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Bible Commentaries

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary

Job 17



Verse 9


‘The righteous also shall hold on his way, and he that hath clean hands shall be stronger and stronger.’

Job 17:9

We must believe it to be true of angels as well as men that they continually change, and that in this lies much of their happiness. They must be continually advancing in knowledge of God, and with every step in this knowledge there must be increase of happiness. It is their happiness to know God, to contemplate His perfections, as well as to execute His will. The more, therefore, they know, the greater must be their blessedness. This is one grand point of distinction between the Infinite and the finite. God is for ever the same, but creatures, the highest and the noblest, must be for ever under change, because for ever in progress; and we know of no contemplation more august than that of all finite beings advancing throughout eternity in knowledge, whilst the Infinite remains the same, as far off as ever from being overtaken; it is an amazing thought, that an archangel, with the finest equipment of powers ever given to a creature, may be continually increasing in knowledge and happiness for myriads and myriads of ages, and yet not diminish, by any perceptible difference, the distance between him and his Maker. God is the same in everything, and, therefore, the same in that unapproachable magnificence which is essentially His characteristic.

We need not limit the application of our text to the present state of being, inasmuch as a progressive state is always ours, in common with higher and better orders of intelligence. The verse, however, affords a forcible illustration, if the course of the righteous be considered as terminated by death. We have, therefore, two separate topics on which to address you, accordingly as we apply our text to this life or to the next.

I. Now let us begin by pointing out a sense in which we believe our text holds good, though it may not be the most striking and important.—There is, we are persuaded, a power in religious consistency of overcoming prejudice, which, sooner or later, is almost sure to make itself felt. A great deal of the opposition with which religion is met may justly be charged on the inconsistencies of its professors.

II. We go on to observe, that from the beginning to the end of the righteous man’s life there is a growth in spiritual things; there is never a point at which he may determine to remain stationary, as though there were no higher point towards which it were his business to stretch. Our only perfection is to be continually aiming at perfection; and it were to prove ourselves ignorant of first principles to suppose that we had reached a height at which the soul might stop with complacency, instead of pluming herself for a loftier flight.

III. Now we might easily continue this species of illustration by reference to other Christian graces.—There is not one of these graces concerning which we might not show that it is necessarily progressive, for the whole genius of our religion is against the possibility of our being stationary, in regard to anything which it enjoins. It were not difficult to prove, that not to advance is to go back. Christian men and Christian women, be not ye deceived. If ye be doers of the word and not hearers only, ye must grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Try yourselves by this test; compare yourselves with what ye were in former days. Ye cannot stand where ye are. The Christian’s course is against the wind: if he have not proceeded he must have been driven back. Alas, for that Christianity which is satisfied with itself, which thinks that it has done enough, made enough of sacrifice, gone far enough in piety!

—Canon Melvill.


‘The righteous shall hold on his way. Darkness and misunderstanding may hem him in, but, if only he will keep his hands clean and maintain his integrity, he shall wax stronger and stronger. The darkness shall pass and the sun shine again. There are times in all lives when our only method is to take one step at a time, as God shall indicate His will, doing right because it is right. Sometimes the height of virtue and of faith is just to hold on; having done all things we can but stand.’


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Job 17:4". Church Pulpit Commentary. 1876.

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