The Church of England Magazine - Volume 10, No. 263, January 9, 1841 online

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ingeniously, so to speak, finds in every thing a reason for loving and
fearing, serving and obeying God. Every event works for his good,
because he is resolved it shall do so; and every result satisfies,
pleases, rejoices him, because he is persuaded it ought to do so.
Loving God, he has a confidence that he is beloved of God; and then,
feeling himself in a world made by God, and proceeding forward under
his guidance and permission, he never will believe that any thing
falls out in it but what is intended to make him both good and happy.
Happy then he will be, if God intends he should be so; and holy he
will be encouraged to become, under the consciousness that God intends
his holiness.

Dispositions like these will indeed work for their possessor even upon
the hardest materials, and will, by the very force of a new and
spiritual nature, convert all into "servants to righteousness unto
holiness." Faith will be a hand, bringing together the events of life
and the framer and guide of all life and all existence; and the result
will be a solemn and heart-satisfying conviction, that "all things
work together for good to them that love God."

Nor, next, will such a faith prove to be groundless; for surely there
is a _power engaged_, there is a pledge in the gospel, a sure word of
promise, and even of covenant, that all things shall be ours; - "All
are yours, and ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's." The trial of our
faith lies indeed very much upon this one point. Can we, for a moment,
believe that God permits all the disorder and confusion which appears
to us in the world - the prosperity of wickedness, the trials and
adversity of the righteous, in order to raise a doubt on our minds
whether he be not absent all the while - whether he bears or not any
share in the world he created, or in all those moving causes that owe
their activity and life to himself alone? God is surely present; he is
powerfully operating; he is the supreme controller, and the almighty
director; he is fully aware of those adverse appearances, and is no
less deeply engaged in the final issue of all events, to render them
consistent with the ends of justice and mercy, than as if we saw him
at work with our bodily eyes: or, as if we then could fully know the
mind of the Lord, or be his counsellors to instruct him.

The expressions of scripture are too strong, and too agreeable to the
very nature of God and of his works, to make us doubt for a moment of
his providential care and unceasing watchfulness. "He is not far from
every one of us; for in him we live, and move, and have our being." To
the true disciple saith Christ himself, "The very hairs of your head
are all numbered;" and yet more strongly, "If a man love me, he will
keep my words; and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him,
and make our abode with him." Promises, these, which have been ever
realized in the history of the saints in all ages who have walked with
God - Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and the patriarch Jacob - none more tried
than he - yet we read _his_ testimony to "the God, which fed me all my
life-long unto this day; the angel which redeemed me from all evil."

Keeping in view the notion of what is truly good for this state of
trial, and for the soul as well as for the body, there is no time and
no extent to which we shall not find the promise sure, and the
fulfilment exact, where God is pledged for the supply of his servants
that trust in him: his eye is ever open, his ear ever attentive unto
them. The petition he denies is able to operate as powerfully and as
favourably on their behalf as that which he grants; merciful alike in
the gift which he bestows and which he withholds, and wise alike in
the evil which he permits, and which he restrains.

There is nothing more important to the believer's faith, than to
apprehend that there is no uncertainty, nothing imperfect or weak in
the dispensations of God, as they respect the final issue of the
Christian's trials. Either God is wholly absent and forgetful of his
daily wants, or else he is wholly and for ever at work on his behalf.
If he were wholly absent, well might his servants doubt that, after
all their endeavours to that end, they should be able to turn to good
all the events of this mortal life. If _he_ do not temper the trials
of his servants, how in truth shall they overcome them? If _he_ do not
controul their enemies, how shall they ever escape them? Figure to
yourself any place, or time, or circumstance, where God is not, or
where he _can_ be spared from the concerns of his people, either
temporal or spiritual: but, if none can be imagined or assigned, then
is it but justly and essentially true, that, by his especial order and
his immediate appointment, "all things work together for good to them
that love God."

III. But we may proceed, lastly, to show, in a practical manner, _some
of those very things_ which shall thus work together for good. Take
the most unpromising and most unfavourable case, for instance, that of
_great prosperity_. None will deny it to be a case of many others the
most trying to the graces of the true Christian. Yet even shall the
temptations arising from worldly honours and successes, to a man armed
with the love of God, work together for good. Graces rarely exercised
in exalted stations, shall be found to shine the more conspicuously in
his instance. The grace of humility, and tenderness of spirit, shall
be the more eminently illustrated in that station, where, too often,
there is only pride and hardness of heart. If he be found, in a sober,
self-denying spirit, setting little value on those things so commonly
called good amongst mankind - using this world without abusing
it - shall not the grace of God be more abundantly magnified? When not
overcome, as Agar feared he might be, saying, "lest I be full, and
say, who is the Lord?" - but rather, when led by fulness to more
gratitude, and by a lofty station to deeper humility, and to a more
lowly submission to God, and meekness to man - how will he by such
prosperity as this testify to the reality of Christian principles: how
will he, in giving freely where he has freely received, esteeming even
his highest gains as loss for Christ's sake, and returning upon others
all that mercy which has been exercised towards himself, prove that
_he_ has not received the grace of God in vain; but that even
prosperity has "worked together for good to them that love God."

Or, suppose the case of _deep adversity_ - suppose the Christian
stripped, like Job, of great honours and possessions at a single
stroke; betrayed and sold like Joseph, even by brethren, into bondage
and exile; or lying like Lazarus at the gate of the rich man, diseased
in body, and suing for the crumbs from off his table; or suppose him,
as St. Paul himself, in peril of foes, and even doubtful of friends;
in weariness and painfulness oft, in hunger and thirst, in cold and
nakedness. These last were exactly the circumstances under which the
very text was indited by the apostle himself: he saw, what you may
see, that trials like these, when tempered by the presence of the God
he loved, were good, not, I would say, in proportion to their weight,
but according to the patience which they exercised, the faith they
strengthened, the experience of divine support they afforded, the hope
they brightened, the crown they were preparing; yea, the exceeding and
eternal weight of glory which they must eventually be working out. The
apostle had "heard of the patience of Job," and had "seen the end of
the Lord, that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy." The
trials of Joseph had even led that servant of God, by degrees of
painful progress, to the honour of a prince, and a chain of gold. The
"evil things" of Lazarus - good they might have been called - had led
him to still higher honours, and had prepared him to be carried by
angels into Abraham's bosom. Every individual circumstance of this
nature, as it passed in review before the apostle in the text, had led
irresistibly to the conclusion he so strongly expresses. Could he
distrust the same arm, disbelieve the same promises; or rather saying
with David - "Our fathers trusted in thee, and were delivered," would
he not add - I will trust as they did; I will be "in subjection to the
Father of spirits, and live?" Let me feel only the "profit, that I may
be partaker of his holiness;" and then, "though no affliction for the
present is joyous, but grievous," it shall surely hereafter yield the
peaceable fruit of true righteousness; and "all things," adversity
itself, "shall work together for _my_ good."

_Temptation_, verily, shall be among the "things working together for
good to them that love God." Such indeed is our state of trial upon
earth, that every successive arrival at our doors comes to us in some
shape or other of temptation to sin. But take the strongest and most
pressing incitements to the corruptions of the heart, and the evil of
our nature. Even of _these_ must it not be said, that the temptation,
and the tempter himself, may be turned into a worker for good, when
that promise is brought forward, and brought home to the heart, "God
is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above what ye are
able, but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye
may be able to bear it?" Another apostle had a like meaning when he
said, "My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers
temptations." Every enemy opposed to the Christian warrior affords
him fresh opportunity for a sure victory in the strength of Christ.
Every obstacle in his path is that which faith regards as a trial
prepared for his soul; but hope and joy carry him over, to the glory
of his sovereign Upholder. In evil company, which he seeks not, his
courage is honourably put to the test, and abides it; amidst a world
of licentiousness and excess, which he desires not to approach, he
still trusts, through grace, that he shall not be found wanting. In a
season of provocation his meekness is tried, and it prevails; and in
the moment of fear, and the threats of alarm, "his heart standeth
fast, trusting in the Lord;" "nay, in all these things he is more than
conqueror through him that loved him."

If his very _sins_ are in one sense his shame, and the source of his
bitter tears and saddest recollections, still those tears and
recollections shall prove among the workers for his good, if they lead
him more closely to the throne of mercy, and to the fountain of
eternal strength. If any experiences of past weakness make him more
watchful, sober, and diligent for the future - if they direct him to
the vulnerable points in his armour, to the "sin that easily besets
him" - if, in the very moment of his conscious frailty and
heart-overwhelming struggle, he is enabled to exclaim, "Rejoice not
over me, O mine enemy; though I fall I shall arise; though I sit in
darkness the Lord shall be a light unto me:" then shall he know that
"_all things_ work together for good to them that love God."

I conclude with a single word of remark on the expression in the text,
"We _know_ that all things work together for good." It expresses the
_personal experience_ of the Christian. It answers to a similar
expression of the same apostle to the Philippians - "I know that this
shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the
spirit of Jesus Christ." But to whom is this knowledge vouchsafed? To
whom is it a safe and a sure conviction - an "earnest expectation and
hope," so "that in nothing we shall be ashamed?" Truly, to those only
who "_love God_" - to those who are "the called according to his
purpose." His purpose is our sanctification, and that we should be
"conformed to the image of his Son." To such truly, to such only does
that blessing apply, so frequently indeed, and but too rashly,
appropriated by many others, "All is for the best."

Let the careless rather tremble, those as yet not effectually called
into the gospel vineyard, at such an appropriation of the text. To
them it may be only a savour of death unto death, a deadly security, a
hope that "_maketh_ ashamed, because the love of God is _not_ yet shed
abroad in their hearts."

Gain rather in prayer, in secret meditation and much retirement from
the presence and the love of this world, the true love of God which is
in Christ Jesus our Lord. Then being first transformed yourself, you
will be enabled, by a divine power, to transform everything around
you; you will receive all things as from the hand of the Father whom
you love, the Benefactor and Friend whom you wish and aim to serve.
Your willing and noble obedience to him will render, then, prosperity
a new advantage to you by awakening your gratitude, and adversity a
blessing, by exercising and perfecting your patience. You will have a
fence around you, an armour of divine temper to fortify you in the
presence of every temptation, and to turn the very weapons of your
adversaries into your own instruments of victory, the trophies of your
triumph. Sin will have its struggles within you, but will not gain
dominion over you, while every deviation from God's righteous will is
mourned in secret, and restored through grace; and while it brings you
the more urgently and constantly to the foot of the cross, where hung
the Saviour whom you love, whose favour and forgiveness you implore;
and you shall be enabled to close the volume of your experience in the
concluding words of the chapter, and with the apostle himself: "Who
shall separate us from the love of Christ?... I am persuaded, that
neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers,
nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any
other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God
which is Christ Jesus our Lord."


"And was transfigured before them, and his face did
shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the

There never existed in this world a person in whose life there was a
greater variety of incident than in the life of Jesus. He passed
through scenes of the most peculiar and diversified description, to
which we can find no parallel in the history of man, the effect of
which no ordinary mind could have borne. These were, in general,
connected with that lowliness and debasement to which he submitted for
the benefit of our sinful race; but occasionally, as at his birth, his
baptism, and transfiguration, there burst forth some bright rays of
glory from behind the dark cloud of his humanity, which proved his
possession of a nature that was divine.

It may have a good effect in strengthening our gratitude for the
Saviour's mercy, to remember that every complexion of circumstance was
freely and voluntarily submitted to, not merely for his own
satisfaction or benefit, but principally for the good of man. Jesus
never lost sight of his representative character. He always remembered
those whose cause he had espoused: and, whether he was led by the
Spirit into the wilderness, to be tempted of the devil - or into the
garden of Gethsemane, to sustain his more fierce and violent
assaults - or to the mountain, to put on for a season the habiliments
of light and glory - his chief object and desire was to effect the
redemption, and to revive the hopes of weak and fallen man.

We are now supplied by the Holy Spirit with a very brief account of
the transfiguration itself. Before, however, we make any remark upon
this description, or refer, as we desire to do, to the uses which this
transaction was intended to serve, we must direct our attention for a
few moments to the important preparation which the Saviour made for
it. And here there are, perhaps, many who may be disposed to ask, had
there not been sufficient preparation already? had not the Saviour
endured much physical fatigue in accomplishing the wearisome ascent of
the mountain? and had not the time, the place, and the spectators,
been carefully selected by himself? Let it however be remembered, that
in addition to all this, there was a necessary and absolutely
indispensable preliminary, not to be omitted even by the Son of God,
and that was prayer. It is said, by St. Luke, in the twenty-ninth
verse of his ninth chapter, that "as he prayed, the fashion of his
countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistering."
Let us learn from this, that not all the labour, mental or physical,
which we can possibly exert, can ever bring us into the enjoyment of
one momentary smile of God's countenance, if we neglect prayer. We may
diligently peruse the records of redeeming mercy which the sacred page
of scripture contains; we may place ourselves under the pastoral care
of some faithful and devoted minister of Jesus; we may enjoy the high
advantage of intercourse and communion with many spiritually-minded
followers of the Saviour; yet, after all, we shall find no benefit
from these distinguished privileges if we neglect to pray. How many
Christians there are, who often wish they had a Luther for their
minister, because they feel dissatisfied with their spiritual progress
under him to whose charge they may have been entrusted by the great
Head of the church! And yet the cause of this may be traced to their
own want of constant and of earnest prayer. Prayer is the key that
unlocks the holy place where Jesus meets his people at the mercy-seat,
to dispense the gifts which have been purchased by his precious blood.
And when the united petitions of ministers and people ascend in an
unceasing stream of sacred incense to a throne of grace, blessings may
be expected to descend in rich abundance on the church.

But perhaps it may be considered that we have digressed from our
subject. We return, then, to the circumstance which more immediately
claims our attention. We are informed that Jesus was praying when he
was transfigured; nay, it is remarkable that St. Luke represents his
special object of ascending the mountain to have been in order to
devote himself to this sacred engagement. "It came to pass about an
eight days after these sayings, he took Peter, and John, and James,
and went up into a mountain to pray." Prayer was as much the Saviour's
duty, as it is the duty of any of his people. He had been expressly
commanded by his Father to ask of him to give him the heathen for his
inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for his possession.
All his works, whilst he was tabernacling in the flesh, were
accompanied with prayer; and his present exaltation at the right hand
of his heavenly Father, instead of suspending, rather imparts a more
sublime intensity of fervour to his petitions. In vain had he shed his
blood without this; for his prayers are as essential for the salvation
of sinners, as his sufferings on the cross for their redemption; and
therefore the apostle, in the twenty-fifth verse of the seventh
chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews, connects the unlimited ability
of Jesus to save, not only with his having offered himself as a
sacrifice, but also with his ever living to make intercession for us.
O! how welcome and delightful must be the accents of supplication to
the ears of the Lord God of Sabaoth, when he withholds blessings, even
from his well-beloved Son, until he ask for them! And how necessary is
prayer, when Jesus cannot obtain blessings without it! There is a
reserve manifested by the Holy Spirit in this, as in other instances,
as to the contents of our Saviour's petitions. Most probably they had
some reference to that splendid scene in his earthly history, into
which he was about to enter. We may imagine him to have addressed his
heavenly Father in language somewhat similar to that which he employed
when he was about to devote himself as a spotless victim on the cross:
"Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may
glorify thee. Father, I will that they also whom thou hast given me be
with me where I am, that they may behold my glory which thou hast
given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world."

But we must pass on to the description which is given of the
transfiguration of Jesus. "His face did shine as the sun, and his
raiment was white as the light." On this we can say but little, for no
imagination can conceive, nor can words express the exact nature of
that splendid scene which is here so slightly glanced at. The Holy
Spirit has employed the most concise mode of description in order to
restrain our fancy within proper limits. We are, therefore, altogether
incompetent to expatiate on a subject so sublime, for we know nothing,
beyond what is written, of the glory which is associated with
spiritual bodies. When Paul was led to speak of a state of future
enjoyment, he could only express himself in the language of
conjecture, and say, "I reckon that the sufferings of this present
time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be
revealed in us." And when, on another occasion, he was anxious to
comfort the church by a description of the resurrection-body into
which the Saviour shall change the vile bodies of his people, he could
only describe it by the use of words which merely implied a direct
contrast between what we now are and what we shall be. Our present
bodies are earthly, natural, mortal, and corruptible; our resurrection
bodies shall be celestial, spiritual, immortal, incorruptible: but
these latter expressions are only negations of the former; as to any
positive apprehension of the nature of glorified bodies, "it doth not
yet appear what we shall be." And there is much wisdom in this
reserve: there is enough told us upon the subject to encourage us to
persevere in our endeavours to attain to the joy that is set before
us, but not as much as would, in the meantime, render us too much
discontented with our present state.

We must, however, carefully note that the Holy Spirit, in so far
describing the Saviour's transfiguration, has given a literal account
of a real transaction. There is no cunningly-devised fable here. There
was nothing visionary in the exhibition itself; there is nothing
fanciful in the description of it. Jesus was actually metamorphosed;
"his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the
light," and, as on all ordinary occasions in the days of his flesh he
was God manifest in the nature of man, so, during the continuance of
this splendid scene, he exhibited his human nature manifested in and
encompassed by the brightness and glory of his Godhead.

But it may be profitable to inquire into some of the uses of this
great transaction, for such an occurrence could not have taken place
without some important object. It was intended to prepare the Saviour
for his approaching sufferings; to shew the interest which heaven
took in his sacrifice; to be a source of strength and comfort to the
church, by giving a type and specimen of that high degree of glory to
which the nature of man is destined to be exalted in consequence of
the Saviour's dying love. But the leading object of this event was to
give a representation of his second coming in majesty at the last day.
It is not by any gratuitous assumption that we maintain this, but on
the sure ground of strong scriptural testimony. We find St. Matthew
representing the Saviour as promising some of his disciples that they
should not taste of death till they saw him "coming in his kingdom;"
and in the parallel passage in the ninth chapter of St. Mark, he is
represented as saying that there were some standing with him who
should not see death until they had seen the kingdom of God "come with
power." Now the apostle Peter combines the substance of these two
declarations, in a manner which distinctly shews that he considered
them as having a reference to the future advent of the Redeemer. "We
have not followed cunningly-devised fables, when we made known unto
you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ;" and he speaks of
"majesty," "honour," and "glory," which are the appendages of a
kingdom, and are to be the characteristics of the second advent of
Jesus, in contrast with the meanness, poverty, and degradation of his
first appearance in our world. Those, therefore, who say that the
transfiguration had a typical reference either to the effusion of the
Spirit on the day of pentecost, or to the destruction of Jerusalem,
are greatly in error. It was meant to be a specimen and earnest of our
Lord's appearance hereafter in glory, when he shall come to be admired
in all them that believe, and to establish his everlasting kingdom of
righteousness and peace in the earth. The use of a type is to arrest

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Online LibraryVariousThe Church of England Magazine - Volume 10, No. 263, January 9, 1841 → online text (page 4 of 5)