« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
beginning to the end. A hard beginning cannot still be discerned to be a good beginning, till we compare the beginning and end together. The dark side of the cloud of providence may contribute to illustrate and set forth the splendour of the bright side of it; and, when we view both the one side and the other, there will appear a harmony in all the acts of providence. The godly man may be plagued all day long, and chastened every morning, Psal. Ixxii. 14.; 'here is a dark side : but go to the other side and see the fair end of providence : " Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright; for the latter end of that man is peace,” Psal. xxxvii. 37. whereas, the end of the wicked shall be cut off, though he flourish and prosper for a while.
4. Their working together may have a respect to the manner of their subserviency in working for good. All things work together; and so work not only harmoniously, but'efficaciously. When God, and all things with him, work together for the good of a creature, then there is nothing to hinder its being made effectual. When all things work, what is there behind to let or impede the work? Again, when all things work together, it says they work marvellously and wonderfully. Good things and bad things have, in themselves, a quite contrary nature and tendency; but as the wheels of a clock, or watch, move, some of them forward, some of them backward ; yet all these contrary motions tend to the regular motion of the hand that points at the hour : so, the wheels of providence, some with a direct, and others with a retrogade motion : yet all contribute to work for good to God's children. This is owing to him who is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working, to make these things that work against each other, yet to work together for this end.
IV. The fourth thing in the text is, To enquire into the character of those who are thus privileged and to whom all things work together for good.
Why it is to thein who love God, and are the called according to his purpose. In this character there are purposes that would fill many volumes; and therefore none will suppose that I can here treat them at any
length. I shall therefore take a short view of this character given to God's privileged people, namely that they are lovers of him, and that by considering these four things concerning this love that the text carries. 1. The object of it, namely, God. 2. The act of it, namely, love to this God. 3. The immediate branch on which it grows, namely, effectual calling. 4. The head and original root from whence it springs, namely, the divine purpose, being called according to his purpose.
1st, The object of their love to whom all things work' together for good, is God, who is to be loved above all things, and loved allenarly for himself: he will suffer no companion, or competitor, Matth. x. 37. Now, this love of God necessarily includes the love of Christ, or of God in Christ; for, as in Christ only he is well pleased and reconciled with sinners; so, out Christ we cannot love him as a friend, but fear him as a foe, God is in Christ, and all his fulness dwells in Christ, Col. i. 19.; and where God's fulness dwells, there doth the true believer love to dwell. This love to God includes in it also a regular love to ourselves. It is manifest, when it is said in God's law, that we should love our neighbour as ourselves, that it is presupposed we ought to love ourselves : this is so much included in the love of God, that, as he that loves not himself, cannot love God; so, he that loves not God, cannot love himself. As a madman, in his fury, wounds his own body, and is pitied of all but not of himself: so wieked men, or natural men, destroy themselves, and are pitied of God, angels and good men ; but have no pity on themselves, no true love to themselves. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often would I have gathered you, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would
not.” Mat. xxiii. 37.–Again, this love to God includes love to our neighbour : for love to God and man is the fulfilling of the law of God: and, “ He that loves not his brother, whom he hath seen, cannot truly love God, whom he hath not seen,” 1. John iv. 20. And this love to our neighbour imports a rejoicing at, and desiring his good; and a grieving at, and
relieving his misery. The unworthiness of no person whatsoever, must quench our love; but it should burn when the water of men's injuries would quench the same. See Mat. v. 44, 45. where we are called to love our enemies; to bless them that curse us; to do good to them that hate us; and to pray for them that despitefully use us; that we may be the children of our Father which is in heaven; for, « He maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” True love to God carries in it benevolence towards all, and especially complacency in the godly, Psalm xvi. 3. And even with respect to those that are overtaken in a fault, we are to express our love to them by restoring them in the spirit of meekness, considering ourselves, lest we also be tempted, Gal. vi. 1. In a word, this love to God, with reference to the object of it, includes a love to every thing that God loves, and that bears the stamp of his image and authority ; such as this gospel, and ordinances thereof, wherein his love shines. But,
2dly, Consider the act that terminates on this object, love. What is it to love God ? and, how do his people love him? As this act supposes the knowledge of God in Christ, without which we cannot love him, no more then we can worship an unknown God; and faith in him, and his love and mercy through Christ ; for this faith works by love: so it implies the powerful work of the Spirit of God in subduing the natural enmity against God, and drawing out the affections towards him.--The Spirit of all grace having first come into the soul, and brought love with him among the rest, he blows upon this fire that he hath kindled, and the flame of it ascends towards God, in heavenly desires and spiritual delights.
As to the manner how the believer loves God, we cannot describe it better, than by considering the rule that shows how he should love him. Love to ourselves and our neighbour must be limited; bụt there is no measure set to our love to God. See the rule, Luke x. 27. “ Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, with all thy strength, and with all thy mind."
1. With all the heart ; that is, cordially and affectionately ; with the heart, and with all the heart. If the world have our heart, God cannot have it: “ Love not the world, neither the things of the world ; if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him," 1 John ii. 15. As one nail drives out another, so the love of Christ will force out the love of the world.
2. With all the soul; that is, intensely and most entirely : as all the heart takes in all the affections of it; so, I think, all the soul takes in all the faculties of it: and to love God with heart and soul, imports a loving him most intensely and most entirely, so as to allow no faculty of the soul to swerve from this object, but to fix and terminate wholly upon him. It seems to be like that, Isa. xxvi. 8, 9. “ T'he desire of our soul is to thy name, and to the remembrance of thee. With my whole soul have I desired thee in the night, and with my spirit within me will I seek thee early.”
3. With all the strength ; that is, universally and zealously; employing whatever gifts, parts, powers and talents God hath bestowed upon us in his service, and returning them all to his glory; yielding ourselves to the Lord, and our members instruments of righteousness unto God, Rom. vi. 13.
4. With all the mind; that is, wisely and judiciously ; people may love Christ with a hearty affection, and yet not with knowledge and understanding; for it was so with the apostles themselves, John xiv. 28. “ If ye loved me, ye would rejoice because I said, I go to the Father :" but they did not rejoice in this, nor knew the import of it; and therefore, though they loved him with the heart and soul, yet not with all the mind and judgment, or with knowledge and understanding: Now this is the manner wherein all God's children love him, or at least aim at loving him, whatever enmity and corruption remain.—Thus of the act of love.
3dly, Consider the immediate branch on which this love grows, namely, effectual calling; they are CALLED. I speak of this as visible; in regard that it is the first evident effect of God's everlasting love breaks up above ground, which before this, did run hidden under ground from all eternity; and because, though effectual calling be indeed internal and invisible to the world, yet it is a sensible turn of affairs within, making a visible change upon him without. Now, none love God but those that are called effectually, Rom. ix..11. All men are haters of God naturally : and love to him grows not in the garden of nature, but of grace; and the first work. ing of grace in the soul is an effectual calling. And if you ask, what that is, you cannot have a better description of it than that in our Shorter Catechism ? " It is the work of God's free Spirit, whereby, con
vincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our “ minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing “our wills, he doth persuade and enable us to “ embrace Jesus Christ, as he is freely offered to us " in the gospel.” Where you see, that as the outward means of it is the gospel, and the dispensation thereof; and the inward mean and powerful efficient is the free Spirit of God, accompanying the preached word: so, the parts of it are four, relating to the several faculties of the soul.
i. Effectual conviction of sin and misery, whereby the conscience is touched and awakened, and made to cry out, “ What shall I do to be saved ?” Acts ii. 37.
2. Effectual illumination; whereby the mind is enlightened in the knowledge of Christ, Acts xxvi. 18. It is an opening of the eye of the soul, and turning it from darkness unto light, and from the power of Satan unto God. “God, who commanded light to shine out of darkness, hath shined into our hearts, to give us the light of the knowledge of his glory, in the face of Jesus Christ,” 2 Cor. iv. 6.
3. Effectual renovation, whereby the will is renewed, according to that word, Psalm cx. 3. “ Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power.” The new heart and the new Spirit promised, Ezek. xxxvi. 26. is given.
4. The effectual out-drawing of the soul towards Christ, persuading and enabling the heart to embrace Christ Jesus, as he is offered and exhibit in the gospelpromise, John vi. 44, 45. “ No man can come to me,