Extracts from Durham on Job
Copyright (c) Naphtali Press 1996
Lectures on Job
The Publishers of Mr. Durham’s valuable writings candidly observe that he was always wholly taken up with the importance of his subject, and dived unto the heart of the best matter, but was less curious about some ornamental circumstances, as a labored elegance, smooth periods, and other things, which may be overlooked.1 As there were few expositions or commentaries upon the holy Scriptures in this nation, about an hundred and twenty years ago, so the most learned and eminent ministers agreed, about the year 1650, to print some plain and short expositions of the principal books in the Old and New Testament. Mr. George Hutcheson accordingly published his expositions upon Job, the lesser prophets, and the Gospel of John. Mr. Alexander Nisbet printed his exposition of Ecclesiastes, and the Epistles of Peter; Mr. David Dickson, his expositions upon the Psalms, the Gospel of Matthew, and the Epistle to the Hebrews, and his Latin Commentaries on all the Epistles were also printed; Mr. James Ferguson, his exposition upon the Galatians, and the five following epistles were also published; and Mr. Durham’s exposition of the Song of Solomon was printed sometime after his death. Mr. Robert Blair wrote an exposition upon the Proverbs for the press, but it is not printed; with many other expositions of the inspired writings, which were also prepared about that time for publication, and are yet in private hands.Mr. Durham’s exposition of the elegant book of Job would have been probably printed by Mr. Carstairs if he had lived some longer. The original copy, many years ago, was sent by Mr. Thomas Hog, a worthy minister in the North country, to the deceased Mr. Robert Wodrow, to be transcribed, and accordingly, it was faithfully copied by David Evandale, schoolmaster in Glasgow, one of the best and most accurate writers in that town. He might perhaps have altered the spelling of some words, and substituted some English words in place of the old Scots ones, as Mr. Carstairs did, but the candid reader will easily forgive such a trivial omission, and make the most favorable allowances for some unavoidable mistakes, peculiar to the posthumous writings of the most eminent divines.[The following are the published works of James Durham. Many sermons also were left behind in manuscript — the notes of faithful hearers. For a complete identification of the editions of Durham’s books, see Christie’s article referenced in the footnote on the pervious page. Only the first two works were overseen by the author, who died during the preparation for the press of A Treatise Concerning Scandal, hence also known as The Dying Man’s Testament, etc.1. A Commentarie upon the Book of Revelation. 1658.2. The Dying man’s Testament: or, A Treatise concerning Scandal. 1659.3. Clavis Cantici: An Exposition of the Song of Solomon. 1668. 4. A Practical Exposition of the Ten Commandments. 1675. 5. The Blessednesse of the Death of these that die in the Lord. 1681. 6. Christ Crucified: or the Marrow of the Gospel. 1683. 7. The Unsearchable Riches of Christ. 1685. 8. Heaven upon Earth: the Joy of a good Conscience. 1685. 9. The Great Gain of Contenting Godliness. 1685. 10. The Great Corruption of Subtile Self. 1686. 11. An Exposition of the Book of Job. 1759. Naphtali Press is currently preparing new editions of the Commentary on Revelation, and Christ Crucified (72 Sermons on Isaiah 53). If the Lord pleases they will be published as part of this series. Naphtali Press also has published the sermons on death (#5) in An Anthology of Presbyterian & Reformed Literature, v. 1 #1-2.]
We will not enter on the debates and questions that are about this book; these things are clear to warrant us to ground our faith on it: 1. That it is a true story, and no parable; a story of the affliction of a gracious man, and the outgate [outcome]. 2. Be the writer who will, it is the Spirit who is the inditer, who has left it to us for a spiritual jewel, as is clear from Ezek. 14:14 and James 5:11. 3. It is clear who this man was by his friends, [who were] 2 of the posterity of Abraham by Keturah, to whom he gave gifts, and sent them to the East (Gen. 25:6), and while religion stayed among them, Job, furnished with spiritual and temporal riches, stays among them. 4. For the time, it is evident to be when Israel was in Egypt, before the law, which is clear by Job’s sacrificing in the land of Uz, which under the law was unlawful for him to have done, as also never meddling[dealing] with written scripture, nor evidences of God’s power in overthrowing Pharaoh, when so many other things, and the old worlds drowning, is meddled [dealt] with, which prove it to be before. The scope is: 1. To set out God’s sovereignty and special hand in disposing of the afflictions and trials of his children, in the manner, measure and outgate [issue]. 2. How commendable a thing patience is, under the sharpest trials. 3. The happy outgate that patience under trials will have, as James 5:11, intimating the use that believers would make of affliction (Submit to God without fretting); and the end why afflictions are sent (to [set] folks [up]right, and draw them to this spiritual temper). 4. More particularly, to vindicate God’s grace in Job as a real thing, which Satan calumniates: To give the devil a lie [to show the devil a liar], and justify God, though on a dear experience to Job. God will have the trial of the faith of his own found unto praise (1 Pet. 1:7), himself found faithful, and Satan a calumniator, in all their trials. The book has three parts. 1. A description of Job’s prosperity (vs. 1-5). 2. Job’s trial (1:6-42:7). 3. Job’s outgate [delivery] and restoring (42:8ff). In the first chapter we have, I. Job’s prosperity (vs. 1-5). II. The change of it, in adversity; and so the first part of the trial (vs. 6-19). III. The effect this change had on Job, how he comforted himself under it, and bore it (vs. 20-22). I. In the first of these, beside the designation of the place where Job dwelt, we have Job’s prosperity described in these five things or steps. 1. That he was a perfect and upright man, not without sin, but as the dispute shows, sincere, no hypocrite; and one that feared God and eschewed evil; one that had real fruits of holiness and piety, grace [appearing] in his heart and conversation ([appearing] by these two, inward reverencing of God, and outward watchfulness in all his carriage to eschew evil). 2. A second step of his happiness was in his children. He had seven sons and three daughters, which was above riches; and he had not simply children, but obedient children to him, and agreeing well among themselves, and in all appearance gracious, not addicted to the world. 3. A third step is his great substance (1:3), and both this, and the former are observed to set out the greatness of Job’s trial when denuded of all these so suddenly.4. A fourth step is Job’s care of his family and children, fearing they should sin, even in that sinless way of mutual entertainment. (1) He sent and sanctified them, i.e. used a ceremonial way of fitting them rightly to go about such a work (as Ex. 19:10; Lev. 1:3), but especially by prayer, warnings, and such like; giving them warning that they dishonored not God in their mirth (and that he sent to do this, shows his care even when they were out of his sight, and his sparing no pains to prevent sin.) (2) He rises up early, and offers in order for them all, commending them to God, and offers particularly for them one by one, an offering for every child (he thought it not enough to mind them together, and to offer for all his children, but particularly he will go through them by name). (3) In the reason he gives for his so doing, his care appears. It may be they have sinned and cursed God in their heart. Not that he knew any particular out-breaking in them. It is not likely they would fall out in blasphemy, but he gives a disorderliness and raging of the heart from God this name. He puts the worst sort of name on the least sin, so to speak, to tell that God heightens sin even in nearest relations, and is suspicious, but nature extenuates it. and this Job did continually (that is, every time, especially when they were together), because then temptation will then more readily prevail in company and cheerful fellowship, even of godly friends, than when they are more solitary. Quest. How could Job offer for the sin he knew not they were guilty of? Answ.  He knew there was sin in them in the root, and that they had their own infirmities, and were in hazard to break out in sin; therefore he goes to Jesus Christ to prevent that, or if acted, to have it done away. And , though he knew no particular sin, yet he (as it is commendable in David, Psa. 119, and in all others) remembers secret sins, for which he and they need to be humbled. Folks would make use of Christ for doing away of these, though they know them not (there are many errands to Christ, our own sins, and children’s, to pardon them, and prevent them, and for secret and open sins). II. The great change follows, and the first part of his trial (vs. 6-19). Wherein, 1. The rise of it (vs. 6-12); and 2. The execration of it (vs. 13-19). 1. Sons of God (v. 6) are angels there, and the devil’s coming unto God, is a figurative and borrowed speech, expressing God’s dominion over angels, devils, and all creatures, and his commissioning them for his errands, and not as if the words were to be understood literally. For spirits need not use words to communicate their mind. But it is like that speech [in] 1 Kings 22:19, when God sends forth a lying spirit in the mouths of Ahab’s false prophets; neither can there be going forth from God properly, as it is here expressed, but as superiors have their attendants, that do nothing but by orders from them, so God’s sovereignty and dominion is such, that devils and men do nothing but as he gives them commission.The particulars the story holds out are: (1) God’s dominion, who sits on his throne of majesty, having angels, good and evil, at his command, and who are liable to his court (as these are amongst men; who in sign thereof do at certain times appear) and particularly devils are taken notice of, because folks are ready to think they have more scouth [opportunity] and liberty, and can do more than other creatures, as if God’s dominion did not so reach them. Verse 8. I come, says Satan, from going to and fro, and walking up and down, which shows the restlessness, maliciousness, and roving and vanity of that evil spirit (his punishment and his malice.) (2) To let us see the Lord’s observing and delighting in Job’s carriage. Hast thou considered my servant Job? The Lord has a love of complacency [complacent love for] and delight in his own, and their sincere walking. (3) Satan’s opposition to this testimony: Does Job fear God for nought? (v. 9). Satan [can] least abide the man that God loves, but calumniates, slanders and curses that man above any.In Satan’s answer we have:  His calumniating of Job, alleging he served God for hire (when he cannot deny his carriage, then he traduces his end, as if he were not single [sincere], but selfish in all his piety.)  His slender probation of it (v. 10). He is but a time-server, serving God so long as he is well done to, and he will do no longer [than] he is fatted with temporal blessings.  Because the proof is weak, he desires a new trial, and prophesies impudently (v. 11) the apostasy of this sincere believer. And God, not to please the devil, but to prove the reality of his own grace, Satan to be the liar, and himself to be faithful, gives him a commission to light on [touch] all he had, for he durst not stir the least feather of a fowl belonging to him till then; yet the commission is with a limitation (God gives no commission concerning his [people], but with limitation, as in this, and the following commission also, though they come far) not to touch his person (v. 12). This is the rise of Job’s trial, to clear whether God or the devil lies (to speak with reverence to Him.) 2. The execution of the trial is from 1:13 to 1:19. (1) And as Satan got power over all that Job had, so he leaves him nothing, except one messenger at every stroke to bring the tidings, that in respect of Job had [been] better had they gone [been destroyed] with the rest. If Satan got his will he would not leave the believer a cock to crow day.(2) He [be]wails the time for the stroke, when his sons and daughters were feasting in their eldest brother’s house, that they might seem to be taken away in their sin, to make the poor man heavier. (3) The heaviest trial is hindmost, and every one at the end of another, that Job gets no leave to draw his breath after one to make for another. (4) He takes not one away but many, makes use of several instruments of wicked men on earth, of fire from heaven, of the wind ruling the air and making heaven and earth, God and men seem to conspire against him. And the last stroke on his children, is to intimate that as Job feared they had forgotten God, that he had plagued them, and `take up your praying and sacrificing now’ (would he say) `a sad trial’ [i.e. for his praying and sacrificing Job got a sore trial]. III. The last part of the chapter is Job’s carriage. 1. He is not senseless, but rises, rents his mantle, etc., using a form suitable to that time. It becomes [agrees with] folks in their outward carriage and posture to be suitable to God’s dealings with them. 2. His carriage in respect of his words or government of his tongue is good Naked came I into the world, and naked shall I return, etc. `I had neither goods nor children when I came into the world, and I can take none with me,’ and blest be his name `who hath both given and taken, for none of these could make me eternally happy.’ It is a notable point of heavenly wisdom, a rare practice to use the world as not abusing it (1 Cor. 7:30-31). If Job’s heart had been in his gear [possessions], as many a man’s is, he had said otherwise. The Spirit of God gives approbation to his carriage in this trial, as if he had said, `The devil has once gotten the foil. He said he would garr [make] Job sin, and he is beguiled.’ In all this Job sinned not, etc. A right eye on God in any trial, brings submission to God and a good outgate [finish].
OBSERVATIONS more explicit.
On the first part observe: 1. It is the greatest commendation of a man, and part of his happiness to be perfect, upright and sincere before God. That perfection will go to the grave with him; other things cannot. Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord (Rev. 14:13). Therefore it is set down in the first place; neither Satan nor Sabeans can take this from Job. They may take a man’s gear, but they cannot take peace of mind from the sincere man. 2. Where this perfection is, a man will be fruitful, fear God and eschew evil; careful to prevent sin in his own person, family and others, when he wins in to get peace with God, through Christ. 3. It is no idle thing to be perfect and sincere, but it will be a daily task, what one’s self, what to their family, which it puts together. On the second part observe: 1. That for as great hatred as the devil has at God’s children, he nor none of his instruments can stir a tail of any of their beasts without God’s permission. 2. Where there is much grace, God often sends sharpest trials. There was none like Job among the children of the east, and none is so tried. God will not boast of every man’s grace, though he carry through the weakest. Let these that have grace be humble; if they have much, they will get as much ado with it. 3. Grace, yea God’s approbation of grace will not keep folks from sharpest trials; so live as resolute through many afflictions, to enter into heaven. You think much of quartering and plundering,3 but what would you think to have the devil master of all you have? Mistake not trials. A time of trial is not the worst time, nor is God then less tender, or more rigid. On the third part, Job’s carriage, observe: 1. There is nothing [which] evidences folks’ grace more [than] a right carriage under affliction. The devil said Job is but a fair-weather man. Now he is found a liar, when in all this Job sinned not. 2. Steadfastness and integrity is best known under a heavy strait and trial. Folks’ love to the world is then known when they are called to part with it.
- Originally, “It is clear who this man was by his friends. Lot was of the posterity of Abraham by Keturah,” etc. This is probably a transcriber’s or editor’s mistake. Durham certainly knew that Lot was not descended from Abraham. Perhaps it should have been the lot, as in all three, were descended, etc. Bildad certainly was a descendent of Abraham and Keturah, as the references clear, and Durham points out (Job 8) [↩]
- Originally, “It is clear who this man was by his friends. Lot was of the posterity of Abraham by Keturah,” etc. This is probably a transcriber’s or editor’s mistake. Durham certainly knew that Lot was not descended from Abraham. Perhaps it should have been the lot, as in all three, were descended, etc. Bildad certainly was a descendent of Abraham and Keturah, as the references clear, and Durham points out (Job 8). [↩]
- Note this is written during Cromwell’s occupation of Scotland. [↩]