Here Job shows, 1. What a great way the wit of man may go in diving into the depths of nature and seizing the riches of it, what a great deal of knowledge and wealth men may, by their ingenious and industrious searches, make themselves masters of. But does it therefore follow that men may, by their wit, comprehend the reasons why some wicked people prosper and others are punished, why some good people prosper and others are afflicted? No, by no means. The caverns of the earth may be discovered, but not the counsels of heaven. 2. What a great deal of care and pains worldly men take to get riches. He had observed concerning the wicked man (Job 27:16) that he heaped up silver as the dust; now here he shows whence that silver came which he was so fond of and how it was obtained, to show what little reason wicked rich men have to be proud of their wealth and pomp. Observe here,
I. The wealth of this world is hidden in the earth. Thence the silver and the gold, which afterwards they refine, are fetched, Job 28:1. There they lay mixed with a great deal of dirt and dross, like a worthless thing, of no more account than common earth; and abundance of them will so lie neglected, till the earth and all the works therein shall be burnt up. Holy Mr. Herbert, in his poem called Avarice, takes notice of this, to shame men out of the love of money:—
Money, thou bane of bliss, thou source of woe, Whence com’st thou, that thou art so fresh and fine? I know thy parentage is base and low; Man found thee poor and dirty in a mine. Surely thou didst so little contribute To this great kingdom which thou now hast got That he was fain, when thou wast destitute, To dig thee out of thy dark cave and grot. Man calleth thee his wealth, who made thee rich, And while he digs out thee falls in the ditch. Iron and brass, less costly but more serviceable metals, are taken out of the earth (Job 28:2), and are there found in great abundance, which abates their price indeed, but is a great kindness to man, who could much better be without gold than without iron. Nay, out of the earth comes bread, that is, bread-corn, the necessary support of life, Job 28:5. Thence man’s maintenance is fetched, to remind him of his own original; he is of the earth, and is hastening to the earth. Under it is turned up as it were fire, precious stones, that sparkle as fire—brimstone, that is apt to take fire—coal, that is proper to feed fire. As we have our food, so we have our fuel, out of the earth. There the sapphires and other gems are, and thence gold-dust is digged up;, Job 28:6. The wisdom of the Creator has placed these things, 1. Out of our sight, to teach us not to set our eyes upon them, Prov. 23:5. 2. Under our feet, to teach us not to lay them in our bosoms, nor to set our hearts upon them, but to trample upon them with a holy contempt. See how full the earth is of God’s riches (Ps. 104:24) and infer thence, not only how great a God he is whose the earth is and the fulness thereof (Ps. 24:1), but how full heaven must needs be of God’s riches, which is the city of the great King, in comparison with which this earth is a poor country.
II. The wealth that is hidden in the earth cannot be obtained but with a great deal of difficulty. 1. It is hard to be found out: there is but here and there a vein for the silver, Job 28:1. The precious stones, though bright themselves, yet, because buried in obscurity and out of sight, are called stones of darkness and the shadow of death. Men may search long before they light on them. 2. When found out it is hard to be fetched out. Men’s wits must be set on work to contrive ways and means to get this hidden treasure into their hands. They must with their lamps set an end to darkness; and if one expedient miscarry, one method fail, they must try another, till they have searched out all perfection, and turned every stone to effect it, Job 28:3. They must grapple with subterraneous waters (Job 28:4, 10, 11), and force their way through rocks which are, as it were, the roots of the mountains, Job 28:9. Now God has made the getting of gold, and silver, and precious stones, so difficult, (1.) For the exciting and engaging of industry. Dii laboribus omnia vendunt—Labour is the price which the gods affix to all things. If valuable things were too easily obtained men would never learn to take pains. But the difficulty of gaining the riches of this earth may suggest to us what violence the kingdom of heaven suffers. (2.) For the checking and restraining of pomp and luxury. What is for necessity is had with a little labour from the surface of the earth; but what is for ornament must be dug with a great deal of pains out of the bowels of it. To be fed is cheap, but to be fine is chargeable.
III. Though the subterraneous wealth is thus hard to obtain, yet men will have it. He that loves silver is not satisfied with silver, and yet is not satisfied without it; but those that have much must needs have more. See here, 1. What inventions men have to get this wealth. They search out all perfection, Job 28:3. They have arts and engines to dry up the waters, and carry them off, when they break in upon them in their mines and threaten to drown the work, Job 28:4. They have pumps, and pipes, and canals, to clear their way, and, obstacles being removed, they tread the path which no fowl knoweth (Job 28:7, 8), unseen by the vulture’s eye, which is piercing and quick-sighted, and untrodden by the lion’s whelps, which traverse all the paths of the wilderness. 2. What pains men take, and what vast charge they are at, to get this wealth. They work their way through the rocks and undermine the mountains, Job 28:10. 3. What hazards they run. Those that dig in the mines have their lives in their hands; for they are obliged to bind the floods from overflowing (Job 28:11), and are continually in danger of being suffocated by damps or crushed or buried alive by the fall of the earth upon them. See how foolish man adds to his own burden. He is sentenced to eat bread in the sweat of his face; but, as if that were not enough, he will get gold and silver at the peril of his life, though the more is gotten the less valuable it is. In Solomon’s time silver was as stones. But, 4. Observe what it is that carries men through all this toil and peril: Their eye sees every precious thing, Job 28:10. Silver and gold are precious things with them, and they have them in their eye in all these pursuits. They fancy they see them glittering before their faces, and, in the prospect of laying hold of them, they make nothing of all these difficulties; for they make something of their toil at last: That which is hidden bringeth he forth to light, Job 28:11. What was hidden under ground is laid upon the bank; the metal that was hidden in the ore is refined from its dross and brought forth pure out of the furnace; and then he thinks his pains well bestowed. Go to the miners then, thou sluggard in religion; consider their ways, and be wise. Let their courage, diligence, and constancy in seeking the wealth that perisheth shame us out of slothfulness and faint-heartedness in labouring for the true riches. How much better is it to get wisdom than gold! How much easier and safer! Yet gold is sought for, but grace neglected. Will the hopes of precious things out of the earth (so they call them, though really they are paltry and perishing) be such a spur to industry, and shall not the certain prospect of truly precious things in heaven be much more so?