THE MAN OF GOD  Or "Spiritual Religion Explained and Enforced"
by Octavius Winslow

Good and Evil Alike From God

"Shall we receive good at the hands of the Lord, and shall we not receive evil?" -Job 2:10

Many religious speculatists have endeavored to represent Job as a fictitious character. But those who know anything spiritually of the truth of God in their hearts, well know that his experience so singularly corresponds with their own, that, if they accept his as mere fiction, they must denounce their own as such. If we believe the profound, spiritual, and instructive truths that compose his remarkable history to be mere figments of the imagination, illustrative of anything else than the path along which God leads all His saints in the wilderness to glory, then we must believe that all we have experienced, assimilating with his story, to be the mere hallucinations of a wild imagination. No, my reader, Job was a man of God- a man after God's own heart; and all the dealings of God with him were designed to teach the Church of God some of its most spiritual and blessed lessons to the remotest age of the world.

From his peculiar history we have selected but a very small portion, yet containing a truth such as could only be gleaned from a direct revelation from God Himself. May the Spirit of truth give us, if but in the merest outline, a heartfelt experience of its holy instruction and comfort.

This striking declaration of Job involves a great truth, that, in the experience of the man of God, both good and evil flow from the same Divine Source; and that if we receive at God's hand good, shall we not cheerfully accept, as from the same hand, those trying, afflictive dispensations which are not the less tokens of His love, and work out the good which their somber character conceals?

"Shall we receive good at the hands of the Lord, and shall we receive evil?" The words begin, where every child of God ought, when he takes up his pen to record the darkest periods of his history- with THE GOODNESS OF GOD. Some have scales only for trials; some dip their pencil only in dark colors. They are eloquent and fluent while describing God's trying dispensations; but ask them about their mercies, the bright lights in their picture, the verdant, flowery carpeting of their landscape- and, alas! they are dumb.

In speaking of the goodness of God, we can find no parallel. It is so peculiar, so like itself, we are at a loss for comparison; all imagery, symbol, and type seem to vanish the moment we attempt to unfold the Divine goodness. We sometimes compare it to a fountain- that fountain may dry, but the fountain of God's goodness never dries. We contrast it with the sun- that sun has no light of its own, it draws every beam from God Himself, the Fountain of light- but the goodness of God is essential and eternal. Oh, how does all imagery fade into utter insignificance when we attempt to unfold what God is! Yet, we may speak of that- and what is sweeter than all, we may experience that- to which we can find no comparison, the goodness of God.

The world is the recipient of God's goodness. Oh, it is an affecting thought, a solemn truth- this ungodly world is at this moment sunning itself in the beams of God's goodness, yet throwing back in His face nothing but blasphemy, infidelity, and sin. Does this truth find an application to your heart, my reader? Does it, like a mirror, reflect your moral image? Are you like that rock, warmed with beams and moist with dew, yet yielding no fruit? Are you like the sand that belts the ocean, washed with its waves, yet exhibiting no verdure? -and still the sun concentrates its beams upon that rock, and still the sand is washed by the ocean; and notwithstanding all the base returns you make, God's goodness fills your cup, guards your person, provides for your needs, while He receives nothing in return but ingratitude, indifference, and sin; no, a practical denial of God Himself.

But it is especially of the believer we are now to speak, as receiving good at the hand of God. What a declaration is this! O beloved, who can unfold to you what is contained in these words, "We receive good at the hand of God?" Shall we attempt to assist you in considering this truth? In giving Himself to be the covenant God of His people, God gives them an infinite ocean of goodness. Faith lays her hand upon God, and says, "This God is my God;" and looking prospectively to the bright termination of life, faith adds, "and He will be my Guide, even unto death." Oh, how little do the best of us know what we possess in possessing GOD! Oh, has not the thought expanded your heart while treading your weary way, "This God is my God what can I desire more?"

Yes; and do not forget that God first gives His people the best and greatest. Why? To teach us that if He has given us Himself the greater, what else is there that He will withhold? This is an encouraging thought to the depressed spirit. If our faith can lay hold upon this truth- God Himself is mine, then faith argues, "What else is there that He will not give me?" Do you know this from experience? Does your heart glow with it? Is it the great lever that lifts you above your trials, above your needs? "God is my soul's portion, both now and forever. I enjoy Him now, and I know that my present enjoyment is the certain prelude of my being forever with Him." Dear reader, this one truth is the substance of all blessing -God in Christ is our God. "We receive good at the hand of God," so that, be our necessities what they may, the resources of God are adequate to them all.

In having received Jesus, what good have we received! Jesus is a received good. Deem not this an unimportant truth. It lies at the very root of all your happiness. If salvation is not of grace, then it is not ours. If Jesus is a gift, I receive Him as such. I receive Him as a good at the hands of God. And oh, what a good do I receive in receiving Jesus!- in whom it has pleased the Father that all fulness should dwell- Jesus, my Redeemer, who has ransomed my soul, in whom the Father has deposited all good! What possible good can there be that I have not in Christ?

Our great sin, at least one of then, is in limiting Jesus, limiting His power, limiting His love, and limiting His graces. If I look at my sorrow and say it is too deep for Christ's sympathy, I limit Him. If I look at my giant corruptions and say, they are too great for the grace of Jesus to subdue, I limit Him. If I think my difficulty in life too insurmountable for the power of Christ, then I limit Him. But if, in simple faith, I see that, in receiving Jesus as a gift, I receive all good in Him, then am I enabled to rise superior to all my circumstances, traveling to one whom God has made Head over all things to His Church. You that know His preciousness to your hearts, testify that you have found all good in Christ; testify what peace you have experienced in the sprinkling of His blood upon your conscience, and what assured hope, springing from a sense of completeness through His righteousness.

And what a good is bestowed upon us in the gift and indwelling of the Holy Spirit! "The Holy Spirit, who He has given unto us." To know that He has made our hearts His home, our bodies His temple, dwelling there amid a thousand daily slights and woundings, yet never weary, never impatient, never withdrawn- still teaching, still comforting, still sanctifying, still witnessing. Oh, what arithmetician can compute the good which we have received at God's hand? Beloved, taste and see that the Lord is good, good to us temporally, good spiritually, good eternally!

But we are to trace THE EVIL we receive to the same Source as the good: "Shall we not receive evil?" Job was receiving evil at that moment. The evil alluded to here must be interpreted not of moral evil- because God cannot be the author of sin. But it is that evil referred to Amos 3:6: "Shall there be evil in the city, and the Lord has not done it?"- that natural evil of which we are perpetually the subjects.

Unmingled good is not the portion even of the saints of God. We have no doubt as to which weighs down the scale, for good infinitely transcends the evil; but it is mingled. Unmingled good is reserved for heaven. There, all is pure unmixed bliss, deepening as the ocean flows on through eternity. But here the good and the evil in our history are wisely and happily combined: "Shall we receive good at the hands of God, and shall we not receive evil?" The origin and the source of all the disciplinary dealings of the believer are unfolded. They are not as from accident, but are from God.

Here is a truth which ought at once to raise us above all the trying circumstances of our history. What! does the wormwood flow from the same hand that gives me the honey? What! did that dark cloud, which hung over my soul, issue from the Fountain that gives me light? Did the stroke that smote me so severely come from the heart that gave me Jesus? Yes, the good and the evil alike flow from the same Divine and precious Source, even your covenant-God. Oh, it is a blessed truth to see all flowing from God. The same hand that wounds me, binding up my wound; the same hand that casts me down, lifting me up; the same covenant-God that enshrouds Himself in some dark design, tells me He is mine at the same moment.

But the question seems to place itself in this form, "Shall we not expect evil?" I do not mean that we are to be always living in gloomy anticipation of trial. Many of God's saints live in that unhappy, and, I would add, unholy mood- always anticipating evil. Yet there is a sense in which we should expect it. Should it take us by surprise? We may be so absorbed in God's goodness as not to expect there will be the counterbalancing of evil. Shall we not be unprepared for it when it comes? Shall we only have a cup for the good, and not for the evil?

Shall we doubt the wisdom of God, shall we impeach the truth of God, shall we suspect the love of God when the evil comes? Shall we think that every perfection of God is embodied in the good, and the evil is to set forth and unfold no part of God's character and administrative government? Shall our faith lose its hold upon God as the Fountain of goodness, the moment He sees fit to remove the good and send the evil? God forbid!

See what it is that makes even the evil God sends to be good- because He sends it. And when does it really become good to us? It is when God so sanctifies it that it works good in us. When God employs it to correct and remove our sins, oh, what good have we then found it! When it makes us more like God in His holiness; when it creates a void which God Himself fills; when the spirit of prayer is roused, and Jesus, the sympathizing Brother, becomes more precious to our souls, oh, what good is then educed from our evil! And for this negative good we praise Him.

Let us learn from this subject to welcome all our Father's varied dealings, be they couched in good or evil. All are good. The curse removed, and sin cancelled by Jesus, there is no real evil even in the most afflictive dispensation of our God. Accept, then, your sorrow, receive your trial, welcome your affliction as a good- enveloped, hidden, and invisible now; but afterwards to shine forth as the sun, when the storm-cloud that draped it melts into light and beauty. "Not my will, O my Father, but yours be done."
Before long, our good will be unmixed and unmingled. No sin will embitter our happiness, no sorrow will becloud our joy. Our "sun shall no more go down, neither shall the moon withdraw itself: for the Lord shall be an everlasting light, and the days of our mourning shall be ended."