A sermon by Thomas White
“To them who are the called according to his purpose.”—Romans 8:28.
The sacred scriptures are a Paradise, or “garden of delights.” This Epistle to the Romans is a most interesting and artful knot in that garden. This chapter is the richest division in that knot, furnished with sweetest flowers of consolation, antidoting the remnants of corruption that there are in our hearts, and the various afflictions that we meet with in the world. This verse that I have read unto you, is the fairest flower in that division: for, what can sooner revive a drooping soul, than to be assured that “all things shall work together for good?” “We,” saith the great apostle, “do not think, imagine, conjecture, but know, partly by divine revelation, partly by our own experience, that all things,—not only gifts, graces, ordinances; but all creatures, all providences, all changes, events, occurrences; even those things that appear most formidable; homo oppugnans, diabolus insidians, ‘the persecutions of men, the temptations of the devil,’—shall work, not singly and apart, it may be, but together, for good.”
For good! Yes; but it is unto those that be good. Hands off, wicked and profane wretches! You have no part nor lot in these heavenly consolations. Away, base swine, to your sties, to your muck and mire! These pearls are not for you. Out, ye dogs, to the garbage that lieth upon the dunghill! the children’s bread is not for you. “We know that all things shall work together for good to them that love God.” Why so? Because they are “the called according to his purpose.” So Pareus expoundeth the place; and with him I perfectly agree. That which God hath purposed, shall not be frustrated: “The Lord of hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul it? and his hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back?” (Isaiah 14:27.) What man will suffer his purposes, those purposes that he taketh up with best advice and most mature deliberation, to be disappointed, if he have power to accomplish them? The holy purposes of God,— as they are ordered and directed by infinite wisdom, so they have infinite power to bring them to pass: so that if I can say, “God hath a purpose to save me,” I may securely smile at all the attempts of men and devils against me; and if I can say, “God hath effectually called me,” I may be sure God hath chosen me, and hath a purpose to save me. For all the links in the golden chain of salvation are evenwrought, not one of them wider or narrower than another: if God have chosen, he will call; if God call, he hath chosen. Once more: if I can say, “I love God,” I may be sure I am called; for I cannot love God, except I have some acquaintance with him, some sense and experience of his love toward me. So, then, all our consolations are ultimately resolved into the “purpose” of God: this is the basis and foundation of them all. That purpose appeareth by our effectual calling; and that calling appeareth to be effectual by our love to God. Hence the conclusion is certain,—that “all things shall work together for good to them that love God, to them that are the called according to his purpose.”
But I forget myself. You have heard in former discourses, under what a sad, soul-killing disease poor man laboureth in his natural condition. You heard likewise of a sovereign remedy provided in the blood of Christ. I am now engaged to speak to the application of that remedy in our effectual calling. This effectual calling, according to St. Augustine, is ingressus ad salutem, our “entrance into a state of salvation;” the first step whereby God’s predestination descendeth to us, and we again ascend to the glory predestinated.