Extract from the preface
There are two
things, which I have always looked upon as difficult. The one is, to make the
wicked sad; the other is, to make the godly joyful. Dejection in the godly
arises from a double spring: either because their inward comforts are darkened,
or their outward comforts are disturbed. To cure both these troubles, I have put
forth this ensuing piece, hoping, by the blessing of God, it will buoy up their
desponding hearts, and make them look with a more pleasant aspect. I would
prescribe them to take, now and then, a little of this Cordial: all things work
together for good to them that love God. To know that nothing hurts the godly,
is a matter of comfort; but to be assured that all things which fall out shall
co operate for their good, that their crosses shall be turned into blessings,
that showers of affliction water the withering root of their grace and make it
flourish more; this may fill their hearts with joy till they run over.
We know that all things
work together for good, to them that love God, to them who are the called
according to his purpose.
Romans viii. 28.
IF the whole
Scripture be the feast of the soul, as Ambrose said, then
Romans 8 may be a dish at that feast, and with its sweet variety may
very much refresh and animate the hearts of Gods people. In the preceding verses
the apostle had been wading through the great doctrines of justification and
adoption, mysteries so arduous and profound, that without the help and conduct
of the Spirit, he might soon have waded beyond his depth. In this verse the
apostle touches upon that pleasant string of consolation, “we know that all
things work together for good, to them that love God.” Not a word but is
weighty; therefore I shall gather up every filing of this gold, that nothing be
In the text there
are three general branches.
First, a glorious
privilege. All things work for good.
persons interested in this privilege. They are doubly specified. They are lovers
of God, they are called.
Third, the origin
and spring of this effectual calling, set down in these words, “according to
glorious privilege. Here are two things to be considered. 1. The certainty of
the privilege — “We know.” 2. The excellency of the privilege — “All
things work together for good.”
certainly of the privilege: “We know.” It is not a matter wavering or
doubtful. The apostle does not say, We hope, or conjecture, but it is like an
article in our creed, We know that all things work for good. Hence observe that
the truths of the gospel are evident and infallible.
A Christian may
come not merely to a vague opinion, but to a certainty of what he holds. As
axioms and aphorisms are evident to reason, so the truths of religion are
evident to faith. “We know,” says the apostle. Though a Christian has not a
perfect knowledge of the mysteries of the gospel, yet he has a certain
knowledge. “We see through a glass darkly” (I
Cor. xiii. 12), therefore we have not perfection of knowledge; but “we
behold with open face” (2
Cor. iii. 18), therefore we have certainty. The Spirit of God
imprints heavenly truths upon the heart, as with the point of a diamond. A
Christian may know infallibly that there is an evil in sin, and a beauty in
holiness. He may know that he is in the state of grace. “We know that we have
passed from death to life” (I
John iii. 14).
He may know that
he shall go to heaven. “We know that if our earthly tabernacle were
dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in
the heavens” (2
Cor. v. l). The Lord does not leave His people at uncertainties in
matters of salvation. The apostle says, We know. We have arrived at a holy
confidence. We have both the Spirit of God, and our own experience, setting seal
Let us then not
rest in scepticism or doubts, but labour to come to a certainty in the things of
religion. As that martyr woman said, “I cannot dispute for Christ, but I can
burn for Christ.” God knows whether we may be called forth to be witnesses to
His truth; therefore it concerns us to be well grounded and confirmed in it. If
we are doubting Christians, we shall be wavering Christians. Whence is apostasy,
but from incredulity? Men first question the truth, and then fall from the
truth. Oh, beg the Spirit of God, not only to anoint you, but to seal you (2
Cor. i. 22).
excellency of the privilege, “All
things work together for good.”
This is as
Jacob’s staff in the hand of faith, with which we may walk cheerfully to the
mount of God. What will satisfy or make us content, if this will not? All things
work together for good. This expression “work together” refers to
medicine. Several poisonous ingredients put together, being tempered by the
skill of the apothecary, make a sovereign medicine, and work together for the
good of the patient. So all God’s providences being divinely tempered and
sanctified, do work together for the best to the saints. He who loves God and is
called according to His purpose, may rest assured that every thing in the world
shall be for his good. This is a Christian’s cordial, which may warm him — make
him like Jonathan who, when he had tasted the honey at the end of the rod, “his
eyes were enlightened” (I
Sam. xiv. 27). Why should a Christian destroy himself? Why should he
kill himself with care, when all things shall sweetly concur, yea, conspire for
his good? The result of the text is this. All the various dealings of God with
His children, do by a special providence turn to their good. “All the paths
of the Lord are mercy and truth unto such as keep his covenant” (Psalm
xxv. 10). If every path has mercy in it, then it works for good.
The best things work for good to the godly
WE shall consider,
first, what things work for good to the godly; and here we shall show that both
the best things and the worst things work for their good. We begin with the best
attributes work for good to the godly.
(1). God’s power
works for good. It is a glorious power (Col.
i. 11), and it is engaged for the good of the elect.
God’s power works
for good, in supporting us in trouble. “Underneath are the everlasting arms”
xxxiii. 27). What upheld Daniel in the lion’s den? Jonah in the
whale’s belly? The three Hebrews in the furnace? Only the power of God. Is it
not strange to see a bruised reed grow and flourish? How is a weak Christian
able, not only to endure affliction, but to rejoice in it? He is upheld by the
arms of the Almighty. “My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2
Cor. xii. 9).
The power of God
works for us by supplying our wants. God creates comforts when means fail. He
that brought food to the prophet Elijah by ravens, will bring sustenance to His
people. God can preserve the “oil in the cruse” (I
Kings xvii. 14). The Lord made the sun on Ahaz’s dial go ten degrees
backward: so when our outward comforts are declining, and the sun is almost
setting, God often causes a revival, and brings the sun many degrees backward.
The power of God
subdues our corruptions. “He will subdue our iniquities” (Micah
vii. 19). Is your sin strong? God is powerful, He will break the head
of this leviathan. Is your heart hard? God will dissolve that stone in Christ’s
blood. “The Almighty maketh my heart soft” (Job
xxiii. 16). When we say as Jehoshaphat, “We have no might against
this great army”; the Lord goes up with us, and helps us to fight our
battles. He strikes off the heads of those goliath lusts which are too strong
The power of God
conquers our enemies. He stains the pride, and breaks the confidence of
adversaries. “Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron” (Psalm
ii. 9). There is rage in the enemy, malice in the devil, but power in
God. How easily can He rout all the forces of the wicked! “It is nothing for
thee, Lord, to help” (2
Chr. xiv. 11). God’s power is on the side of His church. “Happy
art thou, O Israel, O people saved by the Lord, who is the shield of thy help,
and the sword of thy excellency” (Deut.
(2). The wisdom of
God works for good. God’s wisdom is our oracle to instruct us. As He is the
mighty God, so also the Counsellor (Isa.
ix. 6). We are oftentimes in the dark, and, in matters intricate and
doubtful know not which way to take; here God comes in with light. “I will
guide thee with mine eye” (Psa.
xxxxii. 8). “Eye,” there, is put for God’s wisdom. Why is it the
saints can see further than the most quick-sighted politicians? They foresee the
evil, and hide themselves; they see Satan’s sophisms. God’s wisdom is the pillar
of fire to go before, and guide them.
(3). The goodness
of God works for good to the godly. God’s goodness is a means to make us good. “The
goodness of God leadeth to repentance” (Rom.
ii. 4). The goodness of God is a spiritual sunbeam to melt the heart
into tears. Oh, says the soul, has God been so good to me? Has He reprieved me
so long from hell, and shall I grieve His Spirit any more? Shall I sin against
The goodness of
God works for good, as it ushers in all blessings. The favours we receive, are
the silver streams which flow from the fountain of God’s goodness. This divine
attribute of goodness brings in two sorts of blessings. Common blessings: all
partake of these, the bad as well as the good; this sweet dew falls upon the
thistle as well as the rose. Crowning blessings: these only the godly partake
of. “Who crowneth us with loving-kindness” (Psalm
ciii. 4). Thus the blessed attributes of God work for good to the
promises of God work for good to the godly.
The promises are
notes of God’s hand; is it not good to have security? The promises are the milk
of the gospel; and is not the milk for the good of the infant? They are called “precious
Pet. i. 4). They are as cordials to a soul that is ready to faint.
The promises are full of virtue.
Are we under the
guilt of sin? There is a promise, “The Lord merciful and gracious” (Exod.
xxiv. 6), where God as it were puts on His glorious embroidery, and
holds out the golden sceptre, to encourage poor trembling sinners to come to
Him. “The Lord, merciful.” God is more willing to pardon than to punish.
Mercy does more multiply in Him than sin in us. Mercy is His nature. The bee
naturally gives honey; it stings only when it is provoked. “But,” says the
guilty sinner, “I cannot deserve mercy.” Yet He is gracious: He shows mercy, not
because we deserve mercy, but because He delights in mercy. But what is that to
me? Perhaps my name is not in the pardon. “He keeps mercy for thousands”
: the exchequer of mercy is not exhausted. God has treasures lying by, and why
should not you come in for a child’s part?
Are we under the
defilement of sin? There is a promise working for good. “ I will heal their
xiv. 4). God will not only bestow mercy, but grace. And He has made a
promise of sending His Spirit (Isa.
xliv. 3), which for its sanctifying nature, is in Scripture compared
sometimes to water, which cleanses the vessel; sometimes to the fan, which
winnows corn, and purifies the air; sometimes to fire, which refines metals.
Thus the Spirit of God shall cleanse and consecrate the soul, making it partake
of the divine nature.
Are we in great
trouble? There is a promise works for our good, “I will be with him in
xci. 15). God does not bring His people into troubles, and leave them
there. He will stand by them; He will hold their heads and hearts when they are
fainting. And there is another promise, “He is their strength in the time of
xxxvii. 39). “Oh,” says the soul, “I shall faint in the day of
trial.” But God will be the strength of our hearts; He will join His forces with
us. Either He will make His hand lighter, or our faith stronger.
Do we fear
outward wants? There is a promise. “They that seek the Lord shall not want
any good thing” (Psalm
xxxiv. 10). If it is good for us, we shall have it; if it is not good
for us, then the withholding of it is good. “I will bless thy bread and thy
xxiii. 25). This blessing falls as the honey dew upon the leaf; it
sweetens that little we possess. Let me want the venison, so I may have the
blessing. But I fear I shall not get a livelihood? Peruse that Scripture, “I
have been young, and now am old, yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor
his seed begging bread” (Psalm
xxxvii. 25). How must we understand this? David speaks it as his own
observation; he never beheld such an eclipse, he never saw a godly man brought
so low that he had not a bit of bread to put in his mouth. David never saw the
righteous and their seed lacking. Though the Lord might try godly parents a
while by want, yet not their seed too; the seed of the godly shall be provided
for. David never saw the righteous begging bread, and forsaken. Though he might
be reduced to great straits, yet not forsaken; still he is an heir of heaven,
and God loves him.
How do the promises work for good?
They are food for faith; and that which
strengthens faith works for good. The promises are the milk of faith; faith
sucks nourishment from them, as the child from the breast. “Jacob feared
xxxii. 7). His spirits were ready to faint; now he goes to the
promise, “Lord, thou hast said thou wilt do me good” (Gen.
xxxii. 12). This promise was his food. He got so much strength from
this promise, that he was able to wrestle with the Lord all night in prayer, and
would not let Him go till He had blessed him.
The promises also
are springs of joy. There is more in the promises to comfort than in the world
to perplex. Ursin was comforted by that promise: “No man shall pluck them out
of my Father’s hands” (John
x. 29). The promises are cordials in a fainting fit. “Unless thy
word had been my delight, I had perished in my affliction” (Psalm
cxix. 92). The promises are as cork to the net, to bear up the heart
from sinking in the deep waters of distress.
3. The mercies
of God world for good to the godly.
The mercies of
God humble. “Then went king David, and sat before the Lord, and said, Who am
I, O Lord God, and what is my father’s house, that thou hast brought me
Sam. vii. 18). Lord, why is such honour conferred upon me, that I
should be king? That I who followed the sheep, should go in and out before Thy
people? So says a gracious heart, “Lord, what am I, that it should be better
with me than others? That I should drink of the fruit of the vine, when others
drink, not only a cup of wormwood, but a cup of blood (or suffering to death).
What am I, that I should have those mercies which others want, who are better
than I? Lord, why is it, that notwithstanding all my unworthiness, a fresh tide
of mercy comes in every day?” The mercies of God make a sinner proud, but a
The mercies of
God have a melting influence upon the soul; they dissolve it in love to God.
God’s judgments make us fear Him, His mercies make us love Him. How was Saul
wrought upon by kindness! David had him at the advantage, and might have cut
off, not only the skirt of his robe, but his head; yet he spares his life. This
kindness melted Saul’s heart. “Is this thy voice, my son David? and Saul lift
up his voice, and wept” (1
Sam. xxiv. 16). Such a melting influence has God’s mercy; it makes
the eyes drop with tears of love.
The mercies of
God make the heart fruitful. When you lay out more cost upon a field, it bears a
better crop. A gracious soul honours the Lord with his substance. He does not do
with his mercies, as Israel with their jewels and ear rings, make a golden calf;
but, as Solomon did with the money thrown into the treasury, build a temple for
the Lord. The golden showers of mercy cause fertility.
The mercies of
God make the heart thankful. “What shall I render unto the Lord for all his
benefits towards me? I will take the cup of salvation” (Psalm
cxvi. 12, 13). David alludes to the people of Israel, who at their
peace offerings used to take a cup in their hands, and give thanks to God for
deliverances. Every mercy is an alms of free grace; and this enlarges the soul
in gratitude. A good Christian is not a grave to bury God’s mercies, but a
temple to sing His praises. If every bird in its kind, as Ambrose says, chirps
forth thankfullness to its Maker, much more will an ingenuous Christian, whose
life is enriched and perfumed with mercy.
The mercies of
God quicken. As they are loadstones to love, so they are whetstones to
obedience. “I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living” (Psalm
cxvi. 9). He that takes a review of his blessings, looks upon himself
as a person engaged for God. He argues from the sweetness of mercy to the
swiftness of duty. He spends and is spent for Christ; he dedicates himself to
God. Among the Romans, when one had redeemed another, he was afterwards to serve
him. A soul encompassed with mercy is zealously active in God’s service.
The mercies of
God work compassion to others. A Christian is a temporal saviour. He feeds the
hungry, clothes the naked, and visits the widow and orphan in their distress;
among them he sows the golden seeds of his charity. “A good man sheweth
favour, and lendeth” (Psalm
cxii. 5). Charity drops from him freely, as myrrh from the tree. Thus
to the godly, the mercies of God work for good; they are wings to lift them up
also work for good.
The word preached
works for good. It is a savour of life, it is a soul transforming word, it
assimilates the heart into Christ’s likeness; it produces assurance. “Our
gospel came to you not in word only, but in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in
much assurance” (I
Thess. i. 5). It is the chariot of salvation.
Prayer works for
good. Prayer is the bellows of the affection; it blows up holy desires and
ardours of soul. Prayer has power with God. “Command ye me” (Isa.
xiv. 11). It is a key that unlocks the treasury of God’s mercy.
Prayer keeps the heart open to God, and shut to sin; it assuages the intemperate
hearts and swellings of lust. It was Luther’s counsel to a friend, when he
perceived a temptation begin to arise, to betake himself to prayer. Prayer is
the Christian’s gun, which he discharges against his enemies. Prayer is the
sovereign medicine of the soul. Prayer sanctifies every mercy (I
Tim. iv. 5). It is the dispeller of sorrow: by venting the grief it
eases the heart. When Hannah had prayed, “she went away, and was no more sad”
Sam. i. 18). And if it has these rare effects, then it works for
The Lord’s Supper
works for good. It is an emblem of the marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev.
xix. 9), and an earnest of that communion we shall have with Christ
in glory. It is a feast of fat things; it gives us bread from Heaven, such as
preserves life, and prevents death. It has glorious effects in the hearts of the
godly. It quickens their affections, strengthens their graces, mortifies their
corruptions, revives their hopes, and increases their joy. Luther says, “It is
as great a work to comfort a dejected soul, as to raise the dead to life”; yet
this may and sometimes is done to the souls of the godly in the blessed supper.
4. The graces
of the Spirit work for good.
Grace is to the
soul, as light to the eye, as health to the body. Grace does to the soul, as a
virtuous wife to her husband, “She will do him good all the days of her life”
xxxi. 12). How incomparably useful are the graces! Faith and fear go
hand in hand. Faith keeps the heart cheerful, fear keeps the heart serious.
Faith keeps the heart from sinking in despair, fear keeps it from floating in
presumption. All the graces display themselves in their beauty: hope is “ the
Thess. v. 8), meekness “the ornament” (I
Pet. iii. 4), love “the bond of perfectness” (Col.
iii. 14). The saints’ graces are weapons to defend them, wings to
elevate them, jewels to enrich them, spices to perfume them, stars to adorn
them, cordials to refresh them. And does not all this work for good? The graces
are our evidences for heaven. Is it not good to have our evidences at the hour
5. The Angels
work for the good of the Saints.
The good angels
are ready to do all offices of love to the people of God. “Are they not all
ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of
i. 14). Some of the fathers were of opinion that every believer has
his guardian angel. This subject needs no hot debate. It may suffice us to know
the whole hierarchy of angels is employed for the good of the saints.
The good angels
do service to the saints in life. The angel did comfort the virgin Mary (Luke
i. 28). The angels stopped the mouths of the lions, that they could
not hurt Daniel (Dan.
vi. 22). A Christian has an invisible guard of angels about him. “He
shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways” (Psalm
xci. 11). The angels are of the saints’ life guard, yea, the chief of
the angels: “Are they not all ministering spirits?” The highest angels
take care of the lowest saints.
The good angels
do service at death. The angels are about the saints’ sick beds to comfort them.
As God comforts by His Spirit, so by His angels. Christ in His agony was
refreshed by an angel (Luke
xxii. 43); so are believers in the agony of death: and when the
saints’ breath expires, their souls are carried up to heaven by a convoy of
The good angels
also do service at the day of judgment. The angels shall open the saints’
graves, and shall conduct them into the presence of Christ, when they shall be
made like His glorious body. “He shall send his angels, and they shall gather
together his elect from the four winds, from the one end of heaven to the other”
xxiv. 31). The angels at the day of judgment shall rid the godly of
all their enemies. Here the saints are plagued with enemies. “They are mine
adversaries, because I follow the thing that is good” (Psalm
xxxviii. 20). Well, the angels will shortly give God’s people a writ
of ease, and set them free from all their enemies: “The tares are the
children of the wicked one, the harvest is the end of the world, the reapers are
the angels; as therefore the tares are gathered and burnt in the fire, so shall
it be in the end of the world: the Son of man shall send forth his angels, and
they shall gather out of his kingdom all things which offend, and them which do
iniquity, and cast them into a furnace of fire” (Matt.
xiii. 38 42). At the day of judgment the angels of God will take the
wicked, which are the tares, and will bundle them up, and throw them into hell
furnace, and then the godly will not be troubled with enemies any more: thus the
good angels work for good. See here the honour and dignity of a believer. He has
God’s name written upon him (Rev.
iii. 12), the Holy Ghost dwelling in him (2
Tim. i. 14), and a guard of angels attending him.
Communion of Saints works for good.
helpers of your joy” (2
Cor. i. 24). One Christian conversing with another is a means to
confirm him. As the stones in an arch help to strengthen one another, one
Christian by imparting his experience, heats and quickens another. “Let us
provoke one another to love, and to good works” (Heb.
x. 24). How does grace flourish by holy conference! A Christian by
good discourse drops that oil upon another, which makes the lamp of his faith
burn the brighter.
intercession works for good.
Christ is in
heaven, as Aaron with his golden plate upon his forehead, and his precious
incense; and He prays for all believers as well as He did for the apostles. “Neither
pray I for these alone but for all them that shall believe in me” (John
xvii. 20). When a Christian is weak, and can hardly pray for himself,
Jesus Christ is praying for him; and He prays for three things. First, that the
saints may be kept from sin (John
xvii. 15). “I pray that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.”
We live in the world as in a pest house; Christ prays that His saints may not be
infected with the contagious evil of the times. Second, for His people’s
progress in holiness. “Sanctify them” (John
xvii. 17). Let them have constant supplies of the Spirit, and be
anointed with fresh oil. Third, for their glorification “Father, I will that
those which thou hast given me, be with me where I am” (John
xvii. 24). Christ is not content till the saints are in His arms.
This prayer, which He made on earth, is the copy and pattern of His prayer in
heaven. What a comfort is this; when Satan is tempting, Christ is praying! This
works for good.
takes away the sins of our prayers. As a child says Ambrose, that is willing to
present his father with a posy, goes into the garden, and there gathers some
flowers and some weeds together, but coming to his mother, she picks out the
weeds and binds the flowers, and so it is presented to the father: thus when we
have put up our prayers, Christ comes, and picks away the weeds, the sin of our
prayer, and presents nothing but flowers to His Father, which are a sweet
8. The prayers
of Saints work for good to the godly.
The saints pray
for all the members of the body mystical, their prayers prevail much. They
prevail for recovery from sickness “Thy prayer of faith shall save the sick,
and the Lord shall raise him up” (James
v. 15). They prevail for victory over enemies. “Lift up thy prayer
for the remnant that is left” (Isa.
xxxvii. 4). “Then the angel of the Lord went forth, and smote, in
the camp of the Assyrians, an hundred and fourscore and five thousand” (Isa.
xxxvii. 36). They prevail for deliverance out of prison. “Prayer
was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him. And behold the angel of
the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison, and he smote Peter on
the side, and raised him up, and his chains fell off” (Acts
xii. 5-7). The angel fetched Peter out of prison, but it was prayer
fetched the angel. They prevail for forgiveness of sin. “My servant lob shall
pray for you, for him will I accept” (Job
xiii. 8). Thus the prayers of the saints work for good to the body
mystical. And this is no small privilege to a child of God, that he has a
constant trade of prayer driven for him. When he comes into any place, he may
say, “I have some prayer here, nay, all the world over I have a stock of prayer
going for me. When I am indisposed, and out of tune, others are praying for me,
who are quick and lively.” Thus the best things work for good to the people of
The worst things work for good to the godly
DO not mistake me,
I do not say that of their own nature the worst things are good, for they are a
fruit of the curse; but though they are naturally evil, yet the wise overruling
hand of God disposing and sanctifying them, they are morally good. As the
elements, though of contrary qualities, yet God has so tempered them, that they
all work in a harmonious manner for the good of the universe. Or as in a watch,
the wheels seem to move contrary one to another, but all carry on the motions of
the watch: so things that seem to move cross to the godly, yet by the wonderful
providence of God work for their good. Among these worst things, there are four
sad evils that work for good to them that love God.
1. The evil of
affliction works for good to the godly.
It is one
heart-quieting consideration in all the afflictions that befall us, that God has
a special hand in them: “The Almighty hath addicted me” (Ruth
i. 21). Instruments can no more stir till God gives them a
commission, than the axe can cut of itself without a hand. Job eyed God in his
affliction: therefore, as Augustine observes, he does not say, “The Lord gave,
and the devil took away,” but, “The Lord hath taken away.” Whoever brings
an affliction to us, it is God that sends it.
quieting consideration is, that afflictions work for good. “ Like these good
pips, so will I acknowledge them that are carried away captive of Judah, whom I
have sent out of this place into the land of the Chaldeans, for their good”
xxiv. 5). Judah’s captivity in Babylon was for their good. “ It is
good for me that I have been afflicted” (Psalm
cxix. 71). This text, like Moses’ tree cast into the bitter waters of
affliction, may make them sweet and wholesome to drink. Afflictions to the godly
are medicinal. Out of the most poisonous drugs God extracts our salvation.
Afflictions are as needful as ordinances (I
Peter i. 6). No vessel can be made of gold without fire; so it is
impossible that we should be made vessels of honour, unless we are melted and
refined in the furnace of affliction. “All the paths of the Lord are mercy
and truth” (Psalm
xxv. 10). As the painter intermixes bright colours with dark shadows;
so the wise God mixes mercy with judgment. Those afflictive providences which
seem to be prejudicial, are beneficial. Let us take some instances in Scripture.
Joseph’s brethren throw him into a pit; afterwards they sell him; then he is
cast into prison; yet all this did work for his good. His abasement made way for
his advancement, he was made the second man in the kingdom. “Ye thought evil
against me, but God meant it for good” (Gen.
l. 20). Jacob wrestled with the angel, and the hollow of Jacob’s
thigh was out of joint. This was sad; but God turned it to good, for there he
saw God’s face, and there the Lord blessed him. “Jacob called the name of the
place Peniel, for I have seen God face to face” (Gen.
xxxii. 30). Who would not be willing to have a bone out of joint, so
that he might have a sight of God?
King Manasseh was
bound in chains. This was sad to see — a crown of gold changed into fetters; but
it wrought for his good, for, “When he was in affliction he besought the
Lord, and humbled himself greatly, and the Lord was entreated of him” (2
Chron. xxxiii. 11, 12). He was more beholden to his iron chain, than
to his golden crown; the one made him proud, the other made him humble.
Job was a spectacle
of misery; he lost all that ever he had; he abounded only in boils and ulcers.
This was sad; but it wrought for his good, his grace was proved and improved.
God gave a testimony from heaven of his integrity, and did compensate his loss
by giving him twice as much as ever he had before (Job
Paul was smitten
with blindness. This was uncomfortable, but it turned to his good. God did by
that blindness make way for the light of grace to shine into his soul; it was
the beginning of a happy conversion (Acts
As the hard frosts
in winter bring on the flowers in the spring, as the night ushers in the morning
star: so the evils of affliction produce much good to those that love God. But
we are ready to question the truth of this, and say, as Mary did to the angel,
“How can this be?” Therefore I shall show you several ways how affliction works
(1). As it is our
preacher and tutor — “Hear ye the rod” (Mic.
vi. 9). Luther said that he could never rightly understand some of
the Psalms, till he was in affliction. Affliction teaches what sin is. In the
word preached, we hear what a dreadful thing sin is, that it is both defiling
and damning, but we fear it no more than a painted lion; therefore God lets
loose affliction, and then we feel sin bitter in the fruit of it. A sick bed
often teaches more than a sermon. We can best see the ugly visage of sin in the
glass of affliction. Affliction teaches us to know ourselves. In prosperity we
are for the most part strangers to ourselves. God makes us know affliction, that
we may better know ourselves. We see that corruption in our hearts in the time
of affliction, which we would not believe was there. Water in the glass looks
clear, but set it on the fire, and the scum boils up. In prosperity, a man seems
to be humble and thankful, the water looks clear; but set this man a little on
the fire of affliction, and the scum boils up ñ much impatience and unbelief
appear. “Oh,” says a Christian, “I never thought I had such a bad heart, as now
I see I have: I never thought my corruptions had been so strong, and my graces
work for good, as they are the means of making the heart more upright. In
prosperity the heart is apt to be divided (Hos.
x. 2). The heart cleaves partly to God, and partly to the world. It
is like a needle between two loadstones: God draws, and the world draws. Now God
takes away the world, that the heart may cleave more to Him in sincerity.
Correction is a setting the heart right and straight. As we sometimes hold a
crooked rod over the fire to straighten it; so God holds us over the fire of
affliction to make us more straight and upright. Oh, how good it is, when sin
has bent the soul awry from God, that affliction should straighten it again!
work for good, as they conform us to Christ. God’s rod is a pencil to draw
Christ’s image more lively upon us. It is good that there should be symmetry and
proportion between the Head and the members. Would we be parts of Christ’s
mystical body, and not like Him? His life, as Calvin says, was a series of
sufferings, “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isa.
liii. 3). He wept, and bled. Was His head crowned with thorns, and do
we think to be crowned with roses? It is good to be like Christ, though it be by
sufferings. Jesus Christ drank a bitter cup, it made Him sweat drops of blood to
think of it; and, though it be true He drank the poison in the cup (the wrath of
God) yet there is some wormwood in the cup left, which the saints must drink:
only here is the difference between Christ’s sufferings and ours; His were
satisfactory, ours are only castigatory.
work for good to the godly, as they are destructive to sin. Sin is the mother,
affliction is the daughter; the daughter helps to destroy the mother. Sin is
like the tree that breeds the worm, and affliction is like the worm that eats
the tree. There is much corruption in the best heart: affliction does by degrees
work it out, as the fire works out the dross from the gold, “This is all the
fruit, to take away his sin” (Isa.
xxvii. 9). What if we have more of the rough file, if we have less
rust! Afflictions carry away nothing but the dross of sin. If a physician should
say to a patient, “Your body is distempered, and full of bad humours, which must
be cleared out, or you die; but I will prescribe physic which, though it may
make you sick, yet it will carry away the dregs of your disease, and save your
life”: would not this be for the good of the patient? Afflictions are the
medicine which God uses to carry off our spiritual diseases; they cure the
timpani of pride, the fever of lust, the dropsy of covetousness. Do they not
then work for good?
work for good, as they are the means of loosening our hearts from the world.
When you dig away the earth from the root of a tree, it is to loosen the tree
from the earth: so God digs away our earthly comforts to loosen our hearts from
the earth. A thorn grows up with every flower. God would have the world hang as
a loose tooth which, being twitched away does not much trouble us. Is it not
good to be weaned? The oldest saints need it. Why does the Lord break the
conduit pipe, but that we may go to Him, in whom are “all our fresh springs” (Psalm
work for good, as they make way for comfort. “In the valley of Achor is a
door of hope” (Hos.
ii. 15) Achor signifies trouble. God sweetens outward pain with
inward peace. “Your sorrow shall he turned into joy” (John
xvi. 20). Here is the water turned into wine. After a bitter pill,
God gives sugar. Paul had his prison songs. God’s rod has honey at the end of
it. The saints in addiction have had such sweet raptures of joy, that they
thought themselves in the borders of the heavenly Canaan.
work for good, as they are a magnifying of us. “What is man, that thou
shouldest magnify him, and that thou shouldest visit him every morning?” (Job
vii. 17). God does by affliction magnify us three ways. (1st.) In
that He will condescend so low as to take notice of us. It is an honour that God
will mind dust and ashes. It is a magnifying of us, that God thinks us worthy to
be smitten. God’s not striking is a slighting: “Why should ye be stricken any
i. 5). If you will go on in sin, take your course, sin yourselves
into hell. (2nd.) Afflictions also magnify us, as they are ensigns of glory,
signs of sonship. “If you endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with
xii. 7). Every print of the rod is a badge of honour. (3rd.)
Afflictions tend to the magnifying of the saints, as they make them renowned in
the world. Soldiers have never been so admired for their victories, as the
saints have been for their sufferings. The zeal and constancy of the martyrs in
their trials have rendered them famous to posterity. How eminent was Job for his
patience! God leaves his name upon record: “Ye have heard of the patience of
v. 11). Job the sufferer was more renowned than Alexander the
work for good, as they are the means of making us happy. “Happy is the man
whom God correcteth” (Job
v. 17). What politician or moralist ever placed happiness in the
cross? Job does. “Happy is the man whom God correcteth.”
It may be said,
How do afflictions make us happy? We reply that, being sanctified, they bring us
nearer to God. The moon in the full is furthest off from the sun: so are many
further off from God in the full moon of prosperity; afflictions bring them
nearer to God. The magnet of mercy does not draw us so near to God as the cords
of affliction. When Absalom set Joab’s corn on fire, then he came running to
Sam. xiv. 30). When God sets our worldly comforts on fire, then we
run to Him, and make our peace with Him. When the prodigal was pinched with
want, then he returned home to his father (Luke
xv. 13). When the dove could not find any rest for the sole of her
foot, then she flew to the ark. When God brings a deluge of affliction upon us,
then we fly to the ark of Christ. Thus affliction makes us happy, in bringing us
nearer to God. Faith can make use of the waters of affliction, to swim faster to
work for good, as they put to silence the wicked. How ready are they to asperse
and calumniate the godly, that they serve God only for self interest. Therefore
God will have His people endure sufferings for religion, that He may put a
padlock on the lying lips of wicked men. When the atheists of the world see that
God has a people, who serve Him not for a livery, but for love, this stops their
mouths. The devil accused Job of hypocrisy, that he was a mercenary man, all his
religion was made up of ends of gold and silver. “Doth Job serve God for
naught? Hast not thou made a hedge about him?” Etc. “Well,” says God,
“put forth thy hand, touch his estate” (Job
i. 9). The devil had no sooner received a commission, but he falls a
breaking down Job’s hedge; but still Job worships God (Job.
i. 20), and professes his faith in Him. “Though he slay me, yet
will I trust in him” (Job.
xiii. 15). This silenced the devil himself. How it strikes a damp
into wicked men, when they see that the godly will keep close to God in a
suffering condition, and that, when they lose all, they yet will hold fast their
work for good, as they make way for glory (2
Cor. iv. 17). Not that they merit glory, but they prepare for it. As
ploughing prepares the earth for a crop, so afflictions prepare and make us meet
for glory. The painter lays his gold upon dark colours, so God first lays the
dark colours of affliction, and then He lays the golden colour of glory. The
vessel is first seasoned before wine is poured into it: the vessels of mercy are
first seasoned with affliction, and then the wine of glory is poured in. Thus we
see afflictions are not prejudicial, but beneficial, to the saints. We should
not so much look at the evil of affliction, as the good; not so much at the dark
side of the cloud, as the light. The worst that God does to His children is to
whip them to heaven.
2. The evil of
temptation is overruled for good to the godly.
The evil of
temptation works for good. Satan is called the tempter (Mark
iv. 15). He is ever lying in ambush, he is continually at work with
one saint or another. The devil has his circuit that he walks every day: he is
not yet fully cast into prison, but, like a prisoner that goes under bail, he
walks about to tempt the saints. This is a great molestation to a child of God.
Now concerning Satan’s temptations; there are three things to be considered.
(1). His method in tempting. (2). The extent of his power. (3). These
temptations are overruled for good.
method in tempting. Here take notice of two things. His violence in tempting;
and so he is the red dragon. He labours to storm the castle of the heart, he
throws in thoughts of blasphemy, he tempts to deny God: these are the fiery
darts he shoots, by which he would inflame the passions. Also, his subtlety in
tempting; and so he is the old serpent. There are five chief subtleties the
(i.) He observes
the temperament and constitution: he lays suitable baits of temptation. Like the
farmer, he knows what grain is best for the soil. Satan will not tempt contrary
to the natural disposition and temperament. This is his policy, he makes the
wind and tide go together; that way the natural tide of the heart runs, that way
the wind of temptation blows. Though the devil cannot know men’s thoughts, yet
he knows their temperament, and accordingly he lays his baits. He tempts the
ambitious man with a crown, the sanguine man with beauty.
observes the fittest time to tempt in as a cunning angler casts in his angle
when the fish will bite best. Satan’s time of tempting is usually after an
ordinance: and the reason is, he thinks he shall find us most secure. When we
have been at solemn duties, we are apt to think all is done, and we grow remiss,
and leave off that zeal and strictness as before; just as a soldier, who after a
battle leaves off his armour, not once dreaming of an enemy. Satan watches his
time, and, when we least suspect, then he throws in a temptation.
(iii.) He makes
use of near relations; the devil tempts by a proxy. Thus he handed over a
temptation to Job by his wife. “Dost thou still retain thy integrity?” (Job
ii. 9). A wife in the bosom may be the devil’s instrument to tempt to
(iv.) Satan tempts
to evil by them that are good, thus he gives poison in a golden cup. He tempted
Christ by Peter. Peter dissuades him from suffering. Master, pity Thyself. Who
would have thought to have found the tempter in the mouth of an apostle?
(v.) Satan tempts
to sin under a pretence of religion. He is most to be feared when he transforms
himself into an angel of light. He came to Christ with Scripture in his mouth: “It
is written.” The devil baits his hook with religion. He tempts many a man to
covetousness and extortion under a pretence of providing for his family, he
tempts some to do away with themselves, that they may live no longer to sin
against God; and so he draws them into sin, under a pretence of avoiding sin.
These are his subtle stratagems in tempting.
(2). The extent of
his power; how far Satan’s power in tempting reaches.
(i.) He can
propose the object; as he set a wedge of gold before Achan.
(ii.) He can
poison the fancy, and instil evil thoughts into the mind. As the Holy Ghost
casts in good suggestions, so the devil casts in bad ones. He put it into Judas’
heart to betray Christ (John
(iii.) Satan can
excite and irritate the corruption within, and work some kind of inclinableness
in the heart to embrace a temptation. Though it is true Satan cannot force the
will to yield consent, yet he being an earnest suitor, by his continual
solicitation, may provoke to evil. Thus he provoked David to number the people (I
Chron. xxi. 1). The devil may, by his subtle arguments, dispute us
temptations are overruled for good to the children of God. A tree that is shaken
by the wind is more settled and rooted; so, the blowing of a temptation does but
settle a Christian the more in grace. Temptations are overruled for good eight
sends the soul to prayer. The more furiously Satan tempts, the more fervently
the saint prays. The deer being shot with the dart, runs faster to the water.
When Satan shoots his fiery darts at the soul, it then runs faster to the throne
of grace. When Paul had the messenger of Satan to buffet him, he says, “For
this I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me” (2
Cor. xii. 8). Temptation is a medicine for security. That which makes
us pray more, works for good.
to sin, is a means to keep from the perpetration of sin. The more a child of God
is tempted, the more he fights against the temptation. The more Satan tempts to
blasphemy, the more a saint trembles at such thoughts, and says, “Get thee
hence, Satan.” When Joseph’s mistress tempted him to folly, the stronger her
temptation was, the stronger was his opposition. That temptation which the devil
uses as a spur to sin, God makes a bridle to keep back a Christian from it.
works for good, as it abates the swelling of pride. “Lest I should be exalted
above measure, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to
buffet me” (2
Cor. xii. 7). The thorn in the flesh was to puncture the puffing up
of pride. Better is that temptation which humbles me, than that duty which makes
me proud. Rather than a Christian shall be haughty minded, God will let him fall
into the devil’s hands awhile, to be cured of his imposthume.
works for good, as it is a touchstone to try what is in the heart. The devil
tempts, that he may deceive; but God suffers us to be tempted, to try us.
Temptation is a trial of our sincerity. It argues that our heart is chaste and
loyal to Christ, when we can look a temptation in the face, and turn our back
upon it. Also it is a trial of our courage. “Ephraim is a silly dove, without
vii. 11). So it may be said of many, they are without a heart; they
have no heart to resist temptation. No sooner does Satan come, but they yield;
like a coward who, as soon as the thief approaches, gives him his purse. But he
is the valorous Christian, that brandishes the sword of the Spirit against
Satan, and will rather die than yield. The courage of the Romans was never more
seen than when they were assaulted by the Carthaginians: the valour and
puissance of a saint is never more seen than on a battlefield, when he is
fighting the red dragon, and by the power of faith puts the devil to flight.
That grace is tried gold, which can stand in the fiery trial, and withstand
work for good, as God makes those who are tempted, fit to comfort others in the
same distress. A Christian must himself be under the buffetings of Satan, before
he can speak a word in due season to him that is weary. St. Paul was versed in
temptations. “We are not ignorant of his devices” (2
Cor. ii. 11). Thus he was able to acquaint others with Satan’s cursed
Cor. x. 13). A man that has ridden over a place where there are bogs
and quicksands, is the fittest to guide others through that dangerous way. He
that has felt the claws of the roaring lion, and has lain bleeding under those
wounds, is the fittest man to deal with one that is tempted. None can better
discover Satan’s sleights and policies, than those who have been long in the
fencing school of temptation.
work for good, as they stir up paternal compassion in God to them who are
tempted. The child who is sick and bruised is most looked after. When a saint
lies under the bruising of temptations, Christ prays, and God the Father pities.
When Satan puts the soul into a fever, God comes with a cordial; which made
Luther say, that temptations are Christ’s embraces, because He then most sweetly
manifests Himself to the soul.
work for good, as they make the saints long more for heaven. There they shall be
out of gunshot; heaven is a place of rest, no bullets of temptation fly there.
The eagle that soars aloft in the air, and sits upon high trees, is not troubled
with the stinging of the serpent: so when believers are ascended to heaven, they
shall not be molested with the old serpent. In this life, when one temptation is
over, another comes. This is to make God’s people wish for death to sound a
retreat, and call them off the field where the bullets fly so quick, to receive
a victorious crown, where not the drum or cannon, but the harp and viol, shall
be ever sounding.
Temptations work for good, as they engage the strength of Christ. Christ is our
Friend, and when we are tempted, He sets all His power working for us. “For
in that he himself hath suffered, being tempted, he is able to succour them that
are tempted” (Heb.
ii. 18). If a poor soul was to fight alone with the Goliath of hell,
he would be sure to be vanquished, but Jesus Christ brings in His auxiliary
forces, He gives fresh supplies of grace. “And through him we are more than
viii. 37). Thus the evil of temptation is overruled for good.
But sometimes Satan foils a child of
God. How does this work for good?
I grant that, through the suspension of
divine grace, and the fury of a temptation, a saint may be overcome; yet this
foiling by a temptation shall be overruled for good. By this foil God makes way
for the augmentation of grace. Peter was tempted to self-confidence, he presumed
upon his own strength; and when he would needs stand alone, Christ let him fall.
But this wrought for his good, it cost him many a tear. “He went out, and
wept bitterly” (Matt.
xxvi. 75). And now be grows more modest. He durst not say he loved
Christ more than the other apostles. “Lovest thou me more than these?” (John
xxi. 15). He durst not say so, his fall broke the neck of his pride.
The foiling by a temptation causes more circumspection and watchfullness in a
child of God. Though Satan did before decoy him into sin, yet for the future he
will be the more cautious. He will have a care of coming within the lion’s chain
any more. He is more shy and fearful of the occasions of sin. He never goes out
without his spiritual armour, and he girds on his armour by prayer. He knows he
walks on slippery ground, therefore he looks wisely to his steps. He keeps close
sentinel in his soul, and when he spies the devil coming, he stands to his arms,
and displays the skill of faith (Eph.
vi. 16). This is all the hurt the devil does. When he foils a saint
by temptation, he cures him of his careless neglect; he makes him watch and pray
more. When wild beasts get over the hedge and hurt the corn, a man will make his
fence the stronger: so, when the devil gets over the hedge by a temptation, a
Christian will be sure to mend his fence; he will become more fearful of sin,
and careful of duty. Thus the being worsted by temptation works for good.
But if being foiled works for good,
this may make Christians careless whether they are overcome by temptations or
There is a great deal of difference between
falling into a temptation, and running into a temptation. The falling into a
temptation shall work for good, not the running into it. He that falls into a
river is capable of help and pity, but he that desperately turns into it is
guilty of his own death. It is madness running into a lion’s den. He that runs
himself into a temptation is like Saul, who fell upon his own sword.
From all that has
been said, see how God disappoints the old serpent, making his temptations turn
to the good of His people. Surely if the devil knew how much benefit accrues to
the saints by temptation, he would forbear to tempt. Luther once said, “There
are three things make a Christian — prayer, meditation, and temptation.” St.
Paul, in his voyage to Rome, met with a contrary wind (Acts
xxvii. 4). So the wind of temptation is a contrary wind to that of
the Spirit; but God makes use of this cross wind, to blow the saints to heaven.
3. The evil of
desertion works for good to the godly.
The evil of
desertion works for good. The spouse complains of desertion. “ My beloved had
withdrawn himself, and was gone” (Cant.
v. 6). There is a twofold withdrawing; either in regard of grace,
when God suspends the influence of His Spirit, and withholds the lively actings
of grace. If the Spirit be gone, grace freezes into a chillness and indolence.
Or, a withdrawing in regard of comfort. When God withholds the sweet
manifestations of His favour, He does not look with such a pleasant aspect, but
veils His face, and seems to be quite gone from the soul.
God is just in all
His withdrawings. We desert Him before He deserts us. We desert God when we
leave off close communion with Him, when we desert His truths and dare not
appear for Him, when we leave the guidance and conduct of His word and follow
the deceitful light of our own corrupt affections and passions. We usually
desert God first; therefore we have none to blame but ourselves.
Desertion is very
sad, for as when the light is withdrawn, darkness follows in the air, so when
God withdraws, there is darkness and sorrow in the soul. Desertion is an agony
of conscience. God holds the soul over hell. “The arrows of the Almighty are
within me, the poison whereof drinks up my spirits” (Job
vi. 4). It was a custom among the Persians in their wars to dip their
arrows in the poison of serpents to make them more deadly. Thus did God shoot
the poisoned arrow of desertion into Job, under the wounds of which his spirit
lay bleeding. In times of desertion the people of God are apt to be dejected.
They dispute against themselves, and think that God has quite cast them off.
Therefore I shall prescribe some comfort to the deserted soul. The mariner, when
he has no star to guide him, yet he has light in his lantern, which is some help
to him to see his compass; so, I shall lay down four consolations, which are as
the mariner’s lantern, to give some light when the poor soul is sailing in the
dark of desertion, and wants the bright morning star.
(1). None but the
godly are capable of desertion. Wicked men know not what God’s love means, nor
what it is to want it. They know what it is to want health, friends, trade, but
not what it is to want God’s favour. You fear you are not God’s child because
you are deserted. The Lord cannot be said to withdraw His love from the wicked,
because they never had it. The being deserted, evidences you to be a child of
God. How could you complain that God has estranged Himself, if you had not
sometimes received smiles and tokens of love from Him?
(2). There may be
the seed of grace, where there is not the flower of joy. The earth may want a
crop of corn, yet may have a mine of gold within. A Christian may have grace
within, though the sweet fruit of joy does not grow. Vessels at sea, that are
richly fraught with jewels and spices, may be in the dark and tossed in the
storm. A soul enriched with the treasures of grace, may yet be in the dark of
desertion, and so tossed as to think it shall be cast away in the storm. David,
in a state of dejection, prays, “Take not thy Holy Spirit from me” (Psalm
li. 11). He does not pray, says Augustine, “Lord, give me thy
Spirit”, but “Take not away thy Spirit”, so that still he had the Spirit of God
remaining in him.
desertions are but for a time. Christ may withdraw, and leave the soul awhile,
but He will come again. “In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a
moment, but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee” (Isa.
liv. 8). When it is dead low water, the tide will come in again. “I
will not be always wroth, for the spirit should fail before me, and the souls
which I have made” (Isa.
lvii. 16). The tender mother sets down her child in anger, but she
will take it up again into her arms, and kiss it. God may put away the soul in
anger, but He will take it up again into His dear embraces, and display the
banner of love over it.
desertions work for good to the godly.
the soul of sloth. We find the spouse fallen upon the bed of sloth: “I sleep”
v. 2). And presently Christ was gone. “My beloved had withdrawn
v. 6). Who will speak to one that is drowsy?
inordinate affection to the world. “Love not the world” (I
John ii. 15). We may hold the world as a posy in our hand, but it
must not lie too near our heart. We may use it as an inn where we take a meal,
but it must not be our home. Perhaps these secular things steal away the heart
too much. Good men are sometimes sick with a surfeit, and drunk with the
luscious delights of prosperity: and having spotted their silver wings of grace,
and much defaced God’s image by rubbing it against the earth, the Lord, to
recover them of this, hides His face in a cloud. This eclipse has good effects,
it darkens all the glory of the world, and causes it to disappear.
for good, as it makes the saints prize God’s countenance more than ever. “Thy
loving-kindness is better than life” (Psalm
lxiii. 3). Yet the commonness of this mercy lessens it in our esteem.
When pearls grew common at Rome, they began to be slighted. God has no better
way to make us value His love, than by withdrawing it awhile. If the sun shone
but once a year, how would it be prized! When the soul has been long benighted
with desertion, oh how welcome now is the return of the Sun of righteousness!
for good, as it is the means of embittering sin to us. Can there be a greater
misery than to have God’s displeasure? What makes hell, but the hiding of God’s
face? And what makes God hide His face, but sin? “They have taken away my
Lord, and I know not where they have laid him” (John
xx. 13). So, our sins have taken away the Lord, and we know not where
He is laid. The favour of God is the best jewel; it can sweeten a prison, and
unsting death. Oh, how odious then is that sin, which robs us of our best jewel!
Sin made God desert His temple (Ezek.
viii. 6). Sin causes Him to appear as an enemy, and dress Himself in
armour. This makes the soul pursue sin with a holy malice, and seek to be
avenged of it. The deserted soul gives sin gall and vinegar to drink, and, with
the spear of mortification, lets out the heart-blood of it.
for good, as it sets the soul to weeping for the loss of God. When the sun is
gone, the dew falls; and when God is gone, tears drop from the eyes. How Micah
was troubled when he had lost his gods! “Ye have taken away my gods, and what
have I more?” (Judges
xviii. 24). So when God is gone, what have we more? It is not the
harp and viol can comfort when God is gone. Though it be sad to want God’s
presence, yet it is good to lament His absence.
Desertion sets the
soul to seeking after God. When Christ was departed, the spouse pursues after
Him, she seeks Him “in the streets of the city” (Cant.
iii. 2). And not having found Him, she makes a hue and cry after Him.
“Saw ye him whom my soul loveth?” (Cant.
iii. 3). The deserted soul sends up whole volleys of sighs and
groans. It knocks at heaven’s gate by prayer, it can have no rest till the
golden beams of God’s face shine.
Desertion puts the
Christian upon inquiry. He inquires the cause of God’s departure. What is the
accursed thing that has made God angry? Perhaps pride, perhaps surfeit on
ordinances, perhaps worldliness. “For the iniquity of his covetousness was I
wrath; I hid me” (Isa.
lvii. 17). Perhaps there is some secret sin allowed. A stone in the
pipe hinders the current of water; so, sin lived in, hinders the sweet current
of God’s love. Thus conscience, as a bloodhound, having found out sin and
overtaken it, this Achan is stoned to death.
for good, as it gives us a sight of what Jesus Christ suffered for us. If the
sipping of the cup be so bitter, how bitter was that which Christ drank upon the
cross? He drank a cup of deadly poison, which made Him cry out, “My God, my
God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matt.
xxvii. 46). None can so appreciate Christ’s sufferings, none can be
so fired with love to Christ, as those who have been humbled by desertion, and
have been held over the flames of hell for a time.
for good, as it prepares the saints for future comfort. The nipping frosts
prepare for spring flowers. It is God’s way, first to cast down, then to comfort
Cor. vii. 6). When our Saviour had been fasting, then came the angels
and ministered to Him. When the Lord has kept His people long fasting, then He
sends the Comforter, and feeds them with the hidden manna. “Light is sown for
the righteous” (Psalm
xcvii. 11.) The saints’ comforts may be hidden like seed under
ground, but the seed is ripening, and will increase, and flourish into a crop.
work for good, as they will make heaven the sweeter to us. Here our comforts are
like the moon, sometimes they are in the full, sometimes in the wane. God shows
Himself to us awhile, and then retires from us. How will this set off heaven the
more, and make it more delightful and ravishing, when we shall have a constant
aspect of love from God (1
Thess. iv. 17).
Thus we see
desertions work for good. The Lord brings us into the deep of desertion, that He
may not bring us into the deep of damnation. He puts us into a seeming hell,
that He may keep us from a real hell. God is fitting us for that time when we
shall enjoy His smiles for ever, when there shall be neither clouds in His face
or sun setting, when Christ shall come and stay with His spouse, and the spouse
shall never say again, “My beloved hath withdrawn himself.”
4. The evil of
sin works for good to the godly.
Sin in its own
nature is damnable, but God in His infinite wisdom overrules it, and causes good
to arise from that which seems most to oppose it. Indeed, it is a matter of
wonder that any honey should come out of this lion. We may understand it in a
(1). The sins of
others are overruled for good to the godly. It is no small trouble to a gracious
heart to live among the wicked. “Woe is me, that I dwell in Mesech” (Psalm
cxx. 5). Yet even this the Lord turns to good. For,
(i.) The sins of
others work for good to the godly, as they produce holy sorrow. God’s people
weep for what they cannot reform. “Rivers of tears run down mine eyes,
because they keep not thy law” (Psalm
cxix. 136). David was a mourner for the sins of the times; his heart
was turned into a spring, and his eyes into rivers. Wicked men make merry with
sin. “When thou doest evil, then thou rejoicest” (Jer.
xi. 15). But the godly are weeping doves; they grieve for the oaths
and blasphemies of the age. The sins of others, like spears, pierce their souls.
This grieving for the sins of others is good. It shows a childlike heart, to
resent with sorrow the injuries done to our heavenly Father. It also shows a
Christ-like heart. “He was grieved for the hardness of their hearts” (Mark
iii. 5). The Lord takes special notice of these tears: He likes it
well, that we should weep when His glory suffers. It argues more grace to grieve
for the sins of others than for our own. We may grieve for our own sins out of
fear of hell, but to grieve for the sins of others is from a principle of love
to God. These tears drop as water from the roses, they are sweet and fragrant,
and God puts them in His bottle.
(ii.) The sins of
others work for good to the godly, as they set them the more a praying against
sin. If there were not such a spirit of wickedness abroad, perhaps there would
not be such a spirit of prayer. Crying sins cause crying prayers. The people of
God pray against the iniquity of the times, that God will give a check to sin,
that He will put sin to the blush. If they cannot pray down sin, they pray
against it; and this God takes kindly. These prayers shall both be recorded and
rewarded. Though we do not prevail in prayer, we shall not lose our prayers. “My
prayer returned into mine own bosom” (Psalm
(iii.) The sins of
others work for good, as they make us the more in love with grace. The sins of
others are a foil to set off the lustre of grace the more. One contrary sets off
another: deformity sets off beauty. The sins of the wicked do much disfigure
them. Pride is a disfiguring sin; now the beholding another’s pride makes us the
more in love with humility! Malice is a disfiguring sin, it is the devil’s
picture; the more of this we see in others the more we love meekness and
charity. Drunkenness is a disfiguring sin, it turns men into beasts, it deprives
of the use of reason; the more intemperate we see others, the more we must love
sobriety. The black face of sin sets off the beauty of holiness so much the
(iv.) The sins of
others work for good, as they work in us the stronger opposition against sin. “The
wicked have made void thy law; therefore I love thy commandments” (Psalm
cxix. 126, 127). David had never loved God’s law so much, if the
wicked had not set themselves so much against it. The more violent others are
against the truth, the more valiant the saints are for it. Living fish swim
against the stream; the more the tide of sin comes in, the more the godly swim
against it. The impieties of the times provoke holy passions in the saints; that
anger is without sin, which is against sin. The sins of others are as a
whetstone to set the sharper edge upon us; they whet our zeal and indignation
against sin the more.
(v.) The sins of
others work for good, as they make us more earnest in working out our salvation.
When we see wicked men take such pains for hell, this makes us more industrious
for heaven. The wicked have nothing to encourage them, yet they sin. They
venture shame and disgrace, they break through all opposition. Scripture is
against them, and conscience is against them, there is a flaming sword in the
way, yet they sin. Godly hearts, seeing the wicked thus mad for the forbidden
fruit, and wearing out themselves in the devil’s service, are the more
emboldened and quickened in the ways of God. They will take heaven as it were by
storm. The wicked are swift dromedaries in sin (Jer.
ii. 23). And do we creep like snails in religion? Shall impure
sinners do the devil more service than we do Christ? Shall they make more haste
to a prison, than we do to a kingdom? Are they never weary of sinning, and are
we weary of praying? Have we not a better Master than they? Are not the paths of
virtue pleasant? Is not there joy in the way of duty, and heaven at the end? The
activity of the sons of Belial in sin, is a spur to the godly to make them mend
their pace, and run the faster to heaven.
(vi.) The sins of
others work for good, as they are glasses in which we may see our own hearts. Do
we see a flagitious, impious sinner? Behold a picture of our hearts. Such should
we be, if God did leave us. What is in other men’s practice, is in our nature.
Sin in the wicked is like fire on a beacon, that flames and blazes forth; sin in
the godly is like fire in the embers. Christian, though you do not break forth
into a flame of scandal, yet you have no cause to boast, for there is much sin
raked up in the embers of your nature. You have the root of bitterness in you,
and would bear as hellish fruit as any, if God did not either curb you by His
power, or change you by His grace.
(vii.) The sins of
others work for good, as they are the means of making the people of God more
thankful. When you see another infected with the plague, how thankful are you
that God has preserved you from it! It is a good use that may be made of the
sins of others, to make us more thankful. Why might not God have left us to the
same excess of riot? Think with yourself, O Christian, why should God be more
propitious to you than to another? Why should He take you out of the wild olive
of nature, and not him? How may this make you to adore free grace. What the
Pharisee said boastingly, we may say thankfully, “God, I thank thee that I am
not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, etc.” (Luke
xviii. 11). So we should adore the riches of grace that we are not as
others, drunkards, swearers, sabbath-breakers. Every time we see men hasting on
in sin, we are to bless God we are not such. If we see a frenzied person, we
bless God it is not so with us; much more when we see others under the power of
Satan, we should make our thankful acknowledgement that it is not our condition.
Let us not think lightly of sin.
(viii.) The sins
of others work for good, as they are means of making God’s people better.
Christian, God can make you a gainer by another’s sin. The more unholy others
are, the more holy you should be. The more a wicked man gives himself to sin,
the more a godly man gives himself to prayer. “But I give myself to prayer”
(ix.) The sins of
others work for good, as they give an occasion to us of doing good. Were there
no sinners, we could not be in such a capacity for service. The godly are often
the means of converting the wicked; their prudent advice and pious example is a
lure and a bait to draw sinners to the embracing of the gospel. The disease of
the patient works for the good of the physician; by emptying the patient of
noxious humours, the physician enriches himself: so, by converting sinners from
the error of their way, our crown comes to be enlarged. “They that turn many
to righteousness, shall shine as the stars for ever and ever” (Dan.
xii. 31). Not as lamps or tapers, but as the stars for ever. Thus we
see the sins of others are overruled for our good.
(2). The sense of
their own sinfullness will be overruled for the good of the godly. Thus our own
sins shall work for good. This must be understood warily, when I say the sins of
the godly work for good — not that there is the least good in sin. Sin is
like poison, which corrupts the blood, infects the heart, and, without a
sovereign antidote, brings death. Such is the venomous nature of sin, it is
deadly and damning. Sin is worse than hell, but yet God, by His mighty over
ruling power, makes sin in the issue turn to the good of His people. Hence that
golden saying of Augustine, “God would never permit evil, if He could not bring
good out of evil.” The feeling of sinfullness in the saints works for good
(i.) Sin makes
them weary of this life. That sin is in the godly is sad, but that it is a
burden is good. St. Paul’s afflictions (pardon the expression) were but a play
to him, in comparison of his sin. He rejoiced in tribulation (2
Cor. vii. 4). But how did this bird of paradise weep and bemoan
himself under his sins! “Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”
vii. 24). A believer carries his sins as a prisoner his shackles; oh,
how does he long for the day of release! This sense of sin is good.
(ii.) This in
being of corruption makes the saints prize Christ more. He that feels his sin,
as a sick man feels his sickness, how welcome is Christ the physician to him! He
that feels himself stung with sin, how precious is the brazen serpent to him!
When Paul had cried out of a body of death, how thankful was he for Christ! “Il
thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom.
vii. 25). Christ’s blood saves from sin, and is the sacred ointment
which kids this quicksilver.
(iii.) This sense
of sin works for good, as it is an occasion of putting the soul upon six
(a) It puts the
soul upon self searching. A child of God being conscious of sin, takes the
candle and lantern of the Word, and searches into his heart. He desires to know
the worst of himself; as a man who is diseased in body, desires to know the
worst of his disease. Though our joy lies in the knowledge of our graces, yet
there is some benefit in the knowledge of our corruptions. Therefore Job prays,
“Make me to know my transgressions” (Job
xiii. 23). It is good to know our sins, that we may not flatter
ourselves, or take our condition to be better than it is. It is good to find out
our sins, lest they find us out.
(b) The inherence
of sin puts a child of God upon self-abasing. Sin is left in a godly man, as a
cancer in the breast, or a hunch upon the back, to keep him from being proud.
Gravel and dirt are good to ballast a ship, and keep it from overturning; the
sense of sin helps to ballast the soul, that it be not overturned with vain
glory. We read of the “spots of God’s children” (Deut.
xxxii. 5). When a godly man beholds his face in the glass of
Scripture, and sees the spots of infidelity and hypocrisy, this makes the plumes
of pride fall; they are humbling spots. It is a good use that may be made even
of our sins, when they occasion low thoughts of ourselves. Better is that sin
which humbles me, than that duty which makes me proud. Holy Bradford uttered
these words of himself, “I am a painted hypocrite”; and Hooper said, “Lord, I am
hell, and Thou art heaven.”
(c) Sin puts a
child of God on self-judging; he passes a sentence upon himself. '' I am more
brutish than any man” (Prov.
xxx. 2). It is dangerous to judge others, but it is good to judge
ourselves. “If we would judge ourselves, we should riot be judged” (I
Cor. xi. 31). When a man has judged himself, Satan is put out of
office. When he lays anything to a saint’s charge, he is able to retort and say,
“It is true, Satan, I am guilty of these sins; but I have judged myself already
for them; and having condemned myself in the lower court of conscience, God will
acquit me in the upper court of heaven.”
(d) Sin puts a
child of God upon self-conflicting. Spiritual self conflicts with carnal self. “The
spirit lusts against the flesh” (Gal.
v. 17). Our life is a wayfaring life, and a war-faring life. There is
a duel fought every day between the two seeds. A believer will not let sin have
peaceable possession. If he cannot keep sin out, he will keep sin under; though
he cannot quite overcome, yet he is overcoming. “To him that is overcoming”
(e) Sin puts a
child of God upon self-observing. He knows sin is a bosom traitor, therefore he
carefully observes himself. A subtle heart needs a watchful eye. The heart is
like a castle that is in danger every hour to be assaulted; this makes a child
of God to be always a sentinel, and keep a guard about his heart. A believer has
a strict eye over himself, lest he fall in to any scandalous enormity, and so
open a sluice to let all his comfort run out.
(f) Sin puts the
soul upon self-reforming. A child of God does not only find out sin, but drives
out sin. One foot he sets upon the neck of his sins, and the other foot he
“turns to God’s testimonies” (Psalm
cxix. 59). Thus the sins of the godly work for good. God makes the
saints’ maladies their medicines.
But let none abuse
this doctrine. I do not say that sin works for good to an impenitent person. No,
it works for his damnation, but it works for good to them that love God; and for
you that are godly, I know you will not draw a wrong conclusion from this,
either to make light of sin, or to make bold with sin. If you should do so, God
wilt make it cost you dear. Remember David. He ventured presumptuously on sin,
and what did he get? He lost his peace, he felt the terrors of the Almighty in
his soul, though he had all helps to cheerfullness. He was a king; he had skill
in music; yet nothing could administer comfort to him: he complains of his
“broken bones” (Psalm
li. 8). And though he did at last come out of that dark cloud, yet
some divines are of opinion that he never recovered his full joy to his dying
day. If any of God’s people should be tampering with sin, because God can turn
it to good; though the Lord does not damn them, He may send them to hell in this
life. He may put them into such bitter agonies and soul convulsions, as may fill
them full of horror, and make them draw nigh to despair. Let this be a flaming
sword to keep them from coming near the forbidden tree.
And thus have I
shown, that both the best things and the worst things, by the overruling hand of
the great God, do work together for the good of the saints.
Again, I say,
think not lightly of sin.
Why all things work for good
1. The grand
reason why all things work for good, is the near and dear interest which God
has in His people. The Lord has made a covenant with them. “They shall be my
people, and I will be their God” (Jer.
xxxii. 38). By virtue of this compact, all things do, and must work,
for good to them. “I am God, even thy God” (Psalm
l. 7). This word, ‘Thy God,’ is the sweetest word in the Bible, it
implies the best relations; and it is impossible there should be these relations
between God and His people, and everything not work for their good. This
expression, ‘I am thy God,’ implies,
(1). The relation
of a physician: ‘I am thy Physician.’ God is a skilful Physician. He knows what
is best. God observes the different temperaments of men, and knows what will
work most effectually. Some are of a more sweet disposition, and are drawn by
mercy. Others are more rugged and knotty pieces; these God deals with in a more
forcible way. Some things are kept in sugar, some in brine. God does not deal
alike with all; He has trials for the strong and cordials for the weak. God is a
faithful Physician, and therefore will turn all to the best. If God does not
give you that which you like, He will give you that which you need. A physician
does not so much study to please the taste of the patient, as to cure his
disease. We complain that very sore trials lie upon us; let us remember God is
our Physician, therefore He labours rather to heal us than humour us. God’s
dealings with His children, though they are sharp, yet they are safe, and in
order to cure; “that he might do thee good in the latter end” (Deut.
(2). This word,
'thy God', implies the relation of a Father. A father loves his child; therefore
whether it be a smile or a stroke, it is for the good of the child. I am thy
God, thy Father, therefore all I do is for thy good. “As a man chasteneth his
son, so the Lord thy God chasteneth thee” (Deut.
viii. 5). God’s chastening is not to destroy but to reform. God
cannot hurt His children, for He is a tender hearted Father, “Like as a
father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him” (Psalm
ciii. 13). Will a father seek the ruin of his child, the child that
came from himself, that bears his image? All his care and contrivance is for his
child: whom does he settle the inheritance upon, but his child? God is the
tender hearted “Father of mercies” (2
Cor. i. 3). He begets all the mercies and kindness in the creatures.
God is an
everlasting Father (Isa.
ix. 6). He was our Father from eternity; before we were children, God
was our Father, and He will be our Father to eternity. A father provides for his
child while he lives; but the father dies, and then the child may be exposed to
injury. But God never ceases to be a Father. You who are a believer, have a
Father that never dies; and if God be your father, you can never be undone. All
things must needs work for your good.
(3). This word,
‘thy God,’ implies the relation of a Husband. This is a near and sweet relation.
The husband seeks the good of his spouse; he were unnatural that should go about
to destroy his wife. “No man ever yet hated his own flesh,” (Ephes.
v. 29). There is a marriage relation between God and His people. “Thy
Maker is thy Husband” (Isa.
liv. 5). God entirely loves His people. He engraves them upon the
palms of His hands (Isa.
xlix. 16). He sets them as a seal upon His breast (Cant.
viii. 6). He will give kingdoms for their ransom (Isa.
xliii. 3). This shows how near they lie to His heart. If He be a
Husband whose heart is full of love, then He will seek the good of His spouse.
Either He will shield off an injury, or will turn it to the best.
(4). This word,
‘thy God,’ implies the relation of a Friend. “This is my friend” (Cant.
v. 16). A friend is, as Augustine says, half one’s self. He is
studious and desirous how he may do his friend good; he promotes his welfare as
his own. Jonathan ventured the king’s displeasure for his friend David (I
Sam. xix. 4). God is our Friend, therefore He will turn all things to
our good. There are false friends; Christ was betrayed by a friend: but God is
the best Friend.
He is a faithful
Friend. “Knowest therefore that the Lord thy God, he is God, the faithful God”
vii. 9). He is faithful in His love. He gave His very heart to us,
when He gave the Son out of His bosom. Here was a pattern of love without a
parallel. He is faithful in His promises. “God, that cannot lie, hath
i. 2). He may change His promise, but cannot break it. He is faithful
in His dealings; when He is afflicting He is faithful. “In faithfullness thou
hast addicted me” (Psalm
cxix. 75). He is sifting and refining us as silver (Psalm
God is an
immutable Friend. “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Heb.
xiii. 5). Friends often fail at a pinch. Many deal with their friends
as women do with flowers; while they are fresh they put them in their bosoms,
but when they begin to wither they throw them away. Or as the traveller does
with the sun-dial; if the sun shines upon the dial, the traveller will step out
of the road, and look upon the dial: but if the sun does not shine upon it, he
will ride by, and never take any notice of it. So, if prosperity shine on men,
then friends will look upon them; but if there be a cloud of adversity on them,
they will not come near them. But God is a Friend for ever; He has said, “I
will never leave thee.” Though David walked in the shadow of death, he knew
he had a Friend by him. “I will fear no evil, for thou art with me” (Psalm
xxiii. 4). God never takes off His love wholly from His people. “He
loved them unto the end” (John
xiii. 1). God being such a Friend, will make all things work for our
good. There is no friend but will seek the good of his friend.
(5). This word,
‘thy God,’ implies yet a nearer relation, the relation between the Head and the
members. There is a mystical union between Christ and the saints. He is called,
“the Head of the church” (Eph.
v. 23). Does not the head consult for the good of the body? The head
guides the body, it sympathises with it, it is the fountain of spirits, it sends
forth influence and comfort into the body. All the parts of the head are placed
for the good of the body. The eye is set as it were in the watchtower, it stands
sentinel to spy any danger that may come to the body, and prevent it. The tongue
is both a taster and an orator. If the body be a microcosm, or little world, the
head is the sun in this world, from which proceeds the light of reason. The head
is placed for the good of the body. Christ and the saints make one body
mystical. Our Head is in heaven, and surely He will not suffer His body to be
hurt, but will consult for the safety of it, and make all things work for the
good of the body mystical.
from the proposition that all things work for the good of the saints.
(1). If all
things work for good, hence learn that there is a providence. Things do not work
of themselves, but God sets them working for good. God is the great Disposer of
all events and issues, He sets everything working. “His kingdom ruleth over
ciii. 19). It is meant of His providential kingdom. Things in the
world are not governed by second causes, by the counsels of men, by the stars
and planets, but by divine providence. Providence is the queen and governess of
the world. There are three things in providence: God’s foreknowing, God’s
determining, and God’s directing all things to their periods and events.
Whatever things do work in the world, God sets them a working. We read in the
first of Ezekiel of wheels, and eyes in the wheels, and the moving of the
wheels. The wheels are the whole universe, the eyes in the wheels are God’s
providence, the moving of the wheels is the hand of Providence, turning all
things here below. That which is by some called chance is nothing else but the
result of providence.
Learn to adore
providence. Providence has an influence upon all things here below. It is this
that mingles the ingredients, and makes up the whole compound.
(2). Observe the
happy condition of every child of God. All things work for his good, the best
and worst things. “Unto the upright ariseth light in darkness” (Psalm
cxii. 4). The most dark cloudy providences of God have some sunshine
in them. What a blessed condition is a true believer in! When he dies, he goes
to God: and while he lives, everything shall do him good. Affliction is for his
good. What hurt does the fire to the gold? It only purifies it. What hurt does
the fan to the corn? It only separates the chaff from it. What hurt do leeches
to the body? They only suck out the bad blood. God never uses His staff, but to
beat out the dust. Affliction does that which the Word many times will not, it “opens
the ear to discipline” (Job
xxxvi. 10). When God lays men upon their backs, then they look up to
heaven. God’s smiting His people is like the musician’s striking upon the
violin, which makes it put forth a melodious sound. How much good comes to the
saints by affliction! When they are pounded and broken, they send forth their
sweetest smell. Affliction is a bitter root, but it bears sweet fruit. “It
yieldeth the peaceable fruits of righteousness” (Heb.
xii. 11). Affliction is the highway to heaven; though it be flinty
and thorny, yet it is the best way. Poverty shall starve our sins; sickness
shall make grace more helpful (2
Cor. iv. 16). Reproach shall cause “the Spirit of God and of glory
to rest upon us” (I
Pet. iv. 14). Death shall stop the bottle of tears, and open the gate
of Paradise. A believer’s dying day is his ascension day to glory. Hence it is,
the saints have put their afflictions in the inventory of their riches (Heb.
xi. 26). Themistocles being banished from his own country, grew
afterwards in favour with the king of Egypt, whereupon he said, “I had perished,
if I had not perished.” So may a child of God say, “ If I had not been
afflicted, I had been destroyed; if my health and estate had not been lost, my
soul had been lost.”
(3). See then
what an encouragement here is to become godly. All things shall work for good.
Oh, that this may induce the world to fall in love with religion! Can there be a
greater loadstone to piety? Can anything more prevail with us to be good, than
this; all things shall work for our good? Religion is the true philosopher’s
stone that turns everything into gold. Take the sourest part of religion, the
suffering part, and there is comfort in it. God sweetens suffering with joy; He
candies our wormwood with sugar. Oh, how may this bribe us to godliness! “Acquaint
now thyself with God, and be at peace; thereby good shall come unto thee” (Job
xxii. 21). No man did ever come off a loser by his acquaintance with
God. By this, good shall come unto you, abundance of good, the sweet
distillations of grace, the hidden manna, yea, everything shall work for good.
Oh, then get acquaintance with God, espouse His interest.
(4). Notice the
miserable condition of wicked men. To them that are godly, evil things work for
good; to them that are evil, good things work for hurt.
good things work for hurt to the wicked. Riches and prosperity are not benefits
but snares, as Seneca speaks. Worldly things are given to the wicked, as Michal
was given to David, for a snare (I
Sam. xviii. 21). The vulture is said to draw sickness from a perfume:
so do the wicked from the sweet perfume of prosperity. Their mercies are like
poisoned bread given to dogs; their tables are sumptuously spread, but there is
a hook under the bait: “Let their table become a snare” (Psalm
lxix. 22). All their enjoyments are like Israel’s quails, which were
sauced with the wrath of God (Numb.
xi. 33). Pride and luxury are the twins of prosperity. “Thou art
waxen fat” (Deut.
xxxii. 15). Then he forsook God. Riches are not only like the
spider’s web, unprofitable, but like the cockatrice’s egg, pernicious. “Riches
kept for the hurt of the owner” (Eccles.
v. 13). The common mercies wicked men have, are not loadstones to
draw them nearer to God, but millstones to sink them deeper in hell (I
Tim. vi. 9). Their delicious dainties are like Haman’s banquet; after
all their lordly feasting, death will bring in the bill, and they must pay it in
good things work for hurt to the wicked. From the flower of heavenly blessings
they suck poison.
The ministers of
God work for their hurt. The same wind that blows one ship to the haven, blows
another ship upon a rock. The same breath in the ministry that blows a godly man
to heaven, blows a profane sinner to hell. They who come with the word of life
in their mouths, yet to many are a savour of death. “Make the heart of this
people fat, and their ears heavy” (Isa.
vi. 10). The prophet was sent upon a sad message, to preach their
funeral sermon. Wicked men are worse for preaching. “They hate him that
rebuketh in the gate” (Amos
v. 10). Sinners grow more resolved in sin; let God say what He will,
they will do what they list. “As for the word which thou hast spoken to us in
the name of the Lord, we will not hearken unto thee” (Jer.
xliv. 16). The word preached is not healing, but hardening. And how
dreadful is this for men to be sunk to hell with sermons!
Prayer works for
their hurt. “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord” (Prov.
xv. 8). A wicked man is in a great strait: if he prays not, he sins;
if he prays, he sins, “Let his prayer become sin” (Psalm
cix. 7). It were a sad judgment if all the food a man did eat should
turn to ill humours, and breed diseases in the body: so it is with a wicked man.
That prayer which should do him good, works for his hurt; he prays against sin,
and sins against his prayer; his duties are tainted with atheism, flyblown with
hypocrisy. God abhors them.
The Lord’s Supper
works for their hurt. “Ye cannot eat of the Lord’s table and the table of
devils. Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy?” (I
Cor. x. 21, 22). Some professors kept their idol-feasts, yet would
come to the Lord’s table. The apostle says, “Do you provoke the Lord to
wrath?” Profane persons feast with their sins; yet will come to feast at the
Lord’s table. This is to provoke God. To a sinner there is death in the cup, he
“eats and drinks his own damnation” (I
Cor. xi. 29). Thus the Lord’s Supper works for hurt to impenitent
sinners. After the sop, the devil enters.
works for hurt to desperate sinners. He is “a stone of stumbling, and rock of
Pet. ii. 8). He is so, through the depravity of men’s hearts; for
instead of believing in Him, they are offended at Him. The sun, though in its
own nature pure and pleasant, yet it is hurtful to sore eyes. Jesus Christ is
set for the fall, as the rising, of many (Luke
ii. 34). Sinners stumble at a Saviour, and pluck death from the tree
of life. As chemical oils recover some patients, but destroy others, so the
blood of Christ, though to some it is medicine, to others it is condemnation.
Here is the unparalleled misery of such as live and die in sin. The best things
work for their hurt; cordials themselves, kill.
(5). See here the
wisdom of God, who can make the worst things imaginable turn to the good of the
saints. He can by a divine chemistry extract gold out of dross. “Oh the depth
of the wisdom of God!” (Rom.
xi. 33). It is God’s great design to set forth the wonder of His
wisdom. The Lord made Joseph’s prison a step to preferment. There was no way for
Jonah to be saved, but by being swallowed up. God suffered the Egyptians to hate
cvi. 41), and this was the means of their deliverance. St. Paul was
bound with a chain, and that chain which did bind him was the means of enlarging
the gospel (Phil.
i. 12). God enriches by impoverishing; He causes the augmentation of
grace by the diminution of an estate. When the creature goes further from us, it
is that Christ may come nearer to us. God works strangely. He brings order out
of confusion, harmony out of discord. He frequently makes use of unjust men to
do that which is just. “He is wise in heart” (Job.
ix. 4). He can reap His glory out of men’s fury (Psalm
lxxvi. 10). Either the wicked shall not do the hurt that they intend,
or they shall do the good which they do not intend. God often helps when there
is least hope, and saves His people in that way which they think will destroy.
He made use of the high priest’s malice and Judas’ treason to redeem the world.
Through indiscreet passion, we are apt to find fault with things that happen:
which is as if an illiterate man should censure philosophy, or a blind man find
fault with the work in a landscape. “Vain man would be wise” (Job
xi. 12). Silly animals will be taxing Providence, and calling the
wisdom of God to the bar of reason. God’s ways are “past finding out” (Rom.
xi. 33). They are rather to be admired than fathomed. There is never
a providence of God, but has either a mercy or a wonder in it. How stupendous
and infinite is that wisdom, that makes the most adverse dispensations work for
the good of His children!
(6). Learn how
little cause we have then to be discontented at outward trials and emergencies!
What! Discontented at that which shall do us good! All things shall work for
good. There are no sins God’s people are more subject to than unbelief and
impatience. They are ready either to faint through unbelief, or to fret through
impatience. When men fly out against God by discontent and impatience it is a
sign they do not believe this text. Discontent is an ungrateful sin, because we
have more mercies than afflictions; and it is an irrational sin, because
afflictions work for good. Discontent is a sin which puts us upon sin. “Fret
not thyself to do evil” (Psalm
xxxvii. 8). He that frets will be ready to do evil: fretting Jonah
was sinning Jonah (Jonah
iv. 9). The devil blows the coals of passion and discontent, and then
warms himself at the fire. Oh, let us not nourish this angry viper in our
breast. Let this text produce patience, “All things work for good to them
that love God” (Rom.
viii. 28). Shall we be discontented at that which works for our good?
If one friend should throw a bag of money at another, and in throwing it, should
graze his head, he would not be troubled much, seeing by this means he had got a
bag of money. So the Lord may bruise us by afflictions, but it is to enrich us.
These afflictions work for us a weight of glory, and shall we be discontented?
(7). See here
that Scripture fulfilled, “God is good to Israel” (Psalm
lxxiii. 1). When we look upon adverse providences, and see the Lord
covering His people with ashes, and “making them drunk with wormwood” (Lam.
iii. 15), we may be ready to call in question the love of God, and to
say that He deals hardly with His people. But, oh no, yet God is good to Israel,
because He makes all things work for good. Is not He a good God, who turns all
to good? He works out sin, and works in grace; is not this good? “We are
chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world” (1
Cor. xi. 32). The depth of affliction is to save us from the depth of
damnation. Let us always justify God; when our outward condition is ever so bad,
let us say, “Yet God is good.”
(8). See what
cause the saints have to be frequent in the work of thanksgiving. In this
Christians are defective, though they are much in supplication, yet little in
gratulation. The apostle says, “In everything giving thanks” (Thess.
v. 18). Why so? Because God makes everything work for our good. We
thank the physician, though he gives us a bitter medicine which makes us sick,
because it is to make us well, we thank any man that does us a good turn; and
shall we not be thankful to God, who makes everything work for good to us? God
loves a thankful Christian. Job thanked God when He took all away: “The Lord
hath taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job
i. 21). Many will thank God when He gives; Job thanks Him when He
takes away, because he knew God would work good out of it. We read of saints
with harps in their hands (Rev.
xiv. 2), an emblem of praise. We meet many Christians who have tears
in their eyes, and complaints in their mouths: but there are few with their
harps in their hands, who praise God in affliction. To be thankful in affliction
is a work peculiar to a saint. Every bird can sing in spring, but some birds
will sing in the dead of winter. Everyone, almost, can be thankful in
prosperity, but a true saint can be thankful in adversity. A good Christian will
bless God, not only at sun-rise, but at sun-set. Well may we, in the worst that
befalls us, have a psalm of thankfullness, because all things work for good. Oh,
be much in blessing of God: we will thank Him that doth befriend us.
(9). Think, if
the worst things work for good to a believer, what shall the best things —
Christ, and heaven! How much more shall these work for good! If the cross has so
much good in it, what has the crown? If such precious clusters grow in Golgotha,
how delicious is that fruit which grows in Canaan? If there be any sweetness in
the waters of Marah, what is there in the wine of Paradise? If God’s rod has
honey at the end of it, what has His golden sceptre? If the bread of affliction
tastes so savoury, what is manna? What is the heavenly ambrosia? If God’s blow
and stroke work for good, what shall the smiles of His face do? If temptations
and sufferings have matter of joy in them, what shall glory have? If there be so
much good out of evil, what then is that good where there shall be no evil? If
God’s chastening mercies are so great, what will His crowning mercies be?
Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
that if God makes all things to turn to our good, how right is it that we should
make all things tend to His glory! “Do all to the glory of God” (I
Cor. x. 31). The angels glorify God, they sing divine anthems of
praise. How then ought man to glorify Him, for whom God has done more than for
angels! He has dignified us above them in uniting our nature with the Godhead.
Christ has died for us, and not the angels. The Lord has given us, not only out
of the common stock of His bounty, but He has enriched us with covenant
blessings, He has bestowed upon us His Spirit. He studies our welfare, He makes
everything work for our good; free grace has laid a plan for our salvation. If
God seeks our good, shall we not seek His glory?
How can we be said properly to
glorify God. He is infinite in His perfections, and can receive no augmentation
It is true that in a strict sense we cannot
bring glory to God, but in an evangelical sense we may. When we do what in us
lies to lift up God’s name in the world, and to cause others to have high
reverential thoughts of God, this the Lord interprets a glorifying of Him; as a
man is said to dishonour God, when he causes the name of God to be evil spoken
We are said to
advance God’s glory in three ways: (i.) When we aim at His glory; when we make
Him the first in our thoughts, and the last in our end. As all the rivers run
into the sea, and all the lines meet in the centre, so all our actions terminate
and centre in God. (ii.) We advance God’s glory by being fruitful in grace. “Herein
is my Father glorified, that ye bring forth much fruit” (John
xv. 8). Barrenness reflects dishonour upon God. We glorify God when
we grow in fairness as the lily, in tallness as the cedar, in fruitfullness as
the vine. (iii.) We glorify God when we give the praise and glory of all we do
unto God. It was an excellent and humble speech of a king of Sweden; he feared
lest the people’s ascribing that glory to him which was due to God, should cause
him to be removed before the work was done. When the silk worm weaves her
curious work, she hides herself under the silk, and is not seen. When we have
done our best, we must vanish away in our own thoughts, and transfer the glory
of all to God. The apostle Paul said, “I laboured more abundantly than they
Cor. xv. 10). One would think this speech savoured of pride; but the
apostle pulls off the crown from his own head, and sets it upon the head of free
grace, “Yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” Constantine
used to write the name of Christ over the door, so should we over our duties.
Thus let us
endeavour to make the name of God glorious and renowned. If God seek our good,
let us seek His glory. If He make all things tend to our edification, let us
make all things tend to His exaltation. So much for the privilege mentioned in
Of love to God
I proceed to the
second general branch of the text. The persons interested in this privilege.
They are lovers of God. “All things work together for good, to them that love
haters of God have no lot or part in this privilege. It is children’s bread, it
belongs only to them that love God. Because love is the very heart and spirit of
religion, I shall the more fully treat upon this; and for the further discussion
of it, let us notice these five things concerning love to God.
1. The nature
of love to God. Love is an expansion of soul, or the inflaming of the
affections, by which a Christian breathes after God as the supreme and sovereign
good. Love is to the soul as the weights to the clock, it sets the soul a going
towards God, as the wings by which we fly to heaven. By love we cleave to God,
as the needle to the loadstone.
2. The ground
of love to God; that is, knowledge. We cannot love that which we do not
know. That our love may be drawn forth to God, we must know these three things
(i.) A fullness (Col.
i. 19). He has a fullness of grace to cleanse us, and of glory to
crown us; a fullness not only of sufficiency, but of redundancy. He is a sea of
goodness without bottom and banks.
(ii.) A freeness.
God has an innate propensity to dispense mercy and grace; He drops as the
honeycomb. “Whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely” (Rev.
xxii. 17). God does not require that we should bring money with us,
propriety, or property. We must know that this fullness in God is ours. “This
God is our God” (Psalm
xlviii. 141). Here is the ground of love — His Deity, and the
interest we have in Him.
3. The kinds
of love — which I shall branch into these three:
(i.) There is a
love of appreciation. When we set a high value upon God as being the most
sublime and infinite good, we so esteem God, as that if we have Him, we do not
care though we want all things else. The stars vanish when the sun appears. All
creatures vanish in our thoughts when the Sun of righteousness shines in His
(ii ) A love of
complacency and delight — as a man takes delight in a friend whom he loves. The
soul that loves God rejoices in Him as in his treasure, and rests in Him as in
his centre. The heart is so set upon God that it desires no more. “Shew us
the Father, and it sufficeth” (John
(iii.) A love of
benevolence — which is a wishing well to the cause of God. He that is endeared
in affection to his friend, wishes all happiness to him. This is to love God
when we are well-wishers. We desire that His interest may prevail. Our vote and
prayer is that His name may be had in honour; that His gospel. which is the rod
of His strength, may, like Aaron’s rod, blossom and bring forth fruit.
properties of love.
(i.) Our love to
God must be entire, and that, in regard of the subject, it must be with the
whole heart. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart” (Mark
xii. 30). In the old law, a high priest was not to marry with a
widow, nor with a harlot — not with a widow, because he had not her first love;
nor with a harlot, because he had not all her love. God will have the whole
heart. “Their heart is divided” (Hos.
x. 2). The true mother would not have the child divided; and God will
not have the heart divided. God will not be an inmate, to have only one room in
the heart, and all the other rooms let out to sin. It must be an entire love.
(ii.) It must be
a sincere love. “Grace be with all them that love our Ford Jesus in sincerity”
vi. 24). Sincere; it alludes to honey that is quite pure. Our love to
God is sincere, when it is pure and without self-interest: this the school-men
call a love of friendship. We must love Christ, as Augustine says, for Himself:
as we love sweet wine for its taste. God’s beauty and love must be the two
loadstones to draw our love to Him. Alexander had two friends, Hephestion and
Craterus, of whom he said, “Hephestion loves me because I am Alexander; Craterus
loves me became I am king Alexander.” The one loved his person, the other loved
his gifts. Many love God because He gives them corn and wine, and not for His
intrinsic excellencies. We must love God more for what He is, than for what He
bestows. True love is not mercenary. You need not hire a mother to love her
child: a soul deeply in love with God needs not be hired by rewards. It cannot
but love Him for that lustre of beauty that sparkles forth in Him.
(iii.) It must
be a fervent love. The Hebrew word for love signifies ardency of affection.
Saints must be seraphim, burning in holy love. To love one coldly, is the same
as not to love him. The sun shines as hot as it can. Our love to God must be
intense and vehement; like coals of juniper, which are most acute and fervent (Psalm
cxx. 4). Our love to transitory things must be indifferent; we must
love as if we loved not (1
Cor. vii. 30). But our love to God must flame forth. The spouse was
sick of love to Christ (Cant.
ii. 5). We can never love God as He deserves. As God’s punishing us
is less than we deserve (Ezra
ix. 13), so our loving Him is less than He deserves.
(iv.) Love to
God must be active. It is like fire, which is the most active element; it is
called the labour of love (I
Thess. i. 3). Love is no idle grace; it sets the head a studying for
God, the feet a running in the ways of His commandments. “The love of Christ
Cor. v. 14). Pretences of love are insufficient. True love is not
only seen at the tongue’s end, but at the finger’s end; it is the labour of
love. The living creatures, mentioned in
Ezekiel i. 8, had wings — an emblem of a good Christian. He has not
only the wings of faith to fly, but hands under his wings: he works by love, he
spends and is spent for Christ.
(v.) Love is
liberal. It has love tokens to bestow (I
Cor. xiii. 4). Charity is kind. Love has not only a smooth tongue,
but a kind heart. David’s heart was fired with love to God, and he would not
offer that to God which cost him nothing (2
Sam. xxiv. 24). Love is not only full of benevolence, but
beneficence. Love which enlarges the heart, never straitens the hand. He that
loves Christ, will be liberal to His members. He will be eyes to the blind, and
feet to the lame. The backs and bellies of the poor shall be the furrows where
he sows the golden seeds of liberality. Some say they love God, but their love
is lame of one hand, they give nothing to good uses. Indeed faith deals with
invisibles, but God hates that love which is invisible. Love is like new wine,
which will have vent; it vents itself in good works. The apostle speaks it in
honour of the Macedonians, that they gave to the poor saints, not only up to,
but beyond their power (2
Cor. viii. 3). Love is bred at court, it is a noble munificent grace.
(vi.) Love to
God is peculiar. He who is a lover of God gives Him such a love as he bestows
upon none else. As God gives His children such a love as He does not bestow upon
the wicked — electing, adopting love; so a gracious heart gives to God such a
special distinguishing love as none else can share in. “I have espoused you
to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ” (2
Cor. xi. 2). A wife espoused to one husband gives him such a love as
she has for none else; she does not part with her conjugal love to any but her
husband. So a saint espoused to Christ gives Him a peculiarity of love, a love
incommunicable to any other, namely, a love joined with adoration. Not only the
love is given to God, but the soul. “A garden enclosed is my sister, my
iv. 12). The heart of a believer is Christ’s garden. The flower
growing in it is love mixed with divine worship, and this flower is for the use
of Christ alone. The spouse keeps the key of the garden, that none may come
there but Christ.
(vii.) Love to
God is permanent. It is like the fire the vestal virgins kept at Rome, it does
not go out. True love boils over, but does not give over. Love to God, as it is
sincere without hypocrisy, so it is constant without apostasy. Love is like the
pulse of the body, always beating; it is not a land, but a spring flood. As
wicked men are constant in love to their sins, neither shame, nor sickness, nor
fear of hell, will make them give over their sins; so, nothing can hinder a
Christian’s love to God. Nothing can conquer love, not any difficulties, or
oppositions. “Love is strong as the grave” (Cant.
viii. 6). The grave swallows up the strongest bodies: so love
swallows up the strongest difficulties. “Many waters cannot quench love”
viii. 7). Neither the sweet waters of pleasure, nor the bitter waters
of persecution. Love to God abides firm to death. “Being rooted and grounded
in love” (Ephes.
iii. 17). Light things, as chaff and feathers, are quickly blown
away, but a tree that is rooted abides the storm; he that is rooted in love,
endures. True love never ends, but with the life.
5. The degree
of love. We must love God above all other objects. “ There is nothing on
earth that I desire beside thee” (Psalm
lxxiii. 25). God is the quintessence of all good things, He is
superlatively good. The soul seeing a super eminency in God, and admiring in Him
that constellation of all excellencies, is carried out in love to Him in the
highest degree. The measure of our love to God, says Bernard, must be to love
Him without measure. God, who is the chief of our happiness, must have the chief
of our affections. The creature may have the milk of our love, but God must have
the cream. Love to God must be above all other things, as the oil swims above
We must love God
more than relations. As in the case of Abraham’s offering up Isaac; Isaac being
the son of his old age, no question he loved him entirely, and doted on him; but
when God said, “Abraham, offer up thy son” (Gen.
xxii. 2), though it were a thing which might seem, not only to oppose
his reason, but his faith, for the Messiah was to come of Isaac, and if he be
cut off, where shall the world have a Mediator! Yet such was the strength of
Abraham’s faith and ardency of his love to God, that he will take the
sacrificing knife, and let out Isaac’s blood. Our blessed Saviour speaks of
hating father and mother (Luke
xiv. 26). Christ would not have us be unnatural; but if our dearest
relations stand in our way, and would keep us from Christ, either we must step
over them, or know them not (Deut.
xxxiii. 9). Though some drops of love may run beside to our kindred
and alliance, yet the full torrent must run out after Christ. Relations may lie
on the bosom, but Christ must lie in the heart.
We must love God
more than our estate. “Ye took joyfully the spoiling of your goods” (Heb.
x. 34). They were glad they had anything to lose for Christ. If the
world be laid in one scale, and Christ in the other, He must weigh heaviest. And
is it thus? Has God the highest room in our affections? Plutarch says, “When a
dictator was created in Rome, all other authority was for the time suspended”:
so when the love of God bears sway in the heart, all other love is suspended,
and is as nothing in comparison of this love.
Use. A sharp
reproof to those who do not love God.
This may serve for a sharp reproof to such as
have not a dram of love to God in their hearts — and are there such miscreants
alive? He who does not love God is a beast with a man’s head. Oh wretch! Do you
live upon God every day, yet not love Him? If one had a friend that supplied him
continually with money, and gave him all his allowance, were not he worse than a
barbarian, who did not respect and honour that friend? Such a friend is God: He
gives you your breath, He bestows a livelihood upon you, and will you not love
Him? You will love your prince if he saves your life, and will you not love God
who gives you your life? What loadstone so powerful to draw love, as the blessed
Deity? He is blind whom beauty does not tempt, he is sottish who is not drawn
with the cords of love. When the body is cold and has no heat in it, it is a
sign of death: that man is dead who has no heat of love in his soul to God. How
can he expect love from God, who shows no love to Him? Will God ever lay such a
viper in His bosom, as casts forth the poison of malice and enmity against Him?
falls heavy upon the infidels of this age, who are so far from loving God, that
they do all they can to show their hatred of Him. “They declare their sin as
iii. 9). “They set their mouth against the heavens” (Psalm
lxxiii. 9), in pride and blasphemy, and bid open defiance to God.
These are monsters in nature, devils in the shape of men. Let them read their
doom: “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema
Cor. xvi. 22), that is, let him be accursed from God, till Christ’s
coming to judgment. Let him be heir to a curse while he lives, and at the
dreadful day of the Lord, let him hear that heart rending sentence pronounced
against him, “ Depart, ye cursed.”
The tests of love to God
LET us test
ourselves impartially whether we are in the number of those that love God. For
the deciding of this, as our love will be best seen by the fruits of it, I shall
lay down fourteen signs, or fruits, of love to God, and it concerns us to search
carefully whether any of these fruits grow in our garden.
1. The first
fruit of love is the musing of the mind upon God. He who is in love, his
thoughts are ever upon the object. He who loves God is ravished and transported
with the contemplation of God. “When I awake, I am still with thee” (Psalm
cxxxix. 18). The thoughts are as travellers in the mind. David’s
thoughts kept heaven-road, I am still with Thee. God is the treasure, and where
the treasure is, there is the heart. By this we may test our love to God. What
are our thoughts most upon? Can we say we are ravished with delight when we
think on God? Have our thoughts got wings? Are they fled aloft? Do we
contemplate Christ and glory? Oh, how far are they from being lovers of God, who
scarcely ever think of God! “God is not in all his thoughts” (Psalm
x. 4). A sinner crowds God out of his thoughts. He never thinks of
God, unless with horror, as the prisoner thinks of the judge.
2. The next
fruit of love is desire of communion. Love desires familiarity and
intercourse. “My heart and flesh crieth out for the living God” (Psalm
lxxxiv. 2). King David being debarred the house of God where was the
tabernacle, the visible token of His presence, he breathes after God, and in a
holy pathos of desire cries out for the living God. Lovers would be conversing
together. If we love God we prize His ordinances, because there we meet with
God. He speaks to us in His Word, and we speak to Him in prayer. By this let us
examine our love to God. Do we desire intimacy of communion with God? Lovers
cannot be long away from each other. Such as love God have a holy affection,
they know not how to be from Him. They can bear the want of anything but God’s
presence. They can do without health and friends, they can be happy without a
full table, but they cannot be happy without God. “Hide not thy face from me,
lest I be like them that go down into the grave” (Psalm
cxliii. 7). Lovers have their fainting fits. David was ready to faint
away and die, when he had not a sight of God. They who love God cannot be
contented with having ordinances, unless they may enjoy God in them; that were
to lick the glass, and not the honey.
What shall we
say to those who can be all their lives long without God? They think God may be
best spared: they complain they want health and trading, but not that they want
God! Wicked men are not acquainted with God: and how can they love, who are not
acquainted! Nay, which is worse, they do not desire to be acquainted with Him. “They
say to God, Depart from us, we desire not the knowledge of thy ways” (Job
xxi. 14). Sinners shun acquaintance with God, they count His presence
a burden; and are these lovers of God? Does that woman love her husband, who
cannot endure to be in his presence?
3. Another fruit
of love is grief. Where there is love to God, there is a grieving for our
sins of unkindness against Him. A child which loves his father cannot but weep
for offending him. The heart that burns in love melts in tears. Oh! that I
should abuse the love of so dear a Saviour! Did not my Lord suffer enough upon
the cross, but must I make Him suffer more? Shall I give Him more gall and
vinegar to drink? How disloyal and disingenuous have I been! How have I grieved
His Spirit, trampled upon His royal commands, slighted His blood! This opens a
vein of godly sorrow, and makes the heart bleed afresh. “Peter went out, and
wept bitterly” (Matt.
xxvi. 75). When Peter thought how dearly Christ loved him; how he was
taken up into the mount of transfiguration, where Christ showed him the glory of
heaven in a vision; that he should deny Christ after he had received such signal
love from Him, this broke his heart with grief: he went out, and wept bitterly.
By this let us
test our love to God. Do we shed the tears of godly sorrow? Do we grieve for our
unkindness against God, our abuse of mercy, our non improvement of talents? How
far are they from loving God, who sin daily, and their hearts never smite them!
They have a sea of sin, and not a drop of sorrow. They are so far from being
troubled that they make merry with their sins. “When thou doest evil, then
thou rejoicest” (Jer.
xi. 15). Oh wretch! Did Christ bleed for sin, and do you laugh at it?
These are far from loving God. Does he love his friend that loves to do him an
4. Another fruit
of love is magnanimity. Love is valorous, it turns cowardice into
courage. Love will make one venture upon the greatest difficulties and hazards.
The fearful hen will fly upon a dog or serpent to defend her young ones. Love
infuses a spirit of gallantry and fortitude into a Christian. He that loves God
will stand up in His cause, and be an advocate for Him. “We cannot but speak
the things which we have seen and heard” (Acts
iv. 20). He who is afraid to own Christ has but little love to Him.
Nicodemus came sneaking to Christ by night (John
iii. 2). He was fearful of being seen with Him in the day time. Love
casts out fear. As the sun expels fogs and vapours, so divine love in a great
measure expels carnal fear. Does he love God that can hear His blessed truths
spoken against and be silent? He who loves his friend will stand up for him, and
vindicate him when he is reproached. Does Christ appear for us in heaven, and
are we afraid to appear for Him on earth? Love animates a Christian, it fires
his heart with zeal, and steels it with courage.
5. The fifth
fruit of love is sensitiveness. If we love God, our hearts ache for the
dishonour done to God by wicked men. To see, not only the banks of religion, but
morality, broken down, and a flood of wickedness coming in; to see God’s
sabbaths profaned, His oaths violated, His name dishonoured; if there be any
love to God in us, we shall lay these things to heart. Lot’s righteous soul was
“vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked” (2
Pet. ii. 7). The sins of Sodom were as so many spears to pierce his
soul. How far are they from loving God, who are not at all affected with His
dishonour? If they have but peace and trading, they lay nothing to heart. A man
who is dead drunk, never minds nor is affected by it, though another be bleeding
to death by him; so, many, being drunk with the wine of prosperity, when the
honour of God is wounded and His truths lie a bleeding, are not affected by it.
Did men love God, they would grieve to see His glory suffer, and religion itself
become a martyr.
6. The sixth
fruit of love is hatred against sin. Fire purges the dross from the
metal. The fire of love purges out sin. “Ephraim shall say, What have I to do
any more with idols!” (Hos.
xiv. 8). He that loves God will have nothing to do with sin, unless
to give battle to it. Sin strikes not only at God’s honour, but His being. Does
he love his prince that harbours him who is a traitor to the crown? Is he a
friend to God who loves that which God hates? The love of God and the love of
sin cannot dwell together. The affections cannot be carried to two contrarieties
at the same time. A man cannot love health and love poison too; so one cannot
love God and sin too. He who has any secret sin in his heart allowed, is as far
from loving God as heaven and earth are distant one from the other.
fruit of love is crucifixion. He who is a lover of God is dead to the
world. “I am crucified to the world” (Gal.
vi. 14). I am dead to the honours and pleasures of it. He who is in
love with God is not much in love with anything else. The love of God, and
ardent love of the world, are inconsistent. “If any man love the world, the
love of the Father is not in him” (1
John ii. 15). Love to God swallows up all other love, as Moses’ rod
swallowed up the Egyptian rods. If a man could live in the sun, what a small
point would all the earth be; so when a man’s heart is raised above the world in
the admiring and loving of God, how poor and slender are these things below!
They seem as nothing in his eye. It was a sign the early Christians loved God,
because their property did not lie near their hearts; but they “laid down
their money at the apostles’ feet” (Acts
Test your love
to God by this. What shall we think of such as have never enough of the world?
They have the dropsy of covetousness, thirsting insatiably after riches: “That
pant after the dust of the earth” (Amos
ii. 7). Never talk of your love to Christ, says Ignatius, when you
prefer the world before the Pearl of price; and are there not many such, who
prize their gold above God? If they have a south land, they care not for the
water of life. They will sell Christ and a good conscience for money. Will God
ever bestow heaven upon them who so basely undervalue Him, preferring glittering
dust before the glorious Deity? What is there in the earth that we should so set
our hearts upon it? Only the devil makes us look upon it through a magnifying
glass. The world has no real intrinsic worth, it is but paint and deception.
8. The next
fruit of love is fear. In the godly love and fear do kiss each other.
There is a double fear arises from love.
(i.) A fear of
displeasing. The spouse loves her husband, therefore will rather deny herself
than displease him. The more we love God, the more fearful we are of grieving
His Spirit. “How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?”
xxxix. 9). When Eudoxia, the empress, threatened to banish
Chrysostom; Tell her (said he) I fear nothing but sin. That is a blessed love
which puts a Christian into a hot fit of zeal, and a cold fit of fear, making
him shake and tremble, and not dare willingly to offend God.
(ii.) A fear
mixed with jealousy. “Eli’s heart trembled for the ark” (I
Sam. iv. 13). It is not said, his heart trembled for Hophni and
Phinehas, his two sons, but his heart trembled for the ark, because if the ark
were taken, then the glory was departed. He that loves God is full of fear lest
it should go ill with the church. He fears lest profaneness (which is the plague
of leprosy) should increase, lest popery get a footing, lest God should go from
His people. The presence of God in His ordinances is the beauty and strength of
a nation. So long as God’s presence is with a people, so long they are safe; but
the soul inflamed with love to God fears lest the visible tokens of God’s
presence should be removed.
touchstone let us test our love to God. Many fear lest peace and trading go, but
not lest God and His gospel go. Are these lovers of God? He who loves God is
more afraid of the loss of spiritual blessings than temporal. If the Sun of
righteousness remove out of our horizon, what can follow but darkness? What
comfort can an organ or anthem give if the gospel be gone? Is it not like the
sound of a trumpet or a volley of shot at a funeral?
9. If we are
lovers of God, we love what God loves.
(i.) We love
God’s Word. David esteemed the Word, for the sweetness of it, above honey (Psalm
cxix. 103), and for the value of it, above gold (Psalm
cxix. 72). The lines of Scripture are richer than the mines of gold.
Well may we love the Word; it is the load-star that directs us to heaven, it is
the field in which the Pearl is hid. That man who does not love the Word, but
thinks it too strict and could wish any part of the Bible torn out (as an
adulterer did the seventh commandment), he has not the least spark of love in
(ii.) We love
God’s day. We do not only keep a sabbath, but love a sabbath. “If thou call
the sabbath a delight” (Isa.
lviii. 13). The sabbath is that which keeps up the face of religion
amongst us; this day must be consecrated as glorious to the Lord. The house of
God is the palace of the great King, on the sabbath God shows Himself there
through the lattice. If we love God we prize His day above all other days. All
the week would be dark if it were not for this day; on this day manna falls
double. Now, if ever, heaven gate stands open, and God comes down in a golden
shower. This blessed day the Sun of righteousness rises upon the soul. How does
a gracious heart prize that day which was made on purpose to enjoy God in.
(iii.) We love
God’s laws. A gracious soul is glad of the law because it checks his sinful
excesses. The heart would be ready to run wild in sin if it had not some blessed
restraints put upon it by the law of God. He that loves God loves His law — the
law of repentance, the law of self-denial. Many say they love God but they hate
His laws. “Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from
ii. 3). God’s precepts are compared to cords, they bind men to their
good behaviour; but the wicked think these cords too tight, therefore they say,
Let us break them. They pretend to love Christ as a Saviour, but hate Him as a
King. Christ tells us of His yoke (Matt.
xi. 29). Sinners would have Christ put a crown upon their head, but
not a yoke upon their neck. He were a strange king that should rule without
(iv.) We love
God’s picture, we love His image shining in the saints. “He that loves Him
that begat, loves him also that is begotten of him” (1
John v. 1). It is possible to love a saint, yet not to love him as a
saint; we may love him for something else, for his ingenuity, or because he is
affable and bountiful. A beast loves a man, but not as he is a man, but because
he feeds him, and gives him provender. But to love a saint as he is a saint,
this is a sign of love to God. If we love a saint for his saintship, as having
something of God in him, then we love him in these four cases.
(a) We love a
saint, though he be poor. A man that loves gold, loves a piece of gold, though
it be in a rag: so, though a saint be in rags, we love him, because there is
something of Christ in him.
(b) We love a
saint, though he has many personal failings. There is no perfection here. In
some, rash anger prevails; in some, inconstancy; in some, too much love of the
world. A saint in this life is like gold in the ore, much dross of infirmity
cleaves to him, yet we love him for the grace that is in him. A saint is like a
fair face with a scar: we love the beautiful face of holiness, though there be a
scar in it. The best emerald has its blemishes, the brightest stars their
twinklings, and the best of the saints have their failings. You that cannot love
another because of his infirmities, how would you have God love you?
(c) We love the
saints though in some lesser things they differ from us. Perhaps another
Christian has not so much light as you, and that may make him err in some
things; will you presently unsaint him because he cannot come up to your light?
Where there is union in fundamentals, there ought to be union in affections.
(d) We love the
saints, though they are persecuted. We love precious metal, though it be in the
furnace. St. Paul did bear in his body the marks of the Lord Jesus (Gal.
vi. 17). Those marks were, like the soldier’s scars, honourable. We
must love a saint as well in chains as in scarlet. If we love Christ, we love
His persecuted members.
If this be love
to God, when we love His image sparkling in the saints, oh then, how few lovers
of God are to be found! Do they love God, who hate them that are like God? Do
they love Christ’s person, who are filled with a spirit of revenge against His
people? How can that wife be said to love her husband, who tears his picture?
Surely Judas and Julian are not yet dead, their spirit yet lives in the world.
Who are guilty but the innocent! What greater crime than holiness, if the devil
may be one of the grand jury! Wicked men seem to bear great reverence to the
saints departed; they canonise dead saints, but persecute living. In vain do men
stand up at the creed, and tell the world they believe in God, when they
abominate one of the articles of the creed, namely, the communion of saints.
Surely, there is not a greater sign of a man ripe for hell, than this, not only
to lack grace, but to hate it.
blessed sign of love is, to entertain good thoughts of God. He that loves
his friend construes what his friend does, in the best sense. “Love thinketh
no evil” (I
Cor. xiii. 5). Malice interprets all in the worst sense; love
interprets all in the best sense. It is an excellent commentator upon
providence; it thinks no evil. He that loves God, has a good opinion of God;
though He afflicts sharply, the soul takes all well. This is the language of a
gracious spirit: “My God sees what a hard heart I have, therefore He drives in
one wedge of affliction after another, to break my heart. He knows how full I am
of bad humours, how sick of a pleurisy, therefore He lets blood, to save my
life. This severe dispensation is either to mortify some corruption, or to
exercise some grace. How good is God, that will not let me alone in my sins, but
smites my body to save my soul!” Thus he that loves God takes everything in good
part. Love puts a candid gloss upon all God’s actions. You who are apt to murmur
at God, as if He had dealt ill with you, be humbled for this; say thus with
yourself, “If I loved God more, I should have better thoughts of God.” It is
Satan that makes us have good thoughts of ourselves, and hard thoughts of God.
Love takes all in the fairest sense; it thinketh no evil.
fruit of love is obedience.” He that hath my commandments, and keepeth
them, he it is that loveth me” (John
xiv. 21). It is a vain thing to say we love Christ’s person, if we
slight His commands. Does that child love his father, who refuses to obey him?
If we love God, we shall obey Him in those things which cross flesh and blood.
(i.) In things difficult, and (ii.) In things dangerous.
(i.) In things
difficult. As, in mortifying sin. There are some sins which are not only near to
us as the garment, but dear to us as the eye. If we love God, we shall set
ourselves against these, both in purpose and practice. Also, in forgiving our
enemies. God commands us upon pain of death to forgive. “Forgive one another”
iv. 32). This is hard; it is crossing the stream. We are apt to
forget kindnesses, and remember injuries; but if we love God, we shall pass by
offences. When we seriously consider how many talents God has forgiven us, how
many affronts and provocations He has put up with at our hands; this makes us
write after His copy, and endeavour rather to bury an injury than to retaliate
(ii.) In things
dangerous. When God calls us to suffer for Him, we shall obey. Love made Christ
suffer for us, love was the chain that fastened Him to the cross; so, if we love
God, we shall be willing to suffer for Him. Love has a strange quality, it is
the least suffering grace, and yet it is the most suffering grace. It is the
least suffering grace in one sense; it will not suffer known sin to lie in the
soul unrepented of, it will not suffer abuses and dishonours done to God; thus
it is the least suffering grace. Yet it is the most suffering grace; it will
suffer reproaches, bonds, and imprisonments, for Christ’s sake. “I am ready
not only to be bound, but to die, for the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts
xxi. 13). It is true that every Christian is not a martyr, but he has
the spirit of martyrdom in him. He says as Paul, “I am ready to be bound”;
he has a disposition of mind to suffer, if God call. Love will carry men out
above their own strength. Tertullian observes how much the heathen suffered for
love to their country. If the spring head of nature rises so high, surely grace
will rise higher. If love to their country will make men suffer, much more
should love to Christ. “Love endureth all things” (1
Cor. xiii. 7). Basil speaks of a virgin condemned to the fire, who
having her life and estate offered her if she would fall down to the idol,
answered, “Let life and money go, welcome Christ.” It was a noble and zealous
speech of Ignatius, “Let me be ground with the teeth of wild beasts, if I may be
God’s pure wheat.” How did divine affection carry the early saints above the
love of life, and the fear of death! St. Stephen was stoned, St. Luke hanged on
an olive tree, St. Peter crucified at Jerusalem with his head downwards. These
divine heroes were willing to suffer, rather than by their cowardice to make the
name of God suffer. How did St. Paul prize his chain that he wore for Christ! He
gloried in it, as a woman that is proud of her jewels, says Chrysostom. And holy
Ignatius wore his fetters as a bracelet of diamonds. “Not accepting
xi. 35). They refused to come out of prison on sinful terms, they
preferred their innocence before their liberty.
By this let us
test our love to God. Have we the spirit of martyrdom? Many say they love God,
but how does it appear? They will not forego the least comfort, or undergo the
least cross for His sake. If Jesus Christ should have said to us, “ I love you
well, you are dear to me, but I cannot suffer, I cannot lay down my life for
you,’ we should have questioned His love very much; and may not Christ suspect
us, when we pretend to love Him, and yet will endure nothing for Him?
12. He who
loves God will endeavour to make Him appear glorious in the eyes of others.
Such as are in love will be commending and setting forth the amiableness of
those persons whom they love. If we love God, we shall spread abroad His
excellencies, that so we may raise His fame and esteem, and may induce others to
fall in love with Him. Love cannot be silent; we shall be as so many trumpets,
sounding forth the freeness of God’s grace, the transcendence of His love, and
the glory of His kingdom. Love is like fire: where it burns in the heart, it
will break forth at the lips. It will be elegant in setting forth God’s praise:
love must have vent.
fruit of love is to long for Christ’s appearing.” Henceforth there is
a crown of righteousness laid up for me, and not for me only, but for them which
love Christ’s appearing” (2
Tim. iv. 8). Love desires union; Aristotle gives the reason, because
joy flows upon union. When our union with Christ is perfect in glory, then our
joy will be full. He that loves Christ loves His appearing. Christ’s appearing
will be a happy appearing to the saints. His appearing now is very comforting,
when He appears for us as an Advocate (Heb.
ix. 24). But the other appearing will be infinitely more so, when He
shall appear for us as our Husband. He will at that day bestow two jewels upon
us. His love; a love so great and astonishing, that it is better felt than
expressed. And His likeness. “When he shall appear, we shall be like him”
John iii. 2). And from both these, love and likeness, infinite joy
will flow into the soul. No wonder then that he who loves Christ longs for His
appearance. “The Spirit and the bride say come; even so come, Lord Jesus”
xxii. 17, 20). By this let us test our love to Christ. A wicked man
who is self-condemned, is afraid of Christ’s appearing, and wishes He would
never appear; but such as love Christ, are joyful to think of His coming in the
clouds. They shall then be delivered from all their sins and fears, they shall
be acquitted before men and angels, and shall be for ever translated into the
paradise of God.
will make us stoop to the meanest offices. Love is a humble grace, it does
not walk abroad in state, it will creep upon its hands, it will stoop and submit
to anything whereby it may be serviceable to Christ. As we see in Joseph of
Arimathea, and Nicodemus, both of them honourable persons, yet one takes down
Christ’s body with his own hands, and the other embalms it with sweet odours. It
might seem much for persons of their rank to be employed in that service, but
love made them do it. If we love God, we shall not think any work too mean for
us, by which we may be helpful to Christ’s members. Love is not squeamish; it
will visit the sick, relieve the poor, wash the saints’ wounds. The mother that
loves her child is not coy and nice; she will do those things for her child
which others would scorn to do. He who loves God will humble himself to the
meanest office of love to Christ and His members.
These are the
fruits of love to God. Happy are they who can find these fruits so foreign to
their natures, growing in their souls.
An exhortation to love God
exhortation. Let me earnestly persuade all who bear the name of Christians
to become lovers of God. “O love the Lord, all ye his saints” (Psalm
xxxi. 23). There are but few that love God: many give Him
hypocritical kisses, but few love Him. It is not so easy to love God as most
imagine. The affection of love is natural, but the grace is not. Men are by
nature haters of God (Rom.
i. 30). The wicked would flee from God; they would neither be under
His rules, nor within His reach. They fear God, but do not love Him. All the
strength in men or angels cannot make the heart love God. Ordinances will not do
it of themselves, nor judgments; it is only the almighty and invincible power of
the Spirit of God can infuse love into the soul. This being so hard a work, it
calls upon us for the more earnest prayer and endeavour after this angelic grace
of love. To excite and inflame our desires after it, I shall prescribe twenty
motives for loving God.
(1). Without this,
all our religion is vain. It is not duty, but love to duty, God looks at. It is
not how much we do, but how much we love. If a servant does not do his work
willingly, and out of love, it is not acceptable. Duties not mingled with love,
are as burdensome to God as they are to us. David therefore counsels his son
Solomon to serve God with a willing mind (I
Chron. xxviii. 9). To do duty without love, is not sacrifice, but
(2). Love is the
most noble and excellent grace. It is a pure flame kindled from heaven; by it we
resemble God, who is love. Believing and obeying do not make us like God, but by
love we grow like Him (1
John iv. 16). Love is a grace which most delights in God, and is most
delightful to Him. That disciple who was most full of love, lay in Christ’s
bosom. Love puts a verdure and lustre upon all the graces: the graces seem to be
eclipsed, unless love shine and sparkle in them. Faith is not true, unless it
works by love. The waters of repentance are not pure, unless they flow from the
spring of love. Love is the incense which makes all our services fragrant and
acceptable to God.
(3). Is that
unreasonable which God requires? It is but our love. If He should ask our
estate, or the fruit of our bodies, could we deny Him? But He asks only our
love: He would only pick this flower. Is this a hard request? Was there ever any
debt so easily paid as this? We do not at all impoverish ourselves by paying it.
Love is no burden. Is it any labour for the bride to love her husband? Love is
(4). God is the
most adequate and complete object of our love. All the excellencies that lie
scattered in the creatures, are united in Him. He is wisdom, beauty, love, yea,
the very essence of goodness. There is nothing in God can cause a loathing; the
creature sooner surfeits than satisfies, but there are fresh beauties sparkling
forth in God. The more we enjoy of Him, the more we are ravished with delight.
There is nothing
in God to deaden our affections or quench our love; no infirmity, no deformity,
such as usually weaken and cool love. There is that excellence in God, which may
not only invite, but command our love. If there were more angels in heaven than
there are, and all those glorious seraphim had an immense flame of love burning
in their breasts to eternity, yet could they not love God equivalently to that
infinite perfection and transcendence of goodness which is in Him. Surely then
here is enough to induce us to love God — we cannot spend our love upon a better
facilitates religion. It oils the wheels of the affections, and makes them more
lively and cheerful in God’s service. Love takes off the tediousness of duty.
Jacob thought seven years but little, for the love he bore to Rachel. Love makes
duty a pleasure. Why are the angels so swift and winged in God’s service? It is
because they love Him. Love is never weary. He that loves God, is never weary of
telling it. He that loves God, is never weary of serving Him.
(6). God desires
our love. We have lost our beauty, and stained our blood, yet the King of heaven
is a suitor to us. What is there in our love, that God should seek it? What is
God the better for our love? He does not need it, He is infinitely blessed in
Himself. If we deny Him our love, He has more sublime creatures who pay the
cheerful tribute of love to Him. God does not need our love, yet He seeks it.
(7). God has
deserved our love; how has He loved us! Our affections should be kindled at the
fire of God’s love. What a miracle of love is it, that God should love us, when
there was nothing lovely in us. “When thou wast in thy blood, I said unto
thee, Live” (Ezek.
xvi. 6). The time of our loathing was the time of God’s loving. We
had something in us to provoke fury, but nothing to excite love. What love,
passing understanding, was it, to give Christ to us! That Christ should die for
sinners! God has set all the angels in heaven wondering at this love. Augustine
says, “The cross is a pulpit, and the lesson Christ preached on it is love.” Oh
the living love of a dying Saviour! I think I see Christ upon the cross bleeding
all over! I think I hear Him say to us, “Reach hither your hands. Put them into
My sides. Feel My bleeding heart. See if I do not love you. And will you not
bestow your love upon me? Will you love the world more than me? Did the world
appease the wrath of God for you? Have I not done all this? And will you not
love me?” It is natural to love where we are loved. Christ having set us a copy
of love, and written it with His blood, let us labour to write after so fair a
copy, and to imitate Him in love.
(8). Love to God
is the best self-love. It is self-love to get the soul saved; by loving God, we
forward our own salvation. “He that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God, and
God in him” (I
John iv. 16). And he is sure to dwell with God in heaven, that has
God dwelling in his heart. So that to love God is the truest self-love; he that
does not love God, does not love himself.
(9). Love to God
evidences sincerity. “The upright love thee” (Cant.
i. 4). Many a child of God fears he is a hypocrite. Do you love God?
When Peter was dejected with the sense of his sin, he thought himself unworthy
that ever Christ should take notice of him, or employ him more in the work of
his apostleship; see how Christ goes about to comfort him. “Peter, lovest
thou me?” (John
xxi. 15). As if Christ had said, “Though thou hast denied me through
fear, yet if thou canst say from thy heart thou lovest me, thou art sincere and
upright.” To love God is a better sign of sincerity than to fear Him. The
Israelites feared God’s justice. “When he slew them, they sought him, and
inquired early after God” (Psalm
lxxviii. 34). But what did all this come to? “Nevertheless, they
did but flatter him with their mouth, and lied to him with their tongue; for
their heart was not right with him” (verses
36, 37). That repentance is no better than flattery, which arises
only from fear of God’s judgments, and has no love mixed with it. Loving God
evidences that God has the heart; and if the heart be His, that will command all
(10). By our love
to God, we may conclude God’s love to us. “We love him, because he first
loved us” (I
John iv. 19). Oh, says the soul, if I knew God loved me, I could
rejoice! Do you love God? Then you may be sure of God’s love to you. As it is
with burning glasses; if the glass burn, it is because the sun has first shined
upon it, else it could not burn; so if our hearts burn in love to God, it is
because God’s love has first shined upon us, else we could not burn in love. Our
love is nothing but the reflection of God’s love.
(11). If you do
not love God, you will love something else, either the world or sin; and are
those worthy of your love? Is it not better to love God than these? It is better
to love God than the world, as appears in the following particulars.
If you set your
love on worldly things, they will not satisfy. You may as well satisfy your body
with air, as your soul with earth. “In the fullness of his sufficiency, he
shall be in straits” (Job
xx. 22). Plenty has its penury. If the globe of the world were yours,
it would not fill your soul. And will you set your love on that which will never
give you contentment? Is it not better to love God? He will give you that which
shall satisfy. “When I awake, I shall be satisfied with thy likeness” (Psalm
xvii. 15). When I awake out of the sleep of death, and shall have
some of the rays and beams of God’s glory put upon me, I shall then be satisfied
with His likeness.
If you love
worldly things, they cannot remove trouble of mind. If there be a thorn in the
conscience, all the world cannot pluck it out. King Saul, being perplexed in
mind, all his crown jewels could not comfort him (1
Sam. xxviii. 15). But if you love God, He can give you peace when
nothing else can; He can turn the “ shadow of death into the morning” (Amos
v. 8). He can apply Christ’s blood to refresh your soul; He can
whisper His love by the Spirit, and with one smile scatter all your fears and
If you love the
world, you love that which may keep you out of heaven. Worldly contentments may
be compared to the wagons in an army; while the soldiers have been victualling
themselves at the wagons, they have lost the battle. “How hardly shall they
that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!” (Mark
x. 23). Prosperity, to many, is like the sail to the boat, which
quickly overturns it; so that by loving the world, you love that which will
endanger you. But if you love God, there is no fear of losing heaven. He will be
a Rock to hide you, but not to hurt you. By loving Him, we come to enjoy Him.
You may love
worldly things, but they cannot love you in return. You love gold and silver,
but your gold cannot love you in return. You love a picture, but the picture
cannot love you in return. You give away your love to the creature, and receive
no love back. But if you love God, He will love you in return. “If any man
love me, my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode
with him” (John
xiv. 23). God will not be behindhand in love to us: for our drop, we
shall receive an ocean.
When you love the
world, you love that which is worse than yourselves. The soul, as Damascen says,
is a sparkle of celestial brightness; it carries in it an idea and resemblance
of God. While you love the world, you love that which is infinitely below the
worth of your souls. Will any one lay out cost upon sackcloth? When you lay out
your love upon the world, you hang a pearl upon a swine, you love that which is
inferior to yourself. As Christ speaks in another sense of the fowls of the air,
“Are ye nor much better than they?” (Matt.
vi. 26), so I say of worldly things, Are ye not much better than
they? You love a fair house, a beautiful picture; are you not much better than
they? But if you love God, you place your love on the most noble and sublime
object: you love that which is better than yourselves. God is better than the
soul, better than angels, better than heaven.
You may love the
world, and have hatred for your love. “Because you are not of the world,
therefore the world hateth you” (John
xv. 19). Would it not vex one to lay out money upon a piece of ground
which, instead of bringing forth corn or grapes, should yield nothing but
nettles? Thus it is with all sublunary things: we love them, and they prove
nettles to sting. We meet with nothing but disappointment. “Let fire come out
of the bramble, and devour the cedars of Lebanon” (Judg.
ix. 15). While we love the creature, fire comes out of this bramble
to devour us; but if we love God, He will not return hatred for love. “I love
them that love me” (Prov.
viii. 17). God may chastise, but He cannot hate. Every believer is
part of Christ, and God can as well hate Christ as hate a believer.
You may over-love
the creature. You may love wine too much, and silver too much; but you cannot
love God too much. If it were possible to exceed, excess here were a virtue; but
it is our sin that we cannot love God enough. “How weak is thy heart!” (Ezek.
xvi. 30). So it may be said, How weak is our love to God! It is like
water of the last drawing from the still, which has less spirit in it. If we
could love God far more than we do, yet it were not proportionate to His worth;
so that there is no danger of excess in our love to God.
You may love
worldly things, and they die and leave you. Riches take wings, relations drop
away. There is nothing here abiding; the creature has a little honey in its
mouth, but it has wings, it will soon fly away. But if you love God, He is “
a portion for ever” (Psalm
lxxiii. 26). As He is called a Sun for comfort, so a Rock for
eternity; He abides for ever. Thus we see it is better to love God than the
If it is better
to love God than the world, surely also it is better to love God than sin. What
is there in sin, that any should love it? Sin is a debt. “ Forgive us our
vi. 12). It is a debt which binds over to the wrath of God; why
should we love sin? Does any man love to be in debt? Sin is a disease. “The
whole head is sick” (Isa.
i. 5). And will you love sin? Will any man hug a disease? Will he
love his plague sores? Sin is a pollution. The apostle calls it “filthiness”
i. 21). It is compared to leprosy and to poison of asps. God’s heart
rises against sinners. “My soul loathed them” (Zech.
xi. 8). Sin is a misshapen monster: lust makes a man brutish, malice
makes him devilish. What is in sin to be loved? Shall we love deformity? Sin is
an enemy. It is compared to a “serpent” (Prov.
xxiii. 32). It has four stings — shame, guilt, horror, death. Will a
man love that which seeks his death? Surely then it is better to love God than
sin. God will save you, sin will damn you; is he not become foolish who loves
relation we stand in to God calls for love. There is near affinity. “Thy
Maker is thy husband” (Isa.
liv. 5). And shall a wife not love her husband? He is full of
tenderness: His spouse is to him as the apple of his eye. He rejoices over her,
as the bridegroom over the bride (Isa.
lxii. 5). He loves the believer, as He loves Christ (John
xvii. 26). The same love for quality, though not equally. Either we
must love God, or we give ground of suspicion that we are not yet united to Him.
(13). Love is the
most abiding grace. This will stay with us when other graces take their
farewell. In heaven we shall need no repentance, because we shall have no sin.
In heaven we shall not need patience, because there will be no affliction. In
heaven we shall need no faith because faith looks at things unseen (Heb.
xi. 1). But then we shall see God face to face; and where there is
vision, there is no need of faith.
But when the
other graces are out of date, love continues; and in this sense the apostle says
that love is greater than faith, because it abides the longest. “Charity
never faileth” (1
Cor. xiii. 8). Faith is the staff we walk with in this life. “We
walk by faith” (2
Cor. v. 7). But we shall leave this staff at heaven’s door, and only
love shall enter. Thus love carries away the crown from all the other graces.
Love is the most long lived grace, it is a blossom of eternity. How should we
strive to excel in this grace, which alone shall live with us in heaven, and
shall accompany us to the marriage supper of the Lamb!
(14). Love to God
will never let sin thrive in the heart. Some plants will not thrive when they
are near together: the love of God withers sin. Though the old man live, yet as
a sick man, it is weak, and draws its breath short. The flower of love kills the
weed of sin though sin does not die perfectly yet it dies daily. How should we
labour for that grace which is the only corrosive to destroy sin!
(15). Love to God
is an excellent means for growth of grace. “But grow in grace” (2
Pet. iii. 18). Growth in grace is very pleasing to God. Christ
accepts the truth of grace, but commends the degrees of grace; and what can more
promote and augment grace than love to God? Love is like watering of the root,
which makes the tree grow. Therefore the apostle uses this expression in his
prayer, “The Lord direct your hearts into the love of God” (2
Thess. iii. 5). He knew this grace of love would nurse and cherish
all the graces.
(16). The great
benefit which will accrue to us, if we love God. “Eye hath not seen, nor ear
heard, neither hath entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath
prepared for them that love him” (I
Cor. ii. 9). The eye has seen rare sights, the ear has heard sweet
music; but eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor can the heart of man conceive
what God has prepared for them that love Him! Such glorious rewards are laid up
that, as Augustine says, faith itself is not able to comprehend. God has
promised a crown of life to them that love Him (James
i. 12). This crown encircles within it all blessedness — riches, and
glory, and delight: and it is a crown that fades not away (I
Pet. v. 4). Thus God would draw us to Him by rewards.
(17). Love to God
is armour of proof against error. For want of hearts full of love, men have
heads full of error; unholy opinions are for want of holy affections. Why are
men given up to strong delusions? Because “they receive not the love of truth”
Thess. ii. 10, 11). The more we love God, the more we hate those
heterodox opinions that would draw us off from God into libertinism.
(18). If we love
God, we have all winds blowing for us, everything in the world shall conspire
for our good. We know not what fiery trials we may meet with, but to them that
love God all things shall work for good. Those things which work against them,
shall work for them; their cross shall make way for a crown; every wind shall
blow them to the heavenly port.
(19). Want of
love to God is the ground of apostasy. The seed in the parable, which had no
root, fell away. He who has not the love of God rooted in his heart will fall
away in time of temptation. He who loves God will cleave to Him, as Ruth to
Naomi. “Where thou goest I will go, and where thou diest I will die” (Ruth
i. 16, 17). But he who wants love to God will do as Orpah to her
mother in law; she kissed her, and took her farewell of her. That soldier who
has no love to his commander, when he sees an opportunity, will leave him, and
run over to the enemy’s side. He who has no love in his heart to God, you may
set him down for an apostate.
(20). Love is the
only thing in which we can retaliate with God. If God be angry with us, we must
not be angry again: if He chide us, we must not chide Him again; but if God
loves us, we must love Him again. There is nothing in which we can answer God
again, but love. We must not give Him word for word, but we must give Him love
Thus we have seen
twenty motives to excite and inflame our love to God.
What shall we do to love God?
Study God. Did we study Him more, we should
love Him more. Take a view of His superlative excellencies, His holiness, His
incomprehensible goodness. The angels know God better than we, and clearly
behold the splendour of His majesty; therefore they are so deeply enamoured with
Labour for an
interest in God. “O God, thou art my God” (Psalm
lxiii. 1). That pronoun 'my', is a sweet loadstone to love; a man
loves that which is his own. The more we believe, the more we love: faith is the
root, and love is the flower that grows upon it. “Faith which worketh by love”
Make it your
earnest request to God, that He will give you a heart to love Him. This is an
acceptable request, surely God will not deny it. When king Solomon asked wisdom
of God, “Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart” (1
Kings iii. 9), “the speech pleased the Lord” (verse
10). So when you cry to God, “Lord, give me a heart to love Thee. It
is my grief, I can love Thee no more. Oh, kindle this fire from heaven upon the
altar of my heart!” surely this prayer pleases the Lord, and He will pour of His
Spirit upon you, whose golden oil shall make the lamp of your love burn bright.
exhortation to preserve your love to God.
You who have love
to God, labour to preserve it; let not this love die, and be quenched.
As you would have
God’s love to be continued to you, let your love be continued to Him. Love, as
fire, will be ready to go out. “Thou hast left thy first love” (Rev.
ii. 4). Satan labours to blow out this flame, and through neglect of
duty we lose it. When a tender body leaves off clothes, it is apt to get cold:
so when we leave off duty, by degrees we cool in our love to God. Of all graces,
love is most apt to decay; therefore we had need to be the more careful to
preserve it. If a man has a jewel, he will keep it; if he has land of
inheritance, he will keep it; what care then should we have to keep this grace
of love! It is sad to see professors declining in their love to God; many are in
a spiritual consumption, their love is decaying.
There are four
signs by which Christians may know that their love is in a consumption.
(1). When they
have lost their taste. He that is in a deep consumption has no taste; he does
not find that savoury relish in his food as formerly. So when Christians have
lost their taste, and they find no sweetness in a promise, it is a sign of a
spiritual consumption. “If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious”
Pet. ii. 3). Time was, when they found comfort in drawing nigh to
God. His Word was as the dropping honey, very delicious to the palate of their
soul, but now it is otherwise. They can taste no more sweetness in spiritual
things than in the “white of an egg” (Job
vi. 6). This is a sign they are in a consumption; to lose the taste,
argues the loss of the first love.
Christians have lost their appetite. A man in a deep consumption has not that
relish for his food as formerly. Time was, when Christians did “hunger and
thirst after righteousness” (Matt.
v. 6). They minded things of a heavenly aspect, the grace of the
Spirit, the blood of the cross, the light of God’s countenance. They had a
longing for ordinances, and came to them as a hungry man to a feast. But now the
case is altered. They have no appetite, they do not so prize Christ, they have
not such strong affections to the Word, their hearts do not burn within them; a
sad presage, they are in a consumption, their love is decaying. It was a sign
David’s natural strength was abated, when they covered him with clothes, and yet
he get no heat (I
Kings i. 1). So when men are plied with hot clothes (I mean
ordinances), yet they have no heat of affection, but are cold and stiff, as if
they were ready to be laid forth; this is a sign their first love is declined,
they are in a deep consumption.
Christians grow more in love with the world, it argues the decrease of spiritual
love. They were once of a sublime, heavenly temper, they did speak the language
of Canaan: but now they are like the fish in the gospel, which had money in its
xvii. 27). They cannot lisp out three words, but one is about mammon.
Their thoughts and affections, like Satan, are still compassing the earth, a
sign they are going down the hill apace, their love to God is in a consumption.
We may observe, when nature decays and grows weaker, persons go more stooping:
and truly, when the heart goes more stooping to the earth, and is so bowed
together that it can scarcely lift up itself to a heavenly thought, it is now
sadly declining in its first love. When rust cleaves to metal, it not only takes
away the brightness of the metal, but it cankers and consumes it: so when the
earth cleaves to men’s souls, it not only hinders the shining lustre of their
graces, but by degrees it cankers them.
Christians make little reckoning of God’s worship. Duties of religion are
performed in a dead, formal manner; if they are not left undone, yet they are
ill done. This is a sad symptom of a spiritual consumption; remissness in duty
shows a decay in our first love. The strings of a violin being slack, the violin
can never make good music; when men grow slack in duty, they pray as if they
prayed not; this can never make any harmonious sound in God’s ears. When the
spiritual motion is slow and heavy, and the pulse of the soul beats low, it is a
sign that Christians have left their first love.
Let us take heed
of this spiritual consumption; it is dangerous to abate in our love. Love is
such a grace as we know not how to be without. A soldier may as well be without
his weapons, an artist without his pencil, a musician without his instrument, as
a Christian can be without love. The body cannot want its natural heat. Love is
to the soul as the natural heat is to the body, there is no living without it.
Love influences the graces, it excites the affections, it makes us grieve for
sin, it makes us cheerful in God; it is like oil to the wheels; it quickens us
in God’s service. How careful then should we be to keep alive our love for God!
How may we keep our love from going
Watch your hearts every day. Take notice of
the first declinings in grace. Observe yourselves when you begin to grow dull
and listless, and use all means for quickening. Be much in prayer, meditation,
and holy conference. When the fire is going out you throw on fuel: so when the
flame of your love is going out, make use of ordinances and gospel promises, as
fuel to keep the fire of your love burning.
exhortation to increase your love to God. Let me exhort Christians to
increase your love to God. Let your love be raised up higher. “And this I
pray, that your love may abound more and more” (Phil.
i. 9). Our love to God should be as the light of the morning: first
there is the day break, then it shines brighter to the full meridian. They who
have a few sparks of love should blow up those divine sparks into a flame. A
Christian should not be content with so small a dram of grace, as may make him
wonder whether he has any grace or not, but should be still increasing the
stock. He who has a little gold, would have more; you who love God a little,
labour to love Him more. A godly man is contented with a very little of the
world; yet he is never satisfied, but would have more of the Spirit’s influence,
and labours to add one degree of love to another. To persuade Christians to put
more oil to the lamp, and increase the flame of their love, let me propose these
four divine incentives.
(1). The growth
of love evinces its truth. If I see the almond tree bud and flourish, I know
there is life in the root. Paint will not grow; a hypocrite, who is but a
picture, will not grow. But where we see love to God increasing and growing
larger, as Elijah’s cloud, we may conclude it is true and genuine.
(2). By the
growth of love we imitate the saints in the Bible. Their love to God, like the
waters of the sanctuary, did rise higher. The disciples love to Christ at first
was weak, they fled from Christ; but after Christ’s death it grew more vigorous,
and they made an open profession of Him. Peter’s love at first was more infirm
and languid, he denied Christ; but afterwards how boldly did he preach Him! When
Christ put him to a trial of his love, “Simon, lovest thou Me?” (John
xxi. 16), Peter could make his humble yet confident appeal to Christ,
“Lord, thou knowest that I love Thee.” Thus that tender plant which
before was blown down with the wind of a temptation, now is grown into a cedar,
which all the powers of hell cannot shake.
(3). The growth
of love will amplify the reward. The more we burn in love, the more we shall
shine in glory: the higher our love, the brighter our crown.
(4). The more we
love God, the more love we shall have from Him. Would we have God unbosom the
sweet secrets of His love to us? Would we have the smiles of His face? Oh, then
let us strive for higher degrees of love. St. Paul counted gold and pearl but
dung for Christ (Phil.
iii. 8). Yea, he was so inflamed with love to God, that he could have
wished himself accursed from Christ for his brethren the Jews (Rom.
ix. 3). Not that he could be accursed from Christ; but such was his
fervent love and pious zeal for the glory of God, that he would have been
content to have suffered, even beyond what is fit to speak, if God might have
had more honour.
Here was love
screwed up to the highest pitch that it was possible for a mortal to arrive at:
and behold how near he lay to God’s heart! The Lord takes him up to heaven a
while, and lays him in His bosom, where he had such a glorious sight of God, and
heard those “unspeakable words, which it is rot lawful for a man to utter”
Cor. xii. 4). Never was any man a loser by his love to God.
If our love to
God does not increase, it will soon decrease. If the fire is not blown up, it
will quickly go out. Therefore Christians should above all things endeavour to
cherish and excite their love to God. This exhortation will be out of date when
we come to heaven, for then our light shall be clear, and our love perfect; but
now it is in season to exhort, that our love to God may abound yet more and
qualification of the persons to whom this privilege in the text belongs, is,
They are the called of God. All things work for good “to them who are called.”
Though this word called is placed in order after loving of God, yet in
nature it goes before it. Love is first named, but not first wrought; we must be
called of God, before we can love God.
Calling is made (Rom.
viii. 30) the middle link of the golden chain of salvation. It is
placed between predestination and glorification; and if we have this middle link
fast, we are sure of the two other ends of the chain. For the clearer
illustration of this there are six things observable.
1. A distinction
about calling. There is a two-fold call.
(i.) There is an
outward call, which is nothing else but God’s blessed tender of grace in the
gospel, His parleying with sinners, when He invites them to come in and accept
of mercy. Of this our Saviour speaks: “Many are called, but few chosen” (Matt.
xx. 16). This external call is insufficient to salvation, yet
sufficient to leave men without excuse.
(ii.) There is an
inward call, when God wonderfully overpowers the heart, and draws the will to
embrace Christ. This is, as Augustine speaks, an effectual call. God, by the
outward call, blows a trumpet in the ear; by the inward call, He opens the
heart, as He did the heart of Lydia (Acts
xvi. 14). The outward call may bring men to a profession of Christ,
the inward call brings them to a possession of Christ. The outward call curbs a
sinner, the inward call changes him.
deplorable condition before we are called.
(i.) We are in a
state of vassalage. Before God calls a man, he is at the devil’s call. If he
say, Go, he goes: the deluded sinner is like the slave that digs in the mine,
hews in the quarry, or tugs at the oar. He is at the command of Satan, as the
ass is at the command of the driver.
(ii.) We are in a
state of darkness. “Ye were sometimes darkness” (Ephes.
v. 8). Darkness is very disconsolate. A man in the dark is full of
fear, he trembles every step he takes. Darkness is dangerous. He who is in the
dark may quickly go out of the right way, and fall into rivers or whirlpools; so
in the darkness of ignorance, we may quickly fall into the whirlpool of hell.
(iii.) We are in a
state of impotency. “When we were without strength” (Rom.
v. 6). No strength to resist a temptation, or grapple with a
corruption; sin cut the lock where our strength lay (Judg.
xvi. 20). Nay, there is not only impotency, but obstinacy, “Ye do
always resist the Holy Ghost” (Acts
vii. 51). Besides indisposition to good, there is opposition.
(iv.) We are in a
state of pollution. “I saw thee polluted in thy blood” (Ezek.
xvi. 6). The fancy coins earthly thoughts; the heart is the devil’s
forge, where the sparks of lust fly.
(v.) We are in a
state of damnation. We are born under a curse. The wrath of God abideth on us (John
iii. 36). This is our condition before God is pleased by a merciful
call to bring us near to Himself, and free us from that misery in which we were
3. The means of
our effectual call. The ordinary means which the Lord uses in calling us, is
not by raptures and revelations, but is,
(i.) By His Word,
which is “the rod of his strength” (Psalm
cv. 2). The voice of the Word is God’s call to us; therefore He is
said to speak to us from heaven (Heb.
xii. 25). That is, in the ministry of the Word. When the Word calls
from sin, it is as if we heard a voice from heaven.
(ii.) By His
Spirit. This is the loud call. The Word is the instrumental cause of our
conversion, the Spirit is the efficient. The ministers of God are only the pipes
and organs; it is the Spirit blowing in them, that effectually changes the
heart. “While Peter spoke, the Holy Ghost fell on all them that heard the
x. 44). It is not the farmer’s industry in ploughing and sowing, that
will make the ground fruitful, without the early and latter rain. So it is not
the seed of the Word that will effectually convert, unless the Spirit put forth
His sweet influence, and drops as rain upon the heart. Therefore the aid of
God’s Spirit is to be implored, that He would put forth His powerful voice, and
awaken us out of the grave of unbelief. If a man knock at a gate of brass, it
will not open; but if he come with a key in his hand, it will open: so when God,
who has the key of David in His hand (Rev.
iii. 7) comes, He opens the heart, though it be ever so fast locked
4. The method
God uses in calling of sinners.
The Lord does not
tie Himself to a particular way, or use the same order with all. He comes
sometimes in a still small voice. Such as have had godly parents, and have sat
under the warm sunshine of religious education, often do not know how or when
they were called. The Lord did secretly and gradually instil grace into their
hearts, as the dew falls unnoticed in drops. They know by the heavenly effects
that they are called, but the time or manner they know not. The hand moves on
the clock, but they do not perceive when it moves.
Thus God deals
with some. Others are more stubborn and knotty sinners, and God comes to them in
a rough wind. He uses more wedges of the law to break their hearts; He deeply
humbles them, and shows them they are damned without Christ. Then having
ploughed up the fallow ground of their hearts by humiliation, He sows the seed
of consolation. He presents Christ and mercy to them, and draws their wills, not
only to accept Christ, but passionately to desire, and faithfully to rest upon
Him. Thus He wrought upon Paul, and called him from a persecutor to a preacher.
This call, though it is more visible than the other, yet is not more real. God’s
method in calling sinners may vary, but the effect is still the same.
properties of this effectual calling.
(i.) It is a sweet
call. God so calls as He allures; He does not force, but draw. The freedom of
the will is not taken away, but the stubbornness of it is conquered. “Thy
people shall be willing in the day of thy power” (Psalm
cx. 3). After this call there are no more disputes, the soul readily
obeys God’s call: as when Christ called Zacchaeus, he joyfully welcomed Him into
his heart and house.
(ii.) It is a holy
call. “Who hath called us with a holy calling” (2
Tim. i. 9). This call of God calls men out of their sins: by it they
are consecrated, and set apart for God. The vessels of the tabernacle were taken
from common use, and set apart to a holy use; so they who are effectually called
are separated from sin, and consecrated to God’s service. The God whom we
worship is holy, the work we are employed in is holy, the place we hope to
arrive at is holy; all this calls for holiness. A Christian’s heart is to be the
presence chamber of the blessed Trinity; and shall not holiness to the Lord be
written upon it? Believers are children of God the Father, members of God the
Son, and temples of God the Holy Ghost; and shall they not be holy? Holiness is
the badge and livery of God’s people. “The people of thy holiness” (Isaiah
lxiii. 18). As chastity distinguishes a virtuous woman from a harlot,
so holiness distinguishes the godly from the wicked. It is a holy calling; “For
God hath nor called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness” (1
Thess. iv. 7). Let not any man say he is called of God, that lives in
sin. Has God called you to be a swearer, to be a drunkard? Nay, let not the
merely moral person say he is effectually called. What is civility without
sanctity? It is but a dead carcass strewed with flowers. The king’s picture
stamped upon brass will not go current for gold. The merely moral man looks as
if he had the King of heaven’s image stamped upon him, but he is no better than
counterfeit metal, which will not pass for current with God.
(iii.) It is an
irresistible call. When God calls a man by His grace, he cannot but come. You
may resist the minister’s call, but you cannot the Spirit’s call. The finger of
the blessed Spirit can write upon a heart of stone, as once He wrote His laws
upon tables of stone. God’s words are creating words; when He said “Let there be
light, there was light”; and when He says, “Let there be faith”, it shall be so.
When God called Paul, he answered to the call. “I was not disobedient to the
heavenly vision” (Acts
xxvi. 19). God rides forth conquering in the chariot of His gospel;
He makes the blind eyes see, and the stony heart bleed. If God will call a man,
nothing shall lie in the way to hinder; difficulties shall be untied, the powers
of hell shall disband. “Who hath resisted his will?” (Rom.
ix. 19). God bends the iron sinew, and cuts asunder the gates of
cvii. 16). When the Lord touches a man’s heart by His Spirit, all
proud imaginations are brought down, and the fort royal of the will yields to
God. I may allude to
Psalm cxiv. 5, “What ailed thee, O thou sea, that thou fleddest?
and thou Jordan, that thou wert driven back?” The man that before was as a
raging sea, foaming forth wickedness, now on a sudden flies back and trembles,
he falls down as the jailer, “What shall I do to he saved?” (Acts
xvi. 30). What ails thee, O sea? What ails this man? The Lord has
been effectually calling him. He has been working a work of grace, and now his
stubborn heart is conquered by a sweet violence.
(iv.) It is a high
calling. “I press toward the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God”
iii. 14). It is a high calling, because we are called to high
exercises of religion — to die to sin, to be crucified to the world, to live by
faith, to have fellowship with the Father (I
John i. 3). This is a high calling: here is a work too high for men
in a state of nature to perform. It is a high calling, because we are called to
high privileges, to justification and adoption, to be made co-heirs with Christ.
He that is effectually called is higher than the princes of the earth.
(v.) It is a
gracious call. It is the fruit and product of free grace. That God should call
some, and not others; some taken, and others left; one called who is of a more
rugged, morose disposition, another of sharper intellect, of a sweeter temper,
rejected, here is free grace. That the poor should be rich in faith, heirs of a
ii. 5), and the nobles and great ones of the world for the most part
rejected, “Not many noble are called” (I
Cor. i. 26); this is free and rich grace. “Even so, Father, for so
it seemed good in thy sight” (Matt.
xi. 26). That under the same sermon one should be effectually wrought
upon, another no more moved than a dead man with the sound of music; that one
should hear the Spirit’s voice in the Word, another not hear it; that one should
be softened and moistened with the influence of heaven, another, like Gideon’s
dry fleece, has no dew upon him: behold here distinguishing grace! The same
affliction converts one and hardens another. Affliction to one is as the
bruising of spices, which cast forth a fragrant smell; to the other it is as the
crushing of weeds in a mortar, which are more unsavoury. What is the cause of
this, but the free grace of God? It is a gracious calling; it is all enamelled
and interwoven with free grace.
(vi.) It is a
glorious call. “Who hath called us unto his eternal glory” (I
Pet. v. 10). We are called to the enjoyment of the ever blessed God:
as if a man were called out of a prison to sit upon a throne. Quintus Curtius
writes of one, who while digging in his garden was called to be king. Thus God
calls us to glory and virtue (2
Pet. i. 3). First to virtue, then to glory. At Athens there were two
temples, the temple of Virtue, and the temple of Honour; and no man could go to
the temple of honour, but through the temple of virtue. So God calls us first to
virtue, and then to glory. What is the glory among men, which most so hunt
after, but a feather blown in the air? What is it to the weight of glory? Is
there not great reason we should follow God’s call? He calls to preferment; can
there be any loss or prejudice in this? God would have us part with nothing for
Him, but that which will damn us if we keep it. He has no design upon us, but to
make us happy. He calls us to salvation, He calls us to a kingdom. Oh, how
should we then, with Bartimaeus, throw off our ragged coat of sin, and follow
Christ when He calls!
(vii.) It is a
rare call. But few are savingly called. “Few are chosen” (Matt.
xxii. 14). Few, not collectively, but comparatively. The word ‘to
call’ signifies to choose out some from among others. Many have the light
brought to them, but few have their eyes anointed to see that light. “Thou
hast a few names in Sardis that have not defiled their garments” (Rev.
iii. 4). How many millions sit in the region of darkness! And in
those climates where the Sun of righteousness does shine, there are many who
receive the light of the truth, without the love of it. There are many
formalists, but few believers. There is something that looks like faith, which
is not. The Cyprian diamond, says Pliny, sparkles like the true diamond, but it
is not of the right kind, it will break with the hammer: so the hypocrite’s
faith will break with the hammer of persecution. But few are truly called. The
number of precious stones is few, to the number of pebble stones. Most men shape
their religion according to the fashion of the times; they are for the music and
the idol (Dan.
iii. 7). The serious thought of this should make us work out our
salvation with fear, and labour to be in the number of those few whom God has
translated into a state of grace.
(viii.) It is an
unchangeable call. “The gifts and calling of God are without repentance”
xi. 29). That is, as a learned writer says, those gifts which flow
from election. When God calls a man, He does not repent of it. God does not, as
many friends do, love one day, and hate another; or as princes, who make their
subjects favourites, and afterwards throw them into prison. This is the
blessedness of a saint; his condition admits of no alteration. God’s call is
founded upon His decree, and His decree is immutable. Acts of grace cannot be
reversed. God blots out His people’s sins, but not their names. Let the world
ring changes every hour, a believer’s condition is fused and unalterable.
6. The end of
our effectual calling is the honour of God. “That we should be to the
praise of his glory” (Ephes.
i. 12). He that is in the state of nature, is no more fit to honour
God, than a brute is to put forth acts of reason. A man before conversion
continually reflects dishonour upon God. As black vapours which arise out of
fenny, moorish grounds, cloud and darken the sun, so out of the natural man’s
heart arise black vapours of sin, which cast a cloud upon God’s glory. The
sinner is versed in treason, but understands nothing of loyalty to the King of
heaven. But there are some whom the lot of free grace falls upon, and these
shall be taken as jewels from among the rubbish and be effectually called, that
they may lift up God’s name in the world. The Lord will have some in all ages
who shall oppose the corruptions of the times, bear witness to His truths, and
convert sinners from the error of their ways. He will have His worthies, as king
David had. They who have been monuments of God’s mercies, will be trumpets of
considerations show us the necessity of effectual calling. Without it there is
no going to heaven. We must be “made meet for the inheritance” (Col.
i. 12). As God makes heaven fit for us, so He makes us fit for
heaven; and what gives this meetness, but effectual calling? A man remaining in
the filth and rubbish of nature, is no more fit for heaven, than a dead man is
fit to inherit an estate. The high calling is not a thing arbitrary or
indifferent, but as needful as salvation; yet alas, how is this one thing
needful neglected! Most men, like the people of Israel, wander up and down to
gather straw, but do not mind the evidences of their effectual calling.
Take notice what a
mighty power God puts forth in calling of sinners! God does so call as to draw (John
vi. 44). Conversion is styled a resurrection. “Blessed is he that
hath part in the first resurrection” (Rev.
xx. 6). That is, a rising from sin to grace. A man can no more
convert himself than a dead man can raise himself. It is called a creation (Col.
iii. 10). To create is above the power of nature.
But, say some, the will is not dead
but asleep, and God, by a moral persuasion, does only awaken us, and then the
will can obey God’s call, and move of itself to its own conversion.
To this I answer, Every man is by sin bound
in fetters. “I perceive that thou art in the bond of iniquity” (Acts
viii. 23). A man that is in fetters, if you use arguments, and
persuade him to go, is that sufficient? There must be a breaking of his fetters,
and setting him free, before he can walk. So it is with every natural man; he is
fettered with corruption; now the Lord by converting grace must file off his
fetters, nay, give him legs to run too, or he can never obtain salvation.
exhortation to make your calling sure.
to make your calling sure” (2
Pet. i. 10). This is the great business of our lives, to get sound
evidences of our effectual calling. Do not acquiesce in outward privileges, do
not cry as the Jews, “The temple of the Lord!” (Jer.
vii. 4). Do not rest in baptism; what is it to have the water, and
want the Spirit? Do not be content that Christ has been preached to you. Do not
satisfy yourselves with an empty profession; all this may be, and yet you are no
better than blazing comets. But labour to evidence to your souls that you are
called of God. Be not Athenians to inquire news. What is the state and
complexion of the times? What changes are likely to happen in such a year? What
is all this, if you are not effectually called? What if the times should have a
fairer aspect? What though glory did dwell in our land, if grace does not dwell
in our hearts? Oh my brethren, when things are dark without, let all be clear
within. Give diligence to make your calling sure, it is both feasible and
probable. God is not wanting to them that seek Him. Let not this great business
hang in hand any longer. If there were a controversy about your land, you would
use all means to clear your title; and is salvation nothing? Will you not clear
your title here? Consider how sad your case is, if you are not effectually
You are strangers
to God. The prodigal went into a far country (Luke
xv. 13), which implies that every sinner, before conversion, is afar
off from God. “At that time ye were without Christ, strangers to the
covenants of promise” (Ephes.
ii. 12). Men dying in their sins have no more right to promises than
strangers have to the privilege of free-born citizens. If you are strangers,
what language can you expect from God, but this, “I know you not!”
If you are not
effectually called, you are enemies. “Alienated and enemies” (Col.
i. 21). There is nothing in the Bible you can lay claim to, but the
threatenings. You are heirs to all the plagues written in the book of God.
Though you may resist the commands of the law, you cannot flee from the curses
of the law. Such as are enemies to God, let them read their doom. “But those
mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and
slay them before me” (Luke
xix. 27). Oh, how it should concern you therefore to make your
calling sure! How miserable and damnable will your condition be, if death call
you before the Spirit call you!
But is there any hope of my being
called? I have been a great sinner.
Great sinners have been called. Paul was a
persecutor, yet he was called. Some of the Jews who had a hand in crucifying
Christ, were called. God loves to display His free grace to sinners. Therefore
be not discouraged. You see a golden cord let down from heaven for poor
trembling souls to lay hold upon.
But how shall I know I am
He who is savingly called is called out of
himself, not only out of sinful self, but out of righteous self; he denies his
duties and moral endowments. “Not having mine own righteousness” (Phil.
iii. 9). He whose heart God has touched by His Spirit, lays down the
idol of self righteousness at Christ’s feet, for Him to tread upon. He uses
morality and duties of piety, but does not trust to them. Noah’s dove made use
of her wings to fly, but trusted to the ark for safety. This is excellent, when
a man is called out of himself. This self-renunciation is, as Augustine says,
the first step to saving faith.
He who is
effectually called has a visible change wrought. Not a change of the faculties,
but of the qualities. He is altered from what he was before. His body is the
same, but not his mind; he has another spirit. Paul was so changed after his
conversion that people did not know him (Acts
ix. 21). Oh what a metamorphosis does grace make! “And such were
some of you but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified” (1
Cor. vi. 11). Grace changes the heart.
calling there is a three-fold change wrought:
(1). There is a
change wrought in the understanding. Before, there was ignorance, darkness was
upon the face of the deep; but now there is light, “Now ye are light in the
v. 8). The first work of God in the creation of the world was light:
so it is in the new creation. He who is savingly called says with that man in
the gospel: “Whereas I was blind, now I see” (John
ix. 25). He sees such evil in sin, and excellency in the ways of God,
as he never saw before. Indeed, this light which the blessed Spirit brings, may
well be called a marvellous light. “That ye should show forth the praises of
Him who hath called you into his marvellous light” (I
Pet. ii. 9). It is a marvellous light in six respects. (i.) Because
it is strangely conveyed. It does not come from the celestial orbs where the
planets are, but from the Sun of righteousness. (ii.) It is marvellous in the
effect. This light does that which no other light can. It makes a man perceive
himself to be blind. (iii.) It is a marvellous light, because it is more
penetrating. Other light may shine upon the face: this light shines into the
heart, and enlightens the conscience (2
Cor. iv. 6). (iv.) It is a marvellous light, because it sets those
who have it a marvelling. They marvel at themselves, how they could be contented
to be so long without it. They marvel that their eyes should be opened, and not
others. They marvel that notwithstanding they hated and opposed this light, yet
it should shine in the firmament of their souls. This is what the saints will
stand wondering at to all eternity. (v.) It is a marvellous light, because it is
more vital than any others. It not only enlightens, but quickens it makes alive
those who “were dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephes.
ii. 1). Therefore it is called the “light of life” (John
viii. 12). (vi.) It is a marvellous light, because it is the
beginning of everlasting light. The light of grace is the morning star which
ushers in the sunlight of glory.
Now then, reader,
can you say that this marvellous light of the Spirit has dawned upon you? When
you were enveloped in ignorance, and did neither know God nor yourself, suddenly
a light from heaven shined round about you. This is one part of that blessed
change which is wrought in the effectual calling.
(2). There is a
change wrought in the will. “To will is present with me” (Rom.
vii. 18). The will, which before opposed Christ, now embraces Him.
The will, which was an iron sinew, is now like melting wax: it readily receives
the stamp and impression of the Holy Ghost. The will moves heavenward, and
carries all the orbs of the affections along with it. The regenerate will
answers to every call of God, as the echo answers to the voice. “Lord, what
wilt thou have me to do?” (Acts
ix. 6). The will now becomes a volunteer, it enlists itself under the
Captain of salvation (Heb.
ii. 10). Oh what a happy change is wrought here! Before, the will
kept Christ out; now, it keeps sin out.
(3). There is a
change in the conduct. He who is called of God, walks directly contrary to what
he did before. He walked before in envy and malice, now he walks in love; before
he walked in pride, now in humility. The current is carried quite another way.
As in the heart there is a new birth, so in the life a new edition. Thus we see
what a mighty change is wrought in such as are called of God.
How far are they
from this effectual call who never had any change? They are the same they were
forty or fifty years ago, as proud and carnal as ever. They have seen many
changes in their times, but they have had no change in their heart. Let not men
think to leap out of the harlot’s lap (the world) into Abraham’s bosom; either
they must have a gracious change while they live, or a cursed change when they
He who is called
of God esteems this call as the highest blessing. A king whom God has called by
His grace, esteems it more that he is called to be a saint, than that he is
called to be a king. He values his high calling more than his high birth.
Theodosius thought it a greater honour to be a Christian than to be an emperor.
A carnal person can no more value spiritual blessings than a baby can value a
diamond necklace. He prefers his worldly grandeur, his ease, plenty, and titles
of honour, before conversion. He had rather be called duke than saint, a sign he
is a stranger to effectual calling. He who is enlightened by the Spirit, counts
holiness his best heraldry, and looks upon his effectual calling as his
preferment. When he has taken this degree, he is a candidate for heaven.
He who is
effectually called, is called out of the world. It is a “heavenly calling”
iii. 1). He that is called of God, minds the things of a heavenly
aspect; he is in the world, but not of the world. Naturalists say
of precious stones, though they have their matter from the earth, yet their
sparkling lustre is from the influence of the heavens: so it is with a godly
man, though his body be from the earth, yet the sparkling of his affections is
from heaven; his heart is drawn into the upper region, as high as Christ. He not
only casts off every wicked work, but every earthly weight. He is not a worm,
but an eagle.
Another sign of
our effectual calling is diligence in our ordinary calling. Some boast of their
high calling, but they lie idly at anchor. Religion does not seal warrants to
idleness. Christians must not be slothful. Idleness is the devil’s bath; a
slothful person becomes a prey to every temptation. Grace, while it cures the
heart, does not make the hand lame. He who is called of God, as he works for
heaven, so he works in his trade.
Exhortations to those who are called
searching you find that you are effectually called, I have three exhortations to
1. Admire and
adore God’s free grace in calling you — that God should pass over so many,
that He should pass by the wise and noble, and that the lot of free grace should
fall upon you! That He should take you out of a state of vassalage, from
grinding the devil’s mill, and should set you above the princes of the earth,
and call you to inherit the throne of glory! Fall upon your knees, break forth
into a thankful triumph of praise: let your hearts be ten stringed instruments,
to sound forth the memorial of God’s mercy. None so deep in debt to free grace
as you, and none should be so high mounted upon the pinnacle of thanksgiving.
Say as the sweet singer; “I will extol thee, O God my King, every day will I
bless thee, and I will praise thy name for ever” (Psalm
cxlv. 1, 2). Those who are patterns of mercy should be trumpets of
praise. O long to be in heaven, where your thanksgivings shall be purer and
shall be raised a note higher.
2. Pity those
who are not yet called. Sinners in scarlet are not objects of envy, but
pity; they are under “the power of Satan” (Acts
xxvi. 18). They tread every day on the brink of the bottomless pit;
and what if death should cast them in! O pity unconverted sinners. If you pity
an ox or an ass going astray, will you not pity a soul going astray from God,
who has lost his way and his wits, and is upon the precipice of damnation.
Nay, not only pity
sinners, but pray for them. Though they curse, do you pray; you will pray for
persons demented; sinners are demented. “When he came to himself” (Luke
xv. 17). It seems the prodigal before conversion was not himself.
Wicked men are going to execution . sin is the halter which strangles them,
death turns them off the ladder, and hell is their burning place; and will you
not pray for them, when you see them in such danger?
3. You who are
effectually called, honour your high calling. “I, therefore, beseech
you, that you walk worthy of the vocation wherewith you are called” (Ephes.
iv. 1). Christians must keep a decorum, they must observe what is
comely. This is a seasonable advice, when many who profess to be called of God,
yet by their loose and irregular walking, cast a blemish on religion, whereby
the ways of God are evil spoken of. It is Salvian’s speech, “What do pagans say
when they see Christians live scandalously? Surely Christ taught them no
better.” Will you reproach Christ, and make Him suffer again, by abusing your
heavenly calling? It is one of the saddest sights to see a man lift up his hands
in prayer, and with those hands oppress; to hear the same tongue praise God at
one time, and at another lie and slander; to hear a man in words profess God,
and in works deny Him. Oh how unworthy is this! Yours is a holy calling, and
will you be unholy? Do not think you may take liberty as others do. The Nazarite
that had a vow on him, separated himself to God, and promised abstinence; though
others did drink wine, it was not fit for the Nazarite to do it. So, though
others are loose and vain, it is not fit for those who are set apart for God by
effectual calling. Are not flowers sweeter than weeds? You must be now “a
peculiar people” (I
Pet. ii. 9); not only peculiar in regard of dignity, but deportment.
Abhor all motions of sin, because it would disparage your high calling.
What is it to walk worthy of our
It is to walk regularly, to tread with an
even foot, and walk according to the rules and axioms of the Word. A true saint
is for canonical obedience, he follows the canon of Scripture. “As many as
walk according to this canon” (Gal.
vi. 16). When we leave men’s inventions, and cleave to Godís
institutions; when we walk after the Word, as Israel after the pillar of fire;
this is walking worthy of our heavenly calling.
To walk worthy of
our calling is to walk singularly. “Noah was upright in his generation” (Gen.
vii. 1). When others walked with the devil, Noah walked with God. We
are forbidden to run with the multitude (Exod.
xxiii. 2). Though in civil things singularity is not commendable, yet
in religion it is good to be singular. Melanchthon was the glory of the age he
lived in. Athanasius was singularly holy; he appeared for God when the stream of
the times ran another way. It is better to be a pattern of holiness, than a
partner in wickedness. It is better to go to heaven with a few, than to hell in
the crowd. We must walk in an opposite course to the men of the world.
To walk worthy of
our calling is to walk cheerfully. “Rejoice in the Lord evermore” (Phil.
iv. 4). Too much drooping of spirit disparages our high calling, and
makes others suspect a godly life to be melancholy. Christ loves to see us
rejoicing in Him. Causinus, in his hieroglyphics, speaks of a dove, whose wings
being perfumed with sweet ointments, drew the other doves after her.
Cheerfulness is a perfume to draw others to godliness. Religion does not banish
all joy. As there is a seriousness without sourness, so there is a cheerful
liveliness without lightness. When the prodigal was converted “they began to
be merry” (Luke
xv. 24). Who should be cheerful, if not the people of God? They are
no sooner born of the Spirit, but they are heirs to a crown. God is their
portion, and heaven is their mansion, and shall they not rejoice?
To walk worthy of
our calling is to walk wisely. Walking wisely implies three things.
(a) To walk
warily. “The wise man’s eyes are in his head” (Eccles.
ii. 14). Others watch for our halting, therefore we had need look to
our standing. We must beware, not only of scandals, but of all that is
unbecoming, lest thereby we open the mouth of others with a fresh cry against
religion. If our piety will not convert men, our prudence may silence them.
(b) To walk
courteously. The spirit of the gospel is full of meekness and candour. “Be
Pet. iii. 8). Take heed of a morose, supercilious behaviour. Religion
does not take away civility, but refines it. “Abraham stood up, and bowed
himself to the children of Heth” (Gen.
xxiii. 7). Though they were of a heathenish race, yet Abraham gave
them a civil respect. St. Paul was of an affable temper. “I am made all
things to men, that I might by all means save some” (1
Cor. ix. 22). In lesser matters the apostle yielded to others, that
by his obliging manner he might win upon them.
(c) To walk
magnanimously. Though we must be humble, yet not base. It is unworthy to
prostitute ourselves to the lusts of men. What is sinfully imposed ought to be
zealously opposed. Conscience is God’s diocese, where none has right to visit,
but He who is the Bishop of our souls (1
Pet. ii. 25). We must not be like hot iron, which may be beaten into
any form. A brave spirited Christian will rather suffer, than let his conscience
be violated. Here is the serpent and the dove united, sagacity and innocence.
This prudential walking comports with our high calling, and does not a little
adorn the gospel of Christ.
To walk worthy of
our calling is to walk influentially — to do good to others, and to be rich in
acts of mercy (Heb.
xiii. 16). Good works honour religion. As Mary poured the ointment on
Christ, so by good works we pour ointments on the head of the gospel, and make
it give forth a fragrant smell. Good works, though they are not causes of
salvation, yet they are evidences. When with our Saviour we go about doing good,
and send abroad the refreshing influence of our liberality, we walk worthy of
our high calling.
Here is matter of
consolation to you who are effectually called. God has magnified rich grace
toward you. You are called to great honour to be co-partners with the angels,
and co-heirs with Christ; this should revive you in the worst of times. Let men
reproach and miscall you; set God’s calling of you against man’s miscalling. Let
men persecute you to death: they do but give you a pass, and send you to heaven
the sooner. How may this cure the trembling of the heart! What, though the sea
roar, though the earth be unquiet, though the stars are shaken out of their
places, you need not fear. You are called, and therefore are sure to be crowned.
Concerning God’s purpose
purpose is the cause of salvation.
THE third and
last thing in the text, which I shall but briefly glance at, is the ground and
origin of our effectual calling, in these words, “according to his purpose”
i. 11). Anselm renders it, According to his good will. Peter Martyr
reads it, According to His decree. This purpose, or decree of God, is the
fountainhead of our spiritual blessings. It is the impulsive cause of our
vocation, justification, glorification. It is the highest link in the golden
chain of salvation. What is the reason that one man is called, and not another?
It is from the eternal purpose of God. God’s decree gives the casting voice in
Let us then
ascribe the whole work of grace to the pleasure of God’s will. God did not
choose us because we were worthy, but by choosing us He makes us worthy. Proud
men are apt to assume and arrogate too much to themselves, in being sharers with
God. While many cry out against church sacrilege, they are in the meantime
guilty of a far greater sacrilege, in robbing God of His glory, while they go to
set the crown of salvation upon their own head. But we must resolve all into
God’s purpose. The signs of salvation are in the saints, but the cause of
salvation is in God.
If it be God’s
purpose that saves, then it is not free will. This Pelagians are strenuous
asserters of free will. They tell us that a man has an innate power to effect
his own conversion; but this text confutes it. Our calling is “according to
God’s purpose.” The Scripture plucks up the root of free will. “It is not
of him that willeth” (Rom.
ix. 16). All depends upon the purpose of God. When the prisoner is
cast at the bar, there is no saving him, unless the king has a purpose to save
him. God’s purpose is His prerogative royal.
If it is God’s
purpose that saves, then it is not merit. Bellarmine holds that good works do
expiate sin and merit glory; but the text says that we are called according to
God’s purpose, and there is a parallel Scripture, “Who hath saved us, and
called us, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and
Tim. i. 9). There is no such thing as merit. Our best works have in
them both defection and infection, and so are but glittering sins; therefore if
we are called and justified, it is God’s purpose brings it to pass.
But the Papists allege that Scripture for merit: “Henceforth is laid up for
me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous fudge, shall give me
at that day” (2
Tim. iv. 8). This is the force of their argument. If God in justice
rewards our works, then they merit salvation.
To this I answer, God gives a reward as a
just Judge, not to the worthiness of our works, but to the worthiness of Christ.
God as a just Judge rewards us, not because we have deserved it, but because He
has promised it. God has two courts, a court of mercy, and a court of justice:
the Lord condemns those works in the court of justice, which He crowns in the
court of mercy. Therefore that which carries the main stroke in our salvation,
is the purpose of God.
Again, if the
purpose of God be the spring-head of happiness, then we are not saved for faith
foreseen. It is absurd to think anything in us could have the least influence
upon our election. Some say that God did foresee that such persons would
believe, and therefore did choose them; so they would make the business of
salvation to depend upon something in us. Whereas God does not choose us for
faith, but to faith. “He hath chosen us, that we should be holy” (Eph.
i. 4), not because we would be holy, but that we might be holy. We
are elected to holiness, not for it. What could God foresee in us, but pollution
and rebellion! If any man be saved, it is according to God’s purpose.
How shall we know that God has a
purpose to save us?
being effectually called. “Give
diligence to make your calling and election sure” (2
Pet. i. 10).We make our election sure, by making our calling sure. “God
hath chosen you to salvation through sanctification” (2
Thess. ii. 13). By the stream, we come at last to the fountain. If we
find the stream of sanctification running in our souls, we may by this come to
the spring-head of election. When a man cannot look up to the Ornament, yet he
may know the moon is there by seeing it shine upon the water: so, though I
cannot look up into the secret of God’s purpose, yet I may know I am elected, by
the shining of sanctifying grace in my soul. Whosoever finds the word of God
transcribed and copied out into his heart, may undeniably conclude his election.
purpose is the ground of assurance.
Here is a
sovereign elixir of unspeakable comfort to those who are the called of God.
Their salvation rests upon God’s purpose. “The foundation of God standeth
sure, having this seal. The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let everyone
that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity” (2
Tim. ii. 19). Our graces are imperfect, our comforts ebb and flow,
but God’s foundation standeth sure. They who are built upon this rock of God’s
eternal purpose, need not fear falling away; neither the power of man, nor the
violence of temptation, shall ever be able to overturn them.
(This work was
first published in 1663. In preparing this edition it was found desirable to
alter antiquated expressions and punctuation, corrections which the author
himself, had he been living, would doubtless have approved.
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