Seeing the church of God in this world is in a militant state, and 'tis so appointed of God that his people should through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of heaven, and especially seeing that it was appointed of God that the church of Christ should for so long a time be for the most part in a state of great trouble, in an afflicted and travailing state, even from the resurrection of Christ till the fall of Antichrist, and great part of this time under those troubles that are very extreme, how much does the wisdom of God appear in giving his church such a book as the book of Job, written on occasion of the great and sore affliction of a particular eminent saint. God's people in no circumstances do more stand in need of revelation from God than when in dark times, or in times of great affliction and distress; then especially do the saints need some revelation from God to instruct them that when chastened they may be taught out of God's law. The saints, in such circumstances especially, are ready to be confounded in their minds, as appears in Job and the Psalmist. They then stand in extraordinary need of a revelation from God to comfort and strengthen [them]. Christ, himself the head of the church, when in his agony especially stood in need of a revelation from God; and therefore then there was sent an angel from heaven strengthening him. 'Tis therefore a great instance of the fatherly mercy
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and tenderness of God towards his church that he has given one book of divine revelation on purpose to instruct them and direct them, strengthen and comfort them, under such circumstances. This book is exceedingly fitted for these ends. The circumstances of Job are very agreeable to the afflicted circumstances of the church. They were from the envy and malignity of the devil, as the afflictions of the church are. He was deprived of all his substance, all the comfortable possessions of this life, and was called to part with all his nearest and dearest friends, as Christians are called to forsake houses and lands, wife and children. Job had none to stand by him. All that formerly used to be friendly to him now forsook him. Their love was turned into hatred, and their honor into contempt, as it is with the little flock of Christ in times of persecution, and as it very often is with particular saints that will steadfastly adhere to Christ, and follow the Lamb whethersoever he goes. The wife of his bosom forsook [him]; as he says, his "breath was strange unto his wife" [Job 19:17]. So Christ tells us it should be with his people; a man's enemies should be those of his own house. His wife proved a tempter to him; she tempted him no longer to hold his integrity, but "to curse God and die" [Job 2:9]. Thus it very commonly is with God's people in time of persecution; wives and other dear friends will hang about them to persuade them to forsake the cause of God, and they must violently break off from them if they would hold fast their integrity. Job was accused of the devil before God, as being an hypocrite; so the devil is the accuser of the brethren, and accuses them before God day and night in the time of the church's afflicted state. The devil exercised Job with sore and grievous torments of body; so he does the church in times of her persecution. Job was the object of great derision; so are God's people. Job was looked upon as an hypocrite and enemy of God; so it is with God's people in time of persecution. He was so esteemed and treated by those that used to be his friends and brethren, as Christ was ill treated by his own familiar friends. So God's saints, in their suffering state, are treated by those that used to be God's people, and so their friends. Thus the apostles and primitive Christians were treated by the Jews, that formerly had been God's people. So afterwards the saints are treated by the church of Rome, that formerly used to be of the church of God. Job's friends make use of that as a great argument, that God was not his friend, that he did not protect and deliver him, but saw such terrible calamities come upon him without relieving him. So did the Jews make use of the same argument against Christ, and so have the persecutors of the church all along pleaded against the people of God. The infirmity of human nature, with its sinful
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corruption, under sore affliction is livelily represented in Job. And yet there is also livelily represented in him the integrity and perseverance of true saints through their greatest trials, by God's help. Job was under all [trials] very dear to God. God had not forsaken him, nor had he taken his faithfulness away from him, though he seemed for a while so to hide his face from him, and set him as his mark; so is it with God's afflicted church. And God at last delivered Job out of trouble, as he also will his church. His deliverance was preceded by God's sending Elihu as his messenger, and as God's forerunner, to preach to him and his three friends, and to reprove them, and teach them the mind and will of God. So the deliverance of the Christian church will be preceded by God's raising up a number of eminent ministers that shall more plainly and fervently and effectually preach the gospel than it had been before, and reprove his own church, and show her her errors, and also shall convince gainsayers, and shall thoroughly detect the errors of the false church; as Elihu did of Job's three friends, who though they were godly men, yet were in this matter false friends. (See how [the] everlasting gospel is preached just before the fall of Antichrist, Revelation 14:6–8.) Elihu was God's forerunner; so before the end of the church's suffering state shall there be those raised up that shall come in the spirit and power of Elias, going before the Lord to prepare his way. Before Job was delivered, God appeared greatly to humble [him], and make him sensible of his infinite greatness and sovereignty, and his own nothingness, blindness, and unworthiness. So before God delivers his church from her suffering state, he will appear by the pouring [out] of a remarkable spirit of conviction and, it may be, also in terrible providences, as God appeared to Job in a whirlwind, abundantly to convince his professing people of their meanness, emptiness, blindness, and sinfulness, and his sovereignty and greatness; which the church now exceedingly needs, her greatest error being her being so insensible of these things, and her entertaining so may conceits to the contrary of these things.