A Divine Cordial Book Review
The WORST things work for the good of the godly (3 of 9)
In chapter two, Watson gives four of the WORST things that God still uses for the good of the godly; Affliction, Temptation, Desertion, and Sin. This post will look at the final two.
First, Desertion (and the feeling of it) can be hard to overcome. Thomas Watson had felt the feeling of his heart being hallowed out as church leaders ripped his beloved church family from him and deserted him. Have you felt the feeling where God seemingly dropped you into a room of loneliness, and just drove away? Many of God’s people have gone through this. David began Psalm 13:
“How long, Lord? Will You forget me forever?
How long will You hide Your face from me?
How long am I to feel anxious in my soul,
With grief in my heart all the day? ”
What a comfort to know that only the godly are even capable of experiencing this as the ungodly do not know what God’s love means and what it is to want it. We have rushed to withdraw from God unjustly countless times by leaving communion with Him and running from the guidance of His word. Yet, in spite of this God has never withdrawn from His people unjustly. When he does withdraw to some degree, it is only for a time (Isa.54:8), and we always have the Spirit (Ps. 51:11).
Watson then gives a collection of reasons why desertion works for the good of the godly:
(a.) It cures the sloth of the soul. Soul-sloth leads to soul-poverty. Desertion can awake and drive us.
(b.) It cures inordinate affection for the world. The world is an Inn where we may get a meal, but it is not our home.
(c.) It makes the saint prize God’s countenance more than ever (Ps. 63:3).
(d.) It makes sin more bitter to us. The favor of God is the most precious treasure; it sweetens a prison and unstings death. How horrific then is the sin that robs us of our priceless treasure!
(e.) It sets the soul weeping for the loss of God. These are sweet tears.
(f.) It sets the soul seeking after God.
(g.) It drives us to start asking and inquiring of God for the cause.
(h.) It gives sight of what Jesus suffered for us which humbles and draws us to Him.
(i.) It prepares the saints for future comfort much like the bitter frost prepares for spring flowers.
(j.) It makes heaven sweeter.
The Lord may bring us into deep waters of desertion at times, so that He may not bring us into the bottomless deep of damnation. What an amazing God to turn this around! Which of these reasons do you need to meditate on today? Let it redirect your mind and be a balm for the soul.
Finally, the evil of sin can be worked for good to the godly. Sin is in its own nature damnable, but God overrules it and causes good to arise from it. As Watson puts it, “It is a wonder that honey can come out of the carcass of this dead lion”.
Watson makes two points:
1. The sins of others are overruled for good to the godly.
(a.) The sin of others produces a holy sorrow in His saints. I am sure that Watson tried desperately to get his church leaders to follow scripture and wept when they refused (Ps. 119:136). Each tear that drops tells an ocean-size story and are sweet to the Lord.
(b.) They set the saints to pray.
(c.) They make us fall more in love with grace.
(d.) They create repulsion against sin. The more violent others are against the truth, the more valiant the saints are for it.
(e.) They make us more earnest in working out our salvation. Should we creep like snails in our walk with the Lord while the wicked are so quick to sin (Jer. 2:23)? Shall the impure sinners do the devil more service than we do Christ?
(f.) They are often glasses in which we may see our own hearts.
(g.) They are the means of making us more thankful for what God has done us.
(h.) They make the people of God better and give them occasion to serve and do so much good.
2. The sense of our own sinfulness will be over-ruled for the good of the godly. As you can imagine, Watson is quick to clarify this. He says, “When I say the sins of the godly work for good – not that there is the least good in sin… sin is worse than hell, but yet God, by His mighty over-ruling power makes sin in the issue turn to the good of His people.” As Augustine said, “God would never permit evil, if He could not bring good out of evil.”
He then gives reasons why this works for good.
(a.) Sin makes His saints weary for this life. Paul had it all balanced when he rejoiced in affliction (2 Cor. 7:4) but bemoaned his sin (Rom. 7:24).
(b.) It makes the saint prize Christ more just as a sick person welcomes and prizes the physician (Mk. 5:25-34).
(c.) It puts the soul to self-searching, self-abasing, self-judging, self-conflicting, self-observing, and self-reforming in a God-centered way.
Whether it is sin against a believer or by a believer, God can and does use sin sinlessly and for the good of His people.
Watson closes by stating that we are to NOT THINK LIGHTLY OF SIN! Do not abuse this doctrine. He states, “I do not say that sin works for good to an impenitent person. No, it works for his damnation, but it works for good to them that love God; and for you that are godly, I know you will NOT draw a wrong conclusion from this, either to make light of sin or to make bold with sin. May that be so with us”.
It is the gospel that fuels us to live a life of holiness and to repent when we do not. When God works even the WORST things in our life for good we can walk with a sweet broken-boldness. It is no wonder that David ends Psalm 13 by saying, “But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.”
Q. Trusting that God can and does use desertion and sin for our good will free you to put away sin in your life, forgive those that sin against you, and repent for the sins you have committed. Who do you need to forgive? What sins do you need to repent of today (Ps. 51:4; Gen. 39:9)?