"If I justify myself, mine own mouth shall condemn me."-Job 9:20.
"It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth?"-Romans 8:33-34.
The great question for this human race to answer has ever been this, "How can man be just with God?" It is clear to every conscience that is at all awake that the thrice-holy God demands obedience to His law, and that disobedience to the divine law will certainly entail punishment. Hence the grand essential for each one of us is to be right towards God,-to be accounted just even at His judgment-bar. This is a most important matter at all times, but it appears to increase in importance as we advance in years, and get nearer to that great testing time when the Lord shall put everyone into His unerring balances, to weigh him, and so to prove what he really is. Woe unto the man who shall stand before the bar of God unjustified; but happy shall he be who, in that last dread day, shall be approved and accepted by the Judge of all the earth.
I am going to speak about the way in which we are justified in the sight of God, and I have taken two texts because so many people seem to have thought that there are two ways by which sinners can be justified before God. The first way that I shall describe is the false one, the second is the true way; the first is that which is mentioned by Job, the way of self-justification, of which it may be truly said that it is self-condemning instead of self-justifying. The second mode of justification is the one that is ordained by God, and of that it may be rightly said that it never can be condemned. It challenges heaven and earth and hell in those grand words which I have just read to you, "It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth?"
I. First, for a few minutes, let us consider THE SELF-JUSTIFICATION OF WHICH JOB SPEAKS: "If I justify myself, mine own mouth shall condemn me" Job 9:20.
I call to your remembrance the fact that it is Job who speaks thus, because, if there ever was a man, in this world, who might have been justified before God by his own works, it was Job. Did not the Lord Himself say of him to Satan, "There is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil" Job 1:8; 2:3? Yet, so far was Job from imagining that he had attained a sinless condition, that he here declares concerning himself, "If I say, I am perfect, it shall also prove me perverse. Though I were perfect, yet would I not know my soul: I would despise my life" Job 9:20. In addition, to Job's excellence of character, he paid devout attention, to religious observances. When his children met together for feasting, he offered special sacrifices on their behalf, saying, "It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts" Job 1:5. Job was evidently as devout towards God as he was upright towards man; yet, you see, he tells us that, if he were to justify himself, his own mouth would condemn him. Further, as if to show us how notable Job was in all respects, he had, in addition to his excellent character, and his devotional spirit, most remarkable afflictions; but, putting together all his good works, all his religious observances, and all his afflictions, he says, "If I justify myself, mine own mouth shall condemn me." Job, at any rate, was not one of those who have imagined that they could work out a righteousness of their own which could be acceptable in the sight of God.
Let us try to find out what he meant when he said, "If I justify myself, mine own mouth shall condemn me" Job 9:20. I think he meant, first, that it would not be true. He could not, and dare not say that he was just before God; it would be a lie for him to stand up before the Lord, and say, "Great God, I deserve commendation at thy hands, for in me is found true righteousness." Instead of talking like that, Job says, "If I were to say that, my own mouth would contradict me while I was trying to say it. I could not say it; I dare not say it." I hope there are many here who feel that, to talk about any righteousness of their own, would be utterly absurd. If I were to attempt to justify myself before God, I should have to belie my conscience, my self-knowledge, and my whole being. Whatever anyone else may think or say, I know that I must be saved by the grace of God, or else that I shall never be saved at all. I have not done a single good work in which I cannot see any faults,-not one solitary thing which I cannot perceive to be marred and stained, and, like a vessel spoiled even while it is on the potter's wheel, not fit to be presented before God at all. That is what Job meant when he said, "If I justify myself, mine own mouth shall condemn me."
But he meant, next, that his words themselves would be sufficient to condemn him. I know that I am addressing a large number of persons whose lives are apparently blameless. The most observant critic here would be unable to bring any very grave or serious charge against you; and yet, my dear friend, if you were to try to justify yourself before God, your words themselves would be enough to condemn you, for what sort of words do you use? I do not suppose that you use profane words; I will not imagine that you take the name of God in vain; though, alas! that is a sin that is not at all uncommon. But do you not often utter proud, boastful words? Do you not often speak in a very lofty way concerning yourselves and your own doings? Do we not all use far too many light and trifling words,-not merely such as