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tages of the world, riches, fame, and honours. These may occasionally be desirable, and at some times confer satisfaction on the possessor. But besides their uncertain and transient duration, they are far from conferring satisfaction at all times, even when they last. On the contrary, it is a certain fact, and manifest to general observation, that a man may possess all the external advantages of fortune, and lead withal a very miserable life. Suppose him to be disquieted in his own mind by envy, jealousy, revenge, or other violent passions, and harassed with a guilty conscience, such a man cannot be said to have attained what is good. Would it have been worthy of the Supreme Being to have flattered his servants with the hope only of a good so fallacious, that in certain circumstances it might be consistent with the greatest misery? -- No: that good for the sake of
which he makes all things work to those that love him, must be founded in the improvement and perfection of their nature in wisdom, grace, and virtue; in their good considered as rational and immortal beings; productive of a felicity which is within them, and shall abide with them for ever. While we look only to a present momentary satisfaction, the Divine Being, in consulting our welfare, provides for the whole of our existence in time and eternity; connects the present with the future; and by his beneficent decree ordains for each of his servants, that which, upon the whole, is the best. - While to the sinner he giveth sore travail, to gather and to heap up; he giveth to a man that is good in his sight, wisdom, and knowledge, and joy.
* Eccles, ii. 26.
HAVING ascertained the sense in which we are to understand the good for which God maketh all things to work, we proceed to consider what is included in the extent of the expression, of all things working for this good. In general, it includes all that happens to good men in this world ; every station and condition in which they are placed; every circumstance in their lot, from the beginning to the end of their lives. Nothing befals them fortuitously, nothing happens in vain or without a meaning; but every event possesses its proper and destined place, and forms a link in that great chain of causes which is appointed to carry on their improvement and felicity. As all the rivers upon the face of the globe, however circuitous they may be in their progress, and however opposite in their course, yet meet at last in the ocean,
, and there contribute to increase the mass of waters; so all the seemingly discordant events in the life of a good man are made to preserve, upon the whole, an unerring tendency to his good, and to concur and conspire for promoting it at the last. What a noble and sublime view does this present of the supreme dominion of Providence, and of its care exercised over every righteous man!
When we descend to a more particular examination of what is included in the expression here used, of all things, we may observe, first, that it includes a state of worldly prosperity. For sometimes this is appointed to fall to the share of God's servants ; nay, their worth and virtue have often been the means of bringing it about. But it is not one of those things which are good in their own nature, till God makes it work for that purpose. What numbers of men has it poisoned and destroyed, cherishing the growth of wantonness and folly; and implanting in their breasts the seeds of those bad passions which spring up into many a crime! From such evils the prosperity of good men is guarded by God. The poison is extracted from it, and the salutary part only left. It is rendered to them a comfortable and useful enjoyment of life, affording opportunity for the exercise of many virtues, which otherwise would not have come within their sphere.
But among all things that work for good, it is probable that the evils of this life were particularly designed to be included, as what we might have least expected to be subservient to that purpose. It is nevertheless certain, that, from the discipline of adversity, the most salutary improvements of human nature have been often derived. In that severe school, the predominant errors of the mind have been corrected, the intemperance of the giddy spirit has been allayed and reformed, and that manly seriousness acquired, which is the foundation of true wisdom. By the sadness of the countenance, the heart of the sufferer has been made better; he has been trained up to fortitude of mind, improved in humanity to men, and formed to the habits of devotion and resignation to God.
At the same time, it is only if need be, as the Apostle Peter speaks *, that the righteous are left for a season in heaviness. If it be certain that all things work for their good, it follows of course that there is no superfluous severity, no needless or unnecessary trouble to them, in the constitution of things. Their afflictions never befal without a cause, nor are sent
* 1 Pet. i. 6.
but upon a proper errand. These storms are never allowed to rise, but in order to dispel some noxious vapours, and to restore salubrity to the moral atmosphere.--Herein appears, if we may be allowed so to speak, the wonderful art and skill of the Supreme Artificer, the profound depth of the Divine wisdom, in extracting from distresses and sorrows, the materials of peace and felicity. Nor are only the external calamities of good men subservient to this purpose ;
but their internal infirmities, their very failings and errors, are made, by the powerful influence of God's grace, to contribute ultimately to their good. They are thereby instructed in the knowledge of themselves; they are properly humbled by the discovery of their own weakness; and trained to that becoming spirit of contrition and returning repentance, which is represented as giving joy to the angels in heaven. He who maketh the wrath of man to praise him, is not deficient in wisdom and power, to make even the failings of his servants, in this imperfect state of human nature, redound at last to his own glory, and to their good.
It must not escape observation, that the text suggests, not merely that all things prove good in the issue, or eventually turn out to the benefit of the righteous, but that they work for it. This expression carries particular energy. It imports that all things are so formed by God, as to become active causes of happiness to those who love him. His infinite wisdom gives to things in themselves most unapt, an aptitude and fitness to fulfil his own great ends; disposes and prepares them for their proper effects; and makes dangers and evils his instruments for accomplishing the felicity of his servants. There is a certain operation and process always going on, by which, though we are insensible of it, all things are constantly advancing towards a happy issue. In the same manner as the operation of natural causes, though slow and unperceived, is sure; as the seed which is sown in the ground is every moment unfolding itself; and though no eye can trace the steps of its progress, yet with a silent growth, is ripening and shooting forth its stalks, so in the moral world, throughout all the dispensations of Providence, there is the same latent, but certain progress of the seeds of virtue and holiness, tending towards perfection in the end. Light is sown for the righteous, as the Psalmist beautifully employs this metaphor, and gladness for the upright in heart. *
It is said in the text, not only that all things thus work, but that they work together for good ; intimating that they are made to conspire and to concur with one another, for bringing about what is best on the whole. Taken singly and individually, it might be difficult to conceive how each event wrought for good. They must be viewed in their consequences and effects; considered in all their dependencies and connections, as links hanging together to form one extensive chain. It is by adjusting into one consistent whole, the various events that fill up human life ; arranging in the happiest succession all the
: occurrences of that complicated scene; and bending to his own purpose things which appear most opposite and contrary, that the Almighty accomplishes his great plan in behalf of those who love him, and are the Called according to his purpose.
* Psalm xcvii. 11.