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289

CHAPTER XXIV.
PATIENCE IN WAITING. THE ENDURANCE OF JOB.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE MENTION OF JOB BY ST. JAMES.

"Be patient therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient over it, until it receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Murmur not, brethren, one against another, that ye be not judged; behold, the Judge standeth before the doors. Take, brethren, for an example of suffering and of patience, the prophets who spake in the Name of the Lord. Behold, we call them blessed which endured: ye have heard of the endurance of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord, how that the Lord is full of pity, and merciful."—St. James v. 7-11.

"BE patient, therefore, brethren." The storm of indignation is past, and from this point to the end of the Epistle St. James writes in tones of tenderness and affection. In the paragraph before us he, as it were, rounds off his letter, bringing it back to the point from which he started; so that what follows (vv. 12-20) is of the nature of a postscript or appendix. He began his letter with the exhortation, "Count it all joy, my brethren, when ye fall into manifold trials; knowing that the proof of your faith worketh patience. And let patience have its perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, lacking in nothing" (i. 2-4). He draws to a close with the charge, "Be patient therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord".

290 The "therefore" shows that this sympathetic exhortation of the brethren is closely connected with the stern denunciation of the rich in the preceding paragraph. The connexion is obvious. These brethren are in the main identical with the righteous poor who are so cruelly oppressed by the rich; and St. James offers them consolation mainly on two grounds: First, their sufferings will not last for ever; on the contrary, the end of them is near at hand. Secondly, the end of them will bring not only relief, but reward.

As has been already pointed out (p. 279), St. James evidently shared the belief, which prevailed in the Apostolic age, that Jesus Christ would very speedily return in glory to punish the wicked and reward the righteous. This belief, as Neander observes, was very natural: "Christ Himself had not chosen to give any information respecting the time of his coming. Nay, He had expressly said that the Father had reserved the decision to Himself alone (Mark xiii. 32); that even the Son could determine nothing respecting it. But still, the longing desire of the Apostolic Church was directed with eager haste to the appearing of the Lord. The whole Christian period seemed only as the transition-point to the eternal, and thus as something that must soon be passed. As the traveller, beholding from afar the object of all his wanderings, overlooks the windings of the intervening way, and believes himself already near his goal, so it seemed to them, as their eye was fixed on that consummation of the whole course of events on earth."

Thus, by a strange but unperceived incongruity, St. James makes the unconscious impatience of primitive Christianity a basis for his exhortation to conscious patience. Early Christians, in their eagerness for the 291 return of their Lord, impatiently believed that His return was imminent; and St. James uses this belief as an argument for patient waiting and patient endurance. It is only for a short time that they will have to wait and endure, and then the rich reward will be reaped. Ploughing and harrowing are toilsome and painful, but they have to be gone through, and then, after no intolerable waiting, the harvest comes.

Above, when St. James was rebuking his readers for their presumptuous confidence respecting their future plans, he reminded them of the shortness of life. "What is your life? For ye are a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away" (iv. 14). Here the shortness of the interval between the present moment and the end of all things is urged as a reason both for circumspection and for patience. In both cases, with his characteristic fondness for illustrations drawn from nature, he employs physical phenomena to enforce his lesson. In the one case life is a vapour, not substantial at any time, and soon dispersed;8686   As already pointed out, this metaphor is perhaps a reminiscence of the Book of Job, to which St. James alludes in the passage before us. He was evidently fond of the sapiential writings, to which Job is akin. "My days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle, and are spent without hope. As the cloud is consumed and vanisheth away, so he that goeth down to Sheol shall come up no more" (Job vii. 6, 9). See [footnote 84]. in the other case life is the work and the waiting which must precede the harvest.

The key-note of the whole passage is patience, which in one form or another occurs six times in five verses In the original two different words are used—one (μακροθμεῖν and μακροθμία) four times in the first four verses; and the other (ὑπομένειν and ὑπομενή) 292 twice in the last verse, where we certainly need "the endurance of Job" rather than "the patience of Job," in order to preserve the transition from the one word to the other. "Take, brethren, for an example of suffering and of patience (μακροθυμίας) the prophets who spake in the Name of the Lord. Behold, we call them blessed which endured (τοὺς ὑπομείναντας): ye have heard of the endurance (ὑπομενήν) of Job." It was perhaps because "the patience of Job" has become a proverbial formula that the Revisers banished "endurance" to the margin, instead of placing it in the text.8787   The Rhemish Version distinguishes the words—"be patient" and "patience" for the one, "suffer" and "sufferance" for the other, the Vulgate having patientia and sufferentia. The two words are not infrequently found together (2 Cor. vi. 4-6; Col. i. 11; 2 Tim. iii. 10; Clement of Rome, lviii.; Ignatius, Ephes. iii.). The difference between the two is, on the whole, this, that the first is the long-suffering which does not retaliate upon oppressive persons, the second the endurance which does not succumb under oppressive things. The persecuted prophets exhibited the one; the afflicted Job exhibited the other. The oppressed and poor Christians whom St. James addresses are able to practise both these forms of patience, which Chrysostom extols as the "queen of the virtues."

There is a remarkable diversity of readings in the illustration about the husbandman's waiting. Some authorities make him wait for the early and latter rain, others for the early and latter fruit. The best witnesses leave the substantive to be understood, and this is doubtless the original reading; it accounts for the other two. Some copyists thought that rain was to be understood, and therefore inserted it; while others for 293 a similar reason inserted fruit. No doubt it is rain that is intended, in accordance with several passages in the Old Testament (Deut. xi. 14; Jer. v. 24; Joel ii. 23; Zech. x. 1). The rains of autumn and of spring are meant, not "morning rain and evening rain" as Luther renders it in his version; and no moral or spiritual facts are symbolized by these natural phenomena, such as the penitential tears of youth and of old age, which would not fit the context. The point of the simile lies in the patient waiting, not in that which is waited for.

"Murmur not, brethren, one against another." The literal meaning of the Greek is "Groan not;" that is, "Grumble not." Earlier English versions have "Grudge not;" and "grudge" once had the meaning of "murmur," as in "They will run here and there for meat, and grudge if they be not satisfied" (Ps. lix. 15). It is altogether a mistake to suppose that "one against another" includes the wealthy oppressors spoken of in the preceding section. It is the common experience of every one that men who are irritated and exasperated by trying persons or circumstances are liable to vent their vexation on those who are in no way responsible for what tries them. St. James is well aware of this danger, and puts his readers on their guard against it. "Be long-suffering," he says, "and do not retaliate on those who maltreat you; and do not let the smart of your troubles betray you into impatience towards one another. He who is to judge your oppressors will judge you also, and He is close at hand." We can hardly doubt that Christ's saying, "Judge not, that ye be not judged" (Matt. vii. 1), is in his mind. The way to lighten one's burden is not to groan over it, still less to murmur against those who are in the same case, but 294 to try to console and help them. "Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ." It is a good thing to take as an example of patience the prophets and others among God's suffering saints; but it is a still better thing to give such an example ourselves.

By the prophets St. James no doubt means the prophets of the Old Testament—Elijah, Jeremiah, and others. It is not likely that he includes any of the persecuted disciples of the New Testament, such as James the son of Zebedee, and Stephen. Here again we seem to have an echo of Christ's words: "Blessed are ye when men shall reproach you, and persecute you" (comp. "We call them blessed which endured"): "for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you" (Matt. v. 11, 12). It is the ceaseless reproach against the Jews that they boasted that theirs were the prophets, and yet were the persecutors of the prophets. "The children of Israel ... have slain Thy prophets with the sword," says Elijah (1 Kings xix. 10, 14). "That I may avenge the blood of My servants the prophets," says God to Elisha (2 Kings ix. 7). They "slew Thy prophets which testified against them to turn them again to Thee," says Nehemiah, in his prayer (Neh. ix. 26). "Your own sword hath devoured your prophets, like a destroying lion," is the accusation of Jeremiah (ii. 30). "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killeth the prophets, and stoneth them that are sent unto her!" is the lamentation of Christ (Matt. xxiii. 37). And Stephen, just before he was himself added to the number of the slain, asks, "Which of the prophets did not your fathers persecute? and they killed them which showed before of the coming of the Righteous One" (Acts vii. 52). Certainly those who try to do 295 God's work in the world have no lack of examples of patient suffering for such work. The reasonable question would seem to be, not, "Why should I be made to suffer for endeavouring to do good?" but, "Why should I not be made to suffer? Seeing what others have had to endure, why should I be spared?"

"Ye have heard of the endurance of Job." It is possible that this refers specially to the reading of the Book of Job in public service; but there is no need to restrict the hearing to such occasions. We need not doubt that the endurance of Job was a familiar topic among the Jews long before this Epistle was written, and independently of the book being read in the synagogues. Yet, in spite of this familiarity, the passage before us is the only reference in the whole of the New Testament to the story of Job, and there is only one quotation from the Book: "He taketh the wise in their own craftiness" (Job v. 13) is quoted by St. Paul (1 Cor. iii. 19). There are several loose quotations from it in the Epistle of Clement of Rome (xvii., xx., xxvi., xxxix., lvi.); and the remarkable insertion in the Vulgate Version of Tobit ii. 12-15 is worthy of quotation: "This trial the Lord therefore permitted to happen to him, that an example might be given to posterity of his patience, as also of holy Job. For whereas he had always feared God from his infancy, and kept His commandments, he repined not against God because the evil of blindness had befallen him, but continued immovable in the fear of God, giving thanks to God all the days of his life. For as the kings8888   Reges. "So Job's friends are here called, because they were princes in their respective territories." Note in the Douay Version, from which the translation of the passage is taken. insulted over holy Job, so his relations and 296 kinsmen mocked at his life, saying, Where is thy hope, for which thou gavest alms, and buriedest the dead? But Tobias rebuked them, saying, Speak not so; for we are the children of saints, and look for that life which God will give to them that never change their faith from Him."

"Ye have heard of the endurance of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord, how that the Lord is full of pity, and merciful." A well-supported, but, on the whole, less probable reading, gives us the imperative, "see the end of the Lord," instead of the indicative, "ye have seen" (ἴδετε, instead of εἴδετε). If it be correct, it may be taken either with what precedes or with what follows: either, "Ye have heard of the endurance of Job: see also the end of the Lord, how that the Lord is full of pity, and merciful;" or, "Ye have heard of the endurance of Job and the end of the Lord: see that the Lord is full of pity, and merciful."

But a more important question than either the reading or the division of the clauses is the meaning of the expression "the end of the Lord." Bede follows Augustine in understanding it of the death of Christ, which no doubt many of the readers of the Epistle had witnessed—"Exitum quoque Domini in cruce quem longanimiter suscepit, adstantes ipsi vidistis": and in this interpretation Bede is followed by Wetstein, Lange, and some other modern writers. It cannot be considered as probable. St. James would hardly couple the endurance of Job with the death of Christ in this abrupt way; and the words which follow—"that the Lord is full of pity, and merciful"—do not fit on to this interpretation. "The end of the Lord" much more probably means the end to which the Lord brought the sufferings of Job. It may have special 297 reference to the concluding portion of the Book of Job, in which Jehovah is represented as bringing the argument to a close: "Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said, Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?" etc., etc. (xxxviii.-xlii.). This appearance of Jehovah to end the trials of Job would then be analogous to the appearance of Christ to end the trials of the persecuted Christians; and it is possible that the combination "ye have heard ... and have seen" was suggested by the last words of Job: "I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear; but now mine eye seeth Thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes" (xlii. 5, 6).

Stier remarks that the mention of Job in Ezekiel (xiv. 14, 16, 20), and here by St. James, shows us "that the man Job actually lived, like Noah, Daniel, and all the prophets; that the narrative of his life is not a didactic poem, but a real history." But is that a necessary conclusion? Let us leave on one side the question whether or no there really was such a person as Job, who experienced what is recorded in the book which bears his name, and let us consider whether the mention of him by Ezekiel and by St. James proves that there was such a person. It proves nothing of the sort. It shows no more than this, that the story of Job was well known, and was employed for moral and spiritual instruction. Let us suppose that the Book of Job is a parable, like that of Dives and Lazarus. Would the fact that its contents are not historical prevent Ezekiel or St. James from speaking of Job as a well-known person of exemplary life? There would be nothing unnatural in coupling together Dives, who is probably an imaginary person, and the 298 rich young man, who is certainly a real person, as examples of men to whom great wealth has proved disastrous, nor, again, in speaking of Lazarus and the penitent thief as instances of souls that had passed from great earthly suffering to the rest of Paradise. Such combinations would not commit the writer or speaker who made use of them to the belief that Dives and Lazarus were historical persons. Why, then, should the fact that an inspired writer couples Job with Noah and Daniel commit us to the belief that Job is a real person? He may have been so, just as Lazarus may have been so, but the mention of him by Ezekiel and by St. James does not prove that he was. We know too little about the effects of inspiration to be justified in saying dogmatically that an inspired writer would never speak of an unhistorical person as an example to be imitated. Is the merchant who sold all that he had in order to buy one pearl of great price an historical person? and is he not put before us as an example to be imitated? It is quite possible that the story of Job is in the main a narrative of facts, and not an inspired fiction; but the mention of him by Ezekiel and by St. James is no proof of it. It is neither fair nor prudent to cite either of them as witnesses to the historical character of the Book of Job. It is not fair, because we are ignorant of their opinion on the subject, and are also ignorant as to whether their opinion on the subject would be under the direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit. And it is not prudent, because it may be demonstrated hereafter that the story of Job is not historical; and then we shall have pledged the testimony of inspired persons to the truth of a narrative which is, after all, fictitious. If St. Paul may cite Jannes and Jambres as instances 299 of malignant opposition to the truth, without compelling us to believe that those names are historical,8989   See The Pastoral Epistles, in this series, pp. 379-84 (Hodder and Stoughton, 1888). St. James may quote Job as an example of patient endurance, without obliging us to believe that Job is an historical personage. In each case the historical character of the illustrations must be decided on other grounds than the fact that they are employed by writers who were inspired.9090   That the Book of Job is not pure history is plain from (1) the dialogue between Jehovah and Satan, and the addresses ascribed to the Almighty in the body of the poem; (2) the dramatic character of Job's calamities, man and nature alternately inflicting blows at him, and in each case just one messenger escaping; (3) the dramatic character of his compensation, his goods being exactly doubled, and his family being made exactly what it was before; (4) the elaboration of the dialogue between Job and his friends. On the other hand, it is not likely that it is pure invention. We have no evidence of literary power equal to such invention at the early date to which the Book of Job must be assigned, viz. before the Return from the Captivity; and the writer's object would be better attained if he took an historical person, than if he invented one, as his centre.

Questions of this kind are among the many spheres in which we need that virtue on which St. James here insists with such simple earnestness—patience. When certainty has not been attained, and perhaps is not attainable, let us learn to wait patiently in uncertainty. Was there ever such a person as Job? Who wrote the Book of Job? What is its date? Does inspiration produce infallibility? and if so, what are the limits to such infallibility? There are men to whom uncertainty on such questions as these seems intolerable. They cannot "learn to labour and to wait;" they cannot work patiently, and wait patiently, until a complete solution is found. And hence they hurry to a 300 definite conclusion, support it by evidence that is not relevant, and affirm that it is demonstrated by what is perhaps relevant, but is far short of proof. Intellectual probation is part of our moral probation in this life, and it is a discipline much needed in an age of great mental activity. Impatience of the intellect is a common blemish, and it is disastrous both to him who allows himself to be conquered by it and to the cause of truth. He does good service both to himself and to others, who cultivates a dread of jumping to unproved conclusions, and who in speaking and writing watchfully distinguishes what is certain from what is only probable, and what is probable from what is only not known to be untrue.

The great example of patience is not given by St. James, although we can read it into his words. In a sense not meant by him there is the Husbandman, who waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, until it receive the early and the latter rain. There is that precious harvest of human souls which must receive and welcome the dew of God's grace before it is ready for His garner. On some it has never yet fallen; on some it has fallen, but as yet in vain; and meanwhile the Husbandman waiteth, "being patient over it," until it receive the one thing needful. Through long, long centuries He has been waiting, and He continues so doing. St. Augustine tells us why. God is "patient, because He is eternal" (patiens quia æternus). He who is "from everlasting to everlasting" can afford to wait. He waits patiently for us, generation after generation. Can we not wait for Him one hour? Let us patiently abide until "the end of the Lord" comes, the end which He has prepared for us, and towards which all things under His guiding hand are 301 working. When we have seen it we shall once more see "that the Lord is full of pity, and merciful."9191   The word for "full of pity" (πολύσπλανχνος) was possibly coined by St. James himself; it occurs nowhere else. It might be rendered "large-hearted." A few inferior MSS. have πολυεύσπλανχνος, a word which is found in ecclesiastical and Byzantine writers. The simpler εὔσπλανχνος occurs 1 Pet. iii. 8; Eph. iv. 32; and in the Prayer of Manasses; ὅτι σὺ εἶ κύριοσ ὕψιστος, εὔσπλανχνος, μακρόθυμος, καὶ πολυέλεος. The unique πολύσπλανχνος looks like a combination of πολυέλεοσ and εὔσπλανχνος. Comp. Joel ii. 13; Jonah iv. 2. The word for "merciful" occurs Luke vi. 36 (comp. Col. iii. 12) and frequently in the Septuagint; e.g. Ecclus. ii. 11; οἰκτίρμων καὶ ἐλεήμων ὁ κύριος.


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