Godliness, we are told, has the promise of the life which now is, as well as of that which is to come. Does this mean that godly persons are distinguished by their wealth, by their prosperity, by their exemption from the common trials and afflictions of men? No: it rather means, that, though they have those things which are common to men, yet they have the peace of God along with them; and what is still of greater importance (if greater it can be), they have them as blessings bearing their souls to God and glory, or, as the idea is conveyed to us in the text, “all things working together for their good.” You will admit, my hearers, that this is a very comprehensive subject, and I assure you that I have no hope of being able to do it justice. However, some things may be hinted, and some things I shall attempt, first, by way of expounding the passage, trying to come at the meaning of it; and secondly, in confirming the leading truths which we are here taught.
Let us endeavour, in the first place, to expound the passage, or to offer a few remarks, that we may ascertain the extent and force of the expressions here used. I think there are four things supposed in this language. It is supposed that all things are working, that all things work in concert or together, that all things work together for good, and lastly, that this good is restricted to them that love God, and are the called according to his purpose. Let us review these important ideas.
It is supposed, in the first place, that all things are working. It is an affecting idea, an affecting truth, that nothing stands still; all things, as the wise man expresses it, are “full of labour, man cannot utter it.” Every thing in the natural, in the political, and in the moral world is in motion. All things in the natural world are working: the sun rises and the sun goes down; the winds whirl about continually; the clouds are gathering and anon dispersing; the heavenly bodies are incessantly in motion; the waters are continually evaporating from the ocean and returning again to it:—all things are full of labour. It is the same in the political world: kingdoms are rising and falling; changes are continually taking place; some are prospering, and towering to the summit of what is called worldly glory, and others are gradually dwindling into insignificance; the potsherds of the earth are dashing one against another; the whole world is like one great sea, the waters of which are in constant motion. It is the same in the moral world: all things are working—man works, God works, angels work, devils work, sin works, righteousness works, error works, truth works:—“all things are full of labour, man cannot utter it.” Human affairs are subject to incessant fluctuation; there is no standing still. Man may be insensible, but he does not remain stationary. Like the stupid prophet, he may be asleep at the bottom of the ship; but, though asleep, the tempest hurries him along, and he is fast hastening to his final abode, to the consummation of all things.
Remark, secondly, not only do all things work, but all things “work together,” work in concert. God, who by his almighty power puts all things in motion, and keeps them in motion, by his wisdom causes them to act in harmony. This harmony may not be visible to us; the movements of things may appear to resemble the movements of a tumultuous mob; but, in the eye of Him that sits upon the circle of the heavens and manages all affairs, they are the motions of a well disciplined army. We cannot see the whole compass of things, but God knows how to organize and order things in themselves most discordant. Moses’s prayers and Balaam’s curses, Pharaoh’s cruelty and Israel’s groans, were but so many links in the chain of events to accomplish their deliverance. Yes, the treachery of Judas Iscariot, the cruelty of the scribes and priests, the hypocrisy of Pilate, the entire wicked system of the enemies of Christ, together with all the gracious ends to be accomplished by it, formed but one harmonious whole in the mind of God, and those events were but so many wheels composing one grand and glorious machine. “All things work together.”
But remark, thirdly, not only do all things “work” and “work together,” but they “work together for good.” He, whose power puts all things in motion, whose wisdom causes them to work in concert, by his goodness overrules them to operate beneficially. His love and mercy give the finishing touch, causing this harmonious working to terminate in the good of all those who “love him, and are the called according to his purpose.” But it may be asked, How does this accord with fact? I reply, Though things work for good, it may not always be a perceived good; you must not lay your account that every event that shall befall you will work for such a good as you may at once perceive. You may never perceive it while in this world. It may form part of the bliss of heaven to observe the good which a thousand ills have eventually wrought. “What thou knowest not now, thou shalt know hereafter.” God gives us proof enough to convince us that it may be so; and he has given us his promise assuring us that it is so; but we must wait, in many cases, till we arrive at glory, to see how it is so.
Excerpt from: “All Things Working Together for Good,” a sermon preached at Eagle St. London, March 26, 1800.
Fuller, A. G. (1988). The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Memoirs, Sermons, Etc. (J. Belcher, Ed.) (Vol. 1, pp. 385–386). Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications.