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damnation ; yet, if we look to it as over-ruled by infinite wisdom, and tempered by Christ, who is the wisdom of God, and the power of God, it works for good: even as a skilful physician tempers poison, and makes it medicinal and operative for good. Thus the sin of the first Adam made way for the righteousness of the second Adam; in this respect, the greatest evil wrought for the greatest good. It is part of the wisdom of God in a mystery, that he can bring good out of evil, light out of darkness, and life out of death. Indeed, sin, of itself, works no spiritual good, it works shame and sorrow, terror and torment; and they that can encourage themselves in sin by this argument, " Sin as we will, “it will work for our good,” they never shared of the good promised in this text; for the principal good that all things work for them that love God, is to make them hate sin: and to do evil, that good may come, is to make our damnation just, Rom. iïi. 8. It is only corrupt nature that can abuse this doctrine thus; for, whereever true grace is, it will make the sweetest use, to the encouragement of holiness, and the discouragement of sin? because when God so wisely orders that his people get good occasionally of their sins and falls, as when thereby sin becomes more bitter to them, and Christ more precious, and themselves more humble and watch, ful, nothing in the world puts a sharper edge upon their hatred and opposition to sin than this doth. In this respect we may say, better is the sin that makes us bumble and watchful, than the duty that makes us proud and secure: but, to go on in sin, because God can bring good out of it, is as wicked and atheistical, as if one should go to the devil, because God can bring good out of his temptations.
Sin itself will work for good to them that love God: observe what I say; I would not for all the world say, that sin would work for good to them that love sin, and live in sin; but I can say, before all the world, that it will work for good to them that love God, and hate sin. It will work for good to them that hate it, and hate themselves because of it: it will work for good to then that love God, and loath themselves for sin: it will work for good to them that are humbled for it, and to them that fly to Christ to be saved from it, and that dare not, for a world, allow themselves in the least sin; it will work for good to them that fight against it, and pray against it, and who, though they must own, with David, That iniquities prevail against them; yet they are in arms against it; and, because they know their own weakness, therefore they set the word of God, the sword of the Spirit against it; they set the blood of Christ against it, and the power of God against it: they call in the help of Heaven against it. Why, they love God, and hate sin ; and therefore, “ All things shall work together for their good.” • He that hath ears to hear, let him hear:" if a naughty, reprobate world will stumble, there is no help for it. It is matter of comfort that the election shall obtain ; and the text speaks of these : “ All things shall work together for good to them that love God, and are the CALLED according to his purpose.”
2. Satan, and all his temptations and suggestions, work together for good to God's children ; for, “ God knows how to deliver the godly out of temptation, 2 Pet. ii. 9. God would never have let the serpent bite their heel, if he had not designed to break his head, and to bruise him under their feet. All that the devil and his instruments can do, will work for their good. They may plot, contrive, reproach, persecute, imprison, banish, yea, and take away our lives, and yet all shall work for good; because “ The son of God is manifested to destroy the works of the devil ;" both his in-works of deceit, and his out-works of violence.
3. All their wants and weaknesses work for their good, 2 Cor. xii. 9. From their wants, he takes occasion to magnify his sufficiency; and from their weakness to magnify his power: “
My grace shall be sufficient for thee, and my strength shall be perfected in thy weakness. Most gladly therefore, says the apostle, will I glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me."
4. All their inward trials work for their good, even those that issue from the Lord's hiding and withdraw
ing himself ; whether, in point of grace, withholding the influences of his Spirit : or in point of comfort denying the light of his countenance, Isa. liv. 7, 8. He frowns a little that his after-smiles may do them the more good when they get them. He orders their momentary, short-lasting desertion, for heightening the price of his everlasting comforts : his design of leaving Zion to say, “ The Lord hath forsaken me, my God hath forgotten me,” is that he may take occasion to hug and caress them the more kindly in his bosom, as a mother doth her child ; " Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee,” Isa. xlix. 15. Again,
5. All their outward trials and afflictions work for their good; whether those that are punitive for correcting their faults; or those that are probative, for trying their graces; in the issue they will still have occasion to say with David, Psal. cxix. 71. “It is good for me that I have been afflicted." Why, physic is sometimes as good as food; yea, and more necessary many times, however uneasy it may be : “ You only have I known of all the families of the earth : therefore will I punish you
for your iniquities.” It is as good for a child of God to be punished, as it is for a young tree to be pruned, John xv. 2.; yea, the pressure of affliction may press out the fragrant smell of their graces.
6. All their sufferings, for the cause of Christ, work for good, Phil. i. 12. 19. This turns to the furtherince of the gospel, and to their salvation. They need not grudge any reproach or persecution they meet with for the truths of the gospel, and for their love to Christ; nor any loss they sustain, of name, credit, or profit, in this cause, for it is to be repaid; even here a hundred fold, and bereafter a thousand thousand fold. This is the particular the apostle seems especially to point at in the context, ver. 17, 18. “ If we suffer with him, we shall also be glorified together. And, “ The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us.” However, this particular is so included, as that nothing else is exclud.
ed; for, “ All things shall work together for their good.” All things in the world, good or bad, shall work for their good ; all things past, present, or to come; the past decrees of God, the present dispensations of God, and the future accomplishment of the purposes of God. All things in heaven, earth, and hell; all the mercies of heaven, all the malignities of earth, and all the malice of hell, shall work for their good. Let Joseph's brethren, moved with envy, cast him into a pit, or sell him into Egypt; let Potiphar thrust him into a filthy prison ; yet the wisdom of God comes into the game, and turns all about to a glorious and beautiful issue, to the exaltation of Joseph, and the preservation of thousands alive in famine. What though Mordecai suffer, and Haman reign and insult for a while ? Infinite Wisdom holds the balance of providence in her hand, and will soon turn the scale. Thus I have hinted at a few of these All things that shall work together for good. But now the question is,
II. What is that Good that all things shall work for? that they who love God may know what they are to look for. Here, as on the preceding head, we shall take both a negative and positive view of the matter.
1st, Let us view it negatively. They are not to expect that all things that befal them, shall work for their temporal good and prosperity in the world. Sometimes, indeed, this good takes place, as Joseph said to his brethren, Gen. 1. 20. “ Ye thought evil against me, but God meant it unto good.” And as it was with the Israelites, Exod. i. 12. “ The more the Egyptians af. flicted them, the more they multiplied and grew.” Of this good the text may be understood : but it is not always to be expected : because, external prosperity is not always good for the people of God. Neither are they to expect that all things should work to this good of absolute exemption from the inbeing of sin, while they are here. God sees it good and fit that they live by faith, in the daily improvement of Christ, for purging away their sin.--Nor are they to expect that all things shall work for their absolute freedom from . losses and crosses in the world; because it is not good
for us to be without them; and they are part of these things that work for their good. Nor are they to ex. pect that every thing should work for the good that they have in view: but for the good that God hath in view, whose thoughts are infinitely higher than our thoughts. But then,
2dly, Let us consider the point positively. They may expect that all things shall work together for their spiritual good, and eternal welfare. We would incline to hranch this out in a few particulars.
1. All things shall work together for furthering their knowledge of, and acquaintance with God in Christ; and surely this is a notable good ; “ This is life eternal, to know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ; whom thou hast sent," John xvii. 3. Now, all things shall contribute to make the saints know more and more of the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the world unto our glory; " But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the world to our glory, 1 Cor. ii. 7. And to make all men see, what is the fellowship of the mystery, which, from the beginning of the world, hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ; to the intent that now, unto the principalities and powers, in heavenly places, might be known, by the church, the manifold wisdom of God," Eph. iii. 9, 10. That, with the apostle, Rom. xi. 33. they may stand at the side of this ocean, and cry out, “O! the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!” And that, by all things, they may come to know more of the power, holiness, justice, truth, goodness, and glory of God in Christ. We use to say, “ Experience teaches fools.” Surely there is not an experienced saint, but will find, that by all the good things and bad things he hath been trysted with, by all the various vicissitudes and changes of providence, he hath come to see more of God than he saw before.
2. All things shall work together for their participation of the image of God, in a greater degree; and