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pose him to be disquieted in his own mind
be giveth sore travail, to gather and to heap
up; he giveth to a man that is good in his sight, SERMON wisdom, and knowledge, and joy *.
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
* Eccles. ii. 26.
SERMON 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 ren- SERMON dered 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 errours 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
* Pet, i. 6.
SERMON 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 but upon a These storms are never proper errand. 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 errours, 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