All the light that he can discern is in Nature’s manifestations of power and order and wisdom. From a wide range of knowledge, the poet draws together upon the stage the wonders of creation, which, with daring freedom, he introduces God himself as describing; until at length Job humbles himself in an awe not uncheered by trust:
Therefore have I uttered that I
Things too wonderful for me which I knew not.
* * * * *
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.
By dropping out the episode of Elihu, as an insertion of some later hand, the movement of the poem becomes sustained and progressive. The arguments of the Jewish theology are cleverly presented, while the swift, sure sense of justice in the sufferer pierces all sophisms, and riddles all pious conventionalities. The descriptions of Nature are graphic and eloquent. The motif of the drama is one that voices the thought and feeling of our far-off age, in which many men again vainly thresh the old arguments of conventional theology, in trying to solve the “godless look of earth,” and take refuge anew in the manifestations of power and law in nature; not without the ancient lesson, let us trust, of an awe which silences and purifies, and leaves them in the light as of a mystery of meaning on the sphynx’s face, breaking into the dawning of a day which “uttereth speech.” Scientific agnosticism, in so far as it is an humble confession of human ignorance, has its worship scored in this noble poem, ringing the changes on the strain, at once plaint and praise:
Canst thou by searching find
Canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection?
It is as high as heaven; what canst thou do?
Deeper than hell; what canst thou know?
Curiously enough, as showing the power of conventionalism, the author winds up with a prose epilogue of the genuine story-book fashion, in which all things are set right by Job’s restoration to his lost wealth, in multiplied possessions. Pathetic persuasion of the poor human heart that all things must come right in the end!
What the Epistle to the Romans, that affrighting vade mecum of theological disputants, becomes when read thus reasonably as a whole, with critical discernment of its real aim, I will not try to tell you; but will content myself with sending you where you may see it beautifully told, with Paul’s own upspringing inspiration of righteousness in Matthew Arnold’s “St. Paul and Protestantism.”
Each great book should, as a whole, be read in its proper place in Hebrew and Christian history.