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probability of success, may easily be mistaken for faith, if you do not discriminate; and thus you may be led to think it was your believing that he would be converted which has made your prayers and efforts successful.
Some of the evils which this mistake seems likely to produce have been already hinted at. There is another which I should greatly fear. If I should imbibe the opinion that in order to pray aright for the conversion of my friend, I must pray for it believing that he would be converted, this would be known to him. And it would be adapted to lead him to place great dependence on my prayers, and prepare him to be fatally deceived. For as soon as he thought I had prayed in faith for his conversion, he would begin to think he should be converted. From this he would find some relief; and this relief he would be very likely to think was conversion itself. And so he would begin to hope. And if I thought I had prayed in faith for his conversion, as soon as I found him relieved and hoping, I should be likely to think him converted, and to encourage his hope. And there is no way in which I can conceive an anxious sinner to be more likely to be deceived to his eternal ruin than this would be.
Let us, then, be deeply sensible of the importance of discrimination, in matters of such solemnity and importance as this. And while we take encouragement to pray, and pray in hope, let us not mistake hope for faith, nor probability for certainty. But let us pray in faith, the faith which consists in believing that God will do what is best, the faith which reposes, with entire confidence, on his infinite wisdom and goodness and power, and is as ready to acquiesce in a denial of our requests, if so it shall seem good in his sight, as it is to accept with thankfulness and joy the blessings for which we humbly pray, if God shall see fit to bestow them.
PUBLISHED BY THE
AMERICAN DOCTRINAL TRACT SOCIETY,
ALL FOR THE BEST.
WHEN We look at the various evils with which we are surrounded, and confine our view to them alone, how very undesirable they appear. What matter of regret it seems that they should exist; and how much better it would seem to be if they could all be avoided, and the whole universe contain nothing but good. But they do exist; and some will continue to exist forever. Sin and misery abound in this world; and, according to the Scriptures, many will be the subjects of sin and misery in the world to come. Can any good come out of this? Or must every benevolent being, in the view of it, sit down forever in unavailing sorrow? Must we wish this world had never been made, since it contains so much evil? Shall we think that God might have done better than he has done; and consequently not feel that respect and esteem towards him which we could have felt if he had done better? Shall we believe that God is disappointed in the result of his works; and that the end he had in view will fail of being accomplished? Will the Divine Being himself, in the final issue of things, wish this world had never been made, and find his happiness forever destroyed by the evils which have marred his work, and defeated its end? Or, is there reason to believe that no evil exists, but what is connected with some good sufficient to overbalance the evil? Would it not be a great source of comfort to every benevolent mind, when contemplating the evils it sees, if it could be made to appear that there is a good reason for them all; a reason, in view of which it is better that they should exist than that they should not? Must it not appear highly desirable, to every one that loves God, to be able to believe, on good grounds, that he has done wisely and well, in all that he has done; and that he will not fail, in the end, to bring into existence the highest possible amount of good, in the intelligent universe?
It is declared in the Scriptures, that "all things work together for good to them that love God." This cannot
mean, merely, that the personal good of the saints is secure, and that all things tend to promote it. The saints are benevolent beings. The highest good of the universe is the object on which they have set their hearts. Nothing will satisfy their benevolent desires but the accomplishment of that great object. They love God supremely; and wish to see him glorified. They also love their fellow creatures; and wish them the greatest possible good. That God may be glorified in the highest degree, all his perfections must be exercised in the fullest manner, and be exhibited to the best advantage. His wisdom and goodness, his justice, and mercy, and grace, his power, and truth, and faithfulness, must all be exercised in perfect harmony. The highest good of creatures consists in the highest degree of holiness and happiness of which they are capable. The highest good of the universe does not consist in either of these objects, taken separately, but in both combined. It is the highest amount of holiness and happiness which can be brought into existence, among intelligent beings, including both the Creator and his creatures. This is the great object which all benevolent beings desire. This constitutes their chief good. And this is the object which all things conspire to pro
It is the design of this tract to show that every event which takes place is for the best.
Before proceeding to the proof of this proposition, it may be well to explain its meaning, that no misunderstanding may occur. It is not meant that every event is good in itself, and desirable for its own sake. A thing may be considered, at one time, by itself alone, without reference to its connections and consequences. It is then considered as it is in itself. At another time, the same thing may be considered in connection with all its consequences and results. Then it is considered as it is on the whole. Holiness is good in itself, and desirable for its own sake. So is happiness. But sin is evil in itself, and for its own sake undesirable. And so is misery. Among the events which take place, are very many which in themselves are evils, and for their own sake are undesirable. And when such are said to be for the best, nothing is meant inconsistent with their be ng regarded as evils in
themselves. But an event which is evil in itself may have some good consequences. And it is possible for the good of those consequences to be greater in amount than the evil of the event; so that, when the good and the evil are taken together, there may be a balance of good; and it may be better, on the whole, that both should exist, than that both should fail. If the evil of the event and the good of the consequences should be equal in amount, the event would be, on the whole, a matter of indifference. If the evil should overbalance, the good, it would be on the whole undesirable. But if the good should overbalance the evil, it would be on the whole desirable, and for the best. When, therefore, any event which is evil in itself is said to be on the whole for the best, this is what is meant that the good of the consequences will overbalance the evil, so that there will be a clear gain of good, on the whole, from the existence of that event.
The distinction which is here made is not a mere distinction in theory. It is a distinction which every one makes in his daily practice. Men submit to labor and toil and fatigue, not because they consider them desirable in themselves, but as the means of acquiring wealth. They choose them, not for their own sake, but for the sake of their good consequences. The sick man considers the nauseous drug prescribed, as very undesirable in itself, and one which he would never choose for its own sake; but when he regards it as the means of regaining his health, he thinks the good will overbalance the evil, and chooses to take it as on the whole for the best.
It is to be observed also, that all events are connected together, and go to form one great whole. If any event should take place differently from what it now does, the whole system would be different. And whenever an event which now takes place is said to be for the best, it is meant that it is a necessary part of the best possible system. The best system is that which includes the greatest amount of good, on the whole, after deducting as much as will balance the evil. And when it is said, that the present system is better than any other possible system, it is meant, that, after deducting from the good as much as will balance all the evil, there is a greater sum of good remaining than there would have been in any other
possible system. When it is said, then, that every event which takes place is for the best, it is meant that it is a necessary part of the best possible system of events; and that if any alteration were made, in any respect, there would be less good on the whole, than there will be now; and the system, as a whole, would be less perfect, and less desirable.
It is now to be proved, that, every event which takes place is for the best.
As to those events which are good in themselves there is no dispute. The only question is, whether those events which are in themselves evil, are, on the whole, for the best. That it has been so in a great many cases is easily seen. Events which were evil in themselves have been made the occasion of good—good which could not otherwise have been secured, and great enough to overbalance the evil.
The fall of man was in itself an evil of great magnitude. But it afforded an opportunity for God to exercise and display his wonderful mercy and grace in saving sinAll admit that without a discovery of the mercy and grace of God, his character cannot be seen in its greatest glory. But there is no way in which mercy and grace can be seen, other than in their actual exercise towards sinners. You may tell a blind man of the beauty of colors; but he can form no adequate conception of them till his eyes are opened, and he sees them actually displayed before him. So creatures might be told of the mercy and grace of God; but they must have been forever unable to know anything of these glorious traits of the divine character, if there had been no sinners to save. The fall of man, though a great evil, is more than balanced by the good of which it is the occasion, the good which is accomplished in the gift of a Saviour, and the work of redemption.
The hatred of Joseph's brethren was in itself an evil; but it was the means of his going down into Egypt. The wicked conduct of Joseph's mistress was in itself an evil ; but it was the means of his being cast into prison. And these trials were the means of preparing Joseph for the important part he was afterwards to act. The imprisonment of the servants of Pharaoh was in itself an evil;