by Stephen Charnock
The goodness of God is the most pleasant perfection of the Divine nature.
His creating power amazes us. His conducting wisdom astonisheth us. His goodness, as furnishing us with all conveniences, delights us and renders both His amazing power, and astonishing wisdom, delightful to us.
Just as the sun, by effecting things, is an emblem of God’s power, so also by discovering things to us, it is an emblem of His wisdom. But by refreshing and comforting us, the sun is an emblem of His goodness.
And without this refreshing virtue it communicates to us, we should take no pleasure in the creatures it produceth, nor in the beauties it discovers.
As God is great and powerful, He is the object of our understanding. But as good and bountiful, He is the object of our love and desire.
The goodness of God comprehends all His attributes. All the acts of God are nothing else but the streams of His goodness, distinguished by several names, according to the objects it is exercised about.
As the sea, though it be one mass of water, yet we distinguish it by several names, according to the shores it washeth, and beats upon. When Moses longed to see His glory, God tells him, He would give him a prospect of His goodness (Ex. 33:19): ‘I will make all My goodness to pass before thee.’
His goodness is His glory and Godhead, as much as is delightfully visible to His creatures, and whereby He doth benefit man: ‘I will cause My goodness,’ or ‘comeliness,’ as Calvin renders it, ‘to pass before thee.’
What is this, but the train of all His lovely perfections springing from His goodness? The whole catalogue of mercy, grace, long-suffering, abundance of truth, summed up in this one word (Ex. 34:6). All are streams from this fountain. He could be none of this, were He not first good.
When it confers happiness without merit, it is grace.
When it bestows happiness against merit, it is mercy.
When he bears with provoking rebels, it is long-suffering.
When he performs His promise, it is truth.
When it meets with a person to whom it is not obliged, it is grace.
When He meets with a person in the world, to which He hath obliged himself by promise, it is truth.
When it commiserates a distressed person, it is pity.
When it supplies an indigent person, it is bounty.
When it succors an innocent person, it is righteousness.
And when it pardons a penitent person, it is mercy. All summed up in this one name of goodness.
And the Psalmist expresseth the same sentiment in the same words (Psalm 145:7, 8): ‘They shall abundantly utter the memory of thy great goodness, and shall sing of thy righteousness. The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger, and of great mercy; the Lord is good to all, and his tender mercies are over his works.’
He is first good, and then compasssionate. Righteousness is often in Scripture taken, not for justice, but charitableness. This attribute, saith one, is so full of God, that it doth deify all the rest, and verify the adorableness of Him.
His wisdom might contrive against us, His power bear too hard upon us. One might be too hard for an ignorant, and the other too mighty for an impotent creature.
His holiness would scare an impure and guilty creature, but His goodness conducts them all for us, and makes them all amiable to us.
Whatever comeliness they have in the eye of a creature, whatever comfort they afford to the heart of a creature, we are obliged for all to His goodness. This puts all the rest upon a delightful exercise.
This makes His wisdom design for us, and this makes His power to act for us. This veils His holiness from affrighting us, and this spirits His mercy to relieve us.
All His acts towards man, are but the workmanship of this. What moved Him at first to create the world out of nothing, and erect so noble a creature as man, endowed with such excellent gifts? Was it not His goodness?
What made Him separate His Son to be a sacrifice for us, after we had endeavored to erase the first marks of His favor? Was it not a strong bubbling of goodness?
What moves Him to reduce a fallen creature to the due sense of his duty, and at last bring him to an eternal felicity? Is it not, only His goodness?
This is the captain attribute that leads the rest to act. This attends them, and spirits them in all His ways of acting. This is the complement and perfection of all His works.
Had it not been for this, which set all the rest on work, nothing of His wonders would have been seen in creation, nothing of His compassions would have been seen in redemption.
Source: Stephen Charnock, On the Goodness of God,” in The Existence and Attributes of God,