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[Here we continue a reprint of a small portion of Joseph Caryl’s study in Job. Mr. Caryl wrote twelve volumes on the book of Job. His study is a great example of how deep one can dig into the truths of the Bible.]
Job 1:1 -
A Perfect and Upright Man, by Joseph Caryl
1…and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God and eschewed evil.
Perfect. Not that he had a legal perfection: “For what is a man that he should be clean?” (Job 15:14). And Job himself professed, “If I say I am perfect, it shall also prove me perverse” (Job 9:20); he acknowledges, “I have sinned” (Job 7:20). The perfect therefore here spoken of is not an absolute, legal perfection.
For the clearing of the word, we may consider there is a twofold perfection ascribed to the saints in this life. A perfection of justification, a perfection of sanctification.
The first of these, in a strict sense, is a complete perfection: The saints are complete in Christ, they are perfectly justified, there is not any sin left uncovered, not any guilt left unwashed in the blood of Christ, not the least spot but is taken away; His garment is large enough to cover all our nakedness, and deformities. In this respect they may be called perfect, they are perfectly justified, “By one offering Christ has perfected for ever them that are sanctified” (Hebrews 10:14).
Then there is a perfection of holiness or of sanctification; and that is called so, either in regard of the beginnings of, or in regard of desires after and aims at perfection. The saints even in this life have a perfect beginning of holiness, because they are begun to be sanctified in every part; they are sanctified “throughout, in soul and body and spirit”, as the apostle distinguishes (1 Thess. 5:23), though every part be not throughout; and this is a perfection. When the work of sanctification is begun in all parts, it is a perfect work beginning.
They are likewise perfect in regard of their desires and intendments. Perfect holiness is the aim of the saints on earth, it is the reward of saints in heaven. The thing which they drive at here is perfection, therefore they themselves are called perfect; as God accepts of the will for the deed, so He expresses the deed by the will; He interprets him to be a perfect man who would be perfect, and calls that person perfect, who desires to have all his imperfections cured. That is a second understanding how Job was perfect.
A third way is this: he was perfect comparatively, comparing him with those who were either openly wicked, or but openly holy, he was a perfect man; he was a man without spot, compared with those that were either all over spotted with filthiness, or only painted with godliness.
Or thus, we may say the perfect here spoken of, is the perfection of sincerity. Job was sincere, he was sound at the heart. He did not act a part or personate religion, but was a religious person. He was not guilded, but gold. So the word is interpreted. Some render it, Job was a simple man, not as simple is put for weak and foolish, but as simple is put for plain-hearted; one that is not (as the apostle James phrased it) a double-minded man. Job was a simple minded man, or a single minded man, one that had not a heart and a heart, he was not a compound; speaking one thing and meaning another, he meant what he said, and he would speak his mind. It is the same word that is used of Jacob’s character (see Gen. 25:27), Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field, and Jacob was a plain man. So that to be a perfect man, is to be a plain man, one whose heart you may know by his tongue, and read the man’s spirit in his actions. Some are such jugglers, that you can see little of their spirits in their lives, you can learn but little of their minds by their words; Jason was a plain man, and so was Job; some translate it a sound man. It is the same expression that is given of Noah: He was in his generation, or he was sound, upright hearted or perfect with God (see Gen. 6:9). And it is that which God speaks to Abraham (Gen. 17:1): “Walk before me and be thou perfect,” or sound, or upright or plain in thy walking before me.
Upright. The former word which was translated perfect, in other texts is rendered upright; but when we have both the expressions together as here, we must distinguish the sense. It is not a tautology. Then the former being taken for inward soundness, plainness and sincerity. This latter (to be upright) may be taken for outward justice, righteousness and equity, respecting all his dealings in the world. He was a perfect man, that is he was plain hearted, and he was plain dealing too, which is the meaning of, “He was upright.” So the one refers to the integrity of his spirit, the other to the honesty of his ways, “His heart was plain, and his dealings were square.” This he expressed fully in the 29th and 31st chapters of this book, which are as it were a comment upon this upright man. There you may read what is meant by uprightness: his fairness in all parts, both of commutative and distributive justice. In those things that concerned commutative justice, when Job bought of sold, traded or bargained, promised or covenanted, he stood to all uprightly. Take him as he was magistrate, when Job sat in judgment and had business brought before him. He gave every one his due; he did not spare or smite upon ends; he did neither at any time justify the wicked or condemn the godly, but was upright in judgment. He was not biased by affection or interests, he was not carried away by hopes or fears, but kept the path of justice in all his dispensations towards that people among whom he lived. This is to be an upright man, and so the prophet tells us, “The way of the just is uprightness” (Isa. 26:7), that is, they are upright in their ways, and more, uprightness in the abstract. We have a like expression, “Those that are upright in the way are an abomination to the wicked” (Proverbs 29:27). Uprightness does refer to the way wherein a man goes in his outward dealings and dispensations towards men. There is a two-fold uprightness of our ways. 1. Uprightness of words. 2. Uprightness of works; so upright walking is expounded and branched forth “He that walks uprightly and works righteousness and speaks the truth in his hear. He that backbiters not with his tongue” (Psalms 15:2-3). This is the second part of Job’s description: He was perfect and upright.
Thirdly, He was one that feared God.
Fearing God. The fear of God is taken two ways. Either for that natural and inward worship of God: and so the fear of God is a holy filial affection, awing the whole man to obey the whole will of God: That is fear as it is an affection. Or the fear of God is put for the external or instituted worship of God. So that a man fearing God is as much as this: A man worshipping God according to his own will, or according to his mind and direction. Now when as Job is said to be a man fearing God, you must take it both these ways: He had that holy affection of fear with which we must worship God, as we are taught “Let us have grace whereby we may serve God with reverence and godly fear” (Hebrews 12:28); “And serve the Lord with fear and rejoiced before Him with trembling” (Psalms 2). Fear is that affection with which we must worship and serve God. And Job likewise did perform that worship to God which He required, this is called fear, and the exercise of it fearing God. Fearing God is worshipping God, as you may see clearly by two texts of Scripture compared together. In Matthew 4:10, Christ said to the devil, “It is written you shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.” Compare this with Deut. 6:13, and there you shall have it thus expressed, “Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God.” That which in the one place is worship, in the other is fear. Again, Matthew 15:9, “In vain” (says Christ) “do they worship me, teaching for doctrine the commandments of men.” Now the Prophet Isaiah expresses it thus. “For as much as their fear toward me is taught by the precepts of men” (Isa. 29:14). They worship me according to the precepts of men, says Christ. “Their fear is taught by the precepts of men” says the prophets: So that fear and worship are the same: Fearing God does include both the affection of a worshipper and the duty or act of worshipping.
The fourth part or line of Job’s character is his eschewing evil.
Evil is here taken for the evil of sin, before sin came into the world there was no evil in the world, “God saw every thing that He had made, and behold it was very good” (Gen. 1:31). But when sin came which was the first and is the chiefest evil, it brought in with it all other evils: sin has in it the whole nature of evil, and all the degrees of evil, and from it proceed all evil effects. Hence sin is eminently called evil. Sickness, and death, and hell are called evil; how much rather that, but for which these evils had never been? How much rather that with which these compared may be called good? Further, the word “evil” is put here indefinitely: he was one that eschewed evil, not this or that evil, but evil, that is all evil, this indefinite is universal. And then further we are to take evil here, as Job himself afterward expounds it in his practice, not only for the acts of evil, but all the occasions, the appearances, the provocations and incentives or unto evil, for whatsoever might lead him into evil; for thus he instanced in one particular, “I made a covenant with mine eyes, why then should I think upon a maid?” (Job 31:1).
Eschewed. In this word, the prudence of Job shines as bright as his holiness, who having received a great stock, and treasure of grace, now watches to preserve it, and opposes whatsoever was destructive to the life or growth of the inner man. That man shows he has both money and his wits about him, who suspects and provides against thieves.
Job eschewed evil. There is much in that expression. It is more to say a man does eschew evil, than to say a man does not commit evil. It had been too bare an expression to say, Job did not commit evil, but when it is said Job eschewed evil, this shows that not only the hand and tongue of Job did not meddle with evil, but that his heart was turned from evil. For eschewing is a turning aside with reluctancy and abhorrency, so the Hebrew imports; Job did abhor evil as well as not commit evil. There is a great deal of difference between these two, the doing of good, and a delight in doing good, between being at peace and following of peace. A man may do good and not be a lover of good, a lover of the commandments of God, a delight in them: he may be at peace and not be a lover and follower of peace. So a man may be one that commits not such and such sins, he may not hurt, and yet in the meantime he may be one that loves those sins he commits not. Such an one is not presently a man that eschews those sins, for to eschew evil notes the activity of the spirit against those evils. That is the spiritualness and strength of holiness. Job’s heart did, (as it were) rise against evil. Some expound it by war, as if under this expression were meant the enmity that Job bare against evil, that it was such an eschewing, as when a man hates his enemy and makes war against him, and does by all means oppose him; so there was as it were a deadly feud, an irreconcilable enmity between Job and evil. He was a man that feared God and eschewed evil. So much for the opening of that first verse: wherein you have the first part of the description of Job’s prosperous estate, and that is what he was in his person.