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[We do not surmise it as a thing possible— We do not hope it as a thing probableWe absolutely know it as infallibly certain— We are not surer of our existence than we are of this truthWithout hesitation therefore we deliver our message— O that the word may sink deep into all our hearts! And that we might from experience unite our testimony to Solomon'sTM-]
We beg leave to ask, whether they who fear not God, have any such assurance in their favour?
[We are aware that they will entertain presumptuous hopes
And that, in opposition to God's word, they will expect happiness
But does the boldest sinner dare affirm that he knows it shall be well with him?—
His conscience would instantly revolt at such falsehood and blasphemy
Let those then, that fear not God, stand self-condemnedLet them flee unto their God and Saviour with penitence. and faith
Let them so live as to preserve the testimony of a good conscience
. And then, however enlarged their expectations of good may be, they shall never be disappointed"-]
'Isai. iii. 10, 11.
m Prov. xxviii. 14.
n Isai. xlv. 17.
DXXIV. ALL THINGS WORK FOR GOOD TO GOD'S
Rom. viii. 28. We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
TRUE believers have the greatest encouragement to draw nigh to God—
They have supernatural assistance when pouring out their hearts before him
And are assured by God himself that their prayers shall be heard
Yea, sometimes, like the Israelites in Egypt, the more
they renew their requests, the more they find their burthens increaseda_
Hence, like them, they are also sometimes ready to murmur and despond
But, by grace they are enabled to wait patiently the
And invariably, in the issue, the clouds which they so much dreaded, burst in blessings on their headsThis St. Paul declares to be the experience of all true believers
His words lead us to shew
I. The character of true Christians
Christians are sometimes described in the scriptures by their regard for God, and sometimes by God's regard for them
The text leads us to speak of them in both points of view
1. Their regard to God
[The "loving of God" is a character peculiar to true Christians
Others are represented rather as "haters of God" and enemies to him in their minds
But they, who are partakers of his grace, have their natural enmity removed
They behold his excellency, and are sensible of their obligations to him
Hence they love him, and strive to love him with their whole hearts]
2. God's regard for them
[Their regard for him sprang not from any good dispositions in themselves
It resulted purely from the manifestations of God's love to them
He formed "purposes" of love to them from all eternityd In due time he "called" them by his grace, and made them his people
And this distinguishing favour is the true source of their love to him
To this effect both our Lord and his beloved apostle testifye
a Exod. v. 6—8.
c Rom. i. 30. Col. i. 21.
* John xv. 16. 1 John iv. 19.
b Ib. ver. 20, 21..
d Jer. xxxi. 3.
To the eternal purposes of God therefore, and not to the inclinations of our carnal minds, must all the good that is in us, be traced-]
To persons of this description the apostle announces II. Their privilege
It is under sufferings that the superiority of the Christian's state is to be seen to the greatest advantage
Of them the apostle speaks; and declares that, of whatever kind they be, they shall work for the good of them that love God
[The Christian may be called to bear the heaviest afflic
But they shall bring him to consideration, stir him up to prayer, wean him from the world, and lead him to seek his rest above
He may be assaulted also with the most distressing temp
But these will shew him the evil of his heart, and the faithfulness of his God
They will also teach him to sympathize with his tempted brethren
Even death itself will be among the number of the things that shall prove beneficial to him
This is the most formidable enemy to fallen man
It cuts him off from all means and opportunities of salvation, and seals him up under endless and irremediable miseryBut to a true Christian it is a most invaluable treasure
It puts a period to all his sorrows and temptations, and introduces him to the immediate, everlasting enjoyment of his God-]
Nor need we doubt of this blessed truth
[The apostle speaks of it not as a matter of conjecture, but of certainty
As he knew it, so may
we know" it, from the declarations
and promises of God
Both David and Paul have attested it also from their own experience
Nor is there any Christian in whom it has not been realizedIt is not however singly or separately that all things work for good, but as taken "together" in a collective view
Separately considered, many things may have wrought for evil, by producing sinful tempers or actions
fI Cor. iii. 22.
Ps. cxix. 71. Phil. i. 19.
8 Ps. xxv, 10.
But when viewed as connected with all their effects and consequences, the most untoward circumstances will be found to have wrought for good-]
This subject naturally suggests
1. A rule whereby to judge of our election of God[Our election of God can be known only by its effects To ascertain it, we must enquire whether we have been called by his grace
And whether, in consequence of that call, we love God supremely?
If we experience these effects, we may safely conclude, that God has entertained eternal purposes of love towards us—
But if we trace not these effects, our pretensions to an interest in his electing love is a fatal delusion
Let them, in whom these evidences are found, rejoice; but rejoice with trembling-]
2. A ground of consolation for the afflicted
[Afflictions are not at the present joyous, but grievousAnd under them we are ready to say, "All these things are against me"
But the scripture tells us, that "the trial of our faith is precious"
Let the afflicted then consider what "good" may be accruing to them
Their troubles may be working so as to discover, prevent, punish, or destroy sin―
Or they may be working to impart, exercise, strengthen, or perfect grace
What reason, in either case, have the afflicted to take comfort!
We think little of inconveniencies if they do but promote our temporal interest
Should we then be averse to any trials that may
tend to our
Let us wait to see "the end of the Lord," and be solicitous rather about our future benefit, than our present ease—]
i 1 Thess. i. 4, 5.
3. A strong incentive to love and serve God
[Things are never represented as working for the good of the wicked
On the contrary, their temporal blessings are often cursed
Yea, even spiritual blessings only aggravate their guilt and condemnation'
Christ himself proves, not a Saviour, but a stumbling-block to them
But for God's people, all things, sin excepted, work for good
Should they not then love him for such distinguished mercy?
Can they ever do enough for him, who so marvellously overrules all events for them?-]
m 1 Pet. ii. 7, 8.
DXXV. THE CHARACTER AND PRIVILEGES OF THE GODLY.
Ps. xci. 14-16. Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name, He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him. With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation.
THE Scriptures are the charter of the Christian's privileges-They contain the most minute and accurate description of his character, and set forth, in all the variety of expression that language can afford, the blessings he enjoys--The declarations concerning him in this Psalm may certainly be interpreted as relating to the Messiah, because when a passage out of it was applied to Christ, he did not deny its reference to himself, but shewed with what limitations the passage was to be understood"—That it refers also to the church cannot admit of doubtThroughout the whole of it the character and blessedness of God's people are delineated; but with peculiar force and beauty in the concluding verses-In discoursing upon them we shall consider
I. The character of God's people
They "know the name" of God
[The name of God as proclaimed by himself, is recorded in the scriptures-And the Christian has a view of him as -possessed of those very perfections which are there ascribed to
• Compare ver. 11, 12. with Matt. iv. 6, 7. b Exod. xxxiv. 6, 7. VOL. IV. Bb