« PreviousContinue »
you, hence you may conclude, he will go on to make all things work together for good to you. I shall reduce this to four heads.
1. Have ever any of you been brought under sickness and distress of body? Rub up your experience a little, and reflect upon it, whether or not has this done you good ? Did it humble you to the dust that you were dwelling in the house of dust ? And did it bring your sin and guilt before you, and make you fly for refuge to a Saviour? Did it bear in the apprehensions of mortality upon thy heart, and excite thee to seek after a happy immortality? Was it a praying time, a wrestling time, a mourning time, and a turning time? Some are the worse of affliction ; but, are you the better? Can you say, “ It was good for me that I was afflicted ?"
2. Hath ever any here sustained some great temporal losses, so as you are brought low, in outward respects ? Well, consider if ever it wrought for any good to you: was you made to search the cause, and see your sin lying at the door ? and what particular sins provoked the Lord ? And dost thou now see that these things are not the best things, and that vanity is written upon them, and upon all things under the sun? And, by this, thy heart hath been more set a pursuing after the one thing necessary. Do you see your loss made up in God, and in communion with him ? and thereupon, art satisfied in the last God you have got ? For, the first gods you set your heart upon, were vain and perishing objects of love; but now you are where you should be, and where you would be; only you would still have more and more nearness to this true and everlasting, everliving God? Or, bave you learned to live a little more upon the providence of God, and upon the promises of God in the use of lawful means? Are you brought to prize a little from God, and receive it with thankfulness? whereas before, you could nauseate a feast : “ The full soul loatheth the honey-comb.” Or, are you brought unto this disposition, to see more evil in thy heart, than thou wouldst believe was in it? That it is a murmuring, covetous, and impatient heart, as well as a hard, wicked, and wandering heart? And art thou humbled before God for the pride of thy heart? This is some good.
3. Has God left you to yourself to commit such and such sins, whereby God is provoked, and your peace is disturbed ? Now, what good have you got of this dispensation ? Hath it cost you many tears in secret ? Many a long look to the fountain opened for sin, and for uncleanness? Or, has the Lord thereby given you a sight of your nature ? " I was conceived in sin, and shapen in iniquity.” Has it bred in you a holy watchfulness against every sin ? Or, hath it occasioned your admiring the free, absolutely free grace of God in Christ, and the long-suffering patience of God ? Hath it made you pity others under the same temptation ? and to lay out thyself more for honouring God than ever you did ? Surely then it has wrought for good to thee.
4. Have you been brought under the bidings of God's face ? and hath this been for good to you? Is sin imbittered, because it is the cause of it?' Hath it endeared the presence of God more to you? Hath it awakened you to more frequency and fervency in holy duties? Hath it made you more useful and helpful to poor tempted and deserted ones than before, when they are saying, Alas! there was never any like me! I am a reprobate ! it is in vain for me to wait on the means of grace? Well, you may tell such, If it be so with you, it was so with me: and this may give some relief. See what experience you have of God's beginning to make all things work together for your good. Hath he begun to do so? Well, “ He is a rock, and his work is perfect.”—He will make all things work for good.
We shall now shut up the subject with an use of exhortation, both to saints and sinners. There are a few duties I would exhort believers unto.
1. Admire the wonderful goodness of this God, who makes all things work together for good to you. Well may you say, " Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none in all the earth whom I desire besides thee. Who is a God like to thee? How great is his goodness?"
2. I would charge every soul here, not to make use of this truth to indulge the commission of one sin, or to go on in the way of sin :-“ What! shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound ? God forbid. Shall we do evil that good may come of it?" Rom. vi. 1. What God can do, in his infinite power and wisdom, is one thing: and what we, in faith, may expect, is another. Is any soul here engaged in love to any particular lust? Then, if ever you expect good at the hand of God, O bid adieu to your lusts, saying, “ What have I to do any more with idols ?" For, as all things work together for good to them that love God: so all things work together for hurt to them that love sin ; and therefore, away with sin.
3. Entertain good thoughts of God in all the ways of bis providence, and whenever the dark side casts up, look over to the bright side of it by faith, and you will see all his ways mercy and truth to them who fear his name.
Beware of harsh thoughts of God, Be restless till you have the persuasion of two things, viz. that God loves you, and that you love God. If you could live in the view of this always, believers, then you would always have this persuasion too, that all things shall work together for your good.
4. Whatsoever providence may expose you to, yet resolve to live by faith, and to live in love: and then whatever come to pass, you may be satisfied all is well still, and all will be well still. By a life of faith you will feel all things working together for good. 5. Beware of practically contradicting
the design of providence in working for your good, or of having any hand in making them work for your hurt, so as to be the worse of them, which people may do many ways: as when, in affliction, they betake themselves unto unlawful means of relief; when they use unlawful means
without dependence upon God; when they reckon God's former favours to be snares and entanglements; when they refuse the comforts of the word under their affliction, Exod. vi. 9. ; and when they weary of their life, with Rachel.
6. Beware of censuring and challenging providence,
when yet it is working for your good. Men are guilty of censuring the providence of God, not only through atheism, in denying providence : but also through anbelief, in questioning the love of God; through sensuality, in misconstructing all providences, which do not gratify their lusts and carnal desires. Sometimes through bastiness, in passing sentence upon providence, before these signal periods of it come, that would ma. nifest its meaning. Sometimes from ignorance and want of consideration, not knowing that God may send lesser crosses to prevent a greater, Jer. xxiv, 5.
7. Put a remark upon all the good that you get by the providence of God. Remember how often the cross bath borne down your pride, restrained your predominant, sent you to your prayers, and to a God in Christ, the hearer of prayer. It is necessary to make this remark upon the good of providence, because, when it is made, and well improven, the crosses that you are ready to make arguments of your unbelief, would rather prove confirmations for your faith.
8. Join issue with providence, in endeavouring to get all the good you can out of every dispensation, and particularly out of affliction : and that by prayer, Job xxvii. 10. James v. 13.; and by being suitably exercised by them, not despising the chastening of the Lord, nor fainting when he rebukes, Heb. xii. 13.; nor despairing of a happy issue ; but expecting, according to the promise, that all things shall work together for good.
On the other hand, I would speak a word to the wicked and ungodly, who are enemies to, and haters of God. To you I would offer, Ist, A word of terror and conviction : but I have prevented myself in the third inference as to this, and so I shall conclude,
2dly, With a word of counsel, And the advice I offer is that which you have, Job xxii. 21. If you would have all things working for your good, then acquaint now thyself with God, and be at peace, and thereby good shall come unto thee. Be restless till you get saving acquaintance with God in Christ, as he is revealed in the gospel, whereby you are called outwardly to acquaintance, and to peace and reconciliation with him; and wherein God prays you to be reconciled to him, 2 Cor. v. 19, 20. In this gospel-dispensation he is calling and inviting you to come to him: and though the call will not be effectual without the efficacy of 'his grace; yet how doth he make the call effectual, but by charming the heart with the outward call : therefore hearken to the voice of the charmer in the outward call; wait for the Spirit to come, and draw out your heart towards him, in faith and love. Put not the gospel-call from you, under any temptation drawn from the secret purpose of God : for, though all whom he calls effectually, are called according to his purpose; yet that purpose is not the rule of their faith, nor the first object of the faith of any man.--Asyou cannot know a man's thoughts, but by his words : so, you cannot know God's purpose, but by his promise. Do not first pore upon God's thoughts and designs, for that is not the first object of your faith ; but first hear and give ear to his word : and if you believe his word, with application to yourself, then you may be sure of his purpose and thoughts toward you, that they are thoughts of good, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. It is the faith of his promise you are called to, and not the faith of his purpose; but, whenever you have the faith of his promise, then you may have the faith of his purpose : whenever you believe in Christ, as given to you in the word, then you may believe that you are given to him in the decree of God. You are to make first your calling, and then your election sure; for, whenever you hear his call, and believe in him, according to his word, then you may conclude that you are called according
to his purpose.
QUEST. What is he saying to me, in the outward call of the word that may engage me to hear him?
ANSW. He is saying, Man, woman, will you inlist with me as a Captain, to fight all your battles for you? Will you match with me as your Husband, to protect and provide for you? Poor sinner! will you have me to be your portion? O diseased sinner, will you have me to be your Physician ? O ignorant sinner, will you