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Title: The Gracious Designs of God, Accomplished by the Malice of His Enemies

Author: J. Church

Release date: December 26, 2018 [eBook #58535]

Language: English


Transcribed from the 1819 R. Thomas edition by David Price, email

Public domain book cover



An Address,

Delivered on WEDNESDAY, November 24th, 1819,



Being the Day of his Deliverance.


Commit thy Way unto the Lord; trust also in him, and he shall bring
it to pass.—Psalm xxxvii, 5th Verse.





p. 3AN ADDRESS, &c.

But God meant it unto good.—Gen. l. 20th verse.

The sacred pages are designed by the God of all grace, to reveal the glorious salvation of lost, ruined, guilty man.  The adorable Author of this inestimable blessing, with its amazing contrivance, and the means appointed for the knowledge and enjoyment of it—the eternal love of God as the source, the finished work of Christ, God-Man Mediator, and the gracious energy and operations of the Holy-making Spirit, are the appointed means for the accomplishment and application of this glorious salvation.  This is the subject matter of the Gospel, as set forth in the word, and experienced by all who are taught of God; and while we would adore the sacred Trinity in Unity, for the revelation of his gracious will, in the matter of a sinner’s salvation from merited ruin, so we desire, at the same time, to search the scriptures for all the suited promises and encouragements therein given to the believer, in his complicated trials; and whatever may be the p. 4nature of those trials, the Bible fully assures him, that a covenant God has marked out his path in love, and in infinite wisdom; and though the hand of God may lay heavy upon him in deep afflictions, and the dispensations of divine providence may be very dark, and his trials very severe, it is a mercy to know, to believe, and be enabled to rest on the Staff of divine faithfulness; ever bearing in mind, that the grand design of every conflict, is to answer the purposes of the divine glory; and, ultimately, to bring the believer to himself, to great nearness and conformity to Christ, and, finally, to everlasting bliss.  For our light afflictions, which are but for a moment, worketh for us an exceeding and eternal weight glory, while we look not at the things which are temporal.

The instrument a wise and gracious Father may use, to answer these ends, may be singular; and frequently they are those who are very dear to our hearts, and nearly allied in nature, profession, or friendship.  Such, alas! may be permitted to distress the mind and grieve the heart, by the exercise of malice, arising from some predominant evil disposition, and frequently without any apparent cause, save that of envy; but the Lord who has decreed to permit this, has also decreed to over-rule it, for our spiritual, and sometimes even for our temporal good.  The Lord very frequently makes the evil devised against us by Satan and his emissaries, answer many valuable purposes; and so wisely manages p. 5those things, which appear to be the greatest evils, to be the greatest advantage to us, and to effect his own glory in some mysterious way.  Our mercy, under every dispensation, is to lay passive in his hand, to believe in his love, and to be humbled before him, well knowing that he worketh all things after the counsel of his own will; and while the mind is thus engaged to hear, also on universal goodwill to those who may injure us, quite forgetting, and freely forgiving them, as we have been forgiven, to conceal as much as possible their infirmities, even while we plead our own innocence; and in exculpating ourselves, we cannot be too careful to avoid reflecting upon those, who have dealt so cruelly with us.  This is the spirit of true religion and genuine christianity.

I am led into these observations from the history before us, an history fraught with deep instruction to the Lord’s people.  Few can read this tale unmoved, and all must see the propriety of Solomon’s remark:—Who can stand before envy?  Our first father Adam could not, nor pious Abel, nor David; yea, the Son of God himself fell a victim to this malign influence, this satanic principle; and the history of the pious patriarch Joseph, is another awful evidence of this truth.  I recommend this history to you, and hope you will gain much spiritual instruction; but above all, do not let this very interesting consideration pass unnoticed, in almost every p. 6circumstance recorded of Joseph,—that a greater than Joseph is here, one infinitely more illustrious, even the person of the dear and adorable Redeemer, the spiritual Joseph, the Zaaph Paaneah, the Revealer of gospel secrets, and the Saviour of the Land.  Dear indeed to the Father, as the Son of his love, and the Object of his delight; as God, as God-Man, as the Head of his Elect Body; and the Mediator, Righteousness, and Glory of his Church; while all the promises and prophecies, shadows and types, with every illustrious character in the old Testament history, pointed to him, and shadowed him forth to the faith of the Church before his coming; and indicated his deep humiliation, and his final exaltation, when angels and saints should adore him, in our nature, as the Lamb in the midst of the throne, while ungodly sinners and devils should tremble at his presence.  His holy nature, like Joseph’s coat of distinguished favour, was sweetly and richly diversified with the various graces of the Holy Spirit.  Commissioned by his Father, agreeable to ancient stipulation, and covenant agreement, he came to seek the eternal felicity of his brethren.  But Oh! the dreadful blindness and enmity of the human heart, even many of those who were dear to him, became his betrayers and murderers: a Judah sold his brother for twenty pieces of silver, and a Judas sold his master for ten more.  He was tempted by the world, but he resisted it: falsely accused—he was imprisoned under the sentence of death, in all its horrid p. 7forms; and when on the Cross his divine compassion, and his awful sovereignty, was displayed in saving a fellow sufferer, and hearing the other in his awful state of rebellion.  The appointed hour of his exaltation was come, and he was taken from prison and from death; raised, spiritualized, and conquering, he again revealed what merciful and awful events would take place in the land of Judea: he was received up into glory, the human nature was exalted into high and glorious union with the Deity, and as God-Man, to him every knee shall bow, and own him Lord of all.  The treasures of grace are in his hands, for the benefit of his people, and to him all must come for the supply of their wants; while his adorable hand of awful, but gracious providence, executes the purposes of his grace, and brings the objects of his love, and the purchase of his blood, to his feet.  Convinced of their enmity, envy and cruelty, ignorance and contempt, they, by the power of all-conquering grace, are brought to seek his favour, confess their sins, supplicate his throne, and obtain the pardon of their transgressions.  To these he makes himself known, and treats them as brethren and friends, without upbraiding them.

This is compassion, like a God: they are invited to dwell near him, and the spiritual good of all the land is before them, as the earnest of that glory which he has in reversion for them.  Fresh scenes in providence are opened to them; trouble, age, or sickness p. 8comes on, death and eternity is in view, doubts and fears may again invade the mind, in the bitter reflection of past sins.  The soul once more drops at the feet of Jesus, and once more petitions him to forgive and forget his folly—the bowels of mercy yearn in the loving heart of our elder Brother, over us, and he again renews the promise of pardon, with power to the soul, that we may go down to the grave in peace.  And as it respects their conduct to him, he calls up their attention to the design of God, in all his dispensations; that God meant to glorify the riches of his grace, and in their salvation to make himself a glorious name.  Now, therefore, be ye not grieved nor angry with yourselves; ye thought evil against me, but God meant it unto good.

This is evident, when we take a view of the conduct of Joseph’s brethren, and the over-ruling their malice and cruelty, to answer the appointed end.  Ah! little did those persons know what God intended to do, when they maliciously combined to destroy him; but, being restrained from their diabolical purpose, they were directed, or rather impelled, by an unseen power, to sell him for a slave.  But God meant to honour Joseph, to make his own name glorious in an idolatrous land; to save many nations from ruin, to preserve their very lives who had designed to take away their brother’s; to the family of Israel, till they should become a great nation; to fulfil his own promises to Abraham, p. 9through whom the Messiah was to spring.  Thus God meant it unto good.

I proceed to illustrate this truth, by a variety of important circumstances.—The dreadful fall of man effected by the malice of Satan, who hated the image of God, and envied the felicity of our first parents—who meant to destroy them, and eternally ruin all whom they represented.  Satan, alas! succeeded, in a measure; but God, who had decreed to permit that wretch to manifest his malice against him, decreed also to over-rule it: he meant it unto good, even to magnify his grace, display his power, testify his hatred to sin, glorify his justice, manifest his wisdom, and shew his amazing love, in the gift of his dear Son, for their redemption from sin, the worst of evils, and from hell, the worst of miseries.  Thus God meant it unto good.

This fact may be clearly seen in the amazing history of our dear Lord.  God permitted Satan to go out of his limitted bounds, and to use his utmost influence to destroy the Prince of Life.  He urged that blood-hound, Herod, to murder the Babes of Bethlehem, in hopes of destroying the Saviour of guilty man.  While he preached the gospel, wrought miracles, and was working out a righteousness for his dear people, Satan stirred up the Scribes and Pharisees, the Jews and Priests, to vent all the malice of their hearts against him, and so hold him up to p. 10public contempt; and in his last conflicts, we may see the malice of men and devils, by all the calumny and reproach, with a load of inconceivable sorrow with which they loaded the immaculate Lamb of God.  The malice of the Priests and Doctors of the Law, the weakness of Pilate, and the rage of an easy persuaded populace—herein we see the malice of Satan: he thought evil against the Saviour, but God meant it for good, and effected only what he had before determined to bring about.  The intentions of the enemy, and the designs of Jehovah, were infinitely remote; the God of all grace meant to glorify all his sublime perfections, by the obedience, sufferings, and conquests of the Saviour—the magnifying his holy law, the satisfying his own justice, and the redemption of his Church; the overthrow of Satan’s empire, and the downfal of sin and death—Thus God meant it unto good.

We may trace this subject still further, and take a view of the sufferings of the martyrs in every age, from the days of righteous Abel, to the last saint who may be called to seal the truth with his blood.  Those who loved the Saviour, and loved not their lives unto death, endured every species of persecution, for the love they bore to truth, having felt its power, and enjoyed its reality, were opposers of Satan’s kingdom, and Satan aimed to extirpated them from the earth: but the more the truth has been opposed, the more the church has been oppressed, the p. 11more it has ever prospered: what their enemies aimed at, was to degrade the religion of the Son of God, to abolish the gospel, and to ruin immortal souls; but in this they have ever failed, and ever will, because God has meant the sufferings of his people, and the malice of their enemies, to good.  The history of the experience of saints, in all ages, prove the same, as may be seen in the trial of Abraham, when called to sacrifice his Son; and by faith he obtained this name, the Father of the faithful, and the Friend of God.  In the deep trials, and accumulated afflictions of Job, Satan plotted against him, to destroy him—he traduced him as an hypocrite before God, though he was the most sincere man then living; he extended his malice to the ruin of his family, in order to provoke him to curse God.  He stirred up his wife for the same tremendous purpose, and then set his brethren to accuse him of hypocrisy, of living in some secret sin, alledging that such uncommon trials never befel a real saint, as befel Job; but this was judging after the flesh, for which the Lord afterwards reproved them; and though they were good men, yet they did not speak the thing that was right, concerning God or his servant Job.  Yet these things were all meant by infinite wisdom for good; to answer God’s own gracious purposes, to shew Job the desperate evil of his own heart, and the insufficiency of his own righteousness, to justify him before God.

p. 12The oppression of the Israelites in Egypt, was intended to break the backs and the hearts of God’s people, but God intended to get himself a glorious name in their deliverance, and the overthrow of their enemies.  When Korah, Dathan, and Abiram conspired against the Priesthood, this was a sore affliction to Moses and Aaron; their aim was to degrade the priestly office, and to bring the Lord’s own servants into contempt amongst the people; this was permitted, as God intended to over-rule it, that his servants might be more fully confirmed in their office, to honor his own sacred institutions, and to give a public testimony of his approbation of his own servants.  This was for good to them.  The hand of the Lord was soon known among his servants, and his indignation towards his enemies.  The history of David is another instance of this truth: Satan stirred up Saul to hunt him as a Partridge upon the mountains; Absalom and Ahithophel to plot against his life and his kingdom, with almost innumerable foes all his reign.  Satan well knew that the Messiah was to come of the seed of David, and it was at him he aimed, in all the afflictions of David: but God meant it unto good, to answer many valuable ends.  The Holy Spirit kept up his mind in great spirituality, and he was then enabled to compose many blessed Psalms, which were, doubtless, a peculiar blessing to the Saviour, on earth, and has been a choice treasure to his tried family ever since.

p. 13We might proceed to illustrate this subject by a cloud of witnesses, but you have the sacred pages in your hands, and can read them for yourselves.  I might mention the history of Naomi and Ruth, of Mordecai and Esther, and many more, but shall only remark, that the falling out of brethren, and the divisions made in churches, though designed by Satan, to put a stop to the spread and force of truth, yet, it has frequently been found to bring about some gracious purpose of God, and the dissemination of the very truth Satan aimed to stop in its progress.  This truth is found also in the daily experience of God’s children; and however numerous their foes, and complicated their trials, it is the work and wisdom of their faith to look above them, to the gracious purposes of God, in covenant love and wisdom, who is working all things after the counsel of his will.  It is true, the designs of God may be hid from the believer’s view for a time, and the trial may be long, dark, and distressing, yet, faith can rest upon this truth, The Lord hath his ways of grace and mercy, in the whirlwind and in the storm; and though in common trials we may be able to read God’s designs, and to trace the footsteps of the flock, in our painful experience, yet there are cases to be found amongst the Lord’s people, of an extraordinary nature, wherein we can only exclaim with the Palmist, Thy way, Oh God, is in the sea, thy paths in the mighty waters, and thy footsteps are not knownDeep in unfathomable mines.  Yet, as grace teaches, p. 14and faith gathers strength, notwithstanding all our rebellion, self-will, unbelief and carnal sense, suspicion, doubts, and fears, we are brought to stand still, and watch till the Lord unfolds the mystery.  But

Unbelief is sure to err,
   And scan his work in vain,
God is his own interpreter,
   And he will make it plain.

Every thing that may befal the grace-taught christian, from his new birth, till his glorification, is designed to do him good; yea, from his infancy to his death, when called out of darkness into marvelous light.  Satan begins to display his envy and malice in a more terrible way, if the good work is begun by a storm from Sinai, in a deep law-work on the soul; he will endeavour to drive the poor sinner to black despair; and if the work of God in the heart, is by more gentle means, he will try to distress the soul, because the work has not been, in all respects, like that which may be in another soul.  But even these, and every future temptation, God means for good; they shew us the malice of Satan, they drive us as prisoners of hope to the strong hold for strength, and make us well acquainted with his devices.  When God hides his face, he only means to shew us what we are without Christ; and when any saint is permitted to fall into sin, God means to over-rule that fall, to humble the soul, and shew it the need of divine keeping every moment.  Sin, as daily felt p. 15within, and as perpetually trying the believer, is to shew us our daily need of the Atonement, applied to the conscience; and our daily infirmities shew us our need of a better, yea, of an infinitely meritorious righteousness, wrought out by the dear God-Man Mediator, and imputed to all that believe in him, for their complete justification before God.  The reluctance which we often find to prayer, and every other sacred duty, is meant to shew us our need of quickening, and renewing grace; and the accusations of the enemy are meant to shew us our need of an advocate with the Father.  God means that every loss and cross, every trial, reproach, and mortification, whether deserved or not, shall wean us from the world, beckon us home, and make us sit loose from every undue attachment to the creature; and every grief, occasioned by the loss of those who are dear to our hearts, is to shew us our need of that ever-living, ever-loving, and everlasting Friend, even Jesus.  The prevalence of error, is to stir up our zeal, to shew the reality of our attachment and affection to Christ and his cause.  All this blessed work is carried on by the power of God the Holy Spirit, in the hearts of those who are loved with an everlasting love, chosen in Christ Jesus, redeemed by his blood, kept by his powers and called by his grace.  Well may the apostle mark it down as a branch of spiritual knowledge to the Church, in these words—And we know that all things work together for good, to them that love God, and are the called according to his purpose.

p. 16By way of concluding these general remarks, which are only designed to stir up the mind by way of remembrance, and not merely to inform you (because you already know these things) I would take this opportunity of making only a few general observations on my late affairs—which may, indeed, be very uninteresting to others, but it more especially relates to the little circle of my own friends, to whom God has made me useful, and who esteem me only for the truth’s sake.  I cannot, I do not expect any others to notice it, except as usual, to turn it into ridicule, and go on to hold it up, as well as myself, to contempt; but this I am so inured to, that I regard it not, and though they ever intended much evil against me, I am fully persuaded that God means it for good.

In the first place, I would bow my knees to the God of all grace and mercy, and adore him for his stupendous love and condescension, his power, his faithfulness and truth, which have been so long and so conspicuously manifested to me, during the whole of this long and heavy affliction—the health of body, the kind and miraculous providences, which have been so abundantly bestowed upon me—the comforts and multiplied favors which have been showered upon one so unworthy as I am, and while deprived of the means of providence, I look back with holy wonder, rapture, and surprize, at the wonder-working hand of my good God and Father; p. 17but above all, for the aboundings of his grace in my soul, through the gracious teachings and leadings of his Holy Spirit, that he has more than ever led me to see the evil, the infinite evil there is in sin, the depth of human depravity, the justice of God in the damnation of sinners—his patience, kind forbearance, long sufferings and amazing mercy.  These subjects have deeply affected my heart, and, I hope, yea, I am sure, have overcome, melted me into godly sorrow, and deep humility.  The glorious plan of salvation has more than ever been opened to my wondering view, and the ever gracious Almighty Spirit has made me savingly acquainted with the person, the love, and the work of the dear Redeemer, with the stability of his everlasting covenant, and the eternal transactions of the Holy Three; before all worlds, concerning the complete salvation of guilty man.

I bless, praise, and adore the Lord the Holy Spirit, that he has ever thus visited my soul with his quickening, renewing, reproving, and consoling influences; that in the place of my captivity he has again and again assured my soul of her part and lot in himself, in the love of the Father, and in the doing and dying of the Saviour; which has produced evangelical repentance, increasing hatred to sin, fervent love to God, and willing and cheerful obedience to his laws; that he has supported my spirit in the deep affliction, and brought me near to himself; p. 18subdued what was wrong, and led me to see wherein I have erred; chastened, scourged, afflicted, tried, and brought me low; taught me many important lessons for my future benefit, and glorified his own grace in my soul, and has at last led me to say, he has done all things well, praise ye the Lord.

In the second place, as is my duty to do, I make this public acknowledgement of my gratitude, for the special, long, unwearied, and unreserved kindness of my friends, to me, during this severe trial, which has lasted above three years.  The support of myself, the support of my children, and the ability afforded me for the relief of some hundreds, during my confinement, and which relief and support has been owing to the affection and sympathy of many females, from the very best and noblest motives, also from some gentlemen in the fear and love of God—men, whose conduct and characters are agreeable to the word of God, who have accompanied their generosity with many prayers for the sanctification of my troubles, and which prayers have, I believe, been answered to my felicity, and, I trust, the future joy of their hearts, as influenced by that holy charity that rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth.  Nor do I forget their kind exertions in the support of the cause of God and truth, within these walls, though wrecked with dissentions, and injured by many, who shall be nameless here, as I hope to forgive every injury I have received.

p. 19I might here mention, were it prudent, some particular persons, whom the Lord has raised up to seek the welfare of this oppressed Church—persons whom I scarcely knew before, but who have been the instruments of much good to us.  I beg them to accept this my warmest gratitude and acknowledgement.

In the next place, I take this opportunity of returning my grateful thanks to that large body of persons, who, though many were strangers to me, did, so willingly, and in so kind a manner, readily subscribe their names to the petition, which was presented to the Secretary of State for my enlargement, and which was refused, for very judicious reasons; the good effects of which we hope shortly to see.

While I am daily praying for grace, to walk worthy the honour done me, as it respects my long afflictions and deep distresses of mind, I shall not work upon your feelings in the detail of them, suffice it to say, that I shall ever maintain that it was the most weak, cruel, and scandalous prosecution, which ever took place in this highly favored land—had it been justly merited, these were, besides the prosecution, such unparalleled cruelties exercised towards me, as perhaps were never known in the memory of man; but I forgive the prosecutor, and consider him only as the tool of a party, and may God pardon p. 20his falsehoods.  But I cannot easily forget the cruelty and joyful malice of little Doeg the Edomite, Saul and Nabal, Rabshakeh, Rab Mag, Rab Saris, Samgar Nebo, and Nergal Sharezer.

That the honorable and learned Judge, who tried the cause, should act as he did, was not to be wondered at, when we reflect upon the misrepresentations which were made to him; nor could any other verdict be expected from a jury, however candid and impartial, when we call to mind the circulation of the many thousand scandalous pamphlets, filled with the most abominable falsehood—it is computed that above ten thousands were circulated in a very few days, and some thousands which contained a hundred palpable lies—What other verdict could naturally be expected?  I beg leave, however to state, that I am not the less affected to the Law of the Land, because I have been so severely and cruelly handled; the situation I have just left has given me all opportunity to appreciate their value.  I shall ever reverence and esteem them, and endeavour to obey them, with the Laws of Christ; and in reference to myself, in my own individual circumstances, I have paid the debt for the supposed violation of them.  Whether guilty or not, is not now the point, the debt of long affliction is paid, not do I wish my most inveterate foes to pass through three such painful years as I have.  I trust, however, they are satisfied.  I only aimed at giving satisfaction, p. 21by enduring the heavy penalty; I might have avoided it, by quitting the country, after paying the bail, which was but twenty pounds each; but I was conscious I had done nothing of a criminal nature, that I was quite innocent of the intent imputed to me—Why then should I gratify the wishes of certain parties, by flying from my country and friends?  The Laws of the land are satisfied; the Prosecutor is satisfied, although he had declared to many that I was guilty of no assault whatever.  Little Doeg the Edomite, is satisfied, although I never injured him, or spake disrespectfully of his family; he is, no doubt, well pleased with the long train of my inconceivable sorrows, the tears and distresses of my children, and the grief of thousands.  Many connected with the business are satisfied, being well paid for their trouble.  Envious Preachers are satisfied, that my popularity and public usefulness is for ever at an end—that part of the public, who were prejudiced, and who never took the trouble to search into the business, but guided by bare hear-say, these have been satisfied, that I have, in their opinion, met with my deserts; but those, who best know about the affair, will never be satisfied with the cruelty I have experienced.

I am satisfied that it was all divinely appointed, that it has taught me many important lessons, and has produced the fruits of righteousness to the glory of God.  The Congregation is satisfied with my p. 22return to them, in hopes of being more blest than they were before, by subjects of truth, learnt in the school of deep affliction.  Neighbours around, who esteem me as a neighbour, are satisfied with my return, and my Family particularly share in the satisfaction.  Thus, I hope, as all have satisfaction, the matter of eleven years contention is at an end.

While I pray daily for grace to walk as becometh the gospel of Christ, in holiness and righteousness, as an evidence of being delivered from my enemies, and from the hand of those who unjustly hate me, that while they intended me evil, God meant it unto good.