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Evil things overruled for good.

SERMON XX.

Rom. viii. 28.

We know that all things work together for good to them

that love God, to them who are called uccording to

his purpose.

The things which an apostle had to deliver were not mere matters of opinion, or of doubtful disputation, but of absolute certainty. Primitive christians received the word in the boly Spirit, and in much assurance; and in this manner primitive preachers delivered it. We know, said Paul, “that all things work together for good :" we are confirmed in this important truth, and wish others to be so too. We know il by divine revelation : it is what the scriplures abundantly testify. We know it by immediate inspiration; for we also have the Spirit of God, and are under bis special influence. We know it by experience and observation : “that which we have tasted and handled of the word of life, declare we unto you." In this truth all the saints in heaven and on earth are agreed. It is appointed of God that all things shall work together for good lo them that love him, and his counsel shall stand. It is promised, and he will not alter the thing that is gone out of his mouth. What unerring wisdom ordains, almighty power will accomplish. Such also is the love which God bears

to his people, and such his concern for their welfare, that he will make all things subservient to their salvation.

1. Attend to the description given of true belierers: they are such as “love God," and are “called according to his purpose.”

1. They are such as love God. Carnal men love the world, and the things that are in the world : but christians love God, and savour of the things that are of God. He is the first object of their esteem, and all his perfections appear to them infinitely amiable. Their hearts exclaim, “How great is his goodness, and bow great is his beauty!” They love him with complacency and delight, rejoicing in wbat he is in himself, and what he is to them. All their confidence is in them, and all their happiness is derived from him. "Whom have I in heaven but thee; and there is none on earth that I desire besides thee." His presence supplies the place of every eartbly good, and they are happy in him when they have nothing else to make them so. Although the fig-tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vine; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls : yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.” They are concerned for his glory, and derive their best enjoyments from the prosperity of his cause and interest in the world. “Glorious things are spoken of thee, oh city of God-all my springs are in thee.” The Lord's people are possessed of humility and fear, faith and hope; but love is that by which they are distinguished. This is often discernible, when other graces are not so, and is mentioned as having the preeminence above the rest. “Now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” Love is the life of all the graces, and the soul of all religion. It is this that influences the conduct, forms the character, and renders our obedience pleasant and acceptable. This it is that makes us to resemble the Saviour, that fits us for his will on earth, and the enjoyment of him in heaven. Psal. lxxiji. . 25. Hab. iii. 17, 18. 1 Cor. xiii. 13.

2. They are called according to his purpose. This is expressive of the change wrought upon the soul in regeneration, whereby the calls of the gospel are rendered effectual. “ Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power.”—Three things are implied. (1.) That this call is under the special direction of God, being " according to his purpose.” Many are called by the gospel, and but few chosen : those only obey the call whose hearts are subdued by divine grace. It is the purpose of God that secures oor salvation; and but for this, none would be brought to believe and receive the truth.-(2.) That when God calls a sinper he does it effectually: it is easy to him whose work it is. Herein he acts as a Sovereign, whose will cannot be resisted or controlled, while he deals with us as reasonable creatures. He that calls men out of their graves can easily call them off from their sins. When he passes by the singer, and beholds him in his blood, he saith unto him, Live; and straightway he is quickened, who before was dead in trespasses and sins. “ And who, as I shall call, and shall declare it, and set it in order?". The power that made the world can change the heart, and that power alone is sufficient for so great a work.-(3.) This call implies that the sinner was once afar off, but is now made nigh: he is turned from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God. Once he was deaf to the voice of conscience and of God: now he is made to hear and obey. He is brought from bondage into liberty; from serving idols, to serve the living and the true God. His language now is, “Oh Lord our God,

other lords besides thee have had dominion over us; but by thee only will we make mention of thy name." May those who have thus been distinguished by divine grace be concerned to walk worthy of God, who hath called thein to his kingdom and glory! Isai. xxvi. 13. xliv. 7. 1 Thess. ii. 12.

II. Consider the peculiar privilege of such as love God and are called according to his purpose : “All things work together for their good.”

1. Let us observe wbat things are here intended. The believer has an interest in all good things, and these we are sure will turn to his advantage. Spirilual blessings are good in themselves, and cannot but be so in their tendency and effects: to be blessed with them is to be blessed indeed. But the apostle is not speaking of good things, but of evil things, which in their own nature tended to injure and annoy. Hence he asks,“ Who shall separate us from the love of Christ ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword ? Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors, through him that loved us.” Evil things therefore, by the overruling providence and grace of God, shall be productive of good to his people. Among these we may notice the following:

(1.) All the plots and contrivances of their enemies, however artfully formed or execuled. The Lord very often takes the cunning in their own craftiness, and carries the counsels of the froward headlong; and if not, he will make them subservient to some gracious purpose, and that which was aimed at the destruction of the church shall contribute to its greater glory. The more the waters were encreased the higher the ark was lifted up, and the Hebrew worthies were never had in such high esteem as when they had passed through the fiery trial uninjured and

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undismayed. The arrow which does not retort upon him that shoots it, shall only wound and open the imposthume which mnight otherwise have proved fatal.

(2.) All the evils and stratagems of Salan to ruin and destroy, shall be overruled for good. He can do no more than what God permits him: bis power shall be bounded, and his wrath restrained. eth about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour, but there are some whom he shall not devour; and if he frighten the sheep, it shall bring them nearer to the shepherd. The wounding of Christ's beel shall be the bruising of the serpent's head. Tempfation shall excite caution, and lead to more imporTonate prayer. Furious assaults shall stir up to vigorous resistance, and the irritating of corruption shall issue in its mortification. The shaking of the tree shall make it take deeper root, and the pruning of it make it more fruitful. Satan's accusations against Job lended to illustrate and establish his integrity: “When I am tried,” says he, “ I shall come forth as gold." His resisting of Joshua the high priest procured bim a royal vesture, and renewed discoveries of pardoning love. The messenger which he sent to buffet Paul drew forth the compassion of his divine Master, and gained him a promise which should be his comfort and support through lise : “My grace is sufficient for thee: my strength is made perfect in weakness." It brought God nearer lo him, and drove him nearer to God.

(3.) The withdrawment of spiritual comfort and the hidings of God's face shall terminate in the good of them that love him. A state of desertion is very distressing to the soul; but in the end it is often found profitable. The Lord leaves us that we may not leave him: he forsakes us for a time that he may not forsake us for ever. Hereby he makes sin odious, and creature comforts tasteless, that heaven may become ,

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