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a Funeral Sermon,
DELIVERED AT NORTHOW RAM, IN YORKSHIRE,
OCCASIONED BY THE
DEATH OF MR. JON. DENTON.
DEDICATED TO MR. JOHN DENTON, SOUTHWARK,
JOB x. 7.
Thou knowest that I am not wicked, and there is none that
can deliver out of thine hand.
This text contains the sum of the grand controversy between afflicted Job and his censuring friends, who would prove Job to be a wicked man. The devil and Job's friends speak the same language; only Satan presumes upon it, that if God will touch Job's flesh he will curse him to his face. His friends uncharitably accuse him as one that had cursed God, or committed some scandalous sin, and therefore God did so severely touch his flesh. Against this charge Job makes his appeal to the heart-searching God, and saith, “thou knowest that I am not wicked.”
The latter part of the text implies, first, A concession. I may notwithstanding all my integrity be in God's hand, that is, in the correcting hand of God: and secondly, contains an assertion, “none can deliver out of thine hand;" as if he had said, I may continue long under it, and no power in heaven or earth can rescue me, except God himself set me at liberty. A word may be introduced relative to the former, though the latter be the subject assigned me. " Thou knowest :” the words are very emphatical, and signify, it is in thy knowledge that I am not wicked; as if he had said, thou hast not this knowledge from without, from reports or hearsay; no,
thy knowledge is from thyself; it is internal, immediate, and therefore perfect and infallible.
God exactly knows every man's state and frame; his knowledge is not consequent but concomitant;" all things are naked and open to the eyes of him with whom we have to do;" God's line soundeth man's depth ; our persons and actions are manifest to him now, and shall be laid open before angels and men in the great day.
“ Thou knowest that I am not wicked :" he saith not, that I am not a sinner: alas, there is too much sin in me.
Sin,” (saith an interpreter,) “ remains in the regenerate, yet they cannot, or ought not to be called wicked; God gives the denomination from the better part. The best saints are indeed sinners, yet the worst saints are not wicked; they are sinners by remaining corruption, but are godly by renovation.” The word here, corresponds with that in Psal. xviii. 21, where David says, “I have not wickedly departed from my God,” that is, by a course of sinning. The phrase also imports being condemned and cast at God's bar, as a wicked man, Ps. cix. 7, “When he is judged let him be condemned ;" let him go forth as a condemned malefactor; I dare appeal to the all-wise, heart-searching God, that I am not such a one.
Doct. That a truly gracious soul dare appeal to God that he is not wicked.
The child of God makes him witness of his integrity: at the time when enemies scorn, Satan accuseth, conscience upbraids, and God keeps at a distance, the devout soul can say, “Behold my witness is in heaven, and my record is on high.”
It may seem a paradox, but is a great truth, that the holiest saint on earth dares not justify himself before God, yet he dare stand before God to justify his
integrity. This must be understood in an evangelical and not in a legal sense; through Christ the mediator, and not as in the believer; according to the covenant of grace, and not that of works. A great divine saith, “ the gospel covenant laxeth the rigour of the law, which calleth for complete obedience, by resolving all into sincerity and truth. When we go upon the trial for our life before Christ's bar, the great inquest will be whether we have been sincere or not;" he does not mean that sincerity is set up in Christ's room, but as it is an evidence of our interest in him : hence Job saith, chap. xxxi. 6, “Let me be weighed in an even balance, that God may know my integrity.” He means a gospel balance, for “ by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” He does not mean that God must weigh him before he can know him, but he speaks after the manner of men. Thus David also, “ Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts, and see if there be any wicked way in me,” Psal. cxxxix, 23, 24. There is too much wickedness in my depraved heart God knows, but I dare appeal to thee, that there is no way of wickedness, no ordinary road, nor any uninterrupted path of sin in me. Sin doth not make a thoroughfare in my soul, I give it many a turn, and dare appeal to thee that I would gladly be rid of it.
All I shall do on this point, is to propose and answer this weighty case of conscience :—How may a Christian make it out in his appeal to God that he is not wicked ? I confess this is a great question, and hard to be resolved, but I shall follow the scripture line, in representing the pious soul's appeal to God.
1. Lord thou knowest that I am not as I have been, that there is a great change wrought in my heart and life, A turn I have had thou knowest whether it be