My dear Brethren Beebe: - In the third number, present volume of the "Signs of the Times", I find the following request: "I desire the views of our dear brother J. F. Johnson on Romans 8:28. Whether the all things mean natural things or not."
The whole text reads thus: "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose."
The apostle was not guessing at things here, and I cannot imagine how a more comforting and encouraging expression could be formed out of words. He knew what he affirmed, and he knew its importance to "them that love God," and therefore would leave them without the shadow of a doubt. I wish to make some remarks on the text found in Eph. 1:11, as I consider the two passages intimately connected. There it is said, "In whom we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will." Here we are informed that God works all things, and in the text under consideration, that he works them all for good to them that love him, and are the called according to his purpose. But my brother desires to know "whether the 'all things' mean natural things or not." I answer unhesitatingly, that spiritual things and natural things, great things and small things, good things and bad things, things in heaven, things on earth and things under the earth, all, all things work together for good to them that love God, as I shall now try to evince. I suppose it will be conceded by all who are "spiritually minded" that all spiritual things are managed or worked for the good of God's people, and for them exclusively. They were given us in Christ Jesus for our good before the world began. No doubt my brother has realized this in every one that he has enjoyed. It is equally evident that natural things also are for our good. Our food, drink and raiment are all for our good. The natural earth that we tread upon which produces our food, raiment, etc., the rain and the snow that falleth upon the earth and maketh it to bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, are evidently for our good. Our trials, afflictions, disappointments and temptations, that seem for the time being to be against us, are often proved by after experience to be for our good. When the sons of Jacob brought to him the news from Egypt where they went to buy corn, he said, "All these things are against me," when in reality they were opening the way for the joyful meeting of his supposed long lost son Joseph. David said, "Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I have kept thy word." And again, "It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I might learn thy statutes." (Psalms 119:67,71.)
I am here reminded of a circumstance that took place with brother Beebe and myself a number of years ago. We had been away attending some meetings, and started home, eager to meet a certain train of cars to return on, but they had just left when we reached the station. We were disappointed, but it was likely for our good, for we afterward learned that that train was terribly smashed and a number killed and many seriously injured.
Again, the apostle says, "My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations." Why? "Blessed is the man that endureth temptation; for when he is tried he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him." (James 1:2,12.) I have said that great things and small things work for our good. "The Lord hath done great things for us, whereof we are glad." (Psalms 126:3.) These great things include spiritual and natural ones innumerable. All spiritual things that he has wrought in and for his people are great things, and all for their good. He "rebukes strong nations" for the good of his people; makes kings their nursing fathers and queens their nursing mothers; subdues kingdoms for them. And in connection with the great we may include the great work of redemption, all that pertains to the salvation of his people; and to accomplish these great things he uses the small things. To accomplish the great deliverance of his national people from their bondage in Egypt, he used the frogs, the lice, the flies, the locusts, etc.
Imagine the frogs bubbling up out of the rivers, and there they go, hop, hop, hop, the Lord directing every hop to the very house, bed-chamber, bed, oven and kneeding-trough where he decreed it should go. Then Aaron stretches his rod over the dust of the earth, and instead of dust the earth is alive with lice; and here they go, every step of every louse to every Egyptian where the Lord sent it; not a stray louse on Pharaoh or any of his hosts. And the flies. Go along the border of Goshen, where the Hebrews dwell; look on that side where the Egyptians dwell, and see the air swarming with flies, and on the Hebrew side not a fly, for God had said no flies should be there; and when they strike the dividing line, they stop or turn as though they had encountered a stone wall. Then the locusts; and other miracles are worked there by the Lord, but none of the plagues troubled the Lord's people; he was working all for their good. Finally Pharaoh is humbled and subdued, and the Lord's people liberated. But I must not note here all the minute things that occurred to the Jews on their long journey to the promised land. One more circumstance, however, I will refer to. When they were about to enter that land the Lord told them, saying, "I will send hornets before thee, [they are little things, too] which shall drive out the Hivite, the Canaanite and the Hittite before thee." And he did it, for he says in Joshua, "And I sent the hornet before you, which drave them out," etc. This kind of warfare looks a little ludicrous. What must those "ites" have thought on seeing the country swarming with hornets? And presently they feel them, pop, pop, pop. I can't tell how they knew where to get rid of them; but they must leave the country, for the Lord said they should drive them out.
All things work together for good to God's people, it matters not how small, if it is large enough to call a thing. See myriads of motes and tiny insects dancing in the sunbeams. Think you they are frisking about there at random? God "worketh all things." I do not know what he wants with those little things, nor do I know what he wants with a mammoth; but he made them all, and, of course, has use for them all. If it is best for one of his people to take him out of this world of trouble, (it is always best for them when they are taken) he can do it by sending a mote into the eye, produce inflammation there, extend it to the brain, and do it as effectually as with a thunderbolt. Or if it is his will to take an enemy away from them, he can do it in the same way. There may be smaller things yet, but he works them all. I have no idea that the fiercest hurricane that ever blew has ever carried a particle of dust farther, or suffered it to fall short of where God predestinated it to stop. One has said, and I think truthfully, "If providence should be taken by surprise, by the casual impinging of an accident, one fortuitous grain might dislocate the banded universe. The smallest seeming trifle is ordered as the morning light, and he that rideth on the hurricane is pilot to the bubble on the breaker."
I have said that good things and bad things work together for good to God's people. That good things work together for their good, I suppose is evident to my brother, and is no doubt often experienced by him; but that bad things do, may not appear so obvious to him; but there are plenty of circumstances recorded in the scriptures evincing the fact. When the brethren of Joseph sold and sent him to Egypt as a slave, all will admit that it was bad in them to do so; for Joseph told them afterward that they thought evil against him, but God meant it for good. (Gen. 50:20.) And after he was taken to Egypt and sold to Potiphar, that libidinous wife of his acted very badly in telling a falsehood on him and having him imprisoned in a dungeon for his virtue; but that was only another step toward his greatness. Then the king's officers must be imprisoned, and must dream dreams, and Joseph interprets them. Then Pharaoh must dream. He interprets the king's dreams, and then is made governor over all Egypt. Then see the result to his father's family, as well as to himself.
But there are other bad things, worse, if possible, than the ones named, that have worked for good to God's people; and I know not but that all the bad things that have ever been done have been worked for the glory of God and the good of his people; for the wrath of man shall praise him, and the remainder of wrath he will restrain. (Psa.76:10.) Reference to one other circumstance will perhaps be sufficient on this point, and that is the crucifixion of the Saviour. Could there be more heinous, diabolical wickedness than the murdering of the innocent Lamb of God on the Calvary cross? And yet God so overruled the whole matter that it turned out to be the magna carta of the salvation of sinners. The cross secures their crown and confirms their hope as an anchor both sure and steadfast forever.
"Great was the mystery! truly greats
That hell's designs should hell defeat;
But here eternal wisdom shined,
For Satan wrought what God designed."
The fiends fulfilled the scriptures in condemning him; and though they did it unwittingly, it was what God's hand and counsel before determined should be done. (Acts 4:28; 13:27.)
Then I have said that things in heaven, things on the earth, and things under the earth, all work for the good of God's people. O the mysterious, heart-cheering work that has ever been going on, and will ever go on, in heaven for the people of God. Love has been beaming toward them forever. "Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee." (Jer.31:3.) There the glorious Mediatorial Head of his people was set up from everlasting or ever the earth was. (Prov. 7:23.) "Whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting." (Mic. 5:2.) There matchless grace that consummates the glorious work of salvation was given us in him before the world began, and
"Grace all the work shall crown
In everlasting days;
It lays in heaven the topmost stone,
And well deserves the praise."
There, too, absolute predestination decreed the adoption of the Adamic man into the family of God, putting him among the children, securing to him a glorious resurrection life, and there their names were indelibly written in the book of life from the foundation of the world. (Rev. 17:8.) I firmly believe that even the devil's wiles in the fall of man is worked by the unerring wisdom and power of God for the good of his people. If not, why did Paul say, "God be thanked that ye were the servants of sin?" (Rom. 6:17.)
"Here Satan was nonplus'd in what he had done,
The fall wrought the channel where mercy should run,
In streams of salvation that never run dry,
And all for the lifting of Jesus on high."
And from the bud of time until now, the Lord has so ruled and overruled the works of men and devils as to make them conducive to the good of his people and the glory of his hallowed name; for the wrath of man shall praise him; the remainder of wrath he shall restrain. (Psa. 76:10.)
Yes, all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. This call is the voice of God, and must be heard and obeyed. "Verily, verily, I say unto you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live." (John 5:25.) And the call must reach "even as many as the Lord our God shall call." (Acts 2:39.) It is a holy calling, and therefore a call to holiness. "Who hath saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began." (II Tim. 1:9.) The "purpose" is steadfast as the throne of God, and is an eternal purpose. According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Eph. 3:11.) No frustrating this purpose. "The Lord of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass: as I have purposed, so shall it stand." (Isa. 14:24.) This purpose embraces every one of God's people, this grace saves every one, and this call penetrates the ear of every one, and "they shall hear," and "shall be saved." "And it shall come to pass that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved." (Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13.) It is the work of God, and therefore done forever. "I know that whatsoever God doeth, it shall be forever: nothing can be put to it, nor anything taken from it." (Eccl. 3:14.) Things under the earth must work for good to the Lord's people. This expression, I conclude, will hold good if we descend to the regions of devils; for
"If devils move, 'tis by consent
Of him who is omnipotent."
I think it has been evinced that in the enemy's first work on earth he outdid himself, and opened for the saints a never-to-be-exhausted channel of mercy. If it were not so, then
"How could sin-forgiving grace
'Mong all the creatures find a place?
While all were good, no room be
For mercy's aid to misery."
Then it must be admitted that the work of him and his cohorts, overruled and directed as it was by the omnipotency and infinite wisdom, secured a "good hope through grace" for all that love God; and how is it possible that we could indulge that hope today, if Satan and his imps had not crucified the Lord of glory?
Brother McAdams, I have tried to comply with your request. Please examine what I have written closely, and compare it with the scriptures. If it accords therewith, and is of any benefit or comfort to you, I am amply paid. It seems to me a source of great pleasure to all that love God, that he does thus dispose of all things. May we all, then, be enabled to meet our miseries with a becoming fortitude and submission to the divine and righteous will of him who worketh all things together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
"If thus the Lord doth work all things
Together for our good,
How should we praise the King of kings
And triumph in his blood."
Your brother in hope of eternal life.
Elder J. F. Johnson
Clay Village, KY
A Second Feast
Pages 88 - 98