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to send forth destroying angels against them; the thunder which is ever in his hands, needs not to be pointed at the heads of the guilty. He need only leave them to themselves; and presently their wickedness begins to reprove them, and their backslidings to correct them, till they fully see and feel what an evil thing, and bitter it was, to depart from the Lord their God. Conscious, while their hearts are bleeding within them, that they are only reaping the fruits of their own doings, the sense of deserving what they suffer, both aggravates the suffering, and forces them to acknowledge the justice of it.
When we behold such plain marks of wise and just government taking place among men, who shall take upon him to say that all things come alike to all men, and that there is no more than a promiscuous distribution of good and evil by Providence on earth ? However it may seem in appearance, it is far from being so in reality. We look to the outside of things. We are dazzled with that tinsel glare which prosperity sometimes throws around the worthless and the wicked. But what is that to true happiness and self-enjoyment ? often how little connected with it ? Could
look into the hearts of men, another scene
You would see many a heart wounded and bleeding in secret from a guilty conscience and remembered crimes, while gay looks were affectedly put on before the world. Comparing this galled and distressed state of mind, with the free and easy, the light and disencumbered spirit of a worthy and virtuous man, even under the pressures of life, who would forbear to charge Providence, and would readily acknowledge, that though the external distribution of the world's goods be promiscuous, the inter
nal allotment of happiness is measured by the real characters of men. On the whole, let us hold fast by this great truth, and by it govern our lives, that every man's real happiness or misery is made, by the appointment of the Creator, to depend more on himself, and on the proper government of his mind and heart, than upon any external thing, or than upon all external things put together ; that for those who serve God, and study to keep their conscience clear from guilt, God hath provided peace and comfort on earth as well as rewards hereafter ; but, saith my God, there is no peace to the wicked.
On all THINGS working together for Good to the
ROMANS, viii. 38.
We know that all Things work together for Good to them that love God, to them who are the Called accord
ing to his
A MONG many ancient philosophers it was a favour
ite tenet, that all seeming disorders in the world are rendered subservient to the order and perfection of the universe; or, that all things work together for the good of the whole: But to this good of the whole, they conceive the interests of individuals to be oft-times obliged to yield. The revelation of the Gospel has opened to us a higher and more comfortable prospect. For it assures us not only of the direct tendency of all things to general order, but to the con· summate happiness of every individual who loves and serves God. While the Deity is ever carrying on the general system of things to its proper perfection, the interest of no one good man is sacrificed in any point to promote this end; but his life is, at the same time, a system complete within itself, where all things are made to conspire for bringing about his felicity. We know, says the Apostle in my text, that is, we are assured, not by doubtful reasonings with regard to
which the wisest might be perplexed, but by a divine promise on which the simple can firmly rely, that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the Called according to his purpose. This is that capital encouragement of religion, which virtually contains in itself all the other promises made in Scripture to the righteous, and, like a full and exuberant fountain, divides itself into a thousand streams to refresh the life of man with consolation and joy. It will therefore deserve our very full and particular consideration, both as to the extent of encouragement given, and the evidence on which our assurance of it rests.
The first thing which should here draw our attention is, the character of those to whom the encouragement of the text is appropriated. For it is evidently not given indiscriminately to all, but limited to such as love God, and are the Called according to his purpose ; that is, chosen by him to eternal life. But, lest the latter part of this description should appear too secret and mysterious to afford the encouragement intended, it is cleared up by the first and explanatory character, them that love God. Here is something plain and satisfactory, on which we can rest.
We need not say, Who shall ascend into heaven, in order to bring us down from thence any information, whether our names be written in the book of life? It is sufficient to look into ourselves, and the state of our heart. The word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart; that thou mayest do it.* They that love God, and they who are the Called according to his purpose, are the same. Divine love is the sacred character which marks those who are sealed unto the day of redemption. This love of God is not to be understood as signifying merely some occasional ardour of affection ; it imports that steady principle of goodness which becomes the spring of a pure and virtuous life. The same character is here meant, which is described in other passages of Scripture, by fearing and serving
* Deut. xxx. 14.
, God. They who truly love God, are they who love and imitate the divine perfections ; they who love and obey the divine laws; they who love and pursue the divine approbation, as the great aim of their life.
Keeping this important article ever in view, as a necessary limitation of the gracious declaration in the text, let us proceed to examine the full extent of that encouragement which it affords.
We begin with considering what the good is, for which it is here said that all things work in favour of the righteous. It is a term susceptible of very different acceptations. For many things appear good to some which do not appear so to others; nay, the same things which have appeared to ourselves good at one time, have been far from appearing good at another. Assuredly that good which God promises as the reward of his servants, must be somewhat worthy of God to bestow; somewhat that depends not on the fluctuation of fancy and opinion, and that is not liable to change with the change of times. It must be some good of a fixed and permanent nature, which will be felt as such in every situation and period of our existence. But it is evident that such characters are not applicable to the external advan