An Unshaken Trust
By J. B. Hawthorne
“Let come on me what will. . . . Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him” (Job 13:13, 15).
God delights to honor a true man. He takes pleasure in placing him where the world may see the excellence of his character and feel the power of his life. But before he sets him in a regal place and encircles his brow with a crown of glory, he suﬀers him to be tried. He subjects him to a baptism of ﬁ re. He lets the world and Satan smite him with manifold aﬄictions. In this way he prepared such men as Chrysostom, Luther, Calvin, Wesley, Carey, and Judson for their exalted stations and work. Having suﬀered with Christ, they now reign with Him over the hearts and lives of men.
God saw in His servant Job a man in whom He was well pleased. “Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God and escheweth evil?” Such integrity must not be permitted to dwell in obscurity. It must be exalted and made visible to men of every land and age. But as a preparation for such exaltation, Job must pass through great tribulation.
What God loves the devil hates. What God delights to honor the devil loves to defame. When God said, “Hast thou considered my servant Job, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God and escheweth evil,” the devil answered, “Doth Job fear God for nought? Hast thou not made a hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? Thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face.” By this Satan means that Job is a hypocrite, that selﬁshness is behind all his piety and fealty to God, and that if deprived of his temporal prosperity he would be utterly wicked and faithless.
The devil today is just what he has ever been. The same sneer is on his face and the same venom is on his lips. Where is the man in this city, in this country, or in the wide world, who fears God and eschews evil in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, against whom some emissary of Satan has not brought the charge of insincerity and hypocrisy? How often we hear the remark, “Such a man belongs to the church because it helps him in his temporal aﬀairs. He gets the patronage of the church in his business. But let misfortune come upon him, let him lose his custom, and let his business go down, and he will make shipwreck of his faith.” Who has not heard the mean indictment that ministers of the gospel are mere hirelings, that they are preaching for pay, that they are making merchandise of religion, that they have no faith in what they preach, that they care nothing for the souls of men, and that if their emoluments were taken from them they would desert their ﬂocks, go over to the ranks of inﬁdelity, and curse the Christ whose gospel they have preached?
If the men who make these charges are sincere, they not only repudiate Christianity, but pronounce themselves utterly faithless toward men. They believe that man is too selﬁsh to be able to approximate an act of disinterested goodness. They believe that all his conduct toward God and his fellowmen is inspired solely by the desire and purpose to advance his own earthly interests.
Just that is what the devil professes to believe, and you know what the devil is. He has neither pity nor respect for man. He is man’s enemy. His work is to degrade and damn him. Men who have no conﬁdence in their fellows have none in themselves. Believing the whole human race to be entirely selﬁsh, all their transactions are inspired solely by the love of self. They use their fellowmen only as instruments to accomplish their selﬁsh ends. If it is to their interest to applaud a man they bind the laurel on his brow, but if they can put money in their purse or elevate themselves to political oﬃce by detraction and slander, there is nothing in their depraved hearts to restrain them.
No man is better than his faith. He who has faith in mankind, he who sees among the ruins of the fall traces of a primeval glory which through God’s inﬁnite grace may be recovered, he who believes that there is human pity that is real, and human love that is pure, he who believes that there is a Godward side to man’s being which is capable of real fellowship with the true and good, is man’s friend. But he who believes that the central and ruling principle of every human heart is the love of self and that human aspiration can rise to nothing higher and nobler than the gratiﬁcation of self, is man’s enemy. Like Satan, conscious of his own self depravity and vileness, he would drag earth and Heaven down to a level with himself.
How miserable must such a man be! In all the broad world of humanity he sees nothing that is worthy to be loved and honored, and nothing in which he is willing to conﬁde and look for sympathy and support in the day of trouble. Satan said he was going to and fro in the earth and walking up and down in it. He is the most miserable being in the universe because he loves nothing and conﬁdes in nothing. Peace has forsaken the breast of that man who believes that the regnant principle of every human heart is unmitigated selﬁshness. Such a belief unﬁts him for the enjoyment of any blessing. He looks upon every man as his enemy. He regards all human conduct as deceptive and every oﬀer of kindness as the forerunner of a base betrayal. Regarding himself as a devil incarnate in a world of devils, he walks up and down the earth, hoping to ﬁnd some grains of comfort in reviling and cursing his fellowmen. His years are all winter, his world all hollow and false, and his universe all gloomy and ghastly.
Young men, the days are evil. The moral atmosphere which you breathe is laden with poison. All around you are men whose material prosperity depends upon your degradation. Just to the extent that they corrupt your minds and lives they add to their ill-gotten gains. These men would tell you that man is incurably selﬁsh, and therefore incapable of disinterested goodness. They would tell you that those Christian temples are only monuments to the hollowness and hypocrisy of the men who built them. They would tell you that religion is only a cloak, under which men seeking their own aggrandizement conceal the iniquity of their hearts. They would tell you that even the men who have been leaders of our sacramental hosts, and whom the world has loved and honored for their Christian virtues, were deceivers of mankind and went down to their graves with a lie on their lips.
They would teach you to despise the faith of the Christian mother who nurtured your childhood and to despise the counsel of the Christian father who breathed upon you his dying benediction. They would persuade you to forsake the Christian sanctuary and spend your Sabbaths in club rooms. They would tell you that Ingersoll’s tracts are better than the Bible, and the lascivious songs of the beer saloon sweeter than the songs of Zion. They would entreat you to hate and cry down every man who would put restraints upon unholy lust or who would insist upon honesty in business and fair dealing at the ballot box.
These are the men who set themselves up as your teachers, and who would give direction to your lives. Will you accept such a leadership? Will you allow them to destroy your reverence for all things sacred? Will you suﬀer them to pluck from your hearts the faith that was planted there by a mother’s love, and the lessons of honor and rectitude received from a father’s lips? Will you exchange the cup of the Lord for the cup of devils? Will you forsake Christ for Belial? If not, then join in holy alliance with those who are ﬁghting the worst adversaries of God’s truth and man’s welfare, and help to generate a moral atmosphere in which this upas tree of inﬁdelity, blasphemy, and dishonesty cannot live.
Are there any honest men in the world? The devil says there are none. Among the millions of men and women who wear the Christian regalia and follow the crimson banner of the cross, are there any who love truth and righteousness more than themselves, and whose allegiance to God’s cause cannot be shaken by any tempest of adversity? The devil says there are none. He is a liar, and the truth is not in him. His indictment is a libel as black as the starless night to which eternal justice has consigned him.
I am not blind to the world’s depravity. I recognize the fact that among the millions who claim to be believers and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, there are many whose hearts and lives are stained with the deepest hypocrisy. But virtue has not forsaken the world; honesty, honor, and patriotism still live. In the marts of trade there are thousands of men whose moral integrity has withstood every temptation to wrong dealing. The assumption of certain political henchmen that every American voter has his price is absolutely false. That there is a large element of our population who have no appreciation of the dignity and responsibility of citizenship, I do not deny. That vast sums of money have been raised to corrupt the ballot, and that thousands of ignorant and impecunious wretches have bartered their birthright, I am compelled to admit. But patriotism lives; and I believe will live forever in the hearts of the American people. The majority of the property holders of this country in the last Federal election voted for what they believed to be for the welfare of the whole country. And there are millions of the horny-handed sons of toil in our workshops and factories, on our farms and in our mines, who would resent as an unpardonable insult to their manhood any attempt to purchase their ballot or to intimidate them in the exercise of their constitutional right to vote according to their honest convictions.
Unselﬁsh devotion to Christ’s kingdom is one of the most manifest realities of this world. The pages of history are luminous with the names of men who were loyal to God in the midst of aﬄuence and luxury, and who were equally loyal in the depths of poverty.
I have gone to the almshouses of this country and found men who were once merchant princes. They were Christians in the heyday of their temporal prosperity, but still better Christians in the dark day of adversity. All such facts demonstrate that man is capable of disintereﬆed fealty to God, and that when he plants himself by faith on the foundation of God’s eternal truth, not even the gates of Hell can prevail against him.
In the sacred narrative before us Satan declares that selﬁshness is at the bottom of Job’s uprightness and piety, and that if Job’s material possessions were taken from him he would not only forsake religion, but curse the Holy Being whom he had worshipped and served. God accepts the challenge and suﬀers the test to be made. All that Job has of temporal treasure is placed within the power of Satan. From what follows we may judge what would become of the possessions of any God-fearing and upright man, if Satan were allowed absolute control of them. If it were proclaimed today by the civil authorities of this country that for the next week all laws against vice and crime would be annulled, and that all evil-doers should, within that period, be absolutely free to do whatever their malign passions should prompt them to do, what a reign of terror would ensue. Scarcely a Christian home would escape the torch. Stores would be riﬂed, banks robbed, and factories and churches demolished.
That such results would follow the removal of all restraints from evil-minded men we can readily believe when we see how the upright man in the land of Uz fares in the hands of Satan. At a time when he had no thought of evil, and imagined himself secure beneath the protecting arm of Him whom he had served so faithfully, there came a messenger and said: “The oxen were plowing and the asses feeding beside them, and the Sabeans fell upon them and took them away; yea, they have slain thy servants with the edge of the sword, and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.”
Hardly had this messenger ﬁnished his sad story before there came another, who said: “The ﬁre of God is fallen from heaven and hath burned up the sheep and the servants, and consumed them, and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.”
While he was yet speaking there came another messenger, who said: “The Chaldeans made out three bands and fell upon the camels, and have carried them away, yea, and slain the servants with the edge of the sword, and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.”
What next? Before this man had uttered the last word of his fearful message there came another, who said: “Thy sons and thy daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house; and behold, there came a great wind from the wilderness, and smote the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young men, and they are dead, and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.”
Terrible agents were these in the hands of the arch-demon. Sabeans, Chaldeans, whirlwind, and ﬁre combined their fury against one defenseless man.
What is the result upon Job’s mind, upon Job’s faith and integrity? Sheep and camels all stolen, servants burned to ashes, and bodies of his children mangled and dead beneath the ruins of a dwelling. Surely, if it be possible for temporal calamity to make a godly man faithless, Job will now fulﬁll the prophecy of Satan, renounce his religion, and curse the God whom he had worshipped.
But how does this servant of the Most High deport himself as he contemplates the wreck of his earthly fortune and hopes? Does he fall out with religion and proclaim it a vain thing to serve God? Nay. In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly, but fell to the ground and worshipped him saying: “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”
What is the signiﬁcance of this story? It is God Almighty’s refutation of a lie. Satan says man worships his maker only for temporal advantage. God answers, “It is false,” and proves it by the conduct of his servant Job.
From the birth of true religion to this hour, Satan, speaking through human lips, has charged that men who worship God are inspired with no higher motive than the desire of temporal aggrandizement; and though the contradiction has been made by millions of holy men who preserved their moral and religious integrity in the depths of poverty, amid the gloom of the dungeon and the ﬂames of the stake, the lie still lives and men still repeat it with all the malignity and venom of their Satanic master.
As the old patriarch Job stood upright and unswerving amid the desolation that surrounded him, God said: “Still he holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movedst me against him to destroy him without cause.”
The Lord God is proud of the triumphs of His people, and when the registering angel records a victory for the least of His ﬂock banners wave from all the hills of Heaven and the enraptured millions of the blest tune their harps anew and rise to higher notes of praise.
Satan, discomﬁted in his ﬁrst attempt to overthrow this righteous man, proposes to renew the attack and challenges the Almighty to subject Job to another test: “Put forth thine hand now, and touch his bone and his ﬂesh, and he will curse thee to thy face.”
God knows His people. He knows that neither angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, can separate them from Him. He is not afraid that they will forsake Him in the hour of their darkness and distress. Having this conﬁdence in their loyalty, He accepts this new challenge. “So Satan went forth from the presence of the Lord and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown.”
Poor Job! Behold him, pity him. Covered with disease the most foul and loathsome, his ﬂesh rotting and falling from the bones, stinking with corruption, he sits down in ashes and scrapes himself with a potsherd. Conscious of his integrity, knowing that he had done nothing to merit such suﬀering, doubtless his breast was the arena of bitter conﬂicts and the temptation to renounce God came upon him with tremendous power.
But to add to the severity of his trial, the devil enters into the wife of the patriarch. So loathsome has he become, so sickening and horrid the stench of his running sores, the she, the partner of his life, the wife of his bosom, and the mother of his children, is constrained to forsake him. Sick, disgusted, and horriﬁed, she turns away from him with the exhortation to curse God and die. But under the pressure of all this suﬀering, desolate, forsaken, an object of loathing even to the wife who up to this hour had been loyal and faithful, Job did not sin. The loss of property, the loss of servants, the loss of children, the loss of health, the loss of all human aﬀection and sympathy presented a mighty temptation, and yet he serenely faced it and conquered it.
Still another trial awaits him. Worse than poverty, worse than disease, worse than the death of children, and worse than the desertion by one’s own ﬂesh, is the loss of one’s good name. As Job was a great suffer, men looked upon him as a great sinner. They regarded his calamities as only the just and inevitable penalty for some villainous transgression which he had sought to hide beneath the covering of a religious profession.
The pangs of dying are sweet in comparison with the anguish which an upright man feels in being subjected to a base-born suspicion which he is powerless to remove. And yet, when God laid this burden upon the heart of Job, his faith did not fail him. Loving and serving the Lord for the Lord’s sake, cleaving to the truth because it was truth, and holding on to the right because it was right, he said: “Let come what will, . . . Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.”
When men stand up before the world and declare that the Christian’s faith is unreal and that his Christian labors and self-denials are inspired only by the hopes of temporal advantage I almost wonder that the sheeted dead do not rise from their graves and rebuke them.
Was it for temporal gain that Paul was obedient to the heavenly vision which called him into Macedonia? Was it for temporal gain that he submitted to ﬁve Jewish scouragings and three Roman ﬂagellations? Was it for temporal gain that he endured the prolonged insolence of provincial magistrates and the gnashing fury of frenzied mobs? Was it for temporal gain that he wore for three years a felon’s chain and slept in a felon’s cell? Was it for temporal gain that he suﬀered the loss of all things and at last expired at the hands of a Roman headsman? Was it for any earthly good that Francis Xavier carried the gospel into India? Was it for any temporal reward that he suﬀered among the poor, degraded pearl ﬁshers of the straits of Manaar? Was it for any hope of earthly gain that he preached the gospel where earthquakes, pestilence, and savagery imperiled his life at every moment?
No! No! It would be ﬂattery to call that man mean who would question the sincerity of such a life, or attempt to cast a shadow upon such a name.
In the present generation there are moral heroes who will not suﬀer by comparison with those whose names illumine the pages of history. Immediately around us are men and women who, amid conﬂicts dark and dire, hold to truth and virtue and God with a faith as unﬂinching and ﬁ rm as that of the patriarch Job. Go with me tomorrow and I will conduct you into a chamber where lies the wasted and skeleton form of a man who for months and years has not had one hour’s exemption from pain, and yet he is uncomplaining and peaceful. With the cold sweat of agony standing on his brow and his whole body quivering with anguish he is wont to say: “It is the Lord; let him do what seemeth him good.”
Follow me again and I will lead you beneath a humble roof where the deepest and saddest poverty dwells, poverty unpitied because unknown to the world. Th ere a frail woman, too noble to beg, plies her needle from morn till midnight that her fatherless children may not lack for bread tomorrow. No word of complaint drops from her lips; but grateful to God for a little meal in the barrel and a rude shelter above her head, and looking forward to a heritage of peace and plenty beyond the stars, she exclaims: “What shall I render unto the Lord for all his beneﬁts?” “Bless the Lord, oh, my soul, and all that is within me bless his holy name!” Go with me to yonder city of the dead. Th ere beneath a weeping willow a mother kneels at the grave of her only child. Sorrow has plowed deep furrows in her face, but the light of hope is in her eye. As her tears fall and mingle with the dust we hear her say: “The Lord gave, the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”
I dare say that in the secret solitude of hearts before me today there are wounds and aching griefs which only Heaven can cure. There are some here whose cup is all bitterness, and yet day by day they look up to God and say: “Let come what will. . . Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.” Such men and women are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. They are witnesses for God and His truth whose testimony can never be refuted. May God multiply their seed and their triumphs until the last inﬁdel voice is silenced and the last skeptic shall lift his eyes to the cross and exclaim, in the language of the Roman soldier: “Truly this was the Son of God.”
[From “An Unshaken Trust,” pp. 19-35, 1899 edition; via The Berea Baptist Banner, Christopher Cockrell, editor, May 5, 2012, pp. 81, 93, 95 & 97. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
More on J. B. Hawthorne
Baptist History Homepage