Romans 8:28
And we know that God works all things together for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose.
Sermons
All Things for GoodE. Paxton Hood.Romans 8:28
All Things Work Together for GoodW. Pulsford, D.D.Romans 8:28
All Things Work Together for Good to Them that Love GodT. Chalmers, D.D.Romans 8:28
All Things Work Together for Good to Them that Love GodJ. Angell James.Romans 8:28
All Things Working for GoodO. Winslow, D.D.Romans 8:28
All Things Working for GoodHomiletic ReviewRomans 8:28
All Things Working for GoodG. Calthrop, M.A.Romans 8:28
All Things Working for GoodRomans 8:28
All Things Working TogetherT. Manton, D.D.Romans 8:28
All Things Working Together for GoodA. Raleigh, D.D.Romans 8:28
All Things Working Together for GoodW. Tyson.Romans 8:28
All Things Working Together for GoodJ. Stratten.Romans 8:28
All Things Working Together for Good to Them that Love GoW. H. Brookfield, M.A.Romans 8:28
Christian SecurityT. Kelly.Romans 8:28
Divine ProvidenceElias Nason.Romans 8:28
God's Mingled ProvidencesC.H. Irwin Romans 8:28
Good to the Good, the Rule of God's Procedure with ManD. Thomas,D.D.Romans 8:28
In What Respects Afflictions are for Our AdvantageR. Fiddes, D.D.Romans 8:28
Man's Mistakes Rectified by GodH. W. Beecher.Romans 8:28
The Affection and Vocation of the GodlyThomas Horton, D.D.Romans 8:28
The Beneficial Operation of All Things for the Good of the ChristianJohn Foster.Romans 8:28
The Blessedness of BelieversJ. O. Peck, D.D.Romans 8:28
The Chief GoodC. Moinet.Romans 8:28
The Christian Conception of the UniverseH. Batchelor.Romans 8:28
The Christian's Delivery from the Tyranny of CircumstanceD. Woodside, B.D.Romans 8:28
The Co-Working of ProvidenceThomas Horton, D.D.Romans 8:28
The Good in RelationD. Thomas, D.D.Romans 8:28
The Great Dome of God's ProvidenceJ. D. Steele.Romans 8:28
The Guidance of Our PilotRomans 8:28
The Operations of Divine ProvidenceJ. T. Woodhouse.Romans 8:28
The Purpose of God's Afflictive ProvidencesRomans 8:28
The Purpose, Calling, and Love of GodCaleb Morris.Romans 8:28
The Seasons of Our EducationF. W. Robertson.Romans 8:28
The Secret of the Divine WaysE. Bersier, D.D.Romans 8:28
The Security of BelieversD. C. Hughes, A.M.Romans 8:28
The True Christian's BlessednessC. H. Spurgeon.Romans 8:28
Trials Good to the GoodT. Hammond.Romans 8:28
The Privileges and Responsibilities of the Children of GodC.H. Irwin Romans 8:12-30
Salvation in Spite of SufferingR.M. Edgar Romans 8:18-30
God's Purpose in ChristT.F. Lockyer Romans 8:28-30
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God. This was a remarkable statement for the Apostle Paul to make, especially when we consider how much he had suffered because of his love to God and his truth. He had been imprisoned, he had been stoned, he had been beaten with stripes; and yet, after all this, he is able to say that "all things work together for good to them that love God." Some might be disposed to doubt such a statement with regard to the experience even of the Christian. Yet many others besides Paul have borne similar testimony. David said, "I have been young, and now am old; yet never have I seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread" (Psalm 37:25). And again, "Before I was afflicted I went astray; but now have I kept thy Word It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes" (Psalm 119:67, 71).

I. THERE IS GOOD IN ALL THE PROVIDENCES OF GOD. Many persons think there is good only in those things that give pleasure or delight to body or mind. They will admit that there is good in health and prosperity, But they find it hard to see what good there can be in sickness, in adversity, in poverty, or in sorrow. The apostle takes a wider view of life's experiences. He holds that "all things work together for good." He could appreciate the joys of life, but he felt that there was a wise purpose and blessing in life's sorrows and trials also. Our human nature is in itself unholy, alienated from God, easily absorbed by the influences of this present world, and easily led away by temptation and sin. What a proof of the ungodliness of man's nature is afforded by the fact that many are as little affected by the most certain and most important religious truths, which they profess to believe in, as if they did not believe them at all! There are no truths more universally admitted than the existence and moral government of God, the certainty of death and of a future state of rewards and punishments. Yet how many do we see around us whose character and conduct afford almost no evidence that they believe in these truths at all! How, then, are men to be roused from their indifference? How are they to be led to think seriously of their own souls and that eternity that awaits them? Some might be disposed to answer - By what we ordinarily call exhibitions of God's love and goodness. But we are having exhibitions of God's love and goodness supplied to us every day in our daily food, in health and strength, and all the other blessings and comforts which we enjoy. Yet these, instead of making men think of eternity, seem to make them think more of this present world. God's goodness, instead of leading them to repentance, hardens their hearts. The discipline and awakening of suffering and trial are needed. These trials, breaking in upon the routine of our daily business and enjoyments, help to withdraw our desires from the things of this perishing world, and to fix them upon a more enduring substance. They remind us that this is not our rest; that we are entirely dependent upon a power that is above us for all our happiness and comforts; and that there is indeed a God that judgeth in the earth. There is nothing more calculated to show a man his own weakness and his dependence upon a higher Power, and to lead him to reflect seriously upon his future prospects, than to find himself, in the midst of important and perhaps pressing duties, suddenly laid aside, stretched upon a bed of sickness, racked, it may be, with pain, and unable to do anything for himself. In such circumstances we must feel that "it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps." There are many Christians everywhere who, with feelings of deep humility and gratitude, are ready to acknowledge that they never had any serious thought of eternity, that they never knew the power of the love of Christ, and that they were never led to seek him as their Saviour, until the day of adversity made them consider; until they were stripped of their dearest possessions; until they were warned by the sudden death of some one who was dear to them; or until they themselves were laid upon a bed of sickness, and brought nigh unto the gates of death. "Lo, all these things worketh God oftentimes with men, to bring back his soul from the pit, to be enlightened with the light of the living" (Job 33:29, 30). And through all the Christian life, how many times we have to thank God for the discipline of trial! Our trials have often proved to be our greatest blessings (see also on Romans 5:3-6).

II. WHO ARE THOSE THAT EXPERIENCE THIS GOOD IN ALL GOD'S PROVIDENCES? "All things work together for good to them that love God. It is not all men, therefore, who are entitled to such a happy way of looking at the events of life. There are many in whose case everything that God gives them seems to be turned into evil. Not merely the trials which harden their hearts, but also his blessings which they abuse and are ungrateful for, and the life he gives them, which they misspend. The more they have prospered, the more they have forgotten God. Those things that might be a blessing if rightly used, become their greatest curse. Love to God is the quality that makes all life happy and blessed. Love to God sweetens every bitter cup, and lightens every heavy burden. For if we love him, we must know him, we must trust him. That is the threefold cord that binds the Christian unto God, and that keeps him safe in all the changes and circumstances of life. In order to love God, we must know him and trust him. This knowledge and this trust can only come by the study of God's Word. This love can only come from a heart that has experienced the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit. The natural man is enmity against God. Cultivate the love of God if you would have light for the dark places of life, if you would have strength for its hours of weakness, and comfort for its hours of trial and sorrow. Then you will experience that all things work together for good to them that love God." - C.H.I.







And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God.
I. IT IS ABUNDANTLY OBVIOUS OF MANY A SINGLE ADVERSITY — THAT A GREAT AND PERMANENT GOOD MAY COME OUT OF IT. This is often verified, as when the disease brought on by intemperance has germinated; and the loss by a daring speculation has checked the adventurer, and turned him into the way of safe though moderate prosperity. Apart from Christianity, man has often found that it was good for him to have been afflicted — that, under the severe but salutary discipline, wisdom has been increased, and character strengthened, and the rough independence of human wilfulness tamed, and many asperities of temper have been worn away. And so of many an infliction on the man who is a candidate for the world above. The overthrow of his fortune has given him a strong practical set for eternity; the death of his child has weaned him from all idolatry; the tempests of life have fastened him more steadfastly to the hold of religious principle. He is made perfect by sufferings.

II. THESE ADVERSE VISITATIONS DO NOT ALWAYS COME SINGLY. The apostle supposes the concurrence of two or more events, all verging towards the good of him to whom they have befallen. It has often been said that misfortunes seldom come by themselves; and it is the compounding of one evil thing with another that aggravates so much the distress of each of them. And when we are lost in the bewilderments of a history that we cannot scan, and entangled among the mazes of a labyrinth that we cannot unravel, it is well to be told that all is ordered and that all worketh for good.

III. IMPORTANT CONSEQUENCES EMANATE FROM ONE EVENT WHICH IN ITSELF IS INSIGNIFICANT, insomuch that the colour and direction of your whole futurity have turned on what, apart from this mighty bearing, would have been the veriest trifle in the world. It is thus that the great drama of a nation's politics may hinge on the veriest bagatelle. The pursuers of Mahomet were turned away from the mouth of the cave in which he had the moment before taken shelter by the flight of a bird from one of the shrubs that grew at its entry. This bird changed the destiny of the world. And therefore it is well that all things are under the control of God who maketh all things work together for good unto those who love Him. Is not the fact that what is most minute often gives rise to what is most momentous, an argument for the doctrine of a providence that reaches even to the least? Should God let go one small ligament in the vast and complicated machinery of the world, it might all run into utter divergency from the purpose of the mind that formed it.

IV. HOW AM I TO BE ASSURED OF MY INTEREST IN THE DECLARATION OF THE TEXT?

1. The promise here is not unto all in the general, but to those who love God. Now I may not be sure that I love Him. I may desire to love Him; but to desire is one thing and to do is another. Now it does not follow that you are altogether destitute of love to God because it stirs so languidly within you that you are not able very distinctly or decidedly to recognise it. Your very desire to love Him is a good symptom; your very grief that you love Him not bodes favourably for you. Where there is an honest wish for affection, there is in fact the embryo of affection itself, struggling for a growth and an establishment in the aspiring bosom. Meanwhile it is most desirable that the germ should expand. And the question is, How shall this be brought about? Never by looking to oneself, but by looking unto the Saviour.

2. They who love God are described by another characteristic. They are the "called" — i.e., those who have felt the power of the call upon their hearts, and have complied with it accordingly. It is only upon our entertaining the call of the gospel and consenting thereunto that there ensues a transition of the heart to the love of God. Anterior to this, the thought of God stood associated with feelings of jealousy and insecurity and alarm. A sense of guilt has alienated us from God. It is this which stands as a wall of iron between heaven and earth. And the only way by which this else impregnable barrier can be scaled, and we can draw nigh in affection to the Father, is by accepting the only authentic offer that He ever held out to us of reconciliation. It is by beholding Him in the face of Christ.

(T. Chalmers, D.D.)

I. THE END TO BE ACCOMPLISHED The "good" here spoken of does not apply to our health, ease, or fortune, but to our eternal interest. Who does not see that afflictions have a beneficial tendency? They bring us to reflection; they quicken prayer; they wean us from the world, etc. But even spiritual good is not the highest reference. "Good" looks to heaven and points to eternity (2 Corinthians 4:17).

II. THE MEANS WHICH ARE TO ACCOMPLISH THIS END. "All things," as the subject-matter in hand, and by the context. The apostle is here speaking of afflictions: and of those that will ultimately be beneficial are —

1. The trials of those who are called to bear the cross for Christ's sake. Those losses that you may now be called to endure for the sake of religious principle will inevitably enrich the inheritance which grace has prepared for you above all things. If you suffer with Christ, you shall reign with Him.

2. The ordinary calamities which we are all more or less called to endure. The painful sickness, borne with unmurmuring resignation; the loss of property, submitted to with the knowledge that we have a higher treasure the departure of friends, whom we have given up without rebellion to the will of Him who had a better right to them than ourselves — all the trials of life enter within the compass of this delightful expression.

3. But observe the words, "work together." The believer's history is not an unconnected series of events; they form a perfect scheme. His life, death, infancy, old age, all enter into the one grand scheme which Providence is causing to produce his spiritual benefit. How many influences strive, even in reference to our temporal comforts, to promote our enjoyment in this world. The sun, the moon, the stars, the elements; food, raiment, habitation, etc. And so it is with respect to our spiritual welfare. How many aids, instruments, influences, are perpetually provided to promote our spiritual welfare? The Deity — Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; angels, patriarchs, etc.; the Bible, the Sabbath, the fellowship of the saints — all concurring to promote our spiritual welfare. The believer, looking at the scheme of providence, is not unlike an individual surveying some complicated piece of machinery, where the manufacturer himself stands by holding in his hand the articles which this mechanism has produced, and saying to the spectator, "See these apparently contradictory movements; hear this noise and confusion: you cannot tell the design, perhaps, of one of the wheels, much less enter into the combination of the whole; but I can, and here are the results of these various movements." So does God speak to His people, surveying the mechanism of providence, the wheels of which are so varied, and in some of its movements so apparently contradictory.

III. THE CERTAINTY WITH WHICH WE MAY CALCULATE UPON THE PRODUCTION OF THIS END BY THESE MEANS. "We know." It is not a mere conjecture; an opinion; it is a declaration of absolute certainty. We have the promise of a God that cannot lie; and we have the power of a God who can do all things that He wills to accomplish His promise.

IV. THE INFERENCES FROM THIS SUBJECT.

1. What is true in reference to the individual Christian must, of course, be true in reference to the Church at large. "Christ is exalted to be head over all things to His Church." The rise and fall of empires, the setting up and the pulling down of monarchies, the progress of arms, of commerce, of arts, the collision of human passions and human interests that is perpetually going forward — all these things are working together for good to the Church.

2. The unspeakable value of that sacred volume which contains such a discovery as this. Who could have made it but God Himself? Who that looks abroad upon the chequered scene of human affairs can presume to tell whether good or evil preponderates? And even if they could advance so far as to pronounce a decision, that good now preponderates, yet who, without some infallible oracle to determine the question, can declare whether ultimately good or evil will prevail? But the Bible comes in, and sets the matter at rest, and tells us that "all things work together for good," etc. Nay, without the Bible who can tell us what good is, or how it is to be obtained?

3. The necessity of faith, to rise to the standard of our privileges, and receive that abundance of consolation which God has provided for us.

(J. Angell James.)

for good to them that love God: —

I. THE EXPLANATION OF THE TEXT.

1. The nature of the privilege.(1) The extent — "All things," as limited by the context, which speaketh of the afflictions of the saints.(a) All manner of trials for righteousness' sake. Stripes are painful to flesh, but occasion greater joy to the soul (Acts 16.). Spoiling of goods stirreth up serious reflections on a more enduring substance (Hebrews 10:34). So banishment; every place is alike near to heaven, and the whole earth is the Lord's (Revelation 1:9). Death doth but hasten our glory (2 Corinthians 5:1).(b) Ordinary afflictions. Many times we are best when we are weakest, and the pains of the body invigorate the inward man (2 Corinthians 4:16). In heaven you shall have everlasting ease.(c) Though prosperity be not formally expressed in this place, yet it is virtually included. For God keepeth off, or bringeth on the cross as it worketh for our good (Song of Solomon 4:6). It is a threatening to them that do not love God that their prosperity tendeth to their hurt (Psalm 69:22). The sanctifying of their prosperity is included in a Christian's charter (1 Corinthians 3:21-23).(2) The manner of bringing it about — "They work together." Take anything single and apart, and it seemeth to be against us. We cannot understand God's providence till He hath done His work; He is an impatient spectator that cannot tarry till the last act, wherein all errors are reconciled (John 13:6, 7). God knoweth what He is a-doing with you, when you know not (Jeremiah 29:11). When we apprehend nothing but ruin, God may be designing to us the choicest mercies (Psalm 31:22).(3) The end and issue — "For good."(a) Sometimes to good temporal, or our better preservation during our service (Genesis 50:20). Many of us, whose hearts are set upon some worldly thing, have cause to say we had suffered more if we had suffered less. In the story of Joseph there is a notable scheme of Providence.(b) Spiritual good. So all affliction is made up and recompensed to the soul; it afflicts the body, but bettereth the heart (Psalm 119:71). We lose nothing but our rust by scouring.(c) Eternal good. Heaven will make us complete amends for all that we suffer here (2 Corinthians 4:17).

2. The certainty of this — "We know." Not by an uncertain and fallible conjecture, but upon sure grounds. What are they?(1) The promise of God, by which He hath secured the salvation of His people, notwithstanding their troubles (Hebrews 6:17, 18).(2) The experiences of the saints, who have found it so (Psalm 119:67; Philippians 1:19).(3) From the nature of the thing. Two considerations enforce it —(a) All things are at God's disposal, and force to serve Him.(b) His special care over His people (Isaiah 49:15; Zechariah 2:8; 1 Corinthians 10:13).

II. A MORE GENERAL STATE OF THE CASE.

1. This good is not to be determined by our fancies and conceits, but by the wisdom of God; for God knoweth what is better for us than we do for ourselves. Should the shepherd or the sheep choose his pastures? the child be governed by his own fancy or the father's discretion? the sick man by his own appetite or the physician's skill? It is necessary sometimes that God should displease His people for their advantage (John 16:6, 7). Peter said, "Master, it is good for us to be here"; but little thought what work God had to do by him elsewhere.

2. Good is to be determined by its respect to the chief good or true happiness which consists not in outward comforts, but our acceptance with God; other things are but appendages to our felicity (Matthew 6:33).

3. This good is not always the good of the body, or of outward prosperity; and therefore our condition is not to be determined by the interest of the flesh, but the welfare of our soul.

4. It is not good presently enjoyed and felt, but waited for; and therefore our condition must not be determined by sense, but faith (Hebrews 12:11).

5. A particular good must give way to a general good, and our personal benefit to the glory of God and the advancement of Christ's kingdom (Philippians 1:24).

6. In bringing about this good we must not be idle spectators, but assist under God.

7. If it be true of particular persons, it is much more true of the Church; all is for good (Psalm 76:10).

(T. Manton, D.D.)

We begin with the first of these parts, viz., the proposition itself, "All things work together for good," etc., wherein again we have two branches more. For the first, the subject, it is "all things "; all things whatsoever they be, they do work together for the good of God's people. All things indefinitely. It is a very large and comprehensive word, and so makes for the greater comfort and encouragement of all believers. First, "all things" in an universality of subsistence, and within the compass of being. There's nothing which can be said to be, but what it is it is one way or other advantageous to those which are God's people. First, for God Himself, who is the Being of beings, the uncreated being. There is nothing of Him but it makes for the good of His children. All the attributes of God, all the offices of Christ, all the gifts and graces of the Spirit, they still make for the good of them that belong to Him. Secondly, for created being, that is all of it for our good likewise. There is not any of all the creatures but they are in their several kinds and capacities subservient to the good of the Church and of every member of it. But secondly, "all things" in an universality of dispensation and under the notion of working. All occurrences, and events, and stations, and conditions, whether good, or bad, or indifferent, whatever is done and disposed in the world. The second branch of the proposition is the predicate or consequent in these words, "Work together for good to them that love God." Wherein, again, we have three particulars more. For the first, the improvement itself, it is this: that they "work together." Where there are two things distinctly and separately considerable of us — first, their simple operation. Secondly, their additional co-operation. First, I say, here is their operation: all things, whatsoever they be, they do work for the good of God's children. It is not said, That all things are good, for they are not. Besides many sins and temptations, there are many crosses and afflictions which God's children are sometimes exercised withal, that in their own nature are evil, and so to be accounted. But work to good that they do. And there is good which comes out of them, even then where there is not good in them, as immediate unto them. "No affliction is joyous, but grievous," etc. (Hebrews 12:11). Again, they "work for good" here is a farther note of their activity: it had been well if it had been said, They turn to good, they are ordered and disposed to good, and the like. But the Holy Ghost does not content Himself with so narrow an expression as that is, but carries it a little further. If He had said, They prove to be good, that had been a word of casualty, and might have seemed to make it a mere accident and matter of chance. If He had said they are wrought to good: that had been a word of compulsion, and might have implied some kind of enforcement and constraint hereunto. But now He says rather they "work to good," which is an expression of freeness, and forwardness and spontaneity and does denote that particular aptitude and disposition and inclination which is to be found in every creature as subordinate to the good of the Church. The second is their additional conjunction and co-operation — "they work together." And here again there are three things especially observable. First, their efficacy in working: things which work together, they work with a great deal of strength; and that which is defective in one, it is supplied and made up by the other. Weak things, when they are joined together, they are enabled to do great matters. The second is their unity in working: things that work together they work with a great deal of cheerfulness and alacrity and agreement in their performance. Co-operation, it implies conspiration. The third is their concomitancy and connection, and subordination in working. And this again, it may be taken three manner of ways. There is a threefold co-operation or working together of all things for the good of God's children, which is here pertinently considerable of us — First, they work together with God. Secondly, they work together with us. Thirdly, they work together one with another. This is done especially according to these following observations — First, by labouring for a clear and upright conscience. Secondly, by prayer and calling upon God (1 Timothy 4:4; 2 Corinthians 1:11). Thirdly, by studying the providence of God and observing Him in all His dealings with us, we should take notice of the things themselves, and take notice of our own hearts in them, how far forth they are affected with them, that so we may receive good and benefit from them. God has made to such and such conditions; this will suck and draw virtue out of them, and make a happy improvement of them; and all things work together for us so they work together with us. And that's the second co-operation. Thirdly, they work together; that is, they work together one with another. If we take any passage of Providence singly and alone by itself, perhaps we may not so easily see how it does indeed work for our good. But take it now in its complication and connection with many more, and then we shall see it abundantly. The second is the effect or end of this improvement, and that is here expressed to be for good. Here is no good set down, so as to declare what it is, only indefinitely and in the general. First, for temporal good; God sometimes does His servants good in this, by those things which at the first appearance seem opposite and contrary hereunto. As Joseph when his brethren sold him into Egypt. Secondly, for spiritual good, so all things work for good to them however. Every passage of providence to those who are the children of God, it serves to draw them nearer to God, and to perfect their communion with Him. Thirdly, for eternal good which is the main good of all. That's the second thing here considerable, to wit, the end or effect of this improvement, and that is good, The third and last is the persons who are more especially interested in it, and they are the children of God, who are here described from a double qualification. The one of their Christian affection, "to them that love God," and the other of their effectual vocation," to them which are the called according to His purpose." And so there is this in it, that God's children, and they alone, have all things working to them for their good. There is none that have interest in the privilege but those only that do partake of the condition. As for other people, they are so far from having all things to work for their good as that they rather work the quite contrary, for their greatest evil. God Himself being an enemy to them, everything else is an enemy with Him, and all the creatures are ready to rise up in arms against them. The Word of God is a savour of death to them, the sacraments they are occasions of judgment. Prayer it becomes an abomination; there is a snare, and a trap, and a stumbling-block in all their comforts. Everything is the worse for them, and they for it. The second is the manner of enunciation, or declaration of this proposition in these words, "we know it," which is an expression of great confirmation; it is not a matter of guess only, or conjecture, but of certainty and assurance. This knowledge of a believer, it may be reduced to a threefold head of conveyance — first, we know it by revelation. Secondly, we know it by reason; and thirdly, we know it by experience. There is very great reason for it. First, that which we have here in the text, the eternal purpose of God Himself. Whatsoever is done in the world, it is subservient to God's decree, and tends to the filling of that. Now, this is that which God hath purposed, and ordained, and appointed aforehand, even to bring His children to perfect happiness and salvation at last. Secondly, God's affection and the love which He bears to believers, this makes for it also. Especially, if we shall further add His omnipotence and almighty power, that He does whatsoever He pleases both in heaven and earth. Thirdly, the covenant of grace, that does likewise make much for this purpose. Fourthly, the mystical union which is betwixt Christ and every true believer. And now for the improvement and application of all this to ourselves. First, here's ground of patience and contentment in every condition. Again, as this makes for patience in the present condition, so also for hope for time to come. Again further, we may carry on this truth not only to the comfort of such and such Christians in particular, but also of the whole Church in general, by taking the words in the text, not distributively only, but collectively. But secondly, it may serve further to rectify us and to set us right in our judgments and opinions, and that especially in three particulars — First, of God Himself. Secondly, of the children of God. Thirdly, of religion and Christianity. First, it may teach us to have good conceits of God Himself, and to think rightly and soberly of Him. Whilst God has good thoughts for us, we should have good thoughts of Him, and justify Him in His proceedings in the world. There are certain intricacies and perplexities in providence which are not presently discerned or apprehended; there are the wheels moving within the wheels, as it is in Ezekiel, and we must be content to stay God's leisure for the opening and unfolding of them to us. Secondly, to have good thoughts also of the children of God, and to think rightly of them; here is that which may make us in love with the state of God's people, and to set a high price upon them: "Happy art thou, O Israel: who is like unto thee, O people saved by the Lord" (Deuteronomy 33:29). Thirdly, it should make us to think well of religion and Christianity itself, which does carry so much comfort and consolation in the bowels of it, and more than any other mystery or profession whatsoever besides; there is no such sweetness to be found anywhere as in the principles of Christianity improved and lived up to in the power of them.

(Thomas Horton, D.D.)

d: — A lighted taper inserted into a phial of one kind of gas will burn with the utmost brilliancy and beauty; in another phial, charged with a different kind of gas, that same taper will become extinguished in offensive smoke, and in a third it would produce an instantaneous and violent explosion. So the same calamity — sickness, bereavement, commercial disaster — will awaken in one man a slumbering conscience, will drive another to distraction, and a third it will draw nearer to God than ever; so that, whilst it is literally and undeniably true that the same calamities come alike upon the good and evil, it is a transparent fallacy to infer that the same ulterior results will follow in both cases. It is a fallacy to maintain that a curse may not remain a curse, or be transformed into a blessing, according as it is accepted as a salutary discipline or rebelled against as an arbitrary infliction. It is on the temper of the recipient that the result depends, and whether or not all things, good or ill, concur to his advantage. Does it not depend upon the use you make of anything, whether it becomes to you a blessing or a curse? Beneath the petals of a graceful and familiar flower is secreted a sedative poison, of such quality that it will frequently steep a man in such a slumber as only the last trumpet can awake him from. This you at once recognise as opium. You cannot cause water to boil for the most ordinary culinary purpose, but you disengage an element most formidable, the most irresistible power of expansion. This is steam. No summer passes over you, but you see the lightning tear the sky across as if it were a scroll of paper. This is electricity. These three agents, electricity, steam, and poison, to the mind of an untutored savage, are nothing but instruments of death. But a man of science in that deadly narcotic detects the principle of morphine; he compounds it with suitable ingredients, and converts it into one of the most inestimable and indispensable preparations in the pharmacopoeia. From death he extracts life. In steam he snatches, as it were, from the hand of Nature one of her most gigantic powers, and compels it to become the most obedient and the most versatile of his servants. Nay, the very lightning he enlists and disciplines into an obedient recruit. And in such wise is all this true of all these forces and many more, that while to the uncultured savage they are agents of death and objects of terror, they are working together for the comfort and benefit of him who has learned how to use them. Such is a faint illustration of the way in which the same occurrence may act with diametrically opposite results upon the practical Christian and upon the man who lives without God in the world. In the godless exciting rebellion and hardness of heart, and in the Christian pointing to filial submission, confiding holiness, and life eternal; forasmuch as all things — all things — work together for the good of them that are true to God.

(W. H. Brookfield, M.A.)

We begin with the first of these branches, viz., of that description which is here made of the children of God, as taken from their Christian affection, of those that love God. In these, and many like places, are God's children described by this character of their special love and affection to God. The reason of it is this — First, because this is the most excellent qualification of all others. It is that which the Scripture prefers above all other graces; though they all have their dignity in them, yet love it goes beyond them all, being such as shall last and continue, whilst the other ceases in regard of the exercise and authority of them. Secondly, it is an affection of the greatest influence and extent. It is that which, wherever it is, sets the wheels of the soul ageing for the doing of other things. He that loves God, he will stick at nothing else which God commands or requires at his hands (1 John 5:3). Thirdly, it is that also whereby we most resemble God Himself and become likest to Him. This the apostle John signifies in 1 John 4:16. Lastly, it is that which is most proper to all those relations wherein the faithful stand unto God as the friends of Christ, as the members of Christ, as the spouse of Christ. For the better opening of this point it may not be amiss for us to consider wherein this our love of God does consist, and what is the nature and working of it. Now for this it does especially consist in these three particulars — First, in our estimation of Him, a high prizing and valuing of those excellencies and perfections which are in Him. And this prizing and esteeming of Him, it does show itself farther in such effects as flow from it. First, in parting with anything for Him; love, it is a self-denying affection. Secondly, in zeal for Him, and maintaining and defending of Him upon all occasions. Love it is a vindictive affection, and is ready upon all occasions to take the part of the party beloved. Thirdly, this prizing of God as a testimony of our love to Him will show itself in a proportionable estimation both of ourselves and of every one else in reference to Him. Secondly, in a special longing and desire of soul after Him: love it is a desire of union. Thirdly, in special delight and complacency, and contentment in Him; where there is love, this is a great deal of satisfaction from the company and fellowship and society one of another (Psalm 73:25). Seeing God's children are thus described from their loving of God, we see what cause we all of us have to make good this character in ourselves, and to be provoked to this heavenly affection. First, as to arguments for it take notice of these — First, goodness, that is one incentive to love; it is the ground of all that love which we bear to the creature because we apprehend some special good and excellency in it. Secondly, beauty, that is another thing in the object of love. It must have some kind of attractiveness and enticing with it, now this is also in God. Thirdly, propinquity and nearness of relation, that also calls for love. It is so betwixt man and man, or at least should be so. Lastly, His love to us; love it begets love again (Psalm 116:1; Psalm 18:1, 2). Now further, for the directions and helps to it, take notice of these — First, to beg it of God, there is none that can love God truly but such persons as He enables to do so. Secondly, get our hearts weaned from a loving and admiring of the world. Thirdly, labour to be like God, and to have His image stamped upon us; love, it is founded in likeness, there is somewhat suitable which draws the affection. And so now I have done with the first branch of the description of God's children, and of such persons as have an interest in the privilege above mentioned, of all things working to their good, as taken from their Christian affection in these words, "To them that love God." The second is from their effectual vocation, in these words, "To them that are the called according to His purpose." Wherein again we have two branches more. We begin with the first, their condition, such as are called — those who "are God's children" are such persons as are effectually called, take notice of that. First, for the calling itself to show you what it is. Now this it may be briefly thus described and declared unto us: calling, it is a work of God's Spirit, whereby, in the use of the means, He does effectually draw the elect from ignorance and unbelief, to true knowledge and faith in Christ, this is the calling which is here spoken of. There is a double calling which is mentioned in Scripture: the one is general in the publishing of the gospel; the other is special, which belongs only to the elect. And this latter is that which we have here in this text, which are "called according to His purpose." First, as to the former, the parts whereof this special and peculiar calling does consist, they are again twofold — First, God's invitation. And secondly, man's acceptation. The second thing considerable to this calling is (as the parts whereof it consists so) the terms from which and to which it does proceed. And these according to the language of Scripture are sin and grace: from that miserable and wretched condition in which all men are by nature to the happy estate and condition of the children of God (Acts 26:18). The consideration of this point is thus far useful to us, as it serves to set forth the excellency and all-sufficiency of the grace of God in conversion. And so as an argument of greater power, so also of greater favour and goodness in God towards us. The second is the person calling, and that is God Himself; it is He to whom this work does properly and principally belong. "No man cometh unto Me," says Christ," except the Father which hath sent Me draw him" (John 6:44; so Acts 2:39). This it serves, first of all to inform us, that religion is not mere imagination, or a business of man's devising. No, but that it is such as God Himself has invited and called us to. It is also very comfortable as to the perfection and consummation of grace in us, "that He who hath begun a good work in us will perfect it," etc., as it is in Philippians 1:6. Lastly, seeing it is God that calls us, we should therefore be careful to lead a godly and holy life and conversation, answerable to the nature of Him who hath thus called us. The third is the manner, and means, and time of calling, both how and when it is performed. First, for the manner how, or the means by which, this is in an ordinary course by the preaching and publishing of the gospel (Romans 10:17). Therefore this teaches us accordingly to honour this ordinance of God and to set highly by it. Another thing considerable as to this calling is the time and season of it when it is that men are made partakers of this blessing; now for this we find it to be a thing unlimited and undetermined, there is no set or appointed time for it, but some are called at one time, and some are called at another, as it pleases God in His providence to dispose it. Beloved, it is a dangerous thing to neglect the present seasons of grace and effectual vocation, because if we do so we know not whether we may ever enjoy them again. The fourth and last thing here considerable is the persons who are the subjects of this call. Therefore let none either engross this mercy or despair of it. Let none engross it to themselves as if it belonged to none but unto them; nor let none despair of it for themselves as if it did not belong to them at all. Those who are themselves effectually called they will have a high esteem and account both of their calling itself, as also of all other persons who are partakers of the same calling with them. The second is the ground of this condition, as also of the privilege annexed unto it, and that is the purpose and good pleasure and decree of God "according to His purpose." First, this calling here spoken of it is absolute and independent. It is according to God's purpose, not according to our desert, thus 2 Timothy 1:9. This must needs be so; because we see by plain experience that those who might be thought most of all to deserve it are many times excluded from it, whilst others are taken in. The publicans and harlots went into the kingdom of heaven before the Pharisees (Matthew 21:31). Therefore let us from hence learn to abhor all doctrine of merit. Let us give God the whole glory of all. Our calling is absolute. Secondly, it is also unchangeable as the purpose itself, from whence it proceeds; the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. Lastly, we see here the ground of the universal happiness of God's children, and in particular the certainty of the privilege above mentioned of "all things working to their good."

(Thomas Horton, D.D.)

1. With what ease the writers of the Bible give expression to the mightiest and most astonishing statements! Not, however, because the apparent impossibilities — which stand in the very teeth of their verification — are either ignored or overlooked. "The sufferings of this present time"; "the subjection of the creature to the bondage of corruption"; "the groaning and travailing in pain of the whole creation"; the anguish of man's inner and deeper experience; are all painfully vivid to the apostle's eye. Nevertheless, in the midst of "tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, and sword," he is bold to assert, "We know that all things work together for good to them that love God."

2. Who of us can join in this language in the face of the world's sin and woe? Some there may be who are able contentedly to meet the dark mysteries of Providence with "whatever is best" — a conviction, perhaps, that grew up out of the reverent trust and experience of their childhood. But this is seldom left undisturbed; and, once disturbed, we may regain confidence; but it will be as different from our early confidence as Joseph's, when he stood before his brethren in Egypt, was different from that he enjoyed when he wore his coat of many colours.

3. This certitude of the apostle was the rational conviction, confirmed by an ample experience, established by a faith in the Christian verities, and made immovable by the visions of a heart disciplined by trial, and purified by affliction? And this is a certitude open to us all, if we seek it. Let us contemplate the source of its light, that our reason be not confounded at the confidence of our heart.

I. ALL THINGS ARE AT WORK, AND SUBJECT TO CONSTANT CHANGE. Our hedges and fields retain not their beauty, and our summer's light and heat decline. The very earth grows old, and the heavens are not what they were. And among the sons of men there is no one abiding. And what are the records of history but the chronicle of the successive ages of the world's experience. And within the little sphere of our own existence, incessant change allows no rest to either thought, affection, or will. And what an air of sadness all this gives to our life! It begets our earliest sorrows. And, as years wear on, a feeling of insecurity steals over us which denies us peace. But the heart refuses life without hope, and this ceaseless change arouses the mind to the discovery of some other ground of confidence. And our text speaks of this restless action, not only as a constant working, but as a working together. Let us see what difference this makes.

II. ALL THINGS WORK TOGETHER. The addition of this one word alters everything. It introduces design where all seemed aimless; order where all seemed chaos. For instance, winter is seen to have a necessary place and work in relation to summer; night to day; deserts to fruitful fields; the mountains to the valleys. In short, the earth is one, and made up of contradictory elements. The year is one, and requires all the seasons. The day is one, and composed of morning, noon, and evening. In like manner, the course of history is made up of all the forms of human life and every variety of experience, so that conflicting events, and the most incongruous elements, are made to work together in subordination to the one purpose. And so with the little circle of our personal experience. And these three — nature, history, and individual experience — are one. They are but spheres of co-operative agencies carrying out the one purpose which runs through all ages.

III. TO WHAT PURPOSE, TO WHAT END DO ALL THINGS WORK TOGETHER? "For good." This is a necessary deduction. If all things "work together," then good must be the result. Evil elements cannot be combined; they are antagonistic to each other. When wicked men combine, it is found necessary to set up the principles of goodness. There must be "honesty among thieves," truth among liars, or their devices have no chance. The principles recognised among them as necessary for their co-operation are antagonistic to the ends for which they combine. The light by which they go astray is light from heaven. And it is the power of this admitted but opposed light which explodes every plot and makes it simply impossible for a course of combined wickedness to perpetuate itself. But the working together of all things implies nothing less than the presence of infinite goodness, in the very elements of things as well as in their embodied purpose; wisdom, which, as the eye of goodness, sees the end from the beginning and knows how to reach it; and power, the moral energy of both goodness and wisdom, which subordinates everything to the one purpose. This preordained purpose will only be fully revealed in the end; in the way there will be much of human arbitrariness, which will tend to hide it. The way, however, of goodness carries its security, for the attainment of its end, in its own moral power. This co-operation of all things for God's purpose is a Divine chemistry. For as in a mixture of chemical elements, while the process of combination is going on, you may be utterly at a loss to know what the result will be, until, the last element being added, it is made manifest; so is it with the providence of God. Let us habituate ourselves, however, to regard providence as carried on by the personal power of God's presence, a power, therefore, of quickening as well as of combining elements; of intensifying as well as of moderating their action; a power of new beginnings as well as of terminating forces and agencies long in exercise. It is what, and more than what, the will of man is to his whole body as well as to every separate part. God is not an exhausted Deity, neither is He under bondage to the forces which He has conferred upon His creatures. With Him there ever remains an infinite reserve of ways and means by which to "do according to His will."

IV. BUT, IF ALL THINGS WORK TOGETHER FOR GOOD, THEN ALSO FOR THE BEST. God's mind can only purpose the best in relation to the creature concerned. And to reach His end, He has but one way, and that is the best. That one absolutely perfect, highest, and best end is seen in His only-begotten Son, who is at once Son of man and Son of God; "of whom, through whom, and to whom, are all things," and for whose central glory man's redemption was purposed from eternity, but reserved for accomplishment till, "the fulness of time," that He might "gather up all things in One," and in that One for ever unite His glory and our salvation.

V. BUT FOR WHOM WILL THIS CO-OPERATION OF ALL THINGS WORK OUT ITS HIGHEST GOOD? "For those who love God," The highest good can only be received by rightly directed affections. As it proceeds from the love of the Creator, it can only be received by the love of the creature. For, just as a piece of mechanism, cunningly devised to weave a pattern of marvellous beauty, may require a thread of a given quality and texture to receive its design, so the highest purpose of the Divine love, to be wrought out by the co-operation of all things, can only be taken up by, and embodied in, the affections of His children. For, as His purpose is spiritual, it requires spiritual embodiment; as it is holy, it requires holiness; as it is free, it requires to be chosen; as it is merciful, it requires vessels of mercy; as it is personal, it requires personality; as it is social, it requires a society of individuals; as it is not only from, but of God, it requires godliness; and, as it is an all-embracing unity — a rich, full, and lasting oneness of Being — to which God freely gives Himself, it requires in those who partake of it the exercise of the love.

(W. Pulsford, D.D.)

I. "ALL THINGS." For there is a sense in which a human being is related to everything. He is related supremely to God, and by that relationship he touches the whole universe. But, probably, the "all things" here meant are those which more nearly and constantly affect men. Now there is a very great difference in the number, variety, and importance of these things in different individual cases. "All things" that can enter into an infant's little life are few and simple compared with those of a man. The affairs of a savage are few compared with those of a civilised man.

II. "All things WORK." "All things are full of labour." The ceaseless movement of all things, from stars to atoms, would, if we could really see it all, be perfectly appalling. On the stillest day, and in the most sequestered scene, streams of life are rushing on through their courses. Not only the earth, the waters, the air, but the very rocks are alive. What is thus true in nature is just as true in human life; not only when man's thought is busy about them, and his own hand upon them, but often almost as much when the man rests and sleeps. We speak of busy time. It is not time that is busy. 'Tis men who live, and move, and have being. 'Tis "things" that "work." Thought, and impulse, and act, and habit, and plan, and purpose — these are the great working powers. They all work: and always. We divide life into active and passive, into busy and quiet. But things are working as rapidly, and to effects as certain in the one time as the other. Things are troubled and perplexed at night: you can make nothing of them. You go to sleep, and in the morning they are clearer. It is just the same as if you had been thinking of them, and unravelling them all the night. They have been "working" while you have been sleeping. The same kind of process takes place through a series of days sometimes. Gradually a dark prospect clears, or a bright one darkens. The crooked becomes straight, or the straight becomes crooked. Nor can you tell any sufficient reason for the change.

III. "All things work TOGETHER." That explains the changes that take place, and the progress that is sometimes made very quickly. You have seen horses pulling a heavy load up a hill, and suddenly brought to a stand, and then moving on again, simply by the addition of an animal to the team. So a man is overmatched sometimes by the weight and pressure of the things he has to do, when — a new circumstance, a new "thing" is born, and as it were instantly yokes itself into harness with the rest, and the object is attained. But the working together of things is yet more than this. In some chemical experiments it happens that each separate substance becomes something else, and all a compound — a new thing, which has mysteriously composed itself out of the whole. The bosom of Providence is the great moral crucible in which things work together. The innumerable things that mingle in that crucible, if taken separately, would be seen working to diverse results; but the one master-influence now rules the whole process, and so combines the specific elements as to perpetuate and increase its own sway. "All things work together," not in an aimless and capricious manner, as though a stream should one day flow seawards, and the next back towards its fountain, but in one volume, along one channel, in one direction, towards one end. This gives life an awful character. The sum of the influences tend to good, or to evil. Life in some instances may seem an equipoise, but it is not. Only a practised eye can tell which way a sluggish stream in a meadow is flowing, yet no one who has seen the stream enter the meadow, or leave it, can doubt that it is in motion there. Not for long does any human life flow as through meadow land.

IV. Now, the greatest question is this, "Of what character is the supreme influence of all the things that work together in my life?" The question is not difficult to answer, if only the right method be taken. Must, then, a man analyse, weigh, and describe all the "things" which hake for him the one grand life-influence! Must he search the bosom of Providence? How utterly vain were the effort! But, happily, there is no need to make it. The true test is far simpler and easier. It is this, Is there love to God? All things work together for good TO THEM THAT LOVE GOD. The question is not, "Am I strong enough to vanquish the forces of life?" because no man will ever be. To all there is at last the grand defeat. Nor is it, "Am I wise and politic enough to foresee and prepare?" because every man is overmatched, at one time or other, bier, of course, "Am I good enough to change everything into good?" —for, still, alas! when He who alone is good looks down, there is but the old sad case, that "none doeth good." But the question is this and none other, "Do I love God, whose whole delight is to overcome evil with good?" What, or rather whom we love, and how much, will tell far more regarding our real character than anything else; will, therefore, also tell what moral position we occupy in relation to all outward things. If we love God, "all things work together for our good." Quite clearly, then, the one grand solicitude with us should be the cultivation of this Divine affection of love to God. If this be in perpetual action, how need we give place and time and thought to other cares? All is well. Those working "things," the strength and pressure of which we never could resist, the mystery of which we never could fathom — let them work together and enter into all possible combinations, they can produce nothing but good to us. Does the storm blow? Love Him who "maketh the storm a calm," and who, in storm and calm alike, will keep you safely within the sure haven of His care. Is it night? Love Him to whom "the darkness and the light are both alike," but who, knowing well that they are not alike to us, has promised that weeping and night shall pass away together, and that joy shall come in the morning. Are you in pain? Love Him who, although He is "the ever-blessed God," suffered once for us, and still has the touch of all our pain on the nerve of His own infinite sympathy, and who writes over the portals of the happy gates, "There shall be no more pain." Are you poor? Love Him who, to sanctify poverty, was born among the beasts, lived with the poor. Can you go up and stand beside Him, and complain that He has left you poor?

(A. Raleigh, D.D.)

I. THE BELIEVER'S CHARACTER.

1. Love to God is his grand distinctive feature. The creeds of Christians may differ in minor shades, their ecclesiastical relations may vary — yet in this one particular there is an essential unity. They love one God and Father; and this truth — like those sundered rays of light returning to the sun, approximate to each other — forms the great assimilating principle by which all harmonise. The regeneration through which they have passed has effected this great change. Once they were at enmity with God. But now they love Him.(1) As revealed in Christ. Who, as he has realised the preciousness of the Saviour, has not felt the kindling of a fervent love to Him who, when He had no greater gift, commended His love to us by the gift of His dear Son?(2) In His paternal character. The Spirit of adoption takes captive their hearts, and they love God with a child's fervent, adoring, confiding affection.(3) For all His conduct, for the wisdom, faithfulness, holiness of His procedure — for what He withholds as for what He grants. Of the source of this feeling let us not lose sight, "We love Him because He first loved us."

2. "Who are the called according to His purpose" (Romans 1:6, 7). What a glorious vocation is this! To have heard the Holy Spirit's voice, to have felt the Saviour's love, to have listened to a Father's persuasive assurance, called to be God's holy ones — sons; this were a vocation worthy indeed of God, and demanding in return our supremest, deepest affection! The principle upon which this call proceeds is said to be, "according to His purpose." It excludes all idea of merit on the part of the called (2 Timothy 1:9). Has this call reached you? Ministers, the gospel, providences, conscience have called you, but has the Spirit called you with an inward and effectual vocation from death to life, from sin to holiness, from the world to Christ, from self to God?

II. THE PRIVILEGE WHICH APPERTAINS TO THIS CHARACTER.

1. "All things" under the righteous government of God must necessarily be a working out of good. "Thou art good, and doest good." In Him there is no evil, and consequently nothing can proceed from Him that tendeth to evil. The passage supposes something antagonistic to the well-being of the believer in God's conduct at times. And yet, to no single truth does the Church bear a stronger testimony than to this, that the darkest epochs of her history have ever been those from which her brightest lustre has arisen. But let us pass to individuals. Shall we take the most painful circumstances in the history of the child of God? The Word declares that these circumstances are all conspiring, and all working together, for his good. Take tribulation as the starting-point (Romans 5:3-5). The Bible is rich in illustrations of this. Take, e.g. the cases of Jacob (Genesis 42:36), and Joseph (Genesis 50:20).

2. Observe the unity of operation. They "work together." Seldom does affliction come alone. Storm rises upon storm, cloud on cloud. Trace the wisdom and love of God in ordaining your path to heaven through "much tribulation." Single, the good they are charged to convey were but partially accomplished. It is the compounding of the ingredients in the recipe that constitutes its sanative power. Extract any one ingredient, and you impair the others and destroy the whole. It is the combination of sound, the harmony of many, and often discordant notes, that constitute music. Oh, how imperfectly are we aware of a plurality of trial, to wake from our lips the sweetest anthem of thanksgiving to God! Thus it is that the most deeply tried believers are the most skilful and the most melodious choristers in God's Church. They sing the sweetest on earth, and they sing the loudest in heaven, who are passing through, and who have come out of "great tribulation."

3. It is a present working. It says not that all things have worked or shall work, though this is certain. But it says that all things do now work together for good. The operation may be as invisible and noiseless as the leaven fomenting in the meal, and yet not less certain and effectual. And whether the good be immediate or remote, it matters little; sooner or later it will accomplish its benign and heaven-sent mission.

4. Its certainty. We know it, because God has said it, because others have testified to it, best of all, because we have experienced it ourselves. The shape it may assume, the end to which it may be subservient, we cannot tell. God's glory is secured by it, and that end accomplished, we are sure it must be good. Will it not be a good, if your present adversity results in the dethronement of some worshipped idol — in the endearing of Christ to your soul — in the closer conformity of your mind to God's image — in the purification of your heart — in your more thorough meetness for heaven?

(O. Winslow, D.D.)

Homiletic Review.
All things, whether in nature, providence, or grace, work together for good to God's people.

I. THE PERSONS.

1. Those who love God. By those who hate God, even blessings are turned into a curse.

2. "Who are the called according to His purpose."

II. THE OBJECT.

1. To purify from sin (Malachi 3:3).

2. To promote growth in grace.

3. To prepare for heaven.

III. THE MEANS.

1. Afflictions.

2. Chastisements (Hebrews 12:6). Job was chastised in love and elevated in character to a height he had never otherwise attained.

3. Persecutions. These drive the soul nearer to God. They show who are the genuine professors. Joseph was persecuted, but great good was accomplished thereby (Genesis 50:20).

4. Special providences. These are the turning-points in our lives. How wonderful that I am here rather than elsewhere! There is all the world to choose from; and yet Peoria is my home both by invitation and selection. Paul, on his journey from Iconium to Troas, was minded to labour in the regions of Bithynia, but "the Spirit suffered" him not, for He had other work for him to do in the greater centres of the world's civilisation (Acts 16:7).

IV. THE TIME.

1. This is present. God's children do not have to wait for the blessing. Loving God, all things are received from His hand as means to an end; and enjoying His love, afflictions are tempered, and blessings are not misapplied. Many misquote this text and read it in the future, as if it were only "will work together. "

2. The future (2 Corinthians 4:17).

V. ENCOURAGEMENTS.

1. To courage (Hebrews 12:13).

2. To faith (2 Corinthians 4:18).

3. To hope (Hebrews 6:18-20).

4. To love (Romans 8:35-39).It is the love of God (both His love to us and our love to Him) that changes all things, whether good or untoward, into blessings. Oh, the bountiful alchemy of love!

(Homiletic Review.)

I. THE FACT, "We know," etc. Note —

1. The good determined: being "conformed to the image of God's Son." Each believing man is as a block of marble, hewn out of the great quarry of unregenerated humanity, and appointed to be dressed and formed according to the Divine ideal. The image of the living Christ, as portrayed in the holy Gospels, supplies the model. And the work to be accomplished is that of breaking off unshapely angles, polishing down all rough projections, chiselling out the life-like features, and cleansing away all obscuring dust, till the human subject, "changed into the same image, from glory to glory," stands out at last, a living likeness of the living Lord. No doubt the final result will be blessedness, lordship, and glory. But the work which has now to be effected is that of securing in us a likeness to the Lord. In the external manifestations of our life we must be brought to be like Jesus, who went about doing good; and therefore are we said to be the "workmanship" of God (Ephesians 2:10). But the work of new creation penetrates below the surface, and enters into the very spirit and life of the man (Ephesians 4:22-24).

2. The workers employed by the Divine Artist. "All things," i.e., all the influences of present lot; all the influences of —(1) The objective creation.(2) The perpetually changing events of Providence, both prosperous and adverse, whether as specially affecting only the individual, or also the family, the Church, the nation, or the world.(3) Which proceed from good and from wicked men.(4) The invisible world, which come streaming down from glorified saints, angelic hosts, and from the ever-blessed God.(5) The world beneath. There is nothing neutral in the mighty process; and nothing but whose influence, blended with all others, is made to contribute something towards the accomplishment of the predestinated result.

3. On whose behalf the "good" is being wrought. Those only who "love God, who are the called according to His purpose"; namely, to justify, sanctify, and glorify all them who believe in Christ. For the called ones are those who have adopted the Christian vocation as their own, and have therefore become not only called, but also chosen and faithful. For them the call has become effectual. They have fallen into the line of the Divine purpose, and are therefore being helped along that line by all these harmonised converging forces. The action of the external forces themselves would never produce the desired result. Their influence upon others does but serve to make moral scars and deformity. Just as the deadly nightshade concocts its poison from the very same soil and atmosphere from which the wheat-plant provides us bread, and other plants our honey.

4. The ultimately resulting good is the consequent, not of any single influence, but of all the influences together. This does not, indeed, denote that they work either simultaneously or in perfect and understood agreement amongst themselves. They are oftentimes all unconscious of the service which they render. First one and then another comes near and does the work for which he is specially adapted. Or perchance a whole host of the workers are busily engaged at once, so as to become simultaneous helpers. So, too, it is in other departments of God's works. How many and complicated the forces and influences which must contribute to the growth and perfection of the plant or animal! And how innumerable and varied those by which the infant is developed to manhood! And yet every one produces some lasting impression, and supplies its contribution, with all the others, towards the final product. And thus it is in the formation of Christian character.

II. THE GROUND OF THE FACT, AND OF OUR KNOWLEDGE OF IT. "For (i.e., because that) whom He did foreknow," etc.. Observe —

1. That God Himself predestinated this result; namely, that those who were foreknown as believing the gospel, and as becoming obedient to its call, should he conformed to the image of His Son.

2. That He who predetermined this result has also provided the means for its accomplishment.

3. That which He can He will do to bring the pre-ordained result to its consummation. It is not only that the "purpose" is "His own," formed "according to His own good pleasure," and "given us in Christ Jesus before the world began" (Ephesians 1:9, 10; Ephesians 3:8-12; 2 Timothy 1:9); and therefore a thing never to be abandoned; but one, in respect to the working out of which He has given the strongest assurance. For its accomplishment "He spared not His own Son," etc. Nay; in and with Christ, those "all things" have been already given (1 Corinthians 3:21-23). And, therefore, the apostle, projecting himself forward to the time when the great work of redeeming love shall have been completed, and giving that which is its history in every individual case, affirms that "whom He did predestinate, them He also... glorified."Conclusion: Learn a lesson of —

1. Earnest diligence in the cultivation of the inner spiritual life. This is the true philosopher's stone, by whose alchemic power everything may be transmuted into gold. Power over our own outward worldly condition we have but very little (Jeremiah 10:23). Evil may come, and, if our hearts are not right with God, all things will but serve to intensify our selfishness, impatience, etc., making us to become more than ever vessels of wrath fitted for destruction. But, if we love God, we shall find a helping hand in everything.

2. Patient submission to God's arrangements. Let us remember ever that His providence has to do with all things. Did He choose to do so, He could make our course of life, in all respects, prosperous and pleasant. But if trials, perplexities, and sufferings come, it must be because that these things are needed and good (James 1:2-4).

3. Joyful and triumphant confidence in God. This is that which is specially indicated by the apostle (vers. 31-39).

(W. Tyson.)

You have probably seen a large and complicated piece of machinery in full play. The parts, as you noticed, were very various — various in size and shape, various in the material of which they were made. There were wood and leather, and iron and brass; there were cranks and levers, and pistons and pulleys, and wheels great and small, with other instruments of which both the construction and the use were strange to you. And besides the difference of material, you observed a difference of movement among the parts. There was contrariety and opposition. The wheels whirled round in opposite directions; the chains seemed placed on purpose to resist each other. Checking and counterchecking, strain and counter-strain, were to be seen everywhere. And you felt confused as you stood contemplating the ceaseless and unintelligible whirl that was going on around you; yet you perceived that all the parts of the machinery, however diverse in themselves or in their mode of operation, were working together to produce a certain result — somehow or other their combined action led up to a certain definite point, and amidst all the apparent confusion, this point was invariably reached.

(G. Calthrop, M.A.)

Storrs was a student at Andover Theological Seminary with young Gordon Hall. On a certain Saturday, towards the end of their course, Hall was preparing to go to Braintree to preach upon the following Sabbath, having some expectation that the invitation so to do would grow into a call. In the act of splitting some wood, however, his hat fell from his head beneath the axe, and was cut in twain and ruined. The circumstances were such that to replace it was impossible just then; and Hall, compelled to vacate his engagement at Braintree, arranged with Storrs to go in his place. Storrs went. His preaching pleased. He was invited to come again. And the result was that Hall was quite forgotten, a call was presently extended to Storrs, it was accepted, and he was in due time settled, remaining the minister of that parish until his dying day, a period of more than half a century. Hall, disappointed, one might naturally suppose at this thwarting of his hopes, had his mind turned to the foreign mission field, and became Gordon Hall, the first missionary of the American Board, whose name is for ever linked with the early enterprise of that eminent organisation. No one who has any belief in Divine providence will for a moment doubt that God stationed Storrs at Braintree and sent Hall to India; but does it not also seem as if He effected that arrangement by means of the accident to the hat? And this is the obvious lesson of the incident: that there is really no such thing as accident in this world; that "all things work together" in the execution of God's purposes, and "for good to them that love Him"; that the most trivial occurrence should be contemplated in the light of the possibilities which may flow from it; and that our least concerns, as well as our greatest, are under the supervision and control of the heavenly Father.

I. WHO ARE THE GOOD? "Them that love God." What love?

1. That type which God has predestined. "His purpose."

2. That type to which God has called His creatures. How has He "called" them? By the revelation of His moral loveliness as revealed in nature, in conscience, in Christ. This love is —(1) Paramount. Love as a passing subsidiary emotion is not religious love.(2) Practical. Love that goes off in words or occasional acts is not religious love. It must be a ruling, practical force.(3) Permanent. It must be in everything and for ever.

II. WHAT IS THE GOOD FOR THEM? It is good from all things. What good?

1. There is nothing good that does not promote moral goodness in the soul. Wealth, social position, power, health itself, are not only worthless but pernicious if they accomplish not this.

2. Whatever promotes moral goodness in the soul is good. Personal suffering, personal bereavement, social losses, etc., when they do this, are good. "Tribulation worketh patience," etc. "Our light afflictions." There is a glorious optimism in the history of the good. Conclusion: This subject —

1. Corrects a popular error: that religion is to a man's disadvantage in this world. No such thing. Pauperism with piety is infinitely better than a princedom with ungodliness.

2. This subject affords comfort to afflicted saints. The good can turn all to good.

(D. Thomas,D.D.)

The afflictions of life are variously contemplated. Stoicism says, "Submit to fate." Some are icy negatives in life. They stand amidst the problems and woes of humanity, calm and passive and scornful. Epicureanism says, "Make thyself insensible by indulgence in pleasure." Many mean to take life cosily and sweetly. The whole creation groaneth and travaileth together in pain; but its groans shall not disturb the music of their life, nor its travail cloud the brightness of their little day. In contrast to this Pagan temper the Christian method is to look elements in the face, and see in them the promise of blessing. Christianity does not simply declare the inevitableness of sorrow, or merely lay down rules for lessening its bitterness. It discovers a wise and loving God directing all the mixed processes of life to a beneficient issue. And thus it soothes the heart into patience, lifts it into hope, and floods it with courage.

I. THE CIRCUMSTANCES WHICH BRING SUFFERING INTO LIFE.

1. Inherited moral defection. The passions, habits, weaknesses of one generation are transmitted. In consequence of this law, multitudes are born with the religious side of their nature so cramped and feeble that it is difficult to win them to goodness; and even when won, how slow is their growth in grace, how dwarfed their spiritual stature.

2. The universal condition of toil. Idleness is misery; congenial labour is gladness; but how much is congenial? How often the fierce competition harasses like a fever.

3. Contact with our fellow-men. You meet them in municipal councils, in business, etc.; and very often, the closer the intimacy the greater the recoil from the unlovely traits which are disclosed. There are men like the fox, like the tiger, like the serpent.

4. The sorrows that spring from our friendship. In having another united to you by the sacred chain of love, your liability to suffering is increased, according to the degree of your affection. If their hearts ache, so do ours.

5. Disappointment, in relation to the Divine and sacred ideals of the soul.

6. The triumph of policy over right; weakness crushed by strength; worth left to perish in obscurity; vice climbing into power; wrong slow to die; right slow to prevail.

II. NOW HE WHO LOVES GOD POSSESSES, AS IT WERE, A GRAND SPIRITUAL ALCHEMY BY WHICH THESE DARK THINGS OF LIFE ARE MADE SACRAMENTAL. Sickness, disappointment, calumny, the discrepancy between the ideal and the actual, etc., are transformed into means of grace. Good comes to him from every source. The whole universe works in his behalf. As yet our knowledge of the way in which trial is promotive of good is necessarily imperfect. We can only see as through a glass darkly. Still, we have that degree of vision.

1. One form of good that is realised is the closer union of the soul with God. The natural instinct of the human heart in troubles is to betake itself to one able to sympathise and help. And to those who love Him, God is known as the God of comfort.

2. Trial also serves to develop the qualities which constitute true manhood. The right regulation of the character and conduct is inseparable from love to God. Now, as a man under irritation strives to be calm, he will grow in the mastery of his feelings; if under losses and perplexities he strives to be patient, he will grow in patience; if while smarting under a sense of injustice he steadily sets himself to preserve a heart of charity, he will grow in love; if, as pleasure calls, he resolutely endeavours to be faithful, he will grow in fidelity. And herein lies the contrast between the godly and the godless man: under the afflictive discipline of life, the one is soured, the other is sweetened; the one is cursed, the other is blessed. Put a piece of clay to the lapidary's wheel: it is ground to a heap of dust. But put a diamond on the wheel: the friction brings out its beauty.

3. And now, taking a more general view, what is to be the outcome of all the clash and discord and imperfection that has been going on since time began? This: the triumph of God. The prayer "Thy kingdom come" will be exchanged for "The Lord reigneth." That final triumph in some measure belongs to the destiny of the godly man. It is the victory of those principles for which he lived and prayed and worked.

(T. Hammond.)

About a cultivated Roman represents himself as discoursing pleasantly with his friends about the supreme good. He explains the views of the rival philosophers; but after surveying the whole field, he concludes without a word to indicate in which direction his own preference lay. In this, perhaps, he represented the majority of the thoughtful men of his time. To them life was a problem without any sure key to its solution. About there were living in Rome a community of men who had arrived at the most astonishing conclusions on this very point. Though they were few and insignificant, they were persuaded that all the varied experiences of lifo worked out the highest blessedness. The explanation of the phenomenon was not to be found in any revolution, for things had perhaps changed for the worse. But something had happened in the interval which had set them in a new relation to all these things: and this was that the love of God, revealed in Christ, had been shed abroad in their hearts.

I. THE GOOD TOWARDS WHICH EVERYTHING IS HERE DECLARED TO CO-OPERATE. The supreme good for man can never consist in anything external, for all such things are in their very nature inferior to Him, and are intended to serve as stepping-stones to something higher. Happiness consists in what we are and not in what we have. But what we are is precisely that which hinders our happiness, And the question is, How are we to compose our inward evils? To answer this we must find some one who has succeeded in being what it will be our blessedness to become, and who can help us to become like himself. Now Christ is God's conception of manhood realised. In Him was reached that complete equilibrium and repose of all our frailties in which true blessedness consists. In Him there was no inward contradiction, no want which filled His heart with a continual ache. To be truly blessed, therefore, is to be like Him (ver. 29).

II. ALL THINGS COMBINE TO PRODUCE IN CHRISTIANS CONFORMITY TO CHRIST. Life with Christians, so far as its outward framework is concerned, remains exactly as before. It develops anxiety, sorrow, disappointment. But Christianity shows all these things subjected to a Divine will and purpose. The order in which they come, their duration, the weight and the angle of their incidence, are wisely and unerringly adjusted, Each contributes in its own imperceptible, it may be, but effectual way to the desired result. And it is just because we lose sight of this result we often find the text so hard to believe. When some sudden catastrophe swallows up a man's fortune we are apt to ask with incredulous lips how that can be for good. When sickness comes or death plucks our sweetest flowers, is it possible to accept the stroke as a blessing in disguise? Without a struggle Certainly not, and not even thus always at first. "No affliction for the present seemeth to be joyous," etc. Men are not made of cast-iron, and when they become Christians they do not cease to be men. Christ Himself once, at all events, submitted with strong cryings and tears. But if we only embrace the end of God's discipline we shall see that these very things which we think work nothing but evil and woe, bring about precisely the opposite effects. Had Christ no trials? And did they work anything but good? Is He less glorious because His brow was crowned with thorns? And so as there was nothing in the life of our Lord but ultimately ministered to His glory, and that life embraced all the experience of humanity, so there will be nothing in your life that will not make you liker to Him, if only you receive it in His spirit. Listen to that flood of music that at the touch of a single hand rolls from a hundred pipes. It may at first confuse, overwhelm, astonish you. But amid all the apparently conflicting sounds, a practised ear can detect the expression of one tumultuous emotion, or it may be the melody of a simple air, that, divested of its manifold accompaniments, might be played upon an oaten stop. And in like manner if you suffer your life to be controlled by God, there will run through it the harmony of a Divine purpose, conforming you to the image of His Son.

III. THE CONDITION ON WHICH THIS WORKING TOGETHER OF ALL THINGS FOR GOOD IS BASED. That we love God.

1. It is plain that all things do not work together for good because of any peculiar virtue in the things themselves, nor simply because of the time and manner of their occurrence. Heat and moisture, light and air, are all necessary for the maturing of the crops; but if the soil be poor and insufficient, or foul with weeds, the harvest will be thin and disappointing, if it does not utterly fail. So the discipline of life may be all administered with the most beneficent design; but if there be no corresponding receptivity in us, it will do us no good. The skill, patience, and methods of the teacher may be unimpeachable; but if the pupil is lazy and disobedient these will not in themselves make him a scholar. He must to some extent make the aim of his teacher his own, and co-operate with him, in order to receive the full benefit of his tuition. Hence, St. Paul says we must love God if God's providence is to conform us to Christ, that is, we must be at one with Him in seeking the fulfilment of His purpose.

2. But loving God also describes that clinging to God as a child clings to his father, especially at the approach of peril, and which, even at the time of chastisement, never dreams of questioning His love. And there is much need of this. For though we may know the fact we often cannot understand the fashion, in which all things are to work together for our good. We cannot discern the perspective of life or see clearly the relation in which each part stands to the whole. And hence we must take much on trust. We must cling to God in the dark, remembering that He "leads the blind by a way that they know not," and yet that this way is sure to be the right one.

3. And lest at any time you should be shaken in your conviction of the blessed end of God's dealing, by the fear that you do not satisfy the condition of loving Him, then remember that this love is not so much a feeling as a posture or habit of the soul.

4. Then remember that the essence of love is obedience: "This is love, that we walk after His commandments." And be assured that if you are willing to be fashioned after the image of Christ, He will make good His word to you, and perfect that which concerneth you.

(C. Moinet.)

I. TO THE SPIRIT OF THEIR LIFE. "They love God." This is not a passing sentiment such as exists in the hearts of most, but a permanently predominating force. It is —

1. The love of gratitude, awakened by the contemplation of God's wonderful favours.

2. The love of esteem, awakened by the view of His moral excellencies.

3. The love of benevolence, awakened by a belief in the universal goodness of His purposes. In relation to man these may exist separately. We may feel gratitude where we cannot esteem, etc. But in relation to God it takes these three forms. His favours are infinite, His character perfect, His purposes only good, therefore these forms are supreme. Love thanks Him for what He has done, adores Him for what He is, wishes Him well for what He is pursuing.

II. TO THE CONDUCT OF GOD.

1. He has called them to love — not by force. Love cannot come by commands and penalties. He calls men to love by exhibiting the lovable in Himself — His mercies, perfection, benevolence; to awaken gratitude, esteem and goodwill. This He does —(1) In the phenomena of nature. How lovable God appears in the forms and operations of the universe.(2) In the dispensations of life. In all temporal events from the cradle to the grave God commands our affections.(3) In the life of Christ. Here we have His kindness, perfections, benevolent designs.

2. He has called them to love according to His purpose. God does not act fitfully, or by caprice. From the beginning He purposed that His intelligent creatures should love Him. All the arrangements of nature, the machinery of His government, the revelations of Himself show this. The gospel is his especial call to man as a sinner to love Him: and how exquisitely adapted it is to generate affection in depraved souls.

III. TO THE WORKINGS OF PROVIDENCE.

1. All things —

(1)Work.

(2)Harmoniously.

(3)For good.

(4)For the good of the good.

2. This "we know" —(1) From a priori reasoning. On the assumption that the Creator is benevolent, we are bound to conclude that He will direct all to the happiness of them that love Him. It is ever the instinct of His creatures to seek the happiness of those that love them.(2) From the arrangement of the universe. Does not the exquisite adaptation of outward nature to minister to our animal senses, physical wants, desire for knowledge, and love of the beautiful show that the Creator intended to make His moral creatures happy?(3) From the special provisions of the gospel. Here is pardon, purity, knowledge, consolation, holy fellowship, and a blessed paradise.(4) From the operation of the affections. Love to God —

(a)Put the soul into harmony with the universe. The soul destitute of love to God is in antagonism to the whole system of nature.

(b)Enables the soul happily to appropriate the universe.(5) From the biography of the good. Joseph, David, Daniel, Paul.(6) From the assurances of God's Word.

(D. Thomas, D.D.)

I. WHAT A DIFFERENT THING THIS WORLD IS TO THOSE "THAT LOVE GOD," AND THOSE WHO DO NOT.

1. The circumstances of the world, the general order of nature and providence, the mingled distribution of health, sickness, and accidents, are the same to both. They both share in great public benefits and calamities, and in this more favoured part of the world the Divine revelation shines on both classes alike. This fact would be a most mysterious thing without a light cast upon it from heaven, as was painfully felt by thoughtful men, even under the light of the earlier revelation.

2. To us is granted a light that pierces deeper through this sameness on the surface of things. And then, what an immense difference! The good things in man's condition — what do they do for the enemies of God? What to them is the effect of all nature, with its beauties, its vicissitudes, its productions? What to them the bounties of providence? Or what to them the share of general calamities? What are all these in effect to men who continue still irreligious, thoughtless, unthankful? The other class, however, is so disposed that all things operate towards it beneficially. And that one state of the soul should thus repel the essential, spiritual good of all things, and that an opposite one should attract it is not strange, if we consider the principle that is present or absent — the love of God. That being wanting, how should the soul derive the good of things? The perception, the discriminating faculty, the transmuting power, the principle to repel the evil is wanting; nay, the very will to obtain the good is wanting. The happy adaptation belongs only to "them that love God, who are the called according to His purpose."

3. The latter part of the sentence explains how they come to love God — "not that they first loved Him, but that He loved them." They were the objects of His gracious "purpose." No one that knows anything of the alienated state of our nature can believe that a condition of the soul in which the love of God should prevail, can be created by any less cause than the sovereign operation of the Divine Spirit; i.e., by an effectual "calling." But, then, neither can he imagine that this operation should be as if from a sudden and incidental thought of the Almighty. This, then, is the sacred process; the ancient "purpose," fulfilled at length in "the calling according to that purpose"; and this "calling" being an inspiration of "the love of God" into the renewed soul. And this places the soul in a new system of relations with the world and its events, and that the most advantageous one that is possible. The indwelling of the love of God constitutes a radical change, so that "the working together" of things upon the mind shall be, mainly and predominantly, "for good"; and progressively more so, in proportion as that sacred principle more fully prevails. For the love of God makes the soul quick to perceive, to dislike, and to repel all that is evil; makes it solicitous, vigilant, and active to apprehend and obtain all the most essential good.

II. BUT, THEN, BEYOND ALL THIS THE SUPREME SECURITY IS THAT GOD WILL HAVE IT SO. He will make "all things work," etc. They are the most valued objects He has in the world; and it may well be believed that they shall not be left to chances for their welfare. For their sake He has given something incomparably more valuable than all things here, even His beloved Son, who is constituted "to the Church, head over all things." And this cannot be less than a security that "all things" shall be made to minister to them. Strangers and enemies to God are very little aware of all this. They look on the good in the system, in its mere natural, material character of good, but little aware that this is made to impart a far higher, nobler kind of good to "them that love God." And they regard the evil as simply evil; hardly sensible that even this is turned to infinite advantage to the children of God. The proud and mighty ones of the earth are exerting their utmost power and devices to make "all things" serve their interests, never dreaming that the Almighty Potentate is making "all things," and them among the rest, cooperate for the advantage of His friends. And when they are working with all their might against one another, little do they suspect that they are all the while co-operating for the benefit of another class! Would not that, if it could suddenly come on their perception, pacify them at once? "What! working with all this strife and cost for the advantage of those people they call saints!" The very pride that raised the contest would still it!

III. UNDER THIS DIVINE SUPERINTENDENCE ALL THINGS WORK TOGETHER FOR GOOD. A large assertion! but where is the impossibility of its being true? A man whose soul is animated and sanctified by the love of God, what can he see, or hear, or encounter, from which, under the aid of the Divine Spirit, he absolutely cannot extract any good?

1. With this holy affection glowing in his soul, suppose him placed in the very centre of a scene of excessive iniquity — might he not draw from every point of the circuit something salutary? Might he not be struck with a religious horror lest himself should fall into sin? Or, inspired with fervent thankfulness for having been saved or redeemed from it, might he not feel an emotion to implore the interference of Almighty Power? Thus he might, in the very worst field, reap invaluable spiritual advantage.

2. There are the temporal good things. Now it is a mighty thing to say of any mortal that these shall absolutely work for his good. But the prevalent love of God will make them do so; will excite thankful admiration of the Divine bounty, stimulate a zeal to serve God, more benevolent compassion for those who are suffering the contrary of this temporal good, and excite to active charity.

3. But the most animating light of this truth falls on the darker side of human life. But temporal misfortunes may be made the means far more effectually to convince them that "this is not their rest"; that this world will not do for them; to promote their submissive adoration of an all-governing, wise, though mysterious Providence, and to inspire an energy of desire and effort toward a better country.

4. And even the evils of a spiritual kind; the pains of conscience, fears of the Divine wrath, temptation, perplexities concerning religious truth; through these, as a severe discipline, many minds have been drawn and exercised to the attainmeat of a happy elevation of Christian sanctity and peace.

(John Foster.)

1. The law of motion is impressed on everything.

2. What is the "good." In general the union of ourselves with God, the studying, loving, enjoying Him, and furthering His purpose for ever.

3. The apostle connects man here with three things —

I. THE PURPOSE OF GOD. His purpose is —

1. Essentially one. He has a series of purposes harmonised into one, but one all-embracing idea. We call this idea providence when governing the world, and decree when saving the world.

2. Good. The purpose of God must be like God. He is good, and so is His purpose. Whatever form the good may assume, whether We call it instinct, rationality, volition, moral excellency, grace, perfection, if we trace the stream back into its origin, we shall look into the depth of the Divine decree.

3. Progressive. God is better known now than He ever was before, and will for ever and ever spread Himself before the faith, and love, and intelligence of His creation. Look at all the dispensations of time till now, and how many are continually unfolded. What is the administration of time but the unfolding of God's one everlasting purpose?

II. THE CALLING OF GOD. God in Scripture is represented as calling men by His providence, His truth, conscience; and those who answer are "the called." God decreed —

1. That you should have an intelligent, responsible, undying nature.

2. That the offer of salvation should be made to fallen man.

3. That the refusal of His offer should be punished.

4. That those who trust in His mercy shall be saved.

III. THE LOVE OF GOD.

1. God's dispensations towards man reveal His love. The apostle mentions five things in reference to this love —(1) Foreknowledge.(2) Predestination — a beautiful word, giving a destiny beforehand. He brought out the sun, and said, "Your destiny is to illumine and warm these worlds." He said, "Move on," and the sun has done it. Is it natural to suppose that God gave no destiny to man? God did not throw out souls for no purpose.(3) Calling. There is the man, and God knows what he is for, and says, Man, keep up to thy destiny; leave earth, selfishness, sin, hell down beneath thy feet, and come up.(4) Justification. When the man bears the call, and obeys it according to the great fixed plan, of which Jesus and His death is the great centre, he is justified, made right.(5) Glorification — that is, reaching the destiny. "All things work together." Do not attempt to take one link from the chain.

2. The work of Christ also reveals His love. Look to Bethlehem, to Calvary, to the grave of Joseph, the Mount of Olives, and the right hand of God. What is He doing? "Making intercession for us." Do you see anything that is not encouraging? "Who can separate us from the love of Christ?"

(Caleb Morris.)

1. How many among you have felt, at the reading of my text, an involuntary doubt cross their mind! And, beyond the circle of believers, with what a smile of pity or of indignation is it greeted!

2. Moreover, the manner in which this truth is often presented revolts generous hearts. When I see a Christian overwhelmed by trials, yet not doubting the Divine goodness, blessing the hand which afflicts, I recognise both the tone of Paul and the spirit which animated him. But when, in the midst of a tame and easy existence of selfish happiness, I see a Christian delight in the thought that his lot is privileged above others, I can understand the sceptic's smile and indignation. Under this narrow aspect the great thought of God's intervention is often presented. Here is an epidemic; a believer who is spared pretends to see in this fact the mark of the special preference of God. Another is the only one who escapes from a shipwreck; he lets it be understood that God had cares and tenderness only for him. The atheist Diagoras, disembarking at Samothracia, went to the temple, where they showed him the offerings of voyagers rescued from shipwreck. "Canst thou deny the providence of the gods," they said to him, "when thou seest all those testimonies of their intervention?" "Ah!" replied Diagoras, "we should also hear the testimony of those who rest buried beneath the waves!" If we must recognise with pleasure that God acts in preserving us from danger or suffering, we must also repel the theory of a special preference. God loves those unfortunate victims of epidemic or shipwreck as much as He loves us, and more perhaps. I cannot tell what I experience when I see Christians interpreting God's dispensations in the sense which corresponds to their narrow hearts. In vain has the Book of Job condemned that error; in vain the Master has declared that the Galileans upon whom the tower of Siloam fell were not guiltier than others. We hear such explaining the ways of the Lord with a cold and axiomatic tone. A child is taken away; they ask if it was not made an idol of. A humiliating misfortune overtakes one of their neighbours; they conclude that it was undoubtedly necessary — an idea directly opposed to that of St. Paul, who affirms that all things work together for good to them that love God.

3. Now this error manifests itself under forms which are singularly hurtful to Christian beliefs. There are men who can see Divine intervention only in what is extraordinary. There are Christians who do not perceive God acting in the uniform laws by which He governs the world. A cure, for example, in which human science has taken no part, seems to them, should be attributed directly to God; if the physician had interfered, in their eyes he would have relegated God to the background. Thence proceeds a consequence which unbelief does not fail to draw. "Ignorance is the mother of faith. In a dark century such an event is attributed to God; but to-morrow a more enlightened generation will know the law thereof." Now that is what we ought to fight against. God does not manifest Himself to us in that alone which astonishes and disconcerts us. All things work together for His plans. Let us now penetrate to the real centre of the apostle's thought.

I. ALL THINGS TEND TOWARDS ONE END. That thought was born the day when Jesus taught His disciples to say, "Thy kingdom come." Reason alone would conclude in an opposite sense. How can we recognise a Divine plan in that bloody play which is called history, in those ancient civilisations which have so thoroughly disappeared, in those insolent triumphs of force or cunning, in those miscarriages of the best causes? A deep thinker sums up his science on this point by saying that "humanity, like a wheel, describes a fatal circle." And yet one would not dare to repeat this to-day. Progress is believed in; men have taken from Christianity their belief in the final triumph of justice and truth. Well! that belief belongs to us; we have given it to the world; do not let the world turn it against us. I see Christians confounded at the sight of this world, despairing of the future. Let that cowardly attitude be far from us! All serves to erect that eternal temple where God shall be adored by all His creatures; each generation which passes lays its stone there, and the building rises.

II. To believe in that general plan by which all things work together for the glory of God is not enough. I want to know what HIS PLAN IS WITH REGARD TO ME. But how shall we show this without dashing against objections?

1. Our belief is taxed with pride. "What presumption to believe ourselves objects of the vigilant care of God!" So then, when you see your little child relating his faults to God, and asking Him to make him better, is that a teaching of pride? But you will answer, Have all Christians the admirable simplicity of that child? No. But that proves that they are men and sinners — nothing more. The ideal for them (the gospel declares it) would be to become children again. You insist on our insignificance. But if we are great enough to believe in God, to love Him, what pride is there in believing that God responds to that desire which He has Himself inspired? Would you charge with pride the feeble plant which, each day at sunrise, holds up its head and half opens to inhale its vivifying heat? God, you say, is too great to make all things work together for our good. What! — that God who has poured forth on the meanest of His creatures treasures of wisdom, of foresight; that God who decks the birds of the air and the flowers of the field would be too great to count our sorrows and our prayers! You accuse us of pride? But suffer me, in turn, to distrust your humility. A thousand times I have seen the rebel creature escape from God under pretext of his insignificance, and shelter his revolt under the veil of humility. Where is pride if not in that attitude of a feeble and sinful being who says, "Let others call upon Thee; I can do without Thee"?

2. Our modern stoics accuse us of obeying an interested sentiment. To hear them, man ought never to seek his own good. He ought to obey duty — that is all. But we may well remark that the gospel has said all that with an incomparable power. Never has the mercenary spirit been more mercilessly condemned than by Jesus Christ. But because I ought to serve God without calculation, does it follow that I ought to reject, in the name of my dignity, that Providence which makes all things work together for my good? No, certainly, for that would be to lie to my nature.

3. "Why pretend that God occupies Himself with each of His creatures, since He governs the world by invariable laws?" So then, in a well-ordered state, because the sovereign has made and observes the laws, he cannot testify his benevolence to any of his subjects, and the order which he has made to prevail will hinder him from ever manifesting his love. To be logical, we must go further, and say that God is chained by the laws, He has made, that there is no other God than those laws, and return to the inexorable fatality of the heathen.

4. Appeal is made to experience. "Are you spared more than others, you who pray? And when you would escape from the evils which threaten you, are you not, like us, obliged to resort to the human means which experience points out?" But have the objectors reflected that they confound the good of believers with their visible happiness, a confusion which the Bible never makes? Distinguish those two things, and light already begins to come. What God calls our good is not what we call our happiness. Happiness for us is success, health, glory, fortune, the affection of mankind, pleasure; in the sight of God the good for us is holiness, is salvation. God does not to-day attach happiness to faith, and success to piety; if He did so, we should obey Him in order to be happy, and God would be served only by mercenaries. But it is true only in appearance that all men suffer alike. Question believers, and they will tell you that in the severest trials they have discovered signs of the Divine goodness, Now, even when outwardly all seems to be identical in the life of him who loves God and of him who does not, we must admit that events will work upon men according to the mind with which they are accepted. Behold in nature those forces which frighten us by their power of destructiveness. In the plant, beneath a lovely flower, is a subtle poison; in the atmosphere is the hurricane and the electricity. Put the savage in presence of those forces, he will find only suffering and death. But the scientist extracts that poison, and finds in it a remedy for his ills; to the breath of the wind he spreads the sails of his mills or of his ships; he lays hold of the lightning, and upon an imperceptible thread cast into the depths of the ocean he commands it to carry his thoughts to the ends of the world. Well, this is a faithful picture of the manner in which the believing soul can turn to his good all the events of life, all the evils which overwhelm it. Here is failure, mourning, suffering alighting on a Christian soul. Well, you will see that soul seizing those terrible forces which might crush it under their strokes, humbling itself, praying, blessing, and drawing from what might be its death the secret of true greatness, of spiritual triumph and of holiness.

(E. Bersier, D.D.)

I. THE UNIVERSAL LAW — "all things work." Work is not blind and aimless labour, but power directed by knowledge to the attainment of some definite end. There is a prodigious amount of energy in operation which has the appearance of agitation only, without plan or project. But there is an unseen and beneficent Hand that wields and fashions the issues of all.

1. The inanimate creation is not exempted from the law of work. The viewless gases are never idle; the particles of dust beneath our feet have run successive careers of varied labour; the world itself is a colossal work, and its motion is a ceaseless flight. The sun never halts, every star is crowned for illustrious toil, and every atom as certainly shares the common lot.

2. In the lowest levels of animated existence there are the tokens of work. Life reveals itself in activity. The springing grass, the rising corn, the budding forest, are models of industry.

3. Work pervades the human and animal economy. A single drop Of water is an ocean capable of holding millions of inhabitants; a vegetable crevice of like dimensions is a populous world. Vast masses of rock are the tombs of microscopic animalcules in countless myriads that toiled in bygone time. What million-fold animation gleams and murmurs in the summer air! What vital energies centre in man! Every particle in his body is a separate worker. Work is demanded of every one who approaches the path of progress. Even "sin" is evil "work," and "death" is "the wages" of its ill desert.

4. Angels and demons work. Little is said of angels, but names are applied to them taken from our highest ideas of might and dignity (Colossians 1:16). For what are they raised to this height? "Are they not all ministering spirits?" Angels which have forfeited celestial splendour retain all their native might, and exert it to the full (Ephesians 6:12; 1 Peter 5:8).

5. The Godhead works (John 5:17; 2 Corinthians 3:8). The whole scheme of nature is the "works" of God. God never leaves off working (Isaiah 40:28). "Virtue" never ceases to "go out" of Him.

II. THE UNIVERSAL METHOD — "all things work together." What unlike things subsist in the realm of creation! How difficult to imagine their concordant activity! Each wheel in the subtle and complicated mechanism revolves on its separate axle, yet all are cogged in some transcendent unity, and move towards one common and sublime destination.

1. The inferior objects of nature "work together." Gases are rarely found alone. Their native affinities present them in combination. Matter does not exist in ultimate granules, but in cohering masses. World balances world. The star shining far away is working with every grain of sand upon our shores. The fragile insect, a mere speck of animated light, pipes its feeble song in harmony with "the music of the spheres," and poises its wings of gauze for flight in consonance with the universal law and order of the great creation.

2. Men "work together." All that we mean by civilisation is due to this. Multitudes, without knowing it, think the thoughts of Plato and Aristotle, Bacon and Newton. It is the same in the moral sphere. Abraham, Moses, David, Isaiah, Paul, and John operate upon us every moment. Why are we here to-day? Because Jesus died eighteen hundred years ago! How the remote ages work together! So is it in evil. Notwithstanding the lapse of all the centuries the hand of Adam is on us still.

3. Men "work together" with nature. The two were made for each other. There is nothing that does not co-operate with our intelligence and taste. A star that shone millions of years ago, and many millions of miles away, blends with my reason, and nourishes my sensibility. The venerable geological records are among the most influential facts of our life.

4. Men and angels "work together," They are our "fellow-servants," and are "sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation." We pray daily to be lifted nearer to their ministry (Matthew 6:10). With the fallen hosts men labour and combine. Whoever is disloyal to the Great King belongs to the ranks of the wicked one.

5. Men "work together" with God. That the righteous do so needs no proof. But what of the wicked? In all their evil He interworks and counterworks, and causes their "wrath" to "praise" Him (Psalm 76:10). Pharaoh refused to work with God, but his wilful hardness of heart exhibited the Divine power and glory. Balaam would not work with God, but his very sins became the executors of the Divine righteousness. Herod, Pilate, etc., resolved not to work with God, yet they did "whatsoever God's hand and counsel determined before to be done."

6. All things, principles, and beings "work together," and God moves amidst and works through them all.

III. THE UNIVERSAL DESTINATION — "to them that love God."

1. Why to them that love God? Not to love God, who is the centre and source of all Divine moral loveliness, is to be incapable of good.

2. "All for good." The whole material system is a ministry "for good" to you. A Father's tenderness shines down from every star, and smiles from every common flower. All the ages are linked together, and men of all time take hands to bless thee. "For good" to you Egypt reared its pyramids and Nineveh its palaces, Phoenicia traded, Greece speculated, and Rome conquered. "For good" to you Adam fell, Abraham believed, David sung, Isaiah soared, Jesus wept, agonised, and died. Are you not constrained to read all your own life with the same clue to its meaning? How all the course of your past life, without your design, has conspired to fit you to bear the burden and fulfil the vocation of this present hour! At an early stage of your course, it may be, you encountered a bitter disappointment. But you have long since seen that the discipline was necessary. You remember a time when you lay low. But you have many a time confessed, "It is good for me that I have been afflicted." You have sad and sorrowful bereavements in your recollection. But you have not a sensibility at the present hour that death has not softened, and the clouds, so black at noon, now your sun is setting, are bathed in rosy light on the calm horizon of the better land. Are you crushed by some recent grief? Be patient, and "good" shall not fail to be worked. And what shall we say of your mistakes, follies, and sins? Peter arrived at courage through cowardice, and attained to fortitude through failure. While the world, the flesh, and the devil tempt, the Father sympathises, the Lord Jesus intercedes, the Holy Spirit waits to "guide into all the truth," angels minister, and "all things work together for good."Conclusion:

1. If this be so, what should be our great concern? Manifestly, to "love God."

2. The love of God in the heart is the secret of all spiritual rest and peace.

3. "All things work together for "ill" to them that love "not" God. That "the stars in their courses fought against Sisera" is the symbol of a universe in league against the sinner.

(H. Batchelor.)

I. THE CHARACTER. It consists of two particulars.

1. The person loves God. And, that we may arrive satisfactorily at this conclusion, let us go by several successive steps.(1) First, am I sure that I do not hate Him? "The carnal mind is enmity against God."(2) Do I think of God? Have I satisfaction in thinking of Him?(3) Have you received Christ and the reconciliation and peace which are by Him? No man cometh to the Father but by Christ. Are you a suppliant for mercy, peace, and eternal life, through Christ Jesus? If so, you are a lover of God. I suppose the love of God to consist in these simple elements —(a) First, delight in His excellence, complacency in His perfec-lions, mental apprehension of His surpassing and uncreated loveliness.(b) The second element is goodwill to God, and to His plans and purposes; consciousness of an interest in them, and admiration of their wisdom, holiness, and power.(c) There will be gratitude for the benefits we have received.(d) Love to God supposes resignation to His will, and acquiescence in its decisions, without resentment or murmuring.

2. The next point is, the calling according to God's purpose. Let us not forget that the purpose is not by reason of the love in us, but that the love is in us by reason of the purpose. It is this antecedent purpose which is the cause of our love. Therefore give diligence to make your calling and election sure.

II. THE PRIVILEGE. To these persons all things shall work together for good.

1. We take first, all Divine perfections; all the attributes and prerogatives of God's nature. For who, I pray you, is the greatest worker in this universe? "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work."

2. There is, secondly, the course and constitution of natural things, as they subsist around us in their harmony and concurrence of operation. Seedtime and harvest, day and night, summer and winter, do not fail. Surely this is not mainly and chiefly that lions may roar, horses be fed, insects creep, and eagles soar. All these things are subordinate; the higher purpose is the preservation and happiness of man. And we further inquire, what man or what men? The primary and the higher purpose is, that the just may live; that their excellencies may be revealed, and their character consummated; that the love of God may shine in them; and that they may accomplish the great end of their being, which is, to glorify God, and to enjoy Him for ever.

3. All the means of grace work for their good.

4. Fourthly and mainly; all the dispensations of providence are intended to work for good. It is for good. Did you ever read the maxim, "I had perished if I had not perished"? That is, I had been lost as to my soul, if I had not lost my estate. The affliction may be nearer. It may touch the bone and the flesh. There may be strong pain, or fever, or need of surgical operation. Must we say, It is for good? If we love God, it is for good. All the countless strokes of the chisel on the block of marble contribute to form the statue which almost breathes. The printing-press is filled with all its types; and forth comes the paper without a word deficient. All the medicines are mixed by the science of the physician; and from the mixture the healing result is realised. All the reapers in the field assist to bring the harvest home. And after the same manner as these emblems and illustrations represent, all things in Providence concur for the final salvation of those who love God, and are the called according to His purpose.

III. THE CERTAINTY OF ALL THIS. "We know." St. Paul knew it by inspiration. The rabbins tell us concerning a certain Jew, that, whenever a calamity occurred, he was accustomed to say, "This also is good"; and they changed the man's name from Nahum to "Gamzu," which means in Hebrew, "This also." Blessed is that man in whose mind this principle is fixed, in all its light, and power, and consolation: come what will, it is good, for I am a lover of God, and called according to His purpose.

(J. Stratten.)

I. GOD DEALS WITH HIS CHILDREN AFTER A FIXED AND DEFINITE PLAN. Were a person altogether unacquainted with architecture to visit some splendid temple in the process of erection, and observe the huge, rough stones, and hoards, and timbers, iron-castings, bricks, lime, mortar, lying scattered in confusion all around: were he to see one group of workmen cutting up material here, another digging trenches there, he might truly say that he could see no plan or system in the business. But let the observer set himself to watch from day to day the busy work as it goes on; let him patiently examine, not only the minutest details, but also try to obtain a view of the general scope of the whole, and he will not be long in finding out that some superior mind regulates all, and that every stroke of every workman is conducive to the same ultimate effect. God is building up the Christian in accordance with a perfect plan into a majestic temple for the decoration of the eternal city.

II. God not only carries on His great designs by a pre-established plan; but THE VERY MINUTEST CONCERNS OF HUMAN LIFE ARE ALSO COMPREHENDED IN IT. The piercing eye of God strikes through the deepest shades of night and sees with keenest sense each individual atom which makes up this grand, material universe. He perceives and clearly understands the constitution, use and properties, the bearing and the end of every organ, system, instrument, which forms this wide, mysterious world of animated nature that surrounds us. A single spark of fire may sink a city into ruins and seal the destiny of an empire; and so in God's moral government the greatest and remotest ends are often brought about by the minutest means conceivable; a "word," a "silent thought," has saved a soul; and through that soul, ten thousand other souls, from rain. The combination of the elements is as perfect in a particle of water as in a diamond. Is not the plan of God as visible in the one as in the other?

III. But God HAS a plan; that plan extends to the minutest circumstances in the Christian's life; and BY THAT PLAN GOD MAKES EVERYTHING WORK TOGETHER FOR HIS GOOD! Do you tell me God never bends the laws of nature to save or favour those that love Him? I admit it. But He brings those that love Him into such relation to the laws that they turn, as ten thousand rays of light from objects round you to the pupil of your eye, unto his benefit. A ray of light is bent by the same angle for the Christian as the sinner; but the difference is this: the one sees God in it, the other sees himself, or nothing in it. The Christian's heart is a "golden bowl" turned up towards heaven, and into it God is ever pouring benefactions. The Christian does not always think them so; but in they come, pure "benefactions."

1. Then let me say, if God be working so for us, we ought not to be too solicitous about results. God is working ever us; let us leave the consequence to Him.

2. Let us also suppress our murmurings at the allotments of Providence. If God is guided by a plan; if that plan reaches down to the minutest details of daily life, what need have we to murmur.

3. And if all things are working together for our good, what reason have we to envy the wicked in their riches and prosperity? If a man be standing firmly on a river's bank and sees another gliding gaily but inevitably down to a tremendous precipice below, shall he be envious of the pleasant sail that intervenes before the dread catastrophe?

4. And if all things be working together for good, let us cast away our fears and press onward.

5. But while all things work together for good to those that love the Lord, we are told upon the same authority, "the way of the ungodly shall perish!"

(Elias Nason.)

I. THERE IS A SIDE ON WHICH THIS STATEMENT IS UNLIMITED. All things work for our good. The apostle, in this tremendously sweeping statement, is speaking about things external to us, and not what transpires within a man's own breast. , commenting on this passage, included under it even sin itself. His own experience helped him to see that where sin abounded, grace did much more abound. What Paul does say, however, is that everything external to us is working for our good. The stars in their courses fight for the Israel of God. A Pagan view of life would tell us that we are placed in a world where law and necessity reign. Stern, hard-and-fast laws, like a huge machine, are grinding out their unalterable decrees. They may work out ill, but all we can do is to resign ourselves to the inevitable. That is not the Christian view of God's creation. One of the laws of God, one of the things that on this earth very nearly constitute a necessity, is — "If man does not work, neither shall he eat." Men have often fretted at such a law. The Christian accepts this law, and acknowledges that God's law of work is part of the great discipline of life. He would not have it otherwise, even though he could. It may need an exercise of faith to see that all these laws, which we call laws of nature, are working for our good; that the universe, with its great forces; the earth, with its lightnings; the sea, with its storms and shipwrecks, can do us no harm. Yet, when once we get a Christian view of the world, that is a certainty. These laws constitute the will of our heavenly Father. Let us now take a step further. Christ has helped us to see even in adversity a power working for good. Lastly, we may say that that which has been reckoned the great enemy of man — Death itself — is among the things that work together for good to them that love God. It is death that does for us the great service of perfecting our life. This Christian reading of life has been the death of death. Are we not now in a position to answer the question — "Do all things work for our good?" If our life is set upon mere physical happiness, then all things do not work for what we think our good. That is not the good for which things are working, But if we go deeper, and interpret by the good, the larger life, the maturer spirit, the holier existence, then there is a conspiracy in all things without to help us.

II. THERE IS AN ASPECT IS WHICH THIS STATEMENT IS LIMITED. It is limited as regards persons — "to them that love God." Is there any need why this broad and general statement of Paul's should have any limitations whatsoever? Could we not say in the fullest sense that all things are working for good to all the children of men. There is nothing vindictive in God. "He maketh His sun," etc. God is no respecter of persons. "Are not My ways equal," saith the Lord. May not the explanation of the mighty difference in God's providence to those who love Him lie within the heart and not without? The laws of the Infinite are abiding and eternal. The manner in which they fall upon different men lies with the individual soul. The laws of God's universe are such that if a man is out of sympathy with God, all things seem to work against him. The further he is away from God, the more he is made to suffer. The selfish man who has been all his life long absorbed in schemes of self-aggrandisement; who has trampled on the rights of others, and been careless of their feelings, is at last met by such a body of adverse opinion that he is crushed. He set himself against God's law of true usefulness, and so in trying to save his life he loses it. A good sailor, with his hand on the helm, can pilot his little boat amid rough waters, and never ship a sea. The man who has no skill or knowledge has his boat struck by every wave, and ships sea after sea, until at last he suffers shipwreck. So do men by unwisdom, amid favourable enough conditions, make shipwreck of their souls. On the other hand, if we hearken to God, all God's creation will hearken to us. If we love God, we are in harmony with the whole working of God's universe. "For the earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof." It is a hopeless struggle to fight against God, and the man who is on the side of the Almighty is not engaged in it.

(D. Woodside, B.D.)

I. THE SUFFERINGS OF THOSE WHO LOVE GOD HAVE OF THEMSELVES A PROPER TENDENCY TO PROMOTE THEIR SPIRITUAL AND SUPREME GOOD, I shall consider the tendency which the sufferings of those that love God have to promote their true interest, in the following respects.

1. As they are proper to make us reflect on our past conduct.

2. To humble our pride and vanity,

3. To make us more sensible of our dependence on God.

4. To discover to us the sincerity of our love to God, and —

5. To raise our thoughts to the contemplation of a future and more perfect state of happiness.

II. GOD IS PLEASED TO FURTHER THIS NATURAL TENDENCY OF THEM BY SPECIAL ACTS OF HIS PROVIDENCE AND GRACE.

1. Our afflictions not springing out of the dust, but coming from the hand of God, and being wisely designed by Him for some good end to us, we may comfortably assure ourselves that He will wisely dispose all events in such manner as may most effectually conduce to that end.

2. When He appoints us to the combat, He proportions His assistance to the nature and difficulties of the service: He does not leave us to fight it out with our own forces. God, therefore, who knows the frailty of our nature, is always pleased to send His staff with His rod, and to grant us such strength and protection as may support us in all dangers and carry us through all adversities.Conclusion:

1. If afflictions have both in their own nature a tendency to promote our good, and be designed by God to this end, then we have great reason to be patient and resigned under them. As in other cases, the prospect of any great and certain advantage will make us cheerfully undergo many difficulties, and even expose ourselves to many visible and imminent dangers.

2. If God design afflictions for our good, then if we would not oppress or frustrate His design in them, we must endeavour to profit by them; for, like all other means of piety, they do not operate of themselves to our advantage without our own concurrence.

3. If afflictions have so proper a tendency to promote our spiritual good, it will concern us by reasonable acts of mortification and self-denial frequently to afflict ourselves.

4. If God means afflictions to us for good, under which I all along comprehend disappointments, then there is no forming any certain judgment of the wisdom or folly, of the virtuous or vicious state of men, from all that goes before them. I do not say that the weak reasons of a man's conduct never appear to us in his disappointments, for they often do; but we must see at the same time very particularly what way he took, what circumstances he was in, and upon what motives he acted. For it sometimes happens that a man is obliged in reason and justice to do those things which appear to others the most unreasonable. If there be any true judgment to be made of men, with respect to their spiritual condition, from their circumstances of life, we ought rather to judge in favour of the afflicted and unhappy, for there are several things spoken very much to their advantage in Scripture.

(R. Fiddes, D.D.)

are —

I. UNLIMITED IN THEIR SWEEP. "All things." This is a bold assertion. We can understand how many things work together for good. Critical epochs in the world's history, important reforms in national life, occasional afflictions in the domestic circle, but are there not innumerable petty details in life that are beneath God's notice? No; "all things," near and remote, great and small; all substances necessary for the growth of the body, all forces necessary for the development of the mind, all influences necessary for the perfection of our spiritual nature.

1. All the provisions of nature are destined for the good of God's children. God made the world for our abode, and furnished it for our accommodation. For us the sun shines, the wind blows, the birds carol.

2. All the provisions of grace. The Sabbath, the sanctuary, the Scriptures. God the Father, who created us, watches over our steps; God the Son, who redeemed us, lives to intercede for us; God the Holy Ghost, who dwells with us, enlightens and sanctifies us.

II. HARMONIOUS IN THEIR DESIGN. "Work together."

1. Changes in the history of nations work together for good. The devout student has no difficulty in recognising the hand of God in the past. He regards the bondage of Israel, the crucifixion of Christ, the fall of the Roman Empire, and the dark periods of the world's history as necessary links in the chain of God's providential dealings. The future is as surely in God's hand as the past. Light shall triumph over darkness, and good over evil. God's hand is upon the wheel of providence; and when His work is complete, we shall say, "He hath done all things well."

2. Changes in the history of individuals. There is a special as well as a general supervision of human affairs. Look at the life of Moses, and Joseph, and David. Little events are the hinges upon which great events turn. The steps of a good man are ordered of the Lord.

III. BENEVOLENT IN THEIR AIM. "For good," not for our prosperity. Prosperity may, or may not, be a good thing. Not for our happiness. Happiness is not the highest attainment in the Christian life. God's aim is the perfection of our spiritual nature. The discipline through which God leads us may be dark and inexplicable, but it is always for the best. As winter prepares the way for spring, and spring opens the door for summer, and summer ripens the golden harvest, so the darkest and most trying dispensations of God's providence are working together for good to them that love God.

1. Sickness is often designed for our good. The mind may become dark, and need enlightening; the heart hard, and need softening; the life barren, and need pruning.

2. Bereavement. It is good for those who are taken to be "present with the Lord." It is good for those who remain if it solemnises their thoughts and sanctifies their soul. God will be a friend to the friendless, and a husband to the widow.

IV. DISCRIMINATING IN THEIR APPLICATION. The promise is not to the wise, or the strong, or the courageous, but to "them that love God." Providence is for the righteous; it is against the wicked. Love manifests itself —

1. In practical service. The loving heart makes the diligent hand.

2. In a submissive spirit. When adversity comes, a man who loves God says, "The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away," etc. When affliction overtakes him, he says, "I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content." When persecution arises, he says, "Not my will, but Thine be done." The more perfectly we know God, the more implicitly we shall trust Him. God is wise, and cannot err; He is good, and will not.

V. MANIFEST IN THEIR RESULTS. The apostle does not say, "I hope," or "I think," but "we know." This assurance is in perfect harmony —

1. With the promises of God's Word. David says, "No good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly." Moses says, "And as thy day, so shall thy strength be." Christ says, "Lo! I am with you alway, even unto the end." God says, " My grace is sufficient for thee."

2. With the experiences of God's children. It was a dark day in the experience of Moses when his mother could no longer hide him; but God watched over him, and preserved him from harm. It was a dark day in the experience of Joseph when his brethren east him into a pit; but God was "with Joseph," and led him from prison to a throne. It was a dark day in the experience of the disciples when Christ was crucified; but His sufferings were the purchase of their salvation.

(J. T. Woodhouse.)

In this world of doubt and conjecture it is refreshing to find a man who declares that he knows what he says is true. Stilt more refreshing to find that what he says he knows is just that about which we have been much in doubt. From the text I learn that "all things" act —

I. ENERGETICALLY. They "work."From this our word "energy" is derived. Used here to denote the most intense, tireless activity. The universe is all alive under the Divine hand.

II. HARMONIOUSLY. They "work together." In the mechanism of Divine providence there are no loose pullies on which idle belts career. "All thinks work," not frictionally, or at random, but "together." We see that "things work," but we cannot see how they "work together." How could we see so much?

III. BENEFICENTLY. "For good." They all play into one grand purpose — "for good," literally "into good." In the light of this text the Christian loses his insignificance, and looms up before us in an attitude of importance and grandeur. God, not man, is to decide what this "good" is to be. Spiritually considered, when we talk about profit and loss, success or failure, very often we know not what we say. We are like children prattling about the affairs of nations. We may spell a word "defeat," but God may pronounce it "victory." We may pronounce a word "gain," but God may call it "loss." Men are sometimes congratulated when they ought to be pitied, and the reverse.

IV. SPECIFICALLY — to "them that love God." Those who do not love God have no right to its blessed comfort. To remain in sin is to antagonise the arrangements of infinite beneficence, and means danger, and folly, and suicide, and damnation. The great question that shall shape your eternity and mine is, Do we love God? We must not forget that the Holy Ghost gives us the tense of this verb, "work." The text does not say all things will, or may, work for good; but "all things" are now working "for good." To honour God and be strong, our love also must be in the present tense.

(T. Kelly.)

I once went with my brother to extract a crystal from the rock. With a mighty sledge-hammer he vigorously dealt blow after blow upon the rock, and chipped off piece after piece. At last the top of the crystal appeared. Then one might see what he was after, for it had not shown upon the outer surface of the rock. When the crystal appeared, then the whole strife became how so to break the rock away from it, and how so to strike the rock as to extract the crystal. The rock was good for nothing; the crystal was everything. The soul is man's crystal, and the body is but the incasing rock that holds it. God's providences are omiting upon the rock, and breaking and cutting it away, and extracting the precious crystal, which is worth incomparably more than its setting in the rock. I stood once in Paris, where the stone is soft, and where the building blocks are cut, not on the ground, but in their places on the tops of the doors, and about the windows; and I saw the chiselling done. I saw the work going forward on some of the public buildings, where lions, and eagles, and wreaths of flowers were being carved. Men stood with little chisels and mallets, cutting, and cutting, and cutting the stone, here and there. Suppose one of these blocks of stone, when it first mounts into its place, is told that it is to be a royal lion, and it is to decorate a magnificent structure. The workman commences, and after working one day the head is rudely shaped, but you can barely tell what it is. The next day he brings out one ear. The third day he opens one eye. And so, day after day, some new part is added. The stone complains, and asks if the operation is to be an everlasting one; but the work goes on. And you cannot get anything out of stone except by myriads of blows continued until the work is done. I hear people say, "Why am I afflicted?" For your good. "How long shall I be afflicted?" Until you cease to ask how long. Until God's work is done in you. God will go on chiselling as long as it is necessary, in order to elaborate first one feature and then another, and then another. The work ought to go on until it is completed. And every true heart ought to say, "Lord, do not stay Thy hand; cut away until I am brought out into the fair lines and lineaments of the image of God." Troubles and afflictions and blows that are sent are useless unless they make you patient to your fellows and submissive to your lot. But rest assured that if you love God all things will work together for your good. And now join and work with them. Help God to work for you.

The argument for this is fivefold.

I. THE DIVINE SUPREMACY.

1. This co-operation among all things for the believer's good is not the result of the conscious aim of the things themselves, but by virtue of an extrinsic force.

2. This force, which makes "all things work together," must be a supreme force.

3. This supreme force is God.(1) Because He alone is supreme.(2) Because the controlling power is exercised in behalf of the objects of His love, who also are His "called" ones.(a) To love God is the only true evidence of being His "called" ones.(b) To be His "called" ones is to secure the co-operation of all things for our good.

II. THE DIVINE PURPOSE (vers. 29-31).

1. This foreknowledge is more than prescience; it implies personal, loving approval.(1) Otherwise there could be no discrimination, for God is prescient, knows, intellectually, all.(2) Otherwise Universalism has in these words the strongest possible foundation.(3) The conditions of this Divine approval must be conceived of in harmony with the nature of Him who does the approving.(4) Being the moral approval of One who is holy and just, as well as loving, and who has predestined salvation only through the death and resurrection of His Son, it is easy to understand the plan of electing grace.

2. Far-reaching and all-loving purpose for the highest good of believers.(1) The ineffable good of conformity to the image of God's Son.(2) Of contributing by Divine grace to the glory of Christ.(3) Of being called by the Holy Spirit, justified by the Father, and glorified with Christ for ever.

3. The good of a righteousness unchallengeable to all eternity (ver. 31).

III. THE DIVINE SACRIFICE an argument for the believer's security (ver. 32).

1. This form of statement undeniably implies a real sacrifice on the part of the Father in giving up His Son.

2. Such a sacrifice as this implies the withholding of no good from those who accept Christ.(1) This argument is as self-evident as it is wonderful.(2) The reality of the substitutionary character of Christ's work is unavoidable, according to these words.

IV. DIVINE ELECTION (vers. 33, 34).

1. The elect of God are His justified ones (ver. 33).(1) The condition of justification and prerogatives of the justified are laid down in many parts of Scripture.

(a)Condition of justification (Romans 5:1; Galatians 2:16).

(b)Prerogatives of the justified — peace, blessedness, pardon, salvation (Romans 5:1; Romans 4:6-8).

2. Divine justification rests on a solid foundation.(1) Death, resurrection, session at God's right hand, and intercession of Christ (ver. 34).

3. The security of the justified believer is as safe as the foundation on which it rests (vers. 33, 34).

V. THE ENDURING NATURE OF THE DIVINE LOVE.

1. The love here mentioned is the Divine love (vers. 35-39).

2. Consider the list of forces which seek to wrest the believer from its gracious grasp (vers. 35-39).

3. The sublime assurance of the apostle (vers. 38, 39).

(1)The foundation of the assurance — the Lord Jesus.

(2)Its far-reaching character — "Nor things to come."Conclusion: Let us never forget —

1. The glorious assurance of the Holy Spirit of promise (ver. 28).

2. The glorious purpose for which believers are called — "To be conformed to the image of His Son." Everything contrary to holiness in the life of the believer is a frustration of the Divine purpose.

3. Let us never forget the unchangeableness of God's love.

(D. C. Hughes, A.M.)

We have here —

I. THE DESCRIPTION OF A TRUE CHRISTIAN, AND A DECLARATION OF HIS BLESSEDNESS.

1. "Them that love God." Now, there are many things in which the worldly and the godly do agree; but on this point there is a vital difference. No ungodly man loves God in the Bible sense of the term. An unconverted man may love a God, as, for instance, the God of nature, and the God of the imagination; but the God of revelation no man can love, unless grace turn him from his natural enmity towards God. And there may be many differences between godly men; they may belong to different sects, hold very opposite opinions, but all agree in this, that they love God.(1) As their Father; they have "the Spirit of adoption, whereby they cry Abba Father."(2) As their King; they are willing to obey Him.(3) As their Portion, for God is their all.(4) As their future inheritance.

2. "The called according to His purpose," by which He means, that all who love God love Him —(1) Because He called them to love Him. All men are called by the ministry, by the Word, by daily providence, to love God; the great bell of the gospel rings a universal welcome to every living soul, yet there was never an instance of any man having been brought to God simply by that sound.(2) Because they have had a supernatural call.

II. TAKE THE WORDS ONE BY ONE.

1. "Work." Look around, above, beneath, and all things work —(1) In opposition to idleness. The idle man is an exception to God's rule. There is not a star which doth not travel its myriads of miles and work. There is not a silent nook within the deepest forest glade where work is not going on. Nothing is idle. The world is a great machine, but it is never standing still.(2) In opposition to play. They are ceaselessly active for a purpose. The world hath an object in its wildest movement. Avalanche, hurricane, earthquake, are but order in an unusual form; destruction and death are but progress in veiled attire. The great machine is not only in motion, but there is something weaving in it, viz., good for God's people.(3) In opposition to Sabbath. Since the day when Adam fell all things have had to labour. Let us not wonder if we have to work too. If all things are working, let us "work while it is called to-day, for the night cometh when no man can work."

2. "Together."(1) In opposition to their apparent confliction. Looking with the mere eye of sense, we say, "Yes, all things work, but they work contrary to one another. The world is always active, but it is with the activity of the battle-field." Be not deceived. There is no opposition in God's providence; the raven-wing of war is co-worker with the dove of peace. The tempest strives not with the peaceful calm — they work together. Look at our history. The strifes of barons and kings might have been thought to be likely to tread out the last spark of British liberty; but they did rather kindle the pile. The hearings of society, the strife of anarchy, the tumults of war — all these things, overruled by God, have but made the chariot of the Church progress more mightily. The charioteers of the Roman circus might with much cleverness and art, with glowing wheels, avoid each other; but God guides the fiery coursers of man's passion, yokes the storm, bits the tempest, and keeping each clear of the other from seeming evil still enduceth good, and better still; and better still in infinite progression.(2) None of them work separately. The physician prescribes medicine; you go to the chemist, and he makes it up; there is something taken from this drawer, something from that phial, something from that shelf: any one of those ingredients, it is very possible, would be a deadly poison if you should take it separately; but he puts them into the mortar, and when he has worked them all up, and has made a compound, he gives them all to you as a whole, and together they work for your good. Too much joy would intoxicate us, too much misery would drive us to despair: but the joy and the misery, the battle and the victory, the storm and the calm, all these compounded make that sacred elixir whereby God maketh all His people perfect.

3. For good.(1) There is the worldling's good, the good of the moment. Now God has never promised that "all things shall work together" for such good as that to His people. Expect not that all things will work together to make thee rich; it is just possible they may all work to make thee poor.(2) The Christian understands by the word spiritual good. "Ah!" saith he, "I do not call gold good, but faith! I do not think it always for my good to increase in treasure, but I know it is good to grow in grace."(3) Good eternal. All work to bring the Christian to Paradise(4) Sometimes all things work together for the Christian's temporal good, as in the case of Jacob.

4. I return to the word "work" — to notice the tense of it. It does not say that they shall work, or that they have worked; both of these are implied, but that they do work now. I find it easy to believe that all things have worked together for my good. I can look back at the past, and wonder at all the way whereby the Lord hath led me. And I have an equal faith for the future, that all things will in the end work for good. The pinch of faith always lies in the present tense. However troubled, downcast, depressed, and despairing the Christian may be, all things are working now for his good.

5. Paul does not say, "I am persuaded"; "I believe"; but "We (I have many witnesses) know." The apostle lifts his hand to where the white-robed hosts are praising God for ever. "These," says he, "passed through great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb: ask them!" And with united breath they reply, "We know that all things work together for good to them that love God." He puts his hand upon his poor distressed brethren — he looks at his companions and he says, "We! We know it. Not only does faith believe it, but our own history convinces us of the truth of it."

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

This text is a tonic. It is clear mountain air. Protracted conflicts with self, Satan, the world, adversities and sorrows, often leave us discouraged. Then we need this invigorating truth. It changes the aspect of every conflict of life. We shall not be injured, but benefited; shall not lose, but gain; shall not be defeated, but conquer. This conviction inspires courage, kindles enthusiasm, and girds with strength.

I. THE PROMISE IS ONLY TO THEM THAT LOVE GOD.

1. Obedience is the infallible test of this love. To belong to the Church; to be baptized; to be confirmed; to say prayers, is no proof that we love God, unless we keep His commandments; and those who do keep the commandments are known by their fruits. It is not doubtful what the trees are when they are in blossom. That pure white blossom is the cherry; that pink and white one is the apple. But when we eat the fruit we know the tree. That peach never grew on a crab-apple. But, granting that we may be mistaken, God infallibly knows them that love Him.

2. This special graciousness to them that love Him is open to all, but a righteous ruler must limit moral benefits to moral obedience. If God made "all things work together for good" to bad and good alike, there would be no moral principle in His government. Nay! such Divine co-operation would sanction the wickedness of men. His moral government must be consistent with His holiness.

3. As He loves His own eternal purposes of truth and righteousness, He must especially love and honour them who are fulfilling those holy purposes. God simply assures His obedient children that their obedience shall have its reward. Providence is in league with holiness.

II. MARK THE WEALTH OF THE PROMISE: "All things."

1. Light is beautiful, but light alone cannot form the picture. Shadows must lie there — a dark background on which the light can pencil its beauty. God cannot form the beautiful rainbow until He has unbraided a beam of white light into the sevenfold colours of the prism, which borrow from and lend to each other enhancing loveliness. Thus also He knows how to blend the bright and dark things in human life to produce the most holy characters. Be patient and trustful, for He is making you after a beautiful pattern, even the image of the Only Begotten. The cutting and polishing of diamonds is done by friction. God puts His jewels on the friction-wheels only to polish them. He knows how to bring out the beauty of holiness. "For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth." The darkness that comes across our sky is often but the shadow of a great blessing coming from heaven and passing between us and the sun. The thunderbolt that prostrates some sheltering tree lets heaven shine on a spot of earth where it never shone before. The banishment of John to Patrons seemed cruelty; but when there God revealed to him the visions of the Book of Revelation.

2. There is great force in the original verb, "work together." I once visited a great carpet factory. I saw the wool seized by iron teeth, combed and carded, pressed under huge iron rollers and condensed into rolls, spun into yarn, dipped here in blue, there in black, yonder in crimson, there in orange, till vast piles of bobbins of every colour of yarn met my eye. But I could not see how these piles of coloured yarns could be woven into a carpet of such exquisite pattern. All seemed confusion and without intelligent design. Then the superintendent took me to the next floor, where he showed me a diagram of perforated cardboards, the exact pattern of the carpet designed — a plan unseen by the weavers below, but a plan connected with the looms and controlling all the shuttles of varied hues, thus guiding the weaving of all the threads into a web of beauty. This world is a vast factory; the events and experiences of life are crude materials seized by the iron teeth of trial, combed and carded, pressed under heavy rollers of sorrow, spun into warp and woof by the whirling spindles of duty, dipped here in the bright dyes of joy and prosperity, there in the dark hues of suffering and affliction. Confusion and mystery seemed everywhere. Then the Master took me up into the sanctuary and showed me the beautiful plan of the text, by which, unseen by the weavers below, the apparently random shuttles of life were weaving all the threads into a glorious robe of righteousness for "them that love God."

III. THE DOCTRINE IS NOT A PLEASING FANCY, a beautiful dream, BUT A GLORIOUS CERTAINTY: "For we know." How?

1. We know the fact (not the philosophy) because it is the declared purpose and promise of God. Heaven and earth shall pass away; but not one syllable of His Word shall fail.

2. By the experience of them that love God. The breaking up of the family circle on earth has often been the means of re-uniting all the loved ones in heaven. The treachery of earthly friends has often driven us to closer communion with the faithful and true Friend in heaven. The wreck of mortal hopes has often enriched our immortal hopes. The vanity of this world has led us to seek more earnestly the solid realities of the world to come.

3. By the recorded testimony of good men. "Before I was afflicted I went astray; but now have I kept Thy word." Take the experience of Paul in this chapter.

(J. O. Peck, D.D.)

In the baptistery of the cathedral at Pisa is a wonderful dome. Spacious, symmetrical, composed of the choicest marble, it is a delight to stand beneath and gaze upon its beauties. Thus I stood one sunny April day, when suddenly the air became instinct with melody. The great dome seemed full of harmony. The waves of music vibrated to and fro, loudly beating against the walls, swelling into full chords like the roll of a grand organ, and then dying away into soft, long-drawn, far-receding echoes, melting in the distance into silence. It was only my guide, who, lingering behind me a moment, had softly murmured a triple chord. But beneath that magic roof every sound resolved into a symphony. No discord can reach the summit of that dome and live. Every noise made in the building, the slamming of the seats, the tramping of feet, all the murmur and bustle of the crowd, are caught up, softened, harmonised, blended and echoed back in music. So it seems to me that over our life hangs the great dome of God's providence. Standing as we do, beneath it, no act in the Divine administration towards us, no affliction, no grief, no loss which our heavenly Father sends, however hard to bear it may be, but will come back at last softened and blended into harmony, with the overarching dome of His wisdom, mercy, and power, till to our corrected sense it shall be the sweetest music of heaven.

(J. D. Steele.)

We cannot skip the seasons of our education. We cannot hasten the ripeness and the sweetness of a single day, nor dispense with one night's nipping frost, nor one week's blighting east wind.

(F. W. Robertson.)

A landsman at sea understands little how a vessel is worked; he sees her often heading almost back from her course, making strange and contrary traverses — sometimes stripped of her canvas when to him all seems fair; sometimes strong sails set upon her when the storm is driving fiercely; yet he trusts in the presiding skill, nor would he dare to give, much less countermand, an order; for in the extremity of his own ignorance he has the comfort of knowing that the pilot knows. So, in the hour of gloom, let us trust in God, for to Him the night shineth as the day; and what to us appears adverse, to Him is the guidance of our prosperity.

Only a few years afterwards, Jeremiah was reduced to comparative poverty. The bulk of his property had been invested in the stock of the bank, which failed, unable to pay a shilling in the pound. Thus compelled to dispose of his expensive establishment, change his style of living altogether, and, with his wife and four children, take to "short commons," his spirits did not desert him. Said Jerry, "Never mind!" — two words which he never failed to throw at the teeth of every mishap he encountered. "Never mind! I like variety. I am tired of riding in a carriage; I once broke my leg in one. Walking is an exercise that I need very much. Come, come, this is not so bad an affair after all. It will test the value of my friends. Besides, now I can earn the bread we eat. Ah! it will be a labour of love, and that enriches the soul! I can almost say I am glad this accident has happened; I can indeed!"

(E. Paxton Hood.)

I sometimes think of it as of a child sitting in a boat. The child does not know the coast, and it very little understands how to row. If the child were left to itself, pulling upon the oars, its right hand being a little stronger than the other, it would be all the time veering the boat to the right, and the boat would be constantly turning round and round. The child would, perhaps, make its way out of the harbour and into the ocean, and be carried away and lost, if there were no guiding power in the boat but its own. But there in the stern sits the father. The uneven strokes of the child would carry the boat this way or that out of its course; but the steady hand of the father overcomes those uneven strokes; and all the mistakes with the oars are rectified by the rudder, and the boat keeps its right course. So that the force exerted by the child, though misdirected, all works for good when the father guides.

(H. W. Beecher.)

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