by Thomas Watson
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 treatise, hoping, by the blessing of God, that 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 those who 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 cooperate 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 until they run over!
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If the whole Scripture be the feast for the soul (as Ambrose says)—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 those who love God." Not a word but is weighty; therefore I shall gather up every filing of this gold, that nothing will be lost.
In the text there are three general branches.
First, a glorious privilege. All things work for good.
Second, the people 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 His purpose."
I. First, the 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."
1. The CERTAINLY of the privilege: "We know." It is not a matter wavering or doubt. The apostle does not say, "We hope, or conjecture." "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 true 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" (1 Cor. x3:12), therefore we have not perfection of knowledge; but "we behold with open face" (2 Cor. 3:18), 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" (1 John 3:14).
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. 5:1). 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 to it."
Let us then not rest in skepticism or doubts—but labor 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. 1:22).
2. The 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 everything in the world shall be for his good. This is a Christian's cordial, which may warm him—and make him like Jonathan who, when he had tasted the honey at the end of the rod, "his eyes were enlightened" (1 Sam. xiv. 27). Why should a Christian destroy himself? Why should he kill himself with care, when all things shall sweetly concur, yes, 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 25:10). If every path has mercy in it, then it works for good.
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 things.
Table of Contents
The Bezt Things Work for God for the Godly
The Worst Things Work for Good
Why All Things Work for Good
Of Love to God
The Tests of Love to God
An Exhortation to Love God
Exhortations to Them that are Called
Concerning God's Purpose