious conduct and degraded rank could not exempt him from, the Lord asked the Prince of fallen angels, from whence he came? To which Satan replied, "From going to and fro in the earth." thou, then," said the Lord, "confidered my fervant Job, that moft perfect and upright man?" "I have," answered Satan," and allow the juftice of the encomium thou doft pafs upon him:-but doth he serve thee for nought-haft thou not bleffed him with affluence, and taken him under thy immediate protection?-Put thy hand forth, and deprive him of that wealth and thofe comforts thou haft beftowed upon him, or suffer me to do it, and he will curse thee to thy face." Be it, Satan, as thou haft faid," replied the Lord; "I permit thee to take from him what I have given, but against his perfon put not forth thy hand."
Ever ready to execute commiffions of this nature, Satan immediately retired from the prefence
prefence of the Lord, and, by means of fecondary caufes-by the hands of the Sabeans and the Chaldeans-by fire from Heaven, and by a hurricane, in a fhort time deftroyed not only the cattle and fervants of Job, but his children also, as they were feasting in their elder brother's house.
This extreme viciffitude, this trying stroke of fortune, was not, however, fufficient totally to deprefs Job. With that patience and refignation which fo eminently diftinguifhed his character, and have caufed his name to be handed down, through fo many generations, to this remote period, he bowed to the unfeen hand that gave the blow, but murmured not. We read that he rent his mantle as a token of his humiliation, and, falling down upon the ground, worshipped the great Disposer of events; breathing forth at the fame time, this memorable ejaculation, "Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked fhall I return thither;-the Lord gave, and the Lord taketh away; bleffed be the name of the Lord!" Thus, patient and fubmiffive to the Divine will, did the venerable man bear this first trial, this first attack of his malign affailant.
On the next appearance of Satan before
his Almighty Sovereign, the Lord, after the ufual interrogations, faid to him, "Thou feeft, Satan, that my fervant Job ftill holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movedst me to destroy him without caufe." "True," replied the fallen potentate," he does fo; fkin for skin, yea all that a man hath, will he give for his life. But permit me to afflict him with disease, and I have no doubt but he will curfe thee."
Having obtained permiffion to do this likewife, Satan again left the presence of the Lord, and fmote Job with fore boils, from the fole of his foot to the crown of his head. When Job found himself thus afflicted, inftead of breaking out into fruitless complaints and murmurings, he ftill preserved his ferenity of mind; and, patiently fitting down among the ashes, fcraped himfelf with a potfherd.
In this fituation he continued for feveral days. At length, his wife, irritated by his fufferings, advised him, with the impatience natural to her fex, to curfe God; and by thus drawing down the immediate vengeance of the Almighty, put a speedier end to his misfortunes. But, far from being excited by his wife's counfel, to pursue the desperate
defperate means fhe pointed out, Job only calmly replied to her, "Thou fpeakeft as one of the foolish women fpeaketh: What! fhall we receive good at the hand of God, and fhall we not receive evil?"
Whilft Job laboured under these afflictive difpenfations, three of his friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite, having heard of his diftrefs, came, by appointment with each other, to mourn with him, and to endeavour to afford him fome comfort. As they approached the place where Job fat, they did not recognize him; so much had grief, his disease, and the mean apparel in which he was now clothed, altered him. But no fooner did they perceive that the piteous object before them was their once opulent and happy friend, than they all wept aloud, rent their mantles, and fprinkled duft upon their heads and fo overcome were they by the excess of their forrow, that they filently feated themselves by him on the ground, and continued there feven days and seven nights, without fpeaking a word; for they faw that his dejection was extreme.
At the expiration of that time, Job first broke filence: wearied out by his fufferings,
he could not help bemoaning his hard fate, and bitterly lamenting that he had ever been born. This brought on an argumentative conteft between him and his three friends who, instead of affording him that consolation naturally to be expected from their vifit, only augmented his forrow. For they took great pains to convince him, and made ufe of many fubtle arguments for this purpofe, that God was a fevere and rigorous judge, and would not have inflicted on him the punishment he had done, had he not deferved it by proportionable tranfgreffions: they confequently would have perfuaded him, that justice muft have its course, and that he had no room to hope that God would fhow him any favour.
Job combated thefe dejecting tenets, with afferting, that the judgements which happened to mankind, are not a rule whereby to judge of their tranfgreffions. But that God had frequently fecret reafons for punishing them, which were beyond our difcernment. He from thence argued, that though his prefent afflictions were exceffive, they ought not to drive him to defpair, or lead him to conclude that God had caft him off for ever.