The argument that Romans 8:28 is to be understood in a limited sense was essentially born out of necessity. The Conditionalist faction of the Primitive Baptists recognize the connection between predestination and what this verse seems to suggest. In order to preserve their commitment to conditionalism it became necessary to reduce the "all things" to be understood as "some things", otherwise their denial that all things have been ordained by God would be compromised. Such an espousal, however, comes at a great expense. The troubled Christian finds it very consoling that whatsoever befalls him is actually working together for his own salutary end. Unfortunately, those who place a limitation on this passage can no longer turn to it as a source of comfort in this regard. By reducing the "all things" to "some things" they are robbing their very own souls of the comfort to be derived by it! No longer can they flee to it in order to find consolation in their trials, afflictions, and sorrows, as they have been stripped from the text, being not part of the "all things" which work together for the good of God's people! How tragic! We especially feel sorry for the church members who hear our moderns blast forth their novel application of this passage, as they must walk away deprived of the comfort which was without a doubt meant to be conveyed by it.
As for our part, we know the truth behind the passage and so did our forefathers. And we rejoice in it!
"O Lord, rid me, and deliver me, from the hand of strange children, whose mouth speaketh vanity, and their right hand is the right hand of falsehood, and sometimes the poor, forlorn and almost forsaken servant of Christ thinks these things are all against him, and that perhaps he is deceived, and will finally be a castaway; but blessed God, he that knows how to deliver the godly out of temptation, and to reserve the wicked unto the day of judgment to be punished, can in a moment cause light to shine out of darkness, and fill the soul with peace and joy; and while we contemplate his inflexible faithfulness and love, we learn that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose, and that our present sufferings are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us." (Gregg Thompson, Zion's Advocate vol. 1 no. 16, Aug. 1854)
"God is a Sovereign. Not such a one as seized the reigns of power, and in the language of a late President, “Runs the machine” as he finds it: but one who has planned and established the whole system of the universe, and works all things after the counsel of his own will. His government embraces every event that ever did, or ever will transpire; and this according to his own eternal purpose: that is, whatever God does, is what he eternally intended to do. Our poor finite minds, incapable of measuring the unfathomable sea of his eternal counsels, are often confounded and bewildered, in attempting to reconcile what seems to be discordant attributes in his nature, and inconsistent displays of his power. But faith comes to our aid, and assures us that all things are working together in delightful harmony, and for the good of them that love him." (1868 Circular Letter of the Corresponding Association, Virginia)
"The Lord reigns,” not only in heaven, but on earth; not only over His people, but over all His creatures. He works all things after the counsel of His own will, and for the promotion of His own glory and the good of His children. Not a sparrow falls to the ground without Him, and the very hairs of our head are numbered. He puts down one, and sets up another. All real power in heaven and earth is His. All the events of time are but the manifestation of His eternal purpose, and will finally redound to His glory and the welfare of His people. Even the wicked are His hand and sword, and He can and does bend and use them to the accomplishment of His wise and holy purposes. He makes the wrath of men praise Him, and restrains the remainder of their wrath. He has never, for a moment, in the slightest respect, abdicated His throne, and He never will.He reigns in nature, in providence, in grace, in life, in death, in time, and in eternity; He reigns in righteousness and sovereignty and power and wisdom and mercy; He reigns over the whole universe absolutely, perfectly, and indisputably, forevermore. Amid all the trials of earth, natural and spiritual, personal and national, this great eternal truth should be a supreme consolation and encouragement to all the people of God, who should not fear even though the earth be removed, and the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; for the Lord of hosts is with them, the God of Jacob is their refuge and strength, a very present and all-sufficient help to them in every trouble (Psalm xlvi.); and He keeps in perfect peace that humble and trusting child whose mind is stayed on Him (Isa. xxvi. 3)." (Sylvester Hassell, "The Lord Reigneth, The Gospel Messenger vol. 18 no. 8, Aug. 1896)
"‘Tis true indeed, that whom this Shepherd loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth, Heb. xii. 6, but ‘tis not done in wrath, but in love, and for their good and best interest, and this by him is sought after and closely looked into in all his dealings with his sheep, and the same shall be accomplished, though the sheep in the darkness of their minds may not at times be able to see how this can be effected, or how any real good can possibly result from circumstances so trying, so puzzling, and so very mysterious as are many which they are brought under, and sorely exercised with: but still there is nothing too hard for the Shepherd of Israel. He that could and did open in his death a channel of mercy for his sheep, can easily cause all things to work together for their good and his own declarative glory." (James Osbourn, The Stone of Israel or, Christ the Rock of Ages, 1849)
"We see in the light of this subject the infinite wisdom and everlasting goodness of our God towards the subjects of his love, and well might we learn submission to his holy and righteous will. However dark the scene may be, to remember, it is a part of the “all things that are working for our good, if we love God.” We also learn from these facts, that God who has made all things for his own glory, will not be disappointed. The same infinite wisdom that drew the wondrous plan of grace, has spoken the heavens and earth into being, in perfect conformity to that glorious pattern, and the loving hand that put all in motion in his holy providence, so perfectly governs all, that one event from the creation of the world to the end of the same, from the great and awful death of our Lord, down to the fall of a feather from a sparrow in the field, or a fall of a hair from the head of one of his children, but what is working together for the good of them that love God; and each, however small in our view, even to a particle of dust that moves in the air, forms a part of the great whole, and like a wheel in the grand machine, that it can no more fail than the whole can be overthrown." (1843 Circular Letter of the Lexington (New York) Association)
"The most wise, righteous, and gracious God doth oftentimes leave for a season His own children to manifold temptations and the corruptions of their own hearts, to chastise them for their former sins, or to discover unto them the hidden strength of corruption and deceitfulness of their hearts, that they may be humbled; and to raise them to a more close and constant dependence for their support upon Himself; and to make them more watchful against all future occasions of sin, and for other just and holyends. So that whatsoever befalls any of His elect is by His appointment, for His glory, and their good.
Fulton Footnote: We understand that the first part of this section teaches that God's government of his children in this world is parental and not judicial. We do not understand the words "whatsoever befalls any of his elect" to teach that it is good for God's people to sin, but that it teaches that the afflictions and trials through which they are called to pass work for their good and his glory." (The Primitive Baptist Confession of Faith, ch. 5, "Of Divine Providence", 1900)
"The conflicts which beset Zion's pilgrims in the deserts of this world are often heavy; and when the clouds of adversity are gathering around us we are apt to say as old Jacob did, All these things are against us; but, like him, we often see in the end that all things work together for good, as they always do, to them that love the Lord, &c. I am more and more confirmed in the belief that no trial or temptation has or will ever befall any of God’s children but when there is a real needs be for it, and that these are necessary in the great family of God, as those bright days and golden moments in which we so greatly rejoice.Peter was well prepared from painful experience to speak on this subject, and after pointing out many items of the glorious system of grace, in which the saints greatly rejoice adds, Though now for a season if needs be, ye are in heaviness, through manifold temptations, for the trial of your faith, &c. These hard trials which cause so much heaviness for a season, like all other tribulations, work patience, and patience experience, and experience hope, and hope maketh not ashamed. Trials may not in all cases be exclusively indispensable in regard to the very individuals on whom it directly falls, but much of its benefits are realized by others of the spiritual family, perhaps very remote. " (Wilson Thompson, Signs of the Times vol. 15 no.12, Jun. 1847)