Brother Beebe: - Brother S. Mabey, of Albany County, N.Y, in writing to me, some months since, requested me to give through the Signs of the Times, such views as I may have of the text, Romans 8:28.
"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."
As this text contains independent matter enough in itself for one communication, I will pass directly to its consideration, without stopping to notice the important subjects contained in the preceding context. First: Paul's assertion, We know, &c. He evidently intended in the we, the saints to whom he wrote with himself, therefore, the saints in all ages, for all bear the same characteristic marks. But Jacob was evidently a subject of grace, a saint, yet when Joseph had been mysteriously taken from him, and his sons would take Benjamin also into Egypt, and famine stared him in the face, unless he let him go, he did not know that all these things were working together for his good, but undoubtedly spoke what he thought, when he said, All these things are against me. So in reference to ourselves, there are many things we meet with in our experiences of ourselves, and in the dealings of God with us, that as men and women we do not at the time know are working for our good, but think them dark evidences against us, that we are not objects of God's love. Paul did not intend to assert that by our natural senses we know, but by faith we know. Thus we often worry and distress ourselves because we cannot find in our natural man those characteristics which the New Testament gives of the child of grace; as though there was in the christian no difference between the old man and the new, between reason and faith. It is by faith, and by faith only, that we know spiritual things. And that faith which constitutes a person a believer in Christ is actual knowledge of the thing or truth which it receives. It is the evidence of things not seen. "Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God" Heb. 11:3. Thus the faith of the gospel is materially different from the belief which is produced by education. Well may those who have only this latter belief cry up charity for those who differ from them in religious sentiments; because the one has no more claim to being the truth than others, they are all the product of human teaching. But you may as well undertake to convince the child of grace that the sun is the source of darkness to the earth as to attempt to persuade him that there is uncertainty about the truth of what his faith has actually received; for that which is received by faith is not learned of men, but is received by the revelation of Jesus Christ, and comes with that power that he knows it is God's truth. See Gal. 1:12 & I Thes. 1:5. But it is not everything which the child of God receives and contends for as truth that he has received by faith. Hence we may all have more or less errors about us. But we may, I think, by a careful examination, distinguish between what we know by faith and what we have received as truth from men or books, or from our own reasonings. Second: That all things work together for good. We might prove by arguments drawn from the Scripture testimony that all things work together for good to the people of God, and your mind may become fully satisfied of the truth of it, but this would not be knowing it for yourself; it would not bring it to your feelings when tried by afflictions or temptations. It requires that knowledge which faith gives to make us feel the truth of it. Yet it is proper to notice the Scripture testimony showing the correctness of faith's knowledge on the point; or in other words, showing that the revelation made to faith is from the same spirit of truth who made the revelation contained in the Scriptures. The Scriptures testify that Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us. Yes, redeemed us from under the law, so that the children are not under the law but under grace, so that sin shall not have dominion over them. Hence the sin that they feel in them cannot reign unto death or to the infliction of the penalty of the law. And Christ declares these children, as He characterizes them, Mt.5:3-12, blessed. Now, where there is no curse, how can any evil come? And wherever they are blessed of God, how can anything but goodness and mercy follow them all the days of their lives? But it may be thought that this may be the case in God's immediate dealings with His people, but that events may arise from other sources, as from our corruptions, from Satan and from the world, &c., that will work evil to the children of God. But we are assured, Eph. 1:11, that God worketh all things after the counsel of His own will. The all things in this text are as extensive as the all things in the other text. The Scriptures also reveal God as infinite in wisdom and knowledge, infinite in power and goodness. All things must have been present to the infinite knowledge of God when His will counseled the disposal of them, and His infinite wisdom must have seen the direct bearing that everything would have and enabled Him to order all things so as to accomplish what His infinite goodness willed. And His infinite power certainly would enable Him to carry out His purpose of making all things work together for that good which He purposed. Herein we have the absolute of God's sovereign predestination of all things. Some will say God is infinite. O, yes, there is nothing too great for God to do. But again; they will say, There are things too small for God's immediate notice, and special providence; that He has established certain general rules and laws, and has left men and devils, &c., to pursue their own volitions, subject to the consequences. Such persons lose sight of the fact that if there are things too small for God's knowledge to embrace, or His government to control, the infinitude of God and of His attributes are as effectually denied as though it was contended there are things too large for His government. That which is infinite cannot be limited by either large or small things; God being infinite, His knowledge and government must embrace alike the largest and smallest things. Hence it is said, "God shall bring every work into judgment with every secret thing, &c." Ecl. 12:14. It may be asked, Are not some things evil in themselves? Truly, they are. It is not said that all things are good to them, &c, in our text; but that all things work together for good, &c. The treachery of Joseph's brethren, and of Potiphar's wife, were in themselves evil acts, but they were important parts in the arrangement of God's providence whereby He brought about good to Jacob and his posterity. Peter's denying his Lord, after having made such strong assertions of his faithfulness, was in itself an evil act; yet on a little reflection, I think no discerning person can doubt its having an important effect in connection with other circumstances, such as Christ's looking upon him, &c., in converting him from that self-confidence which he had so lately manifested, and thereby worked together with the other parts of Christ's government over him for his good.
I might notice the crucifixion of our Lord as confirming the same point, but I will come, my brother, to your own experience. In your exercises under the law, did not your failing to keep your resolutions to do better, and the bursting forth of the corruptions of your nature on every temptation, work together with the teachings you were receiving concerning the law to abase you, to strip you of your own righteousness, to make you feel how exceedingly sinful sin is, and to kill you to all legal hopes, and thus prepare your heart for receiving and rejoicing in the gospel plan of salvation? So I think, if you do not at all times know it, that you will find in the end, that,
"Temptations, trials, doubts and fears,
Wants, losses, crosses, groans and tears,
Will, thro' the grace of God, our friend,
In everlasting triumphs end."
But faith in its exercises does not stop thus to reason us into the belief of these things. It lays hold at once on the blood of Christ; presents God to us in Christ as a Father, and makes us feel that He is love. Not as the rainbow which hems the passing cloud, and gives us to feel, notwithstanding the devastations which the hail and the wind may have made around us, that we are yet spared, and that there is still hope for us; but faith burnishes the whole cloud with love, and makes us to feel that the affliction is sweet, that the temptation was needed to humble us, and gives us to praise God that we are not left to pass on carelessly without chastisement. It is a sweet knowledge which faith gives that all things are working together for good. Third: To them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose. As I have been so lengthy on the former parts of this subject, I shall try to be brief on this part. We have in these words two important characteristics by which those who are born of God and are the objects of His love, are distinguished from others. 1. They love God. The religion of Christ is a religion of love. Its subjects are drawn by the cords of love, not drawn by fear of punishment in their obedience to God, because they love God, they love His revealed will and the ways He has appointed. They love the children of God when they see, and as they see, the image of Christ in them, the evidence of their love to God, and see them walking in the truth, or in obedience to His word. They loathe themselves because they see so little in themselves, like God, and so much that is opposite to Him, so little of conformity to His word. These are decisive evidences of being born of God. "For every one that loveth God is born of God" I John 4:7. And these evidences are more or less manifested in the experience and walk of the child of God. Yet the child of grace, while having these evidences about him, often doubts whether it can be possible that he loves God. The Comforter, and He only, can clear away these doubts. Yet, we may appeal to such to say whether amidst all the workings of their corruptions there is not evidently in them a desire after God, and to be brought more into conformity to His word and will, and whether these desires could be in their breasts, if there was there no love to God. 2. Them who are called according to His purpose. It appears then that there is a special call by which the predestinated children of God are called from darkness into the light and liberty of the gospel; for it is according to God's purpose. It is also an effectual call. For whom He called, them He also justified, and whom He justified, them He also glorified, &c., verse 30. This call is internal, but irresistible. It draws the subject on from step to step, though he knows not why, and though Satan and his own unbelief tells him all is wrong, that every step is leading more into sin and farther from God, until at length his astonished soul beholds the light of the gospel, and he sees that he had been called and led from Sinai to Calvary, from self to Christ as his only hope of salvation. If God has thus called us to a knowledge of His salvation and given us to love it, He is for us, and "if God be for us who can be against us?" verse 31. These remarks fall far short of giving an adequate view of the subject, but they are the best I have to offer. I have written this while laboring under a cold, which indisposes me both in body and mind, so that I have hardly energy enough to write. Yours, I trust in love;
From: SIGNS of the TIMES:
Vol. 27 (1859)
Select Works of Elder Samuel Trott