A Key That Opens the Book of Job

Recently, Banner of Truth released the completed three-volume set of John Calvin’s sermons on the book of Job. Freshly translated by Rob Roy McGregor, the first two volumes are reprinted from earlier publication and released alongside the newly published third volume. Since Calvin is one of my dearest of study companions as well as a pastor whose sermons have often been an instrument for refreshing me through the Word, I grabbed them up as soon as I could.

Although I don’t have plans to preach through Job soon or even to work my way page-by-page through these books, my practice is to read the introduce and often the first chapter of every new book before putting it on the shelf (to hopefully be read later). This gives me a familiarity with my books rather than simply viewing each new book as another item on a to-read list. The following paragraph comes from that initial reading, and I share it because it may be one of the most helpful paragraphs that I have ever read concerning the book of Job.

When we understand that Job, sustaining a good cause, argues badly, and the others, sustaining a bad cause, argue it well, we have a key that opens the entire book for us. How does Job sustain a good cause? He knows that God does not always afflict men in proportion to their sins but that he has his secret judgments, which he does not tell us about, and we must wait until he reveals why he does one thing and not another. Therefore, he is persuaded that God does not always afflict men in proportion to their sins, and he has an inner testimony that he was not rejected by God, as the others try to convince him. That is a good and right cause, but it is badly argued, for Job becomes vehement and makes such excessive and immoderate statements that on many occasions he shows himself to be a man without hope. He even becomes so inflamed that it seems he wants to resist God. That, then, is a good cause conducted badly. Now those who sustain the bad cause, namely, that God always punishes men in proportion to their sins, use beautiful and sanctified phrases, and there is nothing in their remarks that we can discount, as if the Holy Spirit had declared it, for they are pure truth, the basis for religion, and deal with God’s providence, his justice, and the sins of men. Such constitute a teaching which we must receive without debate, but their intent is bad, for these men are trying to bring Job to despair and completely devastate him.

p. 3

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