Goodness God Essays

Page  1

An ESSAY, &c.

MEN, in delineating the divine attri|butes, have too generally blended with them all their own imperfections. Their several, separate interests, and contradictory pas|sions, have led them, even under the character of the One God, to represent to us almost as many dif|ferent gods, as impeached the wisdom, disgraced the worship, and sullied all the glory of the antient Greeks and Romans. Nay, the same persons, in their very Harmonies, have represented one attri|bute, as a flat contradiction to another. Blind and presumptuous creatures! It is well for your|selves, that your jarring systems cannot at all af|fect the real character of the Supreme Being. To the joy of the whole universe, whatever you have said, and whatever you may still say, God is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever.

But, should it be still asked, To what causes are we to ascribe the monstrous misrepresentations of the Deity which daily occur? After what has been said above, I need only reply, Is not the cause quite obvious? Or, if desired to explain myself more particularly, I would observe, That men, Page  2 instead of seriously consulting the works and will of God, and hence inferring what his perfections are, have, on the contrary, regarded only their own tempers and inclinations, and, to vindicate all the follies and impieties arising from these, have endeavoured to persuade the world, that the peerless Jehovah is altogether such a one as them|selves. As men have been interchangeably actuated with different malignant passions, they have pro|portionably represented to themselves a God, who would be pleased with such worshippers. And thus have they, at different times, endeavoured to di|vest him of his most honourable perfections: they have repeatedly, indeed, been so glaringly incon|sistent with themselves, as to adore him, in the same breath, as the Father of all mercies, and as a Being without any mercy at all, that is, a reprobating God.

But, of all the perfections of the ever blessed God, his justice has perhaps, in general, been the least understood. However, under no other cha|racteristic whatever, has he been so shockingly misrepresented and blasphemed. The justice of God, indeed, has been frequently described in such a light, as supposed him dispossessed of every endearing excellency, as declared him not the Friend and Father, but the merciless Tyrant of the universe, and as led us to think upon his holy name, not with hope, confidence, and joy. but with all the trembling horrors of despair. Men, in vindicating what they called the Justice of God, have too often lost fight of his goodness; nay, have en|tertained and propagated such ideas of justice, as absolutely militated against the possibility of good|ness, and as forbad us to consider him as at all merciful, gracious, compassionate, forbearing, and long-suffering. This has been always the case, Page  3 when justice has been represented as an essential obligation, or unchangeable disposition in the Su|preme Being, to punish every the least offence, iniquity, transgression, or sin, in every rational creature, or, when by saying, that

God was just,

it was meant, that,

there was no for|giveness with him, without an equivalent satis|faction.

But, the bare mention of such an idea of justice, must, I should think, convince every rational being, that it is false. It must be plainly seen, that justice, in this light, or, rather in this darkness, is only another term for rigour, for in|flexible rigour, and implacable severity; a cha|racter that we detest even in man, and which we cannot therefore apply to the infinitely adorable God, without being guilty of the most outrageous impiety. It must, I say, plainly be seen, that if justice signified rigour, God could not be just and good, at the same time: for the one is as contrary to the other, as light is to darkness. This will be evident, from the universally allowed acceptation of the terms.

In the first place then, goodness implies, it is well known, that benefits are bestowed without the prospect of any return. But rigour implies, as the proverb goes, that nothing is done for nothing. Again, the goodness of God implies, that he is not strict to mark our iniquities. But rigour, if this could be supposed to be one of his attributes, must make him punish, with exact weight and measure, every failing, not excepting the smallest, of which any being is guilty. Hence, then, it is obvious, that those who understand, by the justice of God, his unchangeable disposition not to pardon the least violation of his laws, without an equivalent satisfaction, inasmuch as they thus declare, that Page  4 there is no forgiveness with him, expressly de|clare, at the same time, that he is neither mer|ciful, nor good. Nor do they at all alter the case, by supposing that he will accept that debt from another, which the delinquent himself is not able to pay; for, this is still supposing, that there is no forgiveness with him, or that there is no goodness with him, for a good being must have forgiveness in himself. Accordingly, we never ascribe for|giveness, or goodness, to the man, who insists upon the whole of his debt, and who will never be satisfied until the whole is paid, though he should consent. at the same time, to accept this debt from another besides the person who owes it; for, by accepting it even from another, he has all he could demand, and all he could form any pre|tensions to have a right to receive. Nor do we ever ascribe any merit or praise to such a man; these are due only to him who paid the debt, not at all to him who received it to the full, though from the hand of a third person: Surely, then, we cannot compare the ever blessed God to such a man; we cannot divest him of goodness; we cannot represent him in a light that would fix a reproach upon any of his imperfect creatures. We cannot suppose, that there is any goodness or mercy in the universe, if not with him, the foun|tain of the whole. We cannot suppose, that any of his creatures are more benevolently dis|posed than the great Creator. We must suppose that, if there be any love, any tenderness, or com|passion, in any being whatever, these must reside, in their infinite fullness, in the Almighty and ever|lasting God. Rigour, therefore, cannot be one of his attributes. His justice must be such, as ren|ders him the object of our most delightful con|templations, Page  5 and as is consistent, therefore, with all his other most glorious perfections. This, I shall now endeavour to shew, is not only the doc|trine of reason, but is likewise deducible from the whole volume of scripture.

To this purpose, then, a fine field for satisfying all our enquiries is opened to us in the eighteenth chapter of the book of Genesis, which, from the twentieth to the end of the thirty-second verse, ex|pressly treats of the justice of God. The LORD said, to Abraham, because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and their sin is very grievous; I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me, and if not, I will know*.—And Abraham drew near, and said, Wilt thou also destroy the righ|teous with the wicked? Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city: wilt Thou also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein? That be far from Thee, to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: SHALL NOT THE JUDGE OF ALL THE EARTH DO RIGHT? And the Lord said, If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes. And Abraham answered and said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the LORD, who am but dust and ashes. Peradventure, there shall lack five of the fifty righteous: wilt thou destroy all the city for lack of five? And he said, If I find there forty and five, I will not destroy it. And he spake unto him yet again, and said, Peradventure there shall be forty found there. And he said, I will not do it for forty's Page  6 sake. And he said unto him, O let not the LORD be angry, and I will speak: Peradventure there shall thirty be found there. And he said, I will not do it if I find thirty there. And he said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the LORD: Per|adventure there shall be twenty found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for twenty's sake. And he said, Oh let not the LORD be angry, and I will speak yet but this once: Peradventure ten shall be found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for ten's sake.

Now, there is not a single circumstance in this history, which can lead us to conclude, that the Justice of God is repugnant to his merey, but only that it essentially belongs to him, as a just being, to make a distinction between the righteous and the wicked, and not to destroy the innocent with the guilty. Abraham intreated God not to punish, but to spare, to spare even the guilty, if it should seem good to his infinite wisdom, or, if they were found to be past hopes, to be incorrigibly hardened and impenitent, to vindicate his justice, by send|ing redemption to the righteous. Nor did the LORD threaten to destroy Sodom and Gomor|rah, because the inhabitants were imperfect crea|tures, or because they had fallen into involuntary errors, or because that, though they might be then penitent, they had formerly been wicked; but be|cause that they were totally depraved, because they had irreclaimably given themselves up to the foulest vices that could be perpetrated or invented, and that no means of salvation that were offered them, could work a reformation in them,

And the Lord said, because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous, I will see whether they have done ac|cording Page  7 to the cry of it that is come unto me.

From which it may be concluded, that, if their sins had not been of the deepest dye, and such as admitted of no sort of extenuation; and had they not resolved to continue in them too, against all possible means of conviction, God would still have been gracious to them, and granted them a space for repentance. We learn accordingly, that, after the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah had been greatly corrupted, sentence was not suddenly exe|cuted against them, but that Lot, on the contrary, was sent to sojourn among them, to reprove them for their impieties, and to admonish and persuade them, if possible, to repent and live: and it was not until they had rejected these means of grace, abused the divine forbearance and long-suffering, waxed still worse and worse, and wholly given them|selves up to work all iniquity with greediness, that the impending judgments of God were let loose upon them. In his whole conduct towards this people, his justice did not at all interfere with his mercy, his justice did not hinder the calls of grace and reconciliation for a longtime to take place; his mercy was extended towards them until the farther extension of it could be of no use to them; indeed until mercy and goodness to other nations rendered their destruction necessary. Abraham, therefore, did not address God, saying, that his justice re|quired immediate vengeance upon all his adversa|ries, or that his justice was irreconcileable with his pardoning, or forbearing to punish, any criminal*, but that his justice could not suffer any evil to be|fal Page  8 the righteous.

Abraham drew near and said, Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked? Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city: wilt thou also destroy, and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein? That be far from thee, to do after this manner: and, that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee. Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?

Here, the line of justice is exactly drawn. And it has not, we see, the least respect to any kind of implacability in the Divine Mind, nor does it suppose that God cannot freely pardon the truly penitent, in perfect consis|tency with the full exercise of his justice, but is wholly confined to this rule, that God will make a proper distinction between the righteous and the wicked, and that he will punish none more than their iniquities deserve. In other words, the Jus|tice of God signifies that he is a being of absolute and unchangeable rectitude, and that there is not the most distant shadow of any kind of injustice with him; or, as Moses describes him, cloathed with this attribute, that, he is the rock, his work is perfect; for all his ways are judgment; a God of truth, and without iniquity, just and right is he. But here it should be particularly observed, (when we say that the Justice of God signifies that there is no injustice with him) that forgiveness of sin is not to be included in our idea of injustice: for, if it was, what should become of the whole universe of dependant beings? God chargeth his very an|gels with folly; and as to the rational beings in this world, what man is he, that liveth and sinneth not? If God was, therefore, strict to mark our iniqui|ties, or if his justice and pardoning mercy were at variance, misery must inevitably be the portion Page  9 of the whole human race. But, it is our comfort, that God is not strict to mark our iniquities, that he delighteth not in the death of a sinner, that he is gracious, forbearing, and long-suffering towards us, and not willing that any should perish. It is our comfort that his justice is in no respect repug|nant to his goodness, that his justice freely admit|teth of the infinite riches of his grace, that his jus|tice does not at all imply, that he is an inflexibly ri|gorous judge, but only, that,

he will make a pro|per distinction between the righteous and the wicked, that he will not punish the wicked more than their iniquities deserve, that he will not dis|appoint the hopes, nor frustrate the expectations that he has raised in his creatures, and that he is no respecter of persons.

In the first place,

The Justice of God implies, that he will make a proper distinction between the righteous and the wicked.

That the righ|teous should be as the wicked, that be far from God? Shall not the judge of all the earth do right? It would be obviously wrong to slay the righteous with the wicked, or to put the wicked on a level with the righteous: and it would be more wrong still, it would be truly diabolical, to prefer any of the wicked to any of the righteous, and, merely to display his power, to introduce any of the wicked to a place of happiness, and to consign any of the righteous to a place of misery. God, therefore, as a just being, cannot admit the wicked to the joys of the righteous; a distinction must take place, and a distinction among the righteous themselves, according as they severally have been more or less obedient to his voice. But, then, it can be no injustice to the righteous, to grant the wicked a space for repentance; nay, to bear long Page  10 with them, to see if they will turn from their evil ways, and to give them peace and reconciliation, when influenced by that wisdom which descended from above, and following the innate dictates of their own minds, they truly seek the Lord and find him. If this was injustice, the righteous themselves could have no hope; for they have not been al|ways found perfect before God, they could, there|fore, only look, in this case, for a less degree of punishment than would be inflicted on the wicked. But all the ends of justice must, it is obvious, be completely answered, by rewarding the righteous, according to their sincere though imperfect obe|dience, and by punishing the wicked, only when their punishment becomes necessary, when they become reprobate to every good work; when, therefore, farther forbearance towards them, not being sufficient to reform them, could be of no use to themselves, and might be cruelty to the rest of the creation.

Secondly,

The Justice of God implies, that, he will not punish the wicked more than their iniquities deserve.

This is obvious, at first view: for, strict justice can never exceed in its sentence the proportion of guilt in any offender. God, therefore, as a just being, cannot punish us for what we could not do, nor for what we could not avoid doing, nor for any iniquities of others, to which we were no way accessary, nor consenting. On the contrary, as the most just of all beings, he may be long-suffering towards us, and delay his judgments until the ruin of the inno|cent would be the consequence of any farther de|lay; and, as the most holy of all beings, he may likewise graciously accept the returning penitent. How infinitely injurious is it to his justice, there|fore, even to insinuate, that he will inflict endless Page  11 torments upon a very great majority of his crea|tures, for a crime that was committed before they existed, six thousand years before many of them existed, and that there are millions of infants in hell not a span long? I cannot so much as mention this doctrine of devils without the utmost horror. Nor should I mention it at all, it reflects such dishonour and reproach upon the children of men, to suppose that any individual of them is capable of believing it, was it not known that there are still some who zealously maintain and propagate it. Let such en|joy their sentiments, if they can. But, while rea|son and revelation have any influence upon the human mind, their God will be considered as a fictitious being, the work of a bewildered imagina|tion, and as such will be discarded out of the world.

But, thirdly,

The Justice of God requires, that he will not disappoint the hopes, nor frustrate the expectations which he has raised in his creatures.

Justice, even among mankind, requires, that we should perform all our obligations to the full; that, if we have made any promises, we should keep them, that, if we have cherished any particular confidence in us, if we have even encouraged of|fenders to hope for our favour, we should not cruelly deceive them. Therefore the Justice of God requires, that he will fulfil all those expecta|tions which we are emboldened to form of his goodness. Though Justice could not oblige him to promise immortality to those who never deserved it; yet justice ensures immortality to the righteous after it is promised; and justice ensures pardon to the truly penitent, after they are once encouraged to hope for it at the throne of grace. Justice, there|fore, must satify those desires of living beyond the Page  12 grave, which for ever animate us, must crown us with unfading glory and honour, if we live up to the terms of the blessed gospel, must give us at all times free access to the throne of mercy, and crown all our sincere though imperfect endeavours, to humble ourselves before God, and to serve him in spirit and in truth, with all those rewards that are represented to us in the sacred treasury of his word. The apostle, therefore, says,

God is not unrighteous to forget your labour of love;

signi|fying, that after God has encouraged us, by a pa|tient continuance in well doing, to seek for glory, honour, and immortality, he cannot, consistently with his justice, disappoint the hopes of his faithful servants.

But, lastly,

The Justice of God requires, that he should be no respecter of persons.

Justice, in the distribution of gifts or rewards, can only consider the worthiness or unworthiness of any par|ticular person, cannot respect any one man in pre|ference to any other man of exactly the same pre|tensions to favour. In the court of justice, the rich and the poor, the bond and the free, the prince and the peasant, must be upon the same common level. In the court of justice, there can be no taking of bribes, nor distinction of country, fect, or party. And, here, the good that we would have done but could not. must set us in the same light with those, who had the opportunity and abi|lity, as well as the will to do the same good. God, therefore as a just being▪ can have no favou|rites among his children, independently of their devotedness to his service. He cannot respect their persons, nor be biassed by pompous appear|ances: but as he has made of one blood all nations of men to dwell upon the face of the whole earth, Page  13 whether you be Jew or Greek, ruler or subject, master or servant, born in the first or in the last ages of the world, it makes no difference in his eye. The only difference that he can make must arise from the different circumstances in which mankind have been placed. But, this difference he must make as no respecter of persons. He can|not require brick where there was no straw. He can only require a benevolent heart, where there is neither silver nor gold: and, he cannot judge those by the law, who had not the law, nor those by the gospel who had not the gospel. Where he has given ten talents, though there he must be ex|pected to look for the improvement of ten; yet, where he has given only five talents, he can only look for the improvement of five; and, where he has given only two talents, he can only look for the improvement of two. In short, the equally, sincere and upright in his service, all the advan|tages or disadvantages of their situation being con|sidered, must be equally acceptable with him, and equally rewarded by him.

Having thus endeavoured to give the reader right apprehensions of the divine justice, and such as represent the great God to us, not in a forbid|ding, but in an amiable and endearing light, I shall now proceed to shew that the justice of God is, and must be such as I have here described it.

This I shall, first, endeavour to shew, upon the principles of reason, from his other perfections; and, secondly, from the scriptural account of his dealings with the children of men.

There can, then, it is obvious, in the first place, be no temptation to injustice, but from depen|dency or want, or from motives of benefitting our|selves at the expence of others. God, therefore, Page  14 being supremely exalted above all principalities and powers, the fountain of all being, the Lord of the whole creation, and possessing in himself an infi|nite and independant fullness of all possible bliss, and it being impossible that he can derive any be|nefit from the oppression, or total extinction of any, or of all his creatures: God, therefore, I say, cannot possibly do an unjust thing. As all men in common are equally his own offspring, so far he can make no distinction between them, but every one man must be as much the object of his care and bounty as every other man. And, as he could have no possible motive to create any being, but to make that being happy, he therefore cannot possibly take pleasure in the misery of any creature, nor suffer any creature to labour under oppression without sufficient reason, unless it be its own fault, or he should know perplexed and cloudy circum|stances to be necessarily conducive to improve it in knowledge, virtue, and happiness. Farther, as the infinite mind must delight in those perfections in others which he exerciseth himself, must love his own image in his creatures, must approve of the grateful and upright heart, must consequently dis|approve of the profane and disobedient wretch; he must, therefore, make a proper distinction be|tween the righteous and the wicked, must crown the righteous with greater or with lesser dignity and glory, according to their several attainments in ho|liness and perfection, and must debar the wicked of the joys of the righteous. But, that the justice of God, at the same time, is in no case repugnant to his mercy, is demonstrable from our own exis|tence, from the numberless unceasing blessings which we daily receive, and from the animating hopes, we are taught to entertain, of more enlarged Page  15 communications of the divine favour in a future scene. We know, that we have all sinned against him, and that if he should strictly deal with us after our transgressions, or determine not to pardon any of our trespasses against him, we must long ago have been consumed. We know, therefore, that his justice and mercy are not at variance, that his justice is consistent with his patience, forbear|ance, and long-suffering, that his justice can be slow to punish, and ready to pardon, and that it can spare the guilty themselves, until they have repeatedly rebelled against the divine laws, thrown off the divine government entirely, and rejected all those means of conviction and salvation, that could be reasonably extended towards them, or be reasonably expected from infinite benevolence. Once more, as the only end of deferring punish|ment can be the reformation of the offender, and as we have a relish for, and are taught to look for|ward to a future and everlasting state of happiness, upon our sincere though imperfect endeavours to serve God; God, therefore, because so great, so glorious, and independant a sovereign, could have no possible motives to mock the creatures of his power, but certainly intendeth us for such a state, and certainly will introduce us to such a state, if we make the best preparations in our power for it. Those hopes of the righteous, these longings after immortality, which his infinite goodness, without any claim or merit on our part, originally infused into the soul, his infinite justice must fully satisfy. He cannot, as the universal Father, and the all-sufficient God, disappoint any of those expectations which he has raised in his rational creatures. His justice, I say, must complete those views, and, if we live up to the dictates of his wisdom, satisfy Page  16 those boundless desires with which his adorable and infinite goodness has inspired us.

These are the sentiments of reason upon this subject: and, in perfect harmony with these, are the history of God's dealings with the children of men from the beginning of the world, and the plain declaration of his revealed will, which are recorded for our instruction in the holy scriptures. The first man, Adam, experienced no kind of re|pugnancy between the divine justice and the divine mercy. It was said even to Cain, after he was very wroth, and his countenance fell—If thou doest well shalt thou not be accepted? Nay, the justice, which afterwards punished him for his great wicked|ness, admitted of the extension of mercy, upon his repentance; and his punishment seems to have been purposely calculated to lead him to repen|tance. The doctrine, which I have been endea|vouring to establish is still farther confirmed, from the history of David, Manasseh, and many other remarkable delinquents. But, as it would be an endless work, so it does not seem necessary to examine the divine dispensations towards each individual, whose virtues, or vices, or whose virtues and vices together, are held up to our observation in the scriptures. The his|tory of the antediluvian world, the whole his|tory of the Jews, from the beginning to end, the history of Nineveh and Babylon, and Tyre and Sidon, and the deplorable state of the world, when the man Christ Jesus revealed all the riches of God's grace to his most abandoned off|spring, are all to my purpose. To my purpose likewise are the innate sentiments of the human mind, as these are successively represented to us in the scriptures.

Doth God pervert judgment, says Bildad, or doth the Almighty pervert justice?

Page  17 Meaning, that God could not do an unjust thing.

Is it good unto thee,

says Job,

that thou should'st oppress? that thou should despise the work of thine hands? and shine upon the council of the wicked? He is excellent—in plenty of justice,

says Elihu;

he will not afflict,

but ac|cording to wisdom and equity;

and he shall judge the world in righteousness,

says the Psalmist, not meaning with rigour, but without injustice;

he shall minister judgment to the people in upright|ness, The LORD also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. And they that know thy name, will put their trust in thee; for thou, LORD, hast not forsaken them that seek thee.

Again, the Psalmist says,

Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne; mercy and truth shall go before thy face.

In like manner, God is represented, by the prophet Jeremiah, as proclaiming his own character,

I am the LORD, who exercise loving kindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth; for in these things I delight, saith the LORD.

Here, loving-kindness can evidently bear no opposition to righteousness or justice, though God will make a distinction between the righteous and the wicked, and inflict tremendous punishments upon the in|corrigibly wicked, according to the preceding and following verses. This is also the sentiment of Eliphaz, when he says.

Shall mortal man be more just than his Maker?

Farther, the ideas which I endeavoured to convey of the impartial justice of God, are likewise uniformly handed down to us by the sacred penmen.

He accepteth not the persons of princes, nor re gardeth the rich more than the poor,

Job xxxiv. 19.

Are ye not as the children of the Ethiopians unto me, O Page  18 children of Israel, saith the LORD.

Of a truth I perceive, says Peter, that God is no re|specter of persons.

Paul repeatedly says the same thing, and asks the Romans,

Is he the God of the Jews only? Is he not also the God of the Gentiles? Yea, of the Gentiles also.

Again, that the Justice of God implies, that he will fulfil those expectations which he has raised in his crea|tures, is likewise expressly asserted in the scrip|tures.

I will not leave thee,

said he to Jacob,

until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.

Thy councils of old are faithfulness and truth,
Isa. xxv. 1.

All the promises of God in him, are yea. and in him amen, unto the glory of God,
2 Cor. i. 20.

The LORD thy God, he is God, the faithful God,
Deute|ron. vii. 9.

More testimonies from the sacred writings will come in our way as we proceed. At present we see that the scriptural accounts of the Justice of God, do not, any more than the positive deduc|tions of Reason, represent him in a forbidding, but, on the contrary, in an endearing light, en|courage our trust and confidence in him, and lead us, if we love him, and keep his commandments, to cast all our cares and burthens upon him. If we search the scriptures from beginning to end, we shall not meet with a single passage, which informs us, that he cannot pardon the least transgression without a proportionable recompence, but, on the contrary, that he knoweth our frame, and remem|bereth that we are dust, that he will not, therefore, make a rigorous enquiry into our past transgressions, but that, if we turn unto him, he will turn unto us, and that, if the wicked man turneth away from his wickedness which he has committed, He Page  19 will abundantly pardon, and save his soul alive. In the scriptures, the Justice of God is no where re|presented as the cause of confusion and terror to the righteous, but as their strong hold and security, that they shall never be moved. Thus we have al+ready seen, that Abraham understood it, when he pleaded for the people of Sodom, and expressed his confidence in God, as the Righteous judge of all the earth. He did not mean, in any part of his ad|dress, that those righteous persons for whom he pleaded, had never sinned in thought, word, or deed. He only supposed that their hearts were right towards God for the present, and that, of whatever imperfections they had been guilty in time past, they were now sincerely devoted to his service. Upon this foundation, he presumes that it would be unjust in God to involve them in the same destruction with the inflexibly impenitent. To the same purpose Jehosaphat instructed the judges of Israel.—

There is no iniquity with the LORD our God, nor respect of persons, nor taking of gifts:

by which he did not mean that the judges should punish, with the utmost rigour, every mis|demeanor in those delinquents that should come before them, but only that they should not be bias|sed, by any rewards, to wink at the oppression of the innocent, or to patronize the evil-doer. Be|sides, we are repeatedly told, that God delighteth not in the death of a sinner, but rather that he should turn from his wickedness and live: which could not be the case, if the Justice of God was at all repug|nant to his mercy. Nay, when God himself ap|peals to his justice, he not only shews that it was tempered with mercy, but that it was wholly regu|lated by the most tender, boundless mercy.

Judge, I pray you,

says he,

between me and my Page  20 vineyard. What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it?

Where he signifies, that the glory of his justice, consists in kindness and compassions, and in applying every reasonable means that can be offered for the reco|very and salvation of his back-sliding people. Words cannot more strongly express this sentiment than we find it in Ezekiel xviii. 25.

Hear now, O house of Israel, is not my way equal?

The way, or dispensation of God referred to here, is that the children should not bear the iniquities of the fathers, that the soul which sinned alone should die, and that God has not any pleasure at all that the wicked should die, but rather that they should turn from their evil ways and live. Are not my ways equal? Am not I just? when, instead of pu|nishing one for the iniquities of another, or rigo|rously marking every iniquity committed against my authority, I am even willing to pardon all the transgressions, however enormous and inexcusable, of the truly penitent. But, as full a proof as can be given, that no implacability is to be included in our ideas of the divine justice, is to be drawn from the directions that are given us for our own con|duct. We learn, then, that to please God, we must not only do justly, but likewise love mercy, and exercise forgiveness. Now, here it is evident, that if, to do justly, was to punish with rigour every offence committed against us, then, if we would please God by doing justly, we could cxercise no mercy or forgiveness. Doing justly, therefore, can only signify, that we do no violence ourselves, that we should deprive no fellow-creatures of their rights and privileges, but do unto all others as we would that they should do unto us. And, in this light we are to view the divine justice; it is slow to wrath, Page  21 and keepeth the door of mercy for ever open to the penitent.

Because God is LORD of all,

as the author of the Book of Wisdom says,

it maketh him to be gracious to all.

And this grace is without respect of persons. He regardeth not the high more than the low, but, as the Apo|stle Peter says,

In every nation, he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him,

It is not, till after repeated trials, and men have been guilty of the most daring impieties, and become totally abandoned, that his judgments take place. He is not speedy in executing sen|tence upon them, but chasteneth them by little and little, that they might fly from the wrath to come. And, when he comes forth to judg|ment, we are told, and may be assured, that every mouth shall be stopped, and that none shall be able to accuse him of unrighteousness.

He will judge the world in righteousness, and the people with equity.

When this grand and important day arrives, salvation and glory, and honour and power, shall be ascribed unto the Lord our God, for his true and righteous judgments; and, it will then be found, beyond all question, I dare say, that God inflicteth punishment even upon the incor|rigibly wicked, not because his justice cannot par|don, but because mercy to the universe renders their punishment necessary, and because too, per|haps, there can be no way, consistent with infinite wisdom, of making the wicked happy. Besides, God, in punishing the wicked, will eminently dis|play his justice, in proportioning the punishment of every particular criminal, to his lesser or greater degree of impenitency and hardness of heart. Those, that have sinned without law, shall also perish without law; and while some are beaten Page  22 with many stripes, others, comparatively speaking, shall be beaten with few stripes.

With the judg|ment they judge, they shall be judged; and with the measure they mete, it shall be measured to them again.

The same justice also will display itself in rewarding the righteous. To some it will be said. Come up hither. He, that soweth sparingly, shall reap also sparingly; and he that soweth boun|tifully, shall reap also bountifully. While all shall be exempted from every labour, pain, and sorrow, the joy of some shall transcendantly exceed that of others.

They that be wise shall shine as the bright|ness of the firmament; and they that have turned many to righteousness, and have been righteous themselves, as the stars for ever.

The Justice of God, will pardon all their infirmities, and all their transgressions, of which they have re|pented, that is, from which they have turned away; and, according to the works of righ|teousness, which they have done, he will divide to each his portion. His goodness has promised this. His justice therefore will bring it to pass. Yes, Though we have sinned, yet if we have forsaken our sins, acquired a new heart, and a new spirit, and approved ourselves holy in all manner of con|versation and godliness; if, in preference to all the honours, and riches, and pleasures of the world, we have, by a patient continuance in well-doing, sought for glory and honour, and immortality, then, notwithstanding those doings that have not been good, and which we have seriously amended, God will grant us all we want, all the riches of eternal life. He is not unrighteous, as we have already af|firmed with the apostle, to forget our labour of love. He is faithful in all his promises, and cannot dis|appoint those hopes, nor frustrate those noble ex|pectations which he has raised. Nay, he will not Page  23 only not frustrate those expectations, not only give us the victory over death and the grave, and intro|duce us to happiness, but, eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither has it entered into the heart of man to conceive the things which God has prepared for them that love him. Thy righteousness, O Lord, is an everlasting righteousness, and thy law is the truth. The heavens shall declare his righteousness; for God is judge himself. Lord God of Israel, there is no God like thee, in heaven above, or on earth beneath, who keepest covenant and mercy with thy ser|vants, that walk before thee with all their hearts.

Such are the notions which reason and scripture, clearly, I think, lead us to form of the divine jus|tice. A great variety of objections, however, it will possibly be said, may still be urged against it. With all my heart, say I, if the objections will go upon the same ground upon which I have endea|voured to tread, that is, if reason and scripture be the testimonies to which they appeal. But the most common objection to this doctrine, or the most common argument by which the contrary doctrine is supported, is nothing more than an impertinent quotation from the apostle Paul. A man rises up, and harangues to me, upon a multitude of unin|telligibles, ascribes certain random, arbitrary de|crees to the infinitely wise governor of the universe, then describes his justice to be such as I have shewn must be an absolute bar to mercy, and after work|ing himself into a tolerable heat, by much speak|ing, Who art thou, says he, that repliest against God? Now, to such a reasoner I have only to say, Infal|lible Sir! though thou art a God to thyself, thou art not my God. But farther, it cannot be seriously objected to the doctrine I have been vindicating,

that the wicked frequently bear rule in this life, Page  24 and that their eyes stand out with fatness; while the righteous are afflicted, and mourn, and some|times go down to the grave, labouring under the rod of oppression and sorrow.

This, I say, can|not be seriously objected; because this is the very nature of a state of trial. Besides, amply to satisfy us upon this head, it is enough to say, that all these things will be set right on a future day, and that, for every suffering, into which we have fallen for righteousness sake, or for the trial of our faith, we shall be infinitely recompenced at the resurrec|tion of the just. Besides, we are often in our pros|perity, too apt to forget God; but adversity natu|rally leads us to the rock that is higher than we. The Psalmist, therefore, said, that it was good for him to have been afflicted, because that before he was afflicted, he went astray. Solomon says to the same purpose,

My son, despise not the chas|tening of the Lord, neither be weary of his cor|rection; for whom the Lord loveth he chasten|eth, even as a father the son in whom he de|lighteth.

And, our own experience testifies, that scenes of sorrow naturally humble the mind, arrest our wandering desires, and dissipated thoughts, admonish us of our follies and trans|gressions, and point out to us our true duty and happiness, and our only refuge from every cala|mity. It would be unnecessary, I hope, to make a formal reply to many other equally frivolous ob|jections, which the reader can answer as soon as they occur. I shall now, therefore, only conclude with some obvious reflections, which naturally arise from what has been said.

I would observe, first of all, that the Justice of God, as I have here endeavoured to represent it, is, like all his other perfections, glorious. It is not Page  25 strict to mark our iniquities. It admitteth of grace and reconciliation. It is founded on mercy and goodness. It is a security to the righteous, that they shall never be moved. And it is a pledge to the truly penitent of their future crown. It is, therefore, endearing, and adorable, our refuge in difficulties, our hope in trouble, our haven of rest from all the storms of life, and our tower of de|fence against every enemy, while we incline our hearts unto the law, and to the testimonies*.

But, secondly, we should learn, from this de|scription of the divine justice, what ought to be the rules of justice among men. It should have no likeness, we see, to that narrow, unfeeling, vin|dictive spirit, which actuates the priestly magistrate, when the trembling wretch, who wanted a morsel of bread, is brought before him. It should exert its strength against tyranny and oppression, against villainy in power. And, if it should not be allowed, to pull down the despotic monarch from his throne, and should at the same time, most inconsistently, and unmercifully, wave its heavy scourge over the necessitous delinquent, it should not, however, Page  26 transgress the boundaries of plain equity. But, it is manifestly unjust, it is most cruel, and iniqui|tous, to put the life of one man upon a level with the property of another, to murder the fellow|creature who, though wantonly, and must unjus|tifiably, and wickedly, hath made inroads upon the property of his neighbour This is punishing beyond the utmost stretch of rigour, and much more beyond the line of justice* And, the di|vine justice is so far from bearing any kind of similitude to this, that it is, we have seen, entirely contrary to it. The divine justice is slow to pu|nish even sinners according to their deserts, is for|bearing and long-suffering towards them, at first only punisheth them with the accusations of con|science, to try to reform them, time after time, useth every possible means to bring them back to their duty and obedience; and, if they will re|form, cease to do evil, and learn to do well, is Page  27 ready to blot out all their iniquities, to receive them into favour, and to admit them to the riches of eternal life. We should, therefore, to copy af|ter the divine justice, proportion our mode of pu|nishment to the offence that is committed; we should aim at the reformation of the sinner, and endeavour to make his situation such, as will both answer this end, and at the same time repay society for the wrongs he has done. Or, while we do justly towards all, and injure no man in body or estate, we should likewise shew mercy to the guilty, and forgive them when they repent*

But, thirdly, from the view that we have here taken of the divine justice, we may see that there was none occasion for that infinite satisfaction for sin, which, among many other strange inventions, the busy children of men have found out, and still confidently proclaim to the world. The divine Page  28 justice is surrounded with mercy. The divine justice, therefore, is fully satisfied with the refor|mation of the offender. The divine justice sitteth upon a throne of grace, to which every contrite sinner has free access, has always free access. And if mercy was not to be obtained thence, where else could it possibly be found? Could any other being, could all the other beings, in the universe, over|power the infinite mind? Could any other being be more benevolent than he? Or, indeed, dare any other being presume to direct him, to al|ter the purpose he had formed? But there was not any occasion for any other being to attempt this. God was of himself eternally disposed to have mercy upon us, and was never willing that any should pe|rish, but that all should come to repentance and eternal life. Nay, so far was he from being ir|reconcileable to his creatures, or from demanding an infinite satisfaction for every sin, that he, of his own will, gave us his only begotten son, to assure us, that, upon our sincere repentance, all our sins should be blotted out, and that, upon our renewed obedience, we should be made partakers of eternal life.

God so loved the world, that he gave us his only begotten son, that whoever believeth in him, might not perish, but have everlasting life.

Or, this is his covenant with us, Repent, and live ye, and turn unto me, and I will turn unto you. The blessed Christ has sealed, or ratified to us, this covenant with his own blood, that is, by his death and resurrection. The everlasting Jehovah, has raised Christ from the dead, to assure us, that he has sent him, and that he will, consequently, fulfil, to the truly penitent, all those promises of pardon, peace, and love, and everlasting salvation Page  29 in the heavens, which are given to us in his holy word*

Page  30 But, finally, the doctrine we have been consi|dering can afford no kind of encouragement to the sinner. On the contrary, the goodness, for|bearance, and long-suffering of God, should, above all things, lead him to repentance. Besides, though God is gracious, slow to anger, and ready to for|give, yet he will at last take vengeance upon his ad|versaries, upon those who despised his grace, and rejected all the offers of his mercy. This he hath repeatedly, and solemnly declared, There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked: and, all the workers of iniquity shall be destroyed* Since these, then, are his declarations, since judgment will be his work, we may assure ourselves that infinite mercy will render judgment necessary, and that infinite goodness will execute all the threatenings denounced against the finally impenitent. And, oh, what an aggravation of the wretchedness of the sinners doom will it be, that infinite mercy itself could not save him!

Let us think of this; and as we know not what a day or a night may bring forth, let us now, in the accepted time, seek the Lord while he may be found, desire his favour better than life, and run with pleasure in the way of all his commandments; that we may hereafter receive those crowns which Page  31 he has promised and prepared for those that love him, that we may drink for ever at the river of his pleasure.

Praise our God, all ye his servants, and ye that fear him, both small, and great.

Alleluia, for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. Let us be glad, and rejoice, and give honour to him.

Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad: let the sea roar and the fulness thereof; let the field be joyful, and all that is therein; then shall all the trees of the wood rejoice before the Lord; for he cometh, for he cometh to judge the earth: HE SHALL JUDGE THE WORLD WITH RIGH|TEOUSNESS, AND THE PEOPLE WITH HIS TRUTH.

FINIS.

God’s goodness

What is meant by the phrase "The goodness of God"? By goodness is meant the bounty of God. In saying that a person is good, we refer to his holiness, or else to his charitable and liberal disposition in the management of his goods. The goodness of God is his inclination to deal well and bountifully with his creatures. It is that whereby he wills there should be something besides Himself for His own glory. God is good Himself, and to Himself, that is, highly amiable to Himself; thus He loves Himself and His own excellency.

As related to His creatures, God delights in them, and is beneficial to them. God is the highest goodness, because He doth not act for His own profit, but for His creatures' welfare, and the manifestation of His own goodness.

The goodness of God comprehends all His attributes. All the acts of God are nothing else but the effulgence of His goodness (Exodus 33:19). God's goodness is His glory and Godhead, as much as it delightfully visible to His creatures (Exodus 34:6).

God is good by His own essence. God is not only good in His essence, but good by His essence. He is essentially good by His own essence; therefore, good of Himself; therefore, eternally good; and therefore, abundantly good.

God is the prime and chief goodness. In God there is nothing but goodness; and our goodness extends not to Him (Psalms 16:2). For the believer God is the summum bonum.

God is necessarily good, yet also freely good. The necessity of the goodness of His nature does not hinder the liberty of His actions. This goodness is communicative with the greatest pleasure. What God gives out of goodness, He gives with joy and gladness. He did not only will that we should be, but rejoice that He had brought us into being; He rejoiced in His works (Psalm 104:31).

The goodness of God is a true and genuine characteristic of God

God has always been and always will be infinitely good (Hebrew, tob; Greek, agathos). In His goodness He is prompted to deal bountifully and kindly with all His creatures. If it is God's attribute of majestic holiness that emphasises His transcendence over His creation, it is God's attribute of goodness that underscores his condescendence toward His creation. "Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart" (Psalm 73:1; also Psalms 103, 104, and 107 in their entirety).

A myriad of Bible passages speak of God's goodness to all - the just and the unjust, designated by many theologians as "common grace," though this phrase muddles the issue and beclouds categories (for grace cannot, by its very nature, be common).

God is originally good

God is only originally good, good of Himself. Creatures may be good, but their goodness is derived and granted to them by God, without whom there can be no goodness, since He is the fountainhead and source of all goodness.

God depends on no one else for His goodness; he has goodness in and of Himself. He partakes of none, but all things partake of Him. He is so good, that He gives all, and receives nothing; only good, because nothing is good but by Him: nothing hath a goodness but from Him.

God is infinitely good

God alone is infinitely good, for His goodness is boundless and knows no limits; His goodness must necessarily be as infinite as His essence. All possible creatures are not capable of exhausting the wealth, the treasures, that divine bounty is filled with.

Since God is immeasureable, all His attributes or characteristics must also be without measure.

God is perfectly good

As in Him is the whole nature of entity, so in Him is the whole nature of excellency. As nothing has an absolute perfect Being but God, so nothing has an absolutely perfect goodness but God.

The goodness of God is logically the measure and rule of goodness in everything else; hence it must necessarily be perfect, as all other divine attributes are perfect.

God is immutably good

Glorified saints are now immutably good by divine power and purpose; elect angels are immutably good by God's original decree to keep them good; other things may be perpetually good by supernatural power, but not immutably good in their own nature. Only God is immutably good, from eternity to eternity, for there can be no change in God (James 1:17). The goodness of God endures for ever (Psalm 52:1).

The goodness of God is not synonymous to His mercy

Goodness extends to all, even to all the works of His hands; mercy, by its very nature, stretches itself only to a miserable creature, for mercy is joined logically with pity, occasioned by the calamity and tragic situation in which someone is found. God's mercy is exercised toward those who merit punishment; His goodness is extended to objects that have not merited anything contrary to the acts of His bounty.

Creation is an act of goodness, not of mercy; providence an act of goodness, not of mercy. We need the goodness of God to govern us, but the mercy of God to relieve us.

The grace of God reaches the rational creature; mercy the miserable creature; goodness all His creatures, animals, and senseless plants, as well as reasonable man.

Goodness is not the same as holiness

Again, God's goodness must be distinguished from His holiness, which is the rectitude of His nature, whereby He is pure, and without spot in Himself.

The goodness of God is the outward manifestation of His will, by which He shows Himself beneficial to His creatures.

The holiness of God is manifest to His rational creature, and nothing else; but the goodness of God covers all the works of His hands. The Lord is good to all (Psalm 145:9)

Is God’s goodness a communicable attribute?

Pure and perfect goodness is only the royal prerogative of God; goodness is a choice perfection of the divine nature.

This is the true and genuine character of God; He is goodness, good in Himself, good in His essence, good in the highest degree, possessing whatsoever is comely, excellent, desirable; the highest good, because He is the source of good. All gifts, all variety of goodness, are contained in Him as one common good.

He is the efficient cause of all good, by an overflowing goodness of His nature. "Truly God is good" (Psalm 73:1). This is written indelibly in the works of nature and His gracious acts (Exodus 34:6). "He is abundant in goodness" (cf. Psalm 145:7). His goodness is celebrated continually in the Psalter (for instance, 107:8,15,21,31).

In reaching out to His creatures, and manifesting His goodness to them, this is certainly a communicable attribute. For His goodness is not only seen but extended to others. A Christian is a good person, but his goodness is the work of God in him and through him. Whatever goodness a saint may have and exercise, he is a channel for the divine goodness to reach even to others.

God's goodness is communicative. None so communicatively good as God. As the notion of God includes goodness, so the notion of goodness includes diffusiveness; without goodness He would cease to be Deity, and without diffusiveness He would cease to be good. The being good is necessary to the being God. So the creature is relatively good, with a goodness derived from God; God alone is absolutely good.

Is God’s goodness nullified by His punishment of sin?

When offenders are punished, we do not conclude that the Judge is devoid of goodness, but rather that the Judge is righteous. God's vindictive justice is as naturally His as is His goodness; both are necessarily His, and one does not exclude the other.

God is not bad because He is just; nor unrighteous, because He is good. God being infinitely good, cannot possibly intend or act anything but what is good: "Thou art good, and thou doest good" (Psalm 119:68), that is, whatsoever God does is good, whatever it might be, pleasant or painful to the creature.

To punish evil is right, therefore good. To leave men uncontrolled in their wickedness is unrighteous and therefore bad.

It must be held firmly in our minds that:

1. The justice of God is a part of the goodness of His nature (Exodus 33:19).

2. Part of the goodness of God is to make laws, and add to them threatenings. The design of laws, and the purpose of upholding the honour of those laws by the punishment of offenders, is to promote goodness and restrain evil.

3. It follows then that not to punish evil is to be wanting in goodness. "The Lord is known by the judgements which He executes." Is it not a part of His goodness to preserve the indispensable order between Himself and His creatures?

4. Again, punishment is not the primary intention of God. When He created, His intention was fundamentally to manifest His goodness. He actually calls the act of his wrath His "strange work, His strange act" (Isaiah 28:21). That is, a work not against His nature, as the Governor of the world, but against His first intention, as Creator. Finally, He finds no pleasure whatsoever in the death of a sinner (Ezekiel 33:11).

How God’s goodness is manifested

God’s supreme goodness is displayed in:

a. The creation.

Just as His wisdom was the cause of making everything in order and harmony, His goodness was the cause of the very act of creation. He pronounced it "very good," that is, such as became His goodness to bring forth into being. So:

1. Creation proceeds from goodness; God extracted such multitudes of things from the depths of nothing. Because God is good, things have a being. By His goodness, the whole was brought out of the dark womb of nothingness.

2. Creation was the first act of goodness without Himself. The persons of the Blessed Trinity are good to each other (ad intra); the creation is the proof of God's goodness ad extra.

3. Especially in the case of man, God's goodness is made manifest. He endued him with choice prerogatives above other creatures; he was made a little lower than the angels, and much more loftily crowned with glory and honour than other creatures (Psalm 8:5).

4. God provides for man, as His supreme Benefactor. "O Lord, how excellent is thy Name in all the earth" (Psalm 8:1,4).

5. When man sinned, God, in His goodness and for man's sake cursed the creation so that it stills groans under that vanity because of man's rebellion (Romans 8:20-22). But it will finally be delivered from bondage.

b. Man's redemption.

The core of the gospel can be justly said to be a mirror of divine goodness, a special kind of goodness: "Good-will towards men" (Luke 2:14).

Goodness was the spring of redemption. It must have been a miraculous goodness that induced the Father to expose the life of His Son to those difficulties in this world, and ultimately to a death upon the cross, for the freedom of sordid rebels. His great end was to give such a demonstration of the liberality of His nature.

Redemption is out of pure goodness. God was under no obligation to pity our misery, and repair our ruin. It is the gospel of a God abounding in His own blessedness (2 Timothy 1:11).

Hence was may consider the height of this goodness in salvation to be much higher than that of creation.

His goodness in redemption is greater than any goodness expressed to the fallen angels. It is the wonder of His goodness to us, that He was mindful of fallen man, and careless of fallen angels (Hebrews 2:16).

The Father's goodness is proved when we properly consider whom He "gave."

1. His Son is a greater gift that worlds, or all things purchased by Him (Hebrews 1:3).

2. He is the Only-begotten, the Unique Son of God, not an angel.

3. He was given to rescue us from eternal damnation; He was made poor that we might become rich in Him (2 Corinthians 8:9).

4. In bestowing this gift on us, divine goodness gives whole God to us: the epitome of goodness!

c. Providence.

Psalm 107 is calculated to celebrate the goodness of God in the continued course of His providence throughout all the ages. It ascribes to divine goodness all the advantages men meet with. God helps them in their actions, presides over their intentions, inspects their different situations, and perpetually cares for them. Everything is ordered by Him in the place where He hath set it.

1. This goodness is obvious in the care God exercises over all creatures. There is a peculiar goodness to His people; but this does not take away His general goodness to the world. The earth is still "full of His riches" (Psalm 104:24).

2. His goodness is seen in the preservation of all things. "O Lord, thou preservest man and beast" (Psalm 36:6; also 65:9,10; 107:35,36). Every day He "spreads a table" for us (Psalm 23:5), and proves to be the "strength of our life" (Psalm 27:1). He sets "hedges about our estates" (Job 1:10).

3. In His goodness He employs His angels on our behalf, to help and assist us, in ways most often unknown to us (Hebrews 1:14).

4. The goodness of God is seen in taking care of the meanest rational creatures; as servants and criminals. Widows, orphans and foreigners are under His care.

5. His goodness is evident in the preservation of human society. It belongs to His power that he is able to do it, but to His goodness that He is willing to do it.

Application of God’s goodness

For comfort

1. Because He is good, we may expect His instruction: "Good is the Lord, therefore will he teach sinners in his way" (Psalm 25:8). His goodness makes Him stoop down to tutor worms.

2. His goodness impels Him to remove the punishment due to our crimes, and bestow benefits not due to our merits: "Thou, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive" (Psalm 86:5). He does not act according to the rigor of the Law, but willingly grants His pardon to those they flee to the arms of the Mediator.

3. Because God is good, we may have comfort in addressing Him, for being accepted in His beloved Son (Ephesians 1:6), His eyes are now upon the righteous, and His ears attentive to their cry (Psalm 34:15).

4. His goodness urges us to know Him and have fellowship with Him. "Acquaint thyself with God, and thereby good shall come unto thee" (Job 22:21).

5. His goodness is a comfort to us in all our afflictions. What can we fear from the conduct of Infinite Goodness? Can His hand be heavy upon those that are humble before Him? He withholds nothing good from those that walk uprightly (psalm 84:11). And since God is love, love thinks no evil (1 Corinthians 13:5).

6. God's goodness is a ground of assurance of happiness. If God be so good, that nothing is better, and loves Himself, as He is good, He cannot be lacking in love to those that resemble His nature, and imitate His goodness.

7. Because God is good, he is a stronghold in the day of trouble, whether it be physical or spiritual (Nahum 1:7). We are persuaded that all things work together for good to them that love God (Romans 8:28).

For exhortation

1. Our moral obligation is to endeavour all the more after the enjoyment of God as good. How earnestly we should desire him!

2. We must seek God, since all things else that are desirable have their goodness in Him. "Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I can desire beside thee?" (Psalm 73:25).

3. Meditate often on the Good Lord. It would be strange to look constantly upon the earth, and everything in it, and yet overlook that which it is most full of, that is, God's goodness (Psalm 33:5).

4. A right sense of God's goodness would dispose us to an acceptable worship of God. It was God's lovingkindness that made David all the more resolute to "worship towards His holy temple" (Psalm 138:2).

5. As "the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand" (Psalm 95:7), we ought to pray earnestly with strong faith and feeling, being convinced that our heavenly Father will not give us a stone if we ask for a loaf of bread.

6. God's goodness ought to make us all the more thankful, as we consider our station in life, our condition, our bodies, our great salvation in Christ. In every respect, "I will praise thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made" (Psalm 139:14).

7. We are meant to be imitators of God, of His holiness but not least of His goodness. "Do good to them that hate you, that you may be the children of your Father which is in heaven; for he makes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good" (Matthew 5:44,45). "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father, which is in heaven, is perfect" (Matthew 5:48).


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