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for the particular mansion in glory, which is appointed and prepared for him.
Secondly. When it is said, that “all things work together for good, to them that love God,” it cannot be intended that all things, both positive and negative, are best for them ; in other words, that not only every positive thing, of which christians are the subjects, or in which they are concerned, will work for their good, but also, that, when any thing is absent or withheld from them by God in his providence, that absence or withholding is also for their good, in such a sense, as to be better for thein than the presence or bestowment would have been : For this would have the same absurd consequence which was mentioned before, viz. That God makes every christian as happy as he possibly can make him. And if so, it would follow that God's withholding from his people greater degrees of the sanctifying influences of his Spirit, is for their good, and that it is best for them to live and die with so small a measure of piety as they actually possess, which is the same as to say, that it is for their good to have no more good, or that it is for their happiness to have no more happiness here and hereafter. If we carefully examine the Apostle's discourse in Rom. viii. it will be apparent that his words imply no such thing. All God's creatures, and all that he does in disposing of them, is for the good of the christian; but it will not thence follow, that all God's forbearing to do is also for his good, or that it is best for him, that God does no more for him.
Hence, with regard to the position, that the sins and temptations of christians are for their good; I suppose the following things to be true :
1. That all things, whatsoever, are for their good, things negative as well as positive, in this sense, that God intends that some benefit to them shall arise from every thing, so that somewhat of the grace and love of God, will hereafter be seen to have been exercised towards them in every thing. At the same time, the sovereignty of God will also be seen, with regard to the measure of the good or benefit aimed at, in that some other things, if God had seen cause to order them, would have produced an higher benefit. And with regard to negative disposals—consisting, not in God's doing, but forbearing to do, not in giving, but withholding—some benefit, in some respect or other, will ever accrue to them, even from these ; though sometimes the benefit will not be equal to the benefit withheld, if it had been bestowed. As for instance, when a christian lives and dies comparatively low in grace; some good improvement shall be made even of this, in his eternal state, whereby he shall receive a real benefit, though the benefit shall not be equal to the benefit of an higher degree of holiness, if God had bestowed it.
“ 2. God carries on a design of love to his people, and to each individual christian, not only in all things of which they are the subjects while they live, but also in all his works and dispensations, and in all his acts from eternity to eternity.
“3. That the sin in general, of Christians, is for their good, in this respect, viz. that through the sovereign grace and infinite wisdom of God, the fact that they have been sinful fallen creatures, and not from the beginning perfectly innocent and holy as the elect angels, will issue in a high advancement of their eternal happiness; and that they shall obtain some additional good, on occasion of all the sin of which they have been the subjects, or have committed, beyond what they would have had, if they never had been fallen creatures.
“4. The sin of christians cannot in this sense be for their good, that it should finally be best for them, that while they lived in this world, their restoration and recovery from the corruption to which they became subject by the fall, was no greater, that the mortification of sin, and spiritual vivification of the soul, was carried on to no higher degree, that they were so deficient, in love to God, love to men, humility, and heavenly-mindedness, that they did so few good works, and consequently, that in general, they had so much sin, and so little holiness; for in proportion as one of these is more, the other will be less, as infallibly, as darkness is more or less, in proportion to the diminution or increase of light. It cannot finally be better for christians, that in general, while they live, they had so much sin of heart and life, rather than more holiness of heart and life; because the reward of all at last, will be according to their works. He that sowed sparingly, shall reap sparingly, and he that sowed bountifully, shall reap also bountifully, and he that builds wood, hay and stubble, shall finally suffer loss, and have a less reward, than if he had built gold, silver and precious stones, though he himself shall be saved. But notwithstanding this,
65. The sins and falls of christians, may be for their good, and for the better, in this respect, that the issue may be better than if the temptation had not happened, and so the occasion not given, either for the sin of yielding to the temptation, or the virtue of overcoming it : And yet not in this respect, (with regard to their sins or falls in general,) that it should be better for them in the issue, that they have yielded to the temptation offered, than if they had overcome. For the fewer victories they obtain over temptation, the fewer are their good works, and particularly of that kind of good works to which a distinguished reward is promised in Rev. ii. and iii. and in many other parts of Scripture. The word of God represents the work of a christian in this world as a warfare, and it is evident in the Scriptures, that he who acquits himself as the best soldier, shall win the greatest prize. Therefore, when christians are brought into backslidings and decays, by being overcome by temptations, the issue of their backslidings may be some good to them, beyond what they would have received if the temptations
had never existed ; and yet their backslidings in general may be a great loss to them in this respect, that they shall have much less reward, than if the temptations had been overcome, and they had persevered in spiritual vigour and diligence. But yet this don't hinder, but that,
“6. It may be so ordered by a sovoreign and all-wise God, that the falls and backslidings of christians, through their being overcome by temptations in some particular instances, may prove best for them, not only because the issue may be greater good to them, than they would have received if the temptation had not happened, but even greater in that instance, than if the temptation had been
It may be so ordered, that their being overcome by that temptation, shall be the occasion of their having greater strength, and on the whole, obtaining more and greater victories, than if they had not fallen in that instance. But this is no where promised, nor can it be so, that, in the general, it should prove better for them that they were foiled so much, and did overcome so little, in the course of their lives, and that finally their decay is so great, or their progress so small. From these things it appears,
“%. That the saying of the Apostle, all things work together for good to them that love God, though it be fulfilled in some respects to all christians, at all times and in all circumstances, yet it is fulfilled more especially and eminently to christians continuing in the exercise of love to God, not falling from the exercises, or failing in the fruits of divine love in times of trial. Then it is, that temptations, enemies and suffering, will be best for them, working that which is most for their good every way, and they shall be more than conquerors over tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril and sword, Rom. viii. 35–37.
“8. As God is carrying on a design of love to each individual christian, in all his works and dispensations whatsoever, so the particular design of love to them which he is carrying on, is to fit them for, and bring them to their appointed place in the heavenly temple, or to that identical degree of happiness and glory in heaven, which his eternal love designed for them, and no other. For God's design of love or of happiness to them, is only just what it is, and is not different from itself; and to fulfil this particular design of love, everything which God does, or in any respect disposes, whether it be positive, privative or negative, contributes; because, doubtless, every thing which God does, or in any respect offers, tends to fulfil his aims and designs. Therefore, undoubtedly,
«9. All the while the christian lives in the world, he is preparing for his appointed mansion in glory, and fitting for his place in the heavenly building. All his temptations, though they may occasion, for the present, great spiritual injuries, yet at last shall be
an occasion of his being more fitted for his place in glory. Hence we may determine, that however the christian may die in some respects under the decay of spiritual comfort, and of some religious affections, yet every christian dies at that time when his habitual fitness for his place in the heavenly temple is most complete, because otherwise, all things which happen to him while he lives, would not work together to fit him for that place.
“10. God brings his people, at the end of their lives, to this greatest fitness for their place in heaven, not by diminishing holiness in their hearts, but by increasing it, and carrying on the work of grace in their souls. If it be not so, that cannot be true, that where God has begun a good work he will perform it, or carry it on to the day of Christ; for if they die with a less degree of holiness than they had before, then it ceases to be carried on before the day of Christ comes. If holiness finally decreases, then Satan so far finally obtains the victory. He finally prevails to diminish the fire in the smoking flax, and then how is that promise verified, that God will not quench the smoking flar, till he bring forth judgment unto victory? So that it must needs be, that although christians
may die under decay, in some respects, yet they never die under a real habitual decay of the work of grace in general. If they fall, they shall rise again before they die, and rise higher than before, if not in joy, and some other affections, yet in greater degrees of spiritual knowledge, self-abasement, trust in God, and solidity and ripeness of grace.
“If these things which have been observed are true, then we may infer from them these corollaries.
“1. That notwithstanding the truth of the apostle's declaration in Rom. viii. 28, christians have cause to lament their leanness and unfruitfulness, and the fact that they are guilty of so much sin, not only as it is to the dishonour of God, but also as it is likely to redound to their own eternal loss and damage.
“ 2. That nothing can be inferred from this promise, which is calculated to set aside, or make void the influence of motives to earnest endeavours to avoid all sin, to increase in holiness, and abound in good works, from an aim at an high and eminent degree of glory and happiness in a future world.
“ 3. That though it is to the eternal damage of christians, ordinarily, when they yield to, and are overcome by temptations; yet Satan and the other enemies of christians, from whom these temptations come, are always wholly disappointed in the temptation, and baffled in their design to hurt them, inasmuch as the temptation and the sin which it occasions, are for the saint's good, and they receive a greater benefit in the issue, than if the temptation had not been, and yet less than if the temptation had been overcome.
“As to Mr. Boston's View of the Covenant of Grace, I have had some opportunity to examine it, and I confess I do not Vol. I.
understand the scheme of thought presented in that book. I have read his Fourfold State of Man, and liked it exceedingly well. I think in that, he shows himself to be a truly great divine. “Hoping that you will accept my letter with candour, and re
, member me in your prayers, I subscribe myself
s brother and servant,
“ JONATHAN EDWARDS."
In October, 1744, a number of ministers in Scotland, among whom, I believe, were all the correspondents of Mr. Edwards in that country, thinking that the state of the church and the world called loudly for United Extraordinary Prayer to God, that he would deliver the nations from their miseries, and fill the earth with his glory; proposed that christians universally should, for the two years then next ensuing, set apart a portion of time, on Saturday evening and Sabbath morning, every week, to be spent in prayer for this purpose; and that they should still more solemnly devote the first Tuesday in the last month of each quarter of the year, to be spent either in private, social or public, prayer to God, for the bestowment of those blessings on the world. Mr. Edwards not only welcomed the proposal as soon as he received it, but did all in his power to promote its general acceptance by the American churches; and the following letter, alluding to a more particular account of the subject in one to Mr. M'Laurin, which I have not been able to procure, will in some measure apprize the reader of the efforts, which he made for this purpose.
“ To the Rev. William M'Culloch.
“Northampton, Sept. 23, 1747. " Rev. AND DEAR SIR,
“I thank you for your letter of March_12, 1747, which I suppose lay a long while at Mr. Prince's in Boston, before I received it, through Mr. Prince's forgetfulness. It seems he had forgotten that he had any such letter; and when I sent a messenger to his house, on purpose to enquire whether I had any letter lodged there for me from Scotland, he told him No; when I suppose this letter had been long in his house: and I should probably never have had it at last, had not one of my daughters had occasion to go to Boston, who made a visit at the house, and made a more full enquiry.
“I am sorry to hear of your affliction, through your indisposition that you speak of, and desire to be thankful to the God of all mercy for his goodness, in restoring you again to health.
“I have, in my letter to Mr. M’Laurin, given a particular account of what I know, concerning the propagation of the Concert for United Prayer, in America; which you will doubtless have op