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surely this is good; and it is brought about by the promises of God, 2 Pet. i. 4. By those we are said to be partakers of the divine nature: and also, by the providences of God, particularly trying ones; “He chastens us for our profit, that we may be partakers of his holiness," Heb. xii. 10.
3. All things shall work for their further purification: they shall purge out some particular lust and corruption; “ By this shall the iniquity of Jacob be purged: and this is all the fruit, to take away his sin ;" Isa. xxvii. 9. This is a desirable good, whatever be the dispensation that contributes to that end.
4. All things shall work together for furthering their communion and fellowship with him ; whatever they have heard, or seen, or felt of the word of God, or of the rod of God, contributes to this good end :- Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Christ Jesus," 1. John i. 3. We can go to God boldly by the blood of Jesus: and communicate the very secret of our souls to him, and find him communicating the secrets of his covenant to us.
5. All things work together for their further humiliation : and this is good indeed ; "He led thee through the great and terrible wilderness, wherein there were fiery serpents, and scorpions, and drought; wherein there was no water;" there is a sum of the evil things that befel them; but it follows, “ He brought thee forth water out of the rock of flint; he fed you in the wilderness with manna, that your fathers knew not:'' there is a sum of the good things that befel them : well, but what was the end and design of all these things? Why, it follows, “
“ That he might humble thee, and prove thee, to do thee good in thy latter end;" Deut. viii: 15, 16. It is good to be humbled and have low thoughts of ourselves: we are apt to say in pros. perity, Our mountain stands strong, and we shall never be moved: we think, with Peter, that we are able to suffer with Christ, and to do great things for him: or with Zebedee's children, that we are able to reign with Christ': but we need to be humbled and proved, that we may know what we are. .
6. All things work together for their further consolation: and this is a desirable good : God doth, with all that befals them, convey some joys and comforts of his Spirit, whether he bring them to the mountain or to the wilderness : this good end shall be reached in the Lord's time. · When he brings them to his holy moun. tain, then he makes them joyful in his house of prayer, Isa. lvi. 7. When he brings them to the wilderness, then he speaks comfortably to them, Hosea ji. 4. Yea, he even gives them the valley of Achor for a door of hope, and makes them sing there : and as their sufferings abound, makes their consolation abound, 2 Cor. i. 4,5.
7. All things work together for their good, even for furthering their life of faith, that they may know more what it is to live by faith on the Son of God, Gal. ii. 20. If sensible enjoyment were always allowed to beJievers here, in their present circumstances, they would be ready to surfeit on their provision; therefore, with their sweet meals, the Lord orders some sour sauce for helping their digestion, in order that they may live, not by sense, but by faith : in prosperity we talk of living by faith, and darken counsel many times with words without knowledge ; but in adversity, we come to have the practical knowledge of what it is to live by faith. And, indeed, that is a happy and blessed dispensation that tends to the rooting of a soul further in a crucified Christ, and to a living upon a promise, when there is no visible prop in all the world to lean to: this is cleanly believing.
8. All things work together for furthering their submission to the will of God, and holy contentinent in every case, that they may learn with Paul, Phil. iv. 11, 12. in every state to be content; and know how to be abased, and how to abound: and to say, “ I can do all things through Christ strengthening me." I can wel. come reproach, as well as honour and esteem ; a prison as well as a palace; a hard stone for my bolster-piece, as well as a soft pillow : though I praise, as well as others, and bless the Lord for comfortable accommodations, and favourable dispensations, when God allows them; yet, if he deny them, I am content: “ Shall we
receive good things at the hand of the Lord, and not receive evil ?” Osirs, how good is it to get this disposition wrought ?
9. All things work together for furthering their spirituality, for weaning their hearts from the world, and elevating their affections heavenwards, so as they inay have less of the spirit of the world, and more of the Spirit of Christ dwelling in their hearts : 1 Pet. iv. 14. “ Think not strange concerning the fiery trial, which shall try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the Spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you. Even the glorious Spirit of God, comforting and supporting you with the hope of the glory to be revealed. O! what a good thing is this to have the good Spirit of God, the glorious Spirit of God? Though a spirit of reproach be without you; yet the Spirit of glory and triumph within, will make amends. And, O what a good work is it, when all things work for putting out a base, carnal, worldly spirit, and for bringing in a more of a glorious and heavenly Spirit ?
10. All things work together for furthering their preparation for heaven : nothing shall hinder, but rather further their course towards heaven. As all trying dispensations of providence work for their having more of the Spirit, of which our apostle speaks in the preceding context; so, they work for hastening their progress towards heaven, and can be no hinderance but a furtherance to it; as appears from the apostle's triumphant language in the following context, towards the close of the chapter, ver. 35,--39. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword ? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors, through him that loved us : for, I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ
Jesus our Lord.” Man's frowns may occasion God's smiles ; losses of worldly goods may make up your heavenly treasures: “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.
In a word, as there would be no end of speaking of all things that work together for good to them: so, there is no end of speaking of all the good which all things work in their behalf. The God that hath all things at his command, sets all things a-working for them : and makes even the worst things contribute to the best advantage. Herod and Pilate, Jews and Gentiles, combined to crucify Christ, “ The Lord of glory,” Acts ii. 23. Here is the worst thing that ever was done: but, behold the act of free grace and deep wisdom in God! that made this work to be the greatest good that
We have a sample of all other things work-. ing for good to God's people, even the rage and fury of men and devils, contrary to their designs, working for their happiness; and death itself, contrary to its nature, working for their eternal life.
Ill. The third thing proposed in the general method, was, To shew what we are to understand by their working and working together for good. This points out the harmonious influence that all things have upon the production of this good. How can all things, even the worst of things work for good ? “ Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles ?”
ist, In general, all things are in GOD's hand, who is the powerful agent, who works by these means; they cannot work of themselves without God. They seem rather to work the ruin of God's people than their happiness and good; but God's infinite wisdom and omni, potent arm can bring light out of darkness, life out of death, and good out of evil. Even as the word and ordinances themselves do not save by any intrinsic virtue, or power of their own; but yet there is a passive fitness in them to serve the hand of Omnipotence for accomplishing saving ends : a fitness of instrumentality, as there is in an ax, or hammer for a workman's band. As a sword cannot cut, or a pen cannot write, but in a
hand ready for it ; so neither could all things work for good to God's children, but as these are in the hand of God. It is God that by these doth advance the spiritual and eternal good of his people. Therefore,
2dly, Their working together may have a fourfold reference. 1. To the God of providence. 2. To the particular acts of providence. 3. To the whole series of providence. 4. To the manner of their co-operation, wherein they are subservient for this good.
I. Their working together may have a respect to God, and his co-operation with providence, seeing, as I was just now saying, not one of these things of itself
any good : but they work together with God, and in his hand. Though such a thing of itself be really a great evil, a crushing dispensation ; yet, let God alone, and wait
rait upon him; he can bring the greatest good out of that thing to thee. Though there be no natural or physical tendency in such an act of providence towards thy good, but rather towards thy hurt: yet there shall be such hyperphysical or supernatural virtue and efficacy attending them, as to make them work for good : for, they work with God, whose counsel shall stand, and he will do all his pleasure.
2. Their working together may have a respect to the particular acts of providence themselves; not separately but conjunctly viewed. If we take one providence with another, we may find them working for good; but if we take them separately, we cannot see their cooperation. Perhaps one act of providence smiles upon you, another act of providence frowns upon you, and speaks ruin to you: well, if you put them together, you may see them working together for good, but if you separate them, and take them asunder, then you cannot see either the beauty or good, nor yet advantage of the frowning providence. One providence seems white and pleasant; another seems ruddy and bloody, coloured and terrible; but let the red and white together, and then the beautiful complexion of providence appears: they work together for good.
3. Their working together may have a respect to the whole series and contexture of providence, from the