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ALL THINGS WORK TOGETHER FOR GOOD.
Rom. viii. 28.
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose."
THESE words, originally addressed by St. Paul as words of comfort and peace to the converts of Rome, are fitted to inspire comfort in Christ to His servants in all ages. Speculative difficulties may assail their faith, adversity may try their patience, or prosperity their humbleness of mind, but whatever be the trial, they know that all things work together for good to them. Even if there be no appearance of recompense here on earth, though their life, or their departure be taken for misery, yet God is faithful, who will at length make good His promises. Finally, and for ever, every thing shall be seen and acknowledged to have
worked together for their good. Blessed be God for so gracious and wonderful a superintendence and care of His servants amid the apparent disorder and turbulency of so intricate and perverse a world ! and still more for His goodness in making them so aware of His care and concern for their souls, that they can rest upon this anchor of trust and strength, and feel that they “know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to them who are called according to His purpose.” But we need to define the limits of the meaning of such promises, in order that they may learn to apply the comfort to themselves to whom it is addressed; and that they who are not within the description of those whom the Apostle speaks of, may be taught not to trust to a vain hope, but rather to repent and turn to God while there is yet time.
If we look closely at the Apostle's words in this verse, we shall find that they contain three principal points. 1st, “ We know.”—The comfort of which he reminds the Romans is one assured to them, and well believed, which they can trust to. 2ndly, “all things,” however various, though apparently inert and inconsequential, yet they “work,” and that not casually or irregularly, but." together ; bringing forth their joint and much intended consequence or result, “ for good ;' for real, lasting, ultimate good. And, 3rdly, this good is thus wonderfully educed by all these apparently conflicting agents, to certain persons only, who are described
in two ways; one, significative, whereby they who are so blest may know themselves to be intended, _"to them that love God :" the other, inward, mysterious, exhibiting an Almighty agent decreeing, devising, and compassing within, what the wilful agency of millions of sinful and capricious creatures brings to its accomplishment without,—“to them who are the called according to His purpose ; for whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren. Moreover whom He did predestinate, them He also called ; and whom He called, them He also justified ; and whom He justified, them He also glorified.”
On these points, therefore, I propose, with God's assistance, to speak at present; and, first, of the last. The persons for whom the blessings mentioned in the text are provided, are described in two ways; as those who love God, and as those who are the called according to His purpose.
Now it is very far from my intention to bewilder myself or you with the discussion of God's decree and predestination. Indeed, if I apprehend rightly the meaning of the verse before us, it rather contains a discouragement of such an attempt, than an invitation to it. Else, why are there two descriptions? Else, why is the mysterious phrase, “the called, according to His purpose,” coupled with an explanatory, or at least, more intelligible equivalent, “ they that love God?” Let us rather put them together as the Apostle doth; and one valuable lesson will issue immediately from their union, that they who do not love God cannot be the called according to His purpose. Of two equivalents, the obscurer receiveth light from the more plain. Therefore let him who loveth not God pray for the grace of repentance, and the love of God; and let him who humbly hopes that the Spirit doth somewhat draw up his mind to high and heavenly things, and though his heart be still too stony, and his affections too much bound to the earth, yet that he has more and more of the circumcision of God's love, take comfort at the thought, that He, whose is the grace and glory, having begun a good work in him, will accomplish it until the day of Jesus Christ.
Of these two descriptions, one contains God's view, the other man's. When the Apostle speaks of God, and His view of man's salvation, and agency in it, his words contain no mention of
other agent than Him who, in the vastness of His eternity (where there is neither duration nor gradation), seeth all things present : “ Whom He did predestinate, He called; whom He called, He justified; whom He justified, He glorified.” When he speaks of men, wandering to and fro in that portion of duration which is between justification and glory, he speaks in their language, speaks of them as working out their own salvation, tells them of the signs of the Spirit, encourages them with hope, urges them to perseverance, warns them against the danger of