And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
I. THE UNIVERSAL LAW — "all things work." Work is not blind and aimless labour, but power directed by knowledge to the attainment of some definite end. There is a prodigious amount of energy in operation which has the appearance of agitation only, without plan or project. But there is an unseen and beneficent Hand that wields and fashions the issues of all.
1. The inanimate creation is not exempted from the law of work. The viewless gases are never idle; the particles of dust beneath our feet have run successive careers of varied labour; the world itself is a colossal work, and its motion is a ceaseless flight. The sun never halts, every star is crowned for illustrious toil, and every atom as certainly shares the common lot.
2. In the lowest levels of animated existence there are the tokens of work. Life reveals itself in activity. The springing grass, the rising corn, the budding forest, are models of industry.
3. Work pervades the human and animal economy. A single drop Of water is an ocean capable of holding millions of inhabitants; a vegetable crevice of like dimensions is a populous world. Vast masses of rock are the tombs of microscopic animalcules in countless myriads that toiled in bygone time. What million-fold animation gleams and murmurs in the summer air! What vital energies centre in man! Every particle in his body is a separate worker. Work is demanded of every one who approaches the path of progress. Even "sin" is evil "work," and "death" is "the wages" of its ill desert.
4. Angels and demons work. Little is said of angels, but names are applied to them taken from our highest ideas of might and dignity (Colossians 1:16). For what are they raised to this height? "Are they not all ministering spirits?" Angels which have forfeited celestial splendour retain all their native might, and exert it to the full (Ephesians 6:12; 1 Peter 5:8).
5. The Godhead works (John 5:17; 2 Corinthians 3:8). The whole scheme of nature is the "works" of God. God never leaves off working (Isaiah 40:28). "Virtue" never ceases to "go out" of Him.
II. THE UNIVERSAL METHOD — "all things work together." What unlike things subsist in the realm of creation! How difficult to imagine their concordant activity! Each wheel in the subtle and complicated mechanism revolves on its separate axle, yet all are cogged in some transcendent unity, and move towards one common and sublime destination.
1. The inferior objects of nature "work together." Gases are rarely found alone. Their native affinities present them in combination. Matter does not exist in ultimate granules, but in cohering masses. World balances world. The star shining far away is working with every grain of sand upon our shores. The fragile insect, a mere speck of animated light, pipes its feeble song in harmony with "the music of the spheres," and poises its wings of gauze for flight in consonance with the universal law and order of the great creation.
2. Men "work together." All that we mean by civilisation is due to this. Multitudes, without knowing it, think the thoughts of Plato and Aristotle, Bacon and Newton. It is the same in the moral sphere. Abraham, Moses, David, Isaiah, Paul, and John operate upon us every moment. Why are we here to-day? Because Jesus died eighteen hundred years ago! How the remote ages work together! So is it in evil. Notwithstanding the lapse of all the centuries the hand of Adam is on us still.
3. Men "work together" with nature. The two were made for each other. There is nothing that does not co-operate with our intelligence and taste. A star that shone millions of years ago, and many millions of miles away, blends with my reason, and nourishes my sensibility. The venerable geological records are among the most influential facts of our life.
4. Men and angels "work together," They are our "fellow-servants," and are "sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation." We pray daily to be lifted nearer to their ministry (Matthew 6:10). With the fallen hosts men labour and combine. Whoever is disloyal to the Great King belongs to the ranks of the wicked one.
5. Men "work together" with God. That the righteous do so needs no proof. But what of the wicked? In all their evil He interworks and counterworks, and causes their "wrath" to "praise" Him (Psalm 76:10). Pharaoh refused to work with God, but his wilful hardness of heart exhibited the Divine power and glory. Balaam would not work with God, but his very sins became the executors of the Divine righteousness. Herod, Pilate, etc., resolved not to work with God, yet they did "whatsoever God's hand and counsel determined before to be done."
6. All things, principles, and beings "work together," and God moves amidst and works through them all.
III. THE UNIVERSAL DESTINATION — "to them that love God."
1. Why to them that love God? Not to love God, who is the centre and source of all Divine moral loveliness, is to be incapable of good.
2. "All for good." The whole material system is a ministry "for good" to you. A Father's tenderness shines down from every star, and smiles from every common flower. All the ages are linked together, and men of all time take hands to bless thee. "For good" to you Egypt reared its pyramids and Nineveh its palaces, Phoenicia traded, Greece speculated, and Rome conquered. "For good" to you Adam fell, Abraham believed, David sung, Isaiah soared, Jesus wept, agonised, and died. Are you not constrained to read all your own life with the same clue to its meaning? How all the course of your past life, without your design, has conspired to fit you to bear the burden and fulfil the vocation of this present hour! At an early stage of your course, it may be, you encountered a bitter disappointment. But you have long since seen that the discipline was necessary. You remember a time when you lay low. But you have many a time confessed, "It is good for me that I have been afflicted." You have sad and sorrowful bereavements in your recollection. But you have not a sensibility at the present hour that death has not softened, and the clouds, so black at noon, now your sun is setting, are bathed in rosy light on the calm horizon of the better land. Are you crushed by some recent grief? Be patient, and "good" shall not fail to be worked. And what shall we say of your mistakes, follies, and sins? Peter arrived at courage through cowardice, and attained to fortitude through failure. While the world, the flesh, and the devil tempt, the Father sympathises, the Lord Jesus intercedes, the Holy Spirit waits to "guide into all the truth," angels minister, and "all things work together for good."Conclusion:
1. If this be so, what should be our great concern? Manifestly, to "love God."
2. The love of God in the heart is the secret of all spiritual rest and peace.
3. "All things work together for "ill" to them that love "not" God. That "the stars in their courses fought against Sisera" is the symbol of a universe in league against the sinner.
Parallel VersesKJV: And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.