by Thomas Watson
(This sermon was given by Watson, on the eve of his ejection
from his church, because of his non-conformity to the state church.)
"Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me,
or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you."
The particular reason for my choice of this Scripture
this day, if you compare my present situation with the intent of the Apostle
in these words, you will easily understand. These words of the Apostle,
being part of the close of his epistle to the Philippians, are his
farewell to them. It is known to you, that I must now be parted from
you; and I have pitched on this Scripture to be the close of my twenty
years ministry among you.
God has sent me among you to be a builder, and I
have chosen this text to be a hammer to fasten and drive home those
nails of instruction and consolation, which I have been so
long endeavoring to enter into you. God has sent me among you as a
fisherman, and I have chosen these words to be the closing of the net.
Behold! Once more the net is spread, and I am now making my last cast. Oh,
that it might have the same good speed as Peter's had, Luke 5:6. It would
then pay the charges, though the net broke. God has sent me among you as a
farmer to plow and to sow, and I am now come to cover what has been
sown. What my aim is in preaching, let it be yours in hearing. Oh, that both
preacher and hearers might heartily join in this desire! God speed the plow!
In this desire and hope, I drive on.
In the text observe a precept, a promise, and an entail
of the promise on the precept. In the precept we have, first, an act, "put
it into practice." Second, we have an object, "Whatever you have learned or
received or heard from me, or seen in me." The promise is in these words,
"the God of peace shall be with you." The entail of the promise on the
precept you have in the connective particle "and", which knits them
together. Do the work—and have the reward; obey the precept—and enjoy the
promise; "Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in
me--put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you." Be careful
of the former, and do not be anxious about the latter; if the precept is
performed, the promise shall be made good.
Doctrine 1. Christians must be learners before
they can be doers.
Doctrine 2. He has learned well who has learned to
Doctrine 3. Christians' eyes, as well as their ears, may
help them on in piety. The holy examples of ministers should be living
sermons to people. "Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me,
or seen in me--put it into practice." Therefore, the Apostle exhorts,
Philippians 3:17, "Join with others in following my example, brothers, and
take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you." 1
Corinthians 11:1, "Be followers of me, as I am of Christ." That is, either,
"I have been a follower of Christ, be therefore followers of me"; or else,
"be followers of me as far as I have been a follower of Christ."
Those ministers may go off the stage with honor and
comfort, who have left behind them the good seed of sound doctrine,
and the good savor of a holy example. For my own part, what my
doctrine and manner of life has been among you—you are witnesses, and God
also. However, I have great reason to judge and condemn myself before the
Lord, and to bewail that my life has been less exemplary and useful than it
should have been! Yet I go off from you with this testimony upon my heart,
that I have not been of those who bind heavy burdens and lay them on other
men's shoulders—but will not touch them with one of their fingers. My
endeavor has been to press on my own soul, and hold out in my own practice,
that word of life which I have preached to you. Therefore, I am bold, in
this sense, to exhort you, in the words of the Apostle, "Be followers of me"
as far forth as you have seen me a follower of Christ."
DOCTRINE 4. Godly ministers, when they are departing from
their people, would gladly leave God behind them. Though it is not
unusual that, when the Lord sends them away, He goes with them. God and His
messengers often take their farewell of people together; yet their earnest
desire is that, though they must leave—yet the Lord would stay.
DOCTRINE 5. Faithful ministers would be messengers of
peace, going as well as coming. As the Apostles' first words were to be,
"Peace be unto you", so some of this Apostles' last words were, "the God of
peace shall be with you."
DOCTRINE 6. Whenever ministers part with their people, if
they can but leave godliness in them, they shall certainly leave God with
them. Those who obey the gospel, whatever or whomever they lack, shall
ever be in a peaceful and blessed condition.
"Put it into practice", that is, live in the practice and
power of that doctrine of godliness "which you have received and heard", and
then fear not, "the God of peace shall be with you."
This doctrine I shall fully prove to you after I have
premised, first, the doctrine of godliness; the sum whereof take in these
The Doctrine of Godliness
1. Jesus Christ, who came into the world to save
sinners—came also to sanctify and purge them from their sins.
2. Those who believe in Jesus must be careful to maintain
good works—and to live a godly life.
3. This godliness is not such a slight, easy, and empty
thing, as the mistaken world imagines. True godliness consists in an exact
conformity of the whole man, heart and life—to the whole will of God.
4. As whoever does not believe in Jesus cannot he
saved—so whoever is short of this true, sincere godliness cannot be saved.
This is the sum of that doctrine which I have preached
unto you, which, being the eternal truth of God, I herein embark my whole
soul and life, desiring to be found in that same Jesus, and to be found
walking in that same way of righteousness which I have declared unto you.
Second, my design and aim in preaching this doctrine to
you, has been to beget in you and, through the influence and assistance of
the eternal Spirit, to bring you to this true godliness. I have
travailed in birth with you that Christ might be formed in you; that I might
leave you possessors and partakers of that grace which accompanies
salvation; that your faith might stand not in the wisdom of men but in the
power of God; that your repentance might be repentance unto life not to be
repented of; that you might obey from the heart that form of doctrine which
has been delivered unto you; that you might stand complete in all the will
of God; that you might be holy and harmless, the children of God without
rebuke in the midst of a crooked generation, among whom you must shine as
lights in the world, holding forth the word of life; that, being rooted and
grounded in love, you might comprehend with all saints what is the height,
and depth, and length, and breadth, and might know the love of Christ which
passes knowledge, and be filled with all the fullness of God.To this end
have I taught everyone, and warned everyone, that I might present you
perfect in Christ Jesus.
Third, that as far forth as the success has answered my
design and aim upon any of your souls, so far forth you stand entitled to
this glorious promise in the text, "the God of peace shall be with you."
Look how many souls there are among you—who live in the power and obedience
of those truths you have received. To so many I can, with confidence, give
this farewell of the Apostle without "ifs" or "ands" — "the God of peace
shall be with you." To whomever the Lord has been a God of grace, to
them will He be a God of peace. Whoever among you has this God of
grace dwelling and ruling in you—shall certainly find this God of
peace dwelling and abiding with you.
These things premised, I shall
now give you the full proof of the doctrine, in the following reasons.
The doctrine, you remember, is that those who obey the gospel, whatever or
whomever they lack, shall ever be in a peaceful and blessed condition. The
First, the God of peace shall be with them.
Second, if God is with them, all things whatever befall
them, shall make for their good.
REASON 1. The God of peace shall be with them.
Practice these things—live in the obedience of the holy Doctrine which you
have received—and the God of peace shall be with you. This glorious promise
is pregnant with all the blessings that heaven and earth can afford. If you
ask, "Why, what is there in it?" God is in the promise; all that is in God
is here assured to the godly. The philosophers of old attained to some
glimmerings of the excellencies which are in God, by these three ways:
First, conceiving of Him as a Being removed from all
things signifying imperfection: as ignorance, impotence, iniquity,
corruptibility, alteration, or any limits or bounds of His essence, power
Second, conceiving of Him as the Fountain of all other
beings; and thence concluding that, whatever excellencies or perfections are
scattered up and down in the whole creation—are all united in Him from whom
they had their original.
Third, by way of excellency; so that whatever perfection,
whatever goodness, is to be found in any creature, though it is not to be
found in God formally—yet there is that in Him, He being the first cause of
all, that infinitely, superabundantly, answers them all. Though there is not
the same specific excellencies in Him, nor those very pleasures and delights
issuing from Him which the creatures yield—yet there are such excellencies,
such perfections, as transcend and surpass them all. The Scriptures tell us
more positively and plainly that God is almighty, omniscient, omnipresent,
infinite, eternal, unchangeable, all-sufficient, holy, righteous, gracious,
the portion, the protection, the rewarder, yes, the exceeding great reward
of those who diligently seek Him. And this is He who is in the promise. God
is in the promise! I must not enlarge in this spacious field. I shall keep
nearer the text, and shall confine myself to these four particulars:
1. God is in the promise—as the God of PEACE, as the
and bestower of peace. The greatest of
blessings is the blessing of peace; peace has all blessings included in it.
It has possession, fruition, and security; it has plenty, pleasure, and
safety. Where there is no peace, there is no security for the holding, nor
opportunity of enjoying what we have. Whatever we have, we have it as if we
had it not. Peace is the greatest of blessings.
Peace with God is the most glorious peace. What is
there that is excellent, what is there that is desirable— which is not
comprehended in this peace with God? Where there is peace, there is
pardon. Guilt cannot consist with this peace; "being justified by faith,
we have peace with God." Where there is peace, there is grace and
holiness; "There is no peace, says my God, to the wicked." Where there
is peace, there is love and good will. As love, so peace is
the union of hearts. "The God of peace is with you" signifies no less than
this: The Almighty God bears you good will. These two, peace and good will,
are twins: "on earth peace, and goodwill towards men." Where there is peace,
there is life, everlasting life; internal peace is the seed of
eternal peace. This peace is a portion; peace with God is our possession of
the God of peace. This peace is a sanctuary; if the God of peace is with us,
the peace of God will keep our hearts.
Christians, in the world you must have trouble. Suppose
that you do have trouble—yet in Him you shall have peace, who has overcome
the world. Isaiah 26:3, "You will keep him in perfect peace (in "peace,
peace," as it is in the original) whose mind is stayed on You." Psalm
85:8, "I will hear what the Lord God will speak; He will speak peace to His
people and to His saints." What a clattering is there in the world! What
tumults and commotions are raised about the followers of Christ, as if the
world were falling about their ears! The devil speaks wrath; evil men speak
death and bonds to them, breathing out threatenings, reproaches,
persecutions against them. In the midst of all this fearful noise, whatever
men or devils speak—I will hearken, said the Psalmist, to what the Lord God
will speak. Oh, He will speak peace to His saints!
Let the sons of contention do what they can, the sons of
God shall be sons of peace. They shall live in peace; they shall die in
peace; they shall dwell in peace forever. Isaiah 32:17-18, "The work of
righteousness shall be peace, and the effect of righteousness shall be
quietness and assurance forever. And my people shall dwell in a peaceable
habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting places." Oh, how
great is the peace they have, who love Your law! Christians, fear not to
follow God; let not that sad word, nor the fulfilling of it, scare you out
of your duty, "All who will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer
persecution." What if they do, while you are able to say, "I am
persecuted—but I have peace. I am poor—but I have peace; I am in a
prison—but I have peace; I am in a wilderness—but I have peace; though all
the world be against me, God is at peace; my soul is in peace." What
discouragement should all that be to you?"
2. He who is the God of peace—is the God of POWER.
He promises peace, and He promises no more than He can perform. He
can create peace. He can make their enemies to be at peace with them. He can
make a league for them with the beasts of the field, with the lions, with
the wolves, and with the most brutish among the people. He can say to the
proud winds and waves, "Peace, be still!" and they obey Him. He can give
them rest from the days of adversity; He can give them rest in
the days of adversity; He can give his beloved sleep upon the points of
sword and spears.
3. He who is the God of peace—is the God of PATIENCE.
This is my great fear that, though God gives peace—yet I shall break my
peace. The God of peace is with me! Oh, this is He whom I trouble daily by
my distrusts, discontents, impatiences, murmurings. May such a heart have
the peace of God? What peace, so long as such unbelief, so much iniquity as
I find daily within me, remains upon me? Will He, with whom no iniquity can
dwell, dwell in that heart where there is so much iniquity, by which He is
provoked every day? But He who is the God of peace—is also the God of
patience; who, though He will not bear the iniquities of His
adversaries—yet He will bear much with the infirmities of His people.
"But if his sons forsake my law and fail to walk in my ways, if they do not
obey my decrees and fail to keep my commands—then I will punish their sin
with the rod, and their disobedience with beating. But I will never stop
loving him, nor let my promise to him fail. No, I will not break my
covenant; I will not take back a single word I said." Psalm 89:30-34.
4. He who is the God of peace—is the God of HOPE.
no peace in possession, whatever there is in the
promise. I live in the fire; I am born a man of trouble. What
likelihood is there that I should ever live to see a good day? My comforts
are broken; my estate is lost; my liberty is gone; friends I have none;
enemies I have—many and mighty. I dwell in Mesech; I have my habitation in
the tents of Kedar; I am for peace—they are for war. Wherever I look, round
about me, before me, behind me, on the right hand or on the left—all speaks
trouble and terror to me. I have no peace.
What, do you have no hope of peace, either? Where
is your God, man? Have you a God in you—and yet no hope in
you? The God of peace-and yet no peace! The God of hope—and yet no hope!
"The God of hope will yet fill you with joy and peace in believing," Romans
15:13. "Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put
your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God." Psalm
43:5. The God of hope will open a window of hope in the
darkest times—and a door of hope in the most desperate cases. The God
of hope will bear up the spirits of His saints in hope, against hope; and
this hope will never disappoint them. It shall never be said, "there is no
peace, there is no hope," until it can be said "there is no God in Israel."
But how, or in what sense, is it to be understood, that
this God of peace will be with us? I answer in three particulars:
1. The HEART of God will be with you. Joseph's
blessing, "the good will of Him who dwelt in the bush" will be your portion,
Deuteronomy 33:16. What was that bush? The church of God. What case was the
bush in? It was all on fire; it was all in a flame. Who was it who dwelt in
the bush? God was in the bush—and that kept it from consuming, though
not from burning. The good will of this God shall be with you—His
love, His favor, His care. "I love those who love Me," Proverbs 8:17. "The
Lord loves the righteous," Psalm 146:8. The love of God, is the womb of all
good. Hence sprang "the morning-star"; from the love of God, came the
Son of God. Hence came that "womb of the morning", the blessed gospel
which is so big with glorious grace, with light, life, pardon, peace, glory,
immortality; from the love of God came the glorious gospel of God. "The
upper springs"—all spiritual and heavenly blessings, "the nether
springs"—all earthly and outward blessings—all rise and bubble up out of
this fountain, the love of God.
The precious things of heaven, the precious fruits
brought forth by the sun, the precious fruits put forth by the moon, the
chief things of the ancient mountains, the precious things of the lasting
hills, the precious things of the earth, and the fullness thereof, all these
flow in with "the good will of Him that dwelt in the bush."
Love is all. The Apostle tells us that our love to
God is the fulfilling of the law; that is, it will bring forth all
that to God, all that duty and obedience, which the law requires. I may tell
you that God's love to us is the fulfilling of the gospel; that is,
it will pour down all that upon us; it will do all that for us, which the
gospel promises. Look over the whole gospel; read and study every precious
leaf and line of
that blessed book and, if there is enough in all that to
make you blessed and to encourage you on in your holy course—all this is
yours! You have that love of God with you—which will fulfill the Gospel.
There shall not one jot or tittle fail you, of all that the Gospel promises.
"The zeal of the Lord Almighty will perform this," Isaiah 9:7.
2. The HELP of God will be with you—the Lord
will be your Helper in the day of your distress. Hebrews 13:5-6, "He has
said, I will never leave you, nor forsake you." So that we may boldly say,
"The Lord is my helper, I will not fear what man can do unto me." He has
said, "I will not leave you", and, therefore, we may say, "I will not fear."
He has said, "I will be your helper", and, therefore, we may boldly say,
"The Lord is my helper." He has said that He will not forsake you, He will
Our case may be so desperate—as to be above all human
help. If one should cry out, as the woman to the king of Israel, "Help,
O king!" the king must answer, "If the Lord does not help you, whence shall
I help you?" If he cries out, "Help! Oh, my friends!" all these must answer,
"If the Lord does not help you, how shall we help you?" But what case is
there in which a "Help Lord!" will not do? Foolish men count their case
desperate, when they come to their "God help!" That is a usual
expression to set forth the extremity and helplessness of any man's case.
When we see men lost in any misery, and their case utterly hopeless—then to
signify our sense of such men's lost condition, we cry out, "God help that
man! God help that woman! They are lost creatures!" Aye—but if men
understood and considered what the help of the Lord is, they would see there
could be no case so desperate but a "Help, Lord!" might recover all,
1 Samuel 30:6. When David was greatly distressed, and all was gone, "he
encouraged himself in the Lord His God." Consider here two things:
What his case was. He was in great distress; he
had lost all that he ever had. His spoils that he had taken were all gone;
his grain, his cattle, his wives and his city were all lost. He did not have
a habitation in all the world; he had nothing left him but a poor army, and
these were worse than lost. They were even ready to turn against him. "The
people spoke of stoning him—but he encouraged himself in the Lord his God."
What the outcome was. Why, God helped him to all
he had again; verse 19, "There was nothing lacking to them, neither small
nor great, neither sons nor daughters; neither spoil, nor anything they had
taken: David recovered all." Hence note that a Christian, when he has
lost all, has yet a God to go to at last. While a Christian has a God to
go to, his case is never desperate. Let him but encourage himself in his
God—and all will be recovered.
When Christians are at their worst, when they are brought
as low as the pride and malice of the ungodly can lay them, though they
should be stripped naked and left destitute of all their comforts, though
all the world should ride on their backs and tread on their necks—yet do not
rejoice against the poor people of God. Though they fall, they shall arise;
when they are at their worst, there is still help for them in their God.
3. The PRESENCE of the Lord shall be with them.
they may be scattered, they shall not be scattered from
their God. That promise made to Moses, Exodus 33:14, "My presence shall go
with you", belongs to all the Israel of God. "My presence"; in the original
it is, "My face"; in the Septuagint, "Myself shall go with you."
The presence of God is either general, or
By His general presence, He is everywhere. He
fills all things. He beholds all things. He upholds all things. He governs
all things. But I will let this pass, as it is not so proper to our purpose.
There is His special or gracious presence,
whereby He manifests Himself to be with His people. This He does three ways:
1. In some visible tokens of His presence; as in those
extraordinary tokens—the pillars of the cloud and of the fire; and in
those ordinary tokens—the ark and the temple of old, and the
ordinances of the gospel now.
2. In some inward influences upon the heart of His
3. In some visible and signal effects of His presence,
whereof there are very many. There are, among others, these two notable
effects of God's gracious presence, which His people, by virtue of this
promise, may with confidence expect: guidance and protection.
They shall be led in their way; and they shall be hidden in their way.
First, guidance. The Lord will be with them to
lead them and guide them in the way that they should go. Psalm
25:9, "The meek will He guide in judgment, the meek will He teach His way."
Psalm 107:7, "He led them forth by the right way, that they might go
to a city of habitation." Psalm 5:8, "Lead me, O Lord, in Your
righteousness, because of my enemies; make Your way straight before my
face." The Lord leads His people in their way chiefly by His Word, which is
a light to their feet, and a lantern to their paths; and, sometimes, also by
His providences, hedging up all byways, and leaving but one way open to
them, which has the least appearance of the way of God; so ordering the
matter, that any other way that is before them looks with too foul a face,
to leave any doubt upon them whether it is the way of God or not.
It is never uncomfortable to the people of God, while
they see their way before them; doubts about their way are more
perplexing than dangers in their way. When they know what God would
have them do, they can cheerfully trust Him for anything they are likely to
suffer. Do you meet with wolves or lions in the way? You may bless God it is
there you meet them; it would be ill meeting them elsewhere.
Second, protection in their way. Psalm 31:20, "You
shall hide them in the secret of your presence, from the pride of man; you
shall keep them secretly in a pavilion, from the strife of tongues. You
shall hide them in Your presence, or face." Your light shall be their dark
place to cover them. "You are my hiding place," Psalm 32:7. "In the secret
of Your presence." The saint's hiding place is a secret: such where neither
the pride of man can find them, nor can they understand what it is.
Reproaches shall not find those whose souls are hidden in God; they are not
found when they are found. They are hidden when they seem to lie most open
and most exposed to men's will and lust.
Sinners do not understand what refuge the saints
have in God. It is a great secret, a mystery to them. As the joy of the
saints, the comforts of the saints, are a secret—a stranger cannot
understand his joy. They do not understand what kind, or how great security;
what sure nor sweet repose the saints find in God. The secret
of God's presence is a sure and a sweet resting place for all His saints;
but how sure and how sweet, no man knows but those who enjoy it. The secret
intimations of the care of God for them—-of His everlasting
kindness to them, of His governing hand in all that befalls them,
working it to their greater good; the secret supports and
refreshings darted in like the beams of His countenance; their secret
sense of their safety—will yield such rest in the day of greatest
adversity, as men can neither see—nor take from them.
The pillar of the cloud interposed—-both hindered the
Egyptians' pursuit—and hid from their eyes the comfort of that light which
shone upon the camp of Israel. Moses knew what the comfort of God's
presence meant when he said, Exodus 33:15, "If your Presence does not go
with us, do not send us up from here!" Israel was then in a wilderness,
among wild beasts, among briars and thorns, in a weary pilgrimage; but they
had God among them! The Lord was carrying them to Canaan, the land of their
rest, a land flowing with milk and honey; but Moses prayed, "If your
Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here!" We would rather
be where we are, in a wilderness with God, than go to Canaan and leave our
God behind us! If Your presence goes with us, we are willing to go when You
will; where You will, which way You will; though through the armies of
enemies. We will go anywhere as long as God goes with us. The absence of God
makes a Canaan worse than a wilderness; the presence of God
makes a wilderness better than a Canaan. And this presence of
God shall be the lot of all His saints.
REASON 2. If God is with you, all shall work for your
eternal good. All providential occurrences and events whatever,
all difficulties, straits, disasters, disappointments whatever that may come
upon you—shall work for your eternal good. Roman 8:31, "If God is with us,
who can be against us?" Who can be against us? That is, none can be
against us; or, if any is—yet those who are against you, shall be
for you. Genesis 43:36, Said old Jacob, "all these things are against
me!" But yet, as old as he was, he lived to see all these things working
for him. Romans 8:28, "We know all things shall work together for
good, to those that love God." This is such a promise as, if it were
thoroughly believed, would set our feet on the necks of all our fears and
dangers, and will prove the truth of Samson's riddle, "From the one who eats
came something to eat; out of the strong came something sweet."
Now, because there is so great encouragement to godliness
in it, I shall spend the more time in enlarging upon it; and shall show:
First, what those things are which are especially
intended in that comprehensive term "all things."
Second, what that good is which these things shall work
Third, to whom these things shall work for good.
Fourth, how these things shall work for good.
Fifth, that they shall undoubtedly work for good to them
that love God.
First, what those things are which are especially
intended in that comprehensive term "all things." There are some,
like Augustine and others, who understand it universally, of all things
whatever, whether good or evil. Even the sins of the saints
work together for their good. God often brings good out of these evils,
making use of former sins, to be forces against future sins. There is
nothing which makes the sinner more weary and wary of sin--than sin itself.
The review of the evils we have done--often frightens us from doing any
more. When you look back on sin and see its horrid face--you will fear it
the more whenever you meet it again. There is no argument which more
effectually humbles and breaks the heart, and makes it more fearful and
watchful against sin--than the shame and the smart of those sins we have
fallen by! This is true—God often makes use of sin to be its own cure; and,
therefore, it is sometimes seen that the chief of sinners have come
to be the chief of saints.
Yet, besides that, this is not the subject matter that
the Apostle here treats. Let those who bring sin within the compass of this
promise—that even all the sins of the saints shall work for their good; let
such tell us, how or in what way it is imaginable that the sinful decays of
such who backslide from God and never recover to their former life and
vigor, but live and die in a languishing state of soul; let them tell us how
such sins can be imagined to work for their good. Until then we must enter
our dissent from this interpretation. This, then, is not the sense of the
promise—that all sins shall work together for good. And yet, if it were, it
would be but a poor argument to take the more liberty to sin—because God
will turn it to good. This would be as rational as for a man to tear his
flesh, break his bones, pluck out his eyes, and burn his house—because God
will turn all his suffering to good. He is little better than mad—who would
not conclude such a man out of his wits.
Others say that this promise pertains to the evil
things which befall the saints, their sufferings and afflictions; to
that vanity, and those vexations they are in bondage under, and under which,
with the whole creation, they groan and travail in pain, waiting for their
redemption, of which the Apostle had been treating in the former part of the
chapter. And yet, while they pitch the sense especially on such things as
these, they grant it may be extended to all other things, sin only excepted;
to all things and events, whether prosperous or afflicting.
These I take to have hit it right. All troublesome
things, all the sufferings and afflictions of the saints, and
not only these—but all other things whatever, which in the whole course of
Providence are their lot or portion, all the dealings of God with them, all
the dispensations of Providence towards them—shall all work for their good.
Second, in what sense, all things may be said to work
good to them. The sense in general is this: they shall all work
to their welfare. They shall all happen to them for the better; there shall
nothing befall them, but one time or other they shall have reason to say,
"It was well for me that it was thus with me. The wisdom and goodness of God
cut out such portions continually for me, led me through such a series and
succession of cases and events which, though I could not understand—yet now
I see that every condition, every contingency and
occurrence of my life, through which Providence led me—was useful and
could not well have been omitted, but it would have been the worse for me."
Thus, the promise in the general.
Particularly, for the fuller understanding what good
it is that all things work to, consider that there is a twofold good
of the saints:
1. such as they obtain and enjoy while they are in their
way or course;
2. such as they shall obtain when they have gotten to the
end of their way, when they are come to their place.
Or thus: there is a threefold good of the saints:
1. temporal good
2. spiritual good
3. eternal good
1. Temporal good, or the outward good things
of this life, which may serve and please, and delight us in these days of
our pilgrimage; which may abide with us and attend us to our graves—but
there will take their leave of us.
2. Spiritual good, which is either:
(1) External good, as the ordinances of God, the
light, liberties, and privileges of the gospel, the society, and communion
of saints, and our peaceful and plentiful enjoying of them; or
(2) Internal good, as spiritual grace, faith,
love, hope, and patience.
3. Eternal good, or that glory and joy, that
everlasting rest and peace, the possession of that incorruptible, and
undefiled inheritance, which is reserved in heaven for us. Now here note
First, our outward good things are only good for
us—as they are conducive to the good of our souls. This world is but a
nursery for eternity. We are planted in this world—in order to our
transplanting into the eternal world; and whatever we have here is either
good or evil according to the respect that it bears to the eternal world. As
far forth as our immortal part is improved by these perishing
things—so far forth only, are they good for us. He who has this world's
goods—and is not hereby made more rich towards God; he who prospers in this
world—and yet his soul does not prosper; much more, he whose worldly
fullness becomes the emptiness and leanness of his soul—are these good
things good for him? Is he in prosperity upon a true account—whose soul does
It cannot be universally said, that it is good to be
rich; it is good to be in health; it is good to be in honor; it is good to
be at liberty. The contrary may sometimes be true. It is good to be
poor, to be sick, to be in disgrace, to be in bonds. The necessity of our
souls often requires it. Then alone, is it good to be full and to
abound—when our outward abundance furthers our spiritual welfare.
Christians, our outward good things are only good for
us—as far forth as they conduce to our spiritual good. Could we receive this
truth and live under the power of it—what a different judgment would we then
have of all these worldly matters from what we now have! And how strangely
would the course of the world he then changed! Would there then be such
violent and eager pursuing these carnal things? Would there then be such
whining, complaining, and murmuring at every cross providence? We
would then say, "This may be good for me; good for my soul—however sad it
Second, external spiritual good things—the ministry
and ordinances of the gospel—are good to us as far as they conduce to our
eternal spiritual good; and they, being ordinarily so, it must be concluded
that, ordinarily, it is good for us that we enjoy them, and are not deprived
of them. God may see cutting Christians short of those privileges and
liberties to be sometimes needful for them; and then even this also makes
for their good.
Third, our inward spiritual good is good for us, so
far as it tends to our eternal good; and, therefore, grace is ever good for
us. It is always true that it is good to be holy, good to be humble, to live
in the fear of God, and to flourish in His grace. We may have too much money
or too much material things—but we can never have too much grace. Our
greatest flourishing and fruitfulness in grace, will certainly abound to our
more full reward.
Fourth, note that this is the plain sense and meaning
of the promise, "all things shall work for good." That is, whatever
befalls us—shall certainly promote our internal and eternal welfare. And
as far as the outward privileges of the gospel, yes, and the good things of
this life, conduce towards this—all shall work for good. If it is good for
us to be rich, if it is good for us to be in honor, good for us to be at
liberty—good for our souls, good in reference to our eternal state, if it is
good for us that we enjoy the ministry of the gospel—there shall nothing
befall us, which shall hinder us. There shall be nothing lacking to us, that
might further our good.
The sum is that all providential dispensations shall he
so ordered that we shall lack nothing but what it is better to lack—than
have. We shall suffer nothing but what we cannot well be without—but what
the good of our souls requires. That which we possess, and that which we
suffer, shall not fail to bring about its end—the advancing of our eternal
And if this is the meaning, what a glorious promise is
this! What more can any rational man desire! Nothing shall befall him—but
shall be for his good! He shall be deprived or kept short of nothing—but
what it is better to be without than have. He who is unsatisfied with this
promise, it is either from lust or unbelief. Either he does not believe that
God is true and will perform this word—or else it is because
his lust must be satisfied. He who desires a large
worldly estate, ease, pleasure, liberty, or anything else upon any other
terms but as they may be for his eternal and spiritual good—has as much lost
his wits as his faith. And he who will take upon him to know what is good
for him, better than God—may as well take upon him the government of the
world. You may, with as good reason, desire a fever or a cancer that you may
have the pleasure of your drink—as for the pleasures that carnal things
would bring you in to desire them, when they would be a snare to your souls.
Thirdly, to WHOM these things shall work for good?
To those who love God—to those who are called according to His purpose—to
the people of God who you see are here described by their election and
effectual calling—the called according to His purpose and their
sanctification; those who love God. Love God—and you will live in the
obedience of His whole will. These are the people to whom the promise is
made; prove your calling and election, prove your sanctification, and you
may write your names in this glorious promise: all things shall work for
To those who are rebels and reprobates from God, all
things shall work together for evil. While hurtful things work
together for good to the saints—all good things work together
for the hurt of sinners. Their peace hurts them; their
plenty hurts them; their pleasure hurts them; yes, both their
prosperity and adversity, their plenty and their
poverty, their pleasure and their trouble, their honor
and disgrace, everything which befalls them, turns to their harm.
Their prosperity destroys them; their table is their snare;
their pleasures are their plagues; and their very punishments
are turned into sin! Everything which befalls them, heightens and hardens
them in their wickedness, and ripens them for God's vengeance. God is not
with them and, therefore, nothing prospers with them. God is with His
saints and, therefore, nothing comes amiss to them—but all for their greater
advantage. Christians, this is your portion and your privilege, wherein the
men of this world shall neither partake with you, nor ever be able to
deprive you of it!
Fourthly, HOW all things work for their good.
How shall the evil things, the sufferings of this life, be for their good?
How can this be? Must we disbelieve our senses, and forfeit our reason,
before we can believe the Scriptures? Must we call evil good—and good evil?
Must we count darkness light—and light darkness? Is pleasure pain—and pain
pleasure? Is loss gain—and gain loss? Is ease torment—and torment ease? Does
religion make things cease to be what they are—and to be what they are not?
Or at least, must we believe that darkness is the mother of light—that good
is the daughter of evil? Can we gather grapes from thorn bushes—or figs from
thistles? Can darkness gives light—or death itself brings forth life? How
can these things be?
But must God give a reason for His actions? Though
evil cannot bring good; and darkness cannot bring forth light;
yet God can bring forth good out of evil—and light out of darkness!
Though darkness cannot bring forth light and evil cannot bring forth good by
a natural causation; yet God can make evil an occasion of good!
Though the torment the medicine puts men to, is not ease—yet may it not work
towards ease? The storm, though it does not help—yet it may hasten the
laborer on his work or the traveler on his way. May not the darkness of the
night, make us more diligent in the day? May not sickness teach men
more temperance; and poverty teach men more frugality?
But to proceed more distinctly, how can the saints' evil
things work to their good? That they do so cannot be denied—unless we will
deny Scripture and common sense and experience. But how does it come to
pass? I answer in four particulars:
1. The afflictions and tribulations of the saints are the
way that leads them on to the possession of that good which God has intended
to them. Afflictions are the way of the kingdom; the
cross is the way to the crown. Acts 14:22, "Through many
tribulations we must enter into the kingdom of God." Psalm 66:11-12,
"You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs. You let men ride
over our heads; we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a
place of abundance." Observe it, their troubles are their way to
their triumph; their very falling into the net is their way to
escape. Their enemies boast, "Escape! Arise! Yes, let them free themselves
with such hopes while they will; we have them sure enough. We have them
under foot; we have them in the net. If this is their way, we will keep them
in their way long enough! Now we have them down, they shall not be able to
rise." Aye—but yet it appears, through all this, that the Lord led them
forth into a place of abundance.
When Israel was to go to Canaan, they had the
brick-kilns, the Red Sea, the wilderness, and the Jordan River in their way.
Could anyone have imagined that the bondage, the straits they were under,
the doubling of their tasks, the cruelty of their taskmasters, their
enclosure at the Red Sea—meant any good to them? Yet how did it fall out at
last? Their darkest dispensations had light in their latter end; their
greatest bondage led to their greatest liberty. Every cross providence is a
step to the accomplishment of the promise. The wheel is ever moving on to
its end. It moves forward even when it seems to go quite backward. The
river, by its many turnings and windings, forward and backwards, is still in
motion to the sea when it seems to be running quite contrary.
Christians, if ever the salvation of God seems to be
removed farther from you, if the work of God should at any time seem to go
backward, if cross-winds should turn the whole course so that you appear
rather to be marching back to Egypt than on to Canaan—yet be
not discouraged. Though your way is an unlikely and unpromising
way, though you are led about forwards and backwards—yet still you are
moving on! Though the lesser wheels are never so cross and contrary
in their motions—yet the great wheel is still moving right on to your
blessed and hoped end. God intends your good—your spiritual good here, your
eternal good hereafter. And believe it now, for He will let you see it
hereafter—that those very things which most threaten your undoing, and a
total abortion of your hopes—are all made to concur to bringing them about,
and to your more full and speedy possession of them.
Note further here other things:
(1) All things work for their good. Not they shall
work—but they do work. The work is already on the wheel, and
every wheel is in its motion, works for you; not only your brethren, the
saints and angels, who are all praying for your peace and seeking your good,
but your enemies also. The dragon, with all his armies, is at work for you;
all the councils of this world are already sitting upon the very matter. God
has called them together for this purpose; the pope, with all his conclave,
the Jesuits, priests, monks and friars, with all their conventicles; yes,
the devil, with all his conclave of hell—are all at work for the good of
It is true, they do not mean nor intend any such thing;
their designs are against you. They reckon that they are working for
themselves; as it is said concerning the Assyrian, "Woe to the Assyrian, the
rod of my anger, in whose hand is the club of my wrath! I send him against a
godless nation, I dispatch him against a people who anger me, to seize loot
and snatch plunder, and to trample them down like mud in the streets. But
this is not what he intends, this is not what he has in mind; his purpose is
to destroy, to put an end to many nations." Isaiah 10:5-7. God sent him
forth upon a design of His own, to execute His counsel in the punishing of
hypocrites, to purge out the chaff from the wheat. Nevertheless, he does not
intend so, nor does his heart think so. The Assyrian minds not what God's
design is—but follows his own design, fights for himself and conquers for
himself; but God's design is still carried on by him—though he thinks not of
All the events in the world are driving the same way.
Every disease or infirmity which comes upon you, every loss that you
sustain, every scoff or reproach that you suffer, the shame in your faces,
the sorrow of your hearts, the torment in your affections, the aches in your
bones—are all working your good. All the changes of your conditions, your
fair weather and your foul weather, your sunshine and your clouds, your
plenty and your poverty, your health and your pains, your liberties and your
prisons—are all working for you. Your good is already working by all these
things. See, Christians, what a harvest of blessedness is growing up to
you—out of this promise! The seed is already sowing; your good is already
working; God is at work; the whole creation is at work; men and angels, good
men and evil men, friends and enemies, heaven, and earth, and hell—are
already engaged to work your good!
They work together; that is, as some understand
it, they work together with God. All these second causes work
together with the first cause. Or, as others understand it, they work
together among themselves. There is such a uniting and concentrating of
these second causes in the same design that, however they seem to thwart,
cross, and destroy—yet they are all united in their end. They jointly
contribute to the welfare of the saints. Though, if I mistake not, this
latter is the best sense of the two—yet I know no reason why both may not be
In the hand, and under the presence, of Providence—all
these lower things concur and co-operate in the good of the believer. By the
way, observe what a harmony there is in all the works of Providence. The
most cross and thwarting occurrences all conspire, and go hand in hand, to
bring about the same end. As the differing virtues of various drugs all
concur to make up the medicine; as the differing sounds of several
strings or instruments all together make up the melody; as the
differing colors in a picture, the dark as well as the bright, jointly
contribute to the beauty of the painting—no less do the most contrary
and contradictory actions and events both make up the beauty of Providence,
and jointly subserve that one end to which, by an unseen hand and an
all-seeing eye, they are directed and intended.
(2) The evil things which befall the saints, come upon
them to keep out worse things. Wherever the cross comes, if it
had not come, something worse might. The cross may be a means to
secure from the curse; the curse was slain on the cross of Christ,
and our cross also has its use: to deliver us from it. 1 Corinthians 11:32,
"We are chastened by the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the
world." I would have died—if I had not suffered. It is no bad exchange to
have a cross instead of a curse.
(3) The evil things of the saints, prepare them for
better things; that they may work good for them, they are working
them to good, working out their sin and iniquity, wearying them of sin.
Hosea 2:6, "I will hedge up her way with thorns—then shall she say, I
will return". Sin brought afflictions into the world—and afflictions help
to carry sin out! The cross to which sin was once nailed—is not nailed
to sin; the saints can seldom be meddling with sin but they find it too
heavy for them. Our Lord beats the devil with His own weapons, by those very
means purging His saints by which he endeavors to pollute them; making those
very persecutions by which he labors to force them from holiness—to fix them
Christians, comfort your hearts. Those floods that are
cast against you shall but wash you the whiter, and make you more fit to be
partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light. Your purgatory
prepares you for your paradise. No unclean thing must enter in there,
and you are not likely to be made so clean as by falling into the hands of
the unclean. The saints never look so well, like sheep come from the
washing, as when they come up from the pots. Their very black makes them
lovely. Oh, Christians! What a comfort would it be if your experiences might
come in and seal to this truth; if you could say, "Thus it has been with me:
Before I was afflicted I went astray. I was proud, vain, wanton, slothful,
and carnal—but now have I kept Your Word!"
Sinners, whatever your mind is in persecuting the saints,
never think to debauch them by it. If that is your aim, you mistake your
course. The living spark which God has kindled in them will not be blown
out—but will be blown up by your puffing at it. The dirt you cast
upon them only scours them the brighter. You take the best course you can to
keep them closer to the Lord and His way; the warm sun will more hazard the
casting off of their garments—than the blustering wind. Let them alone; the
Spirit of the Lord within them, will be too hard for hell with all its black
regiments, and will not only secure them but advance them yet higher by all
their assaults. These stars shine the brightest, when the night is darkest.
When you have done your worst, it will be the better with them; though they
will not thank you—yet they will thank God for what they have suffered by
you. If this is your aim, to make them like yourselves, you may give over
such a vain attempt. Your fury is likely to do as little to force them, as
your sins are to invite them to a compliance with you. Your faces are too
foul to draw them into your love, and yet not fierce enough to drive them
into your fear. Satan, try your utmost strength and skill, and if you lose
not by your own play at last, if you do not find the poor people of God
gotten nearer heaven by your attempts of plucking them down to hell—then let
your lies be believed before the everlasting gospel!
Christians, make me not ashamed in this same confident
boasting of you. Yes, do not deny your God by allowing yourselves to be
corrupted by evil men. The Lord's glory relies upon your integrity and
steadfastness. The honor of His truth and faithfulness, lies at stake. He
has said that "they shall not be afraid of any evil tidings, their heart is
fixed, trusting in the Lord," Psalm 112:7. He has said, "By this shall their
iniquity be purged, and this shall be all the fruit to take away their sin."
God has said, "All things shall work together for good to them." They shall
not be the worse—but the better for all that befalls them; they shall love
Me and My holy ways the more. They shall cleave unto Me the closer; they
shall be made more pure and more tender by all they suffer for
God has ventured deep on you; do not make Him a liar. The
devil and his instruments will be ready to say concerning you, as once he
did to the Lord concerning His servant Job, "Put them into our power; let us
have the handling of them a while—and you shall quickly see what truth
there is in them, or what trust there is to them. They will curse
You to Your face; they will deny You to Your face. They will eat their own
words. They will be ashamed of their God, their godliness and confidence."
Let God be true, Christians, and the devil a liar. Be
living commentaries on this blessed text; let the world and its black prince
see that they cannot make you miserable because they cannot make you sinners
like themselves; that you are still the more upright for falling into the
hands of a crooked generation. Let them see that you are contented to serve
God for nothing! Though His hedge is removed from you—yet your heart is not
removed from Him. Be able to say, "Though all this has come upon us, our
heart is not turned hack; neither have we declined the way." Be increasing
in the grace of God, and abounding in the works of righteousness. Be a
standing witness for God in the world, and a seal to His Scriptures, and
especially to the glorious truth of this text.
(4) The evil things of the saints, prepare better
things for them. Their sufferings go towards their reward. "As the
sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds by
Christ." Every suffering comes with a comfort in its belly; and the sweet
is so great it swallows up the bitter. It is a hundred-fold that
the saints gain by all their losses in this life—but how great shall their
reward be in heaven! 2 Corinthians 4:17, "Our light affliction, which is but
for a moment, works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of
glory." They shall not only have weight for weight, measure for measure,
their load of glory for their load of sufferings—but they shall have
over-weight, over-measure; good measure, pressed down, heaped together, and
running over shall then be given unto them.
According to their deep poverty, shall be the height of
their riches; according as their blackness has been in their houses of
bondage shall, be their brightness in the land of promise. "For all your
shame, you shall have double", the double of your reproach in
renown, the double of your tears in triumphs. All your
bottled tears shall be returned in flagons of joy—yes, in rivers of eternal
By this time, Christians, you see what glory there is in
this good Word: "All things shall work together for good to those who love
5. All things do, and shall certainly work for good to
those who love God. That none may have the face to say all this
is but a dream, I shall, in the next place, bring in clear and undeniable
evidence that it is certainly and unquestionably so, as has been said. And
therefore know that all things do and shall certainly work for good to those
who love God. This (besides the testimony of the Scripture) I shall make
evident from these three propositions:
1. There is a Divine Providence which governs the world.
2. The design of Providence is the accomplishment of the
good purpose and promise of God.
3. The Providence of God shall never fail of
accomplishing its end.
1. There is a Divine Providence which governs the world.
The Epicureans, who deny Providence and leave all to chance and
fortune, may as well deny that there is a God, which yet they are ashamed to
stand to. It can be no way reconcilable to the infinite wisdom of God, who
made this glorious fabric with the various creatures therein, either not to
determine them to their ends—or else to take no care for the accomplishing
of those ends which He has determined. The whole current of Scripture is so
plain in these matters, that he who runs may read. Let the following
Scriptures, among others, be considered.
Psalm 97:1, "The Lord reigns, let the earth rejoice, let
the isles be glad." Psalm 145:15-16, "The eyes of all wait upon You, and You
give them their food in due season; You open Your hand, and satisfy the
desires of every living thing." Psalm 36:6, "You preserve man and beast."
Psalm 75:6-7, "For no one on earth—from east or west, or even from the
wilderness— can raise another person up. It is God alone who judges; he
decides who will rise and who will fall." Amos 3:6, "Shall there be evil in
a city—and the Lord has not done it?" Psalm 17:13-14, "Deliver my soul from
the wicked, which is Your sword; from men which are Your hand." The
confessions of those infidels, Nebuchadnezzar and Darius, speak the same,
Daniel 4:35, "All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does
as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one
can hold back his hand or say to him: What have you done?" Daniel
6:26-27, "I decree that everyone throughout my kingdom should tremble with
fear before the God of Daniel. For he is the living God, and he will endure
forever. His kingdom will never be destroyed, and his rule will never end.
He rescues and saves his people; he performs miraculous signs and wonders in
the heavens and on earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the
But, more distinctly, the Lord governs all inanimate
and animate creatures in their actions. He orders the stars in
their courses. He governs the winds and the floods. He brings forth the
winds out of His treasuries, He rides upon the wings of the wind. He makes
the cloud His chariots. He sits on the floods. The thunder, and the hail,
and the rain, and the frosts are all at His command. He gives snow like
wool, and scatters the musty frost like ashes. He casts forth the ice like
morsels. He sets bounds to the sea which it shall not pass. The birds of the
air, the beasts of the field, the fish of the sea, yes, the stones and dust
of the earth—are all at His beck and call.
More especially, He rules and governs the men of
this world. He sits in all the councils of men, though they see Him not. He
orders all their decrees; there is no decree which can pass, unless God
gives His vote. He rules in all the actions of men. Even those things which
are acted through our shortsightedness, do not come to pass without the
Providence of God. He rules in all the changes that are in the world. He
changes the times and the seasons. He changes kingdoms and governments. He
removes kings and sets up kings. He makes war and creates peace. He bends
the bow, breaks the bow, cuts the spear in sunder, and burn the chariots in
the fire. Peace and war, health and sickness, plenty and famine, life and
death, are all the disposal of His hand. He orders all the events and
causalities of the world, even from the greatest to the smallest. Without
Him, not a sparrow shall fall to the ground—nor a hair of the head shall
perish. Though there are causalities or contingencies to men—yet to the Lord
there are none. All things come to pass according as His hand and counsel
had before determined.
2. The design of Providence, as it respects the elect, is
the accomplishment of God's good purpose and promise. God's
Providence governs the world—and God's purpose and promise governs
Providence. All the works of Providence are according to God's purpose. God
does nothing in vain; it is not consistent with the wisdom of God, to do
anything for nothing. God would have His people look farther than to the
things which are before them, because all those things have a farther aspect
themselves. All the works of Providence have a double aspect: they look
backward to the purpose and promise—and look forward to the end
for which they are. As they look backward, so they have truth in them,
exactly answering the purpose and promise from which they have their birth.
As they look forward to their end, so they have good in them, and that good,
their subservience to their end, is the reason of their being. Here note two
The subserviency of things to their end is the goodness
of them; if the end is good, the means must as such be good
also. If what God has purposed and promised is good—then all things which
fall in between, having the respect of means to their accomplishment, must
upon that account be good. If our crosses and afflictions subserve the
bringing about of God's good will and good Word, we must say concerning
them, "Good are the works of the Lord." It is not how anything looks or
feels at present—but what it means and to what it tends. If the potion is
bitter and yet tends to health, if the messenger looks harsh—and yet comes
upon a good errand, you may bid him welcome. And thus, all the providences
of God are good.
If you should ask of any providence, "Why have you come?
Do you come peaceably? Do you come for good?" They must all answer, "Yes,
peaceably; for good, and no hurt. It is but to help all that good into your
hand—which has been in the heart, and has proceeded out of the mouth of your
God who loves you." There is not a messenger of Satan which comes to buffet
you—but is also a messenger from God which comes to you for good. The very
thorns in your flesh shall serve you for plasters; your eye-sores
shall be your eye-salve; and your very maladies shall be your
This relative goodness of all the works of providence is
the reason of their being. Therefore, God does what He does that, hereby, He
may do what He has said and intended. I do not say that the reason of God's
taking this or that means is always from anything in itself, or for its
natural tendency to such an end above anything else. God has His choice of
means. He can choose this or that at pleasure. He can make use
of what He will, to serve His design. But the reason why things are—is that
God, in His wisdom, saw their means to this good end, and thereupon, in His
providence, He orders and brings them to pass. So that, now, whatever
befalls a Christian, he has this to allay and take off the grievousness and
sharpness of it—"This would never have been, but for the good will and good
Word of the Lord to me. The Lord God has said He will bless me and do me
good. He will heal me, and sanctify and save me, and now He is about it. By
this, He is working that salvation for me."
Christians, you have no reason to say, "If the Lord is
with me, why am I thus? Why so poor, why so pained, why so persecuted, so
scorned and trampled upon? Surely, if the Lord had meant my good, it would
have been better than it is with me."
No, no, it is because the Lord is with you and means you
well—that He deals in this manner with you. The design of His providence
towards you—is the accomplishment of His promise.
3. The providence of God shall never fail of
accomplishing its end. There is nothing lacking which might give
us the fullest assurance hereof. For:
The providence of God has power with it. He who
has promised, is the Almighty. He who rules in the earth,
dwells in heaven and does whatever He will. "Our God is in heaven—and
does whatever He will." "From eternity to eternity I am God. No one can
oppose what I do. No one can reverse my actions!" Isaiah 43:13. Were it not
for our unbelief, our attitude would be still the same in greatest
difficulties as when the coasts are most clear. We might say of
difficulties, as the Psalmist of darkness, "There is no darkness with You,
to You the day and night are both alike." Difficulties are no difficulties
with Him, nor is there difference between hard and easy. He
can save with many or with few—and with none as well as
with some. We once read He had too many—but never that He had too
few, to bring about His work. Oh, how do we disparage the power of God when
our difficulties make us doubt! He is God and not man! Why, then, do you
doubt? Whatever God has said—He can do. Believe He is God, and you will
never say, "How can these things be?"
The providence of God has wisdom with it. He is
the only wise God—He is the all-wise God. "The Lord knows how to
deliver the godly out of temptations," 2 Peter 2:9. He knows what is good
for His saints—and when it will be in season. He understands what is proper
and pertinent to every case; what is proper to every purpose,
to every person, and for every season. He knows when it is a
season to abate and when to exalt; when to afflict and
when to deliver; when to put on the yoke and when to take
off the yoke; when to pull down and when to build up.
Everything is beautiful in its season. If mercies came out of season,
mercies would not be mercies; and if troubles came in their season, troubles
would not be troubles. He knows the best method and means to His end, the
fittest means. He sees sometimes the unfit test to us—to be the fittest; the
most unlikely unpromising means to us—often best serve God's end.
Christians, if you would receive every dispensation as coming from the hand
of the wise God, you would never quarrel with your lot nor say of anything
which befalls, "I might be happy—but this stands in my way." If you
would give God permission to be wiser than you, you would say, wherever you
are, "It is good for me to he here, this is my way to my rest."
The providence of God has faithfulness with it,
Psalm 25:10. All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth, to those who
keep His covenant and His testimonies, Psalm 111:8. His works are done in
truth. God's works may be said to be done in truth in a double sense. In
reality and in fidelity.
In reality. Not in show only, for God's comforts
are comforts indeed. God's salvation is salvation indeed. The devil will
come with his gifts, comforts, and deliverances—but they are, for the most
part—but like himself—shows and apparitions, quite another thing than what
they seem to be. Sinners' comforts, deliverances, and enjoyments, with which
the devil feeds them—leave them in as poor a case, and worse, than they
found them. You will never thank the devil for his kindnesses when you have
seen them for what they are. If the glittering glories and pleasures he
entices you by and entertains you with, prove to be trash and dirt and mere
lies in the end—then say, "The devil's works will be even like himself —
false and deceitful." But God is true, and all His works are done in truth.
In fidelity. His works are according to His Word,
1 Kings 8:24. "In Your faithfulness You have afflicted me," Psalm
119:75. Not only in Your faithfulness You have saved me, in Your
faithfulness You have comforted me, in Your faithfulness You have
succored me; but in Your faithfulness You have afflicted me. In
Your faithfulness, You have humbled me, broken me, and cast
me down. The promise of God is that we shall lack nothing; we shall
neither lack His staff nor His rod, neither comforts
nor crosses, neither joys nor sorrows. We cannot well
lack either—and we shall lack neither because God is faithful. You may not
only write down with the Apostle, "God is faithful, and will not allow you
to be tempted above that which you are able to bear." But you may write
also, "God is faithful and will not allow you to fall in temptation."
When it is seasonable, your hearts shall be glad; and, if
need be for a season, you shall be in heaviness. God is faithful; He will
ever be true to Himself and, therefore, to you. 2 Timothy 2:13, "He abides
faithful, He cannot deny Himself." Should He be false to His people, He
cannot be true to Himself, to His purpose and promise. His Word is not yes
and nay. God is not as a man that He should repent, that He should say and
not do. You may write God's name upon every Word He has spoken; you may
write His name, I AM, upon all that He has said.
Now Christians, put these three particulars together and,
if you cannot spell out the conclusion out of them—that the providence of
God will certainly accomplish His good purpose and promise
concerning you, you are of little understanding as well as of little
faith. If God governs the world, and nothing comes to pass but by His
providence; if providence governs according to God's purpose and promise,
providence cannot fail of accomplishing both. If God is almighty and
can, if God is wise and knows how, if God is faithful and
true, let the devil, if he can, with all his sophistry, evade the
conclusion—that he will certainly do all that good for you which He has
purposed and promised. If God is not able to perform, He is not almighty; if
He mistakes His way, if He uses impertinent, improper means, He is not the
all-wise God. If He does not actually perform what He is able and knows how
to do when He has said it, He ceases to be the true God. So that the matter
is brought plainly to this issue: if God is God, if God is the all-wise God,
if God is the true and faithful God, this Word which He has spoken, "All
things shall work together for good to those that love God", shall not fail
of its accomplishment in its season.
A few words of CAUTION
Having thus proved the doctrine, I shall add a few words
by way of caution.
CAUTION 1. Do not limit the Lord to your
time and way. God will make good His Word—but you must give Him
permission to take His own season. "He who believes shall not make haste."
Believe God—but do not pre-judge lest you fall into temptation. Put no more
into the promise, neither for matter nor circumstance, than God has put in
it. Put not that into the promise which God has not put in it lest you miss
and come short of that which God has put in it. Let others' mistakes and
miscarriages be warnings to you. Until God has manifestly said, "This is the
time", don't you say it. Build not your confidence on conjectures, your
faith on the strongest presumptions, lest your faith prove but a dream and
your confidence your confusion. Make not the promise of God of none effect
by looking for its effect out of season. Do not believe yourselves into
infidelity. Consider Acts 1:7, "It is not for you to know the times and the
seasons, which God has put in His own power." Study the Word and its
commentary, the works of God—but be sober in your conclusions.
This you may safely depend upon, and this will be enough,
if you have no more. God will make good His Word to you sooner or later—in
one time or other, in one way or other, in the best time, in the best way,
in the appointed time. Habakkuk 2:3, "Though it tarries, wait for it;
because it will surely come, and will not tarry." At least, at the end of
the days when you shall arrive on the banks of Canaan and shall then look
back on the promises and providences of God, you shall see and say, "God is
faithful. There has not failed one word of all that He has promised. Now I
understand, though once I could not, how every wheel was turning,
every instrument was moving, every event was working towards
my good and everlasting welfare!"
CAUTION 2. Let not your looking for mercy,
hinder the working of your affliction. It is not seldom, and the Lord grant
it is not too common a case—that our door of hope becomes a door of sin. We
do not set ourselves with that seriousness to humble, to purge ourselves
from our iniquities, as we would do if we apprehended our case more
desperate. Our fears and our sorrows have not their kindly work upon us; our
hope hinders it. We might have been more broken-hearted, had it not been for
our hopes of building up. When a person conceives himself to be dying, he
then falls to praying, repenting, and setting his heart in order because he
must die; but, upon a little hope of recovery, he lays by his dying thoughts
Christians, whenever you are under afflictions, take heed
that your expectation of deliverance is near; put it not so much the farther
off. Watch narrowly over yourselves and look diligently to it that your hope
of redemption does not harden your hearts nor hinder your humiliation and
repentance. Hope in God and wait for the promise of His coming; but know
that, until the rod has done its work, it is not likely in mercy to be laid
by, and it is better to be continued in the furnace—than to he brought forth
with your dross unpurged away.
By the way, learn hence two things.
First, rejoice in this promise of God. Has the
Lord put in your name here? Let your heart say, "It is enough." Be more
joyful in this, that God has thus undertaken the care of you, than if God
had wholly put you to your own keeping. In what will you rejoice, if not in
this—that the whole creation is engaged to do you a kindness, to help you
into the possession of your God? You may now not only submit to—but
thankfully embrace, every providence, knowing upon what errand it comes to
you—for good and not for hurt. You may now triumph not only in the
consternations, but in the triumphs of your enemies. Whether they ride over
your back or you tread upon their neck—it is all one—the outcome will be the
same. Your troubles and your consolations differ only in their countenance.
With whatever grim face your afflictions look, there are God's smiles
underneath. Learn to see through them, and you may see light on the other
side. Believe this promise—you may read it written upon everything that
befalls you. There's no messenger which comes, but brings this promise in
his hand, "Even this shall work for good." Read it, and rejoice.
Second, lay yourself down quietly under it. No
more perplexing or distracting cares what shall become of you, no more
unwarrantable shifting for yourself. Shift not for yourself—lest God should
leave you to your own shifts. Let not the violence of evil men disturb your
peace or provoke you to unpeaceableness. Whatever provocations you may have,
avenge not yourself, neither give place unto wrath, murmuring, or fears. In
patience, possess your soul, your God, and His good Word. Your strength is
to sit still. Stand still and see the salvation of God; you have nothing
to do—but to be holy. Let that be your only care; your God will see to
it you shall be happy. He is faithful, who has promised. Love God, and leave
yourself and your whole interest in this blessed word, "All things shall
work to you for good."
By this time you see something of the riches of this
promise. God is in the promise, the God of peace, the God of power, the God
of patience, the God of hope, the heart of God, the help of God, the
presence of God—by virtue whereof all that ever befalls you, shall work for
your good. I think the hearing of this promise opened should set your souls
and all that is within you to crying out, "Oh, that this were my portion!
Wherever my lot falls, as to outward things, though in a prison, though in a
desert, though on a dunghill, let the lot of my soul lie in this promise,
The God of peace shall be with you!"
Why, brethren, will you take up with godliness? You have
learned and received and heard the Word of the Lord—the word of faith, the
word of righteousness and holiness. Will you hearken to, will you obey these
words? "These things do—and the God of peace shall be with you." Oh, what
foolish creatures are we, that we should ever be afraid of true religion,
afraid of holiness, afraid to own, obey, and follow God and His holy ways!
What unreasonable fears are these to those who believe the Scriptures! If
the Scriptures are true, this is the only way, this following God in
holiness—to put yourselves out of all danger, to put yourselves into the
heart, arms, presence, and protection of the Almighty God of heaven and
earth! Oh, that I could persuade you in this—and there leave you! If you are
once in the Lord's arms, you are safe enough, into whatever hands
Christians, my business while I have been with you—has
been to bring you to God, to espouse you to Christ. I can give you assurance
that He will shortly come and make up the marriage. I must say to you, as
Naomi to Ruth, Ruth 3:12, "Sit still, my daughter, until you see how the
matter will fall; for the man will not he in rest, until he has finished the
thing this day." Sit still, Christians, until you see how matters will fall;
and, however they fall, know your Lord will not be at rest until He has
finished this thing and brought you home to be with Him where He is. I am
now parting from you in this confidence that, however, after a few days I
shall see your faces no more in this world; yet I shall shortly meet you in
the bride-chamber of glory where we shall forever be with the Lord!
Beloved in the Lord, I must now leave you—but give me
permission before I go to deal freely with you, and yet a little further, in
the close of my day, this once more to open my heart to you and to tell you:
I. What my parting fears are.
II. What my parting wishes for you are which I
carry upon my spirit.
I. My parting fears as I go off from you, are
1. 1 am afraid that there are many of you upon whom I
have bestowed my labor in vain. I am afraid that I have
instructed you in vain, exhorted, persuaded, beseeched, and reproved you in
vain. It was the Apostle's case, and his fear, concerning the Galatians,
chapter 4:11. It is my grief that, when I would have no more to speak but a
healing word, a comforting word—I must yet drop down a bitter word on some
of you; that when I would speak only from Mount Gerazim, I must yet again
speak to some from Mount Ebal; that when I would leave a blessing
behind me upon you all, I am likely to leave some bound under a curse.
It is grievous to me thus to speak—yet, for the discharge of my duty and for
your own necessity, bear with me. I am afraid that, while I have been
preaching to you of an incorruptible crown, of an everlasting rest, a
kingdom of joy and glory, I am afraid there are many of you that have no
part nor lot in this matter—but are still in the gall of bitterness and bond
"If the gospel is hidden, it is hidden to those who are
lost." And are there none among you from whom this gospel is hidden—as to
the light of it—hidden as to the saving power and efficacy of it? I am
afraid there is many a blind eye, many a hard heart, many a spirit still in
prison, under the power of their lusts and brutish sensuality! I am afraid
there are many such among you, and are not you afraid so too? Oh, that you
2. I have a greater fear than this. I am afraid of some
of you that not only all my past labors—but this last will be lost also.
Those who stand it out to their last day—usually stand it out in
their last day. Blessed be God that there are among you those over whom my
soul is comforted, to whom I can speak in the words of the Apostle, Romans
6:17, "God be thanked, that you were the servants of sin; but you have
obeyed from the heart, that form of doctrine that has been delivered unto
you; and being now made free from sin, you are become the servants of
righteousness." Oh, that I could thus speak! Oh, that I could thus rejoice
over you all! But, as the Apostle said to the Galatians, 2 Corinthians
12:20, "I fear lest when I come, I shall find you such as I would not." So
must I say with a grieved heart; I fear that now I am going I shall leave
you such as I would not. I would not leave one blind person, one vain
person, one loose liver, not one unbeliever or impenitent, among you all.
Oh, what a good day would this day of my departure be! What light would
there be in this dark evening were it thus with you! If I might see you all
recovered out of the snares of the devil, every man's eyes opened, every
man's fetters off, every man's prison broken and his soul escaped from that
deadly bondage; if every poor deadly creature among you, who yet lies bound
hand and foot in his grave-clothes might now at last stand up from the dead,
and live the life of God, this would be my, and your, great rejoicing! But,
oh, I fear with this Apostle, 2 Corinthians 12:21, that my God will humble
me and grieve me and afflict me to see in what a woeful plight I must leave
many of you!
Oh, you sons of the night—you poor, ignorant, and dark
souls upon whom the light has shone—but your darkness comprehended it not!
Oh, you poor, obstinate, and hardened souls upon whom I have been plowing as
upon rocks, and hewing as upon adamant, who still remain under
as great hardness as if no dew nor rain had ever fallen on you! Oh, you
poor, half-baked, almost Christians who have taken up your stand in
your present attainments; my soul is under great fears and must weep in
secret for you while my tongue must henceforth be silent! Oh, every soul
that is without fear of himself, my soul is afraid for you! The fearless
soul is in a fearful state!
Sinners, let my fears be your fears. What! is there such
astonishing guilt upon you—and are you yet not afraid? Such a dreadful
sentence written against you, and are you yet not afraid? So many Sabbaths,
sermons, warnings lost, never to be recalled; nor any assurance left of one
sermon or warning more—and yet not afraid? Such a subtle devil, such
a deceitful heart, such a tempting world that you have to deal
with. Such a black and bottomless pit into which you are falling—and yet not
afraid? Oh, what stocks and stones has the gospel to deal with!
Beloved, I have labored much with you, both publicly and
from house to house, to bring you under a due fear and jealousy of
yourselves; but hitherto your hearts have been too hard for me. Oh—yet for
trembling hearts; tremble and sin not; fear and pray, fear and hope,
fear and repent. "Work out your salvation with fear and trembling." Oh, if
my fears ever became your fears—your fears would become my hopes! Oh, what a
day-spring of hopes would arise from the shaking of secure hearts! These
fears would be as the thicker darkness, forerunners of the break of day.
II. My parting wishes and desires for you are:
1. That the good seed which has been sown among you is
well-rooted in every heart. I wish that my twenty year ministry
among you may not be lost labor to any one of your souls.
2. I wish that your next seedsman may he more skillful
and successful; that the good Lord will provide you a man who may
teach you in wisdom, gain you in love, lead you on to
life by a holy example; and, if the Lord grants you this mercy, I wish that
such a one may be dearly prized and cheerfully accepted by you. God keep
this flock from a ravening wolf and a deceitful shepherd!
3. I wish that there may be no root of bitterness
springing up among you; that there he no divisions or
contentions—but that you may live in peace and love, that the God of peace
and love may be with you.
4. I wish that this place, where so much good seed has
been, sown, may become a fruitful field; that the fruits
of faith and repentance, the fruits of righteousness
and holiness, may be in you and abound; that you may be neither
barren nor unfruitful; that true religion, in the power and practice of
it—may so visibly flourish in the several persons, in the several families
of this congregation, that those who go by may see and say, "This is the
field which the Lord has blessed!"
5. I wish that whatever clouds may at any time gather
over you may not fall down in a withering storm or a sweeping flood—but may
pass away in a mist, or dissolve into a fruitful dew; that no
persecutions or temptations may ever carry you down the stream with evil
men, nor blight any hopeful beginnings that are budding forth in any of your
souls. If tribulation should be any of your lots, I wish it may not
be to you as the hail of Egypt—but as the dew of Hermon. I wish you a joyful
harvest that you may reap in eternity—what has been sown in
time. May you now sow in righteousness and hereafter reap in
mercy; may every one who is now sowing in tears—may forever reap in joy. May
you who go on your way weeping and bearing precious seed, return with joy
and bring your sheaves with you. May the showers of this day, be the
watering of your seed—that it may spring up to eternal life.
Brethren, my heart's desire for you all is that you may
be saved; and, if there are any persons that bear evil will to me, my
particular wish for them is that the good-will of Him who dwelt in the bush
men's portion forever. These are some of my wishes for
you. Will you join your wishes with mine? Will you turn your wishes into
prayers and let this be your prayer, "The Lord grant you your heart's
desire, and fulfill all your mind."
Brethren, do I wish you any harm in all this? If not, if
it is to be wished that the word of Christ were rooted in your hearts and
your souls, thereby rooted in the grace of God; if it is to be wished that
your lust were rooted out, your sins dead and dried up, your foot gotten out
of the snare, your souls brought into the fold, your fruits of righteousness
and holiness abounding and growing up to eternal life; if all this is to be
wished—then give in your votes with mine. Wish and pray, pray and press on,
press on and wait for the accomplishment of this grace in you all. I tell
you again, I wish you well, and not only I—but the Lord God who has sent me
to you. The Lord Jesus wishes you well. He wishes and woos, woos and weeps,
weeps and dies—that your souls might live and be blessed forever. He has
once more sent me to you, even to the worst among you, to tell you, from Him
that He is unwilling that you should perish, that He has a kindness for you
in His heart—if you will accept it. He has blood and affections for you—
blood to expiate your guilt, to wash away your filth—and affections to offer
you the benefit of His blood; with this wish, "Oh, that it were theirs! Oh,
that they would hearken and accept!"
Only I must add that the Lord has two sorts of wishes
concerning sinners. The first is, "Oh, that they would hearken!" Oh, that
they would come in, be healed, and be saved, Deuteronomy 5:29. This wish is
an olive branch which brings good tidings, and gives great hopes of peace
His last wish is, "Oh, that they had hearkened, that they
had accepted!" Psalm 81:13, "Oh that my people had hearkened to me!" Luke
19:42, "If you had known even you, in this your day, the things which
concern your peace." This wish has nothing but dread and death in it; it is
the black flag hung out that proclaims eternal wars. The sense is, Israel
had once a fair time of it, a time of love, a time of grace, a time of
peace, Oh, that they had hearkened then, that they had known the things
which concern their peace! But woe, woe to them, it is now too late. The
door is shut; the season is over; the day is past! "But now they are hidden
from your eye!"
There are three deadly darts in this wish: "O that you
had!" It includes in it these three cutting words:
You have not;
you might have;
you shall not have forever.
1. You have not. What have I not? Why, you
have not known the things which belong to your eternal peace. You have had
the door of glory, the gate of heaven opened to you, and have been called
for and invited in—but you have lost the opportunity. You knew not when you
were well-offered, nor would take notice what a day was before you, what a
prize was in your hand. Your peace, the gospel of peace, the Prince of
peace, a kingdom of peace was set open, offered, and brought home to your
doors—but you had so many other matters to look after—that you took no
notice of it but have let it slip. There is one dart, "You have not known."
There is a gospel gone; there is a Christ gone; there is a
soul, a kingdom lost!
2. You might have. Oh, that you had! Why—might
I? Yes, you might; if you would, you might. Your God did not mock you when
He preached peace to you; He was willing and wished it yours. If you
would—you might have made it your own; but while He would—you would not.
There is another dart—I might have known. I have none to thank but myself
for the loss; my undoing was my own doing. There are no such torments as
when the soul flies upon itself and takes revenge on itself. Oh, the gashes
that such self-reflection makes! "Soul, how did you come into all this
misery? Oh, it is of myself! I have been the cause of my own destruction!
The door was open, and I was told of it and was bid come in—but I would not.
That I am lost and undone was not my fate which I could not avoid—but my
fault and my folly!"
It seems to give some ease of our torment when we can
shift off the fault. "It was not I—but the woman," said Adam. "It was not
I—but the serpent," said the woman. If that had been true, it would have
given ease as well as serve for an excuse. "This thought (it was my own
doing) tears my heart! Oh, I have none to blame but myself, my own foolish
and stubborn heart. This is my ignorance, this is my unbelief, this is my
wilfulness! My lust and my pleasures and my idols that I was running
after—have brought me under this dreadful loss. It was my own doing!"
3. You shall not have forever. Oh, that you
had! Why, may I not yet? Is there no hope of recovering the opportunity? No,
no, it is too late, too late! You have had your day; from henceforth no more
forever. There is the last dart—time is past. There is the death, the
hell and anguish, the worm that shall gnaw to eternity!
This one word, "time is past", sets all hell a-roaring; and, when it is once
spoken to a sinner on earth—there is hell begun. Go your way, wretch; fill
up your measure of sin—and then go to your place in hell! The gospel has no
more to say to you but this one word: "But since you rejected me when I
called and no one gave heed when I stretched out my hand, since you ignored
all my advice and would not accept my rebuke, I in turn will laugh at your
disaster; I will mock when calamity overtakes you—when calamity overtakes
you like a storm, when disaster sweeps over you like a whirlwind, when
distress and trouble overwhelm you! Then they will call to me but I will not
answer; they will look for me but will not find me. Since they hated
knowledge and did not choose to fear the Lord, since they would not accept
my advice and spurned my rebuke, they will eat the fruit of their ways and
be filled with the fruit of their schemes. For the waywardness of the simple
will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them!" Proverbs
Beloved, my hopes are, that you are yet under the first
wish, "Oh, that they would!" Christ is yet preaching you to faith, and sends
His wish along with His Word, "Oh, that they would believe!" Christ is yet
preaching repentance and conversion to you and wishes, "Oh, that they would
repent!" that they would be converted; and to this wish of my Lord, my soul,
and all that is within me says "Amen!"
Brethren, will you yet again say to your Lord "No!" Shall
Christ have His wish? Shall your servant for Jesus' sake, shall I have my
wish? Will you now at last consent to be sanctified and to he saved? Let me
have this wish, and I dare promise you from the Lord, you shall have yours,
even whatever your soul can desire. Brethren, this once hear, this once be
prevailed upon; be content that your lusts be rooted out—and your
Lord planted into your souls. Be content to be pardoned, content
to be converted, content to be saved. This once hear lest, if
you now refuse—yet no more be persuaded with, "Oh, that they would!" but be
forever confounded with "Oh, that they had!" Lest all our wishes and
wooing of you—be turned into weepings and mournings
over you, this once hear: "Oh, that you would!"
I heartily thank you for your good wishes and goodwill
towards me, for your willing and cheerful entertainment of my person, and
attendance on my ministry; and particularly for your passionate desire of my
longer stay among you, which desire, if God had not denied you, my soul
could not have denied you. The Almighty, to whose pleasure it is fit that we
all submit, has said "nay" to that wish of yours; yet let your souls say
"Amen" to this last wish of mine, that the Lord God would dwell among you
and in you, both now and forever.
And having thus finished my labors among you, I shall now
close up with this double account.
Of my discharge of my ministry in this place.
Of my deprival. And so I shall commit you to God,
and to the Word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you
an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.
1. Of my DISCHARGE of my ministry. What my
doctrine and manner of life has been, is known to you; and what
my aim and intent has been, is known to God. The Searcher of
hearts knows that it is the salvation of souls that has been the mark at
which I have aimed. My way has been to use all plainness that I might be
made manifest in your consciences. Weaknesses and infirmities, both natural
and sinful—may the Lord pardon; I have had many. I am sensible that much
more might have been done, both in public and in private, had it not
been for a weak body and a slothful heart. I repent that I
have had no more zeal for God, no more compassion to souls. I
repent that I have been no more constant and importunate with
you about the matters of eternity. Oh, eternity, eternity, that you were
no more in the heart and lips of the preacher, in the hearts and ears of the
But while I thus judge myself for my failing, blessed is
God. I have a witness in my conscience, and I hope in yours also, that I
have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God. Brethren, I
call heaven and earth to witness this day that I have set before you life
and death, good and evil, and have not ceased from day to day to warn you to
choose life and that holy way that leads to it—and to escape for your lives
from the way of sin and death! Oh, remember the many instructions I
have given you, the many arguments whereby I have striven with you,
the many prayers that have been offered up for the guiding and
gaining your souls into the path of life, and the turning your feet out of
the way of destruction. Oh, might I be able to give this testimony
concerning you all at my departure, "They have trodden in the right path;
they have chosen the good part which shall not be taken from them!"
Brethren, beloved, with whom I have travailed in birth
that Christ might be formed in you, I must shortly give up my account in a
more solemn assembly. Will you help me to give it up with joy by showing
your souls before the Lord as the seals of my ministry? Every sincere
convert among you will be a crown of rejoicing to me in that day. Just so,
let me rejoice, and let my joy be the joy of you all.
What shall I say more? If there is any consolation in
Christ, if any comfort of love, any affections and mercy; if the glory of
the Eternal God, the honor of the everlasting gospel, the safety of your
immortal souls, the incorruptible crown, the exceeding eternal weight of
glory weighs anything with you—then, once more, let me beseech you by all
this to hearken to that Word of the gospel which God has spoken to you by
2. Of my DEPRIVAL. The most glorious
morning, has an evening. The hour is come wherein the sun is
setting upon many of the godly pastors. The shadows of the evening are
stretched forth upon us; our day draws to a close, and our work seems to be
at an end. Our pulpits and places must know us no more. This is the Lord's
doing; let all the earth keep silence before Him.
It is not a light thing for me, brethren, to be laid
aside from the work, and cast out of the vineyard of the Lord; and it must
be something of weight that must support under so severe a doom. I know
there are many who will add to the affliction of the afflicted, by saying
that it is our own fault; "They might have prevented it—if they had wanted
to." Whether this is so or not, God knows, and let the Lord be judge.
Blessed be God, that this is not laid to our charge as the reason of our
expulsion, either deficiency or scandal!
You are not ignorant what things there are imposed on us
as the condition of our continuing our ministry; which, however lawful and
expedient they seem in the judgment of many—yet have the most specious
arguments that plead for them. They have left me utterly dissatisfied in my
conscience about them. I must profess before God, angels, and men, that my
non-submission is not from any disloyalty to authority, nor from pride, or
any factious disposition or design—but because I dare not contradict my
conscience nor do anything concerning which my heart tells me, "The Lord
says—Do it not."
After all my most impartial inquiries, after all my
seeking counsel from the Lord, after all my considering and consulting with
men of all persuasions about these matters—I find myself so far short of
satisfaction, that I am plainly put to this choice—to part with my
ministry—or my conscience. I must choose that my ministry be
sealed up by my sufferings, than lengthened out by a lie. But however,
though I must now no longer act as a minister, I shall, through the
grace of God, endeavor peaceably and patiently to suffer as a
Christian. I should, to testify my obedience to authority, have become all
things to all men to the uttermost that I could, with any clearness of
heart; but, since matters stand so, I must lose my place or my
peace. I cheerfully allow myself to be thrust off the stage.
And now, welcome the cross of Christ; welcome reproach;
welcome poverty, scorn and contempt, or whatever else may befall me on this
account! This morning I had a flock—and you had a pastor; but now, behold a
pastor without a flock—and a flock without a shepherd! This morning I had a
house—but now I have none! This morning I had a living—but now I have none!
"The Lord has given, and the Lord has taken away! Blessed be the name of the
Beloved, I am sensible of many weaknesses and
disadvantages I am under which may render a suffering state the harder to be
borne. Help me by your prayers, and not me only—but all my brethren also
with whom my lot must fall. "Pray for us, for we trust that we have a good
conscience, in all things willing to live honestly." Pray:
1. That God would make our silence speak, and preach the
same holy doctrine that we have preached with our lips.
2. That He would give supports answerable to our
sufferings; that He who comforts those who are cast down, will also comfort
His servants who are cast out.
3. That, according to our earnest expectation and our
hope, as always, Christ may be magnified in us, whether it be by life or by
And thus, brethren, I bid you all farewell. In the words
of the Apostle, 2 Corinthians 13:11, "Finally, brethren, farewell. Aim for
perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God
of love and peace will be with you."
"May the God of peace, who through the blood of the
eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great
Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will,
and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom
be glory for ever and ever. Amen." Hebrews 13:20-21.