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ALL THINGS FOR GOOD.
"HERE is a strange, tender beauty in this month of
October, which we all must have felt. Some days during the last week the air has been singularly pure and full of health ; no mountain air, no Italian air, could be sweeter or purer.
The woods and hills have put on their autumn dress of beauty and pride. The declining year has robed itself in majesty before bidding us farewell. These days are something to recollect when winter comes. Sometimes at this season of the year, I have gone to the top of the hills in this neighborhood, from which wide views can be had — such views as I think are hardly to be found anywhere but in the vicinity of Boston. Thence I saw the panorama of villages stretching around the horizon— fifty spires of churches, towns resting in peaceful repose. Away in the west was Wachusett, rising in a long, sweeping curve of blue, which reminds us of Byron's description of Mount Soracte, which
"Sweeps like a long, spent wave from out the plain,
And away to the south-east are our old friends the Blue Hills, of which we never tire, since they are the only approach to mountain scenery which we have near our city; and to the east the glitter of ocean, stretched away blue and pale into the far distance; and then, nearer by, the
woods aglow with scarlet and crimson, as if some great ceremony were at hand, and they had all come forth to greet a hero or mighty chief in their most gorgeous attire. And I thought, “O beautiful world ! World most full of beauty, which God has given us, why do we not enjoy thee more? Why are we so restless and discontented and unhappy, at war with ourselves, with those around us, even at war with Providence, when it seems as if we had only to open our hearts to all this infinite tide of God's love and be hap
I will take for my text this passage :
"All things work together for good to them that love God.”
I have sometimes been told that I am too much of an Optimist that I am too hopeful, see things too much on the bright side, do not recognize enough the evils, failures, moral disasters, spiritual tragedies, of human life. It may be true that my temperament is sanguine, and that in reading the gospel I love to dwell more on its hopes and promises than on its threats and warnings. But let us consider this a little, and ask what is Optimism and what is Pessimism, and which is the truest and wisest view of life — that which hopes, or that which desponds ?
Certainly, if we believe in a God of infinite perfection, a God who loves all his creatures with an infinite love, of whom the sun shining alike on good and evil is the symbol, who desires that no one should perish ; who is infinite wisdom, knowing how to make his creatures happy in the right way; and infinite power, to carry out all his plans in gard to them ; a God who is love, and who is above all through all and in all things ; if we have this faith we must believe that evil is transient and good permanent; that evil is a means and good the end ; that the final results to each and all of God's creatures must be good and increasing good.
Christ was surely an Optimist in this sense.
He surely believed the world was made and meant for good and not for evil. God, to him, was the universal Father, whose providence was over all his creatures, and who numbered every hair of every head. When has Optimism been put in plainer words than in the very first utterances of Jesus in his sermon on the Mount, when he declares that for all sorrow, poverty and hunger of soul, for all those in the midst of frightful persecution and tribulation, there is to be a profound blessedness, a divine comfort, a heavenly repose, a joy passing all understanding; that no matter what burdens men have to bear, if they come to him, they can have rest.
And certainly the power of Christianity is in this Optimism. It helps the world, and gives to the world new courage and new life by inspiring hope. It comes to bring hope to all persons, at all times, in all situations. And by inspiring this hope it has made a new heaven and a new earth.
Now there is a false Optimism, I know, which shuts its eyes to the existence of present evil, turns from it, dislikes to see it, refuses to admit its reality. But Jesus does not make light of evil. He saw more clearly than any one else the evil there is in the world. He never deceived himself nor deluded others with false hopes. He told his disciples what terrible dangers they would encounter, what sufferings be compelled to endure; how, before his kingdom of truth and love could come, there must be wars and famine and pestilence and murder ; how that his coming would set men at war with each other, and cause the father to hate the child and the child the father. He told them that, though they all thought they loved him, one would betray him, and one deny him, and all forsake him. But he saw ultimate success, the perfect triumph of truth, and
a reign of peace beyond all this, and that he should ultimately draw all men unto him.
True Optimism, then, does not deny the reality of present evil, but declares that it is to become the means of future good. But even thus limited it is not easy to accept it.
Why is it,” we ask, “when nature around us is so lovely and so full of peace, that the human heart should be so weighed down with anxiety, sorrow and sin? Why cannot we enjoy this beautiful world which God has given us ?”
Coleridge answered this question when he said,
“ We receive but what we give ;
All depends on the attitude of our own mind and heart. Nothing can make us happy unless we have the secrct of happiness within. Nothing can make us unhappy if we have that secret within. “All things work together for good to those who love God." Nothing works for good to those who do not love him.
It is what we carry with us and in us which determines what comes to us from without. It is so with knowledge. What a multitude of things are to be seen all around us, wherever we go, and how few of them we see !
Some one says, “We do not see what is before our eyes, but what is behind them."
They pass through the woods. One of them sees only limbs and branches and green leaves. The other sees all the new varieties of vegetation which belongs to the region, distinguishes plant from plant, discovers rare specimens. One man sees pictures in the landscape, sees the foreground and middle distance, sees the lights and shades. He is an artist; that is why he sees them. In every landscape we look at there is infinite knowledge quietly waiting till we are ready to observe. Picturesque effects for
the artist, strange plants for the botanist, stratification and a whole world-history for the geologist, soils for the farmer, and, hidden
away in it all, the love of God and a Father's smile for the loving heart of the Christian. “All things work together for knowledge for those who love knowledge.".
We receive what we give : we find what we seek. Things come to those who are prepared for them. Every one carries with him a polar force to attract or repel. To him who has an inventive faculty, inventions come. To him who has a poetical faculty, poetry comes. Events wait on man as his servants, and things befall him according to the quantity and quality of his character.
According to this law, all things work together for good to those who love God. Those who love God ! — that is, those whose hearts long for that infinite good, beauty and truth which shall raise them above themselves, and purify them from evil, conquer their sins, make them true, generous and noble. Those who love God thus, not with a selfish love disguised as piety, not merely wishing to escape from hell and get to heaven, but wishing to be the true servants and helpers of what is good in this world, will find all things working together for their good. Everything will make part of their education ; everything will give them new opportunity ; everything will help them; as sunshine or storm, summer or winter, helps the tree. When the sun shines warmly, the tree opens all its buds and leaves, and drinks in the warm air, and grows. When the cold storms of winter beat upon it, it withdraws into itself, and shuts its pores, and tightens its hold by the roots, and hardens. So when all things are pleasant in life, we enjoy them gratefully, and expand in God's sunshine with thankful hearts. When disappointment and trial come, we learn to be patient, trusting, submissive, hopeful, firm and true, and that is good for us also.