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THUS it has been shown on what grounds our assured belief rests of the declaration in the text, that all things are made to work for the good of the righteous. It is not a promise which admits of ambiguity, and which we might be afraid to interpret to its full extent. It is on every side confirmed by the most sober reasonings we can form from the Divine perfections; by the whole tenor of the dispensation of redemption; by many repeated assurances given us in the sacred writings.
THE great objection, I am aware, that will be started by many against the whole of what has been advanced in this discourse, is founded on the seeming prevalence of evil and disorder in the world. This, it will be said, is so conspicuous as to be inconsistent with the representation that has been given of a Supreme Being, who attends, in every instance, to the welfare of every good man. The present state of the world may be suspected to carry more the appearance of a conflict between two opposite principles of good and evil, which divide the empire of the world, and of course create a mixture of some good things with more that are evil. How often, it will be said, are the best men insensible of any such gradual improvement, or any such tendency in the general course of things, as has been represented to promote their interest; but, on the contrary, left comfortless and forlorn, in the midst of surrounding prosperous vice, to mourn over disappointed hopes and bitter sorrows, without receiving the least mark of favourable intentions from Heaven? Hence the exclamations they have often uttered; "Where is "the Lord, and where the sceptre of righteousness
"and truth? Doth God indeed see, and is there knowledge in the Most High? Or hath he forgot"ten to be gracious, and in anger shut up his tender " mercies?"
Now, in answer to such objections, let us consider how much reason there is for ascribing those dark and dreadful appearances, to the narrow and confined views which our state allows us to take. The designs of the Almighty are enlarged and vast. They comprehend not only the whole of our present existence, but they include worlds unknown, and stretch forwards into eternity. Hence, much darkness and mystery must of course rest at present on the administration of God; and we, who see only so small a portion of a great and complicated system, must be very inadequate judges, both of the tendency of each part, and of the issue of the whole. We behold no more than the outside of things. Our views glide over the surface; and even along that surface they extend but a short way. But under the surface there lie hidden springs, that are set in motion by a superior hand, and are bringing forwards revolutions unforeseen by us. There are wheels moving within wheels, as the prophet Ezekiel beheld in mysterious vision.* We, measuring all things by the shortness of our own duration, are constantly accelerating our designs to their period. We are eager in advancing rapidly towards the completion of our wishes. But it is not so with God. In his sight a thousand years are as one day: and while his infinitely wise plans are continually advancing with sure progress, that progress to our impatience appears slow. Let us
Ezek. x. 10.
have patience for a while, and these plans shall in due time be developed, and will explain themselves. His language to us is, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter.
Let us attend to the analogy of Nature. We shall find it to hold very generally, both in the moral and natural world, that nothing arises suddenly to the perfection of its state; that all improvement is carried on by leisurely gradations; and that most frequently it is through harsh and unpromising beginnings things are brought to a favourable conclusion. This might be illustrated by many examples:-Take, for one instance, the progress of the seasons. Who that for the first time beheld the earth, in midst of winter, bound up with frost, or drenched by floods of rain, or covered with snow, would have imagined that Nature, in this dreary and torpid state, was working towards its own renovation in the spring? Yet we by experience know that those vicissitudes of winter are necessary for fertilizing the earth; and that under wintry rains and snow lie concealed the seeds of those roses that are to blossom in the spring; of those fruits that are to ripen in summer; and of the corn and wine, which are, in harvest, to make glad the heart of man. We perhaps relish not such disagreeable commencements of the pleasing season. It would be more agreeable to us to be always entertained with a fair and clear atmosphere, with cloudless skies, and perpetual sunshine; while yet in such climates as we have most knowledge of the earth, were it always to remain in such a state, would refuse to yield its fruits; and in the midst of our imagined scenes of beauty,
John, xiii. 7.
the starved inhabitants would perish for want of food. Let us therefore quietly submit to Nature and to Providence. Let us conceive this life, of whose evils we so often complain, to be the winter of our existence. Then the rains must fall, and the winds must roar around us. But, sheltering ourselves, as we can, under a good conscience, and under faith and trust in God, let us wait till the spring arrive. For a spring, an eternal spring, awaits the people of God. In the new heavens and the new earth, no storms shall any more arise, nor any unpleasing vicissitudes of season return. It shall then at last appear how former sufferings have produced their proper effect; how the tempests of life have tended to bring on an everlasting calm; in fine, how all things have wrought together for good to them that love God, and who are the Called according to his purpose.
On the LOVE of our COUNTRY.
[Preached 18th April, 1793, on the day of a National Fast appointed by Government, on occasion of the War with the French Republic.]
PSALM CXxii. 6, 7, 8, 9.
Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem; they shall prosper that love thee. Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces. For my brethren and companions' sake I will now say, Peace be within thee. Because of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek thy peace.
IT is one of the infirmities belonging to human nature, that continued enjoyment of the highest blessings is apt to depreciate them in our esteem. This unhappy weakness shows itself, not only with respect to the light of the sun, and the beauties of nature, which we have been long accustomed to behold, but also with respect to health, peace, religion, and liberty. Let any one of those blessings have been long familiar to us; let a tract of time have effaced the remembrance of the distress which we suffered from the want of it; and it is surprising how lightly men are ready to prize the degree of happiness which they continue to possess. In the midst of that peaceful and secure state which the inhabitants of this land have long