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more desirable. The want of his presence here makes us long for his presence above. Inward distress lends to rouze us from a state of spiritual sloth, quieken us to the duty of self-examination, and prepare us for future consolations; so that when enjoyed, we value them more highly, and preserve them more carefully. When the Spouse found her Beloved, who had withdrawn himself, she “held bim fast, and would not let him go."
(4.) All manner of afflictioits, whether ordinary or otherwise, shall be overruled for good. Pain and sickness, worldly losses and disappointments, the unkindness of friends and the opposition of enemies, shall all be overruled by a wise and holy providence. One messenger after another may come with evil tidings, as in the case of Job; deep may call unto deep, at the noise of the water-spouts, as in the case of David; but however great and manisold may be the sufferings of the saints, they shall all turn to their advantage at last. Where there is a casting down there sball also be a lifting up, and God will save the humble person. Alictions are as needful as ordinances, and are sometimes more profitable. He who said, “ It is good for me to draw near to God,” said also, “ It is good for me that I have been afficked.” Paul's lhorn in the flesha was more useful to him than his rapture into the third heavens. The one had like to have exalted him above measure, the other humbled him : the one left him at a loss whether he was in the body or out of the body, but the other convinced him that he was still in the flesh, and in a state of affliction and infirmity. Next to the Saviour himself there is nothing we have more reason to be thankful for than affliction.
(5.) Death itself, of whatsoever kind it may be, is the christian's gain. “For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are counted as sheep for the slaughter,” said the apostle. Then it is added, "Nay, VOL. III.
in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.” (ver. 36, 37.) Death releases the christian from all his sins and sorrows: at that fatal hoar he exchanges labour for rest, a painful warfare for a complete victory, sighs for songs, and earth for heaven. Death is a dark valley, but it leads to the realms of light and glory. The divine presence supports us in the prospect of death, and the hope of fully enjoying it enables us to triumph over it. Psal. xxiii. 4. I Cor. xv. 56.
I have not mentioned moral evil as among the things which work for good, as the apostle does not appear to have had any reference to it, but to those natural evils which are common to all believers, and which are noticed in different parts of this chapter. It is true indeed that God may and often does overrule even the sins of his people for their good; but as this is not within the compass of the promise, so it is more than in ordinary cases we are warranted to expect. The spirit wounded for sin is often made more watchful against it; and the saints when recoyered from their falls are known to walk more circumspectly, and become more useful. But the nature of sin itself is evil, only evil, and its natural consequence is wrath. It injures the body, filling it with various diseases, and uofits it for the service of God. It defiles, debases and injures the soul. It weakens our graces, darkens our evidences, deprives us of comfort, adds a sharpness to all our sorrows, and if it do not shut us oui of beaven, it will make us go mouroing to the very gates of it.
2. Notice in what wanner all things are productive of good to them that love God, and who are called according to bis purpose. They are said to "work together” for this purpose. All things are at work, and the result of all shall be the good of God's chos. en. Sometimes they issue in their lemporal good. The more the children of Israel were oppressed, the
more they grew and multiplied. If not for their tenporal good, yet all shall lead to their spiritual advantage, producing the peaceable fruits of righteousness. And not only so, but their eternal good shall be promoted by all the evils they are called to endure in the present life.
“Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” (2 Cor. iv. 17.)- More particularly,
(1.) Things do not work together for our good by any inherent or physical efficacy, but by virtue of a divine appointment and designation. The rough and irregular motions of the wheels are guided by infinite wisdom, for they are said to be full of eyes round about. God sometimes works by second causes, and sometimes without them. He avails himself of the pride and ambition of the great as means of delivering his people, though they mean not so, neither do their hearts think so. Men have their ends in view, and God has bis : they gratify their malice and ambition, and he accomplishes the purposes of his grace. “ Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee, and the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain." The earth shall help the woman, and the dissemination of error eventually contribute to the spread of truth. Psal. lxxvi. 10. Phil. i. 19.
(2.) Not always visibly, though really. Jacob said, “ All these things are against me;" but it was not so.
It is the glory of God to conceal a thing; and the more obscurity attends the object, the greater is the excellency of faith. “ Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet bave believed.” We must follow the Lord as Abraham did, not knowing whither he will lead us. Confiding in bis wisdom and goodness, we shall find light to arise in the darkness, and that uncommon perplexities are the forerunners of the most wonderful salvations,
(3.) Not immediately, but eventually. In Abraham's: vision the smoaking furnace went before the burning lamp: one indicaied the sorrows and sufferings of the choreh, and the other their happy issue. Job's trials were very uncommon, and his faith was su staggered by then that he said, “ Behold, he findeth occasions against me; he counteth me for his enemy:" yet bis latier end was better than his beginning. When God brings us forth to the light, we behold his righteousness, adunire his wisdom, and are ashamed of our folly. Subsequent providences tend to explain preceding ones, and we afterwards see the kind and gracious design of those events which to os appeared the most adverse. Gen. xv. 17. Job xxxiii. 10. Psal. Ixxiii. 22.
(4.) Not apart, but in conjunction: all things “ work together” for good. It is not one single event that produces the desired effect, but all the providences of God in connection with each other, like the different parts of a machine which is at work for one great end. - All second causes are under the direction of the great first Cause. That wbich in itself might be pernicious, when inixed with other ingredients becomes medicinal and salutary. The strings of a musical instrument, if struck in their proper order, yield an agreeable barinony, and the various movements in a complicated piece of machinery complete the design of the artist : but if one string of the instrument be broke, or one movement of llie machine be out of order, neither of them will answer the appointed end. We are often perplexed by viewing only a detached part of the great whole, so that instead of symmetry and order, we see nothing but discord and confusion. A complete view of the whole system would excite our admiration, and 611 ' us with the most agreeable surprise. This will be the
bappiness of the saints in a better world; and what we know not now we shall know hereafter. We shall then see as we are seen, and know as we are known; and be fully assured that “all the paths of the Lord are merey and truth unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies.”, Psal. xxv. 10.
1. If all things work together for good, let this be an antidote against impatience and unbelief, Did we but fully credit this important truth, how easy and happy would it make us in every condition. It was this which taught Paul how to be abased, and how to abound; to be full and to be hungry, both lo abound and to suffer need. No situation in life could distress him overmuch, for he knew that however it might fare with him by the way, it would be well with him at last. When providences are dark and intricate, we should wait the issue, to see the end of the Lord. Amidst all our present troubles and infirmities, there is something beller behind. When that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be.
2. What encouragement is here to true religion ! “Godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is lo come.” The cross is the worst part of religion, and yet even this is beller than the best of this world. It is better to suffer with Christ, if we can but suffer like him, than to reign with Cesar. If we be chastened of the Lord, it is thal we may not be condemned with the world. If we have but little peace by the way, we shall have it at last : “Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright; for the end of that man is peace.” Psal. xxxvii. 37.
3. If all things work together for good to them that love God, it is to them only, and it will be otherwise with them that love him not. If we be his enemies, all things will work together against us, and