« PreviousContinue »
On all THINGS working together for GooD to the RIGHTEOUS.
ROMANS, viii. 38.
We know that all things work together for Good to them that love God, to them who are the Called according to his purpose.
A MONG many antient philosophers it was a favourite 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 conceived the interest of individuals to be oft-times obliged to yield. The revelation of the G4 Gospel
SERMON 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 consummate 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 pùrpose. 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, SERMON 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 bis 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
*Deut. xxx. 14.
SERMON 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 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 SERMON 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 advantages 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